Archive for April, 2008

Pear & Raspberry Mini-Cakes

I’m not very good at baking.  I admit it.  I just don’t have the patience to measure everything out exactly to guarantee the results.  I like to experiment and try new things, but in my experience, baking doesn’t lend itself to that very well.  Recently, I discovered I was wrong.  There are so many people out there who do experimental baking really well – among my favorites to follow in the blogosphere are La Tartine Gourmande, Bake & Destroy and Cannelle & Vanille (among others).  These cakes were inspired directly from a recipe for an apple cranberry cake by Béa at La Tartine Gourmande.  I didn’t have apples on hand, nor do I actually own the right sized cake pan to make the tasty-looking cakes.  Nevermind though, I am turning over a new leaf and starting to experiment with my baking!  I made mini-cakes in a muffin pan and used some pears and raspberries that I had on hand.  They turned out great!

Pear & Raspberry Mini-Cakes
1 tsp. baking powder
8 Tbs. flour
3 pears, peeled and cored
1 container of raspberries
3 eggs
1/3 cup + 1 Tbs. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

To Make:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small bowl, sift together baking powder and flour.  Set aside.  Dice pears into 1/4 in. pieces.  In a large bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar and salt together until light.  Mix in butter and flour mixture.  Next, stir in pears until just combined.  Line muffin pan with cupcake papers.  Pour in mixture to each muffin cup and top with raspberries.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8 mini-cakes 


April 26, 2008 at 10:45 am 3 comments

Click! Juicy Red Peppers

An entry for Click!  Click is a monthly food photography event focusing on a different theme.  This month’s challenge was “au naturel” and I chose this photo of a perfectly-ripened red pepper just waiting to be picked as my entry.  This photo makes me appreciate food as art and more importantly, it inspires me to eat food as nature intended it.  Not always easy to do in our society, but a good goal to strive for! 

This is my first entry into the contest, so I guess we’ll see how it goes!  Check out the amazing photos from last month’s contest here.

April 19, 2008 at 10:08 am 1 comment

Stuffed Tomatoes

This recipe is based on one that I got from my French instructor when we first moved to Belgium.  She told me it is something that Belgians eat quite often.  You won’t find it in a restaurant, but basically every home will make some variation on it for dinner at least once a month.  I have to admit, we haven’t eaten it as often, but we have adapted it to our own recipe.  Now I’d like to share a little taste of Belgium with you!

Stuffed Tomatoes
3 Tbs. olive oil
8 round medium tomatoes
1 Tbs. butter
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 lb. pork
1/4 lb. veal
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup coarse breadcrumbs
2 Tbs. parmesan cheese, freshly grated

To Make:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a rimmed baking dish with 1 Tbs. of oil.  Hollow out the tomatoes using a paring knife or spoon, leaving enough of the flesh on the sides to form a sturdy “cup”.  Reserve scooped out flesh and set aside.  Set tomatoes upside-down on paper towels to drain.
In a large skillet, melt the butter in 1 Tbs. of oil.  Add onion and garlic and cook until softened (about 5 minutes).  Add the meat and cook over moderately high heat until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces as it cooks.  Add reserved tomatoes and cook until juices evaporate (about 5 minutes longer).  Transfer meat mixture to a bowl and let cool slightly.  Mix in parsley, eggs, 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs and the cheese.  Spoon into tomato cups and place in baking dish.  Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and drizzle remaining olive oil on top.  Bake for 45 minutes or until heated through.

4 servings 

April 17, 2008 at 9:03 am Leave a comment

Shrimp Enchiladas with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce

In Belgium, it can sometimes be difficult to find foodstuffs for Mexican food.  Sure, we can usually find avocados, tortillas (flour only), Old El Paso salsas, taco seasonings, fajita seasonings and now and then red enchilada sauce.  What’s more difficult to find are jalapeno, ancho or habanero peppers, cheddar cheese (that’s not plastic-y and orange), corn tortillas, green enchilada sauce and the ever-elusive black beans.  With that in mind, you can see how making a Mexican meal isn’t always a last minute decision here. 
I had a craving for seafood enchiladas and was trying to be good and use up as many things I had on hand as possible.  I had some shrimp, flour tortillas, an avocado, one red pepper, some roasted garlic, lemons, feta and goat cheeses, and a can of black beans (brought from a recent trip back to the U.S.).  I thought a green enchilada sauce would go best with shrimp enchiladas, but knew I wouldn’t be able to find it.  I tried to think of another sauce that wouldn’t overpower the delicate shrimp, but would still give it a “Mexican” flair.  I decided to invent my own.
I made up a roasted red pepper cream sauce and it worked perfectly!  I just had to post about it because it was so “thrown together” that I knew I’d never remember it again if I didn’t write it down.

Shrimp Enchiladas with Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce
15 large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
4 tortillas (corn are best, flour work too)
1 pint heavy cream
1 Tbs. flour
1 head garlic
1 red pepper
the juice of half a lemon
3 Tbs. soft goat cheese
3 Tbs. feta cheese
1 small red chile, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped fine, for garnish
3 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed 

To Make:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
First, roast the garlic and the red pepper.  To roast the garlic, peel the outer layer of paper keeping the cloves in tact.  Slice off tips to expose the garlic cloves.  Drizzle with olive oil, wrap in foil and place in preheated oven for 40 minutes.  To roast the red pepper, either place on an open-flame burner or under the broiler until skin is charred and bubbly.  Turn to evenly roast on all sides.  Set aside to cool, then peel off skin.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Next, in a blender or food processor, combine roasted pepper, roasted garlic (as many cloves as you prefer – I used about 5), lemon juice, red chile and some of the cream to help it blend.  Purée.  In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat cream.  Add the pepper mixture to the cream, stirring constantly.  Add 1 Tbs. of feta and 3 Tbs. of goat cheese to the mixture.  Finally, thicken if necessary, with 1 Tbs. flour.
In a separate pan, sautée spinach in a little bit of olive oil until wilted.  Roughly chop the shrimp and mix together with 1 Tbs. feta and the sautéed spinach.  Place on mixture on tortillas, roll, and place in oven-proof baking dish.  Cover with sauce.  Top with remaining feta and bake at 350 degrees until enchiladas are heated through and feta is slightly browned.  Serve.

4 enchiladas 



April 12, 2008 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

White Pizza with Mushrooms and Spinach

Sunday night is pizza night at our house.  I try to do something different each time I make one.  This time, I thought I’d try a white pizza.  Traditionally, white pizzas are just dough, herbs and olive oil – no sauce.  They are similar to foccacia and very tasty.  I was in the mood for something a little richer, though, and came up with a recipe that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.  It’s got a roasted garlic and rich and creamy white sauce as a base layer, followed by sautéed spinach and mushrooms, then topped off with a sprinkling of mozzarella di bufala and some feta.  The flavors meld together seamlessly and the pizza just looks amazing right out of the oven.  This one will definitely make it into the pizza rotation around here!

White Pizza with Mushrooms and Spinach

1 portion pizza dough
1 cup skim milk
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper to taste
½ lb mushrooms, sliced
1 head garlic
2 Tbs. olive oil
3 cups fresh spinach, washed and stemmed
1 Tbs. fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup crumbled feta
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I prefer mozzarella di bufala)

To Make:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  
Peel outer skin from head of garlic, keeping cloves intact.  Slice off tips and set aside.  Drizzle 1 Tbs. olive oil over exposed cloves, wrap in foil and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until soft. Remove garlic from foil and set aside to cool (can be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated in an airtight container).  Meanwhile, press pizza dough into pan.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and pre-bake for 7 minutes or until crust just begins to brown.  Squeeze roasted garlic from cloves and mash with a fork.  Spread over crust to form a thin layer.  In a saucepan, over medium-heat, whisk together milk and flour until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spread white sauce over pizza crust.  Coat a separate pan with remaining olive oil and heat on medium-high.  Sautée peeled garlic tips and mushrooms until tender.  Add spinach and continue cooking until spinach wilts.  Add vegetables to pizza.  Top with basil, mozzarella and feta and return to oven.  Bake an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

1 12 in. round pizza (8 slices)



April 9, 2008 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment


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