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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Peppers and Eggs Stuffed Bread

In the Manayunk neighborhood of Philly, there is a little Italian bakery called Marchiano's. They make these amazing stuffed breads. My family typically gets the Pepperoni and Cheese, Cheese Steak and Broccoli and Cheese breads. In LA, I know of no equivalent to this stuffed bread and therefore I make my own. The whole cheesesteak thing seems a bit involved, so I have never made that one, but I have made ham and cheese bread (capicola and provolone to be specific) and garlic, tomatoes and cheese bread. Both turned out pretty good although the ham and cheese was a bigger hit with my party guests. Recently, I got a hankering for peppers and eggs and decided to throw that in the middle of the bread. Here's how my homemade version is done (I wouldn't even pretend to know how to replicate Marchiano's magic!)....

1 loaf of frozen Rich's Frozen Bread Dough, thawed and risen
4-5 eggs scrambled with green and/or red peppers, onions and whatever other spices you want to use (I used italian seasoning, garlic and black pepper)
About 3 or so slices of Velvetta (I had a block leftover from some cheesy rice I made)

Roll out the dough so it's about 12-14 inches long and 4-5 inches wide.
Place the cooked scrambled eggs/pepper mixture down the middle leaving about an inch around the sides (see above picture).
Place the cheese on top of the eggs.
Bring the left side of the dough in on top of the eggs and over towards the right as close as possible to the right side of the eggs without ripping a hole in the dough...bring the right side up so that it generously overlaps the left side. Gently roll the log over so that the seam is down and then pinch the top and bottom close.
Transfer to baking sheet (I sprayed with non-stick olive oil spray first) and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 -20 minutes or until the top of the bread is browned.

After taking it out of the oven, let it sit for about 5 minutes before slicing to give the cheese a chance to cool a little. Slice into about 1/2 inch to 1 inch slices and enjoy!

You can just about put anything you want in the middle of the bread...meatballs, sausage, spinach and cheese, etc. Just make sure whatever you are putting in the middle of the bread is already cooked...the bread dough cooks pretty the bread is not in the oven long enough to cook meat especially thoroughly.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The joy of the summer sandwich!

Some of my best summer culinary memories growing up involve sandwiches. Since I was about 7 or 8 years old, my mom has planted a vegatable garden. The exact vegatables varied from year to year except for tomatoes. Every year, we were blessed with a plethora of tomatoes...especially late August, early September. Since my mom is on the east coast and I am on the west, I no longer get to share in her annual tomato harvest. However, living in LA, I have the good fortunate of an abundance of farmer's markets. I found some great summer tomatoes and was inspired to have sandwiches for dinner. I whipped up this chicken salad recipe. It was tasty but could have used a little more heat. I would probably add some hot peppers or more cayenne pepper next time.

Spicy Chicken Salad

1/2 medium onion

3/4 cup of chopped celery

1 carrot chopped

Between 1 and 2 cups of diced (leftover) cooked chicken

1 teaspoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon red cayenne pepper

1/2 cup light mayo

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix it all up and chill for at least an hour. We had it on toasted whole grain bread with lettuce and sliced tomatoes.

Baby, You're a Star!

My grandmother and sister getting silly...

My grandmother just turned 90 years old which is amazing. She and my grandfather lived a few blocks from us when I was growing up so I have many culinary memories of her over the years. When I was young and thought of my grandmom's house, I thought of grilled cheese. Her sandwiches were just a little better than my mom's (sorry mom)...and she made them often. My grandfather was old school Catholic and would not eat meat on Friday, even when it wasn't Lent. Grandmom made him a grilled cheese many a Friday afternoon. Her secret, of course, was the cheese. While my mom used American cheese, Grandmom used Cooper Sharp cheese, which is divine. My mom eventually switched over to Cooper Sharp as well...probably after getting tired of hearing how great Grandmom's sandwiches were!

Another specialty of grandmom's was her potato salad. Man oh man....this was better than the grilled cheese! She always said the secret was to drink a beer while making it. Not sure how that helps but in the spirit of following directions, I do this as well. She always used red potatoes, a generous amount of finely diced onions, a few hard boiled eggs and Miracle Whip. As is the case with many family recipes, I am not aware of a written version of her potato salad recipe, but I will ty to replicate it in a few weeks and share it here. It tasted amazing along side some ham and fresh home grown tomatoes from my mom's garden.

Rounding out Grandmom's trifecta was her cooked dressing. She made this for all sit down special dinners like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's got bacon, vinegar, onions, a little bit of cook it on the stove, let it cool and then pour it over some chopped up iceberg lettuce. Hmmm...

She made other dishes like vegetable soup and fried eggplant, to name a few. But the grilled cheese, potato salad and cooked dressing are the things that remind me the most of Grandmom...well, that and some of her famous sayings (me: "grandmom, what's for dinner?" Her: "Bees knees, grasshoppers and a little bit of bug juice").

For her birthday, I wanted to send her something nice. Since she lives in Philly and I live in LA, making her some potato salad as tribute was a little out of the question; cookies are easier to ship. I found this recipe called Twin Stars in the Best of Sunset Cookies magazine. They were a bit labor intensive (I feel like I have been saying that alot lately...) but turned out well. The original recipe called for stacking two cookies on top of each other but I opted to leave them unstacked. I used the food processor to make the dough. This is the first time I have done this and it worked out really well.

Twin Stars

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter at room temp cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon lemon juice

3/4 cup strawberry jam

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sifted powdered sugar

2 teaspoon lightly beaten egg white

1. In food processor or bowl, whirl or stir flour, sugar and salt to blend. Add butter; whirl or cut in with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2. In another bowl, whisk egg, vanilla, lemon peel, and lemon juice to blend. Add flour to the mixture in food processor or bowl; whirl or stir until dough forms a ball.

3. Divide dough into thirds. Roll each portion, between sheets of wax paper or parchment into a round 1/8 inch thick. Stack and freeze rounds until firm about 30 minutes (or chill for 2 hours).

4. Cut out shapes with a floured 2 inch 5 point star cutter. Space cookies 1/2 inch apart on buttered or parchment lined 12x15 inch baking sheets.

5. Bake cookies in a 325 degree oven until pale golden at tips, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool. Reduce oven tempeture to 150 degrees.

6. In a 1 quart pan over medium heat, stir jam until melted. Push through a fine strainer (I skipped this part because I had no strainer), discard residue, and return liquid to pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes to thicken, stirring occassionally. Let cool until just warm to touch, 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons powdered sugar and 4 teaspoons water until smooth.

7. Brush cookie with jam, then place slightly apart on baking sheets. With a clean pastry brush, paint a thin film of powdered sugar glaze over each cookie to completely cover the jam (beginning with the cookies coated earliest with jam).

8. Bake cookies until glaze is set and dry, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool.

9. In a small bowl, stir remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the egg white until smooth. To assemble cookies spoon a dot (1/8 teaspoon) of powdered sugar mixture in center of one cookie, then gently press another cookie on top with the star points offset. (I skipped this step as well since I didn't stack my cookies).

10. Let cookies stand until icing is set, about 1 hr.

71 calories, 2.9 grams of fat (this represents a stacked version of the cookie).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lemon meringue cookies

In my A to Z cookie quest, I am up to the letter L. Just L you say? Yeah, well, we cannot eat a steady diet of cookies, so I have to space them out. I found this recipe for Lemon Meringue Cookies on Kaboose. In theory, they sound refreshing...but they were a little dry. Maybe they are not always dry, maybe it's just the way I made them. I am known to screw things up here and there. Without further adeui...

Lemon Merginue Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel
1 large egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I believe I used lemon extract to give it extra lemon umph!)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg white

In large bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium until smooth. Add 1/2 cup of sugar. Beat until combined, scrapping down sides when necessary. Add lemon peel. Beat until combined. Beat in egg yolk, and vanilla extract until combined. Reserve the egg white.

Add flour and salt. Beat until combined, scrapping down sides when necessary.

Form each tablespoon of dough into 1 3/4 discs on ungreased cookie sheet.

With electric mixer, beat egg white and reserved egg white until soft peaks form. With beater on, slowly add remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer whites to piping bag fitted with small star tip. Swirl egg whites on top of each cookie.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies 13-15 minutes or until edges and topping are light golden. Let cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes then removed to cooling rack to cool completely.

Easy BBQ chicken for the grill-less crowd

This great Spicy Cilantro BBQ chicken (on the stovetop) is based on a recipe I found for grilled pork on the Kraft Foods website. We don't have a grill, I didn't have any Kraft BBQ sauce, pork chops or jalapeno peppers BUT I did have a pan, chicken, Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ sauce (good stuff by the way), and a serrano pepper. To be honest, this is how most of the dinners I make get started: I start thinking about a particular dish, look for a recipe and then alter it to work with what I already have in the house. We live in LA, so a "quick trip to the store" to pick up ingredients is typically out of the question...we make do with what we have.

Anyway, so given the big summer kick off of Memorial Day, I made this Spicy Cilantro BBQ Chicken which was quite tasty.

1/2 cup spicy BBQ sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 serrano pepper, seeded, finely chopped
2 Tbsp orange juice
2 large chicken breast chopped into strips or bite sized pieces

Mix first 4 ingredients in bowl. Cook chicken thoroughly in skillet. When chicken is fully cooked, add sauce mixture. Cook over low heat for a few minutes until the sauce is hot and desired thickness is achieved.

I served with baked potatoes and corn on the cobb.

Wedding cake traditions and other folklore

There are so many traditions and superstitions associated to weddings. One of the more popular post wedding traditions is the saving of the top layer of cake for the first anniversary. Since we already had some leftover sliced cake the day after the wedding, I had no problem showing incredible restraint and not eating the top layer. I double wrapped the cake in heavy duty foil and then popped it in a Ziplock Freezer bag. To protect the icing, I popped some toothpicks in the top to tent the foil...the takeaway container the venue put the cake in was already away from the sides. We threw the cake in the freezer and jumped on a plane back to LA. That was November 2009. Fast forward to April 2010 when we are back in Philly to visit my parents. All I can think about is eating that cake: Would it still taste good? What if we are not back in Philly November 2010 and then wait too long to eat it? I hate wasting food....So, we decided to break it out and eat it with the promise that I will make a cake replica on our actual 1st anniverary. It was just as good as I remembered....if it had been in my freezer in LA, there is no way it would have lasted even until April!

What's with this 1st Anniversary tradition anyway? I did some research on the web and did not find too much information just a lot of personal experiences. Some folks said their cake tasted terrible after a year, others said the cake was fine. Guess it depends on your wrapping skills! The most important thing I discovered in my research? No where did it say that it was BAD luck to eat the cake before the 1st anniversary.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Prune cookies: careful how many you eat!

Fathers Day 2010! My dad is a pretty adventureous cookie eater. Whatever cookies I send to my family, my dad likes them even if the rest of the family is only lukewarm about them. He could be just trying to spare my feelings but I am not sure. When we were kids, if my mom burned the first batch of cookies, my dad would always act excited and say he preferred burnt cookies. Was it true or was he trying to make my mom feel better? We may never know the full truth....If he wasn't being honest, he deserves an Oscar because he really sold it!

He also loves cereal, oatmeal, prunes, grapefruit...most people do...but when you suggest an oatmeal prune cookie as a sweet treat, many would pass. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew it was the perfect father's day cookie for him.

This is from the Sunset Magazine Best Cookies Ever December 2008.

Crisp Oatmeal-Fruit Strips
1 cup butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups regular rolled oats
2 cups chopped pitted prunes (could use dates or raisins also)

In a bowl, with electric mixer on medium, beat butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg.

In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and oats. Stir or beat into butter mixture until well blended. Stir in chopped prunes.

Divide dough into seven equal portions. Pinch each portion into a 12 inch long rope and evenly space two or three ropes across parchment lined 12x15 inch baking sheets. Flatten the ropes to make 2 inch wide strips.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees until strips are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. If baking more than one pan at a time, switch pan positions halfway through baking.

Let strips cool on sheets for about 2 minutes, then cut diagonally into 1 inch wide pieces. Let cool completely on sheets.

77 calories, 3 grams of fat