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Eggs Benedict with the Italian Influence

This is my interpretation of eggs benedict with a little twist of Italy thrown in. Is it eggs benedict if it doesn’t have hollandaise sauce? I’m not entirely sure. I’m otherwise at a loss at what to name this. Moving on – egg yolk, tomatoes, basil and balsamic seems to go perfectly together. It’s light, delicious and the flavor contrast is immense. This has become one of my favorite little breakfasts to date and I thought I’d share it with the world. Also, generous thanks to my anonymous hand model.

Serves 4 

1 cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. sugar

8 english muffin halves

6 Roma tomatoes

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Salt and pepper

10 big leaves of basil

8 eggs 

Preheat oven to 400°. 

In a small saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil. Add sugar once boiling and stir until dissolved. Reduce heat and gently boil the balsamic vinegar until it is a ¼ of its original volume. Remove from heat and cool in a separate container. Be forewarned that reducing vinegar results in a potent odor that will overwhelm your kitchen and likely your house. Your roommates will hate you for it. But when they taste it they will forgive you, I promise. This reduction has a syrupy consistency and can be used on a lot of dishes. Salads, pizzas, beef, etc. But try it on vanilla ice cream with strawberries and angel food cake. Trust me on that. If you cover and chill it in the fridge, the reduction can be used for months. 

While the balsamic is reducing, slice the tomatoes into 1/3″ thick rounds. TomatoesMince the garlic and spread evenly over the tomatoes. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven. Tomatoes with garlicThe tomatoes will be done when tender and starting to give the appearance of wrinkling/wilting. 

Julienne your basil into small strips. To do this easily, place four or five basil leaves on top of each other at a time and roll tightly, like a cigar. Rolling BasilCut through the basil into 1/8” pieces- you now have perfectly julienned basil strips. Cutting BasilSet aside. 

Start toasting your English muffins while you prepare your eggs as desired. You can poach them or fry them. Typically, I fry them because it’s less work and less mess.  

Place several slices of tomatoes on top of each toasted English muffin half. Place an egg on top of the tomato slices, and then top some pieces of basil as you see fit. Generously drizzle the balsamic reduction over everything. 

Enjoy. 

Plated

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Way too tired to write a description for this one tonight. But I want to publish it while it is fresh in my mind. Take my word – this is easy, gourmet, and delicious. One of the better pastas I have ever created. I have been reading Essential Pasta, a fantastic book Matt gave me for Christmas – it’s got some great recipes along with some solid techniques and foundations for preparing restaurant quality pasta. I’d recommend it to anybody. Excited to keep reading and trying recipes. However, tonight I took a few concepts from the book and made it my own. Too bad I was home alone t – would have loved to have shared it with somebody, in particular the gf. I’m definitely going to do this one again. It was damn good.

Spaghetti with Prawns, Sundried Tomato and Basil (serves 2)

2 cloves garlic, finely diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, diced

3 oz sun dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped

10-12 large prawn (about ¾ lb), peeled and deveined

Juice of one half lemon

1/8 c dry white wine

4 T cream

5 large leaves of basil, julienned (Check outFabulously Classic’s tip on how to do this here)

4 tablespoons coarsely shredded Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook till al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add olive oil and shallots. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, until shallots are starting to become slightly translucent. Take care not to brown them. Add the sun dried tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the prawns, white wine, lemon juice and cook until pink and barely translucent. Increase the heat to high, add the cream, bring to a boil, and stir constantly, for about 30 seconds. Cream should quickly reduce in volume and thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Add basil. Turn heat to low.

When the spaghetti is al dente, drain it and add to the prawn mixture in the skillet. Lightly toss entire mixture over heat for until well incorporated. Transfer to plates, sprinkle parmesan on top, and serve immediately.

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This one is a killer. The flavor is brilliant and the presentation owns. Easy to make, extremely light, yet it packs a punch. Gentlemen, take note and file this one under “baby makin meals” – if you want a quick way to impress a date, this one if for you.

Let me share some thoughts on the inspiration behind this vinaigrette. First off, I can’t stand greasy salads. There is nothing worse than an oily salad. I intentionally go light on the oil and let the citrus do the talking. Second, this dressing really accents the flavors of other ingredients in the salad without overpowering- while perfect alone with just greens, I’d highly recommend getting creative and having some fun with what you add to the greens – blood oranges, chevre, apples, dried cranberries, basil leaves, etc are excellent choices with this vinaigrette. Finally, the dressing itself is versatile. I’ve used it as a marinade for chicken and prawns. I’ve reduced it and used it as a base for sauce, thickening it with coconut milk and serving it with fish (fantastic). This dressing tends to come off pretty sweet depending on the orange juice concentrate used, so I prefer more bitter greens to contrast the sweetness of the dressing. Spinach, arugula, mixed greens, and frisee are the winners for this one. Avoid romaine or iceberg- way too bland.

Parmesan frico? What are they? Answer: crispy cheese waifs fashioned into bowls to serve your salad in. While they appear fancy, don’t be intimidated. I was taught the recipe and frico making technique by one of my mentors, Diane Runo, owner of Tastefully Yours. She runs a business from her home, teaching cooking classes and catering high end multi-course dinner parties.

Citrus Vinaigrette
1 heaping tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons white balsalmic
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
1/3 c canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except salt, pepper and oil in a blender or immersion blender. Mix together well and then slowly add the oil while on high. Salt and pepper to taste.

Salad
Mixed Greens
Frisee
Handful dried cranberries
1 apple- thinly sliced (I typically go with a gala or golden delicious)
2-3 cunces chevre
Candied pecans

Parmesan Frico
2 cups shredded parmesan (no need to buy expensive stuff for this – preshredded Trader Joe’s parmesan will work fine
1 T lemon zest
2 T julienned fresh basil
Fresh cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Scoop 2 tablespoons of mixture and place on a silpat on a cookie sheet. Many of us aren’t fortunate enough to own a silpat. Not to worry – line a baking sheet with tin foil, then spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 400 until the cheese is completely melted and starting to be golden in color. Remove from the oven and immediately flip a small water glass upside down and gently stretch and pull the cheese over the top glass (golden part of the cheese on the outside) forming a small bowl.b Work quickly as the cheese sets in a matter of minutes. Let them sit for 10 min.

Presentation

Lightly toss the greens and frisee in some of the salad dressing. For the beginners, go easy on the dressing. Start by adding a few tablespoons of vinaigarette to the entire green mixture and see if it is enough. Nothing is worse than too much! You can always add more. Add chevre to top of mixture, then arrange 2 or 3 apple slices vertically. Top with a few dried cranberries and pecans.

Quite the little salad

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This is the first time I can remember ever making cupcakes. No joke.  I’ve never been much of a baker (except for cinnamon rolls and the occasional cookie). In fact, I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of cakes I’ve made in my life. I feel I set the bar pretty high to start out.

My friend and mentor Diane of Tastefully Yours gave me this recipe several months ago. She described it as “beyond belief.” Any recipe that comes highly recommended from her immediately makes it to the front of my queue- the concept behind these cupcakes only furthered my excitement. S’mores. Yes, s’mores.

Graham cracker crust. Gooey chocolate cupcake. Toasted homemade marshmallow. Need I say more?

My friend Mallori and I had a blast making these. A quick heads up though on necessary equipment for this recipe: You definately need a powerful mixer for the marshmellow. Because I’m not married and therefore have not had the opportunity to politely ask friends to buy me a KitchenAid, I don’t have a mixer.  I tried using the whisk attachment on my immersion blender and it was going terribly until my roommate, who is moving out tomorrow, was kind enough to search through boxes of packed goods to dig out his hand mixer for us to use. God bless him- total life saver. Also, I recently acquired a butane torch. Nice to have for this recipe, although I’m sure careful use of the broiler could accomplish the same effect on the marshmellow.

Here’s the link to the recipe. And be sure to check out Trophy Cupcakes in Seattle, the geniuses behind this creation.

http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/chocolate-graham-cracker-cupcake-with-toasted-marshmallow

“First ya take the mallow…….”

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