Toast slices of French bread at 375 for a few minutes until they are just lightly toasted. Remove from oven and top each slice with a thin slice of Brie. Spread the Brie gently as not to tear the bread. Top the Brie with a thin slice of prosciutto and quartered fresh figs. Return to the oven and toast until cheese is soft and beginning to melt. Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
I’m sure many, if not most, of you have heard of Pinterest. I first heard about this little site where you could “curate” your own visual boards over two years ago when the site was still in Beta testing. I did some quick research on the trusty interwebs and lo and behold, I was able to track down the Pinterest CEO to his person twitter page, where I began a barrage of direct messages begging for a beta tester invite. I got it. His name is Ben, by the way, and he’s super nice. I was one of the first few thousand people to use the site, and use it I did. I currently have over 30 boards, 981 pins and 125 followers. When Pinterest first started it was much more of an art and design crowd. The cool kids who were developing the site had no doubt invited their other cool kid friends who I’m sure were all interior designers, graphic artists, and web developers in San Francisco (that’s where the company is based, not the valley, which is why the site and its people are so cool) to give it a whirl. As Beta opened up to user invites, and the site became a real, live thing, it became much, much, much more crafty, crock potty and crap to do with your kidsy. But you know what? I still love it. Despite the fact that I have to sift through hundreds of pins of maternity photo sessions to get to the thing I’m looking for, despite the fact that when I search the food category I have to ignore a million recipes that suggest throwing four different kinds of canned Campbell’s crap into your slow cooker and feeding it to your family of 10 for less than .30 cents a serving, I still think it is an awesome, amazing thing. And every once in awhile, you run across some real gems.
On Wednesday of this past week, I made THREE recipes for one meal that I found on Pinterest: A Roasted Garlic salad dressing, a rosemary and Parmesan overnight bread, and an Italian style beef and butternut squash stew. They were all the kind of things that keep me obsessed with the site. Diamonds in the rough.
The Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette is a MUST try to anyone who loves garlic on the level that I do. Two heads of garlic go into this dressing. And while you do have to roast the garlic for a good half hour, the dressing itself is really easy to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. I’m currently obsessed with making my own salad dressings and have tried several I’ve found on Pinterest, but this one is my favorite.
Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
- 2 heads of garlic, roasted and peeled
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp honey
- Cut the pointy top off of the garlic. Brush them with olive oil and roast them in a pan in the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, until it is starting to turn golden brown and soft. Remove from the oven, allow to cool. Once the garlic is cool, peel the skin off. Discard the skins, save the garlic. *Skin peels off really easily after they are roasted.
- Add all the ingredients to the food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.*If some of the skin get processed with the rest of the dressing, no big deal, it won’t change the flavor.
The salad dressing can be vegan if you sub the honey for agave. And it is dairy free, with no substitutions!
This dressing is tangy, but has that deep, rich caramelized taste from the roasted garlic. It’s a vinaigrette, but it’s creamy because of the garlic being processed right into it. Keep this for a week or so in your fridge in a covered container.
The bread recipe I comes from Simply So Good. I used her basic bread recipe, and put in my own additions. This bread is baked in your cast-iron enameled Dutch Oven (you have one of those, right??). I have a big, blue Le Creuset that is the Pride and Joy of my kitchen. Jeremy gave it to me for Christmas a few years ago. They are usually in the $300-$400 range, but sometimes you can score them at T.J. Maxx for half the price, which I believe is what he did (smartly). Other cast-iron enameled pots are fine for this recipe also, but when you have a Le Creuset, you tend to brag about it. Here is a view down on mine to give you an idea of the size of the vessel you might want to use:
OK, enough about my awesome piece of iron. Here’s the recipe.
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast
- 1 1/2 cups water
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours. Overnight works great.
- Heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.
- Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.
To this recipe, I added 1/4 cup of fresh grated Parmesan Cheese, 1/8 cup of fresh rosemary (from my garden), and several cloves of smashed and roughly chopped garlic. I added that in to the dough at the very beginning and then proceeded as normal through the recipe.
This thing turned out beautiful. There is nothing quite like making your own bread from scratch and this is really a pretty easy way to do it.
Finally, the main course – Beef and Butternut Squash Stew from Closet Cooking. I’ll be honest and say there are a few things wrong with the way this original recipe is written, so the recipe below has a few very minor changes from myself, just to make things more clear.
Italian Style Beef and Butternut Squash Stew
- 2 ounces pancetta (diced)
- 1 pound beef (cut into 1 inch cubes) (My Note: he doesn’t specify what kind of beef to use here. My suggestion is to get a sirloin roast, if you can find one – that’s what I used. Otherwise a small round roast is fine or chuck if nothing else is available)
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
- 1 tablespoon rosemary (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon thyme (chopped)
- 1 cup Italian red wine (My Note: I used a Zinfandel. It doesn’t have to be Italian, don’t stress out, just use a decent red wine that’s not sweet)
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 splash balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (chopped)
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes (My Note: He doesn’t specify drained vs. undrained. Because he does not, I put them in without draining them. It gave my stew a more “soupy” consistency, which I was OK with. If you want this to be more like a traditional stew, then drain the tomatoes before adding).
- * parmigiano reggiano rind (optional)
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes)
- parsley (chopped) (My Note: optional for garnish. I used a bit of grated Parmesan instead).
- Cook the pancetta in a large pan on medium heat. (My Note: or Dutch Oven. Again, with my Creuset)
- Add the beef and brown on all sides in the grease from the pancetta and set aside. (My Note: I coated the beef cubes in flour first. I’ve always done this when searing beef that is basically going to be braised later. It also helps to thicken the sauce a bit, but it’s up to you).
- Add the onion and saute in the pancetta grease until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add the wine and deglaze the pan. (My Note: deglazing means you add a liquid to absorb the browned bits from the pancetta, beef and aromatics. When you add the wine to the hot pan, it will steam up. Take a wooden spoon and use that moment to scrape up all the bits in the bottom of the pan, stirring them into the liquid to create a flavorful base).
- Add the beef, broth, balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, diced tomatoes, parmigiano reggiano rind, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the beef is nice and tender, about 1-2 hours.
- Add the squash and simmer until it is tender, about 15-20 minutes. (My Note: more like half an hour, at best).
This stew was filling, hearty and really quite healthy. Serve it with a glass of the same wine you used in the soup – superb! Always cook with wine that is good enough to drink. When you cook with wine, you are cooking off the alcohol, but intensifying the flavor. If you intensify a crappy wine, you will just get really intense crap. No Bueno.
The dressing, served over a bed of Organic romaine lettuce, the garlic, rosemary and Parmesan bread and this stew altogether? Perfection. Pinterest Perfection.
A few weeks ago my mom, myself and a friend of ours went to an herb preservation workshop where we learned how to make herb vinegar as well as herb infused oils and jams and jellies. I have a jar of herb vinegar stewing away in the back of a cabinet, which I will blog about soon, but it’s so easy to do it’s almost pitiful. In the meantime, our friend Theresa took on the more complicated process of making herb jellies and at a dinner this past week she presented us each with a jar of basil and rosemary jelly. I was so excited to try this flavor combination with anything I could find: fruit, bread, meats, cheese, an old flip flop – whatever!
The whole thing was made even more appealing by just how adorable the jelly was to begin with:
So this morning for breakfast, I decided to try it with a slice of multi-grain bread and some fresh, local peaches I got from the farmers market this past week. I know, peaches with rosemary and basil may not be the first thing that comes to your mind, but it should be! This combo was amazing. The heartiness of the bread, the sweet but herbal flavors of the jam and the tart but subtly sweet peaches were perfection. It doesn’t look like much and I realize you can hardly see my bread for all the peach, but seriously – amazing.
If you are already making jams and jellies, then add this recipe to your repertoire:
- 4-5 fresh basil sprigs
- 1 fresh rosemary branch (not too large or flavor will overpower the jelly)
- 3 cups unsweetened apple juice
- 4 ½ cups sugar
- 3 oz. liquid Pectin (1 pkg.)
Make this jelly with different fresh herb combinations, either basil with rosemary or
thyme with mint. It’s good on toast, and excellent on pork and chicken.
You will need 6 clean (8-oz.) jelly jars and two-part lids (seal and screw-on band). Fill a
large stockpot or canner with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Sterilize jars and
lids. Keep at a simmer while you prepare the jelly.
Tie basil and rosemary sprigs in cheese-cloth. Place in a 5-quart pot along with apple
juice and sugar. Bring to a full boil and continue boiling for 1 minute.
Add pectin, stir well, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove and discard cheesecloth with
herbs; skim foam if needed. (you may also add a teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming)
Pour hot jelly into sterilized jars. Wipe jar rim if necessary, press on lid, and screw on
band. (If there’s any extra jelly, you can enjoy it right away and it will last in your fridge
for a while.) Work quickly but carefully, as the jelly will be very hot. Place jars in
simmering water and raise heat to bring water to a boil. Boil jars for 5-10 minutes, then
remove and allow to cool to room temperature. Leave for 24 hours.
You should hear the jars pop shortly after removing them from the canner. This
indicates that it’s sealed. When cool, the lids should be smooth and flat. Store for up to
a year in a cool, dark area out of direct sunlight.
This recipe and the others we received in the workshop are courtesy of local personal chef and herb-master, Elizabeth Meska.
I can’t wait to try this jelly with so many other things. Anybody have any suggestions?
One of my favorite cooking traditions is on the weekends when Jeremy and I get up and make breakfast together, side by side at the stove – him frying bacon and me scrambling eggs. But this past weekend he was out of town and to console myself, and to keep from eating obscene amounts of bacon, I decided to get a little inventive with breakfast. I had dropped by Trader Joe’s late last week after dropping Jeremy off at the airport and scored (among many, many other things) some great smoked salmon and a bag of ripe avocados. Somewhere in the back of my mind a light bulb flickered: salmon and avocado crepes. OK, so I don’t exactly bake, and making crepes feels like baking – there is flour sifting involved. So I made some pancake mix work for my purposes and here’s what I came up with:
I used the pancake mix, with a little more almond milk than it called for and a plop (yes, a plop is a technical cooking measurement) of Greek yogurt, lemon zest and a squirt of fresh lemon juice. I poured that into a non-stick skillet very thinly and swirled the pan to cover the bottom, flipping after only a minute or so. Then I smeared a cream cheese/herbed goat cheese mixture on the crepe, laid out some smoked salmon and avocado slices, then rolled up and topped with another plop of yogurt.
Verdict? Meh. Yeah, I admit, they look amazing. You would easily pay $12-15 for this plate at a restaurant, and maybe if I had I would have thought more highly of them, but something about the mouth feel of so many “creamy” things wasn’t doing it for me. Salmon, avocados, creamy cheese and the soft cake was all just a little too much. I was hoping the yogurt would tang it up a little, but it was too little, too late. Probably plenty of people would love this, if that flavor profile works for you, but it just doesn’t for me.
But I refused to be defeated. When Jeremy came back I decided to reinvent this dish into dinner and I knew exactly how to solve the problem. The answer was in the yogurt and the lemon all along. Instead of making crepes, I opted for two big pieces of naan. Then I made a tzatziki sauce with greek yogurt, cucumbers, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, pepper and dill. I toasted the naan, rubbed in some olive oil, covered with a layer of tzatziki, then topped that with a mashed avocado mixed with salt, pepper and a squirt of lemon juice. Then I quick “cured” the salmon by laying it flat on a plate topped with cucumbers and dill, then squeezed an entire lemon over top of it all and let it sit while I put the salad together. Then I put the salmon, cucumbers and dill on top of the avocado and voila – perfection.
The problem with the first dish was the similarity of textures and, to a degree, taste. This dish solves that problem by adding in the crunch of the cucumbers, the tanginess of the yogurt and the bright, fresh flavor that the lemon gives to everything.
So the lesson is: if at first your recipe is gross, try try again. Seriously. Every chef or cook who has ever invented a recipe has taken it through various tests and many of those tests are bound to fail. You can’t get it right the first time, every time. Although sometimes you do, and it’s amazing, but those times are rare.
Do you have a unique recipe that you created? If so, share it with me! Post it in a comment and maybe I’ll give it a try on the blog!