Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lime Mini Cakes

One of my favorite foods that I've made so far this year is a lime curd recipe that I found on Salt and Chocolate, via tastespotting. We eat a lot of lime flavored food around here and this dessert is creamy, tart and just sweet enough to be satisfying.


I've done many things with the lime curd, I've put it in phyllo shells and topped it with raspberries, I've used it as cake filling, and as a fruit dip. After a failed attempt to make this month's daring bakers challenge, I used the rest of the sponge cake batter to make this dessert. I poured it into a pan and let it bake just to see how it would come out. The result was a light, spongy cake, with a texture similar to an angel food cake. I really enjoyed the flavor and texture of the cake, so I didn't want to let it go to waste. I whipped up a batch of the lime curd and made individual lime cakes as part of a dessert bar that I was making for my cousin's birthday dinner.


Lime Curd
(from Salt and Chocolate)

105 g lime juice
zest of 2 limes
72 g sugar
164 g eggs*
72 g sugar
206 g butter

In a medium (non stick is helpful) saucepan mix together the lime juice, zest and the first amount of sugar. Bring it to a boil.
In a seperate bowl mix together the eggs and the second amount of sugar.
Temper the eggs with about 1/3 of the lime juice mixture, and then add the egg mixture into the pan whisking constantly. Cook on a very low heat until the mixture reaches 165 degrees (hot enough to cook the egg). You'll be able to tell it is ready when it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove the mixture from the heat and put it in a mixing bowl, let cool slightly. Stir in the butter. Once the butter is nearly completely incorporated, pour into a blender and blend. (An immersion blender would also work well here!)
Put the blended mixture into a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap resting on the top of the lime curd, so it doesn't develop a skin. I use a 16 ounce solo cup, it fits the entire batch of lime curd, and it nearly fills the cup so the plastic wrap rests on the top easily.
Chill for at least 2 hours, but I usually chill over night.

*Eggs - 164 g of eggs is a hard thing to get. I find that it is approximately 4 large eggs. A large egg is between 57 and 64 grams. Something near 164 is fine, it doesn't have to be exact.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Galette



There is nothing I like more than a fruity dessert after a hot summer day. The only downfall to any of these desserts are that you have to turn on the oven to make them. But in the end, it is completely worth it. Especially when the dessert is topped with a side of ice cream.



Summer Galette



Ingredients:
5 ripe peaches, sliced
1 pint raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package premade pie crust
1 egg



Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
In a large bowl mix together peaches, raspberries, sugar and vanilla. Mix lightly as to now crush all the raspberries. Let the mixture sit for a couple minutes and it will become syrupy. Roll the pie crust out slightly. Place on a cookie sheet and pile the fruit mixture onto the rolled out dough. Fold edges of dough up onto the pile of fruit. Whisk egg and brush over dough.
Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Most indulgent brownies

Brownies are my second favorite dessert, second only to ice cream. I'm a little picky about my brownies. I like them fudgey and dense. Sometimes I like nuts in them, but most of the time I'm a purist, and don't want any add-ins involved. I have made many different from scratch brownie recipes. This recipe is by far one of my favorites, it is a little involved, but nothing too outrageous.


Outrageous Brownies
(Recipe adapted from the
Barefoot Contessa)
Ingredients:

  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Method:
Melt together butter, 1 pound of semisweet chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate and set aside.

Stir together eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Add in the chocolate and butter mixture.

Mix together one cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in the chocolate mixture.

Stir together remaining chocolate chips with remaining flour, once they are fully coated, add into the batter, stirring gently.

Bake in a 9x13 pan for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. DO NOT OVER COOK. I actually liked them a tiny bit undercooked.


Once they cool, store them in the refrigerator, it makes them even better the next day!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

DB - Better late than never.

I actually did complete this month's daring baker's challenge before the end of the month, I just haven't managed to post about it until now.


The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

The challenge this month was an apple strudel. I grew up in apple country in New York so this definitely caught my attention. I was a little bummed that the challenge was in May, so I wasn't using fresh local produce, but I will definitely be trying it again when apple season rolls around in October. In order to make the recipe a little more "springy" I decided to make it an apple rhubarb strudel. In doing this, I had to change the recipe a little. I added a bit more sugar to combat the tartness of the rhubarb and I used a bit of nutmeg to add a bit more flavor, because I simply love apple and nutmeg together.


I found the dough to be fun to work with, I think that if I had let it rest longer, I would have been able to stretch it more, but I got impatient after the minimum 30 minutes. I had no trouble rolling it out and then stretching it with my hands. Once it got large, I did get a few sporadic holes, but nothing big.

Overall I thought that the crust was a bit bland and could have used more flavor (more fat?). I liked the filling I made, but I would have preferred a more flavorful wrapper for it.

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Apple strudel
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

2 tablespoons (30 ml) golden rum
3 tablespoons (45 ml) raisins
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
strudel dough (recipe below)
1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
2 pounds (900 g) tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices (use apples that hold their shape during baking)

1. Mix the rum and raisins in a bowl. Mix the cinnamon and sugar in another bowl.

2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

3. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described below. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip. Mix the apples with the raisins (including the rum), and the cinnamon sugar. Spread the mixture over the walnuts.

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it's about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.


Thursday, April 30, 2009

Flatbread Caesar Salad

Warm weather always makes me eat more salads. I truly love a big bed of lettuce topped with different sides. Grilled chicken Caesar salads are a bit hit around here. How could any salad topped with chicken and cheese be bad?


Recipe:
Ingredients:
2 heads romaine lettuce
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved
3 chicken breasts
1 loaf of bread
Caesar dressing

Method:
Grill chicken and slice thinly. Meanwhile, make bread and let cool.
Wash and dry lettuce thoroughly. Lay out lettuce on a platter and toss with dressing. Top with Cheese and chicken. Serve with warm flat bread.


Flatbread Recipe:
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cups ice water
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
dried basil, oregano, chives and garlic

Method:
Mix together first 5 ingredients and then knead for 8-10 minutes or until smooth. Let rise for 3 hours. Punch down and spread onto a oiled cookie sheet. Let rest for 1 hour. Punch down again, baste with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with dried basil, oregano, chives, and garlic.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or until bread looks golden brown.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Breakfast cups

Brunch is my favorite meal for entertaining. Even though I don't generally like breakfast foods, I do love breakfast pastries and a brunch (almost) makes it acceptable to eat 3 or 4 of them in one day. I occasionally get stuck in a rut with which foods to serve. You can only make mini quiches or large bowls of scrambled eggs before the crowd gets restless looking for something with a "wow!" factor, something new and different.

Lately on tastespotting there have been tons of posts with adorable mini breakfast cups. These are muffin tins filled with an entire bite sized breakfast. For Easter I decided to test them out. There were 6 adults and 2 kids eating. Just too many for custom egg dishes and the perfect amount to actually do taste testing with.

Then came the hard part, deciding what in the world to put in these cups. I had seen it all, from what could basically be described as an omlette to simply a single egg on toast. I know that Jimmy Dean Maple Sausage is a favorite among the men I was cookng for, and that bacon is the favorite of the younger crowd, so I did half and half.


Recipe (serves 6)
Ingredients:
1 package Jimmy Dean Maple Sausage
1 lb thick cut bacon (I used applewood smoked)
Shredded cheddar cheese
Butter
12 slices of bread (I used potato whole wheat)
12 large eggs

Method:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook bacon in a sautee pan. Once bacon is finished cooking, set aside and pour out extra fat and return the pan to the heat. Add in 1/4 of the package of sausage and cook (crumbling) sausage until cooked through, set aside. Form the rest of the sausage into patties and cook thoroughly.
Roll out bread with a rolling pin, making it thin and slightly longer. Remove the crust. Butter both sides of all 12 peices of bread thoroughly. Smoosh the bread into a muffin pan, making a cup out of the bread.
Crumble 4-5 peices of bacon and place a few peices into 6 of the bread cups. Fill remaining 6 cups with the cooked sausage. Top all 12 cups with cheese.
Crack 1 egg into each of the cups, gently shake the pan to help the egg settle and fill the cups completely. Top with salt and pepper.
Cook until the egg has reached the consistency of your liking. I cooked ours for approximately 11 minutes. 10 minutes will yeild very runny yolks and 15 minutes will yeild solid yolks.
Serve with remaining bacon and sausage as a side.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Grilled Ham and Cheese

Spring has sprung in the northeast and our grill is getting one heck of a workout! I made home made artisan bread (in 5 minutes!) and with one of the loaves we made some gourmet grilled cheese.


Grilled Ham and Cheese Recipe:
Ingredients:
2 slices artisan bread (home made or store bought!)
3 ounces gruyere cheese
2 ounces ham steak sliced very thin.
Spicy mustard to taste
Butter (softened)

I started by grilling ham steaks until heated through. I then sliced them very thin and put them on sliced bread with mustard and gruyere. I buttered the outside of the bread and put it on the grill. I grilled until the cheese was very melted and the bread was nicely toasted.

Grilled Cheese Recipe:
Ingredients:
2 slices artisan bread (again - home made or store bought!)
2 ounces munster cheese
1 ounce sharp white cheddar cheese
Butter (softened)

For me, since I don't eat ham, I did a blend of sharp white cheddar and munster cheeses, approximately a 1:1 ratio. I didn't use any condiments on my sandwich, but I did butter the outsides. The saltiness of the munster against the cheddar was a divine combination.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tres Leches


The weather this weekend in New York was fantastic. The sun was shining, we got some rain Saturday night, but then the sun was back out in full force on Sunday. We couldn't have asked for more beautiful weekend. With the sun shining and the birds singing we had to kick off grilling season. We grilled chicken wings as an appetizer and chicken thighs as the main dish. We had a side of fresh asparagus. To cool us off after the meal we had Tres Leches cake.

I hadn't ever had Tres Leches before, and I didn't even really know what to expect. All I knew about it was that it is a vanilla cake soaked in 3 different milks. In general when I don't know much about a type of food, I rely on Alton Brown's expertise to teach me. This situation was no different, I looked at a couple of different recipes but stuck with his recipe in the end.


Tres Leches Cake:
Adapted from Alton Brown:

Ingredients:
Cake:
6 3/4 ounces all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces butter
8 ounces sugar
5 whole eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Glaze:
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk
15 ounces half and half

Topping:
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:
Cake:
Mix together dry ingredients and set aside. In a bowl beat butter until light and fluffy. Add in sugar and beat until well combined. Add in eggs and vanilla, and beat until lighter in color. Slowly add in dry ingredients, stirring with wooden spoon until just combined. Spread into greased 9x13 pan, it seems like not enough batter, but it poofs nicely. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until cooked through. Let cool for 30 minutes. Poke holes all over the cake using skewers or a fork.

Glaze:
Mix together the milks and pour over cooled cake. Refrigerate the cake over night.

Topping:
Whip the whipping cream until soft peaks, and add sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks. Spread evenly on the top of the cake and serve immediately.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spinach lasagne!

It's that time again! The March daring bakers challenge is here!

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

It was definitely some of the best home made pasta I have ever made.  In the past few months, I've made a few different pasta noodles, from different recipes.  However, this is the first time that I've made already flavored pasta.  I really liked the texture that the spinach added, and the color was fantastic!

This this the flour with the spinach and the egg, I just dumped it on the table and made a well to put add in the "wet" ingredients.

Once the ingredients were all loosely combined, it came into a rough ball of dough, you can see the lumps in it from the flour.

This is the end result of kneading for about 15 minutes, a smooth, very elastic dough.  At this point, I wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and set it aside to rest for an hour.  After the hour was up, I broke it into 3 balls of dough and rolled them out as thin as I could do it by hand.  I cut it into 1 1/2 inch strips, and hung it over chair backs that had been draped with dish towels.  

I used the basic bechamel sauce given to us this month, but I added a plain red sauce instead of a meat ragu as I don't eat any of the meats suggested in the sauce.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any decent pictures of it once it was cooked.  It was not very pretty, but I assure you what it lacked in looks it made up in flavor!

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)
#1
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)
#2
1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)
#3
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method
Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne: 
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

Kneading:
With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat. Sift over the flour, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper, and a hint of nutmeg.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
1 medium onion, minced
1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
1 small carrot, minced
4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it.

Browning the Ragu Base:
Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.

Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.

Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.

Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew. Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A favorite meal

One of my favorite meals to cook is lemon chicken with pesto pasta. Luckily it is also one of my family's favorite meals to eat! Our grocery store has started selling gourmet specialty pastas.


These pasta nests are one of my favorite things lately. I try not to eat pasta frequently, but these tagliatelle nests are irresistible!


Lemon Chicken
Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lemons, zested
3 cups chicken broth

Method:
Fillet the chicken breasts and set aside. Mix together the flour, garlic powder and salt. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Saute the chicken in olive oil. Once chicken is cooked through, remove from pan and set aside. Add lemon zest to the pan. Add in chicken broth and boil for 5-7 minutes until slightly reduced. Add in lemon juice and chicken, boil until heated through.

Pesto Pasta
Ingredients
1 bunch basil
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese
1 pound tagliatelle, cooked

Method:
In a blender mix together first 6 ingredients and blend until chopped and mixed thoroughly. Pour onto hot pasta and toss until coated.

Serve chicken atop pesto pasta.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My favorite kitchen tool...

I grew up in apple country.  The town I lived in had more apple trees than people.  I have many memories from when I was a little girl that include both picking apples and cooking with them.  I used to make applesauce every year with my grandmother, it is one of my fondest memories with her.  After years of asking different family members if they had her old food mill, one of my aunts got the hint, and bought me one for Christmas.


I used it for applesauce and apple butter, and the occasional smooth mashed potato.  It wasn't until I started making baby food that I used it on a weekly basis.  This tool has become the most coveted in the kitchen.  I can make the 8 month old any food he wants to eat.  I've put every fruit and vegetable imaginable through it.


It is amazing to me how easy the food mill is to take apart and put together, with only 3 pieces it isn't complicated at all.  There are no small parts, just the tension rod on top holding it together, making it very intuitive to use.  My favorite thing about it is how easy it is to clean.  It is stainless steel, and dishwasher safe, which is a huge perk.  But without even putting it into the dishwasher, it rinses clean very easily, which makes rinsing it between foods a cinch.

Greek Risotto


A hearty side dish, risotto is a tasty accompaniment to a myriad of different meals.  With a Greek twist, this risotto paired beautifully with roasted lemon oregano chicken.

Greek Risotto:
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
8 ounces arborio rice
23 ounces chicken broth, warmed
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Method:
Saute together the onion and bell pepper until both are tender.  Add in rice and cook until slightly transparent.  Add in chicken broth 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until all of the liquid is absorbed until adding more.  Stir occasionally.  Once all liquid is added and rice is al dente, add in feta and stir until well combined.
Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lemon Oregano Chicken

I frequently crave Greek inspired food, but not everyone I cook for in enjoys it as much as me.  I made roasted chicken legs with a lemon oregano sauce to satisfy my craving and to make it enjoyable for everyone else who was eating.


Lemon Oregano Chicken
Ingredients:
2 pounds chicken legs and thighs, skin on
1 lemon
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil

Method:
Lay chicken legs and thighs in baking pan.  Combine juice of lemon, lemon zest, oregano, red wine vinegar and garlic in a blender, mix until well combined and garlic is chopped.  Slowly stream in olive oil while blender is running to create and emulsion.  Once sauce is combined and thickened slightly, pour most of the sauce, approximately 3/4 of it, over the chicken and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until chicken is cook through and tender.  Remove the chicken from the oven.  At this point, pour the rest of the sauce over the chicken, and let it rest for 5 minutes.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Daring Bakers!

This month's daring bakers challenge was to make a chocolate Valentino cake and Ice cream. What a perfect month for a sweet and simple chocolate dessert.


The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.


The cake was beyond delicious, and even more simple. I served it with chocolate covered strawberries and whipped cream.

So here's the recipe!

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce

I love cranberries. I also love pomegranates. Put them together and it is heavenly.
I was making a roasted turkey and the best way to serve roasted turkey is with a cranberry sauce. I didn't want to make the typical, cranberry orange sauce with warm winter spices. This time I left out the orange, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. The result was a tart yet sweet meld of flavors that complimented each other beautifully.


Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce:
Ingredients:
1 bag cranberries (Mine were frozen from the fall)
1/4 cup pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon strawberry jam
2 tablespoons sugar

Method:
Put cranberries into a shallow nonstick sauce pan. Cook on medium high until most of the cranberries have popped and there is a reasonable amount of sauce forming in the bottom of the pan. Add in the jam and stir until well incorporated. Stir in pomegranate juice and boil until slightly thickened. Add in sugar and move to bowl to chill. Chill one hour.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mardis Gras!

There are few things in life better than cake. Tonight, after wanting to do it for a long time, I finally made cake balls. I originally got the idea from the wonderful Bakerella. I've wanted to make them since right before I went onto The Martha Stewart Show to talk about her cake balls.


The idea is simple, you take the cake and basically mush it into crumbs. Once its a big pile of crumbs, you mix in frosting. I used my favorite cake recipe, and I used store bought cream cheese frosting. Although this is my favorite cake in the world, the cake came out dry and crumbly, I couldn't even get it out of the pan without it breaking. This lent itself wonderfully to cake balls. Once I realized there would be no cake in it's future, I decided to go ahead and give it a try! I took the mushy frosting cake mixture and formed it into balls and dipped them in chocolate. I decorated them with green, purple and gold sprinkles in honor of Mardis Gras.

They were really one of the best cake experiences I've ever had. I suggest you make them the next time you have spare cake parts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nothing beats fresh baked goods...

I'm endlessly inspired by other bloggers. I love browsing and getting recipes from fellow cooks in the blog world. I find Chuck from The Knead For Bread, to be an absolute genius. I think he has some of the most appealing pictures and recipes out of any of the blogs that I follow.

Inspired by his post on English muffins, I decided to give his recipe a try, and actually go all out and top it with tomatoes, spinach, and poached eggs as he did. I started getting them ready at around 10pm last night, which was a little late for such an endeavor, but I was excited to try them.


English Muffins
Adapted from The Knead For Bread

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water (approximately 110 degrees F)
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 packet instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white
cornmeal

Method:
Mix together Water, 1 cup flour, yeast, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a separate clean bowl, whisk egg white to stiff peaks, don't over beat or egg white will become dry and separate. Mix 1/3 of the egg white into the batter, and mix until combined, continue with the rest of egg whites. Once fully incorporated, start adding the remaining 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1/2 cup at a time. With about 1 cup remaining, move dough to counter and knead in remaining flour. Knead for 7 minutes, until dough is very smooth. Transfer to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for approximately 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Once dough has doubled in bulk, turn it out onto a floured surface, press with knuckles to release some air, then roll out to 1/2 inch. Cut out 3 inch circles, you can mash up the remaining dough and roll the scraps and cut again, repeat until you don't have any more dough. Place circles on a cookie sheet coated with cornmeal, and top with more cornmeal. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.
10 Minutes before you're ready to cook them, turn on your griddle to medium high heat. Spray griddle with nonstick spray. Place each muffin on the griddle, I was able to cook 8/batch. Flip every 4 minutes, cooking for a total of 16 minutes. Repeat with second batch.

I topped mine with vine ripened tomato, fresh spinach, and a poached egg. I also added thick sliced local bacon, for those who eat pork products.


They were also delicious with a bit of butter and strawberry jam.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chinese Night!

The same night I made spring rolls, I made sesame chicken and soba noodles with bok choy.


Sesame Chicken
Ingredients:
2 large chicken breasts (approximately 8 ounces)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 can of pineapple chunks, with juice
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (as desired).

Method:
Chunk chicken into small bite size pieces. Add the chicken to a hot pan with vegetable oil, sautee until no longer pink. Add in the juice from the can of pineapple, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Stir until combined and cook until sauce has slightly thickened. Add in pineapple chunks and sesame oil. Sautee for 2 minutes, or until pineapple is heated through. Top with sesame seeds and red pepper flakes as desired.


Soba Noodles with Bok Choy
Ingredients:
1 package fresh soba noodles
1 cup chicken broth
1 ounce hoisin sauce
1 ounce soy sauce
1 head bok choy, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger

Prepare soba noodles as directed on package.
Meanwhile, wilt bok choy in 1/2 cup chicken broth, approximately 2 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce to the pan and stir and heat through. Add in prepared soba noodles, bok choy, and ginger. Stir over low heat 4-5 minutes until noodles have absorbed the sauce.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spring rolls

We're very lucky to have a fantastic produce grocery store in my relatively rural area. While shopping the other day, in an effort to have a more diverse menu this week, we picked up a head of napa cabbage, bok choy, soba noodles, and spring roll wrappers. I came home and found some ideas of what to do with each of these ingredients and ended up making spring rolls, bok choy lo mein, and sesame chicken.


Spring Rolls
Ingredients:
1 head napa cabbage, shredded
2 large carrots, grated
4 scallions, sliced on the bias
Spring roll wrappers

Method:
Sautee together all ingredients, with no liquid or fat in the pan.
Soak spring roll wrapper in hot water for 10 seconds, until soft. Put 3 tablespoons of filling in the center of the wrapper and form into rectangle. Wrap from the left over to the right, fold up from the bottom and down from the top. Roll the entire roll to the right to finish wrapping the roll. Set aside.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Crepes

A light, sweet, delicious dessert that's low calorie too!

Crepes filled with cool whip and strawberries topped with chocolate sauce:
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown:

Ingredients:
2 Large eggs
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons melted butter

Method:
Place all ingredients in blender and blend until well combined.
Let rest for one hour in the refrigerator, this allows the bubbles to dissolve, which will make the crepes less likely to tear while cooking.

Heat crepe pan and pour 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan. Rotate pan until thin, even circle is made. Cook crepes until lightly brown, flip and cook for additional minute.
Repeat until all batter is used.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Honey Roasted Chicken

Who doesn't love a roasted chicken, twice baked potatoes and lemon garlic broccoli? That's what the thought was when planning last night's dinner.


Honey Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:
1 Whole chicken cut up
2 Tablespoons Thyme
2 Tablespoons Lemon juice
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Garlic cloves
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Teaspoon Salt

Method:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Pat chicken dry and place spaced out on a roasting pan. I used a cookie sheet with a silicone mat. Mix thyme and lemon juice in a microwave safe bowl. Add butter and melt it all together in the microwave, for 30 seconds. Mince and add garlic and microwave again until butter is thoroughly melted. Add honey and salt, and stir well until combined. Rub butter mixture over all the chicken parts. I rub it both over and under the skin, since there is honey in the rub it will caramelize in the oven, so I like to have it under the skin to add flavor.
Roast the chicken for 35 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Success!

Daring bakers, take 2

After my tuiles went very poorly, I decided I had to give them another go around. This time I used much less flour than the recipe called for. I had a much thinner batter this time around, and after some googling, I got some tips to help me smooth them into thin rounds easily. The differences in my results were amazing. This time they came out a delicious, light crisp cookie. They were completely delightful. I served them with some strawberry lemon meringue and fresh strawberries.


I was taking pictures of my completed challenge when my sister Jenn and her step daughter Jaclyn came home. Jaclyn is a strawberry fiend, and was dying to try some immediately!

I made Jaclyn her own plate to enjoy.


And enjoy she did. She dug right in! She dipped the strawberries in the meringue and gobbled most of that up, and then ate the cookie.

According to her, they were both a huge success!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers Disaster!!




This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x Umruehren Bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

After checking the challenge early in the month, I decided it was easy and it could wait until a little later in the month. And that would have been a good plan except that this week got a little bit crazy. My cousin is making her Bat Mitzvah this weekend and in helping other family prepare to travel out to Colorado to help her celebrate, I got very busy and forgot all about the challenge. It wasn't until this evening when I got a call from Kristyn, from over at SugarHoot, that I remembered that I had to bake. She told me they were easy, and I'd have no problem doing them tonight...Boy was she wrong.

I think I need to take some more time and really examine the recipe to see where I messed up, I think they were too thick, and I think the batter was too thick. I plan on remaking them tomorrow to
see if i can make it better...


But for now, here are my tuiles!