Monday, December 17, 2007

Insalata Caprese

Or salad in the style of the Island of Capri. There are more versions on how to make this than you can shake a stick at. I've seen it layered, overlapped and on skewers. I've seen it topped with just olive oil, with just balsamic vinegar and with a mixture of both. And most importantly if you have a set of working eyes you don't require a recipe. If you can see it you can make it. So going off of this basic principle, I knew I liked mine stacked, with more balsamic vinegar than olive oil and topped with julienned basil instead of whole basil leaves. But, always the perfectionist, I decided to do some research and see if I was "missing out" on something that would take my basic idea into an AWESOME idea!

So I went on and found a recipe for the salad but I wasn't interested on the recipe as much as I was interested in the reviews. I find a lot of insight on the reviews, what people did different, how they made a recipe better, you know.... insight. So I found the following review by someone called YOGAFOODIE:
"I've been making this salad for years. However, us Sicilians make it a little different. Also, another trick is to use fresh bocconcini (the smaller fresh moz. balls) and to use very fresh Roma (chopped) tomatoes or cherry/plum tomatoes. I add a lot of balsamic dressing with only a splash of olive oil (plus at least 3-4 cloves of fresh chopped garlic). Mix together and let the flavors marinate together (it tastes delicious when the balsamic vinegar and garlic flavors soak into the cheese). Just a little Sicilian twist to the caprese salad. "

With this little tid bit in mind I set out to make the Caprese salad my own. And it completely surpassed my expectations. It was savory, light, fresh and best of all TASTY!!! Ryan really liked it, he liked it so much he has requested it for Christmas Day. I think I will make it as an appetizer or something we can munch on during the day. And since it's already dressed in the Christmas colors how could that be wrong? So here is my take on Insalata Caprese:

Insalata Caprese con una Claud Torsione
In English, Salad in the style of Capri with a Claud Twist

2 Vine Ripened Tomatoes (can be purchased at the grocery store)

2 Buffalo Mozzarella

Basil Leaves, julienned (About 3 or 4 it's really your preference)

1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar

2 tbspn Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tspn Finely Chopped Garlic

Coarse Salt

Combine Balsamic vinegar and garlic in a bowl and then slowly mix in the Olive Oil until emulsified. Set the mixture aside and let "marinate" at room temperature for an hour to an hour and a half. A little before your hour or your hour an a half is done slice up your Buffalo Mozzarella . Place cheese on a platter or deep dish and pour 2 tablespoons of the balsamic mixture over the mozzarella slices. Let the cheese marinate in the balsamic vinegar for an hour. Then slice up two tomatoes, you should get about six 1/4" slices out of every tomato. Place tomatoes slices on a platter and season with coarse salt. Then with a slotted spoon transfer mozzarella cheese slices on top of the tomato slices. Then sprinkle the balsamic vinegar the cheese was marinating in around the tomato slices. Sprinkle basil over the top of the stacks, serve and enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Frito Candy aka Crazy Bark

No you are not mistaken, you read that right Frito Candy! It's a bark made of the most uncommon ingredients Fritos, pretzels, Reese's peanut butter cups and chocolate. And let me just tell you it's TASTY!!!

I thought it sounded a little weird but I couldn't help and be intrigued and thank God I was. It's sweet, it's salty with a caramelized flavor in the back ground.. I don't know what else to say you will just have to try it for yourself. I will have to say if you like chocolate covered pretzels then you'll like this and I almost forgot about my favorite part it's sooooo easy to make!

Sweet, Salty, Frito Candy
Courtesy of Cookie Madness

2 cups pretzels
1 cup Fritos
8 mini peanut butter cups (Cut in half)
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (or however many you want) (I used the exact amount I think if you add more chocolate it would be too sweet)
Optional: Some peanuts for the top (Definately used them and I think it helps make it look "pretty")

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper or no-stick (Release) foil.

Place pretzels in food processor and pulse to break - don’t pulverize. Add Fritos to processor and break them up with pretzels. Dump into pan. Unwrap peanut butter cups and throw them in the mix.

Place butter in a non-stick saucepan and melt over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in brown sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring once or twice. Pour over Frito mixture and bake for 8 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy. Return to oven for 1 minute to soften chips. Spread softened chocolate chips over bars.

Cool at room temperature until you feel the pan is cool enough to be transfered to your refrigerator, then transfer to refrigerator to set the chocolate. When chocolate is set, lift from pan and break the candy up as you would almond toffee. You can eat it cold or let it come back down to room temp. It doesn’t have to be refrigerated, really.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Product Rave: Dr. Pete's Praline Mustard Glaze

Dr. Pete's Praline Mustard Glaze as mentioned in our Friends Thanksgiving Review is a little slice of heaven. The blend of Pralines, brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves is to die!

We had it as a dip poured over cream cheese but it would be perfect on ham. There is aso a recipe on their website for a Praline Sweet Potato Casserole that uses this glaze and it sounds absolutely sinful!

How is it we got the little Savannah treasure in Orange County you ask, I'll tell you. Our friend Lisette was in Savannah for her annual Birthday trip with her Mom and brought back a bottle of this and so kindly brought it to our Friends Thanksgiving. And we instantly fell in love with it. Well I just fell so bad that she brought her one and only bottle to our shindig so I went on a mission to try to find it. I called the company direct and asked if they had a retailer in the West Coast that sold it. The nice man on the other end of the phone said, in his beautiful southern twang, that they only had 5 retailers in the entire West Coast that sold it, my heart instantly sank. He then asked me for my zip code and told me there was a local retailer but that they were far away. He said they were all the way in Laguna Niguel! Well I just perked up and started laughing I told him I was from Orange County and 40 minutes is nothing to us! He still felt that was too far so he checked to see if there was one closer. He then said there is one located at 123 N. Glassell in Orange do you know where that is? By this point I was hysterical I told him that was right up the street from my house. He burst out lauging and said I was one lucky girl! So I high tailed it over there and bought one bottle for Lisette and one bottle for myself. And that is how the little Savannah treasure ended up in Orange County.

Anywho, you can buy it directly from them or call them and see if they have any retailers that sell it near you. If you buy it directly from them they have a four item minimum but you can mix and match so you don't have to get four of the same thing. But that wouldn't be so bad either because this stuff is liquid gold!

Grandma Trudy's Famous Cranberry Relish

So Ryan's cousin Suzie wanted to make her Grandmother's famous cranberry relish. She calls up her Grandma Trudy and asks her for her famous recipe, waiting in anticipation to be handed the precious family heirloom Suzie's jaw drops when Grandma Trudy says, "Just look on the back of the cranberry bag it's right there." That is one of my favorite stories kinda reminicent of when Monica from Friends finds out Phoebe's Grandma's famous chocolate chip cookie recipe is really the Nestle Tollhouse recipe that can be found on the back of the bag as well.

Personally I don't care for cranberry sauce but I like this relish. It's easy, tart & sweet all the things I like all rolled into one. I make it the night before so when it's served it looks more like cranberry sauce and less like a relish but I like it that way. I think it's the introduction of the water which can be omitted if you'd like it to be more like a relish. The Ocean Spray recipe doesn't call for water but the bag, which was a different brand, that I got my recipe from did.

My friend Rich at our Friends Thanksgiving said "I don't like cranberry sauce. As a matter of fact I think it's the nastiest most vile thing on the table at Thanskgiving, but I can't stop eating this. Is it bad that I just want to eat this by itself?" My friend Lisette said it would taste good over a plain cheesecake as well.

Grandma Trudy's Famous Cranberry Orange Relish

1 bag fresh cranberries

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

the zest of one orange

1 orange segmented

The night before in a food processor or blender combine all ingredients and blend. Put in a container and refrigerate until needed.

Awesome Sausage, Apple & Cranberry Stuffing

This recipe was ranked pretty high on allrecipes so I decided to try it. I must preface this by saying I do not like stuffing and did not try it, but Ryan had it and he said it was really good and our friends seemed to like it as well. Next time I think I will try it because I tried Mom MaryAnn's at regular Thanksgiving and I think I like stuffing now.

Awesome Sausage, Apple & Cranberry Stuffing

1 1/2 cups cubed whole wheat bread (Used sourdough)
3 3/4 cups cubed white bread (Used sourdough)
1 pound ground turkey sausage (Used 1/2 Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage & 1/2 Jimmy Dean Hot sausage)
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped (Used green Granny Smith)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley (Used fresh & doubled amount)
1 cooked turkey liver, finely chopped (Omitted for obvious reasons)
3/4 cup turkey stock (Used low sodium chicken broth)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degree F (175 degree C). Spread the white and whole wheat bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.

Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries, parsley, and liver. Drizzle with turkey stock and melted butter, and mix lightly. Spoon into turkey to loosely fill. I didn't stuff the stuffing in the turkey. I baked in a 13x9 dish for 30-35 minutes and then stirred it half way through cooking to make sure it cooked evenly. I must warn you this is a dry stuffing so if you like your stuffing on the moist side, you will need to add a lot more stock/broth. About 3 times as much.

Good Eats Roast Turkey

My roast turkey brings all the boys to the yard and they're like it's better than yours! You're damn right it's better than yours! I could teach you, but I'd have to charge! Okay so maybe I won't charge but I will teach you or should I say show you.

So this is the first turkey I have ever made and if I do say so myself it turned out quite AWESOME! It was golden brown, juicy, and flavorful. Pretty much everything a roast turkey should be. So I was a little scared of making a turkey but since I was hosting Friends Thanksgiving I couldn't very well ask someone else to bring the turkey so I elicited the help of my Domestic Superhero Aunt Trish. And she recommended I brine the turkey. Apparently anybody who's anybody is brining their turkey.

Here is the recipe I used. It's from Alton Brown on the food network and it was very, very good. As always I can never follow a recipe to the "T" so my changes are in parenthesis.
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown
1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey (I made a smaller 12-13 pnd turkey)
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt (I used regular table salt)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock (Used chicken stock because the store was out of veggie)
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger (Used ground ginger about 1/8th of a tspn, next time I'll use more)
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil (Softened 1 stick of unsalted butter instead)
Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.
Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) (I used my cooler. I did a layer of ice in the cooler then double bagged the turkey in Turkey size oven bags breast down. Placed it in the cooler over the ice. Then poured in the brine and the ice water into the bag. Then I weighted down the turkey using a small plastic cutting board and tied the bag. This kep the tukey submerged. Place some more ice around the turkey). combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.
A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.
Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.
Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage.
Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil. (I just massaged the turkey with the softened butter, I must have used up a little over 1/2 of the stick of butter)
Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.
Chica Tip: Sorry I couldn't help myself, Ryan & I watch "Simply Delicioso" on Food Network and can't help making fun of Ingrid Hoffman's lameness. But I digress, back to my tip. I almost hate giving this tip away but I will. If you find yourself having to buy a lot of spices like here for the brine you will end up spending a small fortune in spices and this might deter you from making this recipe so... Instead of going to the spice aisle, ignore it all together and go straight to the Mexican or the Ethnic aisle of your grocery store. There in the Mexican section of the aisle you will find the spices you need in little plastic bags for the embarassing price of $0.79 to $0.99!!!! That's right for about 1/4 of the price of fancy schmancy McCormicks in the fancy schmancy bottles.

Friends Thanksgiving II

Friends Thanksgiving

You are probably asking yourself what is Friends Thanksgiving? Well in a nutshell it's an excuse for Friends to get together before Thanksgiving and have a good time while enjoying some good Thanksgiving grub. And best of all it's family drama free.

This was the first year we had Friends Thanksgiving and it was also the first time I ever made a turkey and if I do say so myself it turned out quite AWESOME!!!! But we'll get to that a little later. Friends Thanksgiving was everything I hoped for and more. The food was great, the drinks were great and I don't think any of us had laughed that hard in a while.

The little group in attendance was comprised of Ryan & I (of course), Lisette & Jeff and Rich & Steph. Lisette brought an awesome broccoli casserole, a nice tossed salad and an amazing dip called Dr. Pete's Praline and Mustard Glaze she purchased on a recent trip to Savannah, GA. If you have never had it, and there is a good chance you haven't, you must! It's like heaven, I kid you not. It tastes like the best pralines you ever had in a reduction of maple sugar kicked up by a team of spices like cinnamon, cloves and of course mustard. She served it over cream cheese with an assortment of crackers and it was to die!

Stephanie brought an apple pie with vanilla ice cream and chocolate pie. She was supposed to bring a relish tray (crudite) but forgot it. And when she forgot it she probably made the worst mistake of her life because Lisette and I have yet to let her live that down. Especially since Lisette was looking forward to putting black olives on each of her fingers tips and then eat them off one by one. Yes I did call her a five year old for this.

I made the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry relish. And I was very pleased with how they all came out. Ryan, the hater of all things potato minus french fries, even LOVED these potatoes but who wouldn't love something that has a boat load of cream cheese in it, I mean really!

Anyway when the girls arrived I greeted each with a split of champagne with a straw and of course a smile. The "women" hung around in the kitchen working on the finishing touches and talking about "girl stuff" a.k.a. gossiping while the "men" hung out in the balcony enjoying their beers and cigars. Unfortunately dinner took a little longer than expected and the "men" ended up getting drunk before dinner was served. And when we finally announced dinner was ready Jeff jokingly answered "Wow there's food too, I thought we were just getting drunk."

We then all gathered up around the table and believe it or not we held hands and went around the table saying something we were thankful for. I kid you not! I thought the guys were going to refuse to do it but they didn't, mostly they were joking about what they were thankful for, but they did humor us girls and did it. And then it came time to grub and boy did we ever! So much so that Stephanie felt the need to relieve herself at the table, not pee just gas. I thought Lisette was going to throw up because she had the unfortunate luck of being seated by her. After dinner all the boys except for Ryan fell asleep. I couldn't believe Ryan was awake he's usually the first to pass out but there he was awake. But it didn't last very long he got tired of our girl talk and put himself to sleep but not before Stephanie did a booty dance over Rich's head. Which he woke up half way through and all he saw was Stephanie's butt and thought she was farting on him, he quickly shielded himself. And that is how Friends Thanksgiving came to an end.

We are all looking forward to doing it again next year except we'll have to put someone else in charge of the crudite, Steph I'm looking in your direction.

P.S. I must warn you if you do have a Friends Thanksgiving, it will feel like you are cheating on real Thanksgiving.