Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Bloomin' Bread

Do you ever have recipes that you have earmarked to try, only to keep pushing them back for one reason or another?

Same here.

Pinterest is helping, in the sense that I know exactly where I need to go look for said earmarked recipes.  (Do you Pinterest yet??  Hmmmm.....it's lovely fun!)

Surprisingly, this was one such recipe.  For reasons still unknown to myself, I'm not sure why.  I knew that this would be beyond yummy.  I mean, seriously, bacon, cheese, fresh tomatoes, Ranch, bread?  What's not to love, right?  I knew it would be easy and quick to pull together.  I knew that the kids would chow down.

Oh, I remember what it was!  Something to do with a dinner-time soccer practice and my sisters's invitation to eat dinner at my parents' house.

Yeah, free food still trumps easy food.

This would be a great appetizer, but since it is kind of a fun and glorified version of BLT sandwiches, I say it passes as a main dish as well.  Yum!

Cheddar Bacon Ranch Crack Bread
Adapted from Plain Chicken

1 unsliced loaf of French bread
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. bacon, cooked crispy, cooled, and crumbled
1 tomato, diced
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp Ranch dressing mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using a sharp bread knife cut the bread going both directions (like a crosshatch pattern).  Do not cut through the bottom crust.  Place loaf on a large sheet of foil.

Place cheese in between cuts.  Sprinkle crumbled bacon on bread, making sure to get in between cuts. Top with the diced tomatoes and sliced onions.  Mix together butter and Ranch dressing mix. Pour over bread.

Wrap the entire loaf in foil and place on a baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Unwrap and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  Transfer loaf (still wrapped in foil!) to a serving platter.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Basil Pesto

I adore basil.

El Hub likes it.

The kids can hardly tolerate it.

Let's take a guess who's going to win in this culinary predicament?

Yep.  Me.  Hands down.

But for as much as I love basil, can you believe I've never made my own pesto?

Until now.  Mark it down.

This year in my little herb garden on my deck, I planted 4 basil plants.  Last year's single plant didn't afford the opportunity to make homemade pesto.

With that in mind, I knew I needed more basil this year.

Such a good decision!  Fresh basil is tender and sweet, with a slightly minty taste.  Its fragrance alone is starting to represent "summer" to me.

Making pesto is a great way to use a large quantity of fresh basil, because unfortunately, there is no good way to preserve its freshness for the doldrums of winter that is still ahead.  Major bummer.

Pesto can be used in a variety of creative ways--as a sauce for pasta, as a spread over toasted bread, mixed with mayo for a wonderfully delightful sandwich condiment, and whatever other ways your tastebuds can think up!  My picture below is a thick slice of french bread, toasted, spread generously with pesto, and topped with a thick slice of heirloom tomato.  Pretty much summer at its freshest!

Basil Pesto
Adapted from The New Best Recipe by America's Test Kitchen

1/4 cup pecans (classic pesto uses pine nuts, but you can substitute almonds or walnuts.  Pecans are what I had on hand.)
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tbl. fresh parsley leaves
7 tbl. olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Toast the nuts in a small heavy skillet over medium low heat, stirring frequently until just golden and fragrant, 4-5 minutes.  Transfer to a small plate.

Add the garlic cloves to the empty skillet.  Toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes.  Let garlic cool, then peel.

Combine the basil and parsley leaves in a large zip bag.  Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised (while this will make you sad to "ruin" such pretty leaves, bruising the leaves helps release the herbs' flavors).

Place pecans, garlic, basil and parsley leaves oil and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt in the work bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, stopping when necessary to scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula.  Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Salt again to taste, if necessary.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Tart

This tart was a wonderful way to use some of the fresh vegetables coming in from the garden!  It was delightfully messy and wonderfully satisfying to the taste.  I have some more eggplant coming in and am thinking about trying a couple new things with it, but if all else fails, this is a great meal to come back to!

Mediterranean Grilled Vegetable Tart
Inspired by eCurry

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed to room temperature
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/2-inch slices, both ends removed and discarded
1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise in 1/2-inch slices, both ends removed and discarded
2 large tomatoes, sliced thick
5-6 slices of hard salami
1 cup of hummus (recipe below)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
5-6 fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade style

Oil for basting:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbl. white wine vinegar
1 sprig of fresh oregano, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk together until emulsified; brush veggies with oil mixture before grilling.

1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/4 cup tahini
3 tbl. lemon juice
2 tbl. olive oil
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. hot sauce
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Blend together in food processor or blender until smooth.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Heat grill to medium high heat.

Bake thawed puff pastry for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside.  Keep oven on.

Slice zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes.  Place eggplant slices on a double layer of paper towels and salt each slice.  Let liquid sweat out, about 20 minutes.  Place all veggies on a platter and brush generously with oil.

Transfer salami slices, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes to hot grill, oiled side down.  Cook 5-6 minutes, allowing dark grill marks to appear.  Turn each slice over, and brush uncooked side with remaining oil.  Salami will cook quickly; remove to platter or cutting board when finished.

When vegetables are finished cooking on both sides and are soft and tender, remove from grill and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut zucchini slices and eggplant slices on the diagonal into strips.  Coarsely crumble salami slices.

To assemble tart:  spread 1 cup of hummus on baked pastry.  Top with shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese.  Top with grilled vegetables and salami.  Place in oven until heated through and cheese is melted.

To serve, garnish with fresh basil.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Marbled Nutella Banana Bread

There is something amazingly homey about baking.

Doesn't matter if it is cookies, muffins, pies, bread....for me, baking epitomizes all things domestic, calm, cozy, and cheery. There is something priceless about the aroma of a baked good wafting through my kitchen, spreading its warmth to all who enter.

I love that feeling.

It is especially heightened as fall approaches. That season sings to my soul like no other--but, more about that another time.

I love how my kitchen is the hub of my home--and while it is often the junkiest catch-all of all the rooms in my home combined, I love how the scents and tastes of yummy food draws my family (and friends, sometimes!) in.

All that to say, warm, freshly baked nutella banana bread is no exception. Warm, sweet, comforting, inviting. And that's just the smell!
So, go ahead. Turn your kitchen into a warm and cozy place to gather.

Marbled Nutella Banana Bread
Source: Sugar Plum

2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups mashed ripe banana
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Nutella

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together banana, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy and well combined - about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs until well combined - about 2 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined. Divide 1/2 of of the batter into a medium bowl; stir in Nutella until combined.

Alternate spoonfuls of batter into loaf pan until all of the batter is used up. Swirl batter gently with a knife (not too much!). Bake 1 hour or until well risen, deep golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into bread comes out with moist crumbs attached.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chai Snickerdoodles

I sort of went on a cookie fast this summer.  I'm not sure why.

I'm sure you can imagine the delight of a child, who after a summer of being told, "No, I don't have a cookie to give you as a treat" was finally told, "If you eat all your dinner, you can have a cookie."

Oh, the squeals!  There was pure excitement, followed quickly by a rapid clapping of hands!

The delight pretty much bubbled up in me too!

These cookies hold true to a regular snickerdoodle--crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.  The addition of the the extra spices only gives this cookie a deeper flavor.  These cookies only lasted a couple of days in my kitchen.

Simply satisfying.

Maybe a cookie fast isn't such a great idea, after all.   Cookies are good for your soul.

Chai Snickerdoodles
Adapted from My Madison Bistro

1 1/2  cups granulated sugar
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Cinnamon Sugar Mixture
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Cream sugar and butter on medium speed.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, until mixed.

Reduce speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture until just combined, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as needed.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining ¼ cup sugar with the spices

Form dough into 1 ¼ inch balls and roll in sugar mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake 8-10 minutes; cool 5 minutes on baking sheet before removing to wire rack to thoroughly cool.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Peach Berry Crisp

I can't believe that I'm down to my "last" day of summer....my dude goes back to school tomorrow.  It seems like yesterday that he was a cute little pre-schooler; now he's the "upper" classman at his K-3 elementary school!  Time sure has flown by!

So, hurrah to summer!  We've had a blast!  We've done a lot of cool things, accomplished a lot of projects (read: redo practically every room in my entire house since spring break!), swam in the ocean and played at the beach.

We've eaten a lot of watermelon and ice cream cones, and enjoyed summer's bounty of sweet juicy fruits, this berry crisp included.  So, while I greatly anticipate fall and its bushel of wonderfulness, I've enjoyed the tastes and scents of summer!

What about you?  What is your favorite memory from Summer 2011?

Summer Peach Berry Crisp
Source:  Karla and her sister, Linzy

2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
1 1/2 containers of strawberries, hulled and halved (about 3 cups)
1 cup fresh blackberries
3 peaches, peeled, sliced, and diced into large chunks
2 cups blueberries (I used frozen)
1/2 cup sugar (more if your fruit is tart)
3 tbl. cornstarch

Streusel topping
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted

Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbl. sugar
1 tbl. vanilla

Whisk on high until stiff peaks form.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place prepared fruit in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch.  Add to fruit and gently toss to coat fruit with sugar mixture.  Pour fruit into a 9x13 baking dish.

In another glass bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, sugar, oats, and salt with a fork.  Add melted butter and stir gently to incorporate until dry ingredients are moist.  Add streusel topping to the fruit.

Bake uncovered 30-40 minutes until fruit is bubbling and topping is lightly golden.  Let cool 10 minutes before serving.  Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Watermelon Smoothies

I am convinced that I don't make smoothies enough.

That needs to change.

Simple, refreshing, healthy.

This is me, attempting to start something new.

Change is good for me.

So are smoothies!

Watermelon Smoothies

3 cups watermelon chunks
1 cup vanilla yogurt
1 banana
1/4 cup lime juice
ice cubes, amount will vary

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Avocado and Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

The summer produce is really starting to roll in now.  My parents are so generous to share my dad's garden bounty with me and my mom has made sure that I don't run out of fresh cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, and tomatoes.  To say that all this yummy garden freshness is a nice cushion for my grocery budget is an understatement, to say the least!  

However, with all this fresh produce, I have to sort of be on my "kitchen game" in order to use it all at its peak!  This salad certainly didn't disappoint!  It was simple to toss together and really highlighted all the fresh vegetables.

Avocado and Corn Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
Inspired by and largely adapted from Authentic Suburban Gourmet

3 ears of corn, cooked and kernels cut off 
1 avocado, peeled and diced in large chunks
2 ripe tomatoes, cut in large chunks 
1 small onion, finely diced

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2  English cucumber (I peeled, halved, and sliced mine)

Add to a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

Lime Vinaigrette

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbl. roasted garlic infused red wine vinegar 
1 tbl. lime juice 
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Add all of the above ingredients in a small glass measuring cup.  Whisk to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning as you desire.

When ready to serve the salad, add the dressing and gently toss.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cherry Berry Cobbler

I just love fruit desserts.  I'm pretty much in fruit heaven this summer, with all the ripe berries that are in season.

One thing I've come to appreciate since I've become a home cook is a good shortcake biscuit.

You know, like on cobbler.

The biscuit topping is not too soft, not too hard.  Not too sweet, but just sweet enough.  The firm crumb of the biscuit perfectly complements the juice of the fruit beneath it.  A light dusting of sugar on top finishes it off exquisitely.

Cherry Berry Cobbler
Adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011

1/2 cup sugar
2 tbl. cornstarch
2 cups fresh cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved (I used Bing)
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups blueberries (I used frozen, unthawed)

1 1/3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
5 tbl. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 5 slices
1/2 cup cold milk, plus a bit more for brushing
extra sugar for sprinkling
vanilla ice cream, to serve a la mode

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and position rack in the middle.

Whisk sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl; add berries and toss to coat.

Transfer berries to a 9x13 baking dish or a 2-quart casserole dish (make sure it is about 2 inches deep or else your fruit will bubble over!)

For the dough, place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple times to combine.  Add chilled butter sliced and pulse until coarse crumbs form.  Slowly pour in milk, pulsing until dough comes together.

Gather dough into a ball and transfer to a floured work surface.  Gently knead 5-6 times, then roll out into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into 8 pieces.

Arrange biscuits over fruit filling, and brush tops lightly with milk.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake uncovered until fruit is bubbly and biscuits are golden, about 35 minutes.  Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving; serve with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Cobbler is best when served the same day it is made.  It can be made up to 3 hours in advance.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Buttermilk Berry Breakfast Cake

I don't know about you all, but I am loving the berries this summer!  My head is literally spinning with ideas for how to use all this lusciousness to its fullest.  Bake it, cook with it, make it into jam, toss some into salad--the possibilities are endless!!  

However, this is the problem I am running into.  

I simply can't have a dozen desserts floating around my kitchen on any given weekday.  

Just can't.

So the challenge has been to use my fruit at its peak ripeness, but just not all on the same day.

Challenge, I'm telling you.  It's been hard.  

But this cake....not exactly the breakfast of champions, but oh, so wonderful!  The berries are juicy and tender....the crumb light and fluffy.  The fruit makes it moist enough that it passes for a coffee cake.  

It is a lovely thing to eat on a sunny summer morning.

Buttermilk Berry Breakfast Cake
Adapted from Alexandra Cooks

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
zest from 1 large lemon
1 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour plus 1/4 cup
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup blueberries
½ cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.   Cream butter with lemon zest and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.   Meanwhile, toss the blueberries and strawberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining 2 cups of flour, baking powder and salt.

Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.   Fold in the blueberries and strawberries.

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with butter or coat with non-stick spray.  Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar.   Bake for 35 minutes.   Check with a toothpick for doneness.   If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes.   Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fried Eggplant Sticks

Eggplant is one of those vegetables that I am dying to love.  El Hub is totally not a fan.

So, what's a girl to do when her dad plants eggplant plants just for her in his garden?


Fry it.


I have no shame about this.  We decided that this is the way (so far!) that we like it best.

And I'm okay with the fact that cooking it in canola oil probably negated whatever nutrients I am trying to gain by eating eggplant.

Sometimes, life just needs to be about compromise.

Fried Eggplant Sticks
A Karla Original

1-2 eggplant (I just used the typical garden-variety kind)
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper to taste
canola oil, for frying
kosher salt, to taste

Peel the purple skin off of the eggplant.  To cut eggplant into matchstick slices, slice lengthwise in half, then slice each half lengthwise in half.  With halves stacked on top of each other, slice across in half, making 4 quarters.  Cut into matchstick strips; repeat with other eggplant if using two.  Set aside briefly.

In a square container or breading station pans, gently whisk together egg and milk to make an egg wash. In another container, mix together with a fork the flour, cornmeal, Parmesan cheese, and pepper.

A handful at a time, dip the eggplant sticks into the egg wash, then lightly coat with flour mixture.  Place on a wax-paper lined plate; repeat with remaining eggplant until all are coated and breaded.  Discard any remaining egg mixture and flour mixture.

In an electric skillet, heat a generous amount of oil.  Add eggplant sticks and cook in a single layer until breading is golden brown.  Remove from oil using a slotted spatula; transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to absorb any excess oil.  Repeat, adding more oil as needed, until all eggplant sticks are cooked.

Sprinkle kosher salt over eggplant sticks to taste.  Serve with marinara sauce.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cherry Peach Galette

Have you ever made a kitchen tool purchase that completely changed the way you approached a particular food or cooking technique?  

I have made several.

My Cuisinart food processor, for one.  I told my husband that all the cooking I had done prior to buying that beautiful workhorse sitting on my counter was pure rubbish.  (And I just bought it last year).  


You think I exaggerate.

A cherry pitter is another such purchase.  Which I just made a couple days ago.

This little handheld tool has completely opened up the world of summer cherries to me.  Prior to the homecoming of this cute little contraption, cherries were for popping in my mouth and trying to eat the fruit around the seed while trying not to swallow said seed before I could not-so-gracefully spit it into the trash can.

No longer.  That little dandy just shoots the seeds right out!  Amazing!  Now, I can bake yummy desserts with cherries in easy bliss.  And since I have a couple pounds of them in my fridge right now, I will be baking.  And of course, I will be sharing.  Meanwhile...a galette.

Cherry Peach Galette
Adapted from FoodMayhem

3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup ice water
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoons salt
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 ripe peaches, peeled, sliced, and pitted)
12 bing cherries, pitted and  halved
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
water for brushing
additional sugar for sprinkling

In a liquid measuring cup, stir together sour cream and water until combined.  Set aside.

In the workbowl of a food processor, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt.  Add in butter and pulse until coarse crumbs form.  Slowing add in sour cream mixture, pulsing only until dough comes together. Remove from bowl, divide in half, form into a disc, and wrap each half in a sheet of wax paper.  Chill in refrigerator for a couple hours or overnight.

When dough has been chilled, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a generously floured work surface, roll one of the discs of dough into an 11-inch circle.  Carefully transfer dough to parchment paper lined baking sheet (some of the dough needs to hang over the edge so you have room on the baking sheet for the second disc).  

Peel and slice 1 peach and add to the center of rolled dough.  Add half of the cherries, pitted and halved. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar and cut 1 tablespoon of butter into small pieces over the fruit.  Loosely fold the edge of the dough over the fruit, leaving the center open.  

Repeat with remaining disc of dough, peach, and 6 cherries.

Lightly brush each galette with water and sprinkle the outside of the dough with sugar.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until pastry is golden brown and fruit mixture is bubbly.  Slice galettes and serve warm or at room temperature.