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Archive for August, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Three years ago (wow! THREE!) Tony and I got married on August 5, 2005. It was a spectacular day filled with amazing family, friends, dancing and food! followed by an even better marriage 🙂 Our anniversary fell on a Tuesday this year- not the most exciting day of the week. So we decided to have a quiet dinner at home and get LOBSTERS! This has sort of become a tradition… encouraged by the really fun lobster tools and gadgets we were smart enough to register for and received as gifts! So our delicious anniversary menu included:

Champagne (Prosseco)
Steamed Lobster
Baked Potatoes with Chives and Sour Cream
Steamed Asparagus with Lemon Juice
Molten Chocolate Babycakes

Since we had to make dinner after both coming home from work that night, we kept the menu quite simple. The only recipe I used was for the Molten Chocolate Babycakes (I made these in exchange for Tony going to pick up the lobsters on his way home from work!). I was originally just going to get some strawberries and chocolate for dessert (keeping with the low maintenance menu) but I was at my friend Stephanie’s house the night before and she was planning to make these cakes for her new boyfriend. She promised me they were simple to make and delicious and she even gave me two ramekins to make them in. With Tony standing there drooling as she described them, how could I say no?

Well…. I probably should have! The actual batter was very easy to prepare. The only problem was the execution. They took longer than I thought to bake and then these bad boys did NOT want to come out of the ramekins, resulting in a heaping pile of chocolate mess on the plate instead of a cute, dainty, individual cake. They were DELICIOUS! But definitely not pretty, and we certainly did not look pretty eating them! (hence the lack of photographic evidence). Anyway, here is the recipe, dare I ever try to make these again!:

Molten Chocolate Babycakes
(
adapted from Nigella Lawson: How To Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking)

Ingredients

(Serves 6, but I cut the recipe in half and made only 2)

¼ cup soft, unsalted butter (plus more for greasing)
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate
½ cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400° putting in a baking sheet at the same time
  2. Trace custard cup on baking parchment, cut out 6 disks and press them into the base of the custard cups
  3. Melt chocolate and let it cool slightly
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar and gradually beat in the eggs, salt and then vanilla
  5. Add the flour and when all is smoothly combined, scrape in the cooled chocolate, blending it to a smooth batter
  6. Divide the batter between the 6 custard cups
  7. Take baking sheet out of the oven, arrange the custard cups and replace it in oven
  8. Cook for 10 (if you make the batter ahead of time and refrigerate it, bake for 12 minutes) (Cooking time for 2 was more like 15-20 minutes)
  9. Tip the babycake onto a small plate or shallow bowl as soon as you take them out of the oven (GOOD LUCK!)
  10. Serve with whipped cream, crème fraîche, custard or ice cream

 

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Lemon Spaghetti

(adapted from Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian)

This was a really easy weeknight dinner that looked and tasted great! Very light- perfect for a summer evening. I followed Giada’s recipe but added a few ingredients I had in the fridge- steamed broccoli, artichokes and arugula. That’s it!

Ingredients

1 pound spaghetti
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I used arugula instead)

Directions

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the oil, Parmesan, and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce, and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup at a time as needed to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with lemon zest and chopped basil.

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Classic Summertime Dinner

I hosted our book club meeting this month. We read I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. It was a fun book to read for the summer and made for some interesting discussions. The author is our age (29) and the book is a collection of humorous essays about a number of topics we could all relate to including childhood, first job, moving, college experiences and family drama. For dinner I prepared a light and summery meal:

Lemonade
Watermelon and Feta Salad
Pressed Panini Sandwiches
Strawberry Shortcake

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Ingredients

1 small seedless watermelon, cut into small cubes
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
Mixed lettuce (I used red leaf and arugula)
4 ounces feta cheese
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper

Directions

In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey, salt, and pepper to create the dressing. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, onion, watermelon and feta. Toss with dressing to taste.

Pressed Panini Sandwiches

Using my Cuisinart Griddler, I made an assortment of pressed panini sandwiches:

  • Grilled eggplant, mozzarella and tomato
  • Grilled zucchini, yellow squash and mozzarella
  • Prosciutto, arugula and mozzarella

Directions

First, heat up the Griddler and prepare the vegetables for grilling. Cut the eggplant and tomato into thin rounds. Slice the zucchini and squash lengthwise into thin strips. Drizzle with olive oil and grill the vegetables until soft and tender. In the meantime, begin to slice Italian bread to make as many individual sandwiches as you need. I used a baguette for the prosciutto sandwiches (cut lengthwise and then across) and extra large Italian rolls for the grilled vegetable sandwiches (cut lengthwise and then in half).

Next, in a small bowl whisk together a generous amount of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Using a grill brush, sweep the olive oil mixture over each half of the bread, creating a base coat. Once the breads are prepared, begin to layer the assorted grilled vegetables and sliced mozzarella onto your breads (careful not to stuff them too full). Place the completed sandwiches in the Griddler and press in batches until the cheese is melted and the bread is crisp.

For the prosciutto sandwiches, I brushed the baguette with olive oil, salt and pepper and layered thin slices of prosciutto, mozzarella and arugula. I then heated the individual sandwiches in the toaster over at 350 degrees until the bread is just lightly toasted and the cheese is soft.

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Blueberry Buckle

(adapted from http://www.marthastewart.com/)

What is a buckle? Well, not only is it delicious but it was a perfect solution for the heaping pile of blueberries in my fridge. It is also basically the same thing as a crumb cake. It was excellent! The blueberries stayed plump and the cake was moist and not at all soggy.


Ingredients

1 9X9 inch pan
10 tablespoons (about 1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon zest
4 cups blueberries
Streusel Topping

Streusel Topping

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until fine crumbs form. Using hands, squeeze together most of the mixture to form large clumps.

Directions

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter baking pan, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar and lemon zest on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add egg and vanilla, beating until fully combined. 6. With mixer running at low speed, gradually add in flour mixture; beat until flour is incorporated, about 20 seconds.

6. Remove bowl from mixer. Using a rubber spatula gently fold in blueberries.

7. Pour batter into prepared pan.

8. Sprinkle streusel topping over cake.

9. Bake until toothpick comes out batter-free, about 60 minutes.

10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

11. Remove from pan; cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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