Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ham, Manchego and Fig Tartines

If you're like me and tend to go overboard when company comes over, you'll appreciate these hors d'oeuvres. If you slice the cheese ahead of time and your butter is soft, it's quick to assemble. Which really freed me up for the fifty other things I attempted to make. I say attempted because I still have raw ingredients in my fridge that never made it to the table. But that's okay, because as usual, I had enough food for a small army. Either I need to calm down or get more friends.

Makes 8 (snack) servings

1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons fig preserves or jam
1 (24") baguette, quartered crosswise, then each quarter halved horizontally & lightly toasted
6 ounces thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
1/4 pound Manchego, thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.      Stir together butter and fig preserves.
2.      Spread mixture on baguette, then make open-face sandwiches with ham and cheese.
3.      Drizzle with oil and season with pepper.

from Gourmet, September 2008 by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez
fig jam and butter

I used Stonewall Kitchen Fig & Ginger Jam.
Here's a link if you want to make your own
homemade fig jam (also with ginger).
fig butter
topping the bread

I just sliced the baguette in about 1/2-inch slices and didn't
even toast it. I did spread the fig butter on the bread, but
don't have a photo of that. I used prosciutto and manchego,
but didn't sprinkle with oil and salt/pepper. What can I say?
I was staring at some hungry guests.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Asparagus Gruyere Tart

If you make this tart, don't do what I did. Because even though I knew the bottom of my tart would be a little soggy, I went ahead and skipped baking the dough before I put the toppings on anyway. I thought there was a small chance the cheese & asparagus wouldn't be too wet/heavy and the bottom might puff a little and stay dry. So I did it, just to find out for sure. And yes, the bottom was a little soggy. So do make this tart (because if you like asparagus, you'll love it), but don't question Martha Stewart's procedure like I did (really, who the hell do I think I am?).

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
5 ½ oz. (2 cups) shredded gruyere cheese
1 1/2 lb. medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.      Preheat oven to 400º F.
2.      On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1-inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
3.      Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with cheese. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over cheese, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

rolled puffed pastry on a sheetpan

Since I wasn't following directions, I just
pricked the dough all over with a fork.
I didn't use gruyere...this fontina was a nice substitute.
sprinkling cheese on the dough
My asparagus was shorter than the dough,
so I arranged some on the top and bottom too.
more cheese sprinkled on top
(not too much - you don't want to cover the asparagus)
asparagus tart
side view
close up
My daughter doesn't like asparagus, so I made
her the same tart, but with broccoli. She loved it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Macaroni Salad

I made this macaroni salad for a luncheon at my daughter's school. I hesitated to add all the vegetables because I was nervous that some of the kids wouldn't like the crunchy chunks. But then we went to Charlie Brown's for a night of fine dining and my daughter took full advantage of the all-you-can-eat salad bar's macaroni salad (chunks and all). If I hadn't cut her off, we'd still be there. So I figured pasta + creamy mayo might be just the thing to sneak a small amount vegetables into these kids. So I went for it. I can't say whether the children liked it or not, because I wasn't there and my daughter wasn't all that interested in studying their reactions and reporting back to me (her priorities are all screwed up). But she really liked it (which I observed with my own eyes and reported back to myself).

Yield: 8-12 servings

1 lb. elbow macaroni (or other small pasta)
2 large stalks celery, diced
2 small carrots, diced or grated
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
4 hard-boiled eggs, chilled and chopped

2 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.      Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook just until tender, according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a large bowl and refrigerate while chopping the vegetables and making the dressing.
2.      In a small bowl, stir together all the dressing ingredients.
3.      Add chopped vegetables, eggs and dressing to the cold macaroni. Mix until well blended.
4.      Cover and chill for about 2 hours (the pasta will soak up more of the dressing). Mix well before serving.
hard boiled eggs

I made a double batch. It made a ton,
so I hope those kids actually liked it.
slicing an egg
sliced eggs with chopped vegetables
all the dressing ingredients
dressing mixed
cooked pasta in a large bowl
adding the dressing to the pasta, eggs & vegetables
macaroni salad

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Corn Dogs

I can't, in good conscience, recommend you make corn dogs at home. Not after watching HBO's The Weight of the Nation this weekend. That show has me so terrified of my belly fat that I went for an hour long bike ride yesterday. I know that doesn't sound like much to you movers and shakers, but I'm counting on my fellow slugs out there to be impressed. So why did I make them? Because I hadn't watched the show yet. And because I could. And I'm not going to lie, it was fun. And they were good. Crunchy on the outside and slightly fluffy on the inside. But that wasn't me recommending them.

Yield: 16

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 quart corn oil or vegetable oil for frying
2 (16 ounce) packages beef frankfurters
16 wooden skewers

1.      In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Stir in eggs and milk. Pour batter into a tall drinking glass and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2.      Heat oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat to 365º F.
3.      Dry the frankfurters with a clean dish towel or paper towels. Insert a wooden skewer into each frankfurter. Dip in the batter until well coated (if the batter is too thick, thin with a little milk).
4.      Fry 2 or 3 corn dogs at a time until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

barely adapted from (submitted by SUZZANNA)
all the dry ingredients
adding milk & egg
batter mixed
I put the batter in a tall glass so it would
be easier to dip the long hot dogs in.
For once I had some foresight and put a bowl under the glass.
I had a feeling it might expand with baking powder in the batter.
That five minutes I saved not cleaning my refrigerator meant
I got to watch Game of Thrones five minutes sooner.
hot dogs dried off and sticks inserted
Don't skip drying off the hot dogs (or the batter won't stick).

I used organic beef hot dogs with no nitrates. If you're going
to fry stuff at home, at least make good quality junk food.
dipping a dog

So my brilliant idea of using a flat skillet instead of a saucepan
didn't work out quite as planned. My first few corn dogs were
very flat and wide. Don't ask me why I didn't see that coming.
After that, I made them one at a time and used tongs to
rotate them, so they would come out more rounded.
Here is a wide, flat one.
It looks a little funny, but it's just as tasty.
Here are some of the more rounded ones.
You can see in the background that
I reheated some in the toaster oven.
But they're best freshly fried.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto

I've had these at parties for years and really enjoy their freshness and simplicity. So I finally decided to whip up a batch for myself. You can make these with steamed or blanched asparagus, if you prefer that to roasted (although I looove roasted asparagus and recommend you try it). You can also wrap these before you roast them (without the cheese) and serve hot. But I enjoy them cold (and let's not forget, with cheese). I want to say this is a really quick recipe, but the truth is that my prosciutto was sliced so thin that it was ripping like crazy. So I kind of struggled with peeling it out of the packaging. But I was able to patch up the rips with the cream cheese and in the end, it was worth the effort.

Yield: 12 to 16

1 lb. fresh asparagus (about 19 stalks), ends trimmed (stalks peeled if very thick)
6 to 8 thin slices good-quality prosciutto, halved
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
8 oz. cream cheese* or goat cheese, softened

* chive/onion and garlic/herb cream cheeses are nice too

1.     Preheat oven to 400º F.
2.     Place the asparagus on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and toss. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes (depending on thickness of the asparagus). Cool completely.
3.     Spread prosciutto slices with cheese.
4.     Wrap prosciutto around 1 to 3 asparagus spears (depending on their thickness), leaving the tips and bottoms exposed.
5.     Serve at room temperature or chilled.

adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis
trimmed asparagus

Just bend each spear until the bottom snaps off easily.
oiled raw asparagus

I don't recommend seasoning it
with salt (the prosciutto is salty).
roasted asparagus

I know, it doesn't look much different
from the raw - at least not in the photo.
Up close there are some brown spots.
spreading cream cheese on prosciutto
(I used chive/onion.)
asparagus on the prosciutto

If your asparagus is very thick, you may only need one
spear (if it's very thin, you might want to use three).

I opted to leave my prosciutto wide and slice it in half
widthwise instead of lengthwise. You can do it any way you
like (it depends on how you want it to look and what you want
your asparagus to prosciutto ratio to be when you're eating it).
roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cheddar Baked Ziti

My grandmother used to make a cheddary spaghetti that I loved as a kid. And I've been kind of chasing that experience ever since...but I've never gotten it quite right. I'll never know exactly how she made hers because she died years ago, taking most of her recipes along with her. Not literally - at least I don't think so (although, now that I mention it, we couldn't find them anywhere). If I sound a little bitter, it's because I am. She wasn't all that warm & fuzzy and didn't want to pass along her cooking legacy to anyone in the family (it's true - I tried to get her to share while she was alive, but she was strangely resistant). Oh well. I think it was her loss because she could have lived on through her food. Maybe it's enough that she inspired me to make my baked ziti with cheddar, instead of mozzarella. Or not (that's pretty weak, as far as legacies go).  

In case you're wondering whether I served this in a school cafeteria or maybe prison...the answer is no, it was just at my house. My 7-year-old daughter spotted some old toddler plates with compartments in the cabinet and for some bizarre reason, was very gung ho to use them. So we ate our baked ziti institutional style.

Yield: 8-10 servings

1 lb. dried ziti pasta
24 oz. ricotta cheese (fresh if possible)
4 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (the good stuff) or mozzarella
1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
2 large eggs
freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups (28 oz.) homemade marinara sauce

1.      Preheat oven to 375º F.  Lightly grease a 9- x 13-inch baking dish.
2.      Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until almost al dente (it should be slightly underdone). Drain.
3.      While the pasta cooks, combine ricotta cheese, 3 cups of the cheddar, ¾ cup of the parmigiano-reggiano and eggs in a large bowl. Mix until well combined. Season to taste with black pepper.
4.      Layer in the baking dish as follows (or you can just mix it all together and spread in the pan before proceeding with steps i & j).
a.  Spread about 1 cup sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.
b.  Layer one third of the pasta over the sauce.
c.  Spread half the cheese mixture over the pasta.
d.  Spread a scant 1 cup sauce over the cheese.
e.  Layer another third of the pasta over the sauce.
f.  Spread remaining cheese mixture over the pasta.
g.  Spread a scant 1 cup sauce over the pasta.
h.  Arrange remaining pasta over the sauce.
i.  Spread remaining sauce over the pasta.
j.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheddar and ¼ cup parmigiano-reggiano.

Can be assembled ahead and kept covered & refrigerated (bring to room temp. before baking).

5.      Bake until cheese is melted and the sides start to get bubbly, about 30 minutes.
cooked ziti
ricotta, cheddar, parmigiano-reggiano and eggs

Spring for the good stuff if possible...since this is a
simple recipe, the quality of the ingredients makes a
big difference in the final outcome of the dish.
mixed cheeses/eggs
the first layer of pasta

Usually I get lazier as I cook, but this time I started out lazy
and then got more patient (don't ask me why). It's easy to see
here where I went wrong. I used too much pasta in my first
layer and then was short for the top layer.
the first layer of cheese (and spreading more sauce)
second layer of pasta (see, neater and more patient)
adding the rest of the cheese mixture
cheese mixture spread
more sauce spread

If you don't have time to make homemade sauce, I
recommend Rao's (it costs a little more, but it's the best).
top layer of pasta (looking a tad thin)
sauce spread on top
cheddar & parmigiano-reggiano sprinkled on top
baked ziti