Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Homemade Breadsticks

Photo courtesy of Conor Kirkpatrick
Italian cooking has been my latest cooking fad; making my own pastas, tomato sauces, meatballs and recently homemade breadsticks to go along with a canneloni made from the most delicate of crepes which I will blog about at a later date.

These breadsticks are not difficult but do take a few hours from start to finish due to the rising times required.  The wonderful thing about them is that they are made with olive oil which provides such an excellent flavor to the end product.  Next time I make them, I may get more creative and roll a few in sesame seeds or a few dried herbs to add a different flavor dimension.   They will keep for quite some time in an airtight container. Give them a try and use your creativity.

Breadsticks (Grissini)

2/3 cup warm tap water
2 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp olive oil
cornmeal for dusting the pans

Pour the water into a bowl and whisk in the yeast. Set aside. In another bowl combine the flour, salt and olive oil and rub together between the palms of your hands until finely mixed.  Stir in the yeast mixutre with a rubber spatula and continue to stir until a soft dough forms.
Put the dough onto a floured work surface and knead briefly until dough is smooth. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn over so top is oiled. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double in bulk, about an hour.  After the dough has risen, scrape it onto a floured surface and fold it over itself repeatedly until deflated.  Return to the bowl, cover and refrigerate it for at least an hour or up to overnight.
Cover 2-3 baking sheets with cornmeal and remove the dough from refrigerator.  Cut the dough into 3 pieces and roll each into a 12 inch rope.  Cut each rope into 1 inch pieces then roll each piece under the palms of your hands until it is a 12 inch long strip.  Place on prepared pans until all pieces are rolled out.  Let breadsticks rise for an hour, or until they are puffed slightly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and set oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Bake the breadsticks for 20-30 minutes or until they are golden, dry and crisp. Cool on the pans.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bakewell Tart

Here is a wonderful English dessert called the Bakewell tart which I have been wanting to try for quite some time.  In my research on the Internet I found the following information regarding its' history:    In 1820 Mrs. Greaves the landlady of the White Horse Inn, (now known as the Rutland Arms), invited friends round for dinner. She was busy entertaining, so gave instructions to her cook directing her to make a pudding.

She told her to mix an egg mixture with a secret ingredient into a pastry crust and spread strawberry jam on top. The cook was inexperienced so misunderstood Mrs. Greaves instructions, and poured the egg mixture onto the jam instead, therefore making a tart, not a pudding.

This is a a tasty dessert with its combination of a custard like filling over a jam filled crust.  My recipe called for almond extract but I substituted vanilla extract instead.   It went together very quickly as I had a round of my favorite pie crust already in the freezer and it rolled out into a lovely tart crust.  Next time I make this, I will not be so skimpy with the jam and will spread on a much thicker layer. 

Now to go put the tea kettle, cut a slice of tart and think of England.
Bakewell Tart

Pastry for one 9" tart pan  (Or use your favorite tart crust recipe)
(This recipe makes enough for two, so freeze the second one for another time)

2 1/2 sticks of cold butter, cut into bite size pieces
1/3 cup cold shortening, cut into bite size pieces
1 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup ice water

Pulse flour, sugar and salt together in food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of small peas. Slowly add the ice water until the mixture comes together in a clump.

Put out onto floured board and knead slightly and form two even sized balls. Press into flat discs and put in fridge for at least 30 minutes or freeze for future use.

Bakewell Tart Filling

2-3 Tbsp jam of your choice (I used raspberry)
2 whole eggs and 2 extra yolks
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
confectioners sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the pastry and use to line a 7-9 inch loose based tart pan.  Spread the jam over the filling.  Set aside.
Beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until the mixture is thick and pale.  Gently stir in the melted butter, ground almonds and vanilla.
Pour the mixture over the jam in the pastry shell.  Put the tart into the oven and cook for 30 minutes until just set and browned.  When cool, sift confectioners sugar over the top before serving warm or at room temperature.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

I was watching Tyler Florence on the Food Network on Saturday morning on his "Ultimate" recipe show and he made the most appealing Chicken Parmesan recipe.  I often get inspired watching that show and he makes everything look so darn easy and looking at him is so darn easy too!

This is an easy dish to put together, particularly if you make the tomato sauce the day before.  I always think that's a good idea anyway because the flavors have more time to meld together.  Served with some garlic bread and a Caeser salad, you have a great dinner.
Chicken Parmesan
(Adapted from Tyler Florence's Ultimate Recipe)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 bunch fresh basil leaves
1 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and hand-crushed
Pinch sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts (about 11/2 pounds)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water
1 cup dried seasoned bread crumbs
1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Freshly grated Parmesan

Coat a saute pan with olive oil and place over medium heat. When the oil gets hazy, add the onions, and garlic; cook and stir for 5 minutes until fragrant and soft. Add some hand-torn basil. Carefully add the tomatoes, cook and stir until the liquid is cooked down and the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes; season with sugar, salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Get the ingredients together for the chicken so you have a little assembly line. Put the chicken breasts side by side on a cutting board and lay a piece of plastic wrap over them. Pound the chicken breasts with a flat meat mallet, until they are about 1/2-inch thick. Put the flour in a shallow platter and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. In a wide bowl, combine the eggs and water, beat until frothy. Put the bread crumbs on a plate, season with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high flame in a large oven-proof skillet. Lightly dredge both sides of the chicken cutlets in the seasoned flour, and then dip them in the egg wash to coat completely, letting the excess drip off, then dredge in the bread crumbs. When the oil is nice and hot, add the cutlets and fry for 4 minutes on each side until golden and crusty, turning once.

Ladle the tomato sauce over the chicken and layer with mozzarella,  then sprinkle on Parmesan. Bake the Chicken Parmesan for 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.  Garnish with slivered fresh basil.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Not Your Momma's Ice Tea

How is it I have never tasted the infamous Long Island Ice Tea?  Well, I can quit wondering now what all the commotion is regarding this particular beverage because I found a recipe in the new huge Gourmet cookbook I recently acquired and decided to whip one together.

I first had to take inventory of the liquor cupboard to ensure that I had all 5, that's FIVE potent potables required.  Here is the list:  Rum, Vodka, Gin, Triple Sec and Tequila along with some lemon juice, a touch of superfine sugar and topped with some cola. 

This is not a cocktail to drink quickly, but if nursed over a few hours as I did, it was quite refreshing and tasty.  I have to admit, other than the color, I tasted no resemblance to ice tea.  Give it a try sometime if you want to get rid of the dregs of your bottles and you don't have to work in the morning!
Long Island Iced Tea
(makes 2, or one double but watch out)

1 Tbsp gin
1 Tbsp vodka
1 Tbsp light rum
1 Tbsp tequila
1 Tbsp Triple Sec
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp superfine sugar
1/2 cup cola

Put 1 cup ice in cocktail shaker, add the liquors, sugar and lemon juice and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.  Strain into two tall 8 oz. glasses, filled with ice.  Add 1/4 cup cola to each glass and stir.  Garnish with lemon wedges

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Breakfast For Dinner

No, I'm not talking waffles and bacon or scrambled eggs and sausage, though those are perfectly acceptable.  I'm talking Pasta Carbonara, a Roman classic.  Bacon and eggs in the form of a pasta dish.  A simpler pasta recipe you'd be hard pressed to find, yet the end results are sublime.
A total of four main ingredients are all it takes to make this comforting dish - eggs, bacon, pasta and Parmesan cheese.  If you are looking for a quick afterwork meal, this will do it.  Add a veggie or salad and a hunk of bread and you'll be sitting down to dinner in 20 minutes, no kidding!
Pasta Carbonara
(Serves 4, though easily cut in half for 2 servings as I did when I made it)

4 tbsp olive oil
4 ounces bacon or pancetta, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
2 tsp black pepper
1 lb. spaghetti noodles

Heat olive oil in frying pan.  Cook bacon until it is crispy.  Add pepper.  Drain all but 2 Tbsp. oil out of pan and put bacon and remaining oil in a bowl and let cool.
When bacon is cool, mix in eggs and cheese until a thick sauce is made.  In the meantime, cook the pasta until al dente, approximately 8-9 minutes.  Drain, reserving approximately 1/4 cup of pasta water.  Put drained pasta on top of sauce and mix all together, adding enough pasta water to make a creamy sauce.  Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.