Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It's Summer Now

So Memorial Day happened. That means it's summer. I don't care what the calendar says, Memorial Day means it's summer. Summer means tomatoes. I love tomatoes. I cannot wait until it's officially tomato season. I cannot wait until our little garden (hopefully) gives us our first homegrown tomatoes. I also love cheese. And puff pastry. Put them all together and you have one of my favorite summer treats: Tomato Tart.
These weren't the ripest, most beautiful, red tomatoes ever, but they tasted just fine, especially after roasting them. I can't wait until our herbs have grown enough for us to use fresh rosemary and thyme on these roasted tomatoes.
Tomatoes roasted with salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, & olive oil placed upon a sheet of baked puff pastry and then sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese.

We made this to take to the Memorial Day picnic we attended. It was well received, I think, and just one square was left when we departed. That's a good sign, right?

More details on making tart here: http://blueeley.blogspot.com/2011/08/tomato-tart-pesto-again-but-different.html

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Almond Citrus Biscotti

It seems like we've taken a good, long break from cookie baking. Maybe we baked too much last Christmas? I think we made a batch of Orange Chocolate Shortbread Cookies at Easter when the Hot Milk Sponge Cake turned out not so great, and we made Apple Pie Bars instead of Apple Pie, but there definitely has not been much cookie baking happening in our kitchen.
And that's a shame, because when we finally baked this past weekend, the results were phenomenal. Maybe I was just ice creamed out after 3 weeks of Strawberry Ice Cream for dessert (gosh that recipe made a lot of ice cream, and SP wasn't eating much of it, and I was having small amounts, so it lasted way too long). We turned to a cookie we first made in October 2009 but hadn't made since: Almond Citrus Biscotti. Three and a half years since we made these! Far too long.
 We made a couple of changes:

1. We mixed the almonds into the dough instead of sprinkling them on top.
2. We made two large logs instead of 4 smaller logs.
3. We sprinkled raw sugar on top the logs.
4. As usual we used more citrus zest than in the recipe.
5. We baked the logs for 35-40 minutes.
Thee are so good! Even better than I remember. Hard but not too hard - so it's possible to eat them un-dunked but also possible to dunk them in tea and have a delicious moist treat that doesn't disintegrate. Lots of citrus flavor. Next time I might use almond extract instead of vanilla extract to pump up the almond flavor, which wasn't especially noticeable. Or maybe use lemon or orange extract instead of vanilla extract for more citrus flavor.

Recipe here: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/almond-citrus-biscotti

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Quesadillas

Last week, the weekly shopping day crept up on us. Suddenly, SP was asking me why there were only 2 items on the grocery list. That led to the "what do you want for dinner?" ~ "I don't know what do you want?" conversation.
After many suggestions and rejections and annoyed snipping at each other, a desire to use the new grill and to use the leftover tortillas (from last week's chicken taco nights) resulted in a decision: beef quesadillas with grilled veggies (mushrooms, eggplant, and red pepper) and smoked gouda.
Saturday night SP marinated the flank steak in olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce. Sunday, he grilled it. He told me he used the stopwatch on his phone to grill it for 90 seconds, shift it a bit and grill for another 90 seconds to get nice crosshatch marks, flipped it, and repeated. A total of 6 minutes. It was still a wee bit pink inside, which is good. Not too rare, not too leathery. He grilled the vegetables and then everything was packaged up since we were actually eating Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce and grilled sausage with arugula salad for Sunday's dinner.
So for two evenings this week, once he got home from work, we took one of my regular tortillas and one of his whole wheat tortillas, filled them with the steak, veggies, and cheese, baked them at 350 until the cheese was melted, and enjoyed. Quick and easy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Salty, Charred Pizza

This past weekend we finally had enough free time to go see Iron Man 3. I don't read comic books so I don't get quite as excited by all the superhero movies and superhero connections as SP, but I do enjoy action movies. Fights! Blowing stuff up! Mindless & pointless destruction! I much prefer that kind of movie to some dopey, predictable romantic comedy. Puke. Just one of the reasons SP loves me:  I don't do 'chick flicks.' I can't tell you how many times in the past few months I've flipped on the TV and, while waiting for him to join me, gotten sucked into a Jason Bourne movie, or Thor, or Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, or Battleship. Yes, even Battleship. How can you not like a movie with super dumb dialog and a plot line that involves bringing a WWII battleship back to life to defeat the super advanced aliens?!!! 
Anyway, we met a friend for the movie, which was a lot of fun, and then after the movie, we decided to walk across the parking lot to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza. We were seated next to a huge wall of windows. Top to bottom, left to right, all windows. It was a bright day. My eyes are sensitive to brightness and I often wear sunglasses, even in winter. I was facing the wall of windows. There are no blinds. WTF? I'm sorry, but I cannot be the only person bothered by a wall of windows on a bright day. I'm sure you're thinking, well, move and sit with your back to the windows. Easier said than done when you're in a wheelchair. It's much easier for me to sit on the 'outside.' So I put my sunglasses on. Inside. So I wouldn't squint. I looked, and felt, like an idiot. I think people who wear sunglasses inside are idiots. And yet, there I was. Would it be too much to install some blinds? Maybe next time I'll hassle my dining companions and those around us at neighboring tables and sit on the 'inside.' Of course often at restaurants, there's not enough room for a wheelchair, even one as small as mine, to get between tables to the 'inside.'
SP & T both ordered beer. I forget what T got, but SP chose Fat Gary's Brown Ale on tap.

I wanted iced tea, but apparently this is another place that cannot be bothered to brew fresh iced tea, instead offering bottled iced tea. This bugs me. A lot. Just like places that serve soda in a can or bottle, which this places does. I am sure they have some perfectly logical reasons but frankly, I think it's lazy. And a way to get more money out of a consumer (gouge, maybe?), like glasses of wine that cost half as much as the bottle in the liquor store or bottles of wine with a 400% mark up.

Anyway. I drank water.
.
Our server brought us a sample of their wings. I was confused at first because all I saw was a huge mound of sauteed onions. There were 4 wings underneath the onion mound.
SP & T liked the wings. I thought they were OK, but then again, I do not really like wings. Mostly, I think they're too messy and too much work for the payoff. A little spice flavor, a little salt flavor, just your basic wings.
We ordered two pizzas. One was a 12 inch pizza with prosciutto.
The other was the 12 inch Eggplant Marino Pizza - thinly sliced eggplant, tomato sauce, romano, and fresh basil.
I'm a little torn here. It was OK pizza. Pizza is largely a matter of personal preference (thick or thin crust, amount/flavor of tomato sauce, toppings, etc.). This was thin, but not as thin as at Piccolo Forno or Cucina Bella or Picasso Pizza or Il Pizzaiolo. The edges were a little too charred for me. The tomato sauce is sweet. The middle of the eggplant pizza was pretty wet, so it was soggy and droopy and fell apart. My problem is the quality to cost ratio. There is nothing wrong or gross about the pizza, it is definitely decent, but compared to the quality at the aforementioned places and the cost at each place, Anthony's would not be my first choice. It would be my last choice. For two 12 inch pizzas (6 slices each), it cost about $33. The other $10 was for two beers, then tax and tip. We had just 3 pieces leftover.

Another problem - I didn't notice it as I was eating it, but the pizza was some of the saltiest, most dehydrating pizza I've ever eaten. I drank my entire glass of water. Then I drank 3/4 a bottle water on the 2 minute car ride home. Then for the rest of the evening, I kept drinking water, convinced that it would wash the salt out of me. Nope. All the water just made me feel uncomfortably bloated, made me make many trips to the bathroom, and made me wonder how much water I can ingest before I die (remember the story from several years ago about the woman who was in a water drinking contest and died because she drank too much water?).

I was still thirsty the next day.

Back to Anthony's. Our server was very friendly and made suggestions. Anthony's was definitely pushing their wings. Servers brought free samples to each table and then made a return trip to emphasize how good the wings are and now you want to order some, right?

To sum up, it's an OK place to eat after a movie at Robinson Cinemark at Settlers Ridge, especially if you don't feel like driving somewhere else, but if you haven't just seen a movie and you're looking for a tasty pizza dinner, I'd suggest elsewhere.

  Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza - Robinson on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Asparagus-Havarti Quiche

My mom was just in town for a visit. Just mom, not dad, this time. That means we ate foods that dad doesn't really enjoy, like asparagus. We made asparagus tart, roasted asparagus, and this: Asparagus-Havarti Quiche.
My mom and I have made this many times, but I do not think I've ever posted it on the blog. This is the quiche that battles the Spinach & Smoked Gouda Quiche for the honor of our favorite quiche. I think they are equally delicious - the smoked gouda one has that yummy smoked taste, but this one is so creamy and buttery and smooth because the havarti melts nicely into the egg and cream mixture.
I feel a little guilty making and eating this quiche because it uses 1.5 cups of cream. I used whipping cream because that is what was in the refrigerator. On other occasions, we've used heavy cream. One time, we used all whole milk. It just depends on what is in the refrigerator. Of course the cream determines just how rich and creamy this quiche is, but all are fine choices.

We usually need to bake ours for 5-10 minutes longer than the recipe suggests. Even then, it's always a wee bit watery in the bottom once we cut into it. Also, we never manage to get the first couple of slices out without them falling apart a bit!
The recipe is from a newspaper, I suspect it's from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but my copy is a typed & printed recipe with no notes on the source. I know it is from a while ago, probably 2000-2003, because I can remember making it once on my own when I lived in the apartment and as I placed it in the oven to bake, I accidentally tipped it and spilled eggy, cheesy mixture all over the oven door. Ugh! Now I always place the quiche on a baking sheet so that any sloshing lands on the baking sheet and not the oven.

The recipe:
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 9 inch pie shell (sometimes we make it from scratch, other times we use a pre-made, frozen, deep dish shell)
12 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut in half (we use more, this time we used 19, and I cut each into about 1 inch pieces)
3 eggs
1 cup cream (whipping or heavy)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 cup Havarti cheese, grated (before I owned a box grater, I cut it into tiny cubes)
1/2 cup milk (we always use whole milk)
1 tsp salt (we usually omit)
dash cayenne pepper

In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the butter. Add the onions and saute for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Distribute over the bottom of the pie shell.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus and cook about 3 minutes or until tender & crisp. Drain well. Arrange in a spoke fashion in the bottom of the shell (too much effort - I prefer smaller pieces of asparagus and I just dump them into the shell). Sprinkle in cheese. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour into pie shell. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing & serving.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Strawberry Ice Cream


I've been on an ice cream kick lately. Maybe because I'm very happy that winter is over or maybe because I feel like we need to start using the ice cream maker that we ignored for several months or maybe because I just want cool and creamy desserts. But I want frozen dessert. First it was the amazing Cinnamon Gelato, then it was the delicious and citrusy Orange Sherbet, and now it's this Strawberry Ice Cream from Brown Eyed Baker.
The process is just like that of many ice creams we've made - make a delicious custard base, add flavors, chill, churn, enjoy. This time, the additional flavor was strawberries pulsed with sugar and lemon juice in a food processor. We always chill our custard overnight and churn it the next morning.

This is delicious! Lots of strawberry flavor. Because it's ice cream, not gelato or sherbet, it's not quite as smooth or melty, but it's just as flavorful. Definitely a make again ice cream treat.
I'm still playing with the new camera and trying to find the best spot for food photos. For these strawberry ice cream photos, I was struck by how different the ice cream color is depending on whether I had it on the table right in front of the window or on the counters near the window.

Strawberry Ice Cream recipe from Brown Eyed Baker here: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/07/23/fresh-strawberry-ice-cream-recipe/

*The only thing we did differently is we added some vodka to the ice cream when we churned it since supposedly that helps keep the ice cream from getting too hard in the freezer. Not sure if it really works, but we always add a bit of alcohol when we churn.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Braised Lamb & Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

For some reason, this winter & spring we started braising. A lot. Beef, chicken, lamb. Almost every weekend we had something braising in the oven. We're still trying to find the best ever, go-to braised lamb recipe. Our most recent attempt was a couple of weekends ago. We followed this recipe: Braised Lamb Shanks with Lemon Risotto from Bon Appetit October 2010.
Our perfect braised lamb will have tomatoes & tomato juice. It most likely will include the lemon (or maybe orange, definitely a citrus component) and cinnamon, allspice, and clove flavors in this recipe. I think braised lamb is more flavorful with chicken and beef stock, like this recipe, or maybe all beef stock, which we haven't yet tried. I am still undecided on whether I prefer red wine or white wine in the braising liquid. Definitely lots of carrots, celery, and onion.

Our fresh herbs were not yet large enough to use (and still aren't!), so we were unable to use fresh sprigs of thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Instead, we guessed at how much of each herb, dried, to sprinkle into the liquid. I would like to try this again with fresh herbs - I think that might just be the extra something I'm looking for in braised lamb. Maybe some olives, too - I had braised lamb shank at a restaurant in Charleston and the olives and some feta gave the lamb a lovely, salty, tangy flavor boost.
Instead if our usual polenta, we decided to make the Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes that Bon Appetit suggested with this braised lamb recipe. This risotto is now one of our favorite risottos! The roasted tomatoes, lemon flavor, and wilted arugula are delicious with the creamy arborio! I would make this risotto by itself as a meal or as a side with chicken instead of lamb. This might even be tastier than the Shrimp & Arugula Risotto that is our favorite.
Definitely a lot of work but definitely worth it.

Braised Lamb Shank recipe here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/10/braised_lamb_shanks_with_lemon_risotto

Lemon Risotto with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes & Arugula recipe here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2010/10/lemon_risotto_with_roasted_cherry_tomatoes

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Orange Sherbet

I'm falling behind in blogging! We are still enjoying the last few scoops of this Orange Sherbet, but we actually made it two weekends ago. I always loved sherbet when I was a little girl. My favorite was the tub of Rainbow Sherbet - orange, lime, and raspberry all swirled together. Yum!

This recipe is from The Science of Good Cooking by the Cook's Illustrated guys. It's a delicious blend of sugar, fresh orange juice, orange zest, fresh lemon juice, triple sec and heavy cream.
It melts quickly, so be sure to start eating as soon as you scoop it out! This is one we'll definitely be making again and again.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Dining Around Bridgeville

Last weekend, it was the ever more frequent trip to get my hair colored. The gray hairs are evil. Since L could not meet us for lunch in McMurray, we decided to go to La Bella Bean. La Bella Bean is in Bridgeville and we have been there before, just not in a very long time. We both like this place a lot for lunch, plus, there are a few tables outside on the sidewalk, so we were able to dine outside and enjoy the gorgeous weather.
SP had the quiche, with bacon added on top, and a salad. It was a very thick slice of quiche! We spent some time marveling at how they managed to get it cooked all the way through but not burn the top or the edges. He enjoyed both.
I ordered the Chicken & Fresh Mozzarella sandwich on basil focaccia instead of Mancini Twist. It also had field greens, roasted red peppers, and artichoke spread. It was good, I liked the basil focaccia a lot because it wasn't too thick. I ate the entire sandwich, which made SP sad because usually he gets the last couple of bites of my sandwich. It was just the right size for me.
We spent the afternoon running errands and shopping. After a quick stop at home to drop off our purchases, we headed to Bridgeville again. This time, our destination was Cucina Bella. I always think it's a bit of a drive to Bridgeville, but it only takes about 15 minutes for us to get to Cucina Bella.
Cucina Bella has salads, panini, calzone, and pizza. We always split a salad. This time it was the Della Casa with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic dressing. I forgot to take a picture because we were so hungry and the salad was so good! We also ordered two pizzas. We really don't need two pizzas because we always bring home half of each, but we both like different kinds of toppings. As usual, I ordered the Capricciosa with artichokes, portobellos, prosciutto, parmesan, basil.
SP ordered one of their new pizzas, the Del Mar. It has egg on it and lots of greens with balsamic drizzle on top. The egg was hidden under all the greens.
As usual, it was delicious and filling. It was a little loud inside, especially with a large party of about 10 people just a bit away from us and they had been enjoying the BYOB policy, perhaps a bit too much! We had to lean in to each other to hear each other talk.

My only complaint: Cucina Bella no longer offers unsweetened, fresh brewed iced tea. Our server told us that too many people complained that it didn't taste good so they took it off the menu and now sell only bottled iced tea, which I dislike.


LaBella Bean Coffee House & Eatery on Urbanspoon Cucina Bella on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Deprived

In my family, Easter dinner meant ham. Yes, I know, Easter was a while ago. But this year, we went to SP's parents' place for Easter dinner and dinner was lamb, not ham. Lamb is good, and I do consider it an acceptable Easter meal, but since I grew up with ham every single Easter, if I don't get ham, I feel deprived.

I know. That might sound a little crazy. But aside from sometimes buying ham from the deli for lunch meat as a treat from the usual turkey, we do not eat ham except at Christmas or Easter. I like ham. I look forward to holiday ham. And when I don't get it, I am sad. I mentioned this to SP and he agreed that ham-less Easter was disappointing.
So we decided to fix that by making ham and this: Farfalle with Forest Mushrooms, Peas, and Parsley from Bon Appetit, April 2002. The recipe suggests serving this pasta dish with ham. Also, when I was a kid, my mom made a casserole of shells, ham, peas, cheese, mushroom soup, and bread crumbs that was a favorite of mine. That combination of flavors is really good.
The pasta is easy and delicious. White wine, chicken broth, cream, shallots, peas, mushrooms, and pasta. Lots of mushrooms - yum!

The ham was delicious, too. We glazed it with a glaze recipe we saw in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette right before Easter, a mixture of bourbon, brown sugar, dry mustard, cloves, and orange zest. We scaled it down for our little ham. It was a delicious glaze. Sticky, a hint of bourbon taste, lots of clove flavor, a little sweet - our favorite ham glaze so far.

Glazed Easter Ham: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/life/food/pittsburgh-food-family-puts-its-eggs-other-holiday-fare-in-one-basket-for-church-681163/#ixzz2QpaxY2ZI