Thursday, December 28, 2006

Have you tired...Manchego?

Yep, I'm back on the cheese wagon. Have you tried this cheese; Manchego? "It's Spain's most popular cheese and is made only on the plain of LaMancha from the milk of the Manchega sheep which graze on the shrubs and grasses of the Dahesa and produce a thick, aromatic milk that gives Manchego a unique and distinctive character. The "La Mancha"region is a vast high plateau, more than 600 meters above sea level, which extends from east to west and north to south, adjoining the provinces of Toledo, Cuenca, Ciudad Real and Albacete, all in the Castile-La Mancha Region southeast of Madrid." From the Iberian Foods website.

If you haven't had a chance to try it, please do, it's a delightful cheese with a mellow flavor, it has a dry texture much like Parmesan. I thought it tasted like a sharp Irish ceddar, but CB thought it tasted like Parmesan. It can be stored in the refrigerator in wax paper for up to two weeks. A recent recipe in the Everyday Food Magazine featured this delicious cheese.

Ham and Manchego Panini with Dipping Sauce

Serves 2; Prep time: 20 minutes; Total time: 20 minutes

4 slices country bread
4 ounces thinly sliced ham
2 ounces Manchego cheese, coarsely grated (1/2 cup)
4 tsp olive oil
3 tbs apricot jam
1 tbs Dijon mustard

Top each of 2 bread slices with ham, Manchego, and remaining slices. Brush tops of panini with 2 teaspoons oil.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-low. Place panini in skillet, oiled side up. Cover; cook until golden brown and cheese has melted, 5 to 8 minutes per side, pressing down with a spatula 3 to 4 times during cooking.

Meanwhile, make dipping sauce: In a small bowl, mix together jam and Dijon. Serve panini with sauce on the side.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gingerbread Biscotti with White Chocolate and Peppermint

I'm exhausted. The holidays have officially kicked my ass. I'm so glad that we are officially a year away from the next holiday season. Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays, but being married to an only child in an Italian family is very difficult, especially during the holidays when everyone needs to spend time with the boy wonder. Yes, it's all very sweet, and I truly enjoy the company of most of his family, but they are exhausting, and the fact that everyone has to have a party or a get together of their own, and none of them can just plan one big party is so annoying. My whole family gets together on Christmas morning, there's no driving from house to house, we all go to one house, wham bam thank you ma'am, and the whole family is done in one stop. Not so much with his family, we need to go over the river and through the woods, over here, over there, etc, etc.

I had just about lost my mind with exhaustion by Christmas Eve night, which didn't bode well with going to Midnight Mass with his mother, who I'm convinced doesn't really like me. She gave me the hairy eyeball every time I cracked up, which of course happened every three minutes, which in turn cracked CB up. She looked at me as if to say, do I need to put you in the car? Then looked at CB as if in pity that he needed to spend the rest of his life with a woman who would find humor in the house of God, who would find a reason to chuckle at a mass celebrating the birth of Christ. At this point I should probably explain that this is a woman who walked out of the movie Happy Feet because she thought it was too violent. Yes, animated G rated movies rub this woman the wrong way. She is in serious need of a chill pill the size of my foot.

So this post has absolutely nothing to do with Gingerbread, or biscotti it's simply a rant disguised as a recipe post. Enjoy.

1/4 C butter
3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 C molasses
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 C finely minced candied ginger (optional)
White chocolate coating (optional) for decoration

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl beat together butter and sugar until there are no lumps of sugar. Beat in the eggs, then blend in the molasses. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Blend until smooth. Fold in the almonds (and candied ginger if using).

Divide the dough in half onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Spray your hands generously with nonstick spray (dough will be sticky) and form each half into a log about three or four inches wide and one inch high. Place them two inches apart. Bake dough for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Cool logs for 10 minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cutting board. With a serrated knife, cut each log into one-half-inch slices. Place the slices cut-side down on baking sheet and return to oven to toast. Remove after 10 minutes and flip all of the cookies over. Toast an additional 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Optional white chocolate coating: Melt coating or white chocolate chips according to package directions. Dip cookies halfway into coating, or use a spoon to drizzle quickly back and forth. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint before the chocolate has set. Let set completely before storing.

Makes 2 th 2 1/2 dozen

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Chocolate Pecan White Chocolate Biscotti

A few of the bloggers that I read pretty religiously recently did a joint blogging event where they all made biscotti, they chose one recipe and modified it as they saw fit. I have never made biscotti before, and was always very intimidated by the the fact that you not only had to cook it once, but after it was cooked, you then needed to cook it again.

I can't remember whose blog I ripped this recipe from, but their biscotti was chocolate almond flavored that she had modified from an Epicurious recipe. I wanted to change it a little, so in place of almonds, I used pecans, and in place of bittersweet chocolate chunks I used white chocolate. I am thoroughly impressed by how these came out and I think that I will be making more variants on this recipe in the near future.

2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp b. soda
1 tsp salt
6 Tbs unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 C sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 C roasted chopped pecans (unsalted)
3/4 C white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or butter and flour.

Whisk flour, cocoa powder, b. soda and salt together in a bowl. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter until creamed and very fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined. Slowly stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough. Stir in pecans and white chocolate.

Divide dough in half. Form each half into a log about 2 inches wide and lay on prepared sheet. Remold if necessary on sheet and flatten the logs slightly. Bake for 35 minutes or until outside feels firm. Remove sheet from oven but leave oven on. Let logs cool for 15 minutes.

Transfer biscotti to cutting board. Using a serrated knife, gently slice logs diagonally into roughly 1/2 inch slices. Arrange cut biscotti on their side on baking sheet and return to oven for an additional 10 minutes.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Mish Mash Turkey Balls

I needed to make a quick appetizer on Friday night for CB's boss, his boss' wife and his coworker who were meeting at our house before we went out to dinner. Due to the fact that I have been partying like a freakin rock star every night all over the City, (occupational hazard: business development director = lots of drinking and entertaining possible future clients, business development director during holiday season = cirrhosis of the liver, hang overs, dehydration, no food in house to speak of) So about an hour before everyone showed up I turned to the freezer and rummaged through there to find anyuthing that may turn into a palatable appetizer. The ground turkey seemed like the winner out of what was tucked away in the artic temps. I defrosted the meat, then added a hearty amount of panko style bread crumbs, 1 egg, a spat of ketchup, a few shakes of worcestershire sauce, and a little parsley, sea salt, and pepper. Other things may have made it into the bowl, but I can't quite remember - (see: business development description during holiday)

When all ingredients were well incorporated I rolled them into little bite size balls and placed them in a 350 oven for 30 minutes, While still hot I grated parmesan cheese over the top. Everyone kept saying how great they were. That was a relief.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Special Delivery...Artisanal EVOO

Look-ie Here. The other Day Jeff from C for Cooking hooked me up with a special deal from Alejandro & Martin a new website/company selling artisanal extra virgin olive oils. As a promotion and gift for spreading the word about their website and product I received 4 bottles of their 2004-2005 olive oils FREE! I am so excited to be in on this great deal, and many many thanks go to Jeff for including me in his circle of foodie blogger friends.

The box contains bottles of olive oil from Andalusia Spain, Sparta/Corinth Greece, Pisa Tuscany Italy, and Central Coast California.

I cannot wait to read up on the oil and blog about each of them. The oils are broken down into four flavor profiles; Green & Grassy, Olivey & Peppery, Fragrant & Fruity and Mild & Delicate.

Can't you just smell it?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Have you tried ... Bergenost?

I love cheese! When I was little I used to eat so much of it that my nana's favorite thing to say to me was, "if you keep eating all that cheese you'll be bound up tighter than a drum; you won't shit for a week." Well, who cares? I still love cheese, and I still eat a little of it almost every day. I must say though that when I was little all we had in the refrigerator was Land O' Lakes cheese, the white, not the yellow. I've come to think of cheese almost like I think of wine, there is so much out there, I don't think that it's possible for me to know all the different kinds. In order to broaden my cheese knowledge horizons I have taken to buying a cheese that I have never heard of or seen before each time I go to Trader Joe's. This time I chose a creamy Norwegan style butter cheese, Bergenost. Let me just say that this cheese is excellent, it's soft and mild and what's best about it is it's spreadable. It's so soft that you can just spread it on your cracker, or crostini, whatever. It's not just me who thinks that this cheese is amazing, it won the gold medal at the Regional Judging of the New York State Fair Cheese Contest in 1999. Not too shabby.

I have also taken the liberty of looking up the wines that pair best with this cheese, and they are: Cayuga White, Dry Reisling, Semi-dry Reisling, Seyval Blanc, Vingoles and Hunters Red.

If you see this at you local market, give it a try, you won't be dissapointed.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Date-Oat Quick Bread

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my trip to New Orleans this past summer. While I was there I was really taken in by the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of that wonderful little City. I'm so happy to say that I am planning on going back again this summer, and I will be taking CB with me. I love traveling for work, I love the fact that my job gives me the opportunity to experience things that I might not have the chance to do on my own. I had wanted to go to New Orleans for so long, and I am so happy that I finally got the chance to go, and I'm even more psyched that I get to go back again and this time experience it in a different way with CB.

My neighbor from my old condo came over to my house a little while ago to return a pie plate. When she returned the plate, she brought it back heaping and overflowing with dates. I had never once cooked or baked with dates so I was at a loss for what to make with them. A little searching on the internet, and then a perusal through The Guide to U.S. Southern Cuisine yielded this recipe. Now, it's not exactly bourbon pecan bread pudding, but it does have a little of that flavor that I experienced when I went south this summer. Enjoy.

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup quick rolled oats
1 package (8 ounces) dates, chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl; add sugar. Stir in oats and dates. In a separate small bowl, beat egg with milk; stir in melted butter and vanilla. Add to flour mixture and stir until evenly moist.

Pour mixture into a greased 9 X 5 X 3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center. Once the loaf has cooled, wrap and store overnight for best flavor.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tarte Tartin

This is one of the awesome recipes that I learned while taking my tart class last week. It really is a delicious dessert and actually rather pretty when plated well (note: above pic does not demonstrate pretty plating technique) I've never made this before, so making something completely different than what I am used to was nice. Also, this was my first experience with puff pastry. I would assume that you can make this recipe with pears or peaches or any fruit that will hold it's shape well.

1 10” circle of pastry, short or puff, chilled
½ C sugar
2 tablespoons sweet unsalted butter
2 pounds McIntosh apples, peeled cored and sliced in 1/8” thick slices
Pinch cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400
Melt the butter in a black cast iron fry pan, add the sugar, stirring constantly. Cook until a light golden caramel.

Arrange the apples round side down, with the narrower tips toward the center. Make another ring in the center. Be sure to have the apples snug in the pan. Some may have to be trimmed to fit. If you do trim the tips pile them in the center of the circle to make the center a bit higher.

Place pasrty over the apples and let soften a bit and tuck down between the fruit and the sides of the pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the apples and the pastry are completely cooked.

Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes. Carefully place a large platter over the pan and invert. This is very hot so take proper care. Serve warm with crème fraiche or ice cream.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Corn, Black Bean and Cilantro Salsa

Last night after a quick trip to America's Test Kitchen with Jeff and Stephanie from C for Cooking we headed back to my place for some wine (only the most expensive beaujolais for us, 3 buck chuck) I wanted to see what the taste difference was between the Charles Shaw selling for $2.99 and the popular Le Beaujolais Nouveau from Romanèche-Thorins selling for $10.99 would be. I actually thought that the $3 wine didn't drink like a cheap wine, I actually thought it was rather lovely. I'm also not the type of person who bases the value of a wine on it's price tag - my thought is if you like it, drink it, no matter what the cost.

Stephanie, Jeff's wife is a pescetarian, meaning she doesn't eat animal meat, but does eat seafood. So for our appetizer and wine night I stuck to strictly vegetarian fare. This is a very lively fresh salsa that I made the night before. It is so simple to make, but also the taste is simple and fresh.

1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 can corn drained and rinsed
1/2 onion diced
1 bunch of cilantro chopped
the juice of one lemon
olive oil to coat

Mix all together. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Artichoke, Caramelized Onion, Feta Bruschetta

One afternoon when CB and I were in Rome we stopped off at a little restaurant just outside of Villa Borghese, this was by far one of the more entertaining lunches we had. CB lived in Rome for a year while he was studying architecture so his Italian came back to him rather quickly after we got to Rome, I had taken six years of Spanish lessons, which helped me learn Italian faster when I started studying it in anticipation of our trip. So, we tried as much as we could to order in Italian whenever we were out at a restaurant or at a coffee shop. It was easy - when we couldn't figure out the words, the server would simply slip from Italian to English without hesitation. As we were sitting outside enjoying the warm weather and waiting for our meal, an older asian couple approached the restaurant and the outdoor tables where we were sitting. When the waiter greeted them, the gentleman of the couple looked at the waiter and in very accented English said "SPAGHETTI" and proceeded to mimic how one would eat spaghetti. One hand holding an imaginary bowl, and the other miming how one might put a fork full of spaghetti into your mouth. I thought it so funny that he would ask a waiter in a restaurant in Rome if he had spaghetti. When the waiter let them know that indeed they had spaghetti on the menu the couple sat down and proceeded to mime everything they wanted, from beer to salad and again with the spaghetti. It was so great to see a couple that didn't know one word of Italian, sit at an Italian restaurant and get exactly the meal they wanted just by acting out the process of eating and drinking what they were craving. Food was really the second language that brought all of us together at that little outdoor cafe that bright sunny Roman afternoon. This bruschetta is what we had as our appetizer that day - so simple and yet so wonderful, like most Roman food.

One small onion, caramelized
1 jar artichoke hearts (in oil) chopped
1/4 C feta cheese crumbled
1 loaf Italian bread cut on a bias and toasted

Mix the artichoke hearts, onion and feta together while the onion is still warm. Let set to meld flavors together. Toast the bread slices. When bread is tosted top with artichoke muixture and serve.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Drivel Goes to School: Tart Class

I spent three hours last night taking a Tart Class, I learned a lot. I even got to hang out with Jeff and his wife Steph, from C for Cooking who were taking a bread class next door. Unfortunately I'm late and running in a million different directions this morning. I'll blog all about it later when I can dedicate the proper time to the post, but above is a picture of one of the tarts that I made last night. Sort of makes you want to lick the screen doesn't it?