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.