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Archive for January, 2010

Baked Ziti

I used the Neely’s Baked Ziti from Food Network, but I made so many changes, I consider this my own recipe! I started with 1/2 a pound of ground beef, which I seasoned generously with S&P and red pepper flakes. I actually felt like I put a ton of red pepper flakes in, but the spice level ended up being perfect for me. I would love to make this again with hot Italian sausage. Once the sausage was broken up, I added 1/2 onion and 2 cloves garlic. After everything was cooked, I deglazed the pan with a couple of turns of red wine. I don’t think using wine is traditional, but I LOVED the flavor and smell it gave. I then added a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, 2 tbsp ish leftover pesto, and 1/2 cup leftover simple tomato sauce I made a long time ago. Next time I would use a little more pesto and more tomato sauce. I just poured in what I had this time! I’m really glad I used these additions, because they really made the dish. I tossed the simmered sauce with the pasta, cheeses, and spinach (which I put in the bottom of the colander when I drained the pasta). I didn’t bother layering anything, I just mixed it all together. What a great dish! Although…I would really like to make it again with my few changes. 🙂

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Ciabatta Bread for Steak Sandwiches

Those bakers at King Arthur Flour are so good at making me want to try all of their bread recipes. Today, since I didn’t have class (yay!), I had time to make Ciabatta bread. It requires a lot of attention, because there’s a lot of rising and deflating going on. I followed the recipe exactly, baked it for 19 minutes and got a pretty brown crust. I wanted to let the bread cool in the oven, but I needed the oven for other projects. The bread had a really good flavor and tonight I toasted it and made steak sandwiches. The bread didn’t have as many holes as I wanted though…so I did some research. Next time I will handle the dough as little as possible. Also, my dough wasn’t as wet as it probably should have been. I need to be more exact on my flour measurements every time and weigh it! After looking closely at the KA pictures, my bread was pretty close, so I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. I can’t wait to enjoy the other loaf that’s hanging out in the freezer!

We used the bread to make steak sandwiches (NY strip to be exact.) I marinated one big steak in 1/4 cups each of balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce, and a few sprinkles of ground mustard. I loosely followed Giada’s Steak Sandwich recipe and one from RZ called Caramelized Onion Steak Sandwich. I let it marinade for 5 hours ish. 30 minutes or so before getting ready to cook, I took the steak out of the fridge, patted it dry, and let it come to room temperature. I was following Alton Brown’s Pan Seared Rib Eye technique. I preheated the oven to 500 with the skillet inside. When the steaks was room temp, I seasoned it with S&P and poured on a little vegetable oil. I followed his method exactly (30 seconds on each side on the stove top, 2 minutes each side in the oven) and let the steak rest for 10 minutes. It was perfectly done, and very tender. Great for sandwiches because it was easy to bit into and the whole steak piece didn’t come out of the sandwich. The steak would have been great plain but I really liked the marinade. I made a sauce by deglazing the pan with some red wine, and then pouring in the marinade. After the steak’s 10 minute rest, the sauce had reduced some and was ready to pour over the steak slices.

We had some caramelized onions in the sandwich as well. I’m not that good at caramelizing onions, but I’m learning! Some pieces were a lot thinner, so they burned. These pieces were probably from the outer layer of the onion, so I just need to peel more of it. Also, I should slice the onions thinner because the edges brown and burn a little before the middles. I didn’t add salt until the end, which I’ll keep doing. My next batch will be perfect! (hopefully!)

Cheese Straws

These came from Smitten Kitchen. I thought I would try a different recipe than Edna Lewis’, and this one had a less flour: butter/cheese ratio. I cut the first half of the dough into thin squares, poked holes in them with a fork, and sprinkled salt on top. They didn’t really get as crunchy/crispy as I wanted, so I baked the last few at 400 with more crispy (and more brown) results. I tried to crisp up the earlier batches (I baked like 10 at a time in the beginning) by putting them in the 400 degree oven on a rack. I ended up cooking them a minute too long, so those ones are pretty brown too. I ended up using the other half of the dough the way SK intended, by cutting straws and baking at 350. Those came out really well, and I prefer those more. It’s just so hard to get the perfect flat cracker texture! I think I was on to something with the rack, but more experimenting will have to be done. I looked at KA’s cheese cracker recipe, and they use cheese powder, which is what companies like cheez its use. They seem to believe that’s the only way to get the desired crunch.

Jacob liked these better than the first cheese straws, and I agree, but I think they should be straws and not crackers. The crackers were good, and I like my new method, but I prefer them long and skinny. I might have to play with the recipe again some day. It’s a good thing we finished these off the next day, because I don’t think they have a very long shelf life. I didn’t try storing them in the fridge though. I thought having a cold cracker would have been weird.

Cheese Straws
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon half-and-half (I used cream, because I had it on hand; suspect milk would work just as well)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.

3. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza or pastry wheel; both worked great), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet (though I lined mine with parchment), leaving at least 1/4-inch between them. The dough may sag or may break occasionally in the transfer, but don’t be concerned — just do your best. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.

4. Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.

5. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days. They will not last an hour at a party.

Variation: One adaptation I am curious to try would be to roll these into thin, round crackers. Because they puff a bit, I’d roll them as thin as possible, and use a fork or skewer to make some holes to keep the expansion in check. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it went for you.

Lemon Ricotta Biscuits

I loved Giada’s lemon ricotta cookies when I made them a loooong time ago, so I knew I had to try her lemon ricotta biscuits. I made six, but I only had four cupcake liners. The two that I baked directly in the muffin tin had kind of a crust on the sides. I baked them for 21-22 minutes and added extra lemon zest to the second half of the batch. These muffins were light and fluffy, and the ricotta made them pretty moist. The crunchy topping was nice and I thought these were way better than the lemon blueberry yogurt muffins I made this summer.

Balsamic Roasted Carrots

This isn’t really a recipe, but I made these for lunch today and they were really good. I sliced 1 1/2 carrots thinly on the diagonal, and tossed with a little olive oil, S&P. I roasted for about twenty minutes at 425, turning after ten. Then I sprinkled with balsamic and put them back in for two minutes to evaporate the vinegar. I garnished with parsley and stirred in a drop of dijon.

Spicy Roasted Edamame

I had a little extra time for lunch today between my classes, so I came home for lunch. I wanted some edamame, and I was getting tired of my routine of steaming it and tossing up with seasoning salt and pepper. I’ve been on a roasting kick recently, so I was really excited to find a Spicy Roasted Edamame recipe on All Recipes. I used 1/2 cup of edamame, two tiny splashes of olive oil, and a few sprinkles of all of the spices. I added a little garlic powder as well. After about 14 minutes of roasting, I dug in. Originally I thought I was pulling them out too early, but I couldn’t wait any longer because I had to get back to class. But they were so so good! A little browned from the roasting, soft but with texture, and they had lots of flavor from the spices. I would definitely do this again and it would even be good to make ahead as a snack! Maybe I can get Jacob to try it…he says he doesn’t like edamame but he loved my salad the other day!

I made this again with corn tonight, making enough for two and going really heavy on the spices. It was a nice idea and the nutty edamame and sweet corn go together nicely, but the corn didn’t get a chance to brown. I probably won’t mix the two again because of the different cooking times, but I would use those spices on corn and roast them for 20+ minutes, maybe at 400.

375, 12-15 minutes

Chili powder, basil, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, S&P

BBQ Chicken and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Tonight’s dinner was pretty easy compared to most of my dinners. I tried the Best Ever BBQ Chicken recipe from RZ, which I found by searching for recipes using chili sauce. The sauce was pretty sweet, but I liked it. It didn’t have the depth of flavor from Tyler’s BBQ sauce or the tang from Erin’s pulled pork vinegar sauce, but it beats any bottled regular sauce! Since I don’t have a grill, I wanted to bake our three b/s chicken thighs and one b/s chicken breast in the oven. I did a little experiment with brining as well. I brined the chicken breast and one of the thighs in water, a big handful of salt, and a smaller handful of sugar. Jacob pounded the chicken so it was only like 1/2″ thick.

Whoops, getting ahead of myself. I seared the chicken in a tiny bit of butter for a few minutes on each side, but it didn’t brown that much. I then brushed the seared chicken with sauce, then baked it covered for about 15 minutes. Oh yeah,  I uncovered it for 5, then took the temp. I was about 160, and I was shooting for 165, so I turned on the broiler to cook the sauce. After about 5 minutes, we took it out. The sauce wasn’t completely baked on the chicken, but I didn’t want to overcook the chicken. Having the skin on would have been more authentic, but I’m just not a fan. I enjoyed the chicken the way we made it though. We couldn’t really taste a difference in the brined and non-brined chicken thigh, but the breast was pretty juicyI think I prefer bbq thighs to breasts, but I need to work on my baking technique. Grilling is so much better though, maybe I should just be patient and wait until I have a grill to try again!

I also made garlic mashed potatoes, using the same version my sister and I created for Thanksgiving. Since it was just me and Jacob, I used one 1 lb potato, 1 oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup+ of sour cream, and a whole head of roasted garlic. I sprinkled the potatoes (which were in a flat dish, but didn’t even fill it) with lots of paprika and 2 oz shredded extra sharp cheddar. I baked them at 375 for 20 minutes, then broiled them for 3 ish. I didn’t want the cheese to burn! The potatoes were warmed through after like ten minutes (it was a pretty thin layer) but didn’t suffer any from the extra baking time. They were fluffy and light and had a good garlic flavor. I’m tempted next time to add some butter or half-and-half…a part of me says don’t mess with a good (and pretty healthy) thing, but another part of me wants to make the most delicious potato casserole anyone has ever eaten. Decisions decisions!