Sunday, February 28, 2010

HBinFive: Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil

HBin5

Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil

I'm not really sure how I feel about the whole wheat bread with olive oil. It wasn't bad really. It was just kinda...blah. By itself there really wasn't much flavor besides the natural whole wheat. The olive oil did not come through at all. If I hadn't made the bread, I wouldn't have known it was there at all.

I wish I had used the dough to make the other recipes, Aloo Paratha and Southwestern Focaccia w Roasted Corn and Goat Cheese. This dough seems like it would be best as a vehicle for other flavors since it is so plain on its own. Next time I'll remember to pick up the needed ingredients at the grocery store! I tried to use it as a garlic bread to serve with spaghetti but the garlic was lost in the whole wheat. You definitely need a lot of garlic if you are going to use it as garlic bread.

Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil

Check out the blogroll here for more delicious bread. If you would like more information on HBinFive, visit our founder Michelle at Big Black Dog. You can purchase the book here to get the recipes. And you should definitely buy it!

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers: Tiramisu

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The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Tiramisu

I've eaten tiramisu many times at various italian restaurants but never I have I thought to make it at home.  It always seemed like such a fussy dessert.  One that would take a long, long time to make.  Of course, it's a perfect recipe for a Daring Bakers challenge!

It definitely takes some time to make.  You could make it in one day but it was easier to make it over a few days.  There are many components that made up the tiramisu and doing them all at once would be a little much.  None of them are particularly hard to made however so it could be done.  

The mascarpone was the single component that I was most eager to make.  I had bookmarked a recipe sometime this past year but had not tried to make yet.  It really wasn't that hard, it just took a long time for the cream to come up to temperature.  Or in my case, close to temperature.  I waited for over 45 minutes for it to reach 190 degrees but it never did.  I eventually gave up and proceeded with the recipe.  It had thickened so I was hopeful that it would work.  After about 24 hours in the fridge the mascarpone was incredibly thick.  And so, so tasty.

Next on the list was the ladyfingers.  They were pretty straight forward and easy to make.  My only issue with these was my inability to pipe.  I ended up with wiggly, snake like cookies.  The zabaglione and pastry cream were pretty easy peasy as well.  They looked better though.  No snake like issues here!  

Assembly was pretty simple as well if not a little messy.  Once complete, I put it into the fridge for a few hours to firm up.  When it was time for dessert...or rather...when I couldn't stand waiting anymore, I cut a slice.  And this is what I got.  

Tiramisu

Not exactly what you get in a restaurant is it?  The taste was terrific but the looks left a little to be desired.  In an effort to get a nicer picture and to get the look that is a little more familiar, I put the entire dish into the freezer to firm up.  A few hours later and it was perfect.  The slices  held up and you could see the individual layers nicely.

Our hosts described this month's Daring Bakers challenge as heaven on a dessert plate.  After making the tiramisu (and all the components from scratch), I'm inclined to agree.  I'm not sure how else to describe it other than as the absolute best dessert I have had in a long time, possibly ever.  The tiramisu you get at your generic italian chain restaurant is nothing compared to what you can make at home.  It is simply heaven...on a dessert plate.  To borrow from Food Network: it's the best thing I ever ate.

Check out the Daring Bakers blogroll to see more heavenly tiramisu!  Thanks to our hosts for the amazing challenge!

TIRAMISU

(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )

This recipe makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee) I used coffee
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed (I need only about a cup)
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

Method:

For the zabaglione:

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.

Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.

Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:

Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.

Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:

Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:

Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.

Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.

Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.

To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

MASCARPONE CHEESE

Homemade Mascarpone

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients:
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method:

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.

Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

LADYFINGERS/ SAVOIARDI BISCUITS

SAVOIARDI BISCUITS

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients:
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.

In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.

Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.

Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.

Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.

Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.

Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TWD: Honey-Wheat Cookies

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I have wanted to make this week's TWD recipe for as long as I've had the book. In fact, when it was my turn to choose a recipe (over a year ago!), I nearly picked these. But I was choosing right before Christmas and they just didn't sound very holidayish. But I still kept them marked and waiting to be made at some future date.

With my obsession with using lemon in my cooking these days, the honey-wheat cookies were a perfect fit since there is a fair amount of lemon zest. And another reason they were perfect was there is absolutely no chocolate. At all. Boy was I glad! After the insane amount of chocolate that was required for many of the recipes I made this month, I was due for a chocolate break. Unless it's white chocolate and I'll make an exception. But that's not 'real' chocolate anyway so I guess it doesn't matter!

Is it possible for a cookie to smell healthy and good for you? I don't know if there are any healthier than other cookies but they certainly smell like they are! I unwrapped the chilled dough and got a whiff of that delicious combo of honey, lemon and wheat. It is an amazingly delicious smell. Someone needs to make that into a candle if they haven't already.

Sometimes when you make something and the smell is amazing, the taste doesn't match up. Fortunately, this was not one of those times. These little cookies were soooo good. They were sweet but not too sweet and tangy from the lemon. The wheat germ added a sweet, slightly nutty flavor that was my favorite part of the whole cookie. If you are looking for a good afternoon snack, these cookies fit the bill perfectly. Even though I loved them, I wasn't so sure the guys at work would because they weren't sugar filled chocolate cookies. I took a few in for my mid afternoon snack and ended up giving one to a coworker. He liked it but thought they were definitely different.

Honey-Wheat Cookies

A definite make again cookie!

Thanks to our host Michelle of Flourchild for the great recipe this week! You can find the recipe at her blog or on page 81 of Baking. To see more honey-wheat cookies, check out the TWD blogroll.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: Mezze

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The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Micheleof Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.


This month's Daring Cooks challenge was fairly simple as challenges go.  We were required to make pita bread and hummus for a mezze, two things that I've been interested in making but never actually done so.  I've been a big fan of chickpeas for awhile now and have been eager to use them any way I can in cooking.  I'm actually a little ashamed I haven't tried them in hummus yet.

 For the pita bread, I went half whole wheat flour.  I like the flavor of goods using the whole wheat more than just plain white flour.  Plus it makes me feel like I'm eating healthier and if I feel like it then I am healthier.  shh...don't mess with my delusions.  They keep me happy.

Mezze

I tried to make my pitas roll out nice and round but it was really a lost cause.  Some came close to being round.  Most of them ended up with wonky shapes.  I think one of them looked like a hand.  I baked them on my pizza stone (I love that thing).  Most of them didn't puff up like you expect a pita to do.  I got a few that did but for the most part they were a little flat.  That didn't affect the taste though.  They were delicious, soft, and not tough like store bought can be.

Mezze

When the pitas were done, I got to work on the hummus.  After the soaking and cooking of the beans, it is really rather quick to make hummus.  The only change I made was using peanut butter instead of the tahini.  I looked at buying some but the price was too much for the amount you got.  Since I always have peanut butter in the pantry and it was an allowed substitution, I went ahead and used it.

Let me tell you...I am in love with hummus.  It's so creamy and lemony and nutty and...well just plain good.  Whether it is on pita bread, in a sandwich,  or on crackers, I love it.  And it last for a long time too.  For my mezze, I served the pita bread and hummus with homemade pickled okra, and halloumi cheese (my favorite cheese ever!).  Together it was a perfect combination.  Many a dinner since I made the hummus has been this combination or some variation.  Its quick and very tasty.  I've also take the hummus to work many times.  One coworker says I'm weird because I keep coming in with strange foods!  I can't eat anything 'normal'.  He's more of a pizza and hamburger guy.  If only he knew how good some of these foods really are!

Mezze

To see more mezze by the Daring Cooks, check out the blogroll here.

Pita Bread 


Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

Directions:

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.

3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).

4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.

5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.



Hummus

Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start and add more to taste

Directions:
1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

HBinFive: Chocolate Espresso Bread

HBin5

I swear I cannot get away from the chocolate! In the last month, I've made cocoa-nana bread (not so great), mini chocolate bundts (much, much better), and brownies (best brownie ever). Someone out there is determined to make me a chocoholic.

Next up on the Healthy Bread in Five schedule was the chocolate espresso bread and the red beet buns. Honestly, I wasn't really looking forward to it. I needed a break from the chocolate overload! But, I've had such a good time and ended up with many delicious breads that I had to give the chocolate espresso bread a chance. After all, I could always eat a little and then freeze the rest. I didn't make the red beet buns. Perhaps I'll get to those later.

I went ahead and made a full batch of the bread. I made a simple loaf instead of making the chocolate tangerine bars that were an option. I didn't have any tangerines or oranges for the matter so I figured the loaf was the best option for the time being.

My only issue while making the bread was the amount of honey I put in the dough. I was about 1/8 cup short of honey. Of course, I didn't realize this until I was mixing the dough. I briefly considered subbing in the remainder with some sugar but decided against it at the last minute.

Chocolate Espressso Bread

I wish I had put a little extra sugar in the bread to make up for the slight lack of honey. The bread was really tasty, much more so than I had expected it to be. But it just needed a tad more sweetness even though it was sprinkled with turbinado sugar on top. I had a brief flashback to the unfortunate cocoa-nana bread. What saved it for me was the texture of the bread. The cocoa-nana was like eating a dark chocolate bar instead of a chocolate banana bread. The chocolate espresso bread definitely had the texture of a nice loaf of bread.  As silly as it sounds, my first thought when I tasted it was 'mmmm...it's like real bread...but chocolate!'.

I didn't get very fancy with the bread. I simply ate it by the slice. It made a great, decadent breakfast at work one morning.  I froze the rest of the dough in 1 1/2 lb pieces (using my super handy dandy new Food Saver!).  I have plans to make at least one of the frozen pieces into the chocolate espresso cupcakes that is listed with the dough recipe.  But that may be awhile.  I don't know how much more chocolate I can take for time being!

Check out the blogroll here for more delicious bread.  If you would like more information on HBinFive, visit our founder Michelle at Big Black Dog.  You can purchase the book here to get the recipes.  And you should definitely buy it!  I've loved every recipe that I've made so far.  But don't just take my word for it.  Try some for yourself!

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

TWD: Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

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For the 3rd week in a row, our Tuesdays with Dorie selection is chocolate. This time Tanya of Chocolatechic chose Rick Katz’s Brownies for Julia on page 91. I don't know about you but I am almost chocolate'd out.

My experience with homemade brownies has been somewhat hit or miss. Sometimes they are pretty good but fall short of that gooey fudgey goodness that you get with a (gasp!) boxed brownie mix. Other times the end up being more cake like and not very exciting. I like my brownies fudge like and if I'm going to make a cake like brownies...I might as well be making a chocolate cake.

Based on the comments that these got, I knew they were going to fall into the fudge like category. The only problem seemed to be the cooking time. Most cooked for more than the 25 minutes that Dorie suggests. My brownies pretty much followed the experiences of the other bakers. I had halved the batch and baked them in a small rectangular Pyrex dish. I started checking the brownies at about 20 minutes but they were no where near done. So I kept checking at 5 minutes intervals. Finally at 45 minutes in I took them out because the edges were just slightly starting to get dark. The middle had also sunk quite a bit compared to the puffed up edges.

The middle was still really gooey. There is fudgey gooey brownie middles and then there is just plain not done. I was worried that I had taken them out too early. But if I had left them in much longer I would have had burned edges. And burned brownies are worse than under baked in my opinion.

Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia

I left them to cool for a while. When I came back I was very pleased to find that the super gooey center has firmed up somewhat. Almost to perfect gooey fudge like brownie consistency. The outside was nice and crunchy. Reheated slightly and the brownies were as close to perfect as you could get. A nice scoop of vanilla ice cream would have been wonderful.

Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia
The brownie fell apart on the way from the pan to the plate.  It's okay.  I ate it anyway.

Out of all of the homemade brownies I've tried, these came the closest to the flavor and consistency I like in the boxed mix. Honestly, I think they were even better than that mix. I will definitely be making these over again.  And over and over and over...

Thanks to Tanya for choosing this week's recipe! To see more brownies, check out the TWD blogroll.  You can find this recipe on at Chocolatechic or on page 91 of Baking.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pesto Risotto Cakes

Pesto Risotto Cakes

Sometimes the best things come out of something that was originally only so so. Case in point, recently I was flipping through Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (my new favorite cookbook since I've gone cheap and rarely buy meat), when I came across the section on rice salads. Listed was a pesto rice salad made with arborio rice. Interesting. On a whim I had purchased some pre-made pesto from Central Market. And because I always have arborio rice in the house (I love risotto!), I decided to make the rice salad for dinner.

Outside of a risotto, I can't remember using arborio rice for anything else. I was a little unsure if the rice would cook properly being boiled but it turned out fine. A little blah at this point but that's what the pesto was for! The recipe called for 1/4 cup of pesto but I thought it needed a little bit more. I also added a tablespoon of grated parmesan because...well because I just love cheese.

Pesto Rice Salad

I was a little disappointed with the rice salad. It seemed a little plain even with the pesto and extra cheese. Perhaps arborio rice isn't the best choice for a rice salad. It didn't have a chance to get really creamy like you expect a risotto to be. It was also a little mushy in a not good way. Good for a risotto but not so much for a rice salad. Maybe brown rice or even regular old white would be better for this salad. The fresh mozzarella I served on the side was really the star of that meal.

I packed the leftovers away with the thought of dealing with it later. The next night I was searching for something to make for dinner when I saw the slightly green rice sitting in the fridge. The only thing I could think of to save it was to turn it into risotto cakes. I had attempted them once before and was pleased with them for the most part.

I had about a 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs leftover from another dish so I added about a teaspoon of grated parmesan and a pinch of dried basil to them for the outside coating. Before I shaped the cakes however, I was struck by another thought. I need to add more cheese! I had a half of ball of fresh mozzarella left from another meal (same as the panko). I cubed up about half of that and stuck the cubes in the middle of the balls of rice. I flattened them slightly when I put them in the panko.

I cooked them in a bit of olive oil until golden brown on each side (about 4 minutes per side). To finish them up, I put them in a 350° for about 10 minutes until crispy all over.

After the disappointment of the rice salad, I was almost afraid to be hopeful that these would turn out. I just new they would be either too greasy from the oil or still just plain. I was wrong. Oh boy was I wrong! They were crispy on the outside and creamy and gooey on the inside. The mozzarella had melted perfectly. Absolutely delicious!

See? Sometimes the most delicious things really do come out of something pretty blah. Give leftovers another chance!

Pesto Risotto Cakes

Pesto Risotto Cakes

3 cups of cooked arborio rice
1/4-1/3 cup pesto (store bought is fine)
1 T grated parmesan
1/4 of a ball fresh Mozzarella, cubed (I'm not sure on the exact measurement, I winged it)
1/4-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs mixed with a 1 tsp of grated parmesan and pinch of dried basil

Mix all ingredients together except for the mozzarella and panko. Chill for at least 2 to 3 hours or overnight if possible. When ready to cook, take about a 1/4 cup of rice and make a ball. Indent the ball and place a cube of mozzarella then press the rest of the rice around the cube. Coat the ball in the panko, pressing slightly to flatten (not too much or the cheese will  melt out when frying!). Fry in olive until golden brown on each side about 3-4 minutes on each side. Place in a 350° for about 10 minutes until crispy all over.

 You can skip the oven if you want, they are just fine as is.  I just like them a little crispier all around and the oven also helped dry out the extra oil from the frying.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

TWD: Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes

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After my cocoa-nana bread disaster of last week, I was not looking forward to another chocolate recipe this week. But at least this one looked a lot better and tastier. Kristin of I’m Right About Everything picked Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes, pages 188 and 189.

I didn't have any milk chocolate so I used semi-sweet and upped the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup. I also left out the swirl and went straight chocolate cake (with buttermilk). When it came time to put the batter in the mini bundt pans, I wasn't sure it was going to be enough. There didn't seem to be a lot of batter. But I trusted Dorie and tried to put an even amount in six of the bundt pans. And of course, it was just the right amount. Thankfully the cakes rose up just enough to fill the pans.

Chocolate Mini Bundt Cake

These cakes were delicious. Chocolatey without being overwhelming and perfectly tender. It definitely made up for last week. I dusted mine with powdered sugar instead of using the glaze since many of the bakers had issues with it. I think my cakes were the better for it because it would have been too much chocolate if I had used it. If this was the summer time, I would have put a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top because this was a perfect ice cream cake. Actually... I probably would have put some on if I had some ice cream even though it was below freezing when I made them. I'm weird like that.

To see more Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes, check out the TWD blogroll. You can get this weeks recipe at Kristin of I’m Right About Everything or in Baking on pages 188 and 189.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Recipes to Rival: Eggplant Parmesan

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For January, our Recipes to Rival recipe was Eggplant Parmesan. I have to admit, I wasn't terribly excited about this challenge. Eggplant has never been one of my favorite vegetables. I remember as a kid I would actively avoid eating it when it was served. At the time, I had not actually tried it. It just looked weird and there was no way I was going to eat it. Period. Don't even think about it. Serve me some zucchini instead.

All these years later and I've still managed to avoid eating it. As an adult I am able to make the choices on what I eat and eggplant has not been on my list of things to eat. So as you can probably tell...I really thought about if I wanted to make eggplant parmesan. Should I let go of my childhood dislike of the vegetable? Or should I buck up and be an adult and try it? Well...I decided to try it obviously.

I picked up a nice size eggplant at Central Market. At least I think it was a nice size. I have no experience picking out eggplant after all. While I was there, I also got a beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella. I could eat that stuff all day. Seriously. All day.

This was a fairly easy dish to make. Once the sauce is made and the eggplant salted, all you have to do is bread and fry the eggplant. I had one issue in frying the eggplant. I thought my pan was hot enough but when all the oil was quickly sucked up by the eggplant. Ummm...oops! There wasn't much I could do with it at that point because I had only bought one. I finished frying it as much as I could and then stacked the eggplant with the fresh mozzarella and the sauce. Into the oven it went until it was bubbly!

Eggplant Parmesan

And when I pulled it out of the oven, one of the eggplant stacks was gracefully sliding down puddles of mozzarella and sauce while the other was leaning like the Tower at Pisa. Uhhh...I don't think that was supposed to happen. I was able to make the leaning stack straighten up and the other was just beyond repair.

Eggplant Parmesan

Despite my oops moments and prior eggplant dislike, the eggplant parmesan wasn't that bad. The mozzarella and the sauce were the highlight for me. The eggplant was a little greasy because of the oil soak up and the skin was a little tough. The flesh was nice especially with the breading. Would I make it again? Probably not. I'm still not a huge fan of eggplant. But it wasn nice to try something new and especially something I didn't think I'd like.

To see more eggplant parmesan, check out the Recipes to Rival blogroll.

Eggplant Parmesan: Parmigiana di Melanzane
Recipe courtesy Mario Batali

Ingredients
•2 pounds (about 2 medium-sized) eggplant
•Salt
•4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
•1 cup fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup pecorino
•2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
•1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
•1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Wash and towel dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices in a large colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the eggplant and dry on towels.

In a sauté pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking. Press the drained eggplant pieces into the seasoned bread crumb mixture and sauté until light golden brown on both sides. Repeat with all of the pieces. On a cookie sheet lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and place a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing again with the Parmigiano. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes.

Basic Tomato Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes
Salt

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve.

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Tips:

Fresh bread crumbs are required for the coating to stick without an egg wash.
The oil must be HOT HOT HOT or the eggplant will not cook fast enough and will be a greasy soggy mess.
The Mozzarella must be very thinly sliced or the eggplant tower will slide (it will still taste great)

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