Monday, July 23, 2012

Champagne with Grand Marnier and Orange Juice

It’s never too soon: Heads up for next weekend! No doubt some of you Dollinks will be planning a decadent, lazy brunch instead of breakfast. If so, this special drink goes a step beyond the usual champagne and orange juice brunch starter. I’m not here to promote brand names, so am compelled to say that if you wish, you can use any quality orange liqueur in place of Grand Marnier.
Champagne with Grand Marnier and Orange Juice:
12 oz. chilled, dry champagne
2 oz. chilled Grand Marnier or any other orange-flavored liqueur
6 oz. chilled orange juice
Combine in a pitcher, serving at once in chilled champagne glasses. Serves 4 or 5. 
*   *   *

As always -   
xox   Nicole

Dollinks: I’m about to take an indefinite period of time off. Ron and I have very much enjoyed writing and taking photos for this blog, which will remain online. It’s gratifying to know that readers will continue to enjoy these recipes in future years. Allow me to raise a glass to all of you! For now, let’s just say that I’ve ...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grand Marnier Chocolate Fudge Torte

Four layers, four times the pleasure
This is one of my fanciest and most delicious cakes. I’ll be bringing it to a potluck dinner next month, where I have a hunch it will disappear very quickly! Important note: You’ll need 8 hours to make this delicious cake. While that amount of time may seem daunting, chill out! Much of this is refrigeration time. This four-layer party cake actually requires very little work. Mea culpa: I don’t know the recipe’s source! Maxima mea culpa: I don’t know and don’t care how many calories it contains. But maybe thats a good thing!
Grand Marnier Chocolate Fudge Torte:
To Prepare the Chocolate Fudge Torte:
1-¾ c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ c. cocoa powder
½ c. unsalted butter
1-⅔ c. granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1-⅓ c. water
¼ c. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans; lightly dust with cocoa. Line bottoms with parchment paper, greasing once more. Have all ingredients assembled and at room temperature. Combine dry ingredients in medium bowl; set aside. Using an electric beater, cream butter in large bowl, gradually adding sugar until no graininess remains and creamed mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down sides of bowl between additions. Add vanilla. 
Reduce mixer speed to low, beating in ⅓ of flour mixture. When flour and creamed mixture are well combined, beat in ½ water. Repeat, ending with flour mixture. Spoon into prepared pans, banging several times on work surface to remove air bubbles. Bake 30-to-35 min., until center of cake springs back when lightly touched or a skewer poked into cake’s center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 5 min. before running a knife around the edge, up-ending them onto a wire rack. 

(When Ron said my knife wasn’t sharp enough to do the job, I gritted my teeth and said: “I’ve been doing it this way, with this knife, for years!” Replied Ron: “Consider the coefficient of sliding friction.” “And what is that?” I asked, becoming testy. “It’s a measurement of the force required to move an object from a static position.” I let him use his $#@% sharp knife. The cake turned out perfectly. Men! Cant live with em, cant live without em!) 

Peel away parchment paper, cooling completely on rack. Slice each cooled cake horizontally, making a total of four layers. Turn the layers cut-side up, sprinkling each with 1 tbsp. Grand Marnier. Wrap and chill each of the four layers.

Dust greased pans with cocoa. Lay parchment in pans 

Combine dry ingredients and set aside

Have eggs at room temperature

Mix sugar with creamed butter, adding eggs one at a time

Alternate dry ingredients with water. Pour into prepared pans

Peel parchment from cooled cakes

Split each layer horizontally in half

Drizzle 1 tbsp. orange liqueur over each of the four layers
To Prepare the Grand Marnier Filling:
¾ c. frozen concentrated orange juice, unsweetened
¾ c. granulated sugar
1 envelope (1 tbsp.) unflavored gelatin 
Zest of two oranges, coarsely grated
¼ c. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
3-¾ c. heavy (whipping) cream
¾ c. icing sugar (confectioners or powdered sugar)
7 orange slices, as garnish
2 tbsp. orange marmalade, as glaze
In a medium saucepan, combine orange juice concentrate, sugar, and gelatin. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until sugar and gelatin are completely dissolved, 4 or 5 min. Remove from heat, stirring in zest and liqueur. Press a square of waxed paper onto the mixture’s surface, refrigerating until no longer warm to the touch but not yet jelled, about 20 min. Meanwhile, whip cream to soft peaks in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in icing sugar. Using a spatula, fold in Grand Marnier mixture. 
To Assemble the Torte:
Place one layer of cake, cut-side up, on serving plate (or on foil-covered cardboard circle that will later sit on pedestal cake stand). Spoon ¼ of orange filling into centre of layer, spreading almost to edge of cake. Repeat with next three layers, ending with filling. Stabilize cake by poking a wooden skewer into its center, ensuring the skewer penetrates all four layers. Snip skewer about an inch above cake using wire cutters. Refrigerate at least 4 hr., allowing flavors time to blend. Midway through chilling, clean up topping that has oozed too far over edge. Decorate with orange slices glazed with a little orange marmalade, slightly warmed to liquify it. Extract skewer before serving.

Important Note: My daughter-in-law, Deena Fisher, is a professional cake artist in Los Cabos, MX. She taught me that a multi-layered cake requires a brief period of freezing after each iced layer goes on. I forgot to do that! While my cake tasted wonderful, it looked a little tipsy. I promise to do better, next time, and will use her freezer trick between ... each ... layer!  

Assemble all ingredients: Here's my measured icing sugar

Add powdered gelatin to granulated sugar

Combine with thawed orange juice concentrate
Have liqueur and orange zest at the ready ... No tippling!

Press a square of waxed paper over orange solution; refrigerate

Add cooled orange solution to softly whipped cream

Fold in by hand

Use a quarter of orange-flavored cream for each layer

Repeat with  each layer

Clean up oozing cream after mixture starts to set;
stabilize layers with a long bamboo skewer

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Peach-Champagne Soup

I’ve just prepared this make-ahead chilled soup for a small summer lunch with friends. I wanted a fancy “feel” to the menu, as though I’d pulled out all the stops, but I also wanted a minimum of work. So I served the Olive Cheese Balls I posted February 28, 2012 as an appetizer, todays chilled soup, the Mimosa Salad I posted July 15, 2012, and the Crab Quiche I posted January 11, 2011 (I made the pastry and fitted it into the pan the night before). To finish the meal, we had Strawberries Romanoff, posted July 21, 2011. Check the Index for all those recipes and more, Dollinks!
Peach-Champagne Soup:
¾ c. water
¼ c. granulated sugar
2 whole cloves
1 large or 2 small cinnamon sticks, broken
¼ tsp. nutmeg
4 large fresh peaches, pitted and peeled (see Note)
½ c. heavy (whipping) cream
¾ c. champagne or sparkling white wine
Fresh mint leaves, as garnish (see Further Note)
Our Anonymous Taste Tester
loved this first-course soup!
Combine water, sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil before reducing heat and simmering 10 min. Strain, cool, and  refrigerate until thoroughly cold. Pour sugar mixture into blender with prepared peaches. Purée before stirring in cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Stir in chilled champagne or sparkling wine just before serving. Garnish with a small mint sprig at the side or centre of the bowl. Serves 4.

Note: I used commercially canned peaches as a time- and money-saver. Use 50-to-60 small, well-drained peach slices. 

Combine cinnamon stick, whole cloves, nutmeg, sugar, water

Purée peaches in blender

Garnish with small mint sprig before serving 
Further Note: For a truly elegant touch, omit mint leaf and  garnish soup with an unsweetened whipping-cream rosette sprinkled with Ginger Sugar. To learn how to do that, see the Index for How to Make Ginger Sugar.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seafood Lasagna

It’s a keeper!” That’s what we yell when we fish: “Keeper!” Well, this recipe is definitely a keeper. As with any lasagna, the necessary cheese is not cheap, but the cost of the seafood in this recipe is not exorbitant. I used about a pound of chunk-style imitation crab, as well as a couple of small salmon fillets because they were in my freezer. Use any type of raw, shelled seafood you like, in this recipe. Having said that, don’t use real crab. Its delicate flavor would be lost amidst the strong basil-tomato and cheese flavors. You may certainly use canned fish, but I greatly prefer fresh or frozen.
To speed the process, I used a bottled, seasoned tomato sauce - I have to admit, it was excellent - instead of making the from-scratch slow-simmered lasagna sauce I usually do (see Index for Main Dish: Lasagna/My All-Time Favorite) posted June 6, 2012. The recipe below makes a large, family-size lasagna - so delicious that it’s suitable for a family dinner or for entertaining. Naturally, you’ll cut down the cost if you cut down the size. 
Seafood Lasagna:
1 lb. (454 g) artificial crab (or any sturdy white fish such as cod, pollock, haddock, etc.)
7 oz. (200 g) salmon fillets (or snapper or other firm-fleshed fish of your choice)
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
¼ large, green bell pepper (also called a capsicum sweet pepper), diced
1 medium onion, chopped
One 5-½ oz. (156 mL) can tomato paste
One 25 oz. (739 mL) jar tomato-and-basil pasta sauce
½ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. pepper
6 lasagna noodles, cooked as package directs (see Note)
12 oz. (340 g) Mozzarella cheese, grated
¼ c. Parmesan cheese, grated (see Further Note)
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Partially thaw seafood, cutting into 1-in. pieces. Melt butter on medium heat in large skillet, stirring in green pepper and onion until onion is translucent. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring in tomato paste, pasta sauce, and seasonings. Simmer 5 min. Add seafood, simmering a further 5 min. Criss-cross a layer of half the noodles into a 9x13-in. greased casserole, topping with half the seafood mixture and half the mozzarella. Repeat layers, topping with Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, 25-to-30 min., until bubbly and golden brown. Serves 6-to-8.
Note: Lasagna noodles freeze well. I cooked too many when I made my beef Lasagna last month, so froze them flat in a zippered plastic bag. I heated the bag in a bowl of hot water to thaw them.
Further Note: I feel the flavor of fresh Parmesan is superior to the prepackaged, powdered, shake-on kind you buy in the supermarket.

Stir-fry onion and green pepper in butter

Add a jar of tomato-basil sauce - any quality brand will do

Add tomato paste and seasonings, combining well. Simmer 5 min.

Add seafood, simmering further 5 min.

Place criss-crossed layer of lasagna noodles in greased casserole

Add half seafood mixture

And half mozzarella

Repeat layering, top with Parmesan, and bake

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mint Julep

And so tonight were going to make the lie true, and when that's done, I'll bring the liquor back here and well get drunk together, here, tonight . . .” - Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
No, Dollinks. We’re not going to roll around together, drunk. The fact that I am going to bed as soon as I file this post is irrelevant. Or irrevelent. Whatever.
Mint Julep:
⅔ bunch mint stalks and leaves, with 15 small leaves removed
1-½ c. bourbon
¼ c. water
¼ c. granulated sugar
See How to Double-Frost Glasses in Index. Freeze two short highball glasses, storing in freezer until needed. Coarsely chop 15 small mint leaves. Cover leaves with 2 oz. bourbon for 15 min., bruising mint with drink muddler (I wash and use my fish bonker, but no one’s supposed to know that. Shhhh!) Pluck out leaves with tongs, placing on cheesecloth. Tie edges of cheesecloth in small bundle, wringing soaked leaves into remaining bourbon. 
Briefly soak leaves in tied cheesecloth again, wringing into bourbon once more. Set aside. Stirring constantly, boil water and sugar in small saucepan 1 min., producing about ⅓ c. Simple Syrup (if you already have Simple Syrup in the fridge, use that). Refrigerate and set aside. When syrup is completely cool, combine with bourbon-mint mixture. Refrigerate several hours to blend flavors. 
When ready to serve, fill two short highball glasses halfway with crushed ice. Pop a mint stalk into each glass, securing by topping glass with additional crushed ice. Pour refrigerated Julep mixture into glass. Top with a straw and enjoy. Serves 2. And a bit. 

Assemble ingredients; Ron has already made Julep concentrate

Fill double-frosted glass halfway with crushed ice

Pop in a mint stalk and top with more crushed ice 

Pour Julep concentrate into ice-filled, double-frosted glass 

Serve on hot, languid days, preferably under a banyan tree

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Mojito! The very word sounds exotic: MO-HEE-TO. Summer is upon us, in the Time Zone and at the Latitude Where I Live. The restless rush of hot and sweaty days will too soon end. On such days, I cook less and drink more. Contrary to the many rumors swirling around the Internet, I do not have “man hands.” Those are Rons mitts in the photos below. MO-HEE-TO: Here’s how.
Ice, and plenty of it
1 c. light rum
8-to-10 broken mint sprigs
1/4 c. fresh lime juice (about 2-1/2 medium limes)
5 tbsp. granulated sugar
Chilled club soda, for topping drinks
2 whole mint sprigs, as garnish for glass
2 slices of lime, as garnish for glass
To double-frost glasses, freeze two tall and sturdy highball glasses for 15 min. Remove from freezer and splash very quickly with cold water. Water will freeze on contact, thickening the glasses’ sheath of ice. Return to freezer. Pour rum into drink shaker, adding broken mint sprigs. Refrigerate 30 min. to allow flavors to blend. Add lime juice, sugar, and 2 c. ice cubes to shaker. Cover, shaking vigorously until exterior of shaker becomes frosted, about 30 sec. Remove highball glasses from freezer. Strain from shaker, pouring into iced glasses. Top with club soda, a sprig of mint, and lime slice perched on edge of each glass. Pop in a straw and serve immediately. Yields 2.
Tomorrow, my favorite recipe for Mint Julep. Although I have always depended on the kindness of strangers (with apologies to Tennessee Williams), Ron will be making it. I must don my petticoat! B-ah-ye!

Assemble what you need

Don't forget this!

Add some mint to your drink shaker

Squeeze a few limes

Pour the juice into the drink shaker

Add the sugar

Add the ice. Shake it 'til you make it!

Strain and pour - more, more, more!

For a good time, slice a lime

And present your refreshing beverage. Bottoms up!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fresh Raspberry Cake

The highly paid staff in the stainless steel kitchens of Nicole Partons Favorite Recipes has been hard at work, this week. Our panel of Anonymous Taste Testers, Ron, and I can barely squeeze into our pants - erk! - what I meant was, can barely squeeze in the demands for more and more recipes! 

This deliciously simple Fresh Raspberry Cake whips up in a flash! You may remember that I posted a Raspberry Cream-Filled Génoise yesterday. Your only problem will be trying to decide which cake you like best.
Fresh Raspberry Cake:
½ c. butter or margarine
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. milk
1 c. fresh raspberries
Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Have all ingredients at room temperature. Cream butter and sugar until no graininess remains. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition and mixing until light and fluffy. Beginning and ending with dry ingredients, add alternately with milk. Gently fold in raspberries. Spoon batter into lightly greased 9-inch square cake pan snugly lined with parchment paper. If some parts of cake pan appear to have no berries, poke in a few, covering with batter. Bake 40-to-50 min. or until cake tests done. Cool 10 min. in pan before loosening edges and turning out onto wire rack. Carefully peel off parchment. When cake is completely cool, dust with sifted icing sugar and serve with softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream. This cake slices into 24 dainty pieces.

Our Anonymous Taste-Testing Panel: Let them eat cake

Ron aka "The Hulk" - um, "Hunk"

Wha-??? I NEVER wear curlers! NEVER!

Have eggs warmed to room temperature

Combine softened butter with sugar

Add more sugar, a little at a time

Measure out 1 c. fresh raspberries

Add raspberries to batter

Grease pan, lining with parchment cut to fit

Pour batter into prepared pan
Sift cake with icing (confectioners' or powdered) sugar

Slice and serve. I cut 24 dainty pieces from a 9x9-in. pan

Small summer blossoms add flair to any serving plate