Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

When I was younger, I would always look forward to Easter. I loved dying eggs, wearing a hat to church, and of course, an Easter basket full of chocolate (I never really dug the jelly beans).

Now that I'm a bit older Easter is less about the chocolate and Easter bonnet. For me, it is a signal of the beginning of Spring. It's a chance to notice the buds on the trees, and the blooming tulips.

And heck, I've never been one to turn up my nose at a holiday that includes food. My parents are hosting dinner today - and I will be bringing the following (fresh out of the oven).

Warm Brussels sprout salad - Inspired by Daisy and Food and Wine. Hop on over to her blog for the details on this delight that she made for our blogger potluck....I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since!

And Shallot and Mushroom quiche....courtesy of Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. 1 more post-it down, another 2,356 to go!

For all of you celebrating today Roscoe, Rafe and I wish you a Happy Easter - or simply a happy Spring day!

What did you cook - or eat - this weekend??

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cranberry Orange Muffins

Two of my favorite college friends, Ruth and Lauren were passing through on their way to the Boston area and we made plans for them to visit and spend a night in our new apartment as our first guests. We still don't have a bed in the guest room, so we borrowed an Aerobed so R and L would have a place to sleep. Unfortunately, the bed must have had a slight leak because in the morning, the only thing separating the girls from the hardwood floor was a deflated swatch of aerobed plastic.

Sorry Ladies....I hope I made up for it a little bit with breakfast in the morning!

In addition to picking up bagels from my favorite bagel joint, Lox Stock and Bagels, I also warmed up some muffins. I wanted to have something homemade for the girls - especially because I know they both love baked goods.  I had baked these muffins when we were still living with Rafe's mom and then immediately wrapped them and froze them in anticipation of my friends' visit since I knew with moving and unpacking I wouldn't have time for any baking projects.
The recipe is from the Flour cookbook, and true to every one of Joanne Chang's recipes I've tried thus far, this recipe exceeded my expectations. Easy, straightforward and delicious.

Originally, these were planned as blueberry muffins, using the last of the blueberries I froze from the farmer's market last year. As I reached into the freezer I saw my farmer's market frozen cranberries - and immediately changed my mind to the cranberry orange variation of the recipe.

Popped in the oven and warmed for a few minutes at 350 - these were just as delicious as fresh-from-the oven. Moist and delicate (no-doubt from the creme fraiche in the recipe) for with a pop of sweet-tart cranberry juice and the fresh breeze of orange zest...

I can't wait to try all of the other flavor variations.

What is your favorite muffin flavor?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roscoe requirement: Quick Cook Meals

I feel a bit guilty. I haven't posted in over a WEEK! And don't get me started on my reader - this weekend is for catching up on everyone's blog posts - I might not have the time to comment on all your posts, but be assured, I'm reading and I'll start commenting again when my reader falls below 1000 unread posts!

But of course, wouldn't this face distract you? Rafe and I picked up a new puppy last weekend, and he is a handful -- and LOTs of fun.

His name is Roscoe, and he is a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. We're in the midst of housebreaking, so he requires a LOT of attention for any signs that he needs to go out. And he LOVES to play....and snuggle, my personal favorite.

In my haste to keep our apartment accident free, I haven't had a lot of time for photographing food (just puppy)- but I have been cooking. I thought this would be a good opportunity to review some great meals that can be prepared in a snap!

Here is a list of some of my favorite quick recipes. I recommend them for when you're pressed for time, but don't want to spend money on takeout.

And when all else fails, I throw together a quick omelet, frittata or box of Annie's with some veggies! 

Roscoe likes carrots as a quick between-meal snack. What are some of your go-to quick recipes when you're pressed for time?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tortellini Soup Part 2- Pasta

Welcome to the second part of my Tortellini Soup Adventure!

This was the part of the recipe that I was really excited for. I had never made pasta before but had always  had the itch. I think that is why my mother bought me a pasta roller way back in 2006.  Really. She had hung on to it while I had lived in too-tiny-for-another-cooking-supply apartment, and is so organized that she taped the dated invoice to the box. 

I finally have it back in my possession, and I assure you after this experience, I WILL be getting lots of use out of it. It's so fun!

I started with a big pile of flour, and four eggs.

I made a big well in the flour

Then scrambled up the eggs before pouring into the flour....

Where my eggs immediately broke free from their little hole onto the counter....
No problem though after a brief shriek of horror, I collected myself, grabbed my bench scraped, and wrangled the eggs back into the flour and continued as planned.

Once combined into a cohesive dough, I kneaded for a few minutes until the mixture became elastic, then wrapped it up in plastic wrap and let it rest for a half hour.

Once it rested for a little bit it was really smooth - I was surprised that a little rest could have that affect.

Next Step? Break off a small piece and get rollin!

I passed the dough through the pasta maker a few times on the widest setting, folding the dough in half each time. After a few passes at this setting I reduced the width and passed the dough through a few times again without the fold. I continued passing the dough through each thickness.

I cut the sheets of dough into squares and covered it with plastic wrap to keep it moist while I shaped the dough.

I used the filling outlined in the Fine Cooking recipe, and added a 1/8th teaspoon amount to the dough square.

I folded the square in half - corner to corner, and used my fingers to seal the dough shut.

Then I wrapped the end corners and pinched them together to form the tortellini.

I repeated these steps approximately 200 times.....

I filled 3 sheet pans.....

Some of the tortellini made their way into the freezer, where they will continue to be enjoyed.

While some were boiled along with the chicken broth I had made the day before. Topped with some parmesan and parsley, this was the perfect antidote to a cold and rainy spring day.

It was a ton of work, and I will DEFINITELY be making stuffed (and regular) pastas again. The filling however, was not my I look forward to experimenting with different, seasonal fillings.

I'm thinking mushrooms, peas and ricotta, and asparagus as options for Spring! 

Have you ever made pasta? Was it fun? 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tortellini Soup Part 1- Stock

I've had my eye on the Tortellini En Brodo recipe from Fine Cooking since the issue came out in December.  A Biba Caggiano Italian recipe with the detail and rigor I have come to expect from Fine Cooking - and with the pages and pages of steps that makes me SO excited for a cooking project.

I delcared in December that I would make this recipe once we settled into our new place, so now that we  have been here nearly a month I knew it was time.

Any great soup starts with a good stock. And although the recipe includes Biba's stock, I hoped that she wouldn't mind if I used my own recipe. I had roasted a chicken a few nights earlier, and I thought it a shame to waste the chicken. I made my stock from the leftover chicken along with aromatics.

Into my dutch oven went:

1 leftover chicken 
2 carrots
2 celery stalks
small bunch of parsley
1 onion, split
the end of a bunch of garlic (about 4-5 cloves)
about a teaspoon of black peppercorns

I covered everything with water and brought it up to a boil, then reduced it down to a simmer. As foam formed at the top, I skimmed it off.

Making stock always makes me think of making tea - since you basically just steep everything until the flavors impart their essence into the water.

Once the stock had simmered for a few hours I shut off the heat and let it cool. Then I strained the mixture into a bowl, cleaned the dutch oven, and put the stock back into the pot and into the refrigerator.

I skimmed the fat off of the top of the broth before reheating it to cook the tortellini.

Part 2 coming tomorrow! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Guest Post: Leek and Bacon Challah Bread Pudding

I don't talk much about my non-food stuff in this forum, but for the next few days I am attending a yoga teacher-training workshop in Western I'm not doing much cooking! 

I couldn't leave you guys hanging without any delicious recipes or pictures for a whole week, so I set you up with a great guest blogger to keep you all happy and well fed. 

So without (much) further ado I present Kathy, of Kathy Can Cook. I think you'll like her recipe! I'm in yoga mode so I am subsisting entirely on fruits, veggies, and brown rice - this recipe would be a welcome change from all this rabbit food! YUM!

When Alicia sent out the Twitter call looking for a guest blogger, I jumped at the opportunity. Why not, right?  That I think her blog is adorable (and super informative and delicious) helps too. (no, I didn't pay her to write that - Thanks Kathy!)

What is it about bread pudding? No matter how much you photograph it, it is just not yummy looking.  And I tried.  I swear.  I made this bread pudding to accompany some squash-apple soup and it did a marvelous job of filling it out to be a whole meal.

Also, can we talk about leeks for just a minute here?  Leeks are like a super vegetable, there are different varieties of leek for each season - which is totally awesome and means that those of you stuck in the holding pattern of never-ending-northeast-winter can even get your leeks locally!  Wahoo!  Overwintering leeks for the win!

Anyway this was born of a half pound of bacon that needed eating, two beautiful green leeks and a lovely round of Challah bread (Am I the only one who finds irony in a Challah bread pudding with Leeks and Bacon?).

Leek and Bacon Challah Bread Pudding
Adapted ever-so-slightly from the New York Times
Note: This was my first attempt at savory bread pudding and I loved it, but next time I would cut the recipe in half and cook it in a loaf pan for just two people.  So.Much.Bread.Pudding.

2 cups leeks, 1/2 inch slices rinsed and cleaned white and light green bits only (the dark is super chewy; use it in stock!)
6-8 strips of bacon, chopped (I like Sunday Bacon, a delicious nitrate-free brand if you can't find locally made bacon)
4 Tbs unsalted butter
Fresh ground black pepper
Kosher salt
1 large loaf of Challah bread (about 10 cups), cut into 1" cubes (day-old bread that's a little stale is best )
1-2 tsp fresh chives chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme (I like a little less)
3 large eggs
3 cups heavy cream
a pinch of fresh nutmeg (1/8 tsp of less)
1 cup shredded emmenthaler or comte cheese (or equivilent, I used bagged grated Swiss and it was delicious)

Place a large saute pan over medium high heat and add the bacon bits and leeks.  Cook them gently for 2-3 minutes, until the leeks have softened.  Reduce the heat to low, add the butter, some salt and pepper, and cover the pan. Allow the leeks and bacon to carmelize together over the heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. The leeks will be very wilted and the bacon will be soft, but cooked through. 

Meanwhile, if your bread is not a day-old, slightly stale loaf, now is a good time to toast the bread and dry it out - put it in a 350 degree oven for 5-7 minutes and it'll be crispy, as though stale.  Leave the oven on.  When the leeks are cooked through and the bread is dried out nicely put them aside.  Find the biggest bowl you have, add the bread cubes to that bowl, add the leeks/bacon saute mix, thyme, and chives to the bread cubes.  Toss well (I recommend using your hands - that's a lot of bread to get evenly mixed together with thyme/leeks/bacon/chives).  

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, eggs, nutmeg, and some salt and pepper.  Line a 13"x9" baking pan with some parchment paper, or at least grease it lightly.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cheese into the bottom of the pan evenly.  Spread 1/2 the bread mixture over the cheese, spread another 1/4 cup of cheese on this, then the other 1/2 of bread and another 1/4 cup of cheese.  See below for a cross section visual.

---1/4 cup Cheese---
1/2 Bread/Leeks/Bacon Mix
---1/4 cup Cheese---
1/2 Bread/Leeks/Bacon Mix
---1/4 cup Cheese---

Add enough of the milk/egg mixture to cover or nearly cover the bread. Press on this gently with your hands and let it sit for 15-20 mins (play two levels of Angry Birds; I'm totally obsessed with that game right now).  Pour the rest of the milk/egg mix over the bread, sprinkle it with some salt and the rest of the cheese.  Cook at 350 degrees farenheit for 1 1/2 hours, until the top is a deep golden brown and bubbly. 

 Let the pudding sit for 10 minutes before eating.   Eat it while it's still warm.  Fantastic.  I like it cold too, BF just loves it period.

Yum! Thanks Kathy!! This looks delicious!

Have you ever made a bread pudding? sweet or savory?

What is your favorite recipe using Leeks?