Monday, April 26, 2010

Greek Layered Dip

 Whenever I'm looking for a new recipe idea, I love to turn to my family and friends. I know I'll always find something tried and true and absolutely delicious. Such is the case with this recipe, which was given to me by my sister, Cathy, who got it from my sister, Jeanie. It's SO delicious and fresh tasting and it couldn't be simpler to throw together. Just layer each ingredient and serve! Easy, right? Serve it at your next party and I PROMISE that your guests will devour it!
Thanx Cath!
And thanx Jean!!!

1 8 oz. container cream cheese w/ chives and onions
1 8 oz. container hummus
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (I use chopped grape tomatoes when the larger tomatoes are yucky and out of season)
1 2-1/2 oz. can sliced ripe olives, drained (and chopped, if desired)
1 4 oz. container crumbled feta cheese, (drained, if needed)
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Spread cream cheese in bottom of pie plate or quiche dish.  Drop hummus by small spoonfuls evenly over cream cheese, spread evenly.  Top with remaining ingredients in order given.  Serve with home-made pita crisps (see recipe below) or purchased pita chips.

Pita crisps:  3 6" pita pocket breads.  Split each pita bread into 2 rounds.  Cut each round into 6 wedges.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Spray wedges lightly with cooking spray and sprinkle with garlic powder.  Bake at 350F for 5-7 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.  Cool.

The thing that makes this dip so wonderful is the freshness from the tomatoes and the cucumbers.
Be generous with them!
If you need to make it in advance, go ahead and spread the cream cheese and hummus in the dish, then cover it and chill it until you're ready to serve. Have the other ingredients all chopped separately and ready to go, but don't assemble it until just before serving. Your final dish will be SO much fresher!

Monday, April 19, 2010

ATK's Lemon Bundt Cake

Many people ask me for recipes and dessert ideas. Most of the time, it's for something chocolate, but nearly just as often, it's for something lemony. True story! It seems that EVERYONE and his brother loves the bright refreshing taste of lemon. So, whenever I read a lemon recipe that looks simple and easy, I always give it a try. I originally saw this recipe on America's Test Kitchen and decided it would be the perfect dessert to bring to Easter Dinner. Well, needless to say, everyone LOVED it and I'm sure you will too. It has a wonderfully light burst of lemony flavor and it's very simple to throw together in a snap.
Hope you like it!

3 lemons , zest grated and saved, then juiced for 3 tablespoons juice
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk*
3 eggs , at room temperature
1 egg yolk , at room temperature
2 1/4 sticks (18 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar

Note from Joey:
*To make buttermilk - measure 1 cup milk into a small microwave safe bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or fresh lemon juice. Microwave for 30-45 seconds. The milk will immediately curdle which is exactly what you want. If you don't have a microwave, just combine the milk and vinegar and let it sit for a while. As it comes to room temperature, it will eventually curdle. The microwave just speeds up that process.

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray with flour (alternatively, brush pan with mixture of 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon melted butter). Mince lemon zest to fine paste (you should have about 2 tablespoons). Combine zest and lemon juice in small bowl; set aside to soften, 10 to 15 minutes.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Combine lemon juice mixture, vanilla, and buttermilk in medium bowl. In small bowl, gently whisk eggs and yolk to combine. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter and sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes; scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add half of eggs, mixing until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining eggs; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about one-third of flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until just incorporated after each addition (about 5 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Scrape into prepared pan.
Bake until top is golden brown and wooden skewer or toothpick inserted into center comes out with no crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, make the glaze.

2 - 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 cups confectioners' sugar

While cake is baking, whisk 2 tablespoons lemon juice, buttermilk, and confectioners' sugar until smooth, adding more lemon juice gradually as needed until glaze is thick but still pourable (mixture should leave faint trail across bottom of mixing bowl when drizzled from whisk). Cool cake in pan on wire rack set over baking sheet for 10 minutes, then invert cake directly onto rack. Pour half of glaze over warm cake and let cool for 1 hour; pour remaining glaze evenly over top of cake and continue to cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Cut into slices and serve.

-The key to the success of this cake is the glaze. It's all about the double shot of lemon, first when it's warm, and then again after it cools. Don't skimp!
-It seems to me that this cake would work just as well with oranges instead of lemons. Don't you think? Maybe I'll give it a try sometime! When I do, though, I'll probably add a little freshly squeezed lemon juice, just to perk up the flavor of the orange juice.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baked Manicotti

When I asked CJ what I should cook for the Project Runway group, he said "something pasta-ey". Then I remembered this baked manicotti recipe. I saw this technique in an episode of America's Test Kitchen. It's a simple idea that sort of makes me say "Why didn't I think of that?" And have I mentioned how yummy it is? The gang LOVED it! This isn't the EXACT ATK recipe, but it's how I make it and it's basically the same idea. It might seem a little tedious, but it's really not. It only takes a few minutes and you're good to go. Even a novice cook can do this.
Try it!

1 box Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus more
1 large egg
1 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tbs chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
Joey's Marinara Sauce, or your favorite jarred sauce, or your own

Heat oven to 350F.
Fill a glass 9x13 baking dish with hot tap water. Place the dry noodles, one at a time into the water, making sure they're separated and completely submerged. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, egg, salt, pepper, parsley and basil. Set aside.
When the noodles are soft and pliable, remove them from the water and place in a single layer on a clean towel on a flat surface to drain.
Discard water. Rinse and dry the baking dish. Spread the bottom of baking dish evenly with marinara sauce. Place a heaping tablespoon of the cheese mixture onto one end of each lasagna noodle. Roll each one into a tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down. Top evenly with more sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with shredded mozzarella and more Parmesan. Place back in the oven for another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Definitely use Barilla no bake noodles because they're exactly the correct size and they only take a few minutes to soften in water.
This is a great make-ahead recipe because you can assemble the pan of manicotti a day or so in advance, then cover it and leave it in the fridge until you're ready to bake it.
The original recipe calls for only Parmesan cheese on the top, but as far as I'm concerned it screams for mozzarella cheese too.
Am I right? Who's with me?!?