Thursday, July 29, 2010

Recipe Remix: Blueberry-Lavender Shortcake Cookies

I have been slightly obsessed with lavender recently, especially when paired with fruit.  So one night as I was brainstorming and researching recipes, I had the idea to turn my strawberry shortcake cookies into lavender cookies.  I wasn't really sure how they would turn out - there is a delicate balance between not being able to even detect the lavender in a dish and the whole thing tasting like soap.  Personally, I think I struck a great balance here, with 3/4 teaspoon of lavender in the dough, and 1/4 of a teaspoon sprinkled over the cookies before they're baked. 

My only issue with this recipe was that blueberries don't give off as much moisture as strawberries, but that was easily remedied by adding a little more cream to the dough.

These cookies were light and sweet, with just the perfect amount of lavender in the background.  After the first cookie, I decided I needed to taste another...just to form an opinion of course... and the next thing I knew, I had eaten four!

Blueberry-Lavender Shortcake Cookies
adapted from Strawberry Shortcake Cookies, originally from Martha Stewart 
makes about 3 dozen cookies
  • 12 ounces blueberries (about 2 cups)
  • 1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender, divided
  • 3 ounces (6 Tablespoons) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, plus more as needed
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the blueberries, lemon juice, and 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon of the lavender and salt in a large bowl.  Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter to the flour mixture until coarse crumbs are formed.  You can also use your fingers.  Stir in the heavy cream until the dough starts to come together, then gently fold in strawberries.  Add more heavy cream if the dough is still crumbly and doesn't come together, 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Using a 1-1/2 inch cookie scoop, drop dough onto cookie sheets, evenly spaced apart.  Sprinkle with coarse sugar and the remaining lavender.  Bake for 22-27 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  The cookies are best eaten the same day. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Smothered Pinto Beans

Being the good southern girl that I am, one of my favorite meals is collards, cornbread, and beans.  Or I guess I should say black eyed peas.  A few weeks ago, I really got a hankering for that very meal, but I only had some dried pinto beans.  So I found a recipe for smothered pinto beans that turned out to be quite delicious, and the perfect side to go with my greens and bread.  The beans are very substantial, but packed with great veggies, what with the squash, tomatoes, corn, and zucchini.  Spice them up with with jalapeno, and top with sharp cheddar, and they are a really wonderful dish.  I especially loved the leftovers, particularly over tortilla chips to make nachos, and cold, over a salad.

We ate this as a side I guess, though really just as a part of our southern vegetable plates, but served with rice I think this would be a great one-dish meal.  Its also very quick to throw together, and very healthy.

Smothered Squash and Pinto Beans
adapted from Cooking Light, via My Recipes
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 1 cup sliced squash
  • 1 cup sliced zucchini
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, or 1 3/4 cups cooked
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, Monterey Jack, Pepperjack would all be great)
 Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and jalapeno, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and jalapeno, and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Add the squash and zucchini, and saute 2 minutes.  Add the corn, beans, tomatoes, and thyme.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.  Discard thyme.  Top with cheese before serving.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

PPQ: Creme Brulee French Toast

Trust me when I say that this tastes way better than it looks.  My kitchen torch didn't have any gas, and the broiler kind of got away from me :-(  But in all honesty, the top didn't even taste burnt, just looked it.

Shawnda (or really, Shawnda's husband) chose this week's recipe for Project Pastry Queen.  Its a pretty standard French toast casserole recipe, but with a (literally) burnt sugar topping.  Though I shouldn't say "standard," because this is truly delicious.  I mean, come on.  Challah, egg yolks, heavy cream, 1/4 of a cup of vanilla extract?  Rich, sweet, custardy, amazing.  And the crispy topping just puts it right over the edge.  I did lighten it up a tad by using 1/4 of the amount of heavy cream, and using 1% milk for the rest.  It still tasted incredibly decadent though.  This is an ideal dish for entertaining, as it is prepped the night before and simply baked in the morning.  It can also be made in individual ramekins, which I think would be especially adorable.  Just watch the broiler, or use the kitchen torch.  Things could get crazy otherwise.

Next week:  my choice!  Peach Jam Scones!

Creme Brulee French Toast
Rebecca Rather,  The Pastry Queen
serves 8-10
  • 1 large loaf of challah
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 4 cups heavy cream, half-and-half, or milk; or a mixture of the three
  • 3/4 cup plus 3-4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted.
Grease a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish.  Slice the challah into 1/2-inch slices, then into cubes.  

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter.

Scatter about 1/4 of the bread cubes in the bottom of the dish, then pour 1/4 of the custard over them, pressing the bread cubes down to be sure they are soaked.  Repeat 3 more times, pressing the mixture down between each layer.  Cover the casserole dish with foil and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325.  Place the casserole inside a larger baking dish, and fill the larger baking dish halfway with boiling water.  Bake 1 1/2 hours, or until the top is light brown and set.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining sugar, and place under the broiler or use a kitchen torch to melt the sugar and brown the top.  The sugar will harden as it cools.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

BB: Greek Panzanella

My pal Tara chose this month's Barefoot Bloggers recipe, and I was very psyched to see that she chose Greek Panzanella.  Last month was my choice, and I was thisclose to choosing that very recipe! 

I really like panzanella.  I've made cornbread panzanella and caprese panzanella, not to mention several other variations that I've never blogged.  For one thing, its a great way to use up part of a loaf of bread, veggies in the crisper drawer, extra meat, etc.  Anything and everything goes, and I love it!  I'm also a big fan of Greek flavors and Greek salad, so I knew this would be a home run.  And it was!  Tons of fresh flavors and textures.  The perfect summer meal.  As usual, I bulked mine up by adding extra veggies, as well as by adding lettuce to the mix.  I realize that traditional Greek salad doesn't have lettuce, but well, we're going out of town soon, and I'm in clean out the fridge mode.  Plus, its you know, good for you.  And I got to use some of the cucumbers that I'm drowning in!  Win, win (win)!

Greek Panzanella
adapted from Ina Garten
serves 6
  • olive oil
  • 6 cups cubed bread, from 1 loaf of French bread
  • kosher salt
  • 2 houthouse cucmbers, halved, seeded, and sliced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups seeded, chopped tomatoes 
  • 1/2 large red onion, halved through the pole and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 pound feta cheese, crumbled or cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted (optional)
  • 4 ounces lettuce, washed and torn
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
Heat a large skillet over medium heat with 3 Tablespoons of the olive oil.  Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt.  Stir well to combine, and toast, stirring frequently, until the bread is lightly browned and crispy, 5-10 minutes.  Add more olive oil as necessary.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette except for the oil.  Slowly stream the oil in, whisking constantly, until the mixture is emulsified. 

In a large bowl combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, and cucumber.  Add the bread cubes, feta, olives, and the lettuce, and toss with the vinaigrette to combine.  Allow to sit at room temperature 10-15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad

While it might seem like blasphemy to cook tomatoes during the height of the summer, these tomatoes are worth the sin.  And if you don't have access to homegrown tomatoes, these are definitely the next best thing.  I'm glad I made this because it will be a perfect dish to make in the winter when I have a tomato craving but no good ones in the immediate future. It will also be a perfect dish to serve at a cocktail party or shower.

As far as recipes go, this couldn't be easier.  Roast the tomatoes low and slow for a few hours, then arrange on a platter with some fresh mozzarella, basil, and seasonings.  My best friend has such a deep-rooted love for this dish that we now lovingly refer to them as "Tomatoes Emilie."  I've now made these several times over the course of the past few weeks, with no sign of stopping :-)

Roasted Tomato Carprese Salad
adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics
serves 6
  • 12 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds (not cores) removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 glarlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, julienned
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut sides up, and drizzle with oil and vinegar, and sprinkle with the garlic, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Roast 2 hours, or until the tomatoes are concentrated and begin to caramelize.  Cool to room temperature.

When ready to serve, slice the mozzarella into less than 1/2 inch thick rounds.  If the slices are larger than the tomatoes, cut them in half.  Layer the tomatoes alternately with the mozzarella on a platter and scatter the basil on top.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and drizzle lightly with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Serve at room temperature.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fried Peach Pies

So I joined a new blogging group!  Ashely and Shawnda attended a cooking demo by Rebecca Rather aka the Pastry Queen, and decided to cook their way through her first cookbook.  Of course I can't turn down a chance to bake through one of my favorite cookbooks, so I signed up.

This week's recipe was chosen by Ashley of Delish, and she chose Fourth of July Fried Pies.  The original recipe makes 12 pies, 4 each of blueberry, cherry, and peach.  I knew I didn't need 12 pies lying around my house unattended, so I opted to only make the peach ones, and I divided the recipe in half.  I also added a splash of bourbon and a little brown sugar to the filling... because why not?

These pies have the option of being either baked or fried.  Since I try to keep things light around here, I tested one baked before I decided what to do with the rest.  And then I fried the rest.  Its not that the baked one wasn't good, but it wasn't as good.  Plus, I was hoping to achieve a pie similar to a certain famous drive-through restaurant/local institution here in Atlanta.

If you'd like to join us cooking through The Pastry Queen, check out the blog, Project Pastry Queen.  And stay tuned, because this week we're making Creme Brulee French Toast!!

Fried Peach Pies

adapted from The Pastry Queen, by Rebecca Rather
makes 6-8 peach pies

Peach Filling
  • 3 white peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1/3 cup peach preserves
  • 1 Tablespoon bourbon or whiskey (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled
  • 3/4 cup ice water
safflower oil, for frying

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, combine the peaches with the preserves, bourbon, and brown sugar.  Stir well to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the dough blade, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Pulse a few times to combine.

Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes, and scatter over the flour mixture.  Process for several 3-second pulses, until the mixture looks like cornmeal.  With the processor on, pour the water into the food processor through the feed tube, and continue to mix until a ball forms.

Transfer the dough to a well-floured surface, and roll into a 1/16 inch circle.  Cut out dough circles with a 5-inch diameter cutter (I used a cereal bowl).  Put 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each circle and fold the dough rounds in half.  wet your fingers with water and press to seal the edges.  Use a fork to crimp the edges.

Using a large skillet or frying pan, pour the oil to about 1-2 inches.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat.  When a scrap of dough sizzles when dropped into the oil, it is hot enough.  Fry the pies, a few at a time, 3-4 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.

To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract.  Brush the warm pies with a pastry brush and serve immediately.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Raspberry Mojitos

 Last summer, we traveled to Boca Raton for a wedding.  At the reception, they served mojitos and raspberry mojitos, and I've been thinking about those drinks ever since.  They were without question some of the best drinks I've ever had.  Every ingredient was so increcibly fresh.  Fresh lime juice, raspberries, cane sugar, the whole deal.

Unfortunately, my own version of raspberry mojitos didn't really come close to the ones we drank in Florida, but they were still quite delicious.  Without pure sugar cane I think it is hard to achieve the same flavor, but my neighbor and I both really enjoyed drinking them with plain old granulated sugar.  The raspberries gave the drinks not only a great flavor, but a pretty pink color as well!  I'll definitely be keeping a lookout for sugar cane though so I can make authentic mojitos!

One Year Ago:  Arepas (Venezuelan Stuffed Corn Cakes)

Raspberry Mojitos
  • 6-8 fresh mint leaves
  • 7-8 raspberries
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 ounces light rum
  • juice of 1 lime
  • sparkling water or club soda
In a tall glass, muddle the mint and raspberries with the sugar.  Fill the glass about 3/4 full with ice.  Add the rum and lime juice, then top off the glass with the sparkling water.  Stir well to combine, and garnish with additional raspberries and mint.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Jalapeno-Cheddar Sandwich Bread

I realize that this is the third recipe for a jalapeno-cheddar bread I'm posting on my blog, but they are all different and delicious in their own ways, I promise (In case you're curious, here are the other two).  Its not overkill, really.  I wanted to make some sandwich bread last week, so I turned to my trusty Baking Illustrated for a no-fail recipe.  I had originally planned to making a wheat bread, you know, for health.  But then somewhere along the way I decided that jalapeno-cheddar sounded much better. :-)

As far as the recipe goes, it is a pretty straightforward bread recipe.  Mix, knead, rise, shape, proof, bake.  I didn't do anything special to the technique for making it jalapeno-cheddar.  I just tossed the pepper and cheese with a little flour and threw it in the mixer with everything else.  I'm not sure if that's the "right" way to incorporate mix-ins into bread, but it worked this time!

Joey really loved this bread.  So much in fact, that he said I should start making it every week.  It made the best BLT's ever, and is really tasty for breakfast with a little butter and honey.  I don't know that I'll make it every week (I have so many recipes waiting to be made!), but it will definitely make frequent appearances.

Jalapeno-Cheddar Sandwich bread
adapted from Buttermilk Sandwich Bread, Baking Illustrated
makes one 9-inch loaf
  • 3 3/4 cups (18 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
  • 2-3 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (the sharper, the better)
Adjust one oven rack to the lowest position, and another to the middle position.  Heat the oven to 200 degrees.  When it is preheated, maintain the tempeature for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

Toss the jalapeno and cheddar with 1 Tablespoon of flour in a small bowl.

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from heat and add the cold buttermilk and stir to combine.

Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour andthe salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Add the buttermilk/water mixture, butter, honey, and yeast to a liquid measuring cup.  Turn the mixer on low, and add the liquid in a slow stream, increasing the speed of the mixer as you go to medium.  Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping to scrape the dough from the hook as needed.  After about 2-3 minutes add the jalapeno-cheese mixture, and continue to knead about 10 minutes total, adding flour 1 Tablespoon at a time, as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to form a smooth ball, about 15 seconds.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat with the oil.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the oven until the dough doubles in size, 50-60 minutes.

Turn out onto the floured surface and gently press the dough into a rectangle that is 1 inch thick and 9 inches long.  With the long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers as you roll to make sure the dough sticks to itself.  Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed.

Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan, and press it gently to make sure it touches all four sides of the pan.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20-30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place an empty baking pan on the lowest rack of the oven.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and pour  into the empty pan.  Set the loaf onto the middle rack, and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40-50 minutes.

Remove the bread from the pan and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  Slice and serve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Banana Pudding Ice Cream

If you are from the south, then you know that banana pudding is the ubiquitous dessert at any church supper, potluck, or family gathering.  I've definitely had my fair share of banana pudding, both good and bad.  But I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.  If you are unfamiliar with the concept, banana pudding is a layered dessert of vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, vanilla pudding, and meringue.  Its a great make ahead dessert because it is served chilled, and its best if its left to chill in the refrigerator overnight.

To turn such a classic dessert into an ice cream is pretty genius, but I expect nothing less from The Lee Brothers at this point.  They have mastered the art of mixing up classic southern dishes and turning them into something new and exciting, and this ice cream is no different. First, bananas are caramelized with brown sugar and rum, and turned into a puree.  The puree is then mixed with a sweet custard, and the miuxture is churned.  Finally, crushed vanilla wafers are folded into the ice cream, and its frozen to banana pudding-perfection.  At first I thought I was just making banana ice cream, but it really and truly does taste like banana pudding!  Such a fun ice cream flavor, and one I'll definitely keep in my repertoire for my southern-inspired spreads!

By the way, I'm sure you've all seen it on countless blogs by now, but Happy Ice Cream Month!

One Year Ago:  Grilled Pizza with Goat Cheese and Summer Vegetables

Banana Pudding Ice Cream
Matt Lee and Ted Lee, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
makes about 1 quart
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced in half crosswise and lengthwise
  • 2 Tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 8 2-inch vanilla wafers, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
In a medium skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter until frothy.  Add the brown sugar and spread it with a wooden spoon.  Add the bananas, and turn to coat with the sugar mixture several times.  Cook about 1 1/2 minutes, or until they are well coated and softened.

Pour the rum over the bananas.  Let it hiss and pop, then bubble for a minute to burn off the alcohol.  Transfer the contents of the skillet to blender or food processor and set aside.

Lightly beat the egg yolks with a whisk in a medium bowl, then add the sugar and beat until the mixture is a milky lemon-yellow color, about 1 1/2 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 150 degrees on a candy thermometer, 6-8 minutes.  You may see steam rising, but don't allow it to boil.  Pour 1/2 cup of the milk into the banana mixture, and puree until smooth, about 1 minute.  Reserve and let cool.

Add the remainign 1 cup of milk in a thin stream into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly as you pour.  Pour the custard back into the saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  When the custard reaches 170 degrees and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat (this will probably take 6-8 minutes).  Add the banana puree to the custard and gently whisk to incorporate it completely.

Allow the custard to cool to room temperature, and whisk in the cream.  Transfer to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Scatter the wafer crumbs over the top fold into the ice cream.  Transfer to a plastic container and freeze for at least 2 hours.  Garnish with a whole vanilla wafer before serving.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Caprese Panzanella

There are few combinations out there that make me happier than the classic trinity of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.  And as tomatoes come into season, I am positively giddy thinking about all the possibilities.  Its really hard not to just eat them sliced and sprinkled with a little salt, but when I have things like this salad to make, I resist. 

The night I made this salad I had initially planned a caprese salad with a side of bread, but then I thought about how much I love panzanella, and decided to mix things up.  Panzanella is so easy and versatile, and it makes the perfect one-dish meal.  Protein, veg, and carb, all in one bowl.  I used white beans in mine, but I think grilled chicken or shrimp would work wonderfully as well.  This is a perfect summertime meal, and it was thoroughly enjoyed with a glass of chilled white wine. 

More Tomato Love:
Tomato, Mozzarella, and Pesto Paninis
Tomato-Mozzarella Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust
Scalloped Tomatoes
Goat Cheese Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes
Triple Tomato and Zucchini Risotto

One Year Ago:  Grilled Ranch Burgers and Grilled Okra

Caprese Panzanella
a Pink Parsley original
  • pesto
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 cups seeded, diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4-6 ounces lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup basil, chiffonade
  • 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 ounces mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Preheat the oven to 300.  Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet, and cook 10-15 minutes, or until the bread is crispy but not browned.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Alternatively, allow to sit out for several hours or overnight to stale.

Add the olive oil, white wine vinegar, and lemon juice to the pesto and whisk to combine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, white beans, pine nuts, lettuce, basil, mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and bread cubes.  Toss with dressing to combine.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Zucchini and Ricotta Fritters

I recently gave in and bought a cookbook that I've been eyeing for almost a year.  Jack Bishop's The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook is chock full of mouthwatering recipes.  As a matter of fact, I had already made two recipes from it that I found on another blog.  The Tomato-Mozzarella Tart with Basil-Garlic Crust and the Fontina Shells and Cheese were both so incredibly delicious that I decided I couldn't live another day without this cookbook (though actually, I lived about another week without it while it shipped).  When I received my copy and starting flipping through it, I found myself marking recipe after recipe to try.  And then when I got to the end and read the author's bio, I realized why I was so in love.  Jack Bishop is a writer for Cook's Illustrated.  No wonder.

I have now made several recipes from this cookbook, and none have failed me.  These zucchini ricotta fritters are no exception.  With the plethora of zucchini I'm receiving from our CSA, this was a fun way to use the excess.  They come together very quickly, and were gobbled up even quicker.  The ricotta makes the fritters very creamy and rich, and pan-frying the fritters gives them a great crisp outside.  The lemon zest in the batter and the finish of a squeeze of lemon juice give them a great fresh burst of flavor.  I think they would be especially cute as bite-sized fritters to serve as an appetizer or as part of a cocktail party spread. 

One Year Ago:  Make Your Own Sundried Tomatoes and Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes

Zucchini and Ricotta Fritters with Lemon
The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop
serves 4-6
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3 medium zucchini, scrubbed and ends trimmed (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups plain bread crumbs
  • vegetable oil for pan-frying
  • lemon wedges
Combine the ricotta, eggs, parsley, garlic, and lemon zest in a large bowl.

Shred the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater.  Wrap with a few paper towels or a kitchen towel and squeeze tightly to remove as much moisture as possible.  Add the zucchini to the ricotta mixture, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir well to combine, and add enough bread crumbs so that the mixture is no longer sticky - about 1 cup or so.

Spread the remaining bread crumbs on a plate.

Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Take about 1/3 cup of the zucchini mixture and form into a 3-inch patty.  Dredge both sides with the bread crumbs.  Place the patty on a baking sheet or platter and repeat with the remaining zucchini mixture.  You should have about 15 fritters.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Dip the edge of a fritter in the oil.  If it sizzles, the oil is ready.  If at any point the oil starts to smoke, reduce the heat. 

Add as many fritters as will fit comfortably in the pan.  Cook about 4 minutes per side, until the bottoms are a rich golden brown, turning once.

Transfer the cooked fritters to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining ones. 

To serve, divide evenly among serving plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cajun Halibut with Dirty Rice

Over the course of the past few months we have really upped our seafood consumption.  Its funny, because when I was single, I would cook fish for dinner several nights a week, but once Joey and I got married, I all but stopped cooking seafood for some reason.  I have no idea why, because it is easy, quick, and healthy.

This halibut makes me really happy that I'm cooking fish again.  Its got a delicious Cajun seasoning, a praline sauce that's just sweet enough to keep things interesting, and its served with a yummy dirty rice.  Joey said this was a very "Top Chef" meal because there were several components and they all went so well together.  I take that as a pretty good compliment.  :-)

As much as I'm a fan of the sweet and savory, the sauce was actually just a tad too sweet, so I've decreased the sugar below.  I also bulked up the rice by doubling the veggies (this is a trick that I do quite often actually).  All in all this was a really delicious dinner that is easy enough for a weeknight but impressive enough for guests.

One Year Ago:  Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas and Guacamole Salad

Cajun Halibut with Praline Sauce
adapted from Cuisine Grilling
serves 4

For the Praline Sauce
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon whiskey or apple juice
For the Fish
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 halibut fillets (about 6 oz each)
Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Toast the pecans in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until golden, 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a simmer, and cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the pecans and salt, and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter and whiskey.  The sauce will thicken upon standing, but you can reheat over low heat before serving if needed.

Combine the oil, paprika, thyme, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Brush mixture over both sides of the fish.

Use a paper towel with oil to grease the grates of the grill.  Grill, covered, until the fish is cooked through and the fillets release easily from grate, about 3 minutes per side.  Drizzle warm sauce over fish before serving.

Dirty Rice
  • 1 link Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup dry white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
Saute sausage in a skillet in oil over medium-high heat until starting to brown, 2-3 minutes.   Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic.  Cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in rice, and saute 1 minute, then add broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Let the rice stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.  Season with salt and cayenne, and stir in the scallions.  Fluff with a fork and serve.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Recipe Remix: Peach Wine Coolers

So often in my write-up for a recipe, I comment that it is open to many adaptations.  I thought it would be a fun feature if I actually started sharing those adaptations with you.  Oftentimes I will make the recipe again and use it in a completely different way, or change the flavors, or find a creative use for leftovers.  I never thought to post about it, but now I will!  For example, I sometimes save a little filling from enchiladas, mix it with a little sauce, then top with cheese and bake it.  It makes a really delicious dip!  I've also recently come up with a new way to serve the filling from the Swiss Chard Manicotti that I'll share soon.

But today's recipe remix is for the strawberry wine coolers I posted several weeks ago.  I believe I even commented at the time that I couldn't wait to try them with peaches.  So when my sister brought me some peaches (she lives in the middle of Georgia peach country), I knew exactly what I would do first.

Just like the strawberry counterpart, peach wine coolers are a little bit sweet, a little bit dry, and a lot delicious.  I followed the same method as the strawberry, but I didn't strain out the pulp.  I think its optional if you use peaches.  The mixture was a little thicker, but I didn't mind.  Just more peach flavor!  I also used peach schnapps instead of vodka in the mixture.  Again, more peachy flavor.

I've made these a few times since, and I have to say, I think I like the peach variation even better than the strawberry.

One Year Ago:  A Duo of Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Peach Wine Coolers
inspired by  The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern
serves 6
  • 1 pound fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ounces peach schnapps
  • generous pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 750-mL bottles dry Reisling, Pinot Grigio, or Sauvignon Blanc
  • ice, for serving
Combine the peaches, peach schnapps, salt, and 2 scant cups of the wine a blender.  Puree until smooth and frothy, about 1 minute.

Either strain through a fine-mesh sieve, or transfer directly to a pitcher or bowl.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To serve, fill a large wine goblet with ice, then fill about halfway with the peach mixture.  Top off with reserved wine, and garnish with mint.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

BB: Scalloped Tomatoes

I was so excited when I found out June was my pick for Barefoot Bloggers!  I was also really nervous though - pressure!!  I pored over all things Ina for several hours, before finally settling on her scalloped tomatoes.  I'd seen her make these on her "Farmstand Food" episode several months ago, and I've been thinking about them ever since.  And since tomatoes are starting to come into season, I thought it was the perfect time to make this dish.  Tomatoes, bread, garlic, and parmesan - how bad could that be?

I used a mixture of several types of tomatoes - some gorgeous heirlooms from our CSA, a few vine-ripened from my own plants, and then I used quartered cherry tomatoes to reach 2 1/2 pounds.  The biggest issue that there seemed to be was the moisture in the dish - since tomatoes give off so much moisture, it lead to a little bit soggy bread.  However, I think this can be remedied a few ways:  1. Remove the seeds from half the tomatoes.  2.  Bake the mixture in the most shallow dish you can.  The top formed a nice and crunchy crust, which was the best part.  I used a corningware baking dish, but I think next time I will use a 9x13 inch pan.  That way, the mixture will be more shallow, giving more crust and less mush.

Overall, this was really very tasty.  The tomatoes caramelize a little and have the most rich, delicious flavor.  I will definitely keep this in my repertoire this summer, and I hope the other Barefoot Bloggers enjoyed my pick!

One Year Ago:  Grilled and Stuffed Portobellos

Scalloped Tomatoes
adapted from Ina Garten
serves 6
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 cups cubed French Bread (about 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 2 1/2 pounds chopped tomatoes, seeds and pulp removed from about half
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, julienned
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350.

Heat 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat.  Add the bread cubes, and toast, stirring often, until evenly browned, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and add them to a large bowl.  Combine with the garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper, and mix well.

Add the tomato mixture to the bread, and cook an additional 5 minutes, stirring often.

Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish, and top with the Parmesan cheese.  Bake 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a crust has formed.