Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Stacked Tomato Salad

Last week I tried out this fancy little salad from The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper.  It is a great way to showcase the summer's tomato.  Although, slabs of mozzarella is not my personal favorite, I could definitely see this as a crowd pleasing recipe and perfect for a starter at a dinner party.  In fact, Lynne Rossetto Kasper mentions in her cookbook that it is the most downloaded recipe on her The Splendid Table website.  Some tips for making the recipe - make sure your tomatoes are small enough, and they are juicy yet firm, to ensure that the tomatoes do not topple over.  If you do not mind a sloppier salad, then go for larger tomatoes.  Visually, the salad should be stacked back as a whole tomato with cheese inside.

Ingredients for Ripe Tomato Stack with Pine Nuts and Mozzarella, from The Splendid Table's How To Eat Supper (serves 4 as a main dish, 6 to 8 as a starter):

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove. minced
1/8 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons dried currants
2 tight-packed tablespoons fresh basil leaves, torn
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (I used almonds.  Use pine nuts if you can afford them)

6 medium ripe tomatoes
1 pound fresh mozzarella packed in liquid, sliced 1/2 inch thick
About 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

To begin, make the dressing in a small bowl.  Combine the lemon juice, garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, onion, currants, and salt to taste.  Let the mixture stand for 20 to 30 minutes.  Just before assembling the dish, stir in the basil and all but 1/4 cup of the pine nuts.

Core the tomatoes.  Cut each tomato horizontally into 1/2-inch-thick slices.  Place the bottom slice of each tomato on a serving platter.  Season them with a little salt, then top each with a slice of cheese.  Season the cheese with a teaspoon or so of the onion mixture.  Continue the layers until all the tomatoes are reassembled.

To finish the dish, sprinkle the tomatoes with the reserved pine nuts, the olive oil, and any leftover onion mixture.  Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think that my chocolate chip cookies are pretty delicious, but the photograph of chocolate chip cookies in the April issue of Martha Stewart Living made me want to give them a try.  Martha Stewart claims them to be the best crispy and chewy chocolate chip cookie, and they definitely live up to their title.  Last year, I thought I had the perfect texture, but after trying this recipe I realized how subtle changes in the sugar and flour proportions, as well as the size of the scoop of dough can make a big difference.  After comparing recipes and doing some calculations, I realized that Martha's recipe had 27 percent more flour than sugar compared to mine which only have 22 percent more flour than sugar (a 5 percent difference between the two).  She also flopped the brown sugar to granulated sugar ratio, the recipe favoring more brown sugar than granulated.  The other main difference between Martha's and my cookie, is that Martha's cookie is 3 tablespoons of dough and mine was only 2 tablespoons.  These cookies are much larger and it is important to space them out well, otherwise they end up looking like a Mrs. Fields giant cookie cake.  So watch out!  Also, please note that I allowed the dough to sit in the refrigerator for 72 hours to allow the flavors to fully develop and meld together.

Here are the ingredients for Martha Stewart Living's Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie from April 2010 (makes about 20):
-2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/4 teaspoons salt
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
-1 1/4  cups packed dark-brown sugar
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

To begin, whisk flour, baking powder, and baking soda until combined.

Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time.  Add vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture.  Beat until combined.  Mix in chocolate chips.

Let sit in the refrigerator up to 72 hours, if you have time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Scoop a ball of dough, the equivalent of 3 tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart.  Bake until golden around the edges but soft in the middle, about 15 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack, and let cool completely.

CSA Week Eleven

Hi!  Here is what I got from my CSA this week:
-Green Bell peppers
-Heirloom and Hot House tomatoes
-Dozen Eggs
-White peaches
-Yellow peaches
Last weekend, I had an impromptu pizza party.  The variety of vegetables this season are perfect for pizza making.  I also made this Lemony Zucchini Tart from Good Food, Good Wine, Bad Girl blog.  I could not find lemon fetish feta cheese, but replaced it with a regular feta, and it still turned out very tasty.  I definitely recommend trying it if you still have zucchini lying around.  It was a pretty quick, especially if you have a mandolin to slice up the zucchini and shallot.  
I am also planning on making this Nectarine Pizza with Fresh Basil from Alexandra's Kitchen today.  Click here for more homemade pizza.  Enjoy your Sunday!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Basic Pasta Dough And Simple Tomato Sauce

I have been meaning to post about this for a while - like I-lived-in-a-whole-'nother-apartment-while-ago.  When I have time I make my own pasta.  The dough is super simple, and it just takes a little crafty work and voila - you have fresh pasta that just makes you feel proud that you  have made it.  And no - you don't need a pasta maker, a rolling pin works just fine.  Once you learn how to make the dough, the possibilites are endless.  Since I have gotten so many fresh veggies, I thought it would be a great time to share the recipe.

Ingredients for Basic Pasta Dough from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, makes 4 (12-inch square) sheets of dough:
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl, mix 3 cups of the flour and the salt.  Shape a deep well in the middle of the four - it should look like a volcano.  In another bowl, beat the eggs, then beat in the oil.  Slowly pour the egg mixture into the center of the flour, stirring it into the flour.  Keep incorporating the eggs into the flour until the mixture gets too stiff to mix with a fork.  Switch to your hands and add enough flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to mix it together into a sticky dough.
Once your dough has come together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.  Work the dough by pushing all the sides into the middle, then bringing the bottom over the top and down, in a repetitive motion.  With a steady flow of motion, this should take about 8 to 10 minutes of kneading.  You'll know your ready when the dough feels somewhat elastic and it no longer cracks and crumbles while being handled.  It will also take on a bit of subtle shine.
Dampen a clean kitchen towel and wrap the dough in the towel.  Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Unwrap the dough and with a scraper or knife, cut into equal quarters.  Roll the first piece into a ball, flatten it with your hands, then roll it out into a 12-inch square about 1/8-inch thick, keeping the work surface and the rolling pin well floured.  I rolled mine out until I could see the counter top coming through.
At this point you can make whatever shape of pasta you want - lasagna, fettuccine, spaghetti, ravioli squares, etc.  On this day I made fettuccine, so I go out a ruler and a pizza cutter and went to town.  Karen even suggests folding into thirds and then cutting, just make sure the dough is well floured.
Flour a large rimmed baking sheet well.  Once pasta has been cut, gently place in baking sheet and let rest, stretched long, to dry.
To cook the pasta, boil a large stockpot of water with salt.  Start tasting the pasta after 5 to 7 minutes (or shorter if you made thinner pasta).  It should be soft and visibly cooked in the middle.
To go along with the pasta I came up with this sauce to use up my heirloom tomatoes and my quarter of an onion.  The quantity is based off the two leftover tomatoes I had, but you can easily double or triple the recipe.  I had read about Smitten Kitchen's tomato sauce with onion and butter a while ago and thought I would give it a whirl using fresh tomatoes.

Simple Tomato Sauce, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, serves 2:
-2 heirloom tomatoes (you can use any fresh flavorful tomato)
-1 clove garlic, peeled
-Quarter of a large onion, peeled
-2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
-Salt to taste

First cut tomatoes into large chunks, about 2 by 3 inch pieces.  Place all the ingredients into a medium sauce pan and cover over low heat.  Bring to a simmer, and then reduce it to the lowest heat so it is just barely bubbling, still covered.  Cook for about 40 minutes or until droplets of fat separate from the tomatoes.  Stir every ten minutes or so and break the tomatoes down using a wooden spoon against the side of the pan.
Once the tomatoes are broken down, uncover and raise the heat so it comes to a strong simmer.  Cook until the tomato sauce has thickened to your liking, about 10-15 minutes.  Disgard the onion and garlic clove.  
Place the sauce over your favorite pasta or eat it by the spoonful - it is hard to resist.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dutch Baby Pancake with Peaches

Good morning!  I wanted to share a quick breakfast recipe.  A Dutch baby pancake is not a cake cooked on the griddle, but is actually baked in the oven.  The pancake puffs up in the oven and then collapses once its out, creating a soft center with chewy edges.  It is a close relative of the popover and Yorkshire pudding.

Recipe for Dutch Baby Pancakes with Peaches (adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook), serves 4:

-1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
-2 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
-A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
-3 large eggs
-3/4 cup milk
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
-1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
-1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

To begin, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet over high heat.  Add the butter and when melted, add the peaches.  Cook until softened and lightly golden, about 2 minutes.  Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice, and remove from heat.  Reserve.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, and the salt in a medium bowl until smooth.  Pour the batter over the peaches.  Baked until puffed and brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar over the top.  Use a flat spatula to slide off the cast iron.  Cut into wedges and serve immediately

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

Anytime I mention the yellow ice cream truck, aka Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, people sigh deeply and say, "I love their ice cream...its sooooo good."  I think they even close their eyes while they talk about it.  I can't help it, but I roll my eyes.  One of the yellow trucks is a few blocks away from my office, so I have stopped by twice.  I will admit the truck is super cute.  It is a pale yellow that is soft and sweet, and the illustrations on the side of the truck always makes me slow down and ponder whether I should get a scoop.  On my first visit, I chose strawberry ice cream.  It was the middle of June - strawberry season, and I had very high hopes.  The most obvious problem I had with the ice cream was that there were no chunks of strawberries - it was all one smooth, light pink scoop.  WHAT?  Hello - show case your seasonal ingredients!  The other issue was that it just wasn't creamy enough.  The ice cream had a an icy and grainy texture, which surprises me because on their website they state the finished product contains 18 percent butterfat and 30 percent overrun, which is typical to premium standards according to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking.  Overall, the strawberry ice cream had a nice, natural flavor, but I still walked back to work disappointed.
After I explained my first experience to friends, they were in shock.  Perhaps, I had chosen the wrong flavor?  In my opinion, there shouldn't be a wrong flavor, if there is - don't put it on the menu.  So a few weeks ago I went back in hope for the little yellow truck to redeem itself.  This time I chose an Earl Grey ice cream cone.  Okay, I know this is an untraditional flavor, but I wasn't interested in the hazelnut ice cream that everyone raves about.  The flavor was light, subtle, and quietly complex with hints of orange mixed with the tea.  Unfortunately, I still could not get past the icy texture.  This ice cream was even worse than the first.  There were actual small chunks of ice in every bite! 
Small strawberry ice cream cone - $3.95
So now that I have talked trash about Van Leeuwen's, I will give them props for using hormone-free milk and cream from farmers in Lewis County, New York.  Their disposable goods are 100 percent renewable too!  They use Bagasse, a fiber made from sugar cane husks for their cups and napkins, and they use corn husk for their drinking cups, spoons, and straws.  And on top of that, 1 percent of their profits go to Wildlife Direct, to protect the endangered Mountain Gorilla.  

So if you are in New York, I recommend going to the little yellow truck on 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue and paying $3.95 for a small cone (which is actually quite big) and decide for yourself.  Get the hazelnut or coffee ice cream, but I would actually recommend just making your own.  Van Leeuwen's has nothing on David Lebovitz!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

CSA Week Ten

Hello!  Here is what I got today from my CSA:
-Beautiful heirloom tomatoes
-Cherry tomatoes
-Green Bell peppers
-Dozen eggs
Last night I made David Lebovitz's Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze.  I swear anything he makes is amazing.  The cake is super moist, and the finely chopped nuts create a nice texture throughout.  The lemon glaze by itself is very tart, and I felt like I should have added more sugar, but as it seeps into the cake it mellows out - so don't fear.  If you are in the mood for a "healthy" dessert or a breakfast treat, I would definitely try the recipe, and if you haven't checked out David's blog, click here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oatmeal-Raisin Ice Cream

I didn't think I would ever make an ice cream that I would like better than the Aztec "Hot" Chocolate Ice Cream, but this Oatmeal-Raisin Ice Cream from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop is a close call.  I made this ice cream a couple month ago, and I still can't stop thinking about it.  If you like oatmeal raisin cookies, you will love this ice cream.  There are about three steps to the ice cream, making the custard, making the oatmeal praline, and the plumping the raisins.  It is definitely worth the steps, because is seriously delicious.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

CSA Week Nine

This is one of those weeks that when you get the food and you know exactly what to do with it - just eat everything on its own.  Slice up tomato and add some salt, cut up some melon for a fresh dessert, or add some cucumber to a pitcher of water for a fancy drink.  Here is everything I got:
-Hot house tomato
-Cherry tomatoes
Murdered Peach
Last night I pan roasted the cherry tomatoes, threw in some garlic at the end, tossed with angel hair, and topped with basil and Parmesan.  Delicious!