Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Grilled Asparagus and Ricotta Pizzettes

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Grilled Asparagus and Ricotta Pizzettes

This is a super easy pizza to make using very fresh asparagus, grilled to perfection and scattered atop a grilled pizza dough crust, slathered with  basil pesto, then dolloped with ricotta cheese. The pizzette is then put back on the grill to melt the cheese.  The recipe from Coastal Living uses prepared pizza dough, but I choose to use my own pizza dough recipe adapted from Jaime Oliver. If you aren't in to making your own dough, no problem; many supermarkets and speciality grocery stores carry the prepared dough.
 Grilled Asparagus and Ricotta Pizzettes

1 pound thin asparagus spears, trimmed
2 tablespoons garlic-flavored olive oil or extra virgin olive oil,divided
1 (16 ounce) ball prepared pizza dough
3/4  cup refrigerated prepared pesto
3/4 - 1 cup ricotta cheese

Preheat a gas grill to medium high heat (350-400°F). Toss the asparagus in 1 tablespoon of the garlic flavored olive oil or extra virgin olive oil. Grill, turning occasionally, 2 minutes or until crisp tender. Cut spears in half or quarters.

Divide dough into four portions. Press or roll each portion to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly oiled baking sheets. Brush crusts lightly with remaining olive oil.

Grill crusts, in batches if necessary, 2 minutes or until bottoms remarked and tops begin to puff. Remove crusts from grill and place on baking sheets, grilled sides up. Spread with pesto, dollop with ricotta and top with asparagus.

Return pizzas to grill with a large spatial and cook, covered with lid, 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve immediately.

The black and white image of the pizzettes is my contribution to  BWW #127, hosted this week by Screevalli of Ammaji Kitchen.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Flaounes (Cypriot Savory Easter Cheese Pies)

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Flaounes are a Cypriot cheese pastries especially baked for Greek Orthodox Easter and are traditionally served on Good Friday. The dough for the flaounes is an enriched yeast dough and the filling, a combination of a salted cheese and a mild cheese. The Flaounes cheese traditionally used for these pies is a locally produced cheese made by Cypriot shepherds and difficult to find outside of Cyprus. A good substitute would be a Cheddar or a Parmesan for the mild cheese and a salty cheese such as a Pecorino. 

This post is the 16th in our ongoing baking group; We Knead to Bake, organized by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and on her blog, you can find the original recipe for Flaounes. 

Flaounes (Cypriot Savory Easter Cheese Pies)
Adapted From The Traveler's Lunchbox
For the Dough

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon mastic-if unavailable, leave out as there is no substitute
1/4 teaspoon ground mahleb, if unavailable, leave out as there is not substitute
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
4 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup or less, lukewarm water, or as needed
Oil, for greasing bowl.

For the Filling

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
1/3 cup crumbled paneer or a queso blanco
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup semolina
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves or 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper/red chili flakes (optional, but delicious)
1/8 cup raisins or currants, optional
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon flour plus less than 1/8 cup milk ( for sealing paste, if not using the egg)
milk for brushing ( or egg wash from beaten egg above)
1/3-1/2 cup untoasted sesame seeds


First make the dough. I used my bread machine, but you can use a food processor as Aparna does. If  using the bread machine. Place the ingredients in the bread machine according to the manufacturers instructions for your machine. Process on the dough cycle. Remove from machine. Place in a container large enough to allow rising, cover loosely and refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight, if desired. 

Meanwhile make the filling. With a fork, mix all the ingredients for the filling, except for the milk (or egg if you are using it. Use immediately or if not, keep it aside and add the milk only when you are ready to use the filling.

Divide the dough into 8 or 10 pieces, if you want smaller Flaounes. Lightly oil your work surface and rolling pin. Roll each piece into a 5-6-inch round-not to thick or too thin. Divide the filling also into 8-10 portions. Spread the sesame seeds in a large plate and place a round of dough in the center and press lightly to coat the Flaounes with sesame seeds. Next, place the round on your work surface and put one portion of the filling, about a generous tablespoon, in the middle of the round of dough and spread it lightly, leaving, leaving about 1" free at the edges.

See this video which will explain how to fold the Flaounes either in a square or a triangle.

Place the shaped pies on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, leaving 2-3 inches between them and let them rise about 40 minutes. Just before baking them, brush the sides (dough part) with milk or  beaten egg and bake the Flaounes at 375° F for 25 to 30 minutes until they are golden brown and the cheese filling is puffed up.

Let them cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8-10. The Flaounes will keep for 2 days at room temperature in an airtight container, or you can freeze up to a month.


Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Gallery-Black and White Wednesday #126-Easter Edition

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Welcome to the Easter edition of Black and White Wednesday! Although we are a few days past Easter Sunday, it's still a festive week here at BWW.  Below is a collection of monochromatic images submitted by a growing audience of black and white culinary aficionado's who are also very talented photographers. Thanks to everyone who contributed to BWW #126 and a special thanks to Susan for creating this long running event and to Cinzia who is now expertly at the helm. Next week, BWW #127 will be hosted by Screevalli E fromAmmaji Kitchen

Please do not use images or text without my permission.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easy Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs

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One doesn't have to reserve these chocolate covered peanut butter eggs just for Easter, they are a perfect sweet for any occasion. Plus they are super easy to make, the time consuming part is dipping them into the melted milk chocolate. As it is Easter today, this will be a quick, but visual post. Happy Easter to all!

Homemade Peanut Butter Eggs
Recipe The Brown Eyed Baker

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 cups milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening


Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper

In a medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter, unsalted butter and light brown sugar. Stir over medium heat, stirring constantly, until completely melted and mixture bubbles just slightly. Remove saucepan from heat and add the confectioners' sugar in 1/4 cup increments, stirring well after each addition. Cool to room temperature

Using a heaping tablespoon, scoop out peanut butter mixture and first, shape into a ball, then a fat cylinder, tapering at the ends to create the egg shape. Place on baking sheet and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

When the peanut butter eggs have set, melt the milk chocolate chips and shortening together in a microwave on 50% power in 30 seconds increments, until completely melted. One at a time, dip each peanut butter egg in the melted chocolate with a fork, flip the egg over so it's completely covered. Remove the egg from the bowl and let excess drip off. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until all the eggs are covered with chocolate. Add decoration, if desired. Refrigerate eggs at least 30 minutes to set the chocolate. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Makes about 15 eggs.

The above image is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #126-the Easter Edition hosted by yours truly. 
Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Announcing Black and White Wednesday #126-The Easter Edition

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I loved this image in color, so many shades of pink, but I think I like it equally as well in black and white. Just a few little tweaks after converting it to black and white in Color Efex Pro-a little vignette and a slight glow.
This is the Easter edition, although the holiday will have passed us by this coming Wednesday, posting day for the gallery, it's still a festive occasion. I hope to see many of your black and white images, but they don't have to be Easter related. Black and White Wednesday was created by the lovely and talented Susan back in July of 2011 and is still going strong, now managed expertly by the equally lovely and talented Cinzia. Rules for BWW can be found here.

Happy Easter to all!

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The "Salad Days" of Gardening

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“These were the happy days, the salad days as they say........ "Our love for each other was stronger than ever, but I preminisced [sic] no return of the salad days."  `H.I. "Hi" McDunnough Raising Arizona

Gift From a Neighbor Gardener
Silhouette Amongst the Clover and Dollarweed

The beginning of the Salad Days

So far, so good with the rented allotment from Skidaway Farms! The plot was cleared for us; then Alex spread out a huge load of compost to enrich the soil. We have gardened in past houses, but in the last few places we have lived  due to homeowner's rules, home gardens were not allowed. Our girls were the driving force behind this venture saying their retired father needed a hobby to keep him busy. It has kept both of us busy-Alex with the back breaking work and myself with figuring out how far apart to space the plants and giving my opinion! 

We have several varieties of tomato plants-Cherokee Purple, Brandywine Red-both Heirloom tomatoes, Husk cherry tomato, Japanese eggplant, Tomatillos, basil, chives and the real reason we planted the garden-OKRA! 

The first two photos are my contribution to BWW #125 hosted this week by Sanhita of Pocketful of Spices. If  you read by blog regularly, you will be very familiar with Black and White Wednesday, but for those of you who are first time readers, the history and rules for submitting and hosting can be found here .

Sunday, April 13, 2014

All About Piloncillo and Slow Cooker Apple Cake with Piloncillo Cinnamon Coffee Syrup

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After having success with a Dulce de Leche Flan in my slow cooker, I venture a little further and try a  moist apple upside down cake drenched in a cinnamon coffee syrup called a cafe de olla syrup. While my cake wasn't as pretty as the one photographed in the cookbook I used- The Mexican Slow Cooker,  the flavor of apples, walnuts and cheese (yes, cheese!) in a moist cake drizzled with a piloncillo sweetened cinnamon coffee syrup was incredible. To top the cake, I sautéed apples in butter and crushed piloncillo sugar, then added some of the cafe de olla syrup to make a caramel sauce of sorts. For a variety, pears, peaches, pineapple, ripe persimmons or quince can be substituted for the apples.

This cake can also be baked in a conventional oven. When using the slow cooker for this cake, not only is the insert greased, but also a generous piece of aluminum foil is buttered and fitted into the slow cooker insert. To keep the moisture from making the cake soggy, lay a clean kitchen cloth across the top of the cooker and hold in place with the lid.The cake bakes in about two hours, but I suggest you check it after about 1-1/2 hours.

From the sugar cane plant, piloncillo sugar is a dark brown unrefined sugar with a subtle molasses taste, mildly sweet with caramel overtones. It is made from boiling down sugar cane juice which results in a solid block of sugar. Fashioned into a conical shape, the sugar was easily transported. I've always been fascinated with the little pylon shaped cones, but have found them unavailable in a standard grocery store. Now more stores are carrying ethnic and exotic ingredients so was thrilled when I found them in one of our newly remodeled grocery stores.

To crush the rock solid cones, place the sugar in a plastic bag, wrap in a kitchen towel and pound with a mallet or another heavy object. Dark brown sugar can be substituted, but has a slightly different flavor. If your recipe calls for1 cup crushed piloncillo, substitute 1 cup dark brown sugar and a little molasses. Piloncillo can be stored indefinitely, tightly wrapped and stored in a cool spot in your pantry.

For the Cake-Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup walnut pieces
2 apples, preferably one that will hold its shape like a Granny Smith
1 tablespoon freshly lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup crushed piloncillo  sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs,beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firm white cheese (Monterey Jack, Munster, a mild Gouda or a Chihuahua cheese), cut into small cubes

For the Piloncillo Cinnamon Coffee Syrup (Cafe de Olla)
3/4 cup strong hot coffee
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole clove

For the Caramel Apples
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon crushed piloncillo sugar
1 apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons piloncillo cinnamon coffee syrup, above recipe

Use half the shortening to grease the bottom, corners and halfway up the side of the slow cooker insert. Line the slow cooker insert with an 18-piece of aluminum foil, smoothing it into the corners and against the sides. With the remaining shortening, thoroughly grease the aluminum foil.

With 3 tablespoons of the softened butter, grease the aluminum foil, then scatter the walnuts over the butter.

Peel and core the apples and cut into thin slices. Arrange overlapping on top of the butter and walnuts. Combine lemon juice and water and pour over the apples. Sprinkle lightly with 2 tablespoons of the piloncillo sugar.

In a mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream the remaining 6 tablespoons of the butter until creamy. Add the granulated sugar a little at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, vanilla and sour cream. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and beat until smooth.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two parts, stirring to combine after each addition. Fold in the cheese. Spoon the batter evenly over the apples and smooth into an even layer. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the piloncillo over the top of the batter.

Set the insert into the cooker and turn on high. Lay a clean kitchen towel tightly across the top of the cooker and hold snugly in place with the lid. Cook for 2-1/2 to 3 hours, checking after an 1-1/2 hours, or until the cake is firm. Meanwhile make the syrup. When the cake is done, uncover and let cool for 10 minutes. Grabbing the ends of the foil, carefully lift the cake out of the cooker. Set a serving plate upside down over the cake. Slide your hand under the cake, hold the plate with the other hand and flip the cake upside down so that the apples are on top. Spoon the coffee syrup over and around the cake

For the Syrup
In a bowl stir together the coffee, remaining 3 tablespoons piloncillo, the cinnamon stick and the clove. Set aside.

For the Caramel Apples
Melt the butter and add the piloncillo sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add the sliced apples and sauté for a few minutes, keeping the apple slices somewhat firm. Add the coffee syrup and cook about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

To serve the cake-top with caramel apples and a dollop of whipped cream or Greek yogurt.

This is my contribution to WHB #428 hosted this week by Lucia of Tortadirose. For the rules and history of this blog event, please read this post.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Piloncillo Still Life-Black and White Wednesday #124

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Piloncillo is unrefined sugar that has not been processed. Because it has not been processed, it has more of a molasses flavor and is richer than its dark brown sugar cousin. I hope to post some recipes using piloncillo in the next few days, but I wanted to post this black and white image to BWW #124 hosted by Haalo. Thanks for hosting and thanks to Susan for creating this event and to Cinzia for her expert management of BWW.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

Weekend Herb Blogging #427-The Roundup

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Lucia makes a lovely semolina gnocchi (gnocchi alla Romana), perfect as a side dish, but I could make this a meal! I grew up in South Carolina where grits are served just like this Italian gnocchi!

While I am remiss in posting on my blog as frequently as I would like to do, I always love to host Weekend Herb Blogging which showcases some amazing dishes using herbs or plants as the star ingredient. Below is a delicious roundup of recipes using some familiar herbal or plant ingredients as well as those unfamiliar to us, but intriguing and informative.  Thanks to all who submitted  and to Haalo her expertise in managing this event.
Terry's love for flowers and shortbread inspired her to bake these tantalizing kumquat and chamomile shortbread. Terry says, "The mix of kumquat zest and chamomile created a lovely marbled effect on the pastry when I rolled it out. The result was amazing, the combination is delicious and the shortbread are scented, buttery...they really melt in your mouth!"

Happily confined inside while the much needed rain fell outside, Simona makes good use of the time to create a toasted chickpea flour orecchiette. Having successfully made other orecchiette with various flours, "it was time to work on a new take on this classic pasta shape from the southern Italian region of Puglia.

Cinzia has an easy recipe for homemade applesauce, the main ingredient in her beautiful black bean brownies made recently. Not only for brownies,..."you can use it as a ready-to-go snack, just mi it with a yogurt or sprinkle some nuts or dried fruit on it and you will get something healthy and energetic for your day."

Summer is over in Melbourne and "the markets may be full of well-priced strawberries, but they are lacking in flavor so I've decided to add them to banana bread,along with a bit of dark chocolate as an extra treat."  Haalo suggests letting the cake sit for a few minutes before turning them out on a wire rack to cool. 

Fascinated with the tiny juniper berry, my  contribution as host for WHB #427 is a classic gin (genievre-Fr and jenever-Dutch both mean "juniper") and tonic cocktail  and a juniper berry peppercorn spice rub, a heady combination perfect for rubbing a steak or a pork tenderloin before grilling.
Please do not use images or text without my permission. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

All About Juniper Berries, a Juniper Berry Peppercorn Rub and a Gin and Tonic Cocktail

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Not a true berry but an actual female cone, the juniper berry's fleshy appearance gives it the name. All juniper berry species produce berries, but not all are edible. The Juniper Communis is the most common of the species and is used in European cuisine, typically to flavor wild game  as well as a flavoring for gin, first created in the Netherlands in the 1600's.

The juniper berry was first used as a medication as it was a diuretic, considered a remedy for arthritis as well as an appetite stimulant. It is an ancient berry having been found in Egyptian tombs. The Romans used it as a cheap substitute for black peppercorns as they are similar in appearance. Source

Below are two recipes, a refreshing gin and tonic and a juniper peppercorn rub, perfect to rub a pork loin or a steak before cooking.
A Classic Gin and Tonic Cocktail

1-1/2 ounces gin, your favorite
2 lemon slice ice cubes
1 juniper berry ice cube
1 sprig lemon balm
Tonic to top

Pour the gin in a cocktail glass, add lemon slice ice cubes and juniper berry ice cubes. Top with tonic water and add a sprig of lemon balm. Makes one cocktail. Enjoy!!
Juniper Berry Peppercorn Spice Rub

1-1/2 tablespoons juniper berries
1-1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced

Place the salt in a small bowl. With a mortar and pestle, gently crush the juniper berries and peppercorns together. Add the minced garlic; tear the bay leaves into pieces and blend together. Use as a rub for pork or for beef.

These two recipes are my contribution to  the English version of Weekend Herb Blogging #427 hosted by yours truly. The Italian version of WHB #427 is being hosted by Kris of Tutto a Occhio.

Please do not use images or text without my permission. 
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.