Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Feta, Artichoke Hearts, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

D&D_1854So we had an abundance of feta cheese at the office – it is a long story, but I decided to make something of it. For Easter I thought a pasta salad would be good, but something light and fresh. So here is what I did. Another non-recipe recipe, but there it is.

8 ozs Orzo, al dente
1/2 pound asparagus, blanched until bright green (30 second – 1 minute) and the cooled, cut into 1 inch pieces
16 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and diced, or frozen
1/2 8.5 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut, drained*
2 Tbs minced chives
Feta crumbles from the office – not sure how much, but just make it look good with the color contrast

Vinaigrette –
juice and zest of one lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup minced chives
salt/pepper to taste**

While the orzo is cooking, mix together vinaigrette ingredients in a decent sized serving bowl.  Once orzo is drained, add the hot pasta to the vinaigrette. Let the orzo soak up all that flavor. All that lemon.

Mix in all the other pasta salad ingredients and serve at room temperature.

What could be easier? I am not entirely sure especially since I had it all on hand – thanks work for the feta. Have to take the perks when you get them.

I feel proud of this – I mixed a lot of things together and it really worked.  Thank you Nigella for the vinaigrette recipe.

*I usually use dried tomatoes that I rehydrate in hot water, but this time oil-packed made more sense to me.

** I hate this expression. Do people not really know to taste things and season them with salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe add more acid with some lemon or vinegar. Now I am being that food person that everyone says I am. Sigh.

I have local fresh eggs – amazing!

My friend Tony told me his friend Dusty raises chickens and sells eggs. Finally, a source for farm fresh eggs  – that is so great! I know there have been several places in Milton that have signs out for fresh eggs, but I just do not go into Milton that often. Tony speaks very highly of his friend and from the description the chickens are kept in, it is the kind of environment that I think is great for chickens. I mentioned it at work and someone called them yard eggs, and I guess when you get right down to it, that is really what they are. Though I have never heard that phrase before.

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The colors are so amazing. It is like Easter eggs without dying them.

This is just in time for my Meyer lemons to come in from California so I can make all kinds of lemon curd. And lemon curd tartlets – oh yes, this is going to be a good couple of baking weeks. Or just a good couple of weeks in general. Yep.

I think Meyer lemon curd has to be first because the two most important things are egg yolks and Meyer (or any lemon, but prefer Meyer) lemon juice. I think the only other thing that will be made more outstanding is hollandaise because, again, egg yolks. And fresh ones have to be so superior.

Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking


Lemon Bars – again

Yep! One more time, but this time I will take some to the office too. Share the love as it were –   or as my office says I’m just trying to make them fat – not really. But I made these for a friend for her birthday which is tomorrow. She will be 21.

But it is nice to make things that make people happy. And that is what I try to do.

When I used this recipe for the first time I was expecting the same kind of big failure that I have had before with this idea  – many times. But these were an amazingly pleasant surprise. dd_1599

Sometimes you just have to keep trying to see what will happen. In this case, this recipe is just golden. I do not think I will ever try another one for this favorite lemon bar cookie of mine. The crust and curd ratio is damn near perfect.

Right now I am trying (not very hard) to talk myself out of ordering lots of Meyer Lemons on-line since my little (Charlie Brown Christmas Tree version) of a Meyer Lemon did nothing for me this year. I think I have to pot it up*, but I am so not sure what time of year to do that because now it is blooming – and it smells like orange blossoms – because the Meyer is a cross between a lemon and an orange – it is just heavenly. There never seems to be a good time to pot it up and I will NOT plant this in the ground. It has spent 10 years with me and while not very promising, usually I get a couple Meyer lemons or maybe three. I always want it to be with me. Sounds strange, but when you invest yourself in something – well, there it is.  I may be reduced to ordering from California since our Palafox Market seems bereft of Meyer Lemons. Sad since it has been not such a terrible “winter” (and I use that word very loosely) for us so far.
We already have pollen on the vehicles and azaleas are blooming. This is not going to make an easy spring for us, um, at. all.

* That means putting it in a different (larger) pot. You weirdos.

So here, again, are lemon bars.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1 – 2 tsp ice water

5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs confectioners’ sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and line with parchment with an overhang on the long sides. Or all the sides really.

In the bowl of a food processor, mix all purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water as needed to bring dough together. Press dough into prepared pan, pressing firmly against the inside edges. Bake crust for 20 – 25 minutes until lightly golden. Set pan on wire rack to cool slightly. Reduce oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined and paler in color. Stir in zest, lemon juice, 1/4 cup flour and a pinch of salt. Carefully pour topping over warm crust. Bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until set.

Set the pan on a rack to cool completely. Remove squares using parchment. Cut into bars. Dust with 3 Tbs confectioners’ sugar. Or more if you want. I use way more confectioners’ sugar than that. Just me.

 

 

Butter / Egg Usage – November 2016

4 November 2016 –  Walnut Tartlets – 16 Tbs (8 for crust / 8 for filling) / 1 large egg

4 November 2016 – Sour Cream Pecan Sandies – 8 Tbs / 1 large egg

4 November 2016 – Keebler’s Pecan Sandies – 8 Tbs / 1 large egg

12 November 2016 – Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes – 1 large eggdd_1645

13 November 2016 – Parmesan Walnut Crackers –  8 Tbs

18 November 2016 – Nut Tassie Dough – 16 Tbs

18 November 2016 – Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies – 16 Tbs / 2 large eggs

23 November 2016 – Cornbread for Dressing, two pans – 2 eggs

23 November 2016 – Sugar Cookies with Hershey’s Kiss – 8 Tbs / 1 large egg

23 November 2016 – Butter Crust – 5  1/3 Tbs butter

23 November 2016 – Old-Fashioned Pecan Pie – 4 Tbs / 6 large eggs (yolks only)

23 November 2016 – Sunday Sweet Potatoes – 5 1/3 Tbs / 2 large eggs / 4 Tbs

24 November 2016 – Cornbread Dressing – 3 Tbs / 2 large eggs

25 November 2016 – Lemon Bars – 8 Tbs / 5 large eggs

 

114.9 Tbs butter = 14.3625 sticks = 57.45 ozs = 3.59 pounds

7 eggs

 

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting 

So I have been interested in cupcakes and muffins lately, and this was a request – lemon cupcakes. And I also want to use the new cupcake liners that I got from the Amazon. They are really kind of pretty. Not very fall like, but I do like the pink. dd_1645
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 Tbs lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 Tbs canola oil
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in lemon zest.

In a bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, sour cream, lemon juice, oil, and lemon extract. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, folding with a spatula until just combined. Do not over-mix.

Fill muffin cups half full and bake 29 – 31 minutes or until toothpick come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Set on a rack to cool.

Frosting:
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
juice of one lemon and zest that lemon too, if you are going for it. You should
8 ozs powdered sugar, sifted**

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and lemon juice. Once smooth, sift in powdered sugar (sifting keeps the frosting smooth).

I think next time I will leave out the lemon extract from the cupcakes. It just seems to take over. Bugger all. I really think I like lemon extract less as time goes on. No, I know I do.

 Lemon White Chocolate Chip Cookies 

I never thought this recipe made any sense. I love lemons, I know that is astonishing to everyone that reads this. But I am not a huge fan of white chocolate, or any chocolate –  for that matter …. but these cookies really work in an amazing way. It makes stupid sense. And science is involved. Cool.

We can all thank Shirley Corriher* for this recipe. And we won’t even go into her biscuits – they are heaven. I guess why they are called “Touch of Grace” biscuits. They are pretty much amazing. Another amazing recipe that kind of makes not too much sense, but is sublime. dd_1648

1 cup unsalted butter, cut in 2 Tbs pieces, room temperature 
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp light corn syrup – science
1/2 tsp lemon extract
zest of one lemon
2 large egg yolks – science, you’ll see
2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 cup white chocolate chips

In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup, lemon extract, and lemon zest until light and creamy. Add yolks, one at a time, beat until blended in thoroughly.

On low speed, add flour, scraping the sides and bottom of bowl. Stir in white chocolate chips. Divide dough and roll into log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment. Slice cookies into 3/8 inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the sheet. Bake until edges just beginning to brown, about 13 minutes. Cool on pan 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

*Shirley Corriher is a scientist after all. Really, a biochemist from Vanderbilt. Holy hell. That is pretty much amazing. I first saw her on AB’s show – Good Eats  – that great Southern lady with the short grey hair and all the answers and so many science facts that it kind of scared me a bit.

But then I realized she had written two cook books. Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking, and also Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking. But I fell in love with this recipe long before I knew of her cookbooks.

The Boy loves the recipe and asks me to make it on a regular basis and I completely understand. While you might think it is odd, as I first did, it comes together in, sigh, and amazing way. And who does not love a slice and bake cookie? They are pretty much my favorite kind of cookie. Yep.