Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chocolate Peanut Caramel Tart

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Carla of chocolatemoosey chose a deliciously decadent chocolate pie for this Tuesdays with Dorie edition. I only wish the peanut caramel was more visible as there are some enticing colors and textures in the caramel. Not that the chocolate ganache layer isn't equally as delectable looking, it just looks very plain in contrast.
With the crust and ganache made the day before, it was short work making the peanut caramel and then assembling the tart. The chocolate peanut caramel tart would be perfect as a dessert for die hard chocolate and peanut lovers. Carla has the recipe on her blog,chocolatemoosey or you can find it on page 355 of Dorie's book, "Baking From My Home to Yours".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Orecchiette Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Ricotta Cheese

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A disk shaped pasta native to the Puglia, Italy's boot heel region, orecchiette comes from the Italian word, orecchio, meaning little ears. Pronounced oh-reck-ee-ET-tay, this type of pasta is perfect for vegetable sauces. It's a lovely sight to see the sauce cling to and nestle in the cavities of the orecchiette.

Because this dish has only a few simple ingredients, be sure to buy quality- Parmigiana Reggiano, a good extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and almost over-ripe cherry tomatoes. Buy fresh pine nuts for this dish as they are prone to rancid quite quickly. Adapted from "Italian Two Easy, Simple Recipes From the London River Cafe" by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers. Serves 4.


12 ounces ripe cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
2 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh small basil leaves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
11 ounces orecchiette or a similar pasta, such as a small shell type pasta

How to Make

Bring six quarts of water to boil. Add salt.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and squeeze out the juice and seeds. Mince the garlic. Combine the tomatoes and garlic in a small bowl and marinate for 15 minutes. Place the ricotta in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.

When water has boiled, add orecchiette and cook until al dente. Drain. Gently heat the tomatoes, add the drained orecchiette, stirring to combine. Stir in the ricotta. Divide among four pasta dishes, garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese and the toasted pine nuts.

Buon appetito!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Italy Trip Photos

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Grilled Steak Salad with Citrus Ginger Dressing

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Main dish salads are great! You get a little bit of everything and they are so satisfying, plus easy to put together and have on the table in a snap. This grilled flank steak spinach salad is composed of fresh pineapple, cucumbers, and homemade pickled red onions,then tossed with a ginger citrus dressing. The flank steak only takes 12-15 minutes to grill. We never seem to eat all of the flank steak at one meal, in fact, I grill flank steaks anticipating that I will have leftovers to make this salad. Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking-June/July 2009. Serves 4 as a main dish.

Ingredients for the Citrus Ginger Dressing

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/8 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup diced fresh pineapple

Make the Dressing

In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice, soy sauce, safflower oil, sesame oil, lime juice, honey, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes to combine. Stir in diced pineapple. Set aside.

For the Flank Steak

1 pound flank steak
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat a gas grill to medium high. Combine cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Rub on both sides of the flank steak. Clean grill grates. To oil grates, use a tong and oiled paper towels. Quickly oil grates, taking care paper towels don't ignite. .Grill steak covered about 5-6 minutes a side, rotating halfway through each side to attain attractive grill marks on each side of the steak. Remove from grill. Let stand 10 minutes.

For the Salad

6 cups baby spinach
1 medium cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pickled red onion, recipe here, or purchased
1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced

In a large bowl, Gently toss the spinach, cucumber, pickled red onion and pineapple with about one half of the dressing. Divide among 4 large plates. Thinly slice the steak across the grain. Drizzle more dressing over the beef to serve.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grilled Pork Tenderloin

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Pork tenderloin is very lean pork usually sold separately two to a package. Since there's very little fat on the tenderloin, many quick dishes can be made with it. Using a rub gives the tenderloin more flavor, especially when grilling on a charcoal or gas grill. Because the tenderloin has very little fat, it's easy to overcook. The National Pork Board suggest cooking pork to 160° F. which means you should remove it from the grill at 155° as it will continue to cook as it rests.

2 pork tenderloins, about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds total weight

The Renowned Mr. Brown Rub
Adapted from "Smoke and Spice" by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.

1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/4 cup smoked sweet paprika
1/4 cup Turbinado or brown sugar
2 Tablespoons table salt
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Makes about 1 cup rub.

How to Prepare the Pork

Remove the pork from its packaging and pat dry. Using about 1-1/2 tablespoons of rub per tenderloin, sprinkle over the meat to completely cover. Place in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for about an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare a gas or charcoal grill for indirect heat. When ready, remove pork from plastic bag. Lightly oil grill grate. Cook pork over indirect heat for 25 to 30 minutes, or to desired degree. Remove from grill and let rest for 5 or 10 minutes to allow juices to retreat back into the meat before slicing. This will ensure a juicy piece of pork.

Leftovers are great for sandwiches.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Italian Vacation

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Picturesque village Vernazza
Originally uploaded by B℮n
I will be on vacation here in this lovely village in the Cinque Terre region of Italy, then to Rome for a few days. Looking forward to all the great Italian food and beautiful scenery.See you when I return. Photo Credit:Ben

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pan Bagna

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Popular in the South of France, Pan Bagna can be made from a myriad of ingredients, traditionally fresh seasonal vegetables with a high quality tuna canned in oil or anchovies. Crusty bread is liberally brushed with olive oil, filled with ingredients of choice, then weighted down for several hours or overnight. A perfect picnic sandwich to make ahead; in fact, gets better with age, relatively speaking, as all the flavors have time to intermingle.

Legend has it that the first pan bagna was created by the mother of a shepherd boy who wanted to make him a special sandwich for his lunch while he tended sheep in a nearby meadow. The shepherd's family lived near Nice which lies on the lovely coastline of the Cote d'Azur in Southern France, also famous for the Salade Nicoise. Pan's mother split some crusty bread, packed it with some of this colorful vegetable salad, wrapped the sandwich in a linen cloth and sent the boy on his way. Upon opening the linen wrapping, Pan found the bread to be a little dry, so drizzled it with some olive oil from the mini amphora he carried on his belt. Voila, Pan Bagna,"bathed bread" was born! Source

Best made with slightly stale bread, this version of the Pan Bagna features pantry or deli ingredients to make your sandwich a snap to make. Recipe adapted from "Pizza, Focaccia, Flat, and Filled Breads From Your Bread Machine" by Lora Brody

1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium red onion, pickled (recipe) or purchased pickled onions of choice
1- 6-1/2 ounce can of tuna in oil, drained
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, marinated in oil, drained and sliced thin
1/2 cup black olives, drained, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup green olives,drained, pitted and sliced
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers in oil, drained
1 cup fresh spinach leaves,washed and dried
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Using either a large round loaf or a long French loaf, slice the bread in half crosswise and place on a rack. Drizzle the olive oil on both cut sides of the bread. On one section of bread,layer the onions, tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and peppers. Place spinach leaves on the top layer. Season with freshly ground pepper. Lay the top crust on top of the filled bottom layer. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place sandwich on a pan and weight it down by placing another pan on top, then a 5 pound weight-a unopened bag of sugar or flour will suffice. Let the sandwich rest, refrigerated 2 to 4 hours, or overnight.
To serve, unwrap sandwich and cut into desired sections. Serves 4-6.

Note: If your bread is too thick, hollow out the inside, leaving about an inch of bread remaining, then layer on your filling ingredients.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies-Tuesdays with Dorie

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Just by looking at Melissa's beautiful blog, lifeinapeanutshell, you can see that she is an expert in making desserts. It's small wonder she picked this rich and decadent espresso cheesecake brownie from Dorie's book, "Baking From My Home to Yours".

What I loved most about the brownies was the tangy, rich coffee flavor of the cheesecake layer, a great complement to the dark brownie underneath. But topped with sour cream! What a great combination! Feed this unbelievable dessert to your chocolate loving friends so you won't be tempted to eat the entire pan yourself.

Check out Tuesdays with Dorie to see what a talented group of bakers I belong to.

For the next few weeks I will be on vacation to Italy. First to Vernazza in the Cinque Terre region and then in Rome for the remainder. Needless to say, I'm very excited about this trip. Check out some of the links below.

36 Hours in the Cinque Terre

Virtual Tour of Rome
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.