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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Caprese Garlic Bread with Heirloom Tomatoes

I feel so unimaginative...this is only my second blogpost this month, and once again it's a Caprese/Heirloom Tomato recipe.


I went to our local Farmers Market yesterday.  I took one look at the heirloom tomatoes, and decided that being stuck in a Caprese/Heirloom tomato rut isn't such a bad thing!


Today's Playlist
  • "Sixteen Saltines"...Jack White
  • "Push"...Matchbox Twenty
  • "No Rain"...Blind Melon
  • "It Goes On and On"...The Avett Brothers
  • "Sick Boys"...Social Distortion
  • "Walk Away"...The Dropkick Murphys

Caprese Garlic Bread with Heirloom Tomatoes (4 servings)

  • 1 mini-baguette (about 10" long), split horizontally
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove
  • 5 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 3 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic reduction
  • 1/4 cup fresh shredded basil leaves
  • salt & pepper, to taste


Gather your ingredients.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

You can either buy the balsamic reduction or make your own.  (To make your own, bring 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to a simmer; stir occasionally until reduced by half {about 6 to 8 minutes}).

To make the garlic butter:  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in your microwave for 30 seconds on HIGH.  Crush the garlic directly into the melted butter and stir.

Slice the baguette in half lengthwise.  Place cut side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Brush with the garlic butter.

Arrange the mozzarella slices on top of the bread.  Bake for about 15 minutes in your preheated 400-degree oven, until the cheese is melted.

While the bread bakes, slice your tomatoes and basil.

Remove the bread from the oven and immediately top with the sliced tomatoes.  Drizzle the balsamic reduction over the tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.

 Sprinkle with the basil.  Slice and serve.

I wish I had remembered to take a picture after I sliced this, but it disappeared before I had a chance!


 Enjoy.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Grilled Eggplant Caprese Stacks

There is just so much to love about summer! ( I really wanted to type that in all caps, but I didn't want to shout at you.  Well, I do want to shout it.  But I didn't want to hurt your eyes.  Tell me you understand what I'm saying and that I'm really not just babbling.)

Here's just ONE thing I love about summer:

Caprese Eggplant Stacks!!

You could make these any time of year, but they are especially good in the summer with fresh-picked tomatoes. If those fresh-picked tomatoes happen to be heirloom tomatoes...well, let's just say that if you happen upon a bin of local heirloom tomatoes at your supermarket--or better yet, at a local farmers market--don't pass them by!  

Today's Playlist
  • "Hang On To Yourself"...David Bowie
  • "Times Like These"...Foo Fighters
  • "Cannon"...The White Stripes
  • "I'm Yours"...Jason Mraz
  • "City Of Angels"...The Distillers
  • "Bro Hymn"...Pennywise
  • "Buddy Holly"...Weezer

Grilled Eggplant Caprese Stacks (yields 8 to 12 stacks)
  • 1 large or 2 small Italian eggplants
  • olive oil, for brushing the eggplant
  • 4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 oz. ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite pesto
  • coarse or flaked sea salt (Maldon sea salt flakes are perfect)
  • balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons

Gather your ingredients.  

Use whatever type of pesto you love best, whether it's homemade or bought from a store.  I had already made my pesto in advance.  If you want to make homemade pesto,  Click here for my recipe.  

Prep your ingredients--slice the tomatoes, mozzarella and eggplant into slices about 1/4" thick.

Roll up the basil leaves and slice them into ribbons.

Grill the eggplant:  brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil. Grill about 3 to 4 minutes per side with your grill on medium/high heat.

While the first side of the eggplant is grilling, I begin assembling the stacks.

Place the largest slices of tomato on a platter.  Sprinkle with the sea salt.

Check the eggplant and flip the slices when they have visible grill marks and have started to soften slightly.

Layer a slice of mozzarella onto the tomatoes.  If you're lucky the mozzarella slices are slightly smaller in diameter than the tomato slices.

Spread a heaping teaspoon of pesto onto the mozzarella.

Place an eggplant slice onto your tomato/mozzarella stacks.  The hot eggplant will soften the mozzarella.

This is why I use Italian eggplant instead of large eggplant; the smaller size fits nicely onto our stacks instead of overwhelming them.

Place a final (small) slice of tomato on top of the eggplant.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

You could also use a balsamic reduction instead of vinegar.  Your choice!

Sprinkle with the basil ribbons.

You can serve these immediately, while the eggplant is still warm, or refrigerate them and serve them cold.



Enjoy.



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cooking Show: Summer Treats!

We filmed an episode of the cooking show last week, with a "Summer Treats" theme.

I thought it would be a good idea to prepare a few recipes that met the following requirements:

1. Refreshing on a hot day
2. Will not heat up your kitchen because you won't need your stove or oven.

almost met the requirements with all of the recipes.


Check.  Met requirements 1 and 2--refreshing and no cooking involved.  Click here for the printable recipe.



Refreshing, and no baking required!  Here's the printable recipe.

This brings us to our final recipe, the only recipe that didn't meet requirement number 2.



You need the oven for four minutes to toast the almonds and the stove for six minutes to melt the toffee ingredients.

I suppose that you could make the almond toffee a day ahead of time so that all you would need to do on the day you make the ice cream is chop it up and add it in.

I can't promise, however, that the toffee won't disappear if you prepare it too far in advance.

In the words of Dan, Our Awesome Camera Man (best spoken with a lilting Irish brogue): "Forget about the ice cream!  We'll just eat toffee!" --Dan's proclamation when he sampled the toffee.


Fortunately, the recipe makes more toffee than you will need.  Plenty to mix into the ice cream, with enough left over for snacking.



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ice Box Cheesecake with Berries

Okay, the summer heat has finally appeared here in the Northeast, which prompts me to find ways to cook without actually cooking.  

You understand what I mean, right?

This ice box cake fits the bill.  There's no cooking at all--just layers of graham crackers and a cream cheese/whipped cream mixture.  Topped with berries.


Make this ASAP, while berries are still in season!!

Today's Playlist
  • "Rag and Bone"...The White Stripes
  • "Rollover D.J."...Jet
  • "Someday"...The Strokes
  • "In One Ear"...Cage the Elephant
  • "Holiday"...Green Day
  • "Everybody Talks"...Neon Trees


Ice Box Cheesecake with Berries (10 to 12 servings)
  • 14 graham crackers (full-size, with 4 sections)
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups assorted berries
Line a 9" x 13" baking pan with half the graham crackers, in a single layer.  Break them to fit if you need to--you will be covering them with the whipped cream so nobody will ever know if they're not straight and perfect!

Whip the cream in the bowl of your mixer with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.  Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract and whip until completely incorporated and fluffy.

Add the cream cheese (cut into 1" chunks) and whip until it is thoroughly mixed and smooth, with no lumps (about 3 minutes).  Test it to be sure there are absolutely no little lumps hiding in there!

Spread half of the cream mixture over the graham crackers which you've already layered into the pan.  Top the cream with another layer of graham crackers, then spread this layer of graham crackers with the remaining cream.  Top with the berries.  Refrigerate for at least one hour to enable the graham crackers to soften.


 Enjoy.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

Toasted Almond Butter Toffee Crunch Ice Cream

Naming this recipe Toasted Almond Butter Toffee Crunch Ice Cream may seem like overkill, but I wanted to make sure to describe all that is wonderful about it.

Toasted Almonds.

Butter Toffee.

Crunch!


Making your own ice cream takes a teensy bit more effort than opening up a carton or visiting your nearest ice cream parlor, but it's so worth the time and effort!  Especially when it's as yummy as this.

I'm also experimenting with my blog--I'm not going to post as many step-by-step photos.  You may have noticed that I haven't been posting as frequently as I used to!  The time I spend setting up the photos (and let's face it, I don't even know how to take a decent photo) and then incorporating them all into a blogpost could be time better spent writing more blogposts!  As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome (I appreciate all of your emails/comments)!

Today's Playlist
  • "Basket Case"...Green Day
  • "Don't Make Me Wait"...Locksley
  • "Dead!"...My Chemical Romance
  • "Chelsea Dagger"...The Fratellis
  • "Hey There Delilah"...Plain White T's
  • "Death Letter"...The White Stripes
  • "Always Where I Need To Be"...The Kooks
  • "Short Skirt/Long Jacket"...Cake

Toasted Almond Butter Toffee Crunch Ice Cream (Approx. 1 Quart)

Toffee ingredients: 
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup slivered almonds

Ice Cream ingredients:
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Gather your ingredients.  Along with your ice cream maker, you will also need two bowls for an ice bath and a thermometer.

You can see that I took the photo after I had made the almond toffee.  Here's a quick rundown of how to make the toffee:


Place the slivered almonds (in a single layer) onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Place the baking sheet into your unheated oven, and then set the temperature to 350 degrees.

By the time your oven reaches 350 degrees, the almonds should be just beginning to toast.  I took this photo after the almonds reached my desired temperature; you can see that they are just barely brown around the edges, which is exactly how you want them to be!

While the almonds are toasting, prepare the butter toffee.  Don't roll your eyes and tell me that you can't multitask! It only takes five minutes, and if by chance your oven reaches 350 degrees before you're done, simply remove your baking sheet from the oven while you're stirring your toffee.

To prepare the toffee:  melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  As soon as the butter is melted, stir in the brown sugar.

Stir continuously until it begins to boil.  Continue to stir for an additional 4 to 5 minutes while it boils, until it becomes sort of spongy and pulls from the side of the saucepan and sort of holds itself together.  

video
Here is a video of what you can expect it to look like.  After 4 minutes, the mixture was holding together and reached the spongy, pulling-away-from-the-pan stage.

(And now that I am posting this video, I am realizing how ironic it is that I am trying to streamline my step-by-step photos yet here I am actually posting a cooking video for the first time.  Even though it's only nine seconds long, leave it to me to complicate things when I'm trying to simplify.)


Remove your toffee from the heat and immediately pour it over your toasted almonds.  Allow it to cool as you prepare your ice cream.

Set up your ice bath now: you will need a large bowl, half-filled with ice cubes.  Pour water into the bowl so the ice cubes are covered.  Place a smaller bowl into the larger bowl so that it is sitting in the ice water.

Heat the whole milk in a small sauce pan over low/medium heat until it reaches 175 degrees.  Do not let it boil!  Once it reaches the desired temperature, stir in the sugar and the pinch of salt.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Temper the egg yolks:  Stir about 1/3 cup of the heated milk into your lightly beaten egg yolks, then stir the tempered egg yolks into the saucepan.  Return the heat to low/medium and stir continuously until the temperature reaches 160 to 175 degrees.  The mixture will thicken (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove the thickened mixture from the heat and pour it into the small bowl set in the ice bath.  Stir to dissipate the heat.  When the mixture has cooled slightly, whisk in the heavy cream and the almond extract.

Refrigerate the cream mixture until completely cooled (about 1 hour).  After the mixture has cooled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to your manufacturer's directions.

While the ice cream churns, chop your toffee.


Break your large piece of toffee in half.  Did I tell you that you will have twice as much toffee as you will actually need?

No need to thank me for giving you a toffee recipe that makes enough to allow for the snacking you will do as you're chopping it to add to your ice cream.


Chop half of your prepared toffee into pieces about 1/4- to 1/2-inch in size.  You want them to be substantial enough to know that there is toffee in that ice cream, not teeny crumbs!

Add the chopped toffee into your ice cream maker during the last 30 seconds or so before it finishes churning.  Or you could stir them in manually.

When the ice cream has finished churning, you can either eat the soft ice cream immediately or transfer it into a freezer container to harden in your freezer.

Enjoy.



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Cooking Show: Italian Recipes!

We recently filmed another episode of the cooking show.

My friend, Nick, joined me and we prepared a few recipes that showcased our love of Italian food (and drinks)!

(Click on the links to be taken to the recipes.)


We started off with Limoncello Limonata.  We made our own fresh-squeezed lemonade and added 
Limoncello.  

Next, Spinach, Pomegranate & Feta Salad, with a Balsamic Vinaigrette.  I usually make this salad with grilled chicken, but tonight we omitted the chicken because we didn't want the salad to compete with our main dish:



Nick and I both agree that braciole is one of our favorite Italian recipes.  My recipe for braciole doesn't stray too far from old school-- rolled with garlic, parsley and cheese and simmered in a red sauce.

I think there is another show in our future.  Nick has some creative methods of preparing braciole with different fillings and sauces...at some point we are going to film Braciole Part II!

Finally, Cannoli Dip!  

You have to do a teensy bit of advance prep--but once the ricotta has been drained you can whip this up in about 2 minutes.  Break a few ice cream cones and pizzelles into bite-sized pieces and start dipping!




Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Spinach, Pomegranate & Feta Salad with Chicken

If my husband had his way, we'd be grilling steak several times a week and serving those steaks with a side of potatoes.  He's totally a meat and potatoes sort of guy.

If you've followed my blog at all, you know quite well that I don't cook red meat very often.  Chicken recipes outnumber steak recipes, 43-6.

A teensy bit lopsided, for sure.

I don't think he shares my affinity for salads, but I sure am grateful that he doesn't complain;  better yet, he really LIKED this salad! Caitie and I liked it so much, I figured that I better blog about it so that I'll remember the combo of ingredients that I used.

Today's Playlist
  • "Seven Nation Army"...The White Stripes
  • "All Apologies"...Nirvana
  • "Re-Education"...Rise Against
  • "What I Got"...Sublime
  • "Brain Stew"...Green Day
  • "Bulletproof Heart"...My Chemical Romance"
  • "Level"...The Raconteurs

Spinach, Pomegranate & Feta Salad with Chicken (serves 2-4)

Salad ingredients:
  • 6 cups baby spinach
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 8 oz cooked chicken, sliced
Dressing ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Gather your ingredients.

There's really not much prep to this recipe--remove the seeds from the pomegranate, zest the lemon, slice your chicken and chop the chives.  Mix up the dressing and then throw it all together!

This is how I remove the seeds from a pomegranate: first, using a sharp knife, score around the outer shell.

Pry the pomegranate open along the score lines.  Hold each half over a bowl (seed side-down), and bang the sides of the pomegranate half with a wooden spoon.  

Most of the seeds will fall into the bowl.  There will be some left inside. I use my fingers to pull the remaining seeds out, but if anyone has any suggestions for easier methods to de-seed a pomegranate I'd love to hear about it!

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl until combined.

Place the spinach, feta and pomegranate seeds into a large bowl.

Drizzle with the dressing.  Toss to combine.

Place heaping servings into individual bowls. Top with sliced chicken and sprinkle with chives.

Enjoy.