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Monday, August 30, 2010

just what I needed.

So..... what do you eat for dinner when you have a daunting task ahead of you? Pizza of course ! And don't judge I even went meatless,be proud. Here's how it went down:  I went to a fantastic estate sale this weekend with my mom. We bought a number of things,mostly vintage mason jars.

           Yep, I fell for the blue glass and the ideas of storage and maybe even some dreams of canning took over and I was thrilled. You know I fell for mason jars and canning awhile back and it was on. It wasn't just one mason jar that got me. Oh,but no mam it wasn't just one classic piece,ha! it was a few more,...like a lot. I haven't even counted and probably won't count. It's sort of like when you were in high school or heck even college and were assigned a paper to write. I would gather my materials and clutch my outline in hand and hope for the best. I did my darnedest to follow the outline and not even count the words. I knew I had a word limit and if I stopped to count,it was over. I just turned up the music on the headphones and kept on typing. Eventually, I would check the word count and be slightly impressed with myself. The next steps,proof-reading and oh good grief,spell check. Every time,spell check.
(I digress.)

   The daunting task in front of me is something I'm not going to put off and unlike that paper,this is just a test of will,not spelling thank goodness.I have to wash and sanitize the jars we bought and eventually figure out what jars will be good to *maybe* to can something in or just use for storage (and talk about some classic storage options).
      This is the pizza and dang it was good. I used this pizza sauce and it was just the right amount of tomato.I didn't have mushrooms,so I used a patty pan squash we got in our CSA bag this past weekend and it added the right amount of crunch to each slice. I took the suggestion and added some sliced kalamata olives and drizzled some balsamic vinegar around just cause I'm feeling spiffy and inspired.And the last ditch effort I hoped for came through,shredded mozzarella cheese. I only had about 3 ounces of goat cheese in the fridge and I hoped...and there it was shredded mozzarella in the cheese draw and it was still good! Hooray! Check out this lady's website and enjoy,she's got it goin' on. I've had my pizza and I'm off to wash jars.
Pizza with goat cheese,spinach and tomato
Adapted from ezrapoundcake.com
Ingredients:
1 prepared pizza crust
pizza sauce (as much as you prefer)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 TBL extra-virgin olive oil,divided
1 box of spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic,minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper,to taste
1 smaller patty pan squash,sliced
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olvies
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
4 oz log of goat cheese
1 TBL balsamic vinegar
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Brush 2 TBL evoo on prepared pizza crust and spread desired amount pizza sauce on crust. Spinkle half of shredded mozzarella on crust.
2. Heat remaining evoo in large skillet and saute minced garlic and red pepper flakes until fragrant,30 seconds or so. Add in the spinach leaves and saute until wilted,this won't take long. After the leaves have wilted remove from heat and sprinkle with salt and pepper,place evenly on pizza. Layer the squash slices , halved tomatoes and kalamata olives on pizza. Crumble goat cheese on veggies and then sprinkle remaining shredded mozzarella and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
3. Bake until edges are golden brown and topping have set up. Keep an eye on it,it can cook quicker than you think. remove from oven and drizzle remaining evoo on the toppings,and now devour. (in my case let it cool just a bit before you take a bite,just a hint)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Come on cool breeze.

     I love when patio weather starts to roll in around weekend time. It's still a little warm outside and if you sit in the shade you catch just enough breeze and then you smile. I usually grab a book I've been trying to finish or catch up with a big ol' stack of magazines. We have a screen porch and blessed even more with a patio with some pretty decent shade. And since I've gotten into canning this summer I have plenty of empty mason jars just waiting to be filled with a nice glass of lemonade. I tell ya The Joy of Cooking folks got it right...they probably had lovely patios and cool breezes to enjoy too. Enjoy the refreshment!

Old-Fashioned Lemonade or Limeade
The Joy of Cooking , page 40
8 servings
*orange,pineapple,raspberry white grape juice or other fruit juice may be added to make a delightful beverage. Also mix half a glass of unsweetened iced tea with half a glass of either lemonade or limeade,talk about thirst quencher!
Ingredients:
8 cups water 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon or lime juice-(about 6-8 lemons)
Directions: boil together the water and sugar,whisking to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerate until cold,then stir in the lemon or lime juice. Pour over ice cubes in tall glasses or into a pitcher of ice. This stuff is wonderful!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This is my kind of challenge.

     I have a t-shirt from a local restaurant a few minutes from my house. They serve a pretty fantastic,hardy,don't-plan-on-doin-much-for-the-rest-of-the-morning kind of breakfast food. Classic breakfast food that fills your belly and with a big ol' cup of coffee you are pretty much done for at least the first half of the day. I got this tshirt a number of years back and have worn it almost to pieces.The logo for the restaurant is on the front and on the back there's a saying . The lettering is sort of faded now but the meaning of the words still ring true to this day: "Life's too short to eat fast food." Amen I say.
      On that note,I bring to the table a challenge of sorts and it will be a delicious one to boot! I read in the December '09 issue of Bon Appetit magazine that a chef in New York has been making every cover recipe of Bon Appetit for every month for the last 25 years! And then I looked at the cover of that same issue and longed for a big piece of the chocolate cake that graced the front that December issue,delish!     So at that very moment I decide (probably along with tons of other cooks ) that I was going to make the cover recipe of Bon Appetit every month as long as I could until the end of time. I made the cover recipe for the January issue and it was delicious. I'm going to make it again for a few reasons : a. just for fun,b. I didn't get any pictures and what's a challenge if you don't have pictures to prove it and c. just cuz.

The February cover recipe was just sinful and so good.I made it for Family Dinner Nite and they loved it.The pork just fell of the bone and cheese just melted like buttah. Oh my it was good and a favorite of my husband's,needless to say I'll make those again! And folks now onto March. I know I know you're saying to yourself " hey lady isn't it August already?" Yep it's August and as life would have it I got busy and just made a quick list of each cover recipe to get back to. Well now I've got my act together and I 'm ready,willing and able to cook my fanny off to catch up (and in the process eat fairly well since all the recipes look wonderful) ! The March cover recipe is Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Mint and it was perfect! I have a friend that's vegetarian and when I saw this cover recipe the first person I thought of was her! I immediately called her and we worked on scheduling dinner soon. Dinner went off without a hitch and this dish made her night! The leftovers were even better and my husband raved about this one too! Oh what a dish,oh what a night!
       I did make a few minor changes. The heat here lately has put my mint plant on life support and I couldn't find swiss chard. I used spinach instead of swiss chard and basil instead of mint. Reviews of recipes can help of hurt,this time it helped. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the swiss chard and mint are superb in this dish,but the spinach and basil were fine,fine stand-ins. The challenge of making the different cover recipes is going to be interesting and after making the eggplant rolls I realized life is too short to eat fast food! ENJOY!
Eggplant Parmesan Rolls with Swiss Chard and Fresh Mint
makes 6 servings
Ingredients:
2 medium eggplants(about 2 1/4 pounds total),trimmed,
   cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices
coarse kosher salt
extra-virgin olive oil
1 1-pound bunch swiss chard,center ribs removed
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce container whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese,divided
2 TBL chopped fresh mint
3/4 tsp freshly gr. black pepper
1 15-16 ounce can tomato sauce
1 8 ounce ball fresh water-packed mozzarella,drained and thinly sliced
Directions:
1. Cover bottom and sides each of 2 large colanders with 1 layer of eggplant slices;sprinkle generously with coarse salt. Continue layering eggplant slices in each colander,sprinkling coarse salt,until all eggplant slices are used. Place each colander over a large bowl;let stand for at least 30 minutes up to 1 hour. Rinse eggplant slices to remove excess salt;dry thoroughly with paper towels.
2. Position oven rack 5-6 inches from heat source and preheat broiler. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on prepared baking sheets.  Brush both sides of eggplant slices with olive oil. Broil 1 sheet at a time until eggplant slices are beginning to brown,watching closely and removing quickly if cooking to quickly,3-4 minutes,per side. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and cool eggplant while preparing the filling.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add chard to pot and boil just until tender,about 2 minutes. Drain;rinse with cold water. Squeeze chard very dry,then chop coarsley and squeeze dry again between paper towels. Whisk the eggs and pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Stir in chopped chard,ricotta cheese,1 cup Parmesan,mint and black pepper.
4. Lightly oil 15x10x2 inch glass baking dish. Spread half of the tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of the dish. Divide chard-ricotta filling evenly among the eggplant slices,placing about 1 heaping tablespoon in the center of each slice. Starting at the short end of each,carefully roll up the eggplant slice,enclosing the filling. Arrange eggplant rolls ,seam side down in the baking dish. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over. Place mozzarella slices in a single layer over the rolls,sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.(This all can be made one day ahead,cover with foil and chill)
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees,bake covered with foil until heated through,about 30 minutes if freshly made 40 minutes if refrigerated. Uncover and bake until brown in spots and sauce is bubbling,about 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

pretty darn tasty

Alton Brown. Joy the Baker. What do they have in common...he has the best chocolate chip recipe I've tasted. I love these cookies and well I found the recipe on joythebaker.com and now it has a permanent place in my recipe folder. Recently,she did a spin-off of this recipe,an adaptation if you will and she's got it goin on. Molasses. The "Chewy" chocolate chip cookie recipe is pretty tasty on it's own,but add in some molasses,pretty darn tasty I tell ya. The richness of the molasses and the melted butter,gosh. They really are a smooth pair together and the butter enhances the depth of the molasses.And you make your own brown sugar in the process,who could ask for more. You should totally try this cookie,well try Alton Brown's recipe first just to appreciate it's classic chocolate-chip cookie goodness,then it's on to molasses!
Ribbons of molasses,swoon.
Good.Ness. Ok truth be told,the recipe calls for dark chocolate chips and I only had semi-sweet chips. I look forward to making these cookies again with the dark chocolate chips,but don't you worry I'll with a plate of these cookies,I'll survive this time.
Yep that's a bowl of sea salt flakes. You sprinkle it on the cookies right before baking and it enhances the chocolate  flavor and brightens up the molasses.
Ta-da! Pretty darn tasty.
Here's the recipe,Enjoy:
Chewy Molasses Chocolate Chip Cookies
joythebaker.com
makes 3 dozen cookies
Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 TBL bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp dark molasses,not black strap
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips
sea salt for sprinkling just before baking
Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour,salt, and baking soda and set aside.
2.In a medium sized bowl,mix the granulated sugar and the molasses until no large clumps remain ta-da! homemade brown sugar.
3. Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl.Add the homemade brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes.Add the egg,egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Chill the dough for about 20 minutes ( I chilled mine overnight and it did just fine and the cookies still spread well),then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Lightly sprinkle each dough ball with a few flakes of sea salt.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown,checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking for even browning. Cool completely and store in a n airtight container.
 These are so good,go ahead and make them. I think you'll agree.

Monday, August 16, 2010

break out the toast

   So when food becomes your hobby and cooking (in all it's various forms,for this post it's preserving) is a normal activity you have various memories,good and bad. Good would be finally getting the right seasoning mix in a very "complicated" and legendary dip,taking that first bite... absolute heaven,I mean really it was that good. Not so great memory could be making some recipe ( I don't even remember now exactly what it was...) and putting way too much white wine in the sauce and essentially ruining dinner... thank goodness for garlic bread and a bag of frozen green beans. The recipes and the meals come and go. The emotions can run high (when attempting your grandmother's London Broil recipe,to serve to HER...on her 90th birthday) and coast along nicely without a care in the world when making this classic lasagna from a real pioneer woman.
       I decided to get into canning and preserving this summer for two reasons: 1. It's a timeless skill and definitely teaches you patience in the kitchen ! (did I mention the free steam facial when you process the jars,it's totally worth it.) 2. In the heart of winter you can enjoy canned tomatoes that were packed way back last summer and when you taste those tomatoes in a soup,lookout! here comes all the flavors of summer,dang. The tomatoes are really delicious and well they rank right up there with blueberries. Thanks to modern technology we can freeze blueberries and enjoy them in muffins in January,but when you make a rich,hint of cinnamon,citrus-wrapped blueberry preserves,...talk about some memories.
        I happen to have a day off recently and found myself wanting a snack. I like desserts,but usually a simple dessert or "snack" for me might be a piece of toast with some butter and jam of some sort. I tell you what, I love bread and when that piece of bread met the blueberry citrus preserves,folks memories were made. Ok so it's not that dramatic,but this preserve recipe is easy and the flavors sing together. Enjoy.

Blueberry Citrus Preserves
-Linda Ziedrich
-The Joy of Jams,Jellies. and other Sweet Preserves,pg78
*This recipe makes about 3 1/2 pints or 7 half pints
Ingredients:
2 3/4 pounds blueberries
1/3 cup strained orange juice
1/3 strained lemon juice
1 TBL grated orange zest
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
6 cups sugar
Directions:
1.In a preserving pan,combine all of the ingredients. Heat them over medium heat,stirring gently,until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes,stirring frequently.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and cover it with a cloth. Let the pan stand at room temperature for 8-12 hours.
(at this point you can go on with your day.I started them fairly early,for 2 reasons: a. you can get this going and get things accomplished while it sits, b. you can finish it and still have your evening left to enjoy,in my case to clean up and put up groceries)
3. Return the pan to the heat and bring the contents to a boil. Continue to boil the mixture until the syrup has thickened a little. Test it by removing the pan from the heat,dropping a little of the preserves on to a chilled dish and drawing your finger through the syrup.If the path remains clear,the syrup is this enough. Remove the cinnamon stick from the pan.
4. Stir occasionally while allowing the preserves to cool for 5 minutes, and ladle the preserves into half-pint or pint mason jars. Add lids and rings, and process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath (ie. free facial).
  This book is pretty great and the preserves are even better, talk about summer in a jar. Go grab some toast,butter and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Oh what a combo.

Ever had a blah day...not bad day or anything particularly wrong,just blah.? Well this was the fix-it for me and it was thoroughly enjoyed.  Mr. Adams makes some fine beer. I got to enjoy it with some chips and guacamole from Houston's restaurant. A sweet friend brought it to me at work and little did she know avocados are one of my favorites since birth,so naturally guacamole is up there on my list. It was so dang good. The finale for this evening will be a Texas Milk Chocolate cupcake from the fine folks at Gigi's cupcakes. You should go get yourself one or maybe one dozen of their cupcakes...they are delish. This is livin' I tell ya.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

For now...this is what I got.

        This summer has been a tough one so far for my tomato plants. I learned what blossom rot...not pretty for tomatoes.They are coming along just fine and adjusting to the weather accordingly,thank goodness.We had decent spring temperatures for a little less than two weeks and then here came summer. The weather got hot real quick and then ta-da! it became sweltering...real hot,like above 95 degrees for some consecutive days.
Geez.
          So what do you do when it's real hot and you want to make something with fresh tomatoes...you hit up the farmers market and hope for the best. I decided to can some tomatoes for the winter months and found out soon after the taste difference was out of this world.
My selection: The tomatoes at in the top half of the photo are Pink Bradleys I bought from the amazing folks at Downing Hollow Farms (my favorite was the ginormous tomato that's turned right side up-loved that one tons). The more red tomatoes are a classic variety I bought at the Downtown Farmers Market.
I lugged all my tomatoes home,bribed my amazing husband to help me blanch and peel all of these...ummm like 15 pounds or so (what a saint he was that day) and we were off to can some tomatoes. Here's a brief visual tutorial of how to get your tomatoes ready to pack into jars or rather blanch,peel and core tomatoes.


(After you've rinsed off all the tomatoes) Flip all the tomatoes bottom side up and using a paring knife score or slice an X shape on the bottom of each tomato. This helps in peeling the tomatoes,sort of like leaving a bookmark in your book,you'll see,hang tight.
Next step ( I don't have pics for this,so go with me here) have one big pot of boiling going and GENTLY drop the tomatoes in a few at a time. Let them cook for 30-60 seconds and then CAREFULLY with a slotted spoon take them out of the pot and immediately immerse them into an ice bath. You will know when they are ready to come out of the hot water when the skins start to crack around the X mark. The ice cold water will stop the cooking process and also cool down those HOT tomatoes.


Take the tomatoes out of the ice bath,move them to a cutting board.(notice the hand towel underneath the board,this little project can get messy quick so line your work space with a towel,it'll help...)
The skins have loosened from the body of the tomato and the X marks the spot where to start peeling and the skin should come off pretty easy.


Peel,core and quarter the tomato. That's the quick story on how to peel and core tomatoes. I say quick because when you are working with 15lbs or so of tomatoes,you gotta move quick or you will drown in tomatoes and it won't be pretty. Next continue on with your recipe,whether it be homemade tomato sauce or in this case... canning those goodies.

Here's what happened after that mess,it came out beautiful and my husband even helped do the dishes... what a Saturday afternoon it was,thanks honey.

Raw-Packed Tomatoes with No-Added Liquid
* you will need about 3 lbs of tomatoes per quart (1L) jar
Ingredients:
Tomatoes
Bottled lemon juice
Salt (optional)
Directions:
1. Prepare canner,jars and lids.
2. Working in small batches,immense tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until the skins start to loosen or crack. Immediately plunge into a bowl of cold water and slip the skins off. Remove cores and any bruised or discolored portions that become apparent after blanching. Leave whole,halve or quarter.
3. Before packing each jar of raw tomatoes add lemon juice ( per pint- 1 TBL  per quart- 2TBL ) and salt (if using) per pint- 1/2tsp ,per quart- 1 TBL . Add these ingredients to each jar BEFORE YOU ADD THE TOMATOES.
4. Pack the raw tomatoes into the prepared jars to within a generous 1/2 inch headspace of the top of jar. Press the tomatoes into the jar until the spaces between them fill with juice,leaving 1/2i nch headspace. Remove air bubbles, adujst headspace and add tomatoes if necessary. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met,then increase to fingertip-tight.
5. Place jars in canner,ensuring the are completely covered with water by at least one inch.Bring to a boil and process PINT jars and QUART jars for 85 minutes. Remove the canner lid,wait 5 minutes,then remove jars,cool and store.
The flavor is pretty amazing,rich and unforgettable.I made a great soup with these tomatoes a few days later and really enjoyed the gift of summer. The recipe will come later,for now can some tomatoes,you will thank yourself come winter time,Enjoy!