Saturday, August 30, 2008

Smothered Rib Eye

Long weekends spent at my family's home up north mean three things: lots of rest and relaxation away from cell phones, plenty of time spent playing with and walking dogs and evenings spent around the dinner table with high-quality ingredients prepared simply to leave us more time to enjoy one another.

Last night we were treated to a dinner of the most beautiful rib eyes I have ever seen, grilled by my father. No one I know can grill meat better than him. Perhaps it's because I grew up on his food, but no restaurant I have ever been to has matched the flavors or the perfect degree of "doneness" that he brings inside from the grill. Last night he was using a Weber with 100 percent natural mesquite charcoal.

When I feel compelled to take a picture of a piece of raw meat, you know dinner is going to be good. To make these guys "smothered" we sauteed vidalia onions and portobellos until caramelized. Just cut up some fresh produce and throw in tomatoes from the garden for a salad and dinner is served.

Smothered Rib Eyes
Serves 6

3 large, well-marbled rib eye steaks
2 vidalia onions
6 small portobellos (or three regular)
3 T olive oil
3 T balsamic vinegar
soy sauce for marinating
salt to taste

Drizzle the steaks with soy sauce and sprinkle with salt. Leave them to marinate for a few minutes while you heat up the grill. Slice the vidalia onions and portobellos into 1/4" to 1/2" pieces. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and saute for about five minutes before adding the mushrooms. Cook for an additional five minutes before adding the balsamic vinegar. Allow the mixture to hang out over low heat, stirring occasionally, while you grill the steaks (this process can be made much easier if you're inside taking care of the smothering, while dad is outside grilling and mom is getting the salad ready - I love family weekends). Once the steaks have reached your desired doneness. Bring them inside and let them sit for ten minutes before slicing in half and layering the smother on. Serve with salad and veggies and enjoy!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Petite Pea Risotto

I think I'm having trouble coming to terms with the fast approaching end of summer. I was talking with my friend Jodi about how we're always happiest right before something great happens. I think that may have subconsciously been the inspiration for this dish. In some way I'm trying to get back to spring when the farmers markets are starting to fill with a huge variety of produce and you know summer is on its way with all the BBQs, homegrown tomatoes and late, warm evenings that come with it.

So, I bring you spring. A petite pea risotto with a hint of tarragon. Enjoy and join me as we lament the passing of summer!

Petite Pea Risotto
Serves 2

1 cup carnaroli rice
1 T olive oil
6 cups chicken stock (homemade if possible)
3/4 cup petite peas
1/4 t chopped fresh tarragon plus more for garnish
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup ricotta

Bring the chicken stock to a boil on the stove and leave simmering. Heat the oil over low heat in a medium pot and stir in the rice to coat. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the rice and stir. Stir frequently until the stock is almost absorbed and then add more.  I don't measure as I pour, just pick up the pot of stock and pour a bit in at a time until the wonderful, creamy risotto texture comes out. You'll know you're there when the rice stops taking stock. Add peas and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in tarragon, salt and parmesan. Divide risotto between two plates and top with a dollop of ricotta and a tarragon sprig if desired. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beautiful Site Award

The Lovely Nazarina over at Giddy Gastronome ( gave me this wonderful award. Thank you and thanks for passing on the love! Now it's my turn to do the same. So, without further ado, here are two sites that I would visit even if I didn't love the recipes they put forth, simply because they are such a joy to look at!

The first blogger I'd like to sing the praises of is Myriam over at Once Upon a Tart (Cakestand). Her blog is simply beautiful. The pictures are stunning and I just can't get enough. You can find her at

And, Michele at Life Lightly Salted has been working on a site redesign and I love the black and white motif. Love that picture of the salt shaker and wish I could blow it up and put it on my wall! Check her out at

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Individual Corn Pudding

Finding dishes to go on the side is always a challenge for me. It's not that I don't have any to make, it's that when I get excited about trying a new main dish, I don't always plan for anything else. This is a great one to have in your repertoire because as long as you keep a bag of frozen corn around, you should have everything else on hand to whip these up. I make them in individual serving dishes because the pudding doesn't look nearly as pretty when scooped out of large serving dish.

Individual Corn Pudding
Makes 4 depending on ramekin size

3 cups corn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1 t baking soda
3 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup melted butter (cooled)

Preheat Oven to 375*
Butter or spay four ramekins with cooking spray. Place half the corn kernels in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add the remaining corn, sugar, flour, salt and baking soda to the processor and pulse until incorporated, allowing the second corn addition to become roughly chopped. Add the eggs, milk, butter and pulse just to incorporate. Divide mixture between ramekins and bake for 30 minutes until just set in the center. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

English Pickle Spread

One of my must-make stops on our recent trip to London was my favorite sandwich shop when I lived there, Pret A Manger. It's a simple place that's committed to using the freshest ingredients and it really shows in the taste of their food. When we stopped in I found, to my delight, that they had created a cookbook. There is a spread that they use on their sandwiches called pickle and it's absolutely delicious. I made it to go on the sandwiches for our beach picnic. If you need some tart sweetness to complete a sandwich, this should be your go-to spread. My favorite application for it is Pret's mature cheddar sandwich. Absolutely delicious. I love finding new spreads for sandwiches to replace my usual mayonnaise. This picture is taken right after adding the water. After 45 minutes of simmering, it will be a dark mix of intensified flavors. Yum.

Pret Pickle
Adapted from Pret DIY
Makes 2 cups

1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 t crushed ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 t tomato paste
1/4 cup sugar
1 lb braeburn or fuji apples
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup water
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the onion. Cook the onion until translucent. Add each ingredient, in order, allowing the mixture to warm through after each addition before adding the next. Once the water is added, but before adding the salt, bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes until reduced and thickened but before the mixture is sticking to the bottom of the pan. For a smoother pickle (which I prefer) puree half the mixture in a food processor and then mix back in with the remaining half. Cool and then store in the fridge to use on sandwiches. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beach Picnic

As summer is winding down (noooooooooo!), we decided it was time for a picnic at the beach. Simple sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper to help keep the sand out and a few sodas was all we needed. As always, when keeping it simple, I believe that the highest quality ingredients make all the difference. Fresh sliced cheese and meat from the deli counter tasted delicious and a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store made quick work of the chicken salad sandwich.

Roast Beef Baguette
Serves 3

1/3 pound sliced roast beef
1/4 pound horseradish cheese
1 cup wild arugula (or baby arugula)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 large french baguette (large enough to cut into three sandwiches)

Slice baguette open without splitting the two halves completely apart. Spread mayonnaise on both halves. Stuff sandwich with cheese first, followed by arugula and finally roast beef. Close baguette and cut into three equal halves. Wrap in parchment paper if desired and enjoy!

Chicken Salad Baguette
Serves 3

2 cooked chicken breasts
handful of grapes, cut into quarters
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup pickle (recipe in a coming post)
1 large french baguette (large enough to cut into three sandwiches)

Shred chicken breasts and mix together with grapes, celery and mayonnaise. Slice baguette open without splitting the two halves completely apart. Spread pickle on the bottom of the baguette and stuff chicken salad into the baguette. Close baguette and cut into three equal halves. Wrap in parchment paper if desired and enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Bake Vegetable Lasagna

I have been waiting at least six months to make this recipe, maybe more. I found it in an old Rachel Ray Magazine, but I knew store-bought tomatoes just wouldn't cut it in this case and I was months away from homegrown. Since nothing in this lasagna is actually cooked, the best quality and freshest vegetables make all the difference. You can find the original recipe here. I cut it down a little, but followed the general game plan.

No Bake Vegetable Lasagna
Serves 2

1 large zucchini (or two regular)
1 T olive oil
8 oz ricotta
2 T lemon juice, divided
zest from 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup pesto
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
handful of sun-dried tomatoes (reconstituted if dried)
1/4 t crushed ginger
1 large tomato cut into four slices
1/2 t salt, divided
basil for garnish

Slice the zucchini into 12 slices using a mandolin and toss with the olive oil. Combine the ricotta, 1 T of lemon juice, lemon zest and 1/4 t of salt in a food processor and blend until smooth. Remove to a bowl. Add diced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, ginger, remaining 1 T lemon juice and 1/4 t salt to the food processor. Blend until smooth.

Layer three slices of zucchini, slightly overlapping, on a dinner plate. Spread the ricotta mixture over the bottom, followed by the pesto and then the tomato sauce (use 2 - 3 T of each). Top the sauces with one slice of tomato and then repeat the layer again. Top with a few basil leaves, repeat the process for the second serving and enjoy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Favorite Things - Vanilla Bean Paste

A couple of you have asked me about vanilla bean paste, which is called for in a number of my recipes. I love this stuff. I don't even keep vanilla extract in the house anymore. This paste has a much more intense vanilla flavor without quite as much of the alcohol flavor of extract. I was first introduced to it by someone who kept a huge jug of it in her fridge to use in everything. I bought a small bottle the first time I saw it at my local gourmet shop and have since graduated to the jug. I mix this into yogurt, use it in all baked goods and make killer homemade vanilla ice cream with it. You'll even get the specks of vanilla you would get from scraping seeds out of a vanilla bean in the ice cream since this is made up of actual vanilla seeds suspended in an ooey gooey delicious paste. Try it. It's yummy. More information can be found here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Simple Salsa - Using Up Mounds of Tomatoes

It seems like every other thing I make these days has tomato in it, is a sauce to go on tomatoes or is simply just a tomato, sliced, with salt on it. It's that time of year and it's almost bittersweet that we're all so overwhelmed with tomatoes right now and that in just one short month, those tomato plants will start to slow down and then stop production. My thought is seize the day. It's all about tomatoes for as long as possible.

My one determinate plant has been covered in cherry tomatoes this week and it was time to use a ton of them up before they all dropped to the ground. This is a simple salsa that's made my favorite way - quickly and in the food processor. The spice is totally controlled by how many of the jalapeno seeds you leave in so decide how hot you want it and proceed with caution. I make a big batch and serve half with chips, while keeping the rest on hand to serve over chicken or steak.

Simple Salsa

3 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 yellow onion
1 jalapeno
10 sprigs cilantro
1/4 t salt

Cut onion into large chunks. Cut jalapeno in half and remove most of the seeds, leaving a few (or more if you prefer more spice). Dice the jalapeno into very small pieces. Remove cilantro leaves from the main stem. Add onion chunks to a food processor fitted with the metal blade, followed by the cilantro, jalapeno and finally the tomatoes. Sprinkle the salt over everything and pulse until very coarsely chopped. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Good Mornings - Mixed Blueberry Coffee Cake

Do you ever wake up in the mood for something sweet and satisfying, but not wanting to make the effort to get over to your local bakery? Well this is the result of one of those mornings. I had not planned anything specific and decided to open up my recent magazine arrivals for inspiration. I found my answer in a blueberry coffee cake recipe. After a glance around the kitchen and deciding that swapping out some St. Andre triple cream french cheese for the cream cheese would be an experiment worth undertaking, I decided I had enough to make something similar using the recipe as my guideline.

Mixed Berry Coffee Cake
Serves 6 - 8
Adapted from Sunset Magazine "Secrets From Our Test Kitchen" Supplement

1 cup mixed frozen berries
1 cup + 1 T sugar
2 cups + 2 T flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t lemon zest
1/2 cup yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
6 oz St. Andre triple cream (or cream cheese)
1 t lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350*
Place the berries and 1 T sugar in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat. When warmed through, add 2 T flour and let reduce down. Once thickened slightly, remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool.

Add the remaining 2 cups flour and 3/4 cup of sugar to a food processor and pulse to mix. Cut the butter into thin slices and add to the processor. Pulse until just incorporated. Reserving a 1/2 cup, pour remaining mixture into a medium bowl and add baking soda, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sour cream, vanilla and 1 egg. Use a spatula to mix the wet ingredients into the dry without over mixing. Pour batter into a 9-inch cake pan.

Add the cheese, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of sugar and remaining egg to the food processor. Run the processor until the mixture is completely smooth. Spread this over the batter, leaving a border. Take the cooled berry mixture and spread over the same area of batter. Sprinkle the reserved 1/2 cup of the flour mixture over the entire cake and bake for 40 minutes until puffy and golden on the edges. Let cool before serving and enjoy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Favorite BLT

This really should be called a BLCT as one of its main ingredients is cheese, not to mention that the lettuce in this is really basil leaves. So it may not be the most traditional BLT, but it's my favorite. What makes it special are the thick slices of homegrown tomatoes and the creamy burrata cheese. I think everybody has their own way of making a BLT and this is mine. What's yours?

Favorite BLT
Serves 2

4 slices sourdough bread
4 slices bacon
1 large tomato
handful of basil leaves
6 oz burrata

Toast sourdough and set aside. Cook the bacon according to the suggestion below. Slice tomato into 1 or 1 1/2 inch thick slices and cut each slice in half. Place half of the basil on one piece of sourdough and top with two tomato slice halves, followed by two slices of bacon and half the burrata. Top with a second slice of sourdough, cut in half and enjoy! (I love a good dose of mayonnaise on a BLT, but with the creaminess of the burrata, you don't really need it here)

This is how I get bacon to come out crispy and golden every time. Preheat oven to 375*. Place a cooling rack over a sheet pan or cookie sheet with an edge and lay bacon strips on the rack. Place in the oven for 20 - 35 minutes until golden and crispy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sausage and Leek Quiche

One of the best parts about weekends and something I look forward to all week, is waking up with plenty of time to make a big breakfast and then taking even more time to enjoy it sitting down in the dining room. It's so much better than the apple I usually grab on the way into work during the week. This brunch consisted of a sausage and leek quiche, sausage on the side for the boyfriend, fruit for me, one french press for him and a pot of tea for me and a liter of fresh-squeezed orange juice for the both of us. What a way to start a morning. Now that I've bribed him with homemade breakfast, we can get on with repainting my bedroom - this weekend's home improvement project.

Sausage and Leek Quiche
Serves 4

1/2 recipe tart dough (the leftover half from here)
8 oz sage sausage
1 leek
1 T canola oil
3 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated fontina
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Preheat Oven to 375*
Prepare the quiche shell according to directions found here, but after removing pie weights, only continue to bake the crust for five more minutes. Remove the green part of the leek and reserve for another purpose (stock or the compost pile). Cut the remaining white part in half lengthwise and then into small slices. Dunk the sliced leeks in a bowl of water to remove any dirt and sand. Saute the leeks in canola oil for ten minutes until soft and translucent, remove to paper towel. Add sausage to the same pan and saute, breaking up into small pieces until cooked through. Whisk the eggs together with the cream and add the sausage, leeks and fontina cheese. Pour mixture into quiche crust, sprinkle the parmesan over the top and bake for 30 - 40 minutes or until golden around the edges and the middle is no longer liquid. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Raspberry Clotted Cream Ice Cream

Warning. This is not for the faint of heart or those concerned about artery blockages in the near future. This is full force, clotted cream ice cream. 

The boyfriend and I just returned from an amazing summer vacation in London and the South of France. While we were in London we were on a mission to find raspberry clotted cream ice cream. The boyfriend has memories of it from summers spent in England with his father when he was a kid. I wasn't sure if it was really going to be that good or if, perhaps, the Atlantic Ocean separating the boyfriend from this magical confection had made the memory grow a bit fonder. Either way, I was determined to help him find it, even running in heels one night from a tube stop in hopes of getting to Sainsbury's before closing, only to find, eight blocks and one blister later, that the person on the phone had given us the wrong closing time and they had in fact already been shut for a few hours. Sadly, we never did find the clotted cream and to try and ease his disappointment, I promised to make some for him as soon as we got home.

Well, we've been home almost a week now and I figured it was high time I made good on my promise. So here it is. My attempt at recreating something I have never eaten nor laid eyes on. To boot, it's a something that fond memories have probably made much better in imagination than in practice. But I set out, determined to succeed. 

One huge, $15 jar of clotted cream later I was thrilled when he took the first bite and said,"this is it! Maybe a little less cream, but this is it." I quickly reminded him that you can't really get rid of the creaminess of clotted cream (nor would you want to) and besides, after you take a few more bites and really get the tartness of the raspberries, they cut the heaviness of the cream for a really well-balanced flavor. If you want to cut the heaviness even more, use milk instead of cream and let me know how it goes!

Raspberry Clotted Cream Ice Cream

454 gram container clotted cream
1 cup heavy cream (or milk if you prefer)
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar divided
12 oz raspberries
1 T water

Place half the raspberries in a small saucepan with a 1/2 cup of the sugar and the water. Reduce down over medium low heat, stirring occasionally while you make the ice cream. 

Place egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium until expanded and light yellow in color. Meanwhile, heat the heavy cream in a medium saucepan until just before simmering. With the mixer still running, add a tiny bit of warm cream to egg mixture until tempered. Add remaining cream slowly. Once fully incorporated, place egg and cream mixture back in the saucepan and heat over medium low heat to cook the custard, stirring regularly. Rinse the stand mixer bowl and whisk. Once the custard has thickened, return it to the bowl of the stand mixer with the clotted cream and mix until clotted cream is fully incorporated. Freeze mixture according to ice cream maker instructions. 

Add remaining raspberries to the reduced raspberry mixture and let cool. When the ice cream is finished add the raspberry mixture to the ice cream machine and let it go for a rotation or two. The goal here is to get it somewhat mixed in, but nowhere near fully incorporated. Freeze slightly and enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

BBQ Chicken Calzone

It was either Wolfgang or California Pizza Kitchen that first put a BBQ Chicken Pizza on the menu and it's something that I have been eating since I was a kid. It's one of those flavor combinations that I probably never would have thought of on my own, but am so glad that someone else did. When you bite into this calzone the sweetness of the BBQ sauce and caramelized red onions plays perfectly off the savory nature of the pizza. Dip the pizza in some cool ranch dressing and it's heaven. My Italian neighbor thinks it's blasphemy to utter the words pizza and ranch dressing in the same sentence. What do you think?

BBQ Chicken Calzone
Serves 2

2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1 small red onion
1 T canola oil
1 package store-bought pizza dough
flour for dusting rolling pin

Preheat oven to 375*

Slice the onion thinly. Heat the canola oil in a medium pan over medium heat and add the onions. Saute until caramelized and let cool slightly. Divide pizza dough in two and form into flattened round discs. Let rest while you prepare the filling. Combine the chicken, chopped cilantro, cheese and onion in a small bowl. Roll each disc of pizza dough out into a 10" circle (no points for perfection here - anything close will do). Mound half of the filling on one side of each disc and fold remaining half over the filling. Seal the calzones by folding the edges up and pressing down lightly. Press edges down with a fork to ensure a tight seal and use fork to poke a few venting holes in the top of each calzone to release steam. Bake for 24 - 26 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quick Paella

I can't recall ever ordering paella in a restaurant, and I know I have never made it at home before, but I have always known I would love it. I love shrimp and chorizo and the beautiful color that the saffron turns everything. This was a really simple version I threw together quickly for a weeknight dinner so it is by no means traditional, but it was delicious just the same. This serves two for a light dinner, but if you're starving, one could probably finish it off.

Quick Paella
Serves 2

6 extra large shrimp
2 pieces chorizo
1/4 cup peas
2 cups cooked rice
1/4 t saffron
1/2 cup stock

Add the cooked rice (I used Jasmine because it's what I had on hand) to the paella pan or any other wide shallow pan you have and start to simmer with the stock and saffron over medium heat. Once the mixture is warmed through (after about 8 minutes) add the peas and chorizo and warm through. As soon as you start to see a bit of a crust forming on the bottom of the pan, you know you're getting close to chorizo deliciousness and that it's time to add the shrimp. Add the shrimp and cook until just turning pink (nothing worse than overcooked, hard shrimp). Divide between two bowls and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sushi-House Cucumber Salad

Aside from my somewhat unhealthy addiction to raw fish this salad is my favorite part of going out for sushi. Unlike procuring good-quality raw fish, this salad is really simple to prepare at home. It gets even better when left to mellow in the fridge for a day.

Sushi-House Cucumber Salad

1 Cucumber peeled and cut into spears
2 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 - 2 sheets nori (seaweed)
1 T toasted sesame seeds

Slice cucumber spears into paper thin slices using a knife or the slicing blade of a cuisinart. Cut nori into thin strips. Mix nori and cucumber with vinegar and sesame seeds. Seasoned rice vinegar is just sweetened rice vinegar so if you can't find it, add 1 t sugar to rice wine vinegar before mixing in with the other ingredients. Let mellow in the fridge for a day and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Palmiers - Simple Elegance

Making a palmier at home is a good reminder for me of how simple it can be to make something elegant and delicious. It's that principle that turned me on to cooking in the first place. Creating a meal from scratch always seemed like a bit of a far off, somewhat unattainable process. That is until I actually started to do it for myself. My brother bought me my first cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, at the end of my college career and as I started exploring the pages and trying some of the recipes, I realized that all it really involved was combining certain ingredients, in a certain order or way. From there, the whole culinary world opened up for me. 

Making palmiers reminds me of that feeling. Just take two simple ingredients, puff pastry and sugar, and combine them to make something delicious. Something that when purchased in a store, always seemed like it must be more complex than it really is to make.

Simple Palmiers

1 sheet puff pastry
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375*
Roll out puff pastry sheet to elongate. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over sheet and roll sheet onto itself from two sides until the two rolls meet in the middle. Cover outside of the rolls with remaining 1/4 cup sugar and slice roll into 1/2 inch slices. Lay slices down on a baking sheet covered with a silpat or nonstick spray. Bake for 22 - 24 minutes until just starting to turn golden and let cool slightly before enjoying.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fig Compote

It's fig season and the tree in my backyard is finally starting to ripen the many green globes that have been hanging around patiently for the past month. It was time to get a fig compote going. This is great over ice cream, on toast or just about anywhere you would use a jam. Remember that this won't have any preservatives so use it up in a few days to keep it from going bad.

Fig Compote

1 1/2 pounds ripe figs
1/2 cup sugar
1 T water

Quarter figs and place in a medium sauce pot with water and sugar. Place pot over medium heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Bring to room temperature and use immediately or store in fridge for a few days. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Polenta Squares With Tomato Sauce

This is a great application for the tomato sauce I made last week and really, just a great trick to have on hand for making appetizers. You can top these polenta squares with any savory sauce, salad or meat to make great snacks or perfect finger food for a party.

Polenta Squares

4 cups veggie stock
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 t salt

Bring stock to a boil and add cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, whisking the stock all the while you add the cornmeal. Continue until all the cornmeal has been absorbed. This slow pour is worth it. If you add all of the cornmeal at once, it's a surefire way to get lumpy polenta. Once the cornmeal has been absorbed, pour mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish and let cool. Place in the refrigerator to finish firming up. Once firm, slice polenta into 1 1/2 inch squares and add topping of your choice. Enjoy!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Vanilla Scented Marshmallows

Store-bought marshmallows don't even compare to the airy, delicate, delicious marshmallows that melt away in your mouth when you make them at home. If you have a stand mixer, it's really simple, not to mention that there is an almost limitless number of flavorings and add-ins that you can experiment with. I made these with just a touch of vanilla, but use whatever flavoring you want.

Vanilla Scented Marshmallows
Makes one half-sheet pan of thin marshmallows (use 9 x 13 pan for thicker marshmallows)

1 oz gelatin (4 Knox packets)
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Spray down the bowl of your stand mixer and the paddle attachment with cooking spray (you'll thank me later). Add water and gelatin to the bowl of the stand mixer to bloom. Stir sugar and corn syrup together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow the sugar and corn syrup to come to a simmer and simmer over medium heat for 3 - 4 minutes. Turn stand mixer on to a medium speed and drizzle the hot sugar mixture into the bowl. When it looks like the sugar is coming together with the gelatin and the danger of hot sugar splashing out the sides of the bowl has passed, turn the mixer up to high and let it go until white fluffy marshmallow forms (10 + minutes). Dust your pan with powdered sugar and pour marshmallow into pan and smooth out to form a relatively flat service. Dust the top with more powdered sugar and let sit at room temperature for 30 - 60 minutes until set. Cut into cubes and dust with more sugar to take care of any stickiness on the cut edges. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Orzo Salad

When we were growing up, my mom would make pasta salads for us as a light dinner. She recently reminded me of the special ingredient in the dressing that I was leaving out. Horseradish. I made it again, using horseradish this time, and it made all the difference in the world. You can use any combination of vegetables you like in this.

Orzo Salad
Serves 4

1 cup orzo
1 cup corn
4 scallions, sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 T horseradish
1 T lemon juice
1/4 t salt

Cook orzo in boiling water for nine minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, horseradish, lemon juice and salt. Add dressing, scallions, corn and tomatoes to orzo and mix well. Chill for an hour before serving.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Halloumi Salad

This is my favorite application for Halloumi, a cheese that holds it shape when grilled. Use any vegetables that you like. I've used Oven Dried Tomatoes and artichoke hearts with a simple lemon dressing.

Halloumi Salad
Serves 2

1 8 oz package Halloumi, sliced into four pieces
1 T canola oil
1 cup artichoke hearts, drained if packed in water or oil
2 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1 t dried oregano

Whisk oil and lemon juice together until mixture begins to emulsify. Mix a pinch of salt and oregano into dressing and set aside. Heat canola oil in a grill pan over medium heat. Add Halloumi slices to grill pan and grill for about two minutes on each side until starting to brown.  Place two slices of Halloumi on each plate and top with half of the artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Frozen Yogurt

Frozen Yogurt at home is really simple with a tub of Fage and an ice cream maker on hand. I dump a full container of Fage into a mixing bowl with a 1/2 cup of sugar and blend well so all of the sugar dissolves. Add the sugar and yogurt mixture to the ice cream maker and freeze according to instructions. Most ice cream makers can handle a doubling of this recipe if you want to make a larger amount, which might not be a bad idea. The tartness and sweetness of this frozen yogurt is irresistible. Enjoy!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fresh Tomato Sauce

This could almost be considered a tomato salsa or bruschetta topping, but it's how I like to use up tomatoes that I brought in from the garden a few days ago that are getting to the almost too ripe state. You can toss this with some pasta, throw it on toasted bread or my favorite, simply eat it straight with a spoon.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

4 - 6 tomatoes (however many you're trying to use up)
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 t salt
2 T olive oil
4 basil leaves

Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a bowl with garlic, salt and olive oil. Place the basil leaves on top of one another and roll up. Slice rolled basil to form thin ribbons and add to the sauce. Mix everything together and enjoy!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

German Pancake

This is a great quick breakfast that I like to make when I'm out of bacon and sausage or any of the other boyfriend breakfast staples. This seems to keep him happy in the absence of cured meat.

German Pancake
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Serves 4 or 1 - 2 boyfriends

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
pinch of salt
4 T butter

Whisk milk and egg together and mix with flour, sugar and salt (do not over mix). Melt butter in a large (10 - 12") cast iron pan over medium heat. Add batter to pan and let cook one minute on the stove top before placing in the oven. Cook in the oven 15 - 20 minutes. When finished cooking, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately in the pan as the pancake will deflate very quickly. Enjoy!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Blueberry Tart

I wasn't planning on making a blueberry tart, but when I went to my local market, they were selling two pounds of blueberries for six dollars. Who can pass that up? A good tart dough recipe is key to a good tart and I think I've found a good one from Once Upon A Tart, a great cookbook from the bakery in New York. In most cases, I like to fully bake the tart shell so I can make the filling on the stove top and add it to the crust as the final step.

Blueberry Tart Filling

6 cups blueberries divided
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Add 3 cups blueberries, sugar and water to a medium saucepan and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. The blueberries will begin to break down and the mixture will turn into a wonderful, syrupy blueberry mess. After about 15 minutes, remove from heat and let cool. Place filling into fully baked tart crust (recipe to follow) and top with remaining blueberries in concentric circles. Melt jam in a saucepan on the stove and brush jam over blueberries. Chill until ready to serve.

Tart Crust
Adapted from Once Upon A Tart
Makes two tart crusts (freeze the second for your next tart)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 T sugar
1 t salt
3/4 cup butter cold, sliced into 1/4 inch pads
5 T shortening
3 - 6 T ice water

Add flour, sugar and salt to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse once or twice to make sure it's well mixed. Add butter and shortening and pulse until small balls start to form within the dough. Dump mixture into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with 3 T ice water. Use a wooden spoon to pull half the dough together into a ball, adding additional Ts of water one at a time until the dough comes together. Repeat with remaining half dough. you can use your hands in place of the spoon, but the heat from your hand may cause the butter in the dough to melt which is a big no no when making tart crust. Pat each ball into a small disc, wrap with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400*

Remove one dough disc from the fridge and roll out to an 11 inch circle. I slide the removable bottom from the tart pan under the dough to help transfer it to the tart pan. Shape the dough to fit the pan and cut off extra dough. Fit a piece of aluminum foil to the dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in oven for 10 minutes then remove foil and pie weights. Continuing baking for 15 more minutes until the crust is golden. Let cool and then fill with desired topping.