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12 posts from September 2016

09/30/2016

~ The Chivito: Beef, Bacon, Ham, Egg and Cheese ~

IMG_1413I did not dream this sandwich combo up -- no one could -- not even in their wildest dreams.  It's a very famous sandwich though.  To be exact, it's the National Sandwich of Uruguay.  It's called "chivito", which, interestingly enough, means "goat" in Spanish, but oddly enough, contains absolutely no goat meat or goat cheese.  It gets more confusing, because Uruguay is world-famous for it's high-quality beef, which is almost entirely grass-fed (rather than mass produced).

IMG_1426So what's up with "goat" as the name of a goat-less sandwich?

Urug-MMAP-md Urug-LMAP-mdAs the story goes, in 1946, at a beachside restaurant named El Mejillón in Punte del Este, Uruguay, an Argentine woman on vacation asked for a sandwich made with grilled baby goat meat -- a common ingredient in her neighboring country -- Argentina.  

The chef, Antonio Carbonada, had no goat, but he did have lots of Uruguay's exquisite beef.  He quickly grilled a thin boneless beef-steak and melted cheese over the top.  He placed it on a sandwich roll slathered with "salsa golf" (a mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup), then layered it with two types of porcine:  sliced cooked ham and crisp-fried bacon.  A fried egg completed the protein-laden part of this extravaganza.  Lettuce, tomato, onion and roasted red pepper were piled high on top and the whole thing was held together with a sandwich-pick full of briny olives. "Chivito" he proclaimed, when he delivered his creative goat-less sandwich to her table.

Uruguay is world-famous for its exquisite grass-fed beef.

IMG_1284Whether you buy into this story or not, one thing is certain, the "chivito" is right up there with iconic sandwiches like the "reuben", the "cheesesteak" and the "cubano" (plus a long list of others).  Say the word and you pretty much know what your going to get.  That said, when a dish enters the realm of "iconic" or "national", expect hundreds of variations.  For example:  The cut of beef-steak, while always tender and pounded thin varies from sandwich shop to sandwich shop.  Rib-eye is my choice, but tenderloin and even skirt steak (churrasco) are also common.  

Sometimes the cheese is mozzarella, sometimes it's not, sometimes it's melted over the steak and others it's not.  The rolls can be round (like Kaiser) or elongated (like Portuguese).  Some make the sandwich without ham, others use Canadian bacon in place of ham and bacon (a "chivito canadiense").  Some versions contain a runny-yolked fried egg, other contain sliced hard-cooked egg.  Lasty, if you're counting carbs (certainly not calories), they'll just pile everything on a plate and serve it sans the bun with a knife and fork (a "chivito al plato").

IMG_1387Every bite of this sandwich is a big mouthful of delicious!

IMG_1351For 4 chivitos (This list is in order of what you will need, first to last, in the layering process.):

4  semi-firm, 8" long rolls

1  cup  salsa golf -- mixture of 3/4 mayonnaise mixed with 1/4 cup ketchup

2  1"-thick rib-eye steaks, about 14-15 ounces each, sliced, pounded and sautéed as directed below

8  slices deli-style mozzarella cheese

1/2-3/4  cup red onion, thinly-sliced into half-moon shapes

8  Bibb lettuce leaves

8  slices deli-style cooked ham

thinly-sliced tomatoes, how many depends on the size of the tomatoes

8  slices thick-sliced bacon, crisply-fried

8  large eggs, fried or hard-cooked and sliced, your choice

4  teaspoons diced sweet pimientos, for garnish  

8  green olives and 8 toothpicks, for garnish

IMG_1291For the rib-eye steaks:

2  1 1/2"-thick, 14-15 ounce beef rib-eye steaks 

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

Step 1.   Place both steaks on a small plate in the freezer for about 45-60 minutes.  Freezing them just long enough to firm them up will make them easy to slice evenly.

IMG_1294 IMG_1303Step 2. Remove the steaks from the freezer and using a large chef's knife, slice them in half lengthwise to form 4, 6-ounce, 3/4"-thick steaks.

IMG_1307Step 3. Place the four still semi-frozen steaks between two pieces of plastic wrap.

IMG_1309Step 4.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, lightly pound them, just enough to increase their surface area by about a third, or, to a thickness of slightly less than 1/2". Do not smash them to smithereens

Step 5.  Lightly season tops of the pounded steaks with freshly ground sea salt and pepper.  Set aside.

IMG_1201 6a0120a8551282970b01bb093a6ba3970d~ Step 6.  In a 16" electric skillet, fry the bacon until crispy and golden.  I use a setting of 250°.  Remove bacon from skillet and set aside on a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Important:  

Leave all of the bacon drippings remaining in the hot skillet.

IMG_1318 IMG_1321 IMG_1327~Step 7. Add the seasoned steaks to the bacon drippings in skillet and sauté until just short of being cooked through, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the steaks to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and to rest.

IMG_1329 IMG_1338 IMG_1343~ Step 8.  Crack 8 eggs into the hot drippings in the hot skillet, season tops with salt and pepper and fry to your liking.  My liking is runny yolks, which takes about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Now it's time to assemble the sandwiches.

IMG_1356 IMG_1360 IMG_1363 IMG_1366 IMG_1368 IMG_1371 IMG_1375 IMG_1377 IMG_1380~Step 9.    Slather salsa golf on the bottom of each roll.  Cut a steak into two pieces to fit roll (so it's not hanging over sides) and arrange steak on top.  Add two slices of mozzarella and arrange sliced onions and lettuce leaves over the steak.  Add two slices of ham (folding to make them fit).  Next it's time for tomatoes and two bacon slices.  A couple of eggs and some diced pimientos and that's it.

Put a pretty lid on it...

IMG_1401... stick two olive topped toothpicks in it, slice & eat:

IMG_1419The Beef, Bacon, Ham, Egg & Cheese Sandwich:  Recipe yields 4 large sandwiches and 4-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 16" electric skillet; large nonstick spatula; 8 sandwich picks; serrated bread knife

IMG_5623 IMG_5401Cook's Note: For another iconic sandwich made famous by the Portuguese, click into Category 2 to learn how I make ~ The Bifana: A Perfect Portuguese Pork Sandwich ~.  If you're inclined to learn how to bake their rolls too, ~ Papo Secos: Portuguese Dinner/Sandwich Rolls ~, can be be found in Category 5.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

09/27/2016

~ Chef Paul's Blackened Flank Steak Sandwiches ~

IMG_1248Chef Paul Prudhomme is credited for helping to put New Orleans cuisine on the map.  I was lucky enough to be a young adult during what many consider to be his "heyday" -- the 1970's, 80's and 90's.  I ate in K-Pauls Louisiana Kitchen in 1981 (a restaurant he opened in 1979), bought Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen cookbook the moment it became available in 1984, and, never missed an episode of his PBS-TV show, Louisiana Kitchen, which aired in 1998.  When he launched his line of Magic Seasoning Blends, I experimented with all seven -- Blackened Steak Magic and Blackened Seafood Magic were, hands-down, my two favorites.

IMG_1244Blackened Steak Magic is literally a bottle of magic.

91ZEChSVYQL._SY550_It became my practice to copiously sprinkle Steak Magic on flank steak, grill the steaks on our Weber, slice 'em up and heap the spicy meat on rolls with bacon and blue cheese.  That sandwich was so popular with our boys that, when it came time for our youngest, Jesse, to graduate from high school, my blackened flank steak sandwiches and blackened bacon-wrapped shrimp were what he asked me to serve at his commencement party -- for 60 people.  It was fun -- we had my mom sprinkling, Joe grilling, me slicing and people eating all afternoon long.  The sandwiches have stood the test of time too.  I now buy Steak Magic in 20-ounce tubs because not a Summer or Fall picnic or tailgate season goes by without a Magic steak sandwich on a menu or two.

Six tasty ingredients = Six Big, Easy-to-Make Steak Sandwiches

IMG_11621  large flank steak, about 2 pounds

4  tablespoons salted butter (1/2 stick), melted

4-6  tablespoons Chef Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Steak Magic 

1  pound thick-sliced bacon, crisply-fried, each slice cut into thirds 

8  ounces Cambozola cheese, a double-cream blue cow's milk cheese

6  large semi-firm Kaisar-type sandwich rolls

IMG_1168 IMG_1201~ Step 1. Fry and drain the bacon, place it on a paper-towel lined plate to drain and set aside.  

~ Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave.  Place the flank steak in a broiler pan.  Position an oven rack about 8" underneath the heating element and preheat the broiler.  

Note:  I use an 11 3/4" x 8 1/2" disposable aluminum broiler pan -- the kind with the corrugated bottom.  Between the butter and the spices on the steak, when placed under the broiler, things get a bit messy.  Throwing the pan away in the end is worth the $1.00 or so cost of the pan.

IMG_1175 IMG_1182 IMG_1190 IMG_1203 IMG_1205 IMG_1207 IMG_1211~Step 3.  Using a pastry brush, paint the surface of the flank steak with half of the butter.  Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of Blackened Steak Magic evenly over the butter.  Place the flank steak under the broiler and cook for 8-9 minutes, until steak is golden brown and bubbly.  Remove from the oven and flip steak over.

IMG_1216Coat second side of steak with the remaining butter and sprinkle another 2-3 tablespoons of seasoning over the butter.  Return steak to broiler and cook 6-8 minutes, using an instant-read meat thermometer to test for doneness after 6 and/or 7 minutes. Remove steak from oven when it reaches an internal temperature of 130-134° and allow steak to rest 10-15 minutes prior to slicing.

Allow steak to rest 10-15 minutes prior to slicing.

IMG_1217 IMG_1226 IMG_1227~ Step 4.  Slice meat in half lengthwise, then thinly slice each half  across the grain while holding the knife at a 30° angle.

IMG_1231 IMG_1234 IMG_1236~ Step 5.  On each of six rolls, place some Cambozola cheese, 6 small pieces of bacon and a generous heap of meat.

Put a top on it & a toothpick in it.  Slice in half & eat!

IMG_1261Chef Paul's Blackened Flank Steak Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 6 large sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  11 3/4" x 8 1/2" disposable aluminum broiler pan; 1-cup measuring container; pastry brush; instant-read meat thermometer; cutting board; chef's knife

IMG_1155Cook's Note:  For a unique flank steak sandwich experience with an interesting method of cooking the steak, click into Categories 1, 2, 17 or 19 to get my recipe for ~ Asian Hot-Pot-Style Steak Sandwiches w/Broccoli Slaw ~.  Serve 'em up at your next tailgate!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

09/25/2016

~ Asian Hot-Pot-Style Steak Sliders w/Broccoli Slaw~

IMG_1149There's more than one way to cook a very-thinly-sliced steak to perfection and "a la" ("in the style of") Chinese "hot pot" or Japanese "shabu shabu" ("Asian fondue") is a method that doesn't occur to most American cooks.  It wouldn't have occurred to me either if I hadn't eaten hot pot in China and shabu shabu in Japan.  Joe and I enjoyed both of these encounters so much, he arranged to have a copper hot pot shipped from China to my American Happy Valley kitchen.

IMG_1157Hot pot & shabu shabu inspired my American-Asian beef sliders.

IMG_0972From my American foodie's vantage point, I found hot pot and shabu shabu to be more alike than different.  A hot pot of mild- to spicily-seasoned, simmering, meat- or vegetable-based broth is placed in the center of the communal table. Depending on the country and region of the country, an array of thinly-sliced meats, vegetables, dumplings or noodles and dipping sauces are positioned around the pot.  Via a pair of chop sticks, each person picks up and cooks their food by bathing it in the broth.  The words "shabu shabu"  mean "swish swish", and, double-dipping (using the same pair of chopsticks to cook and eat) is common practice.

What are the differences between the two?  The obvious one is the flavor profile.  Hot pot is full of Chinese flavors and shabu shabu is full of seasonings common to Japan.  That said, I found the actual dining experience to be the biggest difference.  In China, hot pot was a casual, inexpensive, family-style meal.  In Japan, shabu shabu was a dress-up, expensive, special-occasion feast.  While I adored the spicy, slightly-chewy Szechuan beef version in China, the more subtle, melt-in-my-mouth kobe beef version in Japan absolutely blew me away.

IMG_1820Don't have a fancy hot pot?  An electric skillet will do.

While I love my copper hot pot, nowadays, it's mostly a showy conversation piece in my kitchen.

IMG_4000It's a pretty prop to have on-hand to explain the ancient-Asian history behind this modern-day now-retro method of cooking, which is more-often-than-not singularly associated with the famous French and Swiss cheese fondue.  That said, when I'm serving any type of fondue (savory meat, poultry or seafood, creamy cheese or sweet chocolate), 6a0120a8551282970b016300c99344970d-320wior throwing a fondue party, like everyone else in America today, I use my much easier-to-clean sterno-driven pots.  I have a few small electric fondue pots too, which come in handy for all sorts of other culinary purposes (like keeping sauces and gravies at the perfect temperature).

PICT0005In the case of today's recipe, which technically is a type of hot pot, shabu shabu or fondue, I use my electric skillet.  Why?  My family or guests are not cooking and eating their own food.  I'm cooking the steak all at once, for a mere 1-1 1/2 minutes, then heaping it onto some soft, slider-sized dinner rolls.

Part One:  Mixing & Marinating the Broccoli Slaw

IMG_1009No pretense here.  They day I came across store-bought "broccoli cole slaw mix" (cole slaw mix made with crunchy green broccoli stems instead of green cabbage), my mind immediately raced to the flavors of soy sauce and sesame oil.  Why?  Broccoli is classic Asian.  There's more.  I didn't have to experiment with the perfect dressing for it -- I'd already come up with one for my Asian chicken salad recipe.  After a quick mix of the pre-shredded store-bought raw vegetables and my honey-sesame dressing, Asian slaw perfection was revealed.  The brand I use is organic, and, contains just three crunchy ingredients:  broccoli, carrots and red cabbage. It truly is a high-quality time-saving mixture that any busy cook can and should appreciate.

IMG_09781/4  cup each: vegetable oil and white rice vinegar

1  tablespoon each: sesame oil and Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1, 12-ounce bag store-bought broccoli cole slaw

IMG_0977~ Step 1.  In a measuring container w/a tight fitting lid, combine all the liquid ingredients.  Shake vigorously.

IMG_0986 IMG_0982~ Step 2. Place the broccoli cole slaw in a medium bowl and add all of the dressing.  Give it a thorough stir.

Place the slaw in the refrigerator for 2-6 hours (or overnight will work too), stopping to stir it about every 30-45 minutes in the beginning so that all the slaw gets to absorb the dressing equally.  Note:  This recipe yields 3/4 cup of salad dressing and 4 cups of broccoli cole slaw.

Part Two:  Slicing & Cooking the Flank Steak

IMG_1028This recipe is as simple and straightforward as it gets.  Once the flavorful broth mixture is stirred together and the steak and onion are sliced, which takes about 10 total minutes and can be done in advance, the work is done.  The only mistakes you can make are: not slicing the meat thin enough or overcooking it in the simmering broth.  Remember, "swish swish", that's it.  I'm using flank steak today as it is familiar to, available to and affordable for everyone.  That said, I've made these often with filet mignon (beef tenderloin) and rib-eye (Delmonico steak) too.  As long as the meat is very-thinly sliced, between 1/8"-1/4" thick, nothing about the recipe changes.

IMG_1033For the meat, onion and optional heat:

1 3/4-2  pounds flank steak, very-thinly sliced across the grain holding the knife at a 30° angle to a thickness of 1/8"-1/4"

12  ounces halved and very-thinly-sliced into half-moon shapes, yellow or sweet onion

4-6  red, Thai bird chile peppers, split-opon (optional)  (Note:  Don't let their tiny size fool you.  These will add quite a nice "kick of heat" to the finished sandwiches.)

IMG_1013For the broth mixture:

1  cup beef broth

3/4  cup Thai seasoning soy sauce

1/2  cup packed brown sugar

1  teaspoon ground ginger

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1/4  cup Worcestershire sauce

2  tablespoons sesame oil

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

~ Step 1.  In a 1-quart measuring container thoroughly stir all of the broth ingredients together.

IMG_1047For the slider-sandwich assembly:

1  dozen small, 2 1/2"-3"-round, very soft, slider-sized rolls (Note: If you want full-sized sandwiches, substitute 6-8 standard-sized hamburger-sized rolls.)

freshly-simmered, hot-out-of-the-broth steak and onions, drained of all excess broth

chilled Asian broccoli slaw (from above recipe)

IMG_1018 IMG_1024~ Step 2.  To slice the flank steak, holding a large chef's knife at a 30° angle, slice the meat, across the grain, as thin as you can, into 1/8"-1/4" thick pieces.  This is not hard to do so don't over-think it.

~ Step 3.  Slice the onion in half, and slice each half into very thin half-moon shapes.

IMG_1048 IMG_1052 IMG_1063 IMG_1065 IMG_1070 IMG_1081~Step 4.  Pour broth mixture in the bottom of 16" electric skillet.  Add optional Thai chile peppers and adjust heat to simmer (about 250°).  Add sliced onion and simmer until onions have softened, about 1 minute.  Add meat, and, when broth returns to a simmer, using a large spoon, stir (keep the meat swimming around) until it has just lost its red color, 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Using an Asian spider or large slotted spoon, remove meat and onions to a paper-towel-lined platter to drain excess liquid, about 15-20 seconds.

IMG_1089Heap meat onto rolls, top w/broccoli slaw & eat ASAP.   

IMG_1133Asian Hot-Pot-Style Steak Sliders w/Broccoli Slaw:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup honey-sesame salad dressing, 4 cups broccoli slaw and 12 steak slider sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  1-2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid & pourer top; 4-cup food-storage container w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; 1-quart measuring container; spoon; electric skillet; Asian spider or large slotted spoon; paper towels

IMG_0967Cook's Note:  For another out-of-the-ordinary, over-the-top delicious steak sandwich experience, allow me to recommend ~ Joe's Steak Joseph: Filet of Beef-Steak Sandwich ~ which can be found in Categories, 2, 3, 21, 26.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

09/22/2016

~ Asian Broccoli Slaw w/Honey-Sesame Dressing ~

IMG_0991My love affair with all types of Asian food is no secret.  Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. You name it, I adore it.  Give me a recommendation for an Asian restaurant in your locale, when I'm in your town, you can be sure I'm going there to eat.  I dabble in cooking a great deal of it too. I crave Asian and rarely does a week go by without my needing it.  Some of my recipes have been classically learned, while others are a product of my own creative cravings for Asian fare.

Indulge me in this delish 5-minutes-to-fix Asian slaw recipe.

No pretense here.  They day I came across store-bought "broccoli cole slaw mix" (cole slaw mix made with crunchy green broccoli stems instead of green cabbage), my mind immediately raced to the flavors of soy sauce and sesame oil.  Why?  Broccoli is classic Asian.  There's more.  I didn't have to experiment with the perfect dressing for it -- I'd already come up with one for my Asian chicken salad recipe.  After a quick mix of the pre-shredded store-bought raw vegetables and my honey-sesame dressing, Asian slaw perfection was revealed.  The brand I use is organic, and, contains just three crunchy ingredients:  broccoli, carrots and red cabbage. It truly is a high-quality time-saving mixture that any busy cook can and should appreciate.

IMG_09781/4  cup each: vegetable oil and white rice vinegar

1  tablespoon each: sesame oil and Thai seasoning soy sauce

2  tablespoons honey

1, 12-ounce bag store-bought broccoli cole slaw

IMG_0977Step 1.  In a measuring container w/a tight fitting lid, combine all the liquid ingredients.  Shake vigorously.

IMG_0986IMG_0982Step 2. Place the broccoli cole slaw in a medium bowl and add all of the dressing.  Give it a thorough stir.

Place the slaw in the refrigerator for 2-6 hours (or overnight will work too), stopping to stir it about every 30-45 minutes in the beginning so that all the slaw gets to absorb the dressing equally.  Note:  This recipe yields 3/4 cups of salad dressing and 4 cups of broccoli cole slaw.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or overnight is AOK too).

IMG_0990Enjoy as a side-dish or atop Asian 'burgers or sandwiches:

IMG_1009Asian Broccoli Slaw w/Honey-Sesame Dressing:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup dressing and 4 cups broccoli slaw.

Special Equipment List:  1-2-cup-sized measuring container w/tight-fitting lid & pourer top; 4-cup food storage container w/lid

IMG_7925Cook's Note:  For another product of my creative cravings for Asian fare, ~ Avocado Cups Filled w/Asian-Twisted Tuna Salad ~ is one of my favorite go-to recipes. Happily, Avocados are available all year round nowadays, so, it's a year-round favorite.  Find the recipe by Clicking into Categories 2, 14 or 20.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016) 

09/20/2016

~ Joe's Steak Joseph: Filet of Beef-Steak Sandwich ~

IMG_0967The French have several ways to generically say "steak".  My personal favorite is "biftek", meaning "boneless beef-steak".  If there is a bone in it, they call it a "côte de boeuf", meaning "beef-chop".  Past that, just like us Americans, they have a list of words each denoting the specific cut (the place on the steer the meat came from).   That said, when you order any type of beef-steak or beef-chop in a French restaurant, whether it's plain, seasoned, served with a sauce or served with sliced vegetables that act as a sauce, it is customary to serve it with some sort of lovely French bread.  A hundred plus years ago, it was customary to serve it atop "a piece of crustless bread" ("a croûton"), which absorbed the beef juices and improved the presentation.

IMG_0929Steak Joseph is a modern-era (but now very retro) French filet mignon dish.  It's said to have been named after a French eatery where is was first served back in the 1950's.  It consists of a lightly-seasoned, butter-sautéd filet mignon topped with a quickly-made mushroom and Dijon-laced wine sauce.  It's quite unpretentious considering how delicious it is.  For a carnivore like me who could eat a "bloody" filet every day, it's a quick way for me to satisfy a craving in a hurry.

I first encountered the dish at the Lehigh Valley Country Club back in the early 1970's where it was served with a wedge of the famous French, pommes Anna (a crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside, thin-sliced and layered potato dish).  It was really quite a la-tee-da, fancy-schmancy fine-dining experience, which, in-the-style-of-myself, I imitated.  For a few years I fru-frued around my kitchen fussing with the potatoes Anna and making my steak Joseph for wide-eyed and easily-impressed dinner guests who all thought I named it after my husband Joe.

IMG_0933Interestingly enough, it was Joe who invented my sandwich version.

One afternoon I sent him to the market to get the fixings for our dinner, and, he came home with four French rolls and some Brie too -- he said he wanted to try it served as a sandwich.  If you think that's extravagant, think again.  Do the math.  Two filet mignon, about 12 ounces each, cost $26.00 -- that's $6.50 a piece for four sandwiches.  Throw in the cost of a box of mushrooms, an onion, the Brie and the buns -- hey, I've paid roughly that much for a restaurant hamburger!

Filet for Joe's steak Joseph = 1/2"-thick & lightly-pounded

IMG_8910For the filets:

2  1 1/2"-thick, 12-ounce beef tenderloin steaks (filet mignon)

freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend

Step 1.   Place both steaks on a small plate in the freezer for about 45-60 minutes.  Freezing them just long enough to firm them up will make them easy to slice evenly.  

IMG_8916IMG_8920Step 2. Remove the steaks from the freezer and using a large chef's knife, slice them in half lengthwise to form 4, 6-ounce, 3/4"-thick steaks.

IMG_8923Step 3. Place the four still semi-frozen steaks between two pieces of plastic wrap.

IMG_8929Step 4.  Using a flat-sided meat mallet, lightly pound them, just enough to increase their surface area by about a third, or, to a thickness of slightly more than 1/2". Do not smash them to smithereens

Step 5.  Lightly season the tops of the four pounded filets with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.  Proceed with recipe.

The bold & beefy sauce-y gravy for Joe's "JSJ" Sandwich:

IMG_0915For the steak Joseph: 

4  4-ounce lightly-pounded filet mignon, lightly-seasoned with sea salt and peppercorn blend as directed above

1  cup small-diced yellow or sweet onion

2  cups medium-diced baby bella mushroom caps, or your favorite mushroom caps

1/2  cup minced, fresh parsley 

1/2 cup beef stock

1/4  cup heavy or whipping cream 

2 tablespoons of your favorite slightly-thick, "A-1"-type steak sauce (Worcestershire sauce may be substituted but thicker-type steak sauce is much better)  

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

4  tablespoons salted butter (1/2 stick)

3 tablespoons port wine, for deglazing pan, or whatever red wine you like

2 additional tablespoons minced, fresh parsley, for garnish

8-12 thin-slices Brie or triple-crème Brie, for placing on sandwiches, 2-3 slices per portion

4  high-quality French-style sandwich rolls, for serving sandwiches 

IMG_8934IMG_8939Step 1.  Prep onion, mushrooms and parsley as directed. Set aside.  In a 2-cup measuring container, stir together beef stock, cream, steak sauce and Dijon mustard and set aside.

IMG_8946IMG_8947Step 2.  In a 12" skillet, melt butter over low heat. Increase the heat to medium-high.  Place seasoned filets in skillet, seasoned tops down. Season second sides lightly with sea salt and peppercorn blend and saute 2 1/2-3 minutes per side, turning only once. Filets will be golden around the edges.  At 2 1/2 minutes per side, the filets will be rare, at 3 minutes per side they will be medium-rare, and, past that, overcooked.

IMG_8952IMG_8957Step 3.  Turn the heat off. Transfer the filets to a warm serving platter, leaving all of the juices in the pan. Cover the filets with aluminum foil and allow to rest while preparing the sauce. Do not cut into your steaks to test for doneness because I can tell you they are going to look underdone.  Just remember:  carry over heat during the rest period is going to continue to cook them a bit more, so just trust me and be patient.

IMG_8960IMG_8962IMG_8965IMG_8967~Step 4.  Add the diced onions and mushrooms to the "fond" (the "pan drippings").  Lightly season with freshly-ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, adjust heat to sauté, stirring almost constantly until onions are translucent and mushrooms have lost most of their moisture, about 5-6 minutes.  Add the wine to the skillet, and, using a spatula, deglaze by gently loosening all of the flavorful browned bits from the bottom of pan, about 30 seconds.

IMG_8970IMG_8972Step 5.  Add the beef-stock mixture and stir in 1/2 cup of the minced, fresh parsley.   Bring to a boil, adjust heat to a rapid simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half and nicely-thickened, about 6-8 minutes.

Assembly = bottom of roll + Brie + filet + gravy + top of roll.

IMG_0935Joe's Steak Joseph:  Filet of Beef-Steak Sandwich:  Recipe yields 4 sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; plastic wrap; flat-sided meat mallet; 2-cup measuring container; 10"-12" nonstick skillet; nonstick spatula; aluminum foil; sandwich picks; serrated bread knife

IMG_3779Cook's Note: ~ Do You Want (Perfect "French") Fries with That? ~.  I'm pretty sure you do, as they take this sandwich meal over-the-top.  You can find my recipe in Categories 2, 4, 15, 20 or 21.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016) 

09/18/2016

~ The Old-Fashioned & Classic Banana Cream Pie ~

IMG_0854Put down that box of graham crackers.  No you can't use those vanilla wafers either.  Thou shall not use a graham cracker or any cookie crust to make my banana cream pie recipe.  These two easier-to-make (or worse, easier to purchase) alternatives simply screw up the taste and texture of this iconic pie.  A classically made banana cream pie deserves a scratch-made pie pastry, a traditionally-prepared pastry cream, lots of bananas, and, copious amounts of freshly-whipped cream.  Save the cookie crusts for recipes that use instant pudding mixes.  Got it?  Good.

Nothing about a banana cream pie should be understated or overstated.

IMG_0743Custard pie vs. cream pie:  Custard pie is any type of uncooked custard  (< like this coconut custard pie) added to an unbaked or partially-baked pie pastry and baked together.  Cream pie is any type of cooked custard added to a fully-baked pie pastry.  In the case of both, the custard consists of cream or milk, eggs and egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla or other flavorings. A custard pie can be topped with a meringue or whipped cream, but, a cream pie is always topped with a signature layer whipped cream.  

IMG_0683I've always had a penchant for pies whose fillings have rich, thick, smooth consistencies. They're luxurious and make me feel all "la-tee-da".  When I got to the age where I was learning to bake, they were the first pie recipes I gravitated to.  Years later, when I got to the point where I could refer to myself as a skillful pie baker, the first adjustment I made to my original recipes was to: bake them in a deep-dish pie dish.  Read on:  

^ The 9" deep-dish pie dish pictured on the left has a 6-cup capacity.  The standard 9" pie dish pictured on the right has a 4-cup capacity.  You see, in the case of creamy, custardy pies: thicker is always better because more is always better.  And there IS more:  topping such a pie with a mile-high meringue or a copious amount of freshly-whipped cream is simply over-the-top.

Part One:  Blind-Baking the Pie Pastry

IMG_0793Blind-bake or bake blind, is the English term for baking a pastry shell before it is filled.  There are two instances when you need to prebake your pie pastry:  #1)  A pastry shell that once the filling is added does not return to the oven for further baking.  In this application the pie pastry must be fully-baked, nicely browned and completely cooled before you add the filling, and #2)  A pastry shell that will get filled with a stirred custard, cream, mousse or fully-cooked/ready-to-eat filling and will return to the oven for further baking.  In this application, the degree to which you prebake your pie pastry (barely brown, lightly brown, golden brown) is determined by the length of time it will take the filled pie to finish baking, meaning:  the longer it will take for your pie filling to bake, the lighter in color your prebaked crust should be when it goes into the oven.

IMG_0787For the pie pastry:

1/2 of my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~, found in Categories 6, 15 or 22, rolled as thin as possible

When making banana cream pie I blind bake my pastry until barely brown and dry looking, 6 minutes in a 425° oven.  Remove it from the oven, immediately remove weights and parchment, return to bake 6 more minutes and cool completely. 

Simply click on the Related Article link below to read ~ How to:  Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell ~.

Part Two:  Making the Pastry Cream

IMG_3303A bit about "crème pâtissière" (pah-tees-SYAY):  These are the two fancy French words for "pastry cream".  It's essentially "sauce anglaise" (ahn-GLEHZ), aka a drizzly "vanilla sauce" that has been thickened with a starch (flour can be and is used, but cornstarch is more common nowadays).  It is the density that the thickening agent adds that transforms the delicate sauce into a dessert filling for baked goods like eclairs, cream puffs, fruit tarts, and, between the layers of cakes or Napoleons.  While it can be eaten with a spoon, culinarily, it is classified as a filling.  Pastry cream is classically made with milk flavored with Cointreau, rum and/or vanilla beans or extract.

That said, some cooks opt for using cream or half-and half (not me), and, with the array of flavorings available nowadays, feel free to have fun with that aspect of making pastry cream.  

Making crème pâtissière is taught in every culinary school.  It's a technique and it's based on a basic formula.  Some recipes may use flour instead of cornstarch, and a few may include some cream, but, in order for the pastry cream to thicken properly, you gotta play by the rules.  It's cooked on the stovetop over moderate heat, it gets whisked constantly and the ingredients get added at very specific points in time during the process.  One sarcastic comment from me: When pastry cream is removed from the stovetop, it is silky smooth.  Run fast and far from any recipe instructing to "pour the finished product into a strainer and push it through to catch any bits of egg that may be in the cream" -- if that has to be done, that's pastry cream gone wrong!

IMG_32381/2  cup firmly-packed cornstarch + 2 firmly-packed tablespoons (Note:  Pastry cream for cream pie needs to be thicker than pastry cream used as a filling for other desserts, hence, the addition of the two additional 2 tablespoons to my usual 1/2 cup cornstarch.)

4  cups whole milk

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6e1e763970b1  vanilla bean, split in half, seeds removed, or, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, or, both (Note: Feel free to experiment with other pure extracts or high-quality organic flavorings in addition to the vanilla bean and/or extract.  Two teaspoons of almond, banana, butterscotch, coconut, rum, lemon or orange are my favorite options.)

8  large eggs yolks

3/4 cup sugar  (Note:  I like my pastry cream for banana cream pie, less sweet than pastry cream used as a filling for other desserts, hence 3/4 cups instead of my usual 1 1/3 cups.  The choice to make it sweeter is yours.)

4  ounces salted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes, kept cold (1 stick)

Step 1.  Place 3 1/2 cups of the milk in a 4-quart saucepan on the stovetop.  In a 2-cup measuring container, using a fork, whisk together the cornstarch, 1/2 cup of the milk and the extract(s), until smooth.  Set aside.  Cube the butter and return the cubes to the refrigerator.

IMG_3258IMG_3243Step 2.  In a large bowl, on medium speed of mixer, combine the yolks and sugar.  Increase mixer speed to high and beat until light colored, 2 minutes.

IMG_3250Lower speed, add cornstarch mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.

IMG_3264IMG_3268Step 3. Place the saucepan of milk over medium heat.  If using vanilla beans, add them now. Over medium heat, bring milk to steaming (not simmering or boiling), about 3 minutes.  Using a whisk, in a gradual steady stream, whisk in the egg yolk/sugar mixture.  

Cook over medium heat constantly whisking (this IMG_3274mixture can scorch easily).  In the beginning, the mixture will be foamy on top.  As the mixture begins to thicken, within 3-4 minutes, I like to switch from using a whisk to a large spoon.

IMG_3291You'll notice that the foam is beginning to subside. Begin adding the cold butter pieces, 2-3-4 at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Repeat this process untill all of the butter has been added and is thoroughly incorporated.

IMG_3303Step 4.  Continue to cook until the pastry cream is nicely-thickened, silky-smooth and ribbonlike, about 2-3 more minutes.  There will be no more foam on the top.  If you have added the vanilla beans, they will be evenly speckled throughout. Remove from heat and immediately transfer to an 8-cup measuring container to prevent further cooking. Note:  I like to use a measuring container because when it comes time to use the pastry cream, it's pre-measured for me. 

IMG_3313Step 5.  Cover surface of pastry cream with plastic wrap, meaning: place the plastic directly on the surface of the pastry cream. This will prevent a rubbery skin from forming across the top.  

Note:  When making a banana cream pie,  the pastry cream needs to be cooled to room temp prior to pouring it over the bananas (rather than chilled in the refrigerator.)

Place the pastry cream in an ice bath for about two hours, stirring it about every 20-30 minutes:

IMG_0820Part Three:  Not Slicing the Bananas & Assembling the Pie

IMG_0810We all know how quickly bananas oxidize and change color, and, when it comes to banana cream pie, all bananas are not created equal. Unlike the bananas we use for banana bread (soft and over-ripe with brownish-black skins) and the ones we like to eat (bright yellow and slightly soft to the touch), for cream pie, choose firm, slightly-underripe bananas with a few green edges.  There's more.  Do not peel them until the moment you are going to use them.  Trim but do not slice them.  Please read on:

Slicing a banana just gives each and every slice a whole lot of surface area to discolor. Unsliced bananas yield a pie with a lot of banana in every bite (almost a 1:1 ratio of banana to pastry cream), and it keeps them respectable looking for two days.  It's not rocket science, but, I'm not going to lie, a banana cream pie looks best when served within the first 24 hours of making it.

IMG_0824~ Step 1.  To assemble the pie, place a generous 1/2" layer of pastry cream on the bottom of the pie pastry.  Peel, trim and arrange 5-6 bananas (this is 5 bananas) on top of the pastry cream.  

IMG_0835~ Step 2.  Ladle the rest of the pastry cream on top of the bananas (to fully-enrobe the bananas in pastry cream) and fill the pie pastry to capacity.  Depending upon the exact size of your deep-dish pie dish and the size of your bananas, there might be 1/2-3/4 cup of pastry cream left over (I don't think I need to tell you what to do with this -- it is a wonderful treat for you, the pie maker). Place pie, uncovered, in the refrigerator to chill, for 6-8 hours or overnight.  Note:  Experience has taught that covering the pie compromises the ability of the pastry cream to set up completely (it gives off moisture under a cover), and, it softens the crispy edges of the pie pastry too.  

IMG_0863~ Step 3.  Slice and serve chilled.  Optionally, if you really want to ensure the "cleanest cuts" possible, do what I almost always do:  place the pie in the freezer for about 2 hours prior to slicing.  The pie will emerge from the freezer with firm, but not frozen pastry cream and easy-to-slice bananas.  Each pretty-to-look-at slice will return to creamy within minutes of slicing.

Slice & serve w/freshly-whipped cream & lightly-toasted walnuts:

IMG_0858The Old-Fashioned & Classic Banana Cream Pie:  Recipe yields 12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  9 1/2" deep-dish pie dish; wire cooling rack; 4-quart saucepan; 2-cup measuring container; fork; cutting board; knife; hand-held electric mixer; whisk; large spoon; 8-cup measuring container; plastic wrap

IMG_1028 IMG_0977Cook's Note: For another luscious fruit and custard combination, this one baked in the oven, click into Categories 6, 12 or 21 to get my recipe for ~ Golden Goddess:  Shiro Plum & Egg Custard Tart ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

09/15/2016

~ The Old-Fashioned Classic Coconut Custard Pie ~

IMG_0754When I was growing up, two trucks pulled into my family's driveway twice a week (and they weren't FedEx or UPS which didn't even exist then).  They were:  The milk man and the baker. The milk man delivered milk, butter, eggs, sour cream and some cheeses.  The baker delivered bread, sandwich rolls, cakes, pies and cookies.  In the case of both, via a paper checklist, you ordered on a Tuesday what you wanted delivered on Saturday, and you ordered on Saturday what you wanted delivered on Tuesday.  When mom said it was my turn to pick a dessert, it was a safe bet that either a coconut custard or lemon meringue pie was going to show up.

IMG_0683I've always had a penchant for pies whose fillings have rich, thick, smooth consistencies. They're luxurious and make me feel all "la-tee-da".  When I got to the age where I was learning to bake, they were the first pie recipes I gravitated to.  Years later, when I got to the point where I could refer to myself as a skillful pie baker, the first adjustment I made to my original recipes was to: bake them in a deep-dish pie dish.  Read on:  

^ The 9" deep-dish pie dish pictured on the left has a 6-cup capacity.  The standard 9" pie dish pictured on the right has a 4-cup capacity.  You see, in the case of creamy, custardy pies: thicker is always better because more is always better.  And there IS more:  topping such a pie with a mile-high meringue or a copious amount of freshly-whipped cream is simply over-the-top.

Part One:  Understanding Custard, Custard Pie & Cream Pie:

IMG_0726A bit about custard pie vs. cream pie:  A custard pie is any type of uncooked custard mixture added to an unbaked or partially-baked pie pastry and baked together.  A cream pie is any type of cooked custard mixture added to a fully-baked and cooled pie pastry.  In the case of both, the custard mixture usually consists of cream or milk, whole eggs and egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract or other flavorings.  A custard pie is sometimes topped with an optional meringue or whipped cream, but, a cream pie is always topped with a signature layer whipped cream.  

IMG_3303A bit about custards:  The Ancient Romans were first to understand the binding properties of eggs, and, by the Middle Ages, custards as we know them today were present and accounted for.  Initially, they were used only as fillings for pies, pastries and tarts -- the word "custard" is derived from "crustade" which is a tart with a crust.  It wasn't until the 16th Century that custards began appearing solo, as an individual dish rather than a filling IMG_3533for another dessert.

Technically, a custard is any liquid thickened by eggs, but, in almost all cases, that liquid is cream or milk. Technically, custards fall into three categories determined by how they are thickened:  #1.  By eggs alone -- the most delicate.  #2.  Starch thickened.  #3.  Gelatin-set. Depending on how much egg or thickener is used, custards vary from a thin drizzly sauce to a thick pastry cream to a well-set dessert. Technically the word "custard"  or IMG_4325"crème anglaise" (English cream) refers to egg-thickened custard only.  When starch is added (usually cornstarch), it's called "pastry cream" or "crème pâtissière".  When gelatin is used, the term is "crème anglaise collée".

Custards can be cooked on the stovetop or  baked in the oven.  It's a delicate process requiring slow, controlled "insulated" cooking, not over or in direct heat.  On the stovetop, its temperature shouldn't exceed 178°F, and, when baked in the oven, they need to be removed while they still have a slight wobble in the center.  "Frozen custard" is fully-cooked custard, that gets processed in an ice-cream maker after it has been cooled and chilled.

Part Two:  Blind-Baking the Pie Pastry

IMG_0704Blind-bake or bake blind, is the English term for baking a pastry shell before it is filled.  There are two instances when you need to prebake your pie pastry:  #1)  A pastry shell that once the filling is added does not return to the oven for further baking.  In this application the pie pastry must be fully-baked, nicely browned and completely cooled before you add the filling, and #2)  A pastry shell that will get filled with a stirred custard, cream, mousse or fully-cooked/ready-to-eat filling and will return to the oven for further baking.  In this application, the degree to which you prebake your pie pastry (barely brown, lightly brown, golden brown) is determined by the length of time it will take the filled pie to finish baking, meaning:  the longer it will take for your pie filling to bake, the lighter in color your prebaked crust should be when it goes into the oven.

IMG_0698For the pie pastry:

1/2 of my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~, found in Categories 6, 15 or 22, rolled as thin as possible

When making coconut custard pie I blind bake my pastry until barely brown and dry looking, 4 minutes in a 425° oven.  Remove it from the oven, immediately remove the weights and parchment and allow to cool to room temperature. 

Simply click on the Related Article link below to read ~ How to:  Blind-Bake a Pastry Shell ~.

Part Three:  Making the Filling & Baking the Pie

IMG_0710Coconut custard pie is simply a classic egg custard pie with sweetened, flaked coconut stirred into the egg custard.  In other words:  omit the coconut and you've made a classic custard pie.

Custard pie can be sliced and served at room temperature the same day it is made or chilled after being refrigerated overnight -- this is simply a matter of preference, not a compromise, so the choice is yours. If you want to dress a coconut custard pie up for a fancy-schmancy presentation: slice and place a big dollop of freshly-whipped cream on each serving, sprinkle with some lightly-toasted coconut, and, a grind or two of freshly-ground nutmeg.

IMG_0633For the egg custard:

2  cups heavy or whipping cream

2  whole vanilla beans, cut/split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped out and pods reserved

1 teaspoon each:  pure vanilla and coconut extract

1/2  cup sugar

2  jumbo eggs

4  jumbo egg yolks

1, 14-ounce bag sweetened, flaked coconut

PICT5058Step 1.  To prepare the custard: Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut each vanilla bean in half and then cut each half in half lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, scrape the seeds out of the pod.

Note:  I am often asked if it's ok to skip the vanilla beans.  Some say they can't find them, others complain about their cost.  That's valid.  Making this dessert with extract alone is just fine.

PICT5061 

Step 2.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan place and stir together the cream, vanilla seeds, empty pods, vanilla extract and sugar.

PICT5065Place over medium heat, stirring often until steaming. Do not allow to simmer or boil. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. 

PICT5069Remove and discard the vanilla bean pods.  They've done their job.

Step 3.  In an 8-quart measuring container, whisk the eggs and egg yolks.  In very small increments at first, then in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, add the cream mixture to the eggs.    

Note:  Adding too much hot cream mixture at first can cause the eggs to "scramble", so error on the side of less for the first couple of additions.

The technical term for this method of incorporating the hot cream into the raw eggs is: "tempering" the eggs.  It simply heats them up very slowly so they can't start to cook or scramble.

IMG_0714Allow mixture to cool down a bit, about 30 minutes prior to thoroughly stirring in in the coconut. Note:  I run my fingers through each cup or two of coconut, instead of dumping it all in at once, to make sure there are no large lumps.

~ Step 4.  Transfer the pie filling to the prepared pie pastry, which will be about 2/3 full after filling.  Note:  I like to place the pie on a parchment line baking pan, as it makes it IMG_0717easier to get it in and out of the oven, but, that choice is your.

~ Step 5.  Bake on center rack of preheated 325 degree oven, about 50-55 minutes, or until crust is golden and filling is puffed through to the center, which means it is set.  

Note:  Check the pie after 30 minutes of baking, and, if it seems to be browning too fast, loosely place a sheet of aluminum foil across the top.  In doubt?  Do it.

Remove from oven, place on wire rack & cool completely:

IMG_0730Slice & serve, warm, room temperature or chilled:

IMG_0743All dressed up & ready to eat.  Open wide & let it slide:

IMG_0764The Old-Fashioned Classic Coconut Custard Pie:  Recipe yields 12 servings.

Special Equipment List: 9 1/2" deep-dish pie dish; 1 1/2-quart saucepan w/lid; kitchen shears; paring knife; slotted spoon; 8-cup measuring container; whisk; large spoon; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan (optional); parchment paper (optional); wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01bb093693f6970dCook's Note:  The British and the Australians have another form of custard that contains no eggs at all. It's a product called custard powder, and, in those two countries, more-often-than-not, if someone says "custard", it's implied that it's made using Bird's.  To learn more about this time-saving ingredient, just click on the Related Article link below.  It is perfect to keep on-hand in your pantry for when you need to make a small quantity of custard in a hurry. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016.

09/13/2016

~ Silky-Smooth & Delicate: Traditional Egg Custard ~

IMG_0660I have a penchant for sweet treats with smooth, creamy consistencies:  pudding, mousse, ice cream, cheesecake, éclairs, cream pie, brûlée and crème caramel are off-the-top-of-my-head examples. They're luxurious and make me feel all "la-tee-da".  As a young bride and novice cook it was only natural that these were the first dessert recipes I gravitated too.  After a while it occurred to me that, technically speaking, they are all a form of basic egg custard -- the only creamy-type dessert my grandmother ever made and the first dessert that was spoonfed to me.

IMG_0661In its most basic form, custard is thickened by eggs alone.

A bit about custards:  The Ancient Romans were the first to understand the binding properties of eggs, and, by the Middle Ages, custards as we know them today were present and accounted for.  Initially, they were used only as fillings for pies, pastries and tarts -- the word "custard" is derived from the word "crustade" which is a tart with a crust.  It wasn't until the 16th Century that custards began appearing solo, as an individual dish rather than a filling for another dessert.

Technically, a custard is any liquid thickened by eggs, but, in almost all cases, that liquid is cream or milk.  Technically, custards fall into three categories determined by how they are thickened:  #1.  By eggs alone -- the most delicate.  #2.  Starch thickened.  #3.  Gelatin-set. Depending on how much egg or thickener is used, custards vary from a thin drizzly sauce to a thick pastry cream to a well-set dessert. Technically the word "custard"  or "crème anglaise" (English cream) refers to egg-thickened custard only.  When starch is added, it's called "pastry cream" or "crème pâtissière".  When gelatin is used, the proper term is "crème anglaise collée".   

Custards can be cooked on the stovetop in a double boiler, or, baked in the oven in a bain-marie (a water bath).  It's a delicate process requiring slow, controlled "insulated" cooking, not over or in direct heat.  On the stovetop, its temperature shouldn't exceed 178°F, and, when baked in the oven, they need to be removed while they still have a slight wobble in the center.

IMG_0674Enough with the fancy-schmancy French phrases.  Basic egg custard (the spoon dessert everyones loves) is easy to make.

IMG_0649About my egg custard recipe:  Most recipes do not call for jumbo eggs.  That said, when my grandmother (who owned a mom and pop grocery store) and her sister (who owned a farm and supplied the fresh eggs) made egg custard, they both always used the biggest eggs they could find.  Those were the instructions I was given and I follow them without question.  There's more: My grandmother heated her custard mixture on the stovetop until steaming and then baked it in a moderate 320°-325º oven.  That was her method and I stick to it -- it works perfectly every time.

IMG_06333  cups heavy or whipping cream

2  whole vanilla beans, cut/split in half lengthwise, seeds scraped out and pods reserved

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract, not imitation

3/4  cup sugar

3  jumbo eggs

6  jumbo egg yolks

freshly-ground nutmeg, for garnishing each serving

IMG_0631To prepare the the water bath:

This is a 12" stainless-steel baking pan, identical to my grandmothers (I had to replace hers) containing 5 cups of tepid water (enough to fill the pan with water to exactly half the height of the custard cups) and nine of my grandmother's now-vintage Pyrex 1-cup custard cups. Both the baking pan and custard cups are available on Amazon.

PICT5058Step 1.  To prepare the custard: Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut each vanilla bean in half and then cut each half in half lengthwise. Using a sharp paring knife, scrape the seeds out of the pod.

Note:  I am often asked if it's ok to skip the vanilla beans.  Some say they can't find them, others complain about their cost.  That's valid.  Making this dessert with extract alone is just fine.

PICT5061 

Step 2.  In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan place and stir together the cream, vanilla seeds, empty pods, vanilla extract and sugar.

PICT5065Place over medium heat, stirring often until steaming. Do not allow to simmer or boil. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. 

PICT5069Remove and discard the vanilla bean pods.  They've done their job.

Step 3.  In an 8-quart measuring container, whisk the eggs and egg yolks.  In very small increments at first, then in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, add the cream mixture to the eggs.    

Note:  Adding too much hot cream mixture at first can cause the eggs to "scramble", so error on the side of less for the first couple of additions.

IMG_0637The technical term for this is: "tempering the eggs".  It simply heats them up very slowly so they don't start to cook or scramble.

~ Step 4.  Slowly pour (I pour) or ladle (if it's easier for you) the custard into the custard cups, filling each one about three-quarters of capacity (3/4 cup) -- the top "fill line" is conveniently marked on each cup.  They're ready for the oven.

IMG_0643~ Step 5.  Place baking pan on center rack of preheated 320°-325° oven and bake for about 38-40 minutes, watching carefully after 35 minutes.  Custard will be just set yet still a bit wobbly in the centers.  It is also not unusual for a few temporary air bubbles to appear on the surface, and, depending upon your oven, slight signs of browning in spots may occur.  No big deal.

IMG_0657~ Step 6.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely in bain-marie, about 2 hours -- yes, even the cooling process is done slowly in a moist environment.  Remove from water bath and set aside, uncovered, until serving time. Custard is best served at room temperature the same day it is made, but, even after refrigeration for a day or two, it is still divine.

Out of the oven, perfectly-cooked & cooling in bain-marie:

IMG_0652What are you waiting for?  Sprinkle w/nutmeg & dig in!

IMG_0664Silky-Smooth & Delicate:  Traditional Egg Custard:  Recipe yields 9, 3/4-cup-sized servings.

Special Equipment List:  9, 1-cup custard cups; 12" x 12" x 2" baking pan;  1 1/2-quart saucepan w/lid; kitchen shears; paring knife; slotted spoon; 8-cup measuring container; whisk

IMG_0623Cook's Note:  The British and the Australians have another form of custard that contains no eggs at all. It's a product called custard powder, and, in those two countries, more-often-than-not, if someone says "custard", it's implied that it's made using Bird's.  To learn more about this time-saving ingredient, just click on the Related Article link below.  It is perfect to keep on-hand in your pantry for when you need to make a small quantity of custard in a hurry.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

09/11/2016

~ Bird's Custard Powder. You make it so special... ~

IMG_0623Custard powder.  These are two words not typically on the tip of the average American foodie's tongue.  That's understandable, because, unless an American cook has some form of culinary ties to the United Kingdom or Australia (via cookbooks, travel or personal friendship), it's not an ingredient that has made its way into our food lover's vocabulary.  Given its popularity "across the pond", I find that hard to understand, because, for me it's a "nifty", time-saving pantry staple.

I learned about custard powder back in the early 1990's.  This was not an ingredient I ever found in my grandmother's or mother's pantry.  As with many recipes I post, I found out about it because my husband was doing business with an Australian company.  I got to be friends with a few of the corporate wives, and, via correspondence done the old-fashioned way, trading recipes and cookbooks via snail-mail across the ocean, I got my "custard powder" education.  

IMG_0588No one likes traditionally-prepared egg custard, custard sauce or pastry cream more than me, and, nothing compares to egg- and vanilla-laced crème anglaise prepared in that manner, but, for those times when I get a craving for a single cup of custard or just need a small amount of custard sauce to drizzle over a quick dessert, I reach for the "Bird's".  In minutes, rather than hours, it is a very tasty alternative.  For others, custard powder is their only choice.  Read on:  

IMG_0608Custard prepared with a powdered mix is generally-speaking less fattening than traditionally-made egg and cream custard, especially if it's prepared with skim milk and a sugar substitute. There's more.  For people who suffer from certain food allergies, and, for those with dietary restrictions (for health or religious reasons), custard powder is a tasty, must-use substitution.

IMG_0586A bit about Bird's custard powder. "Bird's" is the brand name for the original custard powder.  It was formulated by Alfred Bird back in 1837 because his wife was allergic to eggs (the key ingredient in traditionally-prepared egg custard). What it is not is: dried, powdered custard.  What it is, is: a mixture of cornstarch, salt and flavorings (predominately vanilla) which thicken to form a custard-like sauce when mixed with sugar and milk and heated.  There is just enough coloring added (food-safe annatto) to give the custard the appearance of being full of eggs. By adjusting the amount of milk, the consistency of the custard can be adjusted to make a sauce, a spoon dessert, a pastry cream or pie filling. It's so popular in the UK that the general use of the word "custard" more-often-than-not implies "Bird's".

IMG_0628By 1843, Bird's custard powder had become so popular, he formed the company Alfred Bird and Sons, LTD, and began mass-marketing it along with the newly invented baking powder too.  Mr. Bird also had a good eye for advertising, because his company was one of the first users of colorful advertising campaigns, and, in 1929, the "three bird logo" became his trademark. During the World War I years, Bird's custard was supplied to the British armed forces, then, came the World War II era and rationing.  It goes without saying his custard powder became a must-have pantry staple. In more recent history the company was sold to Premier Foods in 2004.

In the UK the word "custard" is synonymous with "Bird's".

IMG_0613When I prepare Bird's custard for just myself and Joe (2, 1/2 cup servings as pictured above), my favorite measurements are: 1 firmly-packed tablespoon custard powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.  Complete with a light sprinkling of freshly-ground nutmeg, it's quick and easy to make (done in less than 5 minutes), creamy and delicious, smooth and satisfying.  Enjoy it warm, at room temperature or chilled -- your choice.

It couldn't be simpler to prepare Bird's custard:

IMG_0595For those interested in the nutritional label:

IMG_0604And the trademark information too:

IMG_0598Bird's Custard Powder.  You make it so special:  Recipe yields information about and instructions for preparing custard powder.

Special Equipment List:  appropriately-sized measuring container;  appropriately-sized saucepan; large spoon

6a0120a8551282970b01bb07c51e9c970d 6a0120a8551282970b0148c677d1ed970cCook's Note: To take a closer look at products we American foodies do cook and bake with, click into Category 15 and read my posts ~ Baking Basic: Baking powder & Baking Soda ~ and ~ Baking Basic: Evaporated Milk & Condensed Milk ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

09/08/2016

~ Grilling & Chilling: Chicken & Rice-is-Nice Salad ~

IMG_0576We grill a lot of chicken, and, for as long as the grilling season lasts (which is well into the Winter), we make it a point to put a couple of extra, generically-seasoned pieces on the grill because:  I enjoy it cold the next day -- it tastes great and comes in handy when I'm pressed for time.  That said, once refrigerated, I do not like it reheated.  It tastes funky.  Got cold chicken? Make me a sandwich or throw it in a salad.  Reheat it?  Out the door it goes along with you.  

My grilled chicken policy is:  eat it hot one day, eat it cold the next.

IMG_0581I have a few favorite recipes "in-my-back-apron-pocket" for cold, leftover grilled chicken, and, this rice salad is one of my quickest-easiest favorites.  That said, I'm just as picky about "the state of the rice" as I am steadfast about my chicken policy.  The rice cannot be refrigerated overnight. It tastes funky.  The rice must be fragrant.  Jasmine is my preference, but nutty basmati is AOK too -- freshly-steamed, fluffy, and, at room temperature.  There's no flip-flopping on either issue.

IMG_0555The state-of-the fragrant rice is:  freshly-steamed, fluffy & at room temp.

PICT3936When I need cooked basmati or jasmine rice for any reason, I use my electric rice steamer exclusively. Simply add the rice, add the water, close the lid and turn it on.  In about the same time it takes to cook long-grain white rice standing at the stovetop, this miracle machine does all the work.  It's completely foolproof -- as long as you read the instructions and follow them. There's more: ~ Cooking Broccoli or Cauliflower in a Rice Steamer ~, is just as easy.  You can find out how I do it by clicking into Categories 4, 14, 15 or 21.  If you find cooking rice the traditional way hard to do, a rice steamer is the appliance for you.  Trust me. 

Cooking the fragrant rice in an electric rice steamer:

6a0120a8551282970b014e60ec75ce970c-320wiA bit about jasmine rice:  Jasmine rice is a polished, long-grain silky, white rice known for its fragrance, aroma and scent.  It was named after the sweet-smelling jasmine flower of Southeast Asia, and, as jasmine rice cooks, it releases its perfumy scent.  When properly cooked it is soft, white and fluffy.  Its very distinctive flavor complements all Asian fare in particular.

6a0120a8551282970b014e60ed4c8b970c-320wiPrior to cooking, it should be rinsed under cold running water.  Place it in a colander and while the water is running, move it around with your fingertips until the water running through it comes out clear.  Set the colander aside and let it drain a bit, about 5-10 minutes, before cooking:

2  cups uncooked jasmine rice

cooked as directed below.

Note:  Jasmine rice is sometimes compared to Indian basmati rice, which is also a fragrant, long-grain white rice, however, basmati is aged before being sold and has a delicious, nuttier flavor. It's a fair comparison, and, while both rices cook the same (using less water than conventional long-grain white rice) to produce fluffy, slightly-chewy grains, I personally do not use them interchangeably.  I prefer to use jasmine rice exclusively when I am serving Asian fare, and basmati rice exclusively when I am serving Indian or Middle Eastern fare.  This choice is yours.

PICT0007Step 1.  Using the cup/measure from an electric rice steamer, place 2 cups of rinsed, uncooked jasmine rice in the steamer.  Using the same cup/measure, add an equal amount of water, or a 1-to-1 ratio of rice-to-water, + 1/4 cup water.  Briefly stir the rice, close the lid and turn the steamer on.  Do not uncover or stir during the steaming process.  When the steamer turns itself off, the rice is done.  Unplug the machine

PICT0004Step 2.  Uncover and fluff, meaning:  rake through the rice with a fork to separate the grains.

6a0120a8551282970b01676898ea74970bStep 3. Transfer the rice to a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Loosely cover (don't seal it airtight) with plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temperature, about 1-1 1/2 hours.

Making Chicken & Rice-is-Nice Salad w/White Balsamic Vinaigrette:

IMG_05574  cups freshly-steamed jasmine or basmati rice, cooled to room temperature

2 1/2-3  cups grilled chicken, diced or shredded, at room temperature

1 1/2-2  cups grape tomatoes, cut into quarters, at room temperature

3/4-1 cup small diced red onion

1/2-3/4 cup chiffonade of fresh basil leaves

1/2-3/4  cup your favorite vinaigrette, preferably homemade (Note:  See Cook's Note below to get my recipe for ~ My Basic White Balsamic Vinaigrette ~.)

IMG_0565 IMG_0563~ Step 1. Prep all ingredients exactly as directed. Place in a large bowl and add 1/2 cup of your favorite vinaigrette.  All to rest about 5-10 minutes.  Toss again and add more dressing, in small amounts, tossing after each addition, to taste, adding just enough to flavor the salad without any dressing puddling in the bottom of the bowl.

Portion into 1-cup rice bowls (no bed of lettuce for me please), serve w/a warm dinner roll, butter & a glass of white wine:

IMG_0582Grilling & Chilling:  Chicken & Rice-is-Nice Salad: Recipe yields about 8 cups, a little more or a little less and 6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  electric rice steamer; fork; 12 1/2 x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; cutting board; chef's knife

6a0120a8551282970b017c321512dc970bCook's Note:  For my basic white balsamic vinaigrette:

1  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2  cup vegetable oil

2-4  tablespoons sugar, to taste

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

Step 1.  In a 2-cup food storage container with a tight-fitting lid, place all ingredients.  Vigorously shake until thoroughly combined.

PICT1176Step 2.  To vinaigrette, add:  2 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend or dried basil or oregano

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

09/05/2016

~Pasta a la Margherita: Dinner's in about 30 Minutes~

IMG_0545Labor day might be the unofficial end of Summer, but, for the record, I don't declare it official until my garden is void of tomatoes and basil.  Having just finished making big vats of marinara and small batches of pesto for the freezer, while waning a bit, my tomatoes and basil are still very much alive and well and standing tall in my garden. So, Summer, you are just going to have to hang out with me a few more days -- and pasta a la Margherita will be a perfect dinner tonight.

IMG_0550Hot Pasta + Fresh Tomatoes, Mozzarella & Basil =  Perfection. 

IMG_0466A bit about pizza and pasta MargheritaPizza Margherita was created and named in 1889 by pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito working at Pizzeria Brandi in Naples.  He used a combination of all fresh ingredients which represented the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (mozzarella), and green (basil).  It was a hit with Queen Margherita who was visiting Naples, and before long, throughout the regions of Italy and then the world.

IMG_0542Pasta Margherita is an easier spin-off of the pizza (you don't have to make a Neapolitan pizza crust, you just have to boil some pasta).  I have no idea who created pasta Margherita and I don't think anyone else does either, but, if I were guess:  it was someone who wanted to cook a simple and straightforward meal using a short list of on-hand ingredients.  I truly believe it did happen somewhere in Italy, the home of using the freshest ingredient in a "simple and straightforward" way. That said, I can vouch for the fact that pasta Margherita regularly appeared on the menu of all trendy "in-the-know" Italian-American eateries during the 1980's and '90's.

It was a favorite of mine, then, alas, it came to pass that one too many times it was a boring, watered-down rendition that interested me as much as a hot-house-grown tomato in Winter.

A bit about "a la" and "Caprese" vs. "Margherita":  "A la" is a French term meaning "in the style of", so, if one is making "pasta a la Caprese" or "pasta a la Margherita", one is going to use fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves "in the style" of Caprese or Margherita.  "Caprese", or "the salad of Capri" is uncooked and served slightly-chilled or at room temperature, so, "pasta a la Caprese" is a cold pasta salad.  "Margherita", or "the pizza of Queen Margherita" is cooked and served hot or warm, so, "pasta a la Margherita" is a hot pasta dish.

IMG_04911  pound, small, fork-friendly pasta, not long strands (Note:  My favorites for this dish are medium shells or corkscrews.)

4  ounces salted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature (1 stick)

3/4  teaspoon garlic powder

3/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/2-3/4  teaspoon red pepper flakes, more or less, to taste

3/4  cup marinara sauce, preferably homemade

3/4  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, total throughout recipe, 1/2  cup for tossing into cooked pasta, 1/4 cup for topping individual portions 

2  cups fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella, somewhat cold, diced, about 16 ounces (Note:  Just before you are ready to start boiling the water for the pasta, remove the diced cheese from the refrigerator and set it aside.  At tossing-the-pasta-time, it will be cold, but not ice cold.)

1 1/4-1 1/2  cups seeded and diced tomatoes (Note:  We grow Campari tomatoes in our backyard, but, it goes without saying, any garden or high-quality tomato will be just fine.)

1/2-3/4  cup minced chiffonade of fresh  basil leaves

IMG_0504Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.  Transfer to a colander.

IMG_0507Drain well and return hot pasta to still warm stockpot on still warm stovetop.  Immediately:

IMG_0510 IMG_0514 IMG_0522 IMG_0525~Step 2.  Add the softened butter pieces, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes. Using a large spoon or two spoons, toss as you would a salad, until butter is completely melted and pasta is evenly coated  Add the marinara sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and thoroughly toss again.  Lastly, add the diced tomatoes, mozzarella and chiffonade of basil.

Can you imagine ANYONE having a problem w/this?

IMG_0530Pour a glass of red & savor the straightforward simplicity of it:

IMG_0554Pasta a la Margherita:  Dinner's in about 30 minutes:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; 8-quart stockpot; colander; large spoon or two large spoons 

6a0120a8551282970b0147e3591d45970bCook's Note:  One of the first recipes I ever posted on Kitchen Encounters (eleven days after starting my blog back in 2010) was my recipe for ~ My Fresh & Spicy Tomato-Basil Sauce (Marinara) ~. You can find my version of this classic Italian sauce by clicking into Categories 8, 12 or 22.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016) 

09/02/2016

~ Pizz' alads: Salad Pizza (Pizza w/a Salad on Top) ~

IMG_0451Pennsylvania.  We're one of a handful of Northeastern states that enjoys four distinctly different seasons of the year, all of which are approximately equal in length: three months.  We've got the beauty of them all each and every year:  Winter snow, Autumn scenery, Spring showers and Summer heat.  Two-three states to the North, East, South or West of us, things begin to change. That said, here in my PA kitchen, where the seasons do change like clockwork and relatively dramatically too, so do eating habits.  Our transition from Summer to Fall, August into September, outdoors to indoors, started yesterday, and, it is perhaps my favorite one.

IMG_0458Pizz'alad:  Fusing a pizza baked indoors w/a salad picked outdoors.

I surely didn't invent the word pizz'alad, but it is catchy.  That said, I'd been kind of making one for years before publications like Eating Well, Bon Appetít and Food and Wine started using this trendy term to describe a pizza with a salad on top.  Back in the 1980's I used to make my three boys a taco pizza.  I copy-cat'ed the recipe from the VIP -- Happy Valley's own Village Inn Pizza, a family-owned bar that made great pizza.  The owner, Scott Owens, made a cooked, bell pepper, onion and tomato-sauce-based sauce and used a mixture of yellow cheddar and mozzarella cheese.  When the pie came out of the oven, lettuce, tomatoes and black olives, lightly-dressed in an oregano-infused vinaigrette went on top.  Oh boy did my boys love it.  Every once in a while I still make my taco pizz'alad (because it's oh-so-delicious Tex-Mex fun), but, nowadays, when making any pizz'alad I don't use a cooked sauce.  What's my reasoning?

If I've got garden or high-quality fresh tomatoes, there is no reason for me to put a cooked tomato sauce on my pizza:  

IMG_0449I start by making my favorite herby pizza dough (I put some herbs in the crust) and make a very basic white pizza -- the perfect foil for any type of salad topping.  Once out of the oven, a crisp and cold, lightly-dressed, (almost-always-tomato-laced) salad goes on top.  Sometimes I keep this pizza-meal vegetarian, but other times my salad contains chicken, shrimp or steak -- I'm a carnivore at heart.  Mostly I use vinaigrette-type dressings, but, under the right circumstances, creamy dressings play well too.  Occasionally my end result tastes like what a typical Italian-American would conjure up (after all it is pizza), but other times, depending upon my salad concoction and the dressing I use, my pizz' alad crosses borders or leaves for distant shores.

Everyone makes their dough differently, because we all like our crust "the way we like it".  Feel free to use your own favorite recipe, but I highly encourage you to at least add some herbs to it. A flavored crust is the first step to a great pizz'alad.  If you'd like to try my recipe, you can make my dough via conventional hand mixing and kneading, you can make it via a stand mixer or a food processor, or, you can do what I currently do:  make the dough in my bread machine, which simplifies the process considerably -- and, it makes ten personal-sized pizza'salads.

IMG_3835For the dough:

1 1/2  cups warm water

2  tablespoons olive oil

4 1/2  cups all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons sea salt

2  teaspoons sugar

1  teaspoon each:  garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend and coarsely-ground black pepper

1  packet granulated dry yeast

2-4  additional tablespoons olive oil, for preparing baking pans 

IMG_3843Step 1.  To prepare the dough, place all of the items in pan of bread machine in the order listedexcept for the yeast.  Using your index finger, make a small indentation ("a well") on top of the dry ingredients, but not so deep that it reaches the wet layer.  Place the yeast into the indentation.  Insert the pan into the bread machine, plug IMG_3846the machine in, press the "Select" button, choose the "Pizza Dough" cycle, then press "Start". You will have 2 pounds of dough, ready to use, in about 55 minutes.  

IMG_3851While the dough is rising in the machine, using a pastry brush, oil 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" rectangular baking pans with additional olive oil and assemble these basic white pizza toppings:

IMG_0416Note:  The following will top 10, personal-sized, 5"-round crusts.

 olive oil, for brushing on crusts

10  slices provolone cheese

10  slices mozzarella cheese

1/4-1/2  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1-2 teaspoons per pizza)

crushed red pepper flakes

dried basil leaves

IMG_3859IMG_3869Step 2. Remove dough from bread pan and divide it into and form 10, 3 1/2-ounce balls of dough. The best way to do this is with a kitchen scale.  The dough will be slightly sticky, yet very manageable.

IMG_0421 IMG_0423 IMG_0426 IMG_0430 IMG_0433 IMG_0446~Step 3.  To form the crusts, place five balls of dough on each pan and let rest for 10 minutes. Pat, push and press each ball to form ten, 5"-round freeform crusts.  If the dough has been amply rested, this is super-easy to do.

IMG_0436Brush tops of each crust with a light coating of olive oil.  Place one slice of provolone on each one. Using your fingertips, push down around the perimeter of this circular-shaped cheese, allowing a crust to form around the sides of the cheese.  Place one slice of mozzarella cheese on top of the provolone.  Sprinkle grated Parm-Regg over the top of the mozzarella followed by crushed red pepper flakes and dried basil.  

~ Step 4.  One-pan-at-a-time bake in a 375 degree oven 14 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool 5-10 minutes.  Top each with 1/2-3/4 cup of lightly-dressed salad.

Personal-sized white 'za out of oven & ready for salad topping:

IMG_0443Tonight I went crazy for caprese w/a white balsamic vinaigrette:

IMG_0455Pizz' alads:  Salad Pizza (Pizza w/a Salad on Top):  Recipe yields 10, 5 1/2"-6" round, individual-sized pizz'alads.

Special Equipment List:  bread machine (optional); 2, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; pastry brush; kitchen scale; wire cooling rack; large spatula

6a0120a8551282970b017c321512dc970bCook's Note:  For my basic white balsamic vinaigrette:

1  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2  cup vegetable oil

2-4  tablespoons sugar, to taste

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

Step 1.  In a 2-cup food storage container with a tight-fitting lid, place all ingredients.  Vigorously shake until thoroughly combined.

PICT1176Step 2.  To vinaigrette, add:  2 tablespoons Italian seasoning blend or dried basil or oregano

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)