Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fabulous Fall Centerpieces

Hallelujah, it's finally here!  Autumn, the most wonderful time of the year! There's a wonderful energy that comes with this season, and for me, that means entertaining. I've put together some really fun and beautiful ideas for Fall Centerpieces.  I hope you enjoy them.
 I love taking a season (or holiday) and using non-traditional colors. Here you see gray and white pumpkins wrapped with grapevine branches (this can also be done with curly willow branches).  Mini white pumpkins are made into baskets with curly willow and filled with yellow and orange roses.
Who would've thought that slightest whisper of pink roses would look so stunning with white and gold mums, maple leaves and white pumpkins.  This centerpiece may whisper Autumn, but it's nothing short of stunning.
This may be one of the prettiest  Fall Centerpieces I've ever seen. Pink and white roses,  lambs ears, and Eucalyptus in a white pumpkin.  Just a note; Lambs Ears do not have a long vase life and will wilt quickly so you may want to use  Eucalyptus leaves. They also have a gray tint , a long vase life, and a nice menthol fragrance.
I love these blinged out rose spheres!  They are much easier to make than you think. All the floral supplies can be found at your local hobby store.  Soak wet floral foam balls until wet through.  You will only need about 1 and one half inches of rose stem (cut at an angle). Place the roses in the wet floral foam and stick a floral pin with a gem head in the center of each rose.  You will note these are sitting on a tray to absorb any water or moisture, make sure you take a similar precaution. 
Wrap a pillar candle in cinnamon sticks and tie it with a raffia (or fall ) ribbon. place it on a pedestal plate and fill the rest of the plate with fall scented potpourri for a fragrant and beautiful centerpiece.  This will not only look like Autumn, it will smell like it too.  Consider putting this on an entryway table where guests will feel welcome by the fragrance.
Harvest Bounty in a basket!  I love these bushel baskets filled with apples, Salal (lemon) leaves, pittosporum berries and peach Gerbera Daisies. The smaller basket is filled with potatoes. To make an arrangement like this, fill the basket with wet floral foam and use bamboo skewers to fix fruits and vegetables.
To say I love this centerpiece would be an understatement. The rustic wood box filled with a variety of fall squashes, bittersweet vines, and different heights of pillar candles adds such a warm glow to this tablescape.  It's not at all complicated, but it comes together beautifully.  If you have any questions about any of these centerpieces, please leave a comment and I will do my best to answer any questions.   Here's to a glorious Autumn! 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Legends from Europe, The Count of Monte Christo Breakfast Pastries.

The Count of Monte Christo Breakfast Pastries
I was recently asked by the wonderful people at Legends of Europe to develop a recipe for Prosciutto di San Daniele.  I knew about, and love Prosciutto, but I decided to learn a little more about this Italian Gem and what makes it so special.
Prosciutto di San Daniele with artisan bread & cheeses


First of all, the origin of the raw material. The thighs must come exclusively from pigs bred in ten regions of Northern Central Italy (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, Abruzzo, Marche, Umbria).

Secondly, respect for the production method inherited from an ancient tradition. Since any form of freezing of the meat is forbidden, the fresh thighs must rapidly reach the small hill town of Friuli, to set in motion a production process that recreates the natural rhythm of the seasons, using sea salt, without the addition of chemical additives or preservatives.
Finally, the subsequent development must occur at San Daniele del Friuli. We could define this as maturation, but in fact this process is something more, it has a lot to do with the Genius loci of the prosciutto capital. Nature lends a hand. A vital element is the good air that prevails here, where the winds that descend from the Carnic Alps meet those coming from the Adriatic, carrying resinous scents which mix with brackish aromas in an environment where humidity and temperature are regulated by the morainic land and the waters of the Tagliamento, one of the last European rivers to preserve its original course. 

Reading about this Italian Masterpiece made me want to board a plane and put my name on one of these precious hams, but I would have to settle for tasting Italy, sigh.....  I decided to pick the breakfast category and do a take on one of my favorite sandwiches, The Monte Christo.  As most of you know making a Monte Christo is not an easy, or fast process, but I've taken those wonderful flavors and textures and put them into an easy to make breakfast pastry you will be proud to serve to anyone.
1 17.3 ounce box of puff pastry (2 sheets)
1/4  pound of sliced Prosciutto di San Daniele
1/4  pound of sliced Smoked Provolone Cheese
1/3 plus another 1/3 cup cup of four fruit jam, (the second 1/3 cup will be served with the pastries) this can be substituted with raspberry or strawberry jam if you prefer.
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Roll one sheet of cold, thawed puff pastry dough into a 10 inch square. divide evenly into 4 squares.
Place a slice of Prosciutto di San Daniele on the center of your square, see photo above
Place one slice of the Smoked Provolone on top of the Prosciutto di San Daniele Ham, you will probably need to break the cheese up to fit over the ham, this is fine
Place one teaspoon of four fruit jam on top of the cheese. Be careful not to add too much jam or it will leak out during the baking process
To assemble your pastry, brush all exposed areas with your egg wash, fold the dough the way you see it in the photo, making sure to use your egg wash (to glue) your dough together. Place the pastries on your parchment lined baking sheet (you will probably only be able to do 4 at one time). Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. This recipe will yield 8 pastries.
 While pastries are still warm sift generously with powdered sugar and serve warm with extra jam. This recipe combines the delicious,  complex, salty flavor of the Prosciutto di San Daniele, the smoky, gooey provolone, the sweet, 4 fruit jam, and the crisp, flaky texture of the puff pastry. We liked it with a little extra jam spooned on top, but I really think you'll enjoy these breakfast treats.
 Bon Appitito!