Friday, March 28, 2008

March Madness

Wow - has it really been almost a month? March is always one of the worst months of the year for me, since everything always seems to happen at once. This month was no exception. We had major contracting business pitfalls that started the month off with lots of arguments and tight budgets, a house guest for a week, I had one god awful observation, several late nights of long work and my students were worse than usual. On top of it all, I started my masters degree on March 3rd. It's been a lot harder than I really expected it to be, and extremely time consuming.

Throughout it all, I have in fact found time to cook. Unfortunately, I haven't been smart enough to take pictures of many of those meals, and even if I did, I'm now struggling to remember the recipes I used.

But here's a sprinkling of my March, in view of my food...

Brown Butter Sage & Roasted Cauliflower Pasta Bake

One of my favorite veggie dishes, though admittedly not extremely healthful, is my Roasted Brown Butter Sage Cauliflower, which you can find here. I wanted some baked pasta one night and thought of it. This was the tasty result -as I remember it anyway!

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 medium onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped sage leaves
2 Tbsp. fresh chopped garlic
4 Tbsp. all purpose flour
4 cups 1% milk
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded Italian cheeses - I used a mix of asiago, provolone, fontina, mozzarella and parmesan
1 pound rigatoni - cooked 1-2 minutes short of al dente
roasted cauliflower - follow directions on above link but do not toss with brown butter and sage
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
2/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmaggiano reggiano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium high heat until it starts to brown. Do not let it burn. Add onions, sage and garlic and stir until garlic begins to turn golden. Add flour and mix into a paste. Let the roux cook for 1-2 minutes, than add milk and seasonings and whisk until combined. Whisk in 1/2 cheese at a time, let it melt before adding the next 1/2 cup. Continue until all cheese is incorporated. Toss with pasta, cauliflower and tomatoes and turn out into a greased 9 x 13 pyrex baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and parmesan. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake until pasta is tender, top is brown and crispy, and sauce is bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.

I also enjoyed my favorite homemade spaghetti and meatballs, which are incredibly easy to have on hand to feed guests. The recipe makes double what we'd ever eat and they freeze so well!

Also for my future sister-in-law, we made a batch of her mom's great waffles. OK - so I may have made a triple batch and frozen lots for weekday breakfasts! But they're SO good! Here's the single batch recipe.

Everyday Waffles

2 eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

Whisk all ingredients to combine. Try not to overmix. Let batter sit while waffle iron heats up. Follow manufacture's directions to make waffles.

Since it was her birthday, and my boyfriend was nursing a chocolate cake craving, I made her a decadent cake. I based this one on's most talked about recipe. The cake was wonderfully moist and tender and packed a huge punch of raspberry flavor.

Double Chocolate Raspberryliscious Cake with Chocolate Frosting

3 oz. semisweet chocolate- I used Baker's semi-sweet chocolate chunks
1 1/2 cups chocolate raspberry flavored coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups Scharffen Berger cocoa powder <-- the best I've found outside of Italy
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup toasted hazelnut oil
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp double-strength vanilla extract
1 tsp raspberry extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease at least three 9 inch cake pans. - For four layers use 4 pans. Melt chocolate into coffee in a double boiler until mixture is smooth. Sift sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt together into a large mixing bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat eggs for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add oil, milk, lemon juice and extracts until well combined. Add dry ingredients slowly until just moistened. Divide between pans and bake for about an hour. Let cool on baking racks until completely room temperature.

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup chocolate raspberry flavored coffee
1/2 tsp double-strength vanilla extract
1 tsp raspberry extract
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Add coffee and extracts and whisk until smooth. Mix in powdered sugar to make a frosting. Use immediately, as it will start to harden.


3-4 cake layers
3/4 cup seedless red raspberry jam, I like Smuckers
1 cup fresh raspberries
powdered sugar

In between each cake layer spread at least 1/8 cup raspberry jam. If you will finish this cake within 24 hours, add a layer of fresh raspberries in the middle. Frost only the top of the cake, not the sides. Top with fresh raspberries and dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

In the most recent issue of fine-cooking, they had some yummy looking baklava recipes. I can't wait to try the chocolate hazelnut one, but I didn't have any hazelnuts in the house. Here's the one I made instead. I will never buy store bought baklava again. It was pretty easy and SO good!


1 lb. unsalted pistachios, roasted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp freshly ground green cardamom

1 lb. phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight if frozen
10 oz. melted unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup frangelico or amaretto liquor
pinch freshly ground green cardamom

After roasting and cooling the pistachios, combine them in a food processor and add sugar and spices. Use short pulses to chop nuts and combine ingredients.

Unfold phyllo dough and stack layers flat on plastic wrap on the countertop. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp paper towel. When you must uncover, do it quickly and do not let the phyllo dry out. Brush a 9 x 13 pyrex baking dish with butter, add a sheet of phylo and brush lightly with butter. Continue layering sheets and brushing with butter until 1/3 of package has been used. Trim excess as you go. Sprinkle about half the filling lightly over the phyllo. Do not press it down. Repeat phyllo layering. Sprinkle other half of filling, repeat phyllo layering until the entire package is used. Brush the top of the pastry with butter and sprinkle with coarse turbinado sugar. Plastic wrap pastry and put in freezer for 1/2 an hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Cut chilled phyllo on the diagonal in both directions to create a diamond pattern. Let the pan come to room temperature before baking or the glass might shatter. Bake 40 minutes or until golden. Cool completely on a rack.

Combine sugar, orange juice, liquor and cardamom in a small saucepan and stir until all sugar has dissolved into a syrup. Retrace knife marks in pastry to make sure the pieces are still separated. Pour the hot syrup slowly and evenly over cool pastry. Allow it to sit for at least an hour before digging in.

Also from that issue of fine cooking, I was inspired by the pizza dough recipe with stromboli ideas. I had promised my boyfriend I'd make him pepperoni rolls that he loves, but with 3 separate rises, they're just too time consuming. I made a double batch of pizza dough instead and and used the same fillings. It came out even better. I also made a couple ham and cheese stromboli with leftover Easter ham, that I couldn't even take a picture of because they disappeared so fast.

Since the fine cooking recipe is copyrighted and I did not change it at all, I am not posting it here. However, any good pizza dough will work. The key is to make it the day before and let it sit overnight in the fridge. The fermentation allowed by this really develops the flavor. Make enough dough for four 10 inch pizzas.

Pepperoni Stromboli

pizza dough recipe, divided in half
2 cups jarred four cheese tomato sauce
1 1/2 cup sliced, then finely chopped pepperoni
2 cups Italian shredded cheeses - a mix of provolone, fontina, asiago, mozzarella, and parmesan
italian seasoning
olive oil
garlic powder
parmesan cheese

Roll out half of pizza dough into a long rectangle. Spread on half of tomato sauce, leaving one long edge dry for an inch along the end, top with half of pepperoni, cheese and italian seasoning. Fold over dough at the ends, then roll up like a jelly roll and seal by pinching dough together. Repeat to make 2nd stromboli. Let rise slightly for 30 minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment. In the meantime, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Before baking, cut 4 slits through all layers to prevent stromboli from bursting, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder and cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes. Slice and enjoy.

For Ham and Cheese Stromboli, use a mixture of whole grain Dijon mustard and maple syrup in place of the sauce, a mixture of chopped ham, carmalized onions and mushrooms deglazed with a little sherry for the filling, and shredded jarlesburg cheese. Prepare the same way.

Phew - this has been one long post. Bear with me for last night's meal. I've been seeing a lot of recipes lately for fried catfish sandwiches. Unfortunately I had no sandwich rolls in the house and no desire to get them. But they did inspire this meal:

Oven Fried Tilapia with Braised Radishes and Garlic Parmesan Roasted Pee Wee Potatoes

I know what you're thinking - radishes? Cooked? But these beauties are no longer sharp, just delicate sweet sour jewels. The pee wee potatoes were Oh so cute and I couldn't resist them at the store.

Garlic Parmesan Roasted Pee Wee Potatoes

1 lb. golden pee wee potatoes
6 large peeled garlic cloves
olive oil
coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup parmesan
1 Tbsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400. Toss potatoes and garlic with olive oil and salt in a 8 inch square baking dish. Bake until soft. Toss with parmesan and garlic powder while still screaming hot.

Braised Radishes
3 small bunches of radishes, trimmed of greens and roots and rinsed
1/4 medium red onion, diced
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar - preferably chianti or cabernet vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Combine all in a saucepan over medium high heat. Bring liquid to a boil and let it reduce down as it cooks the radishes until it is syrupy and there is very little liquid remaining. Radishes should be tender at this point. It will take about 20 minutes.

Oven Fried Tilapia
2/3 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
4 3-4 oz filets of tilapia
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 450. Mix cornmeal together with seasonings. Set up a dredging station. Coat tilapia in egg, then in cornmeal mixture. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place tilapia on sheet and spray lightly. Bake for 6 minutes, turn over and spray lightly again, then bake for anther minutes or until just done.

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