Thursday, December 27, 2007

Manicotti Lineup | ATK

I don't understand why I am not on the payroll at America's Test Kitchen, considering I snub all recipes that do not come from them, own almost all of their books, can't say enough good things about them, and gave almost all living and breathing members of my family one of their cookbooks for Christmas, which will no doubt make them yearn for more. Why Why Why. Well, probably because they don't need me, have no clue I only live a mere two train stops from their test kitchen, think I'm a stalker. I don't know, but Test Kitchen if your listening and you need cookbook reviewers, or you have extra books lying around that are collecting dust you can reach me through this blog. Me, JB at your service. Will work for food.

Seriously though, it was a veritable America's Test Kitchen love fest at my house this Christmas. For dinner I made multiple ATK dishes and then after everyone ate them and asked for the recipes, they all got their own books, which allowed me to say - "Now go make your own damn food and get out of my house." No really I only said that to CB's I kidding...what do you think? Huh?

One thing that I am absolutely loving about cooking lately is I've been making a lot of dishes that require multiple steps, or better put, dishes that are just easier if you have another pair of hands in the kitchen. This has forced CB to schlep into the kitchen and help me everyime I scream, "I could use a little help in here...maybe you could pause Sports Center for a few minutes and come help a girl out."

Really though, it's been really wonderful working in the kitchen with CB, the picture above shows the assembly line for the manicotti, and CB starting to roll them up. The work went by fast and I think we enjoyed the dinner even more because we made it together...Barf, just kidding, it tasted great because it came from ATK, not so much because of the togetherness and whatnot, that's total crap.

Stuffed Manicotti ATK
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves minced
pinch red pepper flakes
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
ground black pepper
24 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese (about 3 cups)
4 ounces Parmesan cheese grated (about 2 cups)
10 ounces whole milk mozzarella cheese shredded (about 2 1/2cups)
2 large eggs lightly beaten
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves
16 no boil flat lasagna noodles

1. Pulse the tomatoes with their juices one can at a time, in a food processor until coarsely chopped with pieces measuring about 1/4 inch, about 3 pulses, set aside.

2. Heat the oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil, season with salt and pepper; set aside.

3. Stir the ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 2 cups of the mozzarella, eggs, parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper together; set aside.

4. Pour 1 inch of boiling water into a 13 by 9 inch baking dish and slip the noodles into the water, 1 at a time. Let the noodles soak until pliable, about 5 minutes, separating the noodles with the tip of a knife to prevent sticking. Remove the noodles from the water and place in a single layer over clean kitchen towels. Discard the water in the baking dish and pat it dry.

5. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Use a soup spoon to spread 1/4 cup of the ricotta cheese mixture evenly over the bottom three-quarters of each noodle. Roll the noodles up around the filling, and lay seam side down in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining sauce evenly over the noodles, covering the pasta completely. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.

6. Cover with foil sprayed with non stick spray and bake in a 400 degree oven until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 30-40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is browned in spots 25-30 minutes.

Rating = So God Damn Good

Friday, December 21, 2007

My First Gingerbread House

Not too bad for the first go at it. As much as I find reason to bitch and complain during the holiday season, usually about my in-laws, I do really love this time of year. Yes it's stressful, but it's also so wonderful at the same time. This time of year gives you the excuse to make a house out of gingerbread cookies. I did not make this on my own, I had the much needed help of my sister and her daughter. The house construction was literally an all day affair, which at the end of, my sister and I promptly made martinis and sat back to admire our work. My niece also armed with a hot chocolate topped with enough whipped cream to choke a horse also sat back and admired our first ever gingerbread house. Not too shabby. CB being an architect, was not so impressed, apparently there are some structural flaws and the color scheme is horrid, but who cares.

I won't be posting again until after Christmas. I wish all of you the Happiest of Happiest. Take Care. Be Safe. Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chocolate Chip, Dark Cherry Cookies

Ah, tis the holiday season when your in-laws will no doubt bug the shit out of you, push all your buttons and make you swear that next, year you are going far. far. away for the Holiday Season.
First, without getting to far into it just let me say that CB's father hasn't worked a day since 1986. He inherited a family business when he was young, and in 1986 sold the business and has not worked a day since, for 20 years. He has been savvy enough to make investments and live off of the profits from those investments. We should all be so lucky. Don't get me wrong, that's great, I think most people would like to live that way, more power to him. Now, let me clarify that CB and I work our asses off to afford the things we have. We have not been offered nor would we accept money from his family. CB works two jobs, he's a residential architect at a design firm and also teaches architecture at a local university. My job is rarely 8-5 and includes multiple late night events it also involves copious amounts of travel, mostly over weekends, never usually falling in the normal work week time. I'm not complaining. I like earning my own way. I love the fact that CB and I owe not one person for the things we have. We've earned it, together.

Another piece of this puzzle is CB's father's girlfriend, surprise surprise, she doesn't work either. She has also been lucky enough to make smart investments that pay dividends that she lives off day to day. My problem is not in the fact that neither of them work, I think most people would love to have the wherewithal to make smart investment decisions that allowed us to live a life not rules by going to work. My problem is this; both of them have enough money to live comfortably without working. This year they decided that they would downplay spending at Christmas and only spend $20 on each other. Great, bravo, you really don't need anything, so don't just buy for the sake of buying.

After they make this decision (the $20 decision) his father turns around and gives us a few ideas for things that we can buy them for Christmas. His father, asked us for a toaster oven, no big deal right? No, he asked for a specific toaster oven that he saw online, to the tune of $100 fucking dollars. He then asks us to get his girlfriend a wooden salad bowl and wooden serving utensils, which generally cost about $50.00. Ok, so let me get this straight. Neither of you work, and yet you're only going to spend $20.00 on each other, but you want us, who work our asses off, to buy your $100 fucking dollar toaster. No. You're not getting the toaster. You're getting a book. Reading is fundamental.

That was my rant for today. Sorry if you were looking for shiny happy people holding hands. Ain't gonna happen today.


These cookies should brighten your day. I adapted a recipe from the Baking Illustrated cookbook from, yep, you guessed it. America's Test Kitchen.

2 cups plus 2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and then cooled until warm
1 cup packed light of dark brown sugar
NOTE: I used 1/2 light and 1/2 dark
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg plus one egg yolk
NOTE: I used a vegan substitute which was 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp oil and 1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped dried cherries (optional - not in original ATK recipe)

1.Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium size bowl, set aside.

3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk (or substitute) and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.

4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of of both hands and pull into two equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base. again forming a single ball and being careful not to smooth the dough's uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.

5. Bake until the are light golden brown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool cookies on the sheet, then remove with metal spatula. Enjoy.

Rating = Damn Good

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Seafood & Corn Risotto

This is just another one of those instances where pictures just do not do the dish justice. This was awesome. I made the recipe up in my head after having a similar recipe at Todd English's restaurant Figs. First, some women go all gaga over him. I don't get it, I just don't think he's that attractive. Is it the whole fantasy of a man in an apron cooking for you that makes him attractive, or do women really think he's good looking? Oh well, I think he looks a little dirty to be honest, maybe he's "ugly sexy" as some of the Beanies say. I don't know.

Anyway, when I was a Figs a few weeks ago I ordered the shrimp and sweet corn risotto which was to die for. So good that I stopped eating even though I was still hungry, just to make sure that I had some left over for the next day. Which I never go to have because CB ate it, can you believe it?

If I had to do this recipe all again I would have used just shrimp and corn, not the seafood mix that I used because I think it was just too much seafood, and made the dish a little too complex. The corn and shrimp were a nice balance.

Seafood and Corn Risotto JB Original
4 cups vegetable stock (you can use seafood or chicken)
2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove minced
1 can sweet corn
1 bag frozen seafood mix (or just use shrimp)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
chopped fresh basil
chopped fresh parsley
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the vegetable stock in a pot on medium high heat.

In a separate large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes, making sure not to burn. Add the rice and cook until the outside of the rice becomes pearly, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and let cook until it reduces and the alcohol cooks out.

Add two ladles of vegetable stock to the rice mixture and stir constantly until all the stock has been absorbed by the rice, and the rice begins to release it's starch. Repeat the following until all the stock is gone and the risotto is a nice creamy texture. This should take about 20 minutes.

Add the seafood mixture to the risotto when you add the final ladles of vegetable stock. Incorporate into the risotto. Add the corn and the parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with fresh basil and parsley. Season with more salt and pepper if desired.

Rating = Damn Good

I'm trying to remember this recipe from my head because I didn't write anything down when I was doing it. If something seems amiss please let me know.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rosemary Hummus

I'm not very happy today. I'm sick. I have a very bad stomach ache. I think the Mexican stomach has reared it's ugly head again. Top that off with the fact that a fat man in a car yelled "fuck you" out his window today as I crossed the street, while I had the walk sign, no less. Apparently I wasn't moving fast enough for his fat ass, probably due to the fact that I'm dealing with Montezuma's Revenge in my stomach right now. Thanks Asshole. Merry Christmas to you too, you jackass. Normally I'm full of quick witted responses, and I generally get the better of people when it comes to a battle of wits, but today I just didn't have it in me. I'm going to the doctor this afternoon where hopefully she will give me drugs to kill whatever beast has taken up residence in my GI track and is wreaking holy hell on my insides. Better living through chemistry, isn't that the saying.

Anyway - what I would really like for Christmas other than a settled stomach, would be to be a cookbook reviewer for America's Test Kitchen. I think I would rock the house at that assignment.

This hummus recipe is altered from the one in the Best Light Recipe book that I got at the beginning of the year. I've made this hummus recipe no less than 5 times in the past few months, and every time I bring it somewhere people always comment about how good it is. I adapted the recipe by adding a tablespoon of freshly chopped rosemary leaves to the recipe just at the end of processing. I also use the zest of a whole lemon in addition to the lemon juice that is called for in the recipe.
The rosemary and the lemon pair really well together and make for a fresh and aromatic dip that seems to please all. Also, the woody smell of the rosemary is really great this time of year.

Rosemary Hummus The Best Light Recipes (altered)
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas drained and rinsed
6 tbs water
3 tbs juice from one large lemon plus zest from that lemon
2 tbs tahini
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 small garlic clove minced
1 tbs chopped fresh Rosemary

1.Process the chickpeas, water, lemon juice, lemon zest, tahini, 2 tsp of the oil, salt, garlic and cayenne together in the food processor until very smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add chopped rosemary and pulse a few more times to incorporate.

2. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the flavors meld, about 30 minutes. (The hummus covered can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to temperature and season with additional lemon juice, salt, and cayenne as needed before serving.) To serve, make a well in the center of the hummus, drizzle with remaining teaspoon of olive oil in the well.

Per 1/4 Cup Serving: Call 100; Fat 5g; Sat Fat .5g; Chol 0mg; Carb 10g; Protein 4g; Fiber 3g; Sodium 320mg

Rating = So Damn Good

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Lite Mac and Cheese | ATK

Fuckety fuck fuck fuck, it is cold out. Arctic. Ass Biting, Cold. Stay under the covers because all the air not under the covers is flipping freezing, cold. Throw your bath towel in the dryer while your in the shower, so you can wrap a hot towel around your wet body, cold. Numb fingertips in a matter of minutes, cold.

Old man winter has a stick up his ass today, with his freezing cold temperatures, and his wind chill, and his horrible frozen sidewalks which when I try to navigate, make me look like a new born deer trying to stand on my legs for the first time, slipping and sliding all over the place praying I don't fall ass over tea kettle all over the place, which I am known to do. Cold.

Nothing warms up the insides like a nice steaming bowl of mac and cheese. Is it not one of the great comfort foods? I think it is. This recipe came from the Best of America's Test Kitchen 2007 cookbook, and without fail is another amazing and simple recipe.

Lite Macaroni and Cheese
1/2 pound elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
1 (12-ounce) can reduced fat evaporated milk
3/4 C 2% milk (I used plain low fat soy milk)
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp garlic powder or celery salt (I used garlic powder) (optional)
Pinch cayenne pepper (I used chili powder)
2 tsp cornstarch
8 ounces 50% light cheddar cheese, grated (ATK recommended and I used the Cabot 50% cheese. ATK also recommends that you grate your own cheese, and not buy pregrated cheese for better melting)

1. Bring 2 1/2 quarts water to a boil in a large saucepan for the pasta. Add 2 tsp salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is completely cooked and tender. Drain the pasta and leave it in the colander; set aside.

2. Add the evaporated milk, 1/2 c of the 2% milk, mustard, garlic powder (if using), cayenne, and 1/2 tsp salt to the now empty saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch and remaining 1/4 c milk together, then mix it into the simmering mixture. Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce has thickened and is smooth, about 2 minutes.

3. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cheddar until melted and smooth. Stir in the macaroni, and let the macaroni and cheese sit off the heat until the sauce has thickened slightly, 2 to 5 minutes before serving.

(At this point I poured the macaroni and cheese into a glass baking dish, topped with a few breadcrumbs and baked in a 375 degree oven for ten minutes. The recipe didn't call for this, however I like to have a crunchy topping to my mac and cheese, and adding the dry bread crumbs didn't add that much calories to the lite meal.)

Rating = So Damn Good