Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Girls Who Lunch

Today I attended a gathering of friends for our June Cookbook Book Club. If you have never seen me post about this we meet once a month, our hostess chooses a book from which each of us cooks and we each bring a dish. I should say that all of us thoroughly enjoy this and we eat wayyyyyyy more than we normally would for lunch but I do love taste testing new recipes that I have never prepared before. It has been such fun visiting in each others homes, the conversations have been very interesting and this is for me getting acquainted with women I had not known before with the exception of the friend who invited me to join. Her and I graduated from high school together soooooooo many years ago.

Todays luncheon was fabulous as usual and we cooked from our second league book in our community, A Thyme to Celebrate.
All of the recipes prepared were excellent.

We lost a couple of members since January so we invited a new member to our group. She brought this delicious appetizer, The Perfect Corn Dip. An easy and tasty recipe. 

The Roasted Tomatoes with Feta Cheese Olives and Pine Nuts were another amazing recipe. These would be wonderful as a side but I think could also be served as an appetizer on cocktail plates, soooooooo good.
 Tomato Basil Tart with Spinach, yet another delicious recipe with a little different twist for a Tomato Tart.
This was probably my favorite, Tortilla Pie and I feel quite certain my Mr Picky Eater would really enjoy this. I think I will be preparing it soon.
Oh and this recipe was divine, Gruyere Thyme Potatoes.  I can see it becoming a family favorite at my house. The last time I prepared a Potato Gratin was at Christmas but this one was much tastier. I think it was the use of the shallots and thyme in this recipe but there was a definite taste difference to some I have made before.
This was my contribution to our luncheon. I tested this recipe about a week ago and I'm glad I did. I think it was much better when I made it today.
Summer Garden Chicken Pasta
2 pints grape tomatoes
8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced (about two garlic cloves)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
18 large basil leaves, julienned (1 ounce)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
8 ounces angel hair pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes into halves and place in a shallow baking pan. Slice the mushrooms and add to the tomatoes. Sprinkle with the garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss gently to coat. Roast for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are a bit shriveled.
Combine 1/2 cup olive oil, the basil and red pepper flakes in a large bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and roasted vegetables and toss well. Let stand until serving time.
Cook the pasta using the package directions. Drain well and return to the saucepan. Add the chicken mixture and toss well. Spoon into large individual serving bowls and sprinkle with cheese.
My Notes: Obviously I did not serve this in individual bowls but instead in a large pasta bowl. I also added in some fresh feta cheese (a 7 ounce block that I cubed) after the mixture had cooled. I feel that the blocks of feta are so much tastier. The red pepper flakes, I used an imported pepperoncino that I always keep on hand. I also used farfalle pasta for ease of serving. This is a dish that can be served warm or at room temperature which I think tastes better. When making the vinaigrette it is important to use a really good olive oil, a lot of the flavor for this dish comes from the olive oil you use. I am truly a believer in not skimping on the ingredients you use in any given dish.
The roasted veggies made their own sauce as well and I poured every bit of it into the pasta dish.
I roasted my own bone in chicken breast with salt and pepper, a little olive oil and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice. You could also use a rotisserie chicken but roasting  chicken breasts yourself lended itself to a more moist chicken. I baked them at 400* for about 40 minutes.
In my opinion this was an exceptional summer pasta dish, one I will make often. I also think one could add in some kalamata olives for added flavor.
I failed to get a photo of the BEST part, dessert. A Coconut Cream Cheese Pound Cake was shared and it had the most wonderful flavor using the coconut. An excellent pound cake and I will do a better job next time of getting photos of all recipes shared.

This was a delightful luncheon and it makes me think that I should go back and use more of the tried and true cookbooks. That's what I am taking away from the experience along with making some new friends.
Next month we will be cooking from one of Ina Garten's books, Make It Ahead. Ina is one of my most favorite cookbook authors so I am looking forward to that experience. I'm finding that every single time we meet there are always recipes presented that I have never made before. I most often think to myself, "Why have I not tried this recipe before?" It's a "Good Thing".
Have a wonderful Fourth of July weekend and stay safe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Eggplant Tomato Gratin

When summer gardens are in full productivity it's a great time to make a vegetable gratin. I was inspired to do just that after watching Jacques Pepin's program on the Create/PBS station one afternoon. He was preparing an Eggplant-Tomato Gratin.

Jacques Pepin is one of my most favorite TV chef's and his most recent series follows his most recent book, "Heart & Soul In The Kitchen". I have this book and I highly recommend it. In it he shares many vegetable gratin dishes but I think this one is by far my most favorite.
"Eggplant-Tomato Gratin"

2 eggplants, preferably long, narrow Chinese eggplants (about 14 ounces total)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound)
1 cup diced (1/2-inch) day-old baguette
3/4 cup diced (1/2-inch) Gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1/3 cup minced fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Trim off both ends of the eggplants. Cut them crosswise in half, then cut each half lengthwise in half, so you have 8 pieces.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil on the foil and put the eggplant slices cut side down in the oil. Turn the slices cut side up and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.

Bake the eggplant for about 20 minutes, until tender. Remove from the oven.

Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices.

Process the diced bread and cheese in a food processor for about 30 seconds, until very coarsely chopped.

Arrange the baked eggplant pieces in a 4-cup gratin dish, alternating them with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with the thyme, chives, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Toss the bread and cheese mixture with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and spread on top of the vegetables. (The gratin can be prepared to this point hours ahead.)

Bake the gratin for 30 minutes, or until crusty and brown.

I always enjoy using fresh herbs from my herb garden and I do have thyme and chives. My chives are garlic chives but I liked the mild garlic flavor added to this dish. Fresh herbs give each dish a special taste and too it's always comforting to cut things from your garden to use in any dish.
This smelled just heavenly prior to popping it in the oven.

Lightly browned and a perfect side dish to almost any meat. It was so very good, an outstanding combination of flavors. I could have made a meal just off of this dish. My Mr Picky Eater loves eggplant so I knew in advance that this would get a huge thumbs up. I wasn't wrong, he LOVED it.
An excellent summer side dish and I hope you'll try this recipe.

I will be linking this post to Foodie Friday hosted by Michael Lee West at Rattlebridge Farm. To view other excellent recipes shared click HERE.

Enjoy your weekend, Carolyn

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Gruyere, Ham and Spinach Strata

When I come across recipes such as this one I almost always make a copy of it. For several reasons, the simplicity of it, it sounds delicious but aside from that I am always looking for a simple recipe to serve say for instance a ladies brunch or a light dinner for myself and my husband. Now my husband, as I often refer to him as "Mr. Picky Eater" but strangely enough he is getting better about that. More about that later.
I thought this was a beautiful presentation, it smelled heavenly and quite honestly, DIVINE!!!!!
"Gruyere, Ham and Spinach Strata"

10 ounce frozen chopped Spinach, thawed
1 1/2 cup onion, chopped
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound Black Forest Ham, cut in 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
8 cups French bread, cut in 1 inch cubes
2 cups Gruyere, grated
1 cup Parmigiona-Reggiano, finely grated
2 3/4 cup milk
9 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Drain the thawed spinach, using your hands to squeeze as much water from it as possible. Set it to the side.

In a large skillet heat the butter and onions and sauté' until onions soften. Place the spinach in the pan and add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Combine the mixture and remove from the heat.

Mix the two cheeses together in a bowl.

Grease a 3 quart gratin dish with softened butter and spread one third of the bread across the bottom of the dish. Next add a layer of spinach using 1/3 of the spinach mixture. Layer 1/3 of the ham on top of the spinach, sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over the ham and repeat the layering two more times.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the strata then cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake uncovered for 45 to 55 minutes or until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

I served this for a light dinner for the two of us and thought it was amazingly good. It had everything one would need from each food group so I simply added some sliced tomatoes to round out our dinner.
Right now we are seeing some really beautiful and tasty tomatoes in our area and I thought this made an excellent dinner for the two of us. Pared with a good white wine also goes without saying. It would also be a perfect brunch or luncheon dish as well.

Getting back to my "Mr Picky Eater", he has decided that since he knows that I love trying new recipes all the time that he will either eat it or go hungry. Actually, I was shocked to hear him say the words. Soooooooo, who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
I hope you try this scrumptious dish and enjoy it as much as I did. I will be sharing my post at Foodie Friday hosted by Michael Lee at Rattlebridge Farm. You can click HERE to see other wonderful recipes shared.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rose' Sangria

In our area of the world it has become HOT, HOT,HOT. An afternoon refreshing and fruity Sangria is a welcome sight.
I have made this recipe numerous times changing it up from time to time and I now think I have come up with the perfect Sangria recipe. My daughter tells me she has never had a better one, I made it for her recently when we had her birthday celebration. It is light, fruity, and absolutely delicious. I mix all the ingredients early in the day so it can steep in the refrigerator for several hours. After a good long work out in the garden this is delightful.
The most important thing to a good Sangria is a really good wine. I prefer a French Rose' and one that is not too dry or too sweet but a very well balanced Rose'. I'm not trying to sell any particular wine but I do happen to like this one. I learned something new a couple of weeks ago about buying a Rose', below where the wine is stored there is a marker saying on a scale from one to ten, one being the driest and ten being the sweetest. I never even noticed it before and I thought it to be so very helpful because I don't like an overly dry wine or one that is too sweet. At least they do where I buy my wine. Psssssst, ABC.

"My Favorite Summer Rose' Sangria"

2-750 ml bottles of a good Rose' wine
1 cup Pom's pomegranate juice
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup superfine sugar
6 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons Cognac
1 navel orange, sliced thinly
1 lemon, sliced thinly
4-5 strawberries, sliced

Combine the Rose', pomegranate juice, lemon juice, sugar, Grand Marnier, and Cognac in a large glass pitcher. Add the sliced orange, lemon and strawberries and mix well. Refrigerate covered with plastic wrap for several hours or overnight.

To serve place ice in your prettiest wine glass, pour your Sangria in the glass and add in a piece of fruit and I promise you, you will get lots of compliments.

This will serve six people but it keeps for a couple of days.
This is soooooooooo delicious and pretty too. Try it, I promise you will come to really enjoy it. Ooooops, it doesn't last long at my house especially if my grown kidlets happen to stop in.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I do enjoy all your comments. I hope each of you have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Tortellini Primavera

This is a recipe that came from Ree Drummond's most recent book, "Dinnertime". I found this recipe to be so easy yet delicious and uses the freshest of veggies we are seeing in our markets now.
I have never been a huge fan of Ree Drummond's books but this one I highly recommend. There are many recipes that I would like to try, just so you know.

This was a new twist on Pasta Primavera in that she used tortellini and probably more cheese than one would usually use but how can that be bad? It was an amazing dish.

"Tortellini Primavera"
serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 cup small cauliflower florets
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup small-diced cooked ham
12 basil leaves, chopped, plus more for serving
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 pound cheese or spinach tortellini, cooked according to package directions

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the carrots and cauliflower and stir, then cook for another minute. Splash in the wine and broth and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid has reduced a bit. Turn the heat to low and add the cream and Parmesan. Stir the sauce and let it bubble up and thicken for 2 to 3 minutes more. Pour in the frozen peas (they'll start to thaw immediately) and the ham. Stir it all around, then add the basil, salt and pepper to taste. Finally, toss in the tortellini and serve it up with extra Parmesan and basil.
Ree also mentioned that all the vegetables and diced ham could be prepped ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

You can also use cooked shrimp instead of the ham. Could also use any variety of vegetables: asparagus, diced zucchini, diced yellow squash, diced red bell pepper, whatever you like or whatever happens to be in your fridge needing to be used up.
I did choose to use haricot vert and portobello mushrooms (I think they have so much more flavor as opposed to white mushrooms) instead of broccoli and cauliflower since Mr Picky Eater won't eat either of them. It all turned out good since he thoroughly enjoyed the veggies I chose to substitute. I also used fresh basil from my herb garden but any grocery would have the fresh basil, that is an important feature to this recipe IMO.
Prepping in advance was very helpful, this dinner was prepared in such a short time.
The tortellini bubbling away and cooked just until al dente. I did use a spider to remove the pasta into my large skillet just on the chance that I may need to add a little water from the pasta pot which I did. The sauce needed a slight more water to loosen everything up.

A quick, easy, one dish meal that went together so very quickly. Didn't have to heat up the kitchen with the oven turned on either.
It was an amazing dish and pared with a glass of chardonnay that I had used in the dish itself, PERFECT.
I hope you will try this dish. It was excellent and I didn't even add a salad although one could it just wasn't necessary.
I actually thought it would make an excellent dinner party fare in which case I would have served a salad along with some crusty bread. A lighter dinner with a "KILLER" dessert. Something sinfully delicious, maybe an over the top chocolate cake which I have made recently and will share very soon.

I am sharing this post at Michael Lee's Foodie Friday. Click HERE to see other marvelous recipes shared.

Thank you for visiting my blog and I love to see your comments if you are so inclined.