Monday, March 31, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Cheesecake

~Courtesy of the Food Network and Giada De Laurentiis

1/2 cup ricotta cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 cup cream cheese (4 ounces)
1/4 cup goat cheese (2 ounces)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
Pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup thin strips roasted red bell peppers
4 pitas
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup apricot jam
1 to 2 teaspoons hot water
Special equipment: 1 (4 1/2-inch diameter) springform (cheesecake) pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wrap the outside of the cheesecake pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. Place the ricotta, cream cheese, and goat cheese in a food processor. Pulse to mix. Add the sugar, egg, and salt and pulse a few times until well mixed. Stir in the red pepper strips.

Pour the cheese mixture into the cheesecake pan. Place the cheesecake pan in a roasting pan. Pour enough hot water in the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden at the edges and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 45 minutes (the cake will become firm when it is cold.)

Transfer the cake to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To make the pita chips, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the pitas into 8 triangles each (like a pie). Drizzle the pita with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until crisp and golden, about 12 to 15 minutes.

To serve, combine the jam and the water in a small bowl and stir until the jam is liquefied. Remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Place on a serving plate. Drizzle the jam mixture over the top of the cheesecake. Serve with the pita chips alongside.

*My differences are...I use part skim ricotta, 1/3 fat cream cheese, and an herbed goat cheese (not a plain). Don't use fat free products as it won't set up but the lighter versions work great. This recipe only makes one small springform pan that is 4 1/2 inches. I have quadrupled the recipe w/great success to make 4 of these suckers. Oh how I love these.

PITA Bread

This recipe is from the cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 T granulated yeast
1 1/2 T salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
cornmeal for pizza peel

Mix the yeast and salt w/the water in a 5 qt. bowl, or a lidded not airtight food container. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14 cup food processor w/dough attachement or a heavy duty stand mixer w/dough hook. Mix until flour is just not knead.

Cover, not airtight, and allow to rest at room temp until dough rises and collapses, approximately 2 hours.

Dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded, not airtight, container and use over the next 14days.

This makes 1 large family-style pita or 4 individual pitas

Twenty minutes before baking preheat the over to 500 with a baking stone.

Just before baking, dust the surface of the dough w/flour and cut off a 1-lb or grapefruit size piece. Dust the piece w/more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Place the dough on a flour dusted pizza peel.

Using your hands and a rolling pin, roll the dough out into a round with a uniform thickness of 1/8 inch throughout. This is crucial, because if it's too thick, it may not puff. You'll need to sprinkle the peel lightly with the white flour as you work, occasionally flipping the bread to prevent sticking to the rolling pin or to the board. Use a dough scraper to remove the round of dough from the peel if it sticks. No rest/rise time is needed.

Slide the bread directly onto the hot stone and bake for about 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned and puffed.

For the most authentic soft-crusted result, wrap in clean cotton dish towels and set on a cooling rack when backing is complete. The pitas will deflate slightly as they cool. The space between the crusts will still be there, but may have to be nudged apart with a fork.

I rolled my pitas out on parchment paper and baked them right on the parchment paper on the stone. It worked out great. I think a smidge thicker than 1/8 works better in the thickness also....mine didn't need to be nudged apart at thinner ones didn't want to come apart. You can keep the remainder of the dough refrigerated for up to 14 days and pull it out and use it as you need it in grapefruit size portions.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Espresso Brownies

Espresso Brownies...Food Network Giada De Laurentiis
Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 (19.8-ounce) box brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines)
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Whisk 1/3 cup of water, oil, eggs, and 2 tablespoons espresso powder in a large bowl to blend. Add the brownie mix. Stir until well blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, dissolve the remaining 2 teaspoons of espresso powder in the remaining 2 tablespoons of water in a medium bowl. Whisk in the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar and butter and whisk until smooth. Pour the glaze over the brownies. Refrigerate until the glaze is set. Cut into bite-size pieces. Arrange the brownies on a platter and serve.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

10 servings

Prep time 30 min plus cooling

Bake time 1 hr

One 10 oz box shortbread cookies, such as lorna doone or pecan sandies or walkers shortbread

1/4 c blanched almonds, toasted

2 T brown sugar

1/2 t salt

4 T unsalted butter, melted

2 8 oz. pkgs cream cheese, at room temp

3 T flour

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, room temp

1 3/4 c dulce de leche

Boiling water for baking
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Wrap the outside of a 9" springform pan with foil. Using a food processor, finely chop the cookies, nuts, brown sugar and 1/4 t salt. Add the butter and pulse until just combined. Press into the bottom of the prepeared pan and bake until set, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Lower the oven temp to 300.
2. Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese until softened, 2 minutes. Beat in the fjour and remaining 1/4 t salt on low speed. Beat in the eggs and egg yolk, 1 at a time, on medium speed. Mix in 1 cup dulce de leche.
3. Pour the batter into the crust. Loosely cover the pan with foil, set in a roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to reach a depth of 1 inch. Bak the cheesecake until set at the edges but slightly wobbly in the center, about 55 minutes.
4. Transfer the cake to a rack; let rest for 15 minutes. Spread the remaining 3/4 c dulce de leche over the warm cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve, then remove the springform and slice the cheesecake.
I put orange zest all over the top of my cake before I cut it and it really made a difference. I don't normally like "orange" but this orange zest combined w/the dulce was out of this world. Make sure you run your knife in hot water between cuts. I would also go and get an oven thermometer if you don't have one. Taylor makes on that is great from 9-18 smackers. You really need to make sure your oven temp is accurate. I have a brand new wall oven that is convection and also regular baking and it still runs roughly 12 degrees off. I got my calphalon springform pan at Target and it works terrific.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Orechiette with Sausage, Beans, Spinach, Walnuts and Cream Cheese

1 pound orechiette pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound turkey sausage, casing removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon of dried
1/2 cup cream cheese or mascarpone if you can find it
1/2 cup of toasted walnuts
1 cup of packed fresh spinach or more if you like
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
In a large, heavy skillet warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and onions. Using a wooden spoon break up the sausage into bite-sized pieces as it browns. Continue cooking until the sausage is golden and the onions are tender. Add the beans and oregano cook for 2 more minutes. Add the cup of pasta cooking liquid and stir, scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cheese and stir until it dissolved into a light sauce. Add the salt, pepper, and hot pasta and stir, toss in spinach to slightly wilt and top off with toasted walnuts.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Quattros Leches Cake---4 Milk Cake in Latin America

This is my adaptation of a Tres Leches Cake. This is an Emeril recipe for Tres Leches that I have turned into my own Quattros Leches Cake. This cake is to die for!!!!!!!!

Cake: 6 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream topping: 1 14-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream

After the Cream topping:
1 cup dulce de leche (homemade preferrably)***see bottom of the page

Chopped Macademia Nuts and Strawberries

To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually with the mixer running and peak to stiff peaks. Add the egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after the addition of each.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the egg mixture, alternating with the milk. (Do this quickly so the batter does not lose volume.) Add the vanilla. Bake until golden, 25 minutes or adjust cooking time to fit your oven....everyone's is different.

To make the cream topping: In a blender, combine the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream and blend on high speed.

Remove the cake from the oven and while still warm, spoon the cream mixture over it....or ladle over but don't spoon or ladle until the last ladle has soaked into the cake....this may take a few minutes to get the whole cake to absorb the patient it is worth it. Let sit and cool to room temperature. Then drizzle dulce de leche over the cake. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving I top this cake off with chopped macademia nuts, whipped cream or cool whip and a side of sliced strawberries in their own syrup/juice.

***To make homemade dulce de leche you need to take a can of SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK and put it in a saucepan covered with water....make sure you remove the label. Gently bring the covered can up to a simmer with the lid on and simmer ever so slightly for 3 hours. DO NOT BOIL.....just a very gentle simmer. I have never had a problem with the can exploding and I suspect anyone that has has boiled their can instead of just a gentle simmer. Keep an eye on this in case you need to add some water during the 3 hours. When you open your can you will have what they call Cajeta in Mexico or Dulce De Leche in Latin America. You can use store bought sauce but I will guarantee it will not taste as good as this. It will be a dark carmel brown color and if it is stiff in your can just spoon it out and warm it up and it will thin out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Quesadilla's Swanson Style

Our family loves Quesadillas. I have 2 recipes I use faithfully. One is for BBQ Chicken Quesadillas that I make on a gas grill and then this recipe that I make inside the house.

You can use any size or flavor tortilla you like. The smaller the tortilla the more filling you will have leftover. I use those huge tortillas...I think they are burrito size and they make them in the Jalapeno&Cheddar, Spinach and then also a Sundried Tomato. Those are our 3 faves.

Tortillas of your choosing
1 can drained and rinsed black beans
1 can refried beans
1 cup of thawed frozen corn
Shredded jalapeno jack cheese
Shredded cheddar
Romaine Lettuce
Light Sr. Cream
Salsa of your choosing

Put beans and corn in a mixing bowl and stir together. Schmear some of the bean/corn filling on half of the tortilla. Sprinkle on some cheese. You can butter or olive oil the outside of the tortilla but I usually don't. Fold the other half of the tortilla on top and grill on one side until golden brown and then flip. Grill other side until golden. Let cool for a minute and then slice into wedges with a pizza cutter. I then top off with shredded romaine lettuce, salsa and sour cream. Quick and delicious.