Saturday, October 31, 2009

eat, drink and be scary...

As spirits roam the neighborhoods at night,
Let loose upon the Earth till it be light.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

sweet pumpkin maple custard...pumpkin week continues

This delicious pumpkin custard can be baked in sugar pumpkins or in individual small ramekins in a bain maire (water bath). The baking time in a pumpkin is slightly longer as the pumpkins insulate the custard as it bakes. I like to bake my custard in pumpkins this time of year as it looks wonderfully unusual when served.


2 small sugar pumpkins

4 eggs

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 cup of pumpkin purée

1/2 cup maple syrup

a pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tsp oil for baking dish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Cut the lid off the pumpkin and remove the seeds.

Place a steamer basket in a medium saucepan with several inches of water.
Place pumpkins in the basket, cover and steam until just tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Let cool . (I popped mine in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.)

Combine the eggs, cream, maple syrup, pumpkin purée, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger.

Pour mixture into the pumpkin shell. Place in the oiled baking pan and lightly cover pumpkin with foil.

Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until mixture has set like a custard.
Allow to cool and cut pumpkin into wedges and serve with whipped cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Happy Pumpkin eating...! ! !

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

wordless Wednesday: autumn in Paris…

Everyone has their natural place...
Neither pride nor price determines its altitude: childhood decides it.
Mine is a Parisian sixth floor with a view over the roofs.
~ Jean-Paul Sartre, Les Mots

For many years past, I have spent the autumn season in Paris. Not only is it a magical time of year as the leaves change into their fall couture, there is different vibe throughout the city that seems less hectic and more serene. Unfortunately this year I will be here in the US. But I am missing Paris very much this autumn, so the misty grey or golden autumn days here remind me of those glorious days in my favorite city. This year, images of past autumns in Paris will have to do, and I share them with you, gentle readers.

A breath of Paris preserves the soul.
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables ~ 1862

All I wanted was to connect my moods with those of Paris.
A picture is the expression of an impression. If the beautiful were not in us, how would we ever recognize it? ~
Ernst Haas

Delicious autumn...! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~George Eliot

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving.
What you have caught on film is captured forever ...
It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten them.
Aaron Siskind

And because it is Pumpkin week, here are pumpkins that are Parisiennes: Jaune Gros de Paris.

The beautiful giant pumpkin of the historic Paris market, Marché Les Halles. This big fruit can grow to over 100 lbs. They are round, flattened and have light ribbing. They are good keepers and are still popular in France. Good in pies, soups and baked or picked small and roasted or fried like squash.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

roasted savory pumpkin seeds

"Men are like pumpkins.
It seems like all the good ones are either taken or they've had all the seeds scraped out of their heads with a spoon."

I found many delicious ways to season pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds have a subtle sweetness and nutty taste, and one of the most nutritious of all the seeds. They are great added to salads or sautéed veggies. I mix them into ground turkey before I make burgers or meatloaf.
Mostly I like them for a quick mid day savory snack.

Coulter Farm Pumpkin Patch

But during the Halloween season, I just love to toast them with flavorful olive oil or butter, sea salt and smoked paprika for a healthy, tasty autumn treat.

I made a “slightly less healthy” version with some Summer Butter that I brought from Nordic Creamery. I bought several tubs of one of their last batches of this organic cows milk butter that is made only in the summer months when the cows are eating grass. The taste is sweet, fresh and quite different from any butter from the Mega-Mart. More about Summer Butter in my post tomorrow.


fresh pumpkin seeds

sea salt

celery salt

olive oil or melted butter

smoked paprika (you can also use regular paprika)


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place pumpkin seeds, water, and 2 teaspoons of salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil for 15 minutes. I find that his step makes the shell expand around the seed and then it becomes very crispy when roasted.

Drain seeds, blot, and let air-dry for 20 minutes.

Toss the dry seeds with olive oil, smoked paprika and salts.

Spread the seeds in a single layer on baking pan.

Roast until lightly golden and crisp for about 30 minutes.
Turn and flip seed every 10 minutes for an even roast.
(Your house will smell amazing…)

Drain seeds of excess oil on a paper towel.

Store your finished pumpkin seeds in an airtight container. I put the ones made with butter in the refrigerator.

(that is if there are any left to store…)
These freshly roasted seeds go really, really FAST…!

Monday, October 26, 2009

happy pumpkin week…! sugar pumpkins

Produce great pumpkins, the pies will follow later.

Welcome to the Second Annual Pumpkin Week here at "feasting…on gluten-free pixels” !

Last year during the First Annual Pumpkin Week, I relayed a little about the history and lore of the pumpkin. I shared my recipes for Pumpkin soup and Pumpkin seed brittle. This year I will talk a bit about one of my favorite pumpkins, the sugar pumpkin and share some of the recipes that I have working on using the sugar pumpkin over the past week.

If autumn had a taste, it would taste like sugar pumpkins. Sugar pumpkins, pie-pumpkins, or sweet pumpkins are not the same as the pumpkins that we use to carve our jack-o-lanterns. Sugar pumpkins are smaller, less fibrous and much sweeter than their big brothers and belong to the winter squash family. In addition, as you will see this week, the sugar pumpkin is quite versatile in both savory and sweet recipes.

When buying your sugar pumpkins, look for those that are small, round, firm and heavy for their size. The sugar pumpkin has less defined ridges and a duller orange skin than the shiny-skinned jack-o-lanterns. Be sure to inspect the pumpkin for any cracks, bruises and that the stem is intact. These little beauties will last for a month at room temperature.

half’n’half roasted Sugar pumpkins

Since I cook just for myself or for an occasional guest, I cut a Sugar pumpkin in half and season one half as savory and the other as sweet.


one sugar pumpkin washed, dried and cut in half

olive oil

ingredients for the savory half

olive oil

sea salt (I used four kinds of salt: Black Kilauea, Pink Australian, Red Haleakala, and White Flake Cyprus.)

celery salt

coarse-ground black pepper

dried thyme

dried sage

ingredients for the sweet half

dark brown sugar


nutmegon whole star-anise


splash of vanilla


Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat baking dish bottom with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Washed and cut the sugar pumpkin in half. Remove seeds and fibers and set aside.Poke hole in the pumpkins to allow the flavorings to infuse during roasting, but be careful not to pierce through the skin.

Apply the savory ingredients to one side and the sweet ingredients to the other.

Add 1/4 inch of water to the roasting pan and tent with aluminum foil.

Roast the pumpkin halves for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender.

Cool the pumpkins to room temperature.

I cube the savory roasted pumpkin and use them in a salad with my home grown French lettuces, goat cheese, drizzled with my spicy vinaigrette and topped with Smoked Paprika roasted pumpkin seeds.

The sweet roasted pumpkin, I peel and slice thin then add to my maple caramel sauce. Heat the thin slices in the sauce until warm. Serve with thick Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream. Yummy just alone, too.

(NOTE: the recipes in bold will follow through my Second Annual Pumpkin Week.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

crab legs with creamy wasabi sauce

I scored a good deal on frozen crab legs at my local fishmongers yesterday. And although the preparation is easy-peasy I wanted to share a few tips for preparation that I have learned along the way.My crab legs were uncooked and frozen on the ship, but I have included instructions for both uncooked and precooked.

I sometimes eat crab with just the utter simplicity of clarified butter and lemon, but I also love the creamy spiciness of Wasabi sauce. The Wasabi sauce also works well combines with the left-over crab for a great crab salad in an avocado or on a toasted roll.

cooking frozen uncooked crab legs

Boiling crab legs is easy.
Add either 2 tablespoons of salt, one cup of white wine and 2 cloves of crushed garlic (optional) to the water.
Fill a large pot approximately ½ full of water depending on the number of crab legs to be cooked.
Bring water to a heavy boil. Place uncooked crab legs into the boiling water and allow the water to return to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium and cook them approximately 20 minutes.

heating frozen unthawed pre-cooked crab legs

Put the pre-cooked frozen crab legs in a vegetable steamer or colander over heavy and rapid boiling water (fill pot about 1/3 of the way with water). Cover tightly and steam them 10-12 minutes until heated through. Pre-cooked crab legs can also be eaten cold without cooking otherwise they just need heating without further cooking.

Seafood requires a shorter cooking and because most species of seafood have a low fat and high water content they can easily be overcooked.. Too much steaming will toughen the flesh as it dries out and too much cooking when submerged in water will make the flesh soggy.

creamy wasabi sauce


1 ½ tbsps Wasabi paste (or more to taste)

3 tbsps mayonnaise

2 tbsps sour cream

1 tbsp Tamari sauce (Gluten-free soy sauce)

1 green onion, both the white and green parts, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

wordless wednesday…

"There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky,
which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been."
~ Percy Bysshe Shelly

I wanted to share my beautiful autumnal surroundings with all of you...
no words are necessary.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

autumn. spiced-apple clafoutis

If you have an apple and I have an apple
and we exchange these apples then you and I
will still each have one apple.
But if you have an idea and I have an idea
and we exchange these ideas,
then each of us will have two ideas.
~ George Bernard Shaw

Clafoutis (or clafouti) is a French batter cake, a specialty of the Limousin region, traditionally made with black cherries but also sometimes with prunes, apples, or other fruits.
My autumnal clafoutis recipe is adapted from a recipe from Sally Schmitt (of French Laundry fame).



3 eggs

1 cup half-and-half or cream

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup sweet brown rice flour

½ cup sugar

¼ tsp. salt

spices for infusion

6 whole cloves

1 whole cinnamon stick

8 whole star anise

3 whole peppercorns

½ whole Vanilla pod, scraped

½ nutmeg pod

apple mixture

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

4 tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

½ cup sugar

4 tbsp. brandy or sweet sherry

½ tsp ground cinnamon

a pinch of Kosher salt


Add the infusion spices and the half-and-half in a pan and heat to just bubbling at the edges of the pan.
Turn off the heat and let cool on stovetop.
When cool, pour into a clean container and refirigerate for at least 6 hours. I do the infusion the night before to let the whole spices gently infuse into the cream.
Strain the infused cream before use.

(NOTE: This vanilla-spice infuse half-and-half is SO delicious, I try make a little extra to add it to my coffee or tea for a taste of autumn.)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Blend together by hand with a whisk, or in a blender, the milk, eggs, 6 tbsp. of the melted butter, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt.
Whisk well until smooth, and set aside.

Grease a 10" pie plate or six ramekins with the remaining butter.
Put in the chill chest until you are ready to bake.

To make the apple mixture, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the sliced apples, ½ cup of sugar, brandy and cook gently until apples the sauce bubbles around the apples.
I added 2 whole star anise to my sauce and removed them after the sauce had cooled.
Turn off heat and set aside and let the apples cool to touch.

Pour in half the batter to your pan or ramekins.
Arrange the apple slices over batter, reserving juices, then pour remaining batter over apples.
Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over batter.
Bake until clafouti is golden and set in the center, 25–30 minutes, depending on your oven.

Right before I serve the clafoutis, I drizzled them with warmed reserved apple glaze.
The spice-infused cream provides the perfect amount of spicy kick to the tart-sweet apples. Hot from the oven or cool to room temperature, this desert embodies all that is autumn.

(NOTE: Since I was unable to find my glazed 10” calfoutis dish and used the ramekins, I had about 1/3 cup of batter left-over. It makes perfect pancakes, expeciall when topped with a bit of the glaze.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

blood orange sorbet…a taste of the autumn air

"And the sunlight crawls around you,
And draws a fable that we fell through,
Pomegranate rain on my tongue,
Under the blood orange sun…”

I love citrus, and Blood Oranges are my all-time favorite. Their rich flavor and deep red color proclaim autumn more than any other citrus.

Blood oranges contain a pigment called anthocyanin, which is not typically found in citrus but rather more common in other red fruits like cranberries and pomegranates. Not only is the inside of the orange darkly pigmented but depending on the variety, the outside of their orange skins may also have lovely painterly washes of deep ruby red.

The three main blood orange varieties are Tarocco, the Moro and the Sanguigno.
The Moro, a recent addition to the blood orange family, is the most colorful of the three types, with a deep purple flesh and reddish orange rind. The flavor is stronger and the aroma is more intense than a normal orange. This fruit has a distinct, sweet flavor with a hint of raspberry particular to blood oranges.

The Moro variety is believed to have originated at the beginning of the 19th century in the citrus-growing area around Lentini. Moro Blood Oranges are full-blood oranges, meaning that their flesh ranges from orange-veined ruby colors from crimson and to vermillion. The thick orange-colored peel has a medium fine grain with spots, splashes or red wine veins. The Moro Blood Orange is now grown in the USA in San Diego, California.

Rungis Market outside Paris

I just found a new International Market in my area that has a produce section that rivals any Whole Foods (at much less than half the price). The square-footage of the produce section alone is larger than the total of most mega-mart stores. The huge selection and the artful arrangement of the fruits and vegetables feels like a cross between a visit to a perfect Parisian Marché and the huge wholesale market of Rungis in the suburb just outside of Paris.
I will share more about this new favorite market in an upcoming post.

I knew that the San Diego Crop of the Moro Blood Orange was just coming into season this month. When I was browsing at my “new-to-me-market”, I came across perfectly piled mounds of stunning Blood Oranges. They called to me with their lovely impressionistic coats of many colors and delicious aromas that was as much berry as it was orange. I bought many pounds of this delicious fruit and have been eating and experimenting with this fruit ever since. Here is the first of my recipes.

Blood Orange Sorbet


¼ cup Sugar or ¼-cup Agave Nectar

1½ cups water

1 cup freshly squeezed Blood Orange Juice

1 tbsp Blood Orange Zest

a pinch of Kosher Salt

a tiny pinch of Cinnamon

¼ cup of a sweet, fruity white wine


Make a simple sugar combining the water and sugar into a saucepan.
Place on medium heat stir until the mix starts to bubble slightly.
Lower the heat and stir until the mixture becomes clear.
Then the sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat.

Add the Agave Nectar a little at a time and taste.

You can add a little more later, when the mixture is in the ice cream machine.
Add the Blood Orange zest, a pinch of salt, a pinch of Cinnamon and the wine and stir to combine. Incorporate the Blood Orange juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove the citrus pulp and any seeds. Stir the mixture and gently heat through.

Pour into a covered container and cool this mixture for at least two hours in the refrigerator.Chilling the mixture overnight is better.

Pour the chilled mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your particular model. For my Cuisinart ICE-20, I let it mix for 25-30 minutes.

I had been experimenting with fruit and chocolate sorbets over this past summer, trying to get the perfect balance of the alcohols and sugars that makes the sorbet smooth that does not freeze and the liquid sweetener (Agave) that does.

This recipe is a result of many trials and errors, but as Julia Child was so fond of telling us, ”The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes”. I have many neighbors that are great fans of eating my mistakes.

The resulting product of this Blood Orange sorbet recipe is a sorbet that is full of orange-berry fruit flavor, not too tart.
Sweet, but with some depth of flavor after it freezes overnight.
It has a lovely smooth mouth feel that is not your mega-mart sorbet…


It was smoooooth…and creamy and yummy and was like the cool autumn air on my tongue.

You will love this sorbet.

Just a note…that the riper the Blood Oranges, the deeper the color of the final sorbet. The interior of the Blood Oranges will be a richer burgundy when ripe. However I found that the flavor of the final sorbet was equally rich, mellow and smooth regardless of the color of the sorbet. I just liked that the burgundy color makes the sorbet taste a bit more like autumn. Totally a trick of the mind-tastebud connection, I am sure.

I paired this fruity sorbet with a scoop of my homemade Vanilla-Cinnamon ice cream over a square of gluten-free apple crisp…
eaten with an antique silver spoon of course…perfection.

Bon appètit…!