Veggie Wrap with Summer Squash and Goat Cheese

Some great summer squashAs summer winds down, I wanted to make a dinner tonight that appreciated some really great squash. Quick recipe – I sliced up thin strips of carrots, zucchini, yellow summer squash, vidalia onion, and orange and red bell peppers. I sauteed the carrots for a few minutes first to get them soft, and then added the onions, squash, and peppers. I didn’t need to add too much liquid, as the squash is water based, so I tossed it with a blend of stone ground mustard/balsamic vinegar/1 minced up clove of garlic. It took about 10 minutes for everything to soften up appropriately, but I didn’t want to kill it. To serve it, I tossed some mesclun with a little bit of balsamic and put that and the veggies down on a wrap with a liberal scattering of goat cheese. Fold it up like a burrito and YUM.

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Mac & Cheese

Today, I’ll be competing in The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment. My offering for the masses? A four-cheese, bacony, parmesan crusted mac attack with a hint of cinnamon. ...mac and cheese at The Brooklyn Cheese Experiment

Behold.

* half a stick of unsalted butter

* 4 spoons of flour

* 2 cups whole milk

* 1/4 cup each of grated gruyere,  sharp cheddar, parmesan, and romano

* 1/2 cup of parmesan (kept separately)

* 2 egg yolks

* 2 spoons heavy cream/half and half, depending on how rich you want your sauce

* nutmeg, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper to taste. oh, and salt and pepper, of course.

* 6 slices of THICK pancetta or bacon

* 1 lb of some sort of ridged pasta that holds sauce well. I like pipettes, but rotini would work well, too.

* 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375. Dice your bacon into small bites.

Make a roux from the butter and flour over medium low heat. Be careful not to burn it. Add in the milk a little bit at a time, whisking it in as you go.Let it thicken.

Put on a pot of water to boil for your pasta. Salt it.

In a separate dish, whisk the egg yolks with one spoon of the cream/half & half and set aside.

Once your milk/butter/flour mix has thickened enough to coat a spoon, gradually melt in cheeses, (I like to add 1/4 cup at a time and whisk til it’s blended before adding another,) over a low heat and season to taste. When the cheese has melted into a super gooey, creamy, delicious mix, add the yolk mixture you set aside earlier and the other spoon of cream/half & half.  Allow to thicken, stirring often.

While your sauce is thickening, cook your bacon and your pasta. (Make sure your pasta is al dente, as you don’t want to over cook it before baking.) Mix the 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese you set aside earlier with your bread crumbs. Toss the bacon in your cheese sauce once it’s finished.

Pour your pasta into a casserole dish. Pour the bacony cheese sauce over it; stir until all your noodles are covered appropriately. Cover the top with your parmesan/bread crumb mixture; bake until the bread crumbs are browned.

Mac & Cheese

 

Update: Check out coverage of the Brooklyn Cheese Experiment at AlwaysHungryNY!! http://www.alwayshungryny.com/thought-for-food/entry/alwayspartying-brooklyn-cheese-experiment/

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Caprese Salads, Bruschetta, and Other Tomato Variations

Tonight I enjoyed one of my favorite dishes: a Caprese salad. Possibly the simplest of salads… While it’s (clearly) delicious, I enjoy it most because the smells of each ingredient take me right back to days spent with various family members growing up. I remember the first time I ate a fresh basil leaf was on my Aunt Susan’s porch at a casual summer evening cookout. Homegrown New Jersey tomatoes alternate sending me between my grandparents’ kitchen or my back yard… My Grandma Fannie introduced me to the yummy-ness of a tomato sandwich, while my Dad used to have me hold the basket while he picked tomatoes from our tiny garden under the kitchen window. These memories and the ability to be immediately transported somewhere comforting are definite contributors to my love of cooking.

So, while it might be obvious to some, tonight I give you my two favorite recipes for a kick ass Caprese salad:

Option 1:
Slice three medium sized ripe tomatoes horizontally, removing the green stem with a paring knife. Slice one ball of fresh, salted mozarella in 1/4 – 1/2 inch slices. Arrange your slices in a circle around a plate, alternating tomato slice, mozarella slice, and fresh basil leaf. Drizzle with an aged balsamic vinegar to taste.

Option 2:
Slice one pint of baby heirloom tomatoes (preferably of assorted colors – I like the mixed packages that offer dark green, yellow, veiny red, and orange ones,) into quarters or eighths, depending on the size of the tomato. If the tomatoes are small enough, you shouldn’t need to worry about the section where the stem grew. Toss in a bowl with one cup of pearl sized bocconcini (or mini mozzarella balls). Mince one clove of garlic. Rough chop 10 -12 leaves of fresh basil, add to the bowl with the minced garlic, and toss with balsamic vinegar to taste.

Side note: Option 2 also makes an EXCELLENT dressing for angel hair or spaghetti in summer, but I recommend dicing the tomatoes in this instance. DELICIOUS, especially when the bocconcini melts just a little over the warm pasta. You could also add some roasted red peppers and serve over olive oil brushed crustini as a bruschetta. Enjoy!!!

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Bacon Wrapped Dates

Bacon wrapped dates. I first had them at Xunta, and they were AWESOME. I tried my hand at making them myself for my sister’s bridal shower. Start with half a slice of bacon – cook it in a frying pan for 4 minutes on each side. Then I took fresh dates, pitted them myself, stuffed them with goat cheese and half of a raw almond, and wrapped them in the under-cooked bacon, and secured it all with a toothpick. Then I put them in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes, flipped them, and put them back in for another 8 minutes until the bacon got just crispy enough. DELICIOUS.

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I like to wing it.

It’s fair to say my preferred modus operandi in general is to fly by the seat of my pants. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I don’t like to use recipes. I have no formal culinary education, (though that may change in the near future,) although I read cookbooks and food blogs the way some obsess over stocks or porn. I invite you to test my recipes as I create them and let me know what you think. Tasty? Super tasty? Epic fail? You be the judge.

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