Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zucchini Pizza Bianca, Rotini al Sugo di Pomodoro (Fresh Tomato Sauce), and Quick Chicken Parmigiana

Basil, Tomatoes, and Oregano fresh  from our garden
Summer in Italy (and Southern California) is a time to delight in the abundance of fresh foods found in the garden and at the market.  We are starting to have a steady crop of tomatoes in our garden, and I was craving this fresh tomato sauce
This recipe from Giada de Laurentiis  tastes like summer! I used spring onions instead of olives. It would be a great appetizer cut into bite-size pieces.

Rotini al Sugo di Pomodoro (Fresh Tomato Sauce)
Cook 1/2 Pound Rotini according to package directions.

In a medium saucepan, sautee:
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Garlic, minced
2 Mexican Onions, minced (or half a white onion)

When onions soften, add
1 1/2 Pounds Fresh Tomatoes, diced

Continue cooking, stirring until tomatoes cook down, then add:
15 leaves Basil, chiffonade
Salt and Pepper to taste

Stir cooked pasta into sauce, but reserve enough to top the Chicken.
Quick Chicken Parmigiana
Butterfly 2 Skinless Chicken Breasts.
Coat with Progresso Italian Bradcrumbs.

Pan-fry in a large skillet in 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil for about 8 minutes on each side.

Top with Parmesan Cheese and a couple spoonfuls of reserved Tomato Sauce.
Buon Appetito!

"Secret's Out" Roses from our garden.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Caramel Cake for Mercedes

Caramel Birthday Cake for Mercedes!
Caramel Cake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place parchment paper in the bottoms of two 9-inch cake pans, and spray with Baking Spray.

In a small saucepan, dissolve
1/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Water
Stir until it turns deep golden in color and creates a Caramel Syrup. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

In a stand mixer, beat for 2 - 3 minutes until fluffly and pale yellow:
1-1/4 cups Sugar
3/4 cup Butter

3 Eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Pour in cooled Caramel Syrup.

Sift together:
3 cups Cake Flour
3 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
Add half to batter, blending well.

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract to
1 cup Milk

Add half to batter, blending on low speed. Add remaining Flour Mixture, then blend, and end with remaining Milk mixture.

Divide batter evenly among the two prepared pans and bake 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove pans from oven and let stand about 10 minutes, then turn out cakes, peel off paper and cool completely.

Caramel Frosting
In a medium saucepan, melt:
1/2 Cup Butter (1 stick)
Continue stirring until golden brown. Remove from heat.

Whisk in:
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 Tablespoons Half-and-half

Stirring until thick, smooth, and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, drizzle in more Half-and-half.

You can make 2 separate 1-layer cakes, as I did, or make a 2-layer cake with frosting in the middle.

Frost cooled cake, and sprinkle top with Heath Bits ‘O Brickle Toffee Bits and Pecan pieces.

Decorate edge of cake with Pecan halves.

Roses, Geraniums, and Mint from our garden.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wine Marinated Tri-tip, Pico de Gallo, Ranch-Style Beans, Flour Tortillas, and Oxnard Strawberries with Grand Marnier

Wine-Marinated Tri-Tip
Tri-tip is a cut of beef that originated in Santa Maria, CA. It's great barbequed and is wonderfully versatile. It makes great sandwiches, tacos, salads, and soups. Tri-tip can be prepared for the grill any number of ways.

For tonight's meal, John started last night. He salted and peppered the meat and sprinkled it with garlic powder and Black and Red Spice, then marinated it in 1/2 bottle of red wine and threw in a couple of Bay Leaves, then refrigerated it overnight and all day, turning it once every several hours.
Tri-tip is best slow-cooked over indirect heat on the grill. It should be seared, then turned about every 15 minutes for 45 minutes. You should let it rest at least 5 minutes before slicing it against the grain.

15 Sungold Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
2 Large Red Beefsteak Tomatoes, seeded and diced
6 Green Onions, minced
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
Juice of 1/4 Lemon
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Ranch-Style Beans
I featured these earlier this month in crowd-size proportions.  This version is more reasonable for a family dinner.

In a Cast Iron, Saute:
1 Pound Regular Jimmy Dean
1 Medium Onion, finely diced

When sausage is cooked through, transfer to Crock Pot, and stir in:
1 Can Diced Tomatoes with juice
2 Cans Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Cans Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard
2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
2 Teaspoons Worchestershire Sauce
1 Teaspoons Sugar
2 Bay Leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Cook on low heat for 4 - 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

In true Santa Maria style, we served this meal with Flour Tortillas on the side.

Oxnard Strawberries with Grand Marnier
We are lucky to live in Oxnard where fresh strawberries are available year-round.  But, they are never sweeter than at the peak of summer!
3 Pints Fresh Strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
Sprinkle with:
3 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (or other orange-flavored liquer)
3 teaspoons Vanilla Sugar
Stir to combine and coat.

Roses from our garden

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maple, Oat, and Toasted Pecan Scones

Maple, Oat, and Toasted Pecan Scones
Okay, so technically, this isn't a meal, but they are so good I had to share them with you!  Those of you who know me know that baking is my passion.

This recipe is a hybrid of two that sound great in their own rights:  Vino Luci's Better-than-Starbuck's Maple and Toasted Pecan Scones and Ina Garten's Maple Oat Scones.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

For the Scones
Toast 3/4 Cup Pecans on a Baking Sheet lined with Parchment Paper for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces.
Then add in Pecans, mixing to blend.

1 3/4 Cups Unbleached Flour
1/2 Cup Whole-wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Oats
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoons Salt
1/2 Pound (2 sticks) cold Butter, diced

1/2 Cup Toasted Pecans

Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add to the flour-and-butter mixture.
Mix until just blended, The dough will be sticky.

1/4 cup cold Buttermilk
1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup
2 large Eggs, lightly beaten

For the Glaze
To make the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, maple syrup and vanilla, stirring with a fork.

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined.
Sprinkle a little flour on the top of the dough and pat until it's 3/4 to 1 inch thick.
Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter and place on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are browned.

When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes and drizzle each scone with glaze.
Sprinkle with toasted Pecans.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Salisbury Steaks in French Onion Sauce, Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes, and Steamed Yellow & Green Beans

This recipe comes from fellow-blogger, Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice.  For the meat, we followed the recipe, as published, but placed the steak on a bed of Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes instead of Cheese Toast. 

We could think of several variations using the basic meat recipe and playing around with the sauce to make another time - this is a great basic recipe.  It was wonderful, flavorful comfort food!

Salisbury Steak was one of John's paternal grandmother's favorite dishes to make for the family.  He said this version was more gourmet than hers, but it still brought back good memories of family gatherings.

Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Boil: 3 peeled and diced Russet Potatoes in just enough salted water to cover them.
Drain, and return to pan with:
1/4 Cup Butter, sliced into 4 pieces
1/3 Cup Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste

Mash with a potato masher until desired consistency.

Steamed Yellow & Green Beans
Trader Joe's sells these fresh beans in a "Microwave in Bag" package.  Nothing could be easier.  We punctured the bag, then microwaved the bag for 5 minutes, poured them into a bowl and tossed with Salt, Pepper, and 2 Tablespoons of Butter cut into small pieces.
Fresh Lemon Thyme & Parsley from our garden - used in the Steak recipe.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cauliflower-Potato Soup

Cauliflower-Potato Soup
Add vegetables (except tomatoes) to large pot of boiling, salted water. Cover and cook until tender ~ about 15 mins.

2 Cups Diced Potatoes
1 Cup Chopped Onion
1 Cup Sliced Celery
2 Cups Chopped Cauliflower
1/2 tsp Salt
2 ½ Cups Boiling Water

While the vegetables are cooking, melt butter in a skillet. Whisk in flour, then pour in milk, stirring continuously until it thickens. 

¼ Cup Butter
¼ Cup Flour
2 Cups Milk
½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Dill Weed
1 tsp Minced Parsley
¼ tsp Ground Pepper
½ tsp Dry Mustard
1 ½ tsp Worcestershire Sauce
10 oz Grated Cheddar Cheese
1 Cup Diced Canned Tomatoes

Stir in spices and cheese, then remove from heat.

Pour cheese sauce into pot with vegetables and mash with potato masher, or immersion blender, until it reaches desired consistency. Stir in tomatoes.

1 ~ Substitute broccoli for cauliflower and leave tomatoes out.
 2 ~ Add extra potatoes instead of cauliflower, leave tomatoes out, and add bacon and chives.

Fresh Cherries for sale at Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lobster Salad with Avocado and Tomato Vinaigrette

This is an involved dish with layer upon layer of flavor.  It is amazing, and every bite is unique.

We did make a couple changes from the original recipe.  I added a bunch of poached asparagus, and used mixed Spring Greens instead of all Arugula.

Poached Asparagus
Rinse a bunch of Asparagus and snap the ends off.
Place in a large frying pan with the juice of 1 Lemon and enough water to make 1/2 inch of liquid in the bottom of the pan
Sprinkle with Herbes de Provence and Sea Salt.
Cover and poach until Asparagus is tender - about 10 minutes.
Drain liquid and place a couple handfuls of ice in the pan to stop cooking and cool.

Tomato Vinaigrette
Pesto Mayonnaise
Steaming Lobster Tails!
Fresh Tomatoes grown in our garden!
The Completed Dish
I made a "raft" of Asparagus, piled Spring Greens on it, then the vegetable mix.  I used a baster to add the Tomato Vinaigrette around the salad, and an Iced Tea spoon to drop the Pesto Mayonnaise around the plate.
Buon Appetito!
Hydrangeas from my mother's garden

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Steamed Artichokes, Filet Mignon with Ruby Port Reduction Sauce, Scalloped Potatoes, and Summery Peach Upside-downer Cake

We used Grapefruit Spoons to clear out the furry centers of the Artichokes to get to the succulent hearts!

Cut the stems off the artichokes so they sit flat.
Steam until you can easily pull a leaf from the center with a pair of tongs ~ about 45 minutes - 1 hour

We served these with Chili-lime Mayonnaise:
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
Juice from 1/4 Lime,
1/4 tsp Chili Powder

Filet Mignon with Ruby Port Reduction Sauce

I truly wish I could send you the aroma of this reduction sauce wafting through our kitchen while it reduced on the stove.  Our patience and the anticipation of this meal were justly rewarded when the flavors all came together in the end to melt in our mouths!

Butterfly two Filet Mignon Steaks and lay flat.
Sprinkle them with Shallot Pepper Seasoning and Garlic Salt.
Set aside.

In a small saucepan, simmer:
2 Cups Ruby Port ~ we used EOS
1 Green Onion
4 small sprigs Fresh Rosemary
1 Tablespoon Whole Peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon Salt
Contine to simmer over low heat for about an hour until reduced to 3/4 cup (less than half), then strain.

In a large frying pan, add:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Butter
When Butter is melted, add steaks and cook for about 4 minutes on each side.
Remove steaks and deglaze pan with Port Reduction Sauce.
Spoon Sauce over steaks.
John & I jokingly call these "our secret family recipe."  They are so good & so easy to make!

Summery Peach Upside-downer Cake
Peaches are my favorite summer fruit!  Here is another fabulous recipe from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking From My Home to Yours," page 206.  This cake is quick and easy to make, and just the right size for a small dinner party or pot-luck.
Fresh, local grapes

Friday, July 16, 2010

Garden Salad, Gnocchi Bolognese, and Focaccia

Garden Salad
Sungold and Tommy Toe Cherry Tomatoes from our garden!
1/2 head Iceberg Lettuce, thinly sliced in both directions
3 Ribs Celery, sliced
2 Carrots, peeled and sliced
6 Green Onions, sliced
Handful of Cherry Tomatoes

Gnocchi Bolognese
One of my favorite comfort foods when I was a kid in Italy, Gnocchi are pasta balls made with potatoes.  They are mild, chewy, and great with a variety of sauces.  They are time-consuming to make from scratch, so I was happy to find Fornario Italia Potato Gnocchi pre-made at Trader Joe's.

Boil according to package directions, and top with 1/2 a recipe of Bolognese Sauce (you can freeze the other half to defrost for a quick weeknight dinner another time).
We get wonderful fresh Focaccia at the Farmers' Market & like to dip it in Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar.

We finally had nice enough weather to enjoy dinner in our garden!

Buon Appetito!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chicken and Cheese in Puff Pastry, Sauteed Brussels Sprouts, Herbes de Provence Rice, and Peach-Blueberry Crisp

Chicken and Cheese in Puff Pastry
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
1 Sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, unfold, and cut into 4 squares

Whisk together:
1 Egg
1 Tablespoon Water

Place 1 Tablespoon Boursin Pepper Cheese in the center of each pastry square

Split among the 4 squares:
1 Cup diced cooked Chicken
Sprinkle with 1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Thyme

Using a pastry brush, paint edges of pastry squares with Egg & Water mixture, pull points together, and seal seams.  Turn over onto the lined baking sheet, and paint tops.  Using kitchen shears, cut 3 v-shaped vent holes along the top.

Bake for 25 minutes until pastry is golder brown.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
Probably one of the most under-appreciated vegetables, these Brussels Sprouts are fresh from the Farmers' Market & delicious!

Slice 1 Pint of Brussels Sprouts horizontally.

In a medium saucepan, sautee:
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Shallot, minced
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic, Minced

Stir over medium heat until Shallot starts to brown, then add:
 Brussels Sprouts
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Continue stirring until Brussels Sprouts are softened and turn bright green.
Sprinkle with Hormel Bacon Crumbles

Just before serving, sprinkle with Sherry Vinegar.
Print this recipe

Herbes de Provence Rice
2 Tablespoons of butter
1 Tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 cup white rice
2 Cups chicken broth
Place all ingredients in a medium sauce pan, then bring to a boil. Lower the temperature, and allow rice to simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and let sit for 5 minutes before fluffing and serving.
This is the second time I've made this delicious crisp.  Last time, I used Peaches and Blackberries.  This time, Peaches and Blueberries.  It was equally delicious both times!  I look forward to trying it with apples and pears in the autumn.
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