Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fusilli with Sausage, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Artichokes. Sun Dried Tomatoes. I'm in. I saw Giada make this and it's extra simple. I could easily be talked into leaving out the sausage. She also swears by the frozen artichoke hearts . . . good tip. I like fusilli because the shape of the pasta holds onto the flavors so well.
3/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced, 2 tablespoons of oil reserved
1 pound Italian hot sausages, casings removed
2 (8-ounce) packages frozen artichoke hearts
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
16 ounces fusilli pasta
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus additional for garnish
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
8 ounces water-packed fresh mozzarella, drained and cubed, optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil reserved from the tomatoes in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown, breaking up the meat into bite-size pieces with a fork, about 8 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the artichokes and garlic to the same skillet, and saute over medium heat until the garlic is tender, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, wine, and sun-dried tomatoes. Boil over medium-high heat until the sauce reduces slightly, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fusilli in boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta (do not rinse). Add the pasta, sausage, 1/2 cup Parmesan, basil, and parsley to the artichoke mixture. Toss until the sauce is almost absorbed by the pasta. Stir in the mozzarella. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve, passing the additional Parmesan cheese alongside.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Caramel Apples

Another Fall treat. Anyone remember the time I made hundreds of these for the Octoberfest at the Whiffle Tree? They were in boxes all over the house. This recipe is a good one . . . make your own caramel. It's worth it.

1/2 cup butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
Dash salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
10 tart apples, washed, dried

Melt butter in 2-quart saucepan. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil (10 to 12 minutes). Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a firm ball or candy thermometer reaches 245°F (20 to 25 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
Dip apples into caramel mixture and place onto buttered waxed paper.
Makes 10 apples.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Jimmie Cake (sometimes called Jimmy Cake)

Today was the 4th Friday of Seminary ... it was time to introduce the Jimmie Cake. That and why they are never allowed to call jimmies 'sprinkles.' We definitely reached an understanding. They loved this cake, just like everyone does.

I've been making this cake for almost 25 years now and I'm embarrassed when people ask me for the recipe because a monkey could make it. You get your best Jimmie Cake when the outside has a sugary crunch to it. And today it did.

1 yellow cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 cup oil
1 cup water
1/3 cup jimmies (approximate)


1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 T. jimmies

Pour batter into greased tube or bundt pan and sprinkle topping over top before baking at 350 until a knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean and the cake starts to move away from the sides of the pan. Make sure to let this cake cool for at least 30 minutes before inverting onto a plate . . . you will have a melted chocolate mess if you take it out of the pan too early.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Guacamole . . .

Ever since Labor Day in San Diego I can't get enough guacamole . . . in case you didn't get this from various posts from our weekend, we had GREAT food on that trip. I like this recipe because it's chunky.

4 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
8 dashes Tabasco sauce
½ cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium tomato, seeded, and small-diced

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and scoop the flesh out of their shells into a large bowl. Immediately add the lemon juice, Tabasco, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper and toss well. Using a sharp knife, slice through the avocados in the bowl until they are finely diced. Add the tomatoes. Mix well and taste for salt and pepper.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Coconut Cake . . .

I am crazy about the coconut cake I've been making for years, but this was breathtaking. Cream cheese frosting is different on a coconut cake to me . . . check back for reviews on Sunday.

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup milk
4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Ina continues to be my hero.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

"Long Live Clafouti"

I love Spago. The food is great and it's one of the best places in Vegas to people watch. Wolfgang Puck has always had a great pastry chef there ... for a long time it was Mary Bergin. A few years ago she left Spago and opened a tiny restaurant near my office - and I loved it. There was a small counter for lunch specials and a tiny bakery in the front of the cafe full of all kinds of delicious treats. I would stop in once a week or so . . . one afternoon she had a fresh berry clafoutis on the menu. It was so delicious I couldn't stop thinking about it. When I'd see her I always mentioned what a fan I was of her clafouti and let her know I wondered when she'd make it again. Months later she autographed her cookbook for me . . . inside it says "long live clafouti". Here's an adapted version of Ina's recipe. Substitute pears with the traditional cherries, or make it with plums or apples.

Pear Clafouti

1 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 t. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 t. almond extract
2 to 3 firm but ripe Bartlett pears
Confectioners' sugar
Whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 10 by 3 by 1 1⁄2-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar.

Beat the eggs and the 1⁄3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and almond extract. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears. Arrange the slices in a single layer, slightly fanned out, in the baking dish. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners' sugar and with whipped cream.