I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

One Fine Tart

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Way back in January, I ran across a post by Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey about a chocolate cranberry tart that was featured in Bon Appetit magazine. Meeta and I must have been thinking along the same culinary lines in January because that particular recipe caught my eye too. I tore the page from the magazine and put it in my "To Eventually Try Before I Die" pile. I've learned that I'm much more inclined to actually make something from a magazine if I tear out and keep the individual page instead of keeping the whole magazine and thinking I'll eventually get back to flipping through it again and finding whatever it was that I thought I wanted to make in the first place. I made this a few weeks ago but never got around to posting about it. Remember this post about my house being turned upside down while waiting for new carpet and hardwood flooring? Well, it's been six weeks now and my house is JUST NOW coming back together!!!! We still have a few small details to take care of, but for the most part it's all done. Doesn't it look nice? No more rusty nails and dust! Woo Hoo!

Since cranberries are out of season now, you'll probably have to wait until next year to make this unless you're like me and happen to have a bag of cranberries in the freezer. I liked this tart very much because it wasn't overly sweet. The cranberries and the crystallized ginger gave it the perfect about of tartness. I didn't have marscapone cheese on hand and just could not bear the thought of having to drag myself to Walmart to look for something that they probably didn't have anyway, so I just substituted cream cheese and it worked just fine but the marscapone would have probably been a bit creamier in texture. It made a beautiful presentation all on its own, which is something I struggle with when it comes to desserts. Someone once told me that beautiful food garnishes itself and that is certainly true with this tart.....

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cranberry Chocolate Tart

Serving Size : 12
Categories : Dessert-Tarts

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
Cranberry Topping:
1/2 cup cranberry juice, divided
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 Pinch salt
4 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (made from about 6 1/2 ounces cookies, finely ground in processor)
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted -- (5 to 6)
Mascarpone Filling:
1 8 ounce container mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup chilled whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Thin Strips crystallized ginger (optional garnish)

Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice into small bowl; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until softened, 15 minutes. Combine 1/4 cup cranberry juice, cranberries, and next 5 ingredients in medium saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until cranberries are tender but still plump, 5 minutes. Strain into bowl; set cranberries aside. Add gelatin mixture to hot juice in bowl; stir until gelatin dissolves. Stir cranberries back into juice. Chill until cranberry mixture is cold and slightly thickened, at least 8 hours or overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Stir chopped crystallized ginger into cranberry mixture.
For crust:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Combine chocolate wafer cookie crumbs, sugar, and salt in medium bowl; add 5 tablespoons melted butter and stir until crumbs feel moist when pressed together with fingertips, adding remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter if mixture is dry. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Bake chocolate crust until beginning to set and slightly crisp, pressing with spoon if crust puffs during baking, about 14 minutes. Transfer tart pan to rack and cool crust completely before filling.

For mascarpone filling:
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients except ginger in medium bowl just until thick enough to spread (do not overbeat or mixture may curdle). Spread filling in cooled crust. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Spoon cranberry mixture evenly over mascarpone filling. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours. Garnish with crystallized ginger strips, if desired. Cut tart into wedges and serve cold.

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Seriously Good Shrimp Cakes


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Some time ago, a client waltzed into the catering kitchen with a handful of recipes and asked if we could prepare them and present a cocktail party for her guests. I'm always a bit leary of presenting recipes that I haven't given the "tried and true" stamp of approval myself, but she seemed sure that these recipes were winners. One of the recipes that she had chosen for her party was called "Shrimp Cakes with Jalapeno Tartar Sauce" and after the party, they became known in our kitchen as "Seriously Good Shrimp Cakes." For her party, we served these as an appetizer so they were silver dollar sized cakes and since there were so many, we baked them on a sheet pan instead of frying in a skillet and it worked great - see my notes at the end of the recipe. I continue to do them like that at home because I can never seem to flip the cakes without tearing them up. Captain Sturm likes nothing more than a good crab cake, but I think these shrimp cakes are running a close 2nd to his favorite. Enjoy!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Seriously Good Shrimp Cakes with Jalapeno Tartar Sauce

Serving Size : 6
Categories : Appetizers, Seafood

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
For the tartar sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup gherkins -- minced
1 jalapeno chile pepper -- seeded and finely diced
salt and pepper

For the shrimp cakes:
1/2 cup bottled clam juice -- or water
1 1/2 pounds shrimp -- peeled and deveined
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 stalk celery -- finely diced
8 spring onion -- sliced
1 1/4 cups saltine cracker -- finely crushed
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 eggs -- well beaten
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chives -- finely snipped
salt and pepper
3 cups fresh bread crumbs

To make the sauce, in a small bowl, combne the mayo, mustard, lemon juice, gherkins and jalapeno and stir to mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To make the shrimp cakes, bring the clam juice or water to a boil in a frying pan. Add the shrimp, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 min. Uncover, stir lightly, recover and cook until the shrimp curl and are firm to the touch, about 1 min longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a bowl and let cool slightly, then chop finely and reserve.

In a large frying pan over low heat, melt 2 tbls of the butter. Add the celery, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 10 mins. Add the green onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 mins. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Set the pan aside.

Add the saltines, hot pepper sauce, eggs, mayo, chives, shrimp and salt & pepper to taste to the celery mixture; mix well. If the mixture is too wet to hold its shape, add bread crumbs as needed (about 1/2 cup) to absorb the excess moisture. Shape mixture into 12 cakes, each about 2" in dia and 1/2" thick. Spread the remaining bread crumbs in a shallow bowl and dredge the cakes in them, coating evenly.

In the same frying pan over med-hi heat, melt the remaining 2 tbls butter. Add half of the shrimp cakes and saute, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 6 mins. Transfer to a papertowel lined plate and keep warm. Saute the remaining cakes the same way, adding more butter if needed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Alison's notes: recipe x 6 yielded ~150 appetizer size cakes. Melted butter on sheet pan and baked 375 until golden (about 10 mins total).

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