Monday, August 16, 2010

Ratatouille & Brie Sandwich

I am so excited because I just perfected the ratatouille sandwich from Toronto! As promised, here's the recipe. This recipe is great because it is so multi-purpose. I made the ratatouille last night to have as a side with the most amazing ribs, which left most of ratatouille for these sandwiches the next day.

Choose a soft bread with lots of flavor, and use a good mustard. This is a great dinner on a weeknight, after a walk.

Ratatouille & Brie Sandwich

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled & cut in 1-inch pieces
8 large thyme sprigs
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 red bell peppers, cut into ½ inch strips
1 large onion, cut into 3/4-inch sliced
3 large tomatoes—halved, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
8 Soft rolls
A wedge of brie cheese
Dijon mustard

In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the eggplant, 2 of the thyme sprigs, one-fourth of the minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper; season with salt and black pepper. Cook the eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 7 minutes. Scrape the eggplant into a large bowl and discard the thyme sprigs. Repeat with the zucchini, red bell peppers and onion, cooking each vegetable separately in 2 tablespoons of oil with 2 thyme sprigs, one-fourth of the minced garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of the crushed red pepper until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the cooked vegetables to the eggplant.

Return all of the vegetables to the skillet. Add the tomatoes, basil and parsley and simmer over moderate heat until the tomatoes are softened, about 10 minutes.

Split the rolls by cutting around the top and pulling out the top – like you’re making a well in the bread to contain the filling. On a large baking sheet, toast the rolls under the broiler, until crusty. Fill the warm rolls with the ratatouille, and top with the sliced brie. Spread the top of the roll with Dijon mustard - serve right away.

Adapted from Food & Wine,, accessed on August 14, 2010.

* I wish this was a photo of my sandwiches tonight, but - though they were delicious - were ugly. Really ugly. But delicious.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fresh Pasta

Fresh pasta can be tricky, but it is worth the time. Making pasta at home compares to nothing else you'll have - not even the allegedly fresh pasta in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.

I used the extruder attachment for my Kitchen Aid to make this spaghetti. This is the first time I have used the attachment, and I am really pleased with the results. Prior to the extruder attachment, I had a traditional hand-crank pasta maker. They really are two different processes - it depends on what your preference is.
The hand-crank pasta maker is perfect for the sheets of pasta - use them for ravioli, or to make hand-cut pasta, like rags. However, once you begin to use the hand-crank machine to make the cut pastas, there are not enough hands in the world to help you. For pasta shapes, I definitely prefer the extruder. Which ever method you prefer, the mode of making the dough is the same.

The pasta pictured above is a semolina dough. The key to making pasta dough is knowing what to look for: when the dough comes together into a ball in the food processor, let the machine continue to run for about another 1-2 minutes, which acts as the kneading of the dough. Keep in mind that the weather will affect your dough: if it is a humid day, you may not even need to add any water. You can always add water - but you can't take it out.

1 1/3 c. Semolina flour
1 Large egg, whipped
1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1-4 Tbsp Water

In a food processor, add the flour. With the processor running, slowly add the egg and the oil. If necessary, add the water slowly - never more than 1 tablespoon at a time - until the dough just forms a ball. Allow the processor to continue to run for another 1-2 minutes. Once done, let the dough to rest for about 15 minutes before making your pasta.

In my case with the extruder, as the pasta reached the proper length, I cut the pasta off and laid it out in a single layer on the countertop, which had a liberal coat of semolina flour to prevent the pasta from sticking (to itself and the counter). You can tell from the picture above that I used a lot of semolina flour; it's ok because the texture of the semolina is more granular than all purpose, and shakes off easily.

Add the pasta to a pot of boiling, well-salted water. Stir,
and cook approximately 3 minutes. It's fresh, so it cooks very fast.

I added my pasta to a pan of Farmers Market Pasta sauce
- pure heaven.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Roasted Beet Salad

We also picked up fresh beets at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. Todd was not convinced when I suggested that we buy some - but he admitted that he has only had pickled beets. Now that he tried this salad, he loves beets, and I think you will, too. They are deliciously sweet, and have a beautiful velvety texture. As you can see from the photo below - I think I'll stick with golden beets from now on. The red beets, while gorgeously pink, made everything pink - even my yummy oranges.

Roasted Beet Salad

  • 6 medium golden beets
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated or pasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • 2 Tablespoons toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1 lb salad greens

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut off and discard stems from the beets, and wrap each beet in foil. Place beets directly on oven rack and roast until tender when pierced with fork, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Once cool, peel the beets. Slice each beet into wedges. Place beets in medium bowl.

Zest one orange for the dressing, then supreme it: begin by cutting the ends off of the orange. Place the orange cut-side up, and cut the peel/white pith off the orange. Then, working over another bowl and using small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release segments. If that confused you, see this video.* Add orange segments to the bowl with the beets.

Whisk vinegar, oil, garlic, and orange peel in small bowl to blend; add to beet mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Pile the mixture on top of a plate of salad greens. Enjoy!

Feel free to experiment with this - Todd added crumbled blue cheese to his salad, and it was delicious (but I thought it was too overpowering). Certainly goat cheese would be perfect here, if you like it (which I don't; not even a little). I personally might choose a ricotta salata in place of goat cheese.

*Please just take your time when you supreme an orange so that you do not waste as much of it as Ming Tsai does; I'm not a fan of his, but it shows you how to do it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bliss Can Be an Heirloom Tomato

I am almost ashamed to admit that this Saturday I went to my first farmer's market in Milwaukee. I KNOW - it's sick and wrong. Me - the girl who grew up on my honorary aunt and uncle's organic farm - Creekside Farm - during the summer, spending Saturday mornings peddling fruits, veggies, and flowers at THE farmer's market on the Capital Square in Madison, Wisconsin. Hell, the first thing I learned to drive was a tractor on their farm. Honest.

Though the South Shore Farmer's Market is very different from the Dane County Farmer's Market, the dog-friendly atmosphere, a priest making smoothies, a French man making crepes, and being on Lake Michigan in South Shore Park was wonderful. Next time, we will take our dog Max to meet all the dogs.

For dinner on Saturday, I made caprese salad - and it was THE most amazing salad ever! Imagine perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, and 25-year aged balsamic vinegar . . . so amazing!