Posts Tagged ‘Bread’

Pumpkin Bread

October 27, 2011

For those who read my blog, know it has been a long time since I have posted. A few months in fact. And the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t because of my lack of time to blog. It is my lack of time to cook. Apologies to all who blog, but the latter is much more concerning.

Cooking and baking is part of what makes me calm, helps me keep things in perspective, allows me to feel control when other things feel out of control. And, most importantly, it allows me to share my food with others, and therefore share my love through the gift of food.

But, my busy job and travel schedule has resulted in nights of take out, frozen pizza and late night visits to our favorite local restaurants.

So, this past weekend I was finally in town. No work trips. No packed social calendar. Just a weekend to enjoy fall and reset for the busy week ahead. And fall being my favorite culinary season, I knew I had to take this opportunity to get back to what I love.

So, after 8 mini loaves of pumpkin bread that filled our house with the scents of fall, and was shared with neighbors, coworkers and friends, I rekindled what had been missing in my hectic life.

Although I love my job, and feel blessed every day that I go into work, I remembered the many other things that make me who I am. I had been missing going for a run, reading the latest Bon Appetit and spending the time with my husband that we both deserve.

So on Sunday, with the aroma of cozy and spicy fall filling our house, after delivering a loaf to our neighbor and packing up the others for coworkers, after making my butternut squash risotto with a glass of red wine listening to Italian music…..I knew that my life needed to shift. I needed to go back to what makes me happy, and prioritize it, no matter how hectic my life becomes.

So, this pumpkin bread symbolizes my commitment to spend more time doing what I enjoy doing – and that is spreading love through food.

And, it was only fitting that the pumpkin bread recipe I found was that of Bobby Flay, who I surprisingly met the weekend before at Keeneland. A sign? Maybe.

So besides the emotional connection I now have to Bobby Flay’s pumpkin bread, it is quite possibly the best recipe I have ever made. Granted, there is more sugar than in a batch of chocolate chip cookies, but his mixture of spices (especially All Spice, my favorite cold weather spice) make this a  comforting taste of fall.

So, for those who need to rekindle their love of cooking, or those just looking to make a great fall treat for the ones they love, I thank Bobby Flay for giving me the recipe that made me realize what I had been missing.

PUMPKIN BREAD
1 9-inch loaf or a 4 small loaf pan

* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* Scant 1 cup canned pumpkin puree, not flavored pie filling
* 2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch loaf pan.

2. Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. Beat the butter, sugar, and oil on high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

4. Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. Mixing on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and 2/3 cup water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes (if you are using a small 4 loaf pan bake for only 45 minutes). Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Banana Bread

October 10, 2010

Impromptu baking has become somewhat of a new hobby of mine. By impromptu, I don’t mean feeling the desire to bake an apple pie on a Saturday, going to the grocery store to get the necessary ingredients, then turning a food craving into a reality. I mean looking at my kitchen and saying – hmmmm, I have everything I need to make this yummy sweet treat at this very moment – so I will! It started with cookies, because let’s face it, a day doesn’t go by when I don’t have all the necessary ingredients for cookies on hand. It generally happens about 10pm at night in conjunction with a chocolate craving.

But lately, I have had a bit of a banana problem. We eat them weekly, but the bunch doesn’t always get consumed before good old oxygen takes over and turns them brown and mushy. This baking, as you may have guessed, stems from the sick feeling in my stomach I get when perfectly good ingredients go to waste. When I know that if I just add a few eggs, flour, sugar, etc., I can turn those unwanted bananas to a warm and inviting loaf of banana bread.

But, the dilemma that generally follows is the fact that I rarely have milk or buttermilk on hand. So, one day when I was searching for a recipe that didn’t require those two “moistness ingredients” I found this recipe using something else I would hate to have go to waste in my fridge – creme fraiche. I had half a container left, and it was the perfect use for it.

The result was an amazingly moist, flavorful and delicious banana bread. And the best part is, it would be amazing with a few cups of chocolate chips – for those late night cravings.

Thanks to Gourmet for this perfect go-to recipe for when I can’t bear to see overripe bananas and creme fraiche go to waste!

NOTE: The reviews on the Web site show that sour cream is a great substitute for creme fraiche. if you don’t have it on hand. So they seem to be interchangeable!

BANANA BREAD
Makes 2 loaves (can easily be cut in half, which I did)

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
1/4 cup crème fraîche (or sour cream)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/3 cups walnuts (4 ounces), toasted and chopped (optional)
2 cups chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and walnuts (if using) and chocolate chips (if using) gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Overnight Baked French Toast

September 2, 2010

I will admit, I don’t make breakfast much. It isn’t that I don’t like it, or don’t have time – it just always seems on the weekends after sleeping in, we would rather just relax with a bagel and coffee in our sunroom or go to our favorite local coffee shop or diner.

But, last weekend my husband biked 150 miles for MS over two days, and after day 2, I wanted to feed him a huge feast for brunch. I have always wanted to try an overnight french toast, especially because if it was good, it would be the perfect recipe for company (since it doesn’t include spending time in the kitchen making to order).

This particular recipe came from the cookbook Blend It! from Good Housekeeping. It is a great book of dips, smoothies, baked goods and drinks all using your handy blender.

Not only did this taste fantastic (almost like dessert!) but it looked beautiful, especially with fresh fruit on top. Word of advice, don’t panic when you look at the bread in the oven and it looks like it is going to pop out of your glass dish and take over your kitchen – when you take it out and it starts to cool, the whole things puffs back down.

Thanks again to Good Housekeeping for this great brunch recipe!

OVERNIGHT BAKED FRENCH TOAST
Serves 8

12 slices firm white bread
6 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Arrange bread slices in four stacks in 8-inch square baking dish. In blender, combine eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and blend until mixture is smooth. Slowly pour egg mixture over bread slices; press bread down to absorb egg mixture over any uncoated bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, stir brown sugar, butter and maple syrup until combined. Spread evenly over each stack of bread. Bake until knife inserted 1 inch from center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh fruit and additional syrup (if desired). Sift with powdered sugar.

Pork Kebabs (Souvlaki Hirino) and Feta Tart (Alevropita)

August 28, 2010

As if I don’t read enough foodie magazines, I saw the magazine Saveur the other day in Fresh Market and was intrigued. The whole issue was featuring Greek food, and since I love ethnic food, I thought I would pay the $5 to see what it was all about. And, of course, as of last week I now have a 2 year subscription to this fantastic magazine!

I tried this recipe combo first as part something I thought I could easily do, and part something I was scared of. The kebabs looked easy enough as long as I remembered to marinate in advance. And I know how to grill pork. And kebabs are a breeze. But, the feta tart looked a bit scary. It was an egg batter that you pour into a hot pan and bake. Now don’t get me wrong, the recipe itself didn’t look too challenging, but the thought that I would make my own bread did scare me a bit.

I can honestly say this was the best meal we have had in weeks. The pork had a great flavor (and the oregano made it very Greek!) and the feta tart was amazing (and the perfect complement to the pork)! Definitely a wow dish, and it was surprisingly so easy! Don’t be alarmed that the batter spreads really thin, it ends up forming a great, crispy crust.

Thanks to Saveur for giving me a great, new Greek menu. If these recipes are any indication, I will be blogging many more from this magazine!

PORK KEBABS (SOUVLAKI HIRINO)
Serves 2-4

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. dried mint
1 tbsp. dried oregano
8 cloves garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
1 bay leaf, finely crumbled
1 lb. trimmed pork shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄4″ cubes
4  9″ wooden skewers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, wine, lemon juice, mint, oregano, garlic, and bay leaf; add pork and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. Meanwhile, soak skewers in water.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, arrange an oven rack 4″ below the broiler element and set oven to broil.) Thread about 4 pieces of pork onto each skewer so that pork pieces just touch each other. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the grill (or, covering exposed ends of skewers with foil, put skewers on a rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet). Cook, turning often, until cooked through and slightly charred, about 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

FETA TART (ALEVROPITA)
Serves 4-8

6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. vodka
1 egg
1 1⁄4 cups flour, sifted
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄8 tsp. baking powder
10 oz. feta, crumbled
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

Heat oven to 500°. Put an 18″ x 13″ x 1″ rimmed baking sheet into oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tbsp. oil, vodka, egg, and 1 cup water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.

Brush remaining oil over bottom of hot pan and add batter, smoothing batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary. Distribute cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

The Cullinary Trip of a Lifetime – Part 4 (Umbria & Rome)

July 10, 2010

View from our villa

As we left the wineries and cypress trees of Tuscany behind, we entered the rolling hills, and less traveled area of Umbria. You don’t hear of many people visiting this area, due to its more popular sibling – Tuscany – but I fear it is overlooked based purely on lack of publicity. Our time in Umbria felt more rustic than any place on our trip and we encountered more pure culture and non-English speakers than I ever could have imagined. We called it our “cultural immersion” part of the journey. No Rick Steves guidebooks here.

Although the cuisine is similar to Tuscany, there are a few regional specialties worth noting. Perugia is known for its chocolate, so the delicious sweet treat is easy to come by in these parts. Truffles are also popular and abundant. This area is also supposed to have the best salumi (which we later confirmed).

So our first stop (which we got to via our Fiat Cinquecento and first interesting driving experience) was Orvieto. This small hill town is known for its amazing duomo (the most beautiful I have ever seen) and its wine called, of course, Orvieto Classico. So, not in order of importance, we visited the duomo, then tried the wine with lunch.

Pancetta Panini with a glass of Orvieto Classico

In Cinque Terre the light wine felt right with the seafood and sea views – but here, I will admit, it was a bit odd. The food in this region is very pork, boar, tomato-sauce focused so it felt ripe for red. But, when we found a restaurant on the square with a view of the duomo and ordered a panini, the white, light wine went perfectly.

After our short lunch stop in Orvieto we proceeded (sans GPS, unfortunately) to our villa. We were fortunate enough to have a work friend who knew an old coworker with a cluster of villas just outside of Spoleto (http://www.borgoacquaiura.it/borgoeng.html). We knew it would be off the beaten path and absolutely amazing. We were not disappointed.

The villa was situated on a hill, overlooking nothing but trees, flowers and a few small hill towns. Our villa, La Casetta, was the perfect home base. To add to the ambiance, we were greeted by the caretaker, Nicu, who knew absolutely no English. Remember how we called this our cultural immersion?

I have so many stories to tell about this portion of our trip, but I will try to limit it to our food experiences. Our first night, we didn’t know where we

Antipasti at Palazzo del Papa - not surprisingly lots of salumi and truffle mushrooms

should drive for dinner. We knew how to get to Spoleto, but didn’t know much about what was there. In broken Italian, we asked Nicu who kindly offered to drive us to a restaurant called Palazzo del Papa, which was down some windy roads opposite of Spoleto. To boot, he said when we were finished to tell the wait staff and they would call him to come pick us up.

So our first course was, of course, the antipasti of the house – again, it was interesting to see the difference. Of all the places we had been, this was the most robust and hearty antipasti we had ever eaten. In some ways, it could have been its own meal. But, there was just too much good food to stop there!

Truffle pasta at Palazzo di Papa

For our primi, I got a truffle pasta (although I actually ordered something else – but the language barrier was a blessing since it was amazing!). Rob had a tomato pasta then we both had pork cutlets (his with lemon and mine with truffle – that time ordered on purpose!). The food was to die for, and when we had the restaurant call Nicu, the bartender gave us a gratis after dinner drink while we waited. An amazing night.

The next night was a special one – and I won’t bore you with ALL of the mushy details. My husband and I renewed our vows. No, it wasn’t a monumental anniversary, but we had always wondered what it would be like if we had eloped to Italy, and got married in a chapel – just us. Now, at the end of the day, having our friends and family with us that day was so important to us, we never would have done it. But there was something about a romantic moment, just the two of us, in a foreign place that always tugged at me. So, when the coworker who put me in contact with the villa owner said he renewed his vows there, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity.

Nicu broke out the “popemobile” which in fact WAS the same type of car

The church in Torrecola where we renewed our vows

as the popemobile. He drove us to a church in Torrecola – population 24. Electricity had to be run from a neighboring house, the townspeople came to join us (none of whom we knew) and the entire ceremony was in Italian. But I can honestly say, there was something so surreal about that moment, that I felt not only a romantic and religious connection to my husband, but also to the land of Italy. Truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Now, the food. So no event like that is complete without a celebration. So after Nicu took out us, his friend Angelica and her husband Francesco out for a “chin

Wine at Il Capanno

chin” nearby, we had dinner reservations at a place we had been hearing about ever since we got there – Il Capanno (http://www.ilcapannoristorante.it/). Now you can’t be fooled by the dirt road that gets you there, and the fact that it isn’t near much of anything (except our villa). We went there the night before – Nicu took us to make sure it was “acceptable” for our celebration. They gave us wine, antipasti and we tried to communicate with the adorable girl Raquella who was there with the family. We knew it was good, and we knew it was a gem that not enough people had discovered.

We tried a regional wine from Montefalco that special night. I can honestly say the only reason we knew it was regional is we had seen a sign for the exit close to the villa. For our antipasti, we of course ordered “of the house” and were not disappointed. Rob got a delicious ravioli for his primi (which we shared). Don’t get me wrong, it was amazing – it all was – but what I remember most about this meal, other than basking in the glow of our vow renewal, was the steak. Oh my goodness, the

Best steak of our lives - salt crusted with rosemary

steak. I feel like in my life I have had some pretty good steaks, all over the country. But this steak had some sort of unique salt crust, and it blew you away. I could never reciprocate it no matter how hard I would try. We both agreed it was hands down the most amazing steak we had ever hand in our lives. For dessert, we got a chocolate mousse with a pistachio creme that was the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

Needless to say, during our time in Umbria we went back to the delicious Palazzo del Papa for dinner, this time getting a pizza and confirming the legend that Umbria does indeed have the best salumi and cured meats. Hands down, best pizza I have ever put in my mouth.

Spaghetti Carbonara in Assisi

Another memorable meal was in Assisi, where we visited for a day of sightseeing. Those who know me well, know carbonara is my favorite pasta dish. As a child, my father and I would beg my mother to make it as much as she could. The whole trip I knew that certain dishes were only available regionally. And although there were some exceptions (my husband had a mean carbonara in Venice), I knew in Umbria and Rome, we had entered “carbonara country.” So, for lunch in Umbria, I ordered my first plate of this heavenly pasta. It was a drier carbonara – less of that heavy creamy sauce – which was perfect for lunch. The bacon was like none I have ever had. All and all, an amazing dish, and worth the long wait to experience it in its regional birthplace.

Once we left the peaceful lands of the villa and entered clustered, noisy, crowded Rome, I will say we both experienced a bit of a culture shock. It took many different directions (GPS still broken) and near misses with other traffic to make it to the Hertz station to drop off our car. To boot, it was raining. Although, I have to admit, this was the first real rain of the trip (minus about 1 hour in Tuscany) so neither one of us was complaining. Once we got settled at our B&B, we realized it was pouring rain and we were starving. It was time for one of those typical 2 hour Italian lunches, while the rain would hopefully pass through.

We ducked into a little place in an alley by our B&B – looked like it was filled with locals (good sign), looked crowded (also a good sign) and looked very unassuming (the best sign). We sat down, shook out our umbrellas and dug into the menu. For an antipasti, we got baccala (cod fish) that was fried. Despite its popularity in Italy, it was actually the first baccala we had on the trip. It was crispy and delicious.

Bucatini in Rome

For our main meal I got, not surprisingly, carbonara. Rob got a bucatini (the spaghetti like strands with a hole in the center like a long tube), which has now become one of my favorite types of pasta. It was served traditionally, with a tomato sauce. They were both so flavorful, and the pasta was cooked to perfection. It seemed the perfect lunch in a cozy restaurant, while watching people trudge past in the rain. Then, we topped it all off with an espresso, to give us the energy to trudge in the rain ourselves.

Our last evening in Italy, after a visit to the Trevi Fountain, we decided to eat in a popular area with outdoor restaurants, street performers, and amazing food. I will admit, I ate more food than I ever thought possible. But I realized that this time the next day, I would be getting whatever Delta airplane food they put in front of me on a plastic tray, so I had to load up on the good food while I could. We did both primi and segundi and I had a craving for traditional spaghetti with a meat sauce. Yes, it sounds simple for my last meal, but I wanted to have that one, comfort food that I always think of when I think of Italian food. I wanted something traditional, after all of the amazing specialties we had throughout the trip. Rob got a gnocchi and we both got breaded veal for our main dish. We held off on dessert, knowing we could find some good gelato nearby. We were right.

Gelato in Rome

We literally followed the people with cones into what might be the closest thing I have ever seen to a gelato palace. The place was huge, more gelato than I have ever seen in my life, and there was a system. You pay first. Of course, as clueless tourists we waited about 10 minutes before realizing the system, but once we did and got our cones, we knew it was worth the wait. Maybe it was because it was our last night, or maybe it was because I was eating ice cream that tasted like a candy bar, but it was the best gelato I have ever had in my life.

The cuisine of Umbria and Rome was not only memorable because I was able to experience carbonara, but because it was yet two more regions, with their own specialties. Umbria felt raw in its culture, Rome a bit more metropolitan. In Umbria, it was all home grown food prepared in traditional ways, in Rome you could get some pretty good Chinese food, I am sure. They both had their own personalities, and it was necessary to experience both to appreciate the differences. This part of my trip has a sentimental meaning to me. Not only because I renewed my vows with my amazing husband, but because it was my last few days in a country where I know I will be returning.

Below are a few more food photos of our time in Umbria and Rome:

Rob in the butcher shop in nearby Spoleto where we bought our meats and cheeses for the villa

Lunch on our patio at the villa - meats, cheese and bread from the butcher shop in Spoleto

The antipasti at Il Capanno

Ravioli at Il Capanno

Chocolate mousse and pistachio cream at Il Capanno

Wine at Trattoria Al Camino Vecchio in Assisi

Gnocchi in Assisi

Best pizza I have ever had at Palazzo del Papa outside of Spoleto

Fried baccala in Rome

Carbonara in Rome

Spaghetti with meat sauce the last night in Rome

Gnocchi in tomato sauce in Rome

Last meal in Italy

Butterscotch Coffee Cake

January 7, 2010

I am the first to say this is not an original recipe. I didn’t think of it. Paula Deen didn’t even think of it (although she did put together this great butterscotch rendition). For years, people have used frozen yeast rolls to make an amazing coffee cake. The crazy thing is, I just learned it this past Christmas!

If you want a REALLY easy coffee cake for entertaining, this will soon be your go-to recipe. There is literally no work involved, but you do need to take a little action the night before. The yeast rolls puff up overnight as the yeast rises.

Word of caution (and I am warning you as a woman who did this) – PLEASE get the right kind of rolls. Don’t get refrigerated rolls. Don’t get rolls that are not yeast rolls. If you wake up in the morning and they look the same, try try again.

I made this and brought it to my in-laws for Christmas morning and it had that great “wow” factor I was going for. And, the best thing was it didn’t take the kind of work it looked like to do it!

Thanks again to Paula Deen for this one!

BUTTERSCOTCH COFFEE CAKE
6-8 Servings

16 to 18 unbaked frozen yeast dinner rolls
1 (3-ounce) package regular butterscotch pudding mix, not instant
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

The night before place frozen rolls in well greased Bundt pan. Sprinkle dry pudding mix over rolls. Sprinkle brown sugar over pudding mix. Sprinkle chopped pecans over brown sugar. Pour melted butter over all. To prevent the dough from forming a hard crust while its rising overnight, cover with a damp towel or tightly wrap with plastic wrap. Let rise overnight at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake in oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Turn pan over onto a serving platter to remove. Serve by pulling apart chunks with forks.

Coffee cake the night before - before it rises

Coffee cake the night morning - after rising

Sunday Gravy with Onion-Herb Focaccia

November 14, 2009

IMG_1711_1With an Italian husband and a great love for Italian food, quite a bit of it gets made in our household. And as I continue to look at recipes from his family, Bon Appetit and various sources, there is a lot of talk about the San Marzano tomato.

I have always wondered if it was merely another brand, or something organically grown? Will it really change my sauce into something more delicious? I had always doubted a tomato type could do such great things until I finally went into my International food aisle and bought some. Yes, this tomato does indeed have powers beyond your imagination. I am a believer, and may never go back.

The story goes that the first seed of the San Marzano tomato came to Campania in 1770, as a gift from the Kingdom of Peru to the Kingdom of Naples, and that it was planted in the area that corresponds to the present commune of San Marzano. For those who know Italy’s geography know that this area contains volcanic soil in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius. It is believed that this soil acts as a filter for water impurities. The result – a strong, sweeter, less acidic tomato that will give your sauces a “wow” factor.

This recipe came from Food Network Magazine with some improv – feel free to tinker with the recipe as I did. Also, the simple to make focaccia recipe (also Food Network Magazine) is a great complement.

Note: don’t make the mistake of not letting it simmer all day (hence the “Sunday” in its name). It helps the flavors blend and results in a richer sauce.

Another Note: Yes, the Italians call it gravy and yes, I didn’t know this until I married one. Don’t confuse this with the turkey gravy you get at Thanksgiving – this is your hearty meat sauce for spaghetti!

SUNDAY GRAVY
6 Servings

3 slices white bread, toasted and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup milk
3/4 pound ground beef
3/4 pound ground pork
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish (optional)
10 cloves garlic; 2 minced, 8 smashed
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds Italian sausage (half sweet, half hot), halved
1 medium onion, quartered
3 28-ounce cans San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
6 bay leaves
1 pound orecchiette pasta (or any pasta you like)

Soak the bread in the milk until the liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the ground beef and pork in a bowl with the egg, cheese, minced garlic, parsley, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the soaked bread and mix with your hands until combined. Form into 16 meatballs.IMG_1707

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add sausage to the pot and cook until browned, turning, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meat to a large bowl.

Add the onion and smashed garlic to the pot and fry until soft, about

4 minutes. Crush the tomatoes into the pot with your hands and pour in the juices. Stir in the tomato paste, season with salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes.

Add 5 cups water and the bay leaves, then return the meatballs, beef shin and sausage to the pot, stirring carefully. Bring to a low boil, stir, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer 2 hours, or until the shin meat is very tender. Uncover and simmer until the sauce thickens and the shin meat is falling off the bone, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer all the meats with a slotted spoon to a bowl and cover with foil. Simmer the sauce to thicken, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain and toss with enough sauce to coat lightly, then top with more sauce and the meat. Garnish with parmesan, if desired.

IMG_1710ONION-HERB FOCACCIA
4 Servings

On a floured surface, roll out 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough into a 10-by-15-inch rectangle; press into an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary and/or oregano, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and a big pinch of sea salt. Brush half of the herb oil over the dough, then set aside until puffy, about 1 hour. Make dimples in the dough with your fingers and top with thin onion slices and shaved parmesan. Bake at 400 until golden, about 20 minutes. Brush with the remaining herb oil.

Glazed Lemon Bread

February 23, 2009
Lemon bread cooling...

Glazed Lemon Bread

I hear people quite often say, “Do you like to cook or bake?” It seems to be commonly an if/then statement. Either someone has the personality of doing things on a whim, inserting creativity, tasting as they go, and expressing themselves in a unique way. Or, they like to follow things by the book, knowing that every time the dish will come out the same.

Perhaps because my personality seems to span the two spectrums, I love to cook AND bake. They are different, sure, but they each have their own unique pleasures.

But I truly believe that even though baking does have a specific formula – there IS room for creativity. Granted, you do have to make sure you have the correct egg count, put in a levening agent, etc. But, if you know the purpose of each ingredient, you can start seeing the options. Spices can be added, you can alter white vs. brown sugar, butter vs. shortening – all to get different results.

The following recipe is a great baking example of following by the book but also being creative. The recipe came verbatim from Bon Appetit, but if you are more into orange bread than lemon bread, you could alter it a bit – using orange zest instead of lemon zest and orange juice instead of lemon juice.

This bread is great for breakfast, a snack, dessert and also makes a beautiful and delicious gift.

The glaze is the best part, so make a point to take the extra step of making it, as well as puncturing the bread with a toothpick to let the glaze permeate into the bread. It forms a sweet and tart glaze that truly makes the bread unique.

Glazed Lemon Bread (one loaf)
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter/spray a standard size loaf pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat one cup sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in lemon peel. Beat in dry ingredients alternately with milk in 3 additions each. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center of bread comes out clear, about one hour.

Meanwhile, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice in heavy small saucepan and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.

Transfer bread in pan to rack. Pierce top of bread all over with a wooden skewer. Gradually spoon lemon glaze over hot bread, adding more as glaze is absorbed. Cool lemon bread completely in pan on rack.


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