Sunday, July 24, 2011

They don't have heat delays in baseball?

It's hot, we've been social and out late, there was a dinner party. Needless to say we've been avoiding our kitchen and have relapsed into our college ways of easymac and grilled cheeses. To survive the heat I had this one night for dinner:
Butter Toffee Milkshake with Nutella Graham Crackers
I have also continued my epic baseball eating quest (Schmitters, Dollar Dogs, and Cotton Candy...Check!). The upside of Saturday's game was that I finally got some yummy crab fries. The downside was it was 100 degrees and we melted, even in the shade. Each of us had a 1.5 liter bottle of water that was consumed before the game ended. Everyone was drenched and no one had to use the bathroom (a record for me I'm sure!). 
Behold the most flattering picture of me ever! See the melty misery!
Trying to hide my sweat soaked face behind the crab fries.
In more exciting and non-food related news: Mr. Lawyer missed being hit in the head by a home run ball that bounced off the foul pole by only a foot! In fact you can see the foul pole behind me in both pictures. The lady sitting next to him grabbed it. His defense was that he was holding a Schmitter sandwich and it was a Padre ball. At least he didn't try to use me as a shield.

Zucchini or Pickles?!

Last weekend while reading at the shore I saw this delicious looking bundt cake in my Martha magazine. This weekend I was actually home to make it! But first, I have to make a disclaimer: I will never love any zucchini bread, cookie or cake as much as I love my Grandpa Norm's recipe (although I am madly in love with Martha's Zucchini Cookies). Due to this fact I thought the actual cake part was lacking in flavor. My recipe has more cinnamon and vanilla in it. But Mr. Lawyer is devouring it so I guess it's not a real problem, just a personal preference. The orange glaze is absolutely amazing. I will definitely be saving it for some other dessert creation, like muffins. I thought zucchini and orange was an odd combination but it grew on me. The candied zucchini is okay, really just for garnish but it doesn't add any necessary flavor so it could be skipped. I don't have a mandoline to make nice pretty ribbons like Martha so I used my food processor and mine ended up looking like pickles! Oh well.
Zucchini Bundt Cake with Orange Glaze and Candied Zucchini
(from Martha Stewart Living)
Cake Ingredients:
1.5 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2.5 cups flour
2.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon anise seeds (omitted, didn't have them)
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional (omitted, didn't have it)
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium zucchini
3 large eggs
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
Cake Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 and grease pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder, spices, and salt.
2. Grate zucchini and size dry. You will need around 2.5 cups.
3. Stir together eggs and sugar, then stir in melted butter, zucchini, orange zest and juice. Stir in flour mixture. Transfer batter to pan.
4. Bake for one hour. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes then transfer cake to plate. Cool before brushing on glaze and adding candied zucchini.
Orange Glaze Ingredients:
1 and 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 pinches ground cardamom, optional (omitted)
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Milk for thinning if needed
Orange Glaze Directions:
1. Whisk together sugar and cardamom
2. Whisk in zest and juice until it has the consistency of thick honey. If too thick, add milk 1 teaspoon at a time.
Candied Zucchini Ingredients:
1 and 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 zucchini
Candied Zucchini Directions:
1. Slice zucchini into ribbons using a mandoline. I don't have one and used the slicing disk on my food processor.
2. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and add zucchini. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until translucent. If you place a circle of parchment paper over the top, it helps keep the slices under the liquid.
3. Let zucchini cool in syrup and then arrange zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet. Let dry for 1 hour.

Prep it up!

This past week we had a dinner party with the Prep gang (or 4Pod as Jackie calls us). We decided on a tapas theme. Jackie and Maggie took care of the main dishes and I was in charge of dessert. The dishes included delicious quesadillas, cocktail wieners, meatballs, a yummy crostini, deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms and other things I am probably forgetting. I had a difficult time deciding what to bring and then it hit me: since it's a high school group of friends why not bring my high school signature dish?! Lemon bars! Whenever we had a class party I was always asked to bring in my lemon bars. But I couldn't limit myself to just one thing. Plus I wanted to keep with the bite-size tapas theme so enter teeny tiny Vanilla Pudding Cookies, Mini Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, and Lemon Bar Circles.
Jenni's Famous Lemon Bars
(which Jenni originally got from an old Betty Crocker recipe book)
1 cup flour
1/2 butter, softened
1/4 powdered sugar (plus more for dusting)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (plus an extra dash!)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar. Press into an ungreased 8x8 pan. Make 1/2 inch edges.
3. Bake crust for 20 minutes.
4. Beat sugar, lemon juice, baking powder, salt and eggs with mixer for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.. Pour over hot crust.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
6. Cool, dust with powdered sugar.
I would also like to restate my love for my cupcake corer and pancake pen (which was used for both batter and ganache). Amazing creations. 
Coring the mini-cupcakes
Other possible titles for this entry include: Jenni doesn't know how to halve recipes, Dessert Explosion, 4.5 hours of baking hell when it's 101 degrees out, the Night of 75 cookies, 50 cupcakes, and 20 lemon bars, or just plain old gluttony. But really, what's the fun in halving a dessert recipe?!

It's hot, we're roasting.

So we made a roast. And by we, I mean mostly Mr. Lawyer. Because it's hot and I'm avoiding the kitchen like the plague. I really liked the pot roast but was less crazy about the gravy. I'm not quite sure what it was that I didn't like. Maybe it was too thin or slightly bitter because of the coffee. The only thing it was lacking was more veggies! I would have loved some carrots or potatoes with it. Also, please admire our new place mats. It only took us seven months to agree on a design!
Espresso-Braised Pot Roast with Balsamic Vinegar
(from Not your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two)
1.5 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed of fat
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1.5 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 1.5 tablespoons water
1. Rub all sides of roast with salt and pepper. Place onion in the crock pot and toss with olive oil. Place meat on top of onions and add the coffee and vinegar. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours.
2. Transfer the roast to a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Reserve onions for serving.
3. For the gravy: skim the fat from leftover liquid. Transfer liquid to saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cornstarch mixture and whisk until gravy thickens.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lemongrass Adventure!

In my little balcony garden I've been growing some lemongrass and have been hankering to give it a try. I found this Thai inspired pork dish that would be an adventure because I had never cooked with lemongrass or fish sauce before. I'm not sure I had enough lemongrass to properly flavor this dish as my stalks are still rather skinny. It did smell wonderful while I was preparing it! You peel off the outer layers, then crush the stalk with a flat edge of a blade (to help release the flavor), and then chop it up. The fish sauce is slightly fishy (obviously) and salty, not unlike clam juice. Between the fish sauce, tamari/soy, and sesame oil the dish was a little salty but not in a bad way. It definitely had that Thai flavor to it. The more I ate the more the dish grew on me. It had a unique flavor of salty and sweet/sour lime. I plan on investigating Thai cuisine further!
I did marinate the chops over night and that was the best decision ever. These were the moistest, most tender pork chops I have ever made. The recipe got big points there!
Lemongrass Pork Chops 
(from the Domestic Man Blog)

2 large, thick cut pork chops (bone-in, center cut preferred)

3 stalks of lemongrass, chopped (1/2 cup if using pre-chopped lemongrass)

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp each water and fish sauce

1 tsp each sesame oil, black pepper, sea salt, tamari (or dark soy) and potato starch (omitted)
1/2 cup chicken broth
juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp coconut oil (I used olive oil with a dash of coconut extract)
1. In a food processor puree 2/3 of the lemongrass, 4 of the garlic cloves, the water, fish sauce, sesame oil, black pepper, salt and 1/2 the lime juice. Pour the mixture into a ziploc bag with the pork chops, and marinate for 2-4 hours (or overnight).
2. Remove the pork chops from the bag and pat dry with a paper towel. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and put a heavy duty baking pan inside the oven to heat it up. Heat up the coconut oil in a different pan on the stovetop on high heat.
3. Sear the pork chops for three minutes on each side as the oven is heating up. Don’t discard the pan when you’re done with it!
4. Place the pork chops on the baking pan in the oven and cook for six minutes. Flip the pork chops and cook for another six minutes. Immediately transfer them to a plate and cover them with tin foil, letting it rest for at least five minutes.
5. Return the pan you used to sear the pork chops to the stovetop, and turn the heat to med/high. Add the remaining 1/3 of the lemongrass and 2 garlic cloves and saute for about 30 seconds, then add the chicken broth, tamari and the rest of the lime juice, scraping up any pork bits that were stuck to the bottom of the pan. As that simmers for a few minutes, add a little water to the potato starch to create a milky liquid. Add this liquid to the pan, stirring constantly, and remove from the heat once it gets to your desired thickness. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

three horns never play with long necks.

To top off our manly man dinner party we had this:
Sharptooth! RAWR!
Thanks to Christine and Amanda for their assistance with the frosting job!
"So the five hungry dinosaurs set off for the Great Valley. There had never been such a herd before. A long neck, a three-horn, a big mouth, a flyer and a spike-tail all together, all knowing that if they lost their way, they would starve or find themselves in Sharp Tooth's shadow." -The Land Before Time

I can feed manly men just fine thanks.

I caught a lot of flack from a certain someone for wanting to make this dish for the mini college reunion that occurred this weekend. First the dish was too fancy for a bunch of manly men and then there was drama about it being a white sauce not a red sauce. However, there was very little remaining after dinner on Friday and when I woke up Saturday morning there wasn't any left (evidently mushroom lasagna is a wonderful 3 am snack for manly men). So who wins this one? This girl obviously. 
We got the pancetta from Di Bruno Brothers so it was sliced nice and thick which was perfect for the recipe, thinly sliced would not have worked well. The amount was also upped to 8 ounces by Mr. Lawyer due to manliness concerns. I did the full 4 portobello caps but was a little light on the 1.5 pounds of baby bellas because that's a ton of mushrooms. Next time I would try to get a little closer to the 1.5 pounds but by no means was the dish lacking because I reduced the amount. I realize that the béchamel recipe is only for 3.5 cups and not the 4.5 cups required in the lasagna recipe but it worked out fine and it was not dry at all. But if I used the full amount of mushrooms an extra cup of sauce might have come in handy. 
Official Review: Amazing. I loved it and obviously the mostly boy crowd did as well. Definitely a keeper.
Portobello and Pancetta with Parmesan Lasagna
(from For the Love of Lasagna by Sorrento)
16 oz mozzarella, shredded
6 oz pancetta, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 large portobello caps, ribs removed, 1/2 inch dice
1.5 pounds baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, 1/4 inch slices
3 medium shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 bunch chives, chopped (reserve small amount for garnish)
4.5 cup bechamel sauce (recipe follows)
12 sheets no boil lasagna noodles
2 eggs
1.5 cups parmesan
1. Cook pancetta in large saute pan on medium in 2 tablespoons oil until rendered and crispy. Remove the pancetta and keep the oil in the pan.
2. Saute the portobello and baby bella mushrooms in the pancetta oil (in batches) until caramelized on medium-high heat. Set cooked mushrooms aside.
3. Saute shallots and garlic in the saute pan on medium heat with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil for 4 minutes. Add the cooked mushrooms and 1 cup white wine. Cooke on medium-high until the liquid has evaporated. Toss in chives and pancetta. Season with salt and pepper.
4. To assemble, spray a 13x9 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 1.5 cups béchamel sauce on the bottom of the pan and top with 4 lasagna noodles.
5. Mix remaining béchamel with 2 eggs. Layer 1/2 of the mushroom mixture, 1/3 of the béchamel egg sauce, 1/2 cup parmesan, and 1/4 of the mozzarella.
6. Top with 4 noodles, remaining mushroom mixture, 1/3 more of béchamel sauce, 1/2 cup parmesan, and 1/4 mozzarella.
7. Finish with a layer of 4 noodles, and the remaining 1/3 béchamel sauce, 1/2 cup parmesan and mozzarella.
8. Cover with parchment paper and then aluminum foil. Bake for 40 minutes, remove foil and parchment and bake for 10 more minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and garnish with reserved chives.
Bechamel Sauce
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 shallots (or 1 medium yellow onion), minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
3.5 cups whole milk
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1. Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat until foaming.
2. Add shallots and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
3. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes taking care not to brown.
4. Whisk in milk slowly and bring mixture to a boil. Stir in nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking occasionally.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beautiful Brown Butter!

Given the fact that this recipe was incredibly simple, delicious and you probably have all of the ingredients (except the ravioli) in your kitchen making the cost minimal, this recipe is a ten star keeper. I picked up two packs of frozen butternut squash ravioli for six bucks and had pecans on hand (from many baking adventures) which worked out well since The Lawyer isn't a huge fan of walnuts. I have also had this done with hazelnuts at a restaurant so I imagine that just about any nut you have will work well. Despite being accused of trying to kill us with the amount of butter, this recipe was amazing and made a simple dish into something fancy. The browned butter and nuts gave it a nice nutty flavor, the balsamic just a hint of tang which played wonderfully off the slight sweetness of the butternut ravioli.
Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter
(Giada, Food Network)
18 to 20 ounces store-bought ravioli (cheese, mushroom, or squash)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (or pecans!)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli onto a large serving platter.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about 1 minute. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
3. Transfer the ravioli to the pan saucepan with the balsamic brown butter. Sprinkle walnuts and Parmesan over the top. Serve immediately.