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09/15/2014

~Orange Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Breakfast Butter~

IMG_3634When I was a busy mom raising three boys, making a fancy-schmancy compound butter for their bagels, English muffins, pancakes or waffles wasn't high on my list of weekday things to do.  I made breakfast every day, but when it came to the condiments, it was every man for himself:  the peanut butter, preserves, maple syrup and butter went out on the table commando-style. 

IMG_3073Now that it's just Joe and me (a more relaxed morning schedule), the bread, muffins, pancakes and waffles are made from scratch, and, I have the time to take pleasure in and put thought into "the small stuff" too:  like making the butter taste extra-special.  For my homemade cinnamon-raisin bread, a simple concoction of 2 tablespoons butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Cinnamon 'n Sugar turns my homemade cinnamon-raisin bread into a totally delightful toast experience.

Click into the Related Article link below, for everything you need to know about:

IMG_3151~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~

OrangesWhen it comes to breakfast, everyone will agree that oranges are the premier citrus fruit:  orange juice, orange marmalade, orange segments, etc.  The bright taste of orange is simply a refreshing way to start the day.  The combination of orange and cinnamon is a long-established one, meaning:  I did not invent it, I just love it.  It was only natural for me to stir some orange flavor to my Cinnamon 'n Sugar butter, and, marmalade came before the oily zest because it's nicely-sweetened and ready to use.

Time out to talk about the vanilla bean:

IMG_3531It was, however, the day it occured to me to add some vanilla to the mixure, in the form of actual vanilla beans (not liquid extract) that I stopped tweeking this recipe.  It was perfect!

6a0120a8551282970b015437fdf8df970cThe inside of a vanilla bean is filled with thousands of flavorful seeds. To remove the seeds from pod:  

Using kitchen shears, cut the bean in two down its entire length.  I find this easier to do if I cut the bean in half (into 2 shorter pieces) first.  Or, you can use the tip of a paring knife to split the bean open down its entire length. Holding onto the bean, run the knife blade down the length of the exposed center to scrape out all of the seeds.

IMG_35298  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

2  large, soft, fresh vanilla beans, split open as directed above, seeds removed

1  teaspoon Cinnamon 'n Sugar

1/4  teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2-2  tablespoons orange zest, 1 large orange works out right

2  tablespoons orange marmalade, at room temperature

IMG_3559 IMG_3550~ Step 1. Place butter in a medium bowl and thoroughly stir in the vanilla bean seeds.  Allow mixture to rest 5 minutes then stir again.

IMG_3564Step 2.  Stir in the Cinnamon 'n Sugar and the sea salt.

IMG_3568~ Step 3.  Using a microplane grater add the orange zest.  Do not zest the orange in advance or it will lose its bright color and begin to stick together (get clumpy) instead of being light, loose and airy.

IMG_3582~ Step 4. Stir in the orange marmalade.

Tip:  Don't bring the entire jar of marmalade to room temperature, just 2 tablespoonsful.

IMG_3593 IMG_3585~ Step 5. Transfer butter to a food storage container and cover.

If serving free-form, to slather on bread, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight, to give flavors time to marry.  Overnight is best.  Return to room temperature prior to serving.

If scooping it into small portions or shaping it into a log, refrigerate 20-30 minutes, or unti it is just firm enough to shape.

IMG_3602Once scooped onto a parchment lined baking pan or rolled into log and wrapped in plastic, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.  Use small scoops of compound butter as directed, cold or at room temperature.  Logs must be sliced cold, then used as directed, cold or at room temperature.

Note:  I always scoop this particular butter because it's easy to place a dollop on a hot pancake or waffle. (PS: It's delicious on a fish fillet too!)

IMG_3614Place a dollop or two on a "hot stack" (short or a tall)...

IMG_3622... and when it gets all melty, drizzle on the warm maple syrup...

IMG_3636... then tell me you love me!

IMG_3682Orange Cinnamon & Vanilla Bean Breakfast Butter:  Recipe yields 8 tablespoons equivalent to 1 stick of butter or 1/2 cup.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; kitchen shears; paring knife; spoon; microplane grater; 1/2 cup food storage container w/lid; small ice-cream scoop; baking pan; parchment paper

IMG_3391Cook's Note:  To get a recipe for one of my favorite savory compound butters, which is great slathered on toasted bread, dolloped onto a grilled steak or roasted chicken breast, or, tossed into pasta for a luscious side-dish, just click into Categories 4, 12, 20 or 22 for ~ Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter ~ !

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)

09/12/2014

~Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter~

IMG_3368Historically, the French and the Italians agree to disagree often over "who invented what" culinarily.  While writing Tuesday's post ~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~ (click on the Related Article link below to read it), I told you the French word for it is "beurre compose".  Try as I did, research didn't turn up any historical references to what the formal Italian name for compound butter is.  This surprised me, so, I asked my Facebook friend (an authority on authentic Italian regional cooking). "As far as I know, in general Italian cooking, there is no use of compound butter", was his reply.  If Peter said it, that was good enough for me. 

IMG_3339"Well, that's gotta change", said I to me.  You see, I am only Italian by osmosis -- I married one. This has benefits and provides me with a bit of much-appreciated freedom too.

Benefits:  I get to learn from the Italian women in Joe's family, and, I am respectful of their recipes and traditions.  Who knew that risotto must be stirred counterclockwise?  

Freedom:  When pretending to be Italian in my American kitchen, I get to adlib a bit, and, make my own rules.  Today, I'm making: burro comporre, or, comporre di burro?

Italian Compound Butter?  Italiano Burro Comporre?    

IMG_3460Authentic?  No.  Delicious?  Absolutely.  You be the judge!

IMG_33078  tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 stick)

1  teaspoon granulated garlic powder

1  teaspoon organic tomato powder, no additives no preservatives*

1/4  teaspoon fine sea salt

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

6  tablesoons very-thin chiffonade of fresh basil leeaves

4  tablespoons finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

6a0120a8551282970b015432779207970c-320wiNote:  Tomato powder is powdered dehydrated tomatoes. I've come to love it over the past few years and I recommend you add it to your tomato-loving pantry.  It adds the flavor and acid of fresh or canned tomatoes without any liquid!

~ Step 1.  Remove butter from refrigerator and set aside to get very soft.  While butter is softening, use a microplane grater to finely-grate the cheese.  When the butter is soft:

IMG_3274 IMG_3283 IMG_3301~ Step 2.  Stack about 15-20 large basil leaves on top of each other.  Choose leaves with little discoloration and as few spots as possible.  Roll them up "cigar style", then, using a sharp chef's knife, slice through the cigar, to cut them into little "rags or ribbons".  If you don't have 6 tablespoons of basil chiffonade, slice a few more. Rough chop through the chiffonade, to make the ribbons smaller yet.

IMG_3317 IMG_3324 IMG_3328 IMG_3330~Step 3.  In a medium bowl, place the butter, garlic powder, tomato powder, sea salt and red pepper flakes.  Using any spoon, stir vigorously and often until mixture is uniform in color.  Taste.  If you think it needs a pinch of salt, add it.  More garlic powder? Go for it.  Don't look back.

IMG_3333~ Step 4.  Transfer butter to a food storage container and cover.  

If serving free-form, to slather on bread, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight, to give flavors time to marry.  Overnight is best.  Return to room temperature prior to serving.  

IMG_3151If scooping it into small portions or shaping it into a log, refrigerate 20-30 minutes, or until it is just firm enough to shape.

IMG_3126 IMG_3098Once scooped onto a parchment lined baking pan or rolled into log and wrapped in plastic, refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.  Use small scoops of compound butter as directed, cold or at room temperature.  Logs must be sliced cold, then used as directed, cold or at room temperature:

IMG_3485Allow me to slather my "Italian Butter"  on my French Bread: 

IMG_3363... and enjoy a taste while I cook some pasta:

IMG_3441Italian Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper Butter:  Recipe yields 8 tablespoons equivalent to 1 stick of butter or 1/2 cup.

Special Equipment List:  microplane grater; cutting board; chef's knife; spoon; 1/2-cup food storage container w/lid; small ice-cream scoop, baking pan and parchment paper (optional), or; plastic wrap and kitchen twine (optional)

IMG_2459Cook's Note:  For another non-authentic but really delicious way to enjoy a slice of bread, ~ My E-Z Big Fat Greek Lemon-Pepper Garlic Bread ~, found in Categories 2, 4, 5 or 20, compliments ~ My Big Fat Greek Lemony-Garlic Layered Shrimp Salad ~ perfectly!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 

09/09/2014

~ The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter ~

IMG_3180The first time I made compound butter I was certain I had invented something important.  It was a life-changing moment.  It didn't get taught to me by my grandmother, Food TV or via a cookbook or a cooking publication.  I didn't learn the technical term for it until years later.  As a 6-year old, it was important to mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of Cinnamon 'n Sugar with two tablespoons of softened butter to make my cinnamon toast -- I didn't like getting cinnamon-sugar dust up my nose.  The quantity yielded 3 slices of perfectly-executed cinnamon-raisin toast (two for me and one for my little brother), or, enough to stir into our two bowls of steaming-hot oatmeal w/sliced bananas!

IMG_3073Mel's Favorite Childhood Cinnamon 'n Sugar Compound Butter:  

8 tablespoons very soft salted butter + 2  tablespoons Cinnamon 'n Sugar

IMG_3047 IMG_3055 IMG_3073Time marched on.  

I never thought much more about compound butter until I reached my teens and early twenties, when:

I began encountering it in fancy French restaurants in the form of an herbaceous thyme-shallot spread for a crispy 'n soft-centered baguette.  It showed up in hotel restaurants too (where it was generically referred to as "hotel butter"), in the form of a chilled dollop of a peppery parsley, assorted herbs and garlic butter, which melted down over the top of a big, thick, juicy steak.

A bit about compound butter:  Known as "beurre compose" in France, compound butter is room-temperature butter that is creamed with other ingredients.  There are savory versions and sweet versions.  Compound butter can be stored in a bowl or ramekin in the refrigerator, then  served soft, as a spread for enjoying on savory breads or sweet muffins.  It can be scooped into individual little dollops and placed on a parchment-lined baking pan.  Compound butter can be rolled into logs and refrigerated or frozen, to slice and season cooked meats, fish or vegetables. Almost anything soft or semi-soft and very flavorful can be used to make compound butter:    

IMG_3151Savory versions can include fresh herbs or herb blends, ground spices, minced garlic, shallots or onion, and, sometimes an acid like wine or citrus juice/zest.  Sweet versions, like my cinnamon-sugar butter and the always popular honey-butter, contain some form of sugar (honey, maple syrup, molasses, liqueur, etc.), minced, fresh, juicy berries, ground aromatic spices and/or a splash of citrus juice or zest.  Whether savory or sweet, salt brings up the flavor of everything -- always add a bit of salt to unsalted butter or use salted butter at the outset.

Compound butter is about adding lots of flavor, not lots of texture, to butter: 

6a0120a8551282970b017c37da7d5c970bI have tasted savory versions containing bits of cured meats, crispy bacon and even soft cheeses like brie and blue (aside from finely-grated Parmesan-type cheeses, cheese is problematic because it softens at a different speed than butter).  I have tasted sweet versions containing bits of dried fruits and nuts.  I'm not here to criticize, but for me, compound butter is all about incorporating flavor, not texture, into butter.  I like my compound butter smoothish and spreadable.  I don't like it chunky.  

Save the chunky ingredients for non-butter cream-cheese-type spreads!

IMG_0060Compound butters made with fresh herbs taste like Summer, but, I rarely make savory compound butter in the Summer.  Why?  In the Summer all it takes is a trip to my herb garden to incorporate the fresh flavor of an herb into what I'm cooking.  I make compound butter in the Fall, using it as a means to preserve my dwindling supply of fresh herbs.  I find myself making it in the Winter too, using it as a means to get "more bang for my buck" out of a pricey package of store-bought fresh herbs.

My 5 Basic Rules for Making Compound Butter:

IMG_31541)  Give the butter plenty of time to come to room temperature and get very soft, about two hours.

IMG_0663 IMG_16392)  Use fresh herbs only and finely chop them. Mince pungent ingredients like garlic and onions. Don't substitute dried, minced garlic or onion. Process fresh berries as directed - they contain lots of liquid, so, use them judiciously.

3)  Thoroughly incorporate, via a bowl and a hand-held electric mixer or just a spoon, any liquid flavorings, followed by the ground spices, into the butter.  Limit liquids (like citrus juice, extracts and/or liqueurs) to 1/2 teaspoon per stick of butter, as they can make the butter runny.  Add ground spices, to taste.  Taste and adjust seasonings until you are lip-smacking happy. Incorporate fresh ingredients last, as recipe directs, planning on 4-6 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs per stick of butter and 3-4 tablesoons of pungent ingredients per stick.  Remember:  

The flavor of compound butter should be vibrant and robust.  If you like it going into the refrigerator you are going to love it coming out, as it will intensify while butter is chilling.

4)  Keep it simple and uncomplicated.  Don't over concoct.  My general rule is five ingredients (not including salt), for instance:  1 herb, 1 pungent ingredient, 1 liquid flavoring, 2 spices, butter.

IMG_33155)  Chill the mixed butter 20-30 minutes, just long enough to make it manageable to form/shape.

IMG_3073 IMG_3126 IMG_3098Here are your options:  

~ You can portion it into 1-2 small ramekins and serve it room-temperature free-form and family-style.

~ You can use a small 1 1/2-1 tablespoon-sized ice-cream scoop to portion it onto a parchment lined baking pan or use a pastry bag to pipe it into similar-sized, fancier-shaped "dollops".  

IMG_3094~ You can place it all on a sheet of plastic wrap or parchment and roll it up to form a log.  Once butter is shaped, it can be stored in the refrigerator for several days or refrigerated for several months.

My Favorite Savory Compound Butter Combinations:

IMG_3103Basil, Tomato, Garlic, Parm & Pepper  --  for spreading on bread or topping chicken or tossing into cooked pasta.  Pictured just above, click on the Related Article link below to get the recipe.

Cilantro, Lime & Chipotle Chili Powder -- for topping chicken, steak and corn on the cob.

Parsley, Onion & Cracked Black Pepper -- for topping chicken, steak and baked potatoes.

Dill, Lemon & Peppercorn Blend -- for topping salmon, steamed vegetables and rice.

Tarragon, Orange & Old Bay Seasoning -- for topping king crab, lobster, shrimp or scallops. 

Truffle Butter (which I often purchase) --  for preparing perfect and decadent French omelettes.

My Favorite Sweet Compound Butter Combinations:

IMG_2809Cinnamon 'n Sugar Butter -- for spreading on cinnamon-raisin toast and stirring into cooked oatmeal.

Creamed Honey & Cinnamon or Red Chili Butter -- For spreading on biscuits, warm apple streusel muffins, or, corn muffins or cornbread (Click on the Related Article link below to get the recipe which is pictured here.)

Orange, Cinnamon & Vanilla -- For dolloping on Johnny cakes, pancakes or waffles (it melts into warm maple syrup like a dream).

Whether you are partial to the savory side of life...

IMG_3264... or to the sweet side of life:

IMG_2840Everything tastes better with a pat or two of compound butter!

IMG_3204The Savory-Sweet Simplicity of Compound Butter:  Recipe yields general guidelines for making compound butter.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small bowls or ramekins, or; small ice-cream scoop or pastry bag and baking pan; plastic wrap or parchment paper and kitchen twine

6a0120a8551282970b0192ac44effe970dCook's Note:  For another way to keep the taste of Summer in your freezer through the Winter, click into Categories 8, 13, 20 or 22 to get my recipe for ~ Chimichurri:  The Sauce Steak Can't Live Without ~!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)