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Archive for April, 2010

A Taste from Chef Allen Susser

Instead of posting a recipe inspired by a previous Taste of the Nation chef this week, I decided to post about the chef who made the South Florida Taste of the Nation events what they are today…Chef Allen Susser.

Picture courtesy of www.jannorris.com

Recently I had the opportunity to go try out a new Delray Beach restaurant called Taste Gastropub. James Beard Award recipient, Chef Allen Susser, owner of the acclaimed Chef Allen’s Seafood Grill in Aventura, is the consulting chef for the new restaurant, which opened on April 12, 2010.

The new hot spot has somewhat of a retro feel, with the food having an emphasis on products sourced from small farmers and local fishermen. The menu ranges from bar snacks to hearty entrees. All of the plates are on the smaller side, somewhat similar to a tapas. There is even an adorable mini candy bar they will bring right to your table, with gummies and m&m’s, just to name a few. There is indoor seating, as well as outdoor seating on the front patio or in the fabulous outdoor courtyard area.

Our experience was quite nice. We sat in the outdoor courtyard and had a waiter full of personality. We sipped on some of their signature cocktails and enjoyed a number of their small dishes. Our table started out with some of the smaller snack size choices, which included Hot Potato Chips with Onion, Garlic and Chive Dip, as well as their Triple Cooked French Fries. I personally loved the potato chips and dip.

We then moved on to somewhat larger dishes which included, Laughing Bird Shrimp Ceviche with grapefruit, gin and corn nuts; Niman Ranch Skirt Steak with Roquefort Butter and Garlic Herb Frites; Peeky Toe Crabcake “Po’ Boy”; and the Korean Style Spare Ribs. I personally tasted the Ceviche, which was fabulous. The shrimp were so tender, and the grapefruit was an excellent addition. I also sampled the Crabcakes and the Skirt Steak, which were nice choices as well.

They have a fun filled selection of desserts to finish off your meal, including homemade Almond Joy bars and Kit-Kats. I had the Pecan Pie with Praline Pecan Ice Cream; I have to admit that it was my favorite part of the meal. My husband and one of our friends both had the Key Lime Pie, which is quite tasty as well. We also had the opportunity to sample the mini candy bar, complete with baby scoops to help yourself to the selection of nostalgic treats.

It was a great night out and a very enjoyable experience. If you are in the area you should definitely give Taste Gastropub a try.

Don’t forget, if you are going to be in South Florida on May 13th you should get your tickets to Taste of the Nation Fort Lauderdale. Just visit www.strengthsouthflorida.org to purchase your tickets. As one of my readers you can enjoy 10% off the ticket rate by entering discount code*: WEBFTL.

*Discount code only good for the Fort Lauderdale  event.
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Death by Brownie…and a special cause.

I would like to start off by saying that I have been given the amazing opportunity to team up with Share Our Strength South Florida! I am extremely excited to work with such an amazing organization and have the opportunity to join my passion with a very important cause. Not only that, but my readers can look forward to some fun features and opportunities in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t seen the PSAs usually shown on the Food Network, and you aren’t familiar with Share Our Strength, let me fill you in a bit. Share Our Strength® is the leading national organization working to end childhood hunger in America. They weave together a net of community groups, activists and food programs to catch every at-risk child and make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.

One of the many events that Share Our Strength hosts in order to raise funds for the nationwide program is Taste of the Nation. Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® is the nation’s premier culinary benefit dedicated to making sure no kid in America grows up hungry. Each spring, the nation’s hottest chefs and mixologists donate their time, talent and passion at more than 40 Taste of the Nation events across the United States and Canada, with one goal in mind: to raise the critical funds needed to end childhood hunger.

I am lucky enough to have one of the events hosted in my local area, Fort Lauderdale, on May 13th. I am excited to have the opportunity to attend the event and can’t wait to share the experience with all of you.

If you live in South Florida (or want to pay a visit) and would rather experience this amazing event on your own, you can visit www.strengthsouthflorida.org to purchase tickets. Not only that, but I am offering my readers 10% off the ticket rate. Just enter discount code*: WEBFTL.

Okay, so what does all of this have to do with the blog you ask?? Well, in honor of the Fort Lauderdale Taste of the Nation, I am going to be doing a series of posts dedicated to the food served at past Taste of the Nation events, and the chefs who created it. So look for my weekly Taste of the Nation posts to see what dishes of the past have inspired me to make a version of my own.

To kick this series off, I was inspired by Chef Christine Najac, from Really Good Cookies in Boca Raton, FL.  What did she make??  Chocolate Fudge Brownies!  It’s a classic comfort food that most people can’t resist, especially kids.  We are doing this for the kids, right?

Since I don’t have Chef Christine’s personal recipe, I had to venture out to find a recipe of my own.  Thanks to the blog, The Piggly Wiggly, I didn’t have to venture too far.  She introduced me to a  brownie recipe that has been awarded best brownie honors from America’s Test Kitchen, The Today Show, and Oprah’s O Magazine.  I mean come on…Oprah wouldn’t lie!!  I must say that this was one incredible brownie.  If you have a chocolate craving, this will DEFINITELY fulfill it.  Richness….that would be the perfect word to describe it.

Okay, enough talking already!  You go check out Share Our Strength South Florida and Taste of the Nation, and I will get on with giving you this incredible recipe!

On second thought, jot down the recipe first and then go check out the sites while you wait for the brownies to bake in the oven.

*Discount code only good for the Fort Lauderdale  event.

Fudgy Brownies

courtesy of Baked: New Frontiers In Baking (Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito), via The Piggly Wiggly

1-1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoon dark cocoa powder
11-oz quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I used instant coffee powder)
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan. I prefer to line my pan with parchment paper for easy release.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.

Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined.

Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both the granulated and brown sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Be sure NOT to over-mix! Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk until just combined, but don’t over mix.

Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate. Using a spatula (DO NOT USE A WHISK), fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.

Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

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A Spring Twist on Cupcakes

I hope everyone had a very happy Easter, or at least a fabulous weekend. In the spirit of Easter and Spring I wanted to do something fun and festive, especially for the little ones that I knew would be present during the family gathering today. When I saw these little bird’s nest cupcakes I thought they would be the perfect sweet treat. After all, my only instructions were to bring dessert and to make sure there was chocolate involved! So that I did. I decided to rely on my favorite cupcake combination….yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Oh how I love thee!

In the end I not only had a tasty dessert (that included chocolate), but also an eye catching one. These were a crowd pleaser and really weren’t that difficult to make. The worst part was keeping the chocolate “nest” pieces from melting during the decorating process. Then again, who’s going to complain about a little melted chocolate on their fingers??

Bird’s Nest Cupcakes

idea courtesy of Bakers Royale

1. Prepare your preferred cupcake and frosting (see recipes below).
2. Use any egg shaped candy for the “eggs.” I used Hershey’s chocolate eggs.
3. For the nest look, melt some chocolate and spread it to a 1/8 of an inch on parchment. Cool in fridge for 5 minutes. Once removed, starting at one end of the parchment roll it to the other end. Your chocolate will crack in shreds. For 12 cupcakes I used around a half of a bag of mini chocolate chips for melting.
4. Work quickly as the chocolate tends to melt from the warmth of your hands. If it does, return the chocolate to the fridge for a few minutes.

Yellow Cupcakes
courtesy of Joy of Baking

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
adapted from Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon milk

Whisk the butter in a mixing bowl for about 6-8 minutes, until pale and creamy.

Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and milk and whisk for another 6 minutes, until fluffy and creamy. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

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