Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tomato-Mozz Sliders with Herby Garlic Oil

Each summer, I like to make a small picnic table-top garden.  We had bigger dreams once and tried our hand at an in-ground garden, but everything either got snatched up by some form of wildlife or another,  or else we just couldn't grow it.  Granted, we didn't do much research and may have slacked on our watering here and there, but ever since, i'm all about the potted garden. 

I love growing herbs - it's so handy having them around, and so much more cost effective than buying small containers of fresh herbs at the store.  I also love tomatoes - there just isn't store bought tomato that holds a candle to the homegrown version.  



Last weekend we had two small tomatoes ripe for the picking.  As a tradition, I always eat the first ones on a sandwich with mozzarella and pesto.  It's a classic combination that i'll never tire of.  This year, rather than making pesto for my first sandwiches, I whipped up a garlicky olive oil using my fresh basil and oregano plants.  The results had a similar flavor impact at pesto, but the oil requires much fewer ingredients (and no food processor!).  This is simple, fresh summer food at its best. 


Because my tomatoes were quite small, I decided to make sliders rather than my usual baguette sandwich, though that would work well too.  I sliced the sliders in half and they would make the perfect appetizer for a party - especially because they're great warm, or at room temperature.  

Ingredients (Makes 8 sliders/16 bites):
*8 ciabatta rolls (I buy the frozen ones)
*8 slices fresh mozzarella 
*4 small, vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced
*1/2 c. olive oil
*2 small garlic cloves, minced 
*1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
*1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped

If using frozen ciabatta rolls, prepare according to package directions (if using fresh, preheat the oven to 400).  Remove from the oven and slice each roll in half crosswise. 

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant (about 1 minute).  Add the fresh herbs and stir.  Remove from the heat, set aside. 

To assemble the sliders, spoon oil mixture on both sides of the ciabatta . Top one side with a slice of mozzarella and two slices of tomato.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake at 400 for 5-6 minutes, or until the cheese just starts to melt.  Slice the sliders diagonally before serving.  Enjoy! 




Sunday, June 28, 2015

Y&E is Expanding!

Literally.  I'm expanding.

Mike and I couldn't be more thrilled to be welcoming a little girl to our growing family in time for Christmas. 



I can't thank my readers enough for sticking with me as my new recipe posts have become few and far between in recent months.  Unfortunately, I had next to no interest in food or cooking during my first trimester. Things i've always loved, like a perfectly cooked steak, have made me gag (*tear).  As a result, i've mostly been subsiding on mexican food, peanut butter, and carbs. Now that i'm in my second trimester and starting to feel less exhausted and more hungry, i'm hoping I can get back to the regularly scheduled program around here!  I still haven't hit that point where I feel energized and normal again, but many women have promised it's coming. 

Thank you again for reading along, and if all goes according to plan i'll be back with some pregnancy-craving worthy recipes in the very near future! 

xo, 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Blueberry Lime Pound Cake

Each summer for July 4, I head out for a few days of fun in the sun at my best friend Magen's house.  Her family is always there, along with our wonderful friends Megan and Andrew (and now Hayes, their newest addition!) and we have so much fun, year after year. 

It's really the bright spot of the whole summer, and just thinking about it makes me nostalgic.  Of course the wine is always flowing and the sun has yet to fail us, but what I really love is a few days nested in tradition that we've perfected through the years. 


One of the most important traditions happens to be the most delicious blueberry lime poundcake.  Magen and her mom, the fabulous Mama Jill, make it every year and I so look forward to it.  It's absolutely the perfect summer cake - filled with sweet, summer-fresh blueberries, and topped with a tangy lime glaze.  It just tastes like the season.  I always have mine for both breakfast and either an afternoon snack or dessert.  


This year, I just couldn't wait until the 4th for this cake.  Really, a cake this good deserves more than one occasion, right? This cake would be a perfect thank-you for a hostess, or contribution to any pot-luck or party.  Just be sure to set some aside for yourself - it will go fast! 

Ingredients (adapted from Fine Cooking):
*1 c. butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
*6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
*1+3/4 c. sugar
*4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature 
*2 +1/3 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
*1+1/2 tsp. baking powder
*1/4 tsp. salt
* 2 tsp. lime zest
*2.5 c. blueberries, washed and dried on paper towels

Glaze:
*1 c. confectioners' sugar
*2 tbsp. fresh lime juice 

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour a bundt pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk in lime zest. 

In a stand up mixer (or use a hand mixer), beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth (1 minute).  Add in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. With the mixer on, add eggs and then egg yolk one at a time, stopping to scrape the bowl when needed.  Reduce the mixture speed to low and slowly mix in the dry ingredients, again scraping the bowl when needed.   When everything is fully combined, use a spatula to gently fold in the blueberries. 

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and use a spatula to even it out.  Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air pockets.  Bake the cake for 50-55 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. 

Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert the cake on the same rack.  Allow to cool completely, then top with glaze. 

To prepare the glaze, stir together lime juice and sugar.  The glaze should be pourable, so add additional lime juice if needed to thin it out.  Place a baking sheet under the rack and glaze the cake. Allow the glaze to set before moving it.  Enjoy! 


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Restaurant Style Cheeseburgers

When I crave a burger, I'm a minimalist. Keep your fried egg, your imported cheese, even your bacon. Me? I want the classic.  Give me a golden, toasted bun, some ooey-gooey American cheese, a little ketchup, and perfectly juicy beef seasoned with just a hint of salt and pepper.  That's really all you need right? 

The problem is, when I make them at home, I can never seem to get that perfect restaurant quality.  I'll admit I used to try and make burgers with lean ground beef - that's a rookie mistake.  If you don't start with 80/20 ground beef, you're just wasting your time.  



The second part of my problem is that I love a thin patty (it's all about the meat to cheese ratio after all), but my burgers always seem to plump up so high on the grill or even in a pan.  Trying to press a burger just forces out all of the delicious juices and you end up with a dry, overdone burger. 

Fortunately for me, my friend Kendra introduced me to the perfect burger method and I doubt i'll ever turn back.  I wish I could take credit for it, but the method came from a recipe for Fake Shack Burgers on one of my favorite blogs - Smitten Kitchen.  They key is to form your patties very thick - I shaped mine almost like a meatball, and freeze them for 15 minutes.  The idea is not to freeze the meat, but to chill the fat content.  When the meat hits the hot pan, you immediately press it into a thin patty and since the fat is so cold, you won't lose any of the delicious juices in this initial step. 

The results might just give you the juiciest burgers you've ever tasted. The outside will be perfectly blackened, crisp, and seasoned to perfection. Of course, you can top yours with whatever you'd like - feel free to get fancy, or keep it old school like me! 

Ingredients (Makes 4 burgers):
*1.25 lb. ground chuck (80/20 fat content)
*4 buns
*3 tbsp. butter
*salt, pepper
*toppings of your choice!

Divide your beef into 4 equal parts. Roll into thick patties or meatballs - they should be at least 2 inches high. Place on a wax paper lined plate and transfer to the freezer for 15 minutes (no more or less).  Heat a griddle to medium heat (300 degrees).  Add 1 tbsp. of butter and add your buns until they are just lightly golden and toasted. Set aside on plates. 

Increase your griddle temperature to high (400 degrees).  Add the remaining butter and add patties one at a time.  As soon as the patty hits the griddle, use a large spatula to press it down flat.  Use a second spatula if needed to ensure the meat doesn't stick to the pressed down spatula.  Season with salt and pepper.  Repeat with the remaining patties.  After 1.5-2 minutes, flip the patties and season the second side with salt and pepper.  Top with cheese, if using.  Continue to cook another 2 minutes, or to desired doneness.  Enjoy! 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Foolproof Grilled BBQ Chicken

We've all been there: standing over a hot grill for 45 minutes, crossing your fingers that your overly charred bone-in chicken is cooked through in the middle.  You're starving, as is everyone that's waiting as the sides and drinks fizzle out. 

If this scene sounds all to familiar to you, then this is the recipe for you.  It's completely foolproof, and will even save you about 30 minutes of standing over the flaming grill.  The secret?  Cook the chicken first of course! 

Un-glamarous, pre-grill shot! 

I've long been a fan of brining, which just means to soak the chicken in a mixture of salt and sugar (and sometimes garlic and herbs) before it cooks.  Brining keeps the meat incredibly moist and flavorful, so why not cook the chicken in the brine itself?  For this recipe, I fully cooked the chicken in boiling brine, then grilled it for less than ten minutes to add those grill marks and texture we all love, and topped it off with my favorite bar-b-que sauce. The results were perfectly cooked, super flavorful chicken, with no guess work required! 


This recipe would be great for a party since you can easily cook the chicken in advance, then throw it on the grill just before serving (I would refrigerate cooked chicken and allow it to sit at room temperature prior to grilling if making ahead).

Ingredients (Serves 2-3, easily doubled):
*6 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
*12 c. water
*1/2 c. salt
*1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
*1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
*olive oil cooking spray
*store bought or homemade BBQ sauce

Bring water to a boil over high heat in a large stock pot.  When the water is boiling, add salt, brown sugar, and whole garlic head.  Add the chicken and boil until it just starts to pull away from the bone (about 20-25 minutes for legs). Remove the cooked chicken from the water and set aside. 

Preheat the grill over medium-high heat.  Spray the grill and chicken lightly with olive oil cooking spray.  Add the chicken to the grill and turn it just after you have light grill marks.  After you turn it, brush it with BBQ sauce.  Continue to turn and baste until desired doneness is reached.  Enjoy!