Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

I need a vacation.  The past three weeks have been pure craziness at work.  I’m dreaming of Excel and PowerPoint.  You know that is a sure sign that you are OD-ing.  I hate dreaming about PowerPoint.  Nothing angers me more than waking, feeling the stressful tension in my shoulders and realizing the night has provided me with no restful escape from the day.  It’s a sure way to make me grumpy and just sours my mood for the day.  It is also a sure way to keep me out of the kitchen.

At 5 o’clock, or whenever I manage to wrap things up for the day, I pack my laptop into my backpack, collect my things and head for home.  After a few minutes of bustling around the house and petting my pup, the laptop comes out and work begins anew.  At some point, I’ll retreat to the kitchen and find a few minutes for myself when I can focus on the things I want to focus on, my mind calmed by the rhythmic sounds of the knife hitting the cutting board.  One particular night, the fruit fly collection I’ve been working on had grown to the point where action was needed – immediately!  The beautiful heirloom tomatoes I’d picked up at the market were intoxicating the winged creatures and with a wave of my hand over the tomatoes, they dashed off in a wave.

Knowing my time was limited on this particular evening, I took a little help from Trader Joe’s and grabbed some pre-made pizza dough and some fresh mozzarella on my drive home from the office.  I snipped what are likely some of the last leaves from my basil plant as it gasps in the dry, insane heat.  No amount of water can save this year’s poor attempt at a garden…  With just a few simple steps, one of the prettiest pizzas I have ever created sat ready for the oven.  Now to find a bottle of wine…

Work still calls my name, but I’m taking the night off.  I’m trying to enjoy the last bit of summer and I might have to make this a few more times to ensure I’ve satiated my taste for ripe, fresh tomatoes.  Ha – if that ever happens, I’ll let you know!

 

Fresh Heirloom Margherita Pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled

1/4 c. olive oil

3-4 heirloom tomatoes

Fresh mozzarella, in whatever form you prefer, drained

1 prepared pizza dough

Salt and pepper

about 1/4 c. basil leaves, finely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place garlic cloves and olive oil in a small oven-proof dish with a lid.  Roast for 40-45 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.  When ready to proceed, blend garlic and olive oil in a food processor until no large pieces of garlic remain.  Slice tomatoes in half and gently squeeze to remove seeds.  Slice into 1/4″ slices.

Increase oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a work surface and roll dough out to desired shape.  Place on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.  Remove dough from oven and spread roasted garlic oil/paste over the dough.  Place tomato slices across the dough.  Season with salt and pepper and scatter mozzarella over the top.  Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Mozzarella should be melted and the crust should be golden brown.

Scatter finely chopped basil over the top, cut into slices, and enjoy.

 

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 – 2012 jb’s pour house

Caprese Flapjacks

Late into the evening, before dusk settles, might be my favorite time of the summer day.  The sun is low in the sky, bathing the trees in a golden light as the locusts buzz noisily in the warm glow.  If it weren’t so hellishly hot outside, I’d probably spend every evening on the deck enjoying the day’s lazy transition into a starry night.  But it is hellishly hot and no amount of rosé would be refreshing enough to coax me from the glorious air conditioning.  Given the heat, the oven has officially been put into hiatus until the mercury drops a bit.  Grilling had been our standby, but even that has been questionable lately.  It is so dry here that our county has put a ban on grilling.  How they think they are going to enforce that is beyond me…

We’ve been so busy lately between work and fun.  The stress level has been rising with the temperatures and a dip in the pool hasn’t been enough to wash away the worries of the day.  To top it off, insurance denied my follow up scan scheduled for last week, so we’ve been in limbo on that front as well as we wait for word on what comes next.  We needed a night off – a fun activity to change our focus for a few hours at the very least.  Luckily, we had tickets to a James Taylor concert in a great outdoor theater.  A perfect start to a relaxed evening.

The concert was starting early, well, early for us compared to our usual dinner time, so I needed something I could make quickly in the heat of the late afternoon.  Ben had been on the road for the latter half of the week, so I decided on one of his favorite summer dishes to welcome him home.  I’m not going to lie, this is one of my summer favorites too.  I usually wait to make this until my heirlooms are going crazy but without a proper garden again, I needed to rely on the friendly farmers at my neighborhood market for their lovely tomatoes.  My poor basil is being properly beaten by the heat of the summer sun, so this was a good way of using a bunch quickly and putting  it out of its misery.

The recipe comes together in a hurry with very few ingredients so it is perfect for a quick summer dinner.  It also makes an elegant appetizer for summer entertaining – and did I mention it goes perfectly with a chilled glass of crisp rosé?  Sets my heart a-flutter just writing those words!  Fresh, quality ingredients are really the key here and are what makes this dish sing.  Texture is also an important component – the couscous in the flapjacks retains a bit of its crunch after cooking which contrasts nicely with the softness of the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes.  Don’t skimp on the freshly cracked black pepper or the Fleur de Sel.  It truly is the crowing glory on this jeweled napoleon of summer deliciousness.  Alternating with different colored tomatoes only enhances the beauty of this serenade to summer in a dish.

Caprese Flapjacks

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

3 Tbsp. salt

½ c. hot water

2 c. lukewarm water

16 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced into ¼” rounds

1 c. couscous

4 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ c. buttermilk

1 c. basil leaves, tightly packed

2 egg whites, slightly beaten

2 Tbsp. canola oil

Cooking spray

2 heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, preferably different colors, sliced into ¼” rounds

Freshly ground black pepper

Fleur de Sel

 

Combine salt with ½ c. hot water in a medium bowl.  Stir until all salt has dissolved.  Add remaining 2 c. water and add mozzarella slices.  Drain after about 10 minutes.

Combine couscous, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Using a mini food processor or blender, combine basil with ½ c. buttermilk and blend until basil is finely chopped.  In a small bowl, combine basil-buttermilk, remaining buttermilk, egg whites and canola oil.  Whisk wet ingredients into couscous mixture.    Heat a griddle over medium-high heat.  Lightly coat with cooking spray.  Using about ¼ c. batter per flapjack, pour four flapjacks onto griddle.  Cook 4-6 minutes per side until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining batter.

To serve, place one flapjack on a plate.  Add one slice of tomato, sprinkle with about 1/8 tsp. Fleur de Sel, and about 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.  Add a slice of mozzarella.  Repeat with alternate color tomato, Fleur de Sel, pepper and mozzarella.

 

Cheers!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house

BLT Chicken Pasta

Holy cow, summer is going by so quickly!  I can’t believe it is mid-July.  Back to school specials abound and I can’t help but feeling a little sad that summer is almost over.  But then I remember that here in the “northern South,” summer continues well into September (I just love that Southern Living magazine calls KC part of the South – it gives me lots of excuses to make the Southern food I adore!).  Tomato season started early and I have lots of plans for the jeweled orbs.  The farmers markets are overflowing and I’d better get while the getting is good before the impact of this draught starts to catch up with the grocery stores and markets.

I must admit to a bit of laziness and a severe lack of creativity when it comes to cooking this summer.  Maybe that is due to the roller coaster ride I’ve been on this past year.  I think the other part of it is that I don’t have a garden for the second year in a row.  I have nothing going crazy in my backyard, demanding I dream up new and exciting ways to prepare it.  A friend brought over some fresh jalapenos from her garden and I smiled, recalling the numerous recipes I searched and dreamed up to use our plethora of peppers.  A girl can only eat so many jalapeno poppers…

The other aspect of my noticeable absence has been that we have just been so busy!  Last summer flew by in an instant between Ben starting his job, selling our house, making the official move to KC, and then, the nasty C-word.  This summer, we’ve welcomed many friends into our home, traveled to see friends and family, and bummed about town with lazy days at the pool, baseball games, happy hours and more.  One such evening took us to Shakespeare at the Park where we packed a few bottles of wine and a picnic and laughed at the whimsy of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Midsummer…

One of the dishes I prepared for our picnic left me with lots of delicious spinach dip left over.  Given its consistency, I felt that it would be better served in another dish versus on its own, scooped with chips or crackers.  Laziness prevailed yet again, so I opted for ease, convenience and rotisserie chicken, a girl’s best friend.  The creamy sauce and spinach got me thinking of an alternate BLT and then I couldn’t help but tinker.  I liked this dish served warm, but it’s likely pretty tasty chilled too and perfect for a picnic or Midsummer Night’s Dream.

BLT Chicken Pasta

recipe:  jb’s pour house with assistance from Food & Wine

 

1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed and shredded

5 slices bacon

1/3 c. sliced onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 box pasta (any shape), cooked according to package directions

1 c. heavy cream

1 8 oz. box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry of excess moisture

1 pkg. Philadelphia cooking creme, plain

1 lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

2 large tomatoes, diced

 

Place bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Saute until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add onion to pan and saute until translucent and starting to brown, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, saute for 30 seconds and remove from heat.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, boil the cream until reduced by half.  Keep a close eye on this as you don’t want to allow the cream to boil over.  Add the dry spinach and stir to incorporate.  Add the cooking creme and stir until melted.  Add the juice of half of a lemon.  Add half of the chicken, reserving the remainder for another use.  Add pasta, bacon, onion mixture and tomatoes.  Mix well to incorporate.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Can easily be doubled.

 

Enjoy!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2012 jb’s pour house

mortadella pizza

Well, I had the best of intentions.  I was all groceried up and ready to tell you all about a certain pepperoni sauce heard ’round the world, but then Sunday happened.  Sunday – in all its 90 degree glory.  Sunday – in an apartment with only west facing windows through which the sun beat unmercilessly until the grace of a storm and cold front finally provided relief.  The sauce is coming, but we’ll have to wait for either a screen door and a glorious cross breeze or a cooler day.

You may recall me telling you about my sister’s continual recipe request for items which have never passed my lips, yet I am supposed to provide instruction.  Well, it finally happened.  In October of 2009, GQ magazine published an article in which a thin crust (gasp) Chicago pizza was named the best in America.  My sister immediately requested the recipe for the mortadella pie.  I’m a little behind on my list it seems.  When I finally got around to making it last week, I was interrupted in my preparations by said sister, requesting yet another recipe.

“I’m a little busy on another request of yours,” I had texted back.  Here’s the kicker – she didn’t even remember requesting the recipe in the first place!  So, I guess we’ve gone full circle.  I know my sis will continue to send requests my way which doesn’t bother me, as I’ll keep playing and trying new things.  I guess it is a way to keep the creative juices flowing.  And at least in the short term, it offered an opportunity to create a delicious spin on an old favorite.

Full disclosure – as with most of my sister’s requests, I have absolutely no idea if this tastes anything close to the real deal.  But that’s ok.  Whether this can hold it’s own against the original remains to be seen, but in the interim, we have a pretty tasty pie on our hands.  I wanted the base to be simple as the spotlight was really intended to be on one thing and one thing only – the mortadella.  While you can buy a pre-made dough from the grocery store, I’d recommend making your own as I did here or swinging through your favorite local pizza joint and asking to buy some dough.  They’ll give you funny looks guaranteed. 

I also wanted the sauce to be delicious but not competitive with everything else going on.  So I simply reduced the liquid in a can of San Marzano tomatoes and once thick and to my desired consistency, I dressed lightly with a few dashes of oregano, a glug of olive oil, and a light sprinkling of salt.  To top the pie, I sliced orbs of fresh mozzarella into disks and quickly brined them to add a little salty bite but also to form a thin skin on the cheese to prevent it from turning too watery in the hot oven and causing the dough to be soggy.  A few minutes in a very hot oven later, and you have the makings for a delectable Margherita pizza.  Yum.  But wait!  We aren’t done yet, kids.  This baby gets topped with slices of mortadella ladened with peppercorns and pistachios.  A quick sear in the oven and the mortadella begins to curl and the edges slightly crisp.  It’s done.

As you take that first bite and the string of cheese forms a tightrope between your mouth and the retreating slice of pie, you can thank my sister.  I know I did.

mortadella pizza

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. warm water

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 tsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 c. flour

1 24 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes

3/4 tsp. oregano

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced about 1/4″ thick

1/4 lb. mortadella

Combine warm water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir and let sit for 10-20 minutes or until bubbly.  Add olive oil and salt and fit the mixer with a dough hook.  With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add flour.  Continue adding until all flour is gone.  Turn the mixer speed up and let the dough mix until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Place about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a clean large bowl.  Place dough in bowl and toss around several times until surface is coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rest overnight.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour a working surface and begin to roll dough out to desired size (recommend 14″ to 16″ so as not to be too thin).  Lighly oil a large baking sheet and place dough onto it.  Fold edges of dough over itself to make a crust.  Set aside.  Place San Marzano tomatoes in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Continue boiling and crushing tomato pieces with a wooden spoon until sauce has reduced to about 1/3 it’s original volume and desired consistency has been reached.  Add oregano, olive oil and salt.  Set aside.

Place about 2 Tbsp. kosher salt in a large mixing bowl.  Add about 1/2 c. very hot water and stir until salt has disolved.  Add enough cold water to come up to about 1/2 to 3/4 of the side of the bowl.  Add mozzarella slices and brine for about 15-20 minutes.  Drain.  Spread sauce across dough and place mozzarella slices across the sauce.  The cheese will not cover the entire surface.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove pizza from oven and top with mortadella.  Bake for another 5 minutes.  Slice and serve.

I heart pizza.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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mexican pot pie

Margarita Madness!

Who needs basketball when there are margaritas to be had?!  I pass this sign every morning on my way to work and every day, without fail, it makes me want a margarita.  I’ll be a little sad when the big tourney ends and I no longer have a craving for a breakfast beverage filled with tequila and lime.  Ha, who am I kidding?  I’d still be up for a breakfast margarita.  Maybe with a beer chaser.  Now I want a bloody mary.  Ok, off topic…

My daily craving for a margarita has also fueled my near constant craving for Mexican food.  Any time we are looking for somewhere to go for a meal, I lean toward the chips and salsa while B leans toward steamed rice and soy sauce.  I guess one of the perks (if you can call it that) of living in different states is that I can indulge my crazy whims and make whatever food I’m craving.  Now B, if you are reading this, no chiming in and saying that’s what I do anyway.  It isn’t, I swear.  (Maybe just a little.)

So when images of margaritas danced in my head on a recent 80 degree day (Again!  In March!) I knew there was no denying the cravings that would soon follow.  Good thing it was grocery day.  As I wheeled my cart around the aisles, I began to amass the familiar ingredients but without a solid plan.  Ground beef, black beans, olives, tomatoes, jalapeno – soon enough I had the fixins for tacos but didn’t quite want to deal with hand-held food given the absence of a dining table.  Plus, “How I Met Your Mother” was on and I was planning to rock the easy chair during the evening meal.

I had a thought – Mexican Pot Pie.  I could take all of the usual taco fillings, place them in a casserole, cover it with a sweet corn cake and once bubbling and golden, drizzle with a creamy salsa verde.  All of my favorite things in one tasty dish.  Add a slushy lime concoction and I’m on my way to happiness. 

mexican pot pie

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

2 lbs. ground beef

½ onion, diced

1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seed if you prefer)

1 14 oz. can Mexican diced tomatoes, undrained

1 pkg. taco seasoning of your choice

1 14 oz. can black beans

1 6 oz. can black olives, halved

8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 pkg. Chi Chi’s sweet corn cake

1 14 oz. can cream style corn

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

¼ c. water

1 c. crème fraiche*

1 c. salsa verde

½ tsp. kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the ground beef in a large sauté pan and brown over medium high heat.  Once nearly browned, add onion, garlic and jalapeno.  Once beef is fully browned and onion mixture has started to turn translucent, add undrained tomatoes and taco seasoning.  Mix to incorporate fully.  Add black beans, black olives, and pepper jack cheese, mix and place mixture in a large baking dish.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine sweet corn cake mix, cream style corn, melted butter and water.  Mix well and pour over the top of the beef mixture.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until corn cake is golden brown and does not jiggle when dish is moved.

Combine crème fraiche, salsa verde and kosher salt.  Spoon desired amount of Mexican Pot Pie into an individual serving dish and top with about 2 Tbsp. creamy salsa verde.

*To make crème fraiche at home, combine 1 c. heavy cream and 2 Tbsp. buttermilk in a sealable container.  Leave at room temperature for 24 hours.  Stir and use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

Hope you are enjoying Margarita Madness and your bracket is still kicking!

-j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

Things have changed a lot in the past several months.  You might have noticed it has been a bit quiet here.  Well, since we spoke last, I went from this:

to this:

We turned 30.  We put miles on our cars.  A lot of miles.  I learned to live on quickly prepared meals, relying more heavily on a microwave than in any other period of my life, even college.  I missed being home.  I missed cooking.  I was so out of practice that as I prepared to make my first real grocery list in nearly three months, I struggled to find inspiration.  There was so much I wanted to make and eat, yet nothing was coming to mind.  I spent hours lazing in my borrowed recliner as I cycled through cooking site after cooking site, desperately seeking the motivation and the ingredients needed to make a successful grocery list.

After being gifted with a few beautiful 65+ degree days, Mother Nature decided to remind us all it was still February with a bit of a “wintry mix” in store for the early part of the week.  I realized I had missed cooking so many of the winter comfort foods that I love and decided to treat myself to a little splurge and a big plate of home cooking.  Oddly enough, it was one of my quickest meals from my houseguest period that I kept coming back to – a fast spicy marinara sauce.  But this time, with a kitchen in my possession, albeit small, I needed to jazz it up a bit.  Have I ever mentioned that I like Boursin?

And then, there it was.  Inspiration!  A small disk of Boursin later, and we were looking to have some serious meatballs to go with the spicy marinara.  And so I started the sauce.  This has truly become a go-to marinara for me.  I find it perfect with chicken/eggplant parmesan, tasty tossed lightly with pasta, or rich underneath the melted blanket of mozzarella on a homemade pizza.  And with only five ingredients, it should become part of your repetoire as well.  Plus, you get to squeeze tomatoes with your hands.  What’s more fun than that?

The meatballs are equally simple as well.  Ground beef, onion, breadcrumbs, a bit of parsley, garlic, an egg, and oh yes, the Boursin, and you have some serious flavor happening.  As the first meatballs hit the hot oil and the steam from the pan began to rise toward the ceiling, I quickly realized two things.  These meatballs were going to be delicious.  The second?  This tiny apartment kitchen doesn’t stand a chance!

linguini with spicy marinara and boursin meatballs

recipe:  jb’s pour house

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)

1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

kosher salt, to taste

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

1 pkg. Boursin

3 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese

1/4 c. breadcrumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Extra virgin olive oil

Linguini, cooked according to package directions

 

Place olive oil and crushed red pepper in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Once you can smell the oil and the red pepper, add juice from tomatoes and start breaking tomatoes into pieces, holding hands over the pan.  Continue until all tomatoes are crushed into pan.  Bring to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.  Continue simmering for about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, puree to desired consistency (I like to leave a bit of texture).  Return to low heat and simmer, covered, until ready to use.  About 2 minutes prior to serving, add garlic and season to taste with kosher salt.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ground beef, Boursin, onion, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper, basil and oregano in a medium mixing bowl.  Mix gently until just combined.  Form into meatballs based on your size preference.  For this recipe, I aimed for meatballs that were about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Once all meatballs have been formed, heat about 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan.  Working in batches, sear meatballs on each side until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Repeat until all meatballs have been seared.  Place meatballs on a large baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.

 

Lightly toss cooked linguini with about half of the sauce.  Place pasta on individual serving plates and top with meatballs.  Lightly spoon about 1/2 Tbsp. sauce over each meatball.  Serve immediately.

 

Welcome back!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010-2011 jb’s pour house

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greek panzanella salad

Forgive me, for I have sinned.

I’ve lied.  I’ve lusted.  I’ve gluttonously indulged.

I promised myself (and others) when we started this blog that I wouldn’t share recipes that I’ve taught in any of my cooking classes, nor would I share recipes from our personal chef business.  I wanted the blog to be shiny and new, to stand alone from my other culinary dabbling.

I can’t resist the temptation.

You see, my favorite time of year is here.  I love it when the garden is in full swing and the rainbow of heirloom tomatoes is on display in full spectrum among the vines.  Red, yellow, green, and purple orbs sparkle against the leaves, juicy jewels waiting to adorn the crown of a summer meal.  I anxiously await the moment when tomatoes of all colors stand ripe on my counter.  And when that moment arrives, this salad is one of my must-haves.

A symphony of flavors, this salad calls to me with its siren song.  Juicy tomatoes, cooling cucumber, tangy feta, bright kalamata olives and crunchy garlic ciabatta croutons combine in a myriad of colors, flavors and textures.  Looking like a Jackson Pollack painting with splatters of colors and shapes tossed together in a bowl, it is bold, flavorful, and everything I crave in the heat of late summer.

I literally do a little dance with the first bite.  Try it – you might too!   

greek panzanella salad

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. finely diced red onion

2 c. thinly sliced cucumber

1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic

¼ c. kalamata olives, halved

6 c. diced heirloom tomatoes

1 c. crumbled feta

2 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

3 c. cubed ciabatta

2 Tbsp. olive oil

½ tsp. kosher salt

1 large garlic clove, crushed

Combine red onion through lemon juice in a large mixing bowl.  Mix well to combine.  Set aside.  Heat olive oil and garlic over medium heat.  Add salt and ciabatta bread.  Toss well.  Continue to cook over medium heat about 7 minutes, tossing regularly, until bread cubes are golden brown.

If you intend to eat the whole salad in one sitting, combine bread cubes with tomato mixture and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.  If serving for smaller groups and you anticipate leftovers, place about ½ c. bread cubes in a bowl.  Top with about 1 c. tomato mixture and serve immediately.  Reserve bread cubes and tomato mixture separately.

And I promise, I’ll try to be good from now on.

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

“Ode to Sweet Corn” – Five Days of Delicious, Delicate Kernels

In the midst of the summer heat, we’ve managed to squeeze out a few days with low humidity and clear skies – the kind of day that begs for a lovely dinner on the patio and a chilled bottle of rosé.  A dinner party for three with my favorite boys as my guests, where locusts and neighborhood birds provide the background music.  A dinner where we’ll watch the bees buzz from our Russian sage to our purple coneflowers as we lazily enjoy our meal and sip our wine, and as the sun sets, we’ll talk as flames from our citronella torches dance and twirl in the gentle evening breeze.

The table is set, the wine is open, glasses are full and plates have been placed before us on the table.  The bees are buzzing, the torches are lit and the locusts are humming.  Ah, perfection.

And then, a siren.  A fire truck.  Soon enough, both of my dinner guests have their heads thrown back, mouths to the sky, howling away.  I’m so glad the hubs taught Brix to howl…

Try as I might, I can’t resist laughing at this spectacle.  Poor Brix has such a mournful little wail, his little doggy mouth forms into a perfect “O,” his small body goes rigid and the closer the siren comes, the more excited he gets and start to furiously wipe his feet as he throws his head back again.  And B, well, what can I say?  Ah well, you can dress `em up…

So often relegated to the backyard barbeque, corn on the cob and its requisite pile of napkins and waiting toothpicks is a veggie that could stand a little dressing up.  Not that I have anything bad to say about plain ol’ corn on the cob – I’m the girl that comes home from work and appears in sweatpants no more than five minutes later.  But every now and then, it is fun to get a little gussied up, and I thought it was high time sweet corn got the glamour treatment.  I knew just the thing.

I’d read recently about a benefit dinner where a sweet corn panna cotta was one of the featured courses.  I’d seen sweet corn panna cotta before, but always in a sweet setting as a dessert.  While the natural sugars and creaminess of really good sweet corn would be fitting for an after-dinner treat, the tomatoes fresh out of my garden led me in a different direction.  I thought back to a tomato and corn pie I’d made last summer and recalled the tasty combination.  So with a savory theme in mind, I set off to create a delicate summer first course.

Inspired by a version of panzanella salad I make every summer without fail, I wanted the fresh tomato salad to be full of bright flavors.  I strolled out to my garden with shears in hand and returned with fresh basil, chives and garlic.  To this I added some balsamic vinegar for a little depth, olive oil, and shavings of Parmiggiano Regiano cheese for a little salty accent.  The sweet corn and cream in the panna cotta provide such a creamy contrast to the fresh tomato salad.  Served cold or at room temperature, this was a perfect dish to prepare ahead of time and have ready and waiting for you. 

sweet corn panna cotta with fresh tomato salad

recipe:  jb’s pour house

 

1 c. whole milk

1/3 c. sugar

2 ears sweet corn, kernels cut off and cobs reserved

2 c. heavy cream

¼ tsp. kosher salt

3 Tbsp. water

2 ½ tsp. unflavored gelatin

2 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into ½” dice

2 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 ½ Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

¼ c. shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small stockpot, bring milk and sugar to a slow simmer over medium heat.  Add corn kernels, simmer for about 5 minutes.  As corn is simmering, chop reserved cobs into four pieces each.  Add cream, kosher salt and reserved cob segments.  Bring to a simmer and once simmering, cover and remove from heat.  Let steep for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place water in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top.  Let stand for 15 minutes. 

Remove cobs from the cream mixture and discard.  Bring cream mixture back to a simmer and once simmering, add gelatin mixture.  Remove from heat and stir until gelatin is thoroughly incorporated.  Strain, reserving both cream and corn.  Divide corn kernels among six ramekins and top with reserved cream mixture.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

Combine tomatoes, chives, basil, garlic cloves, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and Parmiggiano Reggiano shavings in a medium bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

To serve, run a metal spatula along the edges of each ramekin and carefully invert onto a plate.  Top with about ¼ c. tomato salad.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

Enjoy – with or without howling in the background!

– j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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cheesy tomato bread

Bonus recipe!

By now, you’ve read all about our adventures in Wisconsin and the tasty treats that have resulted from our trip.  I don’t have any other stories to tell, but I couldn’t let this recipe go by the wayside.  If your garden is behaving like mine, tomatoes are starting to pile up on the counter.  This easy and fast recipe is a great way to use several tomatoes as well as your fresh basil.  And really, who can resist warm, melty cheese?  I can’t, that’s a fact.

cheesy tomato bread

recipe:  adapted from Brennan’s Market

 

1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half lengthwise

3 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into 1/4″ slices

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 c. fresh basil, thinly sliced

8 oz. farmer’s cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place loaf halves cut side down, toast for about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven and flip so cut sides face up.  Layer tomato slices across bread.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle basil across tomatoes and top with shredded farmer’s cheese.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until cheese has melted and is bubbling.  Slice into individual portions and serve warm.

Oh tomato love!  I’m drooling, have to go make this again.

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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steak milanese

It is hot.  And sticky.  And buggy.  I’m sufficiently covered with mosquito bites now that we’re mid-summer (thanks for all of the help, bug spray!) and finally, the garden is off and running.  Chartreuse banana peppers and emerald jalapeno peppers dangle from their perches, little cornichon cucumbers dance along their trellis, tiny jewels of baby eggplant have emerged from lilac blooms, slender green beans twirl along the poles, and green globes sparkle in the sun along the many tomato plants.  I love summer.  And I’m impatient.

It is always this time of year when summer is most certainly in full swing, yet we are still waiting for the fruits of our spring labor to come to dinner, and I begin to get antsy.  I’m ready for Caprese salad!  Grilled Eggplant Parmesan!  Cucumber martinis (mmm hmmm, refreshing)!  Panzanella salad!  Yikes, better stop, I’m getting awfully hungry.  Guess I shouldn’t have skipped lunch today…  Lucky for me, there’s a cure.  Cherry tomatoes, here to save the day!

Just when I think I can’t make it any longer and I’m going to have to pluck a few of those green ‘maters from their vines (for some FGTs) because I simply cannot wait for fresh garden goodness, I remember the cherry tomatoes.  Careful not to talk with your mouth full when munching on these babies, or you are likely to squirt those within shooting distance!  Cherry tomatoes are plump, juicy, sweet, and best of all, they taste like tomatoes.  Gone are the days of mealy grocery store tomatoes, banished for the next several months until insane cravings strike once again for a taste of summer when the evil four-letter “s” word (no, silly, snow) dominates daily life.  No, friend, it is time for real tomatoes once again!  Real tomatoes mean real flavor, and the additional fixin’s for this topping pack a real punch.  Briny kalamata olives, fresh basil, creamy gorgonzola cheese, and shallots ensure that this salsa-of-sorts makes your mouth take notice.  But what to serve it with?

Being the good wife that I am, one day I went in search of a recipe for one of the hub’s favorite recipes – chicken fried steak.  I guess I’m technically still looking for that recipe, because I found something similar to this and, um, got distracted.  It is still chicken fried steak, but rather than a creamy gravy as an accompaniment, I fell for this bright, briny, salty, yummy topping instead.  I think you will too.

steak milanese

recipe:  jb’s pour house

12 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)

2 1/2 Tbsp. finely minced shallot

2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh basil

1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives, halved

2 oz. gorgonzola cheese

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 tenderized cube steaks, 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick

1 1/2 c. flour

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 c. panko

Canola oil

Combine tomatoes, shallot, basil, kalamata olives, gorgonzola, olive oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Season steaks lightly with salt and pepper.  One steak at a time, dredge in flour, dip into egg, and coat thoroughly with panko.  Set aside and repeat with remaining steaks.  Pour enough canola oil into a large skillet to cover the bottom of the pan.  Heat over medium high heat and when oil begins to shimmer, fry two steaks at a time, about 4 minutes per side, until golden brown.  Repeat with remaining steaks.

Serve warm with plenty of the cherry tomato topping.

Hooray for tomatoes!

-j

All content and photographs © 2010 jb’s pour house

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