Friday, August 31, 2007

Insalata Blu

A few weeks ago Greg and I enjoyed some gift cards he had for Macaroni Grill. I had a delicious salad that I recreated at home. I loved it, but Greg said it's too sour for him. [He likes a little lettuce with his creamy bleu cheese dressing. :o)]

Butter lettuce

thin-sliced red onion

toasted walnuts

bleu cheese, crumbled

balsamic vinegar

I tore up the lettuce, gave the walnuts a rough chop and toasted lightly in a dry skillet. I did add the bleu cheese after I tossed everything else with the balsamic. This is VERY tasty!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Preserving the bounty

If you know me at all, you know that I intensely dislike canning food. It's hot, messy, tedious, and potentially dangerous. I do, however, want to be able to enjoy some summer sunshine during the cold, bleak winter days. I'm able to do that with just a fraction of the effort by freezing my garden bounty, and this year I will have the tastiest roasted tomato sauce to make into soup and sauces.

I have a tomato-basil soup recipe from Barefoot Contessa that I discovered last winter. Paid dearly for those fresh tomatoes and basil, but very much enjoyed the end product. This year I grew my own and with the help of the Kalyn's Kitchen blog, I've got summer wrapped up in the freezer. Wish you could have smelled this while it was cooking...

Here's what I did:

Washed and chopped up the tomatoes. I can't tell you how many pounds, but I got a 9x13 pan and an 11x15 pan full. Chopped several cloves of garlic and sprinkled over. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and a tiny bit of red chili pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, stir, and pop into a 375 degree oven for about an hour, or until tomatoes begin to brown. I did not add any herbs - will do that when I use it in a recipe - gives me a little more versatility.
Here's the tomato basil soup recipe that I'll use it in:
Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Copyright, 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, All rights reserved
3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

(I won't have to do the tomato roasting, obviously, but can just put it all together to heat up. Oh, and the soup freezes nicely, too.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Creme Brulee

Or, more food and fire!

I worked at the theater all weekend, and Saturday night we got to talking about Creme Brulee. Sometimes on the weekends we do potluck for supper, each person contributing a portion of the meal. I offered to whip up some Creme Brulee for Sunday night's dessert. It's really very easy to make, but it made a big impression tonight. Christina and John had never had it, and were quite surprised to find out they really got to play with fire to get it ready to eat.

(In fact, John's face lit up when I handed him the torch!) :o)

This recipe came from Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten). I substituted amaretto for Grand Marnier.

1 extra-large egg
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 Cup sugar
Put in mixer w/ blade attachment and mix just until combined.

Heat 3 Cups heavy cream until it's very hot, but not boiling. Add to egg/sugar mixture. Now add 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 TBS amaretto.

Pour into 6 ramekins, dividing mixture evenly. Put ramekins in a cake pan. Pour boiling water in pan until it reaches halfway up the side of the ramekins.

Bake at 300 until custard is set. Mine took almost 50 minutes, but that depends on the size of your ramekins and your oven. Directions said 35-40 minutes.

Remove from water bath and let cool to room temperature. Cover and chill in frig.

To serve, sprinkle 1 TBS sugar evenly over the top of each ramekin of custard. Use a torch to melt the sugar, then let sit for one minute so sugar can harden.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Flaming Bananas

I've been wanting to make Bananas Foster for a long time. I just thought the recipe sounded really delicious. Last night I finally got to it. I had purchased fresh bananas, dark rum, and we had some good vanilla ice cream.

Greg thought it was okay (he's not a huge fruit fan), but liked the flaming pan the most. I have a theory about testosterone and fire...

I know the photo is blurry, but I was snapping quickly before the flames went out. Can you see the blue flame? It was pretty cool!
I didn't have the banana liqueur, and wasn't buying it just for this. It had plenty of banana flavor without it.
Ingredients: -
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
1/4 cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream
Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet.
Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves.
Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan.
When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum.
Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum.
When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream.
Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.
Serves Four