NYC Breakfast Strata (or Strata take 2)

Tray of strata

Tray of strata (click to enlarge)

Serving of strata

Serving of strata (click to enlarge)

The best thing about stratas is that they are an awesome vehicle for leftovers. In this case I had left over bagels that we weren’t going to eat, some cheese, some leftover bacon, and a generous gift of leeks and kale from Chica’s farm share! It made for a yummy breakfast or brunch meal. Make sure you let it set after baking, don’t serve hot for the best flavor.

6-8 slices of bacon (these were pretty thin slices)
2 tbsp butter
3 leeks (sliced thinly and washed)
1 bunch kale (stripped, chopped and washed)
8 eggs (large)
2 cups 1% milk (any milk will do, that’s what we had)
1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used edam because it was open but gruyere or cheddar work well too)
2.5 large bagels, cut into 1 inch cubes (Staten Island bagels are REALLY large)
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano (to sprinkle on top just before baking)
salt, pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 375 F.
After leeks are washed and left to dry a bit, chop bacon and cook it in a dutch oven. Remove bacon and place it on paper towel to dry; leave grease in the pan, add 2 tbsp butter and melt. Add leeks, season, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add cleaned chopped kale, season, and cook until the kale breaks down, another 10 minutes.
While vegetables are sautéing, beat eggs in large bowl, add milk, shredded cheese and bacon, salt and pepper to taste, and stir all together. Throw bagel cubes into mixture and let sit to absorb.
When veggies are cooked (and kale has broken down and is more tender) take pan off heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Then stir veggies into bread/milk mixture in bowl. Grease a 9 x 12″ baking pan and add mixture. Top with pecorino romano cheese.
Bake for 60 minutes. Check at 50 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter until top is golden brown and center doesn’t have much liquid well up when you separate it in the center (some can well up, just as long as the strata doesn’t seem soppy).

It really tastes much better after it cools for a while and the flavors blend especially left over hours later or the next day.

Jam Tarts

Dan & Kathy recently returned from a trip to London and Paris so I thought I would make some British jam tarts for Kathy’s belated birthday celebration. They were very cute and colorful but a good warning to give is that when you use jam filling, it will bubble up everywhere, especially when you use a jam with less pieces of fruit inside. The chunkier preserves stayed more stable. They were all delicious.

I can’t believe it, I thought I took a picture, but I didn’t! They were so cute and I hand cut little shapes for the top pastry layer… I didn’t have small cutters. Dan said it looked like lucky charm shapes, hearts, moons, stars, and diamonds. My knife skills didn’t allow for more.🙂   They looked very similar to this photo (taken from BBC’s Good Food, but I didn’t follow their recipe):

tarts

I tested it with jams that we had in the house: raspberry (Smuckers), black currant (Bonne Maman), and cherry (Trader Joe’s). The raspberry and the cherry tied for favorites. The raspberry jam bubbled up a lot, though not enough fruit. I would use a better preserve next time. Black currant was a bit too sweet for us and while it performed the best by not splattering everywhere, it didn’t stand out enough. The cherry was great because it had large cherry halves in it, tasted like little pies! Tartness is needed to balance the delicious but buttery shortbread pastry. These would be great with lemon curd too.  Chris wants me to make it with apricot jam next time.

I made a number of modifications to this recipe if you would like to see the original.

JAM TARTS

YIELDS 18+

  • 8 ounces plain flour
  • 4 ounces butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold water
  • flour, for dusting
  • jam for filling: use any kind – I tested raspberry, black currant, and cherry. Favorites were raspberry and cherry.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and blend it in using your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Use a fork to blend in the water, adding a little at a time until the mixture comes together and you can form a ball with your hands.
  3. Wrap the pastry in a piece of plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes – this will make it easier to roll out.
  4. Turn the oven on to 400°F.
  5. Sprinkle the work surface and your rolling pin with a little flour and roll the pastry out to about 1/8 inch thick.
  6. Dip the cutter in flour then cut out as many circles as you can – I didn’t reroll the scraps and made 18 circles. You can make more with the scraps, but make sure you leave a little of the pastry scraps for the decorative pastry lids. Once you have the desired amount of circles, roll out the pastry scraps and cut out the required amount of toppers.
  7. Lay the rounds of pastry in a well-buttered mini muffin tin or tart tin and press them gently into place. Prick the base of each tart once with a fork.
  8. Put the tart tray into the oven and bake for 6 minutes until the pastry is very pale golden.
  9. Carefully put 1 heaped teaspoon of jam into each tart, and then top them off with a pastry top. Bake for another 12 minutes until jam is bubbling and pastry has just begun to have darker golden edging.
  10. Leave them to cool (not too long or the jam glues them to the tin) then gently lift the tarts out and leave to cool on a rack or plate.

Salmon with Dill and Lemon

I have been craving salmon lately (must be the winter thing, all of this cold weather hibernation may have turned me into a bear). I never cook it at home because of the smelly house factor, but it wasn’t bad at all this time, perhaps because I cooked it in our toaster oven/broiler (a Cuisinart), or I just had a stuffed nose that day.

This was delicious. Wild sockeye salmon, that dark salmony color, lovely.

I served it with asparagus (which I overcooked by mistake) and a delicious side of braised lentils with Berkshire bacon (Fresh

Direct made it, not me). The lentils paired really well with it and had a slight vinegar tang that was perfect.

salmon

Ingredients:

  • two 6-8 oz pieces of wild salmon with skin
  • 1 lemon, half in thin slices and half for juice
  • 4-5 sprigs dill, chopped
  • olive oil

Directions:

  1. Cut a piece of tin foil to fit the broiler/toaster oven tray but don’t put it on tray yet.
  2. Preheat toaster oven/broiler to 475 F. Leave tray in oven to preheat.
  3.  Spray foil square with olive oil.
  4. Place fish on foil skin side down, spray fish with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Squeeze lemon over fish and top with chopped dill. Cover with lemon slices (really only need 2 slices to cover each piece).
  6. Slide tray out of toaster oven and place foil with salmon on top. Bittman’s recipe for Roasted Salmon with Butter in How to Cook Everything: The Basics suggested 8-12 minutes [I didn’t use that recipe but checked it for the cooking temp and time] but the salmon was really too under-cooked for us, we like it totally cooked through. I left it in for about 15-18 minutes but it’s likely that my toaster oven cooks at a much different rate than a real oven, the heating element is below the rack. Check it after 8 for your own tastes. When the meat flakes easily it is ready.

Tin Roof Ice Cream (sooooo good)

Dad loves ice cream and chocolate and peanuts, so I thought that this recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz would be perfect for his bday party.

Chris’ brother Brian got me hooked on homemade ice cream (his peppermint bark ice cream is amazing… we have made it twice in the past month and will make it again tomorrow) and I wanted to try this one.

The vanilla custard ice cream in this recipe is so delicious. It was the first time I ever used whole vanilla beans and they are much stickier than I realized! I would like to make it just like that next time (just the vanilla ice cream), forget the delicious fudge ripple or chocolate covered peanuts that I made to mix in!

There are a lot of steps but it was worth it. I put too much fudge ripple in with the ice cream container when I packed it for the freezer but it was so good. Next time I’ll follow Chris’ suggestion and replace the fudge ripple with caramel and make snickers ice cream!

tin roof ice cream

It really did look just like this. Aunt Mary had these cones and it was so delicious! This photo is from epicurious.

 

Tin Roof Ice Cream (David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop)

¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup Chocolate-Covered Peanuts (recipe follows)
Fudge Ripple (recipe follows)

For the Chocolate-Covered Peanuts:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

For the Fudge Ripple:
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

1. Warm the milk, sugar, salt and ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. With a sharp paring knife, scrape the flavorful seeds from the vanilla bean and add them, along with the pod, to the hot milk mixture. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Rewarm the vanilla-infused mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Remove the vanilla bean, wipe it clean of any egg bits, and add it back to the custard. Stir in the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

4. When ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean (it can be rinsed and reused). Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is freezing, chop the peanuts into bite-sized peanuts.

5. Fold the peanut pieces into the frozen ice cream as you remove it from the machine, and layer it with Fudge Ripple.

To make the Chocolate-Covered Peanuts:

1. Put the pieces of chocolate in an absolutely dry heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water to melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. In the meantime, stretch a piece of plastic wrap over a dinner plate.

2. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the peanuts, coating them with the chocolate. Spread the mixture on the plastic-lined plate and chill.

Mixing them in: Use a chef’s knife to chop the chocolate-covered block of peanuts into bite-sized pieces, then mix them into the ice cream as you remove it from the machine.

Storage: Chocolate-Covered Peanuts can be stored for several months in an air-tight container in the fridge.

To make the Fudge Ripple:

1. Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.

2. Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator before using.

Mixing it in: The Fudge Ripple should be thoroughly chilled, as it’s easiest to use when very cold. Just before you remove the ice cream from the machine, spoon some of the Fudge Ripple onto the bottom of the storage container. As you remove the ice cream from the machine, layer generous spoonfuls of the sauce between layers of ice cream. Avoid stirring the Fudge Ripple, as it will make the ice cream muddy looking.

Storage: Fudge Ripple can be stored for up to 2 weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Pound Cake (Bundt)

This was Dad’s birthday cake for today’s party and it was really rich and delicious, not too sweet but very moist. I had cut down the amount of sugar from the original recipe [Chocolate Pound Cake III on allrecipes.com] after reading the many comments saying that the cake was too sweet. When I served it with a very sweet homemade tin roof ice cream (recipe to follow), the cake seemed hardly sweet at all. Eating it later with a little powdered sugar it was just perfect all by itself. If you would like the cake to be very sweet you can increase the amount of sugar.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 1/4 cups white sugar [orig. called for 3 cups]
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water [orig called for 2 tsp regular instant coffee- I only had instant espresso]
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened dutched cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
confectioner’s sugar (for dusting after baking)
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. [If you don’t sift this the cocoa powder will clump and you’ll have little nuggets of cocoa powder in the cake; the original recipe didn’t call for sifting].
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the dissolved coffee and buttermilk. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 70-75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

This cake is much better the next day, so I made it a day ahead so that the flavors would blend – keep it tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in a cool place. Top with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.

 

French Onion Soup (modified from ATK)

I made this for Dad’s birthday dinner because he loves onions (so do I) and after an icy weekend, what’s better than a bowl of yummy soup with bread and cheese?

I usually make Nanny’s recipe but this time I thought I would try a new recipe, from America’s Test Kitchen.  They have 2 french onion soup recipes listed, but the one I didn’t use called for roasting the onions in the oven for hours and I had too many other things to do to spend that much time on it. This came out wonderfully, no need for hours in the oven. I added more broth than they called for, and more onions, and it made 6 servings.

I always cut the baguette into slices and put gruyere on top and toast it in the oven on a tray so that I don’t need to put the soup bowls in the oven and make them so hot that everyone burns their fingers. This recipe was delicious! I think it’s definitely a keeper. Chris loved it too but said it needed a lot more cheese on top for his taste.  :)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 7 medium red onions (about 3-4 pounds), sliced thin
  • salt and pepper
  • 7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 baguette, sliced (2 slices per serving)
  • 8 ounces gruyere cheese, shredded

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add sliced onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir to coat onions thoroughly with butter. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are reduced and syrupy and inside of pot is coated with very deep brown crust, 40 to 45 minutes. [Note: at this point I took out some of the onions and moved them to a small saucepan so that I could make a vegetarian version for my stepmom, just using vegetable broth in place of beef + chicken but using all of the other ingredients and steps below]
  2. Stir in the chicken and beef broths, red wine, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf, scraping pot bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits, and bring to simmer.
  3. Simmer to blend flavors, about 20 minutes, and discard herbs.
  4. Stir in balsamic vinegar and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. (Can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated in airtight container up to 2 days; return to simmer before finishing soup with croutons and cheese).
  5. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Put sliced bread on baking sheet with shredded gruyere on top of each slice and bake until melted and starting to turn golden on the edges. Fill bowls with soup and top each bowl with two slices of bread and cheese.

Baked Mushroom Marsala (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

This week brought a flurry of cooking. Cold weather (and horrible rainy/icy weather) and Dad’s birthday party inspired lots of new recipe testing.

Here’s the first of four recipes I made this weekend.

IMG_0474

 

This was a new recipe posted to the Smitten Kitchen blog (Marsala Mushroom Pasta Bake) and as soon as I saw it I wanted to make it. Chris and I make pappardelle with mushrooms and parsley often and this was a very similar dish but with a full marsala sauce (I usually just add marsala to the mushrooms as they cook but don’t make a rich sauce with it) and a little fresh mozzarella. I increased the mushrooms, marsala and mozzarella from the SK recipe, otherwise I left everything else the same. It was delicious! In case you’re curious, I added the recipe to myfitnesspal and it came to 550 calories per serving (4 servings in the dish). It was really filling and delicious. Chris devoured 2 servings (half the tray!) and I’m saving the remaining serving for tomorrow’s dinner. Yum.

This made 4 servings. For a crowd I would double it in a 9×13 pan. I used a 2 Qt pyrex casserole dish.

Baked Mushroom Marsala

1/2 pound (8 ounces) ziti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, halved and sliced thin (I used a red onion)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup marsala wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups broth (I used chicken because I had it open from another recipe)
1/2 cup finely grated pecorino romano cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook the pasta: Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 1 to 2 minutes before perfect doneness. Drain and set aside.

Heat oven: To 400 degrees.

Make the sauce: Heat a saute pan or dutch oven to high heat. Add oil and once it is hot, add mushrooms and cook until they’ve begun to brown and glisten, but have not yet released their liquid. Reduce heat to medium-high, add onions, salt and pepper and saute together until the liquid the mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Marsala and cook mixture, stirring, until it has reduced considerably (just a little left in the pan). Add butter, stir until melted. Add flour, and stir until all has been dampened and absorbed. Add stock, a very small splash at a time, stirring the whole time with a spoon. Make sure each splash has been fully mixed into the butter/flour/mushroom mixture, scraping from the bottom of the pan and all around, before adding the next splash. Repeat until all stock has been added. Let mixture simmer together for 2 minutes, stirring frequently; the sauce will thicken. Remove pan from heat.

Assemble and bake dish: If you’re cooking in the dutch oven, add cooked pasta and stir until combined. (If you’re not, transfer this mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.) Stir in the pecorino romano, all of the mozzarella and two tablespoons of the parsley until evenly mixed. Sprinkle the top with remaining parsley. Bake for 25 minutes, until edges of pasta are golden brown and serve hot.