Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tre Formaggi Egg Noodle Casserole

When you hear the word casserole, what comes to mind? Tuna? Condensed mushroom soup?

What about three cheeses, rich and creamy, tastes so good it could be from your favourite Italian restaurant but you threw it together in a casserole dish instead?

I don't know about you, but I much prefer the latter option to the former.

This casserole is so good, and so easy. It is not, however, light on calories. But then, with three different types of cheeses, it's not light on flavour either.

The best thing about making this dish, other than eating it, is that the cream sauce is whisked together cold and poured over the noodles - no time-consuming, whisking-constantly bechamel sauce necessary.

Keep reading for the recipe - it's adapted from a Giada de Laurentiis recipe for macaroni and cheese. I'm loving Giada lately!

Tre Formaggi (Three Cheese) Egg Noodle Casserole
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis' Macaroni and Cheese recipe, from Everyday Pasta
6 servings

12 oz egg noodles
2 cups half-and-half or table cream
2 1/2 cups milk
3 teaspoons all-purpose flour (less flour if using a heavier cream)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
2 cups (packed) grated pecorino romano cheese or other strong-tasting Italian cheese
3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Asiago cheese or Parmiggiano Reggiano
1 cup (packed) grated mozzarella
2 boneless skinless chicken breast, cooked, shredded

Preheat the oven to 450F.
Butter a 13" x 9" glass baking dish. Cook the noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Drain.
Whisk the cream, milk, flour, salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend. Stir in 1.5 cups pecorino, 1/2 cup Asiago, 3/4 cup mozzarella, and chicken. Add the noodles and toss to coat. Transfer the noodle mixture to the prepared baking dish. Toss the remaining 1/2 cup pecorino, 1/4 cup Asiago, and 1/4 cup mozzarella in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the noodle mixture. Bake until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Black Bean Tortilla Soup

My love of soup had humble beginnings. My mom could make a mean homemade soup, but when I was a child, nothing did it for me like a freshly opened can of Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup. Only when garnished with the finest crushed Premium Plus crackers, of course (I believe they're called soda crackers in the States).

Now, I'm well beyond my days of inhaling soup from a can. Sort of.

I have no objections to soups that have canned origins. As long as Campbell's doesn't go anywhere near them.

Now, I stick to canned beans and tomatoes. For convenience, canned beans are unbeatable. No soaking required. And canned tomatoes are picked at the height of freshness, which makes them a much better choice than so-called "fresh" tomatoes in the winter time. And they allow you to make hearty soups, like this black bean tortilla soup, adapted from a recipe by G. Garvin, at a moment's notice. Keep reading for the recipe.

Black Bean Tortilla Soup
Serves 6

1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 15oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can diced tomatoes, drained of liquid
1 cup frozen corn
1 6oz bag tortilla chips, or ~12 corn tortillas, toasted
4 cups chicken stock
1 - 2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup shredded cheddar
Sour cream

1. In a medium stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Saute until onions are soft. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Add black beans, tomatoes and corn.
2. Break up tortilla chips in the bag. Add broken chips to mixture in stock pot, stirring to mix well. Alternatively, break up toasted corn tortillas directly into stock pot. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add water to thin as necessary. Cook about 10 minutes more or until beans start to get soft and pasty.
3. Stir in cheese until melted. Top with sour cream (a must!) and tortilla chips. If you don't have any sour cream, a squirt of lime juice will do.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Italian White Bean, Tortellini, and Pancetta Soup

Some of the best, most comforting dishes are made of just a few main ingredients, like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and chicken noodle soup. But simple dishes leave plenty of room for experimentation, and often a twist on the classic can result in a new favourite.

Enter Giada de Laurentiis' Italian White Bean, Pancetta, and Tortellini Soup. It's simple, but the flavour is incredible and oh-so-soothing. The only downside? I feel like an idiot for not thinking of this myself. It really is so basic but so elegant. Keep reading for the recipe.

This recipe is adapted from Giada de Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta.

Italian White Bean, Pancetta, and Tortellini Soup
4 main course servings, 6 appetizer servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz. pancetta, diced (a smaller amount is ok, too - whatever size you can find in the deli section is great)
1/2 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (15-oz) can white navy beans beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 cups baby spinach leaves
6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
Anywhere from 9 to 12 oz. tortellini, meat, cheese, fresh or frozen
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Freshly grated pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano, to taste

1. In a large, heavy soup pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, onion, carrot, and garlic and cook until the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans, baby spinach, and broth.
2. Bring the soup to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the tortellini and cook 5 minutes for fresh, 8 minutes for frozen, or until just tender. Season with pepper and serve with a healthy sprinkling of the cheese of your choice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Arborio Rice Pudding, White, Black (Or Both)

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection could not have been more welcomed by my boyfriend. He loves rice pudding, but with all of the Dorie goodies I've been making, I haven't had time to make it in months. Merci beaucoup, Isabelle of Les gourmandises d'Isa, for saving me from a probable mutiny.

This pudding is made with arborio rice, which makes it extra creamy and much more special than goopy hospital food-style rice pudding. I thought about ways to spruce it up further, and decided to make rice pudding brulee with the help of my kitchen torch and some demerara sugar.

Brulee just makes everything taste better.

Thanks again to Isabelle for this week's wonderful selection! Visit her blog for the recipe. You can also visit Tuesdays with Dorie for the full list of bloggers. There are literally hundreds of new Dorie bloggers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Four Foods on Friday #55

I'm back to Four Foods on Friday after a brief hiatus. This time is a bit like the American Thanksgiving edition. Thanks again for hosting, Val!

#1. Stuffing. Boxed or from scratch?
I've never made stuffing before, but my mom has always made it from scratch.

#2. If you were served the perfect Thanksgiving dinner what would it be?
Turkey, ham, lots of mashed potatoes and lots of gravy. And the new must-have is the butternut squash lasagna I made for Thanksgiving last month.

#3. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving leftover?
Hot turkey sandwiches, but only with plain white sandwich bread - it soaks up the gravy like a sponge. I hope that doesn't sound disgusting; I just really love gravy!

#4. Share a recipe using turkey.
This is one I'm saving for Christmas turkey leftovers, since there were none to speak of from (Canadian) Thanksgiving. It's very festive!

It's from Robin Miller's Quick Fix Meals. Keep reading for it.

Turkey Quesadillas with Cranberry Sauce and Swiss
Serves 4

8 8-inch flour tortillas
1 pound turkey
1 cup cranberry sauce
1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup shredded reduced fat swiss cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and set over medium-high heat.

Arrange four of the tortillas on a flat surface. Top each with an equal amount of turkey and spread out to within ½ inch of the edge.

In a small bowl combine cranberry sauce, chiles and cumin until well-blended, then spoon the mixture over the turkey. Top with equal amounts of Swiss.

Place a second tortilla over top of each and place quesadillas on the hot skillet.

Cook until golden brown and cheese melts — about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Cut into four wedges and sprinkle with cilantro.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Meme: 100 North American Foods

Alright, I've been a little slow on the uptake for the last month. Leading up to the conference I helped plan and organize at work, things were crazy, to say the least. This made me a bad, bad, member of the blog community when it came to reading up on my favourite blogs, and I've been playing catch up since then.

Lo and behold, I missed a tag from one of my favourite bloggers, Laura of From Sparkly to Single, from almost a month ago! Time to play catch up.

Here's how it works. Bold what you've tried, underline what you'd never eat. I'm shamelessly stealing the helpful definitions that Laura provided for some of the more exotic fare.

1. New York pizza (been to New York City, but didn't eat the pizza - what was I thinking?)
2. Hoppin' John (this is a Southern dish consisting of black-eyed peas, rice, chopped onion, sliced bacon and salt)
3. New Mexico green chile
4. Homemade buttermilk biscuits
5. Tasso (this is a cured Cajun ham rubbed with a spice mixture)
6. Whole Maine lobster (I wish)
7. Calabash-style shrimp and hushpuppies (hushpuppies are small cornmeal breads deep fried in a round ball shape)
8. Kansas City barbecue ribs
9. Hot glazed Krispy Kreme
10. San Diego fish tacos
11. Cheese curds (Mmm, poutine!)
12. Key lime pie (plug)
13. Philly cheese steak
14. Memphis pork barbecue sandwich
15. Lowcountry boil
16. Huckleberry pie
17. New England clam chowder
18. Boiled peanuts
19. Buffalo (Bison) burger
20. Eggs Benedict
21. Pastrami on rye
22. Corned beef and cabbage - I really don't like cabbage.
23. Pancakes with maple syrup
24. Everything bagel with cream cheese and tomato
25. Thin Mints
26. Frito pie (Chili with Fritos sprinkled on top - sounds yummy.)
27. Potato knish with mustard (a potato knish is a Jewish dish that is baked or fried dough filled with a mixture of potato, ground meat, sauerkraut, onions, buckwheat or cheese)
28. Silver Queen corn on the cob
29. Soft pretzel from a street cart
30. Fresh-picked blueberries
31. Sourwood honey
32. State fair funnel cake (If there's funnel cake at a fair, I'm lining up for it)
33. Chesapeake crab cakes
34. Candied yams
35. Oyster dressing
36. Snow cone or snowball
37. Wild Alaskan salmon
38. Sautéed more - I don't know what this is!
39. Persimmon pudding
40. General Tso's Chicken
41. Frozen custard
42. Italian sausage with peppers and onions on a hoagie bun
43. Chili dogs
44. Buffalo wings with blue cheese
45. Spam musubi (This is like a sushi made with Spam) - Is this real? What sick person invented this?
46. Saltwater taffy
47. Fluffernutter sandwich on Wonder Bread
48. Black and white cookie
49. Frybread (this is a Native American flatbread fried and served with honey, also known as bannock)
50. BLT with thick-cut applewood bacon

51. Baked beans
52. Pumpkin pie
53. Collards with vinegar and Tabasco
54. Tex-Mex fajitas with skirt steak and sautéed peppers
55. Fried green tomatoes
56. Succotash (this is a Native American dish of fried lima beans or green beans and corn, sometimes served in casserole or pot pie form)
57. Shrimp and grits (grits are a coarsely ground corn porridge)
58. Hot water cornbread
59. Barbecue chicken pizza with red onions
60. Chicken fried steak - I know this is going to be shocking, but I don't like steak very much. Overall this dish just seems like way too much grease for something I don't really enjoy.
61. Carnitas burrito
62. Apple butter
63. Geoduck (pronounced: Gooey-duck, a species of saltwater clam)
64. Soft-serve ice cream cone dipped in chocolate shell
65. Pecan pie
66. Catfish supper at a church or fire station (Not Catfish, but perch - but Fish Fridays at the local K of C, which I guess is the Canadian equivalent of this one)
67. Oysters Rockefeller - No oysters, please!
68. Homemade cranberry sauce (in fact it's Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, and in a break from tradition, my family is having the big feast tonight instead of on Monday, so we have homemade cranberry sauce bubbling on the stove right now!)
69. Pimento cheese
70. MoonPie washed down with R.C. Cola (I forgot all about RC Cola til this moment. Whatever happened to it?)
71. Pickled watermelon rind
72. Cracker Jacks at the ball game
73. Smithfield ham
74. Meatloaf and mashed potato blue plate special at diner (not at a diner)
75. Chicken and waffles
76. Po'Boy with many napkins (this is a Lousiana subway sandwich filled with fried meat or seafood)
77. Green bean casserole with French's fried onions
78. Stuffed sopaipillas (these are South American fried dough sweetened with honey)
79. Turducken (this is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey, so when you slice it, you get layers of all three kinds of meat.)
80. Shad roe on toast (shad is a type of fish. Roe are the fish eggs)
81. Sweet potato casserole with or without marshmallows
82. Cioppino
83. New York cheesecake
84. Pan-fried river trout
85. Jambalaya
86. North Carolina pig pickin'
87. California rolls (this is a type of sushi roll stuffed with cooked crab and cucumber.)
88. Burgoo (this is a spicy stew made from meats and vegetables)
89. Penuche fudge (penuche is a fudge flavour made from brown sugar, butter, milk, and vanilla)
90. Fried peanut butter and banana sandwich
91. Scrapple or livermush (this is a savoury mush of pork or liver scraps combined with cornmeal and buckwheat flour, formed into a loaf, and then slices of the loaf are fried prior to eating.)
92. Elk medallions in red wine reduction
93. Muscadine grapes
94. Cheeseburger at backyard barbecue
95. Open-face turkey sandwich
96. Chicago deep dish pizza
97. Cobb salad
98. Peach pie a la mode
99. Macaroni and cheese
100. Root beer float

Eaten: 42
Won't Try: 11
Left to try: 47

At 42 eaten, I'm trailing Laura by 5. Better catch up! I'm tagging Parker of Vanilla Bean Cafe.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Apple Bread Pudding

I love apple-based desserts. So often their cinnamon-flecked flavour is reminiscent of apple pie, but they often double as breakfast fare -- and they're a lot less difficult to make than pie. Any recipe that captures that apple pie flavour but doesn't require the same effort is worth a try, in my books. And if I can justify eating a sweet for breakfast? All the better.

Enter Anna Olson's Green Apple Bread Pudding. Or rather, my version of it, plain-old Apple Bread Pudding. You can use any type of baking apple (McIntosh, Empire, etc.) in this dish, or even the original Granny Smith Anna suggests.

Using lighter cream than the recipe's original heavy cream, you can justify serving it for breakfast. Be sure to serve it with a generous splash of maple syrup on top.

Keep reading for the recipe.

Green Apple Bread Pudding
Yield: 6
5 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 large baguette, cubed
1 cup apple, peeled and diced
2 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups table or half-and-half cream
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking dish with half the melted butter. Toss bread cubes and apples remaining melted butter and spoon into baking dish.
2. Whisk together egg yolks, whole eggs, and sugar. Whisk in cream, milk, and vanilla. Pour over bread cubes and press down gently on bread to help soak in. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
3. Place baking dish in a water bath (boiling hot water in a pan large enough to contain the bread pudding's pan--I used a 9"x13" pan) and sprinkle top of pudding with sugar. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the center of the pudding springs back when pressed.
4. Remove baking dish from water bath. Serve warm, with maple syrup available to pour on top.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Prosciutto and Bocconcini Pizza with Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce

If there's one thing I often come back to when I'm not sure what to make for dinner, it's pizza. I like to keep my favourite dough (which is supposed to be handmade, but I cheat and make it with my mixer) in the freezer and thaw it the night before I'm ready to use it. I love that it's relatively healthy (if you add veggies, of course) and that you have greater possibilities than if you ordered it from a pizza place.

Like Prosciutto and Bocconcini Pizza with Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce - I really don't think you can get that delivered.

The prosciutto and bocconcini are no-muss, no-fuss ingredients. You don't have to cook the meat or shred any cheese; just thinly sliced the meat and sprinkle the pearls of cheese on top. It gives you more time to do something a little special with the pizza sauce.

I take fresh tomatoes, peel and seed them, and then cook them over medium heat with some olive oil and seasonings until they're cooked. From there, I either puree them or take the mixture as-is and spread it on the rolled out pizza dough.

My boyfriend, who was in Italy for two weeks this summer, said it tasted just like the pizza he had there. I've never had real Italian pizza, but I can tell you that this pizza is tasty. It's like a gourmet twist on pepperoni and cheese.

Keep reading for the full recipe.

Prosciutto and Bocconcini Pizza with Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce
Serves 4

Tomato Sauce

2 large tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Prepare an ice bath by placing ice in a bowl and covering it with cold water. Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Place tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove and place in the ice bath for a few seconds. The tomato skins will now be extremely easy to slip off. Once the tomatoes are skinned, take out their seeds by gently squeezing on them. The seeds will squeeze right out.

Dice tomatoes and place in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sprinkle dried oregano to the mixture to taste. Cook until the tomatoes are cooked and reduced. Puree if desired.

1 batch pizza dough of your choice (click here for the recipe I use)
1 tub pearl size bocconcini
3-4 slices of prosciutto, chopped
Diced tomato (optional)
Dried oregano
Freshly grated black pepper
Corn meal

Preheat oven to 425F. Sprinkle a bit of corn meal onto a greased baking sheet.
Alternatively, you could use a pizza stone. Roll out pizza dough until quite thin. Spread tomato sauce on dough, leaving a 1cm gap which will form the crust. Next, sprinkle prosciutto and tomato, if desired, on top of sauce. Next, add bocconcini pearls to your liking. Scatter dried oregano on top, and finish with a grating of fresh black pepper. Bake pizza in preheated oven for 8-12 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and dough is cooked.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rugelach

It feels good to be blogging again! I was working a conference all of last week, and was staying in a hotel without free internet access. Since I'm cheap, I wasn't online last week at all. I scrambled to make the Rugelach last night after being out of my house for over a week, hence the late posting. So, on with the show.

When I first read the ingredient list for this week's Tuesdays With Dorie pick, Rugelach, I was less than excited. Chocolate, nuts, currants, and apricot jam rolled together between layers of dough? I couldn't see how all of those flavours could possibly complement each other. However, I've chickened out of Dorie's strange combinations before (those Chocolate Chunkers were supposed to have nuts and fruit, too, but I took a pass), so this time I decided to be brave. And I'm glad I did.

The first thing that struck me about the dough was its amazing flavour. It's a simple mixture of butter, cream cheese, and flour. And it was so tasty, once mixed, that I had to stop myself from eating a scoop of it. Since it doesn't contain any sugar, it would also make a great savoury baked good. If I had had more time, I would have made goat cheese and pepper jelly rugelach. Tapenade rugelach would be yummy too. I'm definitely excited to experiment with the recipe in the future, since the possibilities seem limitless.

The assembly was quite easy, although it was time consuming. I started making the dough after work last night, and didn't finish baking the cookies til 11:30, given all of the chilling that the dough required. Mind you, I squeezed in some dinner and chores between chilling the dough and preparing the cookies. Still, I wouldn't want to make these on a weeknight again unless I made the dough the night before. Also, I had issues forming the cookies into perfect crescents. Somehow, though, the misshapen cookies complemented the chunkiness of the filling.

Flavour-wise, the dough was perfectly matched to the ingredients in the recipe, despite my initial misgivings. I didn't have any currants, so I used dried cranberries. The buttery dough was delicious and somehow the apricot jam, chocolate, cranberries, and pecans made a very complex but delicious combination.

Thank you to Grace if Piggy's Cooking Journal for choosing Rugelach this week! You forced my to overcome some of my taste preferences and boundaries, and I loved the result. Visit Grace's blog for the recipe, or check out the Tuesdays With Dorie website for the full list of TWDers.

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