Raspberry Mascarpone Tart is a piece of Heaven with every bite

Recently, I noticed a number of Foodies out there have posted various fruit tarts from strawberries to apples and pears. Thanks to all of them, it has inspired me to try my hand at one and I believe it to be a winner. Because of your inspiration, I certainly can't take full credit, but have none the less added my special touches to this one. I served this to my guests for Sunday brunch and it was like seeing a bunch sweetoholics swarming over it never being able to get enough of it. I must admit, later in the evening I could still smell the scent of the perfumed aroma of the raspberry compote. I can't say enough about the incredible flavors that screamed out of every bite. As a footnote, it was relatively easy to prepare.

The topping:

2 pints of fresh raspberries (2 small boxes)
2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons of Grenadine syrup
3 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 cup of raspberry preserves
1 packet of gelantine powder (diluted in 1/3 cup hot water)

The filling:

1 package of cream cheese (8 oz.) at room temperature
1/2 container of Mascarpone (4 oz.) at room temperature
1 whole egg room temperature
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier

The crust:

1 puff pastry sheet
2 tablespoons of flour

You can make your own puff pastry, but please, do you really want to complicate this dessert? Have we forgotten what this blog is all about, simplicity?? Just take the pastry sheet out of the freezer and set it at room temperature and let it thaw for about an hour or so.

When thawed, unfold it and lay it over a cutting board that has been sprinkled with the 2 tablespoons of flour. Preheat your oven to 400 (200c). Get yourself a tart pan that has the romovable bottom, you know the kind I'm talking about? You want one about 9 to 10 inches in diameter. Since there is plently of butter in the puff pastry, you really don't need to butter your pan. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the puff pastry so that it is large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Don't roll it too thin or you won't have a nice bottom crust. Lay the pastry dough over the tart pan and push along the sides with  your thumb so that it molds itself nicely to the sides. If you have extra pastry dough that goes over the sides, simply fold it back into the sides making sure that it sticks well in the fold. With a fork, poke holes on the bottom and sides so that pastry doesn't puff up.

When ready to bake, use baking paper to cover the bottom and sides and then fill the pan with dried beans (like kidney beans or white beans). This will also help prevent pastry from puffing up and will keep its shape. Be sure to use baking paper and not foil. Foil, for some reason, keeps the bottom from baking well. It's best to use parchment paper or that special plastic paper that's oven safe. Anyway, I digress. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. When finished, remove from oven and lift out the beans and paper and allow to cool. It will continue to bake while it is still hot.

While pastry is cooling, start preparing your topping. In a medium sauce pan, add the raspberries, sugar, and Grand Marnier. Heat and bring to a very slow bubbling over medium to medium low heat, stirring frequently. Once liquid has been produced by the raspberries, add the preserves and the Grenadine and continue to cook for about 5 or 6 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl through a strainer so that you separate the liquid from the solids. The liquid will produce a wonderful syrup that you will coat your serving plates with. Set the solids back in the pan and set aside.

Now you can prepare the filling. In a large bowl, add the cream cheese, Mascarpone, egg, vanilla, and Grand Marnier, and stir with a wooden spoon until well blended and creamy. It may take a few minutes but you want to do this by hand. Once smooth, add the sugar and mix well for a couple more minutes.

Now it's time to bake again. Once the crust has cooled and the base has hardened a bit, add the filling of cream cheese and  Mascarpone  to the crust shell making sure it covers the base evenly. Since there could be leakage at the seams of the pan bottom, cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan with foil. This next step is very important. ONCE THIS GOES IN THE OVEN, THE OVEN DOOR MUST STAY SHUT AND NEVER BE OPENED UNTIL BAKING IS COMPLETE. Bake at 400 for 12 minutes and then shut the oven off and leave the tart in the oven for another 40 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR DURING THIS TIME.

When baking is done, remove and set the tart aside to cool for about an hour. When cooled, add the gelatin (diluted in hot water) to the raspberry solids you have in the pan and stir well for about a minute. Let set for 5 minutes and then pour over the top of the filling making sure the entire surface is well coated. Transfer tart to the fridge and allow to continue to cool for another hour.

To serve, coat each plate with the raspberry syrup (about 2 tablespoons per plate) and place a nice wedge on top. Finish with a nice spoonful of well whipped heavy cream. You will have a dessert that is guaranteed to wow your guests. You won't believe the incredible flavor your taste buds will experience. I seriously recommend you make this at home. It was out of this world and I have all of you that have posted various tarts to thank for inspiring me to try my hand at it.

Spaghetti and meat balls.... a billion fans and a billion ways, but here's my way

Who doesn't love spaghetti and meat balls please leave the room. This has got to be on the favorites list of most everyone. For you vegans out there, just leave out the meatballs. This recipe for meat balls in a tomato base goes back 50 years in our family and large quantities were always made so that there was a guarantee of leftovers. Otherwise, good luck! We'll first start by preparing the meat balls. These have a wonderful moist texture and are so savory, you might even want to remember the recipe for meat loaf sometime. Here's what you'll need:

1 lb. of lean ground beef
1 lb. of ground sweet Italian sausage
1 cup of Panko bread crumbs
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish papika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 cup of flour in a bowl
1/4 cup of olive oil

In a large bowl, add the beef and sausage, breaking it in chunks. Next, add the eggs and Worcestershire sauce and with your hands dig in and mix those ingredients well. Make sure the sausage and beef integrate completely. Now add all your remaining ingredients and continue to mix until everything is well mixed and incorporated.

Now wash your hands well, rinse, but do not towel dry them. When you roll your meat mixture into meat balls, having moist hands will keep the meat from sticking to your hands, so keep them wet. Starting with a soup spoon,  spoon enough mixture into your palm to make a ball about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. Begin to roll the meat into a nice round ball using both your palms. Set each one on a sheet of parchment paper. This amount will make approximately 24 meatballs.

Now heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. While waiting for the oil to heat, start dredging the meat balls in the bowl of flour two at a time. When oil is hot, carefully place the meat balls in the pan, 8 to 10 at a time and saute on each side until browned. This will usually take about 8 minutes per batch. Once each batch is browned, set then on a large plate lined with paper towels. When all meat balls are browned, discard oil and wipe your saute pan of any burned or browned flour. Discard the flour and wash your bowl. Now we will prepare the sauce. For this sauce you will need:

2 large yellow onions, chopped
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely sliced
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
6 medium brown mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of Chianti Wine
1/2 cup beef stock
1 teaspoon of anchovy paste
3 tablespoons of capers
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
1 Italian green pepper finely chopped
1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of oregano (dried)
1 teaspoon of basil (dried)

In  the large pan you used, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When oil is hot, saute the onions until translucent. Next, add the garlic and green peppers. Continue to saute over medium heat for a few minutes and add the celery and carrots. Stir and saute for an additional few minutes or so. Now add the Chianti wine and deglaze your pan. Add the diced tomatoes and the mushrooms, reduce heat to medium low. Next add all the remaining dry ingredients including the oregano, basil, salt and pepper,and stir well. Continue to cook over medium low for about 5 minutes and add the beef stock, anchovy paste, capers, and tomato paste. Dissolve the paste and anchovy, mixing and incorporating everything well. Your sauce should have a nice "puree" consistency now. If it's too thick for you, just add a bit more beef stock.

Continue to cook uncovered for another few minutes and then add the meat balls back into the pan, stiring them in so that they are well coated and incorporated into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 15 minutes. When finished, uncover, shut the heat off, and allow the sauce to settle and develop a nice thick creamy texture.

While the sauce was slow cooking, you should have brought a large pot of water to a boil. Choose your choice of pasta (spaghetti or linguini). Add a generous amount of salt to the water, but leave the oil out. Cook your pasta for about 8 to 10 minutes or until it is al dente. Remove pasta using a large fork or pinchers and add to a large serving bowl. Don't remove pasta by draining and DO NOT RINSE over water! By removing the pasta as instructed you'll take some of the pasta water with you which will keep the pasta from sticking and also add flavoring to the sauce. Once pasta is in the serving bowl, add a small ladle of the sauce to the pasta and stir well so that it is nicely coated with a think layer of the sauce. Add the meat balls over the pasta and transfer the sauce to another serving bowl and voila, dinner is ready. Enjoy with wonderful Italian bread, sprinkling of grated Parm or Gruyere, and finish off with a generous helping of butter lettuce and a mild olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Enjoy !!

Framboises au Chocolat....at last, a cocktail you can eat with a spoon!

Loosely translated, Framboise au Chocolat is Raspberries in Chocolate. I had to give it a French name because it looks so "french", non? This happens to be a NonChef original as far as I can tell. I had semi sweet dark chocolate and raspberries hanging around and so I decided to come up with a dessert "cocktail" that you would need a spoon to eat, drink, or devour it. I haven't come up with the right phrase yet, but doesn't it look decadent? Mmmm yum it is! And silly rabbits out there, this is for adults.

I made enough of these for after dinner for 4; however, I must confess, I couldn't restrain myself and for 4 days straight, upon coming home from work, I ate one. Just when I was about to consume the last one, it dawned on me that I hadn't taken any pictures yet. That spoon got within an inch of the glass before I realized it. Thank god for quick thinking!

This dessert is the perfect finishing touch to a wonderful dim lit dinner for 4 and I highly recommend making it. So without further dissertation, here are the ingredients you will want. Oh, by the way, this is very easy to prepare.

1 cup of fresh raspberries
1 cup of raspberry preserves
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 packet of custard powder (instant custard, or you can make it from scratch)
2 cups of milk
4 oz. of semi sweet dark chocolate
1 packet of unflavored gelatine
1/2 cup of boiling water
1 cup of slivered almonds
1 shot glass of Kahlua (spelling?)
2 shot glasses of Framboise liquor (2 oz.)
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar

OK, from the start you will notice that I am cutting corners with the "instant" custard mix. If you want to spend the time making custard from scratch, be my guest. For most other desserts calling for custard, I would make it from scratch, but in this case it's perfectly ok to use instant. Save yourself the extra work.

We must first start out by preparing the bottom layer of this dessert cocktail, so start out by mashing the fresh raspberries with a fork, just enough to break them up and expose the sweet juices. Set them aside. In a sauce pan, pour the raspberry preserves and heat over medium low heat. Add the fresh raspberries and the 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir well and when the mixture liquifies and begins to bubble, add the Framboise liquor and continue to cook for a few minutes at low heat.

In a microwave, bring 1/2 cup of water to boiling and add the gelatime packet. Stir well so that it completely dissolves. Add this to your sauce pan with the raspberry preseves and remove from heat. Stir well. Let sit for about 3 minutes and prepare 4 large martini glasses (6 oz size), or whatever clear dessert cups you may have. Run them over very hot water and towel dry. Now fill each glass evenly with the raspberry mixture and refridgerate for at least an hour.

While the raspberry mixture is cooling, get a saute pan and add the slivered almonds and toast over medium heat (dry). Don't over toast them, but when they start turning a golden color, they're ready. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

When the raspberry mixture has cooled and stiffened, you may start your custard. In a medium pot, add the milk and custard packet and stir so that powder is well dissolved. You will want to bring the custard mixture to a full boil over medium heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan so that it doesn't stick. Just before it comes to a boil, add the chocolate and stir well so chocolate melts and blends with the custard. You may want to have slivered your chocolate if it came as a block. By the time the custard comes to a boil, the chocolate should have melted and blended well. Now add the Kahlua liquour and continue to stir. When custard comes to a boil, lower heat to low and continue to stir for another minute. Remove from heat and allow to slightly cool for about 10 minutes. You may want to place some parchment paper directly on the custard so that it doesn't develop a skin at the top. During this time, remove the glasses from the fridge so that they get the chill off.

Once cooled just a bit, carefully spoon in the mixture into the glasses. Return the glasses to the fridge and allow to set for several hours or until the custard has totally solidified. Before serving, add the whipping cream to a bowl and beat until nice peaks develop. About half way through this process, add the powdered sugar and resume beating. Add a nice layer of the toasted almonds to each of the glasses and a spoonful of whipped cream over the top and voila, you're ready to serve. Enjoy !

Ginger Sea Scallops provides easy gourmet in little time

There are so many jewels that come from the sea. Near the top of the list has got to be Sea Scallops. Nearly every culinary powerhouse nation includes them in their basket of recipes, as they are so versitle in ways they can be prepared. Delicate and yet distinct in their flavor, Sea Scallops can be poached, stir fried, sauteed, and even baked.

This preparation calls for simple ingredients and takes only minutes from start to finish. The secret in preparing scallops to make sure not to over cook them. Doing so will render them rubbery and rob you of the subtle flavors they present. So, high and quick heat is best. They are ready in just a few quick minutes. If you would like to try this preparation, here's what you'll need:

1 pound of fresh Sea Scallops, rinsed with cold water
1 teaspoon of powdered ginger
1 teaspoon of flour
1/2 tspn of cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (for mild heat)
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of minced fresh parsley
1 fresh lemon, quartered

Once you have rinsed your scallops, pat them dry with paper towels. Place them in a medium bowl and add the sesame oil. With your hands, stir the oil into the scallops so they are well coated. If you need to add a bit more sesame oil, you may do so, but don't over saturate them.

In a separate small bowl, add the ginger, flour, pepper and salt, and mix ingredients well. Once well blended, transfer the mixture to the scallops and stir well so that all the scallops are coated. Set aside.

In a saute pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium high. When oil is just beginning to smoke, add the scallops, crushed garlic, and pepper flakes. Stir frequently and saute for a couple of minutes. The scallops should begin to turn somewhat milky white and translucent. At this time, add the butter and continue to stir. The scallops will create a bit of liquid which is fine. Continue to saute for another 2 minutes.

Once cooking is complete, remove them from the heat and pour into a serving dish. You may sprinkle some diced fresh parsley and add some fresh lemon quarters for garnish. Serve hot with a side of jasmine steamed rice or quick sauteed baby green beans. This entree will serve a dinner party of four.

A NOTE ON COOKING: If you see that sauteeing the scallops is not producing enough liquid during the cooking process, you may add 1/4 cup of fish or chicken stock, but use this sparingly as you want the liquid to slightly thicken from the flour and butter you used.

Baby Yukons bathed in a sauce of butter and parsley

Delicate and so tender, Baby Yukon Golds have got to be near the top of royalty in the potato family. One of the best ways to prepare and enjoy them is to pick the ones no larger than about an inch in diameter, lightly boil them and toss with a marriage of melted butter, parsley, salt, and pepper. They are so perfect in their simplicity. To kick it up a notch with an entree of fish, simply toss them with finely chopped dill and you've got a winning combination. For this preparation however, we will use parsley since they were paired with a wonderful cut of filet de boeuf. Here's what you will need for this side dish:

20 small Baby Yukon potatoes, unpeeled (5 per serving)
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
2 tablespoons of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to boiling, add salt and the unpeeled potatoes. Leaving them unpeeled will keep them from getting water logged. Boil for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the potatoes slide off a knife poked into them with a very light jerk of your hand. Immediately remove from the heat and strain them. Cut them in halves and return them to the pot. If you wish, you ma also leave them whole.

Add the butter, salt, and pepper and gently stir until butter has completely melted. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle a bit more fresh chopped parsley. That's it. Now how simple is that? And wait until you taste these, so velvety and works so well with a nice cut of beef and a side of baby French green beans.

It works as a salad also !

A twist on this recipe involves converting these potatoes into a nice warm potato salad. Simply follow the cooking directions, strain them, and run cool water over them for about 15 seconds. Slice them in halves, add your salt and pepper, and instead of butter, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar. Gently toss and serve as a first course. As a garnish, you may add some freshly crisped sliced bacon. What a wonderful treat this is.


This week, someone was able to utilize my gmail email address and proceeded to send spam to hundreds of email addresses around the world. You may have received one or more such spam emails with my address as the sender. For this I am truly sorry, as I was totally unaware of it happening.  Consequently, Google had gotten a red flag on this and temporarily suspended my email address, thus shutting down my blog at www. nonchefnick.blogspot.com.

I went through the process of verifying my email address, created a new password, and everything has gotten up and running again. Thank God that my other addresses were not compromise, nor my financial accounts. I don't know how it happened; however, the easiest way for something like this to occur is to open an email from someone that you don't know or don't know the sender, that you did not solicit, or requested information from. This happens more often than you think. Since I have had a computer, this is the second time it has happened. We receive so much email now days and it's very possible to accidentally open one that you had no intention of opening. It's easy for this to happen and I can only conclude that I did just that.

Please avoid happening to you what has happened to me!! Follow simple rules:

1. Delete any mail you're not familiar with or don't know the sender - DO NOT OPEN!! Perhaps take the extra time when replying to known email senders, by "copy and pasting" the senders address on a new email as opposed to clicking "reply".

2. Report any suspicious email or repetitive emails as spam

3. Watch for email that has numerous "Forwarded" addresses

4. Change your password once a month - make them distinct different passwords, don't just change one letter.

5. Increase your security level on the internet

6. Don't utilize any programs that "save" your sign on info for your ease. Doing so means anyone can sign on to your security enabled sites.

7. Make sure you have a GREAT security/anti virus program installed on your computer. The built in MS Windows security is worthless, so don't count on that. I don't want to knock Norton; however, Comcast recently switched to Norton for their free security program to subscribers. The last time I had this problem, I was using Norton. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, so I'm not going to put the blame on anyone but myself. I have STOP SIGN security program on my desk top  and have had no security problems at all. This perticular breach is on my lap top.

8. Delete your cookies , temporary files, internet history, saved passwords, saved filled out internet forms on a weekly basis.

9. Make sure your security anti virus program is set to automatically update your computer on security issues and program updates.

10. DO NOT LET OTHERS USE YOUR COMPUTER!! Letting others use your computer to check their email messages is like sharing tooth brushes! I don't need to elaborate with any other well known metaphors. It may seem rude to say "NO" to someone you know, so just say "no". If they're good friends, they'll understand. You have no idea where they've surfed.

11. When doing searches on the web, be VERY careful. Click only on sites you're familiar with. Don't click on the side ads at the right of your monitor. Don't click on ads of companies you're not familiar with.

I know there are a number of other things that you can do; however, these are probably some of the more important ones. If you have others, feel free to list them in your comments. Please do not email me with them as if I don't know you or not familiar with you, I probably won't answer.

I hope this will help you avoid what I've gone through. I know that some of you have recently experience security issues that were even more severe than what I experience. Every breach of security however, is severe and should not be tolerated. Thank you....