RECIPE 36: Herbed Goat-Cheese Toasts

Herbed Goat Cheese Toasts 

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                      Herbed Goat-Cheese Toasts

Goat cheese makes a lovely base for fresh herbs, carrying their flavor and punctuating their brightness with its gentle tang; in this spread, it tastes particularly mild because of the little bit of whipped cream folded in. Take the cheese out to soften before heading for the farmers market, and by the time you get back, it will be ready to mix with whatever herbs you’ve found there.

Recipe By: Gourmet magazine, July 2006, page 122
Serving Size: 40
Main Ingredient:
Categories: Gourmet Magazine, Easy, Hors dOeuvres, Appetizers

-= Ingredients =-
40 slices (1/4-inch-thick) from 1 baguette
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces mild soft goat cheese ; at room temperature
1/4 cup chopped mixed tender fresh herbs such as basil ; chives, chervil, dill, parsley, and tarragon; or 1 tablespoon c
1 1/2 tablespoons Shallot ; minced
1/2 teaspoon black pepper ; or to taste
1/3 cup heavy cream ; well-chilled

-= Instructions =-
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

Divide baguette slices between 2 shallow baking pans. Lightly brush tops of slices with oil, then lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake, switching position of pans halfway through baking, until toasts are crisp but not hard, about 10 minutes.

Stir together goat cheese, herbs, shallot, and pepper. Season with salt.

Beat cream with a whisk until it just holds soft peaks, then fold into cheese mixture. Serve with toasts.

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a very special report by Holly

We started our journey to Biltmore on Friday, August 17; we finally got the kids loaded and on the road by 9:30 a.m. (excellent by our standards). We wanted to take our time and give ourselves lots of breaks. We were ready for lunch at around 11:30 a.m., so we stopped at the Mt. Vernon Kentucky exit and ate at the Rockcastle Steakhouse. This place has been around since the 50s or 60s, probably, and the décor is the same as it was when I was a kid and we would stop there on our way to Lake Cumberland. The restaurant sits up on a hill that overlooks I-75 Southbound; we ate in the overlook room and enjoyed the view. It was particularly fun for me to be eating with my kids at a restaurant that I first went to as a kid myself. One of those circle of life things…

Once back on the road, Ed decided that we should check in with the rest of the crew and see where everyone was. At that point, Ted and Tracy and Chuck and Kristy were about an hour behind us, with Drew, Wendy and Ron not far behind. Dave and Robin, we knew, were coming later in the day, and we figured Rose and Keith were not far off from the rest. All agreed to get in touch upon their arrival in Asheville.

The trip through the mountains was beautiful, but seemed a little long to us, since the kids were getting a bit antsy. Finally, though, we arrived in Asheville and proceeded to the Biltmore Estate main gate. Ed, myself, and the kids were staying at the Inn on the Biltmore Estate, a gift to me for my 40th birthday. We stopped at the security checkpoint and got our parking pass for the weekend, then went on toward the inn.

The Biltmore Estate is 8, 000 acres, and it’s about 5-7 miles from the main gate to the Inn, so there is a definite separation from the rest of the world. We drove past fields and forest, over streams and pathways, until we reached the Inn. The Inn provides the only accommodations on the Estate, and the architecture echoes the house itself in a modern sense. We rarely stay in such fancy digs, so of course we were a little unprepared for the wonderful treatment we received, from valet to concierge. The service there is outstanding.

Ed and I had decided to book a junior suite to give us and the kids a little more room; at least, that’s what I thought. Unbeknownst to me, Ed had upgraded our room… to the best suite in the Inn, the William B. Cecil suite. It was in the turret of the Inn, on the sixth floor. Windows everywhere make sure that the room is full of light during all of the daytime hours. Upon crossing the threshold of the suite, one walks down a hallway into the living area, complete with couch and two easy chairs, plus TV and bookshelf; a slight turn brings one to a dining table that seats eight. There is a kitchenette as well. The master bedroom and bath were as spacious and well-appointed as the rest of the suite. Plus, a welcome basket containing two bottles of Biltmore Estate wine and various cocktail snacks awaited us on the desk. For my birthday, Ed had decided that I should live like a queen for a day or so, and that is certainly how I felt. It was amazing.

That evening, those of us already in town had decided to have dinner in the Dining Room at the Inn, so I met up with Wendy, Drew, Ron, Ted, Tracy, Rose, Keith, Kristy and Chuck downstairs at the restaurant. Actually, Ed had run into Wendy, Drew and Ron in the lobby, so they came up to the suite for awhile, then we went down to meet the others. (I’ll leave it to Drew to describe the dinner—he can surely do it more justice than I — but the food and service were both impeccable.) The Biltmore Estate is a working farm, and they try to raise a lot of the food on the estate that is ultimately used in the restaurants on the estate. Tomatoes were in season when we were there, so fresh tomatoes featured in several of the dishes on the menu. The one little blip to the dinner was that a fire alarm was triggered in the building and we did need to step out on the patio — just as our entrees arrived. But the staff covered the dishes for us, and mine was still warm when we returned after just a few minutes outdoors. At the end of the meal, I was surprised with a chocolate gateau with “Happy Birthday” written on the plate in chocolate. Chuck, who had celebrated his birthday on August 15th, received this dessert as well, and I sent the same dessert up to Ed, who had stayed back with the kids (they ordered room service and went to the pool). After dinner, our party moved to the suite; the kids were in bed, so everyone stayed and shared some further bottles of wine before adjourning for the evening.

Holly’s 40th birthday

The next morning we (the aforementioned, plus Dave and Robin) met at the Biltmore House itself for the tour. Yes, it was a very warm day and the house is not air-conditioned, but large fans were placed strategically throughout and the tour was by no means unbearable (particularly as we were touring early). The Biltmore House shows living on a grand scale; the house contains 250 rooms. About 40 or so are open for the tour. It took us about 2.5 hours to complete the tour; most of us opted for the audio tour, which gives far more information than just the brochure provided.

I can’t speak for the others, of course, but I adore the House. It is, of course, extravagant and opulent, but at the same time I get such a sense that this place was actually lived in. So many times, when I tour historic houses, I get the feeling that I’m in a museum, but with the Biltmore, I feel very much that the family is just away and I’m checking out their house while they’re gone. Maybe it’s because the house is still in the family; George Vanderbilt (the man for whom the house was built) only had one child, daughter Cornelia, and her son William Cecil is the CEO of the Biltmore Company today. Also, those who restored the house to ready it for touring were meticulous in using the original furnishings or creating as exact of duplicates as they could, so the house really looks like it did when George Vanderbilt lived there.

Some of my favorite rooms in the house include the library (think the Beast’s library from Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, only on a slightly smaller scale), the loggia where the mountain breezes are at their best, the South Tower bedroom (I like to think that that is where I would have stayed, had I been a guest there) and the third floor living area. Another nice thing about Biltmore is the look you get at the working areas of the house: the servant bedrooms, the kitchens, the laundry, the pantries, etc. I really got a sense of what it took to keep a place like that running.

After the tour, we went to the Bistro restaurant for lunch. The Bistro is part of the winery complex; the former dairy barns have been converted into a working winery. Again, the food was superb. Again, lots of tomatoes. After lunch, we took the self-guided winery tour; this was my one disappointment of the trip. The self-guided tour really doesn’t tell much about the workings of the winery. They do offer a guided tour, however, and I think that it would be much more informative. A free wine tasting is included in the estate admission; while some of our group opted to go for it, I decided to go back to the suite and rest a bit. Ed had again taken charge of the kids for the day; he took them for a bike ride on the estate and then to the estate petting farm, where the got to meet horses and goats and collect eggs. When they returned to the suite, Colin took a nap while Piper and I went to the pool.

That evening we met up with everyone in downtown Asheville at a funky BBQ joint called Ed Boudreaux’s Bayou BBQ. It was great fun. The place features 14 different BBQ sauces, and there are plenty of things on the menu for non-BBQ lovers as well. Our server was fun and laid back, and totally capable of dealing with our large group. Ron’s friend Dave, who lives elsewhere in North Carolina, met up with us there for dinner, and I must say that he fit in with us perfectly (he finally paid Drew back the $50 borrowed a year or more previously. Joker that he is, Dave paid Drew back in Schrute Bucks). It was a pleasure to meet him and feast with him. Once again, a birthday dessert came my way: homemade bread pudding. We also received brownies for the table. Another wonderful time was had by all (including, this time, Ed and the kids).

That dinner was the conclusion of the group festivities. I truly had an unforgettable 40th birthday experience, and I am beyond delight that so many of my dear friends went to all the trouble and expense of sharing it with me. I am so blessed to have all of them in my lives. And total props to my amazing husband, who got the ball rolling by sending out the invitations to this road trip in February, so that everyone had time to plan. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with in ten years for the fiftieth!

RECIPE 37: Gordon's Apple Tart "Thierry"

Gordon’s Apple Tart “Thierry”

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                    Gordon’s Apple Tart “Thierry”

Recipe By: Gordon Ramsay
Serving Size: 4
Main Ingredient: Apples
Categories: Bake, The F Word, Desserts

-= Ingredients =-
~~ TART ~~
200 grams Puff Pastry
8 each Pink Lady apples ; more as needed, depending on size
1/2 pound Pink Lady apples
1 each Vanilla Pod ; seeds only
1 knob Unsalted Butter
1 tablespoon Calvados
3 tablespoons Powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
squeeze Lemon Juice
2 each Vanilla Pods ; seeds only
4 tablespoons Powdered sugar
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
Creme fraiche ; for garnish

-= Instructions =-
Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C/Gas 6.

For the tart, peel, core and quarter the apples. Finely slice into each quarter and gently fan out the slices whilst still keeping them all together. Repeat until all the apples are done.

To make the apple purée, peel, core and chop the apples (you may also use any leftover trimmings from the other apples). Scrape the vanilla seeds into a pan together with the butter. Add the Calvados, powdered sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Allow to heat through then add the apple pieces and leave to soften. Add a little water if necessary. When the apples have softened, spoon the mixture into a blender and pulse until smooth. Spread the mixture out on a baking tray and allow to cool.

Roll out the puff pastry thinly on a lightly floured surface to a 2mm thickness. The tart base should be roughly 12 inches wide. Transfer to your baking tray and prick all over with a fork. Using your fingertips, pinch all the way around the sides of the pastry to form a slightly risen edge Рthis will help to hold the apples in. Spread the pur̩e over the pastry base, not too thick, but enough so that it will provide a hold for the apple wedges to stand upright.

Tightly pack the fanned out apple wedges into the tart in concentric circles – starting from the outside in. Packing them tightly together will also help them to hold their shape. Once the entire tart has been covered, whisk together three quarters of the powdered sugar with the vanilla seeds and cinnamon. Sprinkle half this vanilla sugar over the top of the apples. Using a pastry brush, brush some softened butter over the apples and sprinkle the remaining vanilla sugar on top.

Repeat the process, brushing again with butter and finish with some plain powdered sugar.

Cook in the oven for 10 minutes then cover the tart with lightly greased baking parchment and weigh down with another baking sheet. Holding the sandwiched baking sheets tightly, flip them so the pastry is now on top of the apples. Bake for another 10 minutes until the pastry is brown and crisp.

Serve in slices with a spoonful of creme fraiche.
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During the early part of September each year, the Bethesda Foundation hosts GOURMET SENSATION, one of their signature fund-raising events. Since 1988, chefs from all around the world as well as local chefs have shared their culinary creations with an ever-growing and appreciative crowd to raise funds for Hospice of Cincinnati. This year’s event was on Saturday, September 8, 2007 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

Gourmet Sensation table display

My involvment with GOURMET SENSATION is as an appreciative guest, but I am involved with an event that occurs before GOURMET SENSATION — that is the chefs’ appreciation dinner the night before. For more than 12 years, Michael & Kathy Brown have prepared a multi-course meal for the chefs and their guests. For two of the last three years, Michael & Kathy have allowed me to assist them with preparations and service of this meal (I missed helping in 2006 because I was on vacation). This grand meal is presented in the beautiful dining room of the Cincinnatian Hotel, in their Palace restaurant which closes for the evening to allow Michael and his crew to move in and work in the hotel’s kitchens. This year, we served over 70 people.

On Thursday and Friday September 6 & 7, I went to the Brown’s house to assist with preparation of the meal. Several other professional cooks and enthusiastic amateurs show up to work for short or long shifts at the Brown’s house, so their large kitchen is crowded and bustling with activity.

The menu Michael & Kathy designed was as follows:

  • Home Cured Wild Coho Salmon and Gazpacho
    2006 Gunderloch “Redstone” Riesling (Rheinhessen, Germany)
  • Medallion of Foie Gras, Viognier Gelee and Fig Compote
    2003 Gregory Graham Viognier (Napa Valley)
  • Walleye with Braised Artichokes, Artichoke Puree and Lobster Mushrooms
    2006 Four Sisters Sauvignon Blanc (South Eastern Australia)
  • Loin of Veal, Sweetbread, Corn and Apple Ravioli, Honey Crisp Apples and Calvados Sauce
    2004 Four Sisters Shiraz (South Eastern Australia)
  • Epí
  • Couronne Lochoise, Roasted Beets and Pistachios
    2005 Chateau Calabre (Montravel, France)
    2004 Domaine de Pallus Chinon (Loire, France)
  • Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart
    2003 Gregory Graham “Red Hills” Syrah (Lake County)

The gazpacho was novel — Michael used gelatin filtration (as discussed in McGee’s column in the New York Times (registration required)) so the resulting liquid was intensely flavorful and crystal clear with a reddish tint. The home cured salmon was very tasty (though I only had a nibble).

I prefer seared foie gras to cold, but this preparation of the foie in a tourchon was quite nice (when isn’t foie gras nice?!) and very simple to serve, though I didn’t love the plating — I thought it looked a little crowded. Still, the plates were virtually licked clean when they came back, so the crowd must have been happy. The Viognier gelee was tasty and attractive.

The walleye was cooked very well (Keith has been cooking at the Palace for longer than he cares to admit, and he’s got a real master’s touch with fish and meats), and the lobster mushrooms were a very nice compliment to the flavor of the fish.

A personal favorite dish was the veal — it was beautifully prepared and cooked — very tender, and the sweetbread, corn, and apple ravioli were quite tasty.

Couronne LochoiseThe cheese in the cheese course — the Couronne Lochoise, a soft and creamy raw goat’s milk cheese from the Loire valley — was absolutely delicious, though before we portioned them, the individual cheeses looked like glazed yeast doughnuts! We cut each “doughnut” (actually, the word “Couronne” means “crown”) into four wedge-shaped pieces, which was a generous cheese course. The roasted beets & pistachios were wonderful together (very earthy) and complimented the cheese very well. This was one of my favorite elements of the meal.

After the cheese course came Kathy’s delicious Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart, a beauty for the eyes and a delight on the tongue. Even though I am not a “chocolate person”, I certainly appreciated the rich flavors of this dessert. We served it with a squiggle of Syrah reduction to decorate the plate.

Service of the meal went very quickly and smoothly — Gina, Jody, Tarrick, and others made light work of the plating and service. The menu was well planned and well prepped, so there was very little that needed to be done a la minute. Once service was done, we were taken out into the restaurant and presented to the appreciative crowd.

It was nice to recognize many faces from my previous GOURMET SENSATION experience — good to see Juho and othersm and it was nice to connect with new faces like Nancy & Steve from Baltimore! A few drinks were poured, a lot of conversation, and then I went home and sacked out! I heard reports that lots of the guest chefs went out and painted the town red — some reported getting back to their hotel rooms at 4:30am!

The next evening, Wendy & I attended the GOURMET SENSATION and were very impressed with the dishes prepared by the chefs. While every dish was tasty (and we tried them all), standouts included the bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese, the venison burgers, the sticky toffee pudding, the short ribs, the soft-shell crab, and the fish-in-coconut-milk-broth. A nice upgrade this year was the keepsake wine glass and plastic plate (with wine glass holder). It made juggling food, forks, and wine much easier than before.

Wendy & I were invited to go out with the chefs after GOURMET SENSATION and we intended to… We really did! We went home for a bit of downtime between the event and the partying, and never managed to get back up again to go out. So we missed a good time with the chefs, but I’ve made a promise to myself that next year we will make it!

RECIPE 38: Guacamole with Fresh Corn and Chipotle

Guacamole with Fresh Corn and Chipotle 

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                Guacamole with Fresh Corn and Chipotle

Forget placing the avocado pit in your guacamole… unless you like how it looks. It doesn’t stop the dip from turning brown.

Recipe By: Bon Appetit magazine, July 2006, page 76
Serving Size: 2
Main Ingredient:
Categories: Summer, Spring, Picnics, Advance, Easy, Bon Appetit Magazine, Hors dOeuvres

-= Ingredients =-
2 large ripe avocados ; (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved, pitted, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 ear Fresh corn
1 plum tomato ; seeded, diced
2 green onions ; chopped
1 each canned chipotle chile ; finely chopped*
1/4 cup sour cream

-= Instructions =-
Mash avocados with lime juice in medium bowl.

Using sharp knife, remove corn kernels from cob and add to avocado mixture. Stir in tomato and green onions. Combine chipotle and sour cream in small bowl; whisk to blend. Stir cream mixture into avocado mixture. Season with salt.

Do ahead: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Place plastic wrap directly onto surface of guacamole and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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Saturday, September 22: Wine Over Water

This Saturday, September 22, Newport Citizen’s Advisory Council (NCAC) will be hosting a wine tasting on the Purple People Bridge. This event will feature wine, hors d’oeuvres and live music in a unique venue with excellent views of the Cincinnati skyline.

With this event, we hope to engage a diverse audience of residents from all the river cities and build a sense of community that surpasses our cities’ physical boundaries.

Tickets for this event at $20 and must be pre-purchased at the website, below.

Any proceeds gained from this event will benefit the NCAC to be used for civic and beautification efforts within the city of Newport. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

RECIPE 39: Grant's Mac and Cheese

Grant’s Mac and Cheese 

                      -= Exported from BigOven =-

                        Grant’s Mac and Cheese

You would expect Achatz’s macaroni and cheese to have some chef tricks, but it doesn’t. He uses a white sauce, elbow macaroni and cheddar cheese, just like the rest of us. His personal touch: a tablespoon of paprika (to enhance the color of the sauce) and lots of smoky, crisp bacon bits.

Recipe By: Food & Wine magazine, December 2006, page 208
Serving Size: 8
Main Ingredient:
Categories: Food & Wine Magazine, Side Dish

-= Ingredients =-
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 each thick slices of bacon ; (6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion ; minced
2 each bay leaves
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups whole milk
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese ; shredded (5 cups)

-= Instructions =-
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until crisp, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate.

Add the onion and bay leaves to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour until blended. Gradually whisk in the milk until the sauce is smooth. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking constantly, and cook until thickened. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce gently for 30 minutes, whisking frequently. Discard the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the macaroni and boil until pliable but undercooked, about 4 minutes. Drain the macaroni and return it to the pot.

Stir 4 cups of the cheddar into the hot sauce, add the bacon and season with salt.Add the sauce to the macaroni and mix well. Spread the mac and cheese in the prepared baking dish and scatter the remaining 1 cup of cheddar on top. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

MAKE AHEAD The assembled mac and cheese can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.

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