Apple Tarte

Apple Tarte

Monday, November 1, 2010

French Flair in the Verde Valley

Last Thursday I had the pleasure of serving dinner to 100 guests of the Greater Verde Valley Chapter of the Yavapai College Foundation.  The French Flair event was created to raise money for Yavapai College student scholarships. In addition to the dinner, the GVVCYCF hosted a silent auction and local artists contributed their talents to the Painted Barrel Project (

I cooked for two days straight. Here’s the menu:
Gougere (cheese puffs with black pepper)
A selection of cheeses
Vegetable platter with a hot dipping sauce

Boeuf Bourguignon
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Carrots with butter

Crepes Suzette with fresh strawberries and whipped cream

It would not have been at all possible to serve this dinner without the help of many people. My friend JoAnn, my Student Affairs colleagues, Ty S., Shaun, volunteer students from the nursing program, and my wonderful husband all contributed to making the food and service of that dinner a success.

Here’s my recipe for the Gougere.
1 cup water
¾ cup butter
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs,
½ cup shredded Parmesan and Romano cheese
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
½ tsp ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten with a teaspoon of water for glaze

In a heavy based sauce pan, bring water, butter and salt to a boil. As soon as the butter has melted, remove from the heat, and add the flour all at once. Quickly, beat the mixture with a wooden spoon. It will be lumpy at first, but keep beating until all the flour is absorbed by the liquid. As soon as it is all blended together, place the pan over low heat and continue beating until a light film begins to form on the bottom of the pan. This evaporates any excess moisture so the mixture will absorb all the eggs you will beat in shortly. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually, add one egg, beating vigorously after the addition to well incorporate it. Add the next four eggs, one at a time, beating so each is well incorporated. Once all the eggs are added in, you should have a firm, but not stiff dough. Add the cheeses and the black pepper, mix thoroughly.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch round pastry tip, fill it to almost full, and begin making dollops of the dough on a pre-greased cookie sheet. Alternatively, you can drop dollops from a tablespoon onto the sheet. Brush the top of each Gougere with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with a grind of fresh black pepper.
Bake in a pre-heated 425⁰ oven for 15-20 minutes. The Gougere should be puffed and brown. Cool on a wire rack. These are great with a dry white wine as an appetizer served warm or cold.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Autumnal memories

The weather is just beginning to change and in the early morning air there is a hint of fall. I love this time of year. When I leave for work in the morning, I close my eyes and take a deep breath of cool, desert air and I am taken back to my childhood and the rituals we performed each autumn.  I grew up in New England. Although my home was outside of Boston, I called New England home because frankly, it was small enough to go just about anywhere in a few hours. Nothing like the west where you can drive for two days and still be in the same state!
For me, the autumnal excursion to the apple orchard was the best activity of the season. In the orchard, apple trees were neatly planted in rows, each row a different species. My favorites were Cortlands (similar to a macintosh). As you picked, you also took advantage of tasting them to make sure, of course, that they were at their perfect ripeness. Loaded with bags of yummy apples, we’d return home to make pies, apple sauce and baked apples with cinnamon and raisins. Here’s how we’d make stove top ‘baked’ apples:
4 macintosh apples, cored
4 tbls sugar (white or brown sugar)
2 tbls raisins
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 cup water (you can use apple juice or white wine instead of the water for more flavor)

Place the cored apples in a sauce pan with a lid. Mix the sugar, raisins and cinnamon. Spoon the mixture into the center of the apple where the core has been removed. Add the liquid and cover with the lid. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until apples are tender. Make sure you check the pan periodically to make sure the liquid has not completely evaporated. If it’s getting low, add a bit more water to ensure there is a ½ inch of liquid around the bottom of the apples.

 These can be served warm with a bit of loosely whipped cream or even better, vanilla ice cream (yum!).

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What to do with all those peaches

I live in the desert and folks that don't live here would probably not believe that it has been a bumper crop year for peaches. My dear friend, Su, has three ancient trees, with scraggly limbs, falling over with the beautiful fruit. Two weeks ago friends Jan, Annette and I went to Su's and picked about a bushel of peaches. There were so many baskets filled to the brim, we barely had room for ourselves in the car. Here are some pics of our time at Su's farm. I made peach jam from half the peaches and froze the remainder to be used later for peach pie or cobbler and smoothies. I made sure to sprinkle them with a bit of Fruit Fresh (citric acid) so they don't turn brown. Sometime in December I'll take those peaches out, make a luscious pie and day dream about warmer weather.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

it began in the kitchen

Hi, I'm Gioia (pronounced joy-yah - it's Italian for joy) and I love to cook. For as long as I can remember, I've cooked. My earliest memories in the kitchen were helping my paternal grandmother make pasta - tortellini, tagliatelle, ravioli, whatever! She was patient with me as my fingers struggled with folding and squishing the ends to seal the little packages of goodness. We'd have them in a delicious chicken broth, with grated parmesan cheese and a dash of red wine (yep, we put wine in our soup)...YUM!

Since those days, I've expanded my culinary abilities. I attended cooking school in Paris (that was a blast) and spent 10 years working as a chef. Now I teach others how to cook, and am always developing new recipes for my students. My husband and I are vegans, so I've got lots of recipes that don't include meat or animal products as well.

I am happiest in my kitchen or anyone else's for that matter. It's where I'm most comfortable and find myself drawn to. When I'm stressed, I cook, when I'm happy, I cook, when I'm sad, I cook. And then of course, I eat!

I hope you'll come back to read my blog where I'll share recipes and some culinary musings.