Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Balsamic and Brown Butter Ravioli

Has your life gone a little crazy? Mine has.

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Do you barely have time to cook dinner, let alone time to sit down and eat it? Yup, me too.

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Let me share a dinner with you that not only took about 15 minutes from start to finish to whip up, but looked very gourmet, and impressed the pants off of both my diners on an evening a while back.

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Ravioli.....yum. Simple? Definitely.

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Toast some walnuts up, melt some butter in a pan, add some balsamic, pour it over the cooked ravioli of your choice, and presto! Dinner in about 15 minutes or so. We had it with a simple side salad and some crusty bread and I couldn't have been happier. Thank you Giada. You've done it again.

Balsamic and Brown Butter Ravioli
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com

***you can easily dress this up with some mushrooms and onions and perhaps some parsley or basil......ahhhhhhh the possibilities.....

18 to 20 ounces store-bought ravioli, of your choice (2 packages depending on what brand you buy)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli onto a large serving platter.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Transfer the ravioli to the pan saucepan with the balsamic brown butter. Sprinkle walnuts and Parmesan over the top. Serve and eat immediately.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Semi-Dark Chocolate Brownies

Brownies are one of my all time favorites.....

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I tend to think that they speak for themselves.  Can you see all that rich, chewy goodness?  Can ya?

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I have to say that my favorite part of a brownie is, and has always been the crispy, crunchy, crust that forms on the top.  I always break that off and eat it first.

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These were heaven.  If you love dark chocolate, these are a must.  Heck, if you love brownies, these are a must. 

Williams-Sonoma,  I love you....and your brownies.

Semi-Dark Chocolate Brownies
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

4 oz unsweetened chocolate (1 bar), broken roughly into 1/2 inch pieces
2 oz semisweet chocolate (1/2 bar), broken roughly into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup unsalted butter (6 oz)
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.  Then fold two separate pieces of parchment paper to the width of the dish, and then lay them in the dish cross-wise, for easy removal of brownies after baking.

Place both chocolates and the butter in a double boiler and heat, stirring frequently, until melted and combined.  Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla until combined.  Once the chocolate mixture has cooled, add it to the egg mixture and combine slowly until just blended.  Add the flour to the wet ingredients and mix until combined.

Pour brownie batter into prepared dish and spread evenly.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean or with crumbs.  Note:  The directions in the original recipe say to bake for 35-40 minutes.  I baked my brownies in an 8 inch square glass pyrex dish.  They took at least 60-65 minutes to bake thoroughly.  Rule of thumb...when the brownies are done, the top should be crispy and firm and the toothpick should not have batter on it when inserted and removed.  To be safe, I baked the brownies the recommended 40 minutes and then added in 5 minute increments from there.  If there's anything I hate, it's brownies with a mushy center and bottom. If you prefer your brownies to have a more moist or chewy consistency, 40 to 45 minutes may be fine.

When brownies are done baking, remove from oven and place on a rack to cool for 15 minutes.  Then gently lift the brownies out of the dish for further cooling using the placed parchment paper.  Slice and eat.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grand Central Chocolate Chips

In search of that perfect chocolate chip cookie.....

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...or at least for something to keep the 'natives' happy for another week.

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Chocolate chip cookies are universally accepted by the natives.....at least by my natives.

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When I buy cookies from the store these days, there is usually a small uprising....my natives are rather spoiled. 

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The natives were a little restless on this particular day, and so my sous chef (a native himself) baked these cookies for me, after I prepared the dough, of course. 

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The cookies are fabulous, the natives were happy for yet another week, and what can I say, life was good.

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Life is always good with chocolate chip cookies in the mix...... at least that's my theory.

Adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson
a fabulous baking book, that I highly recommend, by the way..... I love it for this as well.  If you love baking, it's a worthwhile investment for any cookbook collection.

Recipe makes about 3 dozen

2 cups all purpose flouir
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar (lightly packed)
2 eggs, at room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips (or more milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

Measure the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and combine.

In a stand mixer, beat together butter, and both sugars until combined and 'fluffy' (about 3 to 5 minutes).  Make sure you scrape the sides and get it combined well.  Add eggs one at a time, and mix til just combined.  Add in vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet in 2 to three batches.  Mixing after each addition until just incorporated.  Combine both chocolate chips and oatmeal together in a separate bowl and add in batches once again, until just combined.

Use cookie scoop, or desired cookie scooping utensil and place dough in desired amounts on cookie sheet.  I am a big fan of the 1 tablespoon-sized cookie, myself.  Bake 10 to 13 minutes until evenly browned and golden along the edges.

Remove from oven, let cool, and call in the official cookie taste testers!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ina's Tiramisu

Indulge  verb
to yield to an inclination or desire; allow oneself to follow one's will

Oh my goodness, is all I have to say.

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This was heaven.

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That Ina, she's really onto something. 

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Although I do blame Ina for the several sessions I spent on the elliptical trainer to rid myself of the guilt of eating a piece of this.  

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On the other hand, it only had 1/4 of a cup of sugar in the recipe, so it was practically healthy, right?  Not.  This has 'danger' written all over it, but I was all done fooling around just gazing at the picture in the cookbook.  I just had to have some for myself and oh my goodness..... did I say heaven?  Heaven.  Definitely.

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My sous chef topped it with the most perfect chocolate curls for me.  He comes in handy sometimes.  I think I'll keep him.

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Have friends coming over for dessert?  Going to someone else's place for dessert?  Just feeling like eating dessert?  Make this.  You won't be sorry.

Ina's Tiramisu
adapted from Ina Garten and foodnetwork.com

6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup good dark rum, divided
1 1/2 cups brewed espresso or coffee, divided
16 to 17 ounces mascarpone cheese (2 containers)
30 Italian ladyfingers, or savoiardi (one package depending on what dish you use)
Bittersweet chocolate, shaved or grated (I used my zester)

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until very thick and light yellow.

Lower the speed to medium and add 1/4 cup rum, 1/4 cup espresso, and the mascarpone. Whisk until smooth.

Combine the remaining 1/4 cup rum and 1 1/4 cups espresso in a shallow bowl. Dip 1 side of each ladyfinger in the espresso/rum mixture and line the bottom of a loaf pan (or other similarly sized dish). Spread half the espresso cream mixture evenly on top. Dip 1 side of the remaining ladyfingers in the espresso/rum mixture and place them in a second layer in the dish. Spread the rest of the espresso cream over the top. Smooth the top and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, sprinkle the top with shaved chocolate.

***Note:  I have only made this recipe once, and I made it as written above, but the next time I make it, there will be a few changes. I used Myers Rum when I made it, cause that was what was in my 'liquor cabinet'.  I have been told that Myers is stronger than your average rum..... the cake reeked of rum, consequently.  Well, maybe 'reeked' is a strong word....but I could smell the cake from across the room.  Don't get me wrong, the cake was very good.  However, my husband made a comment about not being able to pass a breathalizer test after eating a small slice though.... lol, and rum is his alcohol of choice.  I will agree, that perhaps you should not go for a joy ride around the neighborhood after partaking in this, but I think he was exagerrating just a little bit.  Next time though, I might eliminate the 1/4 cup of rum that is put into the mascarpone mixture (perhaps the 1/4 cup of coffee that is thrown in the mascarpone as well).  The 1/4 cup rum that is incorporated into the coffee and used to dip the ladyfingers is plenty, trust me.  Perhaps next time I seek out some plain old Bacardi.....or I suppose you could eliminate the alcohol all together and just run with your favorite coffee....but alas, an experiment for another time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tzatziki with Pita Chips

Tzatziki...... yum.

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Cucumbers, garlic, sour cream and yogurt.....all working together to become the most wonderful tangy dip to go along with pita chips or just a piece of good, crusty bread.  I've even put it with chicken and veggies inside a pita before for a quick sandwich dinner. 

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I lived in Greece for three years in my younger days, and let me tell you.....one taste of this, and I was back there, sitting outside at a restaurant we called 'Cheap Charlie's', with the cats and dogs running around between the tables, eating tzatziki, fried zucchini, and the most delicious souvlaki you have ever tasted in your entire life......yum.  It doesn't get much better than that.

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Simple to put together, and a great appetizer for dinner with friends.  Something to take to the pool to snack on while the kids are swimming, or great for just a light snack around the house.

Tzatziki with Pita Chips
adapted from Ina Garten and foodnetwork.com

1 14oz container Greek yogurt
1 seedless cucumber, you don't have to peel it....
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Toasted Pita Crisps, recipe follows

Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Grate the cucumber on a box grater.  Wrap grated cucumber in a dish towel (one that you don't mind getting stained, by the way), and then go find The Hulk, or use your superhuman strength to squeeze the grated cucumber with your hand to remove as much liquid as you can. Then, add the cucumber to the yogurt along with the sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, garlic, salt and pepper and stir. Serve with toasted pita crisps on the side. 

Pita Chips:
Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut pitas into desired number of wedges.  Spread out wedges on a large cookie sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle wedges with olive oil and then lightly brush olive oil over wedges.  Sprinkle wedges with salt, pepper and oregano to taste. 

Put pita wedges into the oven and bake about 5-8 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly crispy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ricotta Orange Pound Cake

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It's been quite the hectic and crazy busy summer around here..... my oven hasn't seen too much action in the last several weeks....

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Last week I found myself in desperate need of a piece of cake.

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Something light, sweet, and easy to make.

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Naturally, I turned to Giada.  Naturally. My obsession remains undiminished by the passage of time.....just in case you were wondering.

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Cake therapy....if you will.

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This was just what the doctor ordered... I think I'll have to make this therapy thing a regularly occurring habit.

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I drizzled a simple orange flavored glaze over it.

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And voila!  Simple.  Perfect.  Delicious.
Thank you Giada.  I needed that.

Ricotta Orange Pound Cake
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and foodnetwork.com

Note:  I made a few major changes to this recipe.... the original has fresh fruit alongside it, and amaretto in the batter.  I didn't have any strawberries, and I have no amaretto in the house...so I simplified things a little.  A friend of mine made this cake for a cookout recently and used Cointreau instead of Amaretto, and it was also delish.  I think you would have to try pretty hard to screw it up....  You can find the original recipe on foodnetwork.com, or in 'Giada's Kitchen' listed by the same name.

1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature, plus more to grease the baking pan
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (I used an entire 15 oz container)
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 orange, zested

4 tablespoons orange juice
2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan.  (I used an 11" x 7" x 1 1/2" stoneware baking dish, and the baking time was unaffected, but if you sub out baking pans, make sure you do the toothpick test for done-ness... I have messed up quite a few cakes due to my need to change the called-for pan for something else.)

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, ricotta, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs 1 at a time. Add the vanilla and orange zest, and mix until combined.

Add the dry ingredients, in three batches, until just incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mix orange juice and confectioners sugar to the consistency that you would like.  Feel free to add either less sugar or less orange juice to suit your liking... Add more juice if glaze is too thick.  Drizzle over cake and eat.