Sunday, November 19, 2017

Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken


This time of year brings about a certain stillness that I crave.  Sure, things quiet down when the kids go back to school, and then they quiet down even more when the air begins to chill, but once it hovers around freezing, there is a final layer of peace that is achieved. Total stillness. No moving about outside, very little traffic, and no knocks on the door. This stillness is the sole reason I love winter. I crave it all year.

There is little better than a still day spent in the kitchen. Kids and husband gone. Candles burning. Nothing but the sound of Adele playing and the dog snoring in the background. Knife in hand as I do my favorite kitchen chore, chopping veggies and herbs. Prepping and preparing a lovely Sunday meal for my family for when they return from their outing, it's therapy only the kitchen can grant.

Cooking doesn't always come from the heart, but on these days it does. A tender and juicy Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken fills the kitchen with a wonderful and comforting aroma that warms hearts. Some days people have to be called to dinner, but with this in the oven, you will find everyone gathering in the kitchen early.

A comforting chicken dinner with no chance of anyone knocking on the door? It's heavenly. Try it sometime.


Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken
Adapted from Cooking For Jeffrey
by Ina Garten
Serves 4-6

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 lemon, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 (4 pound) chicken, backbone removed and butterflied
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
Juice of 1 lemon

Note: My kids don't care for fennel so I made a different herb mixture using fresh sage and thyme.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the thyme, fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon salt, and1 teaspoon pepper in a mini food processor and process until ground. Pour the olive oil into a small glass measuring cup, stir in the herb mixture, and set aside.

Distribute the lemon slices in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and distribute the onion and garlic on top. Place the chicken, skin side down, on top of the onion and brush with about half the oil and herb mixture. Turn the chicken skin side up, pat it dry with paper towels (very important!), and brush it all over with the rest of the oil and herb mixture.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan (no on the chicken!) and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 155 to 160 degrees. 

Remove the chicken from the oven, sprinkle it with the lemon juice, cover the skillet tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the chicken into quarters or eights, sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with the pan juices, cooked lemon, and onion.



Theme: Cooking For Jeffrey!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ina Garten's Raspberry Roasted Applesauce {Perfect For Your Holiday Table}


Kids are funny when it comes to food. One week they love to eat something and the very next week they hate it. When they're loving something they simply can't get enough of it. They beg you to buy it in bulk and it's almost as if they're out to prove something by inhaling it as fast as possible. They ask you for more and you oblige because you are thrilled they're eating real food. Then one day, with all the dramatic disgust they can muster, they hate that food and look at you as if you've two heads when you say, "but you loved it last week."

Such is life with kids. Just when you think you get a handle on something it changes. For months my son was on an apple jag. He became obsessed with the mini-sized Honeycrisp apples and was eating them at least three times a day. Every meal centered around an apple and honestly I was thrilled. I could've cared a less about their high price tag. I couldn't buy enough of them. Then all at once I noticed the fruit basket was staying full and the apples hadn't been touched and just like that, he was done.

I was hoping he would continue to love apples the same way he's continued to love rice krispies treats, but no such luck. So I set about finding a recipe to use up my apple stash and when I came across Ina Garten's Raspberry Roasted Applesauce I knew I found a winner.

 I fell in love with the idea of roasting apples with raspberries, brown sugar, and cinnamon and letting their delicious aroma fill the house. I fell in love with the idea of topping the warm applesauce with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and watching it melt into the sauce. Mostly, I fell in love with the idea of making a beautifully hued ruby red applesauce.

I do have a few suggestions if you chose to make this. First of all, the recipe as written, will make enough to feed an army. I think Ina wrote it so that each person gets about one full cup of applesauce, along with a scoop of ice cream. I love sweets, but this is far too much for one person so I would suggest cutting this recipe in half if you're not feeding an army. Even half the recipe is enough for 6-8 people. Secondly, depending on your apples, you may or may not want to reduce, or eliminate, the brown sugar. I couldn't find the Macoun apples Ina called for so I used a mix of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. I didn't even think about their sweetness when I added the brown sugar and my applesauce was quite sweet. It wasn't cloyingly sweet and I still enjoyed it, but I think I could've gotten by without adding any brown sugar at all, or very little, just for flavor.

This applesauce is delightful on it's own, but a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream makes it practically irresistible! 

This is a perfect dessert for the holidays because it can be made ahead. In fact, it's even better made a day or two in advance because the flavors get a chance to develop. Simply warm it up, scoop some ice cream, top with orange zest and you're set. I especially like the idea of having this applesauce as a lighter option for those who want a little something sweet but aren't into rich heavy desserts after a big holiday meal. A total winner!


Raspberry Roasted Applesauce
Adapted from Cooking For Jeffrey
by Ina Garten
Serves 8*

Zest and Juice of 2 large oranges
Zest and Juice of 1 lemon
3 pounds Granny Smith apples (6 to 8 apples)
3 pounds sweet red apples, such as Macoun (6 to 8 apples)*
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed*
4 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
12 ounces fresh raspberries (2 pkgs.)
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Orange zest, for serving

*Note: I halved the recipe above and feel it was still enough to serve 6-8 people, especially once topped with ice cream. I couldn't find Macoun apples so I used Honeycrisp and I would recommend eliminating the brown sugar or reducing it.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a large (11-inch) ovenproof pot or Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Peel, quarter, and core the apples and add them to the pot, tossing them with the juices as you go.

Add the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and raspberries, cover, and bake for 1 to 1-1/4 hours, until the apples are very soft. Stir vigorously with a wire whisk. The applesauce will be smooth but still have a lot of texture. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream and a dusting of orange zest.



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Butternut Squash & Ricotta Bruschetta {Perfect For Your Holiday Table}


I love a good crusty bread on it's own, but I especially love with it with all sorts of goodies piled on top. This type of thing is my go to for breakfast, a quick lunch, or for party appetizers. When I came across this Butternut Squash & Ricotta Bruschetta in Ina Garten's Cooking For Jeffrey cookbook, I was hooked. I've never tried a combination quite like this.

The combination of butternut squash and ricotta on bruschetta may sound strange at first, but I can assure you that this combination is so very good. In fact, I was simply blown away.  The squash goes sweet from the addition of maple syrup and a hefty dose of red pepper flakes really spices things up! These sweet and spicy flavors marry perfectly with the caramelized onions and ricotta, and when piled high on some crusty bread, this recipe is THE PERFECT combination of sweet, spicy, creamy and crunchy. Every bite is just the perfect bite.



There are a couple things worth mentioning. First, and foremost, a good bread is necessary here. Ina uses a French baguette, which would make perfect party-sized bites. I wanted to make mine more of a meal, so I opted to use really good thick slices of sourdough. Chose your bread accordingly. The most important aspect of the bread is that it be totally crusty.  Don't make the mistake of simply heating it up a tad, or perhaps just going for a little bit of crunch. You want thicker slices of bread that are toasty all the way through. This crustiness provides the perfect texture and will hold up to the hefty toppings you are going to put on top. I rubbed my bread with olive oil, salt, and pepper and put it in a 400F oven for about 10-12 minutes. Times will vary depending on the size and thickness of your bread.

Secondly, do not skip the addition of the maple syrup or the apple cider vinegar. I wasn't sure I wanted any sweetness from the maple sugar into this otherwise savory dish. I'm also not a fan of apple cider vinegar and was worried that it's flavor would ruin the dish for me. On a whim, I decided to add them both and I'm so very glad I did! Those two ingredients really heightened the flavor of this dish. The sweetness of the maple sugar struck the perfect balance with the spiciness of the red pepper flakes and the apple cider vinegar....well, it simply tied all the flavors together. In fact, the topping mixture would be a perfect side dish all on it's own!

I really cannot say it enough. This dish was phenomenal! I would encourage any butternut lovers to give it a try. It is a perfect autumn dish and would be really good served in party-sized portions as a Thanksgiving appetizer!




Butternut Squash & Ricotta Bruschetta
Adapted from Cooking For Jeffrey
by Ina Garten
Serves 6

1 pound butternut squash, peeled and 1/2" to 3/4"inch-diced
good olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure Grade A maple syrup
apple cider or apple juice (optional)
6 (1/2-inch-thick) slices rustic country bread, toasted
1-1/2 cups fresh ricotta, homemade or store bought

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the squash, 2-1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and the red pepper flakes on a sheet pan, toss, and spread out in one layer. Roast for 25 to 35 minutes, until very tender and starting to brown on the edges, tossing once with a metal spatula during roasting. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium (10-inch) saute pan. Add the onions and cook over a medium to medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes, tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Add the vinegar and maple syrup and simmer over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes, until the liquid is reduced. When the squash is tender, add it to the saute pan with the onions and mash it lightly with a dinner fork.

If the mixture is a little dry, add a few tablespoons of apple cider to moisten. Taste for seasonings and reheat over low heat, if necessary.

To assemble the bruschetta, spread a thick layer of ricotta on each toast and spoon the squash mixture on top. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.



Sunday, October 29, 2017

Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower



Mom and I went to the County Fair every summer. I was going for the rides, the animals, and the food. She was going for my sake, but also because a basket of fried veggies was one of her favorite things to eat. Back in the day we were very healthy eaters, so these battered and fried veggies were a big treat for both of us. The basket would come out piping hot and brimming with golden puffy clouds of broccoli, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and cauliflower. She loved them all, but she loved the mushrooms best. This worked in her favor since I didn't like mushrooms. The onions and cauliflower were always my favorites. Together we would eat the basket clean.

A few weeks ago I went to a street fair and there were rows upon rows of food trucks. There were endless things to eat, but I only had one thing in mind: fried veggies.  Problem was, I looked high and low and no one seemed to be selling them. Determined, I walked around in the hot sun for what felt like ages. Finally I find a place and my eyes lit up. I went ahead and ordered the big basket, even though no one would share them with me.

Even though I had to hold back tears, I did manage to thoroughly enjoy those fried veggies. To me they will always be the best thing to eat at the fair. The onion is still up there as one of my favorites, but it's the fried cauliflower that's my favorite. I love all the craggy fried edges and how the cauliflower starts to go all creamy inside. It's just so darn good! The whole thing got me thinking...why don't I cook with cauliflower more often?

I vowed then and there to buy some cauliflower and find a good recipe. While looking through Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Cooking For Jeffrey, I found this recipe for Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower and it was perfect!

This baked pasta dish is delightfully different. First of all, there is no cheese sauce, but there is plenty of cheese: creamy Fontina, fluffy ricotta, and nutty Pecorino. These three cheeses may very well be the foundation of this dish, but it's the brightness of the lemon zest and the pop of the capers that are front and center. Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't give mention to the real star of the dish, the crusty panko topping. The topping is a textural delight, with crusty bits of panko, pasta, and cauliflower. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention the fiery heat of the red pepper flakes! I really loved this. It was just plain fun to eat! While it may not be for everyone (a quick poll taught me that not everyone loves cauliflower), I will say that I found it absolutely delightful! I can understand why Ina says it is wildly popular. It is creamy and crusty, comforting yet bright, mild yet fiery and everything else in between. My favorite bites were the ones with the crusty bits from the top and the pasta shells that had capers tucked into them. So tasty, so unique!

Pasta and cauliflower mixed with lemon zest, capers, sage, garlic, Fontina, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper

 If you love the ingredients in this one I urge you to give this a try! It is definitely one of those dishes that shakes things up a bit!



Crusty Baked Shells & Cauliflower
Adapted from Cooking For Jeffrey
by Ina Garten
Serves 6-8

Ina says, "When I met David Tanis in Paris, he was the head chef at Alice Water's legendary restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. David now writes cookbooks andmy favorite food column in the New York Times. This wildly popular recipe is from his column. I love the creamy cauliflower with the crisp pasta plus sage, capers, garlic, and Fontina."

Before the topping was scattered on
Ingredients

3/4 pound medium shells
good olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2-1/2 pounds cauliflower, cut into small florets (1 large head)
3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups freshly grated Fontina cheese (10 ounces with rind)
1 cup (8 ounces fresh ricotta)
1/2 cup panko
6 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a large pot with water, add 2 tablespoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook al dente, according to the instructions on the package. Since it will be baked later, don't overcook it! Drain and pour into a very large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium-high heat, add half the cauliflower in one layer, and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the florets are lightly browned and tender. Pour the cauliflower, including the small bits, into the bowl with the pasta. Add 3 more tablespoons of oil to the saute pan, add the remaining cauliflower, cook until browned and tender, and add to the bowl. 

Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the bowl and stir carefully. Stir in the Fontina. Transfer half of the mixture to a 10 x 13 x 2-inch rectangular baking dish (or cast iron skillet). Spoon rounded tablespoons of ricotta on the pasta and spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top. Combine the panko, Pecorino, parsley, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small bowl and sprinkle it evenly on top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until browned  and crusty on top. Serve hot!



Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ina Garten's French Chocolate Bark {Perfect for Halloween}


If I had I had a dollar for every time I've heard Ina Garten declare "How Easy Is That?" then I would have a fat stack of bills in my wallet. Ina repeats this catch phrase over and over again on her hit cooking show, but what's more is that she actually proves it, by showing us how easy it is to cook her five star dishes.

This recipe for French Chocolate Bark is an example of just how foolproof and easy Ina's recipes are. A handful of quality ingredients, a set of simple instructions, and voilà ...you have yourself a five-star chocolate bark that would rival anything you could find at an upscale chocolate shop!

This chocolate bark calls my name with all the delicious toppings: roasted and salted cashews, sweet dried cherries, and beautiful orange dried apricots. The colors just scream Halloween to me and makes this perfect for taking to any upcoming Halloween celebrations. The textures and flavors are out of this world: crunchy and salty cashews with sweet and chewy bits of dried fruit and creamy chocolate. Wow! Your taste buds are in for a special treat with this one!





French Chocolate Bark
Adapted from Back To Basics
by Ina Garten
Makes 18 to 20 pieces

1 cup whole salted, roasted cashews
6 to 7 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 to 7 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried crystallized ginger, 1/2-inch diced*
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/2-inch diced
1/4 cup golden raisins

*Note: I omitted the crystallized ginger and raisins simply because I didn't have them on hand. I used Ghiradelli chocolate with great results.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a pencil, draw a 9 x 10-inch rectangle on a piece of parchment paper placed on a sheet pan, then turn the parchment paper over. 

Spread the cashews in one layer on another sheet pan and bake for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.  

Place the semisweet chocolate and half the bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 20 to 30 seconds. (Don't trust your microwave timer; time it with your watch.) Stir with a rubber spatula. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Immediately add the remaining bittersweet chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled; stirring makes it glossier.

Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it lightly into the drawn rectangle. Sprinkle the top evenly in the following order; first the ginger, then the cooled whole cashews, the cherries, apricots, and raisins. Set aside for 1 to 2hours until firm. Cut the bark in 18 to 20 pieces and serve at room temperature.

 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ina Garten's Engagement Roast Chicken {The Very Best Roast Chicken}


Long time watchers of  Ina Garten's cooking show, Barefoot Contessa, know that she is The Queen of Roast Chicken.  Ina has many recipes for roast chicken and countless others celebrating chicken. Her inspiration behind these recipes is her husband, Jeffrey. Chicken is Jeffrey's favorite and Jeffrey is Ina's favorite.

These two things, Ina's love of Jeffrey and therefore chicken, are apparent to anyone who catches a few segments of her tv show. In fact, my husband has surmised as much after only seeing a few snippets here and there. It's so evident that for years we've had a running joke about Ina and Jeffrey and Friday night chicken dinners.
 
Weeks ago my husband called me laughing when he saw the text that my newest cookbook, Cooking For Jeffrey was set to arrive in the mail. He said, "it's about time she wrote a book dedicated to cooking for Jeffrey." So, my husband was delighted when on Friday I sent him a text to let him know that I was making Ina's Roast Chicken for dinner, Jeffrey's favorite. Let's just say he had high expectations because he knows that Jeffrey gets only the best!

This recipe started off just like all the rest, but Ina throws a few wise tips in. Namely, the size of the pan and the reason why it's so important. The chicken is nestled with two sliced onions and lemon wedges. The pan needs to be somewhat of a tight fit or the onions will burn. This was most helpful for me because in the past my add ins (onions, garlic, lemon, potatoes, carrots, etc) have all been in a pan that was too large which resulted in burning and scorched tasting gravy, etc. The second, and equally helpful tip, was to cut the slices of onion thick so that they would hold up in the oven. The result was perfectly cooked onions and delicious gravy. Score!


Ina says to use a 9 x 11 roasting pan and you can definitely do that, but I prefer to use my cast iron whenever possible so I went ahead and used my 12" cast iron skillet. It was the perfect fit!

There is a reason why this chicken is called Engagement Roast Chicken. The word is that the chicken is so delicious it earns marriage proposals! While I think that is somewhat of an exaggeration, I can understand the name. This is quite simply THE VERY BEST ROAST CHICKEN I've ever made! We found this to be the ultimate in chicken, tender and juicy with a perfectly crisp and golden brown skin. The onion gravy is equally delicious, with a fresh pop from the lemon, and really elevates the chicken to another level. All in all, this was divine, exceeding all expectations. From now on, this is my one and only roast chicken recipe. Five stars, Ina!




Engagement Roast Chicken
Recipe found on Food Network
by Ina Garten
Serves 4

1 (4 to 5 pound) roasting chicken
salt and black pepper, to taste
2 lemons
1 whole head garlic, cut in 1/2 crosswise
good olive oil
2 onions, peeled and thickly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Remove and discard the chicken giblets. Pat the outside dry.  Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Cut the lemons in quarters, place 2 quarters in the chicken along with the garlic and reserve the rest of the lemons.  Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.  Place the chicken in a small (11 by 14") roasting pan (if the pan is too large the onions will burn - I used a 12" cast iron skillet). Place the reserved lemons and the sliced onions in a large bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture around the chicken in the pan.

Roast the chicken for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and a thigh. Remove the chicken to a platter, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the sauce, leaving the lemons and onions in the pan. 

Place the pan on top of the stove and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the wine (I didn't have wine so I subbed in extra chicken broth in it's place) and stir with a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits. Add the stock and sprinkle on the flour, stirring constantly for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add any juices that collect onto a platter and serve with the lemons, onions, and warm sauce.


Cooking with Alliums @ IHCC

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ina Garten's Cheese Straws {For Mom}


I started my cooking blog almost ten years ago and my mom was with me, tasting and testing recipes, every step of the way. Rightly so, because she was the reason I loved cooking to start with. She had me working beside her in the kitchen as soon as I was able to stand. My short legs were no match for the counter, so for years she kept my little stool by the kitchen counter so I could sprinkle salt and pepper, roll dough, and cut with my plastic knife. 


When I was a bit older and could reach the counter on my own, I can remember asking question after question. "Mom, can we add this spice? Can we add that spice?" She would always say, "We can add whatever we want because it's our kitchen and we make the rules." Cooking was art and the kitchen was our studio.


Like many women of her generation, my mom was never really one to follow a recipe. She never set a timer or made a recipe the same way twice. In fact, she was this way in all aspects of life, not just in the kitchen. She always said, "I like to walk my own path" and boy oh boy was she right about that. On the other hand, I've always been one to follow the rules and so we would banter back and forth, all in fun. She would tell me to loosen up and not be so straight and I would suggest that she set a timer or write her recipes down so that I would know how to duplicate them in the future. We would always meet somewhere in the middle. A perfect balance.  

Over the years we cooked side by side, sharing recipe after recipe. When my husband and kids snarled their nose at some of the dishes I made, because they were too fancy or had ingredients they didn't like, mom was always there. She was never picky and always gave compliments on everything that came out of my kitchen. My biggest fan. My best recipe taster, always encouraging me to try everything. On an off chance that she didn't like a dish, she always had kind and constructive feedback and we would always laugh and joke and talk about how our failures were always our biggest lessons.


A few weeks ago my mom, who was so full of life, lost her battle with cancer. She was only 64. I am so sad that our time was cut short, but am beyond thankful for all the time that we did have. I know that we lived it well, together. There are no words to express how very much I will miss her, and all of our kitchen adventures. My last promise to her was that I would be okay, and one of the best ways I can think to honor that promise, is to keep writing this blog. So keep cooking I must.

I chose this recipe because mom and I both loved cheese and anything bready.  I can see her now using Ina's recipe as a guideline and telling me that she was going to use more cheese and seasoning than the recipe called for because she liked to be a rebel. So more cheese and more seasoning it is, because I know that would make mom smile. I also decided that I didn't want to season the straws with thyme so I swapped out the thyme for Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Oh, and I didn't thaw the puff pastry overnight in the fridge either.  I thawed it right on the counter, last minute. How's that for being a rebel?

The results were delicious and we all enjoyed them. The only problem is that we have leftovers and that, my friends, is going to take some time to get used to.



Cheese Straws
Adapted from Food Network
by Ina Garten
Makes 22 to 24 cheese straws

2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge farm), defrosted overnight in the fridge
1 extra-large egg
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan*
1 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese*
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves*
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground pepper, to taste

*Note: Feel free to swap out the cheese and the seasoning in order to suit your taste buds. I used Parmesan and Gruyere because they're my favorites. However, I swapped the fresh thyme for Italian seasoning on one batch and red pepper flakes for the other. Half of the fun in this recipe is making different versions every time.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Roll out each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board until it is 10 x 12 inches. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the surface of the pastry. Sprinkle each sheet evenly with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, 1/2 teaspoon of the thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper, to taste. With the rolling pin, lightly press the flavorings into the puff pastry. Cut each sheet crosswise with a floured knife or pizza wheel into 11 or 12 strips. Twist each strip and lay on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffed. Turn each straw and bake for another 2 minutes. Don't over bake or the cheese will burn. Cool and serve and room temperature.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

My Top Five Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Favorites!


Oh Hugh, my time with you was short, but we were able to have some great kitchen adventures and make some memorable dishes together. These five are my top favorites and are all dishes that I will be making over and over again for years to come!

{Click on the recipe title to be directed to the original recipe and post}


I originally decided on this recipe solely because someone had given me a whole box full of garden-fresh tomatoes. I was expecting for it to be good, but instead the final product was downright mind-blowing! This was easily the best tomato sauce I've ever tasted and will be my perfect recipe for tomato sauce going forward. I am already waiting for next year so I can make batch upon batch and learn how to can it!




Again, I made this recipe based on the need to use up some puff pastry, and some beautiful rainbow Swiss chard, and did not expect to fall head over heels for this tart, but fall I did! I should have known better. I mean who doesn't want to wake up to flaky puff pastry with eggs, greens, and cheese. Two slices, please!





Welsh Rarebit is essentially cheese sauce over toast and let's face it...who wouldn't like that? Well, I can tell you that I had attempted it several times in my kitchen and wasn't a fan until now.  Previous versions resulted in a grainy cheese sauce that was just unpleasant. Hugh's version, on the other hand, was luscious and creamy and somewhat addicting. Expect to eat more than one slice!



People can hate on kale all they want, but I love it. In fact, I crave it. Everyone else can eat macaroni and cheese and plain old spaghetti, but I'll be eating this Cavatappi with Kale Ragu.  Holy cow...this is one of the best pasta dishes around. Make this if you love greens like me, and I promise you won't be disappointed!








And, finally, Hugh's Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad because who doesn't love a good noodle salad? Especially one that is so full of good-for-you green stuff and crunchy delicious peanuts? Perfect for any lunchbox!




Stay tuned! I Heart Cooking Clubs will be cooking with the one and only Ina Garten for the next six months! I can hardly wait to get started!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Out-Of-This-World Roasted Tomato Sauce


You know those recipes that are pure perfection? Well, this is one of them! Seriously though, I made this recipe because I had fresh ripe tomatoes coming out of my ears, and it totally caught me off guard how dang delicious this Roasted Tomato Sauce was! Perhaps it was because I had some really good garden-ripe tomatoes, I'm not sure, but this is my new go to recipe for making tomato sauce.

Things started out beautifully with a gorgeous display of fresh cut tomatoes glistening on the roasting sheet. A hefty scattering of garlic and a few herbs, salt and pepper really jazzed things up! I popped it into the oven and within a few minutes I began to worry.  I could smell garlic and not in a good way.  I felt like the garlic was going to burn and ruin the sauce, but it was too late to do anything about it so I left it all to roast.

Then I had another moment when I was pushing the tomatoes through the sieve and the sauce was nothing but pure liquid but I forged on. Hugh talks about the different consistency and suggests cooking the sauce down on the stove top to thicken it so I did just that.

The sauce was cooking down when my husband walked in and said "wow, what is that delicious smell?" Now, my husband is not fond of tomato sauce, unless it's covering a plate of pasta, so it was huge when he stuck a spoon in the sauce and started swooning. He said, "that sauce is incredible, it's perfectly seasoned." Of course I stuck my spoon in immediately after and discovered he was right. In fact, we both poured a little bit in a small cup and sipped it like a soup. Roasting those tomatoes really brings out the flavor! We debated eating it as a soup right then and there, but decided to save it for pasta.



The tomato sauce was heavenly over some pasta, but it was even better the next day when my mom and I got the idea to make some Italian-inspired Parmesan-Basil Fried Green Tomatoes (click on the link for the recipe-) and dip them them into this roasted tomato sauce! Doubling down on tomatoes was even better than we imagined and we now have a new favorite snack! I can't wait to get a new batch of tomatoes so I can make both the sauce and the fried green tomatoes again. It was a lovely combination. A summertime delight for sure!



Roasted Tomato Sauce
Adapted from River Cottage Veg
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Makes around 2 cups

3 to 4 pounds ripe tomatoes, larger ones halved
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A couple sprigs of marjoram
A few sprigs of thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lay the tomatoes, cut side up if halved, on a baking sheet. Scatter over the garlic and herbs, and trickle over the oil. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.

Put the baking sheet in the oven for about an hour, maybe a bit longer, until the tomatoes are completely soft and pulpy, and starting to crinkle and caramelize on top.

Set the tomatoes aside to cool for half an hour or so.  Then tip them into a large sieve set over a bowl and rub the pulp through with a wooden spoon, or use a food mill. Discard the skins and seeds. The sauce will seem like liquid, and that is fine, you can cook the sauce down on the stove until it thickens, if you desire.
 

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pan-Roasted Asparagus with a Crispy Fried Egg {Perfection On A Plate}


This recipe is all about texture and flavor.

Crunchy, cheesy, herbaceous breadcrumbs with the kick of red pepper flakes and a hint of lemon zest sit atop a crispy-bottomed fried egg that oozes with yolk down over the tops of pan-fried asparagus spears. I'm telling ya....this is the perfect breakfast or brunch dish. This is really the perfect anytime dish. 

I was wowed by how good this was! In fact, this was so good, I instantly felt mad at myself for not making it sooner. Do you ever do that? I do. After that first bite I found myself thinking "why oh why did I allow this to sit on my "to make list" for so long? Nonsense I tell ya.

There's just something about the crunch of the breadcrumbs and the oozing egg yolk that is the perfect topper for the asparagus. It just really wakes up those taste buds and keep you wanting more.

It's one of those dishes that is kinda naughty but kinda angelic. Widely satisfying, but still light. You know, one of those rare dishes that strike the perfect balance. The kind you make again and again and highly recommend. Perfection on a plate.


Pan-Fried Asparagus with a Crispy Fried Egg
Adapted from Food Network
by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves 4

Breadcrumb Gremolata
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon lemon zest (1 lemon)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

Asparagus
4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed
salt and pepper, to taste
4 large eggs

For the Gremolata: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and olive oil and toast, stirring often with a wooden spoon until golden brown. Place in a small bowl and while still hot, add the lemon zest, red pepper flakes and salt. Mix together and cool the mixture to room temperature. Stir in the parsley and cheese.

For the Asaparagus: Wipe the pan with a clean dish towel. Place over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the asparagus and salt to taste.  Cook, stirring and flipping often with tongs until the asparagus is bright green, cooked through and slightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Divide the asparagus among four serving plates. To the same pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and place over medium-high heat. Crack 2 of the egg into the pan, being careful as it may splatter, sprinkle with salt and reduce the heat slightly and cook until the edges are light brown and crispy and the whites are just set, 2 to 3 minutes. The yolk should still be runny. Repeat for the remaining 2 eggs. Using a slotted spatula, slide an egg on each plate. Sprinkle each dish with the breadcrumb gremolata and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.