Saturday, June 26, 2010

Classics with a Twist Part 3: Brownie-Caramel Sundaes

Though probably apparent by now, I am addicted to baking. For one dinner party, I baked bread, the dip, the lasagna tart, and of course I had to bake dessert to complete the meal :) I wouldn't dream of sending my guests away without serving a proper dessert! I love baking anything, but I have a particularly strong predilection for baking sweets. Though I do prepare quite a few non-baked desserts, I thoroughly enjoy the process of baking desserts just as much as I do eating them :) And, not to boast, but my friends especially enjoy my baked goods.
When it comes to classic American desserts, brownies win hands down. Though brownies exist in both cake-like and fudge-like forms, I only care for fudgy brownies. Oh so rich, dense and chocolatey, what's not to enjoy about this all-time fudgy favorite? I hadn't baked brownies in quite a while, and I was craving them when it came time for C.'s wlecome back dinner. So I thought the dinner party provided the perfect excuse to whip up a batch of these incredibly rich, luscious brownies, adapted from Ina Garten's recipe for Outrageous Brownies, and that it would also prevent A. and I from eating the whole pan by ourselves (which, I must say, happens quite often :) Of course, since I had selected classics with a twist as the theme for the get-together, plain brownies simply wouldn't do. Serving brownies with vanilla ice cream has become quite the fad as of late, so I decided to spruce up this combination with a simple caramel sauce to create these incredible brownie sundaes. Wow, this was one heavenly dessert. Simple, but astonishngly elegant and exquisite. Of course, you can serve the brownies by themselves, and they will still taste world class. In any case, I will bake these brownies over and over because I just can't get enough of them :) And I guarantee, you will too!
Brownies: (Adpated from Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies)
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 pound(1 and 1/3 cups) plus 6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
3 ounces(1/2 cup) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 extra-large eggs(I used 4 large eggs)
1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1.5 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 cup chopped walnuts

Caramel Sauce, recipe below
Good quality vanilla ice cream, enough for each sundae to have a small scoop

For the brownies:
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" baking pan.
Melt together butter, 8 ounces of chocolate chips and unsweetend chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl, at 50% power, in 30-second intervals until completely melted. Stir in-between intervals. Let it cool slightly.
Stir together eggs, coffee powder, vanilla extract and sugar in a large bowl. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Fold this into the cooled chocolate mixture gently, until completely mixed in and no lumps of flour remain.
Toss the walnuts and remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips together with 2 tablespoons of flour in another bowl. Fold these into the brownie batter. Pour the brownie batter into the baking pan.
Place pan into preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the brownies have slightly pulled away from the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few dry crumbs, but no liquid. Do not overbake! Mine were done in 25 minutes. After 15 minutes of baking time, rap the pan against the oven shelf to release the air from between the pan and the brownie dough. Let the brownies cool thoroughly, and refrigerate them overnight.

Caramel Sauce: (Recipe from Simply Recipes)
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup water

Have all ingredients ready to use. Heat sugar and water on medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2 quart or larger saucepan. Begin to stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or whisk as soon as the sugar starts to melt. Stop stirring when the sugar begins to boil. You can swirl the pan a little, though.
As soon as the sugar is completely melted and is a dark amber color, add the butter and whisk until it melts. Take the pan off the heat, count to 3, and slowly pour in the cream, continuously whisking. The mixture will foam up considerably when you add the cream, so be careful. Whisk until the sauce is smooth. Let the sauce cool for a couple of minutes, and then transfer it to a glass jar. Let it cool to room temperature. You can refrigerate the sauce for up to 2 weeks.
(See the post on Simply Recipes for pictures.)

When ready to serve sundaes, cut the brownies into small to moderate-sized pieces. They are rich, so do not cut them too large. I got about 20 medium-sized brownies total. Warm enough caramel sauce for serving. Top each brownie with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, and drizzle the ice cream and brownie with caramel sauce. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Classics with a Twist. Part 2: Spinach Lasagna Tart

While contemplating classics for my main course at C.'s dinner party, lasagna instantly popped into my mind. What main dish could be more classic and more comforting than a hearty, cheesy lasagna? The inspiration for putting a twist on this all-time favorite came from this recipe from Michelle at Brown Eyed Baker for a Lasagna Tart, which in turn had come from Heidi of 101 Cookbooks. A lasagna tart simply entails lasagna filling baked in a tart shell rather than in-between layers of pasta. How creative is that? Such an innovative twist that will provide that oh-so warm and comforting feeling that one gets after savoring one's favorite foods without being repetitive.
Needless to say, this dish was an absolute stunner. I especially loved the fresh flavor from the pesto. The crust was extremely tasty with the addition of basil. I plan to try the crust with part whole wheat flour next time to make it a little healthier; plus, I think the nutty flavor will add a nice touch. I am also going to experiment with various fillings; the possibilities are endless :)

Spinach Lasagna Tart:(Crust recipe from Brown Eyed Baker)
For Spinach Mixture:
1 16 oz. bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove some of the water
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.
For the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (8 tbsp. cold butter), cubed and chilled (I stuck it in the freezer for about 30 minutes)
1 tsp. dired basil leaves
1 clove garlic
2 cups parmesean cheese, grated
1 tsp. salt
2-3 tbsp. ice water
Pesto Sauce:
2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup parmesean cheese, shredded
Bechamel Sauce:
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
sliced fresh mozzarella cheese to cover the top, about 3/4 cup total
Preheat oven to 350F. For the crust, pulse garlic and basil in the food processor until the garlic is finely chopped. Add the parmesean cheese, and pulse to combine. Add the flour, salt, and butter, and quickly pulse the mixture about 25 times. Add the ice water in a few, quick extra pulses. Pinch the mixture together between two fingers to make sure it sticks together to form a dough.Transfer the dough to a 9.5" tart pan with a removable bottom, and press it across the pan and up the sides evenly with your hands. Let the crust chill for at least 15 minutes in the refrigerator(I actually left it overnight).
When you want to prepare the actual tart, take the crust out of the refrigerator and prick it with a fork a few times around. Cover the shell with parchment paper, and fill it with pie weights. Place it on a baking sheet, and put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, and then remove the pie weights and parchment paper. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Remove, and let the shell cool to room temperature.
In the meantime, prepare the spinach mixture. Heat olive oil in a skillet, lower heat to medium-low, and add the chopped garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until it just begins to brown. Add the oregano, and cook for 1 minute. Then, add the chopped spinach, and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add salt and pepper, and cook for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat.
For the bechamel, melt butter over low heat in a pot. Do not let it brown. Add the flour, and cook over medium-low heat for about 4-5 minutes, until the roux turns a light golden brown and the rawness of the flour is cooked out. Gradually add in the milk, whisking after each addition. Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously, until the sauce begins to simmer. Do not let it boil. At this point, add the thyme, salt, pepper and nutmeg, and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
For the pesto, combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor. Turn on the processor, and drizzle in the olive oil gradually until the pesto is ready.
To assemble the tart, first season the ricotta with a little salt and a dash of pepper. Spead this ricotta evenly on the bottom of the tart shell. Then, spread the pesto over the ricotta layer.
Then, spread the spinach saute evenly over the pesto layer.
Spread the bechamel evenly over the spinach layer. Top with the fresh mozzarella slices, spreading evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes. The mozzarella will be melted and bubbling. Remove from the oven, and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Slice and serve hot.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Classics with a Twist, Part 1: Hot Feta-Artichoke Dip with Roasted Red Peppers

My very good friend C. had come back into town after spending a semester abroad, and I had promised her the most scrumptious feast possible to celebrate her return :) I wanted to serve food that I knew everyone would enjoy, but I also wanted to prepare rather out-of-the-ordinary dishes. So after much deliberation, I settled upon the idea of classics with a twist. For our first course, I prepared this delectable hot feta and artichoke dip, a twist on the classic spinach-artichoke dip, along with the no-knead bread. As should be clear from the name, this dip was simply delightful, yet I prepared it in a breeze. I adapted this recipe from, which involved just mixing together the various components and baking them. I did add a couple of extra ingredients for flavor. Also, while the original recipe called for using entirely mayonnaise, I used half mayonnaise and half sour cream both to suit my tastes and to achieve a better consistency. I also used half mozzarella and half feta instead of all feta, because that's what I had on hand. These simple changes led to a starter course that had everyone raving. In fact, we all filled up on this course itself before I even served the second course, which will be the topic of my next post. So, stay tuned!

Hot Feta-Artichoke Dip:
1/2 cup cour cream(I used low-fat)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup shredded parmesean cheese
2 medium or 3 small roasted red peppers, chopped and seeded
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt (use sparingly because feta cheese is quite salty)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix all the ingredients together in a shallow baking dish. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, or until the dip is bubbling hot. Serve with a good bread.

This dip is pure, cheesy goodness:) . It easily serves 7-8 people, so if you have leftover dip, it also tastes excellent with pasta or as a sandwich spread. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gobhi-Paneer Curry

I first tasted this combination several years ago at the house of a family friend. It was love at first sight-a marriage between two of my favorite foods, cauliflower and paneer. I kept pressing my mom for years to get the recipe from her friend because I loved this curry so much. However, when that didn't happen, I finally decided that it would be fun trying to recreate this flavorful dish on my own, which is exactly what I did. It turned out so tasty; I especially love the touch fennel seeds lend to this curry. It was even a hit with guests from India. I will certainly be making this dish again and again.

Gobhi-Paneer Curry:
1/2 of a large onion, sliced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1/4 tsp. fenugreek (methi) seeds
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups paneer
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 heaping tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. coriander powder
1 bay leaf
cayenne pepper to taste
1 large tsp. salt, or to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet. When it is hot, add the fennel and fenugreek seeds. Let the fennel seeds just begin to brown, and then add the chopped onion. Cook on medium heat until transluscent. Add the cumin powder, coriander powder, garam masala, cayenne, bay leaf and salt, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets, and cover and cook on medium-low until the cauliflower is tender but still has a bite to it, about 10-12 minutes. Mix in the paneer cubes and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Discard the bay leaf, and turn off the heat. Serve with rotis or parathas. I served them with spinach parathas, for which I will post the recipe soon!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom, Part 2: Batata Vadas a.k.a. Aloo Bondas

Even though I baked my mom a birthday cake from scratch, I wanted to cook a nice dinner for her to go along with it as well. Any meal one prepares in honor of my mom must include the infamous batata vadas, her all time favorite. After just one bite, you'll see why she relishes these deep-fried delights so much. Batata vadas are the one food she absolutely cannot resist. Actually, some of the most prominent memories from my childhood trips to India surround my mom and batata vadas. It's quite funny actually how much she looks forward to eating this delicacy whenever we visit. Anytime we take a road trip in India, we undoubtedly make a stop along the way just to eat batata wadas. Indeed, the roadside wadas in India are truly one-of-a-kind. I tried hard with this recipe to produce batata wadas as comparable in quality as possible to those of the Indian roadsides, and I must say, the result was more than satisfactory :)

Batata Wadas:
For the potato filling:
3 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and cubed
1/2 of a large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic
small piece of ginger
3 green chilli peppers
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. hing(asafoetida)
2 tbsp. roasted peanut powder
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 sprig of curry leaves
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
2 tbsp. oil

For the batter:
1/2 cup besan(chickpea flour)
1/4 tsp. hing
1/2 tsp. salt
water to make a thick batter(about 1/4 cup, or more as needed)
1 tbsp. hot oil

For the filling:
Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add mustard seeds, and when they begin to splatter, lower the heat and add cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds begin to brown, add the hing. Then, add the chopped onion, and saute over medium heat until transluscent and slightly tender. Make a paste with the ginger, garlic and green chilli peppers, and add it to the onion. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the curry leaves, and cook for one minute. Afterwards, mix in the peanut powder, shredded coconut and salt, and let the mixture cook for one more minute. Turn off the heat.

For the batter and vadas:
Heat oil in a frying vessel. When the oil is hot, mix all ingredients (including one tbsp. of the hot frying oil) together to form a thick batter that will thickly coat the vadas. Make about 10 balls out of the potato filling. Dip each vada, one at a time, in the batter, and, making sure each vada is thoroughly coated, gently drop the vadas, one at a time, into the hot oil. Fry over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side, flipping in-between. Fry about 3 at a time, depending on the size of your frying vessel. Do not overcrowd the vessel.

Enjoy the vadas hot with tamarind chutney, chilli-garlic sauce, ketchup or even plain :)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Almost Vegan Waffles

Despite my love for waffles, it had been months since I last enjoyed them, owing to a combination of my refusal to eat the boxed variety and my laziness when it came to making them from scratch. Simple but delectable-crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, drizzled with maple syrup and topped with pat of butter-how can anyone not like them?. Although I grew up eating Eggo waffles out of the box, I have begun to shun most prepackaged and frozen food products. Even though I liked Eggo waffles, they just don't stand a chance against fresh, homemade waffles right off the iron. I had had a waffle iron sitting around unused for months, meaning to use it, but, as with many other things, I just never got around to it. But yesterday, my desire for waffles reached an all-time high, and I simply could not do without them any longer. Thus, I adapted this recipe for waffles at King Arthur which had good reviews. Indeed, they made a true treat-crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, just as waffles should be. I made a few changes to the recipe, though. It called for an egg, but since my dad prefers to avoid eggs, I substituted 1/4 cup of whipped tofu. I also added vanilla extract for flavor and baking soda to make the waffles fluffy. Finally, I substituted almond milk for the regular milk. I actually make this substitution quite frequently in sweets with great results. I just love the sweet, nutty flavor of almond milk. As a result of these changes, these waffles are nearly vegan, except for the ghee. However, if you wanted to make them totally vegan, you can certainly use oil.

Almost Vegan Waffles:
1.5 cups flour(I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat berries and ground my own flour)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup whipped tofu(use some of the above almond milk to whip it)
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup melted ghee
Whisk flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together.

In another bowl, whisk together almond milk, whipped tofu and ghee.

Mix the wet and dry ingredients together, and stir until just combined.

Cook in a waffle iron as directed by the manufacturer. (Make sure to grease the iron before baking each batch of waffles!)
I savored these delicious waffled with just a dab of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, which is all they really need, but of course you can get creative with the toppings! :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom: White Chocolate-Strawberry Cake

Anytime one of my friends or family members has a birthday coming up, I literally spend weeks agonizing over the endless possibilites of cakes I can bake for them. My mom's birthday last week was certainly no exception. Actually, I have been thinking about her cake since January, when the last birthday in our family was :) She adores any baked good with white chocolate, particularly white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies. So initially, I thought I would bake a white chocolate-madacamia nut cake for her. However, macadamia nuts were difficult to come by, so then I thought about a white chocolate-coconut cake. My mom and I both love coconut, and it tastes absolutely divine with white chocolate(or even regular chocolate for that matter). However, certain members of our family do not share our fondness for coconut, and I did want to make a cake that everyone would eat in order to keep me from eating the majority myself(which I ended up doing anyway :) ). But when I saw an unopened bottle of strawberry conserve in my fridge, it clicked immediately. White chocolate and strawberry equal a match made in heaven, and my whole family loves strawberries! And they loved this cake as well. I used Clotilde's Yogurt Cake recipe for the base, which is what I nomally use. I just made 1.5 times the original recipe to make 2, 9" layer cakes It is so moist and delicious, but not too sweet or rich, making it perfect to pair with a sweeter, cream-based frosting. I am also proud to say that my frosting recipe came out very successful. I really wanted to create my own frosting, even though I was a bit nervous about the proportions. Nonetheless, it came out perfectly-you could taste both the white chocolate and the strawberry flavors, and the addition of whipped cream made it lighter than traditional frostings made only from cream cheese.
This cake was without a doubt a hit, and it certainly provided a nice change to the standard chocolate or yellow birthday cake. Unofrunately, we had a power outage that night, which resulted in a bit of chaos, so the pictures of the final product didn't come out as well as I would have liked. But I think they'll still have you drooling for some:) Try this recipe out for a change next time someone you know and love has a birthday coming up. Or, if you're like me, just find any old excuse to bake this double-layer, white chocolate-strawberry cake and do it! :)

White Chocolate-Strawberry Cake
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 cups yogurt
3 eggs
1.5 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 and 1/4 tsp. baking powder
6 oz. good quality white chocolate, finely chopped or grated
1/3 cup PLUS 1/2 of 1/3 cup oil or ghee
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract

White Chocolate-Strawberry Frosting*
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup whipped cream
1/2 cup melted white chocolate
2 heaping tablespoons seedless strawberry preserves
about 3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
*I originally made double the recipe, but I ended up using only half of it to frost the cake. Leftovers make a great crepe filling or waffle topping if you want to make the whole recipe though!

1/3 cup seedless strawberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 9" round cake pans. Place sugar, eggs, yogurt and vanilla in a large bowl or stand mixer, and mix until blended.

Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda in another bowl.

Add flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.

Gently fold in the chopped white chocolate to evenly incorporate it into the batter, taking care not the overmix.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.

Bake the cakes for about 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool completely.

For the frosting:
Beat cream cheese in a bowl until fluffy. Then, mix in the melted white chocolate, strawberry preserves and vanilla until thoroughly incorporated. Continue beating and add the powdered sugar slowly, until the frosting reaches the desired consistency and sweetness. Gently fold in the whipped cream.

Invert one cooled cake layer on a plate, and turn it back over onto a cake stand or serving dish. Spead the strawberry preserves thickly on top of this cake layer.

Invert the other cake layer onto a plate, and then turn it back over on top of the first cake layer.

Frost the top and sides of the cake completely.

Chill in the refrigerator if not serving right away, but remove it half an hour before serving.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Coconut French Toast: A Global Kadai Entry

French toast makes for the perfect weekend breakfast or brunch, rich and comforting. People often eat sweet French toast as a dessert as well! Possible variations are bountiful depending on one's tastes. Some people prefer fruity french toast, whereas others prefer chocolate, savory, or even just plain french toast with a drizzle of maple syrup. As for me, even though I really like plain French toast, I always prefer to add flavors and experiment with different combinations. So when Priya of Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes announced the event Global Kadai, in which participants were required to come up with an Indianized version of the classic French toast, I did not want to pass up this perfect opportunity. I thought about popular flavorings used in Indian cooking. When I rummaged through my fridge, I found some leftover coconut milk and thought, "What could be more Indian that coconut?" And thus was born my very own Coconut French Toast with Coconut Milk Syrup.

Coconut French Toast:
1 cup almond milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp. cardamom powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extrct
3 tbsp. brown sugar
4 slices bread(I used sourdough)
about 3/4 cup shredded coconut, or as needed, for dipping bread slices
4 tbsp. butter/ghee

Coconut Milk Syrup:
1.5 cups coconut milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cardamom powder

For the French toast:
Preheat griddle pan to medium heat. Whisk together almond milk, egg, sugar, cardamom and vanilla extract in a bowl. Spread shredded coconut on a plate. Dip one slice of bread in milk mixture, making sure to cover both sides. Then, dip this slice in the shredded coconut, and evenly coat the slice on both sides.

Place 1/2 tbsp. butter or ghee on griddle pan, and when melted, place the dipped slice of bread on the pan. Cook on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes each, but be sure not to burn the coconut.

Remove from griddle pan, and serve warm with coconut syrup. Repeat for the remaining slices of bread.

Coconut Milk Syrup:
Combine coconut milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, and let it simmer for about 3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add the cardamom powder, and let the mixture simmer for another minute. Turn off the heat and serve warm with French toast.

This French toast tasted awesome. I love coconut in the first place, and it pairs wonderfully with cardamom and brown sugar. Do use brown sugar because it adds a great depth of flavor that ordinary white sugar won't. I also liked the nutty flavor of the almond milk. Next time you feel like an indulgently delicious breakfast, try this Indianized version of French toast for a nice change :)

This recipe goes to Global Kadai, hosted by Priya of Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes and started by Cilantro.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Broccoli Rabe and Pesto Pasta

This is one of those dishes I tossed together to use up some leftover ingredients I had on hand. It is simple, yet extremely flavorful. Can't beat that, right? Broccoli rabe is, unfortunately, another one of those vegetables too often overlooked or just unheard of. Broccoli rabe looks like a crossover between spinach and broccoli. I just love it! It has a strong, earthy flavor that differs from that of most other greens. If you've never tried broccoli rabe, here is your chance!

Broccoli Rabe and Pesto Pasta (serves 2):
1 cup blanched broccoli rabe*
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper. or to taste
2 heaping tbsp. sour cream
1/4 cup pesto( you can use readymade pesto; i used leftover arugula pesto)
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1/2 cup dry pasta, prepared according to package directions

*To blanch broccoli rabe, first wash it, and then trim it as needed. Then, place it in a pot of boiling water, cvoer the pot, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the broccoli rabe cook for about 2 minutes, and then shock it with cold water to stop the cooking.

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet. When hot, add garlic on medium heat. Cook for about 1-2 minutes or until the garlic starts to brown. Add the basil, oregano and thyme, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add crushed red pepper, and cook for one more minute. Add the broccoli rabe, and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Cook for one more minute before turning off the heat.

Mix the hot pasta with sour cream, shredded cheese, pesto and hot broccoli rabe mixture until the cheese melts. Serve hot.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Smoked Provolone Sandwich with Arugula Pesto

Lo and behold another variation I devised of the classic grilled cheese sandwich. I had some leftover smoked provolone cheese, and I thought it would taste best with a pesto spread. As I also had some leftover arugula, I used that in place of the traditional basil to make pesto. I loved the peppery bite the arugula lent to the pesto, and it paired perfectly with the smoked provolone. I was out of tomato, but next time I will try adding it because the fresh flavor would provide the perfect contrast to the slight bite from the pesto and the smoked cheese. I love experimenting with new combos for grilled cheese sandwiches and will certainly keep doing so.

Smoked Provolone Sandwich with Arugula Pesto:
Arugula Pesto(enough for 2 sandwiches):
1 cup fresh arugula leaves
2 tbsp. lemon juice
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. parmesean cheese
2 tbsp. toasted pinenuts
1 large garlic clove
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper

4 oz. smoked provolone cheese
4 slices bread
2 tbsp. butter or ghee

Heat a griddle pan to medium. Slice the provolone cheese, and divide it evenly among 2 slices of bread. Spread the pesto on the remaining 2 bread slices. Make 2 sandwiches, and spread butter/ghee on one side of each sandwich. Place one sandwich buttered side down on the heated griddle pan, and let it cook until browned and until the cheese is partially melted. Butter the other side, flip and cook until the cheese is completelty melted. Repeat for the other sandwich. A sandwich press, if you have one, really helps the cheese to melt properly.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese...mmm. What speaks pure comfort more than that? I gave up on the boxed version a long time ago after tasting real mac and cheese at Whole Foods. I still can't believe I ate the boxed stuff for so many years! Ever since then, I have always meant to try my hand at homemade mac and cheese, but I just have not got around to it until recently. On my first attempt, the result was certainly good, although it needed more flavor. It also came out rather grainy. After doing some research, I modified my method slightly and added some extra flavoring to it by seasoning the bechamel sauce. The result was fabulous! The contrast of the crunchy breadcrumb topping with the cheesy and creamy pasta underneath was out of this world. The flavoring from the herbs and the tang from the dijon mustard make all the difference. Of course, you can play around with different herbs and flavorings to suit your taste. A. even said that my mac and cheese was better than the mac and cheese at Whole Foods! What a compliment! :) I'll certainly be making this again. Next time you find yourself reaching for boxed mac and cheese, try this out instead-you won't be disappointed!

Mac and Cheese:
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. flour
2 cups cold whole milk mixed with 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. dry thyme
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch of nutmeg
2 tsp. dijon mustard(or less if you don't want too much tanginess)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1.5 cups dry pasta, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1 tbsp. butter

Preheat your oven to 350F. Melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium-low heat in a non-stick pot. Add the flour, and whisk it completely into the melted butter. Keep whisking over medium-low until it achieves a light brown color, about 4-5 minutes.

Gradually whisk in the milk-cream mixture, thouroughly incorporating each batch before adding the next. Once the mixture is completely added, add the bay leaf and thyme.

Keep whisking until the mixture starts to simmer. When it begins to simmer, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Do not let it boil. Let it simmer for about five minutes, or until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat, and let it sit for a minute off the heat. Discard the bay leaf. Then, add the dijon mustard and gradually whisk in the shredded cheese, a little at a time, until it is completely melted in.

The sauce, which becomes a sauce Mornay with the addition of the cheese, will be very thick.

Mix the sauce with the dry pasta and transfer to a baking dish.

Melt the other tbsp. butter and mix with the bread crumbs. Spread the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta. Bake the mixture in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown.


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