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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Savory Vegetable Noodle Kugel for RFJ

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The ingredients for this month's Royal Foodie Joust were chosen by Billy from A Table for Two. Billy took pity on us and selected ingredients that would lend themselves to simple preparations. After the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, it was much appreciated! He decided on mushrooms, cauliflower and noodles.

For those few that may not be familiar with the Royal Foodie Joust, it is the brainchild of our own lovely and talented Jenn, The Leftover Queen. It's a monthly cooking competition for members of The Foodie Blogroll. Each month, the previous month's winner chooses three ingredients and the rest of us go crazy trying to create a delicious dish incorporating all three ingredients into it! Then, all of the members are invited to vote on their favorite. And so it goes.....

The first RFJ that I entered was back in October, 2008. I made a Creamy Gorgonzola, Fennel & Pear Tart, and was flabbergasted to learn that I had actually won! I've been really anxious to try my luck again ever since.

I didn't want to just throw together a regular pasta dish for this one. I needed to figure out something a little more original. One of my favorite noodle dishes has always been a noodle or lochshen kugel.

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A Jewish specialty, a kugel is a baked casserole-like dish, featuring either noodles or potatoes and anything else that the chef who is making it desires. Kugels may be sweet or savory, but the most popular kinds are those served as desserts. (BTW, I have a killer Cherry Cheese Kugel recipe that I promise to share with you one day.)

Anyway, I didn't think mushrooms and cauliflower would work too well in a dessert dish, so I came up with a savory kugel using vegetables and goat cheese. I used the required mushrooms and cauliflower in my dish, as well as onions and carrots (for sweetness and color). You could use any vegetable and seasoning combination you like. I think that this recipe is very versatile that way. I also toyed with the idea of adding bacon or chopped ham. I didn't because I wanted to keep it vegetarian, but I do intend to try it that way next time.

I started out by cooking some onions down in butter and olive oil until they were really soft and sweet. Then, I added each of the other vegetables in, one by one, and sauteed them until tender. The binder for my kugel was a mixture of the traditional cottage cheese, sour cream and eggs, but with a twist. I also blended in a healthy dose of soft and creamy goat cheese, or chevre. That little bit of tanginess from that velvety chevre made all the difference. It was subtle, but definitely there. And, it was the perfect counterpoint to the mellow sweetness of the onions.

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I was so pleased with the way that this kugel turned out! It was a really delicious dish and a big hit at Chez SGCC. It is also a great dish for a buffet, because it can be made in advance and is best served at room temperature. There is nothing fussy or complicated about it either. Hell, if I could do it standing on one foot, anybody with two good feet should have no trouble!

If any of you Foodie Blogrollers like my kugel as much as I do, please take a minute to hop on over to the forum when the voting begins and......

VOTE FOR ME!

Please and Pretty Please? I'll love you forever! winky-sml2

Savory Vegetable Noodle Kugel (Printable Recipe)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1 lb cottage cheese- Small curd 2%-4% fat
1 C sour cream
8 ounces chevre
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups mushrooms, sliced (I used Baby Bella mushrooms, but any kind will work.)
2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
Salt and ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 lb medium egg noodles
1 cup panko crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Directions:

Cook cauliflower by simmering in water until al dente-crisp tender. Drain and set aside.

Saute onions on med-low heat in olive oil and butter for 20-30 minutes, until really soft and sweet. Add carrots and saute until tender, about 10 minutes more. Add mushrooms and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Then add cauliflower and toss. Set aside.

Mix cottage cheese, sour cream, chevre, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg together in food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions and drain well. In a large bowl, mix noodles together with vegetables and stir in the cheese and egg mixture. Then, stir in the grated cheese.

Pour the whole thing into a large, buttered casserole dish.

Mix the panko with the melted butter and sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake at 350 degrees until browned and bubbly, about 30-40 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature. The kugel sets up more as it cools and can then be sliced more easily.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives

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Well folks, in addition to a great recipe today, I also have another chapter for you in "The Misadventures of Accident Prawn". Most of my friends who follow me on Twitter and Facebook have already heard that I have had yet another little "mishap" involving my foot. This time, my heel had a scuffle with some asphalt in a parking lot and my heel lost.

Picture it. Mr. SGCC and I were at a fancy schmancy country club last Friday night, celebrating the retirement of one of our favorite judges. Everyone who was anyone in our local Bar Association was there. I was all gussied up in one of my cutest outfits. I even wore eyeliner! Anyway, we had a lovely time and I managed not to kill or maim myself all during the party. Afterward, on the way out to the car, my heel somehow got stuck in the blacktop and.....

SPLAT!!!

And.....SNAP!!!

I went down on my ankle like a ton of bricks. That was all she wrote! Putting aside the incredible pain shooting up and down my leg, I could not walk, stand or put any weight at all on that ankle.

I spent the entire weekend flat on my back, with my ankle packed in ice until Monday, when I was sent to have an MRI. The result is that I have a partial tear in the anterior talofibular ligament of my lateral collateral ligament of my ankle joint. Whew! That's quite a mouthful! What is basically means is that I will have to spend a few weeks off my feet. It also means no standing at the stove or oven for a while. No TWD. No Daring Bakers. No nothing!

Of course, I'm pretty ticked off about this, but there isn't much I can do about it. I'm just hoping that it heals up quickly with no complications. Surgery is the last thing I need! So, for the time being, I'm sadly trading in Michael, Manolo and Jimmy for one of these:

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Fortunately, I already have the makings of several posts to last me a week or two. I've also got over 200 articles in the SGCC archives, so I'm sure I can come up with a few that most of you haven't seen before. But, in case you don't hear from me as often as usual, I know you'll understand why.

The following is a reprint of an article I wrote for Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network. It is a lovely chicken dish that we enjoyed very much. I hope you enjoy it too.

My heart did a little happy dance when I first laid eyes on the January, 2009 issue of Gourmet Magazine. It was the Italian-American issue, with a big, beautiful bowl of spaghetti and meatballs on the cover. Being an Italian-American myself, I was naturally and understandably drawn to it. Many of the fondest memories of my childhood revolve around the sights, sounds and smells emanating from my Nonna's tiny kitchen. Nonna has long since passed from this world, but I can still see her standing at her stove, stirring her pots of Sunday gravy and lovingly tending her herb-laden roasted chickens.

The issue is chock full of poignant reflections and mouthwatering recipes. It is a virtual treasure trove for anyone interested in Italian food and cooking. My copy is already dog-eared and splattered with olive oil (extra-virgin, of course)!

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When I first saw Tony Oltranti's recipe for Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives, I knew that it would be one of the first to try. While he often prepares this dish using rabbit, it is also beautifully suited to chicken. The chicken is bathed in white wine and roasted in a very hot oven with pancetta, olives and lots of garlic. The result is a bird boasting unbelievably tender and juicy meat beneath a super crispy skin.

This dish is easy to prepare and doesn't take all day. I prepared it for a weeknight dinner and took my first delicious bite after little more than an hour. I used chicken thighs instead of whole, cut up chickens, because we're a dark meat kind of family. The chicken turns out so moist, I don't think it matters what cuts you use.

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Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives
adapted from Tony Oltranti via Gourmet Magazine, January, 2009

Ingredients:

2 chickens (about 3 1/2 pounds each), backbones cut out and each chicken cut into 12 pieces (see cooks’ note, below)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
10 garlic cloves, peeled
2 (1/4-inch-thick) slices pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
24 oil-cured black olives

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Toss chicken with oil, thyme, rosemary, sea salt, red-pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon pepper, rubbing mixture into chicken.

Arrange chicken, skin side up, in 1 layer in a 17-by 11-inch 4-sided sheet pan. Scatter garlic and pancetta on top and roast until chicken begins to brown, about 20 minutes.

Drizzle wine over chicken and roast 8 minutes more.

Scatter olives over chicken and roast until skin is golden brown and chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes.

Cooks' note: To cut a chicken into 12 pieces, remove wings and cut each breast half into 3 pieces, then separate drumsticks and thighs. Backbones can be used to make chicken stock.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't Miss the Premiere of Dinner and a Movie!

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I have some exciting news for you! Well, I hope you'll find it exciting, because I sure do. A while back, I told you all about my idea for a new monthly blog feature called Dinner and a Movie. As it turns out, the very talented and creative Marc from No Recipes was percolating his own idea for an almost identical event. Rather than duplicate the concept, we got together and decided to collaborate instead. So, starting in February, Marc and I will be the co-hosts of Dinner and a Movie.

Join us each month on a delicious journey though some of our favorite films. Each month we will select a new movie to watch, which will hopefully inspire you to cook or bake something fabulous. Watch it, run with an idea, then share it with all of us. The trick is that not every movie chosen will be a "foodie film", so you'll really have to get creative. But, we know you can do it!

We are encouraging everyone who participates in this event to post about their dish on same day, which will be the last Saturday of each month. To make things even more interesting (and fun), Marc and I will also host a Dinner and a Movie Night as a live event on Twitter each month on the Saturday before. We'll all watch the movie together and tweet along, sharing our observations, snarky comments and hopefully, some great food ideas. Attendance is optional, but guaranteed to be a blast! Don't forget to bring your own popcorn. I'm not sharing!

As co-hosts, Marc and I will share the duties of selecting the movies and posting the round-ups by alternating months. For February, Marc has chosen one of his favorite films (and mine), Chocolat.

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I can't imagine anyone interested in food not having seen this movie already, but in case you haven't, Chocolat is about a rather bohemian woman and her young daughter in 1960, who open a chocolate shop in a small, conservative French village during Lent. At first, they are met with skepticism and resistance, but soon their exuberance and incredible chocolates win their acceptance into the community - almost! You'll have to watch the movie to learn the rest!

The post date for this month's installment of Dinner and a Movie, featuring Chocolat, will be on Saturday, February 28. Our Twitter movie night will be on Saturday February 21, at 9PM EST.

Everyone is welcome to participate, even if you don’t have a blog. Be creative, take some inspired photos but most importantly have fun!

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Marc has laid out all of the details for Dinner and a Movie here and here. Please check out those pages for more specifics. Here are the basic guidelines for participating:

  1. We encourage everyone to post on the last Saturday of the month, (in this case February 28). However, if circumstances prevent you from posting on that day, feel free to post a day or two earlier.
  2. In your post, write a paragraph explaining how the movie inspired you to make your dish.
  3. Include the event banner below in your post and a link back to both co-hosts.
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4. Send your submission to the host for the month, in this case to Marc, at dm@norecipes.com by February 28, 11:59pm EST and include the following info:

  • Your name
  • Blog name (if applicable)
  • Blog URL (if applicable)
  • Name of dish
  • Brief description of your dish and how the movie inspired you to make it.
  • Attach a photo that’s no larger than 500 x 500.

We can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Secret Love Affair

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Yes, dear readers, it's true. I am having an affair. It has been going on for quite a while now. I've thought of little else since the first time we met. I think I'm in love! Hopelessly and helplessly in love! I've told Mr. SGCC and he seems to understand. My beloved is a complex one- strong, yet mellow, deep and rich, rich, RICH! Who is this secret lover of mine? My dear one's name is Guanciale. Yes, that's right - Guanciale. And, it was truly love at first sight bite!

HAH! I had you going there for a minute, didn't I? But, I speak the truth. I am having a love affair with guanciale. Never heard of it? Let me enlighten you.

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Guanciale is a unique form of unsmoked Italian bacon made from pig's cheeks. The cheeks are bathed in wine and cured in salt, herbs and spices. Then they are air-dried for several weeks to months. This cheek or jowl fat has a different quality to it than traditional bacon or pancetta, which comes from the belly of the beast. It is smoother and melts more easily, giving dishes a richer, mellower and intensely "porky" flavor.

I first learned about the wonders of guanciale from Amy over at We Are Never Full. After reading Amy's rhapsodic narrative and feasting my eyes on her mouthwatering photos of her Perciatelli all' Amatriciana, I knew I had to get my hands on some that stuff!

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Guanciale is such a specialty item, that many Italians, even those living in Italy, don't even know what it is. However, once one has tasted it in a creamy Carbonara or zesty Amatriciana, they will not soon forget it!

Guanciale is not widely available in Italy, and it is almost impossible to find here in the United States. So, imagine my surprise and delight when I saw some in the deli case at my local Italian market. Nita and Raj from Casa Italia managed to find a salumeria, or "cured meat shop" which makes their own guanciale and supplies it to them.

SCORE!!!

I couldn't buy that stuff fast enough! With a pound and a half package of guanciale in my greedy, little hands, I dreamt of the gastronomic joys I would create with it.

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Perciatellli or Spaghetti all' Amatriciana is one of the most celebrated dishes in Italian cuisine It is commonly associated with the region of Lazio, and it actually comes from the town of Amatrice, for which it is named, in the province or Rieti. To be truly authentic, this dish must be prepared with guanciale, although it is often made using pancetta and is quite tasty that way. In addition to the guanciale, the original Amatriciana sauce also contained pepper and grated pecorino, which is a sharp, aged, sheep's milk cheese. Nowadays, many versions will also contain garlic, onions and tomato sauce.

My sugo, or sauce, comes from a combination of Amy's recipe and Mario Batali's version served at Babbo, with a few of my own tweaks. First, the guanciale is sauteed to render its fat. Onions are sauteed slowly in that fat until slightly caramelized. Garlic and hot red pepper flakes are added and sauteed a little bit more. Then, the guanciale is added back into the pan with tomato sauce and simmered to porky perfection. The result is a robust and deeply flavorful sauce.

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The most popular pasta type for this dish is Perciatelli/Bucatini, which is a long, thick pasta with a tiny hole running through the center. The name comes from buco, meaning "hole" in Italian. This time, I used regular old spaghetti. I guess I was so excited about finding the guanciale at Casa Italia, that I forgot to buy the bucatini! It doesn't really matter much which form of pasta you use. The sauce is the thing. I've also included the recipe for Mario's Basic Tomato Sauce. It is the one I used and it is a good one.

If you can possibly beg, borrow or steal some guanciale, I really urge you to try this dish. Your eyes will roll back into your head and your toes will curl - just like mine did. And then my friends, your own love affair will begin!

Spaghetti all' Amatriciana
(Printable Recipe)
Serves 4

Ingredients:

¾ pound guanciale, or pancetta, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups tomato sauce, homemade or good quality jar sauce
1 pound bucatini or spaghetti
Pecorino Romano, for grating
Fresh basil for garnishing

Directions:

Being a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.

Place the guanciale slices in a 12- to 14-inch saute pan in a single layer and cook over medium-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the meat, turning occasionally. Remove the meat to a plate lined with paper towels and discard half the fat, leaving enough to coat the garlic, onion and red pepper flakes. Cut into 1-inch pieces and set aside.

Saute the onions over medium-low heat until very sweet and tender, about 20-30 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute a few minutes more until garlic is tender.

Return the guanciale to the pan with the vegetables. Add the tomato sauce, season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the pasta in the boiling water according to the package directions, until al dente.

Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce, tossing to coat.

Divide the pasta among four warmed pasta bowls. Top with freshly grated pecorino cheese, garnish with basil and serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce
adapted from Mario Batali

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
Salt to taste

Directions:

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft.

Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve.

This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

Makes 4 cups.

For more pasta dishes from SGCC, check out:

Chicken Pasta Alfresco

Spaghetti alla Fra Diavolo con Vongole

Pasta Primavera with Scallops

Easy Peasy Meatball Ziti

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta Pissaladiere

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

TWD: Berry Surprise Cake

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This is going to be another short and sweet one, folks. Coming off of a three day weekend of gorgeous weather, and looking forward to Inauguration Day, I haven't felt much like holing up in the kitchen to bake. In fact, I've just finished baking this week's TWD assignment this morning. I almost passed on this one, but Dorie's Berry surprise Cake looked like such a fun idea, I decided to give it a try (despite the fact that raspberries this time of year cost almost as much as my car)!

Mary Ann of Meet Me in the Kitchen chose our recipe for this week. Berry Surprise Cake is composed of a spongy genoise cake, which is hollowed out and filled with a light cream cheese filling topped by fresh berries. Another piece of the cake is placed on top, as a sort of lid, and the whole thing is smothered in fresh whipped cream. The "surprise" is the filling inside the cake. The whole thing is like a big, fluffy gift package!

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I must admit, after I read how much trouble many of my fellow bakers had with the genoise sinking, I was nervous. My fears turned out to be well-founded. Instead of one large cake, I baked four small ones in mini springform pans. My little cakes sank like battleships! Frankly, I was stunned. My eggs whipped up into voluminous clouds of pale yellow perfection. I folded my other ingredients into them with the gentlest hand I could muster. Still, they sank!

CRAP AND DOUBLE CRAP!!!

I ended up making only two small cakes and used the other two "Frisbees" to top them with.

I have to tell you that I really was pretty ticked off at that point. I gave those f#@&*% diva eggs more TLC than they deserved. What the hell did they want from me? Dinner and a movie? I've made plenty of genoise cakes before and this was the first time I ever had one flop. Sigh....... At least whipped cream can cover a multitude of sins!

Since I was using fresh berries, I decided to flavor my filling cream with lemon. To do this, I whipped about 1/4 cup of lemon curd into the cream cheese mixture. This part of the process went very well. The filling was light and creamy with a lovely, bright lemony flavor.

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Filling and frosting the cakes was without incident. They actually looked pretty cute once they were finished. I'm just still annoyed that I only have two little cakes instead of four, since I was planning on giving them away.

Would I make this recipe again? Nope! I love the concept, but not the aggravation. I might try making a cake like this using a different genoise recipe - one that has worked for me before.

In any event, if you'd like to try this one at home, the recipe can be found in Dorie's book, Baking: From My Home to Yours or on Mary Ann's site. Also, to see far better results than mine, visit the TWD blogroll.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hail, Caesar!

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While I was at the market the other day, I found some gorgeous ribeye steaks on sale. Never one to pass up a good bargain, especially on meat, I picked up a few for that night's dinner. When I got home and unwrapped them, there were three steaks in the package, instead of the two I thought I had asked for. I don't know if it was my mistake or the clerk's, but there it was right in front of me - an extra big, beautiful slab of beef. Now, even though Mr. SGCC is a bona fide caveman, even he couldn't have eaten two of those big boys in one sitting. I can barely finish one whole one myself. Yet, one steak really wasn't enough for the two of us to make another meal out of. So, I needed to come up with way to use that steak and stretch it out a bit. I ended up simply pan-searing it, thinly slicing it and serving it on top of a big Caesar salad made with my favorite homemade dressing. It was a very good call!

The origins of the Caesar salad has been a topic for debate since the late 1920's, when it first began appearing on restaurant menus in North America. Contrary to what one might think, this wildly popular salad is not named after the famed emperor of ancient Rome, Julius Caesar. The most widely accepted theory is that the dish was actually named for Italian-born chef and restaurateur, Caesar (Cesare) Cardini.

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A typical Caesar salad is comprised of romaine lettuce and croutons tossed with a dressing made with parmesan cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, egg yolks, and Worcestershire sauce. It was originally prepared tableside and often still is. One interesting fact about the Caesar salad is that, even though most current day versions contain anchovies in some form, the original recipe did not. It is said that the slight anchovy flavor in the dressing came from the Worcestershire sauce, which has some anchovy in it. I, however, have a soft spot for anchovies, so my version of the dressing has them in spades! And, in over twenty years of serving it, I've never had any complaints!

This Caesar salad dressing recipe was given to me by one of my oldest and dearest friends. Susan and I have been wreaking havoc together since the seventh grade, which is more years ago than I care to admit. We've seen each other through love and heartbreak, lost jobs and career changes, sickness and health and birth and death. We've celebrated our crowning achievements and commiserated over our deepest disappointments. One of the many things I love about Susan is her brutal honesty. She always tells it like it is with no sugar-coating or bull$h!t. So, when she told me that this was the best Caesar salad dressing ever, I believed her. And, she was right.

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This dressing is not for the faint of heart. It's brazenly loaded with garlic and anchovies, and it does contain egg yolks. It also has a little something extra in the form of Tabasco sauce, which gives it a nice kick. If you're concerned about using raw eggs, you can certainly swap them out for mayonnaise. It will still be good, but not quite the same.

Aside from the dressing, the salad itself has no specific recipe. Just add some romaine lettuce into the bowl with whatever else you like, toss with the dressing and throw some croutons on top. In my haste to get this dish on the table, I forgot to add the croutons before I took my photographs - but, I promise, they were there.

Using a protein in this salad gives it a lot more heft and substance. You can use chicken or any kind of seafood in this as well. The pan-seared ribeye is one of my favorite additions, because the flavor of the steak really stands up to the dressing, instead of being masked by it. All I did was salt and pepper the steak, sear it in a hot skillet, slice it up and put it on top of my salad.

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I won't try to tell you that this is a light meal. It is not. Caesar salads are not diet food. But, it is a zesty and lusty dish full of bold, bright flavors. If you like Caesar salads in general, you will love this one. Have I ever steered you wrong?

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blacklogo I'm submitting my photo at the top of this post of The Perfect Bite to the June, 2009 edition of Click!, the monthly food photography event. The theme for the event is Stacks.



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Susan's Caesar Salad Dressing (Printable Recipe)

2 egg yolks
6-9 cloves garlic (whole) according to your taste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4-6 drops Tabasco sauce
1 can anchovies in olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 cups good quality, freshly grated Parmeggiano Reggiano

Whiz all ingredients except the olive oil and cheese in food processor or blender until smooth. Slowly drizzle oil in while blending on low speed until emulsified. Stir in cheese.

Enjoy!

You might also like these other meat lovers' recipes from SGCC:

Churrasco with Chimichurri Sauce

Pan-Roasted Veal Chops with Calvados, Apple and Cream Compote

Bistec a lo Pobre

Ribeye Steaks with a Spicy, Smoky, Cacao Nibs Rub

Pan Roasted Veal Chops with Chipotle-Lime Butter

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Flavor of the Month: Toasted Coconut-Sesame Brittle Ice Cream

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Greetings and welcome to the first installment of Flavor of the Month, a new feature here at SGCC! A few weeks ago, in my New Years post, I asked you all for suggestions and ideas on how to improve this blog. I wanted to know what you all wanted to see here. I was touched to read so many comments saying that you loved SGCC just as it is and not to change a thing. I actually got a little verkempt! However, change leads to growth, and I really do want to grow, both in my writing and in my cooking.

Several of you gave me some excellent suggestions for tweaks I could make - some relating to technical issues and some to content. I intend to take each into consideration, so keep your eyes peeled over the next several months.

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There was one comment that really stood out to me, and this is the one I chose as the winner of The Flavor Bible. The comment was submitted by Brilynn from Jumbo Empanadas. I chose Brilynn's comment because she hit on two points that had already been lurking in the back of my mind.

Brilynn said "...as far as ideas for SGCC, I like your Dinner and a Movie Theme, you could perhaps turn it into a blogging event? Or maybe you should just make more ice cream... that drunken cherry ice cream is fabulous. You should have an ice cream at least once a month."

Bingo!

I'd been thinking about the best way to implement my Dinner and a Movie idea for months, and had considered trying to make a blogging event out of it. I'm still working on the details, and as soon as I'm ready to unveil it, you'll be the first to know.

I had also been thinking about incorporating more ice cream recipes into SGCC. Since I live in Florida, my family and I are lucky enough to be able to enjoy ice cream year round. And trust me, we do! Doing a monthly ice cream feature was a perfect idea! So, on the 15th of every month I'll reveal my Flavor of the Month.

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This month's Flavor of the Month is Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle Ice Cream. It's a riff on one of my favorite Haagen Dazs flavors of the same name. Freshly toasted coconut and buttery sesame brittle are mixed into a smooth and rich coconut ice cream base. It's crunchy and creamy and chewy all at the same time. It's also utterly sublime!

My inspiration for the coconut ice cream base came from the cookbook, Delicious Days by popular blogger, Nicky Stich, by way of the supreme ice cream master himself, David Lebovitz. It is a Philadelphia-style ice base, made without eggs. Instead, heavy cream is simmered with coconut milk and palm sugar. After chilling, the base is churned into luscious mounds of silky coconut bliss.

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The recipe for my sesame brittle came from Gale Gand. I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive about making it. We all know my track record with caramelizing sugar! But, I reeeeeeallllllly wanted to use sesame brittle and couldn't think of anywhere close by to buy some. So, I sucked it up and made it myself. And, it turned out great! The first time!!!

Now, I have to stop and take a moment here to wax poetic about this brittle. It. Was. Amazing. Seriously! I couldn't stop eating it! I'm not even a huge fan of sesame anything, but this brittle just blew me away. I'm telling you, people, even if you decide to never try this ice cream, do yourself a favor and make the brittle. It is THAT good!

By the way, I just realized that this is also my 200th post! Woo hoo! I didn't realize that I was such a chatterbox!

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Toasted Coconut-Sesame Brittle Ice Cream (printable recipe)
Makes approximately 1 quart

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups coconut milk
4 ounces palm sugar or 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons coconut rum
1 cup sesame brittle, broken into small shards or pieces (recipe follows)
1/2 cup toasted coconut*

Method:

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the cream, coconut milk and sugar to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add the rum and chill the mixture thoroughly.

Once chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions. Once churned, stir in the sesame brittle and toasted coconut and freeze until firm.

*To toast coconut, place in a small skillet over medium-high heat, and shake or stir until golden brown. But, be careful. A few seconds too long, and the coconut will start to burn!

Sesame Brittle

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon baking soda

Method:

Generously oil an 11x17 sheet pan with vegetable oil.

In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cream of tartar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium heat. Using a candy thermometer, boil the mixture until it reaches 340 to 350 degrees. The color should be deep golden brown.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, then mix in the sesame seeds and baking soda. Pour the mixture onto the oiled pan and spread it out a bit with the back of a wooden spoon, to about a 1/4-inch thickness. For thinner brittle, place a silpat on top and roll to desired thickness while it's still warm. Let brittle harden, uncovered, in a cool place for at least 30 minutes.

When completely cooled, break the brittle into pieces and put in a zip loc bag. Crush into tiny pieces with a rolling pin. Store in an airtight container.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

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This week's TWD recipe was chosen for us by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake. I must admit, if these Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins hadn't been an assignment, I probably would never have made them. I've never been much of a corn bread (or muffin) fan, so I would have passed this one right on by. And, I would have never known just how good corn bread (and muffins) could actually be!

As you would expect, Dorie's recipe takes a basic little corn muffin and amps it up to the next level with the addition of chili powder, diced red pepper and a little minced jalapeno fresh cilantro. Let me tell you, these are some zippy, zesty little muffins!

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When making my muffins, I pretty much left the recipe as is. My only tweak was to use half chipotle chili powder mixed with half ancho chili powder in the batter. The smoky warmth of the chipotle chili powder played beautifully against the subtle sweetness of the corn and the gentle punch of heat from the jalapeno.

Although chili was the obvious choice, I chose to serve these muffins with a hearty and robust Caldo Verde. Caldo Verde, a very popular and traditional Portuguese dish, is a thick soup, traditionally made with a dark green cabbage or kale, potatoes and a spicy Portuguese sausage called chourico. My version also includes diced, fire-roasted tomatoes and garbanzo beans along with some plump, juicy shrimp added in at the last minute.

I have to say, Dorie's muffins were a big hit at Chez SGCC. Not only did we have them with our Caldo Verde for dinner, but we've also been enjoying them toasted, for breakfast, the past few mornings.

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Even if you're not into corn muffins, I do hope you'll give these a try. They really are something special. Add a little sweet, creamery butter and some red pepper jelly and you've got a mini fiesta in your mouth!

If you'd like the recipe for these Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins, you can find it on page 6 of Baking: From My Home To Yours and also on Rebecca's site. As always, stop by the TWD blogroll to see many more creative variations of this recipe.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tim Tams, Where Have You Been All My Life!

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Several weeks ago, I received an email from Tanya of Mr. Youth, a dynamic advertising and marketing firm based in NYC, which has been promoting the U.S. release of Tim Tam cookies. Tanya wanted to know if I would be interested in sampling some Tim Tams and graciously offered to send me a package. Hmm, let's see. Chocolate wafer cookies filled with velvety chocolate cream and drenched in milk chocolate.....

HELL YEAH, I WANTED TO TRY THEM!!!

So, of course, I just-as-graciously accepted.

When I returned from my cruise, there they were, neatly packaged and waiting in my office. My Tim Tams! Woo hoo!

Though my heart was pounding and my palms were sweating, I forced myself to play it cool. I didn't want any of my nosy staff to get wise to the fact that on my desk sat a box of the most tantalizing, mouthwatering and delectable cookies on the face of the planet. If they found out, who knows what they might do! They might riot.....or protest.....or.....insist that I share. Ain't no way THAT was happening!

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Tim Tams are the number one chocolate biscuit in Australia. They are produced by the Australian company, Arnott's, who have been delighting customers with the cookies for over forty years. In fact, these iconic little chocolate gems are so incredibly popular that over 400 million of them are consumed by Australians each year! Last year, a joint poll by The Times in the United Kingdom and news.com.au in Australia ranked Tim Tam as one of the best inventions since sliced bread. Tim Tams came in at number four behind some pretty stiff competition: The World Wide Web, penicillin and the TV remote! Need I say more?

Most Americans have only been able to wistfully dream about this decadent and delicious treat - until now. Pepperidge Farm is offering Tim Tam cookies in two varieties: Chocolate Creme and Caramel. They made their U.S. debut in November and will be available through March 2009 at Target stores across the country. Both Pepperidge Farm and Arnott's are subsidiaries of the Campbell Soup Company.

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Anyway, I successfully smuggled my Tim Tams out of my office and into my car. As I tried to race home with them, I was thwarted by lots of traffic and multiple school zones. Unacceptable! I'm not proud of it, but I must confess, I ripped open that package of cookies right there in the car. I'm sorry, but I just couldn't wait! Stopped at a red light on US 41, I took my first bite and immediately soared up into cookie nirvana. By the time I got home, half of the package was gone.

The next day, I made it my business to get down to Target and buy 10 more boxes. Tim Tams are Aus-some, I tell you! Just plain Aus-some!

For those of you who are a little more disciplined than I am and can actually keep from eating all your Tim Tams in one sitting, here are some fun recipes that I found in my web travels:

Tim Tam Truffles from The Journal of a Girl Who Loves to Cook

Tim Tam Slam from Use Real Butter

Bailey's Tim Tam Cheesecake from Quinn's Baking with Love & Passion

Tim Tam Chewy Caramel Explosion from Arnott's

As for me, I think they would be fabulous crumbled over over some good, old-fashioned vanilla ice cream!

So, to all of my American friends, get thee to Target and get yourself some Tim Tams while you still can!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy Anniversary TWD: French Pear Tart

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Well, I'll be dipped in melted Valrhona Le Noir Gastronomie 61% Chocolat! Not only does this week mark the first anniversary of Tuesdays with Dorie, but the woman who inspired it all, our beloved Dorie Greenspan, actually selected the recipe for us to bake this week for the occasion. Dorie chose her French Pear Tart, which she considers to be one of her favorite recipes from her baking bible, Baking: From My Home to Yours. It is a wonderful recipe - elegant, yet unfussy and oh, so French! I can see why she loves it so. Dorie explains that the tart is a classic of French pastry and a staple in patisseries all over France.

This particular French Pear Tart is also special to me as well. Not only was it the first recipe I ever tried from Dorie's excellent book, but it was also the first time I ever made a dough from scratch. Many of you may remember that when I started this blog, I was something of a "doughaphobe". If it didn't come out of the refrigerator case at the market, I didn't use it. When I saw that Dorie's Sweet Tart Dough required no rolling and could just be pressed into place, I breathed a sigh of relief and dove right in!

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Afterward, as I took that first bite into its burnished, buttery crust, and the creamy-cakey almond filling laced with delicate poached pears made its way past my lips, I knew I had stumbled upon something very, very good.

There are three elements to this tart: the sweet tart dough, which is basically a fancy cookie dough; an almond cream, which is another staple in French baking; and poached fresh or canned pears. Both the dough and the almond cream can be whizzed up in the food processor in no time flat. I was quite surprised to learn that not only are canned pears an acceptable option for this tart, but that they are widely and blatantly used by French bakers. Who am I to flout convention? I used canned pears too.

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When I served my tart, I drizzled a little butterscotch-caramel sauce over the top of each slice, to make it.....well.....over the top. And, it was!

To see a few hundred other French Pear Tarts, stop by and check out the Tuesdays with Dorie blogroll. If you'd like to try making this tart for yourself, the recipe can be found in Dorie's book and also on her web site. Try it. I promise you won't be disappointed.

C'est merveilleux!