If there’s one recipe that I’ve been meaning to share with you guys over the past 3 years, it’s this one. And for the most part, it’s because as many bloggers know, the problem with blogging certain recipes is that sometimes the dish needs to be served hot, before there’s any time to snap a few photos. Take into account the time needed to adjust camera settings, fiddle with the light source, ensure all props are in place (none of these things are ever right even after test shots are taken when the food is still cooking), and essentially the dish starts getting cold by the time the photos are finished…every one of us is all too familiar with eating luke warm dinners. But this doesn’t fly when you’ve got a room full of hungry people eying the steaming and bubbly spinach and artichoke dip that’s just emerged from the oven – we all know that.
So in honor of the Northeast dominated Super Bowl next weekend, I decided to make the sacrifice (ha!) to remake this dip and blog about it for you because you NEED this dip at your party. Now, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve actually watched the Superbowl (for the record, I just don’t get football), but I’m definitely all about understanding the snacks that go with it. This old-standby dip is kicked up a few notches with a secret ingredient: alfredo sauce. I almost couldn’t believe it the first time my friend Andrea brought this to a party and revealed her secret but it’s true! The alfredo sauce adds to the creaminess of the dip without having to use mayonnaise and with few other ingredients and minimal effort, I can assure you that this dip will be gone in less time than a Super Bowl commercial break.
Need more Super Bowl snack ideas? Check out the sidebar for a bunch of winning snack ideas!
Restaurant Style Spinach and Artichoke Dip source: adapted from All Recipes
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 (10 oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 (14 oz or 15 oz ) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
12 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) jarred alfredo sauce (roasted garlic if you can find it; low fat works well too)
1 cup whole milk, part skim, or 2% mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz (about 1 cup) plain nonfat Greek yogurt
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In an medium bowl, stir all of the ingredients together until very well-combined and the spinach is well-distributed throughout the mixture. Spread the mixture out evenly in an 8″x8″ baking dish.
Cover with a greased sheet of aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until cheeses are melted and bubbly. Serve warm with crackers, tortilla chips, pita chips, or cut-up vegetables.
In the midst of holiday preparation craziness, there was this soup. Broccoli cheddar soup. A knock-off of the famed and beloved Panera version, this version is a lighter homemade version where you control the ingredients – I love soups like this one! I’ve made this recipe a handful of times over the past few years and I seem to make it a little differently each time, mostly just varying the milk ratio (i.e. sometimes adding a little cream in place of some of the skim milk), but it turns out fabulous each and every time. The consistency isn’t as thick as Panera’s version but like I said, it’s on the lighter side, so if you want to thicken it up, just increase the cream-milk ratio. The most recent time this soup appeared in our kitchen, I was in the middle of packaging up my Christmas treats over the course of a few days and because the recipe left us a fair amount of leftovers, it was so nice to be able to quickly heat up a bit for lunch. And aside from a regular weeknight meal, in the past I’ve also made a double batch of the soup, kept it warm in the crock pot, and served it in coffee mugs as a warm appetizer during fall and winter parties. This broccoli cheddar soup is always a big hit here and is definitely one of our favorites!
Broccoli Cheddar Soup source: very slightly adapted from Annie’s Eats
6 tbsp butter, divided
¾ cup onion, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped or shredded
4 cups small broccoli florets
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
½ tsp onion salt (or onion powder if you can’t find onion salt)
½ tsp garlic powder
4 tbsp flour
2 cups milk (any kind)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (do not use pre-shredded)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the broth, onion salt and garlic powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the broccoli, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden brown, whisking constantly. Whisk in the milk and cook until the mixture thickens and bubbles, about 5 minutes. Once the mixture has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cheese until completely melted. Slowly pour the cheese sauce into the soup pot and stir to combine the mixtures. Allow to simmer until warmed through and broccoli is tender. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. If desired, puree the soup with an immersion blender for a smoother texture.
When it comes to side dishes for weeknight dinners, I feel like I deserve a C-. It’s sort of reminiscent of my freshman microeconomics grade whereas I do put quite a bit of effort into the work in spite of the fact that I just don’t get it. And yes, my micro- grade was a C-, not a great way to start off a college career. In any event, I do plan side dishes for all of my meals, buy the ingredients when necessary, but I have such a hard time pulling the trigger to get them prepared. Usually there are pans flying around my kitchen, a cookbook stacked on top of the coffee pot since space is so limited, and maybe a few choice words shouted at the burner that will never stay hot enough (thank you glass-top stove) when I’m cooking dinner. It’s not a pretty scene so last week when I had some leftover butternut squash from the curried butternut soup that I made, I decided to use it up right away rather than stashing it in the fridge for another time that may never arrive.
I’d like to say that I put more effort into this pureé other than boiling the squash in a sauce pan until tender but I’d be lying. Actually, photographing the squash took longer than it did for me to prepare it once it was cooked. I drained the squash, added a few staple ingredients, mashed it, and it was ready – ridiculously simple, really. I love a hefty amount of freshly cracked pepper in butternut squash when it’s prepared this way, something I never lost since childhood (what kid loads up their food with pepper?), but if it doesn’t suit your tastes, cut back on it. The way I prepared the squash here is my favorite version however, you can definitely play around with some warm spices of fall – cinnamon, cumin, curry powder – and easily make this side dish your own. And if you want to cheat and buy the squash pre-cut from the grocery store, go for it – I did and it cut down on the painful prep of peeling a slippery squash. It’s tough to turn my back on side dish that take 15 inactive minutes to make and I don’t think any busy person on a weeknight would either.
Butternut Squash Pureé source: Smells Like Home original
Add enough ground pepper to your satisfy your taste. I like a lot of pepper in butternut squash when it is prepared this way and I add about 3-4 cranks from the pepper mill; you may enjoy more or less so taste it as you season. Ingredients:
1 – 1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
In a 3qt sauce pan, add butternut squash pieces. Cover squash with enough water so that the water level is about 1 inch above the top of the squash. Over medium-high heat, boil squash for 12-15 minutes or until squash is cooked through when tested with a fork.
Drain squash and return it to the hot sauce pan. Add butter, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Mash the squash to combine ingredients until the butter is melted through. Serve hot.
There have been a few times in the past couple of months where I considered canceling all of my food magazine subscriptions. The guilt I feel about these food magazines is sometimes enough to make me not want to renew each year. They sit in a neat stack on the shelf of my coffee table, oftentimes untouched for months, even if never opened for the first time. I wouldn’t say that I have an unhealthy relationship with these magazines but it could be a more mutually satisfying relationship…and by that I mean that I’m really the one who should be getting more than nothing out of magazines that sit untouched and unread.
So last week when I finally flipped through one of Bon Appétit’s early summer issues (yes, for the first time), I was stopped dead in my tracks by a photo of a sandwich. I turned around to my menu for the upcoming week, added it to the list, and then obsessed about this sandwich for the next 3 days. Now, I’m not one to eat-then-immediately-blog what I make but I couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you, even if I only made it last night. These shrimp po’ boys were amazing beyond my expectations. Paired with a homemade rémoulade sauce (made with homemade pickles, I might add) and coated in a spicy Cajun dry rub, the shrimp truly shine in this sandwich. The sandwich as a whole is full of heat, though not an overwhelming amount for a light-weight like me, and is perfectly well-balanced by the rémoulade and cool tomato, lettuce, and a couple of pickle spears on the side. The original recipe called for batter-dipped fried shrimp and while that sounded awesome, we overindulged a little this Labor Day weekend so I lightened up the shrimp by sautéeing them instead – my changes are below. We were both sad to see the last bites finished up but we’re already planning who we can make them for in the next few weeks – they must go on the menu again soon! And even though it took me until August to get to June’s issue, I couldn’t be happier with this recipe…maybe I’ll reconsider my impulse to not renew this year since my faith has been furtively renewed.
Shrimp Po’ Boys source: adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2011
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust to your tastes)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined, patted dry
2 tsp canola oil
4 8″-long French (or Hoagie/sub/grinder) rolls, split horizontally
In a shallow pie plate or dish, whisk together the first 8 ingredients. Add the shrimp and coat all of the shrimp with the spice mix.
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the shrimp is pink and cooked through.
To assemble the sandwiches, spread a layer of the rémoulade sauce or mayonnaise on the bottom of each roll, top with hot shrimp, then lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and a sprinkle of hot pepper sauce, if using.
We are in eggplant overload! In the past 2 weeks, our little garden has yielded 7 gorgeous eggplant and by this weekend, we should have another 3 or 4 ready to harvest. It’s insane and I hope you’re ready for some fantastic eggplant recipes in the next couple of weeks! I think the Epsom salt we used this year has been working its magic.
In all honesty, I’ve been wanting to share this recipe with you since last summer after having made it numerous times in the past year, but I could never get my photography world to align with the eggplant parm gods (basically, all of my earlier photos of this recipe have sucked). In short, this is the perfect eggplant parmesan recipe where crispy edges of the baked eggplant peak through light layers of a simple homemade tomato sauce and irresistible melted mozzarella cheese. The breaded eggplant is baked in similar fashion to these baked oven fries and while we all know that making eggplant parm tends to be a little labor-intensive on the front end, how could you go wrong with the oven doing all the hard work instead of your standing over a pan of hot oil in an already too-hot kitchen in the middle of summer?
The last time we made this recipe, we ended up baking way too many eggplant rounds so we froze the extra cooled rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet then tossed them in a freezer bag for the next time a craving arises. Alternatively, I feel like the baked rounds by themselves could lend themselves to a myriad of other eggplant dishes like sandwiches or panini with fresh veggies and garlic aioli, eggplant stacks with roasted red peppers and goat cheese, eggplant slices topped with a poached egg for breakfast or a light lunch…you get the idea.
This is not a quick eggplant parmesan recipe but it is worth the wait and work in every way possible. You can absolutely use your own sauce, either homemade or jarred, but if you're up for it, try this 15-minute recipe - it's truly excellent.
For the Eggplant:
2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs) cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 tbsp Kosher salt
4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 oz)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
6 tbsp vegetable oil
For the Tomato Sauce:
2 cans (14 ½ oz each) diced tomatoes (or pureed or crushed tomatoes)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Salt and ground pepper
8 oz whole or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 oz)
10 fresh basil leaves, for garnish
To make the eggplant: In a large bowl, toss half of the eggplant slices and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt; transfer salted eggplant to colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and salt. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on a triple layer of paper towels; cover with a triple layer of paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-thirds of the oven, place rimmed baking sheets on both racks, and heat oven to 425° F.
In a pie plate or shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.
To make the sauce: While eggplant bakes, process the diced tomatoes in a food processor or blender until almost smooth (if using pureed or crushed tomatoes, skip this step).
Heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in processed and remaining can of tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste.
To assemble and bake: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella.
Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.
~~~Wow. Wow. WOW! Project Food Blog Round 6!! Can I just give another shout-out to all my foodie friends? Your continued encouragement and excitement during each round has been awesome. I hope this post lives up to your expectations and regardless of the outcome of this round, I have to say that this one has been my favorite challenge thus far.~~~
Road trips are what we do. We haven’t taken a week-long vacation in almost 3 years but we do love to pack up the car and drive and luckily, the Northeast has a bounty of fabulous places to drive for just a weekend. Lake George, NY and Portland/Freeport, ME are two of our favorite weekend trips and we especially love Lake George and Adirondack State Park so much that we’ve been there 3 times in the past year alone. The Lake George region is a quick 3 hour trip and boasts some of the most spectacular lakes and mountain peaks in the Northeast.
Unfortunately, a trip up to Lake George wasn’t in the cards for the Road Trip challenge but I put together a meal that would “travel well and still look great” and is one we could totally bring with us on our next trip to the North Country. Project Food Blog asked us to “to whip up a entree, side, drink, and dessert to enjoy after hitting the road.” We took our picnic to the local Kettletown State Park, which is just a few minutes from our house. And let me tell you, this park is gorgeous this time of year so it was hard to resist for our picnicking spot.
Working up this menu was so much fun! I built the whole menu around the spectacular sandwich served at Big Summer Potluck this past August, the Meatless Muffaletta, a vegetarian version of the famous New Orleans-style sandwich. From there, I considered building a warm, fall-food picnic menu, but decided to move in a direction closer to what we would eat should we take a road trip to New Orleans. Neither of us have been there before but it’s on our list of 10,000 places we want to visit so why not bring a little of NOLA up to CT? Here is our Road Trip Menu:
Entrée Meatless Muffalettas Olive tapenade with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone, mozzarella, and muenster cheeses on homemade Kaiser rolls
Side Dish Cajun-Seasoned Potato Chips Homemade microwaved potato chips seasoned with sea salt and Cajun seasoning
Dessert Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce Traditional NOLA beignets filled with fresh apples served with a luscious homemade butter-run caramel sauce for dipping
Beverage Ginger Ale Homemade ginger ale soda made with fresh ginger
In all honesty, I was nervous that Kyle wouldn’t like the muffaletta. Neither of us like olives but I fell head over heels in love with this sandwich in August and since our tastes are so similar, I figured I’d try it out on him. And it turns out that he loved it just as much as I do. The flavors in the sandwich are very prominent exclusive of each other but they work beautifully together. Make sure the roll you choose to use for this sandwich is a sturdy one that can hold up to the filling. The Kaiser rolls I made this morning were absolutely perfect. I’d never made sandwich rolls before but decided to give it a go for this challenge – why not go all out, right?!
Are you thinking, “microwaved potato chips? Is she crazy??” Well, thanks to Alice at Savory Sweet Life, I stumbled across this method just this morning and to save a few minutes and a ton of calories, I decided to give these chips a go. They were amazing!! Who would have thought that paper thin potato slices would actually crisp-up in the microwave? I mean, really…nothing gets crispy in the microwave! But it actually works! These chips were so great sprinkled with a little sea salt and Cajun seasoning and remained crispy all day. I made little cones with parchment paper to transport the chips and surprisingly, they didn’t spill all over the cooler during the trip!
Once I decided on the NOLA-themed menu, beignets were the natural choice for dessert but it wasn’t until I came across this apple cider recipe with butter-rum caramel sauce that I really started getting excited about the menu. Fried dough + caramel = heaven!! Add some fresh apples to mix and you’ve got a stunning dessert to have at home or on the road. To transport the beignets, place them in some parchment paper and staple the parchment together to create a pouch for the beignets. Hold off on putting the powdered sugar on until you arrive at your destination. I poured the caramel sauce into an 8oz mason jar for the trip and brought a little bowl along for dipping. Easy!!
Admittedly, drinks are not my specialty. For the most part, I drink water all day long, every day. I love my water but I was pretty sure water wouldn’t do for this challenge. It was Kyle who came up with the suggestion for ginger ale and I was sold immediately. Though it’s never the first type of soda I reach for, it’s always one that’s always refreshing when I do drink it. After checking out a few recipes, the one I ultimately chose was spot-on. Both the muffaletta and chips were on the salty side and this ginger ale provided the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the other parts of our lunch. For the purpose of this road trip, I poured the simple syrup and ginger-water into a quart-size mason jar and kept the club soda separate until we were ready to pour the ginger ale.
We had a blast this afternoon on our Road Trip picnic in spite of the rain that started before we were ready to leave. After feeling like I’ve missed my last 5 weekends because of the time I’ve spent cooking and blogging, I’m so so happy to have been able to get outside and enjoy some time with Kyle. All of the dishes I made for this picnic couldn’t be easier for you to make and I hope you’ll give these recipes a shot the next time someone shouts ROAD TRIP!!
For The Mixed Olive Salad 2 medium garlic cloves 1/4 cup capers 1 cup drained ripe black olives 1 cup drained pimento-stuffed salad olives 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 2 teaspoons dried oregano 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/2 cup finely chopped celery hearts
For The Rest of The Sandwich: 4 Portuguese rolls, split 4 thin slices each (about 9 ounces total) mozzarella, provolone, and pepper Jack 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced 1 drained can (14 ounces) quartered artichoke hearts, halved 3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, halved
1. Mince garlic cloves in a food processor. Add capers; pulse to chop. Add olives, vinegar, and oregano; pulse to chop again. Turn into a medium bowl; stir in olive oil and celery. (Can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several weeks.)
2. When ready to make sandwiches, spread 2 tablespoons of the olive salad on the cut side of each half roll. Divide cheese evenly between bread. On the bottom half of each sandwich, arrange a portion of onion, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes. Cap with sandwich top. Halve crosswise on the diagonal and serve.
1 russet potato Non stick spray Parchment paper or glass plate Sea salt and Cajun seasoning
1. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of your microwave.
2. Carefully slice1/3 of a potato into paper thin slices using a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or sharp knife. You don’t want to cut any more than this because any extra slices laying around waiting to be cooked will turn pink in color.
3. Completely coat the parchment paper with non-stick spray and place the potato slices in a single layer. Spray the potato slices with non stick spray and lightly sprinkle with salt and Cajun seasoning.
4. Turn off the rotating option on your microwave and cook for 4-5 minutes. Cooking times will vary based on the strength and power of your microwave. Some chips may turn very dark brown. Ideally you want them light and golden. Also in my microwave some of the chips on the outside layer didn’t cook as quick as the ones towards the middle, so you may need to remove the ones in the middle and cook the outer ones for an additional minute.
5. Repeat the process until you’ve used your entire potato.
Makes 2 servings.
Apple Cider Beignets with Butter-Rum Caramel Sauce source: Gourmet Magazine, October 2007
For the sauce: 1 cup sugar 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1/3 cups water 1/4 cup dark rum 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar 1/4 cup heavy cream
For the beignets: About 8 cups vegetable oil, divided 2 Golden Delicious apples 1 3/4 cups self-rising cake flour, divided 1 large egg 3/4 cup sparkling apple cider confectioner’s sugar for dusting
To make the sauce:Heat sugar in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber. Stir in butter, water, rum, vinegar, and a pinch of salt (caramel will harden and steam vigorously) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel has dissolved. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat. Cool to warm.
To make the beignets:
1. Preheat oven to 250°F with rack in middle. Set a cooling rack in a large shallow baking pan.2. Heat 2 inches oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat to 375°F.
3. Meanwhile, peel apples and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut out core with cutter, then pat apple rings dry.
4. Put 1 1/4 cups flour in a large shallow bowl and make a well in center. Beat egg in a small bowl with a fork, then stir in cider and 1 tablespoon oil and pour into well. Stir with fork until a lumpy batter forms.
5. Working in batches of 3 or 4, dredge apple rings in remaining 1/2 cup flour, shaking off excess, then dip in batter to coat, letting excess drip off, and fry, gently turning over once with a slotted spoon, until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes total per batch. Transfer to rack and keep warm in oven. Return oil to 375°F between batches.
Just before serving, dust warm beignets with confectioners sugar. Stir sauce, then serve on the side.
Make 4-6 servings.
Cooks’ notes from Gourmet:
If you can’t find self-rising cake flour, you can substitute self-rising all-purpose. Use 1 cup in the batter and 1/2 cup for dredging. Increase cider to 1 cup and follow recipe as directed.
Sauce can be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered. Warm before serving.
Beignets are best freshly made but can be fried 2 hours ahead and kept, loosely covered, at room temperature. Reheat beignets (they should not touch) on a rack set in a large shallow baking pan, uncovered, in a 325°F oven until hot, 15 to 20 minutes.
Homemade Ginger Ale source: Simply RecipesThe amount of ginger you use in this recipe is up to you; use up to 1 cup for a strong flavor and 3/4 cup for a milder flavor. The ginger water is very strong on it’s own but add enough simple syrup to adjust for your own taste. I combined all of the ginger water and simple syrup and loved the extra level of sweetness the simple syrup provided.
For the Ginger Water: 3/4 cup to 1 cup peeled, finely chopped ginger 2 cups water
For the Simple Syrup: 1 cup sugar 1 cup water
Club soda Lime juice Lime wedges
1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add ginger. Reduce heat to medium low and let ginger sit in the simmering water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Discard ginger pieces.
2. In a separate saucepan, make the Simple Syrup by dissolving 1 cup granulated sugar into 1 cup of boiling water. Set aside.
3. Make individual (tall) glasses of ginger ale by mixing 1/2 cup of ginger water with 1/3 cup of Simple Syrup and 1/2 cup of club soda. Add a few drops of fresh lime juice and a lime wedge to each glass.
Ina Garten is acquiring somewhat of a reputation for panzanella recipes. Rest assured, a good one. I mean, she’s got the original Panzanella from Parties!, a grilled version that I watched her make recently that looks like it’s right up my alley, and this Greek version. Oh this Greek version. The one I’m still dreaming about.
Admittedly, I’ve become obsessed with feta cheese in the past few months and I’ve been enjoying it in everything from salads, to roasted veggies, to pizza toppings. So Ina’s Greek version of panzanella seemed naturalexciting mouthwatering to me while I was working out the second Barefoot Bloggers recipe for this month. And as usual, Ina didn’t let me down. The panzanella base is the same as the original version but the addition of feta and a delightfully tangy vinaigrette are what really make this dish. And the toasted bread. Good lord, don’t forget about the toasted bread! It took all my strength to hold myself to just one serving of this but the good thing is, it’s so easy to make that it will be reappearing on my menu soon enough.
And now for the surprise announcement!
Ina Garten’s cookbook publicist contacted me earlier this month to tell me that Ina would like for me to do a Q&A session with her in preparation of the release of her new cookbook Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? which is set to be released on October 26th. How COOL is that?!? My cooking idol! The date is set for August 18th (which is an awesome early birthday gift for me since my bday is the 19th!) but I don’t have any more details right now other than the date. I of course, will share them once they are finalized.
In the time leading up to this special event, I want to hear from you. I want to know what you’d ask Ina if you had the chance. But hold your questions for now. I’ll be posting weekly starting next week with new recipes from How Easy is That? (since I’ve got an advanced copy in my hot little hands) to share with you and will ask you for your questions in those posts.
So, to make sure you don’t miss these upcoming posts, you may want to connect with me via the new buttons I’ve added in the sidebar: Twitter, Smells Like Home’s Facebook page, and RSS feed. Just sayin’…
1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted
For the Vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar (I used 2 tbsp each of champagne and pomegranate vinegars)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.
Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.
For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar(s), 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.
I realize it’s been 90+ degrees here for what seems like weeks on end. And I realize that we haven’t turned off the air conditioning in probably close to 3 weeks. But I couldn’t help but turn on the oven this weekend. I missed making these Scalloped Tomatoes last month for Barefoot Bloggers and I wanted to make sure that I catch up on my missed recipes before a very special event takes place next month…which I’ll share with you as it approaches. Yes, I’m going to leave you hanging like that.
So these Scalloped Tomatoes are unassuming. And frankly, the name is a little odd too. Of course you can slice tomatoes really thin but I’ve never heard of scalloping them before. And this recipe doesn’t really do that in the traditional sense either. But it’s one that you can whip up in 10 minutes and throw in the oven and by the time you’ve finished running around the house cleaning up, you’ve got an incredible lunch waiting for you. Seriously incredible. This is where the unassuming part comes in. The simple and delicious summer tomatoes almost caramelize in the oven and blend so amazingly with the toasted croutons that you’ll almost forget that you cooked summer tomatoes (gasp!) in the middle of July (double gasp!). And if you’re wondering about “what do I serve with it” question, I’ll say that you won’t need anything. Kyle even commented “you don’t even miss not having meat in this dish” so it’s definitely a meal in itself. I’d advise that you not wait until the fall weather approaches before you make these tomatoes – you’ll miss tomato season and will most definitely regret not using them here.
Many, many thanks to Josie of Pink Parsley Catering for choosing this incredible dish to celebrate summer tomatoes! The other recipe for June was Sour Cream Coffee Cake, as chosen by Gwenn of Cooking in Pajamas, which we’ve made many times in the past and while we love love love it, we didn’t have an occasion to make it again recently.
Scalloped Tomatoes with Croutons source: slightly adapted from Ina Garten
2-3 tbsp Good olive oil 3 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule or baguette 2 lbs tomatoes, local if you can find them – I used Heirloom, cut 1/2-inch dice 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves) 2 tablespoons sugar 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.
Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.
Sometimes certain dishes don’t need a recipe. The problem with that is, sharing the ingredients and method gets complicated…trying to throw out a bunch of instructions while people think they can remember everything I say just doesn’t work. They never do remember. This caprese bruschetta is one of these such dishes that we’ve been making for years and I’m just now taking the time to write down the recipe for it. It’s also one of those dishes that I’m in love with so much that I unconsciously do a little dance for when I take that first bite. Caprese salad has always been one of our favorite summertime dishes and we make the combination a number of ways at least once a week, every week, in the summer: on a plate, with pasta and chicken, in a panzanella salad, and in a sandwich (the latter three which haven’t been posted here…yet). I should note that we love balsamic vinegar so we go a little heavy on it – adjust the amount to your own tastes.
So if you’re looking for a fantastic side dish or appetizer for your summer bbq, like for the upcoming 4th of July, make sure you try this one out!
***If you haven’t seen Smells Like Home’s newest feature, be sure to check out Parts of the Home for some great recipe suggestions specific to different parts of the home. Consider it a fun twist on the “featured recipes” pages you may see on other blogs. New Parts will be making their debut throughout the rest of the summer!***
Caprese Bruschetta source: Smells Like Home original
1/2 cup vine-ripened tomato, diced 8 oz fresh mozzarella, diced 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 3-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar pinch of salt French baguette, sliced on a biased into 8 1″ thick slices
Combine all of the ingredients except the bread in a medium-sized bowl and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 30 minutes at room temperature. After about 25 minutes, drizzle the baguette slices with a little olive oil (both sides) and lightly toast both sides. You can do this in the oven with the broiler, on the grill, or in the toaster (which is how we do it). Top warm toast with caprese mixture and drizzle with remaining liquid from the bottom of the bowl.
Do yourselves a favor and don’t wait as long I did to make this risotto! Seriously, I put off making this May Barefoot Bloggers recipe for an entire month because I just wasn’t thrilled with the idea of risotto surrounded by a bunch of veggies but this recipe was such a pleasant surprise. I paired it with a highly modified version of the other BB recipe for the May, Grilled Herb Shrimp, and the shrimp really rounded out the meal. As all of Ina’s recipes do, the full risotto recipe makes a lot (6 meal servings rather than the 4 Ina suggests) but neither of us are complaining about having leftovers for lunch for the next couple of days. And even though the recipe name suggests that it’s a spring recipe, all of the ingredients are available year-round; they just happen to be less expensive this time of year. Really though like I said, don’t wait to make too long to make this – you’ll regret it like I did!
Spring Green Risotto source: adapted from Ina Garten, Back to Basics
1 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter 3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks) 1 cup chopped fennel 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice 2/3 cup dry white wine 5 cups simmering chicken stock or broth 10 ounces frozen peas, defrosted, or 1 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese or creme fraiche 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving
Heat the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks and fennel and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Add the rice and stir for a minute to coat with the vegetables, oil, and butter. Add the white wine and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add the chicken stock or broth, 2 ladles at a time, stirring almost constantly and waiting for the stock to be absorbed before adding more. This process should take 25 to 30 minutes.
When the risotto has been cooking for 15 minutes, add the peas, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Continue cooking and adding stock/broth, stirring almost constantly, until the rice is tender but still firm.
When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the mascarpone plus the Parmesan cheese and chives. Set aside, off the heat, for a few minutes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot with a sprinkling of chives and more Parmesan cheese.
Grilled Herb Shrimp source: highly adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Parties!
1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined (see note) 1 clove garlic, minced 1 medium yellow onion, small-diced 2 tbsp minced fresh basil 1/2 tsp kosher salt 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 2 tbsp good olive oil a couple squeezes of lemon juice
Combine all the ingredients and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Skewer the shrimp. I use 3 or 4 shrimp on a 12-inch skewer for dinner. Heat a grill with coals and brush the grill with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. Grill the shrimp for only 1 1/2 minutes on each side.
Note: You can leave the tails on or remove them before grilling.
Every time I say “salsa” I just want to shout out “SALSA!!” and then dance around a little. I don’t know what it is about salsa but I just love it so much! Traditional tomato-based salsa is always on our grocery list because it’s just such a healthy snack but I’m also a huge fan of fruit salsa as well…or more specifically peach salsa. There’s something about the cool and sweet fruit paired with the savory tomato and heat from the jalapeno that is just so addicting to me. So when my cousin (speaking of my cousin…I’m still in need of some donations for the Relay for Life team that is supporting her recovery from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma!!) was here to visit a few weeks ago, she offered to make this mango pineapple salsa she learned to make in one of her culinary classes at Johnson and Wales University. Game. On.
The recipe itself is a piece of cake to throw together – it’s really takes no more than chopping up a bunch of ingredients – but it should be noted that the salsa will need a day in the fridge before you serve it to allow the flavors to really come together. So in addition to my addiction to peach salsa, I’m totally and irrevocably in love and addicted to this mango pineapple salsa! The lime juice and red onion take the fruit to another level and the roasted corn (which you could grill instead) is a surprise ingredient that adds more flavor than you can imagine. The recipe is completely adaptable so if you wanted to leave out the cilantro or add some chopped jalapeno, it will all work just fine. Do yourself a favor and make this salsa now. Or at least for your upcoming Memorial Day party!!
Mango Pineapple Salsa
source: Mariah VanVessem via Johnson and Wales University
2 ears of corn, husked and cleaned 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced small 1 1/2 cups diced pineapple small 1/2 red pepper, seeded and diced small 1/4 cup red onion, chopped small 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped Juice from 1 lime
Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat. Place ears of corn on the hot grill and grill until all sides have browned slightly, about 5-7 minutes. Carefully remove from grill. After cooled for a few minutes, remove the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Set kernels aside to cool fully.
Meanwhile, combine the remainder of the ingredients in a medium bowl and add cooled corn. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to 1 day before serving.
When I saw this recipe posted over at Ezra Pound Cake (my co-conspirator for Barefoot Bloggers) this summer, I knew I needed to make it. I mean, seriously…how incredible do these quesadillas look?? Well, these zucchini and corn quesadillas were out.standing. Really. The veggies were perfectly sautéed while retaining just enough crunch to complement the soft, melted cheese. The only change I made to the recipe was to use a nice sharp cheddar in place of the pepper Jack and it was a great choice to use here. If you’re not looking for heat in recipe like this, be sure to use a cheese with some “umph” like sharp cheddar. While I love Monterrey Jack, I think it would get lost in this recipe. As a vegetarian meal, we were perfectly satisfied but if you need the meat, some grilled or sautéed chicken would probably be delicious added to the quesadillas. I think what I’m most excited about is that you can use frozen corn if fresh corn isn’t in season and that zucchini is available year-round in the grocery stores so we won’t have to wait until next summer to eat these again!
2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 ear of corn, grilled and removed from the ear (my preference) or 1 cup frozen corn kernels (4 ounces)
7 oz canned black beans (or half of a 15oz can), rinsed, drained and dried
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion and 1 teaspoon salt, cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, cook 1 minute more.
Add zucchini, corn kernels, and black beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is soft and corn is tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, if using.
Brush one side of all tortillas with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; lay 2 tortillas, oiled side down, on a baking sheet. Place half of the filling on each, and sprinkle with half the cheese. Place remaining 2 tortillas on top, oiled side up; press down gently with spatula to seal.
Bake until cheese has melted and tortillas are golden brown, turning once, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven; let cool slightly. To serve, slice each quesadilla into wedges.
Last month, we introduced a new challenge to the BB group: Barefoot on a Budget (BoaB) where a pricey Ina recipe is amended to fit into our budgets. The first recipe (Lobster Cobb Salad) was chosen by majority vote and this one was the runner-up, thus becoming May’s BoaB recipe. I would have like to have made the Lobster Cobb Salad but I really want to try it with the lobster and unfortunately, it is still fairly pricey here in New England. Anywho, the this bruschetta was right up my alley and wouldn’t make a big dent in my wallet.
I didn’t find that I needed to change the recipe all that much in order to make it more budget-worthy and you’ll see a breakdown of the cost below. I did halve the recipe since there are only two of us to cook for and swapped out the creamy Gorgonzola for the crumbly. In truth, we made the bruschetta twice this week; once with crumbly Gorgonzola and once with creamy Gorgonzola (which cost $9.99/lb) and the crumbly batch appealed to us much more than the creamy. The difference probably had more to do with the brand than the texture as the creamy was way too strong for our liking. Either way, the recipe is fabulous, both a little sweet (the peppers) and a little salty (the cheese) at the same time, and is one that can easily be made for a larger group.
3 ounces creamy crumbly Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, at room temperature (1.5oz @ $6.99/lb = $0.65)
Total Out-of-Pocket Cost: $3.94 for 2 servings (9 pieces of bruschetta)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the peppers and cook until soft, about 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Stir in the capers and basil, and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Slice the baguette crosswise into 18 thin round slices. Brush the bread rounds lightly with olive oil on 1 side. Arrange them in rows, oil side up, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Top each toast round with a teaspoonful of the pepper mixture. Place 2 small pieces of Gorgonzola on top. Return the toast to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes and warm through. Serve immediately.
So now that my Barefoot Contessa cookbook collection is complete (minus my pre-order of Back to Basics) and that my time has started to free up post-summer, I’ve been digging through Ina’s books for new recipes. I wasn’t really in search of anything specific when I came across Chicken with Tabbouleh in Barefoot Contessa Parties! but I did have some late-season tomatoes that needed to be used up before going to rot on my kitchen windowsill. And being that I’d never actually eaten tabbouleh before, I figured this would be a great new try for me.
Bulgur wheat is not an easy find the regular grocery store (at least not for me) but I did find it in Whole Foods and other than that, everything else in the recipe is easily accessible. The recipe requires a bit of chopping but no cooking at all. You boil some water, pour it over the bulgur wheat, and let it sit for an hour…which was just the amount of time I needed to get showered and dressed for work the morning I made it. It really is such a simple recipe to put together and so worth the little effort it takes. I loved this dish so much and next time will pair it with some of my favorite roasted red pepper hummus in a homemade pita…which I’ll be attempting this weekend.
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (2 bunches)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
In a heat-proof bowl, pour the boiling water over the bulgur wheat. Add the lemon juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Stir. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the bulgur to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.
Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Season, to taste, and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate. The flavors will improve as it sits.
The ultimate comfort food “kicked up a notch.” Whether you prefer the blue box or your mama’s homemade recipe (like I do), most people don’t really argue about the fact that they love mac and cheese. So as we head into cooler weather, it was definitely fitting that Heather of Randomosity and the Girl would choose one of Ina’s mac and cheese recipes for her BB pick.
I haven’t tried many other homemade mac and cheese recipes other than my old (and favorite) standby but I’m always willing to give another recipe a shot. Ina’s recipe combined 2 very grown up cheeses with the deliciousness that is cheddar but since I’m still unsure if I’m allergic to blue cheese or not, I passed it over for a champagne cheddar (Yancy from a small dairy in upstate New York) that brilliantly showed up in my grocery store a few months ago. Holy crap this cheese is good. I wanted something just as sophisticated as the blue cheese and I definitely got it with this cheese.
Aside from the cheese, I made a few other modifications: skim milk, 2% cheddar, and turkey bacon. And while I really enjoyed the mac and cheese, it wasn’t “blow my mind” fabulous. Maybe it’s because of my modifications – maybe turkey bacon isn’t a great substitute for real bacon in all recipes. Maybe I cooked it a few extra minutes – it was a little on the dry side. I don’t know. Kyle wasn’t thrilled with it at all and while he finished his serving, he didn’t go back for seconds – very strange for him. Oh well. I’ve still got our old standby so I’m not upset that this one didn’t turn out as wonderful as I had hoped it would.
Thanks again to Heather for choosing this recipe and for starting our group off on a trend of cool-weather foods!
Place a baking rack on a sheet pan and arrange the bacon in 1 layer on the baking rack. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Remove the pan carefully from the oven – there will be hot grease in the pan! Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and crumble when it is cool enough to handle.
Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt the butter in a medium pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or 2 more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, blue cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and crumbled bacon and stir well. Pour into 2 individual size gratin dishes.
Place the bread slices in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until you have coarse crumbs. Add the basil and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the top of the pasta. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.