Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Prosciutto, Melon, and Arugula Salad


When summer gives you melons, make a delicious summer salad!

In our household during the summer months we like to buy a variety of melons to cut up and have on-hand in the fridge for easy snacking. I came upon a photo of this salad on The Peasant & The Pear's Facebook page and just had to try and re-create it.

How does one go about re-creating something they have never had before? I could see from the photo they used a balsamic glaze to drizzle on the melon balls, but I was curious as to what the arugula was dressed with. I went to the restaurants website menu to read the description - not much help. Just listed what was easily seen in their photo. So I did a Google search for melon and prosciutto salad. As you can imagine there is an abundance of recipes for this type of salad.

I ended up going with my usual salad dressing I make (walnut oil, Cabernet vinegar, sweet-hot mustard, salt and pepper), subbing balsamic vinegar in place of the Cabernet vinegar to dress the arugula. I tossed the melon balls with a little olive oil and salt (as one of the many recipes I read, had done), and topped the salad with a few shavings of Parmesan. I then made a balsamic reduction to drizzle over the salad.

This turned out to be a very tasty!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book 102: Barefoot Contessa | Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust

by Ina Garten

I did it again. I purchased another cookbook (two actually - stay tuned for a post on an interesting flavored ice-cream), what can I say; I love cookbooks. After making this delicious recipe I had found on-line, which just so happens to be in this book as well, I had no choice but to order Ina's latest.

What is it with Ina. Her recipes are always so simple, yet taste so good. Good food does not have to be labor intensive. Just grab one of her books and find out for yourself.

I was having Greek salad for dinner and was wanting some bread to go along with it. I was looking for something quick (no yeast) when I came across these bread-type sticks, which turned out to be a perfect accompaniment and could not have been easier or quicker to make.

This recipe consists of only 6 ingredients: frozen puff pastry (which is always good to have on hand), Dijon mustard, egg, Gruyére cheese, Parmesan cheese, and flaked sea salt.

Once your puff pastry is thawed (it's best to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, though I placed mine in the refrigerator that morning and it was ready by dinner time), you roll it out, spread it with mustard, add cheese, fold, cut, give it an egg wash, sprinkle with more cheese and a sprinkle of salt - go easy here - I myself went a bit too heavy on the salt. (I am still new to using these finishing type salts.) Bake.

Viola! Deliciousness on the table.

Thanks, Ina.

Success meter (1-3): 3

Those lovely looking crostinis on the cover, is the delicious recipe I found on-line.

How simple is this?

I like to make a recipe as per the instructions first time around, as I did here. Personally, I am not fond of Dijon mustard, its OK. I still thought these were tasty, though next time I will omit the mustard and use cheese only, or sub in my favorite mustard, Inglehoffer Sweet Mustard. Go with what you like - you can't go wrong with puff pastry.

After rolling out your dough to an 11x13-inch rectangle, you are instructed to cover the lower half with the mustard, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Brush the border with the egg wash and fold the top half over the bottom half, lining up the edges...

..Wait! What about all this cheese - it cannot possibly all get sprinkled on top. Though this is how the recipe reads. I could not proceed this way. I had to put a little bit on the inside. Just a little.

After folding over and aligning the edges, you chill the dough for 15 minutes. During this time, I read, and re-read the recipe. I just could not imagine not using some of that cheese on the inside of the batons. The recipe does not state to do so. However, after like the third time reading the recipe, I actually read the blurb above the recipe, "The batons are filled with spicy mustard and sharp Gruyère ."

Someone goofed on the proofreading. No worries. I pulled my dough from the refrigerator and pulled it apart (hence the sad looking rectangle of dough below), and added more of the cheese. I am a much happier camper now. :)

After chilling, trim the irregular edges with a knife.

Cut the dough into approximately one-inch strips. You will have about 10 to 12 batons.

Don't throw those scraps away! Bake them up as well - they are just as delicious.

Cheesy goodness.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WW: Stir-Fried Cilantro Chili Noodles with Egg

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

Wow! What fabulous flavor! I can't stop thinking about this stir-fry.

I know there are people out there that will shy away from this dish for their dislike of cilantro. All I can say is, you may be sorry. Grace mentioned on FB (we are very fortunate that Grace herself is an active participant in Wok Wednesdays) that for those of you not wanting to use cilantro, you can sub in basil, parsley, or even dill, though she herself has never tried these herbs in this stir-fry.

Using those alternate herbs will definitely change the dynamics of this dish. I suggest making half the recipe using cilantro to see what you think, or make this for a pot-luck dinner or lunch, then you can have yourself just a taste - but once you do, you may want to grab the whole thing for yourself and run! It's that good - seriously.

For this recipe you start out by making an egg "pancake". It is just two eggs, beaten, then cooked just until the bottom starts to brown and the egg becomes set; flip it over to finish cooking, for about five more seconds. Transfer your pancake to a cutting board to cool. Once cooled it is sliced into thin strips.

While setting up your mise en place, soak your vermicelli rice noodles as instructed in the recipe. After soaking, you are to cut the noodles into 6- to 8-inch lengths using kitchen shears. I was lucky, the noodles that I purchased were already cut to size.

I was going to make only half the recipe to be served along side our salmon. In the end I decided to make the whole recipe and just send the leftovers into work with Andy for lunch.

I enjoyed this so much, I opted for seconds and left most of my salmon on my plate.

Success meter (1-3): 3

 Mise en place

Bowl 1: Beaten egg 
Bowl 2: Ginger, Anaheim pepper - sliced and minced (the picture showed them sliced, though the ingredient list called for them to be minced. I liked the look of the sliced, but wanted to have minced as well - to get a little spicy kick with every bite.)
Bowl 3: Broth - chicken or vegetable (I used vegetable, for I had an opened box in the fridge.)
Bowl 4: Soaked rice noodles
Bowl 5: Chopped cilantro, plus two stems for decoration
Bowl 6: Sugar, salt, and pepper
Bowl 7: Sesame oil

Just discovered my wok will double as a crepe pan!

After the egg has cooled, you slice it in quarter-inch strips. I also cut the longer strips in half - I don't think it was really necessary to do so.

When it comes to noodles, I find it easier to use tongs to mix everything together.

I am one who likes cilantro, and even I hesitated at adding the full amount (1 cup) at first; but I have learned to trust Grace's recipes - and it was perfect.

 Loved it.

My noodles appear thicker than the ones in the photo shown in the book. I used vermicelli rice noodles as called for, though I may have soaked them too long in fear they would not be al dente with the short cooking time (two minutes) in the wok, or maybe the size differs slightly from brand to brand.

The noodles had a slight gummy sticky texture, but my husband thought they were great. I didn't mind it so much, for this stir-fry was delicious. I do want to make this again, and not just because it's wonderful, but soaking the noodles as instructed¹ and not giving into my intuition to soak them longer, and see how they turn out.

One of the rules of the Wok Wednesdays group is we are asked not to post the recipes here on our blog. If you would like the recipe, you will find it on page 266 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, which you can purchase at your local bookstore or find it at your local library. I highly recommend purchasing the book - you won't be disappointed. 
Wok Wednesdays is an online cooking group. If you would like more information click here, or visit us on Facebook. Would love for you to join us!
 ¹Soak noodles in warm water to cover for 20 minutes or until they are soft and pliable.

After the initial 20 minute soak, my noodles were "somewhat" pliable, but not soft. I drained the water and added the hottest tap water and soaked for about another 5 minutes. Still feeling the noodles were on the firm side, I once again drained the water and added boiling water and soaked again for about another 5 minutes. They were closer to al dente, but the soaking water was milky. I am assuming this is starch leached out of the noodle - perhaps lending to the stickiness.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TWD: Summer Vegetable Tart

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan

Phyllo/fillo/filo, however you want to spell it, it translates to leaf in Greek. As you can see, it is tissue paper thin of unleavened flour dough that is stacked in several layers to get a crisp and flaky crust.

You often see it used in Middle Eastern dishes, such as spanakopita - those spinach filled triangles, baklava - the nut filled pastry covered in honey, and one of my favorite dishes, bastilla (spelled several different ways) - the chicken and almond dish covered in phyllo and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Using phyllo at home, I can take it or leave it - more likely to leave it. It is a pain to work with. You have to keep the sheets that you are not working with covered with a damp towel or they will dry out rather quickly and become unusable. And the sheets being tissue thin, they tear easily. You definitely need some patience to work with phyllo; and if you don't use it all, you can't refreeze it - it becomes brittle. So you have to use it up within two weeks time.

The filling for our tart is made from sautéed vegetables (onion, bell pepper, and mushroom), garlic, thyme, and goat cheese - my favorite! The recipe instructs you to gently stir in the cheese to the cooked filling to warm it up a bit, but not actually melt it. I opted to crumble the cheese over the phyllo before filling, and then again on top. I also added thyme, salt, and pepper to my cheese.

This tart has wonderful flavor, though next time I would opt for your typical tart/pie crust. I felt the phyllo was to light for the heaviness of the vegetables.

Success meter (1-3): 2.5

You start out by brushing clarified butter (I sprayed olive oil for this tart) on to the sheets and giving them a sprinkle of freshly ground pepper.

Here you can see just how thin the sheets of dough are. You continue the process of buttering and peppering your sheets one at a time until you have a total of eight layers.

All eight layers completed. Time to pre-bake the crust. This bakes for about ten minutes or until golden brown.

Fill with the sautéed vegetables and it's ready to serve. Personally, I don't find the crust visually appealing. It looks like parchment paper if you ask me.

Look at all those flaky layers.

I made a single serving as a trial run and found it awkward to handle the tart with the edges hanging so far over the pan. I also used butter (not clarified as the recipe instructs) this round to coat the sheets of phyllo. The butter version came out a bit more bronzed than the tart above sprayed with olive oil.

Anyone else's book falling apart from so much use?

Don't forget to browse the TWD LYL: Summer Vegetable Tart link, for other versions of this tart from all of the talented bakers in our group!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book 101: Desserts by the Yard

by Sherry Yard 

 Three simple ingredients: water, lemon, and sugar. Optional fourth ingredient: Grand Marnier.

So refreshing!

Success meter (1-3): 3

 May not look like much, but boy does it pack a punch!
Its tart, a close-one-eye, pucker, kind of tart!
For a less of a pucker punch - use Meyer lemons.

 Yep, it was a hot day - and this hit the spot.

I will definitely be making this again, too easy and fabulous not too! I'm thinking of using oranges for my next batch. I can almost taste it already.