Thursday, June 26, 2008

Barefoot Blogging..

Well, I'm a little out of order, and hopefully, by the time you are reading this you will have read my posts on baked eggs and on pasta, peas and pesto, but in case you haven't, I've joined another cooking group. I realized Tuesdays with Dorie got me baking once a week..why not try some recipes I wouldn't otherwise taste test? And thanks to my friend, Rachel, who sent me to the Barefoot Blog in the first place (she is a big Barefoot Contessa fan. And she can COOK. Why aren't you cooking with us here, Rachel?). They (we) will be blogging from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa's books...

So to entice my kids to the table, I jumped ahead an made Parmesan Chicken, the Contessa's twist on Chicken Parmesan: great breading with seasoned bread crumbs and freshly grated parm topped with a lemony salad and shaved parmesan. I loved the savory coating paired with the lemony cool salad.

Start with the breading ready to go; the chicken breasts are pounded to about 1/4-inch thickness. I love cutlets like that. Easiest to do in a ziplock bag.
I love using my old Le Creuset cast iron skillet for things like this--nice browning. Thanks, Le Creuset.
For a side we have corn sauteed with a few little strands of hash brown...I stumbled on the combo when I wanted hash brown but only a few measly pieces of potato were left in the bag (who left three pieces of potato in that bag? Oh, me...) Anyway, over low heat with the barest bit of oil, butter and salt? I think it's like gets this chewy sweetness that is so satisfying.

Great dinner, Contessa.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wild Berry Cobbler

Well. I was admittedly a bit taken aback by the comments on the questions posting at TWD--"Bland" "Boring"..."I changed this, I changed that..." Hmm. In the end I was left wondering had anyone actually made THE RECIPE?

The Wild Berry Crumble is one of the most basic recipes...Biscuit topping, mixed berry filling. And reading the recipe for the biscuit topping left my mouth watering for that biscuit. I determined to make it as written since I figured I'd learn something no matter what.

I learned I love plain biscuits.

The topping goes together in minutes. Flour, Baking powder, a bit of sugar and cold butter all bound together by a touch of heavy cream. Roll it out to a rough circle.

The fruit filling uses fresh OR frozen berries...and since it was pounding rain, I decided to go frozen (quel horror!). I had an unopened package of mixed berries, some strawberries and I rounded it out with a few peaches. (Not berries, you say? Okay, mixed fruit.)

The only change (didn't I say I was making it as written? I lied.) was something I always do with pies and such: I brushed the top with cream (sometimes I use egg wash) and sprinkled it with raw sugar.

Oh, I also baked a tiny bit of biscuit--stuff that was just hanging over the edge--up for myself as...well, as a biscuit. I'd whip this up in a heartbeat for morning biscuits.

My only tip is to cook it the full time--I thought it looked brown enough at about 35 minutes, so I took it out only to find it gummy. I put it right back in, cooked it another 20-25, letting it cool completely so the biscuit soaked up the juice.To each his own, but this is my kind of simple dessert. The biscuit complemented the berries and the berries the biscuit. I only wished I'd braved the rain for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Not that that stopped anyone from enjoying it.

BTW? Makes a great breakfast, too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ina's Brownies...

One of the comments on the TWD (Tuesdays with Dorie for those of you new here) brownies entries from one of the many visitors there was that those Rum Raisin brownies were good, but Ina's were better...Oooh. Them's fighting words. And Rachel, she who bakes, swears by Ina's..and we've discussed them before. We almost always get around to how her husband won't eat them because of the THREE CUPS of walnuts in them..Being a brownie purist, I can empathize, Mike.

So I decided to make Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownies without three cups of walnuts. But first can we just take a moment to discuss the number of people the Contessa's recipes feed? Gazillions. And Ina, gorgeous as she is, is not a rail. Dorie's recipes feed, say, 12. 12 Madeleines. That's all. Dorie? A rail. A gorgeous rail, but...a skinny baker. Who wants 12 madeleines? (Me. All twelve of 'em.) If you've got a single teen in the house, four go to him (hi, Ian!)...Dorie's brownies. 16: that's 16 2x2-inch squares. Ina's Outrageous brownies? A half-sheet tray full....
Just an observation I've had to make.

Back to the brownies. Lots of butter, some unsweetened chocolate. Coffee. Did I say butter? Then you add extra chocolate chips. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate...Then she says cut them into three by three squares. No thanks. I couldn't eat all of a 2x2 square--
but not because they weren't good. Heh. And not because I didn't try. These are Outrageous. I will def. add these to my mix...

I packed a bag and froze them for Rachel (she was in Costa Rica playing in the sun, poor girl) and marked them with a "Don't Eat!!" They survived, and she got them yesterday. Mike, my fellow brownie purist, gave them pretty high marks, I hear. I think Rachel missed the walnuts.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Barefoot Peas

The beginning..Ack! Why did I think I posted this already?

Well, with The Contessa's Pasta, Pesto and Peas, we found another winning dish for the family. Of course, as she wrote it--cup and a half of mayo and all--it seemed like such a side dish--a pasta salad for a ladies lunch. And although we are only four at home these days, two of us are Gary and Ian--Husband and Son--and they eat like guys. No little side dish of pasta for them.

So I fiddled. It just so happened that Ian saw Giada doing a pea pasta on Food Network earlier in the day. She'd added sausage and ricotta (which Ian loves since I made that fresh ricotta). So I eliminated the mayo. Added whole milk ricotta (no time to make the real thing, although I did do it a second time when I was at my mom's--didn't even use a thermometer, it is THAT easy). Anyway. Then I browned up half a pound of sweet Italian sausage and added that. Topped it with toasted pine nuts (I love toasting nuts to use in recipes. Better flavor, better texture.)

Total hit.

True to form, this should have fed a gazillion, although the recipe says 12 (I think). And I think she means 12 as a side dish. If I were planning a party, I'd make this amount for about 20. At least.

But that Contessa. She can whip up a dish, can't she?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Great American Bake Sale

First, thanks to anyone who visits this little blog. I'm having fun with it, and I so appreciate your comments.

I want to encourage everyone here to consider participating in the Great American Bake sale--it's our virtual Bake Sale. The Tuesdays with Dorie crowd has put together a team, and we are encouraging our bakers to donate what they might spend on their weekly recipe to our team's site:
Tuesdays With Dorie Great American Virtual Bake Sale
(Look for the "Make A Gift" link by the thermometer)

Browse the site, too. I am a huge fan of Share Our Strength, an organization with a simple goal: ending childhood hunger in America. I've participated in several of the group's events over the years, and I'm proud that LW of the TWD group jumped on board.

So if you can spare a the equivalent of a couple of cups of mocha lattes from You-Know-Where, head over to the link--it only takes a few minutes.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

La Palette's Strawberry Tart

It's always difficult to cook in someone else's kitchen, isn't it? This week I'm visiting my mom in western Pennsylvania, and the woman has one heckuva stocked kitchen...but no food processor and no tart pan. But that would never stop an intrepid Tuesday With Dorie baker, right? First I had to track down the recipe, because I traveled without and the TWD site has wisely chosen NOT to publish recipes anymore. Kudos to LW, the TWD leader, for making the right choice, letting Dorie protect her copyright. There were no hard feelings (Dorie is one gem of a lady.)
I think it's pretty much strawberry season here (long passed in South Florida, where the strawberries were like sugar this year). True enough, my mom has what must have been a lovely quart of strawberries in her fridge...just about to get to the beyond eating stage.

She also keeps the freezer compartment of her fridge at industrial strength temperatures--Absoulte Zero, if I'm not mistaken--so boy did she EVER have frozen butter.

I mixed the pastry by hand (hey, they had to do it that way all the time in the good old days) and pressed it into the shallowest pie dish I could find in her house. (While searching I found the BEST copper oval pan that I think I can use for the next Florida Table photo shoot. Do I dare try to take it back on the plane?).
Back into the Arctic temps for 30 minutes, then bake until golden. Cool completely. And if you dont' have a tart pan? Just pop it out of the pie dish when it's cool. No big deal..
Part of the beauty of this tart is its simplicity. The shell cools, and you top each portion as it's served. This is one of the best ways to showcase the fruit of the season.

Mom didn't have strawberry jam, but she had great raspberry jam and some blackcurrant jam. I mixed the two together, then did as Dorie told: cut a nice slice of crust, spread with jam, top with strawberries...EAT. This qualifies nicely for my penchant for simple desserts. I love shortbread, fresh strawberries are lovely this time of year and the good jam only enhances the flavors. And because it's spread and serve, that shortbread stays beautifully crispy.

Photos will come. I'm out of town without my cable--and at my mom's relatively low-tech house (fixing that soon. She needs a digital camera.).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I recently had to develop a popover recipe and I have to say, there's not much to develop.
The ratio is 2/4/2: 2 cups flour, 4 eggs, 2 cups milk. Want more? 4 cups flour, 8 eggs, 4 cups milk. I read about slight variations (melted butter, leavening, leave the pans cold, get them hot, start them at a high temp, reduce to low)--they were kind of too many. In the end simplest is best (add 1 teaspoon salt to the 2/4/2 recipe, and I bake at 375 for 50 minutes until REALLY golden brown, although your mileage may vary), but I did learn these things while I baked about 6 batches in the past few weeks:
  • --do not overmix
  • --a hot pan is good
  • --do NOT overfill. I made a few batches where I filled the cup nearly full. I think this doesn't give the batter a "wall" to climb to help the popovers pop.
  • --Absolutely, positively do NOT open the door while these bake.
  • --Really let them bake until they are dark golden and crusty. Underbake them and they will collapse in on themselves.

One batch I could even SEE them prickling to pop right before my eyes. It was like watching time lapse photography.
I added some Jarlsberg cheese to the batch in the oven now...the photos aren't great because, as noted, I can't open the oven.

But the end shots? Mmm. Eat 'em hot.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

If it's Tuesday, it must be brownies...

That's right, kids, we are back to Tuesdays with Dorie, and today's dish is French Chocolate Brownies...Lots of comments on the TWD website--people don't like raisins, they want to substitute this, change that..but my take is that part of what I am doing here is learning to bake. So for now, I'm following Dorie's recipes.

She says in the notes that this was supposed to be a cake, but when she served it, her guests (in France) exclaimed over the brownies.

So they come together quite easily. Lots of buttah. Soak the raisins in rum (I like that). Bittersweet, not semi, chocolate (I used Lindt 70%. Mmm.)..

The brownies cook a long time (50 to 60 minutes--I went 60)...The top crackles--typically a sign of overmixing, but these are NOT overmixed (Dorie even spells out how long to mix each step)...Cool, cut and eat.

I have to say I had a hungry family dying to know when they could eat the we enjoyed our first bites quite warm. I thought. Okay. Good...But then they sat all night. These are fudgy and dense. And great cold.

I'm kind of a brownie purist, so I'm not crazy about the raisins in them, but hey, if you are going to put something in, rum raisins seem to be a great choice to me...

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fresh Ricotta

So JES, the owner of JES publishing, came by my desk the other day and handed me the NYT section with a piece about fresh ricotta (Suddenly Ricotta's a Big Cheese, NYT, 28 May 2008). I couldn't resist it.

Although I had a long day to travel to another client's place on the west coast of Florida, on my ride back, all I could think about was making fresh ricotta. To the point I called Ian so he could read me then text me the ingredients for the ricotta and for the pasta recipe included in the story (Pasta with Tomato Broth, Bacon, Peas and Ricotta--In fact, that was the day I sent a note about bacon to Twitter).

Fresh ricotta was surprisingly easy with a recipe from Michael Chiarello: --1/2 gallon whole milk mixed with 2 cups buttermilk. Heat over high, stirring, to 175 degrees (stirring until it starts to steam; yes, I use a candy thermometer). Spoon the curds into a cheesecloth (he says ladle; a slotted spoon seemed to make more sense to me...) and let drain first five minutes, gather the cloth up, then let rest another 15 minutes. You get 2 cups of smooth, creamy--and, yes, bland--spread--but it is a fresh addition to other things. (Is it a deal? I dunno. I spent $4 on half a gallon of organic whole milk and another $1.50 (more or less) on the buttermilk. Perhaps not a deal, but very well worth it...) Here is a photo of the end result.

I made the pasta with bacon and peas, as noted. You dollop a nice amount of the fresh, soft ricotta onto the hot pasta, then stir it into the sauce and grate some fresh parm on top. Ian went wild for that pasta...I want to add that the color photo in the NYT makes the peas look more like edamame...and I wish I'd had cavatelli, which is between gnocchi and a pasta.

The other recipe (I'll have to make more; I gave the remaining ricotta to JES since it was all at his inspiration) in the NYT is for crostini with ricotta, fresh thyme and dried oregano. Okay, guess I'll have to make some more fresh ricotta.