Thursday, September 23, 2010

Have No Fear

Garlic bread is of course a classic, but the Jersey Girl decided to shake it up one night with Giada’s Cheese Crostini with Anchovy Herb Butter.

The crostini were super fly, but it’s not like they’re replacing my mac daddy garlic bread anytime soon.

Nonetheless, I do recommend the recipe, especially if you have anchovy and lemons lying about begging you to be used for something.

For those paranoid about eating anchovies, well, I’m sorry. You do cook the anchovies, so that eliminates some of the strong anchoviness flavor that many despise. But, in all honesty when you bite into the crunchy, glistening final product, you do taste anchovy. So, I urge you to get over your fear and just give it a whirl.

I used parmigiano reggiano instead of provolone because that’s what I had that day. If you don't groove on spiciness, you may want to cut down on the red pepper flakes.

Cheese Crostini with Anchovy Herb Butter
By Giada De Laurentiis

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

4 anchovy fillets, drained, chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
12 (2 by 1/3-inch thick) slices rustic crusty white bread
1 cup grated Provolone
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add the anchovies and stir until they dissolve, about 3 minutes. Stir in the herbs, garlic, lemon zest, and crushed red pepper.

Arrange the bread slices on a large baking sheet. Brush with the anchovy mixture. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake until the cheese melts and the bread is golden, about 10 minutes. Cut the bread slices in halves and serve.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coffee Cake Tawk

The Jersey Girl can’t get down with coffee for seven more weeks, but she can totally have her coffee cake and eat it, too.

And, it’s not just any coffee cake, dear amazing fabulous readers. It’s chocolate coffee cake.


So, I made a huge pan of Chocolate Coffee Cake from the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book a few weeks ago.

(My up-to-date blogging has been pathetic, to say the least. The whole preparing-for-baby stage of life has taken over my world.)

Let’s just say, this cake is filled with yumminess.

Of course, a portion went to me and The Husband and the Most Awesome Baby in my Belly Ever. Another piece headed down to Stone Harbor for the in-laws. And yet another hunk went to Uncle Frank for helping my Baby Daddy put together the crib.

So, right. This cake could feed an army. It’s quite gi-hugic.

Now is the perfect time to bake it, when the nights get cooler and you just want to have a slice of chocolately heaven with your cup of tea. Oh, English Breakfast, how I miss thee.

I know. There’s always decaf. But it ain’t the same. I don’t care what you say. There is a major difference in taste.

In my fantasy world, my first post-pregnancy meal would be: A ton of sushi, a bottle of red wine and a nice cup of coffee. But, who am I kidding? I’m doing the nursing thang and this most likely will not occur. A girl, I mean Baby Mamma can dream, right?

Chocolate Coffee Cake
Makes one 9-by-13-inch (22-by-33-cm) cake
From the Williams-Sonoma Baking Book

For the Streusel:
2/3 cup (4 oz/125 g) all-purpose plain flour
½ cup (3 ½ oz/105 g) firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
6 Tbsp. (3 oz/90 g) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup (4 ½ oz/140 g) chocolate chips (see Notes)

For the Cake:
1 ½ cups (7 ½ oz/235 g) all-purpose plain flour
½ cup (2 oz/60 g) cake soft-wheat flour
2/3 cup (2 oz/60 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup (4 oz/125 g) unsalted butter
1 cup (8 oz/250 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 ¼ cups (10 oz/315 g) sour cream
1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Grease and flour a 9-by-13 inch (23-by-33-cm) baking pan or dish. If using a glass baking dish, set the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (165 degrees Celsius).

To make the streusel, in a small bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in the butter until coarse crumbs form. Stir in the chocolate chips until evenly distributed.

To make the cake, in a bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add the flour mixture in 2 or 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Using the mixer on low speed, beat the batter until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Pour the battered into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the streusel mixture evenly over the batter.

Bake until the topping is golden brown, 40-45 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into squares to serve.

NOTES: Semisweet (plain) or bittersweet chocolate chips can be used in this coffee cake recipe. To intensify the chocolate flavor, add 1 ½ tsp. pure chocolate extract when beating in the sour cream and vanilla.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lighten Up, Mr. Roast Beast

Often, my cravings revolve around ice cream, strawberries and pasta. But, recently, my body with bambino wanted some roast beast aka roast beef.

So, The Jersey Girl found herself pondering, “Who eats roast beast in the dead of summer, especially during the hottest freakin’ summer ever in New Jersey?”

Well, maybe I exaggerate, but it’s been super sweltering in my parts. My prego self can not handle it. This is definitely the worst tan I’ve ever not had. I don’t even think my baby bump has made it to the beach or the pool 10 times this summer. The horror. And there's no way in hell you will get me to a tanning salon or find me busting out tan in a can. I'm Jersey, but I'm not THAT Jersey.

Fortunately, my girl Giada solved my roast beast dilemma by coming up with this keeper of a recipe, Roast Beef with Spicy Parsley Tomato Sauce.

It is so yum yum. In fact, I would totally make this in the winter when comfort food comes a calling.

The sauce is a gorgeous thanks to the roasted tomatoes, and it brings out the meatiness of the beef.  Here's a look at the tomatoes upon seasoning:

The parsley brightens up the sauce while the red pepper flakes give it some kick.

I used a bottom round roast instead of the cut called for in the recipe simply because it was what was available at the grocery store that day. Any cut that is good for braising and roasting will work for the dish.

The dish calls for Herbes de Provence. You can find the blend on gourmet food Web sites or at Amazon. Here's what a jar looks like:

Roast Beef with Spicy Parsley Tomato Sauce
From "Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites"
By Giada De Laurentiis

Roast Beef:
1 (2 to 2 1/2-pound) sirloin tip or chuck beef roast

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 Roma tomatoes, cut in 1/2
2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Spicy Parsley Tomato Sauce:

1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
To make the beef roast, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper, and herbs de Provence.

Place a medium, heavy roasting pan or Dutch oven over high heat. Heat the olive oil. Sear the beef over high heat on all sides. Turn off heat. Place the seasoned tomatoes around the seared beef and place the pan in the oven. Roast until a meat thermometer reads 130 degrees F. for medium rare, 135 for medium, about 30 to 40 minutes. Take the roast out of the oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. The internal temperature of the meat should rise 5 degrees F more and the juices will redistribute into the roast.

To make the sauce, place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and pulse until the parsley is finely chopped. Add the red pepper flakes, salt, red wine vinegar and the roasted tomatoes from the beef pan and process until pureed. Add the olive oil in a steady stream with the machine running.

To serve, slice the roast and place on a serving platter. Drizzle a little sauce over the meat. Serve the remaining sauce in a small bowl alongside.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Delightful Dinner

Sometimes, a light meal is all you need.

Especially, if you want your 10:30 p.m. fix of a bowl of ice cream while watching the DVR version of “General Hospital” following that night’s Phillies game.

These Lamb Chops with Mint and Mustard Dipping Sauce along with Grilled Vegetables with Lemon-Parsley Vinaigrette are the perfect combo of healthiness.

The chops are a Rachael Ray recipe from the first cookbook of hers that I ever purchased, “30 Minute Meals 2.” This was Rachael Ray before she really hit the big time. Before she was Oprah-fied and uber famous with a talk show. Before she had pots and pans in her name and hosted 20 different Food Network programs. I like this Rachael Ray. Honestly, if you are a beginning cook, I strongly recommend the cookbook. It has some great, easy recipes.

The sauce can be made ahead, and the lamb chops cook in just a few minutes. This is a fantastic recipe for a dinner party because it’s easy, breezy but comes off super special. My motto is: The less stress for the hostess; the better the party.

With the chops, I served a fabulous array of grilled veggies and a simple lemon parsley vinaigrette.

Because we are currently grill-less in my household, I grilled my zucchini, red bell peppers and scallions on my Le Creuset grill pan. This forced me to cook the veggies in batches which is fine because different vegetables require different cooking times.

The vegetables can totally be served at room temp, so no worries. This recipe comes from yours truly, but it’s really just a guide. You can shake up your vegetables, or change up the herbs in the vinaigrette. Basil or mint would totally rock in it.

I must advise all of you fabulous readers to try grilled scallions, because they really are heavenly. In its raw state, a scallion is just an onion; but after grilling it for a few minutes it is SO much more.

Lamb Chops with Mint and Mustard Dipping Sauce
From “30 Minutes Meals 2”
By Rachael Ray

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, eyeball it

2 cloves smashed garlic
12 loin lamb chops, 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick each
Salt and pepper
3 rounded tablespoons prepared grain mustard
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 splashes
1 tablespoon honey, a good drizzle
1/4 cup mint leaves, a couple of handfuls of sprigs, reserve 4 leaves for garnish
4 leaves radicchio lettuce

Preheat broiler to high. Place garlic in a small saucepan and add 2/3 cup oil, to cover. Heat oil and garlic over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove oil from heat. Arrange lamb chops on broiler pan. Drizzle 3 teaspoonfuls of the garlic oil over the lamb and spread the oil over the chops with a brush to coat evenly. Season chops with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

To a food processor or blender, add mustard, vinegar, honey. Turn processor or blender on and stream in remaining garlic and oil. Turn the processor or blender off and add mint to the container. Pulse and grind the dipping sauce to incorporate the leaves.

Broil chops 3 minutes on each side, then let them rest up to 10 minutes for the juices to distribute. The lamb will be cooked to medium. Serve 3 chops per person with dipping sauce portioned in radicchio leaves along side the chops. Garnish with sprigs of mint.

Please note: The raddicchio leaves are optional. The Jersey Girl does not use them.

Grilled Vegetables with Lemon-Parsley Vinaigrette
(Makes 4 servings)

1 red bell pepper, in ½ inch slices
1 large zucchini, in ½ inch vertical slices
1 bunch of scallions (6-10), ends trimmed
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus a drizzle for grill pan
Salt and pepper

Toss each type of vegetable with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a paper towel, lightly grease grill pan with a drizzle of olive oil

In batches, grill vegetables in a grill pan over medium heat. Grill bell peppers for about 10 to 12 minutes; zucchini for about 7 to 10 minutes and scallions for about 5 minutes. Flip vegetables halfway through so that both sides are grilled. Remove vegetables from pan and place on serving platter. Top with lemon-parsley vinaigrette. (Recipe is below.)

Lemon-Parsley Vinaigrette
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Whisk together. Pour over grilled vegetables.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cookie Time

A cookie makes the moment so much better.

And if you make these Chocolate Thumbprints, you will have many happy times.

The recipe comes from “Martha Stewart’s Cookies” Cookbook.

In theory, Martha Stewart scares me. Her prim and proper way. Her perfect enunciation. Her navy blue wardrobe. She’s not exactly warm and cuddly.

But, I’ve grown to appreciate her fabulousness. My Dad always sweated Martha. Back when she had her first program on PBS, he would watch her religiously and compare all of my Mom’s cooking techniques to those of Martha.

“Martha would do it this way,” he would say, while carving my Mom’s roast.

I remember Dad marveling over an episode during which Martha was out back in her vast New England garden collecting leaves and greenery for Thanksgiving dinner. My unimpressed full-time working mother of three with no staff exclaimed, “Give me a break,” while shaking her head. There were probably some explicative peppering this outburst.

Although dried leafery did not make it onto our holiday table, the meal of course rocked.

I totally get my Mom’s point regarding Martha. Who can really live up to that level of perfection? It seems so daunting. Perhaps this is why my cooking idols, I mean the ones who are close to my soul, are more along the lines of Nigella Lawson and Lydia Bastianich and my Mommom Sacco, who has never had her own TV program, but probably should.

Anyways, I’ve made a few recipes from Martha’s cookbook. And they’ve all been stellar. My father-in-law raved about the Chocolate Thumbprints while eating a bundle. The cookie merges simple shortbread with a dark chocolate filling. The rich chocolate melts into the tender shortbread. It’s a glorious thing.

They go perfectly with a tall glass of milk.

And they surely will impress those with whom you are sharing.

Chocolate Thumbprints
From “Martha Stewart’s Cookies”
By Martha Stewart
Makes 4 1/2 dozen
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, the confectioners’ sugar, salt and vanilla on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium until combined.

Form balls using 2 tsp. of dough for each; place balls 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb into cookies to make deep, wide indentations. Rotate pan, and return to oven; bake until light brown on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes more. (If the indentations begin to lose definition, remove cookies from oven and press again.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Combine chocolate, the remaining 3 Tbsp. butter, and the corn syrup in a small heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Allow to cool a bit until slightly thickened. Fill thumbprints with the chocolate mixture, and set aside to firm up. Cookies can be stored in single layers in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Please note: It is recommended to have a bowl of ice water ready to cool off your thumb while pressing into the hot dough to make thumbprints.