Friday, February 26, 2010

Rustic Pizza Bianca

Ok I might have added the "rustic" bit - only because I needed some reason to make my misshapen pizza sound more legit. Therefore, it's not oddly shaped, it's...wait for it...rustic. I'm just not very good at getting the dough to make a perfect circle, what can I say? Oh well. Anyway, I made this yummy pizzeria-style pizza for dinner one night this week and it was simple, full of garlic flavor and hit the spot just right. The baking method outlined in this recipe really ensures a crisp crust without burning the fresh cheese topping. It has you preheat the pizza pan and then bake the crust first without the cheese and then add the cheese and place it back in the oven to melt the cheese. I found this genius because I have burnt fresh mozzarella on the top of a pizza many a time, trying to get the crust underneath crispier. I'll remember this method next time I'm using fresh mozzarella.
By the way, please excuse my awful photos. One of the bulbs for my lightbox lights has burnt out and it gets dark out way before we eat dinner in these parts so I'm left with poor lighting situations on a cold winter's night. Very annoying.
But back to the pizza! I found the recipe in an old (we're talking January 2009) issue of Gourmet Magazine. I have made white pizzas before from my own recipe, but I just thought I'd try theirs and see how it measured up. This white pizza gets it's flavor from a garlic and olive oil base that is topped with fresh mozzarella and chopped rosemary. It really thrives on the simple pairing of flavors.
I served it with a Caesar Salad recipe from Annie's Eats .
This was a creamy Caesar dressing, whereas I think I prefer the oil-based Caesars. I topped my salad with pecan-raisin bread croutons, which added a nice, sweet note to the savory dressing. I had this in a restaurant once and really liked the contrast of tastes. Overall, the dressing was pretty good, but I think in the future I'll stick with the traditional Caesar salad dressings without mayonnaise. I always seem to like them better.

Pizza Bianca
Gourmet Magazine

1 large garlic clove (I used 3)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (I might have used 2 tbsp)
1 lb store-bought pizza dough or make your own
1/2 lb cold fresh mozzarella
1 tbsp rosemary leaves (I used 2-3 tbsp)

Put a large heavy baking sheet on the lowest rack of oven then preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt and then stir together with the oil. Roll out dough onto a floured surface with a floured rolling pin. Transfer to a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly prick the dough all over with a fork. Stir garlic mixture and brush evenly over dough. Slide dough from parchment onto hot baking sheet. Bake until the top is puffed and pale golden in patches, 6 to 10 minutes. Prick any large bubbles with a form and flatten. Meanwhile, thinly slice mozzarella and pat dry. Remove crust from oven and arrange the mozzarella on it in 1 layer. Sprinkle the rosemary on the top. Bake until the edge of crust is deep golden and cheese is bubbling and golden in patches, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with crushed red pepper and grated Parmesan if desired.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Baked Shrimp Scampi

I absolutely loved this dish, chosen by Jill of Insanely Good Food! It was an easy and very tasty way to prepare shrimp scampi. Just throw all the ingredients together in one baking dish and bake! I couldn't eat shrimp scampi without the pasta though - and this recipe makes the perfect amount of buttery garlic sauce to pour over a bowl of pasta. I went one step further though and made homemade spaghetti noodles. What a labor of love! I think making homemade pasta is so much fun, but it's definitely a bit time consuming.
You have to let the pasta strings dry out a bit and I also found that you have to separate the strings as they come out of the machine, which was a bit of a pain. The reward is so worth the effort though. Tender, perfectly al dente pasta cooks up in half the time as the boxed variety. If you have a pasta machine or are thinking of getting one take my advice and do it. Fresh is best - I'm telling you, it will be hard to go back to boxed pasta after you spoil yourself with fresh!
I followed Ina's recipe for the shrimp exactly, except I did leave out the panko bread crumbs since I was tossing it with the pasta. I don't think they would have served their purpose the same way. I also added in a pint of roasted cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes made a nice bright addition to the pasta dish and added a tartness to the sauce. Go here to see what the other Barefoot Bloggers thought of this recipe. Enjoy!

Baked Shrimp Scampi
Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
•2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
•3 tablespoons good olive oil
•2 tablespoons dry white wine
•Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
•12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
•4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
•1/4 cup minced shallots
•3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
•1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
•1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
•1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
•2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
•1 extra-large egg yolk
•2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
•Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.

In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.

Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day - Andes Candies Cheesecake!!!

Oh yes. This is bad. Really bad. If you're like me you can eat a handful of Andes candies in a sitting and then justify by claiming you were trying to maintain fresh breath.
When I was in college, one of the local restaurants made an Andes candies chocolate mint pie. My roomates and I would go to the restaurant just for a thick slice of this pie with vanilla ice cream. I really wanted to make a version of that, but when I came across this Andes Candies Supreme Cheesecake my search came to an end. What could be better than creamy cheesecake ribboned with the flavors of chocolate and mint?? Classic yet creative! This cheesecake baked up beautifully. I used a water bath, even though the instructions didn't call for one. I am notorious for having cracks in my cheesecake - they still taste good but those cracks sure are disheartening. The last thing I wanted for Valentine's Day was a crack in my cheesecake!! Not good. So I labored with the foil to create a secure water bath and it was worth it.
Just wrap the bottom of your springform pan securely with about four pieces of foil - this will ensure that the water won't leak into your cheesecake. Then place your cheesecake in a larger pan. The only larger one I had was my roasting pan. And then fill up the pan with hot tap water until it reaches up about 1/3 of your cheesecake pan. Then bake. When removing it from the oven, you may want to remove your cheesecake from the water bath while in the oven so you don't splash or slosh hot water on yourself or on your cheesecake. Then remove the pan with the water after it has cooled.

The finale to this cheesecake is topping it off with a creamy chocolate mint sauce - made from, you guessed it, Andes Candies! Then you can decorate the top as you see fit with extra candies.
My Valentine will certainly enjoy this cheesecake. Thank the LORD that Lent follows Valentine's day! I will need some motivation to give up chocolate - and even more motivation to finish this cheesecake all up by Wednesday. Happy Valentine's Day!! I hope you're spending it with loved ones and celebrating the true reason for this holiday, true love, romantic or otherwise, commitment and a reminder of our daily blessings. Enjoy!

Andes Candies Supreme Cheesecake, Andes Candies section
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
4 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 package (4.67 oz.) Andes® Crème de Menthe Thins chopped (28 candies) or 1 cup Andes® Crème de Menthe Baking Chips
Andes® Crème de Menthe Thins (28 candies)
3 tablespoons whipping cream or milk
Preheat oven to 325° F.

Crust: Mix crumbs and 3 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl. Add butter; mix well. Press onto bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325° F, 10 minutes.

Filling: Beat cream cheese and 1 cup sugar in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; mix on low speed just until well blended. Stir in 1 cup Andes Baking Chips or 1 package of chopped Andes Candies (28 pieces); pour into crust.

Bake at 325° F, 1 hour and 5 minutes or until center is almost set. Run knife between rim of pan and cheesecake. Cool to room temperature.

Topping: 4 Set aside 10-12 candy pieces, for decorating top of cake. Place remaining Andes Candies and whipping cream in microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high 45 seconds. Stir until candies are melted and mixture is smooth. Pour over cheesecake, spreading to cover surface and drizzle down sides of cheesecake. Decorate with reserved Andes Candies.

Set: 5 Refrigerate cheesecake 3 hours or until serving time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Prosciutto and Walnut-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Roasted Red Pepper and Champagne Cream

We had an unexpectedly heavy snow storm one Saturday about two weeks ago - which is becoming a usual weekend happening in these parts lately - and fortunately I had gone to the store earlier that day with preparing this dish in mind. I had a whole weekend to cook, after many nights of take-out and spontaneous cracker and cheese dinners. We had spent countless evenings working on the beautiful mural below so it left little time for cooking and dinner preparation. So once the mural was done, I set out to the grocery store with a list a mile long and several meals in mind for the upcoming weekend days and nights. I found this fancy-sounding meal in one of my favorite cookbooks and it sounded easy enough to pare down for two people, yet challenging enough that I wouldn't be bored making it.
I did have one slight problem with this recipe and it revolved around the cream sauce. Every time (and yes I did it twice and threw it out twice before I switched methods) I added the cream to the champagne it curdled up. My cream was fresh so I knew it wasn't because it had spoiled. I think it was just the heat or the alcohol. Either way, I decided to go ahead and reduce the champagne, but I added the cream to the blender with the peppers and other ingredients and then added it to the champagne. No curdling! So once success was finally achieved, I moved on and served up this delicious chicken over top of some simple roasted asparagus. This meal was fancy enough for a our date night in or to serve to company. Or maybe you could make it for that special holiday coming up? You know the one - it's pink, red and covered in chocolate! Either way, it's worth all the work and many steps to make this yummy meal. Enjoy!

Prosciutto and Walnut-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Roasted Red Pepper and Champagne Cream

The Wine Lover Cooks With Wine, by Sid Goldstein
For The Chicken
3 tbs olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups grated monterey jack cheese
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tbs minced fresh sage
1 tb minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
8 chicken breasts
8 thin slices of prosciutto

For the Cream Sauce
1 tsp olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
1 tb minced shallots
2 cups champagne or other sparkling wine
3 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
2 large red bell peppers roasted (or an 8 oz jar of roasted red peppers)
2 roasted garlic bulbs
2 shallots, roasted and peeled
1 tb balsamic or red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

In a medium saute pan or skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the cheese, walnuts, sage, chives, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Place each chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet until evenly 1/4 in thick. Remove from the plastic wrap and lay each piece of chicken on a cutting board. Cover each chicken breast with 1 slice of prosciutto. Divide the onion mixture evenly over the prosciutto. Roll up each chicken breast jelly-roll style, securing it with toothpicks, and season with salt and pepper.

To make the cream: In a medium saucepan, heat the 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the champagne and cook to reduce to 1/4 cup. Add the cream or half and half and cook to reduce to about 1 cup. Strain and set aside.

In a blender of food processor, combine the roasted bell peppers, roasted garlic, roasted shallots and vinegar. Puree until smooth. With the machine running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 400. In a large ovenproof saute pan or skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Saute the chicken in batches if necessary, until golden brown on all sides. Remove the toothpicks. Transfer to the oven and bake until opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, sliced the chicken roll and top with the champagne cream sauce.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

We interrupt this food blog...

To bring you a Baby Break update!! We finally finished the nursery room mural and painting. We chose a Peter Rabbit theme for the room with a bedding set from Pottery Barn. Then I had my husband, who is a very good artist (not professional, just for fun) draw a scene from the Peter Rabbit books and we went from there. He projected it onto the wall and then we traced it in black paint. Then my mom and myself painted it in - my mom did all the hard detail work. She did an awesome job!! I can't wait for our beautiful baby girl to see it. Even though she'll probably be at least two before she really notices it, but no problem. Meanwhile, we're sure enjoying looking at it and imagining our baby enjoying the room.

And some close-ups of the amazing detail my mom did!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mississippi Mud Pie

Before we get into the chocolate decadence of this dessert, I have to say
that the name of this pie brings back childhood memories of learning how to spell Mississippi. I don't think I'll ever misspell that state name! Do you remember the sing-songy way we were taught how to spell it? M-i-ss-I(more emphasis)-s-s-I(more emphasis again)-p-p-i. Oh well I digress. Back to the make-up of this dark, muddy pie.
This long-standing dessert was conceived in the South and is supposed to mirror the muddy waters of the Mississippi Delta. I found this pie in my Newlyweds' Cookbook by Ryland, Peters and Small. I received this beautifully photographed book as a wedding present and have referred to it several times for party and entertaining ideas. This pie was surprisingly easy to make - and easy to make subsitutions for things I lacked in my pantry.
For example, I had to substitute about a cup of panko bread crumbs to make up for my lack of sufficient graham cracker crumbs. I also had to use semi-sweet chocolate rather than bittersweet - because again, it's all I had on hand and I was trying to get rid of some pantry items. Finally, I had to use all light brown sugar as I don't keep dark brown sugar on hand. I also threw in about a cup of shredded sweetened coconut that had to be used up as well. My substitutions and additions blended in beautifully and didn't alter the tastiness of this pie at all. So if you're looking for a fancy, rich and chocolatey dessert this Mississippi Mud Pie is sure to do the trick. Enjoy!

Mississippi Mud Pie

The Newlyweds' Cookbook

Cookie crumb base

8 oz graham crackers crushed to make about 2 2/3 cups crumbs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Chocolate filling

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 3/4 cups heavy cream

Grease a 9-in springform pan and set aside.

To make the base, put the crackers in a food processor and blend until fine crumbs form. Alternatively, put the crackers in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Transfer the crumbs to a mixing bowl.

Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of steaming, but not boiling water and melt gently (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Remove from the heat, stir gently, then stir into the cracker crumbs. When well mixed, transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and using the back of a spoon, press onto the base and about halfway up the sides of the pan. Chill in the refrigerator while making the filling.

To make the filling, put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of steaming but not boiling water and melt gently (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Remove from the heat and stir gently, then let cool.

Put the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using electric beaters or mixer, beat until thick and foamy. Beat in the cream followed by the melted chocolate. Pour the mixture into the cookie crust and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until just firm. Let cool for a few minutes and then remove from the pan. Serve the pie at room temperature. The pie can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept, well covered, in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Well it was another cold, snowy weekend here in Maryland. Anyone seeing a trend here?? I'm quite sick of these snowed-in weekends. I can't wait for Spring! It feels so far away. One good thing about these snowy weekends is the opportunity to cook up a storm for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I can sneak in a few pancake mornings while winter is still in its height, as I have my big bulky coat to hide those extra winter pounds. So as part of making the best of this weather, I searched through my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch cookbook for some inspiration. These Lemon Ricotta Pancakes were instantly calling my name.
What really caught my eye is that they use beaten egg whites to help keep the batter light and fluffy. These pancakes cook up so well - they rise beautifully, taste sweet and moist and leave you with a good solid start for the day. If you have extra time this weekend, use it to make some homemade ricotta pancakes. Top them with fresh fruit, butter and syrup and enjoy! You can always work them off once Spring gets here...

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, separated
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (or the juice of half a lemon which is what I used because we don't do zest in my house)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolks, sugar, ricotta and lemon juice or zest, whichever you're using. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just blended. There will be some small lumps.

In a separate bowl, using a mixer on medium speed or a whisk, beat the whites until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the beaten egg whites into the ricotta mixture just until blended.

Place a large griddle or fry pan with low sides over medium heat until hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle and then evaporate. Brush with a 1/2 teaspoon melted butter. For each pancake, ladle about 1/4 cup batter onto the hot surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until small bubbles appear, the edges start to look dry and the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Carefully turn the pancakes and cook until lightly browned on the second side, about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Repeat with the remaining batter and butter to make about 16 pancakes, each about 4 in in diameter. Serve accompanied by butter, syrup and any sliced fruit you desire.