Tag Archives: heavy cream

Honey Vanilla Fleur de Sel Caramels

I’ve had a running wish list of interesting ingredients to be added to my cooking cabinet, and I am proud to say I can finally cross one off as it is now nestled away among spices, vinegars and oils. Several weeks ago, I purchased fleur de sel, a hand-harvested, artisanal sea salt that is used in finishing a dish and looks very elegant; the salt appears in a crystallized flake form, reminiscent of a beautiful snow flake. 

Considering fleur de sel (French for flower of salt) is somewhat obscure, I had always planned to make a special trip for the flaky salt when I found time, perhaps to the Reading Terminal or a specialty cooking store. Who would have thought I would have stumbled upon a little tub of it when I was furniture shopping?

Discount stores like Marshalls and Home Good sell specialty food items mixed in with their cooking tools and kitchen appliances. Fine olive oils, flavored coffees, even fancy snacks grace the shelves for a fraction of the prices they are usually sold for; my belief is, as long as the expiration date isn’t a thing of the past, it’s a done deal. When my eyes spotted a container of fleur de sel for $2.99, I was a happy camper.

Since the salt is typically added as a finisher, I wanted to make something that looked and tasted equally elegant. This recipe for salty-sweet caramels can be summed up in one word: addictive. Read More…

Mashed Cauliflower

Early last week, I made one of my favorite pasta dishes and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. Atkins diet supporters would have cringed at the sight of me overdosing on heaping servings of warm, saucy noodles. Though I rarely feel guilty about eating too much of anything that tastes amazing, my stomach compensated for my lack of remorse and felt as if it were expanding like a balloon on a helium tank. The effects of my carbo-binging carried over into the next day when I could barely get out of bed, and wished to hide under the covers at the thought of trying to button my work pants.

Two days later, I was back to normal and felt I could reward myself with a healthy, yet hearty, home cooked meal of good, old-fashioned steak and potatoes. The guilt that failed to set in after my weeknight Italian feast a few nights prior reared its ugly head and scolded me for even thinking a starchy side would be smart. Not willing to sacrifice the flavor I was hoping for, I decided to get creative and trick my tastebuds into thinking I was indulging yet again.  Read More…

Pasta with Sausage, Basil and Mustard

Who doesn’t love a nice, warm, bowl of pasta?

On average, I need carbs several times a week – usually, only pasta will quiet the loud, feisty monster…you know, a craving. When that vicious animal gets loud, I look to the kitchen cabinets and pray there’s a supply of dry pasta waiting for me. Usually, I find a jar of sauce, or can whip something up with the veggies I have in the fridge to doctor up the dish. This combination of on-hand ingredients has been the perfect remedy for my carb cravings countless times. Truth be told, I love to cook from scratch, but I will never tire of the simple pairing of jarred sauce and dried, boxed, pasta. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to think outside the box (or in this case, jar) and find a jazzed up pasta recipe to keep in your arsenal, waiting for that next craving to roll around.

Last Friday, I tortured myself by perusing the slideshows on Food and Wine’s website – a helpful tool, perfectly categorized, if you’re searching for a recipe to try. Nigel Slater’s Pasta with Sausage, Basil and Mustard stood out for obvious reasons; the combination of title ingredients seemed odd, but the picture on the website looked too good to pass over. On top of that, I was planning for a grocery trip and needed very little from the list of ingredients. I even had about a cup of heavy cream that I didn’t want to waste, hanging out from Thanksgiving’s Green Bean Casserole. It was the perfect opportunity to try an interesting, new pasta recipe. Pasta and mustard – a far cry from the jarred sauce.

Pasta with Sausage, Basil and Mustard

Courtesy of Nigel Slater for Food and Wine


1 pound penne or medium shells

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

8 hot Italian sausages, meat removed from casings and crumbled (about 1 1/2 pounds)

3/4 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons grainy mustard

Pinch of crushed red pepper

1 cup thinly sliced basil


Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the sausage meat and brown over moderately high heat, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom, until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add the cream, mustard and crushed red pepper and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the pasta and basil and toss to coat. Serve at once.

First and foremost, the recipe was super-simple to execute and it’s placement in the “Fast Weekday Pasta” slideshow on foodandwine.com is perfect. I used chicken sausage that was more on the mild side, but the grainy mustard and crushed red pepper compensated for the substitution in the department of spiciness. In a jam, I realized I didn’t have dry white wine (and my monster craving was too strong for a liquor store run on a Monday night) so I used apple juice instead – this seemed to work out just fine. As for the mustard, I was pretty generous and used closer to 4 tablespoons.

The outcome was incredibly decadent – a creamy sauce, enhanced by the flavors of vinegar and horseradish from the mustard. Those same aspects that balanced the heavy cream were complemented by the basil, which stood out in the dish more than I expected. Once the heat melded the ingredients together with the warm pasta, the title ingredients made sense and were no longer and odd combination.

In the end, my carb craving was suppressed by a new, favorite pasta recipe. However, the vicious cycle continues as I now reminisce about the warm, creamy mustard sauce with fresh basil.

Clearly, I will be making this again. Probably sooner than later.

I’m Not Worthy: Ina Garten

Who do you want to be when you grow up? Please tell me I’m not the only “grown up” that ponders this question constantly. I’m always daydreaming about my future self…

I dream of being a super-smart, put-together, classy lady, crazy successful on the home front. One day, my friends and family will call me “the hostess with the mostest”, and their calendars will be marked up with my frequent dinner parties. My wish is to have elegantly-casual themed soirees, where veggies and dip become “crudités, and each event is accompanied by a signature cocktail and/or eye pleasing tablescape. My butcher, friends at the fish market, and cheese shop clerk will know me by name, and my weekly orders will be ready for pickup when I walk in.

In a nutshell: I want to be Ina Garten.

Ina Garten’s culinary training began with a long stay in France and an adoration for Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking. Once she returned to the states with her husband, Jeffrey, she continued to practice her skills at home by hosting frequent dinner parties, however she never pursued formal culinary training or a career in the culinary arts. In fact, she worked under the Ford and Carter administrations in Washington D.C. in the 1970’s.

Ina answered “the call” when she purchased and began running Barefoot Contessa, a specialty foods store in the Hamptons. The business grew, and she received notoriety in the late 90’s for her first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Her popular Food Network show began in 2002, which gives fans a more detailed look at a day in the life of Ina Garten.

A typical episode of Barefoot Contessa revolves around a menu; more often than not the theme of the episode relates to a dinner party, however she sometimes plans for an intimate dinner for two with Jeffrey. Though the episodes take place in her own kitchen, she often ventures to pick up several ingredients, allowing viewers to see where, and how, she purchases her items.

Guests usually arrive early, but always eager, to Ina’s gatherings. She serves everything with perfect timing, and every planned detail is just right, down to the floral arrangements and china. One of the most admirable qualities of Ina as a hostess is, she is never running back and forth from the kitchen to the party; Ina Garten properly prepares and organizes her menu items so she can partake in her own event and spend time with her friends and family.

Below is Ina Garten’s recipe for Caramel Sauce, a deliciously sticky concoction you can use “as is” on ice cream, with apples, or even in a hot cup of coffee. The recipe made enough for me to store in a squeeze bottle, so you may even have enough to incorporate into a larger recipe, like Caramel Bread Pudding.

Caramel Sauce

Copyright 2005, Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/3 cup water

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Mix the water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. Don’t worry – the cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify.

Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.

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