Archive for the ‘fruit’ category

Pear and Gorgonzola Tart

March 3, 2011

Any time that I have down time in my day, I cook.  I guess that was part of the drive for me originally to go to culinary school.  When I was in my old job, my whole day was spent thinking about what I wanted to cook next or what flavors I wanted to try out.  Even now between cooking all morning at school and cooking at a restaurant at night, I still spend my free time in the kitchen.  However a lot of times these days I can’t make a complete meal and therefore will make things like pizza dough, empanada dough, sauces, and all the ingredients that freeze well so I can quickly throw something together down the road.  Well I had a huge batch of flakey yeast dough in my freezer which is something you can use for tons of different things, but personally I love a savory tart.  This was a great recipe!  Ricky and I finished the entire thing in 24 hours and I already want to make another.  Buy a pie crust from the grocery and it’s easy to put together; you won’t be disappointed!

Pear Gorgonzola Tart

adapted from Giada de Laurentiis


  • Tart shell (I used a recipe for flakey yeast dough but you could also by a pie shell)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces Gorganzola
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 small pears, cored and sliced
  • 2 ounces prosciutto, cut into thin strips (I used a full 4 oz.)

Bake the pie shell in a square or round tart pan. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, combine the cream cheese, Gorgonzola, thyme, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Whip together until smooth.

In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the pears and cook until golden on both sides, about 5 minutes to 8 minutes.

When the tart crust has cooled slightly, (although make sure it is still warm so the cheese mix will spread easier) gently spread the whipped cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart. Place the pear slices in a decorative pattern over the cheese mixture. Sprinkle the thin strips of prosciutto over the pears.

Cut into squares or wedges and serve.


Almond Basket with Blueberry Sauce

June 21, 2010

As someone who has yet to take a formal baking or pastry class, I tend to shy away from attempting a lot of breads, desserts, and other sweets. However, when my family’s favorite restaurant recently closed their doors after decades of serving the Charlotte market, they also took away our favorite dessert – an almond basket with cinnamon ice cream, fresh raspberries, strawberries and blueberries, and homemade whipped cream. In order to keep the entire family from going through withdrawal, I decided to take a stab at creating my very own almond basket. After reviewing numerous recipes online, I thought I had the gist of it. In order to be safe, however, I decided to pretty much double the quantities of ingredients called for in many recipes, just in case I messed up a few of my first attempts (which, I did…see below).

But once I got the hang of making the almond baskets, they were pretty straight-forward. Thrilled with my results, I continued making almond baskets like a mad-woman, until at one point, I looked at my kitchen table, and counted 26 almond baskets. At that point, I decided to drop the spatula and slowly back away from my oven. I am now trying to find new and creative uses for almond baskets – I think my best idea so far is “edible yarmulke.” Better go to the patent office first thing tomorrow morning.

But I digress…

An almond basket can be served 1,000 ways. I had some blueberries in the fridge, so I decided to make a sauce that my Advanced Culinary professor taught us, and simply serve it over some vanilla bean ice cream. Fresh Raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries would all be great additions to this dessert. This dessert has a great presentation, is delicious, and will wow your guests, no matter what the occasion. Give it a try – you will be surprised how easy it is to make almond baskets!!

Almond Basket with Blueberry Sauce (scroll down for blueberry sauce recipe)

Almond Basket (yields 8 – 4 ½” baskets)
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
1 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. heavy cream
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet/sheet pan with parchment paper; set aside. Gather several bowls of similar diameter and place them near your work area to use as molds for the baked almond rounds. The bowls I used were about 4 ½” diameter, but you can use any size you have on hand.

Combine almonds, butter, sugar, flour, heavy cream, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small sauce pan over low heat. Stir until the butter and sugar have melted, then remove from heat. The batter should be off-white/pale yellow in color.

Using a tablespoon, drop the batter onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Leave about 4” between each drop of batter, as it will spread out quite a bit during the cooking process. If you use approximately 1 Tbsp of batter per round, you will end up with approx eight 4.5” basket.

Right before going into oven:

Bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, or until bubbly and golden-brown.

When the rounds are this color, remove from oven:

While the rounds are in the oven, invert the 4 bowls (to use as molds) on your work station. After the rounds have finished cooking, remove them from the oven. Let the rounds cool just until they begin to harden around the edges, then carefully but quickly transfer each round to your molds. To form a basket, drape one round over each of the bowls that were previously set aside, being sure to press each part of the round against the bowl, so that it will take the shape of the bowl while it cools. **This batter will harden very quickly, so it is imperative to transfer the rounds to the bowls as soon as you are able to handle the mixture without tearing it or burning yourself**

You may need to practice on a couple of the rounds before you get the hang of it – this is what happens if you try to transfer a round to the mold before it has set up enough:

The almond baskets will harden fairly quickly. After the baskets have cooled (it only takes a couple of minutes), transfer them to parchment paper to hold, if you will be using them the same day. If you are preparing the rounds ahead of time, they can be stored for up to 2-3 days in an airtight container.

To serve: Fill almond basket with vanilla bean ice cream, top with blueberry sauce, and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve immediately.

*Alternative fillings/toppings: ice cream, sorbet, fresh berries, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, fruit sauce, caramel, fresh berries, chocolate candies, etc.

Blueberry Sauce (yields about 1 quart)**
recipe courtesy of Chef Tessia Harman

1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
½ cup orange juice
1 ½ tsp. orange zest
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
3 sprigs of fresh thyme (remove stems – – only use the leaves) (optional)
2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier (optional)
1 Tbsp butter


In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar, water, orange juice, orange zest and cornstarch to a boil.

Add 1 cup of berries, fresh thyme leaves (opt.) and Grand Marnier (opt.).

Reduce heat to low and simmer until the sauce has thickened and reduced slightly (about 10 minutes).

Add remaining berries and cook 5 more minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in butter until dissolved, and serve. Can be served hot or cold, and can be refrigerated for up to a week.

**Can be served with a wide variety of foods, including pancakes, waffles, French toast, ice cream, sorbet, cheese cake, angel food cake, pound cake, etc.


-It is not necessary to grease the outsides of the bowls that you will use as the molds for the baskets – the butter in the almond batter recipe keeps the batter from sticking.

-I recommend baking 3-4 rounds at a time. While baking, the batter spreads out much more than one would think. Making batches of 3-4 at a time batch prevents over-crowding on the cookie sheet, which causes the batter to run together. It also allows you to transfer each of the rounds to the molds before the remaining rounds harden on your work station.

-You may need to adjust the amount of batter you use to make your rounds depending on the diameter of the bowls you have.

Mango Salsa with Fish Tacos

April 27, 2010

How nice would it be to live in a tropical place and walk outside your door and pick a few mangos off the tree.  While I’m fantasizing, I’m thinking that it would probably be a coastal town in the Caribbean.  Therefore not only could I just go pick fresh mangos, but I would also leisurely wander down and buy fresh fish from the dock.  Awww, it would have been great!  But alas, here I am in Charlotte, NC and I don’t think Lake Norman classifies as a place to get fresh fish.  But I can still pretend and make a fabulous fish taco with fresh salsa.  I love homemade salsa, especially in the summer when you can add fresh fruit to it.  This mango salsa I altered from a recipe I had for peach salsa and I couldn’t tell which one I enjoyed more.  It was great with fish tacos but would be just as good with chips or even on pork or grilled salmon.  So even though your mangos might not come from your back yard, it still tastes just as sweet!


  • 2  cups  finely chopped peeled mango (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2  cup  finely chopped red onion
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped cilantro
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground red pepper
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1  garlic clove, minced

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Chill for an hour to let the flavors blend.

To make the fish tacos, slice tilapia or any other fish you prefer and coat in a mixture of panko, a dash of salt, and a touch of ground red pepper and bake for about 10 minutes until the fish becomes flakey.  Top with sour cream.