Monday, January 31, 2011

A Pressing Matter

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Paninis With Smoked Mozzarella
I know that it's only January and I should really be expecting weeks and weeks more of mist, gloom, and chilly nights, but lately the weather has been tricking me. On two of my runs last week, I didn't even have to wear the sweatshirt, gloves, and hat I have become accustomed to donning since October. Blue skies. Bright and windless days. The nights, however, have been another story. The minute that sun sets the fog rolls in and I am ready to cozy up to a steaming bowl of soup and some sort of delicious toasted sandwich. I've been getting a lot of wear out of my panini press over the last few weeks and this was my latest creation. Inspired by a ball of smoked mozzarella cheese I found on a recent Trader Joe's outing. There are very few ingredients in this meal, but they are all extremely flavorful and served with a hot bowl of tomato soup make the perfect pairing to an evening in.


- 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4" rounds
- 3 large tomatoes sliced to 1/4" thickness
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- herbs d' Provence
- 8 slices of good quality sourdough bread
- 8 oz. smoked mozzarella, sliced into disks

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange eggplant and tomato slices onto foil. Drizzle with about 1/4 c. olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs d' Provence. Roast in oven for about 30-40 minutes until vegetables soften and shrink. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat panini press to high. Brush one side of each piece of sourdough with olive oil. Turn olive oil sides down. Top four of the bread slices (oiled side down) with cheese, several pieces of eggplant and tomato, another slice of cheese, and top with a remaining piece of bread, oiled side up. Cook sandwiches on panini press until they turn golden brown and cheese becomes melty and delicious.

Serve with your favorite tomato soup.

Rad, Rad, Ravioli

Spinach and Artichoke Ravioli with Quick and Tasty Tomato Sauce
Every so often I get it in my head that I want to take the time to make homemade pasta. I will caution you now, this endeavor is a bit labor-intensive, but I promise well worth the effort. Before I had made my own pasta I was mystified by the process. For special (and sometimes not-so-special) occasions my mom would break out the pasta machine, clamp it to the edge of the counter, and roll out her own dough. I have particularly fond memories of "Pasta Uncle Al" and her unbeatable Beef Stroganoff. I honestly thought I could never make my own noodles, but a few years ago I figured, "What the heck? It's just a couple of eggs and some flour." To be honest, my first couple of experiments were not successful. The mistake? Not enough flour when I was rolling out the dough into sheets. Getting the texture just right might take a little trial and error, but it's not impossible. Little Italian ladies have been doing for generations . . . why can't we? Every since I cracked the "pasta code" I love making up ravioli fillings. This time around? I had a craving for something with tangy marinated artichoke hearts. The filling was excellent. If you're still intimidated by your own dough, try using wonton wrappers. I bought my pasta rolling machine at a Ross or T.J. Maxx for like $20. It's an inexpensive piece of kitchen equipment that will last forever. DO IT! You won't regret it.


- 2 c. flour, plus more for dusting
- 5 large eggs
- 1 tsp. salt
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 c. chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and wrung dry
- 1 c. marinated artichoke hearts, diced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 3 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 c. chopped Italian parsley, divided
- 1/2 c. dry white wine

Combine flour, 4 eggs, and 1 tsp. salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture comes together and forms a sticky dough. Turn out on a well-floured surface and divide into four equal portions. Work with the dough, one portion at a time, working it through the pasta roller. Flour dough with each pass through the roller until the dough is rolled out to the 4 or 5 level of thinness.

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, grated Pecorino, oregano, 1/2 c. Italian parsley, artichoke hearts, spinach, and one egg. Stir to combine thoroughly and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place one dough sheet on the bottom of a ravioli mold. Fill each space with 1 tsp. filling. Place the top sheet of dough on top and sandwich together with ravioli mold. Separate ravioli and set out on a wire rack while making and filling the additional ravioli. Bright a large pot of water to a boil. While waiting for water to boil, make tomato sauce. When water is at a boil, cook ravioli for about 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften and float to the top. Drain water and divide ravioli among four bowls.

In a medium sauce pan heat olive oil over medium. Add minced garlic and cook for 1 minute until the garlic begins to turn fragrant. Add tomatoes, parsley, sugar, and white wine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Allow to simmer for about 5-10 minutes until sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top ravioli with sauce and then top with additional Pecorino Romano. SO GOOD!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

You Put Peanut Butter In My Chocolate!!!!

Chocolate Peanut Buttercup Cakes With Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Surely I have sung the praises of the glorious combination of chocolate and peanut butter before . . . but, if not, here I go again. Seriously . . . are there two flavors better suited for each other? Rich creamy peanut butter with just a hint of salt offsetting the silky bittersweetness of chocolate. Yum. Although the amount of baking I do might suggest otherwise, I'm really not all that crazy about sweets. Give me salty, crunchy snacks any day. For dessert? I love fresh berries. Although heavy, decadent desserts are beautiful to behold and fun to make . . . I just don't crave them. The exception might be some combination of peanut butter and chocolate. Lately, I've been experimenting with cupcakes, the perfect sweet treat for people that don't like to overdo it on sweets.


- 2 sticks butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. Greek-style yogurt
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 c. flour
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla
- 1 c. cocoa powder
- 2 c. powdered sugar (or more)
- 1 c. creamy peanut butter
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 18 miniature peanut butter cups, unwrapped

Prepare muffin tins by lining with cupcake liners or lightly greasing and then flouring. Set aside and preheat oven to 325˚F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar with an electric or stand mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla. With the mixer running, add half of the flour mixture then the yogurt, then the other half of the flour mixture. Blend until smooth, but don't over mix.

Spoon batter into prepared tins, filling each cup to about two-thirds full. Bake about twenty minutes. Remove from oven and carefully press an unwrapped peanut butter cup candy into the center of each cupcake. Continue baking for 5-10 minutes until cupcakes are springy around the melty peanut butter cup. Let cool in cups for about five minutes before carefully removing from tins. Cool completely on rack before frosting.

In a medium bowl blend together cream cheese and peanut butter with a stand or hand mixer. Slowly add powdered sugar a cup at a time until the frosting is at the right consistency. It will be thick and sticky, a bit candy-like. Frost cupcakes when cooled completely. Store in a airtight container. Yum!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Celebrate . . . With Cake!

Dave Got His Sh** Together Chocolate Raspberry Sour Cream Cake
My pal Dave is great. He's funny, sweet, an excellent drummer, and one heck of a charming guy. Due to his abundance of great qualities, naturally we give him a lot of shit. But sometimes, we give him cake. Last fall he was all prepared to perform his senior drumming recital, basically the capstone of his undergraduate studies and the LAST thing for him to achieve in order to graduate. The date was set, the invitations sent out, and the promise of a taco reception loomed in the horizon. When it all came down to it, however, Dave didn't feel ready. He was particularly nervous about his complicated marimba piece and decided to postpone the recital until the first weekend of Winter Term. This, in the long run, worked out much better. His girlfriend from Michigan was able to fly out and attend, he felt confident about his work, and an enthusiastic audience was eager to lend their support. I asked him if he would like a cake and champagne toast to celebrate post-show and post-taco feast. Dave agreed and requested "a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting." Done. I put this recipe together in honor of Dave and his achievement. And also because even the best moments can be made better with cake.

- 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 c. sour cream
- 3 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 6 Tbsp. butter, softened
- 1 c. hot coffee
- 1 c. raspberry jam
- fresh raspberries
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 stick butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 c. or more powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Lightly grease and flour three 8" round cake pans. Set aside. In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together granulated sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In a separate small bowl, melt 6 Tbsp. butter in the hot coffee. In another small bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, and 1 Tbsp. vanilla. Using the stand mixer, beat half of the sour cream mixture into the dry ingredients at low speed. When thoroughly combined, add coffee mixture and blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the remaining sour cream mixture and blend thoroughly.

Pour batter evenly distributed into the prepared cake pans. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating pans half way through baking until cakes are springy to the touch. Let cakes cook in pans for about 10 minutes before turning out on a write rack to cool completely.

With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese, stick of butter, and 1 tsp of vanilla. Add powdered sugar slowly, then blend until fluffy and well combined.

When cake is completely cooled set one layer at the center of serving plate or bottom part of a cake dome. Spread half the raspberry jam on top of the cake. Top with the second layer then spread remaining raspberry jam on top of that layer. Top second layer with remaining cake round. Frost the top and sides of cake with an even layer of cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate before serving. (Cake can be made and stored in refrigerator the day before.) Before serving top with fresh raspberries. Slice and toast to life! Congratulations Dave! You did a fantastic job . . . even on the marimba!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

On the Other Side of the Holidays

Macadamia Nut Crusted Salmon with Asian Broccoli Slaw
The holidays are over and once again I'm feeling that ThanksgivingChristmasNewYears food-hangover feeling. I love parties, dinner, brunches, and all the rest with friends and family, but even I start to crave something a little less cream-based after a few weeks. I have sung the praises of super-food salmon on several occasions, and I will do so again! It's SO good and SO good for you. I always just feel somehow healthier after a salmon dinner. I happened to have some leftover macadamia nuts in the pantry from a delicious Chocolate and Caramel Macadamia Nut tart and thought they might make a great crunchy compliment to my favorite friend from the sea. I whipped this up pretty fast. It was perfectly lovely with a small glass of chardonnay and an evening of Wii Sports! Happy January!


- 2 6-7 oz. salmon fillets
- 1/2 c. roughly chopped macadamia nuts
- 1/2 c. plain dried breadcrumbs
- 1/4 c. flour
- 1 egg, beaten
- 8-10 oz. bag of shredded broccoli, cabbage, or carrots
- 3 green onions, trimmed and diced
- 6 Tbsp. grape seed or canola oil, divided
- 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tsp. sesame seed oil
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 1/2 c. dried cherries
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- Teriyaki sauce
- salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together rice vinegar, honey, sesame seed oil, soy sauce, and minced garlic in a small bowl. Drizzle in 3 Tbsp. oil and whisk into mixture. Set aside. In a medium bowl combine shredded broccoli, cabbage or carrots with diced green onions and cherries. (I just bought a bag of pre-shredded broccoli slaw at Trader Joes, yum. Dress with dressing and toss to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside and prepare salmon. (I like to prepare my salad dressings by pouring the ingredients into mason jars and shaking them up. It's great for storage too!)

Whisk together breadcrumbs and chopped nuts in a shallow bowl, set aside. Season salmon fillets on both sides with salt and pepper then dredge through flour, then beaten egg, then cover completely with nut-breadcrumb mixture. Set aside and heat remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook salmon fillets in oil until cooked through and crust begins to turn golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Remove from heat and brush each fillet with teriyaki sauce. Serve warm with broccoli slaw.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year's Brunch

Matt Bradley Loves Brunch Vegetarian Strata
Happy 2011 to everyone! After a classy cocktail party including tasty appetizers, champagne, and even fireworks we all knew we would want a leisurely New Year's brunch to usher in the new year. On the menu? Well, homemade cinnamon rolls were a must. But I also needed something savory and vegetarian for Matt Bradley- a hardcore brunch lover. I threw together this cheesy egg dish as the center of the meal. By the way, I also made a ton of bacon for the more carnivorous types in attendance.


- 8 eggs
- 4 oz. of day-old baguette, torn into pieces
- 2 1/2 c. half and half
- 2 c. grated sharp white cheddar cheese
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 bunches Italian kale, stems removed and torn into pieces
- 2 Tbsp. dry sherry
- 1 large onion, peeled and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 8 oz. frozen vegetarian breakfast sausage patties, cooked and torn into bite-sized pieces
- salt and pepper to taste

Caramelize onion in 2 Tbsp. butter over medium-low heat, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with sugar to help caramelize while cooking. Set aside. Meanwhile whisk together eggs, half and half, bread pieces, "sausage" pieces, and half the grated cheese. When onions have cooked and cooled slightly, add to egg mixture.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and saute garlic for about one minute. Add kale pieces and stir in sherry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until kale begins to wilt and turns bright green. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding to egg mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Spray a 9x13" baking pan with cooking spray and pour in mixture. Top evenly with remaining grated cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and store overnight in refrigerator.

When ready to cook. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Bake strata for about 30-40 minutes until cheese is melted and begins to brown. Serve!