Monday, August 30, 2010

Tuscan Tomato Soup

This summer season has yielded so many fresh tomatoes from my CSA. This wonderful tomato soup is a great way to use them and even freezes well to save some for later. This recipe can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

Source: Tuscan Tomato Soup, Williams Sonoma Soup


6-8 slices French bread, 1 inch think

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded, then diced

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

½ cup finely chopped basil leaves, plus 6-8 whole leaves for garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, turning once, 10-15 minutes total. Set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a blender or food processor, purée the soup in batches, leaving a little bit of texture if desired, and return the soup to the pot. Alternatively, process with a handheld blender in the pot until the desired consistency is reached. Return the soup to medium heat and reheat gently. Add the chopped basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each warmed bowl and sprinkle with a spoonful of Parmesan cheese. Ladle the soup on top and garnish with a basil leaf. Serve it immediately.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Oven-Fried Chicken

I was not looking forward to making this Barefoot Bloggers recipe, only because I’ve been trying to eat healthier lately and watch my calories. In my attempt to keep this dish healthier, I used boneless skinless chicken, not quite sure if it would work. In the end, I just thought of this dish as a rare and special treat, and it was, (even with my skinless chicken)!

This dish wasn’t difficult but it did take some time to prepare, starting with a buttermilk bath, coating and frying the chicken, and finally baking in the oven. The chicken comes out beautifully golden brown, juicy and tender with a delightful crunchy coating. So tasty! Thanks to Vicki of My Fare Lady for choosing this recipe.

Source: Oven-Fried Chicken, Barefoot Contessa Family Style


2 chickens (3 pounds each), cut in 8 serving pieces

1 quart buttermilk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening


Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don't crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ultimate Grilled Cheese

McHubby and I have had so many dinners of grilled cheese sandwiches with a bowl of soup, so obviously I had to make the Contessa’s Ultimate Grilled Cheese. The fact that this was a recipe from the newest soon-to-be-released Barefoot Contessa cookbook made it even more appealing. This grilled cheese had such a rich, layered flavor. The toasted bread was perfectly buttery and golden browned with a wonderful crunch. Thanks to Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake for selecting this Barefoot Bloggers recipe and one of my favorite comfort foods!

Source: Ultimate Grilled Cheese, Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?


12 slices thick-cut bacon, such as Nodine’s applewood smoked
1 cup good mayonnaise
¼ cup Dijon mustard
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 white pullman loaf or sourdough bread, sliced ½ inch thick (12 slices)
6 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
6 oz aged Gruyere or Comte cheese
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, such as Cabot or Shelburne Farms


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bacon on a baking rack set over a sheet pan in a single layer and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and cut in 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Lay 12 slices of bread on a board and spread each one lightly with butter. Flip the slices and spread each one generously with the mayonnaise mixture. Don’t neglect the corners!

Grate the cheeses in a food processor fitted with the largest grating disk and combine. Distribute the bacon evenly on half the slices of bread. Pile ⅓ cup grated cheese evenly on top of the bacon and top with the remaining bread slices, sauce side down.

Heat an electric panini press. When the press is hot, cook the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes in batches until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Allow to cool for 2 minutes. Cut in half and serve warm.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mixed Berry Cheesecake

This has been a tough month on my diet with the Barefoot Bloggers recipe selections, including this one chosen by Nathalie of Snowbell Jewelry. Don’t get me wrong—McHubby and I love cheesecake! Despite appearances, cheesecake is not difficult to make at all, and the rich, creamy flavor of this one is so rewarding. The jeweled colors of the sweetened mixed berries make a beautiful adornment for the top of the cheesecake. Simply delicious!

Source: Mixed Berry Cheesecake, Barefoot Contessa


For the crust:

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)

1 tablespoon sugar

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

2 ½ pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1 ½ cups sugar

5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature

2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature

¼ cup sour cream

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

1 cup red jelly (not jam) such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry

½ pint sliced strawberries

½ pint fresh raspberries

½ pint fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands (or a measuring cup), press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss berries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese

I love fresh tomatoes in the summer! I was so excited to receive a bunch of beautiful heirloom tomatoes in our latest CSA box. This tomato salad showcases the beauty of the heirlooms, and the caramelized onions add a complementary sweet flavor to the tangy vinaigrette and creamy goat cheese. Every bite is a taste of summer. Simply sublime!

Source: Heirloom Tomato Salad with Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese, Stonewall Kitchen Harvest


For the onions:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 large or 4 small onion, very thinly sliced (about 2 cups)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon sugar

For the vinaigrette:

½ teaspoon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives (optional)

For the salad:

2 medium, ripe heirloom tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges

1 cup golden pear tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut in half if large

1 cup red pear tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut in half if large

1 cup packed mesclun greens

2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled


To caramelize the onions: Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over low heat. Add the onions, salt, and pepper and stir well. Cover and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally until a light golden brown. Remove the cover, sprinkle the sugar over the onions, and sauté for another 5 minutes, uncovered, stirring frequently until a rich golden brown color. Let cool completely. (The onions can be made 24 hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.)

To make the dressing: Mix the mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, and whisk in the oil to make a smooth vinaigrette. Mix in the chives, if using, and set aside.

To assemble the salad: Arrange the tomatoes on a platter, alternating colors and shapes. Place the greens on top of, and in between, the tomatoes. Place the onions on top of the greens and sprinkle with the goat cheese. Spoon the vinaigrette on top.

Pasta with Eggplant and Basil Pesto

This recipe is so easy and yummy! You can even make the pesto ahead of time. The eggplant cooks down to soft mushroom-like texture. I used penne instead of trenette (it’s easier to find). This recipe would be great for a weeknight meal, since it doesn’t take long to prepare.

Source: Trenette with Eggplant and Basil Pesto, Giada De Laurentiis


For the pesto:

2 packed cups fresh basil leaves

¼ cup toasted pine nuts

1 clove garlic

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning

⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup (1 ½ ounces) grated Parmesan

For the pasta:

1 pound trenette or other short-cut pasta

½ cup (1 ½ ounces) grated Parmesan, plus ½ cup

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 (1 ½ pounds) medium eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


For the pesto: In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper until finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the oil until the mixture is smooth and thick. Add the cheese and pulse until just incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

For the pasta: 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 and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Put the pasta into a large serving bowl and add ½ cup of the Parmesan. Toss until coated.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant turns golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly. Add the pesto and toss until the eggplant is coated.

Add the eggplant mixture to the serving bowl with the pasta and toss until all of the ingredients are coated. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Eggplant Bake

This dish is a healthier version of lasagna. The roasted eggplant takes the place of the pasta and the dish uses wilted spinach and fat free ricotta cheese with a low-sodium marinara sauce. With the healthy list of ingredients, I was surprised and delighted at how tasty this was. I’ll be making this one again!

Adapted from: Low Fat Eggplant Bake, Fiona Haynes


1 large or 2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound)

1 jar low-sodium marinara sauce

1 15-ounce tub fat-free ricotta cheese, drained

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

⅓ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Slice eggplant lengthwise to a ¼ inch thickness. Place on large cookie sheet coated with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Roast eggplant until tender, about 20 minutes, turning once half-way through. When the eggplant is done, remove from oven and set aside. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the baby spinach and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook until spinach is just wilted. Set aside to cool.

Spoon ⅓ of the marinara sauce on the bottom of an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Lay ⅓ of eggplant slices over sauce, followed by ⅓ of the spinach and ⅓ of the ricotta cheese. Repeat layers. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes until bubbling. Cook under broiler until top layer is slightly golden.