Monday, April 30, 2012

SRC Reveal - Apple Butter Vinaigrette

This months Secret Recipe Club pick for me is Fran's Favs .  They couldn't have chosen better!  Fran grew up in an Italian household with a Sicilian Mom and a Neopolitan Dad.  This is one of those "wish we were neighbors" kinda thing for me.  Although I was not born Italian, it's one of my favorite cuisines.  Of course I went straight to the Italian section of her blog - Mamma Mia!  Cookies, soups, Momma's meatballs and so much more.  Unfortunately, I'm at a big disadvantage this month as my kitchen is currently under renovation and I have been without a place to cook for almost 3 weeks now.  I'm getting a bit of blogger withdrawal and Fran's blog has so many recipes that I would like to try!  So my options were to grill something or the Crockpot.  I spied a recipe for Beer and Brown Sugar Kielbasa with Sauerkraut  that's made in the Crockpot and I'm saving that one for later this week.

One of her other recipes that intrigued me was her recipe for Apple Butter Vinaigrette .  I made a batch of Apple Butter in the Crockpot in the Fall and have not really opened a jar up for quite a while.  I thought this would make a delicious grilled chicken salad.

1/4 cup apple butter
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil

 Combine all dressing ingredients and toss with mixed spring greens, dried cranberries and almonds.  Add sliced grilled chicken.  Garnish with cherry tomatoes.  The dressing is on the sweet side and I added a bit more salt and pepper to my taste.

I doubled the amount - saved half for the salad dressing and used the remainder to marinate the chicken.  The grill caramelized all the sweetness of the apple butter and it turned out quite different and delicious!

Secret Recipe Club

Friday, April 20, 2012

Easy Grapevine Wreath Birdbath

Here's an easy, inexpensive bird bath for our little feathered friends.  Use a grapevine wreath and a flowerpot saucer to create a refreshing spot for the birds. 

All you need is:

  • 3/8" manila rope (I used jute)
  • 15-inch grapevine wreath
  • 10-inch terra cotta saucer
  • Grape leaves or ivy
  1. Cut three (5-foot) lengths of rope and knot them together at both ends.  Nestle the wreath inside the ropes.
  2. Place the saucer inside the wreath.  If you like tuck in ivy or grape leaves and wind them around the ropes.
  3. Use more rope for hanging the bird bath if needed.
This a perfect project to do with your kids who think that bathing is for the birds!!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Pizza Soppressata and 7th Annual Cavit Gourmet Pizza Classic!!

I've always been on a mission to try and find the best pizza dough.  There are so many methods, different flours and yeasts, it's hard to find the perfect dough.  I've come to the conclusion that it is the oven that makes the best pizza.  Yeah, I'd love to have a brick-oven in my backyard patio and fire up the best homemade pizza in town, but for now, this one might be the best one I've tried.  This recipe can be doubled or halved.

3-1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp. granulated yeast
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups cake flour

By using cake flour, which is low in protein, you get a similar result to what you get if you had Italian "00" flour.

  1. Mixing and storing the dough:  Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5-quart bowl.
  2. Mix in the flour without kneading, in a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) until incorporated.
  3. Cover (not airtight) and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, approx. 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after it's initial rise, though it's easier to handle when cold.  Refrigerate in a covered container and use for pizza or flatbread over the next week or two.  The flavor will be best if you wait for at least 24 hours of refrigeration.  Freeze up to 3 weeks in 1/2 pound portions and thaw in the refrigerator overnight before use.
  5. On pizza day, roll out or stretch the dough into a thin round and finish with your favorite toppings.
 For the pizza with Soppressata you will need:

1/3 cup of your favorite pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 lb. thinly sliced soppressata (microwave for about 1 minute on paper towel lined plate to render some of its fat.

Preheat your oven with a baking stone to 475 degrees F. for at least 30 minutes. 
Stretch or roll out pizza dough.  Spread the tomato sauce over the dough, add the cheese and finish with the meat.

Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone and check for doneness in 8 to 10 minutes.

The Soppressata gets slightly crispy and it's a nice change from pepperoni.

I've unleashed my Inner Pizza Chef and entered this pizza recipe in 7th Annual Cavit Gourmet Pizza Classic to win a trip for two to Italy!  Somebody has to win right?
If you would like to vote for my pizza Click Here!

~Adapted from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grilled Romaine with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I've been hearing alot lately about grilled romaine and have seen it in a few magazines and I thought I'd give it a whirl.  Grilled lettuce you say?  Grilling this green brings out a beautiful smoky flavor and it's one of the best things I've tasted lately.  With a little grated Parmesean it's a perfect recipe to add to the grilling season coming up.  Serve it with any pasta - give it a try!

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt.

Wash and dry two or three romaine lettuce hearts.  Slice in half lengthwise.
Drizzle with vinaigrette and freshly ground black pepper.
Grill about 3 minutes on each side until nicely charred.
Grate on some Parmigiano-Reggiano while still warm.

Sharing with Cocine de Leslie

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pineapple-Bread Casserole

What's ham without pineapple?  Pineapple-Bread Casserole is like a combination of a pineapple souffle and bread pudding. 

2 cups diced onion
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
8 oz. crushed pineapple, drained (about 1-1/4 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
6 eggs, beaten
12 slices sandwich white bread (crusts removed, cubed)
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted (12 Tbsp.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Coat a 2 quart baking dish with nonstick spray.
Saute onion in oil in a skillet over medium heat until onion begins to brown.
Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.  Let cool slightly.
Combine pineapple, sugar, flour and eggs in a large bowl.  Stir onion into mixture and transfer to baking dish.
For the topping; toss together bread and butter until butter is absorbed.  Sprinkle topping over mixture in baking dish.
Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.  
Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

~Cooks Note:  The original recipe included 1 Tbsp. minced fresh sage sauteed with the onions.
~~Cuisine at Home April 2011 Issue
Make a perfect hard-boiled egg in a snap!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cheese Babka

The Polish Easter Babka celebrates the return of the egg to the diet after the Lenten Fast. Babka is always at the Easter Feast.  This is a Babka of a completely different sort.  Don't be intimidated by the lengthy directions, I just wanted to make it as easy as possible!!

Proofing Sponge 

1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 packets active dry yeast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Activating the Yeast

Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl and dissolve it in the sugar and the yeast.  Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and let this small sponge work for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly and expanded


1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3-1/2 to 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 recipe Cheese Filling (see below)
1 egg white beaten with 2 tsp. water for wash

Making the Dough

Scald the milk in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat and add the butter and sugar.  Stir to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar.
When milk mixture has cooled, beat it and the eggs (and the extra yolk) into the active yeast.  Add 2 cups of flour and the salt and mix thoroughly.  Add the raisins and enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Stir until this holds together and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead for 3 to 4 minutes on a lightly floured surface until smooth.  Add only enough flour to keep it from sticking to the board or you.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, turning it so the top is also greased.  Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, make up the cheese filling.

Cheese Filling

14 oz. Farmers Cheese (two 7 oz. packages)
If you can't find the dry curd cheese you can substitute cottage cheese set over a strainer and drained.
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. lemon extract (optional)


When dough has risen, turn it out onto your floured board, cut it in half and shape each into a ball.  Cover with a towel and let the dough rest 15 minutes.

Roll each piece of dough into a rectangle 10 x 18 inches.  Spread cheese filling down the center third of each rectangle and form a braid.

Cut strips about 1 inch wide from each side of the filling out to the edges of the dough.  Fold about an inch of dough at each end over the filling to contain it.  Then fold the strips, at an angle across the filling, alternating from side to side.

Place the shaped loaves on a lightly greased baking sheet, cover with a damp towel and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  The dough will not rise much this time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Enjoy with your coffee on Easter Morning!!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cheesy Porcini Meatloaf

I fell in love with porcini mushrooms when I first made Giada's Mushroom Risotto with Peas .  They add such a beefy richness to any dish.  This meat loaf includes a delicious surprise.  Cubes of mozzarella cheese are blended into the meat mixture and shredded cheese is combined with bread crumbs and herbs to create a scrumptious topping.


4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup hot water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 Tbsp. plus 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 oz. mozzarella shredded plus
6 oz. cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 lbs. ground beef (85% lean)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. minced fresh thyme


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat bottom of roasting pan with 1 Tbsp. oil

Chop carrots and celery in food processor.
In a saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil.
Add the carrots, celery and onion and saute until tender.  Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Let cool.

In a bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups of bread crumbs and the mushroom soaking liquid (be careful pouring in the liquid as there will be some sand at the bottom)

In another bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup bread crumbs, 1 Tbsp. parsley, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, shredded cheese and salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, gently mix together the ground beef, soaked bread crumbs, vegetable mixture, eggs, 1/4 cup parsley, thyme and cubed cheese, salt and pepper.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and shape into a 10-by-5 inch loaf.  Cover the top and sides of the meat loaf with the cheese-bread mixture.

Bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  

Serve with classic mashed potatoes.
~Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Ćwikła - Polish Horseradish with Beets Relish

Ćwikła isn’t quite easy to pronounce so I’ve always just called it red beets, because that’s what is is. Buraki, in Polish simply means beetroots and this is a typical Polish condiment, served with roast or any kind of smoked meat or sausage. It is a must on the holiday table, regardless if it’s Christmas or Easter. Ćwikła basically consists of grated beetroots and horseradish. I prefer it with as much horseradish as possible, really hot and nice!  This goes perfect with your Easter ham and hard-boiled eggs.

  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 cup homemade or purchased horseradish (add as much as you like to suit your taste)
  • 1 lb. beets, cooked, peeled and grated or 1 (14 oz.) can prepared beets, drained and grated
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
I suggest if choose to grate your own fresh horseradish root that you wear goggles!
In a large bowl, mix together the vinegar, brown sugar, horseradish and salt until well combined.
Add beets and mix thoroughly.
Pack into clean jars and store up to 2 months.

Cwikla - Polish Horseradish and Beet Relish  on Punk Domestics

Artisan Cast Iron Dutch Oven Bread

This recipe is a typical one with two rising periods.  Most of this time it's the yeast working and not you! 2 cups water 1...