Daring Bakers: Kahlua Tiramisu

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When it’s done right, I love tiramisu. But when it’s not done right, it can be pretty disappointing – too sweet and too sloppy. So it goes without saying that I had mixed feeling when I saw that the February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession. As part of the challenge, Aparna and Deeba also required that we make our own mascarpone and lady fingers. It seemed like a lot of work for such an iffy outcome, and since I’ve been so exhausted lately I seriously considered not participating in the challenge. But some of my friends on twitter were encouraging, promising that despite the length of the recipe and the time involved, the dish wasn’t complicated to make and that it was some of the best tiramisu they’ve ever had.

I’m glad I took their advice – this was hands down one of my favorite daring bakers challenges to date. The tiramisu was surprisingly easy to make and it tasted fabulous! Not too sweet (though I did cut down on the sugar slightly) with the perfect balance of cream to cake. It also freezes really well, which is great because keeping it readily accessible in the fridge would be way too dangerous! Keeping it in the freezer allows me to thaw just the amount that I want – and makes it difficult to go back for a second slice! I would definitely make this recipe again – it would be the perfect ending to a dinner party. [....]

Meat-Free Friday: Apple and Blue Cheese Galette

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You read it right, meat-free Friday is back!! And this time around I’m going to do my best to really keep it meat-free – including no seafood. Vegetarian recipes will, as always, continue to be tagged as bothvegetarian and as lent.

Have you ever wished that you could eat apple pie for dinner? This galette stuffed with sauteed apples and fennel, caramelized onions, and blue cheese is pretty close! Just like apple pie, this dish is great either warm or at room temperature; just be sure to store any leftovers in the fridge.

I don’t know where the idea came from, but while I was doing my weekly menu-planning, I decided that I wanted to make an apple and blue cheese galette. Thinking about it more I decided that, while it sounded great, it needed more – both to add bulk and make it filling as well as to add some sharpness to the flavor. I decided that caramelized onions would be perfect. Then I saw fennel while I was shopping and decided to grab that too. Apples and fennel pair perfectly, and together, the onions and fennel moved this dish squarely from the dessert column to the dinner column. [....]

Southwestern Short Ribs

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One day last weekend, I was looking for an excuse to not leave the house so I decided to braise something. I feel like although I’ve been doing a lot of braising this winter (thanks to Julie and Julia, which has us all craving Boeuf Bourgignon in August!!), I hardly ever use my oven. I obviously use it when I bake, but it’s so rare that I do something like roast a chicken and the oven just never gets used for cooking. I takes so long! You have to wait for it to preheat, then it takes forever to actually cook your food…. so it’s the stovetop for me the majority of the time. Every once in a while if I’m snowed in (or want to pretend I’m snowed in!) I take advantage of the time at home to make a delicious braised dish. Like these short ribs, which simmer away all afternoon until the meat falls right off the bone and is tender as can be.

Instead of doing a traditional Italian braise, I decided to put a southwestern twist on my ribs, using beer and tequila as my liquids and adding a jalapeno and some chili powder to the pot. The flavor turned out great – it wasn’t spicy or beer-y at all, but it had a nice little southwestern kick. In order to develop the recipe I used the “Create your own” feature on the Fine Cooking web site. The feature walks you through the recipe and lets you drag different combinations of ingredients into the “pot” – then at the end it gives you a recipe that you can follow to recreate the dish n a real kitchen. I always play around with the feature, but I had never actually cooked one of the recipes before. I was impressed! Although you ned to pay attention to what flavors will go well together and make sure you have a good balance of richness and acidity, it’s a great way to put a fun, personal twist on a recipe that you aren’t that familiar with.

For any of you that have never had short ribs before, it’s similar to pot roast with a slightly firmer texture – fork-tender and succulent meat, with vegetables that cook down into a nice sauce. I served these with mashed potatoes (with sour cream instead of milk) to serve with my ribs. They were a great way to soak up the extra sauce! [....]

Risotto with Scallops and Grapefruit

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The other day I didn’t have anything planned to make for dinner, so I asked Shawn to pick something up for me to cook. came home to find some beautiful scallops (look at the size of those babies!), arborio rice, pecorino romano, thyme, and peas. It really shouldn’t have surprised me that he bought ingredients for risotto – I’m pretty sure he would be blissfully happy if I made it every day! Plain risotto with scallops seemed kind of boring to me though, so I looked around the kitchen for something else to add. I came across a grapefruit and figured “why not?” I knew that scallops and grapefruit went great together, and even though I was a little nervous about how the flavor would play out in a risotto I figured it was worth a shot.

I shouldn’t have doubted myself. I had forgotten how great lemon zest is in risotto, and the grapefruit acted in the same way. The sharp citrus cuts through the creamy rice and lifts the flavor of the whole dish. I was also nervous about the fruit being to bitter, but the natural sweetness of the scallops – and the little bit of brown butter that I decided to use – provided just the right amount of balance.

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Risotto with Scallops and Grapefruit

1Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mined
1.5 cups arborio rice
4 oz white wine
5 cups chicken stock, warmed
1/2 cup peas
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
2 Tbs grapefruit zest
1/2 pound scallops
Juice from 1/2 grapefruit
1 Tbs butter
1/2 grapefruit, supremed (cut into wedges, white parts removed)

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add rice and cook 2 minutes or until heated trhough and nearly translucent. Add the wine and cook until fully absorbed by the rice. Add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing nearly all of the broth to absord before adding more. Continue this process until rice is soft and creamy – it should take about 20 minutes, but you may not need all of the broth. Stir in the pecorno romano and the peas. Allow the cheese to melt and the peas to warm. Stir in the grapefruit zest. Cover and keep warm.

Dry the scallops as much as you can with a paper towel. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add half the scallops and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. Remove from the pan and repeat with remaining scallops. Add butter to the pan – allow it to melt, then continue cooking until it is a golden brown color. Whisk in the grapefruit juice. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. Add the scallops back into the pan, and toss with the grapefruit glaze. Add the grapefruit wedges and cook until just warmed through.

Spoon the risotto into 4 bowls. Top with the scallops and grapefruit.

Serves 4.
Approx. 560 calories, 14 grams fat, 1.5 grams fiber, 23 grams protein

Spinach, Poblano and Cheese Enchiladas

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For almost the entire time that I was away, I had a horrible craving for Mexican food. So I wasted no time when I got home and made these enchiladas right away! I was kind of tired of beef and pork, and I don’t care for chicken enchiladas, so I decided to go with a vegetarian option. Shawn recently ordered spinach and cheese enchiladas at a restaurant, so I used those as my inspiration. They don’t taste overly spinach-y, but the vegetables add bulk to the filling so that you can use less cheese and keep the calorie and fat count down (don’t worry, there’s still plenty of ooey, gooey cheese!).

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I attempted to find a recipe for spinach and cheese enchiladas online, but none of them looked very good – they all had weird ingredients like ricotta cheese! Nothing that I found was even close to what i was looking for, so I made my recipe up as I went along. I shredded the cheese for my filling and mixed it with the spinach so that you wouldn’t end up with big clumps of either. I also added a poblano pepper and a chili pepper to add a little bit of heat. The poblano gave the whole dish a nice, authentic Mexican flavor and I’ll definitely use them again the next time I make these.
I used Good Food Mexican red sauce, which I liked a lot, on these enchiladas. It caught my eye at the store because it had fewer ingredients than the enchilada sauces an the ingredients were recognizable. It also had significantly less calories and sodium than the other sauce options. The fact the the sauce was made by Good Housekeeping had me a little worried, but I shouldn’t have been. It was great! I liked that it had a little bit of a kick to it, and the smell was incredible. I can’t wait to try the other flavors. [....]

Daring Cooks: Mezze with Homemade Pitas and Hummus

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I’m baaaaack!! I apologize for the severe lack of posts over the past few weeks. I was on an extended business trip and even though I had photos and recipes ready to go, I was just too tired to actually write up posts while I was away. But I’m home and rested now and life is slowly getting back to normal – which means I’m ready to resume my regular posting schedule! And what better way to jump right back in than with a Daring Cooks challenge?

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford, and Naomi Dugid. Mezze is a bunch of small dishes that are all served at once – sort of like a Middle Eastern tapas. The required parts of the challenge were to make pita bread and hummus. I also chose to make kafta (spiced meatballs) and taboule salad.

I’ve made pitas before, but I really loved this recipe and will definitely be making it again. Homemade pitas are so much better than what you can buy in the store – they’re soft, fluffy pillows of goodness. I found this recipe to be really easy to follow and the result was pure perfection. They tasted just like the pitas that I get at my favorite Middle Eastern restaurants! They were really cheap to make too, and I loved how they puffed up in the oven. Since I was planning to use them as a wrap, I flattened them while they were still warm. But if you want a pocket that you can fill, Leave them in the balloon shape to cool. The inside will be hollow, so you can cut them in half and fill just like a store bought pita pocket. As written, the recipe will yield 16 breads. I halved it and had no problems. [....]