Saturday, November 27, 2010

Apple and Red Wine Crostata - Torta Di Sant' Antonio

Ciao a tutti! The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well (Lorenzo Da Ponte Italian Library).

Crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart, and a form of pie. It is traditionally prepared by folding the edges of the dough over the top of the jam/marmalade filling, creating a more "rough" look, rather than a uniform, circular shape. The jams that are traditionally used as a filling are cherries, peaches, apricots, berries. The crostata can also be filled with pieces of fresh fruit and pastry cream (crema pasticcera), but then it is called torta di frutta.

The December 2010 issue of Saveur arrived in the mail in the nick of time for Thanksgiving and the November Daring Bakers' challenge. When I saw the photograph of this gorgeous apple, red wine and cinnamon crostata, a traditional Occitan dessert from the northern Italian village of Oulx, I knew it was destined to appear on the Thanksgiving dessert table next to an encore presentation of Bobby Flay's Throwdown Pumpkin Pie. I also felt it would be a striking contribution to the array of Daring Bakers' crostate going to press on "reveal" day.

The base of a crostata is pasta frolla (or pastafrolla), sweet short crust pastry (or sweet tart dough) made of flour, sugar, butter and eggs. Pasta frolla is versatile: it provides the base to make crostata with fruit preserves, pastry cream, fresh fruit, ricotta, and other ingredients, and, by itself, it makes very nice cookies.

Kitchen Toys R & M Industries 5920 Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer

Peeled, cored and sliced

Granny Smith apples stew in red wine, sugar, cinnamon and orange zest until the apples have absorbed the deep burgundy of the wine.

A tart pan with a removable bottom is used to hold the crostata, and the edges of the dough are folded over the top of the apples to achieve a rough, rustic look.

To make the garnish, dough scraps are rolled out and cut into grape and leaf shapes.

A pastry tip provided the right size "grapes"

Torta di Sant' Antonio
Slightly adapted from Saveur, December 2010
Serves 8

2 cups flour
7 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 cup milk, plus a few tablespoons more if needed
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups red wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 1 orange
1 egg white, lightly beaten

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and baking soda. Add butter and pulse until pea-size crumbles form. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and yolks. Add to flour mixture and pulse until it just starts to hold together. Add another tablespoon or two of milk if it seems too dry. Transfer to a floured surface; knead into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.

In the meantime, bring the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, wine, cinnamon and orange zest to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the apples, reduce heat, and simmer until wine is reduced to a syrup, 25-30 minutes. Stir the apples occasionally so they are evenly coated with the wine mixture.  Let cool.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Place dough on a floured surface and roll out to 1/8" thickness. Transfer dough to tart pan with a removable bottom and press into bottom and sides. Trim dough edges and reserve scraps. Spoon apple mixture into tart shell and fold the edges of the dough over the apples.

To make garnish, roll out scraps to 1/4" thickness, cut out leaf and grape shapes, and arrange on top of apples. Brush dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until golden, about 25-30 minutes.

Serve plain, or with whipped cream or ice cream.

The Saveur pastry recipe differs slightly from the Daring Bakers' pasta frolla recipe. You can find the complete Daring Bakers' Crostata recipes and links here, along with a slideshow of the creative and exquisite variations prepared by the DB chefs. You can also go to the Daring Bakers blogroll, for links to our members' blogs. Grazie, Simona!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Crown Jewel Affair Dessert: Dark Chocolate Pavlovas with Pomegranate Frozen Custard

This is the final post in The Crown Jewel Affair, a POM Wonderful, pomegranate-inspired, dinner party!  If you haven't been following along, you may wish to go back to the Introductory Post, here, and then you can mingle your way through the welcome cocktail, appetizer, soup, salad, two main courses with a palate cleanser in between, and then back here, for dessert and an after-dinner mint.  It's a long and delectable journey!

Choosing a dessert for our Crown Jewel Affair was no easy task. My first thought was Fine Cooking's Chocolate-Pomegranate Torte. The torte is topped with a layer of pomegranate jelly, covered with a bittersweet chocolate glaze, and garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds. I made this a few years ago for our annual Halloween Party and it is truly decadent.

However, after learning of the Daring Cooks' November challenge, Rise and Shine! Soufflé!, and sharing a chocolate souffle when we went to a recent dinner concert at Anthology, I started contemplating individual dark chocolate souffles, served with a scoop of pomegranate ice cream, drizzled with a pomegranate-port reduction, and garnished with pomegranate seeds.

It's a woman's prerogative, so I switched gears one final time, after deciding I really did not want to bake souffles during the party, and chose another awesome dessert we could prepare in advance: Individual Dark Chocolate Pavlovas and homemade Pomegranate Frozen Custard. Pavlova was the June Daring Bakers' challenge this past summer, and I tried a few different versions for our New Zealand themed Concert in the Park. This was John's first choice for our party.

We adapted Thomas Keller's Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Ad Hoc at Home. For the pomegranate flavoring, I used two cups freshly squeezed pomegranate juice and one cup pomegranate liqueur, and reduced it down to one cup of heavenly goodness. We also add mascarpone cheese to our ice creams, for a boost of creamy richness.

John's Pomegranate Port Syrup evolved into a Pomegranate Port Pink Peppercorn Syrup at the last minute, when he spotted a new jar of pink peppercorns sitting on the counter.  He really is brilliant when it comes to experimenting with sauces and flavors.

Dark Chocolate Pavlova / Pomegranate Frozen Custard / Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup

Individual Dark Chocolate Pavlovas
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova
(Makes 10-12)

6 large egg whites
2 cups superfine sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and position the racks so you can bake the two baking sheets of meringues at the same time. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pour the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer and, using the whisk attachment, beat until satiny peaks form. Add in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, while continuing to beat the whites, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Turn off the mixer, remove the bowl, and add the cocoa powder, balsamic vinegar, and chopped chocolate. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in until fully incorporated.

Secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue under each corner. With a large spoon, mound the meringue onto the parchment paper, forming individual pavlovas about 4 inches in diameter, and gently make a shallow well in the top of each meringue to later cradle a scoop of ice cream or other filling (imagine serving a scoop of mashed potatoes onto a plate and making a little well for the gravy). You should be able to fit 5-6 meringues per baking sheet. You can also use a pastry bag with a large plain tip to form the meringues, but I like the rustic, free-form look.

Place the meringues in the oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 300 degrees F. Bake for about 45 minutes, gently rotating the baking sheets halfway through. After 45 minutes, turn the oven off, open the oven door slightly, and let the meringues cool completely while inside the oven. Once cool, gently remove the meringues from the parchment and store then in an airtight container until ready to serve. These can be baked and stored for 2-3 days.

Pomegranate Frozen Custard
Adapted from Thomas Keller's Vanilla Ice Cream, Ad Hoc at Home
(Makes a generous 1 quart)

1 cup milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup pomegranate-port reduction (see above)
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or 1 tablespoon vanilla paste
10 large egg yolks
Pinch of kosher salt
Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup, for drizzling (recipe below)
Pomegranate arils, for garnish

Pour the milk and cream into a large saucepan, and add 1/2 cup of the sugar. With a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, if using, and add them to the liquid, along with the pod (or stir in the vanilla paste). Bring to just below a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and let steep, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean from the pan, if you used it. Return the pan to the heat and heat until the cream is just below a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the yolks in a bowl until slightly thickened. Slowly, while whisking, add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, and then gradually whisk in the remaining milk mixture. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a clean saucepan and strain the liquid into the pan.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and set a medium bowl in the ice bath; have a strainer ready.

mascarpone, and stir until incorporated. Strain into the bowl, add the salt, and let cool, stirring occasionally. Refrigerate overnight.

Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions. When the texture is "soft serve," transfer to a storage container and freeze to harden.

Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup

2 cups POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice
1 cup Ruby Port
1/4 cup pink peppercorns, partially cracked with a mortar and pestle

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 3/4 to 1 cup, 30-45 minutes. Strain through fine mesh sieve and allow to cool.

To Serve:  Place a Chocolate Pavlova on dessert plate, top with a scoop of Pomegranate Frozen Custard, drizzle Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup over the top, and scatter some pomegranate arils over the top and around the plate.

After Dinner "Mints"  Pomegranate Arils marinated in brandy

I hope you've enjoyed our series of posts highlighting The Crown Jewel Affair, a POM Wonderful Dinner Party. Hosting a dinner party is challenging and stressful, and ours would not have been such a huge success without our commendable family and friends who willingly helped with planning, preparation, menu development, cooking, serving, dishwashing, bartending, printing, decorating, photography, and videography. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for a rewarding and memorable evening.

A very special thank you to POM Wonderful for choosing There's a Newf in My Soup! as one of 100 POM Wonderful Dinner Party hosts. In accepting the challenge, I hope we've made you proud. Fresh or bottled POM Wonderful pomegranate juice starred in a jelly, vinaigrette, braising liquid, sauce, reduction, ice cream flavoring, and syrup, and fresh pomegranate arils were found floating in cocktails, and adorning every course, providing an elegant and festive touch, pop of brilliant color, burst of sweet, tart flavor and surprise crunch.

We truly broadened our pomegranate horizons and look forward to incorporating pomegranates in many more culinary creations!

The Crown Jewel Affair POM Dinner Party from There's a Newf in My Soup! on Vimeo.


The Crown Jewel Affair: Braised Lamb Shank Ragu Over Crisp Polenta Triangles

We're continuing with a series of posts dedicated to POM Wonderful's pomegranate season and The Crown Jewel Affair, a POM Wonderful Dinner Party we hosted on November 14, 2010. The first post, here, provides an introduction, brief recap of the six-course Chef's Menu, and two videos. The subsequent posts in the series share additional photographs of the food, party, and recipes. Our welcome cocktail, and each course served, incorporated the use of pomegranate juice and/or the arils.

When planning a menu or researching an ingredient, I often consult The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs. This book is a guide to hundreds of ingredients, summarizing key aspects of each ingredient's essence (season, taste, weight, volume, and primary function), most recommended cooking techniques, helpful tips to keep in mind when working with it, compatible flavors, flavor pairings to avoid, and examples of dishes from notable chefs using that ingredient.

I was amazed to discover the versatility of the pomegranate. One "highly recommended" pairing with pomegranates is salad (especially cucumber, fruit, and green salads). "Frequently recommended" pairings include cardamom, chicken, cinnamon, desserts, ginger, grapefruit, lamb, lemon, roasted meats, orange, and sugar. Then there are approximately 40 more ingredients and spices that are "recommended" pairings with pomegranates.

Chef Cindy Pawlcyn's Chiles en Nogada, my fourth course, uses chile peppers, onions, garlic, cinnamon, pork, walnuts, and lime, all recommended flavor pairings with pomegranates.

I considered some kind of taco to complement the Chiles en Nogada, and wanted to use lamb. I came across Bobby Flay's Roasted Venison with Spicy Mexican Cranberry Sauce, and knew I could modify that recipe with the use of lamb instead of venison and pomegranate juice and arils instead of cranberry juice and cranberries. I liked the idea of braising lamb shanks in the sauce, yielding tender pieces of lamb, but then wasn't so sure what else I would add to the tacos. Sometime around 3:00 a.m. one morning, when I seem to do my best menu planning, the thought of a deconstructed lamb taco floated into my head, with the crispy polenta stepping in for corn tortillas, and that's how this course evolved. The primary ingredients and spices (lamb, allspice, cinnamon, onions, garlic, chicken stock, and red wine), are all listed in The Flavor Bible as recommended pairings with pomegranates.

Braised Lamb Shank Ragu
Spicy Pomegranate Mexican Cinnamon Sauce
Polenta Triangles, Cojita cheese and pomegranate arils
Adapted from Bobby Flay's

4 large lamb shanks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
1 large onion coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Mexican cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup red wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Polenta Triangles (recipe follows)
Pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Cojita cheese, for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Season each shank with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven and sear the shanks. Remove once browned.

Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook until lightly golden brown. Add the cinnamon and allspice. Return the shanks to the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock and pomegranate juice and season with salt and pepper.

Bake covered in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until the shanks are very tender. Remove the shanks from the pot and strain the sauce mixture into a clean small saucepan. Over medium heat, swirl in the butter, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. When the shanks have cooled enough to handle, remove the meat and tear into bite-size pieces. Add meat back to the sauce. At this point, you can refrigerate and then reheat before serving.

When ready to serve, place a polenta triangle on each plate, top with Braised Lamb Ragu, and garnish with Cotija cheese and pomegranate seeds.

Basic Italian Polenta

6 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

In a large, deep pan, over high heat, bring water and sea salt to a boil. Gradually stir in polenta. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until mixture is very thick (about 20-30 minutes). Use a long-handed spoon to stir because mixture pops and bubbles and can burn. Stir in butter, and more salt if needed. Serve immediately, topped with freshly grated cheese.

To make Crisp Polenta Triangles:

If making into polenta triangles, oil a 9 x 12 inch baking pan, spoon polenta into pan while hot, spread evenly, and smooth the top. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate.

Once the polenta is cooled and firm, you can cut it into squares, lift the squares out of baking pan with a spatula, and cut each square into two triangles, wrapped and refrigerated until ready to use. Remove the prepared triangles from the refrigerator about an hour before you are ready to saute.

Heat about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large saute pan and heat to 350 degrees F. Using a metal spatula, gently lower the polenta triangles into the oil. Don't overcrowd the pan; saute in two batches if necessary. Saute the polenta triangles until golden brown on each side and then transfer to a paper towel to drain briefly.

You won't want to miss dessert, coming up next, Chocolate Pavlova, Pomegranate Frozen Custard, and Pomegranate Pink Peppercorn Syrup!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Crown Jewel Affair: Chiles en Nogada

I hope you're not getting full yet, because we still have three courses to go in The Crown Jewel Affair Chef's Menu!

Chiles en Nogada (Chiles in Walnut Sauce) is one of 16 internationally inspired recipes featuring POM Wonderful variety pomegranates and POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice, created by notable chefs around the nation as part of POM Wonderful Chef Series 2010.

Chef Cindy Pawlcyn, a pioneer in the development of wine country cuisine, is the owner of three of Napa Valley’s beloved restaurants: the legendary Mustards Grill, the eclectic Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen and her most recent creation, the West Coast seafood house Go Fish. Chef Pawlcyn shared her Chiles en Nogada recipe, which also happens to be in one of my favorite cookbooks, Big Small Plates. I designed my entire Crown Jewel Affair menu around this dish.

As explained in the cookbook, "the origins of this dish go back to 1821 and a victory banquet in Pueblo, Mexico, commemorating the defeat of the Spanish." The white of the walnut sauce, red of the pomegranate seeds, and green of the chiles represent the colors of the Mexican flag. "It's a celebratory dish, especially good for Christmas..."

The recipe gives you the option of baking the chiles, or frying them like you would with chile rellenos. Although baking would be easier for a dinner party (they do need to be fried right before serving), I chose to fry ours for the party, for a more stylish presentation.

Okay, it's time to be honest here. I now have a love-hate relationship with Chiles en Nogada. There is a tremendous amount of work involved with preparing the filling and walnut sauce, roasting and peeling the chiles, carefully stuffing the chiles, and then either baking or frying the stuffed chiles.

Did I mention peeling the walnuts? OH MY, John's mom will never forgive me after I asked her to help with that miserable task! Soaking the walnuts overnight in milk is supposed to help the skins come off easily. NOT! As John explained to our guests (see The Crown Jewel Affair video, here), it took about a hour to peel three walnuts. Chef Pawlcyn refers to it as "a pill of a job" but says it "makes a big difference in taste and appearance." I made half the sauce with the peeled walnuts and half with the skins on, and seriously could only taste and see the tiniest difference. Save yourself the frustration, unless you know an easier way, and skip the walnut-peeling horse pill.

This is my attempt, and I still couldn't get all the skins off

Thank you, Diane!

I grilled the poblano chiles until the skin blistered, and then placed them in plastic grocery bag, sealed, for about 15 minutes to allow them to "sweat" before peeling. This was a breeze compared to peeling walnuts, but then you must carefully slit the chiles, remove as many of the seeds inside without further tearing the chiles, spoon in the filling, and then try to fry the chiles without loosing the filling (I used a few toothpicks to keep them closed while frying and them removed the toothpicks before serving).

If you're feeling brave, you can find the recipe for Cindy's Chiles en Nogada here. Kai said it was his favorite dish at the party, and it absolutely is extraordinary. Remember, it's a "celebratory dish" and you won't want to attempt it for a simple, weeknight dinner!

Before we moved on to the next course, Braised Lamb Shank Ragu, we offered this Lemon Sorbet Palate Cleanser, embellished with a few pomegranate arils.


The Crown Jewel Affair: Roasted Beet Salad with Pomegranate-Cumin Vinaigrette

The Crown Jewel Affair. a POM Wonderful Dinner Party, continues with our Roasted Beet Salad tossed with Pomegranate-Cumin Vinaigrette.

This salad is all about bright colors, flavors, and textures, with tender baby greens, the ruby red pop of pomegranates, juicy orange supremes, mildly sweet roasted crimson and golden beets, creamy goat cheese, and toasted pine nuts, all softly tossed with a smoky, tangy pomegranate-cumin vinaigrette.

Inspiration for this salad evolved from two recent dining experiences. In September, we we drove up to Costa Mesa to see Young Frankenstein, the Mel Brooks' Musical, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and enjoyed lunch at Marche Moderne. John ordered the Santa Monica McGrath Family Farm Beet Salad, with pistachios, orange, goat cheese, and petite basil. We liked the way the chef used a smear of goat cheese along the bottom of the plate. With each bite, you can scrape up a little goat cheese with your fork rather than having globs throughout the salad.

Last month, we went to a concert at Anthology, a supper club in San Diego's Little Italy. Chef Todd Allison, who happens to be a native of Coronado, wowed us with his Baby Yellow Beets and Burrata Cheese Salad, with toasted pine nuts, watercress, and cumin vinaigrette. The cumin vinaigrette was incredible and we couldn't wait to recreate it at home.

For The Crown Jewel Affair, we added freshly squeezed pomegranate juice to the vinaigrette, combined elements from both salads, and added a sprinkling of fresh pomegranate seeds.

Roasted Beet Salad with Pomegranate-Cumin Vinaigrette
(Serves 8)

8 ounces assorted baby greens (we used a Spring mix)
4 red and/or yellow beets, stems trimmed off
4 naval oranges, cut into supremes
8 oz. goat cheese
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
Pomegranate-Cumin Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the beets in a baking pan, drizzle with the oil, and season with salt. Cover with foil. Bake for about 1 hour, or until tender when pierced with a knife. When cool enough to handle, peel the beets, and thinly slice them into rounds or cut into 1-inch squares. Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Prepare the orange supremes in advance and keep covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

Just before serving, smear 1 ounce of goat cheese across each chilled salad plate. In a separate bowl, drizzle the roasted beets with some of vinaigrette to lightly coat and divide equally on top of the goat cheese. In a large bowl, toss the baby greens with additional vinaigrette until lightly coated. Place a small mound of baby greens on each plate. Arrange the orange supremes over the greens. Garnish each salad with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate-Cumin Vinaigrette

1/4 cup fresh pomegranate juice
1/4 cup Champagne or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the pomegranate juice, vinegar, honey and cumin in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

A few nights after the party, we made this salad into a main course by adding filet mignon.

Again, the simple addition of pomegranate juice to the vinaigrette and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds takes the salad to a new level.  


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Crown Jewel Affair: Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

The Crown Jewel Affair continues with this fourth post in a series recapping our POM Wonderful Dinner Party.  If you missed the Introduction, Ginger Pomegranate Martini, or Nut Crusted Fried Brie with Pomegranate Jalapeno Jelly, I hope you'll go back and take a peek at those posts.

When planning the menu, I couldn't decide between soup or salad. Ultimately, I decided on a small tasting of each.

Butternut Squash Soup screams Autumn and Thanksgiving to me, so I set out perusing recipes. When I found the one below, with Bosc pears, leeks, white wine and brandy, I knew I had a winner. Incorporation of pomegranates into this dish was simply a sprinkling of fresh arils, but what an impact in flavor, texture and color!  Just a few pomegranate seeds provided the right burst of tartness, which cut a little of the sweetness of the soup, and they looked so vibrant floating amongst the pepitas and swirls of creme fraiche. In this case, a simple touch added so much to this soup.

Butternut Squash, Bosc Pears, Carrots, Leeks

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Soup
Slightly adapted from The Daily Green
Recipe courtesy of Waldy Malouf, chef/co-owner, Beacon Restaurant & Bar, New York City
(Serves 10 as a small starter)


1-2 butternut squash (about 4 pounds total), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
2 Bosc pears, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup brandy
7 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low-sodium if canned)
1 large sprig fresh thyme plus additional leaves for garnish
1-inch piece gingerroot, peeled and grated
1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, for garnish
Pomegranate arils (seeds), for garnish
Pepitas (pumpkin seeds), for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the squash and carrots on a baking pan large enough to hold them in one layer, and toss with the oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, then add the leeks and pears. Toss to combine and continue to roast for another 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and browned.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately pour the wine and brandy over the top, using a wooden spoon to scrape the vegetables and their caramelized juices from the bottom of the baking pan. Transfer the vegetables and liquid to a large soup pot. Pour in the broth, adding additional water if necessary to cover the vegetables by 1 inch. Add the thyme sprig and grated gingerroot and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour.

Remove the thyme sprig and puree the soup in batches, in a blender or food processor. Transfer the soup to a fine to medium mesh sieve set over another pot. Use a rubber spatula to press the solids through the sieve. If the soup seems too thick, thin it with a little water. Season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, warm the soup over low heat. Serve in warmed bowls, drizzled with crème fraîche or sour cream, if desired, and garnished with crystallized ginger, pomegranate arils, pepitas, and a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves.

Mini 4-ounce Lions Head Bowls from Crate and Barrel
The perfect size for this starter soup

Alec & Nina

Larger serving, in a shallow bowl, if you are serving as a main course, with a small salad

The Crown Jewel Affair: Nut Crusted Fried Brie with Pomegranate-Jalapeno Jelly

Welcome to the third in a series of posts recapping The Crown Jewel Affair, our POM Wonderful Dinner Party celebrating the commencement of the POM Wonderful Pomegranate Season! If you would like to start at the beginning of the party for a little background, please click here, and if you would like a Ginger Pomegranate Martini to go with this amazing hors d'oeuvre, please click here.

Now that you're sipping on your martini and feeling all warm and fuzzy by the fire, let me tell you about Nut Crusted Fried Brie and Pepper Jelly, a signature creation by Deborah Scott, Executive Chef and Partner of three fabulous San Diego Restaurants: Kemo Sabe, Indigo Grill, and Island Prime. This is a very simple appetizer to make, especially if you use store-bought pepper jelly, and it can be made in advance of your party. Just before you are ready to serve, you will just need to fry the brie for a few minutes, drain and transfer it to your serving platter, and add your pepper jelly. Serve with cracker bread, crackers or toasted baguette slices. Trust me, it's a keeper!

For The Crown Jewel Affair, I made my own pepper jelly using POM Wonderful pomegranate juice. I made two batches so I could include a little jar in each gift basket for my guests. I used a combination of jalapeno and serrano chiles, and the jelly was still fairly mild. If you like it hot, try using more serrano chiles. If you really like it hot, use a habanero in the mix!

Nut Crusted Fried Brie with Pomegranate-Jalapeno Jelly
A signature dish from Chef Deborah Scott, San Diego
Slightly adapted from Fried Brie with Nut Crust, Bon Appetit, November 1999

2 8-ounce wedges Brie
1/3 cup pepitas
1/3 cup almonds
1/3 cup pecans
(you can use any combination of nuts you desire to total 1 cup)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whipping cream

Peanut oil (for frying)
Pomegranate-Jalapeno Jelly (recipe below)
Cracker Bread, crackers, or toasted baguette slices

Freeze Brie for 30 minutes. Finely chop all nuts and sesame seeds in food processor. Transfer to medium bowl. In another medium bowl, whisk eggs and cream to blend. Remove Brie from from freezer and cut each 8-ounce wedge into 3 equal wedges, yielding a total of 6 wedges. Dip each wedge into egg mixture and then into nut mixture, turning to coat and pressing gently to adhere. Transfer to plate; cover with plastic and refrigerate until very cold, at least 45 minutes. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Pour enough peanut oil into heavy large skillet to reach depth of 1 1/2 inches. Heat oil over medium-high heat to 350°F. Working in two batches, fry Brie until deep golden brown, turning once with metal spatula, about 3 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve with Pomegranate-Jalapeno jelly and cracker bread or baguette slices.

Pomegranate-Jalapeno Jelly

4 cups POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped
4 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
4 teaspoons powdered pectin (I used Pomona's Universal Pectin)
4 teaspoons calcium water (preparation instructions provided with Pectin)
3 cups sugar

Place pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and chopped chiles in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain the juice and return it to the saucepan.  Discard the chiles.  Add calcium water to the strained juice mixture and bring back to a boil.

Mix pectin powder with sugar.  Add pectin-sugar mixture to boiling juice and stir vigorously 1-2 minutes while cooking to dissolve pectin.  Return to a boil and remove from heat.  Pour into decorative serving bowl and/or fill small jars.  If desired, add some fresh pomegranate seeds and finely mined fresh chiles to the serving bowl and/or jars prior to pouring in the hot jelly.  Alternatively, garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds and thinly sliced chiles prior to serving.

Serve with Nut Crusted Fried Brie, and cracker bread or toasted baguette slices

A little extra gift for my special guests, added to their POM Wonderful Gift Baskets


Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Crown Jewel Affair: Ginger Pomegranate Martini

This is the second in a series of posts recapping The Crown Jewel Affair, our POM Wonderful Dinner Party. You can visit the introductory post here, which also includes a video of the party.

As guests arrived to The Crown Jewel Affair, they were greeted with a sparkling Ginger Pomegranate Champagne Martini. John and I recently dined at Nobu, San Diego, and sipped on a couple of these lovelies while waiting for our friends to arrive. We chatted with the bartender, who shared the interesting combination of ingredients: Vanilla infused vodka, ginger liqueur, and pomegranate puree, topped with Domain Chandon.

This cocktail is festive, dazzling and sexy...ideal for any special occasion!

Pomegranate and Ginger Liqueurs, in exquisite crystal decanters

Pammy and Kai

Nina, Lori, Mary, Melinda and Hillari

Ginger Pomegranate Martini
Our version inspired by Nobu's Ginger Pomegranate Martini
(Serves one)

1 1/2 ounces pomegranate liqueur
(or 1 1/2 oz. freshly squeezed pomegranate juice or POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice, or .25 oz. of POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice Concentrate)
1 ounce ginger liqueur
1 ounce vanilla vodka
4 1/2 ounces sparkling wine
pomegranate seeds

If serving several cocktails, it's easier to pre-mix the appropriate parts of the liqueurs and vodka in a cocktail shaker.  When guests arrive, add a few pomegranate seeds to each flute, fill the flutes with 3 1/2 ounces of the liqueur-vodka mixture, and top with sparkling wine.

For a few additional pomegranate libations, notable chefs Amy Ephron and Jose Andres created these cocktails for POM Wonderful Chef Series 2010:

Denise & John