Friday, March 29, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas

Recipe from Moosewood Restaurant: New Classics

Much to my surprise, I found that I have not shared this recipe with you. I went to the search box of my blog to view the recipe for the ingredients so I could stop off at the store on my way home from work and it was not there! How could I keep this to myself for so long? I have made this several times, and always say to myself that I must share this recipe.

Well, now is the time.

This is a delicious, healthy, and quick dinner to prepare, even on a weeknight. The recipe is easily adaptable to your likes or dislikes, or to what you may have on hand. What vegetable does not taste irresistible roasted and sprinkled with cheese? Oh, and a little Sriracha Sauce if you, like me, like things spicy.

Success meter (1-3):

I was going to add the extra cherry tomatoes that I had leftover from this recipe as well and forgot. That's OK. I'll add them to these leftovers to make what I hope is an awesome omelette tomorrow morning.

Yep, these are tasty.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Book Ninety-Five: Tom's Big Dinners

by Tom Douglas

I really, really, need to read recipes in full - not just scan the pages. I did not realize until I started making the tomato confit (about one-thirty) that they slow roast for three hours, and are best after an overnight stay in the refrigerator. And here I thought I was getting a head start. Oh well. They chilled for about an hour.

I also did not note how much this recipe served as I jotted down the ingredients. As I was shopping I thought to myself this is going to feed an army - well a small one of eight anyway. I thought about making half of the recipe then decided against it; I had most of the ingredients in the cart already. This turned out to be a good thing. Practice makes perfect - as you will see in a photo below.

For the tomato confit you roast the tomatoes in olive oil, rosemary, thyme and garlic. I was surprised that he has you discard the garlic cloves along with the herb sprigs. Roasted garlic anyone? Spread on a baguette or tossed into some pasta sauce or something. My cloves did not go to waste. My sister arrived sooner than expected and was helping me prepare dinner, and she devoured those oh so tasty (so she said) cloves.

To make the beautiful spiral effect, you stuff, roll, and tie the flank steak.

I was so excited to use some of my fancy baker's twine I recently purchased - it comes in several different colors! Only to find out that this twine has not been tested for direct food contact. Great. Here I am already running behind and I have to go buy some string. Of course Safeway does not sell cooking twine or any other type, nor could the butcher (unfamiliar with this location) find any to give me as suggested by one of the checkers. Good thing there is a hardware store a couple blocks away - bingo - they had plenty.

This you will want to make for company it's so impressive looking. The tomato confit can be made up to five days ahead, the stuffing a day or two in advance, and the steak can be stuffed and tied early in the day and refrigerated.

Aside from the issues I had, this was fun, relatively easy, and pretty darn delicious.

Success meter (1-3): 3

The stuffing: onion, garlic, Kalamata olives, parsley, thyme, pine nuts and currants. I'm not a huge fan of pine nuts and they are ridiculously expensive (thirty-five dollars a pound!) next time I'll sub pecans or walnuts, or maybe leave them out all together.

I pounded the meat between to pieces of freezer paper. Even though I have a weighted meat pounder, my trusty rolling pin covered in plastic wrap made the job easier - and this was not all that easy to do. It took me like ten minutes to get it to what I thought was thin enough. Not as thin as the recipe recommended, but it worked for me.

I was not happy with the way my first attempt rolled so I re-rolled it; hence the bits of filling on the outside. Isn't the second one so much nicer looking?! Night and day. Once you get the hang of tying, it really is easy. I found this video extremely helpful on learning to tie a roast.

You brown the steaks in the roasting pan on all sides before placing in the oven to finish cooking.

The tomatoes definitely benefit from an overnight stay in the refrigerator. We had leftovers the next day and they were so much better. The recipe has you serve the confit at room temperature; I liked them best heated in the microwave - a soft, warm burst of deliciousness. I may have to make more just so I can try it over pasta with fresh goat cheese as recommended in the book.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Ninety-Four: A Passion for Desserts

by Emily Luchetti

What do you think of when you hear parfait? Me, I envision a layered dessert (trifle like) in tall clear glasses, not a loaf shape that is sliced and placed on a plate with nothing other than a sauce drizzled over the top. 

This past Tuesday was my sister's birthday and originally I was going to make a fruitcake, yes fruitcake. We loved my grandmother's fruitcake that she made every Christmas (wish I had her recipe) and we had just been talking about it and decided that is what we would have - until the day before as I was making my grocery list and reading the recipe I found online - best if made at least two weeks ahead! Well that wasn't going to work. 

A frantic search for a new dessert led me to this delicious treat. This is why I love Emily Luchetti's recipes - always easy, elegant, and with wonderful flavor. The parfait is lemony, smooth, pillowy soft and light, and the sauces oh so tasty. I had added my own touch to this dessert - chopped crystallized ginger and fresh raspberries. The ginger was a bit overpowering - next time I would decorate the top with additional raspberries and no ginger. (EDIT: Eating the leftovers a whole week later, this was still delicious - sauces and all. Even the chopped candied ginger tasted really good this time around.)

This dessert is perfect for a beautiful spring day, unlike our first day of spring her in California where it is raining. This being so light and refreshing, we can imagine it's not.

Success meter (1-3): 3

It's important for you to get the plastic wrap as smooth as possible before filling the loaf pan. The creases will show up in the final product. This was my second time lining the pan. The first was almost perfect, then I noticed a tear in the bottom and had to start over and did not have the patience to get it as smooth as I would have liked.

I can always say I was going for the draped look.

These sauces were so good. I can see using them drizzled over vanilla ice cream, pancakes, crêpes or even on toast.

Happy Birthday Laura!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

WW: Stir-Fried Chicken with Carrots and Mushrooms

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young

 The BEST tool ever!! Thanks mom! I did not know the recipe called for three cups of julienned carrots till just before getting dinner started. I was reading a post on the WW Facebook page about the recipe and that is how I found out about the carrots and this awesome tool called a kinpira peeler that Grace recommended.  My mother had bought me and my siblings these garnishing kits a few years ago. Why she bought one for my brother I don't know - he does not cook. She had a shopping addiction (I say had, because she passed away two years ago) and would order all kinds of crap off of the TV. I can see it now: Order in the next hour and it's yours for only 19.99! and if you order in the next fifteen minutes we will throw in an extra one, absolutely free! Ha ha. This was a good buy mom, a good buy. :) I thought I would never use it and tossed it into a drawer (still in the box) and sworn I had recently donated it to Goodwill. Thank goodness it was still here. I was able to shred three cups of carrots in like thirty seconds! OK, maybe in forty-five. Definitely under a minute! Try doing that with a knife. In a pinch I would have used my food processor with the shredding disc - it would have made wider strands, but would be better than using a knife; which reminds me - they need sharpening.

My dried shiitakes soaking away. I placed a bowl on top to keep them submerged. The recipe called for whole mushrooms and to soak them for thirty minutes. My store only had pre-sliced and the instructions call for them to be soaked for ten minutes. They ended up soaking for thirty minutes and still some were quite tough and overly chewy. I guess I am not a fan of dried shiitakes. This happened the last time I used them as well.

 I really enjoyed the carrots in this stir-fry. Andy said he thought this would be good even without the chicken, for the mushrooms have such good flavor - if they were not so chewy. Maybe soak them even longer? I could use fresh, but then they would not have the intense flavor the dried do. Hmm...


Success meter (1-3): 2 - I rated this a two due to the chewy shiitakes.

You will not find the recipe here on my blog or within the Wok Wednesdays community. We encourage our readers to purchase this book at their local independent bookstore or on-line to support the publishing industry and to help keep books alive and thriving.

                                                         Yay! Paper is not dead!:

Make sure to visit my co-wokkers to see their results on this stir-fry.
Look for the LYL link on the Wok Wednesdays page.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TWD: Mocha Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Rick Katz


Well, after the croissants anything is easier and quicker! Though not as quick as I had thought - these needed a chill time of several hours to overnight - so the directions read. Not sure if they really do. That's OK. Whip the dough up in the morning and have fresh baked cookies in the evening for dessert. I can work with that.

These cookies have a surprise ingredient added: Dried apricots! I did half the dough with dried cherries on the suggestion of Sandra of Have Apron.... Will Bake from the TWD P&Q link. Sorry Laura. Laura is my sister; she is not a big fan of fruit (or nuts) in salads or savory dishes - something I always seem to incorporate when she comes to dinner on Tuesday nights - our puzzle night. With desserts she is normally OK with it. Not sure if she'll like the idea of them in these cookies though. I won't tell her till after she tries them.

I portioned the dough onto the cookie sheets and placed them in the refrigerator overnight for I wanted to wait for better lighting for taking pictures. When Andy, my husband saw them in the fridge he asked, what are those? Cookies, I replied. Do we get to have them? Tomorrow. Oh.

I let him in on a secret; I still had extra dough in the bowls and could cook up a few for tonight. I did not bother with doubling up the cookie sheets to prevent burning the bottoms of the cookies (as instructed) and the dough was only in the fridge for a couple of hours. These cooked up beautifully. No pics of course. Andy thought he detected a slight burnt taste, I did not; he also stated he prefers regular chocolate chip cookies to these.

The following day I pulled the preportioned dough from the refrigerator and doubled the cookie sheets as instructed; they did not bake up as plump as the first ones I made the previous evening. I'm thinking the extra insulation of the doubled cookie sheets allowed them to spread more, and resulting in a thinner cookie. Still, they were very good.

As for my sister - I offered her the plate of cookies and she went for the chocolate cherry one. I asked if she would like one of the others and she said "no, they have fruit in them - I can see it."

However, my sister knows me all too well. She looked at the plain looking cookie she chose and said "these have fruit in them too, don't they?" All I could do was grin. Well, she liked them! Another "Hey Mikey!' moment. She took three of each kind home with her.

As with all baked goods, these taste best the day they are made. However, two days later I am still enjoying them.

Success meter (1-3): 3

These are my all-time favorite chocolate chips. Until now, I could not say how they fared in baked goods, for they never made it farther than from my hand to my mouth; even with the new batch I bought; hence the added bar of Ghirardelli.

 Delicious cookie dough speckled with espresso powder.

 I soaked the dried cherries in orange juice to plump them up a bit.

We all know chocolate and cherry go together like blogs and comments. However I was pleasantly pleased more with the chocolate and apricot. The apricot lends a tartness to offset the sweetness of all that chocolate - a whole pound of chocolate.

Our lovely host for this week is Peggy of Galettista; she has the recipe if you would like to make these yourself. To see more you can check out the results from all our fabulous bakers over on the TWD site - just look for the Mocha Chocolate Chip LYL link.

Friday, March 15, 2013

TWD: Croissants

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Esther McManus


Finally!! These puppies were due two weeks ago. My tardiness was not due to lack of desire; I have always wanted to make croissants. The procrastination was born from finding three days in a row to commit to make these. There are several rising periods and resting times to deal with here.

There is a PBS video of Esther and Julia making these same croissants. Watching the video was extremely helpful, especially since this book is not real clear in the instructional department and I just love Esther's way of explaining as she bakes along: "To help the mixer, because I can see the mixer is struggling." "The dough is not the boss, YOU are the boss." and "Do not be afraid of the dough - the dough should be afraid of you."  Even if you don't plan on making your own croissants, it's fun to watch the video - Esther is a kick in the pants.

OK, take a deep breath and let's get started!

Day one you mix the dough, let rest for half an hour at room temperature, then chill for at least eight hours or overnight. You also prepare the butter (mixed with two tablespoons flour) and chill it along with the dough (separately).

Day two you incorporate the butter block, yes I said block, it is one pound of butter mixed with a bit of flour and formed into a huge block. Chill again for one to two hours - unless you're feeling courageous (this being my second attempt, I chose to chill it for a bout an hour and a half) and can work quickly before the butter softens too much; then you can go ahead and make the first "turn" of the dough (rolling and folding), after which it gets chilled again for at least two hours. Then comes turn number two of three, a repeat of the first turn, and another chill for two hours. For the final turn of the dough, it too will get chilled for two hours, then the dough is ready to be used for shaping your croissants.

Day three you get to form the croissants (the fun part!). Once formed you give them an egg wash, and guess what?!!! They get to rise (proof) at room temperature for another three to four hours!!* After that, give them one more egg wash and finally into the oven.

*I formed my croissants in the evening of day two and wrapped them in plastic wrap for a slow rise in the refrigerator as mentioned in this post (one of the benefits of getting a late start - you get to read the other baker's posts for tips and issues) to be baked the following morning. However mine did not rise at all in the refrigerator and still needed a three-hour proofing period at room temperature.

The proofing period would not have been a problem since I was planning on taking these out to the boys for their morning break at around ten O'clock anyway. However I awoke with a migraine and did not even get up till ten. It was well after two before I was ready to share these delights ~ so the lucky recipients were two of my neighbors, my sister, our daughter and her co-worker, whom she affectionately calls Boss Lady (she is her boss..).

I don't feel bad that the boys did not get to indulge in these; they received the Mocha Chocolate Chip cookies (next post) two days earlier. 

Consensus so far:

Ashley: My mom rocks
Boss Lady: AWESOME
Liz: WONDERFUL - even better than the ones in France :) 

Would I make these again? Yes. Probability of making these again ~ slim.

Success meter (1-3): 3

I chilled my counter by leaving pans filled with ice for about fifteen minutes.

Hard to find "fresh" yeast. To my surprise and after calling around to specialty stores I happened upon this at our local Nob Hill/Raley's market (at a ridiculous price). Several of the bakers from our group were able to get a whole pound from there local Bakery/Deli for the price I paid for one ounce!

If I were making a pie crust my dough would be any shape other than round!

The fillings: Chocolate, almond and for the plain, a piece of scrap dough to give the croissant its belly.

Can you say flag overkill? I can't believe I did not take any pictures without them!

If you are feeling adventurous and have three days to spare, and are thinking you would like to give making these a try, you will find the recipe and detailed photos of this crazy long process over on Amanda's beautiful blog, Girl+Food=Love; and for more beautiful photos, tip and tricks, check out the results of the many talented bakers in the group. Just look for the LYL: Croissants link on the Tuesdays with Dorie website.