January 20, 2013

... Spicy Thai Noodles

I've had this recipe pinned for quite a while now.  That's one of the downfalls of Pinterest... pin and forget.  Love 'em and leave 'em.  Until now.  Now I'm making a goal to actually make the recipes that I pin.  Viva la Pinterest!

The beautiful thing about most online recipes - and especially well-read food blogs - is that there are nearly always comments from readers who have made the recipe.  After reading several of them, I found myself tweaking the original recipe before I even started.  Here's the original recipe should you choose to follow it.  See my notes below for my changes.

Spicy Thai Noodles
serves 4

1 box linguine or angel hair pasta
1 - 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame oil
6 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons soy sauce
green onions, cilantro, peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, shredded carrots

Boil noodles.  Drain.

Chop green onions, cilantro, carrots, and peanuts.

Heat both oils and crushed red pepper over medium heat in a small pan (2 tablespoons makes this dish very spicy.  I use only 1 tablespoon or less of pepper.)  Strain out pepper and reserve oil.  To oil, whisk in honey and soy sauce.  Toss mixture with noodles.

Refrigerate overnight or until cold.  Before serving, top each individual serving with onions, cilantro, carrots, peanuts, and toasted sesame seeds.  Serve cold.

Taylor's Notes:
As I mentioned, there were several comments to the original blog post... and I loved reading them.  You can always find great information from other readers and often the blogger will add notes, too.  Like, for instance, you really don't need the vegetable oil.  Several people - even LeAna, the blogger, said that she now leaves it out.  I added 1/8 cup just to see how it'd be.  Silly me.  I should have listened.  It wasn't bad, but was definitely more oily than it needed to be.  So, lesson learned - leave it out.  The other great tidbit I found was to add rice wine vinegar and a little peanut butter (I used Justin's Almond Butter as I've quickly become addicted to it).  And finally, as always when chilies are concerned, add at your own risk.  LeAna warns you in the original recipe that the full two tablespoons add a lot of heat.  You know me, I love heat, so add as you wish.  I actually used a tablespoon and a half of Sambal Oelek, which is chili paste.  Since I used that, I didn't drain the flakes from the oil.  

A few other things I did on my own was use Udon noodles instead of linguine.  I also added shrimp.  Several other readers added chicken, broccoli, mushrooms.  I forgot the peanuts (bummer!  they would have added great texture).  As always, the beauty of cooking is being able to make it your own.  So go get in the kitchen and be creative!  Add what you like and leave out what you don't.  And by all means...

Enjoy yourself!

January 13, 2013

... Ravioli Gratins with Goat Cheese, Basil Pistou and Pine Nuts

My collection of Le Creuset cookware is growing!  How fantastic are these Mini Cocottes that my dad gave me for Christmas?  He's such a good guy.  He also got me the cookbook to go along with it and I have no doubt he'll be benefiting from this gift often.  He's no fool.

I've flagged nearly all of the recipes in the book, but this one was the winner when my sister and nephew were coming for dinner.  Lucky for me and Kate, Elliott doesn't eat much (he's only 3 months old, after all) which meant leftovers for us.  And those leftovers were just about as good as the first round, which is saying a lot coming from me.

The prep work was easy.  Throw a bunch of fresh basil, some garlic and a little olive oil into a food processor and, voila, you have basil pistou.  Which, we learned, is pesto sans the pine nuts.  You could certainly switch the two out in this recipe, but whatever you do, make it fresh.  I've found some great jarred pestos, but, as with most things, nothing compares to fresh.

The recipe is simple to assemble.  A few layers of four or five items, pop it in the oven, and out comes this...

A perfect single serving of pasta.  Now I'm off to choose a recipe just for Dad.

Ravioli Gratins with Goat Cheese, Basil Pistou and Pine Nuts
serves 4

3/4 cup crumbly fresh goat cheese
2 bunches of fresh basil
4 cloves of garlic
several drops of olive oil
1/4 stick sweet butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb of fresh cheese ravioli
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare the basil pitou.  Rinse the basil leaves under cold water.  Gently dry in a clean kitchen towel.  Peel the garlic and take out the inner germ.  With a small mixer, mix the garlic with the basil and a few drops of olive oil.

Precook the ravioli for one minute in salted boiling water, taking care to drain them well.  Add several drops of olive oil to coat them and prevent them from sticking together.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly butter 4 mini cocottes.

Add to each, a layer of ravioli, a spoonful of crumbled goat cheese and one of the basil pistou.  Add one teaspoon of pine nuts and continue with another layer of ravioli, one tablespoon of cream, one of goat cheese and a last one of pistou.  End with a layer of ravioli, a tablespoon of cream and a generous amount of grated Parmesan.

Bake, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until the tops look crunchy and a deep golden brown.

Just before serving, add several fresh, roughly chopped basil leaves and a teaspoon of pine nuts scattered on top.

Taylor's Notes:
There really isn't much to say about this.  It's as simple as it seems and as good as it looks.  I'll definitely keep this one towards the top of the pile.  It's perfect for a small dinner party and ideal for people who only like leftovers one more time (ahem).  


... White Four-Cheese Pizza with Basil and Garlic

Happy New Year, kids!  After a crazy busy Fall and Winter, I'm really excited to be back in the kitchen trying out new recipes.  Thanks to Santa, I have several terrific new cookbooks and I can't wait to share them with you.  First up...

This should come as no surprise considering how many posts I have based on Deb's recipes.  I love making pizza at home, so was thrilled to find her recipe for homemade pizza dough.  She gives instructions for both a rushed dough and a leisurely dough, but honestly who plans ahead enough for a pizza dough that takes more than 8 hours?  Not this girl.

So, pizza dough... check.  I'm a huge fan of white pizza (the whole not-a-lover-of-tomatoes thing I'm always talking about) and this recipe is my new fave.

Easy pizza crust, four cheeses, garlic, basil... You can't get much better than that.  

White Four-Cheese Pizza with Basil and Garlic
serves 6

for the dough...
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for counter
1 teaspoon table salt
olive oil, for coating bowl

Turn your oven on to warm (about 200 to 225 degrees) for 5 minutes, then turn it off.

Pour 1/2 cup warm water into the bowl of your electric mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Add the flour, then salt, and mix with your dough hook at a moderate speed until the mixture starts to form a craggy mess.  Reduce the speed to low and mix for 5 minutes, letting the hook knead the mass into a smooth, elastic dough.  Remove dough and wipe out bowl.

Coat inside of mixing bowl with olive oil, place dough back in bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in previously warmed oven, and let it sit for 30 minutes, or until doubled.  Remove dough from oven (now is a good time to preheat it according to your recipe's instruction).

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter (if you want to roll it out), pizza peel, or prepared baking sheet, and let your recipe take it from here.

for the pizza...
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, then coarsely chopped
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Brush 13x9-inch metal baking pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Mix remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in small bowl.

Roll out pizza dough on lightly floured work surface to 14x10-inch rectangle.  Transfer dough to prepared pan; brush lightly with some of the garlic oil.  Top with mozzarella cheese and goat cheese, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.  Crumble ricotta cheese over, then sprinkle with Parmesan.  Bake pizza until crust is golden brown and cheese melts, about 18 minutes.  Drizzle remaining garlic-oil over pizza.  Let stand 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with basil.

Taylor's Notes:
The pizza dough was so easy, but mine didn't raise like Deb said it would.  I left it in the warmed oven for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe noted in hopes that it would raise a little more, but no luck.  I didn't notice that it made a huge difference in the taste of the crust - just might have produced a little smaller pizza.  Which, let's be honest, isn't a horrible thing if you're eating it by yourself.

For the pizza, I swapped out the Parmesan for Asiago and added a few toasted pine nuts for a little crunch.  The basil was a perfect addition - please don't leave it off!

Enjoy and Happy New Year!