Monday, July 27, 2009

Granola with Olive Oil and Salt

I've been on a 'healthy eating' streak of late. That's not entirely true--I've been on a terrible butter laden eating streak for some time now. So now I'm attempting to practice moderation by eating healthier delicious fare 90% of the time, so I don't feel guilty with the occasional catered lunch, or dinner out on the town.

This streak started the weekend of July 4th, (along with the Northeast's official start of bathing suit season - also known as my reality check) when, rather than do my usual baked-good pickup on the way to the Provincetown ferry, I instead packed two fruit and yogurt parfaits, with a perfectly pre-measured pouch of granola for the bf and I. It was delicious, and I was hooked.

I was however, concerned about this pre-packaged granola. I didn't recognize some of the ingredients....and the ingredients that I did recognize certainly did not merit the $4.99 price tag for a measly bit of cereal-- unless there was some foie gras in there that I didn't notice, it seemed a tad overpriced.

I began trolling the Internet in search of a granola recipe that suited my fancy...no raisins (I really don't like them in my cereal), maple flavor...I always have maple syrup on hand for sweetening baked goods and oatmeal. I finally came upon a perfect sounding recipe in the NYTimes. I was a bit skeptical, since the recipe relied on olive oil (rather than flavorless canola or safflower) and also called for some salt! Salt in my sweet granola goodness???? I love salty, lets be honest.
Olive Oil Granola - NY Times

So I gave it a go with things I had on hand. (I am on a budget after all - no need for fancy shopping trips). Instead of pistachios, I subbed the last of the pecans in my freezer. I didn't use pumpkin seeds, coconut, or apricots. I also left out the brown sugar, because I was all-out and I figured the maple syrup would be plenty sweet. I didn't have cardamom, but I did have pumpkin pie spice, which lists cardamom as one of the ingredients....into the bowl it went. The first batch was so addictive, that I couldn't stop eating it. I brought it in the next morning to co-workers....who demolished my first batch immediately. One coworker exclaimed that she had never heard of making granola. Yes, I make granola, and it is delicious.

I have been making a batch a week to have on my morning fruit and yogurt. And although it is granola, and it is supposed to be healthy....and part of my new healthy eating regimen...this stuff is loaded with fat and sugar. I measure it judiciously. I have 1/4 cup each morning, and enjoy every bite. Maybe this is the moral of the story as well? Have your delicious calorie laden foods, but made with fresh ingredients. Enjoy a small portion and savor every morsel.

I recommend that you give this recipe a try...and don't be afraid to tinker with it a little bit. Last night I used walnuts instead of pecans, and it was still delicious. Store it in a resealable container....and honestly, keep it out of sight. It's so tasty and addictive it might just disappear before your eyes....

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blueberry Gallete

I think one of the reasons that I love the summer so much is because fresh berries are everywhere, and they are FINALLY reasonably priced! No more will I pay $5 for a pint of mediocre berries....In fact last week, Trader Joe's had a giant pound sized box of blueberries on sale for $2.99! I had to purchase, since I've been enjoying my morning yogurt and granola with tons and tons of blueberries....But, after I got home, I realized. The BF is gone this weekend, so he won't be having them in his cereal...I had better do something special with my ample berry bounty before they spoil!
I almost never bake, and rarely keep sweets or baked goods in the house, so I decided to treat my frequent gym attendance with a little baking...and try my hand at a free-form blueberry tart....which henceforth will be referred to as a gallete. (Gallete sounds much more sophisticated than 'lazy-man-tart').
Now, one of the reasons I don't often bake, is because I don't get enough opportunity to be creative. Baking to me, means ratios, measuring....exact science...bleck! So when I want to put a quick desert I employ the genius that is the frozen puff pastry.
By using puff pastry, this dessert becomes so quick to assemble that it could easily be made on a weeknight. It's so easy! In fact, since the puffy pastry is already frozen, I imagine you could assemble this tart, freeze it, and then pop it in the oven up to a week or so later. Or bake it off while you're eating dinner.

There is a lot of lemon in this gallette. I really love the way that lemon and blueberry mix together, and it gets flavor from the juice, as well as the zest.

Ingredients:
1 sheet of puff pastry
2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons of sugar (more if your blueb's are tart - mine were amazing)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon apricot jam
1 egg
2 tablespoons almonds
flour for dusting the work surface

Thaw puff pastry according to package instructions.
While thawing, mix in a large bowl the blueberries through lemon zest.
Once pastry is thawed, preheat your oven to 400.
Dust your work surface with flour, then unfold the sheet of puff pastry on the flour. Use a floured rolling pin to smush out the seams of the pastry. This only takes a minute - do not overwork the dough!



Once the dough is rolled out, spoon the blueberry mixture into the center of the dough, leaving a 2-3 inch border around the edges of the pastry sheet. Fold the corners first....take the pointy bit of the corner, and fold it toward the center....tuck the point under. Once all the corners are folded over the berries, fold the remaining bits of dough over the berries. Crimp everything together. Remember, this is supposed to be a rustic tart, so no need to be a perfectionist.


After the tart is all folded, put the 1tablespoon of apricot jam in the microwave, nuke for 20 seconds or so, until it melts. Brush the jam on the blueberries. This helps the blueberries to have that shiny look that you see so often in bakery goods. Beat the one egg with one tablespoon of warm water, and use a pastry brush to apply the egg mixture to the crust (this will help the crust take on a golden color, and help the almonds to stick, if you are using - they can be optional.)



Bake at 400 for 15 - 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and puffed up. Serve fresh from the oven with vanilla ice cream. I recommend warming the leftovers in a 350 degree oven....if you have leftovers......
***EDITED***I just thought I should make mention that this was delicious, and the perfect desert for the summertime. It was pretty quick, and the fresh fruit and flaky pastry made it very light and delicious. Give it a try!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Panzanella

You know those ridiculously hot summer days? the ones where you dread cooking anything for dinner that involve heating anything on the stove or preheating the oven? I know these are the times that other folks head outside for their grills - but for city-dwellers such as myself, this is not an option. Compound the lack of grill with the stuffy, humid conditions often present in a pre-war brownstone, and you've got yourself primed for a 2 hour wait for a dining-in.com delivery.

Now, I'm in no way saying this is cheaper than dining-in...because I really am not sure? But I'll add it up and get back to you... it does save you the trouble of tipping someone - and the wait, because damn it, if this isn't one quick recipe.

It is my understanding that panzanella is Italian (duh) and was invented as a way to use up day old bread....as a side note, I love this ingenuity. It isn't exactly only used by Italians, because my Portuguese family does this kind of thing all the time- throwing away food is absolutely unacceptable. I think it just stems from a peasant culture...use what you've got!

This is a bread salad that combines some of my very favorite flavors of summer: Shrimp, tomato, avocado, bread, and garlicky-lemony dressing.

I started with the bread. This was baguette from Trader Joe's. The bread was pretty fresh, so I did toast it for just a second for it to get hard. It doesn't need to get any color, you don't want to chip a tooth, but it just needs to dry out a bit. If you plan ahead, you can just leave the bread out while you are at work. Cut it into 2 cups worth of cubes. I made them a little big for this recipe, but in the future, I would make them a little smaller. Three quarters of an inch would probably be good - but bite sized.Next step was the shrimp - when its super hot, I just buy the frozen pre-cooked shrimps and defrost them under running water, but you can roast them (my preferred cooking method), boil them, grill them, pan fry them - whatever your heart desires.


I added the shrimp, cubed bread, grape tomatoes (about 1/2 cup sliced in half) and 1 avocado, (cubed) to a large bowl. In a smaller bowl I added the juice of one fresh lemon, 2 cloves of garlic - chopped, and whisked in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of olive oil. I added salt and pepper to the dressing, then poured over the shrimp, bread, etc in the larger bowl and tossed lightly. This can be served over some romaine as a large salad, or can be used in smaller proportions as an appetizer. I like it all all by itself with a glass of wine...



Monday, July 6, 2009

Chicken Parm

After returning from San Francisco, and settling back into life and my kitchen...I came down with a horrible cold. I subsisted entirely on a backlog of soups from my freezer and toast. By the following Sunday after a few days on antibiotics, and a restful weekend, I felt prepared to entire the realm of the kitchen again. I wanted to make something special but I was still under the weather enough that my inspiration was lacking.

I called the boyfriend and asked him what he was in the mood for, and would he join me for dinner (he has it tough doesn't he?). He reminded me that in our 2+ years together I've never made chicken Parmesan...

This was a somewhat impromptu dish and I only had a little bit of marinara sauce on hand. I did however, have a ton of plum tomatoes. I sliced the tomatoes in half, and seasoned them with salt, pepper, thyme, and drizzled them with a tiny bit of balsamic. I then roasted them in the oven at 400 for about forty minutes.

While those were roasting I started working on a pack of 4 chicken breasts (on sale - woo). I butterflied three of them and froze the fourth - (I have a small oven and couldn't possibly fit 4 butterflied breasts). I then passed the chicken through the requisite breading process, seasoned flour, egg wash, and a mix of half breadcrumbs, half Parmesan cheese, thyme, oregano, salt and a little bit of cayenne pepper. The boyfriend is currently having a bit of a love affair with cayenne, and I figured just a dash would be nice. After breading the chicken breasts, I heated a little olive oil in a nonstick pan, and cooked the chicken until the outside was browned and golden, and then put the chicken in a baking dish.

When the tomatoes were slightly caramelized, I removed them from the oven. The skin was very easy to remove - so I took the skins off, then roughly chopped the tomato halves. I mixed the chopped tomatoes with the little bit of marinara sauce, garlic, onions, and red wine. Then let the mixture warm through in a saucepan.

Once I was happy with the flavor of the sauce, i put a little bit in the bottom of the baking dish (to prevent the chicken from sticking), I then layered the chicken on top - and then topped each breast with a little bit of sauce. Each dollop of sauce was then topped with a thin slice of buffalo mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. I baked this in the oven until the cheese was melted and starting to brown...and of course, the chicken was cooked through... about 15 minutes.

I served it with pasta and the reserved sauce....and topped everything with a chiffonade of basil.