Archives for posts with tag: Simply Recipes

Yesterday was bright and sunny when I woke up.  There was a bit of a chill in the air but overall it was sunny and clear.

I went up to the lodge and got the grill ready.  My mother in law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming up for Sunday brunch.

It was a perfect spring day.  I was even thinking we may set up a table on the deck and eat outside.  Was I wrong.   Weather can change fast in the mountains.

I starting grilling and decided to take some pictures from the deck.

It was warm and sunny.  Next thing I know I spot a white mass out over one of the hills.  It almost looked like smoke.

As the mass began to move and drift toward the lodge I realized the it was bringing a chilly wind.  It began to spread out and when it reached the lodge I realized it was snow.

Snow….in May.  Well I do live in the Rocky Mountains.

So here I am standing on the deck in cut offs and sandals grilling in the snow.  It made me laugh because almost every time I pull out the grill it starts raining.  I should grill more often since we are having a dry spring.

Thankfully I was done grilling and could move in a light the fireplace and relax with my family.

Ok, so back to the food….I was planning on featuring a summer salad.  This is a salad that we make nearly everyday during the summer.

But how can I feature a salad when it is snowing?  Shouldn’t I feature a stew or soup?  Well since the rest of the country is not blanketed in snow I will go ahead with my summer salad.  It kept snowing all night.  Most of the snow melted on impact but we got some great precipitation that was needed.

In the warm spring and summer months my  family enjoys salads nearly every dinner.  Sliced ripe red tomatoes, rich and creamy cheese, and bright fresh herbs is our favorite combination.

This salad is made with tomatoes (Compari vine ripe tomatoes from Costco), fresh mozzarella, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme.

Fresh Tomato, Mozzarella and Balsamic Salad

The key to getting the best flavor from this salad is to thinly slice the mozzarella which can be done if you freeze it for about half an hour or until slightly firm but not hard.  With the thinner mozzarella you can marinate it with balsamic and olive oil and the flavor will permeate the creamy cheese.

8-12 vine ripe compari tomatoes (I used the tomatoes from our local Costco but the salad is best with fresh tomatoes in season)

1 lb fresh mozzarella ( I used Bel Gioioso brand)

1/4 cup good balsamic vinegar (I used my trusty Kirkland Signature Brand from Costco, yes I know I love Costco..)

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove minced finely

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (you can also use basil, oregano or mint)

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your mozzarella thinly and marinate with balsamic, olive oil and garlic.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours in your refrigerator. 

Slice tomatoes and arrange tomatoes, mozzarella with marinade and fresh herbs on a plate.  Drizzle a bit more vinegar and olive oil and top with fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   Serve as a first course with crusty fresh-baked bread or as a side dish with a nice piece of grilled meat.

Here are a few variations on this salad:

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, mint and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, feta cheese, oregano and kalamata olives

Fresh tomato, blue cheese and bacon and arugula

Fresh tomato, brie cheese and pancetta

More great tomato salad recipes:

This one from Jamie Oliver. (I just love how he uses tomatoes of different sizes and shapes.)

Or try this one from Martha.

Here is Elsies’ beautiful version of the tomato mozzarella combo.

I enjoy to just sitting and watching my tomato starts and dream that this season will be long enough for us to actually harvest some tomatoes.  Last year our crops froze before they had a chance to ripen.  We are much more prepared this year.  Wish me luck!

If I am not successful I will have the Boulder Farmers Market at my disposal and in late summer the farmers in the area will have a dizzying array of tomatoes to choose from.

Now I will resume my fresh tomato dreams…..

At the beginning of summer last year our property care taker Rick was telling me about the bad experience that he had with a volunteers that come up each summer from an international volunteer program.  He spoke of young people who were lazy and always partying.  I was worried.  Our summer calendar was full and I did not need to babysit or clean up after some lazy kids.  They were also supposed to use my kitchen on the weekends to cook their meals.  I had visions of a messy kitchen with my lovely equipment broken or missing.  Needless to say I was very concerned.

I can happily say that the group of international volunteers that came last summer proved all of Ricks dire predictions completely wrong.

Last summer we were given a wonderful group of volunteers from all over the world.  One of young people really made an impact on all of the staff at Cal-Wood.  Rocky came to us from London England where he is an engineering student.  Rocky was always in a good mood and always smiling.  If you needed a hand with anything he was there and worked tirelessly the whole time he was with us.  All of the volunteers worked hard and were a joy to have at Cal-Wood.

Sometimes it is hard to get to know people for short periods of time and then they move on and you do not hear from them again.  Not with Rocky!  He keeps in touch with many of the staff members at Cal-Wood and is planning to come back this summer.  He also reads this blog and has cooked some of my recipes at home.  This makes me very happy and is the very reason I write this blog.

Rocky asked me if he could have the recipe for my Roasted Veggie Lasagna.

Here is the recipe for Rocky and we are all looking forward to seeing him and meeting our new volunteers this summer.  No matter what Rick has to say.

Fire Roasted Veggie Lasagna

For the sauce

1 425g (15oz )can of good quality diced tomatoes

1  425g (15oz) can of fire roasted tomatoes (I use Muir Glen but you can use regular tomatoes)

2 170g (6oz) cans tomato paste

2 garlic cloves minced finely (Here is a good video link from another of my favorite Brits, Jamie Oliver on how to mince garlic)

1/4 cup red wine

2 tbs good olive oil

1 tbs sugar

1/4 tsp chili pepper flakes

1 cup water

salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil to a large pot and heat at medium high.  Add garlic when oil is hot and cook for 30 seconds or until you can smell the garlic cooking. Cook garlic over medium heat. About thirty seconds will do the trick. This is just enough time to cook off the rawness, allow the flavor to mellow into the dish.  Add tomatoes immediately.  I usually have cans open and ready when I add the garlic.  Add wine, tomato paste, sugar, chili pepper and 1 cup water.

Simmer for 15 minutes and season to taste and set aside.

For the veggie mixture

Cut 2 medium zucchini in half lengthwise.  Cut 1 red onion into thirds lengthwise.  Cut 3 sweet red bell peppers in half and remove seeds.

Marinate veggies in a splash of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 clove garlic minced and salt and pepper.

After marinating veggies for 15-20 minutes heat your grill to hot and add veggies.  Grill veggies until they have good grill marks but they do not need to be fully cooked.  The peppers can be roasted on the stove top directly over your gas flame if needed.  Clean the black bits mostly off the peppers after they have cooled.

Pour marinade back over the cooked veggies.  Never do this with raw meat marinade.

After veggies are cooled cut to desired thickness.  My hubby like the veggies cut finely but I like a medium dice.

The ricotta cheese mixture.

1 2lb tub of whole milk ricotta cheese (or you can make it with this delightful recipe from David Lebovitz via Simply Recipes)

4 large eggs

1/4 cup good quality parmesan cheese grated

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp basil

Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and mix together well with whisk or spoon.  You can also whip the mixture on your stand mixer until light and fluffy.

For the noodles…

I use Barilla no boil lasagna noodles.  If you cannot get these noodles in your area then boil your noodles and drain well before assembling the lasagna.

Many restaurant cooks simply soak the raw lasagna noodles in hot water for about 30 minutes to soften them and then use them in the dish as is. I boil mine,when using traditional lasagna noodles, but the trick to this, and to cooking any pasta, is to use plenty of well salted water, and keep the noodles moving by stirring until it returns to a boil. This keeps water circulating around the full noodle surface so that the starch on the surface of the individual noodles can set, which keeps them from sticking together.  Make sure to rinse in cold water after draining and this will help minimize the stickiness of the noodles.

Ready, Set, Assemble!

Now is the time to assemble all of the lovely ingredients you have worked hard to get together and make yourself a wonderful lasagna.

Get your sauce, ricotta mixture, veggie mixture (diced to taste), cooked or no boil noodles and 1/2 cup heavy cream together as well as a casserole style baking dish.

Add 1/2 cup sauce to the bottom of the pan.  Spread out and lay enough noodles to cover bottom of pan in single layer.

Add ricotta mixture about 2 cups on top of  noodles.

Add another noodle layer.

Now you add 1/2 cup sauce and 2 cups of the veggie mixture as the next layer.

Add the next noodle layer.

Top with 1/2 cup sauce, 1/2 cup heavy cream drizzled over the top and cover tightly with foil.

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the sauce begins to thicken and reduce and the lasagna begins to puff slightly.

Remove the foil layer and sprinkle mozzarella cheese over the top of the lasagna.  I use about 1 1/2 cups good quality whole milk mozzarella.

Put back in the oven at 450 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes or until cheese begins to brown and set.

Let the lasagna rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting.  Better yet make the lasagna a day ahead and let sit overnight in the fridge and warm in the oven at 350 degrees (covered in foil) for 30 minutes or until internal read thermometer reads 145 degrees in the center.  The flavors of a lasagna are best the next day!

Let rest before cutting.

Uncooked lasagna freezes great so make 2 ro 3 and freeze them for later.  If you are going through all the trouble why not make more than one dinner.

Here is a comprehensive list of what you need to pick up at the store:

1 box of no boil lasagna noodles or traditional lasagna noodles.

1 2lb tub of whole milk ricotta cheese

4 large eggs

Parmesan cheese grated

Mozzarella cheese

1 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

1 tsp basil

1 425g (15oz )can of good quality diced tomatoes

1  425g (15oz) can of fire roasted tomatoes (I use Muir Glen but you can use regular tomatoes)

2 170g (6oz) cans tomato paste

2 garlic cloves

1 tbs sugar

1/4 tsp chili pepper flakes

Olive oil

2 medium zucchini

1 large red onion

3 sweet red bell peppers

heavy whipping cream or double cream

balsamic vinegar or red wine

In my quest to make everything from scratch that my family eats one of the items that has slipped from the list is crackers.  My husband and son love to eat cheese and crackers.  My son also adores cheese crackers like cheese its.  I decided to give crackers a try for Easter.

When I am trying a new recipe I google recipes for what ever it is I am making.  This is the best cookbook around.  As a professional chef many people ask what my favorite cook book is and I usually say Google.  The reason Google can be so powerful as a cookbook is that you can peruse many different recipes in minutes.  Then you can see what underlying themes or techniques are used.  At this point I will usually build my own recipe or try one from a respected source.

There are thousands of places to find recipes on the internet.  With recipe sites, blogs and food sites, lists can be endless.  How do you know which ones are any good?  Over the years there are a number of sites that I find are invaluable resources and I am sure the recipes are well written and tested.  Here is a list of sites that I find have great recipes every time.

www.cooksillustrated.com  If you are not familiar with Cooks Illustrated I encourage you to pick up a copy of the magazine at your grocery store or check out the website.  They literally test recipes many  times and find the best possible way to make each recipe.  On their website you can pay a small yearly fee and have access to hundreds of tested recipes for everything from cupcakes to pot roast. Money well spent in my household.

www.marthastewart.com  Now I am sure everyone is familiar with Martha.  Not only are her recipes good but the comments section at the bottom of each recipe contains comments from people who have made the recipe and what they found worked or did not work.  It is great information. Martha also has great recipes for the season with stunning photos.  This site is a great inspiration.

www.smittenkitchen.com   This veteran blogger has not only some of the most beautiful photos on the web but she is honest in her posts.  A good example would be her Everyday Chocolate Cake post.  She was not successful with her first attempt and discussed where she got her original recipe, how she tweaked it and what worked and what did not work.  This kind of information is great for home cooks and professionals alike. It is always good to learn from someone elses mistakes.

www.simplyrecipes.com  Another talented veteran blogger whose beautiful pictures and simple prose get right to the point and convey great information on how to make nearly everything.

www.realbakingwithrose.com  Rose Levy Beranbaum is the queen of pies and cakes.  She writes her recipes in weight measurement, she has adjustments for altitude and gives you just about any information you may need.  Her meticulous recipes have been a staple in my kitchen for years.  I usually consult one of her cookbooks or website where ever I bake anything!  Check out some of her cookbooks.  The Cake Bible, The Pie and Pastry Bible and Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

www.davidlebovitz.com  The undisputed pastry king he writes a wonderful blog about making everything from appetizers, entree and baking all set in lovely Paris.  I have never made one of his recipes that failed.  All of his recipes are meticulously tested and documented.  This blog is beautiful, fun and informative.

There are also many different personal blogs that I follow but that is going to have to be another post.

So on with the cracker trials.  I decided to try a recipe that I found on www.foodnetwork.com.  This recipe is by Ina Garten.  Parmesan and Thyme Crackers.

On the first try the dough came out too dry.  This could be because it is a very dry climate here in the mountains.  I added a teaspoon of water and then the dough came together nicely in the food processor.

I chilled the dough and rolled it out with minimal flour on the rolling surface.  The dough rolled out nicely.  I used a flower shaped cutter and lined the baking sheet with parchment paper.  The crackers baked nicely and came out lightly browned.

They were delicious.  Much like a tiny and thin biscuit.  I recommend these crackers for entertaining.  A bit heavy for everyday snacking but great for a special occasion.  After Easter dinner some of my family and friends went home smiling with little bags of crackers for later.

Parmesan and Thyme Crackers

Inspired by Ina Garten

1 stick or 1/4 lb unsalted butter at room temperature

2 1/2 oz freshly grated aged parmesan cheese ( I used Parmigiano Reggiano – Riserva Stravecchio from Costco which is a great price and very tasty)

187.5 grams of all-purpose flour or 1 1/2 cups

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Place butter in the bowl of food processor.  Process until creamy.  Add cheese, flour, salt and thyme.

Process until dough forms a ball.  Dump the ball of dough out on a lightly floured surface.  Push down into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap.

Chill for half an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface.  Flouring your rolling-pin if needed.

Roll to about pie dough thickness.  You can roll it out thicker if you like.  They were good both ways.

Cut with a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned about 20 minutes.

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