Friday, February 22, 2008

Blog address change

Hi all! I've moved my blog to wordpress and want to make sure that everyone changes their google readers and any links you may already have in your blogs.

The new address is:

This is a great change for me, one which I am very excited about!

Thanks and I'll see you "on the flip side!" :)

- Tara

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

TWD: Almost-Fudge Gâteau

The word gâteau always brings me back to my years of learning French throughout all of middle school and high school and evokes such fond memories of my stays in France with my family's close friends, who happen to have started out as my host family when I did an exchange program at the tender age of 10. May will mark the 20 year mark since that first trip and the beginning of a wonderful friendship between two completely random families who would never have otherwise met if it hadn't been for this program.

My French tongue has faded some since my last visit in 2000 but that doesn't mean that I don't have the desire to continue to learn all that is French. I read blogs of expatriots who live in France and I still yearn to be strolling the streets of Paris, ducking into a sidewalk café for a crossaint and a demi-tasse, browsing artists' works in Montparnasse or Montmartre, lunching on a baguette and brie with a glass of wine in Jardin des Tuileries, or of course perusing through one of the hundreds of French bakeries that make France so famous for it's baked goodies. This weeks' Dorie recipe was chosen by Nikki of Crazy Delicious and comes from Hélène Samuel, a French restauranteur, who used to sit in front of the oven (her very first oven while living in Paris) and watch this cake bake as her source of entertainment. Le gâteau itself, as Dorie describes is "plain looking but profoundly flavorful, moist, pleasantly dense, and definitively chocolate..."; a description that perfectly matches how this cake itself turned out.

I'll admit that I didn't run out and buy a 9" springform pan for this recipe so I'm not entirely sure if the cake turned out as "puffy" as it should have (with 5 egg white folded into the batter) while using a regular ol' 9" cake pan. Since this was another TWD recipe without a picture to guide me, I guess I'll have to wait and see how everyone else's cakes turned out. Regardless of how it looked, it tasted FANTASTIC. And fudgy it was! I used 60% bittersweet chocolate and was slightly worried about the bitter-factor but it was the right decision for me and I would use the same percentage should I make the cake again, which I'm sure I will. The top cracked, just as Dorie said it would and because I used a cake pan, my cake resembled more of an oversized molten lava cake than a pretty, smooth-sided cake turned out of a springform pan.

As for the glaze however, I didn't have such great luck. I'm not really sure what happened but after I added the corn syrup, the melted chocolate-cream mixture separated from the syrup like oil and water. It was very strange and I couldn't bear to ruin a perfectly good cake with a mixture that resembled more of an sloppy chocolate mess than a chocolate glaze; powdered sugar and whipped cream worked just fine for me.

In spite of the glaze issue, I thoroughly enjoyed this cake; both making it and eating...and yes, I had a piece for breakfast yesterday morning. Hats off to Nikki for a great choice this week! You can see how the over 30 other members of our growing TWD group did this week by visiting their blogs here.

Almost-Fudge Gâteau

source: Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

  • 5 large eggs
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet cacao chips)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons coffee or water
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt

For the Glaze (optional)

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Getting Ready:

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (I used a 9" cake pan), line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.
  3. Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that's fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour.
  5. Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until they hold firm, but glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the butter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.
  6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes (35 minutes was perfect for my oven), or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you'll think it's done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn't shimmy when tapped; a thin knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and remove the pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature right side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.

To Make the Optional Glaze: First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you'll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.

Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven – the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.

Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don't worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake – it will just add to its charms. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or, if you're impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. If the glaze dulls in the fridge, just give it a little gentle heat from a hairdryer.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 35 minutes

Yields: 12-16 slices

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins

Grrubere humarhehr yeosmegerrb? ...... mouth was full with these INCREDIBLE muffins. What I asked was, "Have you ever tasted a better blueberry muffin than this one?" (or at least that's what I was thinking...) Ina has certainly outdone herself with this one, let me tell you. I've seen her make them a couple of know the show...the one where she has her girlfriend's daughter and her college friends over for brunch and they ask to live with her forever because she's an incredible cook...well, uh...most of that is my fantasy but you get the drift. :) Well, in my infinite search to find the perfect recipes to make for my family when they visit for a weekend on the rare occasion, I firmly decided to make these muffins for their most recent visit. And what else was I going to serve for breakfast that morning? Nothing. That's right. Nothing. Except coffee of course. Breakfast on a Sunday with the family in town in usually a mid-morning event (eggs, bacon, sausages, toast/bagels, and sometimes pancakes) and since I had already made a big pot of [yes you guessed it] Ina's split pea soup for lunch that afternoon, I didn't want to make a huge breakfast that would ruin appetites for later in the day.

What I didn't realize was that these muffins would be the be all and end all of blueberry muffins. I was totally expecting to get huge raves over my soup that afternoon but I don't think I've ever heard as many mmms and oh-my-gods as I did over breakfast. In fact, I think the soup may have been a let-down after the morning muffins. lol The muffins were absolutely perfect in every sense of the word. They were the kind of muffins where the whole muffin was eaten, not just the top. They were sweet. They were moist. They were blueberry-y.

They were not what I expected when I opened the oven to check on them with just a few minutes of the cooking time remaining. The muffin tops had totally spilled over into one another and became a muffin top mass. Thankfully they didn't run over the sides of the muffin tins onto the bottom of the oven but nonetheless, I totally panicked. Crap! What to do, what to do? With just a few minutes left, there wasn't really much I could do but hope that they tasted ok even though they didn't look like your typical muffin. My mom and my aunt soothed my muffin anxiety and I talked myself through the thoughts of my last muffin disaster 4 years ago, which coincidentally was the last time I made muffins. After a few extra minutes added to the cooking time, I took the muffins out, let them cool for a few minutes, cut the tops with a spatula, and gently removed them. They all came out in one piece. First sigh of relief. They all sat upright on the cooling rack. Second sigh. The third sigh came when I took that first bite and the muffin melted in my mouth. ahhhhh sooooo goooooood.....

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins
source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cup) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 half-pints fresh blueberries, picked through for stems
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place 16 paper liners in muffin pans (I just greased the muffin cups). In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.
  2. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans (I used an ice cream scoop - works great!), filling each cup just over the top, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yields: 14 muffins (using the ice cream scoop)

Some Outrageous Brownies

ahh Ina...seriously, you found the right profession when buying Barefoot Contessa all those years ago. I haven't yet made a recipe of yours that isn't fantastic!

OK, so I know she can't hear me, but sometimes I just need to get the voices out of my head..... :)

After 5 years of knowing about the existence of these brownies and hearing all the raves on my cooking board, I only JUST made them for the first time a couple of weeks ago (yes, I'm slow to post recently). The only thing that was stopping me from making them was the fact that I don't ever have instant coffee powder in the house. But nonetheless, I finally decided to forego the powder and make the brownies without it.

WOW!! They turned out just half a notch below outrageous for me but still were out of this world. I know that half a notch was the missing coffee powder and now I'm bound and determined to buy some before I get the hankering to make them again. I made the full recipe, fully knowing how many brownies this would yield, and brought half of them to work where I knew sweet treats are always very much appreciated. As it turns out, my office was having a week from hell and these brownies were the exact "pick-me-up" that everyone needed. I have a few other homemade brownie recipes I want to try before I go and say that this will be the only one that I use but for now, it's right at the top of my list.
Ina's Outrageous Brownies
source: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
This was adapted from a recipe for chocolate globs in the Soho Charcuterie Cookbook
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour, divided - 1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups diced walnut pieces (I omitted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.
  2. Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and bitter chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not overbake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yields: 20 large or 48 human-size brownies

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

TWD: Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

Here's to my first TWD recipe!! Jaime of Good Eats n' Sweet Treats chose Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake (pages 218-219) for this weeks' recipe and boy what a great job she did choosing! I'm a lover of all-things-cheesecake, albeit I've only made cheesecake a number of times. I'm always nervous to make cheesecake because there are so many ideas about the best techniques for the best cheesecake: waterbath vs. no waterbath, cool the cheesecake in the oven vs. on the counter, baked vs. no-bake, a crack should be there vs. shouldn' get the point. But because I'm such a recipe-follower, I wasn't too nervous about making this one. I know that Dorie's recipes are tried and true and that all I would need to do is follow her recipe. Easy enough.

Easy? Yes. Quick? No. It took me 1 and 1/2 hours to prep this cheesecake because I was so afraid of screwing it up...and lord knows I didn't want to screw up my first TWD recipe! I had to take extra precautions to be sure that everything I did was right...that the crust was browned enough but not too much, that the apples were cooked enough without burning the brown sugar, that the cream cheese was soft enough so the batter wasn't lumpy, that the springform pan was wrapped tightly enough so no water would leak into my masterpiece. It certainly was a process but the proof was in the pudding...err cheesecake...that my precautions and all that extra time yielded one hell of a cheesecake...and a cheesecake WITHOUT a crack!! This was a first for me and was the first indication that I felt that I really did everything right. The only little blemishes on the top of the cheesecake came from the aluminum foil that stuck to the cake as it rose in the oven - no biggie!

Because I made the cheesecake last night (Monday night), I had to let it chill overnight before cutting it which was fine because I feel more comfortable taking pics during the daylight rather than at night...and coincidentally, I hadn't had breakfast this morning before cutting the cake and taking pics. Aww shucks....cheesecake for breakfast? What a bummer! Well, somebody had to taste it in order to write this review!

Dorie certainly was right - this is a substantial cheesecake. Not heavy and dense like NY cheesecake, but creamy and almost light...but substantial in taste it is. The cheesecake never fell in the middle while cooling and resulted in this beautiful dessert flecked with cinnamon as the highest (thickest?) cheesecake I've ever made. I did have to restrain myself from eating a whole piece this morning because I did only cut it 8ths but it was oh so good! (And in the future, I will definitely use dental floss again to make the initials cuts and then a hot, clean knife to finish them off.) I offered to put a piece in Kyle's lunch today but he said that he'd wait until tonight to try it and I almost feel bad about not waiting for him...almost.
Check out how everyone else did here!

Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

source: Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the Crust

  • 30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs) I used cinnamon graham crackers and ground them into crumbs myself
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples

  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths I used Golden Delicious
  • 2 tbsp (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling

  • 1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp apple cider
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust:

  1. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you're using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they'll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months.)
  2. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples:

  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake:

Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling:

  1. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.
  2. Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
  3. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. The cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center--if the center shimmies, that's just fine.
  4. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.
  5. Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides.

Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD)

After many months of debating about joining the Daring Bakers but being just plain chicken about it, I've decided to make good use of my newest cookbook and join a relatively new and still flourishing baking group called Tuesdays with Dorie. Laurie of quirky cupcake started TWD with Chelle of Sugar & Spice with the premise of baking their way through Dorie Greenspan's famous baking cookbook, Baking from My Home to Yours. Each week a new recipe will be choosen by a group member and each member will post their results in their respective blogs.

You can find links to all of the members' blogs here - be sure to check out the results on all of the blogs!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Peanuttiest Blondies

I was lucky enough to have a couple of very thoughtful people send me gift "cards" to for Christmas and since I didn't receive the top 2 items on my Christmas list this past season, I decided to treat myself to these two items, which of course, happen to be cookbooks.

Over the past couple of years, Ina Garden has grown to be one of my most idolized chefs on FoodNetwork. Her food is homey, classic, and fantastic and the next time I find myself in East Hampton, NY (which coincidentally is only 40 minutes from where I grew up and where my entire family still resides), I'm going to make a point of hitting up Barefoot Contessa to test out her stuff in person. For now, I'll settle for making her recipes in my own kitchen and I've just made that a little easier after buying The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Ina's first cookbook. By the way, this was the first of the 2 cookbooks I treated myself to on amazon.

So my little collection of cookbooks is growing and I'm already envisioning the designated space I'd like to create for them once Kyle and I build a home in the next few years. Taking up some of that space will most certainly be the baking bible and what seems to be the most coveted baking cookbook in my foodie circle of friends, cooking message board and so many of the food blogs I read, Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours. I've pined over this cookbook for a year now and for whatever reason, never got around buying it.

Since Dorie's book has found a home in my kitchen, I've been reading it like a novel. Page after page of mouth-watering recipes and conversational dialogue that makes you feel like Dorie is right there in the kitchen with you. How could anyone NOT love a cookbook like this one?? This is the first recipe I've decided to make, and decision was a difficult one (which recipe???). Since Kyle and I are on a strict budget this month, which means no extra spending at the grocery store in an effort to keep costs down and use up what we already have on hand, I decided to go with a recipe that consisted of everything I already have. I'm a genius. This was the best sweet treat I've had in a long time and it certainly made me feel less bad about being so poor this month. :) I followed the recipe exactly, except that I omitted the nuts (of course) and subbed in peanut butter chips - not a bad substitution if I do say so myself. You must try this one!!!

Peanuttiest Blondies
source: Dorie Greenspan, From My Home to Yours
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter - crunchy or creamy (not natural)
  • 5 tbps unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts
  • 6 oz semisweet or premium-quality milk chocolate, coarsely choppped, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips
  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil, butter the foil, and put the pan on a baking sheet.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the peanut butter and butter together on medium speed until smooth. Add both the sugars and beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until well incorporated into the butter. Add the eggs one at time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough; the dough will be thick. Add the peanuts and chocolate and give the mixer a few turns to stire them into the dough. If the chunky ingredients aren't mixed in after a few seconds, just finish the job with a sturdy spatula - don't overmix the dough. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake the blondies for 40 to 50 minutes (40 minutes was plenty for mine), or until they turn a deep honey brown and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.
  5. When it is completely cool, carefully life the blondies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and turn them out onto a rack. Peel away the foil and invert onto a cutting board. Use a long knife to cut into 16 bars, each roughly 2 1/4 inches on a side.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Bake time: 40 minutes

Yields: 16 bars

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ina's Split Pea Soup

Well, really, it's called Parker's Split Pea Soup but I figured, who knows who Parker is just by reading the title of this post? Parker was a chef at Ina's gourmet food store, Barefoot Contessa, when Ina featured his split pea soup in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (and maybe he still is but I can't confirm that).

Did I forget to mention that as a kid, I would groan when I found out that split pea soup was on the menu? Yeah, well, all of a sudden a few weeks ago, I felt this indescribable need to make split pea soup. I'm really not sure why but I went out a bought a couple pounds of dried split peas and some chorizo sausage to add to this recipe (instead of the ham or hot dogs my mom added when I was a kid). I put the recipe on hold until Kyle and I returned from our vacation and made the soup the first night we were back. It was simple and required minimal time from me standing over the stove which made it the perfect choice for a meal on a night where I definitely didn't feel like cooking.

Oh.My.Goodness. I can't describe how incredible this soup turned out!! It's seriously one of the best soups I've ever had, let alone made because as we all know, my soup skills aren't quite up to par. I made the whole recipe (which is 1/2 of what is written in the cookbook) and there were plenty of leftovers which neither of us minded at all. The soup was thick, flavorful, and the chorizo sausage was a wonderful addition. This will definitely make a appearance on my menu again soon!

Parker's Split Pea Soup

source: Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups medium-diced carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
  • 1 cup medium-diced red boiling potatoes, unpeeled (3 small)
  • 1 pound dried split green peas
  • 8 cups chicken stock or water
  1. In a 4-quart stockpot on medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with the olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper until the onions are translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the carrots, potatoes, 1/2 pound of split peas, and chicken stock.
  2. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Skim off the foam while cooking. Add the remaining split peas and continue to simmer for another 40 minutes, or until all the peas are soft. Stir frequently to keep the solids from burning on the bottom. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Spinach Polenta

In the past few months, I've really come to love polenta. I haven't attempted it in its baked or fried forms yet but those recipes are in the works. During my most recent meeting with polenta, I decided to get a little crazy (sarcasm) and add some fresh spinach...and some grated Pecorino-Romano cheese - what?? Remember my Cheese Is Love post?? The result was outstanding! How is that just a simple couple of additions can make such a difference? I paired this treat with the most outstanding pork chop recipe I've had in years. You can see my change in green below.

Spinach Polenta
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raw spinach (washed)
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
  1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and black pepper. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. (It only took about 5 minutes to thicken but I cooked it for an additional 5-8 minutes to make sure the cornmeal was cooked through.) Turn off the heat. Add the butter, spinach, and cheese, and stir until melted.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pasta Primavera

Yes, yes, I do realize that we are in the middle of winter but I really needed a dish to make it feel like's cold here in New England! So I threw a bunch of summer veggies in my cart and set out to recreate a killer pasta primavera my office ordered for our holiday lunch back in December.

The result of this recreation was delicious - there wasn't nearly as much creamy sauce as the original dish but that was part of my intention - food at my house will be damn good but not necessarily as heavy and fat-laden as that which can be found in restaurants.

Pasta Primavera
source: Smells Like Home
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small to medium zucchini, cubed in 1/2" pieces
  • 1 medium or 2 small yellow squash, cubed in 1/2" pieces
  • 1 red pepper, diced in 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, drained, patted dry and sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 lb uncooked spaghetti
  1. In a large stockpot, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, squash, red peppers, salt and pepper and cook for 7-10 minutes or until veggies being to soften. Add sundried tomatoes and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Reduce heat to medium.
  3. Stir in tomato paste until vegetables are coated with the paste and cook for another minute or so. Stir in cream and allow mixture to come to a simmer. If sauce is too thick, add some pasta water. If sauce is too thin, add some additional tomato paste and allow sauce to return to a simmer. If there isn't enough sauce, add some additional cream, half-n-half or skim milk if you're watching calories.
  4. After pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the veggie mixture and stir to combine veggies with pasta.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10-12 minutes

Serves: 3