Archive | December, 2010

Pasta with Olives and Tomatoes

10 Dec

DH had lunch with a client in Wilmington, Delaware’s Little Italy district. And that may not sound like much, but smaller cities take their Little Italy districts very seriously (Want proof? Go look up the crime stats for Baltimore’s Little Italy and compare it to those for the surrounding city. Little Italy indeed!).

We didn’t sit down to dinner until 8:30 last night, both propping our eyes open with toothpicks. I’d fixed this in the afternoon, chilled it, and popped it into the microwave once things settled down enough for us to eat, not expecting much reaction at that time of night. DH took a bite, looked at me, and said, “Seriously? This is better than what I had for lunch today.”

Love. That.

This started as a recipe from Everyday Food, which is part of the Martha Stewart empire. I’m not a huge Martha fan, but this looked simple and tasty. And it was. The garlic and olive brine infuse the olive oil, making this simple-looking dish pop with flavor. It’s good warm or room temp. And I’m really looking forward to leftovers tonight.

My only caution on this one is to watch the Parmesan. It’s salty, and so are the olives. Taste this before you add more cheese when you put a scoop on your plate. This would be great with some shrimp, diced chicken, or even some sliced smoked salmon, which is what I plan to add in next time.

To make it, you’ll need:

1 pound pasta (I used rotini; Martha recommended penne)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (don’t skimp on the cheaper stuff!)

2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely minced

2/3 pound cherry tomatoes, halved (I used 1 1 /2 pints)

1 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

(Martha wanted parsley in this. I think parsley tastes like old shoes, so we skipped it. Ick.)

Cook and drain pasta.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, just until you start to smell it (don’t let it burn!). Add the tomatoes, oregano, and red pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until you start to see juice in the bottom of the pan–it was about 6 minutes for me.

Add the sauce, olives, and cheese to the pasta, Stir to combine. Enjoy.

Rolo Cookies

8 Dec

If you’ve known me for a holiday season or two, chances are you have this recipe. Because this makes a delicious chocolate cookie with a chewy caramel center and is one of my very favorites.

I don’t remember where this recipe came from, but it’s not easy to find on a Google search (if it comes up, it’ll be with my name on it–I submitted it to the Washington Post once and they declared it one of their top 12 Christmas cookies that year) and you really should have it. It’s a huge crowd-pleaser and pretty easy, tho it does make a mess of the kitchen.

Be sure you don’t over-bake these. They’re still going to look very soft when you pull them out of the oven, but they’ll firm up as they cool. And do NOT eat them warm! That caramel center is like hot lava, dear readers, and you will burn your tongue right off. Let them cool. Oh, and be sure your dough is good and cold before you start rolling (I stick mine back in the fridge between batches) or you’ll end up with flat cookies with ugly lumps in the middle. Cold dough = puffy and gorgeous cookies.

Keep and serve these at room temp. Just like hot will burn you, cold caramel will break your teeth off.

All that said, try these and enjoy! You’ll need:

2 ½ – 2 ¾ cups flour — enough so dough is not sticky
¾ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
48 Rolo brand chewy caramels

Beat sugars and butter until fluffy, add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture and blend well. Cover and cool dough in fridge for about ½ hour. Shape into1-inch ball around caramel, covering it completely. Bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Do not overbake; they will look quite soft.

Cool in pan slightly then move to a piece of waxed paper. Cool completely. You can melt white chocolate and drizzle over top or eat as is.

Pumpkin Bars

7 Dec

This is going to be fast. I’m sorry there haven’t been more original recipes around here lately. Craziness is happening.

I made these pumpkin bars and they were amazing. First, because there is no butter in them and they’re from Paula Deen. So that’s some sort of anomaly. And second, because they are moist and delicious.

I would serve these more like cake than bars. They rise very high and are difficult if not impossible to eat with fingers. But the slices should be small. Rich is not the word.

I only made one change to this, and that was to take the powdered sugar down by 1/3 cup in the icing. Sweet but not too sweet.

More recipes soon, kids. Hope you all are doing really well. 🙂

Sunflower Toasting Bread

2 Dec

My friend Jocelyn and I used to leave our shared office a few times a week and head to our favorite sandwich shop for lunch. Patty’s sat across the street from a little park in downtown Washington, D.C., about two blocks from Georgia Brown’s, and we’d grab our lunches and sit out on a bench to soak up an hour’s worth of sunshine while we ate.

Our favorite sandwich was tuna salad on sunflower bread, and when Patty’s closed a few years back, my heart just about broke. Best sandwich bread ever.

This isn’t quite that, but I really wanted a good bread with sunflower seeds, to remind me of those careless afternoons at the park.

I started with a recipe for something called English Muffin Bread, which you can find in the Betty Crocker New Cook Book–the plaid one that I know you have because everyone has it. They called the recipe english muffin bread because it toasts so well, but it never particularly conjured up english muffins to me otherwise. I liked it because it really was delicious with butter and a bit of jam in the morning, and it was a yeast bread with no kneading and only one rise. Sign me up!

I took that recipe, simplified the baking process (mix with a wooden spoon? I think not), mixed up a few ingredients, and added unsalted sunflower seeds. And the result was really good. The house smelled divine and it’s delicious toasted (not so much un-toasted; bear that in mind). My kids liked it a lot, which is always nice, and I love having that little sunflower seed crunch in there.

This makes two loaves. It freezes very well if you want to toast one up right away and hang onto one for later.

To make this, you’ll need:

2 cups white-wheat flour

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsp yeast (two packages if you buy it in the little packets)

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 cups milk

1/2 cup water

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp unsalted sunflower seeds

Spray two loaf pans with nonstick spray that has flour in it (I use Pam’s baking spray; you can also spray it with regular spray and then sprinkle flour or cornmeal around the inside of the pan). Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, water, sugar, and salt. Microwave mixture until it’s just warmer than body temperature (it took 90 seconds in my microwave).

In the bowl of your mixer, combine 3 cups of the flour with the yeast and baking soda. On low speed, stir in the milk mixture, and then stir in the remaining flour. When it just comes together, add in the sunflower seeds and incorporate well.

Divide the dough into the two loaf pans. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes, or until doubled. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool, slice, toast, and enjoy (preferably outside in the warm sun)!

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