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Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

Tira Misu for the Daring Bakers’ Challenge!

In Daring Baker's Challenges, sweets on February 27, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Please remember that pixels are NOT edible!

Boy, oh boy, do I love me some tira misu! It never really occurred to me to make it until this challenge came up – I’m not sure why. I guess because Publix sells them for like, eight dollars. But then again, the ones at Publix aren’t so great. This one actually came out so beautifully, it’s going to be my go-to tira misu recipe from now on.

Now, you don’t really have to make your own mascarpone. That’s a bit over the top, I admit, but I’ll include the instructions here just in case you’re feeling ambitious. I DO, however, recommend making your own ladyfingers. Once you taste these, you’ll never use store-bought again. I mean really – they’re light, airy, sweet, and slightly crispy on the outside – perfect. NOT SPONGY! They’re NOT supposed to be spongy! The store-bought kind are more like sponge cake than anything else. Just trust me on this – it’s worth the effort.

You can do all kinds of variations – many of the other Daring Bakers used citrus and other fruits. Me, I stuck with the traditional espresso because I love espresso. I drink it every day. If you don’t like coffee things though, feel free to experiment! That’s the fun part of cooking!

Here’s everything you need to know:

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

RECIPE SOURCE:

Mascarpone Cheese – Vera’s Recipe (Baking Obsession) for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese.
Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits – Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home
Tiramisu – Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007

OUR NOTES/ TIPS:

  1. If you cannot find Marsala, port wine is considered a good substitute.
  2. If you would rather not use alcohol in your tiramisu due to diet restrictions or because you want to serve it to children, you may replace the Marsala with an equal amount of espresso or coffee.
  3. Many people, especially those who are not excessively fond of coffee, might find brewed espresso very strong. In this case, please feel free to dilute the espresso or coffee to the desired strength.
  4. It is generally suggested that cream with 25% fat is best for making mascarpone, but 36% works just as well.
  5. We both used lime juice. Deeba has a recipe for mascarpone posted on her blog here.
  6. The mascarpone recipe below is for approximately 340gms of mascarpone. The tiramisu recipe requires only 1/3 cup/75gms so you may scale down the recipe to requirement or put the extra mascarpone cheese to other equally good use. (100gms cream will yield approximately 75gms mascarpone)
  7. While using the double boiler to make the mascarpone as well as the zabaglione, always ensure that the bottom of the bowl on top doesn’t touch the bottom of the lower one. It is important to use a stainless steel bowl to pour your cream into, while making the mascarpone.
  8. Ladyfinger batter is very fragile so fold in the flour and yolks very carefully into the meringue so that the whites don’t lose their volume.
  9. It might be a good idea to decide the size of the dish in which you intend to set the dessert, and make the fingers to a size which would fit that dish. This makes it easier when assembling the tiramisu later. Do remember that ladyfingers/ savioardi puff up a little while baking.
  10. Ladyfinger biscuits may be stored up to a week in an airtight container. We both made the savoiardi fingers 4-5 days in advance, and stored them in an airtight box in a cool place (or the refrigerator).
  11. We both made the zabaglione & pastry cream the previous day, and assembled the tiramisu the next morning. I (Aparna) then froze my tiramisu for 7 days before decorating and serving it.
  12. Placing the bowl (in which cream is to be whipped) and the beaters of the hand held electric mixer in the fridge for about 1/2 to 1 hour before hand makes the cream whip up very well.
  13. Do not dip the ladyfinger/ savoiardi into the coffee solution for more than ONE second, or they might become very fragile & disintegrate. Extra soaking is likely to spoil the end product, making it soggy. I (Aparna) dipped my biscuits only on one side and found they soaked up more than enough coffee solution.
  14. If you would like to de-mould your tiramisu from your dish (cutting can be easier and neater this way, you can line your dish with plastic wrap (leaving a little extra on the sides of the dish) and then start assembling your tiramisu. Once the tiramisu sets in the refrigerator, you can use the overhang to pull the tiramisu out of the dish.

We have chosen Baltimore pastry chef Carminantonio Iannaccone’s version of tiramisu for a couple of reasons.

  • Firstly, his recipe is different from most other tiramisu recipes as he makes a zabaglione, an egg custard which is flavoured with Marsala wine (you may use coffee instead). Even more important is that his zabaglione is cooked so there is no risk from using raw eggs.
  • He also makes a vanilla flavoured pastry cream which we haven’t seen in other tiramisu recipes.

While both of us do eat eggs, we do have a preference for desserts where the smell and taste do not come through. We found that the coffee in the recipe masked the eggs in adequately.

Tiramisu is usually made in square dishes and cut into squares to serve. If you want to be different, please feel free to give full rein to your creativity as to how you want to present, decorate and serve your tiramisu. Make it square, round, as individual servings, or whatever! However, your version of Tiramisu must contain the mascarpone cheese and the savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits you made.

PREPARATION TIME:

Tiramisu is made up of several components which can be made separately and ahead of time and put together the day before serving.
Making tiramisu from scratch requires about 2 to 3 days (including refrigeration) from when you start making the mascarpone to the time the tiramisu is served. So this challenge requires some prior planning.

Please read the instructions as you need to begin making the mascarpone at least a day in advance.
The zabaglione & pastry cream also need 4 hours to an overnight for chilling, as does the main dessert. The flavours mature after an overnight rest, and the dessert can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days.
Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.

TIRAMISU

(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

Method:
For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8″ by 8″ should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

MASCARPONE CHEESE

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients:
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

LADYFINGERS/ SAVOIARDI BISCUITS
(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients:
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar,

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

LINKS & ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

Site Links:
Step by step pictures for Tiramisu including zabaglione & pastry cream
Gluten Free Ladyfingers: 1000 gluten-free recipes by Carol Fenster (ladyfingers pg 436, Tiramisu pg 651)
Gluten free Ladyfingers and Tiramisu
Diary Free Tiramisu: Levana Cooks Diary-Free by Lévana Kirschenbaum, Menachem Adelman, Meir Pliskin (pg 86)

Video links for making tiramisu:
These are not for the recipe given for this challenge, but the procedure in the video would be a helpful guide.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TEJXgjId8w
Gordon Ramsay – Video for dipping savioardi – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HlqQqP6Mcw

Also, if you use 8 ounces of mascarpone cheese and  a little extra whipped cream, you’ll end up with enough cream to frost the whole thing like a cake. In addition to being absolutely heavenly, it looks pretty, too.

Still pretty, despite misbehaving cocoa powder!

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Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

In Eggs, Pasta, Vegetables on February 26, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Sloppy, but yummy. And healthy!

We’ve been eating very heavy meals this week, so I thought I’d throw in a veggie dinner one night. The thing is, I kinda have to disguise it if the mister is going to enjoy it. And honestly, I enjoy a good salad as much as the next person, but after a long day, I want a nice solid meal. So I put the veggies in a lasagna with a little pesto and goat cheese, threw an egg on top for protein, and voila! A delicious, hearty meal that’s (relatively) easy on the arteries.

I actually used those no-boil lasagna noodles for the first time with this one – it actually worked out well because it makes it easier to spread the pesto on them. I imagine it would have been a nightmare with the regular kind. But I think I’ll stick to the yes-boil (is that right?) ones for a more traditional lasagna, because isn’t half the fun eating the broken noodles? Besides, I like the curly edges. They tickle my tongue.

This recipe serves two as a main course, or more as a side or appetizer – each person gets an egg on top, so plan accordingly. The egg isn’t even altogether necessary, but I think it adds a nice little flavor on top. And yes, I know the recipe looks long, but it really goes quicker than you think, I promise!

Roasted Veg Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 small eggplant, halved lengthwise

2 small yellow squash

2 small zucchini

1 small onion, quartered

2 tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces fresh spinach

5 No-Boil lasagna noodles

3 ounces goat cheese

1/2 cup pesto

dash salt

1 egg per person

Directions:

First, you’re going to roast your vegetables. Line two baking sheets with foil and spray with non-stick spray. On sheet #1, place the eggplant (cut-side down), yellow squash, and zucchini. On sheet #2, place the onion quarters and tomatoes (cut-side down).

Your veggies should look like this when they're done.

Roast at 375 until wrinkled and bubbly, about 1 hour for sheet #1, and 45 minutes for sheet #2. Flip the onion about halfway through, so they get nice and brown on both sides. Don’t worry if things start getting blackened – that’s part of the goodness of roasting. Wait ’til you taste it!

While this is happening, heat a pan with the olive oil over medium heat. Add spinach and salt, and toss to coat. Cover, and let wilt about 3-5 minutes. Don’t let it get to cooked! If it goes olive-drab, it will come out like mush in the lasagna. A bright emerald green is what we’re going for here. When it’s done, drain it in a colander, and set aside.

When the veggies come out of the oven, let them cool until you can handle them.

-Seperate the onion layers

-Skin the eggplant and tomatoes

-Slice the squash and zucchini about 1/4 inch thick

Now let’s assemble the lasagna. Brush a loaf pan with olive oil. A loaf pan? Yes, a loaf pan!

First Layer – Squish and tear the tomatoes with your fingers, and spread on the bottom of the pan. Crumble some goat cheese in there too. The goat cheese acts sort of like a spackle in this dish. Spread a lasagna noodle with pesto, and lay face down on top. Press gently to even out.

Second Layer – Arrange the yellow squash, half of the zucchini, and half of the onion on top of the noodle. Crumble in some goat cheese to make it stick. Spread another noodle with pesto, and lay and press.

Third Layer – Arrange 1/3 of the spinach, the rest of the zucchini, and half of the remaining onion on top of the last noodle. Spackle with more goat cheese, and add another pesto-covered noodle.

Fourth Layer – Arrange 1/2 the eggplant and the remaining onion on top of the last noodle. Add goat cheese and another pesto-covered noodle.

Fifth Layer – Spread the rest of the spinach and goat cheese on top of the last noodle. Add another noodle, only this time, coat BOTH sides with pesto.

Cut the remaining 1/2 eggplant in half, and pack it down in the sides of the loaf pan to keep the lasagna stable. Cover the pan with foil, and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, or until noodles are soft. If you are using regular noodles, you really only have to heat it through, but the no-boil ones take awhile to soften.

When the lasagna is done, remove it from the oven and let it sit, covered, while you fry your eggs. Just fry them in the usual manner, but keep the yolks somewhat runny – it tastes good over the veggies!

Once the eggs are done, invert the lasagna pan over a plate, and pray. If you’re lucky, it should slide right out as a beautiful, if not very sturdy stack. Serve each slice with an egg on top.

See? That wasn’t so hard!

See? The egg adds deliciousness.

Mongolian Beef

In Beef on February 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Mmmmm....and I didn't even have to tip anybody.

Mr. Gorilla LOVES Mongolian Beef. Any time we go to Pei Wei or P.F. Chang’s, he doesn’t even have to look at the menu. But alas, they do not deliver. You know, I wish every store and restaurant delivered, and they should all be open 24 hours. Because I am lazy, and I keep odd hours.

Anyway, our local Chinese take-out places suck at Mongolian Beef. It’s more like Mongolian Onion, garnished with a few shreds of meat – it makes me crazy, because I have frequent beef cravings and I’m not that good at cooking it myself. Usually. I believe I may have changed my record, because this recipe was really, really good. Really good.

I was feeling generous while planning this week’s menu, and I thought I would make a dinner especially for the mister. So I searched the Google for a Mongolian Beef recipe, and found one by Tish on RecipeZaar that claimed to be a copycat of P.F.Chang’s, which happens to be Mr. Gorilla’s favorite. Aaawww, aren’t I sweet?

I did do a little bit of adapting, and I served it with roasted asparagus. I know it’s weird of me to do that, but I had like, a ton of asparagus, and we haven’t really been eating our veggies. Like I’ve said before – there is no authenticity prize at home.

The recipe as written is good, but I just added a few touches that I thought made it a bit more special. For the record, Mr. Gorilla said it was BETTER than P.F. Chang’s. He may have just been kissing my butt, or he may have been laying the foundation for a no-more-restaurants campaign; but judging by the rate at which he cleaned his plate, I think he meant it!

Mongolian Beef

(adapted from Recipezaar)

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced

3 cloves garlic, pressed

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

dash chili sauce

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sesame oil

1 pound beef (flank steak, skirt steak, or even leftover roast or London broil)

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 large scallions

Directions:

Heat the 1 teaspoon each of vegetable and sesame oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger, and give it a good stir a couple of times around the pan.

Add the soy sauce and water, stir.

Add the brown sugar, honey, chili sauce, and pepper flakes. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then raise the heat to medium and let the sauce boil for a minute or two, but don’t let it thicken.

Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut the steak into stir-fry sized pieces – cut on a 45 degree angle across the grain, so the slices will be more tender. Place beef in sauce, toss to coat, and marinate for about an hour.

When the hour is up, remove the beef from the marinade and dust with cornstarch. Let the beef sit for about 10 minutes so the cornstarch can sink in.

Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 each of vegetable and sesame oils over medium-high in a wok or large pan. When the oil is shimmery and VERY HOT, it is ready to go to work.

Add the beef, and stir fry just until edges are done – leave it a bit rare in the center.

Drain oil, add sauce to the pan, and stir to coat.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat before the sauce gets too thick – it will thicken more as it cools.

Cut the scallions on the diagonal into 2-inch long pieces, and sprinkle on top of the beef.

Serve over rice. The original recipe says to leave the extra sauce in the pan, but I think that’s a huge mistake – you miss out on the deliciousness. I just poured it all on top and let it sink into the rice. Omigod! It was one of those dinners where you just want to keep eating it forever and ever. But eventually, you run out. My waistline says thank god.

Roasted Italian Panini

In Sandwiches on February 24, 2010 at 5:23 pm

An homage to the red, white, and green!

Okay, so it’s not technically a panini – it’s not pressed and grilled. But it is toasted! And besides, when I hear “Italian sandwich”, I think of a giant LaSpada sub, overstuffed with salami and provolone and dripping with oil and vinegar. This is not that. This sandwich is actually pretty common, but the twist here is that you roast your own peppers and tomatoes. Beats the pants off the store bought!

I’m actually frequently inspired to make this sandwich because I have had the best version of it in the world, and I am constantly attempting to reproduce that, to no avail. Let me set the scene:

Mid-afternoon on Italy’s Amalfi coast. September. The sun is shining, the sky is a magical shade of blue. You’ve been wandering up and down the (very hilly) streets of the tiny coastal villages, browsing shops and investigating cathedrals all day long. You’re hungry, your feet hurt, but you are so totally blissed out on the Italian sunshine (it really is different there) and scenery that the last thing you want to do is go back to the hotel. So you’re walking along the waterfront and you come to this little beach-shack type of building, with a wooden deck over the stones, extending out into the water. “Oh, how lovely,” you think. Then you realize it’s a restaurant, and you are the only customer. Sometimes it’s actually good to be the only one! You find a table, and relish the fact that you have the deck to yourself – very peaceful and quiet, except for the seagulls and the distant sounds of tourists on the beach.

You look to your right and see this –

You look to your left and see this –

You realize you are, in fact, here –

At this point, you are giddy with delight and hunger, and the waiter brings your sandwich. The ciabatta bread was baked on premises that morning by the waiter’s mom, who’s been doing this for thirty years. The prosciutto was farmed and cured by his cousin in a neighboring village, and sliced thin enough to read through. The pepper, tomato, and basil were grown at the family farm not a mile away, and brought in fresh a couple of hours ago. Then you take a bite and die of pleasure.

That is the experience I try to re-create every time I make this sandwich, and I fall short every single time. Of course, I only have supermarket ingredients to work with. And no Italian sunshine. Alas. But the sandwich is really freakin’ good anyway! Try it!

Roasted Italian Panini

Ingredients:

2 filone or ciabatta rolls

6 ounces fresh mozzarella

6 slices prosciutto (paper-thin)

2 red bell peppers

2 Roma tomatoes

1 cup (or so) fresh basil leaves

drizzle of olive oil

Directions:

This part can be done ahead of time – cut the peppers in half, and slice the tomatoes. Arrange them all on a foil-lined baking sheet – peppers cut-side down, and drizzle the tomatoes with the oil.  Roast at 350 for about an hour. Keep an eye on them – When done, the peppers should be blackened and wrinkly, and the tomatoes should look all dried out with blackened edges. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, the skin should peel right off the peppers.

Halve the rolls, and arrange the peppers on the bottom. Put as much as you like, but remember they provide much of the moisture to the sandwich, and the taste mellows after roasting. So don’t be afraid of the pepper.

Slice the mozzarella quite thick, and arrange on top of the pepper. I already know you’re going to sneak pieces of cheese while you’re making the sandwiches. No need to hide.

Next, arrange the prosciutto atop the cheese. Curl it artfully, and allow a bit to hang out the side so everyone can see how thin it’s sliced.

Now arrange the fresh basil leaves on top of the prosciutto. You can snip them if you like, but then it tends to fall out of the sandwich. I prefer them whole.

Now top with a few slices of roasted tomato and the top of the roll.

Toast at 425 for about 5 minutes, or just until roll is toasted and cheese begins to get soft. The basil will dry out and get dark, but don’t you worry – that will only improve the taste even further.

Transfer sandwiches from oven to plate to mouth. I know.

Spiced Shortbread Cookies

In sweets on February 23, 2010 at 4:59 pm

These delicate little cookies have a hardcore following!

In the past, I was never a big fan of shortbread. I thought it was sort of dry and bland – in short, not my favorite Girl-Scout cookie. Thin Mints, however, are. But this is about shortbread.

When I started dating Mr. Gorilla, and we had shared our mutual love for all things edible, we did a great deal of cookie-debate. While I was staunchly in the Double-Stuff Oreo camp, he said there was too much creme. What??? Too…much…how? That can’t possible be – there is no such thing as too much Oreo creme! When I recovered from my apoplectic attack, he explained that his favorite cookie was shortbread. I was puzzled, to say the least. Remember, this is the man who I’ve battled for the last slice of bacon pizza – I know he is not averse to flavor. But I listened patiently while he explained the meritous beauty of  a good shortbread, although I was not convinced. He swore he would convert me.

Over the course of our relationship, he has plied me with cheap shortbread, expensive shortbread, domestic, Irish, English, and Scottish. Now, I will admit that my previous opinion of shortbread has been altered – when done well, with quality ingredients, it can be quite nice. Like the comfort food of cookies. But to me, it still needed a little kick in the pants. So, in a mood to do a little experimentation, I played around with a shortbread recipe I found in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook until I found a flavor I liked. It’s not overly-spicy – you can still taste the shortbread itself, but there is just a little something in there for your tongue to wrap around. These cookies are also very delicate – very flaky and crumbly. A far cry from the dense shortbread bricks you find in the grocery store. And they go very well with Earl Grey Tea.

Spiced Shortbread Cookies

(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

splash vanilla extract

Directions:

Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk it to make sure it’s really all combined.

Add the vanilla (just a splash!), and whisk again, until combined.

Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like fine crumbs and starts to cling together.

Form the crumbs into a ball, and knead until smooth. Yes, I know it’s dry and crumbly, but trust me – it will knead, and it will smooth out.

*Note – This is one time where you DON’T want to flour your kneading surface. The flour will mix with the dough, and you’ll lose your delicate flaky texture. This is not a sticky dough, so just knead it on the counter and you’ll be fine.

Roll out dough on parchment to about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut out whatever shapes you like, but dip your cutter in flour every 3-4 cuts. I used a shot glass, but you can use whatever.

You can also dip the tops in sugar before baking, if you so desire.

*Another note – Keep in mind that shortbread doesn’t rise when it bakes – what you put in is what you’ll get out. If you use larger cookie cutters, you may want to roll the dough to be 1/2 inch instead, so it will be less likely to break.

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes, or until bottoms are light golden brown.

Ooohhh...Nutelllllllaaaaaa....

Cool on rack or counter.

Slather with Nutella if desired…