The Gutsy Cooks Club Menu #9: Minestrone and Roast Beef Tenderloin with Red Currant Jus

Growing up in an Italian household, minestrone was a staple in my house. My mom made it at least once a week.  I always loved it, there is something that just screams home about it.  The rich stock and the pot simmering with all the vegetables and then the meaty beans and the tender pasta.  It was always a treat for me or my sister to pick out what shape of pasta we wanted in our soup.  Sometimes it was elbows or ditalini or when we were really small,   or shells or farfalle.  The vegetables were always whatever was fresh in the garden or in winter what was the best in the produce section.  In summer we might have zucchini or summer squash.  There was always the sofritto trio of carrot, onion and celery.  Fresh or canned tomatoes, white canellini beans or sometimes red kidneys or tasty great northern.  It was one of those clean out the vegetable bin soups and we all loved it.  I still love it today and this recipe is no exception.  It is homey and filling and just plain delicious.  Perfect for this time of year.

It seemed kind of a sin to go shopping for roast beef when I have a refrigerator filled with Thanksgiving leftovers.  I still have turkey and stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and yams and green beans.  I even have a huge pot of turkey stock made from the turkey carcass ready to be turned into turkey noodle soup.  So, you see it was silly to go out and by a beef tenderloin with all that food in the house.  That being said, it is only 2 days after Thanksgiving and I am almost at my limit for turkey leftovers.  With that in mind I dug into the freezer and came out with a beef round top sirloin roast.  I decided to skip paying the high price of a tenderloin and still treat my family to roast beef by using what I already had in the house.  This roast look wonderful, nice and meaty and nicely marbled.  I thought it would work perfectly in this recipe, and it did.  I had to adjust the cooking time a bit since this roast needed a bit longer cooking.  It wasn’t as tender as a tenderloin and needed to slower and longer roasting but since it cooks in the oven unattended by me that was not a problem.  

I think red currants are one of the most sensuous of fruits and I think I love just about anything that has them in it so this jus caught my attention.  It was truly delicious and was a wonderful accompaniment for this flavorful roast.  All in all a fantastic menu and a much needed break from turkey.


Lemon Canadian Crown with Ladyfingers

I was really looking forward to this dessert.  I as soon as I read this weeks selection I could already taste the tart and refreshing lemon filling and soft moist ladyfingers. I really like these kinds of desserts.  A few ingredients, a little effort and some slight of hand and total dessert heaven.  These kinds of desserts are so nice because you can spread the work out over a few days and then just a little last minute attention and you have a showstopper without tying  you to the kitchen for hours on end.  Everyone is always impressed by a lined mold dessert because they think it is so hard but it is deceptively simple and always makes you look like a pro.  Top that off with the spectacular flavor of this lemon charlotte and you have a total winner.  Shall we bake?

I chose to make my own ladyfingers as I couldn’t find any good quality ones in the shops and they are so easy it hardly seemed worth the effort of tracking down the store bought ones.  Separate the eggs and then whip the yolks with sugar for about 5 minutes until very lemony and tripled in volume.  Beat in the water and vanilla and beat a few minutes until they yolks fluff up again.  Sift the flour over the mixture and then set it aside.  Whip the egg whites until foamy and then add the cream of tartar and continue whipping until soft peaks form.  Gradually whip in the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form.  Stir about a third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture.  Finally, fold in the remaining whipped whites. 

The completed ladyfinger batter

 Scoop the batter into a piping bag and pipe the lady fingers and if you wish the round cake base onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Sprinkle the piped fingers with powdered sugar, allow them to set for a few minutes and sprinkle them a second time with powdered sugar. 

The piped ladyfingers awaiting their powdered sugar dusting

Bake at 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.   Remove the fingers to a rack, invert onto a second rack and peel off the parchment and then invert again onto a rack and allow to cool completely. Easy.

The baked ladyfingers

Baked ladyfingers

 Line the bottom and sides of the mold with the ladyfingers, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until needed.

The lined mold

Lined mold

To make the lemon filling, combine egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice in the top of a double boiler and cook over simmering water for about 15 minutes until the custard gets thick and glossy.

Cooking the lemon custard

  In the mean time zest one lemon into a bowl and then set a sieve over the bowl.  When the custard is cooked, pass it through the sieve to remove and bits of cooked egg and then stir in the zest and allow the custard to cool to room temperature. 

The finished lemon custard

Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.  Stir about a third of the cream into the lemon custard to lighten it and then gently fold in the remaining cream. 

The completed lemon mousse

Remove the lined mold from the freezer and fill it with the lemon mousse filling.  Wrap the filled mold in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 5 hours.

The mold filled with lemon mousse

To prepare the meringue topping, whip the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form.  Gradually whip in the sugar until stiff peaks form.  Spoon the meringue over the lemon mousse filling, smooth the top and place under the broiler until it just browns. 

Ready to go under the broiler

The baked meringue


Unmold the charlotte and serve slightly softened.  Enjoy!

Next Up:  Chocolate Velvet Fudge Cake

Chocolate Genoise with Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache

I wasn’t really ready to leave the fall like spice cakes and warm wintry desserts that we have been doing the past few weeks but chocolate and peanut butter beckoned and how can you really go wrong with that combination. Once I started reading the recipe I saw that it started off with that most magical of ingredients, beurre noisette and I knew that I was in for a real treat.  I have waxed poetic about the virtues of beurre noisette on many occasions and how it is positively orgasmic when that first waft of warm toasty butter hits your nostrils.  I couldn’t wait to get into the kitchen. 

The genoise is that workhorse of French cakes.  It is the basis for many desserts and the starting point for many assembled cakes and desserts.  I have generally used the Julia Child genoise and usually Alice Medrichs chocolate genoise as my go to recipes when I need a genoise.  This one using beurre noisette instead of just melted butter had me intrigued.  Genoise is a delicate cake and many times if not handled properly they can be dry which is often why they use an imbibing syrup to keep them moist.  This genoise I found to be feather like and very very delicate.  It practically didn’t need a syrup and I have to admit that it was so light that I was almost afraid that the syrup with disintegrate it but it turned out fine.  I have to admit that the combination of the raspberry syrup and peanut butter ganache sounded a bit strange to me and it certainly isn’t something I would have tried on my own but it turnout out to be fine.  This cake was a nice light chocolate and not at all intense or cloying which makes it a perfect base for other flavored syrups and just about any type of frosting.  Well, without further ado, let’s get into the kitchen and bake…

I must apologize her as I took many step by step photos and when I transferred them from the camera to my computer some sort of glitch happened and they were all destroyed.  Luckily I took the finished cake photos separately so I at least have a few of those to show you.  On to the baking.

This was one of those way too easy cakes.  I have to admit that I had the ingredients assembled, the batter made and the cake in the oven in about 30 minutes.  Too easy.  To begin, prepare your beurre noisette.  Combine the cocoa, vanilla and boiling water and set aside to cool a bit.  Combine the eggs and sugar and a whisk over simmering water until luke warm.  Whip the egg mixture with a stand mixer for about 5 minutes until it has tripled in volume. In the meantime measure the flower.  When the eggs have tripled, remove two cups of the egg mixture and whisk them into the cocoa mixture.  Sift the flour over the remaining whipped eggs and gently fold it in.  Then fold in the cocoa mixture and finally fold in the butter.  Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Then unmold onto a rack and cool completely.

Next, make the whipped ganache.  I will admit that I found this ganche as with almost all of Roses’ frostings to be way too soft to work with.  Rose cautions about over whipping this frosting as it may become grainy. She recommends only whipping it until soft peaks form.  I know that I totally over whipped it and it never became grainy but it also never formed soft peaks either.  It was just way too soft to work with and was almost more of a glaze than a ganache. At any rate, it tasted delicious and I did manage to get it on the cake and smoothed out so I won’t complain about it too much but there was no way to do any sort of piping with this ganache.  Is it just me or does anyone else have this problem with Roses’ frostings?

To make the ganache, melt the chopped chocolate using your favorite method, add the peanut butter and whisk until it is melted and fully combined.  Stir in the vanilla and then the chilled heavy cream and whisk until soft peaks form.

To assemble the cake, split the cake layer in two.  Spread about a cup of the ganache on the first layer, apply the top layer and frost the top and sides, smooth the ganache and decorate as desired.  Enjoy!

Next Up:   Lemon Canadian Crown with Ladyfingers

Gutsy Cooks Club: Lamb Tagine with Couscous and Tabbouleh

I have to admit that I am not a great lover of lamb. I never really had much of it growing up.  We would have it on Easter when my grandmother would tell us it was beef to get the kids to eat it. I always that it tasted spoiled and didn’t like it.  My father hated it so my mom never made it.  Once into adulthood and with a much more sophisticated palette I started trying it again.  While it no longer tasted like spoiled beef to me it still seemed to have an off taste that just didn’t appeal to me so it was reserved for ordering at fancy restaurants and not all that often. I hesitated this time as well. I was going to do the tagine with beef since we love this kind of food at my house.  My other half loves lamb and I have ventured into cooking it but it still is not one of my favorites.  While I was doing the shopping for this week the lamb look especially good. Nice and pink and very meaty so I decided to give it another shot.  I am very glad that I did.  This was delicious.  I am not sure if it was the spices, or the slow cooking or just really good lamb but I loved it.  The meat was tender and juicy and didn’t  have any of that off taste that I usually associate with lamb.  The spices were warm and flavorful and all the couscous just soaked up all of those rich cooking juices.  We eat couscous all the time. I like it as an alternative to potatoes or rice and it seems to go well with everything.

The tabbouleh as well is no stranger in my house.  We have eaten it for many years and it was a pleasant treat to have it again as I seem to have abandoned it for a while lately.  I made a double batch of it for snacking and lunches this week.  It was truly a lovely, hearty and very tasty meal.




Spice Cake with Peanut Buttercream

 When I was a child the smell of a spice cake baking in the kitchen always screamed out fall, thanksgiving, turkey.  It meant that we would be lighting logs in the fireplace and having hearty stews and soups.  Christmas was just around the corner and soon we would be buying the tree and decorating and wrapping presents and baking and eating and eating and eating.  I always loved those few short weeks that surrounded the holidays.  There was so much activity and so many things to do and see and people would come and go and somehow you managed to forget that you had to take exams and do homework before that glorious time that was Christmas vacation would come.  It felt safe and warm and a comforting.  This cake took me right back to those happy times of my youth.  As soon as I saw this recipe in my list for free choices I knew this had to be the one to make.  It was just perfect.

This cake is ultra moist.  Even after it cooled on the racks and as I was frosting and composing ayers I could just tell that it was as moist a cake as you could ever want.  The smell of it baking was making me insane.  I was instantly transported back to my parents house and it was 1965 and I was anticipating the holiday season while waiting for my mom’s spice cake to come out of the oven.  Oh, what times those were.  Snapping back to reality, let’s bake…

This cake is totally simple.  Mix the dry ingredients, add the wet and bake.  Way to simple for the totally orgasmic results that it produces.  The only changes I made here was that I doubled the recipe.  It just seemed too good not to double it.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, 3 tablespoons of buttermilk and vanilla and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves and mix lightly to combine.  Add the butter and the rest of the buttermilk and mix on low to moisten the dry ingredients. 

Adding the butter and buttermilk to dry ingredients

 Raise the speed to medium and beat for a minute and a half.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the egg mixture in 2 additions, beating about 30 seconds between each addition. 

Adding the egg mixture

 Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the cakes test down. 

The finished batter

Ready to bake

Cool on racks in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold the cakes and cool completely.

The baked cakes

To make the peanut buttercream, in the work bowl of a food processor add the peanut butter, sour cream, cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Process until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the workbowl and process until smooth.

Frosting ingredients in the work bowl

The finished buttercream

Add about 1 cup of the buttercream to the first layer.  Top with the second layer, press down to even the layers. 

Filling the layers

Frost the top and sides of the cake and decorate as desired.  Since this cake reminded me so much of my childhood and my mom’s spice cake, I felt that it needed to be frosted just as my mother had done.  Nothing fancy, just big dollops of the frosting, swirled with the back of a spoon and left plain.  This was total heaven for me and a fitting tribute to my mom.  Enjoy!


Next Up:  Chocolate Genoise with Peanut Butter Whipped Ganache

Gutsy Cooks Club: Spanish Vegetable Tortilla

I had a bit of trouble trying to decide what to do with this weeks menu.  I personally am not a big lover of fish.  At least, I am not a lover of making it at home.  Since I really don’t like cooking fish at home I generally save eating fish for when we go out to dinner and then I experiment with trying different kinds of fish.  When I told my family what this weekes menu was I knew there was going to be different opinions.  None of us are huge fish eaters and absolutely no one in my family likes fish with tomato sauce so there was some discussion. It was eventually decided that I wouldn’t do the fish at all since everyone seemed to be in agreement that they wouldn’t like it. 

I did however know that I was going to like this vegetable tortilla.  Loaded with vegetables and so easy to make as well as very filling.  It is a great luncheon dish with a crisp green salad and crusty bread.  Tonight we had it as a side dish with grilled chicken and  butter lettuce.  Tomorrow morning a slice will make a terrific filling breakfast before the gym and it will certainly fill the bill for a quick, filling lunch at my desk at the office.    This is definitely a winner at my house.  Another great thing about this tortilla is that you can change it to suit your mood or taste.  Change the vegetables, add more or less, toss in some wonderful cheese. The options are endless and always very good.  Enjoy. 

Cooking potatoes and onions

The mixed vegetables and eggs

Gentle cooking






Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake

There have been times while baking through this book that we have come to a recipe and while I am making it I have this vision of Rose going into her kitchen to develop the recipe.  She looks across the counter at me and she says, “Raymond, I know that you’re a tired, cranky, old curmudgeon, but just to prove that I do listen, this one is for you”.  That happened on Whipped Cream cake, and again on pure pumpkin cheesecake, and several other times throughout this process.  It happened again today while I was making this one.  I love these sorts of not too sweet, easy to make, just the right amount of flavor and hits the spot all the time cakes.  The almond cream and pears just sing out to me that it’s fall and the holidays are just around the corner so get ready but here’s a little treat to help get you in the mood.  It worked.  Rose, you have made this tired, cranky, old curmudgeon a very happy man.  Let’s bake… 

First make the almond cream.  Combine almond paste and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth.  Add the eggs, vanilla and flour and butter and  process into a soft smooth cream.  Set aside. 

To make the cake batter.  Peel, core and slice a pear and sprinkle it with lemon juice and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix to combine.  In  a separate bowl, combine the egg, yolks, sour cream and vanilla and whisk to blend.  Add the remaining sour cream and butter and combine until moistened, increase the speed and beat for a minute and a half.  

Adding butter and sour cream to dry ingredients

Then add the eggs in two additions, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. 

Adding the egg mixture

  Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan. 

The finished batter

Smooth the top and then make a 1/4 inch depression in the batter around the pan and then spoon the almond cream into the depression.  Cover the cream with a double layer of pear slices.  

Ready for the oven

 Bake for 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees.  




You can’t help but love this cake.  Rich and buttery without being overly sweet and cloying.  The warm scent of vanilla, the smooth almond cream and that heavenly ethereal hit of fall from the moist silky pears.  I could just sit and eat slice after slice of this moist simple cake.  Your taste buds never had it so good.  Enjoy! 

Next Up:  Free Choice

Pumpkin Ice Cream Profiteroles with Caramel Sauce


I don’t know what it was this week but practically everything I made reminded me of my mom and being in her kitchen watching her cook and all the fabulous, homey, comforting meals she made for us when we were growing up.  Angelfood cake with fruit and stew and polenta.  All these foods she used to just turn out like it was nothing.  No recipes, no measuring.  Just toss them together and they were always spectacular.  Then here comes these profiteroles.  My mom was famous for hers only she called them cream puffs and she filled them with a heavenly, light and very rich vanilla custard and then dusted them with powdered sugar.  I can’t tell you how often I crave them and find myself in my own kitchen making them using her old handwritten recipe and reliving those wonderful times in my mom’s kitchen waiting for them to be ready to eat.  Who said you can’t go home again? 

These were really good and very very easy.  My mom’s cream puffs only in a smaller size.  Opened and filled with delicious pumpkin ice cream.  I made the David Lebovitz  recipe.  I have made it several times and find that it is tasty and rich without being overly sweet the way some store bought pumpkin ice creams can be.  As for the caramel sauce, I just boiled down the sugar and water until it was a deep amber color and added some cream and stirred it into glorious creamy smooth goodness.   While these didn’t quite taste as good to me as my mom’s giant cream puffs they were heavenly and I wouldn’t hesitate to  make them over and over.  Just fill them with any flavor ice cream you want.  Mint for Christmas,egg nog for New Years, raspberry for valentines day.  These will take you all through the year.  Enjoy