Batter Licker

March 27, 2010

creamy pesto sauce with sautéed asparagus and pasta

Way back in college, I was introduced to creamy pesto sauce, and promptly adopted it as my in-a-pinch go-to pasta sauce. Creamy pesto sauce had the fresh zing of pesto with the comforting creaminess of an Alfredo sauce, and could transform a simple, inexpensive penne and broccoli dish into something magical.

Except that, at $3+ per packet at Safeway (before I realized the amazing $1.61 per packet offered by Amazon), the price was less than magic. And, as a lowly sauce-in-a-packet, it contained quite a few of those mysterious -ate ingredients and was not, actually, very fresh at all. In other words, it was a perfect candidate for the 2010 Creamy Pesto Makeover Edition.

Pesto is such a fresh and easy-to-make sauce – just pop the ingredients in a food processor, blend until smooth, and Tah-Dah! Fresh pesto. Whip up a quick bechamel or other cream sauce, add a little of that (more or less, to your preference) to the pesto, and Tah-Dah Numero Dos! Fresh creamy pesto sauce. (more…)

March 23, 2010

corned beef hash and cheese bread

Filed under: bread — Tags: , , , , , — Kristen @ 11:24 pm

I’m a huge fan of corned beef hash. In fact, whenever I wander into Red’s on a Saturday morning afternoon after having had too much fun the previous night, I get excited when I re-remember that corned beef hash is their Saturday specialty. But as I was looking at the heaping pile of leftovers from St. Patrick’s Day, I thought there must be something else to do with the delicious corned beef and potatoes besides throwing them onto a griddle until they brown up. And what about the flavorful broth leftover from cooking the beef, potatoes and cabbage? There’s gotta be something better than cabbage soup! And then it came to me: prosciutto bread.

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You see, several months back, I came across an Italian prosciutto-cheese bread recipe that sounded so delicious, I wanted to make it right then. But then I forgot about it. Until now. If Italians can have prosciutto-cheese bread, what’s keeping us (semi-) Irish from having an equally delicious cured-meat-and-cheese bread of our own? And thus Irish corned beef and cheese bread was born – and let me tell you: this bread is amazingly yummy. (more…)

March 20, 2010

chocolate brownie cookies

Filed under: cookies,dessert — Tags: , — Kristen @ 2:22 am

I’m going to go ahead and stick my neck out here: Best Chocolate-on-Chocolate Cookie Ever. Can’t decide between making brownies or cookies? These little mounds of crackled-outside, fudgy-inside heaven are the answer to your indecisive sweet tooth’s prayers. Or, at least, they fulfill mine.

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I’ve had at least a small obsession with most baked goods since childhood when my mom first introduced me to the magical and tasty chemistry lab that is baking. From the time I was barely able to reach the kitchen countertop, we were making cookies for parties, brownies for weekend treats, cheesecakes to top with strawberries freshly picked from a patch near my Grandma’s house, and toffee and fudge for the holiday season. She taught me the importance of paying attention and measuring with precision in baking – and especially in candy making – from her I learned that sharing your truly scrumptious baked goods could light up others’ faces with immeasurable joy. And while valuable and memorable, those were not the most useful baked goods-related lessons I learned from her.

The most important thing she probably never knew she taught me is related to the baking maxim: if you leave them out, they will be eaten. (more…)

March 10, 2010

conglomerate cookies

Filed under: cookies,dessert — Tags: , , , , , , — Kristen @ 6:32 am

Some call these compost cookies, but I just can’t bring myself to do so. A cookie this good just shouldn’t be named after something that conjures the images (and stank) of decaying substances that wind up as fertilizer, even if that cookie is supposed to be comprised of random salty and sweet snacks left over from the lunches and desserts of yore.

“Conglomerate” is much more appropriate – both because it conveys the heterogeneity of snack foods in this recipe, but also because almost all of the snack foods I used are baked made manufactured (let’s just call the process what it is) by a subsidiary company owned by some corporate conglomerate. But enough of the lessons in diction and corporate structure. Let’s get to the good stuff.

These cookies are utterly ridiculous in a yes-I-did-eat-several-large-spoonfuls-of-this-cookie-dough-until-I-realized-what-I-was-doing kind of way. (more…)

March 7, 2010

The Olive Press cooking competition: 4 extra virgin olive oils, 4 extra vivacious courses

It’s finally that time. Time for me to unveil the results of a few excited weeks of learning about olive oils of various intensity and brainstorming fun ways to use them, all while recovering from a nasty accident involving an immersion blender and an index finger (but I won’t go into that, except to say that I eventually became remarkably adept at nine-fingered typing, shampooing, and cooking). So when The Olive Press invited me to partake in their cooking competition (please vote HERE), I was incredibly thrilled about the opportunity to experiment with the Sonoma, California-based company’s award-winning oils. The Olive Press sent me four different bottles of their extra virgin olive oils – Arbequina, Mission, Italian Blend, and Blood Orange – and challenged me to create a four-course meal using one of the oils in each course. Drum roll please …

Appetizer: Roasted Tomato and Garlic, Kalamata Olive, and Feta Bruschetta, featuring the robust Italian Blend olive oil.

Any time there’s an excuse to do so, I love coming up with different versions of bruschetta. Yes, it’s a relatively simple appetizer, featuring just a handful of complementary, fresh ingredients that can easily be adapted to use whatever you have on hand. But when done right, each bite packs so much flavor and texture. And crunch. (There’s something infinitely more satisfying (to me) when a dish comes with a little bit of crunch, probably because I consistently deprive myself of those pre-made, boxed-up salty snacks that others inconsiderately munch on during my Commercial Contract Writing class.)

For this version of bruschetta, I went a Mediterranean route because the intense flavors of the roasted tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta stood up to and were well-complemented by the incredibly robust (dare I say spicy?) Italian Blend olive oil.

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Main Course: Walnut-Crusted Halibut with Roasted Red Pepper Harissa, featuring Blood Orange olive oil.

This dish is near perfection. The halibut is enhanced but not overpowered by the relatively mild Blood Orange olive oil. Both the walnuts and the panko give the fish’s crust a nice crunchy texture, and the walnuts add a rich, buttery flavor while still keeping the dish healthy. (more…)

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