Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 3, 2013

We met at my house and all were in attendance except for Teresa.  

Appetizer:  Carol, Individual Seven Layer Dips
Cocktail:  Janet, Agua de Valencia:  Made with Cava
Salad:  Tonya, Argula, Apple and Manchego with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Side Dish:  Carol, Parmesan Baked Tomatoes
Main Dish:  Angie, Spanish Style Toasted Pasta with Shrimp
Dessert:  Mary, Sweet Catalan Cream and Bizcochos Borrah

Carol started us off with Individual Seven Layer Dips with homemade pico de gallo.    These were as tasty as they were pretty.   Piping using a Ziploc bag was the key to the neat layers. 

Our cocktail was Agua de Valencia made with Cava.  It is a Spanish cocktail that was first made in 1959 in Valencia.  You can ask for it in Spain and there are bottled brands of the drink for sale.

The salad had sweet apple, slivered almonds, spicy arugula and shaved cheese.  The slightly sweet vinaigrette pulled all the elements together.  Tonya picked the perfect salad recipe for our dinner!

Carol brought Parmesan Baked tomatoes as our side dish and it paired perfectly with the pasta.  The dish is simple and showcases the freshness of the tomatoes.  The green herbs on top add color and flavor.

I picked the main dish, Spanish Style Toasted Pasta with Shrimp, from Cooks Illustrated.  It had an interesting technique of cooking the pasta dry to a peanut butter color.  It then is finished in the wine, chicken broth and water in the oven.  Since we doubled the recipe the pasta was not all able to brown because my pan was too small. 

I really liked this dish and it re-heated well for days of left overs! 

Spanish Style Toasted Pasta with Shrimp

Serves 4

3 tbs plus 2 tsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds extra large shrimp
2 3/4 cups water
1 cup chicken broth
1 bay leaf
8 oz thin spaghetti, broken into 1-2 inch pieces by wrapping dry pasta in kitchen towel and breaking on counter
1 onion, chopped fine
14.5 oz petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbs chopped parsley
lemon wedges
1 recipe Aioli (optional - we did not use)

Peel shrimp, reserving shells.  Combine 1 tbs oil, 1 tsp garlic, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper in a medium bowl.  Add shrimp, toss to coat and refrigerate until ready to use.

Place reserved shrimp shells, water, chicken broth and bay leaf in a medium bowl.  Cover and microwave until liquid is hot and shells have turned pink, about 6 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use.

Toss spaghetti and 2 tsp oil in skillet until spaghetti is evenly coated.  Toast spaghetti over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until browned and nutty in aroma (should be color of peanut butter), 6 to 10 minutes.  Transfer to bowl.  Wipe out skillet with paper towel.

Heat remaining 2 tbs oil in now empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.   Add onion and 1/4 tsp salt;  cook, stirring frequently until softened and beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until mixture is thick, dry and slightly darkened in color, 4 to 6 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add remaining garlic, paprika, smoked paprika and anchovy paste.  Cook until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Add spaghetti and stir to combine.  Adjust oven rack 5 to 6 inches from broiler elements and heat broiler.

Pour broth through fine mesh strainer into skillet.  Add wine, 1/4  tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and stir well.  Increase heat to medium high and bring to simmer.  Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until liquid is slightly thickened and spaghetti is just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.  Scatter shrimp over spaghetti and stir in to partially submerge.  Transfer skillet (OR, put in casserole dish without shrimp, then add shrimp, if your skillet is not oven proof) to oven and broil until shrimp are opaque and surface of spaghetti is dry with crisped, browned spots, 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately, passing lemon wedges and, if using, Aioli separately.

We had two desserts from Mary!  HOORAY!  This is starting to be a trend to have multiples of the same course.  I shall never complain about this!  One was a cake and the other a creamy custard.  The cake is light with a hint of lemon.  The custard is silkier than creme brulee and also has the taste of lemon.  Both were delicious  and complimented each other perfectly!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Two Bean Soup with Kale

I planted kale seeds in my garden in about October 2012.  All the other seed-to-plants that I planted at the same time are long gone.  What the bugs did not eat, the freezing temperatures killed.  Kale is like the roach of vegetables.  Nothing can kill it.  For the past couple of months I have harvested the tender leaves in the middle and I will repeat this until the kale finally gives up.  My continually giving kale plants is why I pinned this recipe for Two Bean Soup with Kale.  I am glad I did because it is the best soup recipe I have ever made especially given the few spices required (salt and red wine vinegar - I did not add pepper).

The modifications I made were adding a pound of mild Italian sausage and a can of Rotel (original), not pureeing the beans and omitting the olive oil and pepper.  I cooked the sausage until brown and then did not drain the fat.  I omitted the olive oil, and sauteed the vegetables with the browned meat and the little amount of rendered fat.

I did not add the salt when called for because I knew the sausage and Rotel would add some.  I added the Rotel at the same time as the beans.  At the end, I added a minimum amount of salt to taste.  The soup is hearty and flavorful with the fennel from the sausage.  I think without the sausage it would be bland.  The carrots and celery add some crunch and the beans are hardly noticeable (I am not a huge cannelloni bean fan).  The kale is in every bite.  This soup is hearty, healthy and flavorful with very little fat.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Two apple cakes

I made two apple cakes for work.  Both were well received.  One, the Mom's Apple Cake is a bit on the wholesome side, with no icing and the other, Apple Fritter Cake is naughty in all the right ways with both a brown sugar topping AND a glaze.

For the Mom's apple cake, a tube pan really is essential.  I baked mine in a bundt pan, and when I removed it, the cake split at the middle apple layer.  I was able to push it back together and it tasted fantastic.  I used about 5 Granny Smith apples and the cake over-floweth with apple goodness.

The apple fritter cake.  WOW.  It is so moist and sweet without being overly sweet.  I do not think the cooking of the apples is a necessary step, so I will skip that next time, along with the cornstarch.  Oh, and I used way more apples - 4 granny smiths.  I also only prepared half of the glaze.  I could have used a tiny bit more, so next time I will prepare the entire recipe and just use my judgement on HOW MUCH GLAZE IS TOO MUCH GLAZE?!  That really is not something that I should ever ponder, but I am trying to cut down empty calories. 

P.S.  My apple fritter cake won second prize at the office bake off.  I think I would have won first except my coworkers thought I was the Lance Armstrong (minus the steroids) of the company baking competitions and my reign needed to be stopped.  At least that is how Chad explained it to me.  Next time I will not tell people which dessert is mine.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Winning Cookie, 2012

I think I neglected to post this back in December.  This was my winning "cookie" from my office's 2012 Cookie competition.  And here is my trophy (and Claire).