Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Off to do the dishes. I'll be back later to share the menu from today.
Okay, so it's been a couple of days since Thanksgiving and we have recovered enough to write about it. The actual preparation was much easier than I had anticipated. My 11 month old actually cooperated enough for me to get many things prepped the day before so Thanksgiving morning was very smooth. We even made it to the gym and back with plenty of time to spare. Our menu was: Herb Roasted Turkey with Sausage Stuffing (inside and out), mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, acorn squash, peas, pumpkin pie, cherry pie, and chocolate covered peanut clusters.
A day ahead I was able to toast the bread cubes and cook the sausage/vegetable mixture for the stuffing. Make the pies and chocolate covered peanuts. I also made the cranberry sauce as well as made stock for gravy from purchased turkey wings. Finally I mixed a stick of butter with some sage, rosemary, and thyme for the turkey. The day of Thanksgiving, I stuffed the bird and inserted the herb butter between the skin and on the outside. I also made the mashed potatoes, as well as baked the squash and the stuffing. We had a very nice meal...of all the things on the table, Gabriel liked the peas the best. Wouldn't you know it...the only thing that didn't take any effort at all! We did end up with lots of leftovers since there were just the three of us so I made turkey paninis the next day.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pesto Bruschetta II

I know, I know, this is my second pesto bruschetta post in a very short time. However, I had to share this version I made today because it was so yummy. Today was my day to host our playgroup friends. We usually get together and have a light kid-friendly lunch consisting of crackers, cheese, fruit, and meats. Today I made those trays and I also added a couple of things for the adults and this bruschetta was a hit. Tonight I'm going to make a smaller version of today's lunch. I know Joseph is going to love the bruschetta as well.
Pesto Bruschetta

1 french baguette
olive oil
4 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
¼ cup onion
½ cup fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil pesto

Cut tomatoes into 1/3 inch slices and then run your finger around each piece to remove the seeds and extra juices. Continue to dice tomatoes and place in a medium sized bowl. Add minced garlic, diced onion, and basil chiffonade (Remove basil from stems, roll like a cigarette, and slice into very thin strands.) Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be done 10 minutes to 1 day in advance.

Cut the baguette into ¼ inch slices. Place on a sheet pan and brush with a light coating of olive oil. Broil on high for 3-4 minutes or until lightly brown . Remove from oven and let cool. Spread a layer of pesto on each piece of bread. Place a heaping spoonful of the tomato mixture on top and finish with a layer of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Eating Fall...that is what this dish is like. I really can't think of anything else that tastes more like fall than these squash ravioli. The flavors of the squash, sage, cinnamon, and nutmeg all combine to make up the taste of autumn.
We really enjoyed these... although I'd like to cut the sweetness of the filling the next time I make these. Maybe a little more balsamic and little or no molasses.

Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Brown Butter Sage Sauce

1 small to medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
2 tablespoons dark molasses
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Ravioli dough or purchased wonton wrappers
Flour, for dusting board (if using fresh dough)
2 tablespoons sweet butter
8 fresh sage leaves
2 ounces Parmesan, for grating

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut squash in 1/2 and scrape out seeds. Spread 1 tablespoon molasses on each cut side. Season with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a roasting pan. Cook in the oven until very soft, about 1 hour. Let cool to room temperature and scoop out flesh into a food processor.
Puree squash until smooth, then spread on a baking sheet and return to the 375 degree oven to dry, about 10 minutes. The consistency will be like mashed potatoes.
Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it begins to brown. Immediately remove from heat and add remaining 1 tablespoon molasses and all the vinegar. Add to squash with mascarpone, Parmesan, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and mix well.
To fill the raviolis: Lay out a sheet of pasta dough or wonton wrappers on a lightly floured board. Put 1 tablespoon squash filling in the center of dough using a small spoon. Moisten borders with water and top with another piece of dough. Press all the air out and seal firmly by pressing all around with fingertips. Lay raviolis out to dry on a lightly floured board or baking sheet and lightly flour the tops. Repeat until you run out of dough and/or filling. To cook, boil in lightly salted water until tender, about 3 minutes.
For the Sage Brown Butter: While raviolis are cooking, in a large saute pan, melt the butter with the sage and a pinch of salt and pepper until it foams and becomes light brown. Add ravioli and gently saute for about 30 seconds and then transfer to a serving platter or dishes. Finish with a generous grating of Parmesan

Friday, November 10, 2006


This is my favorite photo from the month of October, so I decided to enter it in this round of Does My Blog Look Good in This 2006, a food related photography contest. Here are the rules of the game. I'm working on improving my own photography and I figured I should get more involved so I can learn a thing or two from those that have some talent.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Barefoot Contessa's Parmesan Chicken & Rosemary Polenta

Last year we had the nicest grocery store open up right across the way from our home. I was thrilled to say the least. Upon entering it was apparent that this market was different than the usuals...each department had it's own separate room. for instance there were rooms for Baking, Seafood, Canned Goods, Bakery, Deli, Meats, Baby, Laundry, etc. They carried quality goods, however they came at a quality price. Needless to say most shoppers were more price-conscience than quality conscience and went elsewhere. So, this market, one of the few places that carried fresh mozzarella, parmigiano-reggiano, quality baked breads, and made to order sushi closed it's doors. I was so disappointed that I refused to go to the closeout sale, and I sent my husband instead. I remember him calling me while in the store reporting how the shelves were half barren and did I want whole wheat flour because there were a couple of bags left. Sad. All summer I've been trekking to another market miles away to get needed goods...and turning away as I drove past the old building that was no longer alive. Partway into the summer months I learned that another grocer had purchased the building. My spirits were lifted a bit, knowing that we would once again have something closeby, although I was sure it wouldn't be the same. For the past few months I actually brought myself to drive by the old store to spy in the windows hoping for some progress. Then, at last, I noticed a sign go up, then a job fair, and then a sign marking the opening day. For weeks I've been waiting...and finally it came. Wednesday the new store opened it's doors and it didn't take long for me to make my way there.
Walking in I was apprehensive, but as I peeked in the windows I could see that almost everything looked the same in terms of structure. A little relief set in and I continued on and was thrilled to see how much of the old store was still intact, and that it may even be an improvement. Things had been organized slightly different to accomodate additional products and the organic section was moved across the store...but the deli was spectacular. I've never seen a selection of meats and cheeses quite like it. As I made my way through the store I was pleased to find out that it was actually started by an Italian family and they import many goods from overseas. They also offer a huge amount of freshly made products such as fresh ricotta, fresh desserts, breads, arrancini (these are cooked balls of breaded risotto...I tried my hand at these last month...I didn't write a post so you can imagine how that experiment went), pannatone, etc. It was remarkable. I actually returned later in the day, after the crowds died down, to take a second look. The second time was even more pleasing than the first and I feel a sense of happiness after months of feeling a small heartache.
Here is our celebratory meal.

Parmesan Chicken
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

3 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
3 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan chesse
Unsalted butter
Olive oil
Salad greens
Lemon Vinaigrette (1 squeezed lemon, 1/4 c olive oil, salt and pepper.)

1. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the egg with 1 T water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and cheese. Coat the chicken in flour, then dip into the egg mixture, and finally dredge both sides in the bread crumb mixture. Heat 1 T of butter and 1 T of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook the chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
Toss the salad greens with the vinaigrette. Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast. Serve with extra grated Parmesan Cheese.

Rosemary Polenta
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

1/4 stick unsalted butter
2 T c olive oil
2 t minced garlic
1/4 t crushed pepper flakes
1 t minced fresh rosemary
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 c chicken stock
3/4 c half-and-half
3/4 c milk
3/4 c cornmeal
1/4 c Paresan Cheese
Flour, olive oil, and butter, for fying

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Saute for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half, and milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly sprinkle the cornmeal into the hot milk while stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, until thicken and bubbly. Off the heat, stir in the Parmesan. Pour into an 8 X 8 pan and refrigerate until firm and cold.
Cut the chilled polenta into 4 squares. Make a diagonal cut through each one. Dust each triangle with flour. Heat 1 T butter and 1 T olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook the polenta for 3-5 minutes or until browned on each side.

We really enjoyed this meal...although I was partial to dipping my polenta in ketchup, much to my husband's disgust!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Soba Noodles and Sesame Seed Oil

I have a habit of picking up things in the grocery store just because they sound interesting. Yesterday while picking up ingredients for our bruscetta, I toured around the store and a few new things ended up in my cart. I came home with celery root, coconut milk, sesame seed oil, and soba noodles, not having any idea as to what I was going to do with them. Today I've been dreaming up ways to use them and I came up with something I feel is quite tasty.
Now, I was a little wary of the sesame seed oil. I was certain I had seen a few recipes calling for it, but I thought I'd never had it before. So, just before adding it to the pot I put a little on one finger and gave it a try. Instant recognition...this is what our takeout from the local chinese place tastes like. I told Joseph that I was going to "aromacize" our noodles. He liked that word and asked me if I read it somewhere and I had to tell him that I just invented that word. But, that's exactly the right term for adds more of an aroma to the whole dish than a seasoning. Well, our aromacized meal turned out very yummy and I'm sure it will be visiting again quite soon.

Chicken and Vegetable Soba Noodles

4 boneless-skinless chicken thighs cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup sesame seeds (I used black)
8 ounces dried soba noodles
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1 large handful of fresh peapods

1/2 red pepper julienned
2 large carrots, julienned

4 large button mushrooms sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Pour the sesame seeds onto a baking sheet. Toast the seeds in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook them for 4 to 5 minutes, or until they are just tender. Drain them, rinse them well with cold water, and drain them again.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the balsamic vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

5. In a large pan (this would be a great place for a wok) quickly brown chicken in vegetable oil. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add all vegetables and stir-fry 1-2 minutes more.
6. Mix in sauce, add the noodles, and the toasted sesame seeds. Remove from heat. Serve

We liked this warm, but it would probably be good eaten at room temperature.

Restaurant Recreation

Have you ever eaten a dish at a restaurant and went home craving more? There have been many occasions when I've come home after a meal out and recreated things off of the menu. That is how I started making mushroom ravioli, chicken and bow tie pasta, waffles with strawberry sauce, paninis, and more. If anybody knows how to make green tea semi-freddo with chestnut beignets...I'm still working on recreating that one. Well, yesterday we encountered a great bruscetta appetizer and my husband and I (I bet Gabe would have agreed, if he could talk) said we could go for a little more of it for dinner. So, we stopped at the market on the way home and picked up a few ingredients for the recreation as well as some other things I just couldn't pass up. We also made a second stop at the wine shop to turn our meal into something a little more special.
I took a shortcut with the bruscetta and picked up a package of pita bread which I toasted under the broiler and I topped with the chopped tomato and basil mixture. After piling it high I topped that off with a few spoonfuls of some basil pesto that I had already made, hence the dark color. To accompany that appetizer I also made prosciutto wrapped figs that I grilled with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar. The final additional was a mound of baby mozzarella balls coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and more fresh basil.
These little appetizers were a cinch to throw together and they made a terrific light and easy dinner.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Baking Bread

Last night we had our new friends over for Trick-or-Treating. I decided to do a simple soup and sandwich dinner to make things move along quickly in between the fun. I had planned on making this bread to go along with the soup and later decided to use it as a main part of the meal rather than just an addition. It was just too good not to. This white bread makes terrific sandwich bread. It is so easy and basic, yet tender, moist, and delicious.

Fresh Baked White Bread
This recipe came from Elizabeth
2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6- 6 1/2 cups flour

1.In a large bowl dissolve the yeast into the warm water.Add sugar, salt, eggs, oil and 3 cups of flour.Beat until smooth.
2.Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
3.Turn onto a floured work surface and knead until elastic and smooth, about 6-8 minutes
4.Place into greased bowl, making dure that you turn the dough to cover the top.
5.Cover and let rise for one hour ( should double in size) and punch down the dough
6.Divide the dough into two loaves and place in 2 bread pans.
7.Cover and let it rise again for one hour8.Bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes

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