Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday Breakfast

I assembled today's breakfast yesterday early afternoon.  I made the pesto the day before and frankly didn't totally care for it but in this strata it worked out great.  This strata was creamy, moist, cheesy with the bright flavors of summer.  I haven't had a lot of luck this year with store bought tomatoes.  They are not as flavorful as my "Sweet Million" volunteer garden tomatoes but for this dish I needed slices.  Since the final layer was tomatoes however the baking process sweetened them.  Next time I'll do two things differently when it comes to the tomatoes.  Slice all 4 tomatoes to keep the prettiest ones for the top layer and use at least one more so that the top layer has them even overlapping unlike shown here.  They were just so tasty and sweet after baking that more will be better.

The original recipe came from Cuisine at Home, #58 2006, pg. 21.  I have been cooking a bunch of recipes out of them ever since I sorted them into seasons and put the summer seasons on my coffee table.  This way I can cook based on what is fresh in the stores.  I didn't make a ton of changes to the original beyond making my own pesto and using non fat milk.  The recipe called for a 2-3 quart round dish but my 2 qt. was too shallow, one layer and it was full.  It needed a deeper dish so I used my oval 3qt. dish which is 5.5" deep and 12⅝”L. 9¼”W and I still had to press it down in order to pour the egg mixture over the top.

1 loaf (1-1.5 lbs.) sourdough bread, sliced ½” slices
8 oz. cream cheese, tiny cubes
½ lb. (8 oz.) ball fresh mozzarella, tiny cubes
¾ C. pesto
16 slices (6 oz.) prosciutto, thinly sliced
1.5 lb. (5-6) roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
Whisk, pour over strata, chill:
5 eggs
1 ½ C. non fat milk
½ t. salt
½ t. coarse ground black pepper

Slice the bread into half inch slices.  Cube the cream cheese and mozzarella into tiny cubes and slice the tomatoes.  Coat a 3qt. at least 3.5 inch deep glass baking  with a good layer of nonstick spray or oil.

Layer the following in order given:
  • Half the bread slices
  • Half the cream cheese, cubed or spread on bread
  • Half the mozzarella
  • Half the pesto, spread
  • 8 slices of prosciutto
  • Half the tomato slices, the uglier ones first
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Repeat with remaining ingredients
The top layer should be covered in tomatoes, overlapping if necessary unlike my first attempt.  Press down the mixture.  Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Pour over top of tomatoes.   Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

When ready to cook, remove from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before baking.  Bake 350°F for 1 hour-1 hour 15 minutes, till eggs are set.  A knife inserted should come out clean.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

Note:  Since the cream cheese doesn't really melt you want to make sure the pieces are small so you get an even layer and not a big bite of cream cheese.  Unlike the picture shown here add enough tomatoes to the top layer so it is covered, overlapping if necessary.  Here I used 1 pound which equaled 4 tomatoes.  I've increased it to 5 or 6 just cover it.  The top layer of tomatoes are sweater because of the baking process so I wanted more.

PESTO:  I tried two new pesto's the day before and I used the one I didn't like here because by the next day it mellowed out and tasted better and it worked perfectly in this dish.  You can buy it already made, use my new recipe or my standard basil pesto recipe if you like.  I'll post those recipes next.  The second new pesto I made with the soy sauce, wouldn't work here.  It was too strong from the soy but it will work great with the fish I'll be cooking this week.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Canning and Pickling is getting easier with practice

I'm not saying that it is a hard process but once you have done it a few times the nerves go away which make it easier and less stressful and the time to do it shortens.  Also since I got a new stove the time it takes to bring the huge pot of water to a boil has reduced considerably, maybe by about 15-30 minutes.  I'll have to time it next time to make sure.

Most recently I received my free bowls of apricots from my neighbor so I made quite a few differnt things like apricot butter.  The apricot butter recipe was nice because I did it in the oven and although I stirred it about every 15-20 minutes it was more relaxing than doing it on the stove top.

4 lb. apricots
½ C. water
3 T. bottled lemon juice
4 C. sugar
1 t. cinnamon
¼ t. ground allspice
¼ t. nutmeg
¼ t. salt

Clean, pit and chop apricots.  Put in a large heavy bottomed saucepan with water, and lemon juice and cook for 15-20 minutes until apricots are soft.  Using a stick blender puree fruit or if you don’t have a stick blender use a food processor or blender.  Return to pot if you removed.  Add sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Remove to a braising or roasting pan.  Put in oven and cook until thick about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Stir every 15 minutes or so it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom and sides.  The butter is done when a sample is put on a plate and there is no rim of liquid around it.  Ladle into hot jars, wipe rims and seal.  Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Makes 5-6 half pint jars.

I also made a quick Apricot Pastry using last years apricot jam, this years whole apricots and puff pastry.
I used the jam along with cream cheese and a sprinkle of goat cheese for a quick appetizer.
I made this wonderful Cinnamon Apricot bread.
I added some to rum and some to brandy.
I put some in apple cider vinegar for an infused Apricot Vinegar.  And then I had had enough so I froze packages of chopped apricots in 2C portions.  

Before I made the butter I had already started for the second attempt, pickled strawberries and watermelon rind.  The first time I did pickled strawberries they were extremely sour.  Now that I have tried a new recipe I moved my first attempt recipe to the infused vinegar section.  It makes for a flavorful vinegar but eating the strawberries alone were just too sour.  Adding them to a salad helped so I didn't have to toss them out.  My second attempt resulted in sweet strawberries and I can't wait to make them again but I think I'll simplify the recipe and get rid of the 2T measurements.  Not sure why this bugs me beyond a spoon to wash but it just seems unnecessary.  This is a good June/July gift for someone during peak strawberry season.  So here is what I did the first two times.

6 – 8 fresh strawberries, stems removed, quartered
1 C apple cider vinegar
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 sliced or halved jalapeƱo or serrano pepper
½ t whole black peppercorns
¼ t whole coriander

Add strawberries to a jar.  Mix other ingredients.  Pour over jar.


1 lb. strawberries, stemmed, halved or quartered
½ C. + 2T white balsamic vinegar
½ C. + 2T granulated sugar
½ C. + 2T water

Bring to a boil, stirring to melt sugar. Remove from heat. Wash, stem and cut in half or quarter larger strawberries. Place in a glass jar. Pour warm liquid over top. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Best eaten within 2 weeks.

Note: If you leave larger pieces you can skewer them with mozzarella for a twist on caprese.

Serving Suggestions: Serve over goat cheese, cream cheese, Greek yogurt, pancakes, ice cream, in salads, use the vinegar as part of the vinaigrette in place of the vinegar and sweetener, skewer with mozzarella and basil or mint, serve on toasted bread spread with cheese

Leftovers: Use vinegar liquid in salad dressings.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Caesar Mashed Potatoes, very different but tasty

It has been a bit since I posted something but that doesn't mean I haven't been trying new recipes.  I will get caught up on all the things I've tried very soon.  Like the many apricot recipes, when my neighbor dropped off two huge bowls of apricots.

Yesterdays recipe was a winner although I will try and reduce the fat next time to what I have listed below.  I was intrigued by the recipe until I started adding the 1/2 C. of oil which felt like way too much and then to add the 1/4 C. mayo I really thought it was over the top.  To my surprise they tasted rather refreshing because of the lemon.  They were not too heavy or oily and they paired perfectly with my baby lamb TBone chops and a salad.  The original recipe came from Cuisine at Home #105 May/June 2014 pg. 30.

Awhile back I made pickled strawberries so I used them for the first time in my salad and used the juice to make a dressing.  I'll add this recipe too.  They were much better than the first recipe I tried.

1 ½ lb. red potatoes
⅛ C. mayonnaise
2 cloves (1 T.) fresh garlic, minced
1 lemon, zested
1 T. lemon juice
½ t. anchovy paste
½ C. Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ t. Kosher salt
¼ t. coarse black pepper

Cut potatoes in half if large. Add to a large pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 40 minutes or until potatoes are easily split with a fork. Drain, add back to pan and add oil. Smash. Mince garlic, zest lemon. Add mayonnaise, garlic, zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and anchovy paste. Stir. Add Parmesan, stir.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with a salad and grilled lamb chops.

Friday, June 20, 2014


I redid the vinaigrette on my grilled panzanella salad last night and it was much better.  I changed the vinegar to apple cider and modified the ingredients slightly.  This is definitely a favorite summer salad.  Here is the link to the updated original post.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Tabbouleh Salad with Grilled Portabellas and Grilled Pita Bread

I had tabbouleh salad for the first time on 5/16/2012 when a friend made it for a picnic at Half Moon Bay.  Bulgur was something I had never tried before.  If you like brown rice you will like bulgur so give it a try.  Although mint is growing on me I am not it's biggest fan so I reduced the amount.  Last night I made my third salad of the week using a different recipe for Tabbouleh Salad from the same Cuisine at Home magazine.  Although I did modify it slightly, it wasn't much different from the one I had but it had extra goobers which I think, the more goobers the better.   This one added feta, kalamata olives and grape tomatoes but 1 T. of garlic was a bit much so I can’t imagine using the 2 T. they suggested.  I'm still tasting garlic this morning.  The other difference was they topped the salad serving with a grilled portabella mushroom which made it a meal and served it with grilled pita bread which was an excellent addition for this bread lover.  The salad looked beautiful and unlike before I didn't finely dice the veggies so you clearly know what is in it but mainly it was easier.

Since the three salads I made this week were quite different it is a bit difficult to compare but here are my comments.  My favorite was the Bread salad but the dressing was my least favorite a bit tart so I will be adjusting it next time, probably leaving out the oregano, maybe reducing the vinegar and definitely adding the additional ingredients a little at a time and one at a time, tasting as I go.  The Spicy Melon Salad had a great dressing and was best served with the Blackened Ham Steak.  The ham gave it that needed boost because it was basically a fruit salad with a touch of spicy arugula.  We had 4 servings the first night, seconds of a salad is never too bag but we ate most of the arugula.  I added spinach to the leftovers the following day to make it more than just fruit.  And finally this Tabbouleh Salad was beautiful, but I've reduced the amount of garlic for next time.  The pita bread sent this over the top for me and I'm going to look for more bulgur recipes or try it in place of brown rice.

TABBOULI (Bulgur & Chickpea Salad)
1 C. dry bulgur wheat, soaked
15 oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
½ C. pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1 English cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, thinly sliced
1 C. (4-5) green onions, chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
½ C. Italian flat leaf parsley, minced with scissors
2 T. (5, 5” sprigs) mint, minced with scissors
½ C. crumbled feta cheese
⅓ C. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 T. sugar
-Salt and Pepper to taste

Soak bulgur in boiling water fore 30-45 minutes.  Drain in a fine mesh strainer, pressing to remove any excess water.  Lay on a plate to cool.  Drain and rinse chickpeas, slice olives, chop veggies and scissor cut herbs.  Add all ingredients to a large bowl, top with feta.  If making ahead wait to add the tomatoes so you  don’t have to refrigerate them.  In a small bowl, whisk dressing ingredients and pour over salad, toss.  Serve.

Notes:  Reserve 3 T. of dressing to brush on portabellas if adding.  Measure parsley before you chop it.  Wash, twist off the main leaves then pull out the larger stems before measuring.  If you don’t chop the parsley enough it can be tough.  Once measured I use my scissors to mince it in the measuring cup.  It is easier and cleaner than chopping it on a cutting board.  You can either slice the veggies as shown here or cut them in a small uniform dice depending on the look you want.  Always check kalamata olives for pits even if they say they are pitted because sometimes they miss one.  Slicing them helps you catch this.  One cup of dry bulgur makes 3 cups of cooked.  Lastly 5 cloves was very garlicky, good but the garlic taste lasted all night.


  • Add 2 T. cilantro, finely chopped to the dressing.  I don’t add it any longer to save money because it is just as good without it. 
  • I’ve also added 1 onion, finely chopped with only ½ C. of green onion but since a half of a cup is only 2-3 onions I always have leftovers that I forget to use so why not use more green onions and leave out the other onion.
  • Meal:  Grill up a portabella mushroom for each person.  Brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill on  250°F for 2 minutes per side.  Serve with grilled pita bread and feta yogurt dip.  Grill the pita rounds at the same time you grill the mushrooms also brushed with EVOO, salt and pepper.  See the feta yogurt dip in the Appetizer section (½ C. Greek yogurt, ½ C. feta, 2 t. EVOO, ½ t. garlic, salt and pepper.  Process)
  • Reserve 3 T. of the vinaigrette to  brush on mushrooms before grilling.

½ C. Greek yogurt
¼ C. crumbled feta cheese
2 t. EVOO
½ t. fresh garlic, grated
¼ t. coarse black pepper
¼ t. Kosher salt
-Pita bread

To a food processor add all ingredients, process till smooth.  Brush pita bread with EVOO and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Grill 250°F for 2-3 minutes per side or till golden brown.  Serve.

Variation:  Rub grilled pita with the cut side of a clove of garlic for added flavor.