Hail Caesar! ( Hail Ina!)

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I have a girl crush on Ina Garten. I love her simplicity of style in everything from her “uniform” of dress slacks and vibrant blouse, to her style of cooking. Fresh ingredients, simple steps, nothing fancy. Everything works together. I love her kitchen, her set design, her garden and I have always thought the moniker “Barefoot Contessa” was brilliant!

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Last week’s show was about eggs and now that I have poached eggs down pat thanks to my tutoring from Lidia Bastianich, I now have a killer Caesar dressing and salad menu from Ina. The egg features in both the dressing and as an ingredient in the salad, a step away from the more traditional greens and croutons or the 90’s version with chicken. Ina advocates for ingredients of cooked but slightly creamy boiled eggs, thick cut bacon and bleu cheese, along with the homemade dressing. There’s a few moving parts in this, so plan accordingly.

While I was cooking bacon in the oven, I whazzed up the salad dressing in the food processor. Always the long pole in the tent, homemade dressing take a bit of time, but the rewards are worth it. Ina’s recipe called for 1 egg yolk, 6-8 anchovies ( I  use anchovy paste) , 2 tsp of garlic, dijon mustard and salt ( I used 1 tsp of salt) and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Hit the pulse button with the egg, garlic, dijon and anchovies. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice and the salt and pepper  and pulse again.

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Next with the blade on, drizzle 1 1/2 cups of olive oil into the food processor. DO NOT dump it all in at once or you will get a mess!

 

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Finally, add about a cup of grated fresh parmesan and pulse 3 times.

Meanwhile, your bacon should be done and nice and flat and crispy. Add whole slices of bacon to your long romaine leaves. Don’t cut them up, leave them long and add the bacon and slices of bleu cheese. I gave the Hubs bleu cheese and I shaved some ricotta salata cheese for myself. ( not a huge fan of the bleu, so the ricotta works for me). I added a little dressing to each salad.

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Now comes the science experiment, so make sure you have a lab partner or at least a trusty timer… Place whole eggs in cold water in a pan and bring to a rolling boil. Once a boil is reached, turn the pan OFF! Let set for  three and a half minutes. Then place the eggs into ice water for 2 minutes.

Tap each end of the egg and then roll the egg on a surface until it is cracked all over in order to peel it. Slice the eggs on the long side and place on your salad. Instead of croutons, Ina suggests ( and I agree) to rub baguette slices with garlic and a little oil and toast or broil!

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The Hubs and I missed the ice water bath and just used cold tap water so middles were not as creamy as Ina’s but they were delish anyway! Clean plates all around for this salad, and definitely something I will make again.

Here’s the link to watch the episode online!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/barefoot-contessa-back-to-basics/episodes/cook-like-a-pro-eggs

I’m also going to try the Jose Andres egg recipe thats also on this episode!

 

 

Crunchy and Crispy

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I tasted the best cole slaw of my young life last week at a location that for the time will remain nameless.  Dead simple and anyone could make it. Here’s how.

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First I chopped a small head of broccoli and about 1/2 a head of green cauliflower ( because that was the cauliflower color of the week) in the food processor. I also added about a 1/4 of a red onion.

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Then I switched blades and sent some carrots and about 18 fairly hefty brussel sprouts to their certain doom.

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I added golden raisins and dried cranberries…(maybe 1/2 cup of each)

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Then I tossed the whole bowl with cole slaw dressing from your grocer’s refrigerator section. Quick and crunchy too. Also better after the dressing softens the sprouts a little and the flavors mesh. Enjoy!

 

Quick Bisque

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Boston area supermarkets wage lobster wars on the holiday weekends in summer. You can usually buy 1# or 1.25# “chicken” lobsters for about $6.99 a pound, which in today’s food world is pretty cheap for a retail priced lobster.

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We indulged in some ” bugs” on Saturday nite and after we had stripped them of everything they could contribute in the form of a lobster roll, and after setting aside a tail, I boiled the carapaces with some onions and carrots and bay leaves. Before I went to bed, I put the whole pot into the fridge to hold.

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Then Sunday afternoon, I sweated a medium onion and some carrots in butter and added the chopped lobster meat from the tail that I had saved.

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I added about 1/3 cup of flour and stirred until just turning brown….

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Added some dry rose wine that I had hanging around…( how did that happen?)

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Added the stock ( about 4 cups) from the shells from the night before and 2 oz of tomato paste. Reduced the whole pot by half.

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Added 1/2 cup of sherry and 1 cup of light cream and then whazzed it up with my trusty stick blender to smooth it out. Look Mom, no lumps!

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Season to taste and maybe garnish with some fresh parsley. A simple supper for anytime of year, but yummy in the summer by the beach or lake.

“Silky” Zucchini

Do you listen to podcasts? Any favorite food ones? For over a decade now I have been listening to 2 in particular. The first is “Good Food” from KCRW in Santa Monica. I could weep listening to the Santa Monica Farmers Market report on a weekly basis, especially in the dark months of winter here in New England.

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The second is “Splendid Table” from National Public Media and features as a host a woman by the name of Lynne Rosetto Kasper. I love how she brings food to life and has such a passion for all things cultural and culinary. Recently, Lynne spoke with the acclaimed chef Skye Gyngell and got this recipe for slow cooked zucchini. (As an aside, I have to state that the name Skye Gyngell is second only to Fuchsia Dunlop as a great name in female culinary talent and is also eligible to be a Bond Girl name…you know like Moneypenney or Eleanor Lavish from “Room with a View” or Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.)

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Anyway, I digress. Skye talked about this method of cooking zucchini as slow and caring. No hot grill or pointy kebab stick.  And it’s ridiculously simple. The twist belongs to whatever fresh herb is added at the end. Start with 2 Tbsp each of olive oil and butter in a heavy pan on medium heat.

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Slice 12 small zucchini ( I used 2 medium/large) into 1/8″ coins. Put slices of zucchini in the pan with the melted butter and olive oil and toss gently to coat. Add two finely diced cloves of garlic. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting of the burner. Skye’s recipe, made on a commercial burner allegedly takes 40 minutes to soften and turn to it’s luxurious state. On my household burner, the time was closer to 1:10 hours. The key again is to stir it every ten minutes or so to prevent it from burning even the tiniest bit!

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Once the zucchini is cooked to soft and transparent state, take a good five or six stems of fresh tarragon ( although mint or basil or chervil will work also) and strip the stems and finely chop the leaves. Add about 3/4 of a tbsp of ground black pepper and about a teaspoon of kosher salt. Taste and adjust if needed.

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I will warn you that this is not a “pretty” vegetable side. But it more than makes up for it in taste. If you like the 5th taste of umami, then this is a dish for you. I suppose you could put it in a slow cooker, but still think you would have to check it for burning, although maybe not as frequently if your slow cooker was on low. I suggest using as a plain side dish, a topping for lightly tossed spinach, mixed with some lentils, or on a pasta with grated cheese…that would be yummy!

Stars and Stripes!

You know how sheet pan suppers are all the rage? Evidently slab pies are now the darling of Pinterest pinners. My bestie, L, was telling me about this one in particular and because baking is cheaper than therapy, I gave it a whirl on Saturday and sent the whole slab/pan to rehearsal with the Hubs on Sunday.


I used 2 packages of pre made pie crusts, one large bags of frozen whole strawberries and a small bag of frozen blueberries. Also, sugar, corn starch and a little lemon zest/juice.


I used my 1/2 sheet pan, aka a jelly roll pan and overlapped the crusts to gauge how much I would need for the bottom crust. 



Rolled them out together to get them as close to pan size as possible. Rolled the crusts onto my rolling pin and draped into the pan and pinched, trimmed etc till it was a full crust. I did have to piece some of the edges.

Mix one tbsp corn starch and one tbsp sugar and some lemon zest with the blueberries


Fill the top left corner with the blueberry mix.


Repeat the cornstarch, sugar and lemon with the strawberries but double the amounts. Fill in the rest of the pan with the strawberry mix.


I used a cookie cutter for the stars and set aside.


I stretched the remainder of the dough by rolling and squared it off with a pizza cutter and bench scraper.


Then I cut and placed 1″ stripes over the strawberries. Thirteen alternating stripes….

Placed the stars and popped into oven following directions on box for oven temp.


When baked I sprinkled with some sparkly sanding sugar for that festive look. Only an empty pan came home…

Five for Friday

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It’s back! I haven’t done a five for Friday in FOREVER! So I’ll post some Fridays if I can and when I have the substance to do so…Here’s this week’s edition. Summer flowers…quelle surprise!

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So Many Apricots…Part II

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Keep slicing!…Now I moved on to apricot curd. Traditionally, curd is sold or made with lemons, sometimes lime, but you can really make it with any fruit. I’ve made orange, clementine, raspberry and apricot on more than one occasion.

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Put the sliced fruit and 2 tablespoons each of water and sugar in a heavy pot. Bring to a boil and dial back the heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Fruit will get soft but won’t disintegrate. You want the flavor of the fruit, not the taste of sugar, so you can adjust the sugar for your own taste.

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Pulse the hot fruit in your food processor or blender and then push through a sieve or china cap to remove the solids. You could also use a food mill, which I’ve used in the past but didn’t feel like unlimbering it from the cabinet. Move the now mostly liquid fruit back into the heavy pot.

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Meanwhile, whisk two egg yolks with corn starch until smooth. (ANOTHER MAJOR BAKING SECRET!)

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Stir the eggs and corn starch mix into the hot fruit on low heat. Keep mixing….

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Next, drop 2 tablespoons of butter into the hot mix and continue to stir. The mix will start to tighten up and is helped immensely by the corn starch you added to the egg yolks. I had never used corn starch as an ingredient in curd before this particular batch and couldn’t believe how well it worked and did NOT change the taste. All you get is fruit.

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Because we use the product so quickly and it only made about 12 ounces ( about a dozen whole apricots to start), I just filled two old jam jars. But if you have done pressure or steam canning in the past, feel free to follow your procedures for that. The Hubs and I have been enjoying the curd on toasted french bread ( tartine) with a little butter with our hot morning beverages.

 

 

So Many Apricots…Part I

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My obsession with apricots reaches a fever pitch about this time every year.  Apricots from warmer parts of the country start to flood the warehouse stores here in the Northeast. So, on a recent trip to Costco, I gifted myself a flat of darling pinky, peachy, fading to that glorious luminous orange color stone fruit. I was determined that they would not turn to a slag heap in the fridge, where I stashed them when I thought they were ripe.

I wanted to make a tarte, but decided to add a twist by making a frangipane filling versus the traditional custard. Frangipane is a stiffer, almond based filling, popular in Europe, especially in tartes with berries. Frangipane is a shade under marzipan in it’s consistency. More flow than mold consistency.  I hadn’t had it in a million years, and faced with a gloomy but humid outside/air conditioned inside Saturday afternoon, I knew I could run the oven for a while without totally heating the house beyond recovery. The tarte starts with a short crust, easily formed in your food processor with flour, sugar ( a little), salt, ice water and very, very cold butter cut into teeny, tiny pieces. Blend in the food processor until the dough is shaggy and turn it out onto a floured board. Just knead it a bit until you can form a dough, then flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic and stick in the fridge to keep while you make the frangipane. I had enough dough to fill a traditional  removable bottom tarte pan, plus my two personal size pans that I bought in France. Remember only roll out the dough and fill the pan once the dough is chilled and the frangipane is ready to go.

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You can use slivered almonds to make the base of this sticky cream substance but because I keep it in the house for macarons, I used almond flour ( just ground up almonds). So a lot of the work was already done. To the almonds you will add sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter and vanilla and almond extract. Because I was making an apricot tarte, I used apricot extract to bump up the fruit flavor.

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Roll out your crust and trim the edge. Using a fork, pierce the dough on the bottom. Freeze for ten minutes while you preheat the oven.

MAJOR BAKING SECRET ABOUT TO BE REVEALED!  I recently learned that if you freeze a pie shell or tarte dough before baking, the dough will not shrink and pull away from the pan when blind baking! It’s magic!

Anyway, blind bake the frozen or deeply chilled shell for about 12 minutes until it’s just set. Fill with the frangipane.

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Next , I cut the apricots into twelves, each half had 6 slices. This allows them to lay more evenly on the frangipane. I probably could have snuggled a few more pieces in but decided to leave well enough alone. Sprinkle the top with sugar and bake at 425° for about 40 minutes or until the frangipane rises a little and turns a little bit brown. Let cool completely before you slice and you can add fresh whipped cream on top for a real treat.

 

 

Just another Meatless Monday…

Uses up a good amount if your summer garden bounty. I started by blind baking a pie crust for about 10 minutes and then layered summer squash and zucchini slices in overlapping layers. Because the veggies will shrink up, better to have the slices tightly packed.


I whisked an egg and a couple of teaspoons each of cream and creme fraiche together and then pored it evenly under the veggies. 


I topped the tarte with a little shredded mozzarella and put the whole zucchini as it were back into a 425 oven for 30 minutes.


Let the tarte sit for ten minutes before you slice. Add a green salad and you have a simple summer supper and/or a meatless Monday option!