Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Taste aand Create

My partner for this month's Taste and Create is Kelly from Sounding My Barbaric Gulp. Kelly is a long time blogger and culinary teacher. Check out her blog for some yummy looking treats. With spring in the air, I decided to try her Spring Panzanella.

Spring Panzanella
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 loaf hearty (preferrably day-old) bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2cloves garlic, chopped
1 shallot, minced finely
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
a couple pinches of salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut into segments
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
4 handfuls spinach
juice of 1 lemon

In a large bowl toss the bread with the garlic, shallot, thyme, salt and olive oil. Turn the bread out onto a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes - or until they are nice and golden and crunchy.

In a cold skillet pour in a splash of olive oil, a splash of water, and a couple pinches of salt. Dial up the heat and when the water starts to bubble stir in the asparagus. Cover, wait about twenty seconds, now add the peas. Cover, wait a few seconds, now add the spinach. Cover and cook just a few more seconds until the spinach starts to collapse just a bit.

Put the bread crumbs in a large bowl. Now pour the asparagus and peas and all the pan juices over the top of the bread. Squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl and toss to combine everything. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ciabatta Bread

Ciabatta is an Italian bread and according to many Internet sites, it can be made at home, but only experienced bakers should attempt it with the aid of a good bread book. Tonight I proved that statement partially wrong. I am not an experienced baker, but I made 2 loaves of this crusty bread with the aid of my new favorite cookbook, Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett.

I had my doubts, could I really make ciabatta with less effort than it takes to get in the car and drive to Panera for a loaf? Well, once again, Nancy has made me a believer. This was so simple. Last night I mixed the dough, refrigerated it for 3 hours and let it sit on the counter overnight. This morning, I stirred the dough and let it rest. Shaping the dough was easy and the second rise took about 2 hours. The loaves are baked at a high temperature over a pan of water. Forty minutes later, the loaves were golden brown. After 10 minutes of cooling, Kenny and I had dinner, ciabatta with some of the olive oil we purchased in Cortona and parmesan. What a meal!

adapted from Kneadlessly Simple

3 cups (15 ounces) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoons Fleishmann's RapidRise yeast
1 1/2 cups ice water
1 tablespoon olive oil and more for coating the dough

In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients. Add the water and stir to combine. Add the olive oil and stir. Coat the top lightly with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 to 10 hours. Remove from the frig and let rise at room temperature for 12 to 15 hours.

Spray 2 9x12-inch sheets of parchment paper with canola oil and dust with 1/4 cup flour. Line a flat baking sheet (or the back of a rimmed sheet) with parchment paper and dust with flour.
Using a oiled spatula, loosen the dough gently from the bowl. With a oiled knife, cut the dough in half, being careful not to deflate the dough. Place each portion on the sheets of parchment paper and dust with flour. With well-oiled fingertips, gently shape the dough into a 9x6-inch rectangle. Push in the sides of the middle for a "slipper" shape. With a floured, wide spatula, move the loaves to the parchment covered baking sheets, inverting them. Reshape and press deep indentations into the dough with flour-dusted fingertips. Leave the excess flour on the loaves for a rustic look. Let rise 2 hours or until doubled.

Place a shallow pan in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 500 degrees F. Pour one cup of ice water in the pan and bake the loaves on the lowest rack for 30 - 35 minutes. The loaves should be golden brown and the internal temperature is 208 to 210 degrees. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Now for some tips.
  • For ease and accuracy, weigh the flour. This is much easier and cuts down on the cleanup of scattered flour and measuring cups.
  • For the ice water, add ice cubes to the water and stir for 30 seconds.
  • After 20 minutes of baking, insert a digital thermometer into the center of a loaf. I have one that has a probe for the food and the monitor sits outside the oven.
  • Buy a copy of Kneadlessly Simple! It is the textbook for delicious bread with little effort and great results.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

March Cooking with Friends

Dale planned March's day of cooking. This time it was all about Paula Deen and Ina Gartin. Dale is a fabulous cook and she spent many hours searching and planning the menu. It was ambitious, but we were able to complete the delicious meal in just over 3 hours with the help of Susan, Judy and Diane. Check back for the recipes.
March Cooking with Friends Menu

Mixed Green Salad with Pears, Cranberries and Goat Cheese Fritters

Madiera and Mushroom Stuffed Beef Tenderloin

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Tomatoes

Green Beans with Garlic

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Honey Wheat Rolls

Sweet Orange Butter
Plum Cake Tatin


Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew

Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew was featured recently on America's Test Kitchen. I love this show. It is all about experimenting and testing to find the best recipe possible. I had been looking for the perfect recipe for some cannellini beans purchased at Campo de' Fiori and decided to give it a try. Plan ahead because the beans are soaked overnight in a brine solution. This is the first recipe I have tried from the show, but it will not be the last. The stew was hearty and very tasty. Next time, I will add more tomatoes for my personal taste.

Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew

4 quarts water
3 tablespoons salt
1 pound dried cannellini beans
6 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale (about 1 pound), stems removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Ground pepper

Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts cold water. Add beans and soak at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse well.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil and pancetta . Cook until pancetta is lightly browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Add vegetables and cook until they are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minutes. Add broth, water, bay leaves and beans. Increase temperature to high and bring to a simmer. Cover pot and transfer to oven and cook until beans are almost tender (center of bean will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove pot from over and add greens and tomatoes. Return to oven and cook until beans and greens are tender, 30 - 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and add rosemary sprig. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. To serve, drizzle with olive oil. Serves 8.

Shrimp and Grits

During our recent trip to the Georgia coast, we brought home some fresh shrimp. With Doug here to work on our bonus room, this was the ideal time to fix Shrimp and Grits. I usually make Tomato Grits and saute the shrimp in butter, olive oil and garlic and serve over the grits. Tonight I decided to try something different. I began by peeling and deveining the shrimp and using the peelings to make shrimp broth. The broth was used as the liquid for the grits along with the evaporated milk. For the shrimp, bacon is cooked and then the shrimp are cooked in the bacon drippings. The crunch of the crisp bacon served over the shrimp and grits adds flavor and texture. Doug declared the recipe "off the chain" and I would have to agree. Serve with collard greens for a true Southern treat.
Shrimp and Grits

4 cups water or shrimp stock (see below)
1 cup stone-ground grits
1/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine

Bring the water or shrimp stock to boil in a large saucepan. Add grits, salt and pepper. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in butter, cheese and evaporated milk.

While the grits are cooking, fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Pat shrimp dry and cook in the bacon drippings until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Don't over cook! Remove shrimp as they are done. Add onions and garlic to skillet and saute for 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and wine and cook over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until reduced by half. Add shrimp to skillet to reheat and serve over grits and top with bacon.

Shrimp Stock
To add flavor to the grits, make stock from the shrimp peelings.

Peelings and tails for 1 pound shrimp
1 stalk of celery, cut into pieces
1 carrot, cut into pieces
1/2 onion, cut into pieces
4 1/2 cups water

Put all ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer for 1 hour. Strain before adding to grits.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Kneadlessly Simple

In January, I was consumed with making a perfect loaf of no-knead bread. My first attempt was less that successful, but after a search of the Internet and experimenting with different flours and yeast, I was finally able to produce a great loaf.
And then last week, I purchased Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. As I read through her recipes I noticed a number of differences in her use of ingredients and methods. I will admit that I was very skeptical about the results, after all, I had become the expert on no-knead bread just 2 months ago! Nancy's method includes using cold water and chilling the dough before the first rise and I had no faith that the bread would rise. Boy was I wrong. Just take a look at those bubbles of carbon dioxide from the yeast. Since I was in a hurry to finish the bread, I used Nancy's tip for the second rising and placed the dough in the microwave with a cup of boiling water for an hour. I heated the 4 1/2 quart LeCreuset Dutch oven, plopped the dough in the pot and baked it. The smell during the baking was incredible. And the bread was wonderful, crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. Nancy knows what she is doing when it comes to no-knead bread. The book includes a variety of recipes and is a must for every wanna-be baker.

Crusty White Peasant-Style Pot Bread
adapted from Kneadless Simple

4 cups (20 ounces) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoon Fleischmann's RapidRise yeast
2 cups ice water
Canola oil spray
In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add the water and stir vigorously until thoroughly blended. Spray the top of the dough with canola oil, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours. Remove from the frig and let rise for 18 to 24 hours, stirring once about halfway through rising.

Using an oiled spatula, gently lift and fold the dough to the center until deflated. Spray the surface with canola oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or place in a microwave with a cup of boiling water until the dough is doubled.

Preheat a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven in a 450 degree F. oven. Remove the Dutch oven from the oven, being careful - the pot is very hot. Loosen the dough from the bowl with a spatula and gently invert into the pot. Brush the top with water and cover with the lid. Shake gently to center the dough.

Reduce the temperature to 425 degrees F. and bake on the lower rack for 55 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center registers 209 to 212 degrees F. on an instant-read thermometer. Cool in the pot on a wire rack for 10 minutes and remove the loaf to the rack and cool.
If you have any leftovers, cut into cubes for croutons or to use in panzanella.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tomato Grits

Tomato Grits is a family favorite. This spicy dish packs a punch and is delicious as a side dish for barbeque and smoked chicken.

Tomato Grits

2 cups water
1 1/4 cups 2% milk
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup green onions, diced
4 ounces Velvetta cheese, diced
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 can lime and cilantro Rotel tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a saucepan, bring the water and milk to a boil. Add salt and grits and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, cover and cook over low heat until the grits are creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup butter. Saute onions in 1 tablespoon butter until tender. Add onions, Velvetta, 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese and garlic powder to grits and stir until the cheeses are melted. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Pour into a greased 8"x11" casserole pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Top with remaining cheddar cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serves

Friday, March 13, 2009

Parks and Mallory

It seems as though all the Bunco Babes' children are getting married. The latest Barn celebration was for Linda's son, Parks, and his beautiful fiancee, Mallory. The darling couple agreed to come to the Barn for an evening of soup and fun. Thanks to all the Babes for the delicious food and the weatherman for the perfect weather.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snow at Quail Hollow

Georgia weather can be a little strange. For several days, the weather people have been forecasting snow. In Georgia, that can cause a lot of excitement. But yesterday it was hard to believe that the forecasters were correct when the temperature outside was 60 degrees.

But they were correct and we enjoyed a day of snow. The storm started as rain and as the temperatures fell, the rain turned to sleet and then to snow. We actually had thunder snow! The flakes were huge and coming down fast and at times it was almost a white out.

Libby and Lucy loved the snow. They had a great time chasing each other and rolling in the snow. Kenny and I were content with a stroll around the house with the camera, taking pictures of our winter wonderland. By nightfall, the snow had stopped and the temperatures were warming and the snow was melting from the roadways. What a great day!

Guacamole Salad

This has been my week of experimenting in the kitchen. As usual, it begins with a trip to the grocery to find the bargains of the week. Unfortunately, avocados were super cheap --unfortunate because I don't love avocados. I do love the color and the fact that they are healthy, but the flavor is so bland. But I added a few to the basket and headed home to look for a great recipe full of flavor. Once home, I tuned into the Food Network and there was Ina Gartin making Guacamole Salad! Destiny in the kitchen --- it was meant for me to buy those avocados and try her recipe. I checked out the recipe online and it was a 5 star favorite of more than 100 reviewers.

This is a very simple recipe with that packs in the flavor. Now all I had to do was wait for the avocados to ripen. The timing was perfect. They were ripe and ready for the Bunco dinner that included Payton's Chicken Stew, Spicy Southern Cornbread and Panna Cotta. The meal was well balanced and looked wonderful.

Guacamole Salad
adapted from Ina Gartin

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/2-inch diced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
Zest from 1 lime
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes) or more to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and 1/2-inch diced

Place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, jalapeno peppers, and lime zest in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables. Toss well. Just before serving, add the avocados. Serve at room temperature.