Archive for November, 2010

From Dish Gwen:

Lately I’ve been experimenting with baking bread. It’s hard! Or rather, I’m making it hard. Instead of using recipes and taking a hint from thousands of generations of experienced bread makers, I’m trying to reinvent the wheel and figure it out on my own. I do not recommend this to anyone.

The fruits of my bread lab have not been very pretty, but I have gotten some good croutons and French toast out of the ordeal. The French call French toast “Pain Perdu” – or “lost bread”. My bread is the truest expression of lostness, and it makes for some pretty fantastic French toast.

If you’ve got old, stale, or “lost” bread laying around the house and don’t know what to make for breakfast, make this. You can substitute the almonds for another nut – walnuts or hazelnuts would be delicious. I crushed my almonds using this amazing little vintage grinder that my sister gave me, but if you don’t have a grinder you can use a food processor, chop them with a knife, or just put the nuts in a plastic bag and bang them with a heavy object (like a big coffee mug).

– 6 to 8 slices of bread
– 4 eggs
– ½ cup milk
– 2 teaspoons cinnamon
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 cup chopped nuts
– 3 tablespoons butter

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Lay out the nuts flat on a plate and heat up a skillet on medium and put in a tablespoon of butter. While the butter melts, turn your oven on to 250, then lay three slices of bread in the egg mixture and turn them so that they each are completely covered with liquid. Pull out the bread slices one by one, shaking off any excess egg mixture back into the bowl, and press one side of the wet bread into the plate of chopped nuts so that the nuts stick to the bread. Brush off excess nuts (you just want a thin and consistent layer of nuts on each piece of bread), and lay the bread slices in the buttered skillet, nut-side down. As the slices cook, you can begin to coat the remaining bread with egg and nuts. Check the cooking slices to see if the egg on the bottom side is fully cooked, and when it is completely dry and golden-brown, flip the slices and cook off the other side. When both sides are cooked, pull the slices out and put them in an oven-safe dish, and keep them warm in the oven until all of the slices are done and you’re ready to eat. Serve the toast with butter and maple syrup, and if you feel like feasting throw in a side of fruit salad and some breakfast sausage. Bon appetit!

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From Dish Erin:

When I first laid eyes on the 31 pound cauliflower at the greenmarket, I knew I had to have it. I had no idea what I’d do with it, but I was hell-bent on figuring that out. After I scoped out a cute little cheese monger’s stinky gruyere, I knew what I wanted: cauliflower gratin. It’s a little lighter than traditional potatoes au gratin, and I actually think it would do the trick if you’re craving mac and cheese, too. Traditional gratin recipes usually have you steam the vegetables first, then make a béchamel, and then combine together before baking. I’m lazy so I combined this all into one step as a major time saver: cook the raw cauliflower IN the béchamel and thicken it all up in one step. It worked perfectly and I actually think some of the starches from the cauliflower helped to thicken it up even more effectively. Yay for short cuts!

It’s perfect for this time of year, comfort food for a chilly night, but not so overwhelmingly heavy that you need a nap afterward. And it goes great as a side dish for a whole roasted chicken–or a turkey! Happy Thanksgiving kids!

3 slices sourdough bread, torn into large pieces
¼ cup tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 head cauliflower (or half a monster head), cored and cut into small florets
Coarse salt and ground pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Truffle oil for drizzling (optional)*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine bread and Parmesan. Pulse until coarse crumbs form, set aside in small bowl.

In a large saucepan with a lid, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour; cook, whisking constantly for 1 minute. Whisk in milk.

Add cauliflower, and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover, and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; gradually stir in Gruyere.

Pour mixture into a 2-quart baking dish, and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Cover with aluminum foil; bake until cauliflower is easily pierced with a knife, about 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake until breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

Remove from oven, ad serve with a little bit of truffle oil (optional) drizzled on top.

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We liked Guest Dish Nicole so much that we asked her to join the team for good! Enjoy her first post as a full-time Dish:

My Mom has always claimed not to be interested in cooking and left the creative cooking up to my Dad.  But I have to give credit where credit is due; she can make a mean roast chicken, killer turkey rice soup and my favorite pasta salad of all time.   Like many mothers, mine was a working mom.  Many of the meals we had during the week while I was growing up were healthy and quick, but also used some pre-made ingredients.  With this in mind, I always assumed that the manicotti that my family devoured trays of was of the frozen variety.  Recently I found out that I was wrong: that it has never been store bought frozen manicotti, and it was “most certainly home-made”.  It started to make sense why all of my attempts with frozen manicotti never lived up to my expectations.  Immediately I asked for the recipe (which she photocopied & faxed to me from the pages of McCall’s Cooking School cookbook).  I whipped up a batch for my boyfriend and I to test out on a Sunday night and the results: saucy, cheesy perfection.

For this batch of manicotti I used sauce that I had made a few days prior.  The recipe is very simple and always turns out great.  You can add garlic, onion or basil; I change it up every time.  What you need for the base of the sauce:

*2 28oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes
*About 5 medium sized carrots diced
*4-5 stalks of celery diced
*1/2 cup olive oil (give or take)
*1/2 cup red wine
*sea salt and pepper to taste

Place the carrots and celery in a large sauce pan covered in olive oil and cook over medium heat.  Let these soften for about 10 minutes.  Next add the tomatoes (juice and all) along with the wine.  Turn the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 4 hours stirring every so often with a wooden spoon, mashing the tomatoes as they cook down.  Add a little sea salt and pepper to taste.  If you prefer a smoother sauce you can pulse a few times with an immersion blender once the sauce is to your liking.

For the manicotti:

*6 eggs at room temperature
*1/4 teaspoon salt
*1 ½ cups flour
*1 ½ cups water

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and beat until smooth. 

Heat an eight inch pan over medium heat and grease with a little butter or cooking spray.  Pour 3 tablespoons of the batter into the warmed pan and smooth.  Heat the batter until the top is dry, being careful not to brown the bottom. 

Remove from heat immediately and let cool on parchment or wax paper.  Continue this process using all the batter.

For the Filling:

*large (2Lb) part skim ricotta cheese
*8oz mozzarella cheese (shredded)
*1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
*2 Eggs
*2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
* salt & pepper

While you are preparing your filling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Next combined all filling ingredients (saving a little mozz & parm) and mix well with a wooden spoon. 

Spoon some of the tomato sauce onto the bottom of your baking dish.  Next place about ¼ cup of the filling into each manicotti, roll and place them seam side down on the baking dish. 

Once you have finished placing all the manicotti, Cover with 1-2 cups sauce, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes.

Now I realize there are many steps to the process but it really is simple.  My best buddy and fellow Dish, Ms. Florio, plans on taking an afternoon and making a few batches to freeze.  Finally the search for the perfect frozen manicotti is over.

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