Sunday, July 29, 2007

Speck, Mozzarella and Tomato Sandwich

Speck is a dry-cured smoked Italian ham made from the hind leg of a pig. The ham is cured with a blend of salt, pepper and spices and smoked for about a week in cool temperatures. Speck is made in the Alto-Adige region of northern Italy near the Austrian border giving it both German and Italian influences. Browsing the deli counter at AJ's I noticed that they carry Boar's Head Speck for $19.99 per lb. Curious, as to the taste, I decided to buy some. I was informed by the woman behind the counter that speck should be cut very thin. So I decided on a 1/2 lb and off I went to give it a try. Coming up with ideas on how to eat this was part of the fun. I enjoyed some the first day with crusty Italian bread and sharp provolone cheese. The flavors blended really well; but the next day I wanted something a little different. I was thinking of a grilled cheese or maybe just a speck and tomato sandwich. So I decided to combine everything and make a toasted speck mozzarella and tomato sandwich with some fresh basil. Here's how I did it. First cook the speck in a pan over low heat just for a few seconds. Next butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice, buttered side done, in the pan. Top this with several slices of speck, mozzarella and tomato. Add fresh basil and the other slice of bread. Grill the whole thing over medium heat until the bread is toasted on both sides.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Quick Treat

One thing I really enjoy is store bought angel food cake topped with fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream. I like the flavor of mixed blueberries, raspberries and peaches but any fruit will work. Be creative and use whatever fruit is in season. Making homemade whipped cream is without a doubt worth the effort. I use the following recipe from the Joy of Baking website. Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon sugar

In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and beaters in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Muffuletta

From Wikipedia: The Muffuletta is a type of Sicilian bread, as well as a sandwich in New Orleans, Louisiana, which is made with that bread. The muffuletta sandwich originated in 1906 at Central Grocery, which was operated by Salvatore Lupo, a Sicilian immigrant. The sandwich is popular with city natives and visitors, and has been described as "one of the great sandwiches of the world." Central Grocery still serves the sandwich using the original recipe. Other variations are served throughout the city. The locals have differing opinions on which shop serves the best muffuletta. I decided to go right to the originator, The Central Grocery, to give this sandwich a try. At Central Grocery a circular loaf of seeded Italian bread, about 10 inches in diameter, is cut horizontally and piled high with imported salami, mortadella, ham, provolone cheese and olive salad. There's no tomatoes, onions or lettuce. No mayonnaise or mustard. What keeps this sandwich tasty and moist is the olive salad which is usually oozing out from all sides. The olive salad, made fresh at Central Grocery, is a melange of olives, garlic, celery, carrots and cauliflower covered in olive oil and spices and allowed to combine for hours. The sandwich can be purchased whole, halved or quartered depending on your appetite. Some places heat their muffuletta but not at Central Grocery. I tried it both ways and decided I like the cold version best Central Grocery 923 Decatur St. New Orleans, LA 504-523-1620

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cafe Du Monde

Having just spent the past 6 days in New Orleans I have lots of food stories to tell. Although I was there for a convention I was able to squeeze in some really good dining experiences. My first night there I made my way through the French Quarter to Cafe Du Monde, for their well known beignets and chicory coffee. Boy, am I glad I did. The beignets and coffee were delicious. Needless to say I went back several times before the end of my trip. Beignets are French pastries of deep fried dough served with mounds of powdered sugar on top. If that isn't enough to temp you the cafe au lait will. At Cafe Du Monde chicory is added to the coffee to lessen some of the bitter taste. The combination adds a slight chocolate flavor to every cup. You can get your coffee served black or with 1/2 milk (au lait). Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours and there always seems to be a crowd both inside and out. I can't say I wonder why. This is definitely a must stop if you're ever in New Orleans.

Cafe Du Monde 800 Decatur Street New Orleans, LA, 70116 Phone: (504) 525-4544

Thursday, July 12, 2007

When Life Gives you Lemons...

We all know it's time to make lemonade. But what about when your neighbor gives you cucumbers? Where do you start when you have an abundance of one ingredient that you've never really cooked with? The first place I usually check is Here's a few cucumber recipes, I've found on Epicurious, that I'm planning to try. Cucumber, Radish and Red Onion Salad
Ingredients 3/4 cucumber 2 radishes 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion 1 teaspoon olive oil 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Preparation Peel, halve, and seed cucumber. Diagonally cut cucumber into thin slices and cut radishes into julienne strips. In a bowl toss together all ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

Gourmet, January 1998

Cucumber Mint Tea Sandwiches

Ingredients 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, rinsed, spun dry, and chopped fine 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 2 tablespoons cream cheese 6 slices of whole-wheat bread a 3-inch length of seedless cucumber, cut into thin slices
Preparation In a small bowl combine the mint, the butter, and the cream cheese and stir the mixture until it is combined well. Spread the bread slices with the butter mixture, top 3 of them with the cucumber, distributing the cucumber evenly and seasoning it with salt, and top the cucumber with the remaining bread slices. Cut off and discard the crusts and cut each sandwich diagonally into quarters.

Gourmet, July 1992

Cucumber Anise Granita

Ingredients 3/4 cup sugar 3/4 cup water 3 seedless cucumbers, peeled and seeded 1 teaspoon anise-flavored liqueur
Preparation In a saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved, and cool syrup.Chop coarse enough of cucumbers to measure 6 cups and in a blender purée with syrup in 2 batches until smooth. Transfer purée to a shallow metal baking pan and stir in liqueur. Freeze mixture, covered, stirring and crushing lumps with a fork about every 30 minutes, until mixture is firm but not frozen hard, 2 to 3 hours. Granita may be made 2 days ahead and kept frozen, covered. Just before serving, scrape granita with a fork to lighten texture.

Gourmet, August 2002

Monday, July 9, 2007

What Exactly is Fett'unta?

Browsing through some cookbooks this past weekend I came across a recipe from Mario Batalli's; "Molto Italiano," that sounded interesting: Marinated Roasted Peppers with Goat Cheese, Olives and Fett'unta. I know you're thinking what exactly is a Fett'unta? Mario explains it to be "...a greased slice-or a shiny, happy piece of bread." And happy I was with the finished product. Here's the recipe with a few of my modifications. Marinated Roasted Peppers with Goat Cheese, Olives and Fett'unta. 4 large roasted red or yellow bell peppers (I used jarred roasted peppers) 7 tbs olive oil 6 anchovy fillets, rinsed, patted dry and finely chopped 2 tbs capers, rinsed and drained 10 giant Sicilian olives (I used Greek green olives found at the AJ's olive bar) 1 tbs red wine vinegar 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary 8 ounces log of goat cheese cut into rounds 12 1/2 inch thick slices of Italian bread 2 garlic cloves 1. Slice peppers into 1 inch wide strips and place into a medium bowl 2. Add the anchovies, capers, olives, vinegar, rosemary and olive oil to the peppers and toss to mix well. 3.Toast the bread under the broiler until light brown on both sides. Lightly rub each toast with a garlic clove. 4. Spread one round of goat cheese on each slice of bread and top with a helping of the pepper mix.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Summer Time is Salad Time

When the weather starts to heat up I start looking for lighter meals. Salads seem to hit the spot. Here are a few of my favorite salad/dressing recipes. Italian Dressing 4oz olive oil 4oz red wine vinegar 2 tsp garlic powder 1 garlic clove chopped 1 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper Mix all ingredients and let marinate overnight. Apple, Feta, & Walnut Salad 3 tbs lemon juice 1 tsp honey 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard 2 tbs minced shallots 1 tsp thyme 1/3 cup olive oil 1 head of Boston lettuce 1 green apple sliced thin 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts 2 ounces Feta cheese crumbled Mix together first 5 ingredients. Slowly add oil while whisking. Top lettuce with apple slices, cheese and nuts. Pour dressing over. Balsamic Vinaigrette 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar 1 tbs honey 1 tbs Dijon mustard 1 tsp garlic powder 1 cup of olive oil Mix together first 4 ingredients. Slowly add oil while whisking. (Adding some chopped fresh basil to this is also good)