Thursday, July 19, 2012

Make Your Own Strombolis

Now that you know how to make your own pizza dough (see here), you might want to branch out a bit. The other night we decided to try making stromboli's for the first time.  Stromboli's are sort of like a piece of pizza rolled onto itself. Same flavors, different fillings, easy and fun to make. 

Ham and Pepperonio Strombolis
1 ball of pizza dough (recipe link above)
1/4 - 1/2 cup basic tomato sauce (here)
4 slices of ham
20 slices of pepperoni (or to taste)
1 cup shredded mozzarella or slices of fresh mozzarella
1 egg, beaten and mixed with 1 tsp of water

Preheat oven to as high as it goes - mine goes to 550 degrees. Divide the ball of dough into two pieces. Roll each out on a floured board into a large oval shape.  Place about 2 tbsp of tomato sauce (or more to taste) on the bottom of each piece of dough, leaving a one inch border around all edges.

Top each piece of dough with 1/4 of the mozzarella.  Top with half the pepperoni and then with half the ham slices on each dough.

Top each stromboli with an additional 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Brush the edges of the stromboli with the egg wash.

Start with one long side of the stromboli and start to roll it over onto it self. Continue to roll the stromboli until you reach the other one inch border.  Place the stromboli on a pizza stone (or baking sheet), seam side down.  Brush more egg wash to cover each stromboli, and cut a few slits into the top of each.  Top with a little sea salt.

Place the strombolis in a hot oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until the strombolis are bubbly and the dough is browned.

Allow to cool a bit before cutting into it.   Enjoy!!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summertime Soup - Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a must for a hot summer day. It's refreshing and cooling, and incredibly easy to make.  I like to make a batch of it to keep in the fridge to have for a light dinner, or even to bring to work for a midday snack.   The food processor does all the work for you. I puree the veggies in groups to get the right consistency and then mix everything together.  To help the food processor along I dice all the veggies into a large dice so they get chopped up evenly.  These are the veggies that I used this time, but you can play around with it and use whatever looks good. To make this for company top each bowl with a few roasted shrimp and drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil. I like my gazpacho a little chunky, but pulse the veggies as much or as little as you like.

Summertime Gazpacho
2 1/2 pounds roma tomatoes, diced
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 handful of cilantro, stems removed
1 handful of bail leaves
1 -2 tbsp salt, to taste
2 tsps pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Put the tomatoes in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped/pureed. Put in a large bowl.  Put the cucumbers in the food processor - pulse until desired consistency.  Add to the tomatoes.  Put the jalapeño, garlic, cilantro and basil in the food processor at the same time - puree until finely chopped.  Place in the same bowl.  Mix all the veggies together - add the salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Allow the gazpacho to sit and let the flavors meld together for a few hours. After the gazpacho sits for a while taste and add more salt/pepper as necessary.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

healthy side dishes 2

I never grew up eating green beans - for most of my life I was ambivalent towards them and never really ate them.  In the last year or two I've started cooking with them a lot more, realizing when prepared simply, how delicious they can be.  I credit this to eating amazing garlic stir fried green beans at a favorite Chinese food restaurant.  While there is no way those are healthy, I tried to mimic the flavors in a side dish that I now make all the time and feel that I got pretty close.  These garlicky string beans are quick, easy, and addictive. I have been known to make them almost every day for a week when I get on a kick...This time I added a package of cremini mushrooms to the green beans.

Garlicky Green Beans with Mushrooms
1 pound green beans, the ends trimmed and cut in half
1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp p epper
1 tbsp olive oil

Steam the green beans until they are crisp tender and bright green - about 2-3 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan heat up the olive oil.  When it is hot, add the red pepper flakes (use as much or as little as you like).  Add the sliced mushrooms, tossing to coat in the oil.  The mushrooms will soak up all the oil so keep an eye on the mushrooms so that they don't burn.

Add a little salt to the mushrooms, that will bring their moisture out.  Once the mushrooms have browned add the green beans and the minced/grated garlic.  Add the remaining salt and pepper.  Toss the veggies frequently - you just want to season the green beans.  Enjoy :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bridal showers, brunches and more

This past weekend was one of my close friends surprise bridal showers.  The bridesmaids threw the shower, and I came up with the idea of personally catering a bridal shower for almost 50 people.  I've written before about how lots of the recipes that I use are easy and can be made in advance - this bridal shower put this to the test! I needed to figure out what dishes could be either completely made the day before and reheated, or things that could be completely prepped the day before and then assembled and baked the day of.

Here is the menu that I came up with and was a HUGE hit at the shower. If you've checked out my blog before, you're sure to see a few oldies but goodies.  Click on the recipes that I've made before for a direct link to those recipes: 

Baked Blintzes with Blueberry Sauce
Creme Brûlée French Toast
Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Sage
Broccoli & Cheddar Quiche
Kalamata Olive, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche
Mixed Vegetable Quiche

All of these with the exception of the baked blintzes are really very easy to make.  The baked blintzes require a little more prep and are a few more steps,  but still not too hard to make.


I've made quiches before (see here), so that was a obvious choice for something quick and easy to make.  I fully cooked each of the quiches the day before and then just brought back to room temperature before serving them on the morning of the shower.  To make things easier, I bought frozen crusts instead of making my own crust, but you do whatever it is that's easiest for you.

The base recipe is the same for each quiche - in fact I made one giant bowl of the egg custard that forms the base of the quiche, and then added the filling ingredients to each quiche and just poured the egg custard over the fillings to each quiche shell.

Egg Custard Filling for Quiches (makes one quiche)
8 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp milk or cream
1 tsp salt/ 1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Combine all the above ingredients, whisking well.

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
1 pie shell
Egg custard filling
2 cups steamed, chopped broccoli
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Kalamata Olive, Feta and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche
1 pie shell
Egg custard filling
1 1/2 cups chopped, pitted kalamata olives
1 cups crumbed feta, preferably greek or bulgarian feta
2 cups roasted red peppers, sliced (either homemade or from a jar)

Mixed Vegetable Quiche
1 pie shell
Egg custard filling
1 cup steamed, chopped asparagus
1 pint button mushrooms, sliced and sautéed
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and finely chopped

As I said above, when I made the quiches for the bridal shower I made one large batch of the egg custard filling and added the ingredients of each quiche filing to the pie shell.  Then all I needed to do was pour the egg filling into each pie shell.  If you are making more than one type of quiche, this is the easiest way to do it.  If you are just making one quiche, then add the ingredients in with the egg before pouring into the pie shell.

Using the technique of adding the egg custard separately lets you make multiple types of quiche, which is fun.  For the mixed vegetable quiche use whatever veggies you like - just make sure that each ingredient is steamed or cooked before hand so its nice and tender.

Roasted Potatoes

 My mother makes the best roasted rosemary potatoes, ever.  They are always crispy and completely cooked through.  I've had problems trying to achieve the balance between a crust on the potato and having it be cooked through and not raw in the middle.  What I've started to do which works out great (especially for a make-ahead brunch like this) is to par-boil the potatoes until they are 3/4th the way cooked through.  Allow them to cool, and then fry them up in some olive oil to finish cooking them and get them crisp all over.  Keep them in the oven at a low temperature to keep warm until ready to serve.

Roasted Rosemary and Sage Potatoes
A few pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half if small, or into quarters if larger (note: if you are chopping the potatoes before you are going to cook them, leave place the cut potatoes in a large bowl with water - this will stop them from browning).
A few tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup of chopped fresh rosemary and sage

Place the cut potatoes in a large sauce pan and cover with water.  When the water comes up to a boil add a handful of salt.  Cook the potatoes until they are cooked 3/4th the way through.  Drain and set potatoes aside.  The potatoes can be stored in the fridge until you're ready to use them or be used immediately.

Put the boiled potatoes in a large bowl  Pour the olive oil, salt/pepper, and fresh herbs into the bowl and toss well to coat. Each potato should be coated in oil and fresh herbs.

Heat up a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Fry the potatoes in batches, making sure that you fry them in a single layer in the pan.  Let the potatoes sit for a few minutes so that a crust can form - do not keep moving them around the entire time! Once the potatoes are browned all over transfer them to baking sheet and keep warm in a  250 degree oven until all the potatoes are cooked and ready to serve.


I usually look at recipes and then adjust them to water my tastes are.  For this baked blintz recipe however I pretty much followed it completely since it is a more involved recipe. It's an Ina Garten recipe (thanks again Ina!) and while it takes a few steps it was delicious!

For the Batter:
1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
For the Filling:
3 cups (24 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh Blueberry Sauce (recipe follows)  (instead of fresh blueberries I used a bag of frozen blueberries and it worked just fine)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13-inch cake pan or baking dish.
For the batter, place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and blend until smooth. (You can also use a blender.) Pour half the batter (about 1 3/4 cups) into the prepared dish and bake for 10 minutes, until set.
Meanwhile, for the filling, whisk together the ricotta, mascarpone, eggs, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread the cheese filling over the baked pancake. Carefully spoon the remaining pancake batter to cover the cheese.
Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and the filling is almost set. Remove from the oven and allow to stand 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the blintzes in squares and serve warm with the fresh blueberry sauce.

  • Blueberry Sauce:
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 half-pints fresh blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Combine the orange juice, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When the mixture is translucent and thickened, stir in the blueberries and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, just until a few berries have burst but most are still whole. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice and cool. Yield: Makes 2 cups.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Back to Basics - Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is one of the best comfort food, and luckily its incredibly easy and quick to make.  My version is a little lighter than your average tomato soup - it doesn't use any cream and uses fresh tomatoes instead of canned.  If you want a richer soup, you can add extra tomato paste and add cream at the end of the cooking time.  

Lightened-up Tomato Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 stalks/fronds of fennel, chopped (these are the tops of the fennel bulb -- its a great way to use the top of the fennel which has tons of flavor instead of just using the fennel bulb)
2 pounds of roma tomatoes, chopped (get the ripest tomatoes you can since they are the base of this soup)
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 cloves of garlic, roasted (to roast the garlic, wrap the cloves in aluminum foil and top with a little olive oil and salt/pepper. tightly wrap the garlic in the foil and roast at 350 degrees until the garlic is completely tender and browned, approx. 30 minutes)
2 quarts of vegetable or chicken stock

use this part of the fennel for soup


To make the soup, first sauté the onions, fennel, carrots and celery in about 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sauté until the vegetables become translucent, about 10 minutes.  

the vegetables should go from looking like this....

to looking like this

Add the tomato paste and coat all the veggies in it.  Allow the tomato paste to cook, constantly stirring it for about 2 minutes.  Add the fresh thyme and about 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper to the pot, stirring. Add the the roasted garlic.
the garlic should be browned, like this

Add the tomatoes and the stock. 

Bring the soup up to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer.  Allow the soup to simmer for at least 1/2 an hour, but if you have the time let it simmer for anywhere between 1-2 hours.  Use an immersion blender and puree the soup until its completely smooth.  Taste for seasoning - you might need to add extra salt and pepper to it.  If you have fresh basil add it before you puree the soup for a fresh tomato/ basil soup 

Sometimes using fresh tomatoes can be tricky - if they aren't perfectly ripe your soup can end up a little bitter. You can always substitute two 24 oz cans of good quality whole tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes.  If your soup is a little bitter, you can add a little bit of sugar to it to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

back at it with baked chickpeas

I apologize for the lack of posts recently - sometimes life gets in the way.  Once we were done with chili cook off there was a brief hiatus away from cooking and some laziness took over... But I'm back in the swing of things and ready to get back to blogging.  In the next few days there should be a few new posts that are for some "real" recipes, but here's a quickie snack that I just made that is really easy and delicious to have around the house.  These baked chickpeas are a great snack to have on hand and go great with a nice cold beer.  You can feel good about eating them and eat even more.

Baked Chickpeas
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to approximately 300 degrees.  Place the drained chickpeas on a baking sheet in an even layer.  Drizzle the chickpeas with olive oil, and then liberally sprinkle salt and pepper on them.  Sprinkle as much cumin and cayenne pepper as you like on them - obviously the more you put the stronger flavor the chickpeas will have.  Bake in the oven for approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours, shaking the pan occasionally (every 25 minutes or so) to move the chickpeas around the pan (the chickpeas around the edge of the pan will cook faster than those in the middle so you want to move them around).  Taste the chickpeas as they cook and remove them when they are crunchy (some might be a little chewier than others but thats okay).

You can flavor the chickpeas anyway you like - other seasonings suggestions are chili powder, celery salt, or garam masala, but you can really use anything you like. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

another brunch favorite - egg bakes

As I've said before, I love brunch.  It's the perfect way to see friends and relax and then either have the rest of the day to do something, or nap like I did last weekend.  Egg dishes are always popular at brunch, but what you dont want to be doing when everyone is relaxing is hanging out alone at the stove cooking individual fried eggs or making scrambled eggs that need to be eaten immediately when they get off the heat.  For brunch, you want foods that can stand to sit out at room temperature and taste just as good, if not better.  Egg bakes are a perfect food to make for brunch. Easy to throw together earlier in the morning, and just pop it in the oven when people are close to arriving.

Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Egg Bake
3 links of sausage (pork or chicken)
1 bunch broccoli rabe
1/2 large loaf of country or whole grain bread, ideally day old (you want it a little stale), cut into 1 inch cubes
8 large eggs, whisked
1/4 cup milk/cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt/ 1/2 tsp pepper

Take the sausage out of the casing and brown the sausage, breaking it up.  Once it is cooked through set it aside. In a large bowl whisk the eggs together with the milk or cream and add about 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper.

Blanch the broccoli rabe first. Broccoli rabe is a bitter green and blanching helps take some of the bitterness out of it.  To blanch the broccoli rabe, bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.  Heavily salt the water.  While the water is boiling set up an ice bath - a large bowl of water filled with ice.  Also heavily salt that water as well.  When the water is boiling, place the broccoli rabe in there for about 2 minutes (you don't want to keep it there very long and let it get overcooked).  Pull the broccoli rabe out of the boiling water and place it directly in the ice bath to cool off.

Once the broccoli rabe has cooled, drain it and wring out the extra water.  Chop the broccoli rabe into one inch pieces and set aside.  Add the broccoli rabe to the egg mixture.  Add the cubed bread, stirring as the bread starts to absorb the eggs.

Pour the egg mixture into a large baking dish (around 9 by 13 inches) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  I had a little extra mozzarella cheese that I needed to use up so I cubed it and threw it in the mixture as well.

Bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until the eggs are fully cooked throughout.  About 50 minutes into the cooking process the entire dish was cooked except for the very middle.  If that happens to you, turn the broiler on and broil the egg bake for a minute or so, keeping a close eye on it so that the bread doesn't burn. 

I forgot to take a picture of the finished product - it was all gone pretty quick.  So simple and delicious. Here's what was left.