January 31, 2009

year-round paninis

While reading the newspaper (or, uh, my AOL homepage news) a month ago, I came across an article about how people on average only eat about 10 different meals per year. Of course, as a likely decision of a foodie, I was determined to prove that I was different, and so I created a food table. It was perfect timing- January 1st. So, for the past month, I've recorded each dinner I had eaten every night. I hardly have any "staple" recipes in my house- I like to try new things, see. But a few years ago I came across Giada Di Laurentiis' grilled vegetable paninis. The recipe itself really served as more of an inspiration for further experimenting as opposed to being followed to a T, and is very versatile. I usually substitute whatever vegetables I have on hand, and just used sliced whole wheat bread instead of a baguette, but to each his own. This is a must.

Though Giada doesn't grill her paninis, I insist that you do. Whether it be with a panini pan, press, or a George Foreman grill, grill them; the cheese melts and the bread gets warm and crusty- YUM. 

Grilled Vegetable Paninis
Adapted from Giada Di Laurentiis

1/4 cup olive oil
2 small japanese eggplants or 1 medium to large regular eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 yellow onion, chopped (not finely)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 baguettes (I usually use presliced whole-wheat bread- BreadAlone's Whole Wheat Sourdough is my favorite)
1/2 cup Basil Pesto
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
8 large basil leaves, optional

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Drizzle the oil over the eggplant, zucchini, and onion slices, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill the eggplant, zucchini, and onions until they are tender and grill marks appear, about 4 minutes per side. Cool completely.

Cut each baguette into 6 pieces. Working with one baguette piece at a time, slice in half and spread both sides with pesto. Working with the bottom slice of the baguette, stack 2 slices of eggplant, 2 slices zucchini, 1 slice onion, 1 slice tomato, 1 slice mozzarella, and 1 slice of roasted pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place top half of baguette on top and continue with remaining baguette. **Place in a panini press or pan, and grill until flattened and cheesy!**

January 29, 2009

simple stuffed mushrooms

A while ago, I presumed that after my tests were over, I could have a bit of fun trying out complex recipes while my family, very encouragingly, keeps telling me to just go out and buy whatever it is that I have a hankering for instead of befouling the kitchen with dirty dishes yet again. So, and I can see how this would be rather anticlimactic, I decided to relax with a book, and go with simple meals. 
 I normally only eat stuffed mushrooms at my relative's house on holiday, and I always had thought that they seemed rather complex to make. However, I stumbled on this recipe which turned out to be incredibly easy, and I conveniently had all of the ingredients on hand. Between my lack of enough mushrooms for the recipe, and the moist, delicious flavor of the stuffing, each cap was irresistibly stuffed over an inch above its surface. 
This recipe is great side to make for an easy dinner, and is sure to impress. 

Artichoke-Stuffed Mushrooms
From Cooking Light

1 1/2 pounds large fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs (I toasted whole wheat bread, and then ground it into crumbs)
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (I used a package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed)
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Rinse and pat mushrooms dry. Remove stems, and chop; reserve mushroom caps

Sauté mushroom stems, onion, and garlic in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes or until onion is tender

Add wine, and cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in breadcrumbs. Remove from heat, and let cool.

Combine onion mixture, artichoke, and next 5 ingredients. Spoon 1 teaspoonful into each mushroom cap. Place on a lightly greased rack in a roasting pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. 

January 13, 2009

brioche, light and fluffy

I have been so busy with schoolwork that I haven't had much time to post, but I have a lot to report on. First, I think i'm the only person who wasn't aware that finals take place for a whole two weeks. Yep, two weeks of studying, testing, and then school work. Exciting, huh? I can't pretend that I'm not looking forward to it at all, though- ok, maybe not the studying itself, but the fact that I get to enjoy my beloved brioche whilst I bury my nose in my books.
So it all started about a year ago when I bought myself Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook. As i've repeatedly stated, I love Ina, and I've never made a recipe of hers that has dissappointed. So, you can imagine my frustration about deciding just what recipe to make from her cookbook (her flawless pictures are partly to blame for my indecision). A year later, I, shamefully, have yet to make anything from the book. I finally decided enough was enough, and though I have somewhat of an i-can't-make-bread fetish, I fearlessly took my yeast out of the cabinet, and turned that oven on to 375 º. 

And everything went against the odds- my yeast rose, my dough was perfectly kneaded, and it fluffed up just the right amount. To top it off, I was able to enjoy a slice of hot brioche right out of the oven. It was delicious- light, soft, and not too buttery, but just enough to make me yearn for more still a day later. This recipe is incredibly easy, for those, including me, who thought that they would never be able to make brioche. I can't wait to use it for french toast, and I have some other good ideas in mind... 

January 2, 2009

sunday morning waffles and strawberry butter

As a receiver of Christmas gifts, I know that my duty is to eat, and use, all of my kitchen- related items. But, unfortunately, it wasn't until a few days ago that I got around to using my waffle maker that I had pleaded for, despite my mom's claim that there are enough of my dear cooking tools (or, as she calls them, "little accessories") in the kitchen. But she finally consented after she caught a glimpse of me pathetically slipping a small frozen waffle (and, uh, not at all purposely) out of the freezer, and then witnessing it burn in our erratic toaster oven.
And though it was Sunday, it was a good Sunday, because I realized I had the whole week ahead of me before I have to pack my books and go back off to school.
So I went all out.
Scrambled eggs, veggie sausages, the whole deal. I even dug out some frozen strawberries to try and make strawberry butter. And I happened to eat plenty of it (the food, not just the butter!) before I realized a half eaten meal would not make for a semi-attractive picture. I think I'm starting to notice a pattern here... At least there was some food left before I remembered the camera.
Anyway, I'm trying to enjoy my last two days of break, and spreading optimism. I think my good mindset has something to do with the butter.

Strawberry Butter
From epicurious.com

1 10-ounce package frozen sweetened strawberries, thawed
1 cup (2 sticks) unsweetened butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
*1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange peel (I omitted this because I didn't have any orange, and it turned out well)

Combine all ingredients in processor. **Blend until smooth, scraping bowl occasionally, about 5 minutes. Transfer strawberry butter to medium bowl. Cover and chill. (Can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

*If you're out of oranges, I would advise you not to use orange juice instead. This recipe is already very smooth, and the addition of the juice may just liquify it. It turns out well without the orange, either way
**It took a lot longer than 5 minutes for mine to get really smooth, like the consistency of butter. It will eventually turn light pink, and clump-free, just make sure the strawberries are well thawed.