Friday, September 11, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Birthday Sheet Cake

Thanks to Susy of Everyday Gourmet, the party just won't stop! Last week I celebrated my 38th with a little cocktail cruise down at the beach. It wasn't a cake sort of night, so I was looking forward to this week's BB recipe, the Birthday Sheet Cake.

This cake was simple and good. Unfortunately, I was a little underwhelmed by the chocolate frosting. My quick fix was to cut the cake into small squares and leave some of the pieces "unfrosted."

There was one undiscriminating member of my family who tried desperately to get his paws on these birthday squares...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: White Pizza with Arugula

Forget the coconut cupcakes. This dish must be the single-best recipe ever published by the Barefoot Contessa. I have to thank Andrea of Nummy Kitchen for enlightening me in ways I would never have discovered if left to my own selection process.

You ask, what makes each bite of this pizza so incredible that you think you just made something Michelin-star worthy and think that you have what it takes to become the next Food Network star? As noted by the Contessa, it is the contrast of the warm-goat cheese-garlic-infused-olive oil-pizza against the cold, lemony arugula.

This is seriously good stuff.

Better yet, there is something so organic and beautiful about making homemade pizza; it brings out (the fractional interest of) my Italian heritage. I love working with my hands and the smell of the yeast in the dough. I am still marveled by the entire proofing process. Making homemade pizza or pasta is such a wonderful way to love on your friends and family. So even though the weather was about a buck-o-six on the day I prepared this amazing dish, I happily turned my oven onto 500 degrees for this little slice of heaven.

White Pizza with Arugula
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

For the pizza:
1 ¼ cups of warm water (100-110 degrees)
2 packages of dry yeast
1 Tbsp. of honey
1 Tbsp. of olive oil
4 cups of AP flour
4 garlic cloves
fresh thyme
red pepper flakes
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1 cup of fresh mozzarella
1 cup of crumbled goat cheese

For the salad:
Good olive oil
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Kosher salt
Fresh ground peppter

For the dough:
Combine water, yeast, honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of the electric mixer. When yeast is dissolved (and using the dough hook attachment) add 3 cups of flour. Mix on low-medium speed. While mixing, add up to 1 additional cup of flour to get the right consistency to be able to knead dough. Knead dough in bowl for approximately 10 minutes, sprinkling with flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to bowl. When dough is ready, turn it onto a floured surface and knead it by hand again. Place dough in well-oiled bowl and cover with kitchen towel. Let the dough proof for at least 30 minutes.

For the garlic-infused olive oil:
Place ½ cup of olive oil in small saucepan. Add sliced garlic cloves, thyme, pepper flakes (to preference). Simmer on low temperature for about 10 minutes. Don’t burn the garlic!

When dough is ready, roll out to desired circumference. Brush the garlic infused olive oil onto the pizza. Add salt, pepper and cheese. (The cheese can be adapted in a number of ways according to preference. I substituted out the Fontina and some of the mozzarella for more goat cheese. You could also use Feta.) Then drizzle a little more of the oil on top of cheese. Bake for approximately 10 minutes.

In the meantime, make arugula salad. When the pizza is done, pull out of the oven and top with the arugula salad. Eat immediately.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Mango Daiquiris

Two weeks ago, I was re-acquainted with an old standby, the vodka soda. I have to tell you that after years of beer and wine, I found this cocktail more refreshing and dazzling than ever before! Perhaps it was the sweltering 100-degree heat on the day of our long overdue reunion or the economy of this reduced-calorie cocktail. Either way, we’ve been meeting once a week ever since! My latest adaptation of this delightful carbonated cocktail is a splash of Grey Goose L’ Orange with a slice of orange.

With my renewed appreciation for the “see-through,” I was thrilled when my fellow Barefoot Blogger Veronica of Supermarket Serenade chose a fruity cocktail for this month’s Barefoot Bloggers recipe. What a way to start the weekend! (I take most Friday’s off.) I decided to load it up with a bunch of fresh summer fruit: peaches, strawberries, mango and banana. This cocktail was thick and yummy, but would have been much better as an afternoon cocktail sans la nourriture. Unfortunately, my husband and I drank it with wild-caught salmon and an heirloom tomato salad. While delicious, I’m uncomfortably bloated right now…

Mango Daiquiri
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

1 cup of chopped ripe mangos (About 1 ½ mangos)
½ ripe banana
1 cup of fresh strawberries, cut in half
1 cup of chopped peaches
¼ cup of simple syrup
1 cup of rum
Add 2 cups of ice

(While I would highly recommend mixing this in a blender, I will note that I broke my blender a few months ago and used my food processor instead)

Peel the mangos. Rough chop all fruit and put into blender. Add simple syrup and rum. Blend until smooth. Add 2 cups of ice and blend until smooth and thick.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Peach, Blueberry & Blackberry Crumbles

Thank you Aggie of Aggie’s Kitchen for your selection this month! Your timing was perfection as the peaches could not have been more beautiful and ripe at my local market. In addition, I found locally grown blackberries to add to this dish. Cooking and baking with local produce is bar none! My only regret was not topping them off with a bit of green tea or lemon-vanilla whip cream….

Peach, Blueberry & Blackberry Crumbles
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

For the fruit:
2 pounds of ripe (important) peaches
2 teaspoons of lemon zest
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of AP flour
1 cup of blueberries
1+ cup of blackberries

For the crumble:
1 cup of AP flour
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1/4 cup golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 pound of cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to one minute, until their skins can be removed easily. Place under cold water and peel off skins. Slice peaches into wedges and place in large bowl. Add, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, flour, blueberries and blackberries. Allow mixture to sit for awhile (Can be done a few hours ahead of time)

For the crumble, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until butter is size of peas. Rub mixture with fingers until it's in big crumbles. (This took me a few minutes) If you make this ahead of time, store in ziplock bag and place in refrigerator.

When you are ready to cook, line baking sheet with parchment paper (easy clean up). Fill ramekins with fruit mixture. Sprinkle crumbles over fruit and bake for 40-45 minutes. Serve warm!

So good...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Ahhhh trial is over and I can finally start to enjoy this Summer’s bounty and dining alfresco! This week’s Barefoot Bloggers’ recipe is the first chance I’ve had to cook in weeks. Well, it wasn’t so much cooking as it was “preparing” ingredients a.k.a. quick and easy. Love it!

Pasta salad, like couscous, can be improvised in a myriad of ways so I love this kitchen sink approach to balancing out a meal. I tend to steer clear of pasta and use couscous or quinoa instead because of the lower fat and calorie content of these alternative grains. (It doesn’t help that I grew up eating pasta and chicken so often that I’m a tad over it at this point.)

That’s not to say that I didn’t binge only ever so slightly on this delicious pasta salad. After all, it was loaded with kalamata olives and capers! Sun-dried tomatoes are good, but give me imported olives or pickled anything and I go nuts. By adding asparagus, I was able to incorporate some healthy veggies and get that bold Viva Italia color to the dish!

I used only half the dressing. I always do this because Ina’s recipes always result in far more dressing than one would ever need. But, today I had another reason to cut the dressing in half. Last night, my husband and I were out doing errands and picked up dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. In reading the menu, I discovered that the Barbeque Chicken Salad and the Chinese Chicken Salad contain approximately 1200 calories each! (The dressing constitutes 75% of that total figure) You see, while I’ve apparently been under a rock, effective July 1, 2009, restaurants with 20 or more locations in California (chains) are required to list the calorie content in each item on their menu. While I (normally) do not eat at “chains,” and probably why I did not know this, I am contemplating the title of my next blog post: “Did I really need to know that?”

I guess the law is already working.

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

1/2 pound of fusilli pasta
kosher salt
olive oil
1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium diced
1-2 tablespoons of capers
crumbled feta
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For the Dressing:
5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan
basil, chiffonade

Cook pasta. Drain and cool. Blanch asparagus and chop into 1 inch pieces. Place pasta, asparagus, tomatoes, olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes and feta in a bowl.

For the dressing: combine sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour half the dressing over the pasta and toss. Sprinkle parmesan and basil.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Curried Couscous

I'm in trial now, so I was so happy with this week's quick and easy barefoot bloggers' recipe selected by Ellyn of Recipe Collector and Tester. I was also relieved to make a healthy dish since I still have an extra 5 on me from last month's brownie binge!

An old friend of mine from Napa turned me on to couscous about 8 years ago. It is one of my favorite side dishes. I tend to think of it more as a "salad" and I throw everything in it (depending on whatever I have in stock) from grape tomatoes to asparagus to feta cheese to kalamata olives. They key is adding olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper so it's not tasteless. My favorite way to enjoy couscous is usually with roasted chicken or steak and a big glass of wine. Not this week. It was a water with lemon night.

I thought the curry was a delicious twist and I am so happy to mix it up a bit! I ended up substituting sour cream for the yogurt (because I had no time to go to the market) and I reduced the salt substantially.

Curried Couscous
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

1 1/4 cup of water
1 cup of couscous
roughly 1/4 cup of good olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons of sour cream
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1/4 teaspoon of tumeric
a little less than 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup of diced red onions
1/2 cup of scallions
1 tablespoon of flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup of almond slices

Boil water in pot. Add couscous, remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes.

Whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sour cream, curry powder, tumeric, salt and pepper in small bowl. In medium bowl add red onions, scallions, parsley, cranberries, almonds and couscous. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

Bon App├ętit!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Absurd Brownies

I discovered that the Contessa put a warning label (outrageous) on this recipe for a reason. Unfortunately, I made this discovery after I added dark chocolate pieces, cayenne pepper and cinnamon resulting in my adaptation of the Outrageous Brownies recipe, which I am now calling Absurd Brownies. I am proud however, that despite the vulgarity of these coma-inducing beauties, I’m still “tasting” them three days after production. (I seriously need to get them out of my house!)

Inexplicably, I was going for an exotic Mexican chocolate. Don’t ask. I have very little experience with chocolate; I’ve never even made a ganache. To be honest, I was completely baffled by the selection of bittersweet, unsweetened, milk chocolate and dark chocolate “baking bars.” I never even found the Hersheys! (Was she referring to a regular Hershey’s chocolate bar?)

Nonetheless, like everything I do in life, I decided to jump right into this recipe as if I were a Belgian-born Chocolatier. I spent the better part of an afternoon (in heels) sweating over a hot stove stirring melted butter and chocolate, later realizing that I failed to add the 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, requiring a repeat of the melting process. My entire house smelled like a Chocolaterie for two days. It was truly decadent and I sensed these brownies were going to be rich. No kidding. Literally, the only person in my family who was able to down an entire piece was my sugar-fueled 3-year old niece who thinks she could live on confections alone.

Silly girl. I forgot to call my sister later that day to find out whether it stayed down!

Absurd Brownies
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate (Don't forget!)
6 large eggs
3 tablespoons of instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to preference)
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
6 ounces of small dark chocolate pieces ( I used 76% cacao)
3 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350
Butter and flour a full cookie sheet

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Once melted add the cayenne and cinnamon. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool at room temperature. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the chocolate mixture. Once cooled, break the dark chocolate bar into very small morsels and toss into the mixture along with 12 ounces of chocolate chips and walnuts. (The Contessa recommends to flour the chips and walnuts before tossing them so they don't sink to the bottom)

Bake for 20 minutes. Pull baking sheet out and tap it down on a hard surface a few times to get the air out from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes more until the toothpick comes out clean. "Do not overbake!"

Happy Indulging.