Archive for May, 2010

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart


If you are looking for an alternative to margherita pizza, this recipe is for you.   It has the same yummy toppings that you would find on a margherita pizza, but instead of a pizza, it’s a tart.  The crust consists of standard tart dough, with the addition of fresh minced basil and garlic mixed into it.  This gives the crust lots of flavor, making it extra delicious.  The toppings for the tart are simple- a little bit of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, cherry tomatoes, basil, and parmesan cheese (as well as a sprinkle of salt, pepper, & extra virgin olive oil for extra flavor).

One thing that’s nice about this tart is that you can make the tart dough ahead of time, roll it out, and assemble it in the tart pan.  Then you just wrap the prepared tart in plastic wrap and refrigerate it if you plan to use it that day, or freeze it if you are saving it for another day.  When you are ready to cook the tart, just pop it in the oven, and blind bake the crust, add the toppings, and then finish baking it.

When I most recently made this tart for Mother’s Day, I served slices of it as a side dish, but it can be a main course too (a salad or veggies would go well with it).  This tart would also make for an impressive appetizer.  Enjoy!

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart with Basil Garlic Crust

(print recipe)

Ingredients

For the dough:

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick), chilled and cut into 8-10 pieces
  • 4-5 tbsp. ice cold water

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated or sliced
  • Ripe cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tbsp. minced fresh basil
  • ¼ cup tomato-basil marinara sauce (optional)

Directions

  1. To make the dough, combine the basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor.  Process, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until finely minced.  Add the flour and salt; pulse briefly to combine.  Add in the chunks of butter and pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs.  Add 3 tablespoons of the water and pulse a few times to incorporate.  Add 1 more tablespoon and process for several seconds to see if the dough forms a ball.  If not, add the remaining tablespoon of water and process until a ball of dough forms.  Remove the dough, flatten into a 5-inch disc, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. 2. When you are ready to bake the tart, preheat the oven to 425° F.  Transfer the chilled dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 12-inch circle.  Lay the dough over a 9-inch round tart pan and press it into the sides.  Trim the excess dough as needed.  (I use this to reinforce the edges.)  Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper loosely over the tart dough and fill the center with baking beads (pie weights).  Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil or parchment and baking beads.  Return the empty tart shell to the oven to bake for 5 minutes more (crust should be lightly browned).  Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 375° F.  Note: If tart dough has puffed up during baking, prick it with a fork a few times.
  3. Spread a very thin layer of marinara sauce on the tart (The marinara sauce is optional- I like the extra flavor it provides, but since you only need a little sauce, I would only add it if you already have an open jar of leftover sauce in your fridge).
  4. Then layer the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell with the mozzarella.  Arrange the cherry tomato slices on top of the cheese in a single even layer.  Season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Top with freshly grated Parmesan and half of the minced fresh basil.
  5. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned in places.  About halfway through baking, rotate the tart 180° and wick off any excess moisture that has collected on top with a towel if necessary.  Once you have removed the tart from the oven, sprinkle the remaining basil onto it.  Allow the tart to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Recipe adapted from: Annie’s Eats Blog; Originally from Pink Parsley, Ezra Pound Cake and The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook

Lemon Honey Salad Dressing

Lemon Honey Salad Dressing


I have never liked salad dressings that are creamy or too vinegary, so I created this salad dressing that’s perfectly tailored to my picky palate.  This dressing is really light and refreshing, and I love the combination of sweet honey and tart lemon juice.  It’s also very healthy and can be whisked together in less than 5 minutes.  The dressing contains only 5 ingredients: lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, honey, salt, & pepper.  The amounts listed below are approximations — I never measure anything when I make this.  All you really have to do is estimate the amounts, whisk, taste it, and adjust the quantity of lemon juice/honey/extra virgin olive oil to your liking.

This dressing pairs really well with a lot of different salad ingredients, but here are a few of my favorites.  I really like the combination of salad greens, fruit, nuts, and dried cranberries with this dressing, and it doesn’t get much healthier than that!

-        Mixed greens or spinach (or a combination of these)

-        Apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes

-        Nuts – almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans

-        Raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries

Lemon Honey Salad Dressing

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of cracked black pepper

Directions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.  Whisk until well combined.
  2. Taste the dressing, and then adjust the quantity of lemon juice, honey, or extra virgin olive oil as needed.
  3. Drizzle over salad and toss to combine.

Yield: Approximately ½ cup dressing

Recipe from: Karen’s Kitchen (Cooking with Karen)

Raspberry Cream Cupcakes

Raspberry Cream Cupcakes


The other day I stumbled upon this really old photo of these cupcakes on my computer.  I used to make this recipe all the time for dessert.  It’s always a winner, and has earned a permanent spot in the “desserts” section of my recipe binder.  My recipe binder is full of all my tried and true, most favorite recipes.  (In the future, I’m planning to write a post about how I organize my recipes, so stay tuned!)

I first made these cupcakes years ago, after watching Giada de Laurentiis make them on the Food Network.  They are really easy to make because a boxed white cake mix is used as a base for the cupcakes.  The addition of egg whites, butter, and almond & vanilla extract bring these cupcakes to life, making them so much better than an ordinary boxed cake mix.  The whipped cream has mashed berries mixed into it, which imparts a wonderful pink color and makes it extra delicious.  This is the perfect recipe if you are pinched for time and need to whip up dessert on a moment’s notice!  Enjoy!

Raspberry Cream Cupcakes

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix (recommended: Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe)
  • 1  1/3 cups water
  • 3 large eggs whites
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 (6-ounce) containers fresh raspberries, cut in half or 1 (16-ounce) container fresh strawberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3  cup powdered sugar, plus additional for dusting

Directions

  1. Line 18 muffin cups with muffin papers. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the cake mix, water, egg whites, melted butter, almond extract, and vanilla extract in a large bowl for 2 minutes, or until the batter is well blended. Using about 1/3 cup of batter for each cupcake, spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
  3. Bake the cupcakes until they are very pale golden on top, about 15 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely on a cooling rack.
  4. Using a fork, coarsely mash 1 ½ containers of raspberries in a medium bowl. Beat the cream and 1/3 cup of powdered sugar in a large bowl until firm peaks form. Fold the mashed raspberries into the whipped cream.
  5. Remove the muffin papers from the cupcakes and cut the tops off of each cupcake. Spoon the raspberry whipped cream atop the cupcake bottoms. Place the cupcake tops on the cupcakes. Dust with more powdered sugar and serve with the remaining berries.

Yield: 18 cupcakes

Recipe from: The Food Network, Giada de Laurentiis

Pappardelle Pasta with Meat Ragu

Pappardelle Pasta with Meat Ragu


Despite my terrible photo of this recipe, it was actually really good!  It’s challenging to take decent photos of food when you are working with a basic point-and-shoot camera and don’t have good lighting.  Plus, I was hungry (and a little impatient! :)  ), and the ragu smelled amazing- I couldn’t wait to try it!  This was one of the best new recipes I’ve tried in a while– I can’t wait to make it again, and next time I am for sure making extra so that I can stash some in my freezer for another meal.

It was Eric’s idea to make ragu, and since I love meat sauces with pasta, I was all for it.  I grabbed a couple cookbooks from my collection that I thought would have good ragu recipes:  Cooks Illustrated Italian Classics and The Williams Sonoma Cookbook.  I ended up choosing a recipe from the Williams Sonoma Cookbook.  One of the stars of this meal was definitely the pappardelle pasta.  I think pappardelle has such a great texture, and it really holds onto the sauce well.  Try this recipe, I promise you’ll like it!

Pappardelle Pasta with Meat Ragu

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • ½  pound ground beef
  • ¼ pound ground turkey
  • ¼ pound ground pork
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 ½ cups canned whole plum tomatoes,
    chopped, with juices
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, sliced thin
  • 1 pound pappardelle pasta
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

Directions

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, heat the oil.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté, until the onion is golden and the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and rosemary and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add the beef, pork, and turkey and cook, stirring to break up any chunks, until the beef is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.  Add the wine and tomato paste.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the alcohol has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the chopped tomatoes, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.  Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded and the sauce has thickened and slightly reduced, 1 ½ hours or more.  Then taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if desired.  Stir in the basil.
  4. About 10 minutes before the sauce is ready, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the pappardelle according to package directions.
  5. Pour 2 cups of the ragu sauce into a large serving bowl.  Drain the pasta and then add it to the bowl.  Toss to coat the pasta evenly and sprinkle with ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.  Spoon more sauce on top and serve at once, passing additional cheese at the table.

Serves: 6

Recipe adapted from: The Williams Sonoma Cookbook

White Cake with Raspberry Filling and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

White Cake with Raspberry Filling and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting


Happy Birthday Eric!  Yesterday was Eric’s birthday, so of course I had to bake him a cake.  I decided to use my white cupcake recipe, but instead of cupcakes I made a two- layer round cake.  Originally I was going to make chocolate frosting, but he requested vanilla, so vanilla it was.  :)   I used this recipe for the vanilla buttercream frosting, but I also added the seeds from one vanilla bean to it, and then only used one teaspoon of vanilla extract instead of two.  I love the way you could see the little black flecks of vanilla bean in the frosting, and they also tasted really good.

Additionally, I added two layers of raspberry preserves as a filling for the cake.  I don’t know why I’ve never thought to do this before with a cake.  It was so easy, and in my opinion this simple step made the cake taste so much better!  (Eric agreed).  I think raspberry and chocolate would also be a great combo.  Enjoy!

Notes:

  • I used a cupcake recipe for this cake, so I had to increase the baking time.  Initially I set the timer for 30 minutes, but when I checked it, the cake still wasn’t ready.  I think it ended up taking about 35 minutes to bake the two 8-inch layers.  You will know it’s done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
  • Adding a layer of raspberry preserves (or jam) to a cake is really easy.  Just take each layer, slice it in half, spread a thin layer of raspberry preserves on top, and place the top back on so that the raspberry preserves are sandwiched between the layers.
  • To tint the frosting as I did, first frost the cake with white frosting.  Leave the remaining frosting in the mixer bowl, and after you are done with the white frosting, add a drop of blue food coloring to it.  Then mix it with the mixer until it’s fully incorporated.  I used a pastry bag with a star tip to pipe the detail around the outer edge of the cake, and a small round tip (#5) to write on the cake.

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough


A few months ago I made pizza dough from scratch for the first time.  It tastes so much better than frozen pizza, and it’s so easy to make (healthier too)!  The dough is mixed in a food processor, and it takes less than 10 minutes to put together.  You do have to plan ahead though; once the dough is mixed up it needs to rise for 1.5-2 hours.

This recipe makes enough dough for 2 large pizzas, or 3 medium ones, so I always like to freeze the extra dough.  It’s definitely worth the added effort to have a delicious homemade pizza, and I really like being able to choose whichever toppings I like.

When I most recently made this pizza, I topped it with my favorite tomato basil pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts, sliced prosciutto, kalamata olives, basil, and sliced red peppers.  It was a wonderful combination of ingredients, and I will for sure be making this pizza again!  Enjoy!

Pizza Dough

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons) rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups (20 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surfaces & hands (all-purpose flour can be substituted, but the resulting crust will be less crisp)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
  2. Pulse the flour and salt in the work bowl of a large food processor fitted with a steel blade to combine.  Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube.  If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms.  Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.
  3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, rough ball.  Put the dough into a large oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Yield: 3 balls of pizza dough (enough for 3 medium sized pizzas, or 2 large pizzas)

When you are ready to assemble & cook the pizza:

  1. Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.
  2. After the dough has finished rising, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into three pieces.  Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth.  Let the dough rest for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 30 minutes.
  3. Working with one ball of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, roll the dough out into a circle.
  4. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet or pizza pan that has been lightly dusted with cornmeal.
  5. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil.  Spread tomato sauce evenly over the dough, leaving a ½ inch border around the edge.  Sprinkle with cheese and toppings of your choice.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.  Slide the dough onto the heated pizza stone (I just put the cookie sheet or pizza pan directly onto the pizza stone). Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots, 8-12 minutes.
  7. Cut the pizza into wedges and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from: Cook’s Illustrated, ‘Italian Classics’ Cookbook

This is what the dough looks like before it has risen.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting


A few weeks ago, I posted my recipe for white cupcakes.  I also posted the recipe for chocolate frosting.  As promised, here is the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream Frosting!  This frosting was so good!  It was the perfect consistency, and I loved how the vanilla flavor came through in it.  I also like how it wasn’t as sugary as store bought frosting can sometimes be.  I can’t wait to make this frosting (and the cupcakes!) again.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

(print recipe)

Ingredients

  • 20 tablespoons (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups Confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
  • Pinch of table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions

  1. In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.
  2. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.
  3. Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Yield: 3 cups of frosting;  If you need less frosting, recipe can be halved

Note: Frosting should be stored in the fridge.

Recipe from: Beantown Baker Blog;  Originally from Cooks Illustrated


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