First Tuesday Kickoff + October Recipes

We kicked off our First Tuesday Cooking Club this week with a delicious dinner and dessert. We started off with French String Beans and a beautiful Pear and Gorgonzola Salad, followed by Lemon Chicken with Croutons. For dessert, Espresso Caramel Bars. The club will meet once a month through March to prepare and enjoy a meal together. For those who couldn't be part of the fun, we'd love to share the October recipes with you.

French String Beans
1 lb. French string beans, both ends removed
kosher salt
1 red onion, large diced
½ red bell pepper, large diced
½ yellow bell pepper, large diced
good olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for just 4 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When they are cool, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss the onion and bell peppers together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 15 minutes, tossing with a spatula from time to time to be sure the vegetables roast evenly. Just before serving, reheat the string beans in a large saute pan drizzled with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and arrange on a platter. Spoon the roasted vegetables over the stringbeans and serve hot or at room temperature.

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad
Salad Ingredients:
2 tablespoons toasted pecans
2 ounces gorgonzola or blue cheese
4 smooth-skinned pears
2 cups romaine lettuce and spring mix or watercress

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup good olive oil

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients except the olive oil. Slowly drizzle in olive oil and whisk together with other ingredients until combined. Toss together the spring mix and romaine lettuce mixture with toasted pecans, gorgonzola or blue cheese, and vinaigrette dressing.
*From here, follow one set of directions to make either the appetizer or salad presentation*
For appetizer:
Core pears from bottom, keeping stem intact. Slice pears in four horizontal slices, brush cut sides with lemon juice. Reassemble pears with salad mix in between. Drizzle with honey and serve.
For salad:
Cut pears in half from stem to blossom end. Core and cut pears into four slices, brush cut edges with lemon juice. Reassemble pears with salad mix in between. Drizzle with honey and serve.
pear salad recipe courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens
vinaigrette recipe courtesy of Ina Garten

Lemon Chicken with Croutons
1 [4-5 lb.] roasting chicken
1 large yellow onion, sliced
good olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 cups [3/4-inch] bread cubes [1 baguette or round boule]

Take the giblets out of the chicken and wash it inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the lemons inside the chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it with the melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions may burn, but the flavor is good.) Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot. Lower the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the croutons on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place it, plus all the pan juices, over the croutons. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

Espresso Caramel Bars
Crust Ingredients:
vegetable cooking spray
12 whole [6 ounces] cinnamon graham crackers, crumbled, or 2 cups cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks [6 ounces] unsalted butter, melted

Caramel Ingredients:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 stick [4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 tablespoon water

Chocolate Layer Ingredients:
2 cups [12 ounces] semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt, optional

Special Equipment: Candy Thermometer

For the crust:
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform panwith parchment or waxed paper. Spray the paper and the sides of the pan with cooking spray. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the graham crackers and sugar. Process until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the melted butter and blend until the mixture forms into clumps. Spread the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing gently to form an even layer. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the crust is golden. Cool for 15 minutes.
For the caramel:
While the crust is cooling, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of cream, butter, sugar, and water. Stir over medium heat until the mixture is smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F, about 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully pour the caramel over the warm crust. Cool for 20 minutes. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
For the chocolate layer:
Combine the chocolate chips and cream in a small bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes.Whisk in the espresso powder. Remove the springform pan from the freezer. Pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel layer and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with smoked sea salt, if using. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour until firm.
Allow the layers to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Using a warm, slightly wet knife, carefully cut around the edges of the chocolate layer. Release the side of the pan and remove the paper from the bottom. Cut into 1 1/2 by 1/2-inch bars and store airtight in a covered plastic container.
recipe courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis

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