Monday, June 28, 2010

bothered: strawberry strudel

I think I'm getting old. Things that didn't used to bother me at all are bothering me.

Late June bothers me.

The heat bothers me.

The late June heat in New York City BOTHERS me.

Sticky subways? ... bothering. Sweat trickling down the back of my silk dress? Boom! Bothered.

So this might be the last heat-inducing (read: oven-using) recipe for awhile, because I am doing everything I can to stay cool (read: nekkidly writing this post as I sit in front of my A/C).

On the heels of all of the savory pasta recipes I've been posting lately, I got back to my baking roots this weekend to put the farm-fresh strawberries that have been sitting/ripening in my fridge to good use.

First I wanted to make a strawberry-rhubarb pie again since it was SO GOOD the last time, but I was out of rhubarb and knew I couldn't make it to the Union Square Greenmarket before the weekend was over. So I set out to make a strawberry pie. Turns out if you Google "Strawberry Pie" most of the recipes that pop up include jello. And I don't really like jello (unless it's in Mom's Christmas dinner "pretzel salad" - did anyone else's Mom make that growing up?).

But then I found a lovely blog called "What Geeks Eat" and a recipe for a rustic strawberry pie that reminded me of the delicious apple galette I made back in September - and that was all I needed to break out the flour, pastry cutter, and chilled butter and get to work.

This came out of the oven and after slicing it open, Bf declared it a "Strawberry Strudel," so I'm sticking with the name. The crust is my favorite, flakey and layered, and the strawberry middle is sweet but not too sweet - and having leftovers at my house doesn't bother me at all ;)

Strawberry Strudel
adapted from Vanessa's version at What Geeks Eat

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons (or more) ice water (it took me 5 tbsp's)

1 qt ripe strawberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Blend flour and salt in processor. Add butter and blend, using on/off turns, until mixture resembles course meal. Add 2 tbsp. ice water and blend just until dough begins to clump together, adding more water if dough is dry (I used a pastry cutter, old-school style). Gather dough into a ball, flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour.

Roll out dough between sheets of parchment paper to 1/8-inch thick round, 14 inches in diameter. Remove top sheet of parchment. Using bottom sheet as aid, transfer dough on parchment to large unrimmed baking sheet.

Remove the leafy heads from the strawberries and if they are small enough you wont have to cut them. However, if they are larger than the end of your thumb, cut them in half. Add the sugar, vanilla, and cornstarch and stir to combine. Spoon the filling into the center of the crust, leaving about 3 inches of a crust border all the way around.

Using parchment as aid, fold plain crust border up over apples, pinching any cracks in crust. Brush crust with cold water and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F and continue baking until crust is golden, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Let stand at least 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"all that glisters is not gold": fettuccine with leeks

Living in NYC, it's not uncommon to spot celebrities around town. I have friends who have seen SJP, Mr. Schuester, and Whitney Port - my own last sighting was "Boston Legal's" James Spader as I was crossing 55th Street on Broadway (he looked good). And even though I work in media and have friends who hobnob with the beautiful people, I still get star struck like a 15 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. I try to play it cool but there's just something fascinating about how the "other half" lives. Especially Academy Award-winning actors. Like Al Pacino. Who is playing Shylock in this summer's Shakespeare in the Park rendition of "The Merchant of Venice." (!!)

Bf has the summer off, so he waited in line with the crazies from 9:30am until 1pm to win our free tickets to last night's performance. Aside from the Philharmonic in the Park picnic night in July, Shakespeare in the Park performances are pretty high up there on my list of favorite summer nights. It's a must-do experience for any New Yorker, and if you can't skip out of work to sit in the park waiting for the free tickets to be handed out, the plays are very much worth the $50/pair to pay a "line-sitter" on Craigslist. We got lucky a couple weeks ago and ended up with tickets to "A Winter's Tale," the other play at Central Park's Delacorte Theater this summer, and it was fabulous (RENT's Jesse Martin is GREAT). The "Merchant of Venice" was no different, with many of the same artists from "A Winter's Tale" and the addition of Pacino and a few others. The caliber of acting is phenomenal, and the outdoor atmosphere of the Delacorte is just amazing - even if it's 90 degrees with no breeze like last night ;)

I got home from work before the show and we whipped up our own little "to go" dinners to take with us. Bf had stopped at Stew Leonard's that afternoon and brought back fresh fettuccine and garlic bread, so we went for an italian-inspired meal. I had tried this pasta recipe last week and loved it, and it was the perfect addition to our evening.

Yes, it's another Real Simple recipe (I promise to branch out next post) but it's delicious, and the fresh flavor of the leeks and garlic really shine (and the yellow of the corn and green of the arugula make a pretty plate).

Here's to sweating it out for the rest of the summer - whether watching Shakespeare or reading a Twilight book :)

Creamy Fettuccine with Leeks, Corn, and Arugula

12 oz fettuccine
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into thin half-moons
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup corn kernels (from 1-2 ears, or frozen)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used the Napa Valley Chardonnay we were drinking)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 cups baby arugula
1/4 cup grated pecorino

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3-4 minutes. Add the corn and wine and simmer until corn is tender, 2-3 minutes; stir in the cream.

Add the pasta, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Fold in the arugula. Sprinkle with pecorino before serving.

Monday, June 21, 2010

let the boy do his thing: roasted asparagus

Anyone who knows me knows that I like to plan things. In high school I planned our senior trip to my beach house (and held weekly meetings on my parents back patio to "organize" the crew). In college I planned Spring Break in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (and re-planned a detour to Key West when we realized our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale was disgusting). Nowadays I plan dinners and drinks and picnics and house-parties to get the girls together (and have a nicely color-coordinated Google-calendar to prove it).

So it should have come as no surprise last week when I got anxious with the bf who was "whisking me away" for a surprise weekend "somewhere." I thought and thought about where we could be going, outlined every destination within a 4-hour driving radius, and hemmed and hawed over what to pack. Did I need cute jeans and heels or a summer dress and flip flops? Did I need a hair dryer or a flat iron? How was my planner-type personality going to let this surprise weekend happen without biting all of my nails down to the quick?

Well friends, from now on I'm keeping my mouth SHUT and letting the boy do his thing. I just got home from the best weekend of the year so far and I had no control over any of it. Actually it was a good lesson in self control and patience - and it absolutely paid off. Bf wins. BIGTIME.

Knowing me so well, he booked us a fabulous condo in Amagansett, Long Island -- complete with a full kitchen! Some people might want to escape cooking for themselves on vacation... but not me. We grilled out (grilled! On a charcoal GRILL!) both nights and ate and sipped wine with the sound of the ocean crashing nearby. We slept in, read our books, laid out, and swam the Butterfly in the lovely heated pool on the property. I even limited my Blackberry-ing to a minimum. And then we ate some more.

It was the most refreshing weekend I've had in a really long time and I got back to the city this afternoon feeling completely rejuvenated. Sometimes you just need to be forced off the grid for a while, ya know?

The recipe I'm sharing is one we didn't quite get to this weekend, though we got close. With all intentions of re-creating this delicious prosciutto-wrapped asparagus that I had thrown together last week for an impromptu dinner party, we ended up simply roasting the asparagus on the grill and letting the charcoal do the work.

Both options work wonders, but here's the simple (yet delicious) recipe to try in the future. I took Giada's directions a bit further and after wrapping the asparagus in prosciutto, seared it in a pan with a little olive oil over medium-high heat for a crispier flavor. I also served it warm as I prefer that over room temperature. Asparagus is one of my favorite greens and both of these methods (roasted or grilled) made a delicious summer side dish.

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto
Giada De Laurentiis (via the Food Network)

1 pound asparagus (about 19 stalks), trimmed
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6-8 paper-thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Snap the dry stem ends off of each asparagus and place on a heavy baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Roast until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Wrap each asparagus with 1 piece of prosciutto, exposing tips. Arrange on a platter and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

comfort food: eggplant pasta

Sometimes I wish life was just "real simple," don't you? We have so many decisions to make each moment (grande or venti, burger or salad, heels or flats, red or white) let alone each time a mini life-crisis rears its head (this job or that job, follow my passion or follow my heart, rent or buy, peace out or stay put) and sometimes I just wish I had my own personal coach to curate my life and figure it all out for me. Do you ever feel that way (read: crazy)?

Until I find this personal assistant/savior/magician (who want's the job??), I'm relying on others to figure out the details... well, at least what's for dinner.

I was in the mood to cook the other night and logged on to for a "quick 15-minute dinner" recipe for inspiration. This eggplant pasta salad popped up and having never cooked with eggplant I jotted down the ingredients and ran to the store.

Friends, this is deeelish! I prefer it warm vs. cold as the recipe instructs but the flavor is big and the capers are a must! Perfect (comforting) weeknight meal for the mini life-crisis around the corner ;)

Eggplant Pasta Salad

3 tbsp. olive oil
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
kosher salt and pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. capers
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
1 pound dried penne

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the celery and cook, 3 minutes. Stir in the eggplant and tomatoes.

In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 2 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and the sugar. Stir into the eggplant.

Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the capers, pine nuts (if using) and parsley.

Meanwhile, cook the penne according to the package directions. Toss with the remaining oil, let cool, and cover. Combine the eggplant with the pasta before serving.

Monday, June 14, 2010

summer lovin: strawberry rhubarb pie

It's been feeling summery around here (read: steamy and suffocating with rain at any moment), so Izzy and I took an extraordinarily cheap flight from home ($140 round-trip!) for a long weekend of relaxing with Mom and Dad in Western PA.

It's been 6 months since I was last home (at Christmas! Can you believe it?!) and I can't let another 6 pass before I'm back. We had burgers on the grill. We had fudge ripple ice cream from down the road. We had lightening bugs and cool evenings. I slept in and took naps. I went to the mall and shopped at Macy's without wanting to tear my hair out or elbowing an old woman for a deal in the shoe section. And we droooove! We rolled down the windows and drove around town and I couldn't have been happier sitting in the passenger seat with the wind blowing in my hair.

I love home!

To kick off the summer months, I picked up fresh strawberries and two stalks of rhubarb (and some shortening - c'mon, it makes the best crusts!) and got to making a summery sweet pie for dessert on Saturday night.

Deb delivered a lovely Lattice-topped Strawberry Rhubarb pie recipe and I went for it. OH MY GAH. It's crazytown delicious!!! The crust alone was to die for, and the pie itself was the perfect mixture of sweet and tart. I LOVED it. And I ate it for dessert on Saturday. And lunch Sunday before I left. Couldn't. Get. Enough.

Rhubarb is a funny thing and you don't see it a lot - so take the opportunity while it's in season and give it a shot if you haven't! This is the perfect entry into the wonderful world of rhubarb, I promise!

Lattice-topped Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Bon Appetit (with SmittenKitchen's adaptations)

For crust:
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp. (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
10 tbsp. (about) ice water)

For filling:
3 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick slices trimmed rhubarb (1 1/2 lbs untrimmed)
1 16-ounce container strawberries, hulled, halved (about 3 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg yolk, beaten to blend with 1 tsp water (for glaze)

Make crust:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in processor. Using on/off turns, cut in shortening and butter until coarse meal forms. Blend in ice water 2 tablespoons at a time to form moist clumps. Gather dough into a ball; cut in half. Flatten each half into disk. Wrap separately in plastic; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Make filling:
Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Toss gently to blend.

Assemble Pie:
Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Trim excess dough, leaving 3/4-inch overhang.

Roll out second dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Cut into fourteen 1/2-inch-wide strips. Spoon filling into crust. Arrange 7 dough strips atop filling, spacing evenly. Form lattice by placing remaining dough strips in opposite direction atop filling. Trim ends of dough strips even with overhang of bottom crust. Fold strip ends and overhang under, pressing to seal. Crimp edges decoratively.

Brush glaze over crust. Transfer pie to baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Bake pie until golden and filling thickens, about another 25 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

bring it on: oreo crunch brownies

June 6? What?? We're head first into summer and so much has already happened:

Last weekend I had the best summer opener ever with a Memorial Day trip to the Jersey Shore. You heard right. We had sun, miles of beach, 20 people in a 3-bedroom house, and a Beer Olympics to rival the very best college weekend (with no Snooki or JWoww in sight). One word: AMAZINGSPICE.

This weekend found us at the Belmont Stakes, sweating it out in the grandstands in style while we took in a full day at the races, complete with loaded hot dogs and Carvel soft serve (yum!).

And tonight I started my week off right, glass of wine in hand, sitting with the girls at an outdoor cafe. I knew there was something I loved about this town ;)

We're off to a good start - so bring it on, summer! After a few steamy days the temperature is back to pleasant and I thought I'd share a recipe that marries two of my favorite summer treats: Oreo's and brownies.

I couldn't picture how this recipe would be until after I made it and HOLY YUM. These are decadent and perfect warmed under a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream. I mean, it's Ina so I knew it would be fantastic! Give these a try for a fun twist on the classic brownie - they're delicious!

Note: I halved the recipe and made an 8x8 pan of brownies - I used two eggs and it worked just perfectly!

Outrageous Oreo Crunch Brownies
Ina Garten via Eat Me, Delicious

2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1/2 lb semisweet chocolate chips
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 eggs
1 1/2 tbsp. instant coffee granules
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup + 2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped oreo cookies (25 cookies)

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9 x 13" baking pan.

In a heatproof medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, heat butter, chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk eggs, coffee, vanilla and sugar. Blend chocolate mixture into egg mixture; cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture. In a small bowl, stir Oreo's and remaining 2 tbsp. flour. Add to chocolate mixture. Pour batter into baking pan and smooth top with a rubber spatula.

Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean; do not overbake. Allow to cool. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, until cold. Cut into squares.
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