Thursday, February 24, 2011
I don't have any good stories or nice photos this week. My sincerest apologies; I'm running on a low tank of energy and cooking time. What I do have is a simple, straightforward dinner that you can probably make out of what's in your fridge right now. It’s the simplest of the simple. And honestly, sometimes simple is perfect.
I was surprised by this dish. In a good way. I didn't think it would be "all that" but it was (like I could get through even a tiny post without a cheesy and disgusting 90s throwback phrase *snaps fingers*). Smoky with a little bit of heat from the smoked paprika and tangy and delicious from the unorthodox "sauce." With one run through of cooking this, it is embedded in my brain and weeknight dinner repertoire for life. That's pretty stinkin' good. Wouldn't you say?
PASTA with CHICKPEAS and BLISTERED CHERRY TOMATOES
(from my -new BFF- the Epicurious App)
8 ounces of pasta, any shape (dunno what 8 ounces looks like but we used ¾ a box)
1-1 ½ containers cherry tomatoes
1 can chick peas, drained
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. smoked paprika
½ cup halved, pitted kalamata olives
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Grated Parmesan for sprinkling (also optional)
Heat pasta water in a large pot, once boiling salt generously. Add pasta, cook until al dente, 8-10 minutes usually. When you drain the pasta, reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water and whisk that hot, salty water into your half cup of hummus. This is your sauce. Say what? I know! But it’s delicious.
Meanwhile, while your pasta cooks, in a large skillet over high heat, drizzle in about two tablespoons of olive oil. Add tomatoes and cook, until blackened in spots, shaking the skillet occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add chickpeas, garlic and paprika, crush some of the tomatoes to release juices. Add pasta to the skillet and the “sauce” toss everything together, mix in the olives and the cilantro if using. I skipped the cilantro, solely because I forgot to buy some. I didn’t feel as though anything was missing, but if you’re a cilantro fan, have at it, hoss. Season with salt and pepper and top with grated parmesan, if you’re like me and can’t eat pasta without it. Serve with salad and wine. Hearty, healthy, cheap and delicious. Can I get an amen?
Friday, February 18, 2011
I haven't been hosed by a recipe like this for a long time. When I saw this French Toast Casserole Type Thing online a few weeks ago, I almost died. Cinnamon, pancetta, ciabatta? Check yes for all three. I used the best ingredients and was completely and totally convinced that it was going to be the Most Epic Brunch Dish Ever. Which is saying a lot because you know how I feel about brunch.
The pairing of salty and sweet is my favorite. I will always lead with the savory, because that's just the kind of girl I am, but if I'm out to breakfast with a group, I might be the first to suggest that perhaps we get a chocolate chip pancake? You know? For the table.
So I saw this recipe and I was pretty much convinced that it would change my life. I love, love, love cinnamon toast. I also adore bread puddings and essentially, to me, this was what I was looking at. A breakfast bread pudding with crumbly, salty pancetta in between the cinnamon-sugarey layers.
But what about it? I wouldn't be including all this dark culinary foreshadowing for nothing, now would I? This thing sucked. I was SO bummed. SO bummed. It was three weeks ago and I'm still not over it.
I prepared it the day before, as was suggested and as I was making it, huffing crisped pancetta and deep, delicious Vietnamese Cinnamon, I was LIT-rally dancing in my kitchen going "oh no you di-in't" out loud to myself (it's not a pretty picture, but it's an honest one). I was BEYOND convinced that this would be delicious. Even though there was ricotta cheese in it. Which I do not like at all. I figured, it wouldn't take precedence what with all the other delicious elements happening.
So with great care, I prepared, wrapped up and dropped my casserole at my girlfriend's house, who was hosting brunch the next morning. I was fully prepared to have a show stopping breakfast the next morning, with the inclusion of this dish.
And it was dry and salty and just lacking, really. There was LACK. I wanted to be soothed with sweet cinnamon sugar melty-ness with just a hint of crispy pancetta but instead I was all (bogus face) "this is SALTY. And dry." And I was devastated. Fortunately there was a ridiculous lemon danish and three type of quiche for me to drown my sorrows in.
So this week's post is just a lame lesson that some recipes are just duds. Although this one's mere existence has inspired me and I know that with some tweaking, the breakfast vision I had can be fulfilled. Stay tuned.
Posted by Jess at 10:38 AM
Friday, February 11, 2011
Us girls can all agree on this phenomenon I think. Maybe dudes too. When you are single and just sort of maybe kind of starting to date or be interested in someone, within your circle of friends, they immediately get a code name. Right? Think about your significant other, or any ex significant other, I bet you 20 bucks that at one point in time they had a nickname based on a noticeable physical characteristic or perhaps their career choice or where you met him or her. For every actual relationship there has been a 16 Ounce Hazelnut, Ski Boyfriend or a Silver Fox. This is a safe way of speaking about them without getting too attached yet squarely identifies them as a Person of Interest.
I met Paul online. I know, right? Yes, we did. Why not? I use the internet for everything else; why not use it to land me a Good Man? And we met on a website that required you to have a screen name that wasn’t your full regular name or actually anything close to it. I guess that was for um, safety reasons or anonymity or whatever. So I had joined mostly to entertain my married roommates and wasn’t taking it too seriously, which was working out just fine because there was no one really all that interesting on my list of compatible suitors. And then one afternoon I came across LetsEatPBandJs. He was cute, funny, in a band, had a job, was two inches taller than me and closed out his profile with a joke about Tony Danza. I was intrigued immediately. I sent his link to my roommate, Aja. “I kind of love this guy for you!” she wrote back. I wrote him a message, he wrote back, I wrote back, he wrote back, I gave him my phone number, he called me the next day, we talked for about 45 minutes I think about Halloween costumes and hair bands (what?) and the next day we met for brunch, coffee and a long walk. It was our first date and it was good, so we went out again, and again, and again and we haven’t stopped since.
So for those first two weeks of communicating, to my girlfriends Paul was “Peanut Butter Jelly Time.” As in “How was your date with Peanut Butter Jelly Time?” If I smirked at an incoming text message “Is that from Peanut Butter Jelly Time?” or when he would be coming over for a date they would dance in the living room and sing “Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Peanut Butter Jelly Time.” His nickname came from his screen name and something that was on an episode of Family Guy, which at the time we were watching a lot of because it was on like, 7 times back to back on Tuesday nights.
And eventually he became more than a code name or a Person of Interest and Peanut Butter Jelly Time became Paul, a real, live human male, that was appropriately aged, gainfully employed and wanted to be my boyfriend (wee!!!). But though the nickname fell to the wayside sometimes when I think of him, I still think PB&J. Which is sort of completely adorable because his initials are PB and um in case you didn’t know I’m a J! Did you just puke? Alright, that’s enough of that. It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time:
PEANUT BUTTER JELLY THUMBPRINTS
From Martha Stewart
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup smooth peanut butter (I strongly recommend Teddie’s)
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus more for rolling)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup raspberry jam
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl beat peanut butter and butter with a mixer on medium speed until smooth. (A helpful hint when working with peanut butter: sure it’s easy to scoop it into the measuring cup, but then getting it out and into your bowl is a bit messier. Lightly spray your measuring cup with vegetable or olive oil spray and the PB will pour right out of the cup.) Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Turn speed down to low, add dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Scoop equal sized spoonfuls of dough and roll into balls, roll balls in sugar and place (about 2 inches apart) on a non-stick cookie sheet or one that has parchment paper or a Silpat liner. Bake until cookies are puffy, about 10 minutes. Remove cookie sheet from oven and using the handle end of a wooden spoon press indentations in the center of each cookie. You can get fancy here and attempt to press your indentations into heart shapes, but honestly, only one will come out looking like a heart and the rest will come out heart-ish so to save any high expectations of romantic cookies, just stick with little circles, they are still cute and still delicious.
Return cookies to oven and bake until edges are golden. This recipe says 6-7 minutes more, but I only cooked mine for an additional 4 minutes. Reason being is that peanut butter cookies are amazing, but it only takes about 30 seconds of over cooking to render them into a dry mess. So for the sake of deliciousness, I under cooked mine. This meant they were slightly fragile and I had to be careful when transferring them to the cooling rack, but as they cooled, they firmed up a bit. Let cookies cool on rack completely.
Heat jelly or jam in a small saucepan until loosened. I was using some amazing homemade jam which has a very loose consistency as it was. So all I did here was take the whole jar and place it in a warm sauce pan for a few minutes and it was fine. If your jelly is very thick, you will want to heat it a bit more, but as long as it’s in a glass jar, I see no reason why you should even have to measure out the half cup and dirty a pan with sticky jelly. Just place it right in the simmering water and give it a couple stirs. Then, using a small teaspoon, spoon a bit of jelly into the indentations in your thumbprints. Cookies should be store in a single layer and keep for up to a week, but are best the first two days. Try not to eat like, 90 of these, 'cause they are SOOOO good.
Friday, February 4, 2011
HONEY ROASTED ONION FLAT BREAD
3 bacon slices (or 4-5 of pancetta)
3 medium onions, cut cross wise into ¼ inch(ish) circles
¼ cup honey
¼ cup dry white wine
¾ crème fraiche; or, ½ cup ricotta
½ tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Shredded gruyere cheese (about ¾ c.)
Grated parmesan (a few tablespoons)
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
Flat bread pizza crust
This was originally SPOSTA be a tart. A flaky delicate little buttery thing with a crème fraiche base and an egg wash and all that. Sposta, as in “supposed to,” as in, now past tense, because I forgot to take the puff pastry out of the freezer. Just like I knew I would. But what are you gonna do? Turns out I had a flat bread crust from Trader’s in the fridge and I was back in business just like that. If you would like to make a tart instead, the original recipe can be found here. But if you’d like to make the Porky D. hacked version, step right this way.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Crisp pancetta (or bacon) in a pan over medium high heat. Remove slices and drain on paper towels, crumble once the bacon has cooled; reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings. Slice onions into thin rounds, using a mandolin slicer or a nice sharp knife. In a large bowl whisk together honey, wine and reserved bacon drippings, add onions and toss to coat. Prepare a large non-stick cookie sheet with a spray of olive or vegetable oil (you will want to use an older cookie sheet for this project. It’s been a week and I am still trying to scrape burnt honey off of mine, so be forewarned).
Pour onions and their marinade onto sheet, arranging them into one layer. Bake 30 minutes; remove pan from oven and flip onion slices as best you can onto their other side. Bake an additional 30 minutes, checking in on them every once in a while to stir them up and pull them away from the corners of the pan, because the corners and the furthest outer lying onions will start to burn.
This is because the wine burns off and the honey, well, the honey just starts to burn, so pay close attention in the second 30 minutes of roasting. I don’t want to discourage you against trying this method, but just due to the nature of ingredients you will have some disintegrated onions and a very crusty pan when all is said and done. Just want you to know what you’re in for. Remove pan from oven and let cool a few minutes before sliding the onions off onto a plate or a Tupperware. Once the onions are roasted and cooled you can store them until you’re ready to prepare your flat bread. I made them the day before.
Preheat oven to 425. Lightly brush surface and crust of flatbread with olive oil, salt and pepper the crust. Mix ricotta (or crème fraiche, if using) with nutmeg and spread on surface of the flat bread, top with both cheeses, onions, crumbled bacon and thyme. Bake for 8-10 minutes until crust is crispy and cheese is bubbling. Slice into small pieces for an easy appetizer or serve with a salad for a full meal.