Tag-Archive for ◊ lunch ◊

11 Sep 2013 Caprese Garlic Bread (with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil)

caprese bread

It’s just garlic bread, folks, but it’s garlic bread with an upgrade! After running across this recipe at Two Peas and their Pod,  I decided I needed to make it! I quickly sent texts to a few friends and invited them to come over for a light supper and four replied “YES”!  I served this bread, a platter of cold shrimp, some sliced melon, iced tea and lemon meringue pie. It’s  great having friends who are good with spur-of-the-moment things 🙂

The bread was very good!  The Balsamic Reduction highlighted the simple tomato, cheese, and basil topping.  I made a few changes to the original recipe:  I used my own garlic bread base, I adjusted the cooking time for the balsamic reduction and I baked the tomatoes on the bread instead of laying them on after cooking.  BTW, do not skip the balsamic reduction, it’s fabulous!

I hope you have some backyard (or farmer’s market)  tomatoes on hand, because store bought tomatoes just aren’t invited to this party! And the photo above shows a bit too much cheese.  I bought fresh mozzarella from Costco and it came pre-sliced, so I just went with it.  Turns out I used double the cheese!  Oooops!  No one complained though 🙂  The recipe below has the correct amount of cheese listed but if you want to up it a bit, that’s up to you. One other piece of advice, the tomatoes shrink when baked, so pile them on the bread.  I think I could have added another slice of tomato to each row!

Caprese Garlic Bread

AKA: Garlic Bread with Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Basil

  • 1 loaf sourdough bread, horizontally cut in half (french bread would work, too.  The original recipe called for ciabatta, but I am in the SF Bay Area and sourdough rules around here!)
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus and extra tablespoon or so for garnish)
  • 3 Tablespoons dried onion, if you have it
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil (or 2 Tablespoons fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley (or 2 Tablespoons fresh)
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. While you are getting all the ingredients together and doing the prep work, make the balsamic reduction. Place 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring the vinegar to a boil, decrease the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is reduced by about half. How do you know when the vinegar has been reduced by half? Keep the measuring jug near the pan.  Every once in awhile pour the hot vinegar into the measuring cup.  If it’s not at 1/4 cup yet, pour it back in the pan and continue boiling. Keep doing this until the vinegar has been reduced to 1/4 cup. This will take about 10-15  minutes. Set the reduction aside to cool.  You won’t  need to use it until just before serving.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  3. In a small bowl combine butter, garlic, dried onion, basil, parsley, and parmesan cheese.  
  4. Cut the loaf of bread in half horizontally. Place both sides of the loaf on a large baking sheet with the cut side up. Spread the garlic butter mixture over both sides of the cut bread.  Spread to all the corners and completely to the outer edge of the bread.
  5. Place the mozzarella cheese slices on top of the bread, making sure the cheese covers the bread completely.
  6. Top the cheese with the sliced tomatoes.  Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper, to taste. If desired, sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese over the tomaotes.
  7. Bake the bread at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  8. Remove the bread from oven.  Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of the bread and drizzle with balsamic reduction.
  9. Cut into slices and serve.

That’s all there is too it!  Enjoy the last of your summer tomatoes!  They are special, aren’t they? And thanks for dropping by today!

06 Sep 2013 Pavlova

pavlova1

In England, Australia, New Zealand and my house Pavlova is  a very popular dessert.  I am not sure why it’s not only not popular in the US but it’s not even well known.  Pavlova is a  quick, light, inexpensive, impressive, and utterly delicious dessert.  Pavlova is usually served during summer months since fresh berries are an important component.

Legend has it that Pavlova was named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova sometime in the 1920’s. But there the agreement ends. There is a huge and controversial issue around the country of origin of this dessert.  Both Australia and  New Zealand claim it.  Pavlova is a popular dish and important part of the national cuisine of both countries–as it is England (but England doesn’t claim to be a country of origin). Ok, ok! I can hear you all hollering but, what IS  “Pavlova”?

Pavlova is a meringue dessert with a crisp outer shell and a soft, light, fluffy center.  The meringue crust is  topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries–and kiwi– to serve.

I make two versions of this dessert.  Version #1, and the most traditional is below.  In Version #2, I mix a little lemon curd into the whipped cream, and I use blueberries instead of the more traditional raspberries and strawberries.  Trader Joe’s carries a very good and inexpensive lemon curd.  If you have a lemon tree, you can make your own lemon curd in the microwave with my recipe.

Pavlova doesn’t keep!  Don’t assemble the Pavlova until JUST before serving, and don’t expect to enjoy they leftovers (they’ll be soggy).  Make sure this is eaten all up all at once.  The good news is that the meringue base can be made ahead and stored for a few days in an airtight container before assembling and serving, which makes this a great showstopping dessert to make for guests.

High humidity might negatively affect this dessert. It’s best not to attempt to make this on a humid, wet, rainy day.

Pavlova

  •  4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows
  • fresh raspberries, strawberries, kiwi or combination (see above for a blueberry version)
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
  2. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide.  Turn the paper over so the drawn circle is on the reverse side of the paper. (This way you won’t get a pencil mark on the meringue.)
  3. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Be SURE the bowl and beaters are very, very, very clean–with not one bit of oil, butter or fat residue.)
  4. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar, in slow steady stream or 1 T. at a time and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  5. Mix vanilla, cornstarch and vinegar together then fold that mixture lightly into the egg white mixture using a very clean rubber spatula (there should be no oil, fat, butter, residue on the spatula).
  6. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Then, make a crater or a bowl in the middle of the flat meringue pile. (So the meringue looks like a rimmed soup bowl or large saucer.  This “crater” will hold the whipped cream and fruit at serving time.
  7. Bake at 200 degrees for  1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, at least 1 hour, overnight is better. (The meringue will deflate if exposed to cold air before it’s cool).  Store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Do not refrigerate.
  8. Place meringue disk onto a serving plate and JUST BEFORE SERVING spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Spoon the berries and the traditional Kiwi, if you can get it, carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately.

Sweetened Whipped Cream:

1 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
½ – 1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don’t overbeat!  If using a Kitchen Aid, make 1 ½ or 2 cups cream, any less and the whisk won’t get it all up from the bottom.

You’ll love it!  Practice this once for the family, and then WOW your guests with it the next time!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

22 Aug 2013 Salmon in Parchment

salmon

Every once in awhile you run across a recipe that changes everything!  This is one of those recipes.  Cooking salmon in the microwave, with veggies.  How simple is that? How convenient is that? This main dish is simple, delicious  and healthy.  You’ll need a salmon fillet, a cup of fresh julienne veggies, a large piece of parchment paper, a little liquid, and a microwave. Chop and prep, five minutes in the microwave, then BOOM, a tasty, spot on healthy dinner of salmon and veggies!

I can’t get enough of this!  As much as I love, love, love the combination of veggies below, I often have to switch up the veggies and change the sauce to accommodate what I have on hand. The method always works, it’s always good and it never heats up the kitchen.  PLUS, dinner can be ready in ten minutes flat!

Fully Customizable Microwave Salmon & Veggies in Parchment

Recipe by Polly Ferguson, based on a recipe by Alton Brown

  • 1 (8-ounce) salmon fillet, pin bones removed
  • 1/3 cup julienne fennel bulb
  • 1/3 cup julienne leeks, white part only
  • 1/3 cup julienne carrots
  • 1/3 cup julienne snow peas
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander (this could be customized too—curry powder, cumin, or any other powdered spice you are partial to and that would complement the veggies and the salmon could be used)
  • Herbs: 6 basil leaves, chopped finely (or any mixture of herbs from your garden, or spices from your cabinet, that appeals to you—parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, rosemary, green onion, chives, fresh ginger, tarragon, lemon pepper, garlic, chili powder, curry powder, herbs de province, paprika, etc…)
  • Other Stuff: 1 tsp. grated lemon or orange peel, diced pineapple, jalapeño, (maybe even some brown sugar or a drizzle of maple syrup, or a sprinkling of ground coffee or mustard…, pesto or marmalade…)
  • Liquid: 1 tablespoon dry vermouth, OR orange juice, OR white wine… (just don’t use lemon juice, major Yuck!) I’d really like to experiment with soy sauce or teriyaki sauce, rice wine, melted butter (!), dry sherry, coconut milk, Asian Fish Sauce or beer 🙂
  1. Take a rather large piece of parchment paper and fold it in half  like a book. Lay fennel, leeks, carrots, and snow peas on parchment in the center of the paper and on one side of the fold.
  2. Mix together salt, pepper, and ground coriander (or whatever spice mix appeals to you). Sprinkle vegetables with 1/2 of the spice mixture.
  3. Lay salmon on top of vegetables and sprinkle with the remaining spice mixture.
  4. Top salmon with choice of herbs, sprinklings, and 1 tablespoon of desired liquid (wine, vermouth, orange juice, teriyaki sauce…)
  5. Fold empty side of parchment over fish and starting at top, fold up both edges of parchment, overlapping folds as you move along. Once you reach the bottom tip, twist several times to secure tightly.
  6. Place on microwave safe plate and cook for 5 minutes, on high in microwave (or until fish reaches 131 degrees if you have an instant read thermometer and wish to use it–I don’t). Let the package sit for 2 minutes.
  7. Open parchment carefully and serve for a complete meal. Serve from the parchment package, if you’d like. If I am feeling fancy I take the skin off the salmon fillet, place the veggies on the plate, and put the salmon on top and sprinkle with a garnish of  green onion, parsley or snipped basil.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today! :)

06 Jul 2013 Turkey Burgers with a Greek Flair

Turkey Burger

Want a new, different and totally tasty burger to add to your repertoire?  Here it is! A Turkey burger with a Spanakopita Flair.  This recipe was inspired by Rachael Ray’s, Spanakopita Burger from her book, 365: No Repeats.  I made her recipe “as is” last year, and it was good, but this year I made it my way (below), and loved it.  I grill these burgers, but pan frying works, too.  I am sure some cucumber raita would go well on these burgers but we ate them the traditional American way, on a good bun with sliced homegrown tomatoes, a bit of crunchy lettuce and ketchup. Make the patties as big or as little as you want. I made 8 patties, approx 6 oz. each, but I love those little slider buns that are available now and think hosting a BBQ and serving a variety of burgers would be fun.  You could make slider sized regular hamburgers, these Greek Turkey Burgers, and maybe a Salmon burger. Don’t forget the sides of watermelon, corn, and a pasta salad, and grill some of that zucchini that I know is taking over  your garden.  S’mores for dessert, of course.  How about my Peach Iced Tea or Blueberry Lemonade to drink? Done!  Send out the e-vite!

My son’s girlfriend just took a bite of my his leftover and warmed up Turkey burger.  Her exact words were, “WOW. That’s fantastic!” Yup 🙂  And she scored big points with the boyfriend’s mama!

Turkey Burgers with a Greek Flair

  • 1  1/2 lb – 1  1/3 lb ground turkey
  • 1 box (10 oz) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup (4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
  • 18-24 (2-3 oz) Kalamata olives, diced
  • 1/2 cup very finely diced or grated red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley, if you have some on hand
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. – 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (the feta and olives are already salty so you can skip the added salt if you are salt sensitive)
  • 4 oz. applesauce (1 individual serving cup) OR 1/2 peeled apple, grated
  • 1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs (any breadcrumbs or Panko will work)
  • 1 egg, beaten

To serve: Buns, and choice of toppings.

  1. Place the ground turkey in a large bowl.
  2. Remove the defrosted spinach from the box and squeeze, and I do mean s-q-u-e-e-z-e ALL the water from the spinach.  I did not say drain, I said squeeze.  Take about 1/3 of the spinach into your hand and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze until totally dry.  Repeat until all the spinach is in little tight balls.  Fluff the balls up and add to the ground turkey in the bowl.
  3. Add to the turkey mixture the feta, olives, red onion, garlic, oregano, basil or parsley, salt and pepper, applesauce or grated apple, and the bread crumbs.  With a fork lightly mix the ingredients until everything has been uniformly distributed.
  4. Divide the mixture into 8 equal parts. Pat each part into a flat patty, just slightly bigger than your hamburger buns.
  5. Grill, or pan fry until done, about 3 minutes on each side, but this all depends on how hot the grill/pan is.
  6. Toast the buns!  (I love toasted buns)
  7. Serve with your choice of condiments–ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, riata, tomatoes, lettuce, grilled red peppers…

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  I hope you enjoy these burgers, we sure did!  They’re VERY tasty 🙂

24 Jun 2013 Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

Crab and brie mac n cheese

Whooooa Nelly!  Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese?  Over-the-top decadence in a comfort food?  YEP! And the decadence makes the comfort food even more comforting–like ‘died and gone to heaven’ comforting!  Yet another winning recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication “Best Loved Reader Recipes; 125 Winners from 1930 to Today”. (My last post was a recipe for “Peach Iced Tea” inspired by a recipe from this magazine)

If someone is having a hard time, and that sweet “I am going to drop off a casserole” American tradition seems appropriate, THIS is the casserole to take.  I took it to my 120-miles away daughter who is bravely attempting a semester long college Physics course in a six-week summer session, working the 4 PM-midnight shift at Target, and sweltering in the hot central valley heat. I am not saying this Macaroni and Cheese is miraculous or anything, but she did  score 15 points over the class average on her first mid-term. Not dropping off a casserole to a friend-in-need anytime soon?  I’ll bet you’ll be going to a potluck then. Take this!  Want to eat it at home, like we did?  We had it with mixed roasted veggies, but a leafy green salad would be nice too, and a corn muffin.

This casserole is not cheap, but if you shop at Costco for your pound of brie and pound of crab (the only two expensive ingredients), it won’t break the bank and you’ll have made a casserole big enough feed a small army.

Truth be told, I was a bit afraid of this recipe at first, wondering if the Brie would be too strong, and wondering if I would be able to taste the crab over the brie.  Both worries proved needless.  Everything melds together nicely.  Comfortingly nice.  I’ll say it again, because it’s true, ‘died and gone to heaven’ nice!

I changed the recipe just just a bit; one, to conform to the quantities of crab and brie sold at Costco (no leftover bits and no need to buy two big cartons of anything) and two, to make the recipe a bit easier by  substituting panko instead of homemade bread crumbs. I also re-wrote the recipe a bit, making roux is not hard, just follow my instructions: brown the flour and butter (and don’t skimp on the butter), remove the pan from the heat, then vigorously stir in hot milk until sauce is smooth.

Enjoy your comfort food decadance.

Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 lb. dried macaroni (small shells or elbows)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons butter (maybe a bit more)
  • 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 13-16 oz. Brie, cubed
  • 16 oz. refrigerated container crabmeat, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup Panko or favorite breadcrumbs
  1. Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions.  (Choose the shortest cooking time since pasta will continue to cook when baked.) Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-in by 13-in casserole dish.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute onion in butter until tender and golden, about 15 minutes.  (Do not skimp on the butter.  You’ll need the full quantity of  butter to make the roux in the step 5.)
  4. Heat 3 cups of milk in microwave until hot (3-5 minutes).
  5. Meanwhile, over medium heat, stir flour into onion and butter mixture.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes (to cook flour and to incorporate butter into the flour).  If mixture is too lumpy or dry, add an additional tablespoon of butter.
  6. Remove hot pan with onion and roux from heat.  Pour in 1 cup of hot milk.  Stir well, and keep stirring-vigorously if needed-until mixture is smooth and lump free.  Add another cup of hot milk, stir and mix again.  When mixture is smooth and lump free, repeat with last cup of milk.
  7. Return pan to medium heat. Add cubed brie to sauce in pan.  Stir constantly until brie is melted and incorporated.  Remove pan from heat when brie has melted and the sauce is smooth once again.
  8. Fold drained crab into cheese sauce then stir in cooked and well-drained macaroni.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Pour crab-brie-macaroni mixture into a well buttered 9-in x 13-in casserole dish.
  11. Sprinkle bread crumbs over top of macaroni and cheese.
  12. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until mixture is heated through and bread crumbs have browned.  If breadcrumbs don’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil casserole for a few minutes.
  13. Remove casserole from oven. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes, then serve. In a bowl, while curled up on the couch with a good book or good movie, or on a plate with roasted veggies or a salad, and maybe a small corn muffin. Enjoy.  Feel better. Ace the Physics test!

Leftovers can be reheated in microwave or frozen for a future treat.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen again today,  I love having you drop by!  Let’s see what else I can make from this magazine. It’s supposed to be on the shelves until July 15, 2013, so if you see it, you might want to pick up a copy.

09 Dec 2012 Skibo Castle Crunch

This cookie is something you’ve never tasted before.  There’s no chocolate, no caramel, no peanut butter, no nuts, no oatmeal, no coffee, no mint, nor is there any jam in this cookie, so how can it be good?  I don’t know, but it is.  Damn good.  Two bites and you’ll be addicted and you won’t know why.

I don’t know why I made this cookie in the first place.  I found it in “The Gourmet Cookie Book: The Single Best Recipe From Each Year 1941-2009” by Gourmet Magazine.  This was billed as the best cookie of 1999.  Maybe I made it because it was made famous in Scotland and I have a fondness for all things Scottish.  Maybe because it was a 15 minute bar cookie recipe and I had all the ingredients on hand.  Nevertheless, I made it, and this odd, crunchy ginger cookie has become one of my favorite all time cookies.

I had to change the recipe though.  The first year I made it, I loved it, but it was ODD, downright ugly and temperamental (no two batches turned out the same).  So I twiddled with it a bit and then , sadly, had to let it go as an “almost great” cookie.  This year,  I found the recipe again,  on Epicurious. com…, with twenty-five comments!  So I tried the recipe again and incorporated some of the suggestions.  Success!  This is the cookie I am taking to my Cookbook Club’s annual Christmas Cookie Exchange (my yoga group already gave it 10 thumbs up–and they got to taste both years’ versions).

The biggest change was doubling the recipe, but baking in the same size pan as the original recipe.  The second big change was using a food processor to make the base.  The third big change was cutting the cookie into squares before the cookie cooled. So here is the recipe for an odd, crunchy, ginger-y cookie that takes 15 minutes to bake and is totally addictive.

If you want more ginger flavor, add 1/2 cup minced candied ginger to either the shortbread base or sprinkled on top of the glaze.

Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch

For Shortbread Base:

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces

For Glaze-like Topping:

1 1/2 cups butter
2 tablespoon Lyle’s Golden Syrup (British cane sugar syrup-try World Market or an Indian Grocery or Amazon.com…or sub dark corn syrup)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F . Line  a 13″ by 9″ baking pan with parchment paper.

Make shortbread base:
Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and whirl to combine.  Add in and blend in butter  and whirl until mixture resembles coarse meal and just starts to hold together.  Pour mixture into parchment lined baking pan. With your fingers, press mixture evenly into bottom of pan.  Do this lightly.  If you press too hard the shortbread will suffer.  Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden and crisp around the edges, 25 to 30  minutes.  Keep  your eye on this.  The shortbread can go from perfectly done to over baked in a minute.

Just before shortbread is done, make the topping:
Five minutes before the shortbread is to be taken out of the oven, melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Whisk in remaining ingredients until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, stirring, for one minute. Remove shortbread from oven and pour topping over, tilting pan to cover shortbread evenly.

Cool in pan on a rack for about 20 minutes, then cut the Skibo Crunch into small squares or rectangles.  Let the Skibo Crunch cool completely before removing from pan.  Then…WOW your guests with this seriously odd cookie.

Let me know if it becomes one of your favorites, too.

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!