Peach Crostata

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crostata is an Italian tart usually made with a jam-like filling. I’ve always been curious as to the difference between a pie and a tart and as it turns out, a pie is made in a deep, angled dish whilst a tart is made in a shallow, straight-sided pan. In Italy, they make a similar pastry called a torta which has a pureed filling unlike the crostata which is known for chunky fruit such as apricots, peaches, or cherries.  Since it is peach season, I though this peach crostata would be perfect. The local grocery store in my area has proclaimed August “Peach’o’Rama” and stocks some of the juiciest, sweetest peaches around.

Peach Crostata

I began by making the dough by cutting butter into flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. I wasn’t so sure about the lemon but it added a nice tart flavor to the sweetness of the sugar. After the flour and butter combined, I added a egg and vanilla extract and mixed until the dough formed. Then I kneaded it and left it to chill in the fridge. You can actually leave this dough chilling for as long as overnight but to be honest, I’m not sure anyone would want to wait that long.

Peach Crostata

I chopped the peaches and could tell by the color and texture that they were going to turn out great in this tart. I added sugar and flour to really get the juices flowing and to thicken it some and let that sit whilst I rolled out the dough. I first rolled out a larger round that would become the base of the tart. It took a few tries to get a truly circular pastry, but finally, I was able to roll it back onto my rolling pin and into the tart pan. After adding the filling, I rolled out the second piece of dough. Using a pizza cutter, I cut strips and made my very first lattice crust. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and if it hadn’t have been for the heat and the fact that the strips started to break in half, it would have looked like one you would find in any pasticceria in Italy. I egg washed the crust and added demerara, which is a course sugar that you can find on many baked pastries.

Peach Crostata

While the crostata was baking, my house filled with wonderful smells and when it came out of the oven, it was a beautiful golden color. You could see the peaches poking through the top crust and slightly bubbling. It not only looked amazing, but tasted great too. The peaches were sweet and thick. I didn’t realize it, but the lemon zest in the crust brought this tart to a new level; you could taste it in every bite and it accentuated the peaches nicely. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

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French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup

When I was a kid, I would watch a cooking show called Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home which was hosted by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, two acclaimed French chefs. In each episode, they would both create their versions of the same recipe and the best part was to listen to them banter back and forth about the correct way to make the dish. I recently acquired a cookbook of theirs and found a recipe for French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup

In contrast to my suspicions, it is not difficult to make soupe à l’oignon; it takes time and patience. I started by chopping three large onions. They then went into a saute pan with oil and butter to tenderize. Adding oil to the butter helps keep everything from burning. The onions cooked for almost an hour in total, first at a low heat and later at a higher heat. I added thyme as well as brown sugar as requested by Julia Child which gave the onions a nice color and added a sweetness that really complimented the onion.

French Onion Soup

While the onions cooked, I toasted some baguette slices in the oven until they just started to brown. These would become the croutons ceremoniously found in onion soup. When the onions had caramelized and gone from filling the pan to just coating the bottom, I added liquids. Jacques’ recipe called for chicken stock which was new for me; in the past I have only used beef stock. What I found out was that the chicken stock adds a nice, light flavor unlike the overpowering beef broth.

I allowed the onions and stock to simmer whilst I prepared the ramekins for baking. I placed baguette slices in the bottom of each bowl and grated Gruyére cheese over the top. I thought it was interesting to put the croutons in before the onion soup but as it turns out, they float to the top during baking and they don’t burn because they are soaked in soup. I ladled soup into each ramekin and grated more cheese over the top. This layer browned in the oven and left a cheesy crust that looked and tasted delicious.

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Once they had finished cooking and had time to cool, it was time to dig in. Everyone who tried this recipe of onion soup loved it. The brown sugar paired with the onions and chicken stock had a sweet flavor that accentuated the tones from the cheese. The croutons were soaked through with soup and tasted delicious. I think if I made this recipe again I would saute the onions for a tad longer to get a little darker color but otherwise, this was a success. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

Lemon Chicken

Lemon Chicken

Chicken has to be one of my favorite of the proteins because of its tenderness and flavor. This poultry dish, flavored with lemon, is one of the tastiest I have made. Before hand, I was tense due to this being my first main course dish for the project. At a meal, the main course is a pretty important component and I wanted to make sure it was done correctly.

Lemon Chicken

I started by making a lemon sauce. I sauteed garlic in olive oil for a very short period of time. Then I added wine, lemon, oregano, and thyme. The sauce smelled amazingly light and lemony. The addition of the oregano and thyme were the fresh, earthiness this dish needed to bring it to the next level. Making the sauce was fairly easy and once I was done, it wasn’t too thick and would go great over the chicken.

Lemon Chicken

I then started on the chicken. I dried them thoroughly and rubbed olive oil over each side. Then I sprinkled with salt and pepper and placed the chicken breasts in a pan. The recipe called for chicken with the skin on  but I chose to use skinless because it is healthier and you can still manage a nice golden color in the oven. I poured the lemon sauce over the top and baked in the oven for about an hour. The recipe said forty minutes but I by leaving them in longer, the chicken got a nice color and when probed with a thermometer, reached the required 180 degrees.

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Once the chicken was done, I allowed it to rest for ten minutes. This kept the juices from immediately leaving the pan when I cut into the chicken.  Then I served it with linguine and drizzled extra lemon sauce over the top. I recommend using a foil-lined pan when cooking the chicken because it will be a much easier clean up once you have finished. This chicken turned out tender and bursting with lemony juices. The herbs added so much flavor to the chicken and it was well received by everyone who tried it. What I liked is that you could serve this with pasta, rice, or even steamed vegetables. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!   Continue reading

Zucchini and Carrot Scapece

Scapece

Marinades are utilized in a variety of recipes with anything from meats to vegetables. The Italian scapece is zucchini and carrots marinated with mint and red wine vinegar. The result is a delicios side dish perfect for just about any meal. I am personally a fan of cooked zucchini and carrots and was interested to try a new spin. What I liked about his recipe was the simplicity of the procedure and the contrasting complexity of flavors in the end.

Scapece

I started by cooking zucchini rounds in olive oil. They didn’t take too long, only a few minutes per side. I had to do three batches of them because I didn’t want the zucchini to overlap in the pan. Once they had a nice color, I transferred them to a deep dish. I tried my best to reserve as much olive oil as I could from them but as it turned out, the oil that didn’t effect the marinading process. I sprinkled salt, pepper, garlic, basil, and thyme and the zucchini were done.

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Next I sauteed all the carrots in the same pan with a little more olive oil. I kept them moving in a pan with a spatula for a little longer than five minutes or so until they started to brown. When they were finished, they retained a slight crunch but were cooked through. I transferred them to the dish and added the remaining salt, pepper, garlic, and herbs.

Scapece

Then the red wine vinegar was added and the vegetables were given a stir. Once they had cooled, they went to marinate overnight in the fridge. I stole a taste just before and even without the time to soak up all the flavors, they were already tasting amazing.

Scapece

Once they had been allowed time to sit, they were ready to serve. Everyone thought the flavors worked well together. The addition of the basil helped bring the mint and vinegar together and gave it a nice, earthy taste. I was skeptical at first about how they would taste with the red wine vinegar but at it turned out, it was just savory enough. The carrots had a sweet taste that went perfectly as well. I really liked the versatility of this dish, it goes with chicken, pasta, virtually anything. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

Crème Brûlée

Crème Brûlée

If I had to choose between becoming a restaurant or pastry chef, without even thinking I would choose pastry. There is something so inviting about having exact measurements, it reminds me of a science lab report. You have materials (ingredients), a procedure (instructions), and, in my case, a conclusion (this blog post). While some people consider it irritating, I enjoy the simplicity of baking, such as crème brûlée.

Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée sounds and looks like one of the most difficult things to make. I thought this as I was getting out the eggs, cream, vanilla, and sugar. Then I realized that it only has four main ingredients, unlike other recipes that call for everything but the kitchen sink. I started by heating the cream and vanilla. I used vanilla extract but you can also use vanilla beans or paste. I boiled the cream slightly and left it to cool.

Crème Brûlée

Then  I whisked the egg yolks and sugar until they turned a light color and were thick in texture.  By allowing the cream to cool, I didn’t have to worry about the eggs scrambling as I combined them. I added the cream slowly, so as to temper them which also prevented scrambling. Then I strained the egg and cream mixture into a measuring cup so that it would be completely smooth and so I would have an easier time transferring it to ramekins.

Crème Brûlée

I placed the ramekins into a baking dish just deep enough and poured each almost to the brim with the cream and egg mixture. Then I placed the dish into the oven and poured hot water halfway up the ramekins. By baking them in a water bath, I prevented the crème brûlées from cracking and the water also kept the oven moist.

Crème Brûlée

Once they had set in the oven, I allowed them to cool on the counter before transferring them to the fridge. One of the most important aspects of crème brûlée is that the custard is cool when you serve it. The only way to achieve this is to leave the ramekins in the refrigerator for a few hours, as hard as it may seem.

Crème Brûlée

When they were nice and chilled, I coated the top with a thin layer of castor sugar. Using a fine sugar speeds the torching process because the sugar broils faster. I used a kitchen torch to lightly sear the top of my crème brûlée just until I had a nice golden color.

Crème Brûlée

My mom’s very favorite dessert is crème brûlée which put more pressure on me to do well with this dish. When she tasted it, she told me it was as good as what you would find in a restaurant. I used twice the amount of vanilla the recipe required and it made the custard to die for. It was creamy, light, and so flavorful. The sugar topping cracked as we dug into it with spoons and it had the perfect taste.

Crème Brûlée

To be honest, I don’t normally like crème brûlée because normally, the custard is too eggy and the sugar too burnt. This recipe has changed my mind about the dish for good. This dish looks so beautiful and complicated. If you make this for a dinner party, your guests will be awed and you will know just how easy it really is. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

Penne and Cheese with Ham and Peas

Penne and Cheese

Pasta enveloped in creamy cheese sauce is one of the oldest recipes in the book. Versions of this dish are enjoyed by every age group, from children to the elderly. I have fond memories of devouring mac and cheese as a little girl and wanted to find a more elegant and flavorful way to make this dish and what I found was Penne and Cheese with Ham and Peas.

Penne and Cheese

I first made what is called a roux which is the base for sauce. The sauce in question today was a béchamel, or white sauce. Making the roux was pretty simple to create, simply butter and flour. Then I added warmed milk and allowed the sauce to thicken.

Penne and Cheese

After the béchamel had thickened, I boiled some water for the penne. You can use one of many pastas: elbow macaroni, shells, etc. but I prefer penne. When the pasta was almost cooked, I added frozen peas to the pot to allow the peas to defrost and cook. Then I drained the pasta and peas.

Penne and Cheese

After adding cheddar and Parmesan cheese to the béchamel sauce, I added the pasta, peas, and ham that I had chopped. I decided to add ham and peas to make it more of a main dish and to give it some new flavors. It is also possible to bake this dish with some panko breadcrumbs and extra cheese, if you prefer your macaroni and cheese baked.

Penne and Cheese

When sat down to dinner, everyone raved about this dish. The peas were a fresh addition and the ham added a sweet and smokey flavor that you wouldn’t normally get from a generic macaroni and cheese. The cheese sauce was so creamy and coated the penne nicely. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit!  Continue reading

Summer Vegetable Crêpes

Crêpes

Today I decided to try my hand at crêpes. What I like most about these delicious French pancakes is that you could probably eat them at every time of day: breakfast, dessert, snack, even lunch and dinner! Today’s recipe is crêpes with a ricotta and vegetable filling.

Crêpes

In the past, I have never had much luck with pancakes; either the heat is too low or too high, the batter too lumpy, etc. I was cautious about trying to make crêpes because of this but the other day I had some lovely crêpes at a friend’s house and decided to give it a try. This recipe in particular looked interesting because the filling was something other than strawberries and chocolate or ham and cheese, the two most popular crêpes I know of.

Crêpes

I made my crêpes and although they were not the best I have ever seen, they had a nice taste to them and a light golden color to them.  I think next time I make them, I will try a smaller pan so that I can make smaller crêpes. After the crêpes were made, I assembled the sauce and filling.

Crêpes

The recipe called for a sauce of sour cream, milk, lemon juice and chives. Mine turned out quite runny so I recommend a little less milk. Making the filling was rather easy; all I had to do was combine ricotta cheese with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. The original recipe called for ricotta cheese and Monterrey Jack cheese but I decided to change it up a bit.

Crêpes

Sauteing the vegetables went smoothly; in no time they were cooked through and ready for the addition of the ricotta mixture. I chose to use peas instead of green beans if only because I prefer the former but they actually gave a nice taste to the filling. Once the filling was done, I added some to each crêpe and rolled them up. The reviews were unanimous: this was a darn good crêpe recipe! The corn added such a sweetness and the zucchini gave them a little crunch. The addition of the lemon zest to the riccotta combined the flavors nicely and gave it a freshness. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit! Continue reading

Sauteed Apple Walnut Salad With Blue Cheese

Apple salad

Salads are a wonderful addition to any meal. What I like about them is how diverse each salad is. You can go the savory route, like the Caesar I made a few weeks ago, or sweet with this Apple Walnut Blue Cheese salad. I have always loved salads that involved apple with blue cheese but never tried sauteing the apple.

Apple salad

After I had toasted some walnuts and whisked up an easy red wine vinegar dressing, I got to work on the apples. It was actually a very simple procedure; add apples and sugar into a pan with some olive oil and stir every now and then while the apples soften and eventually brown. When they were cooked, I tested one and they were delicious! I chose to use granny smith apples instead of golden delicious which turned out to be the right call. The added sugar left them sweet like candy with a slight tang.

Apple salad

I  then combined the lettuce, apples, walnuts, and dressing in a big bowl and served up some salad for my family. This recipe was a hit! The apples were sweet, the blue cheese tangy, the walnuts were slightly earthy and gave it a warm flavor, and finally, the dressing balanced everything else wonderfully. Although I do love the way raw apples are so crisp in salads, I enjoyed this variation as well and didn’t miss the former. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit! Continue reading

Pesto Parmesan Garlic Brioches

Brioches

A French pastry, brioche is most known for it’s place at breakfast or dessert. Don’t be fooled by this sweet bread, it also has a savory dopplegänger that goes great at any dinner table. Today, I decided to make savory brioche rolls with pesto, Parmesan cheese, and garlic.

Brioches

This being my second yeast bread recipe, I was ready to tackle this recipe. It started out easy enough, with yeast and warm water. The only tricky part about making the dough was knowing that i had enough flour in the mix. Once I decided it was just the right consistency, it went into the fridge overnight.

Brioches

It did not grow as much as I thought it would, but it rolled out on a floured board easy enough. When it was a good rectangular shape, I added butter, lots of pesto, garlic, and Parmesan. The original recipe called for chives, cheddar cheese, and garlic but I decided to put an Italian spin on it. The fun part was rolling it; it was like how they taught us to fold letters in Freshman year, in thirds.

Brioches

After it had been rolled, I used my rolling pin to roll it out a little. I then got out a pizza cutter and cut strips. Each strip fit perfectly into the cup of a muffin tin. After allowing them to rise for half an hour, it was ready to bake. You can leave it longer but at that point, I was looking forward to these baked perfections.

Brioches

When they came out of the oven, my kitchen smelled amazing and to be honest, they tasted even better. I guess what they say is true about butter, but the pesto, Parmesan, and garlic added great flavor. Every year we make our own pesto and this recipe accentuated the freshness of the basil-y paste. Everyone who tried these brioche rolls thought that they were just crispy enough on the outside and chewy on the inside. Give it a try, if you have any comments on the recipe, leave them below. Bon Appetit! Continue reading

Mushroom Risotto with Peas

Risotto

I have grown up enjoying the simple pleasure of risotto. Risotto is not a difficult dish to make; it just takes time to get the rice done. Many a time I have seen contestants on food competitions try and fail because of crunchy risotto so I planned to be smart and take my time when attempting this dish.

Risotto

The recipe I used, adapted from the one and only Giada De Laurentiis, was rather simple. I started by soaking dried mushrooms in chicken broth and chopping some fresh mushrooms. Then I chopped an onion and let that saute with olive oil and butter. I thought it was interesting to use both but it turns out that the olive oil keeps the vegetables from burning and the butter adds nice flavor.

Risotto

Once the onion had softened, I added the fresh mushrooms with some garlic and left that to saute. I then pulled the dried mushrooms out of the broth, chopped them, and added them to the mushroom mixture. Next I added Arborio rice, which is a short-grain Italian rice. Using a short-grain rice keeps the risotto smooth and creamy.

Risotto

Over the next half an hour or so, I added a cup of broth every time the previous had been absorbed. Then I checked the rice to be sure it was cooked and was ready to add thawed peas and Parmesan cheese. I chose to add half of the cheese and save the other half for garnish on top. Once I took a bite of the finished product, I knew that this was one of my favorite risotto recipes.

Risotto

Previously, I had only had saffron risotto, which is a lovely yellow color with a sweet and earthy taste. Saffron happens to be one of the most expensive spices around so this was a tasty alternative. The mushrooms added so much flavor and the peas were bursting with freshness. The rice had the perfect taste and wasn’t too firm. My taste-testers also loved this recipe and the leftovers were gone by the end of the week. Bon Appetit! Continue reading