Sunday, April 29, 2018

Jacques Pepin's Egg and Tomato Gratin

Have you ever made a hard-cooked egg gratin before? I hadn't, until I tried Jacques Pepin's Egg and Onion Gratin, and you know became one of my all-time favorite dishes! It's truly delicious, and different enough to pique interest. Jacques' Egg and Onion Gratin consistsof hard-cooked eggs cut into slices or wedges, covered in a creamy bechamel sauce, with sauteed onions and Gruyere cheese, then broiled until it becomes all brown and bubbly on top. Scoop some of that deliciousness on top of some toast and it is downright delicious!

After my success with the Egg and Onion Gratin, I wanted to try my hand at Jacques' healthier egg gratin, Egg and Tomato Gratin. This recipe is much healthier. The hard-cooked eggs are covered with a quick homemade tomato sauce and then topped with Gruyere. I went a little light-handed on the cheese to keep things light and fresh and enjoyed this over my favorite toasted country bread.

The Egg and Onion Gratin is definitely my favorite between the two, however, the Egg and Tomato Gratin is definitely better for this time of year when you're craving lighter, fresher, healthier dishes! You can't go wrong with either one!

Egg and Tomato Gratin
Adapted from Food My Way
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

6 large eggs 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced, about 2 cups
4 teaspoons chopped garlic
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
salt and pepper, to taste
1 (14-ounce) can peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup grated Swiss (Gruyere, Emmenthaler, Mozzarella, Manchego) cheese

To make the hard-boiled eggs: Poke the rounded end of each egg with a pushpin to help prevent it from cracking, and lower the eggs into a saucepan of boiling water to cover. Bring the water back to a boil, then boil the eggs very gently for 10 minutes. Drain and cool in ice water for at least 15 minutes, or until the centers of the eggs are completely cool. Peel the eggs and cut each of them into 6 wedges. Arrange the egg wedges into a 6-cup capacity gratin dish or baking dish.

To make the gratin: Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and saute for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Crush the tomatoes into pieces and add them along with their juice to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, and boil gently, covered, for 4 minutes.

Pour the onion and tomato mixture over the eggs in the gratin dish and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake the gratin for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the broiler. When the gratin is cooked, broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat source for 2 to 3 minutes to brown the top. Serve.

Note about hard-cooked eggs: It's important to cook eggs properly. Pricking them before cooking helps relieve the pressure created in the air chamber surrounding the whites of the eggs as they are placed in the boiling water. Air bubbles will emerge, and the eggs will be much less likely to break.

Lower the eggs into boiling water and cook them at a very gentle boil; rapid boiling toughens them. After 10 minutes, drain off the water and shake the pan to crack the eggshells. Cover the eggs with cold water and ice and leave them in the ice water long enough to cool completely inside. This technique prevents the exterior of the yolks from turning green, eliminates the strong smell of sulfur and ensures that they will be perfectly cooked.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

From Spain: Tomato Bread with Iberico

Lately, I've been hooked on toast with all kinds of goodies piled on. I blame Ina. The addiction started when I made Ina's Butternut Squash & Ricotta Bruschetta. I love that dish and crave it regularly. When butternut squash went out of season I grew quite fond of avocado toast. After that addiction passed,  I topped my toast with refried beans, a fried egg, salsa and/or hot sauce. Then I made Giada's Burrata and Kale Salsa Verde Bruschetta and I looked for any and every excuse to eat burrata. I think I had toast with some kind of pesto and burrata for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

To be fair, I'm still into toast with pesto and burrata. It's crunchy, flavorful, and the burrata is so creamy and cloudlike. It satisfies about every craving I have. However, I'm willing to venture out, so this week it was either Eric Ripert's Tomato Bread with Iberico or his Green Olive Tapenade, on toast, of course.

I decided on the Tomato Bread with Iberico only because I had some Marcona almonds and Manchego cheese on hand and I thought it would be a perfect pairing! I was so glad I had the Manchego on hand because I found that I liked the Tomato Bread with Iberico ok, but I liked it much better with some of the cheese on top. This dish lacked that layer of creaminess, and while I would eat it if it were served to me, I'd rather have one of the other toasts mentioned above.

Tomato Bread with Iberico
Adapted from Avec Eric
by Eric Ripert
Serves 1-6, depending

1/4 loaf crusty bread such as a country loaf, baguette, ciabatta
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 ripe tomatoes, cut inhalf
1/2 pound thinly sliced Iberico ham or Serrano ham
extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cut the loaf of bread crosswise into 1/2" thick slices. Toaste the bread slices until they are golden brown (I placed my sliced bread into the oven for about 10 minutes at 350). Lightly rub the toasted bread with the garlic cloves, then rub the tomato, cut side down, thoroughly into the toasts. Top the toasts witha couple slices of Iberico ham, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, and season with a few flakes of coarse sea salt and pepper.

Theme: From The Mediterranean

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Giada's Spicy Calabrian Shrimp

On one of my visits to Target I spotted Giada's latest cookbook, Giada's Italy. I didn't even hesitate. I just put it directly into my shopping cart. I am in love with everything about this cookbook, starting with the cover, the recipes, the gorgeous photos of Italy, and the stories Giada shares about her time in Italy. It is probably one of my favorite Giada cookbooks!

For now, I chose the recipe with the ingredient I've been wanting to cook with for ages: Calabrian chili peppers! Those darn peppers, and the Calabrian chili paste, are hard to find! I finally spotted some of the Calabrian chili peppers at my market and I knew right away I would make this recipe for Spicy Calabrian Shrimp.

Calabrian chili peppers are from the Calabrian region of Italy, which is known for it's hot peppers. These peppers are of a medium heat and can also be referred to as red cherry peppers or devil's kiss peppers. For comparison, Giada refers to Calabrian Chili Paste as the Italian version of sriracha and I think that is a fairly accurate comparison.

I couldn't source the paste, so I looked up the description of Calabrian Chili Paste and saw that it was a combination of Calabrian peppers and oil. My Calabrian chili peppers were packed in a jar with oil so I decided to make my own paste by dicing up the peppers, along with some of their oil, and using the back of my knife to create a paste.

In this recipe, the Calabrian Chili Paste is mixed with Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and oregano to create a marinade for the shrimp.  You simply bake the shrimp for about 8 minutes. This was the perfect amount of time because my shrimp were perfectly cooked! All that's left is to sprinkle some lemon juice and basil over the top and you have one amazing appetizer or main course!

Skeptics will question the heavy hand of Parmigiano-Reggiano, but trust me it totally works! I baked my shrimp in a cast iron skillet and the cheese just oozed and melted over the shrimp creating somewhat of a crust (if you look close in the pics you can see). I loved the spiciness of the Calabrian peppers - they can in fact be quite spicy! I absolutely loved this dish and will be making it again this week.  I will admit that I did miss the garlic in this recipe and will definitely be adding a clove, or two, the next time around! Give this a try. Shrimp lovers will love this recipe!!

Spicy Calabrian Shrimp
Adapted from Giada's Italy
Serves 4 to 6

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Calabrian chile paste
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teasoon dried oregano
salt, to taste
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
High suggest/but optional: one or two cloves of garlic*

Note:  This is a wonderful recipe and while some people will bulk at the idea of adding cheese to shrimp, I will say that I really enjoyed it and would highly suggest it! I definitely suggest adding one or two cloves of minced garlic to the marinade. There is no garlic and this recipe and I did miss it!

Preheat the oven to 425F. 

In a medium bowl,whisk together the Parmigiano-Reggiano, olive oil, chile paste, lemon zest, oregano, and salt. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Allow the shrimp to marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Spread the shrimp evenly on a rimmed baking sheet (or cast iron skillet) and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and opaque all the way through. Sprinkle the lemon juice and basil over the shrimp. Serve immediately.

Theme: Healthy and Delicious!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

My Top Ten Ina Garten Favorites {Plus an Honorable Mention}

It's hard to make a list of Ina Garten Favorites. In fact, it's fair to say that EVERY  Ina dish is a favorite. She is known for her time-tested foolproof recipes, and truly they are. I have loved every Ina recipe I've ever made, except for one, which was the result of a mistake I made.

We spent a delicious six months cooking Ina's recipes over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, but I was cooking with Ina long before that. Some of these favorites I shared recently, while others I shared years ago. If you'd like the recipe, please click on the recipe title to be directed back to the original post.

 This is my number one favorite Ina recipe! Not only is this a fun and unique take on mashed potatoes, but it was something that my Mom loved. She always grew her own basil and one year we had more basil than we knew what to do with, so I tried this recipe. At first, she thought I was silly making green mashed potatoes, but once she had a bite she fell in love. My mom talked about these potatoes a lot saying things like "these are so special" and "this is the freshest potatoes have ever had it."  We truly loved them and I think you will too!

I love to eat cookies, but I don't love the process of scooping them onto the cookie sheet and baking sheet after sheet, allowing them to cool, and trying to store them. I much prefer a bar cookie because you can just put all the dough in a baking pan, remove it, allow to cool, slice, and store right in the pan. How's that for lazy? I also prefer my cookies to be chewy and a cookie bar is a sure bet for chewiness because of the thickness. Ina's recipe for Chocolate Chunk Blondies a pound of chocolate, so this is definitely one for the chocolate lovers! Make these next time you don't have all afternoon to stand by your stove!

I made this recipe because I was curious about the combination of butternut squash with cheese on bruschetta. I think this recipe takes the award for completely blowing my mind! I wasn't sure what to expect with this dish, but I was absolutely blown away by the combination of flavors and textures. This is a mind-blowing, delicious, must-make dish! You won't be sorry!

I'll keep this brief because these cookies pretty much speak for themselves. A fluffy peanut butter cookie base with loads of chocolate chips running throughout? Sign me up!

This is another dish with special meaning. I made this Panko-Crusted Salmon seven years ago for my Mom on Mother's Day. Mom and I used to have frequent conversations about how much we loved fish and seafood and how completely tired we were of anything meat-related. So, for Mother's Day in 2011, I cooked up this Panko-Crusted Salmon. It was the first time Mom had panko on anything and she instantly fell in love with the crispy and crunchy texture. I could rarely get Mom onboard with any specialty or newfangled ingredients, but she did have a have a lasting love affair with panko. We both loved this dish and got on a jag with it, making it often when my meat-loving husband was out of town for work.

This recipe caught my attention because it was different. I really enjoyed this baked pasta dish with three different kinds of cheese, cauliflower, capers, and crunchy panko topping. It was definitely up there on my list of Ina Garten faves!

I love egg dishes and this one is not only easy but perfect for entertaining. I love that you can customize the eggs to include different veggies and cheeses. I see this as a classic go-to recipe!

 I lightened up Ina's original recipe considerably and this was still an outstanding dish! You really can't go wrong with shrimp, butter, garlic, lemon, and breadcrumbs. This is a delicious and satisfying meal for anyone, especially if you are eating healthy and looking for something indulgent!

The very best roast chicken. There are no other words!

These Tri-Berry Oven Pancakes are so pretty and colorful! Kids love the way they puff up in the oven and they love the idea of topping their individual pancake with whatever goodies they chose! Who doesn't?

This Lemon Drop Cocktail earns an Honorable Mention because it is one of those easy things you can keep on hand for when you need, or want, a quick cocktail in a hurry. A quick squeeze of lemon, a touch of sugar, and some vodka and you're set.  This is a cocktail worth having up your sleeve! 

Theme: IHCC March Potluck and Goodbye Ina!