Friday, May 30, 2008

salad days

salad is one of my favorite dinners during warm summer months. salad, a glass of wine maybe, ahh, perfection. it's an awesome way to showcase locally grown produce if you like farmers markets or garden. if you prepare the lettuce ahead of time, you can have dinner ready in minutes on days when it's just too hot to cook.

my salad was simple. the photo above shows lettuce (which i washed and spun earlier today), mushrooms, tomatoes, green pepper, black olives, and cucumber. i also like to add tofu for protein; marinate if you like (i used broth, greek seasoning, and garlic) before frying or baking.

dressing can be a simple vinaigrette or even just a drizzle of some good olive oil, but i prefer creamier stuff. i used this recipe as a guideline, but eyeballed all of the measurements and probably added almost twice as much because i thought it was too bland. i think it also tastes better if you let it sit for a few hours or even overnight, so plan accordingly.

(i know all of my photos look the same lately, but it's hard to maneuver around a dim kitchen when the weather is yucky.)

it is hard to photograph tofu strips and salad dressing and make it look ok, just sayin'.

after i snapped this picture, i dumped on a bunch more dressing. because i love dressing, possibly more than the vegetables or tofu.

cheddar cheese risotto

i've never made risotto. i've heard of it, tasted it once, seen emeril make it on his show, but never prepared it myself. first of all, it took me a few trips to the grocery store to find it. the first time i printed off a recipe from food network, went looking for the ingredients, and found everything except arborio rice! the second time i was buying ingredients for other things to make but thought i saw the rice out of the corner of my eye in aisle number eight, which houses the "ethnic foods" and canned goods. yesterday i remembered the previous two trips and that i had clipped a recipe from the newspaper months ago. i went in hoping that the stars would align and i could once again locate the arborio rice, and i totally did!

cheddar cheese risotto
printed in the minneapolis star tribune (date unknown),
adapted from "nigella express" by nigella lawson

makes 4 servings

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 small leeks or 2 large green onions, finely sliced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
3 cans (14 1/2 oz each) hot vegetable broth
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp chopped chives

to cook leeks: heat butter and oil in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat until butter melts. add leeks. cook for 5 minutes or until softened.

to cook rice: add rice. cook, stirring, for 1 minute. increase heat to high. stir in wine and mustard. cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until wine is absorbed. add 1 ladle of hot broth. cook for 5 minutes or until broth is absorbed. repeat, adding broth and cooking, until rice is al dente, about 20 minutes.

to add cheese: stir in cheese until it melts. remove pan from heat, still stirring. spoon into warm dishes. garnish with chopped chives.

yummy! i didn't realize risotto was so easy to make until i made it myself. and now that i understand the process i'm excited to experiment with different flavor combinations. i feel like cheese risotto is kind of like an adult version of mac n cheese. gooey, hot, and comforting. why did it take me so long to make this?!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

cinnamon rolls with vanilla bean glaze

yum! cinnamon rolls are so good and pretty easy to make. the only drawback is that they're time consuming, but it is definitely possible to prepare the dough the night before and then roll it out and bake it in the morning.

i found this recipe by cruising food network's website, but i didn't have any nut so i omitted them and instead was heavy handed when measuring out the sugar and cinnamon. additionally, i love vanilla and will put it in anything so i added about a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste to the glaze.

cinnamon buns
courtesy of the little red barn baking book (clarkson potter, 2000) by adriana rabinovich
makes 12 rolls

for the dough:
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2-4 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten

for the filling:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts, lightly toasted (i omitted this)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

for the glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons milk
(+ 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, if you desire a vanilla glaze)

To make the dough, dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Set aside for about 5 minutes until foamy. Meanwhile, warm the milk in a saucepan. Add the butter, remaining sugar, and salt, and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.

Sift 3 cups of flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast, warm milk mixture, and the egg, and stir to make a dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a lightly floured board, incorporating more flour as necessary, until the dough is soft, silky, and pliable. Form into a ball. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to coat the dough all over. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until twice its original size. This will take about 2 hours. At this point, the dough can be left overnight in the fridge, ready to use the next morning. When well risen, punch down the dough, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, butter a baking sheet. Prepare filling by mixing the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts in a small bowl.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle measuring about 12 x 9 inches. Brush with the melted butter. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough, pressing it in slightly. Roll up the dough like a jelly roll, starting at one long side. Using a sharp knife, cut the roll across into 12 equal slices. Arrange the rolls, cut-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Allow to rise, covered, for at least 40 minutes until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until well risen and golden. While the buns are in the oven, prepare the glaze (and get the coffee started). Sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Whisk in the melted butter and enough milk to make a thick but pourable mixture. When the buns are ready, remove from the oven. Pour the glaze over them and leave to set for a few minutes before devouring.

honestly, these were so good without the nuts i don't think i will add them the next time i make these. i've never been a huge nut person, so just cinnamon and brown sugar is enough for me. half of them are already gone since i made them a day or two ago, and i'm the only one eating them.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

peanut butter cookies

om nom nom. i'm not usually a peanut butter fan so i'm not sure what possessed me to make these monday night. i also don't know what i did wrong because they turned out way too flat. oh well, i think i like flat pb cookies because the thicker ones usually turn out too dense for my liking. i will probably make these again this week just to see if i can figure out why they turned out so flat. i only chilled the dough for about an hour because i'm impatient, and i also used a #20 scoop which was too large and therefore only got about 18 cookies. i really hate the criss-cross fork look so i used the bottom of a cut crystal candy dish dipped in sugar to press the balls down instead. it left a cool pattern but it didn't stay once the cookies spread out.

betty crocker's peanut butter cookies

prep: 15 min; chill: 2 hr; bake: 30 min
makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
granulated sugar

1. mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, margarine, and egg in large bowl. stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. cover and refrigerate about 2 hours until firm.
2. heat oven to 375*.
3. shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls. place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. flatten in criss-cross pattern with fork dipped in granulated sugar.
4. bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light brown. cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. cool on wire rack.

i think they're pretty tasty, although i don't eat very many pb cookies so i don't know how they'd measure up to others. i just love the way they look. all uniformly round with a slightly crackly, sugary top instead of the usual fork marks.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

wild rice soup

i love soup. i sure do. unfortunately i'm without my cookbooks at the moment so i had to make do with what i have on hand right now. this recipe was a bit bland in my opinion but could be spruced up to be much better. also, it is hard to photograph this soup without making it look like a steaming bowl of vomit. D:

wild rice soup
from betty crocker's new cookbook
(my comments in italic)

prep: 20 min
cook: 25 min
makes 5 servings, ~1 cup each

2 tbsp margarine or butter
2 medium stalks celery, sliced (1 cup) i used 3
1 medium carrot, coarsely shredded (1 cup) even though i hate carrots i put in some anyway.
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small green bell pepper, chopped (1/2 cup) i omitted this because i hate cooked bell peppers more than i hate carrots.
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup water i used about half a cup of water
1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed chicken broth i used uncondensed vegetable broth, about 14 oz
1 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. melt margarine in 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. cook celery, carrot, onion, and bell pepper in margarine about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
2. stir in flour and pepper. stir in wild rice, water, and broth. heat to boiling, reduce heat to low. cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. this seemed like too long so i only simmered for about 10.
3. stir in half-and-half, almonds, and parsley. heat just until hot (do not boil).
(i shredded some marble cheddar on top since i felt the flavor was lacking somewhat.)