When Spinach almost brought down the White House!

 

 

 

Florentine 4 croppedSince discovering a certain secret about the U.S. White House, I’ve never been able to look at spinach again without chuckling to myself. It turns out that spinach, the most noble of vegetables, created such tension and scandal under Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in the 1930’s, that it almost brought down the White House!

In fact, the situation got so bad that national headlines blared, ” FDR DEMANDS NEW DEAL – REFUSES SPINACH- CRISIS STRIKES.” FDR was furious when he read this, but who was the cause of this disaster? It was Henrietta Nesbitt, the White House’s head housekeeper.

Henrietta was hired by Eleanor Roosevelt to plan and supervise all meals at the White House, but what ensued was less than desirable. The President and guests complained that the “soup was watery” and that the salads were frequently filled with chunks of marshmallows and canned fruit. Eleanor herself complained one night that the “peas were as hard as bullets” and it was common knowledge that guests invited for dinner at the White House would frequently dine before arriving in anticipation of ‘ghastly repasts.’

Mrs Nesbitt brushed aside these criticisms, saying that the President was only “having one of his tizzy-wizzies.” Heaven only knows why Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t fire Mrs Nesbitt earlier, but she was finally replaced when the new First Lady, Bess Truman, took over in 1945 (Henrietta was fired for insolence when she refused to let Mrs Truman bring a stick of butter to her bridge club’s pot luck luncheon).

So, why am I telling you all of this? To try to restore Spinach’s honor and present a dish that might have pleased President Roosevelt- Eggs Florentine. This is a French dish with a poached egg served on toast with spinach and topped with a creamy Hollandaise sauce. ‘Simple but tasty elegance’ could be used to describe this dish, and we can guess that even Lady Astor would have been pleased as a White House dinner guest.

Most recipes for Eggs Florentine call for the spinach to be thoroughly cooked, but I only steamed mine for one minute to retain the texture. I’ve also placed my spinach and egg on top of a piece of toasted bread, although you could also use an English muffin.

Here’s to the memory of Mrs Henrietta Nesbitt!  

 

Eggs Florentine
Serves 4
A soft poached egg served on top of a bed of spinach and topped with a creamy Hollandaise sauce (FDR will thank you)!
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Ingredients
  1. 4 rashers of thin bacon, coursely chopped
  2. 1 bag of fresh Baby Spinach (6 oz or 170 g)
  3. 4 pieces of toasted bread or English muffin halves
  4. ¼ tsp salt
  5. ¾ cup (6 oz) unsalted butter, melted
For the Hollandaise sauce
  1. 1 tbsp lemon juice
  2. 2 tbsp water
  3. 3 egg yolks
  4. ¼ tsp salt
  5. ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon rashers until crisp, using the microwave or cooked on the stove top. Let cool and chop coarsely.
  2. For the Hollandaise sauce: combine the lemon juice, water and salt in a medium-sized bowl or pan. Add the egg yolks and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bowl touch the water. Whisk the ingredients vigorously until the mixture starts to thicken and ‘ribbons’ begin to appear on the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat and gradually add the melted butter while continually whisking - continue until the mixture thickens and then set aside.
  4. Steam the spinach for about one minute or longer until it reaches the desired texture (I used a steamer basket or you could boil the spinach in salted water).
  5. To assemble the dish, place a piece of toast or English muffin half on a plate, top with a layer of spinach and one poached egg, then pour several tablespoons of Hollandaise sauce on top. Top with some ground black pepper and sprinkle the bacon bits around the plate.
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

Persimmon and prosciutto salad with walnut dressing

 

Salad 4Have you ever asked yourself, “Should I first peel the persimmon before eating it?” Well, the answer is NO, which luckily for us, makes it so much easier to eat! And presenting this salad at your table is even more fun since it keeps your family and friends guessing what those colourful orange balls are.

For my recipe, I used Fuyu persimmons, which are short, crisp and sweet and ideal for using in salads. For added presentation, I’ve sliced my persimmons very thinly using a mandoline slicer.

 Fuyu Persimmons

Salad Fuyu

 

 When I presented this salad to my brother-in-law (visiting from Baltimore), he said, “Hmm, these persimmons have a nice mild flavour with a touch of je ne sais quoi.” My words exactly!

This recipe makes a nice summer salad and also could be a meal in itself. The dressing has a nice creamy fruity flavour that works well with the rest of the ingredients.

Persimmon Salad

 

Persimmon and Prosciutto Salad with Walnut Dressing
Yields 6
A light fruity salad with a creamy walnut dressing.
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For the Walnut Dressing
  1. 1 small garlic clove, diced
  2. 2 tbsp. walnut oil
  3. 2 tbsp. olive oil
  4. 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  5. 1/4 cup (60 ml) thin cream
  6. salt/pepper to taste
For the salad
  1. 3 ripe persimmons, sliced thinly
  2. 12 thin slices prosciutto
  3. 3 - 4 cups of green salad mixture (butter lettuce, rocket leaves, baby spinach, etc)
  4. 60 g walnut halves, roughly chopped
  5. 1 cup (80 g) shaved parmesan
  6. salt/pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. To make the dressing, add the diced garlic, walnut oil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a food processor bowl and process until smooth. With the motor running, gradually add the cream until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For the salad, slice the persimmons thinly widthways using a mandolin slicer. Tear the prosciutto roughly into pieces and roughly chop the walnuts.
  3. To assemble the salad, arrange the salad greens on a plate, top with the persimmon slices, walnuts and parmesan shavings. Drizzle with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Adapted from Leanne Kitchen from Taste.com.au
Adapted from Leanne Kitchen from Taste.com.au
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/

 

Chocolate Double Mint Fudge

 

 

Fudge 3

 I spent this last Christmas with a larger family group than usual: nephews, nieces, a grand-nephew and niece and various members of blended families. Rather than buying them each a present, I decided to make them each some fudge, wrapped in fancy gift boxes.

After doing some research, I found the perfect recipe by Dessert Girl: Chocolate Double Mint Fudge. This recipe presents a layer of creamy chocolate fudge topped with a layer of minty fudge, with a sprinkling of chocolate chips on top. Sublime heaven! I presented my gifts at a family gathering at the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego and I can guarantee there were no bored looks on people’s faces or rolling of eyeballs as they opened these gifts of chocolate.

This recipe calls for some real ‘candy making’ skills to achieve that perfect fudge texture.  You’ll need a candy thermometer to first heat the fudge to 237° F or           114° C  (softball stage). Any less than that and your fudge will turn out “soft and gooey”, any higher than that, and you’ll find your fudge to be too brittle.

And as Dessert Girl points out, it’s important to not heat the fudge too quickly, or the sugar will chrystallize. Heat the ingredients first on medium-low heat until the sugar and chocolate dissolve, then increase the heat to medium-high until the temperature reaches the softball stage.

While the fudge heats to 237 ° F, stir it constantly with a wooden spoon until it reaches the desired temperature, then stop stirring as it cools to 110 ° F. Any agitation during the cooling process may cause large sugar chrystals to form, giving it a grainy texture. Once the fudge has cooled to 110° F or 43° C, beat it vigorously for several minutes until the fudge reaches that smooth, “melt-in-your-mouth” texture. This process is repeated for both the chocolate fudge layer and the peppermint fudge layer.

There are a few steps involved with this recipe, but it’s really not too difficult to make this lovely gift fudge (or you can decide to keep the fudge and eat it yourself)!

 

Fudge 5

After I spread the mint layer on top of the chocolate layer, I found I had some left over, so I made some decorative shapes using Rycraft Cookie Stamps. First, I formed some of the mint fudge into a small ball, rolled it out and then pressed a cookie stamp on top. After letting the shape harden, I also placed this in the gift box, along with the other pieces of fudge.

Making decorative shapes with Rycraft Cookie Stamps

Fudge 6 of 6) (1 of 1)

 Place the fudge in decorative boxesFudge in boxesClose the lid and here’s your Treasure Box full of fudge!

Treasure Box

 

Chocolate Double Mint Fudge
Yields 60
A delicious creamy chocolate fudge topped with a minty white fudge and chopped chocolate chips.
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Chocolate Fudge Layer
  1. 6 oz (170 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  2. 3 cups (600 g) sugar
  3. ¾ cup whole milk
  4. ¾ cup heavy cream
  5. ¼ cup light corn syrup
  6. 1/8 tsp salt
  7. 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  8. ½ tsp vanilla extract
Mint Layer
  1. 2 oz (60 g) white chocolate chips
  2. 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  3. ½ cup milk
  4. ½ cup heavy cream
  5. 2 gtbsp light corn syrup
  6. 1/8 tsp salt
  7. 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  8. 1 ½ tsp peppermint extract
  9. Few drops green food coloring
  10. ½ cup chocolate chips, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Line an 8 inch x 8 inch baking pan with foil, letting the sides hang over the sides.
For the Chocolate Layer
  1. Combine the chocolate, sugar, milk, cream, corn syrup and salt in a medium-sized pan. Over medium heat, stir the ingredients until the chocolate and the sugar melt. Increase the heat and stir constantly until the mixture starts to boil and reaches 237 F (soft ball stage).
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Let the mixture cool to 110 degrees F; do not stir while the fudge is cooling.
  3. Transfer the fudge to a mixing bowl, add the vanilla extract and then beat with electric beaters for approximately 5 minutes until the mixture thickens and loses some of its shine.
  4. Pour into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Let set for several hours.
For the Mint Layer
  1. Repeat the steps as above. Combine the chocolate, sugar, milk, cream, corn syrup and salt in a medium-sized pan. Over medium heat, stir the ingredients until the chocolate and the sugar melt. Increase the heat and stir constantly until the mixture starts to boil and reaches 237 F (soft ball stage).
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Let the mixture cool to 110 degrees F; do not stir while the fudge is cooling.
  3. Transfer the fudge to a mixing bowl, add the peppermint extract and green food coloring and beat with electric beaters for approximately 1 - 2 minutes until the mixture thickens and loses some of its shine.
  4. Pour the mixture over the chocolate layer and smooth with a spatula. Coarsely chop the chocolate chip pieces and sprinkle over the top, pressing them gently down into the fudge. Let set for about 2 -3 more hours.
Adapted from Dessert First Girl
G'day Soufflé http://www.gdaysouffle.com/