Sunday, September 19, 2010

Softball Cake

This recipe was not in my original cook books, nor was it in any of my Grandmother's however the time and effort it took me to make this cake, makes it worthy of a post on my blog, with some of the photos of what I went through, getting from point A (an empty pan) to point B the cake you see before you. Also, I realize that Martha Stewart can make a cake, but I'm still giving this recipe the most difficult of ratings, because it's not for the faint of heart, but can be done, if you are a good instruction follower and have heaps of patience.

My original inspiration for the cake. The Chief Commentator's daughter plays softball and loves everything softball... so for her 10th (double digits!) birthday, we decided to do a softball themed cake to celebrate.

I am so proud of myself, I read all the instructions on the cake pan, before starting (i.e. cover pan in shortening, and then flour but NEVER butter then flour before adding batter...) etc etc etc. The instructions also said to use dense cake like a pound cake for the recipe.

Since the kiddo loves lemon, I chose the Barefoot Contessa Lemon Pound Cake by Ina Garten as my base, and then "kidded" it up a bit by adding a cupful of confetti candy to the mix.


(makes 2 8" loaves)

1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

4 extra-large eggs at room temperature

1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Method (note this is the method per Ina Garten with my changes due to pans in (parenthesis)

preheat oven to 350 (325) grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2x 2 1/2 loaf pans (grease pan with shortening and then 2 teaspoons flour rolled around until all surfaces are covered)

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 5 minutes, or until ight and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest


**note - if you can find an easier way to zest 8 lemons, by all means go for it. My hands hurt so much after the zesting, I took a 10 minute break and had to stretch them. I used a microplane to zest, but by all means, if you can find a quicker method go for it.

Sift together the flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the butterminlk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evently between the pans, smooth the tops and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until cake tester comes out clean.

(This is where I folded the confetti candy into the mix, to make it more 'kid friendly'.

** I don't normally believe in keeping everything separate and then slowly mixing them in steps, but out of pure fear and supersticion that the cake would come out poorly, I followed along exactly. Also, I followed the baking instructions at 325 per the pan, which is more than an hour, it's more like, a hell of a long time.. I think closer to an hour and a half or so.

I skipped this next step completely, because I was going to frost the cakes, but here you go if you want to know how to finish off the recipe. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small sauce pan, and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. When the cakes are done, let them cook for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

While the cake was baking, I decided I needed something for the softball to sit in, and because I wasn't about to self teach how to make a fondant or gum paste glove, I opted to make the ball sit in some grass. Now what is edible and looks like grass? coconut. Mixing a cup of coconut in a sandwhich baggie with about a teaspoon or so of green food coloring yields a nice looking grass effect. But it's sticky at this point and needs to be dried a little, so I spread it out on some parchment paper and stuck that in the oven (when the cake finally came out) watching it toast slowly. Which means, sitting infront of the oven because the difference between dry, and scorched is about 47 seconds. To make my cake, I used aprox 2 cups of coconut. Granted I did it 3 times before it came out correctly.. but the final product was 2 cups.
Now it's time for the cake to sit and rest. But before it's cooled (consulting my instructions again) I have to trim off the tops of both of the cakes and then flip them onto the racks to cool completely. (this translates to me, as 'done for the day' start again tomorrow with the rest of the project.
Before going to the frosting phase I have to trim one of the cakes, so that it sits flat. I don't want my finshed product rolling all over the table now do I?
So now it's time to make a whole bunch of frosting. In the interest of not having to make a second batch if I ran out and worrying about matching colors, I made a double batch of buttercream frosting (wiltons - basic buttercream) however for this size cake, one batch would have been pleanty with enough to spare the recipe said 1 batch, but erring on the side of caution and trying to skip the "I told you so's"
I pulled out a small amount to turn red, and then made the rest of it "neon nuclear green" then after I got the correct color, I pulled out 3/4 of it, and thinned the remaining 1/4 for smoothing icing (i.e. mix corn syrup into frosting until thinned)
First you flip the bottom half, and smooth it all with flat smoothing icing, then you start to decorate it. Prior to flipping it, I decided I wanted to make sure that the frosting was hard enough incase I touched it, so I shoved it in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
At this point I could have filled the center, and thought about doing a lemon filling, however I was a little worried about it staying together, so instead I used a big glop of the regular butter cream and put the top on, frosting the entire rest of the outside in the smooth frosting.
Next I finished dotting the entire cake with the #16 tip (just like the instructions said!) and whipped up the red (it looks a little pink in the photo, but trust me it's red in person) and attached the #3 tip and went on to making the stitches.
Then I stuck the entire cake back in the fridge to harden again.
finally I added the green coconut around the base of the cake to make it look like grass.
There will be comments (hopefully tomorrow) on what the cake actually tasted like, but the little chunks I cut off the top when leveling were pretty darn tasty.
Here is the finished cake:
and here is the cake sitting in the middle of the set Dinner table for Daughter's "Japanese Themed" party. She requested Sushi, and all the fixin's.

The cake was certainly a learning experience, and now that I've done it, I'm sure I could recreate it faster next time. I was panicked about the cake consistency turning out the way I was hoping it to, and also learned (from reading the directions!) that it's important when frosting a cake like this with so many strange shapes and having to hold it together, that you use a dense cake (packaged cake mix doesn't work well unless you cut the oil down)

French Burger

This one comes out of Better Homes and Gardens, January 1998.

The article is titled Burgers Go Multicultural an the idea is to start with a Basic Burger recipe and then dress it up differently. The choices are: Middle East Burger, Korean Kimchee Burger, French Burger, and Greek Burger.

I made the French Burger tonight

Here is the Basic Burger Recipe:

1 beaten eg

3.4 cup soft bread crumbs

1 lb lean ground beef

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and shape into four 3/4 inche thick patties. Broil 3 -4 inches from heat for 12-14 minutes.

Now here is the French upgrade:

add 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

2 tablespoons drained capers

snipped fresh tarragon

Top with more blue chees if desired, serve on a toasted sour dough bread.

I ended up topping them with a blue cheese chive spread I whipped up and served with sweet potatoe fries with a curry lime dipping sauce.

Chief Commentator: Fantastic. He would skip extra cheese spread on the bread, because (and maybe it was the kind I used) blue cheese in side was strong enough and carried through nicely.

"definately one of the better burgers I've had in a long time, and it's not your ordinary burger" The capers also alleviated the need for pickle, with the tang and salt.

Celery Root Rémoulade

Growing up in Napa, getting deli made salad’s from Vallergas Market was always a special treat to me. I was in love with their celery ‘roulle salad, that I recall once getting my hands on the recipe for when it came in one of their mailers, but I must not have stuck it in my cookbook, as it’s no where to be found. I also clipped along the way, the following recipe it was from a magazine, although I have no idea which one.

Celery Root Rémoulade
(from The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters)
1 medium celery root (about 1 lb)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp crème fraîche
2 tsp Dijon mustard
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

Cut away all the brown skin and small roots from the celery root. Rinse. With a sharp knife or mandoline, cut the celery root into 1/8-inch thick slices. Cut the slices into thin matchstick-size pieces. (This is called a julienne of celery root.) Toss with salt and white wine vinegar.Mix remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Stir well. Pour over the celery root and toss to coat. Taste for salt and acid. The salad can be served right away or refrigerated for up to a day.

Add other raw julienned root vegetables, such as rutabaga, carrot, or radish, to the salad.
Sprinkle with chopped parsley, chervil, or mint.
Toss together with a rocket salad.
For the crème fraîche, substitute 1 egg yolk and whisk in 3 tablespoons olive oil.

To note – I made one of the variations, instead of the crème fraîche, I did the substitution of yolk and oil.

Chief Commentator said: He liked it, it would go great with fried chicken or fish and chips as a lighter side, and was reminiscent of coleslaw in that aspect to him. He enjoyed the lightness and was easy to eat with a fantastic crunch, although he seems to think most people wouldn’t really like it, because it does have a ‘root veggie’ taste to it.

I have to add, if you are going to make a lot of celery root dishes, buy a mandolin and use that. I love celery root, and I would make it much more often if I had one, because cutting the root up by hand is a royal pain.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Chicken Lime Soup

This one came into my cookbook by way of my co-worker Matt. He brought it for a pot luck, and I love love loved it!!!! He brought me the recipe, and it has sat in my cookbook for at least 3-4 years, never once being made. Until now, when today we had some cool fall weather, and I was looking for something warming, and easy. Well, the soup part is easy, I am giving this recipe a mixed difficulty of easy and medium, because although the soup is easy, the frying of the tortilla strips for topping may be challenging for others who are leery of pans of splattering oil.

Chicken Lime Soup

8 corn tortillas
½ cup vegetable oil
course sea salt
4 chicken breasts
10 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 pepper corns
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
2 large tomatoes , peeled and chopped
5 limes, juiced
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves


Cut the tortillas into ¼ inch strips. Heat the oil in a medium skillet and when very hot, fry the tortilla strips, in small batches, until lightly golden and crisp. 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain. Season with sea salt to taste. Repeat until all tortilla strips have been fried. Set fried strips aside.

Add the chicken, broth, onion, garlic, pepper corns, salt, oregano, jalapenos and tomatoes into a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Remove chicken from the soup and set aside until cool enough to handle. Allow coup to continue simmering.

When the chicken has cooled a bit, shred into bite size pieces and return to the pot along with the lime juice and cilantro leaves. cook for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is heated through and the soup is piping hot. Ladle the soup into wide soup bowls, with a handful of tortilla strips added to each bowl. If desired garnish with additional fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Before I get to the comments, let me tell you what I did change and what I’d do differently next time, cause there definitely will be a next time.

I skipped the 2 teaspoons of salt, because I figured my broth had enough sodium in it already (and it was the reduced sodium at that) and I think that was a good call. Plus I prefer to sprinkle a little salt on the top when I eat it anyway.

Also – going forward, because the chief commentator loves dark meat rather than breasts, I think I’ll make the recipe with thigh meat, and or a whole chicken.

and finally, I like a little more heat, so I would prolly double or triple the number of jalapeno’s in the recipe.

Comments: Chief commentator said he is going to request this once a week in the winter. He loved the tang of the lime with the chicken and the broth. He specifically loved how un-salty the broth is! (good call on my part to leave out the extra salt)

I love this recipe too. I like how healthy (if you keep the tortillas out of it) that it can be. I love the zip of the lime juice, and the hearty comfort quality of the broth.

Definitely a new favorite.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tomato Vinaigrette

Tomato Vinaigrette

I made this one because I have so many tomatoes at this point of the garden, and I needed a creative way to use some up. I made a triple batch, (3 tomatoes) just to use some up.

I have no idea where the initial recipe came from. Its scrawled in my pre-teen handwriting on a page of a book. Knowing me, it prolly came from a newscast I saw on TV or the green grocer or something like that.

Tomato Vinaigrette

1 plum tomato,
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar,
3 tablespoons olive oil,
½ tablespoon fresh tarragon,
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Puree Tomato and vinegar, add oil, tarragon, salt and pepper.

Toss with greens.

The Chief commentator liked it a lot. So did the kid who loves tomatoes. Very Fresh, light, and covered the greens well. I liked it too, fresh. I didn’t like it the next day when I used the rest of it up, because there seemed like too much acid from the tomatoes, so this is not a recipe you want to leave sitting around.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nora Ephron's Mustard Vinegarette from the book Heartburn

Last night was a "grab a pizza and feed the kids fast" kinda night. So with take out pizza in hand, and feeling guilty that there were not veggies associated with it, I decided I better make a quick salad to serve along side the pizza.

Now if you know me, you know there isn't EVER bottled dressing in the fridge (not even ranch for dipping your pizza crust) I am just not a bottle dressing kinda girl, and well, honestly, I wouldn't have room to stick bottled dressing in the fridge, cause I have too many jars of pickles, and other things that take up nearly all the door space.

Before I get to the recipe, let me give you all a time saver. Every few days, I wash several heads of lettuce, spin them dry, and chop them, I add chopped cabbage to the lettuce and then I make up gallon sized baggies, and toss in a paper towel or two to help reduce moisture, seal it up and stuff it in the fridge. Then when it comes to dinner time, I cut a fresh tomatoe, and a cucumber and top the pre-made salad in less than 5 minutes. My own version of Salad-in-a-bag.

I grabbed for the nearest cook book and flipped quickly looking for a dressing, instead of doing one of my usual creations, ala flax seed oil and raspberry vinegar or olive oil, lemon juice and (my secret weapon) Cavendar's greek seasoning. One of the first recipes in the front of the book scribbled out in my early teen handwriting, copied from Nora Ephron's book Heartburn was her recipe for Mustard Vinegarette.

Sidebar - Heartburn is a GREAT book. The movie is also awesome (Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson) In the book the heroine Rachel is a cookbook author, and along the way of her story, you get fantastic recipes, as a teen chef, I thought this was fantastic, and painstakenly wrote them all down and carefully glued them in my book, never to actually make them. Until of course, now.

and with that, I give you:

Nora Ephron's Mustard Vinegarette from the book Heartburn:

2 Tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard

2 Tablespoons good red wine vinegar

whisking constantly with a fork, slowly add 6 tablespoons olive oil, until the vinaigrette is thick and creamy.

This makes a very strong vinaigrette that’s perfect for salad greens like arugula and watercress and endive.

Strong. Indeed it was, but it was a good strong. I let the chief commentator taste it and he liked it too, although he reminded me that 2 out of the 3 kids may not be that big on the whole dijon thing... quickly thinking, I split the recipe in half, and into half of it, I whisked a tablespoon of Honey - Now we had Honey Mustard - which all 3 kids LOVED, and tonight, asked for again ontop of their salad.

Chief Commentator thought the original, was a perfect dressing for all the lettuce's listed above and loved the tangy taste and the consistency was beautiful. I liked it also, although personally, I would have wanted a little more tang.

We both loved the dressing with the addition of the honey, and will be adding this as a regular dressing into our rotation!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Orchard to Oven Apple Pie School

Chef Meloni Courtway and I at the apple pie class.

Ok - First let me say this is the very first time I have every published a blog with multiple photos in it. The reason being is that I don't like the way you have to upload them (blogspot please take note) So this is a little out of order, but I'll make it work.

So my friend GW and I decided to sign up for a pie class at Olympia's orchard and if you are in the area, you need to sign up for one of these classes too. It was awesome. You start by going out to the orchard, picking the apples for your pie, bringing them back to the farm lodge and making your pie. from scratch. the old fashioned way. what can possibly be more awesome than that? oh they feed you a snack, and some pie, and you get hands on instruction from Meloni who won the Best Bakers in America Award by Martha Stewart... ya. it's THAT awesome.

A photo with myself, Meloni (she's in the chef coat - duh) and GW infront of the oven where we baked our pies (also where they baked the delish pizza we noshed on while waiting for our pies to bake)

GW and I out picking our apples

The schedule of events for the day

My finished pie. Yes, really I MADE THAT! THAT beautiful piece of love right there.
So with this one, you aren't getting a recipe (go try the class for yourself) but you are getting some advise, even if you think you are a pretty good cook, it's really fun to go get tips and pointers from a pro. Oh and if they feed you yummy stuff, and let you drink wine while you do it, all the more reason to sign up.
Just sayin.

PS - Look to the right - you will find a link to Meloni's food blog. Check it out. There is some great stuff there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Stuffed Potatoes

Before I even get to the recipe, I had a little hurry up and rush moment... that was my own doing. I was in a hurry to get dinner on the table and time everything with the steak, and a very hungry boyfriend, so instead of twice baking these, I had a deviation, and well, made them Stuffed Mashed Potatoes.
The recipe comes from a newspaper clipping. it says it serves 6, I have no idea where or how or when the paper printed this, or which paper for that matter. Here it goes:
Stuffed Potatoes
3 large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt to taste
1/4 pound bacon
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
paprika to taste
Wash the potatoes and drain. Place in a bowl and rub with olive oil and salt
place the potatoes directly on an oven rack in the center of the oven, bake at 375 for 1 hour.
Remove and allow to cool until the potatoes can be handled
*see what happens when you don't allow yourself time for this step? I instead grabbed them off the rack, chopped them using a fork and knive into large chunks and dunked them in the mixing bowl... skins and all. (can't get rid of that yummy salted skin now can I?
fry the bacon until crisp. drain on paper towels, chops the bacon coarsely and set aside.
Cut the cooked potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides, elaving about 1/4 inch of potato attached to the skins.
set skins aside.
beat the potatoe with the bacon, scallions and half the butter. Add the sour cream, worcestershire and salt and pepper. Refill the skins and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle the tops with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with papricka.

With the oven on broil, bake the potatoes in the center of the oven until nicely browned and hot thorughout - about 10-15 mins.
Ok, here is my diversion. Beat everything together until chunky yumminess. Scoop onto plates, and top with a little paprika for color. Done!
Update: 9/13/10 - the left overs were made into potatoe pancakes this morning, and turned out delish with a dollop of sour cream on top.
Chief commentator said: Loved the rustic flavors and the chunky texture (He didn't know they were supposed to still look like baked spuds) Good flavbors, the ingredients compliment each other well. He loved the chunky consistency.
This one is getting an It was OK, not a New Favorite, only because we aren't really potatoe people, so for us to make potatoes more than once a month, is hard pressed. It's also getting a moderate rating, because you actually HAVE to read the instructions. my bad.

Sirloin Steak with Mustard and Fresh Ginger

This one comes from what I think was a Napa Valley Travel Magazine that I cut apart. Date and season unknown... The recipe is called Double-Thich Sirloin Stead with Mustard and Fresh Ginger, and it's credited to an Emily Didier

yields 6-8 servings
1 sirloin stead double thick (about 2 inches) weigning approximately 3 pounds with the tenderloing piece removed, if desired (ask your butcher for this cut)

Mustard Coating:
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 cloves garlic minced very fine
3-4 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced, but not too finely, peel off the skin, slice into thick, diagonal slices, then smash and chop)
2 tablespoons oil

1 trim the meat of any excess fat. reserve.
2 put mustard coating ingredients into a bowl and stir into a paste
3 two hours before roasting time, brush the steak entirely with 2/3 of the coating, then palce in roasting pan. Spread the final third as a thick layer atop the meat. Let stand at room temp 2 hours.
4 To roast and serve: Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Place meat in center of oven and roast approximately 20 minutes or until internal temperature of the meat reaches 125 to 130 degrees.
5 remove from oven, let sit 6 or 7 minute, then serve
6 slice on the diagonal into thin or thick slices as you prefer; 1/4 inch thick is suggested.

Variation: can be barbecued with great success.

Ok - first off the Chief Commentator, would LOVE LOVE LOVE to try this BBQ'd but we need to try it on a different cut of meat, not our favorite cut here. Also after using the fresh garlic and fresh ginger, I think as a marinade / sauce, it would have had a better consistency had the garlic been powdered as well as the ginger. Both seemed to make it a little akward and lumpy.

On the recipe, there were some Wine pairing suggestions from Napa Valley Appellation's Wine Steawrd, Ronn Wiegand: (hmm maybe this was from Napa Valley App Mag?)
* Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 1991 RSV Claret, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon blend)
*Beringer, 1991 Merlot, Bancroft Ranch, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
*Rosenblum Cellars, 1992 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley

I actually paired it with a "Pro-mis-Q-ous" red table wine I found in a discount bin, that (shhh I know, I know I shouldn't every by a bottle of wine based on this) the label interested me, and it was like $6. It wasn't the best bottle of wine, but for a dish that seemed to scream Mid-West Cuisine, it paired well.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Broiled Chicken wBreasts with Basil - Tarragon Pesto

First off, this is once again a Marie Claire Recipe. And of course the Chief Commentator loved it.. (go figure) This set is by Erica De Mane, again it's food in 15 minutes, and I have no idea the issue or the year, etc etc. the other recipes are all summery and featuring summer herbs, so lets just assume it's once again a "summer" issue.
Broiled Chicken Breasts with basil tarragon pesto
2 large chicken breasts, split and boned, skin on (buy this way in your meat market from the butcher)
1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated asiago or parmesan cheese
2 dozen basil leaves
10 springs tarragon, thich stems removed
1/4 cup olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
1 preheat broiler
2 grind garlic and nuts together in a food processor. Add asiago, herbs and 1/4 cup olive oil, grind to a rough paste, add salt and pepper
3 loosen skin on one side of each half breast and push a generous layer of pesto between skin and meat. Place breasts on broiler tray; sprinkle with vinegar, remaining oil, salt and pepper.
Broil 3 inches from flame, until skin is brown and crisp and meat just cooked trhough (about 10 minutes) These are good served hot or cold, whole or sliced at an agle and fanned out on a plate.
If you note in my photo my chicken is a little more than "brown" on the top, you can thank my broiler for that. Not me or the instructions. I would suggest baking it, and then just popping it in the broiler for the last minute or so, to brown.
The Chief Commentator knew all the stuffing ingredients without me telling him. He loved every component of the stuffing. Great consistency of stuffing, the breasts were really moist and delicious.
The stuffing recipe made HUGE portions, there was easily enough stuffing for 4 breasts.

Tomato Crostini

To lighten up dinner as of late, I've been skipping making a starch, and instead making some sort of fresh appetizer type dish as a side dish instead. Also, with the plethora of tomatoes that have arrived at our household, I've been searching out every Tomatoe centered dish I could find. This one paired perfectly with the Caesar Salad I wanted to make, because I could use the crostini's for the croutons, by breaking them up. Two dishes with one dish effort, not that's something to rave about.

This one is from Marie Claire Magazine. The article is by Gillian Duffy and the title of there recipes are "food in 15 minutes" everything is bery picnic related, so I'm guessing it was a summer issue. As for what year? I have no idea. As a side note, the Chief Commentator, seems to enjoy the Marie Claire Recipes that have popped up in the making, I am wondering if his palate is aligned with their chef. Part of me is thinking I should get myself another subscription.

anywho, onto the recipe...

Tomato Crostini (serves 4)

French Baguette, cut on the bias into 16 1/2" thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb unpeeled vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in 1/4" dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoong capers, drained
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 preheat oven to 400.
2 brush both sides of bread with oil, bake 10 minutes or until golden-eged and crisp. cool. packed in plastic bas, crostini stay crisp for several days. (like they stick around that long)
3 Place tomatoes in a bowl, stir in garlic, basil and capers reamining oil, salt and pepper.
Allow guests to spoon topping onto crostini themselves.
ok - here is a note from me to you. You may be saying, the capers have enough salt, I don't want to use any. use some. use good sea salt, and sprinkle directly on tomatoes and give them a stir, salt helps release the natural juices and flavors of the tomatoes, and makes this dish all the more yummy.
Also - this is just my comment, usually I toss in a little balsamic vinegar into my bruschetta dishes... this one has the capers. I think i'm love the capers.
Cheif Commentators review: Would like some sorta cheese involved. Motz or Parmesean, he also would have liked bigger bread for the crostini's, because it was delicious, and it seemed like he spent a lot of time, making his food nibbles.
Note - some of the crostini's became the croutons for my Caesar. Perfect Caesar croutons.

Boyfriend Snaring Caesar Salad

Boyfriend Snaring Caesar Salad

Ok, so that’s not the original name of this salad, it’s: Chez Bob’s Caesar Salad. But the truth of the matter is, the old adage of ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’ is spot on as far as advice goes.

This was one of the first recipes I ever made out of my pieced together cook book. It’s a staple for me, and as early on as my boyfriends in high school, I’ve been having wonderful luck with snaring men using this recipe. Note, if you are dating a guy who ‘doesn’t eat greens’ or ‘doesn’t like salad’ you may just want to re-think the guy all together with, before going forward. Just Say’in.

The other night, I was stumped as to what to make for dinner for the Chief Commentator, as luck would have it, a random opportunity came up for me to run into an old boyfriend. Figuring who better to ask then someone whose heart I landed via his stomach, I candidly asked, ‘what was your most favorite dish I made’? His first response was Stuffed Peppers (that one is to come ladies, I promise) but shortly after, he replied, ‘Your Caesar salad is amazing, and I’m not just saying that, because I order it everywhere, yours is the best, because of its dressing.’

As we parted ways, I thought about it. I had made the Chief Commentator my Caesar early on in the relationship, but I certainly hadn’t made it recently, and I most definitely hadn’t made it since I started this blog. I made a beeline for the grocery store, and made it up tonight, for our salad.

(Edited Sunday, 9/12/10) The Chief Commentator loved it so much, that tonight (the next day)he begged me to make again, this time with him so he could learn. He wanted to experiment with the difference between the anchovy and using the anchovy paste so take two used the anchovy itself. (see his comments below)

I’m pretty sure this one came out of a ‘tween magazine too. I have no idea which one, because it’s totally clipped. The font looks like YM tho.

Chez Bob's Caesar Salad
(Serves two as a meal and four as a salad course)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 - 3 cloves (depending on you and your guests' garlic threshold) garlic, minced
1 anchovy (or 1 tsp anchovy paste)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (the real stuff not the dried stuff)
1 egg yolk
juice of 1/2 lemon,
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable (or olive) oil
1 medium-large head of romaine lettuce. Discard outer leaves. Wash and dry remaining leaves thoroughly, then slice into bite-size pieces.
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 cup croutons (I prefer homemade, but do what you want)

1) Into a large wooden salad bowl add ingredients up to the vinegar in order, one at a time.
2) After adding each new ingredient, use the back side of a soup spoon to blend it with the previous ingredients into a smooth paste.
3) Add oil & vinegar and blend well
4) Just before serving, add lettuce and toss thoroughly.
5) Add croutons and cheese, toss again, and serve.

Here are a couple of comments from “chez bob” that you may want to know, in regards to making it etc. Caution on eggs: There is a new school of thought that claims eggs should never be consumed unless they are fully cooked throughout. More-moderate thinkers believe that coddling an egg will kill most of the potentially harmful bacteria. If you are at all concerned about the risk of raw egg consumption, do not make this recipe. To avoid most of the potential problems, coddle your eggs by placing them, in their shell, in boiling water to cover for 40 seconds to one minute. Remove and use as directed.

then there was an editor’s note: For an egg-safe Caesar, omit coddled egg, use 3 tablespoons of egg substitue or mayonnaise. Or mix one large egg white with lemon juice; cover and chill at least 48 hours or up to 4 days. We taste-tested the recipe without egg yolk and it was delicious.

Sam’s note: I always use the egg. I’ve never had a problem.

chez bob’s Le secret: Romaine lettuce is the godfather of Caesar lettuces because it ‘wears’ the heavy dressing so well. if you must substitute, use another hearty lettuce. After washing the lettuce, us a spinner or a towel to remove all water. Water from wet leaves dilutes the dressing. For maximum crispness, return the prepared lettuce to the fridge until just before serving. If you are preparing the lettuce hours in advance, you can avoid browning edges by cutting the leaves with a sharp knife instead of tearing them.

Adventure club: Use imported Italian reggiano parmesan , grated just before using,(the key to the definitive Caesar) and good croutons (Sam’s note: duh?!?)

Garnish – top with an extra sprinkle of cheese

Suggested Accompaniments: This salad is complete on its own.

Alternatives: The anchovy is, of course, optional. Omit it or try replacing it with a sun-dried tomato. Because olive oil can overwhelm the dressing, try safflower oil (Sam’s note: This dressing would NOT be the same, not even close without the anchovy, if you don’t think you will like it, try it anyway. seriously. and I always use vegetable oil, because I do think the olive oil is too heavy)

Notes: Lettuce leaves should be coated but not soaked in dressing. Adjust amount of dressing for more or less lettuce to keep salad from becoming too “wet”

Music to cook by: Leonard Cohen, I’m your man (Ironically, the lyrics to this song, is about a man doing anything for you… I get the same response from the men eating this salad…)

Wine – a well chilled Australian Chardonnay (Sam’s comment.. I love it with anything, although I think my favorite (and choice of the night) Piper Brut Champagne.

Ok – now a couple of “Sam Secrets” since this is one of those recipes I’ve made hundreds, upon hundred’s of times.

1) use the anchovy paste instead of the fresh anchovy. I prefer the texture of the paste, as did the Chief Commentator after trying both.

2) juice of ½ lemon is about ¼ cup if using concentrate. Or I should say ¼ cup is what seems to taste the best. I prefer to use the concentrate UNLESS MYER LEMONS ARE AVAILABLE. Then go with the fresh Myer. But for consistency. Concentrate all the way.

3) No matter how small you dice the garlic, it’s always too chunky for my taste, unless you use one of those fancy motor boat sauce mixer things. Use garlic powder, a solid tablespoon full and then a little more, if you need more garlic flavor. Your dressing will have a much richer texture and you will thank me later.

Chief Commentator – why have you been hiding this gem from me? You know how much I love this one. You made it for me in the beginning, and then you stopped (oops busted!) I told him it was my boyfriend snaring salad, and he said, well maybe you should rename it boyfriend keeping salad, because this is a favorite and we need to eat this at least once a week.

His comments specifically about the salad: Preferred Anchovy paste to the anchovy filets, although he did like having chunks of the filets tossed on top of his salad for an added salty treat. The Croutons - crostini’s from the bruschetta I made, were perfect broken up on top.

Chief Commentator also thinks that kids will dig the dish.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mama Vitale's Italian Dressing

This one comes from Grandma Mary's cookbook. If you aren't familiar with Venetian Inn Restaurant in Little Canada, well then, your loss. Family owned restaurant, and although I'm sure the family at one point came from Italy, they've been a staple of Little Canada for a lotta years. At one point there was "Mama Vitale's Italian Foods" frozen foods. This recipe was a cut out from the inside of the frozen food box. Mama Vitale passed away in 1997. The Venetian is still open in Little Canada. You should stop by if you are in the 'hood.

Since getting my Grandma's cook book, I've been making this one. It's a staple in my world. I recently made a big batch for a potluck to dress my salad.

Cheif commentator loves this dressing. It's replaced all the others in the fridge as our go-to.

1 pint oil
1/2 pint vinegar (i use red wine)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon dry garlic
1 tablespoon dry onion

combine all ingredients in a bottle, cover, shake well and chill. makes approximately 4 cups

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tomato Granite

I knew the day would come that I would find one that I hated. H A T E D. Well people, that day has come. I give you a recipe that I cannot recommend you make. But I am still listing it here, incase you are brave.
I love tomatoes. I love basil. I love Granite. This I didn't love. The tomatoes turned tart and akward. and the basil just sorta was blah. The chief commentator said it was the worst thing he ever had in his life. He said, he'd rather take a jar of Safeway chunky salsa and freeze it and eat it, then eat this again. Even the tomatoe eating kid didn't seem to like it.
The only positive thing we can say, was it had great texture. What a waste of good garden tomatoes.
This one came from the Napa Register, I'm guessing at least 20 years ago.
Tomato Granite
1 lb vine-rippened tomatoes (must be very ripe)
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/3 cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup V8
Core tomatoes and lightly score on one side. Plunge into boiling water for 10 seconds then transfer to ice water. Squeeze seeds out into a strainer, reserving the juice. Using the same boiling water, blanch basil for 15 seconds and transfer to ice water for 30 seconds or until ready to use. Combine all ingredients into blender, blend until smooth and freeze in your favorite ice cream machine. Return mixture to freezer in a bowl stirring every 10 minutes for about 1 hour until it is frozen and granulated. if you do not have an ice cream machine, combine all ingredients into bowl and place directly into freezer. Once the mixture is partially frozen, stir it every 10 minutes until it is frozen and granulated. serve as a refreshing first course or intermezzo between courses.
serves 6.