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Recipes & Entertaining Ideas

Filtering by Tag: Summer

Avocado & Sweet Corn Cakes

Marc J. Sievers

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Is it even really summer if you haven’t been eating your weight in farm-fresh corn? Beautiful ears of corn can be found at almost every farmer’s market or farm stand and my Avocado & Sweet Corn Cakes are the perfect meal for entertaining, any time of the day! Growing up in New England, crab cakes and lobstah cakes were always on the menu at seaside restaurants and were the epitome of summer.  I wanted to create my version of these crisp and versatile cakes that I could serve to Ryan for a casual Wednesday night dinner or to friends on a warm Saturday evening, like I did for our friend Eric who owns La Tuile à Loup in Paris when he was in town for a visit. These cakes are crispy on the outside and deliciously creamy on the inside and pair well with a delicately dressed arugula salad. You can start the meal with my Lime & Watermelon Wedges ( cut into cubes rather than wedges) and end the evening with my Assembled Parisian Dessert for the ultimate summer menu and easy, stress-free entertaining. Serve with a chilled, dry white wine and enjoy!

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Ingredients (serves 6)

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • Lemon Zest – 2 teaspoons

  • Lemon Juice – ½ cup, freshly squeezed

  • Honey – 4 teaspoons

  • Dijon Mustard – 1 ½ teaspoons

  • Olive Oil – ½ cup

  • Sea Salt – 1 teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Arugula – 5 ounces

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano – 1 cup, large shavings, for serving

Cakes

  • Sweet Corn Kernels – 3 cups (about 4 ears)

  • Red Pepper – 1 large, ¼-inch diced

  • Haas Avocado – 1 large, peeled & pitted, ¼-inch diced

  • Shallot – 1 large, ¼-inch diced

  • Chives – ¼ cup, finely minced

  • Basil – ¼ cup, finely minced

  • Eggs – 5 extra-large, at room temperature, lightly beaten

  • English Cheddar – 6 ounces, grated

  • Flour – 1 ½ cups, all purpose

  • Sea Salt – 1 ½ teaspoons

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Panko Bread Crumbs – 2 cups

  • Safflower Oil – for frying

  • Butter – unsalted, for frying

Directions

Lemon Vinaigrette

  1. Place all of the ingredients, reserving the arugula and Parmesan, into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously for about 60 seconds until the vinaigrette is well-blended.  Store in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.

 Cakes

  1. In a shallow dish, add the panko.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

  2. Next, in a large bowl add all of the ingredients, reserving the safflower oil.  Mix until well- combined.  

  3. Using a 2 ¼-inch metal scoop (about 3 ounces), shape into 10 cakes.  As you form each cake, coat each side in panko.  Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 60 minutes or until firm.

  4. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.  Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.

  5.  In a 10-inch sauté pan set over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons each of safflower oil and butter.  Once hot, add 5 chilled cakes.  Fry for 2-4 minutes on each side, until golden browned.  Place the fried cakes onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan and put into the preheated oven to stay warm.  Repeat the same process, adding a bit more oil and butter, until all of the cakes are cooked.

 Assembly

  1. In a large bowl, add the arugula and ¾ of the lemon vinaigrette.  Toss to evenly coat all of the leaves.  Add more vinaigrette if the salad is too dry.

  2. Divide the warm cakes onto six dinner plates, top with a handful of dressed arugula, shaving of Parmesan cheese, more salt and pepper and serve.  

Tip: You can make the cakes a few hours in advance.  After coating the cakes in panko, place them onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator. Follow frying instructions when you are ready to serve.

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Caprese Skewers

Marc J. Sievers

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When it is hot and steamy outside, the last thing I want to do is turn on the oven. But that doesn’t mean that delicious food needs to take a backseat! My version of classic Caprese Skewers is easy, breezy and beautiful, exactly what summer should be all about! Flavorful, ripe San Marzano plum tomatoes pair perfectly with a ribbon of fresh basil and creamy little Bocconcini mozzarella. Assembly could not be easier! In this version, instead of chopping basil as you would in a traditional caprese salad, I take a single leaf and roll it like a little cigar and slide it onto the skewer. Follow with the mozzarella, and spritz gently with my secret ingredient, fresh lemon juice! Not what you would expect, but it adds an amazing burst of citrus that enhances the overall freshness of this dish. Finish with a sprinkle of fleur de sel and freshly cracked black pepper, and you have a backyard soirée superstar that will disappear in no time!

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Watermelon & Lime Wedges

Marc J. Sievers

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Summer just isn’t summer without watermelon making an appearance at a barbecue or endlessly repeating the iconic line “I carried a watermelon” from my all-time favorite summer movie Dirty Dancing! While a beautifully ripe melon is definitely a classic all on its own, it’s a lot easier than you think to kick up the flavor and make it truly something special. My Watermelon & Lime Wedges have a generous sprinkle of Maldon flaked sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to enhance the natural sweetness of this summertime favorite while adding zingy lime zest (I love using a classic rasp by Microplane to get just the bright green part of the lime) for something that is uniquely unexpected and completely delicious! And who doesn’t love food on a stick? Sliding a popsicle stick into the wedges is not only fun, it makes these the ultimate grab-and-go snack, allowing your guests to make their rounds at the party and come back for more!

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Triple Berry Flag Cake

Marc J. Sievers

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One of the things I love most about summer is that it comes with no shortage of opportunities to get together with family and friends al fresco. Another thing I love is being able to bring something delicious to share! Packed with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, my Triple Berry Flag Cake embodies the very essence of summer. Beautiful berries are everywhere and this cake allows you to use all of the berries from your garden or that you picked up at the farmer’s market or farm stand. While it looks complicated, this dessert is simply a classic “sheet cake” made from my Lemon Pound Cake and bursting with fresh strawberries and blueberries baked inside, a crème fraiche-infused buttercream and finished with a festive (and easy!) step-by-step iconic decoration of fresh blueberries and raspberries on the outside that will impress your guests all season long!

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Triple Berry Flag Cake

Ingredients (serves 20-25 people)

Cake

  •  Flour – 3 cups, all-purpose, plus more for preparing the pan

  • Sea Salt – 1 teaspoon

  • Baking Powder – ½ teaspoon

  • Baking Soda – ½ teaspoon

  • Butter – 16 tablespoons (2 sticks), unsalted, at room temperature, plus more for preparing the pan

  • Sugar – 2 cups, granulated

  • Vanilla – 2 teaspoons, pure extract

  • Lemon – 2 large lemons, zested and juiced

  • Honey – ¼ cup, clover honey preferred

  • Eggs – 4 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Buttermilk – 1 cup, at room temperature

  • Blueberries – (1) half-pint

  • Strawberries – 1 pound, hulled, ¼-inch diced

Buttercream

  • Cream Cheese – 1 pound, at room temperature

  • Crème Fraiche – 8 ounces, at room temperature

  • Butter – 1 pound, unsalted, at room temperature

  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon

  • Vanilla – ½ teaspoon, pure extract

  • Confectioners Sugar – 1 pound, sifted

Cake Decoration

  • Blueberries – (2) half-pints

  • Raspberries – (3) half-pints

Directions

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a half sheet pan (18” x 13” x 1”).  Line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.  Butter the top of the parchment paper.  Lightly dust the entire pan with flour.  Set aside.

  2.  In large bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

  3.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.

  4.  Turn the mixer to low speed and add the vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, and the eggs one at a time, allowing each to fully incorporate.

  5.  Next, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

  6.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.  Gently fold in the berries.

  7.  Transfer the batter into the prepared pan.  Tap the pan on a flat surface to release as many air bubbles as possible.

  8.  Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

  9.  Remove the pan from the oven, allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.  Then, turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Buttercream & Assembly

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the cream cheese, crème fraiche, butter, salt and vanilla.  Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar.  Raise the speed to medium-low and mix until smooth.   

  2. Place the completely cooled cake onto a large serving platter or board. 

  3. Spread half of the icing on the top of the cooled sheet cake. Using a toothpick, outline the flag on the top of the cake. Fill the upper left third corner with blueberries. 

  4. Put the remaining buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe two rows of white stripes.  Place 2 rows of raspberries below the piped row to create a red stripe. Alternate rows of buttercream and raspberries until the flag is completed. Pipe small stars on top of the blueberries.

Tip: If you are brining this cake to a party, after the cake has cooled completely on the wire rack, simply place it back into the sheet pan, decorate it and then transport it and serve directly from the sheet pan.  This will ensure this show-stoping cake can be your signature summer pot-luck dessert all season long!

Trick: The sheet cake can be made up to two days in advance.  Once the cake has cooled completely, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. 

Summer Tip: On a hot day you may have to periodically place the finished buttercream into the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes so it stays firm and easy to use while you decorate the cake. 

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Al Fresco Entertaining

Marc J. Sievers

Hosting an al fresco soirée is one of my favorite things to do when the weather is just too beautiful to stay indoors.  For this years Le Dîner en Blanc Chicago I partnered with Caspari to create the ultimate, portable tablescape perfect for an all-white dinner outside!  Below I have included detailed images, my WGN News segment, and shoppable links (all from behind the scenes!) so you can easily recreate my tablescape for yourself at home or on-location!

Watch: WGN News Segment featuring Caspari and Le Dîner en Blanc 


Store-Bought Food

Baguette
Olives
Cashews
S&P Potato Chips
Peppadews
Rosé
Champagne
Sparkling Water



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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Marc J. Sievers

The old saying, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!" is exactly what you will be shouting from rooftops once you make my incredibly luxurious (yet so easy) Vanilla Bean Ice Cream!  There are some recipes that use a handful of really good, flavorful, and fresh ingredients, that result in what I call "heritage recipes." These recipes embody the essence of home cooking and will make an appearance at your table for decades to come.  My ice cream recipe certainly falls into that category!  It uses just four ingredients, takes only minutes to assemble, and is the epitome of what vanilla bean ice cream should taste like, with fresh cream flavored with vanilla and a hint of briny sea salt.

Whether you plan to serve this vanilla bean ice cream on top of a slice of pie, a French apple tart, galette, or by just itself (drizzled with salted caramel sauce, my favorite!), you will be moved to scream for ice cream from rooftops from now on!

Watch: Another #MJSmoments on YouTube.  Subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here!


Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes 1 ½ quarts)

  • Heavy Cream – 3 cups

  • Sugar –⅔ cup, granulated

  • Vanilla Bean Paste – 2 teaspoons

  • Fleur de Sel – ½ teaspoon

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the heavy cream, sugar, vanilla bean paste, and fleur de sel. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

  2. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressing it directly onto the surface of the mixture. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or until very cold.

  3. Once the mixture is chilled, add it to an ice cream maker and follow manufactures directions.

  4. Scoop out the ice cream into a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 hours.

Tip: I love the ease and simplicity of the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

Try my other favorite ice cream recipes here:

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Red, White & Blue - Six Festive Ideas to Do Ahead of Your Summer Soirée!

Marc J. Sievers

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Entertaining during the summer should be all about ease, simplicity, and should include things that can be done ahead of time for your soirée! For any holiday-themed event food is a fun (and easy!) way to bring it to life.  But, keeping it simple and stress-free is important.  These six do-ahead ideas can be done with simple items found easily at the grocery store, craft store, and even items already in your own pantry that will bring the party to life!

Kick off your own fireworks with these six do-ahead ideas for a summer soirée in red-white-and-blue style!


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Champagne or wine glasses get a festive makeover with streaming ribbon

Red, white, and blue ribbons tied with a simple knot onto the stems of glassware is an effortless transformation with a dramatic effect!  Make sure the tails are extra-long!  As your guests hold their glasses the ribbon cascades for a stunning look, especially when multiplied across the backdrop of the party.  Matching-patterned cocktail napkins will pull this look together.  Use this simple idea to accentuate those savvy cheers-worthy moments!


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Get organized right from the beginning

Once you have decided on your menu, choosing the right serving dish is a helpful and time-saving next step.  Write on a sticky note with each of your menu items and label each serving piece with the corresponding sticky note.  This is also helpful during prep the day of the party when a guest asks, “Where should I put the veggie burgers?” All they have to do is look for the labeled platter!  Your food table is planned, organized, and ready to go.


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Create a color-pop platter

Having platters and other serving pieces for every holiday can be an expensive investment, not to mention a storage overload.  Instead, use acrylic rock crystals (they are typically used as filler in vases or scattered around a table) to punch-up an everyday white platter!  Choose a combination of colors (two or three—four or more is a bit overwhelming) that captures the colors of your theme.  Then, simply use a hot glue gun to affix the faux gems to the rim of a heat-proof platter.  You can do them in a pattern, a cluster, or arranged as section dividers on the platter.  After the party is over, the acrylic rocks just pop off leaving behind your simple white platter ready for the next holiday!


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Candles are key

Hurricanes had height, light, and a bit of drama to any décor.  Use the same acrylic rock crystals as the color-pop platter idea to create hurricanes on theme with your holiday look!  Place your candles in the hurricanes.  Mix together the three rock crystal colors, in this case red, silver, and blue.  Pour the rock crystals around the candles in each hurricane, about half way up the height of the candle.


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Take-out containers filled with make-ahead recipes

Doing as much ahead of time is key to keeping your soirée simple and stress-free.  After all, you want to enjoy the party, too!  A delicious and easy-to-make summer pasta salad is the answer.  Pasta salads taste better when you make them in advance and allow the flavors time to meld together.  Since you are already in the kitchen making a fabulous summer pasta salad (like my Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad!), why not do one more small step to package it up in individual servings using take-out containers, also dressed with ribbon tails.  This is the easiest way to pack food for large groups without having to worry about serving bowls and utensils, spoons, and forks—just include a set of to-go chopsticks for each guest!  Best of all, the container, ribbon, and chopsticks are all recyclable, making clean-up easiest of all!


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Ribbon napkin rings

Do you have a drawer filled with mix-and-match napkin rings?  Where do their counterparts go?   It’s like the tabletop equivalent of socks “eaten” by the dryer!  Ribbon is the go-to solution when you need to add a bit of flair to a tablesetting, BBQ, or picnic.  Wired-edge ribbon is a perfect substitute for dedicated holiday napkin rings.  Instead of owning a set of twelve red- white-and-blue glittered star napkins rings to use once (maybe twice) a year, buy a spool of glittery star ribbon as a perfect alternative!

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Linda's Tomato Salad

Marc J. Sievers

One of my dearest friends, Linda Marie Clark, lives in California and is an award-winning photographer and exceptional watercolor artist.  She also happens to be an amazing cook!  We met about four years ago after she found my cookbook on Amazon.com and started painting my recipes.   It was so incredibly flattering, especially considering her talent!

Having chatted with her for a few months via email at first then telephone, I decided to invite her to Chicago for a visit.  And now, a few years later, we talk every few days, we started a stationary line together, and our friendship has blossomed.

Linda loves to photograph in her garden in California.  A few weeks back she sent me a text with a photo of a beautiful salad she made after a visit to her local farmers market.  It was filled with fresh tomatoes, sweet corn, and spicy basil!  She also captured the moment perfectly at sunset in her garden.  Her photograph (and salad!) was just too stunning not to share with you!  Linda’s Tomato Salad has made it onto my table three times already this summer and is always a crowd-pleaser!

Happy Summer!


Linda's Tomato Salad

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Sweet Corn – 2 ears, shucked

  • Heirloom Tomatoes – 1 ½ pounds, 1-inch cubes

  • Basil – ¾ cup, rough chopped

  • Olive Oil – ½ cup

  • Balsamic Vinegar – ¼ cup

  • Sea Salt – ¾ teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – ¾ teaspoon

  • Parmesan Cheese – ¾ cup, large shavings, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

Directions

  1. Bring a large sauce pan filled with water to a boil. Add the ears of corn and cook for just 3 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and cut the kernels off the cob.

  2. Next, arrange the cubed tomatoes down the center of a serving platter. Scatter the corn evenly onto the tomatoes.

  3. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle evenly with basil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

  4. Serve alongside a basket of crusty bread.

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Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad

Marc J. Sievers

There is something so satisfying about making a big batch of really good pasta salad.  It can be so simple, just a few tosses of fresh ingredients while the pasta is hot, and you have an easy and incredibly flavorful dish.  I will admit that pasta salads were not my favorite as a kid—they always seemed to taste bland, and like the refrigerator.  No good!  But I have since solved the flavor challenge.

This recipe actually came about from a recent trip to Hawaii.  Ryan and I were visiting our best friends for a milestone birthday.  But, the day we were flying back to Chicago, they both got stuck at work.  Before we let ourselves out of their apartment to go to the airport, knowing that they were going to be home very late, I wanted to leave them a surprise dinner in their refrigerator!

After a few minutes, I found everything I needed to create a Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad.  Best of all, it only took 15 minutes and we were out the door and our friends had an easy and delicious dinner waiting for them.  Needless to say, they were very happy to come home after a very long day to a ready-made meal that kept perfectly well!  This is easy summer “cooking”, at its best!

Watch: Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad


Pesto & Arugula Pasta Salad

Ingredients (serve 4-6)

  • Fusilli – 1 pound, cooked al dente

  • Pesto – 7 ounces, store-bought

  • Grape Tomatoes – 2 pints, halved

  • Parmesan Cheese – 1 cup, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

  • Baby Arugula – 2 cups, washed and dried

  • Green Onions – ½ cup, thinly sliced

  • Basil – ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh

  • Parsley - ⅓ cup, rough chopped, fresh, Italian Flat-Leaf variety recommended

  • Red Pepper Flakes – ½ teaspoon

  • Lemon Zest – 1 small lemon, zested

  • Sea Salt – 1½ teaspoons

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked

Directions

  1. After the pasta has been cooked and drained, and while it is hot, place it into a large bowl.

  2. Immediately add all of the ingredients to the hot pasta and toss until evenly mixed.

  3. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

Tip: You can make this in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Before you serve it, check to see if it needs more salt, pepper, and even another handful of fresh arugula or basil mixed in.  I have noticed that as food sits in a cold temperature, some of the flavor “disappears”.  After all, who wants bland food?! 

Order a signed copy of my cookbook Entertaining with Love!

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S'mores Ice Cream

Marc J. Sievers

One of my favorite memoires as a child was making s’mores!  Whether it was a beach bonfire in Maine or by a campfire in New Hampshire, they still are one of my favorite indulgences.  I can remember also making them with my nan over the stovetop, using a fork as a “stick” to toast the marshmallow over the open flame – yikes!  Grandmas will do anything for their grandchildren to make them happy.

Now that I am well into my adult years (I call it “adulting”), I still make s’mores whenever there is a fire pit, bonfire, or even a charcoal grill.  On Ryan’s parents’ farm – regardless of the season – we always make a huge fire and sip wine and make these ooey-gooey treats!

I typically don’t buy or use specialty kitchen equipment – especially things that take up precious cupboard space.  However, there are two items that I cannot live without:  My ice cream maker and small kitchen torch.  Though they have very specific functions, they are what make my S’mores Ice Cream possible!  And not just possible, truly incredible!  The flavors from the homemade milk chocolate ganache, crusty and chewy toasted marshmallows, all enrobed in a velvety vanilla ice cream base will make the purchase of these two new kitchen accoutrement well worth every penny! 

In fact, homemade ice cream is simpler that you think!  It really is just about using a few quality ingredients like cream, sugar, vanilla, and salt.  The hardest part is waiting the 25 minutes while the machine “does its thing” until you have the most luxurious ice cream, ever!  Take a peek at my Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream, too!  


S'mores Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes 1 ½ quarts)

Ice Cream Base

  • Heavy Cream – 3 cups

  • Sugar – ⅔ cups, granulated

  • Honey – 2 teaspoons

  • Vanilla – 1½ teaspoons, pure extract

  • Fleur de Sel – ½ teaspoon

Chocolate Ganache

  • Heavy Cream – ¼ cup

  • Milk Chocolate Chips – 4 ounces

  • Fleur de Sel – ⅛ teaspoon

Add-Ins

  • Mini Marshmallows – 3 cups

  • Graham Crackers – 10 full sheets, broken into small and medium pieces, plus more for garnish

  • Milk Chocolate Chips – 7.5 ounces

Directions

Chocolate Ganache & Marshmallows

  1. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely-simmering water, add the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and salt. Stir until just melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

  2. Place the mini marshmallows onto a half sheet pan. Using a small kitchen torch, toast the marshmallows until well-toasted. Set aside to cool.

Ice Cream Base

  1. In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the heavy cream, sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt. Stir until the sugar is just dissolved, about 5 minutes. You can tell the sugar is dissolved by rubbing a bit of the cream between your fingertips. If there are no granulates, it is done.

  2. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressing it directly onto the surface of the mixture. Chill until very cold, or overnight.

  3. Once the mixture is very cold, add it to an ice cream maker and follow manufactures directions.

Assembly

  1. Once the ice cream base is finished, transfer to a large bowl and quickly fold in the cooled toasted marshmallows, graham crackers pieces, and chocolate chips.

  2. Then, fold in the cooled chocolate ganache.

  3. Transfer to freezer containers and chill until firm.

  4. To serve, garnish with more crumbled graham crackers.

Tip: I love the ease and simplicity of the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker.

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Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Marc J. Sievers

If you have never made homemade ice cream, you are in for a real treat!  A few months ago, I was making my Velvety Hot Chocolate from my first cookbook Entertaining with Love, and while I was measuring out the ingredients it occurred to me that they were very similar to the base ingredients for my ice cream recipe.  After a bit of tweaking (and lots of taste testing!), my Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream was churning away in my ice cream maker, ready for its close-up!

This is by far the best and most luxurious chocolaty ice cream I have ever had, let alone made myself!  The texture is similar to a velvety mousse—light, airy, and incredibly silky.  The flavors are so rich and intense, from using really good ingredients (particularly the chocolate and cocoa powder), and my secret ingredient:  Fleur de Sel caramel sauce.  Rather than make your own caramel sauce for a few tablespoons, I like to use a good store-bought one.  In fact, my favorite jar is from Trader Joe’s (also where I buy my chocolate bars by the pound).

For the ultimate ice cream enjoyment, allow each scoop to sit at room temperature for a few minutes and you will be able to taste the flavors much better than it being ice-cold.  The most perfect chocolate ice cream is calling your name – enjoy!


Salted Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

Ingredients (makes 1 quart)

  • Milk Chocolate – 4 ounces, finely chopped

  • Dark Chocolate – 4 ounces, finely chopped

  • Cocoa Powder – ¼ cup, unsweetened, Pernigotti recommended

  • Heavy Cream – 3 cups

  • Vanilla – 1 teaspoon, pure extract

  • Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce – 3 tablespoons, good store-bought variety

  • Fleur de Sel – ¼ teaspoon

  • Cinnamon – 1/8 teaspoon

  • Dark Brown Sugar – 2 tablespoon

Directions

  1. In a medium sauce pan set over medium heat, add the heavy cream, brown sugar, caramel sauce, and both chocolates. Whisk until the chocolate is just melted.

  2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and cocoa powder.

  3. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressing it directly onto the surface of the mixture. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until it is very cold.

  4. Once the mixture is chilled, add it to an ice cream maker and follow manufactures directions.

  5. Scoop out the ice cream into a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2 hours.

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Warm Figs with Goat Cheese

Marc J. Sievers

Fresh figs are such a luxury this time of year!  Their normal season begins the first few weeks of June, then they come back to greet us from August through October.  While you can certainly find dried figs year round—they are fabulous to serve with cheeses, in pastas, or just eaten right from the container—fresh figs add such an elegant touch to a party.

In the past, I have written a few recipes using these luscious fruits, but my Warm Figs with Goat Cheese may just become your new favorite way to enjoy fresh figs this time of year!  How can you go wrong with fresh figs drizzled in earthy honey, rosemary, pistachios, and goat cheese?  The aromatic and savory rosemary adds a bit of an autumnal vibe, perfect for the start of this transitional time of year. 

Presentation is very casual as guests can literally spoon the warm figs onto slices of toasted bread.  Or, serve as a salad!  Best of all, you can assemble this dish one hour head of time and allow it to sit at room temperature (no need to take up precious fridge space).  Add the pistachios just before you are ready to bake and then bake as your guests arrive and are greeted by a fabulous and sophisticated aroma that will surely get them excited for what’s to come.

I like to bake and serve this dish in a cast iron skillet or pie plate—from oven to table!  Summer coming to an end isn’t so bad after all!  This is only the beginning of the fabulous fruits of Fall!


Warm Figs with Goat Cheese

Ingredients (serves 6 as an hors d’oeuvre, 4 as salad course)

  • Fresh Figs – 1 pint, stems removed and cut in half

  • Honey – 1/3 cup

  • Rosemary – ¾ teaspoon, finely minced

  • Goat Cheese – 3 ounces, at room temperature

  • Pistachios – ¼ cup, roughly chopped

  • Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • *Baguette or crackers for serving as a hors d’oeuvre

  • *Arugula for serving as a salad

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Arrange the figs cut side up in a single layer in an oven proof dish or cast iron skillet.

  3. Drizzle the honey over the figs and sprinkle evenly with the pistachios, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Crumble the goat cheese evenly over top.

  4. Bake for 5 minutes, or until the cheese begins to soften.

  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

As an hors d’oeuvre – allow guests to spoon the warm figs onto toasted slices of baguette or simple crackers.

As a salad – arrange handfuls of washed arugula onto salad plates (or onto a large platter for family style) and top with the warm figs.  The honey and natural juices from the figs will act as the vinaigrette.

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Basil Pesto Risotto

Marc J. Sievers

Risotto is one of my favorite comfort foods, and is probably one of the most versatile things you can make at home.  The base is always Arborio rice—an Italian short grain rice with a creamy and chewy texture—and brought to life with stock and other fresh ingredients.  If in your pantry you have Arborio rice, fresh herbs, left over vegetables (raw or cooked), and a bit of stock or broth, then an easy and cozy dinner can be ready in under 30 minutes (I love that!).  This would also make a fabulous side dish when paired with something like Crispy Eggplant - Oven Style.  

For my Basil Pesto Risotto, I chose to make a version of homemade pesto, swapping out some of the olive oil for heavy cream.  Using all oil made the finished dish too oily, but the addition of heavy cream made the risotto slightly creamy and more elegant.  Because fresh basil and peas are available in most grocery stores year round, take the extra time to make the pesto from scratch, and shuck the peas by hand—you will be amazed at the difference it makes when it comes to flavor and satisfaction!

Happy risotto-making!


Basil Pesto Risotto

Ingredients for the Pesto

  • Basil Leaves – 1½ cups, fresh, lightly packed

  • Garlic – 1 clove, peeled

  • Sliced Almonds – 3 teaspoons

  • Heavy Cream – 3 tablespoons

  • Olive Oil – 3 tablespoons

  • Parmesan Cheese – ¼ cup, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

  • Sea Salt – ¼ teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – ¼ teaspoon, freshly cracked

Directions for the Pesto

  1. Place all of the ingredients into the glass jar of a blender and puree until mostly smooth. Set aside.

Ingredients for the Risotto (serves 2)

  • Butter – 1 tablespoon, unsalted

  • Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon

  • Yellow Onion – 1 cup, ¼-inch diced

  • Sea Salt – ½ teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – ½ teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Italian Arborio Rice – ½ cup

  • Vegetable Stock – 1 ½ cups, barely simmering

  • Basil Pesto – *Recipe above

  • Green Peas – ½ cup, freshly shucked

  • Lemon Zest – ½ teaspoon

  • Parmesan Cheese – ¼ cup, freshly grated, Parmigiano-Reggiano recommended

Directions for the Risotto

  1. Place the fresh (or frozen) peas in a bowl of very hot tap water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

  2. In a small Dutch oven heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, salt, and pepper. Cook for 5 – 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Add the Arborio rice and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes, until lightly toasted.

  4. Next, pour the hot stock over the onion and rice mixture and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 18 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  5. Once almost all of the liquid is absorbed by the rice, turn off the heat and stir in the pesto sauce, peas, and lemon zest, and Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Idea:  If you do not have a small Dutch oven, any 10-inch skillet with a tight fitting lid will work just fine. 

Tip:  If you want to make this ahead of time and serve it later, reheat over low heat with a few tablespoon of heavy cream.  This will allow the rice to be warmed through without becoming dried out.

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Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary

Marc J. Sievers

My recipe for Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary has been brought to life with vibrant watercolor by my friend and artist Linda Marie Clark. This recipe and watercolor was part of the Watermarc – Art & Appetite special edition Summer Series 2014.

As the temperature rises in Chicago (and I hope where you are, too!), my desire to sip summer cocktails is in full swing!  To me, a summer cocktail, in this case my Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary, is refreshingly light with a sweet and savory love affair.  It is a drink filled with fresh sweet peaches and spicy rosemary that come together and marry-nate in a perfectly blush-colored wine.  You can serve either by the glass for yourself as you take a bubble bath to cool off and relax, or make ahead of time for a humid summer’s evening cookout where only a crisp chilled cocktail will do. 

Best of all – you get drunken’ peaches to eat, with a little extra zing, or serve them over cold ice cream for dessert.  Even the rosemary can be used in a white wine cream sauce over simple egg fettucine noodles for a light supper.

As the summer really heats up, have this recipe on standby so you are always ready with a fabulous summer sipper!  


Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • Rosé – (1) 750ml bottle

  • Triple Sec – ½ cup

  • Italian Sparkling Wine – (1) 750 ml bottle, chilled

  • Honey – 1 tablespoon

  • Ultrafine Sugar – 1 tablespoon

  • Peaches – 4, pitted, cut into 8 wedges

  • Rosemary – (6) 4-inch sprigs, fresh

Directions

  1. Pour the Rosé and Triple Sec into a large glass pitcher.

  2. Add the honey and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved.

  3. Next add the peaches and rosemary. Chill for 3 hours.

  4. Before serving, add the entire bottle of chilled sparkling wine to the pitcher. Serve immediately.

Tip: For a “milder” libation, simply switch out the sparkling wine for an unflavored sparkling water. 

Idea: Have fun with different fruit and fresh herb combination: Orange & rosemary, strawberry & basil, lemon & thyme. 

A little something extra: Sangria is typically a chilled drink served in Spain and Portugal during the summer months – consisting of wine, fruit, a brandy or liqueur, and sweetener.  The honey used in this recipe adds a subtle sweetness without making it “sugary”.  Red, white, and rosé wines can be used in recipes – each variety offering unique flavors and richness. 

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My recipe for Rosé Sangria with Peaches & Rosemary has been brought to life with vibrant watercolor by my friend and artist Linda Marie Clark. This recipe and watercolor was part of the Watermarc – Art & Appetite special edition Summer Series 2014.


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Raspberry Basil Cooler

Marc J. Sievers

The basil and raspberries at my local farmers market this morning looked too incredibly delicious to pass up!  Knowing that I had vodka, rum, Prosecco, and sparkling water at home, the idea of making a refreshing cocktail was the first to come to mind.  Typically, I only order mixed cocktails when I am out on the town—the ones I usually order are tedious with a drop of this, a splash of that, and don’t forget the twist!

At home, I try to create cocktails that I can shake-shake-shake in under two minutes, and that are not overly sweet.  I especially like to use fresh ingredients whenever possible and not rely on flavorings or other artificial ingredients (just more I have to have on hand, taking up space in my cabinet for that once-a-year use).

My Raspberry Basil Cooler is a drink you can interchange with whatever you have in your cabinet; vodka OR rum, lime OR lemon, Prosecco OR sparkling water, which makes it a flexible and easy go-to cocktail to entertain with since your guests can swap out whatever they would like. 

This refreshing drink is also fabulous without the use of spirits for a non-alcoholic variation.  Just substitute sparkling water for the rum and Prosecco and you’ll have a delicious “mocktail”! 

It’s cocktail time!


Raspberry Basil Cooler 

Ingredients (makes 1 cocktail, expand as needed)

  • White Rum – ¼ cup

  • Lime Juice – Half of a small lime

  • Extra Fine Sugar – 1 teaspoon

  • Basil – 5 small leaves, fresh

  • Raspberries – 8 whole berries

  • Prosecco – For finishing

Directions

  1. Place the raspberries, basil, lime juice, and sugar into a sturdy glass. Use a muddler or handle of a wooden spoon to smash the ingredients until the berries are broken up.

  2. Add the rum and stir for 20 seconds.

  3. Fill your desired serving glass with ice, pour the rum mixture over the ice, and top off the glass with Prosecco.

  4. Gently stir, taste, and toast!

Note:  This is a rustic cocktail that derives its natural flavor from the muddled berries and basil.  This includes the seeds, which remain in the glass as a pulp.  This is normal, and delicious to eat!

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Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis

Marc J. Sievers

Summer is in full swing!  The farmer's markets are filled with gloriously colored,  and deliciously smelling, fruits and vegetables.  People are walking around the city with a slight tan, and the pavement is warm to the touch.  As I type this I am laying in the sand at Chicago's Oak Street Beach on Lake Michigan, watching children play in the water, listening to the ice cream vendors pull their carts through the sand while ringing the "ice cream here"  bell, and  running sand through my toes.  Life is good.

A few Tuesdays ago I was perusing my neighborhood farmers market—the one in front of the MCA in Chicago—when I came upon a farmer who had the most deeply black-colored cherries.  I sauntered over to them as if I was courting them with, "Hey sexy, wanna come home with me?" – so I felt my eyes were saying!  As I approached I could smell the sweet aroma in the air.  Before I knew it, a couple of pounds of cherries were in my market tote, money exchanged hands (and I didn't even feel cheap!), and I headed back to my apartment to create a dessert.

Not just any dessert, I created a dessert that would showcase these richly colored, flavored, and luxurious cherries:  Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis.  A clafoutis (claw-foo-tee) is a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, then baked in a flan-like batter.  There isn't any fancy dough, special techniques, or even complicated directions, which makes it a perfect mid-summer dessert. 

While fresh cherries are very flavorful, it's a very mild flavor.  I wanted this dessert to sing with lush cherry flavor, and each bite to be filled with a burst of sweetness.  After a few versions (and many taste-tests!), I just wasn't getting what I had conceptualized in my head.  The prior versions were good, but it just wasn't doing the cherries proper justice.  Ryan, with his mouth full of version 4, said, "Try cherry liqueur, and see if that helps to bring out the cherries."  He is so brilliant!

I had just the thing, a bottle of Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur was sitting in our bar.  On a recent shopping trip to Eataly (though you can find it at many spirits stores), I had picked this bottle because of its beautiful design and twine-wrapped exterior.  As with many of the fun ingredients I have procured I figured I would find a use for it later.  And later was now!

After another two tries, and many trips back to different farmer's markets around the city, I had finally reached the flavor and texture I had designed in my head:  Rich, softly sweet, and sophisticated.  My Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis is a dessert that you can always count on when you need an amazingly delicious, reliable, and no-fuss signature finale.  It comes together will little effort and in under an hour.  I am so excited to serve this dessert to friends and family.  A mid-summer night's dream, made into reality, with the help of booze!  Happy Summer!

It's time for a dip :)


Dark Cherry & Almond Clafoutis

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Light Brown Sugar - ¼ cup, lightly packed

  • Granulated Sugar - ¼ cup, plus 1 tablespoon for preparing dish

  • Dark Sweet Cherries - 1½ pounds, pitted and halved

  • Eggs - 3 extra-large, at room temperature

  • Half-and-half - 1¼ cups, at room temperature

  • Butter - 3 tablespoons, unsalted, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon for preparing dish

  • Almond Flour - ⅓ cup, also known as almond meal

  • Cherry Liqueur - 2 tablespoons (Luxardo Maraschino recommended)

  • Almond Extract -½ teaspoon

  • Vanilla - 1 teaspoon, pure extract

  • Nutmeg - ⅛ teaspoon, freshly grated

  • Fine Sea Salt - ½ teaspoon

  • Cornstarch - 3 tablespoons

  • Slivered Almonds - ¼ cup

  • Powdered Sugar - for dusting

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan with 1 tablespoon of butter. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

  2. Arrange the cherries in a single layer in the prepared pie pan. Set aside.

  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, half-and-half, butter, almond flour, cherry liqueur, almond extract, vanilla, nutmeg, cornstarch, sea salt, light brown sugar, and remaining granulated sugar. Whisk until completely smooth. Pour evenly over the cherries.

  4. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the center is set.

  5. Meanwhile, in a small, dry sauté pan set over medium heat add the slivered almonds. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes, tossing occasionally until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside.

  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and sprinkle the roasted almonds over top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Summertime Couscous

Marc J. Sievers

When farmers markets are in full swing I love making recipes that really highlight in-season vegetables!  My Summertime Couscous is filled with tomatoes, peppers, Persian cucumbers, and roasted artichoke hearts.  Then everything is dressed (fabulously!) with olive oil and lots of lemon juice and zest.

It’s fresh, simple, and always a crowd-pleaser.  The best part, it can be made a few days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.  Making it ahead of time actually helps all the flavors meld together, really flavoring everything perfectly!  Happy chopping!


Watch my webisode of From My Kitchen to Yours - Summertime Picnic for a complete tutorial:


Summertime Couscous

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • Israeli Couscous – 8 ounces, cooked to package directions

  • Red Onion – ½ cup, finely diced

  • Orange Pepper – 1 medium, roughly chopped

  • Persian Cucumbers – 2 cups, roughly chopped

  • Grape Tomatoes – 1 cup, halved

  • Golden Raisins – ¾ cup

  • Pine Nuts – ½ cup, lightly toasted

  • Basil – ½ cup, fresh, roughly chopped

  • Dill – ¼ cup, fresh, minced

  • Lemon – 2 medium, zested and juiced

  • Sea Salt – 1 teaspoon

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon, freshly cracked

  • Artichoke Hearts – 1 cup, canned or frozen (defrosted)

  • Olive Oil – 2 tablespoons

Directions

  1. While the couscous is still warm, add all of the ingredients and stir until well combined. Serve at room temperature.

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