Monday, May 31, 2010

Gorilla Bread

I already love monkey bread, so when I saw this recipe, I thought, "What? Monkey bread can get better?" And yes, it is much better!! Yummy.

Gorilla Bread (Serves 8)

3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup packed light brown sugar
8 Tbsp (1 stick) butter
2-12 oz tubes refrigerated crescent roll dough
3 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
2 bananas, sliced 1/4" thick (48 slices)
4 oz (about 2/3 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spray a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together. In small saucepan, melt the brown sugar with the butter over low heat.

Break open the crescent roll packages and separate the triangles of dough. Brush each triangle with the sweetened condensed milk and top with two banana slices and 1 tsp chocolate chips; gather the edges of the triangle together and seal the sides. (Forms a little packet) Sprinkle each with 1/4 tsp of the cinnamon sugar.

Place half of the walnuts in the pan and top with half of the dough packets. Pour half of the brown sugar-butter mixture over the dough and sprinkle with 2 tsp of the cinnamon sugar mix. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Bake for 1 hour, until puffed, golden brown, and firm to the touch. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Place a platter on top of the pan and invert. Serve warm.

Observations/Suggestions: Make sure you spray the pan well because these do tend to stick. Also, I could not find the 12 oz packages of crescent roll dough, so I used 8 oz packages. This worked fine, but I only used half the butter/brown sugar mixture and it was done 10 minutes early when I had a smaller batch. Also, instead of sprinkling cinnamon sugar over each packet, I rolled them in it, which worked fabulously.

Recommended? A HUGE YES! Delicious. Easy to make, tasty, and something out of the ordinary. I will definitely make it again and I'm dying to have another piece right now.

FYI: My picture isn't very good because I was in too big of a hurry to eat it!

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Another recipe that has been sitting in my "must make" folder! Pretty much a cold pasta salad with bread instead of pasta. Interesting, right?

Panzanella (Serves 6)

4 cups 1-inch pieces day-old Italian or other firm bread
2 medium tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium green pepper, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

In a large bowl, mix bread, tomatoes, garlic, green pepper, basil, and parsley. In tightly covered container, shake olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Pour over bread mixture; toss until bread is evenly coated.

Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour until bread is softened and flavors are blended. (No more than 8 hours) Toss before serving.

Observations/Suggestions: I used half a loaf of short french bread. It was fairly soft, so I cut it and left it out most of the afternoon until the pieces were fairly dried out. There was way too much green pepper. I diced mine, so half a pepper is plenty. Unless you prefer a lot of green pepper, of course. I did not have red wine vinegar on hand, so I substituted apple cider vinegar (after some research) and it worked great. I let mine sit for about two hours and the flavors were very mellow.

Recommended? Yes. I made it as a main dish, but I felt it needed something with it. I will add black olives next time and will serve alongside grilled chicken.

Peach & Blueberry Crumble

I'm not a fruit pie/crisp/crumble person, but boy, do I love them now!!

Peach & Blueberry Crumble (Makes 6 Ramekins)

2 pounds firm, ripe peaches (6 to 8 peaches)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1/2 pint)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into thick wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in blueberries. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Squeeze the mixture with your fingers until it's in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the tops are brown/crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature. (You can make it ahead and store unbaked crumbles in the fridge.)

Observations/Suggestions: The peach boiling process is a must. Once the water comes to a boil, carefully put in the peaches and remove the water from the heat. Also, I cut my peaches into eighths, which was the perfect size. Since I did not have light brown sugar, I substituted dark, which I thought made a nice rich flavor. Also, since my butter was frozen instead of cold (oops!), I opted to use a pastry cutter instead of the electric mixer. I had much better control of the butter size and I had less mess. And again, I had no parchment paper on hand, so I made myself realize that I would need to let the pan soak afterwards. No biggie. FYI: Make sure that the ramekins are not too close to the edge of the pan though, they tend to spurt juices near the end. You do not want a messy oven! And, if you don't have ramekins, feel free to use a square 9x9" pan, I think that would work just fine.

Recommended? 100% Yes! Very tasty and attractive for little effort. To make it even better? A scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top.

Cheese Danish

Although I've never been a pastry person, my parents adore cream cheese danish, so I thought I'd give it a try!

Cheese Danish (Makes 8)

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
2 Tbsp ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese and sugar in an electric mixer (paddle attachment). Cream together on low speed until smooth. With mixer on low, add egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest. Mix until just combined, don't overmix!

Unfold one sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and roll it with a floured rolling pin until 10x10". Cut the sheet into quarters. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture into the middle of each square. Brush the entire border of each pastry with the egg wash and fold two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash and place the pastries on a prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled danish for 15 minutes.

Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

Observations/Suggestions: I did not have parchment paper, so I greased the pan with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (Original) and it worked fine. Minor sticking, but nothing drastic. Also, I should note, the cheese mixture may be a little lumpy. That is the lemon zest, do not worry. I highly recommend filling all danish at once because you will have leftover cheese mixture. Fill them well! Also, to my huge disappointment, all eight danish did not fit on the same pan. So, I ran two pans during the baking process. The pan on the bottom rack finished first, so keep an eye on them. I stored the leftovers in the fridge and they were fine the next day. FYI: These do not need to be served warm.

Recommended? Again, yes and no. I felt that the puffed pastry cheapened the danish. But, that may just be me since I am not a puffed pastry fan. If you want to impress houseguests with a fairly easy recipe, I definitely think this is the way to go. Good tasting with little effort.

Tomato Pesto Mozzarella Panini

When I found this recipe, I loved everything about it and was absolutely dying to try it. To me, it was a more "mature" version of grilled cheese, which is one of my favorite sandwiches.

Tomato Pesto Mozzarella Panini (Makes 3 Sandwiches)

1 large tomato
1 (8 oz.) ball of fresh mozzarella
6 slices white bread
1/2 cup pesto
kosher salt
unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat panini grill machine.

Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella about 1/4-thick. Spread each slice of bread with an even layer of pesto. Place a layer of mozzarella on half of the bread and cover with a layer of tomato. Sprinkle the tomato with salt. Place the remaining slices of bread, pesto side down, on top. Spread the top and bottom of each sandwich with softened butter. Grill the sandwiches in batches on the panini grill for 2-3 minutes, until the mozzarella starts to melt. Cut in half and serve warm.

Observations/Suggestions: For starters, I stayed true to the recipe and opted for a ball of fresh mozzarella. It was my first experience with a ball of mozz, so I was surprised at the ultra mild flavor. However, I felt that the slices were much too thick. I would highly recommend thinly slicing the mozz and tomato. It will make the sandwich easier to eat and the mozz texture/taste not too overwhelming. You could opt for shredded mozzarella, but I think it may get too salty with the pesto. Which, by the way, I did not put salt on my tomatoes. The pesto brought more than enough salt to the sandwich. Also, I do not have a panini grill, so I used a pancake griddle and it worked great. Just make sure it's heated beforehand or your bread will get soggy. Which, speaking of the bread, did get soggy from the pesto. I would recommend slightly toasting the bread prior to putting pesto on it. And finally, for the butter, don't bother with a stick. I used the original version of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and it worked superb.

Recommended? Ummm... Yes. I hesitate only because the thick slices of mozz and tomato rubbed me the wrong way. If they are thin slices, then I will make it again. Perhaps grilled chicken in it would be nice, too?

Getting Started: Homemade Pesto

Pesto is one of those foods that I love, but have always been a little too timid to make. So, it only felt right to tackle it first.

I must warn you ahead of time, it is not cheap to make because of the high quality, expensive ingredients. I'll list prices by each item in the recipe to give you some perspective. But, before you make up your mind never to make it, I must give a confession. It may be cheaper to buy pre-made pesto at the store (I will eventually try and review pre-made recipes), but the satisfaction and taste of homemade, in my mind, was worth it. Okay, now for the recipe.

Pesto (Makes about 4 cups)

1/4 cup walnuts (We had these on hand, so I do not have a price estimate)
1/4 cup pine nuts (A small 4 oz. jar was $6.97) 
3 Tbsp chopped garlic (9 cloves)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (About $8 for two bunches)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (A slice of good Parmesan was about $7, so I opted for Parmesan shavings for $2.97)

Place the walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 30 seconds. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper. Turn on processor, then slowly pour the olive oil into the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely puréed. Add Parmesan and purée for one minute. Serve immediately or store the pesto in the fridge or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.

Observations/Suggestions: This pesto was good, but super salty. Next time, I will use a scant tsp of kosher salt, if that. Perhaps even a 1/2 tsp? I'll let you know when I make it again. Also, I heard that you can substitute walnuts for pine nuts, which would be significantly cheaper. I would recommend researching that before you try it. Food processors are a pain to use because of the clean-up, but I must admit, it was super easy to get all the ingredients blended to the right consistency. Which, I may add, I left my pesto with a little texture. For me, I tend to appreciate texture over nothingness. (FYI: The pesto picture is included with the Tomato Pesto Mozzarella post)

Recommended? Yes and No. If you have the time and want to experiment, I say go for it. But, unless you're eating the pesto straight, which I doubt you will, then it's probably more than acceptable to buy pre-made. Unfortunate, I know.

Tasty Morsels, Here We Come!

My Goal: To take the guesswork out of trying new recipes

The Plan: To select, test, savor, and share each recipe

I will share each new recipe I try, as well as provide my experience with the recipe, possible alterations, and photos of the finished product.

Although my recipes will come from a variety of sources, I will do my best to provide them in a way that is easily accessible.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions! Or, if you have a new recipe that you are hesitant to try, please feel free to send it and I'll be happy to try it for you.

The Discerning Culinarian,