Monday, August 24, 2009

Cherry Ice Cream, Smile. I suppose it's very nice.

No supposing here. It rocks. I've made it twice and seriously, yum.
Since we were swimming in cherries after our cherry tree decided to go into overload mode this year, we started thinking about what to do with the bounty. We at about as many cherries as human beings can eat. I made jam. I canned cherries. I canned brandied cherries. I made pies. And in the end we pitted and froze about 5 more lbs of cherries. Mr. Dog suggested ice cream, and me being the sweet and lovingly compliant wife I am (quit laughing), I did my best to come up with a recipe. I found one on line, and as I started, I decided it wasn't sumptuous enough for my sexy husband. I mixed it up a bit and in the end came up with a bowl of deliciousness.

Sexy Husband's Ice Cream
1 1/2 cup milk (I used 2%, but feel free to play with this)
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
5 egg yolks
1 cup frozen cherries, finely ground in the food processor
1/2 cup chocolate bite sized chunks (I used good quality chocolate chips, and chopped them to make them slightly smaller)
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup frozen cherries, chopped into chunks
In a saucepan, combine milk, cream and sugar. Heat over medium heat until steaming hot. In a small bowl whisk egg yolks until creamy. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of the heated milk until it is well incorporated. Go slowly though, you don't want to cook the yolks. Once this is all mixed together, add the yolk and milk mixture back to the saucepan and heat until it is thick enough to coat a spoon. Add the vanilla and the ground up cherries. Pour into a lidded container and let cool overnight in the refrigerator. The following day, pour the custard into your ice cream maker and follow your machine's instructions.
Once the ice cream has reached the soft serve consistency, add the chopped almonds, cherries and chocolate chunks. Put in your freezer safe container and let chill for at least 2 hours. You can thank me later.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dessert like you mean it

It's been a while since we've seen NE. She's been busy helping with a friend's wedding. And she's young, hot and single. As much as she loves us, she's got other shit to do that doesn't involve dinner with the family she used to nanny for. Luckily sometimes it does involve us. We get to catch up, I used to joke that I was old enough to be her unwed teenage mother, but in some ways she feels more like a little sister. And she gets to see the kids. They climb all over her, they demand her attention and they never seem to get enough of her. Unless there's cake (or quiche). This time there was both. Then she gets a minute or two of peace while they eat.

So here's a little dessert I like to call "Instant quiet for both kids and parents."

I used Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake recipe from "How to be a Domestic Goddess". A quick aside, I bought this book after watching her food porn on TV and developing more than a little girl crush on her whole approach to food. I also loved the title of the book, how could I resist. Turns out it is a kick ass cookbook. I have made many of the recipes and loved them all. I highly recommend it if you are a baker. Now go buy it. Anyhow, back to the dessert.

Nigella's Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (I know it doesn't sound like enough, trust me)
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Grease and line a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Don't skip lining the pan, it really needs it.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat in well. Melt the chocolate then mix it into the butter, sugar and eggs mixture. Add the flour and baking soda. She says to alternate the flour and boiling water spoonful by spoonful, but if you're like me, you've skipped that part of the instruction and now just dump them in individually. It works fine that way too. The batter will be really fluid. I thought I'd screwed something up, but really it's fine. Pour into the lined loaf pan, and she says to bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325ºF and cook for another 15 minutes. Here is where I think Nigella is on crack. Mine wasn't anywhere near done at 45 minutes, it took over an hour. Probably close to 70 minutes, but keep an eye on it, it will appear set.

Place the loaf pan on a rack, and leave to get completely cold before turning it out. Makes 8-10 sliceSo I baked this dense, deliciously moist cake and served thick slices topped with sauce made from the brandied cherries I canned when our cherry tree went berzerk and produced about 50 lbs of fruit. If you don't have home canned fruit, and really, why would you? I've seen jars of morello cherries at Trader Joe's.

Cherry Sauce
Use about a 1/2 c of the cherry juice to create a slurry with about a tablespoon of corn starch Add it to the rest of the cherries and juice in a medium sized sauce pan on the stove over medium heat.
Stir and cook until the sauce thickens.
That's it. All that's left to do is ladle the still-warm sauce over the cake slices and enjoy the silence.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kicking a little pot luck ass

So I may not have had a hands down win. We can blame it on a pan wardrobe malfunction. I ran out of parchment and substituted aluminum foil. Don't do that. Really. Just don't. It sticks. If you don't make my moronic mistake, I'm sure you'd kill at your pot luck. And if you don't learn from my errors, people will still lick the foil clean.

Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart
2 pieces of puff pastry (find it in the freezer aisle at your grocery store)
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium sweet onions (yellow onions will work if sweet onions aren't available)
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 Tbsp white wine
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 big juicy ripe as can be heirloom tomatoes (regular tomatoes will work too, but if you can get heirloom tomatoes, go for it)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese (just shave the chunk of cheese with a veggie peeler)
6 oz goat cheese (I used the herb and garlic chevre from Trader Joe's, it rocked!)
about 8 big basil leaves, sliced into thin strips (chefenade)

In a large pan heat 3 Tbsp of olive oil, saute the onion and garlic until they are slightly dark and caramelized. Add the white wine, thyme and a good pinch of salt and cook about 10 more minutes.

Thaw the puff pastry according to the package directions. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place two pieces of the puff pastry and roll with a rolling pin until the seam between the two merges.

With a sharp knife, score a line about half way through the depth of the puff pastry all around the sheet of pastry about 1/2 inch from the edge. Inside the scored line, dust the pastry with the grated Parmesan.

On top of the Parmesan dusted pastry, spread the caramelized onions evenly across the sheet. Slice your tomatoes and place them on top of the onions. Crumble the goat cheese over the top of the tomatoes. Sprinkle the basil across the top and then add the shaved Parmesan.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is too bubbly and golden to resist even one minute longer.

Eat hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

How Facebook made me dinner

So I've been neglecting this blog a bit lately. I haven't been cooking enough to merit a big post, and when I have, I haven't really felt like typing out the recipe. And, I'm on a diet. I'm trying to get rid of some of this extra Laura I have hanging around here. I can't just drop it at Goodwill or post it on Freecycle, so I guess I have to do the work to get my body back.

Anyhow, the other day after dreaming of an old friend, actually dreaming of me and this friend at my wedding, I decided to look her up on Facebook. I found her, friended her and have spent the past few days perusing her amazing blogs. This friend just happens to be a photographer. One of her blogs is filled with photographs of celebrities, friends and other things, so stunning, so perfect, so...well, the whole thousand words more than applies here. And being a photographer of this significant level of talent would be enough for most people, but not this friend. She's also an outstanding cook. And she blogs about food. And photographs it. And this woman can write. All of this together makes me hungry.

So tonight, after reading this recipe, I modified it for my own dinner.

Romy's eggs, ala Laura

2 eggs
Trader Joe's Garlic and Herb Goat Cheese
a really ripe heirloom tomato
a little bit of shaved Parmesan cheese
fresh thyme
kosher salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Oil a small oven safe bowl (Romy uses a ramekin, but I don't even own a ramekin). In the bottom of your bowl, place a slice of your juicy ripe tomato, crumble some of your goat cheese on top, then crack an egg over the top. On top of this add another slice of tomato, crumble some more goat cheese and crack your other egg on top. Add one more slice of tomato, more goat cheese, just enough Parmesan cheese to fleck the top of the bowl. As an afterthought I added a bit of fresh thyme. Why? Because if you have fresh thyme, you should.

Pop the bowl into your oven and bake for about 15 minutes. Then eat it and imagine you are having dinner with your buddy who inspired you to make this bowl of deliciousness. And it even keeps me on my diet!
Thanks Romy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

And that's what we call a pig in a dog, my friends

I make a lot of pizza dough. Really, it's kind of a problem. Except it isn't. I just tend to make a double batch when I mix it up and toss half in the freezer for an effort free dinner at some point in the future. All I have to do to get there is remember to put it in the refrigerator in the morning so it'll thaw and be ready to use at dinner time. Now that's the problem. I'm not good at that kind of planning. Ok, I'm great at it when it comes to work, but at home....not so much.

So Thursday morning I knew our former nanny was coming over for dinner. I also knew I had jury duty and would be in no shape to cook a real meal once I got home. With those two bits of knowledge on my side, I managed to toss three bags of frozen dough into the refrigerator before I left the house. One of them turned out to be doughnut dough...but that's a whole different story. And in the end, two bags of dough was too much. So we had one just laying around.

This morning Mr. Dog made breakfast, used the doughnut dough to make rolls...YUM! and this evening, he used to pizza dough to make another childhood favorite. Pig in a Blanket!
Though after he told Big Dog what he was making, Big Dog followed up by asking about his "Pig in a Dog" so I've renamed them, mostly because I can't quit laughing like a mentally impaired individual at this name.

Pig in a Dog

1 batch pizza dough
6 hot dogs (we used organic uncured turkey hot dogs, but if you live on the wild side feel free to go for any old hot dog you have handy)
cheese of your choosing (we used Swiss or goat cheese)

Roll the pizza dough out into a sheet about 1/2 inches thick. Cut into pieces about 4 inches by 7 inches. Wrap the dough around your hot dog and a slice of cheese. (technically mine just had goat cheese, no hot dog so keep that in mind as an option) Place on a baking sheet and cook at 375 for about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. My kids like katsup, but maybe yours like mustard or ranch dressing or something else for dipping.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Twists and turns on a Saturday afternoon

We've been busy today. I got the boys all pumped up to cook with me. I planned to make something easy for kids, but involved enough so we could make the better part of the day revolve around the process. I settled on Soft Pretzels.
I got the recipe from Alton Brown on the Food Network. I made a couple of modifications I've listed below and they were a giant hit. My only regret was that I only had one Guinness left in the fridge so I had to share with Mr. Dog.

Since the boys aren't big fans of mustard, I made a cheese dipping sauce for them. I used sharp cheddar and they gobbled it up. I opted for spicy brown mustard, which I could easily eat with nothing but a spoon. Love it.

Soft Pretzels ala Good Eats
1 1/2 cups warm water (I added 2 Tbsp more since I used white whole wheat flour)
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
22 oz (about 4 1/2 cups) white whole wheat flour (Alton used All Purpose flour)
2 oz butter, melted
Olive oil for the bowl and rolling surfaces
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk plus 1 Tbsp water mixed for an egg wash
pretzel or coarse sea salt.

In your stand mixer combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast and let sit for 5 minutes until it becomes foamy. Then add flour and butter and mix with the bread hook attachment for 5 minutes or until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Lightly oil the bowl and roll the ball of dough until all sides are lightly coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in a warm place until it doubles in size (about an hour).
In a big pot boil your 10 cups of water and baking soda.
Once the dough has doubled in size, cut it into 8 equal pieces. On a lightly oiled surface roll each out into a long rope about 2 feet long. Form your pretzel twist. I can't really walk you through that process, but if you kind of make a heart where the tail ends overlap then twist them over to form the center twist, that's about it.
Put the formed pretzels into the boiling baking soda water one at a time allowing each one to cook for about 30 second before taking them out. I used a slotted metal spatula to do this and it worked like a charm.
Place your boiled pretzels on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Paint on the egg wash and sprinkle with pretzel salt.
Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Alton says 12-14 but he must like eating charcoal.
After baking, cool for 5 minutes on a baking rack before serving.

Cheese Dipping Sauce

2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk
4-6 oz sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp spicy brown mustard

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for about a minute then whisk in the milk. Cook over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Stir in the cheese, Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Yep, that's it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I scream, you scream we all scream for....meatloaf?

So while I was writing a touching story of my children's expression of love for their meat, it dawned on me.  Maybe I should capture the recipe I used, ok, made up that went over so well.
I can't vouch for the tastiness of the recipe since I don't eat meat, but I can say that my children do not always vocalize their love for a meal with this level of intensity.  Seriously, I'm feeling a little displaced in their hearts right now. 

Lovable Meatloaf
1 lb ground pork
1.5 lbs ground lean beef (15% fat)
1 tsp dry thyme (I would have used 1/4 chopped fresh parsley, but I forgot to buy it)
4 slices of good quality whole wheat bread
1 large onion
2 carrots (biggish ones, not the small ones in your pack of carrots)
3 garlic cloves
Kosher salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
In your food processor (side note-expect A LOT of recipes to include this step since I got my new food processor for my birthday - thanks Mr. Dog!  Seriously, that thing is awesome.) chop your onion, garlic and carrot into smallish pieces.  Sure you could do this with a knife, but the food processor is so much more fun!  Once it is all kind of chopped up, dump it in a big bowl.  Put your bread into the food processor and process it into largish sized crumbs.  Dump this into the bowl too.  Add the thyme and a few big pinches of salt, a few grinds of pepper and mix all of this together.  Add your meat and mix it until it is pretty well mixed with the food processored ingredients.  Add your egg and Worcestershire sauce, and mix that in.  
Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Use a loaf pan to form the meat mixture into a loaf.  I'll be pretty big, but trust me, if your kids like it as much as my kids do, you'll welcome the leftovers.
Bake for about 45 minutes, maybe longer, until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle of the loaf reads 155 degrees.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I guess it could be bat.

There are things I think the kids will never agree to eat.  Last week it was mussels, this week it was bat.  Not real bat.  Fish that I called bat, really, but they thought it was bat.  Turns out these guys will eat just about anything.  But it was good.  Even if I was calling it bat.

Fish masquerading as bat
3 good sized tilapia fillets (I don't normally like tilapia either, just humor me)
1/2 all purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp capers, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup lemon juice

On a dinner plate or shallow pan mix the flour and salt.  Dredge the tilapia fillets.  In a frying pan, melt 1 Tbsp of butter and pan fry your tilapia fillets.  They cook pretty quickly.  A few minutes on each side should do it but it really depends on the thickness of the fillets.  Once the fillets are cooked, take them out of the pan and set them aside.  Add 1 Tbsp of butter to the pan, toss in the capers and the lemon juice and cook over high heat until reduced.  It will be a couple of table spoons of really tangy sauce.  Once it is reduce, top the fillets with the sauce and serve.

I like this combo with broccoli, but a salad or green beans would also be a nice side.  For us thee fillets makes enough to have both the boys and Mr. Dog asking for more at the end of the meal.  They're big eaters.  I think next time I'll make 4 fillets and it should be enough.  You don't have to tell them it's bat.  But you can.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Expect the unexpected.

There are things that I love that I don't expect my food-loving kids to like.  Mussels for example.  I can't get enough of them, and yet when I think of feeding them to the boys, the voice of my former roommate springs to mind. "They taste like zoo," she said, whatever that means.  All I know is it wasn't a good thing.  Still, there are times when I decide to make something that isn't kid friendly just because I want to eat it.  Tonight was one of those night.   Mmmmmmm, mussels.

Then something freaky happened.  They liked them. No, scratch that, they loved them.  They each ate them as quickly as I could take them from their shells and put them on their plate.  After a bit they cut out the middle man and started eating them from the shell on their own.  A hit, I tell you.  Which is good and bad.  Bad because they ate up a giant portion of the mussels I had planned to devour, and good because now I can make them whenever I wish with the full support of the tiny dictators.  

Mussels that Don't Taste Like Zoo
(serves two adults as a meal, or 4 people as a starter)
2 lbs fresh mussels (in the shell, only live ones, cleaned and de-bearded)
1 large leek, cleaned and chopped into medium sized pieces
3 medium shallots, chopped
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup cream sherry
1 cup heavy cream
salt to taste

In a big pot melt your butter.  Saute the chopped leeks and shallots until they are soft and taste slightly sweet.  Add the sherry and simmer for about a minute.  Add the cream and bring the mixture to a boil.  Dump in the mussels, cover and let cook until the mussels open.  It only takes a few minutes.

Serve in a bowl with a nice portion of the sauce from the pot and a nice hunk of bread to sop it up.

I served it with a simple salad of baby greens tossed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and kosher salt.  You can make the whole dinner in about 15 minutes.  And it's fancy enough for dinner guests.  Take that time management issues!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Dinner in seven minutes flat.

Sometimes I just don't feel like cooking. And sometimes I don't even feel like eating. But even when stress has the best of my appetite and my culinary skills are taking a night off, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. And they're tasty tricks according to the boys.

One of the current favorites is made with favorite items of the boys, but things that I don't eat. Ham and peas. I hate them both. And yet, because they are loved by all of the Argilla men, we always have them on hand. I threw this little combination together one night I was going out and it has been a frequent repeat.

Pasta with things mommy hates.

1 package fresh tortellini (I use the Trader Joe's tortellini cheese or pesto both work and I'm sure any other variety would also be successful, so a package of tortellini, but not the dry kind)
1 cup of frozen peas
1/4 lb. sliced black forest ham (I use sandwich sliced ham because we have it in the house. I don't personally eat ham, but this is what the boys like, so I'm calling out b black forest style. Again, probably any ham would work)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (grate it yourself, that powder in the green can might as well be scouring powder for all the similarity it has to real Parmesan cheese)
2 tbsp butter

Boil your water (ok, this is going to make it longer than 7 minutes, but if you start the timer once the water is boiling, it really comes close). Once the water is boiling, drop the pasta in the water. The Trader Joe's tortellini cooks in 6 minutes if you've frozen it, and I always do. So set your timer for 6 minutes (or whatever time the package of pasta you're using says for cooking time)

Put a frying pan on another burner and melt your butter over medium-high heat. While the butter is melting, slice the ham into strips, about 1/2 inch wide. Fry the ham in the butter until the edges are a bit crispy and brown.

At the 4 minute mark, toss your peas into the pasta water. When the timer goes, drain your pasta and peas. Toss the pasta and peas into your butter and ham mixture and toss to coat. Add the shredded cheese and put it on a plate. You're probably right at the seven minute mark. Awesome, no?

Feed this wonder of modern mother/slacker innovation to your family and relax.