Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pasta with Tomato Basil Cream



On an Italian whim, I made this up from some fresh garden goodies that needed to be used up. Serve on the side or as a meal, you won't be sorry!

Boil up a couple ounces of pasta for each person. I used vermicelli in this, but linguini would be great as well!

sauce:
~1 T. butter, unsalted
~1 T. extra virgin olive oil

melt in sauce pan then add:
~1 smallish tomato, diced small (it yielded about 1/3 c. diced flesh)
~1 roasted red pepper, diced (I used a jarred pepper)
~3 or 4 large basil leaves, diced
~2 cloves garlic, minced
~1 tsp. chicken bouillon
~1/3 c. heavy cream

heat all to low simmer, then hit with an immersion blender to combine
continue to simmer a few minutes adding:
~2 T. fresh grated parmesan or 1 T. prepared from a container (this is relative, and can be adjusted to your liking)
~1/2 t. cracked black or white pepper
~1/4 t. onion powder (opt.)

taste and salt to your liking
let this sauce sit for a few minutes off the heat to thicken
then spoon desired amount over cooked pasta
top with pine nuts (I didn't have any for the photo, but they really make a nice addition!)

This makes enough for about 2 servings of pasta.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Raspberry Chocolate Macarons



Not impressed with Coconut Macaroons? Me either.
These French style 'macarons' are made with ground almonds that get all chewy, toasty and full of flavor as they bake. Filled with dark chocolate flavored with raspberry extract, they make an elegant presentation....and they are so DANG GOOD!
I tweaked this recipe from an older Gourmet magazine.

macarons:

~6 oz sliced blanched almonds
~1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
~3 large egg whites
~1/4 teaspoon salt
~3 tablespoons granulated sugar
~Red or pink food coloring

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Pulse almonds with 1/2 cup confectioners sugar in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Sift in remaining cup confectioners sugar, stirring to combine.

Beat egg whites with salt in another bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add granulated sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating, then increase speed to high and continue to beat until whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks. Add drops of food coloring to reach desired shade (I added about 5 drops of red) and mix at low speed until evenly combined. Stir almond mixture into meringue with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated. (Meringue will deflate.)

Spoon batter into bag, pressing out excess air, and snip off 1 corner of plastic bag to create a 1/4-inch opening. Twist bag firmly just above batter, then pipe peaked mounds of batter (the size of half a small walnut) onto lined (silicone sheets work really well here) cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake at 300* for about 20 minutes. Cool completely on sheets before removing.

chocolate raspberry ganache:

~3 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (60 to 64% cacao), finely chopped
~1/4 cup heavy cream
~1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
~1/16 teaspoon raspberry extract

Very very slowly and carefully at 10-15 second intervals, melt chocolate in the microwave then add butter, cream and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.

Smear some of this chocolately goodness on the bottom of a macaron and sandwich another to it.
These can be kept at room temperature in an air tight container for 3 days or so.
By the way, these dainty cookies are great on their own as well, without the ganache!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bakery Blueberry Muffins



Search no more if you like bakery-style muffins! Now, these aren't those cakey, too tender muffins. These are tight crumbed, dense and moist. Helloooooo baby!
I think they are even better the next day. If they survive the night, that is.

First, preheat your oven to 450* Totally grease a standard sized 12 cup muffin tin, even the top edges between the cups. I like to go ahead and add liners too.

~1/2 c. shortening (butter flavored is fine too)
~1 heaping cup sugar
~1 tsp. vanilla
~2 eggs

Cream generously, add in:

~1/2 tsp. salt
~2 tsp. baking powder
~2 c. flour
~1 1/2 c. frozen blueberries (adding them frozen helps them keep their shape)
~1/2 c. buttermilk

Gently fold into creamed mixture as to not break up the berries. Please
don't overmix or you'll have hockey pucks. Less is more!
Fill your muffin cups allllllllllll the way to the top, mound them up good.
Don't worry, it'll be okay. Your batter should make about 10-11 muffins.
Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar for some sparkle ;)

Bake at 450* for 5 full minutes, then reduce the heat to 375* and bake about another 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don't overbake.
The initial 5 minute baking at a high temp will help them make a high dome.
shh...that's a bakery secret.

I like to cool these off then put them in a large ziplock bag and let them rest overnight. For some reason they seem even better the next day.
If you can keep grubby hands off them long enough, yes that includes your grubby mitts too!
For another option, you can sub out the blueberries for frozen diced cherries, raspberries or blackberries!

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