Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bananas Foster French Toast

Are you drooling?? Because I was when I first read that. I saw this sinfully rich recipe in the latest Williams-Sonoma catalog and I just couldn't resist. Ever since I was maybe 10-years-old and my parents took me to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for dinner, I've been obsessed with Bananas Foster . They used to prepare it tableside for a dessert. A tuxedo-outfitted waiter would wheel over a little cart with a hot plate and skillet on it. He'd have a bowl of ripe bananas, a bottle of rum, a dish full of brown sugar and another dish full of soft butter. The flame would click on and the show would begin. He'd start by slicing up the bananas and melting the butter in the pan. Then he'd toss the bananas with the butter and then sprinkle in the brown sugar. Finally, the grand finale - the rum would go in and he'd light it on fire. You could feel the heat and smell the strong liquor burning off. The whole skillet would be a blaze for about 20 to 30 seconds until the alcohol had burned off and all that was left was sticky, buttery, banana goodness. Then this warm mixture would be spooned over cold vanilla ice cream and served in a pretty silver dish. Heaven! For a while the restaurant stopped serving tableside Bananas Foster, and I never really understood why. I believe they have finally brought it back, and of course I can make the dish whenever I want since the technique is so easy. And you really don't need to light it on fire, that's just part of the show.
Considering my love for Bananas Foster, it's a wonder I didn't think of doing something like this on my own! I think the only thing this recipe is missing is a scoop of cold, creamy vanilla ice cream. Not exactly a healthy breakfast, but everyone is owed a sugary carb overload every now and then. And most importantly, they are baby approved.

Bananas Foster French Toast
Williams-Sonoma Catalog
4 eggs
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
6 Tbs. firmly packed dark brown sugar
Kosher salt, to taste
4 day-old slices brioche or other egg bread, each 1 inch thick
6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
4 bananas, cut on the bias into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3 Tbs. water
Preheat an oven to 200ºF.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cinnamon, milk, 1 Tbs. of the brown sugar and a pinch of salt until well combined. Pour half of the egg mixture into a deep pie dish. Soak 1 bread slice, turning once, for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining bread and egg mixture. Gently pour any remaining egg mixture over the bread until absorbed.

In an 11-inch French skillet over medium heat, melt 1 1/2 Tbs. of the butter. Add 2 bread slices and cook, turning once, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire cooling rack set over a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat with 1 1/2 Tbs. of the butter and the remaining bread.

In a 9-inch French skillet over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 3 Tbs. butter. Add the bananas and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully pour in the rum, then add the remaining 5 Tbs. brown sugar, the vanilla bean paste, water and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat the bananas evenly. Simmer until the bananas are soft and the sauce is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the French toast to individual plates and top with the bananas. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Herb Pesto Scallop Kabobs with Fontina Black Pepper Risotto

This was one of my "last suppers", I guess you could say. I made this dinner for my family the Sunday before our little baby made her arrival into this world. It was a pretty decent day outside so perfect for a grilled feast, which is what we had. I didn't really follow a recipe for the kabobs.
We simply skewered up some fat, juicy scallops alongside pieces of onion, eggplant, red pepper and baby bella mushroom caps. I drizzled them with olive oil and grilled them until done. Meanwhile, I concocted an herb pesto of Italian parsley, fresh basil, garlic, olive oil and Romano cheese. I left out the pine nuts because my mom is not a big fan of those. And I have to say, without the pine nuts it makes a very light tasting, very fresh pesto sauce. Once the kabobs were done I de-skewered them (is that even a word?) and then tossed them with the pesto.


It was so light and delicious! I thought for sure there would be a ton of leftovers only because I bought way too many ingredients, but we ate almost all of the scallops and veggies up! Healthy and yummy.

And because we were being so good with the main course, I had to create a decadent side dish to go with the grilled abbondanza. I followed a basic risotto recipe, which I now know by heart, and just added about two cups of grated Fontina cheese and tons of freshly ground black pepper at the end. Once you stir in the cheese you get a smooth and creamy cheesy rice dish that is to die for. We literally scrapped the serving bowl clean on this one. Here's the recipe if you're interested in eating way too much of a good thing. Enjoy!

Fontina and Black Pepper Risotto

2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1/2 of a vidalia onion (it calls for the whole thing but I don't like that much onion)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of Arborio rice
1 cup of dry white wine
4-6 cups of chicken stock or water
2 cups grated Fontina cheese
salt and pepper (freshly ground)

Finely chop your onion and garlic. Over medium heat, heat the olive oil along with your butter in a risotto pan or large heavy bottom saute pan. Add your onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Then add your arborio rice and toss often, allowing the rice kernels to toast up a bit, about 7 to 10 minutes. This helps them absorb the liquid more efficiently.
Then add your cup of wine and stir until the liquid is nearly completely absorbed. In a saucepan, heat your 4 cups of chicken stock over low heat. Once warm, add it to your risotto one cup at a time, stirring occasionally so your rice doesn't stick or burn. If the liquid is evaporating too quickly in your risotto pan, turn your heat down to medium low. You'll have to find the perfect temp on your range.
Once all the liquid has been absorbed and your rice is cooked to al dente, remove the pan from the stove. This could take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes depending on your stove and temperature and how often you've been stirring.
Off the heat, stir in your grated Fontina until melted. Finally, season liberally with freshly ground pepper. Serve hot!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Welcome our Little Chef!!

Introducing Gabriella Rose! She was born May 15 at 1:05 p.m. weighing 6 pounds, 13 oz. and 20.5 inches long! We couldn't believe how tiny she was. She's perfect in every way and she already has a great appetite. Can't wait to share my love of all things food with our beautiful daughter. I may be out of commission for a while, but look forward to getting back in the swing of things with our new addition.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

White Bean and Pancetta Bruschetta

This little starter really exemplifies how simple, fresh and delicious Italian food can be. I've been making these as an appetizer for family gatherings for a while. They are easy to prepare, healthy and just downright delicious.
Basically, you grill fresh French bread and top with a warm bean and bacon mixture that has been flavored with garlic and rosemary. It doesn't get much better than that! There is an alternative way to make the bread portion that isn't as healthy - and I do opt for it when I have the time and don't mind making a mess. You can fry the slices of French bread in a shallow pan filled with olive oil and crushed whole cloves of garlic. The fried bread is...well, as you can imagine, really delicious. But it's greasier, heavier and messier than simple grilling the bread over hot coals. So in the summer I opt for grilling the bread. Try it both ways and see which you prefer! Enjoy!

White Bean and Pancetta Bruschetta

1 can of white cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 6 oz package of pancetta (usually sliced thin)
3 cloves garlic (You can use less if you aren't a big garlic fan), chopped
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
grated Romano cheese for topping toasts.
1 French baguette, sliced

In a skillet, brown your pancetta. Once crispy remove from the pan and set aside. To the skillet, add in the garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil and cook until the garlic is tender. Once tender, add the rosemary and cannelini beans along with the crispy pancetta. Cook until the beans are well coated and the rosemary has softened up a bit (about 3 minutes). Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, preheat a grill or a grill pan. Coat your baguette slices on both side with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on the grill and watch carefully as they toast up. Flip after about a minute to two minutes on each side. Bread will be slightly charred with grill marks. Remove from grill and top each slice with your bean mixture. Drizzle the toasts with the additional tablespoon of olive oil (or more if needed) and then top each toast with grated Romano cheese. Serve warm.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day: Fresh Strawberry Crumb Pie

So Mother's Day has come and gone and...yup I'm STILL pregnant! It's getting a little frustrating at this point since it doesn't look like I'm going to be giving birth anytime around my due date - unless things start progressing quickly (which I've told could happen). But I've been told that more often than not, first babies like to come late. That's OK I guess. More time to prepare right?? And more time to cook! Either way, I did enjoy psuedo-celebrating my first "unofficial" Mother's Day.
I bought a beautiful box of strawberries from Trader Joe's last week and decided to make a strawberry pie with my loot. It helps that both my mom and I love strawberries! I haven't ever made a strawberry pie before, but knew that I wanted to make one where the berries have been cooked, versus one that just features the whole berries in a cooked pie shell. While those are prettier, I am not a fan of that jelly type stuff that you have to coat the strawberries with.
I found this recipe online from Emeril Lagasse and it sounded right up my alley. It's basically a traditional fruit pie with a crumb topping. It made for a delicious end to a very wonderful Mother's Day! And hopefully I'll be a mother in the full sense of the word very, very soon! Enjoy!

Strawberry Crumb Pie

Pie Crust:
1 stick butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt

For the crumb topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the filling:
6 cups (2 pounds) quartered strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest

In the bowl of a food processor combine butter and cream cheese and process until smooth. Add flour and salt and process just until mixture comes together to form a ball. Remove dough from the processor and shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

While the pie crust is chilling, prepare the crumb topping. Combine the 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, and the oatmeal in a small bowl and toss to combine. Add the melted butter and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Working on a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough out to a thickness of 1/8-inch and fit it into a 9 or 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Return pie crust to the refrigerator for 20 minutes, then blind bake until lightly golden, about 18 minutes. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool while you assemble the strawberry filling. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl combine the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch and toss to combine. Spoon the strawberry filling into the prepared piecrust and spread the crumb topping evenly over the top of the filling. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour, or until filling is bubbly and crust and crumb topping are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature before serving.