Sunday, July 31, 2011

Caprese on Crostini

My husband and I can't get enough of this meal, probably because it's so gosh darn hot outside that eating something light and refreshing is comforting on a hot, muggy night. I love it, because it's ridiculously simple, doesn't require any cooking, and is relatively mess free. We had it one night as a snack in the middle of the day as a way to use up some of the basil growing in our garden, and before we knew it, our snack turned into one of our favorite dinners.

I'm sure there's some fancy schmancy Italian word or phrase for what this really is, but for now we're calling it Caprese on Crostini and you only need a handful of things to make it: fresh basil, ripe tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, balsamic vinegar (optional), and some good, crusty bread.

There's no right or wrong way to eat this. My husband and I usually put out all the ingredients out on the table and build our own in different combinations. Sometimes I drizzle vinegar over just the bread or other times I top the whole thing with vinegar, and sometimes I sprinkle pepper on the tomatoes for an added kick of heat. It's really up to you and how you want to eat this.

Choosing quality ingredients is key here, so skip the beefsteak tomatoes and pick up some plump, juicy, red tomatoes just off the vine. Don't forget to pour yourself a glass of crisp and refreshing white wine! 

Caprese on Crostini

3-4 large ripe tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick
handful fresh basil
16-ounces fresh Mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
loaf good crusty bread, sliced thin
olive oil (for drizzling)
balsamic vinegar (for drizzling, optional)
pepper (to taste)
garlic (optional)

Drizzle olive oil on bread; bake or broil in oven until golden brown on both sides. Optional, once toast is out of the oven, rub a piece of garlic over it. Another option: Grate some mozzarella on top of bread and broil it until bubbly and golden brown. Top with ingredients in any combination.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Green Chile Sauce

When I go out to eat in New Mexico I always get my food smothered in "Christmas," which is what we call the mixture of red chile and green chile. (Fun fact: New Mexico's official state question is "red or green?") Several weeks ago I realized that I've never made a green chile sauce before, which is strange since that's pretty much all I eat at restaurants back home.
We have a freezer full of green chile out here that we need to start using before we move, so I got out my trusty cookbook and found a recipe for green chile sauce. I use this with so many foods now (huevos rancheros, over chicken, mixed in beans, inside enchiladas, etc.) that I had to share it with you. It's usually gone within a day or two at our house, so I need to start doubling the recipe! I'll also post recipes to the foods above in the next few weeks.
 Green Chile Sauce
adapted from Simply Simpatico

1/2 cup onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon butter, margarine, or oil
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup water (or chicken or vegetable stock)
1 cup green chile* (roasted, peeled, diced)
salt to taste

Saute onions and garlic in butter (margarine or oil) over medium heat. When onions are translucent, mix in flour (it should look sort of like a paste). Add green chile and water (or stock); bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add salt to taste.

*I've only made this with fresh green chile, so if you're using green chile from a can, your results may differ.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Banana Blueberry Bread

Banana bread was one of the first things I made when I got married (around the same time that I really got interested in cooking) and I failed at it...big time. Everyone told me how simple it was to make banana bread, but for some reason I couldn't get the hang of it. It either tasted like cardboard, was soggy in the middle, or would completely collapse when I took it out of the oven. 

Luckily, I didn't give up; I kept trying new recipes and finally got the hang of it. This recipe is finally a keeper. I've made it several times, tweaking things here and there, and I love it. Not only that, but when my husband's grandma was here a few months ago she said she liked it! It's always good when grandma likes your food! This banana bread is moist and packed with velvety flavors, making it creamy and decadent, which says a lot for something simple like a banana bread. The very best part about this is how easy it is to make—it hasn't failed me yet.

I recently made a loaf and took it with us on a road trip (hence the on-the-go picture), and it made for a great snack or a quick breakfast. I added blueberries, because I had some in the fridge, but you could add chocolate chips or pecans instead!

Banana Blueberry Bread
adapted from Chez Us


½ cups butter
3 ounces cream cheese (by weight)
1 cup brown sugar
3 pieces ripe bananas
1 egg
¼ cups sour cream
1-½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoons salt
1 cup blueberries or chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup pecans (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Lightly grease a loaf pan. Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add bananas, egg and sour cream; mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients. Stir in blueberries or chocolate chips. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60 – 75 minutes, until golden and not doughy in the middle.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Green Chile Apple (Hand-Held) Pies

The first time I tried a green chile apple pie was in Vermont, of all places. We were visiting a friend who insisted we bring him some Hatch green chile from New Mexico so he could make a pie. I was intrigued at what it would taste like and fell completely in love after one bite. Unfortunately, the rest of my family didn't really care for it and I'm sorry to say that I never had it again...until now.

I always thought about green chile apple pie and wanted to make it several times, but every time I mentioned it people, (my husband) looked at me like I was crazy. A few months ago I came across a recipe for these hand-held pies (turnovers, really), and I decided to finally make them. I think you either like green chile apple pie or you don't. Personally, I love the sweet heat combo and could eat them all day long...which is exactly what I did.

If you make these, and I really hope you do, play around with the amount of chile you use. Chile from a can tends to be on the mild side, so you can probably get away with using a full cup. If you're using fresh chile, taste it first and judge the heat. We used one cup of VERY hot chile and I was afraid of the outcome, but I think cooking it and combining it with the sweet apples actually helped simmer the spiciness. If you're timid about chile, add it to a few pies and see how they taste—the outcome may surprise you!

Green Chile Apple (Hand-Held) Pies
adapted from Bless Her Heart

4 sheets of puff pastry, thawed according to manufacturers instructions
3 cups apples, peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 cup green chiles, roasted, peeled and diced.
1/2 cup of sugar
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar (1Tbs sugar; 1Tbs cinnamon)
flour for dusting the workspace
egg for egg wash

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix lemon juice with the apples to keep them from browning. Stir in green chile. In a small bowl, mix sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch and salt. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients into the apple mixture. Set aside; mix occasionally. In a small bowl beat egg for eggwash.

Lightly flour a work surface for cutting out puff pastry circles. Using a bowl as your cutter, you should be able to get 2-3 circles from each sheet of puff pastry sheet. The circles should be around 5-6" in diameter (we used the lid from our flour container—get creative with your cutter!).

Fill in half of the circle with apple filling, around 2-3 full tablespoons of filling depending on the size of circles. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of filling. Brush along half of the edge of the circle with egg wash. Fold in half, tucking the filling inside as you go along and pinch closed, or seal with the tines of a fork. Cut a 1" slit in the top for a vent. Brush the top with the egg wash; sprinkle with more cinnamon sugar. Place on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining hand pies. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Summer Berry Tart

I have a confession to make. Well, it's not really a confession, but more like a fact: I only like to make something if it's simple. I'm still learning my way around the kitchen and I'm still figuring out what works well together, so if something's too difficult, my eyes glaze right over the directions and I forget about making it.

I always see pretty-looking desserts floating around the Internet, but thought they were way above my baking league. But when I saw a version of this tart on Pinterest I couldn't get over how light and refreshing it looked and knew I wanted to try it. Then I discovered the recipe was from Real Simple and breathed a sigh of relief knowing it had to be easy to make. Luckily, it was extremely simple—just like the magazine claims—and I had the perfect place to take it: a 4th of July barbeque.  

You can use cream cheese, but we really like marscapone (Italian sweet cream cheese), so that's what I used. You can also top it with whatever berries you want. The one shown here is clearly decorated like a flag, but I also made one with a mixture of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Frozen puff pastry is my new favorite ingredient and I'm already dreaming of other things to make with it.

Sweet Berry Tart
adapted from Real Simple


2 8-ounce sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten  
2 tablespoon granulated sugar 
8 ounces marscapone (or cream cheese, softened) 
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 
6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
3 cups berries

  1. Heat oven to 375° F. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the sheet of pastry and roll it into a rectangle, smoothing out creases. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  2. Using the tip of a knife, score a 1-inch border around the pastry without cutting all the way through. Brush border with egg and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until golden and puffed, 17 to 20 minutes.
  3. Using the tip of a knife, rescore the border of the cooked pastry without cutting all the way through. Let rest until cool to the touch. Gently press down on the center of the pastry sheet to flatten it. Let cool to room temperature, 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, with an electric mixer, beat the marscapone until smooth. Add cream, vanilla, lemon zest, and 5 tablespoons of the confectioners’ sugar; beat until smooth (will thicken up over time). Gently brush flakes from the center of the pastry off; spread mixture evenly within the borders of the pastry.
  5. Arrange the berries on cream mixture and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar.