Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Basil Pesto
For my first foray into this amazing blog, I decided to post one of our staples. I don't have pictures, but since we have this often, I will take some next time. I know that y'all have probably made pesto before, and it seems very simple compared to some of these recipes, but Trevor and I love it so much I had to post!

4 cups basil, slightly packed--we use fresh from our garden
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese (shredded or shaved works)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts--toasting the pine nuts is optional, but it makes the flavor much richer
1 small clove garlic
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

In food processor, combine 2 cups basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add olive oil until you reach the consistency you're looking for. Add the rest of the ingredients, and again, olive oil until the pesto reaches the right consistency. I never measure the olive oil; to me it depends on the ingredients how much olive oil we use.

If you are going to mix the pesto on top of pasta, I recommend saving about 3 tablespoons of your pasta water to mix in with the pesto. It gives the whole dish a creamier taste.

Pesto will stay in freezer or refrigerator. If you are going to store the pesto, consider putting olive oil on top to keep the flavor. Then, when you go to use the pesto, remove the extra olive oil from the top.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Mushroom Stuffed Pork Chops with Polenta

I am ever so happy to finally contribute to this lovely blog dedicated to deliciousness. I just posted this same thing on my sister's food blog: Pots and Peter Pans. It is only the second time I have ever done it so I am quite proud of myself. It will be my policy from now on to post recipes on both blogs if I ever do get around to doing it at all. Zach actually picked out this recipe because he loves to grill meat. They turned out really great, but I want to see if it would be good just doing it in the oven instead of on the grill (that way I won't need Zach's help... I really should learn how to use it I guess). Next time I may experiment with that. If anyone else decides to try them in the oven, let us all know how it goes.

Mushroom Stuffed Pork Chops
Prep: 25 Minutes, Grill: 35 Minutes
Makes 4 Servings (we made it into 6)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms (button, chanterelle, or shiitake... we used portabello)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh spinach
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs
4 pork loin chops or pork rib chops, cut 1 1/4 inches think (we got them cut by the butcher)
1/4 cup ginger jelly or preserves or orange marmalade (we left this out, but it probably keeps it more tender)

1. For stuffing, in a small saucepan cook mushrooms and onion in hot better until onion is tender. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in ginger, salt, and pepper. Add spinach and bread crumbs, tossing gently until combined.
2. Trim fat from chops. Make a pocket in each chop by cutting horizontally from the fat side almost to the bone. Spoon one-forth of the stuffing into each pocket. Secure openings with wooden toothpicks. Sprinkle chops with additional salt and pepper.
3. For charcoal grill, arrange medium-hot coals around a drip pan. Test for medium heat above pan. Place chops on grill rack over pan. Cover; grill fro 35 to 40 minutes or until chops are slightly pink in center and juices run clear (160 degrees F) turning once, brushing occasionally with ginger jelly during the last 5 minutes of grilling (For gas grill, preheat. Reduce heat to medium. Adjust for indirect cooking. Grill as above)

*Compliments of Better Homes and Gardens New Grilling Cookbook

Polenta With Parmesan Cheese


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Bring the water to a boil.
  2. Slowly whisk in the polenta.
  3. Add the salt and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and butter. Mix well.
  5. Serve immediately.

Note: These directions did not say to turn down the heat, but I did anyway after I whisked in the Polenta. Even with the heat on Medium the Polenta started spitting out of the pot at me. I took it off the heat completely and then just put it back on simmer and it turned out fine. Also, one cup of Polenta should be 4 servings.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

Contrary to the evidence in my posts, I do actually make savory dishes, I just haven't taken any photos of them.  This was a recent success without photos but I decided to post it anyway.  I've been struggling with seafood lately, especially because I don't prefer to cook fish unless it's fresh.   Obviously not happening in AZ, so I was really happy with the outcome of this dish.  I think the secret was the lemon zest.  Also, love this because most of the ingredients I always have in my pantry.
Serves 6 (I halved this and we had about 4 servings, so the serving size is very generous)

Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
1 1/2 lb linguine (I actually used mushroom tortellini and it worked really well with the shrimp)
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
5 tbsp good olive oil
9 cloves minced garlic (3 tbsp)
2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 c chopped fresh parsley
 grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes

Drizzle some oil in large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of kosher salt (I found this to be too salty, so pare it back a bit if you don't prefer salt) and the linguine and cook until al dente (about 7-10 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a large pan (12 in), bring to medium-low heat and melt butter and olive oil.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 min.  Add the shrimp, 1 tbsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and saute until shrimp just turn pink, 5 min, stirring often.  Remove from heat, add parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices and red pepper flakes.  Toss with drained pasta and serve.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nutella Ice-cream

Now for the belated man-post:

Below is my improvisation with slight help from the ATK:

1 1/2 c. whole milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
6 tbs. nutella

1. Prepare ice-bath: set medium bowl in a large bowl filled with ice and water.

2. Heat milk, cream, 1/2 c. sugar, vanilla in med. sauce pan over med. heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and hot (~175°, if you have a thermometer handy)

3. In a separate bowl, mix yolks, 1/4 c. sugar, and nutella. Slowly add 1 c. of milk mixture to temper egg mix. Then add egg/milk mix bake into sauce pan and heat until hot, not simmering (~180°).

4. Put in ice-bath for 10 mins. Obviously the medium sized bowl and not the one with the ice! Then chill in fridge for 3 hrs.

5. But the nutella custard into your ice-cream machine and churn (25-35mins.). It should look like soft serve at this point. Then put into containers and freeze for at least 3 hrs. but, if you can wait this long, overnight.

I realize not everyone has an ice-cream attachment to their stand-mixer, but here is one reason to think about it. It has a consistency ten times better than anything you buy at the supermarket or even at a parlor. The one drawback is that you have to eat it within a week or else it gets freezer-burn, ha! as if that is a problem.

Island Pork Tenderloin

One of my favorite uses of pork tenderloin is this recipe, Island Pork Tenderloin (from the Gourmet Cookbook, 2004 - poor Gourmet...). I usually make the full recipe with 2 pork tenderloins, but the other night I just made a single tenderloin which was in the freezer. One was the perfect amount for two people - keeping in mind of course that one of those people is 34 weeks pregnant. The full recipe is supposed to serve 6.

For Pork - 2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cumin (I usually use half this since Patrick doesn't like it, and just use more chili powder or use some paprika instead)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (about 2.5 pounds or little less)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

For Glaze -
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp. Tabasco

Put rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon in small bowl. Coat pork with spice rub.
Heat oil in ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown pork on all sides for about 4 minutes total. Remove from heat, leave pork in skillet.
Stir together glaze ingredients in small bowl. Pat mixture onto tops of tenderloins. Roast about 20 minutes, until instant read thermometer inserted in pork registers at 140 F. Take out of oven and let pork stand in skillet, covered loosely with foil, for 10 minutes.
Cut pork at an angle into slices about 1/2 inch thick.

We like to eat this as the cookbook suggests, with (or in our case, on top of) a salad of greens, red bell pepper, avocado, and sliced oranges, with the juices from the skillet drizzled on top.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bittersweet Cafe Mocha

This really brought me back to Italy.  I seem to continue failing on the coffee front, but I marked this one as a success even though it destroyed my kitchen because I don't have any of the proper coffee making utensils (ie milk frother, espresso machine). However, that's why I love this recipe because I was able to recreate a delicious Italian coffee without the expense of a gorgeous copper espresso machine.

Makes 1 serving (I doubled this so I would have leftovers for an iced mocha the next day)
1 tbsp unsweeted cocoa powder (you want to use good cocoa powder like Dutch-process or natural cocoa power)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 c brewed double strength coffee
dash of vanilla extract
1 c whole milk (I used 1 %)

In a saucepan over med heat combine cocoa, sugar, and coffee and heat until hot and steaming, 5 min.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour into a large mug with room for milk.

If you're without a milk frother like me, warm the milk in a saucepan over med-high heat until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan.  Do not allow the milk to boil.  Pour the hot milk into the mug and stir to combine.

Yum.  Reminded me of the lattes in Assisi.  Did anyone else find the coffee in Assisi to be some of the best in the world?

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

I've started keeping Ricotta cheese on hand because it lasts forever, and I keep finding great recipes with it.  The ricotta in this keeps the pancakes very moist, and I'm a sucker for any recipe involving buttermilk (which I've never actually purchased, I just make my own by adding lemon to milk- I add 1/2 tbs. lemon juice to 1/2 cup milk and let sit for 10 min, and for this recipe I obviously tripled that).  And if you found you always went for the Limone flavor on your gelato tour of Italy, then you'll probably enjoy these.

Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c buttermilk
2 large eggs, separated
1/4 c sugar
3/4 c ricotta cheese (whole or part skim)
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp unsalted butter
strawberries for topping or maple syrup (optional)

In large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolks, sugar, ricotta, and lemon zest.  Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until blended.  There will be some small lumps.

In a separate bowl, using a mixer on medium speed or a whisk, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Using a spatula, fold the beaten whites into the ricotta mix just until blended.

Warm a frying pan or griddle to medium heat (just hot enough that a drop of water quickly evaporates).  Butter the surface and ladle about 1/4 c of batter onto surface.  Cook on med-low until edges look dry and bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Flip and cook til golden.  Makes about 16 pancakes, and you can keep them warm uncovered in the oven at 250 while finishing the batter.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Oven Crespella with Nutella Sauce

Alright, this is an easy one.  Eliese sent it to me a while ago and I can't believe I haven't made it more often.  It's like a popover pancake; so easy to mix, with minimal clean up and you just pop it in the oven.  It is delicious with strawberries, though I've had it without and wouldn't have known it was missing anything.  I've found that 1/2 a cup makes more than enough nutella sauce (which isn't necessarily a bad thing), so you might want to skim back a bit.

 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons whole milk, divided (I've used 2% with success if whole milk isn't on hand)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella

confectioners sugar
chopped strawberries

Put a 12-inch ovenproof heavy skillet in middle of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Whisk together flour, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and 1 1/2 cups milk in a bowl.

Add butter to skillet and heat in oven until golden, about 1 minute. Pour batter into skillet and bake until puffed, set, and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together Nutella and remaining 3 tablespoons milk until smooth. Thin sauce with additional milk if necessary.

Cool pancake in skillet on a rack 5 minutes (it will sink). Dust with confectioners sugar and drizzle with sauce. Serve with berries.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

One of Ina Garten's amazing recipes.  For those of you in colder states that don't mind keeping your oven on for 3 hours, Smitten Kitchen says you can substitute slow roasted tomatoes with sun dried tomatoes.  Yum.  I might cut back the mozzarella when I make this next time, but that's just my preference.  Everything else was golden.  So good, in fact, there are no pictures.  And I plan to make that vinaigrette again and again and again. Yields 6-8 servings, though I doubled it for 10 people and barely had much left, it's just that delicious.

1/2 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta
Kosher salt
Olive oil
1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium-diced (bite size)
3/4 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
1 pound fresh mozzarella, medium-diced (bite size)
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup packed basil leaves, julienned

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan and basil, and toss well.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Just made these and they are scrumptious.  One of the many finds from Tastespotting (thanks, Eliese, for that torturous link).  Wonder how many count for a serving?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Apple Pie with Lard Crust

I've always felt pretty lucky to come from a family who appreciates food, and this week I've been even more incredibly blessed by having my mother out to visit and make me food (and do mountains of dishes) while I teach, take French exams, and organize mountains of baby clothes. I also kind of hate to admit it, but I feel lucky to live in New Jersey, at least in respect to incredible produce. These apples - Fujis, to be exact - are fresh from the trees at Wightman's Farms in Morristown. (Incidentally, if you've not been apple picking up a hill while in your third trimester, you've missed an experience.) What you don't see is the gigantic bag, full of 10 lbs of Stayman Winesaps and Golden Delicious destined for apple-sauce and -butter, sitting on a nearby chair. So when the confluence of two great things happens - my mother visiting and fantastic fresh apples - it seems only appropriate to make an apple pie using Mom's heirloom lard crust recipe.

I do like butter+shortening crusts too, but there's nothing like a lard crust for flakiness and tenderness. Try it, you'll like it; and don't worry about your arteries, because you're only eating a bit as long as you share the pie like you should, and besides, you know it would be good with a couple slices of bacon anyway. I find lard in the ShopRite in the ethnic foods section, because apparently it's too un-PC for the upscale grocery store in the "normal" food sections. For this pie I used whatever apples were left from last week's picking (Macoun, Cortland, maybe some Cameos... I don't know what was in there) and used America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for the actual pie filling recipe.

Grandma Elsie's Never-Fail Pie Crust

2 c. flour
3/4 c. lard
1 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg yolk
1/4 c. milk
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (Mom says vinegar works too)

Mix flour, lard, and salt until crumbly - a pastry cutter is good for this task. Make a well in the middle and put egg yolk into it, but do not mix into flour yet. Mix milk, sugar, and lemon juice in a small bowl and pour into the well. Quickly mix it all into the flour with a fork. Divide dough into two equal pieces and roll out on lightly floured surface. Makes enough for 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust pies.

Nota bene: Sometimes you may need more/less flour or more/less milk depending on your climate, etc. Yesterday the dough was a little wetter than usual due to the weather. Feel free to adjust as needed.

This pie probably would have been really good with something like meatloaf or fried chicken. We ate it after a cream of carrot soup (from this month's Bon Appetit), a simple risotto, and a butterflied stuffed pork tenderloin (from Jacques Pepin's More Fast Food my way).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Skillet Lasagna

This is super tasty, especially the sauce. I'd like to know how to double it without having to put it in two separate skillets, but in the meantime it's just the right amount for our small family. It's a lighter take on lasagna from The Food Network (love those guys) that doesn't take all day. And the delicious sauce is so easy, I plan to make it for other pasta dishes. It takes me about 30 minutes to do the prep work, and then about 20 active cooking time. Serves 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, diced (I just use canned diced tomatoes)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil and/or parsley, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese (part skim works fine)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
6 sheets no-bake lasagna noodles
1 carrot, peeled into ribbons
1 zucchini, peeled into ribbons
3 1/2 cups baby spinach
1/3 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic; cook until golden, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 1 tablespoon herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook until saucy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree (I either skip this step or use an immersion blender and both works fine). Return 1 cup of the sauce to the skillet and reduce the heat to low; reserve the remaining sauce.
Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, egg, parmesan, the remaining 3 tablespoons herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a bowl.
Place 2 lasagna noodles over the sauce in the skillet. Layer half of the carrot and zucchini on top; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with half of the spinach, half of the ricotta mixture, a few pieces of mozzarella and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved tomato sauce. Repeat the layers, ending with noodles. Top with the remaining sauce and mozzarella. Cover and simmer until the lasagna is cooked and the cheese melts, 20 to 25 minutes.
Let rest for a few minutes before slicing. Garnish with more parmesan and fresh herbs.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cranberry-Ginger Cookies

Until I think of a catchier title for my forays into a world mostly reserved for women (with the exception of the grill), we will call this a "m-ost" (i.e. man-post). Anyway, my mother-in-law has a chocolate allergy and I love cranberry-ginger chocolate chip cookies à la Ming Tsai (I know they are good because Becca tells me that, when she tried them, Olivia made whining noises by the oven in anticipation). Anyway with a few modifications, I give you the tea-friendly Cranberry-Ginger Cookie (makes ~25 cookies):

1/2 c. Light Brown Sugar
1/3 c. + 1 tbs. Sugar
9 tbs. butter
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbs. minced ginger
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven 325˚.
2. Mix butter & sugar. (I used a stand-mixer, but elbow-grease works just as well).
3. Add egg, vanilla, and ginger. Mix.
4. In another bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda.
5. Add flour mixture and cranberry in small doses to egg/butter/sugar bowl. Pour in flour first, then cranberries; repeat until incorporated but not much more or else you will have gummy cookies.
6. Tablespoon cookies on (parchment papered) cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 mins.
7. Now here's the brilliant part, hold off putting them on the rake for 5 mins. This will let them cook just a little bit longer flavor-wise but without losing too much moisture.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Cushions

I'm always looking for an excuse to eat Prosciutto, and this recipe and sauce is one of my favorites. This photo is from my first time making it without mushrooms, and it was still delightful (n.b. all those fungi-haters out there: I am one too, but love them in this recipe). It's a pretty quick assembly, but do note they need to cook for 30 minutes in the oven. I like to serve it with cous cous, rice, or mashed potatoes because the sauce is so amazing, you'll want to add it onto something.

1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
pinch grated nutmeg
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 small onions or shallots (I've used one small onion when I don't have shallots)
1 1/2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon flour
2/3 cup dry white or red wine
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

1. Put the spinach in a strainer and press out the water with a spoon. In a small bowl, mix with the ricotta and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Slit each chicken breast through the side and enlarge each cut to form a pocket. Fill with the spinach mixture, wrap each breast tightly with prosciutto,, and secure with a toothpick. Cover and chill in the fridge.

3. Heat a skillet on medium high and add the butter and oil. Brown the chicken breasts for 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a large, shallow ovenproof dish (make sure it's large because you'll have lots of sauce!) and keep warm until required.

4. Fry the onions and mushrooms for 2-3 minutes in remaining oil and butter until lightly browned. Stir in the flour, then gradually add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Season to taste and spoon sauce around the chicken.

5. Cook the chicken, uncovered, in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the toothpicks if you care to, and good eating!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Challah French Toast

I just keep making these since I received the Williams & Sonoma Breakfast and Brunch cookbook (which is amazing, I've drooled over it for hours-- thanks Katherine!). It's the touch of maple syrup that really gets me, though I've never made them with the real stuff so I'm sure they can still be even more fantastic some day when I have all the ingredients. I've also never made them with challah bread, just regular wheat bread, so you really can't go wrong skimping on the ingredients, it's still delicious.


3 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk (I'm sure a lower fat variety is fine as well)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter for pan
8 slices day-old challah, each 3/4 in thick with crusts

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Pour batter into a baking dish (this is to give yourself a shallow vessel for dipping the bread).

Heat a large frying pan to medium heat, melt half the butter and continue to heat until it foams but does not brown.

Place the bread slices in the egg mixture and let stand for 5 seconds before flipping and let stand for 5 seconds longer. Using tongs, lift the slices from the batter, letting any excess drip back into the baking dish, and transfer to the hot pan. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook until browned on the second side, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining butter, batter, and bread slices.