Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

>> Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I was glancing through a cookbook (which will remain nameless) and I saw a recipe for Caesar salad that consisted not only of store bought croutons but also store bought salad dressing. Really?! You need a recipe for that?! It provided me with some motivation to make a Caesar salad from scratch and it was a success!

Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

For the croutons
stale bread, cut into chunks
2-3 T olive oil
1 T parsley, minced

For the salad
4 anchovy fillets, slightly mashed
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 c olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Romaine hearts, torn into small pieces
Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated

1.) To make the croutons, toss the bread chunks with the olive oil and parsley. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned and crisped, tossing once during cooking. Let cool.

2.) To make the dressing, combine the anchovies, garlic, egg, lemon juice, and olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3.) To make the salad, toss the romaine and croutons with the dressing. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve!


Baked Shrimp Scampi

I love the Barefoot Contessa and I saw her make this on one of her shows last week. I decided to give it a try since she mentioned it was great for entertaining because you could make it ahead of time and then just throw it in the oven as people get there. I love recipes that don't have me slaving over the stove when company is over!

Just like almost all of Ina Garten's recipes, this one did not disappoint. Everyone loved it - not one shrimp was left! I'm even thinking about making it again this week for dinner. I think the next time I make it I may double the topping and serve it over noodles for a more complete main course. It really was fantastic!


Buffalo Wings Dip

My mom made this and brought some over and I was hooked! So hooked I went to the store and made it that night. Yum! And so easy to make too. I'm not sure where my mom got the recipe but here's my take on it:
Buffalo Wings Dip
1 1/2 c cooked chicken, chopped (I used meat from a rotisserie chicken)
1/2 c Frank's hot sauce (if you substitute Tabasco sauce, use less b/c I think it's hotter)
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c bleu cheese salad dressing
1/4 c bleu cheese crumbles
1 c grated cheddar cheese, divided
1 T celery tops, minced
celery ribs, for serving
potato chips, for serving
1.) In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine chicken and hot sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes to heat through and add cream cheese. Stir to combine. Cook until cheese is melted and then remove from heat and stir in dressing, bleu cheese and 3/4 c cheddar cheese.
2.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small baking dish and pour dip into it. Top with remaining cheddar cheese and minced celery tops. Bake 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with celery ribs and potato chips. Delish!


Mini Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches with Herbed Aioli

1 lb pork tenderloin
salt and pepper
dijon mustard
3 T mayonnaise
1 t dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t lemon zest
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried rosemary
dinner rolls

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, generously salt and pepper tenderloin. Rub dijon mustard over tenderloin to cover it. (I didn't measure how much I used, but I'd guess 1-2 T.) Bake tenderloin for 25-35 minutes or until pork is cooked to at least 165 degrees. Let cool.

2.) To make the aioli, combine mayo, mustard, garlic, lemon zest, thyme and rosemary. Refrigerate until needed. It's best if you make the aioli a day ahead so that the flavors have time to thoroughly marinate.

3.) To assemble sandwiches, thinly slice the pork and split the dinner rolls open. Generously spread aioli on one side of the roll, place a couple of slices of pork and top with arugula and the other half of the dinner roll.

Serves 8-10 as an appetizer


Manchego and Quince Paste

>> Sunday, February 14, 2010

One of my favorite snacks/appetizers is Manchego cheese with a sliver of quince paste on top. It's that easy! The only hard part is going to Central Market or Whole Foods to get the two ingredients. Manchego is a semi-firm Spanish cheese that has a salty, slightly nutty flavor which pairs wonderfully with the sweet, fruity quince paste. Love it! If you've never tried it, and you like the salty and sweet combo, then I'd strongly recommend it!


Proscuitto Wrapped Figs

Proscuitto, thinly sliced and cut in half
Dried figs, the stem end trimmed off
goat cheese
honey, for drizzling

Place about a teaspoon of goat cheese on a fig, sprinkle with a little black pepper and wrap with half of a slice of proscuitto. Decoratively drizzle honey on the serving platter and arrange the wraps. Serve!

(You can assemble the wraps and keep them covered in the refrigerator for several hours before serving.)


Pistachio Crusted Scallops

Yummy! I had this dish at The Driskill Grill a few years ago and I love to recreate it every now and then for a special occasion. I'm not sure why I only make it for special occasions since it's really pretty easy to make though. I'm not a huge seafood fan but even I love this recipe!

Pistachio Crusted Scallops - serves 2 as an appetizer
2 T butter, softened
1/4 cup pistachios, shelled and finely chopped
1 navel orange
1 T sherry vinegar
1/2 t dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper
spring mix lettuce
2 T olive oil
4 large scallops, rinsed and dried

For the pistachio paste, in a small bowl, mix butter, pistachios and the zest of the navel orange thoroughly with your hands. Set aside.

To make the dressing, mix together the juice of the orange, vinegar, mustard, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Divide the spring mix lettuce between two plates and drizzle with dressing.

In a nonstick pan, heat 2 T olive oil over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Meanwhile season the scallops with salt and pepper. Sear the scallops on high heat for one minute then reduce heat to medium-high and continue cooking another 4 minutes. Flip scallops over and place about a tablespoon of the pistachio paste atop each scallop and let cook another 3 minutes. Place two scallops on top of each salad plate and serve.


Individual Beef Wellingtons

This dish is one that I made for Andrew when we were first dating and he loved it so much that I still make it for special occasions, such as Valentine's Day! There are lots of beef wellington recipes out there and most of them are pretty complex so I've tried to simplify it while not sacrificing the flavors.

Individual Beef Wellingtons - serves 4
2 T butter
8-10 cremini mushrooms, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
1/2 t dried thyme
2 T white wine
1/5 lb smooth pate (I usually buy a truffle mousse pate)
4 small beef tenderloin filets, seasoned generously with salt and pepper
1 pkg puff pastry dough
1 egg, separated with only the whites reserved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, shallots, thyme and wine. Saute until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are lightly browned and softened. Remove from heat and let cool.

To assemble, lay out each sheet of puff pastry and cut each sheet in half. Place a heaping tablespoon of the mushroom mixture in the center of each piece of puff pastry. Top with 1/4 of the pate and a filet. Fold the pastry around the beef, careful to pinch the seams closed. Cut off any extra pastry dough. (With the extra dough, you can cut out designs to top the wellingtons to make them fancier.) Beat the egg white with a tablespoon of water. Gently brush the egg wash over the tops of the wellingtons. Bake in the preheated oven 15-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.
**Alternatively, you can buy a tenderloin roast (instead of separate filets) and make one large beef wellington, which is more traditional and better if you prefer your meat to be rare to medium-rare. When the filets are baked individually, they're more likely to cook more thoroughly.


Chocolate Covered Strawberries

So easy, so delicious and so festive for Valentine's Day. This recipe is simple enough that there isn't really a recipe. I just buy a container of strawberries, a container of chocolate almond bark (also called dipping chocolate) and a container of white chocolate almond bark. (Almond bark is found in the same aisle as chocolate chips in most grocery stores.)

Usually I will wash and dry the strawberries. It's really important for the strawberries to be thoroughly dried or else the chocolate won't adhere well to the strawberry. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Melt a few squares of the chocolate in the microwave in 15-30 second intervals, stirring each time until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Dip the strawberries in the chocolate and place them on the cookie sheet to set up. Often I'll place them in the refrigerator to set faster. Once the chocolate is hardened, melt a little white chocolate in the microwave. Spoon it into a ziploc bag, snip off the corner of the bag and drizzle it back and forth over the strawberries. Beautiful!


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