Thursday, June 30, 2011

Danger: Layers Ahead

I finally did it.  

I can't even... *sigh*  

Describing what happened last night in my kitchen would be like trying to describe sight to a person who's been blind their whole life.  Words.  I have none.  

Do you like your diet?  Do you?  Do you really?  Because you're about to NOT like your diet, very very much.  This bread is all yeasty, stretchy, crunchy, sugar-laden and perfect.  Like... whoa.  If you can't get into this pillowy, sugary goodness right here, I may not be able to talk to you again.  

Let me go ahead and begin, mmkay?  I made this entire thing sans-mixer.  Do it by hand.  It makes you feel invincible, for real.

This is my dough ball.  Isn't he cute?  I left him in a greased bowl (the bowl from my Kitchenaid worked nicely), covered him and left him to double in size for about an hour.  The dough is going to feel pretty sticky.  Sticky is good.  Resist the urge to flour him up... that'll come later.

Note to self:  don't refer to dough ball as "him" - creepy.

After letting the dough double, I kneaded in the remaining flour and left that little pillow of goodness sitting on my counter under a damp towel to rest a bit.  

I then rolled it in a 12"x 20" rectangle.  Just... get close.  

Next I slathered the dough with browned butter by way of a pastry brush.  Browned butter should be a sin.  

The dough was completely covered with the lemon sugar mixture.  Use it all, kids.  Press it into the dough to reeeeally get it to stick.  

I can't even handle it.

Next,I  sliced it into 6 long strips and stacked it.  After making the stack, I cut it down again into 6 equal rectangles.  It's... so... pretty.  *claws at face*

Left to rise (again... I know) under a damp cloth.  It gets crazy-big.  

Finally I baked until the top was a deep golden brown.  It may seem too dark at first, but if you don't wait the full amount of time, you'll have raw dough inside.  I promise you... it's worth it.  

Alright, I can't take it anymore.  I have to give you this recipe in the hopes that you'll be able to fully understand the magnitude of what this has done.  Forever changing your world and expanding your waistline. Just. Let. It. Happen.  I'm sorry.  You're welcome and I love you.

Lemon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread
Recipe derived from Joy The Baker

The Dough:

2 3/4 cups flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1/4 cup sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1/2 tspn salt
4 tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tspn vanilla extract

The Lemon Sugar Filling:

1 cup sugar
zest of 4 lemons
4 tbsps unsalted butter, melted until browned (I love how "enthusiastic" she is while describing this process)

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs; set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, melt the milk and butter together until blended and smooth.  Remove from heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let the mixture cool in the sauce pan until it is between 115-125 degrees on a candy thermometer.
3. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula, careful not to over-mix.  Add the eggs and continue to mix until blended into dough.  The addition of the eggs may seem a bit... soupy at first, but trust me:  keep mixing.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir until you get a sticky dough ball.  Sticky = good.
4. Grease a large bowl (I used the bowl from my mixer) and place the dough inside, flipping it twice to make sure the entire ball is coated.  Cover with plastic wrap and a damp cloth (I used my mixer's rubber lid), and let rise in a warm, dry area for about an hour.
5. While your dough doubles down, combine your sugar and lemon zest on a wooden cutting board.  Using the back of a spoon, rub the sugar into the lemon zest, taking care to use a pastry knife to help scrape that mess together.  It should smell a bit like... well... lemon candy.  Set aside in a small bowl.  Grease/butter down a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan; set that aside too.
6. Deflate the risen dough and knead in the 2 tablespoons of flour.  Roll around under the palm of your hand until you get a smooth, matte ball of dough.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out your dough until it is a 20" x 12" rectangle.  Brush the browned butter over the entire surface, edge to glorious edge.  Completely cover with your lemon sugar, pressing in slightly to ensure the best "stickage".  It's not a word, but it describes how I feel.
7. Using a long sharp knife, slice the dough length-wise into six equal strips.  Stack the strips on top of each other to form one tall strip, then slice the stack into six equal squares.  *the picture above shows the first of the square cuts... my hands were uber sugary and thus didn't make it to my camera*  Layer the dough squares into the loaf pan, squeezing them to fit.  Almost like building a flip book or putting playing card back into a box.  Place the damp kitchen towel over the loaf pan and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.  Get a cold drink while you wait (I suggest wine).
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and put your rack in the center.  Uncover your loaf (it should have gotten twice its size - magic!), and bake for 30-35 minutes.  If the top is just lightly browned, the center may be raw.  Go for a darker, caramelly color for the top to ensure it is cooked all the way through.  You'll love the crunch of the top, so don't be afraid of this.
9. Remove from the oven and let rest for another *gasp* 20-30 minutes.  It'll be blazing hot, so you'll be glad you did.  Run a buttered knife along the sides to help loosen the bread.  Invert onto a clean cutting board, and then invert again onto your platter/cake stand/serving surface.

Of course you'll want to eat it straight away (I can't blame you - I totally gobbled it down the same night), but you can cover it and leave it at room temperature for up to 2 days.

*Filling Variations:  cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom; grapefruit zest; thinly sliced and sugar-dipped apples/pears; nix the sugar and make a garlic butter and add oregano, parsley and black pepper.  Do it up.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Betty Crumble


Last week's Green Bean Delivery brought us more strawberries.  I will forever love strawberries.  Like crack, they are.  Did you know that if a strawberry is green on the tip, it was picked when it wasn't quite ripe enough?  Of course you did.  You know these things.  I am just discovering them.  

Also, did you know that if you eat strawberry seeds, you'll sprout a strawberry plant in your tummy?  No.  This is false.  I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.

Fact:  Strawberries love pineapple.  As in the gross, icky love you had for your first boyfriend/girlfriend.  But so. much. better.

I also have discovered that crumbles are the perfect vehicle for this "marriage of fruits".  Here's another way fruits can marry. 

So let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?  I'm sure you're salivating.  I may or may not have had this for dessert AND breakfast.  And I might take some for lunch.  Judge me.  I dare you.

Strawberry Pineapple Crumble
(recipe derived from Joy The Baker)

1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
1 pound pineapple, peeled and diced in to 1 inch pieces
3 tbsps sugar
3 tspns cornstarch
1/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
2/3 cup flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn salt
6 tbsps cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/3 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar

*rack in the middle of the oven.  preheat oven to 350 degrees*

1. Toss the fruit together in a deep-dish pie plate (or an 8-inch square baking dish... which I didn't have).  In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tbsps sugar, the cornstarch, 1/4 cup flour and the salt.  Toss mixture [use your hands] with the fruit.  Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Throw in the cold butter and, using your fingers, rub/mix into the flour mixture.  Add the oats and stir together until evenly combined, and the size of the butter and oats are the same(ish).
3. Top the fruit mixture with the oat mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until you get bubbling action on the sides of your dish from the fruit.  Your kitchen will smell like summer and your mouth should be watering at that point.  Mouth watering.  Do you hear what I'm saying?
4. When done, remove from oven and let set in the baking dish for at least 15 minutes.  Serve with vanilla bean ice cream, "to cut the sweetness".  Watch this while you eat to complete the experience.

Are They Made From Real Girl Scouts?

My mother used to be my troop leader way back in the days of Girl Scouts.  Yep.  I was that girl.  I thought I was the coolest girl because my beautiful, tall, [slightly sassy pants] mom was in charge.  It was awesome.  So awesome.  When we graduated from Daisies to Brownies, she made a cardboard "oven" for us to crawl out of at the ceremony.  When there was a regional meeting of all the troops, she taught us democracy by putting it to a vote: go to the meeting or go camping (we ended up seeing a lot of the woods).  My years in the Girl Scouts with mom as my leader was full of crafting, camping, dancing and everything our little geeky hearts could want.  

And cookies.  We kicked butt in the cookie-selling department.  I'm surprised the mob didn't want to get in on that with us. We were hustlers, fa sho.

Back in the day when Blockbuster was the most impressive membership card in a wallet, Mom had the genius idea to set up shop at their entrance.  Forget Home Depot (burly dudes don't buy cookies when what they really want are two-by-fours).  Skip the grocery store (where Oreos are 2 packs for $3.00).  No.  We went for the big equation:  movies + cookies = raking in the dough (ba dum bum).

And we meant business.

Mom (I know you're reading this), this is for you.  I know you're all the way out in South Carolina now, but I promise you I'll make these some day when we're in the same kitchen.  And you'll want to sell them outside whatever video rental store hasn't been closed already.  

"Samoa" Cupcakes
adapted from Bakers Royale

The Chocolate Cupcakes:

1 cup sour cream
1 tspn baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tspn salt
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 tbspn vanilla extract

*preheat oven to 350 degrees*
*line one standard muffin pan with cupcake liners*

1. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream and baking soda together.  Set aside.  (It's going to turn into a very lovely, frothy mass, full of air bubbles and goodness - !!!)  Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Using your standing mixer, beat together the butter and both sugars on medium speed, until evenly mixed and fluffy.  Add in eggs and beat until combined.  Add in egg yolks and vanilla, beating until combined.  Turn off mixer.
3.  Alternating between the sour cream mixture and the flour mixture, fold each in rotation, beginning with the sour cream and ending with the flour, mixing each until combined.  
4. Using an ice cream scooper (or a spoon and your spatula), fill each liner 2/3 full.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until you can touch the cupcake in the center and it feels pillowy, bouncing back from your touch.  Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

The Salted Dulce de Leche Frosting:

6 tbspns butter, room temperature
1 tbspn vanilla extract
1 can Dulce de Leche (mexican caramel - found at Walmart)
1/2 tspn sea salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (keep it out - you may need more depending on how thick you like your frosting)

1. Place butter, vanilla and the Dulce de Leche in the bowl of your cleaned mixer and beat on high until all whipped and creamed together, about 3-4 minutes.  
2. Turn mixer down to medium-low and add the salt, then the powdered sugar, a 1/2 cup at a time.  Scrape the sides of the bowl down often until all powdered sugar has just been blended in, and then crank it back up to medium-high and beat until fluffy.  At this point, you may need to sift more powdered sugar and add it in, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get the right consistency.  It's up to you.  If you've decided to scrap the cupcake thing and go for a a full-on cake version of this, I'd suggest doubling this recipe and adding a touch more powdered sugar.  It's always an experiment, isn't it?

The Toasted Coconut:

3/4 cup sweetened coconut

1. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with foil.  Spread the coconut evenly over the surface and bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes(ish), tossing with a spatula every 3 minutes to prevent burning.  You may end up doing this for longer if you've doubled the recipe.  Look for that beautiful "Samoa" color for your toasted coconut.  Put in a bowl and set aside.

The Dark Chocolate Drizzle:

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 tspn instant espresso (optional)

1. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate for 30 seconds (and then 30 seconds after you've stirred it once), until it is drizzling consistency.  Let cool slightly before putting in a piping bag and drizzling over cupcakes.

The Procedure:

1. Pipe frosting on to a cooled cupcake, creating a mound of goodness.  Next, gently roll/press the cupcake into the bowl with the coconut, taking care to cover all the caramel frosting with the flakes.  Then drizzle with dark chocolate and let set. 
2. Bring to a party and wow the guests.  And the band.  And yourself, because these look legit.  Congratulations!

(note:  my apologies for not getting that "final picture" with the chocolate drizzle - I was in a mad hurry to get these suckers done and to the party, and forgot completely.  You'll forgive me, right?)

Yes Master

Under this "hat" is the best partner in crime girlfriend I could hope for.  Pretty cute, huh?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Getting Fruity...

I could bake all day.  Honestly.  If I've got the entire day off, would I rather be outside, getting "exercise" walking on a trail, or would I want to be in my warm kitchen making delicious things in my oven?  Um... yeah.  I'll give you two guesses, and the first one doesn't count.

Yay for my girlfriend, who gets to not only help out (her hand is expertly zesting the grapefruit in the photo below), but she also shares in the delight of that *first bite* of baked-ness.  Everyone should have a partner to share in the delight/triumph/holycrapdoyoutastewhatI'mtasting! experience.  They just should.  It's a win all around.

The following is the product of a new recipe I attempted (and mastered!) last night, adapted from and courtesy of Joy The Baker.

Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones!
1 1/2 cups of flour
1/4 sugar (to be divided post-grapefruit rubbing)
2 tbsps honey
1 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn baking soda
1/4 tspn salt
6 tbsps unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks (I kept mine in a bowl in the freezer until I was ready to work with it)
1 Ruby Red Grapefruit, zested, segmented and cut up (instructions at the end)
1/2 cup greek yogurt, plain (full-fat people... don't skimp!)
A bit o' buttermilk/whole milk

*preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and make sure your rack is in the middle of your oven*

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

2. Zest your grapefruit (if you can do this better than Cori did, I'll give you mad props), and combine with your sugar on a clean cutting board.

Use the back of a spoon to rub the zest and the sugar together (you can also use a bench knife to continue scraping that goodness around on your cutting board).

Your sugar mixture will smell of sweet, citrusy delight and be a blonde-ish orange color.

Whisk two tablespoons of it into your flour mixture, and set the rest aside for later sprinkling.

3. Segment your grapefruit.  For those of you who do not know how to do this (this guy), follow the directions and you can't go [too] wrong.  Slice off the top and bottom of the grapefruit, exposing a "star" of the grapefruit flesh inside.  Use a sharp knife to cut away the peel and the pith (white stuff and the rind), exposing the pink grapefruit flesh inside.  Do this all the way around until the grapefruit is nothing but squishy and you are pith-free.

Cut downwards along each segment (follow the white segment lines), and each piece should fall off the grapefruit in chunks.  My Type A personality took things a step further, thus removing all the white stuff from the sides of the chunks, AND cutting everything into 1 inch pieces.

Set aside your cleaned grapefruit (for just a sec).

4. Put your cold butter into the dry ingredients, and (working quickly) rub/mix everything together with your fingers (it feels gross... but if you do this in a mixer you're going to get tough scones).  The finished product should look like small dry peas, and slightly mealy.  Add the honey, plain yogurt and grapefruit segments, tossing with a fork until everything is combined and all the wet ingredients are mixed in (check the bottom of the pile...  I found dry, unmixed ingredients lurking down there!).

5. On a lightly floured surface, turn out your dough (it will be slightly sticky).  Form an 8 inch circle, about 1 inch thick.

Using the longest, sharpest knife you have, cut into 8 triangles (I chose 8 because I meant to do 6 and forgot about every geometry lesson I ever had...).

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush lightly with buttermilk/whole milk.

Sprinkle with the remaining grapefruit sugar.

6. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until golden brown and slightly firm/pillowy in the center (touch the scone to understand what this means, kids).  Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before serving.  You can store them in a plastic bag at room temp for about two days, or in a plastic bag in the fridge for about a week.  To reheat, I just popped one in the toaster oven the next morning on the lowest "toast" setting, and they came back to perfection in minutes!

P.S. They make your tongue tingle with delight.  It's not an allergic reaction... promise.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thanks Bunches

Yesterday, Cori texted me and let me know I had received a card from my leasing office, thanking me for my beautiful porch.  The card was a little pair of glittery flip flops, and had been resting against the front door.  Glad all my green thumb-ness hasn't gone unnoticed!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pizza, Pizza

I don't think I've eaten pizza from a Domino's/Pizza Hut/Donato's/Little Ceasar's in years.  Couldn't tell you if they've improved any since the last time I ate their offerings back in 2001.  Since my world was opened up by places like Bazbeaux's, Mellow Mushroom, and Lilly's Pizza, I haven't looked back on the greasy, boring-ness of the lesser establishments.

Now I want more.  More freedom to create the perfect pie to pleasing my oh-so-picky palette.  More artistic license to bring my favorite flavors together.  And how is my pizza able to get any better, you ask?  It's all coming down to the perfect dough recipe, which I will bestow upon you now.  You'll make four pizzas out of this, but you'll want to eat it all.  It all.  Eat it all.  You'll eat it all and NEVER LOOK BACK.

Wolfgang Puck's Pizza Dough

1 packet active dry yeast (Cori called them "sea monkeys")
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 105-115 degrees, or like lukewarm bathwater... without the suds)
1 tablespoon honey (food for the sea monkeys)
2 tablespoons EVOO (extra... virgin... olive... oil...), plus more for brushing the pizza crust
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
some cornmeal, for dusting the peel

1. In a pyrex measuring cup (or small bowl), dissolve your sea monkeys yeast in water.  Add the honey and stir together.  Let it sit for 2-3 minutes - the concoction should resemble a foamy beer.  Stir in the EVOO.
2. Meanwhile, in a standing mixer combine the four and salt.  Using the paddle attachment, mix in the yeast mixture all at once.  Once it's just coming together, take off the paddle attachment and replace with the dough hook (this is where your Kitchen Aid comes to... your aid?).  Knead at low speed for two minutes, then crank up to medium speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and starts to cluster around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.  Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand (do this, but DON'T add the flour) 2-3 minutes longer, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  When you press it with your finger, the dough should slowly spring back, sort of like a memory foam mattress.  Also, it shouldn't be tacky or sticky anymore.
3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl (once around the bowl with your olive oil is roughly a tablespoon), turning over in the bowl several times to coat with the EVOO.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for up to 30 minutes.  When it's ready, your pizza baby dough ball will stretch when pulled.  **do not stretch babies... this is bad**
4. After the dough has risen, place on a work surface and use the biggest, longest knife you have to cut it into 4 equal parts (if you are feeding four individuals, otherwise you can cut it into 2 parts, or just leave it one big ass pizza - your choice, kids).  Remember that kneading video?  You're going to do this to each ball of dough about 4-5 times.  Then, on a smooth unfloured surface, roll the ball under your palm until it feels smooth and firm (stop laughing!), about 1 minute.  Put the balls on a rimmed cookie sheet, spray the inside of some plastic wrap with cooking spray, and cover.  You'll let these kids rest for about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees (roughly the temperature of Hell).  Place a pizza stone in the oven to heat while you prepare your pizza (or, if you're like me and haven't gotten one as a present yet), just make sure you have a large unrimmed cookie sheet waiting in the wings.  Place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface.  While turning the dough, press down on the center with the heel of your hand, gradually spreading it out to a circle that's about 7-8" in diameter (12-14" for large pizzas).  You could also use a rolling pin, if you a) own one, and b) prefer using a weapon.  Your choice.  With your fingers, form a slightly thicker, raised rim around the edges of your pizza dough.  Transfer to a pizza peel that has been dusted with corn meal.  Brush everything but the rim with EVOO, then top your pizza as you like.  I suggest this order:

6. freshly minced herbs
5. grated cheese/goat cheese
4. "meat" (you know I used fake bacon, y'all)
3. thinly sliced veggies
2. shredded, melty cheese
1. sauce/pesto/EVOO
(_________________pizza dough_________________)

6. Once your pizza is assembled, pull a magic trick and slide your pizza onto the pizza stone/pan.  I like to make bets to see how many toppings fall off when new people do this.  Too many tomatoes have died in the back of the oven this way, but it's still fun!  Bake for 10 minutes (yes, that's it!) - the toppings should be bubbling and the crust should be golden brown.  
7. Put the pizza onto a wooden cutting board, cut into wedges, and serve immediately.  Yeah.  Dig in.

My Name Is Not Martha Stewart

Recently, Cori has signed us up for Green Bean Delivery to bring us fresh, [mostly] local produce every other week.  For our first delivery we received loads of things, ranging from blueberries to bi-colored corn.  Deep in the plastic green bin were some impressive strawberries, and tonight I put them to good use... in a cake (I can't do anything simply).  MAKE THIS.  I kid you not when I say it is easy, fast (relatively speaking), and delicious.  Plus, your entire house will smell like tart, berry heaven.  Promise.

Strawberry Cake

6 tablespoons butter, softened, plus more to butter your pie plate
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsps sugar, +2 more tbsps sugar (for the top)
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk (I used 1% because it's what I had)
1 1/2 tsps vanilla
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved

*preheat your oven to 350 degrees*

1. Butter the bottom and sides of your 10 inch pie plate (use a 9 inch and it will overfloooooow).  Set aside.
2. In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and 1 cup + 2 tbsps sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes on med-high speed.  I have a weird thing about the texture of this mixture... it makes me want to hug a giant stuffed animal while jumping on a bed.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  
4. Combine the egg, milk and vanilla in a measuring cup (or small bowl), and add to the sugar mixture.  Slowly add in the flour mixture and set your mixer on med-low speed to combine just until smooth.
5. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pie plate, using an offset spatula to smooth the top.  Plate your strawberries, cut side down, as close together as you can on the surface of your cake.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsps sugar.
6. Bake your cake on the middle rack for 10 minutes, then cut the oven temperature down to 325 degrees and bake for 1 hour.  You'll want to resist the temptation to open your oven every five minutes, as the smell will be intoxicating and you'll think it's already done - it's not.  Be patient...  It needs to be golden brown, and slightly darker around the edges, and you should do the toothpick test in the center (avoiding any strawberries) to ensure it comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack, then slice and serve with freshly-whipped cream.

If you're feeling frisky, try substituting whatever fruit you like that's in season.  Blackberries would be amazing with a little lemon zest, right??


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Don't be a Pesto

Except for a good, rich, creamy, fatty alfredo sauce, my money is on basil in what I consider to be the most amazing pesto ever to happen in my kitchen (I can't claim the world... yet).  It's almost ridiculous how fast and easy it is to make, and so I figure bringing it to you might inspire epic culinary trials in your own kitchens.

Remember these few pieces of wisdom:

1. There is NEVER enough cheese.
Use what is recommended in the recipe, and then add/taste for a more indulgent experience.

2. To brighten your dishes, add ONE of the following:
lemon juice/zest, horseradish, (more) salt.  
They brighten the other flavors and make a meal shine.

When boiling pasta, you want the water to taste like you just drowned in the ocean.
This will bring out the flavor of your pasta, and add depth to your flavor profile (totally makes me sound legit, right?).

4. Don't add oil to your pasta to keep it from sticking after you've drained it.  
Once that oil cools, it will make the starches stick EVEN MORE.  Listen to me and heed my warning.

Okay, now that we have that out of the way...  Here is my recipe from last night's dinner.  Enjoy, kids!

*Perfect* Pesto with Broiled Shrimp over Straw and Hay Pasta

Broiled Shrimp

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (or any fresh herb you like), finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil 
Fire salt and cracked pepper (or use a cajun salt mix... could be good!)
1/2 a lemon (to squeeze)

1. Rinse your shrimp in a colander (that thing with holes you typically use for pasta draining), and pat semi-dry with a paper towel.  Put them in a large ziploc bag.  Set aside for a moment.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, rosemary and olive oil.  Pour into the bag with the shrimp, seal, and squeeze the shrimp through the bag to coat (it's kind of a gross/cool feeling... reeeeeeally work it).  Put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to an hour.  When you go to start your pasta water to boil, preheat your broiler.
3. When you're ready to broil those suckers, line a rimmed cooking sheet with foil.  Place your shrimp in a single layer on the foil and squeeze the lemon over the top of them.  Season with your fire salt and cracked pepper.  Put under the broiler for 7-8 minutes, or when the shrimp are light pink and barely firm to the touch (yes, you're going to poke them with your finger).  Remove from cookie sheet and put on top of pasta.

*Perfect* Pesto

1/2 pound fresh spinach fettuccine
1/2 pound fresh egg fettuccine 
2 cups basil leaves (roughly 20 leaves... if you're into counting)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (oven: 350 deg., on a cookie sheet, turn with spatula every 3 minutes until they are barely golden and you can smell their nuttiness)
zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and cracked pepper
1/2 cup really good olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated Parmegiano Reggiano cheese

1. Boil your pasta, 2-3 minutes.  Only add the salt when the water first comes to a rolling boil, then add in your pasta to cook.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water after it's done.  You'll add this to your pesto later.
2. In a food processor, pulse together the basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon zest, salt and pepper until finely minced.  Then, with the food processor still going, slowly drizzle in enough olive oil to make a smooth paste - you may not add all the oil, so just add it little by little.  Maybe you could get some crusty bread to sop up the rest of the unused oil while you finish cooking.  Just saying...
3. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the cheese.  TASTE.  There is nothing more disappointing than under-salted pesto, kids.  Adjust your salt and pepper as needed.  Add your reserved pasta cooking liquid, whisk together, and pour over your drained pasta.  Top with shrimp and some (more) artfully shaved Parmegiano cheese.  ** Tip:  You can use a potato peeler to get those cool flat, shaved pieces of cheese to put on the top... if you're feeling fancy.**

No one is saying pesto has to live and die by the basil leaf.  You can add in/substitute a variety of fixin's to dazzle your taste buds!  But don't take my word for it...

- sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil (reduce the olive oil in the recipe just a smidge)
- fresh tarragon and hazelnuts, instead of the basil and pine nuts
- well-rinsed kale and walnuts (add nutmeg too!)
- fresh spinach and pecans
-roasted red peppers, patted dry, skins removed
- add a chile pepper for extra zing

You're welcome.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's So F*@#!&G Hot

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my neighbor and his toenail-clipping abilities.  I feel terrible for the woman living below him...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Traminette, Ho!

Yesterday, my friend Eleni and I decided to take an impromptu booze run wine tasting trip to Oliver Winery in Bloomington.  I love living in a a town where you can decide to do this after lunch and not have to alert everyone you haven't run away for a week.  On the flip side, knowing I can just take 45 minutes to drive and buy wine on a Sunday from ONE location in the state gives me mixed feelings.  At least we aren't living in Kansas.

After tasting practically all of Oliver's dry whites (I've yet to meet a red that didn't need to taste like Welch's grape juice just to get it down), Eleni and I bought two glasses of wine, some cheese and crackers, and made our way down to the pond.  It would have been perfect, had my butt sweat decided not to make its way through my pants.

I left Oliver with a single bottle of the Creekside Traminette.  Eleni, ever the fashionably booze-stocked lady I love her to be, bought three bottles for herself.  Don't judge - SOMETIMES THAT'S WHAT A GIRL NEEDS.

Soon after our departure, Eleni reminded me we wanted to stop a roadside nursery off of 37, which proved to be the best idea ever (despite the onslaught of bees upon our arrival).  

See?  Aren't they sweet??

This was one of the *small* hanging baskets.  Bitches were HUGE.

See that one to the left?  Yeah.  Leave it to Eleni to buy herself a Wandering Jew.  I knew I liked her for a reason.