Pull-Apart Cheesy Garlic Bread

This is the third version I’ve made since this past fall, but only the first version I’ve been relatively happy with. There might be still more work to be done, but I will keep at it like the trooper that I am. D&D_1643

Things I’ve learned:
-You need a sturdy bread. A round is okay, but I like a Chicago Italian loaf the best so far. A white bread (version #2, I used White Mountain Bread round) and it was just too soft. You can’t really pull-apart the bread. Sort of defeats the purpose.
-Roast the head of garlic. Great flavor and compliments the minced garlic. Yes.
-Melt the butter in a pot and add all flavorings. Keep on low to infuse the butter with lots of flavor.
-Use sliced cheese in the lower part of the cross-hatched of bread. Use grated cheese above.
-Add lemon zest and lemon juice.
-Fresh herbs – your choice but I like chives, parsley, and finely minced rosemary.
-Red pepper flakes are a must, even if it’s just a tiny pinch.
-Make the cross-hatch pattern large – it’s easier to stuff than a tight cross-hatch pattern.

Loaf of Chicago Italian Bread
Head of garlic
1 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 Tbs minced parsley
1 tsp finely minced rosemary
I Tbs Dijon mustard
1/3 pound provolone, sliced kind of thick
1/3 pound colby, grated on large holes of box grater
minced chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut top 1/2 inch of head of garlic to expose cloves. Place on piece of foil, pour olive oil on garlic, wrap tightly in foil and bake about 40 minutes, until garlic head is soft. Remove and set aside. Leave oven on.

Melt butter over medium low heat in saucepan, add in minced garlic, salt, red pepper, black pepper, zest and juice from lemon. Add in parsley, rosemary, and Dijon mustard. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Place bread on foil and make a large cross-hatch pattern, slicing most of the way, but not all the way through. Brush tops and sides with butter. Slide provolone in crevices, then squish roasted garlic in with the provolone, and then stuff the colby as well. Spread remaining butter with herbs into crevices and on top.

Bake until cheese melts, 18 – 20 minutes. Top with chives and serve.

15 January 2018

Spinach Dip

I did not make spinach dip this year for Thanksgiving since it was just a family meal and no need for any more leftovers than we already had, so I made this for Christmas Eve. Because for the Boy this is a requirement. You know when he runs out of Hawaiian rolls, he will use regular sandwich bread and make a sandwich out of this.

Not sure how I feel about that, but now that I am thinking on it. This might make a base for a pretty good grilled cheese (w/some cheddar or something) sandwich on some crusty Italian bread from the good old Publix. Might need to give that some more thought and surprise the Boy with it.

D&D_14958 ozs cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, drained and all the liquid pressed out
1 can water chestnuts, minced*
King’s Hawaiian Rolls

Mix together cream cheese and mayonnaise. Add vegetable soup mix, and mix to combine thoroughly. No, I mean it. This is important.
Add spinach and water chestnuts and mix. Refrigerate overnight.
Let sit at room temperature for about an hour or so before serving. You do not want it to be ice cold – not good eats. Serve with Hawaiian rolls. Sliced horizontally and then vertically, so you get 4 pieces of Hawaiian bread from each roll.

Serve and make a total pig of yourself. It is just inevitable.

*I think you can get minced water chestnuts at the store, but I like sliced and then I mince them myself. I am not sure the Boy knows they are in there, but …. we’ll just keep quiet about it then, won’t we.

There is nothing terribly special about this, but it is another of those traditions that started back in my trouble youth, as Jimmy Buffet would say – read: early 20s. Another recipe that my mom let me add to the Christmas eve tradition and it just stuck. Nothing wrong with it being vegetarian and I do not do much mayo or any sour cream – the original recipe was overloaded with it. Again my friend Marie is the one that said, put the cream cheese it – have been doing it ever since (like the late 80s – oh, lord).   I added the Hawaiian rolls a few years later and that really works well.

That said, any holiday is better with a great dip. Or two, or ten.

Hummus Wrap

I just can not bring myself to purchase hummus. No matter what – I think it because I am too cheap. It is just so damn easy to make hummus at home and no what any banana-pants cookbook or chef says – canned garbanzo beans are really just fine. Buy the Publix brand and just make your life so much simpler.

Again, this is a recipe from my vegetarian 1990s and I still make it all the time. The thing about this recipe is balance. I think even the banana-pants (read: fancy) chefs would agree to that.

Hummus ~
2 lemons, zested & juiced
2 cloves of garlic
1-15 ozs. can garbanzo beans
1 Tbs tahini or there abouts
kosher salt
water
olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor, whirl up the garlic cloves until minced. Rinse the garbanzo beans in a colander, getting rid of the canning liquid* and add to food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and pulse again. Add tahini and adjust the thickness of the hummus with a little water if necessary. Then add a little bit of really good olive oil**, because it is just a lovely thing. Taste as you go along.

Then here is the important part: Put the hummus in the fridge. Yes, this takes advanced planning, but you need to make your hummus a day ahead at the least. Let the flavors mix and then let the hummus sit out and try again – cold hummus will tell you nothing. No cold food ever tastes at its best unless it is, maybe, ice cream, but I am not even sure about that. Does it need more lemon, more salt, some sumac, a little freshly ground black pepper? Or is it just spiffy the way it is?

The Rest of the Stuff ~
Sun-dried tomato tortilla, warmed
Red onion, sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil, soft, but keep them red, splash of vinegar – red wine, or course
Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until juices are dry and well salted and peppered
Spinach (from the salad bar at the Publix)#

So this turned into more of a project than I expected, but the outcome was just lovely. I made the hummus, onions, and, mushrooms ahead of time and they hung out in the fridge for a couple of days. Did keep munching on those onions though – they were really good. Kind of pickled onions that were just a little soft.

Take a warm tortilla and spread with homemade hummus down the middle. Add the red onions and mushrooms down the middle. Top with spinach. Then do your best to roll the tortilla. I am not good at this – at all, but it worked well enough that I will get better over time. I’m sure (nope).

D&D_2268

Next time: feta, sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil, but well-drained), artichoke hearts, roasted asparagus, hearts of palm. All these are just questions really. I could just go on and on. I really think these will make great lunch hacks, but I must pack all the items in small containers and keep them separate until it is time for lunch. Read: need new “tupperware” containers and lots of them. And I must toast or heat the tortilla  – that seems to be necessary.

November 2017 – Idea for the wrap from Ree Drummond.

*Know this is a controversial thing, but we’ll get there. I just do not like the taste. Sorry, vegan Aquafaba. Eeww.

**California Olive Ranch – Everyday. I can now get this at my Publix – very happy!

#When you only need a little greens for a sandwich or two, the salad bar can be a very good thing. If I am making a couple of spinach quiches – then I buy bags, but otherwise the salad bar is your friend.

2YA – Cheddar Pecan Crisps

Roquefort Crackers

Yet again, another cheese cracker. Obsessive though I may be, there is nothing wrong with adding more cheese crackers to my repertoire. I have learned that I like the slice and bake version of crackers the most because you can make the dough, roll it, and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to bake which makes for easy weeknight baking.

D&D_2038I have also learned to bake a test batch of 2 – 3 crackers if it is a new recipe just to see if the temperature and timing are okay. And I am glad I did that with this recipe.

You see, I had the oven at 400 degrees for another recipe and sliced up the dough for two test crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baked it for the 8 minutes, turning half way through. The color was really good, but the center of the cracker was raw. I let them rest to see if they got a little crunchy as they cooled, but they did not.

So now my idea is to lower the temperature to 375 and baking them a bit longer. Fingers crossed this will work, because I think this might be a really good cracker. We shall see. 

Lo, and behold – the 375 degrees for about 8 minutes worked like a charm. Yippee for test crackers. 

8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ozs Roquefort, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cayenne

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and Roquefort until smooth. Add flour and cayenne and mix until smooth.

Divide dough into two pieces and roll into 1 1/2 inch logs. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 12 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Slice logs in 1/4 inch slices. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake 8 minutes until lightly browned – watch closely. Cool completely.

Source: bonappetit.com/recipes/article/Roquefort-Crackers / California American Cookbook.

This is just the kind of recipe story that I love. Sometimes family stories at just the best.

Needs more cayenne , but that always seems to be the case –  because I am me.

Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

I know toasts are a thing, but I made this because the flavors sounded so good, and I had thyme for the Tomato Bisque recipe and a I had Fontina cheese in the fridge. Fontina is one of my all time favorite cheeses – so melty and smooth. Any time it is on sale at the Publix I pick some up. It never ever goes to waste. Sometimes I just slice some up with apples and eat it. It is the simple things.D&D_1919

Bread halved diagonally *
Olive oil, divided
1 lb crimini mushrooms
2 Tbs unsalted butter
2 medium shallots, minced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp freshly chopped thyme 
3 Tbs water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound Fontina cheese, coarsely shredded, about 1 cup
1 Tbs chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Arrange bread on baking sheet and drizzle with 3 Tbs olive oil, but do not go overboard with the olive oil. Toast for 8* minutes until slightly golden around the edges.   Remove from oven. Turn broiler on low.

Thinly slice mushrooms. In a large skillet, melt butter over high heat until lightly bubbling , 2 minutes. Add remaining 2 Tbs of olive oil and the mushrooms and cook undisturbed until the mushrooms are browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until browned all over, about 10 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme, lower the heat and cook until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Add water and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, the cook 3 minutes longer to dry off liquid. Taste and then season with salt** and pepper and remove from heat.

Spoon mushroom mixture over toasts and sprinkle cheese on top. Broil for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Transfer crostini to a platter, sprinkle with parsley and serve. 

* Figure out actual timing depending on bread type selected. Used Chicago Italian bread, drizzled with olive oil and toasted 8 – 10 minutes. Just keep a close eye on it. 

**Didn’t need salt, but added freshly squeezed lime juice.

Used Italian Fontina. Next time, I plan to use thyme to top the toast since I already use it in the mushrooms. I like that little lemon note that thyme provides.

9 June 2017

Made at work for lunch – 

Source: 

Mini Cheese Ball Bites

So this was a new appetizer for Thanksgiving  but for me it plays into my holiday thing. Holidays call for cheese balls – yes, they do, because I used to make a cheese ball when I was all of 12 years-old for our Christmas smorgasbord – my name for our Christmas Eve feast thing. I have tried to advance my cheese ball experience to go way beyond my immature 12 year-old self. I mean dried beef was involved.* Ugh.  But now that I think about it – what would it be like to try that recipe several decades later? Would it be good or would the food snob in me completely revolt. I am not sure and little scared to try to be honest. I still have that recipe, so who knows what might happen.

This recipe has lots of my favorite flavors: bleu cheese, cranberries, pecans. Those flavors are holidays to me. Especially with our local pecans, just harvested this fall – they are so sweet and totally set off the saltiness of the bleu cheese. Also, I am hard pressed to ever turn down a dried cranberry. [See: Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies]dd_1693

I do love that the base of this can be made ahead – the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry part. Then the day of, make the mini cheese bites, roll in top quality local pecans and add that little pretzel skewer. Excellent. This will also make this recipe in a regular sized cheese ball to go with bread or crackers. May have to do this for the next pot luck at work. We shall see.

8 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
4 ozs bleu cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely minced
1 1/2 cup pecans, minced
pretzel sticks

In a bowl, mix together bleu cheese and cream cheese until smooth. Mix in cranberries. Refrigerate until firm. Using a spoon, scoop into tablespoon sized balls. Refrigerate again until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecan pieces in oven for 7 – 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow pecans to cool. Roll chilled cheese balls in pecans. Keep balls refrigerated.

Just before serving, skewer each cheese ball with a pretzel stick. 

Do Ahead: Make the cream cheese, bleu cheese, cranberry mixture and cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, toast the pecans, roll the cheese balls in them, and add the pretzel sticks.

* Here it is for posterity’s sake.

8 ozs  cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, room temperature
3 Tbs well-drained horseradish
1/4 cup finely chopped dried beef

Combine cream cheese, cheddar, horseradish until well blended. Make into a ball and chill. Roll in dried beef until covered. Chill several hours. Let sit at room temperature before serving. Serve with Triscuits or whatever crackers you like, but when I was 12, Triscuits is what I did. And everyone else did too.

2016 – A Year Ago – Cheddar Stuffed Mushrooms

 

Asparagus, Red Onion, Fettuccini with orange juice, white wine, butter sauce 

Once again I fall back on one of my vegetarian recipes. I think it is summer thing, I just want much lighter food in the summer. I really do not have an actual recipe for this, I just remember making it for something like the decade that I was a vegetarian. That said, I still prefer mostly meat-less dishes with the exception of a very good rib-eye – my favorite cut – or some bbq – or well, I will likely go on a bit to long and then disprove my “mostly meat-less” idea. Either way – summer needs to be light.

D&D_1533Now that I think about it though, I do not like soup with meat in it, kind of like ever, and nor do I like pasta with meat in it very often. Maybe that is odd, but it is just the way I am.

Be that as it may, this is one of my favorite pasta recipes ever and I find it interesting that the flavors are similar to my favorite cous cous salad recipe – orange juice, red onions … that seems to be a thing, for me anyway.

So here it is  – yet another non-recipe recipe. Hope you enjoy it and I think you will.

1 softball* sized red onion, peeled, and sliced
1 bunch of pencil thin-ish asparagus, woody stems broken off, chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 package Buitoni fettuccini
fresh orange juice
Splash of vegetable stock – 2 Tbs or thereabouts
187 ml decent white wine – Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio – one of the little 4 pack bottles
More butter to finish – salted, and perhaps European, yep
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggino – the good stuff, just do not play around with this, seriously.

In at least a 12 inch sauce pan, melt the butter and then dump in the red onions.  At the same time set another pot with water to boil to blanch the asparagus. You will use the same water to boil the fettuccini – easy and healthy – or something. Saute the onions until they are soft  while blanching the asparagus, but make sure to remove the asparagus when it is bright green, it will cook a bit more in the white wine orange juice sauce.

When the onions are soft, deglaze the pan with the white wine and a couple of TBS of vegetable stock, and let it cook down a bit. Then add the orange juice about a cup and a half. It will look like way too much, but do not panic. Dump the fettuccini in the asparagus water and cook it to al dente. Move the asparagus into the white wine orange sauce – you are just going to have to wing it at this point. Tasting, judging, you might need to add a little more orange juice. The big thing is to not over cook the pasta.

Add the pasta to the orange juice butter asparagus red onion sauce and let it soak up the sauce. The just to gild the lily, add a couple of TBS of really good European butter – swirl.

When serving you need the salty bite of some Parm – yes, you do.

You are welcome.

*I think recipes really need to tell you the size of an onion – um, medium means pretty much nothing if you do not know what “medium” means. So, I think we all have an idea of a softball, so that is what I am going with.