Friday, August 27, 2010

Peanut Butter S'more Cookie Sandwiches


Southern cooking. It's something I am not familiar with as a Mid-western-raised girl. It's been around for a while and I'll confess I wasn't head-over-heels about it at first. Features were popping up in my favorite magazines about biscuits and greens.....and I shrugged my shoulders and moved on. But something about the home-style, comforting, made by hand aspect about it drew me in. Because everything about that says "love" to me. And now I'm smitten.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Fest: Stuffed Tomatoes


These little gems are Marglobe Tomatoes all dressed up for summer. I thought about doing some sort of savory, cheesy tart to highlight garden tomatoes, but my husband requested a lighter meal for dinner. I wanted to do something a little more special than a salad, with more components than simply roasting them....and then, while flipping through the pages of Bon Appetit,  this recipe jumped off the page and was exactly what I was looking for.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Summer Fest: Almond-Plum Buckle


Meet the perfect transition from summer to fall. The plum. Would you like to hear a secret? I've never baked with a plum before. That's a crime; baking affects fruit the same way roasting does. It intensifies the flavors. It magnifies them. It concentrates them. This lovely cake, with its moist, crumbling texture has pockets of melting, fragrant, jammy plums and I'm officially in love.  Perhaps the perfect late-summer breakfast, I'm baking this buckle every week until plums disappear from the markets, because, my friends, this is perfection.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Fest: Chicken Under a Brick with Fresh Herb Sauce

Welcome to my first post for a wonderful idea called Summer Fest. Some clever bloggers have organized this party over at Pinch My Salt and A Way to Garden to celebrate the produce of summer. Every Wednesday in August a different category will be featured. Corn was highlighted last week and you can take a peek at all the recipe ideas on the participant list on these blogs (and all the others listed on their sites). This is a great way to find new favorite blogs, get fresh inspiration and tap into all the creativity that is coming from some very talented people.


The featured category this week is Beans, Herbs and Greens, so my contribution is this recipe for Chicken Under a Brick with Herb and Garlic Sauce. It's from a featured menu in Bon Appetit celebrating California Cuisine and it's absolutely perfect to celebrate the best of summer. I also make the side that was featured, a Grilled Vegetable Salad with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette, which also has a bunch of fresh herbs. They were perfect together.


I will definitely be making this dish again. It defines, for me, the essence of summer. I love to grill. I especially love to grill chicken with the skin on so it gets charred and smoky. I'm not sure the brick was necessary, though. That technique might work better for pressing down a butterflied whole chicken, rather than a boneless breast. Mine didn't get too flattened and the brick makes it a little difficult to check underneath to make sure the chicken is browning properly. As you can see, mine is a little on the dark side.  It was just slightly more charred than I like my skin, but it was still wonderful, especially with the bright, zingy herb dressing that went with it.


I hope this is inspiring for anyone looking to get the most out of their summer produce. And if you haven't already, start planning that vegetable and herb garden for next year! It is so worth the work to have fresh produce at your fingertips. It makes all the difference in flavor and it's so convenient to just step out the back door and have what you need on hand. Right now I'm growing mint, rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, chives and dill. And I love them all.


And don't forget to take a peek at what's happening at Summer Fest 2010. Just click here to join the party. Start planning how you're going to use all those zucchini, corn and tomatoes; summer flies by in a blur of sun, cook-outs, and vacations. I'm planning on soaking up the season the best way I know how: eating it!

Summer Fest 2010  

Chicken Under a Brick With Fresh Herb and Garlic Sauce
Bon Appetit

Serves 8

12 garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1 1/2 c. (packed) Italian parsley sprig tops
1/3 c. white balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. (packed) fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. (packed) fresh basil leaves
1 t. dried oregano
1/4 t. dried crushed red pepper 
1 c. olive oil
8 large boneless chicken breast halves with skin
Nonstick vegetable spray
8 bricks, wrapped in foil (optional, in my opinion)

Cook 8 garlic cloves in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain garlic. Place in processor and cool. Add remaining 4 garlic cloves and next 6 ingredients. With machine running, gradually add oil, blending until thick sauce forms. Season with salt. Place chicken in large resealable plastic bag. Add 1/2 cup sauce and turn to coat evenly. Chill at least 1/2 hour and up to 4 hours, turning occasionally. Spray grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place chicken, skin side down, on grill. Top each piece with 1 foil-lined brick. Grill until skin is golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn chicken over; grill until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Arrange chicken on platter. Spoon some sauce over. Serve, passing rest of sauce separately.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette
Bon Appetit

Serves 8

3 T. red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T. chopped parsley
1 T. chopped chives
1 T. chopped basil
1 T. chopped dill
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. lemon juice
3/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

20 asparagus spears, trimmed to 5" lengths
8 green onions, green tops trimmed
4 medium zucchini, each cut lengthwise into 1/4"-1/3"-thick slices
2 large ears corn, husked
4 medium heads of Belgian endive
2 small heads of radicchio, halved through core
6 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Olive oil (for brushing)

For vinaigrette: Combine first 9 ingredients in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil; season with salt and pepper. For vegetables: Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Arrange all vegetables on baking sheets. Lightly brush all vegetables with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill asparagus, green onions, zucchini, and corn until lightly charred and just tender, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes for corn. Return vegetables to same sheets. Grill endive and radicchio until lightly charred, turning often, about 8 minutes. Transfer to baking sheets with other vegetables. Place tomatoes, skin side down, on grill and cook until just charred, about 3 minutes. Turn tomatoes; grill until just beginning to soften, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to sheets with other vegetables. Cut asparagus, green onions, and zucchini crosswise into 1-inch pieces; place in large bowl. Cut corn kernels from cobs; add to bowl. Cut endive in half lengthwise. Remove cores from endive and radicchio. Chop into 1/2"-to 3/4" pieces. Add to bowl. Coarsely chop tomatoes. Using slotted spoon, add tomatoes to bowl. Mix vinaigrette into vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peach Ice Cream


I love fruit ice creams. I may be a big fan of chocolate, but when it comes to frozen cream and sugar, I want it to be simple. A creamy custard base, a burst of juiciness and a spoon are all I need to make me happy. I can walk right by the Moose Tracks, the Rocky Roads and the Brownie Fudge Swirls. It's strawberry, blueberry and peach that make me swoon.


So I found this recipe for Peach Ice Cream in one of Gourmet's summer issues and I promised myself that I would make this and make it for my children and grandchildren. This was IT.  I could imagine the perfection it would be, because I have often made a peach pie ( it happens to be my favorite, just so you know) with vanilla ice cream and that combination seems destined to be an ice cream. It just goes. And I've tried the store-bought kinds, but was always disappointed in the lack of peach flavor. I had to make it myself.

You know I would love to tell you we lived happily ever after. This ice cream takes lovely pictures. It had such potential. It still does. But I've made this twice, now and I have yet to achieve a silky smooth texture. I'm blaming the cornstarch. I've never seen cornstarch in an ice cream recipe before and I'm skeptical. I'm going to try it again, maybe combining this recipe with another one I've seen, because, my dear readers, this recipe has almond extract in it and that is peach's best friend. Mine, too, actually. I love it. I can't get enough of it. Ever since I tasted my mom's peach pie for the first time, I knew that it would be one of my favorite flavors--ever. That, and her signature cheesecake. I've been spoiled for anything else after that introduction to desserts. There is only one way for me.....the way my mother made it.


Peach Ice Cream
 from Gourmet June 2008

makes about 2 quarts

2 lb. ripe peaches
2 t. fresh lemon juice
1 c. plus 2 T. sugar, divided
1 1/2 T. cornstarch
1 3/4 c. heavy cream
1 3/4 c. whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. almond extract

Cut an X in bottom of each peach, then blanch in boiling water 15 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking. Peel peaches and cut in 1/2 inch pieces. (I'll be honest. I just peeled my peaches with a paring knife. Not much more time consuming than this whole process, I'm guessing.) Toss with lemon juice and 3/4 cup plus 2 T. sugar in a large bowl. Let macerate, covered and chilled, at least 8 hours. Whisk together cornstarch, 1/4 t. salt and remaining 1/4 c. sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Add cream and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Add to yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly, to temper, then pour mixture back into saucepan. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, just until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1-2 minutes (mixture will be thick). Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl and stir in extracts. Chill custard, its surface covered directly with plastic wrap (to prevent a skin from forming), until cold, at least 4 hours. Transfer 2 cups peaches with slotted spoon to a bowl. Puree remaining peaches and liquid in a blender until smooth. Add puree to custard and freeze in ice cream maker, then transfer to a bowl and stir in reserved peaches. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, about 2 hours.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad


Not your average pasta salad. That was what I was craving when I found this on Smitten Kitchen's site. The dressing is made from roasted red peppers. It's full of flavor; it's light, not heavy and it's not bottled Italian dressing. One could, I suppose, use jarred peppers. They're good. I use them for lots of dishes. But for this, I wanted soft, meltingly tender, sweet and charred peppers. Roasting them in the oven is actually less involved than charring them over a gas flame (I've done that too. It takes a long time.).          

I might try grilling them, the next time I make this, to get an even smokier flavor from them. But they get so soft in the oven after roasting, it really is a perfect application for peppers. The skins fall right of the flesh, you can save the juices to put in the processor when you're ready to blend, and then wrap the skin and seeds and core in the foil and toss it. No fuss, no mess. That's my kind of cooking. I don't mind involved recipes, if I have the time, but I love a short cut as much as the next girl. (Said the girl who just roasted her own peppers.)


The other reason I wanted to make this salad were the colors. We love peas in this house and I will try any recipe that includes them. I would have loved to use fresh peas, but I never see them in the grocery store. So frozen it is, and fresh snow peas, which we also love. They are so crisp and sweet and add a freshness to anything you put them in. The different contrast of soft peas, chewy pasta and crisp snow peas is a genius combination, especially with the sweetness of the pepper vinaigrette. It's colorful, healthy, light and delicious. It's exactly what I want to eat in the summertime.



Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad 
as written by Deb, of Smitten Kitchen

This salad would also be fantastic finished with some slivered herbs, like basil, bits of soft goat cheese or crumbled feta or grated Parmesan, but really, it doesn’t need any of that to taste great. Promise.

1 pound of small pasta (I used shells because I imagined the peas would nest in there and gah, such cuteness)
1/4 pound snow pea pods, ends trimmed
1/2 pound fresh summer peas, which yielded about 1 cup once shelled
3/4 to 1 cup Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a small ice water bath. Boil the snow pea pods for about two minutes, or until just barely cooked but still crisp. Scoop them out with a large slotted spoon and drop them in the ice water bath. Cook the peas for about 10 minutes (once again, this will be al dente, you can cook them longer if you prefer them softer), scoop them out with a large slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water bath as well. Drain both peas. Cut the snow peas into thin slivers.
Add the pasta into the boiling water and cook it according to package instructions. Drain and let cool, then toss in a large bowl with peas and Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette, seasoning to taste.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Please don’t limit your use of this to just pasta salad, though, I can say withabsolutely no bias that it is awesome in it, but that’s no reason not to toss this with white beans for a quick bean salad or what your choice mix of greens are.
I like to slow-roast bell peppers in the oven at 350 for one hour, giving them a quarter turn with tongs every fifteen minutes so they get evenly blistered — then letting them cool and peeling them. I know it’s faster to blacken them over a gas flame, but the pepper never gets as supple and sweet as I want it to, but hey, that’s just personal preference. You know, in case you wanted to know.
Makes about one cup of dressing

1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and seeded or the equivalent from a jar, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (and up to 2 tablespoons more if you, like us, like that extra bite in your dressing)
1 tablespoon chopped shallot (about 1 small)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several grinds of black pepper

Puree the red bell pepper in a food processor or blender as much as possible, then add the remaining ingredients and running the machine until the dressing is silky smooth. Adjust the vinegar level and seasonings to taste.