Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cuban Panini

Ok so.... I am posting another sandwich. I think ever since it hit me that April is National Grilled Cheese Month I have had hot and cheesy sandwiches on the brain. This time it's a cuban panini. I often say that my panini press is my favorite of all my non-essential cookware. I love how you can cram so much stuff into a roll, grill it in the panini press and it comes out all neat and compact, and the bread is nice and crispy. You can really put almost anything in a panini and it comes out alright. My hubby and I were just discussing what the weirdest thing we ever put in our panini, I think his putting leftover chicken teriyaki (leftover steamed broccoli included) might be the strangest one ever done in our house.

Anyway, I purposely picked up an extra-large roast the other day when I made pork roast so I could make these sandwiches. If you've never had a cuban sandwich before you should really give one a try.

Cuban Panini
~serves 4~

Note* You'll have to forgive me, I forgot to weigh the sliced pork so I could tell you how much you need for this recipe, but if I had to make a guess, I'd probably estimate 1/2 - 3/4 lb. leftover cooked pork should be enough.
Note** If you don't own a panini press, you can get a similar effect by grilling the sandwiches in a skillet with a tiny bit of oil or butter and placing a second skillet or a dutch oven on top of the sandwich to weigh it down as it cooks. 

1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. yellow mustard
4 sub rolls, split in half
3 large pickles sliced, excess moisture blotted away with paper towel
leftover cooked pork, thinly sliced
4 slices of deli ham (I prefer black forest)
6 deli slices of swiss cheese

1. Mix together mayonnaise and mustard in a small bowl, set aside. Preheat your panini grill while assembling the sandwiches.

2. Spread about 1 T. mayo-mustard mixture on each half of the split rolls. Layer the pickles, roasted pork, ham and swiss cheese evenly between each roll. 

3. Grill each panini 5-7 miuntes until hot all the way through. Let sit for 2 or 3 minutes before serving.

Oatmeal with Apple and Pecan Topping

This is breakfast deliciousness! One of the things I am coming to love about food blogging is that all those little ideas that have been just floating around in my head for so long are finally being put into action.

Like this oatmeal I made this morning. I love oatmeal and I am always telling myself I should eat it more than I do. It is such a great vehicle for a lot of different flavor variations. My problem is that I tend to be lazy about my breakfasts. Usually when I make oatmeal my go-to add in is frozen blueberries which is delicious, but I have often eyed the bowl of apples on the counter and wanted to make a sauteed apple topping for my morning oatmeal, but alas I am usually just too lazy to do it.

So hence the perks of being a food blogger - I now put my creative thought into action on a much more regular basis.

Oatmeal with Apple and Pecan Topping
~serves 2~

Note* I used quick cooking (1 minute) oats for this recipe but you can use whatever kind of oats you prefer. You'll just have to adjust the cooking instructions for the oatmeal.

for the sauteed apples
1/2 T. unsalted butter
1 medium apple
1 1/2 T. dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
for the oatmeal
1 c. water 
3/4 c. 2% milk
1/8 t. salt
1 c. quick-cooking oats
2 T. dark brown sugar
1/8 t. cinnamon
3 T. toasted, chopped pecans

1. Melt butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add apples and cook without stirring until apples brown on one side. This should take 3-5 minutes (if after about 4 minutes the apples aren't browning, you might want to increase the heat a little). Add a good sprinkle of cinnamon, the dark brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir until the sugar melts. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine the water, milk and salt. Bring to a boil, add the oatmeal. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, stirring often until the oatmeal is thick and cooked through, 1-2 minutes. Add cinnamon, and brown sugar. 

3. Divide oatmeal between 2 bowls, top with cooked apples and chopped pecans.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

When I was a kid there were two breakfast dishes that I almost always ordered whenever I went out to breakfast with my family. And those two dishes were 1. Eggs Benedict and 2. the Monte Cristo sandwich. Now I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything but I think those are pretty adventurous dishes for a child.

Needless to say, my love of food started early.

A Monte Cristo sandwich combines so many yummy flavors. It's a little bit french toast and a little bit grilled cheese and it is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Usually, these sammies are either served with maple syrup or strawberry jam. I like to make mine just a little bit more on the savory side by mixing together strawberry jam with a little dijon mustard.

Monte Cristo Sandwiches
~makes 4 sandwiches~

Note*I toasted the bread before I made these sandwiches, in the hopes that it would prevent the bread from becoming soggy when dipped in the egg mixture. Because whole wheat bread is heartier than white bread I found this step unnecessary. If I were using white bread I probably would toast the bread beforehand.
1/2 c. strawberry jam
2 T. dijon mustard
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 T. milk
2 T. flour
8 slices of bread (I used whole wheat here but white is more traditional, see note above)
8 thin deli slices of swiss cheese
4 thin slices of ham
4 thin slices of turkey
2 T. butter
powdered sugar (for serving)

1. For the sauce: Mix together the strawberry jam and dijon mustard in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Place the eggs in a wide, shallow dish. Whisk together the milk and flour, then add to the eggs along with a pinch of salt. Mix together thoroughly.

3. Spread each slice of bread with about a teaspoon of the strawberry-mustard sauce. Divide the cheese and meat evenly between each sandwich beginning and ending with a slice of cheese.

4. Melt 1 T. butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working with one sandwich at a time, dip both sides in the egg mixture. When the butter is foaming, add the sandwich and immediately dip another sandwich in the egg mixture and place in the pan with the first sandwich. Cook each sandwich until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.

5. Wipe out the skillet using paper towel. Repeat step 4 with the remaining sandwiches and 1 T. butter.

6. Serve with powdered sugar and remaining sauce.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Old Fashioned Pork Roast and Gravy ~ My Mama's Recipe

I am so excited about this post because not only am I posting another one of my Mom's great recipes, she was actually in the kitchen to share in the experience of cooking it with me.

My mom was such a great cook that when I was growing up, all our friends from the neighborhood would clamor at the opportunity to eat dinner at our house. It was great and let me tell you, my mom earned a certain level of respect from the neighborhood kids, especially from all my brother's friends, that lent credulity to the old saying that "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach". I learned from a young age, that statement is most definitely true.

I have cooked all sorts of ways through the years and I even had times of rebellion against my mom's cooking. Believing that my mom's cooking was overly-simplistic and therefor a more fussy and complicated recipe, with a longer ingredient list must be the superior one. And as I've grown older (and hopefully wiser), I know that this just isn't always the truth.  Plus I think that anybody who was lucky enough to have mother who could cook knows, there are just certain dishes that no other recipe can hold a candle to the way that Mom made it.

I love this particular recipe because not only is it delicious, it's extremely affordable (I paid only $1.49 a pound for this roast), and it's the kind of "Sunday dinner" style comforting fare that is worthy of even a holiday meal (I have served this as Easter dinner). Also it makes great leftovers (especially sandwiches).

I was glad, in particular to have my mom in the kitchen with me on this one because she was there to coach me on the gravy. When I was growing up my Mom always made gravy using water. For some reason, I cannot help myself wanting to use canned chicken broth when I am making gravy. I don't always love it, but I just can't help it for some reason, I am afraid there won't be enough flavor even though I know my Mom's method works.... So glad I did it her way, it is the best.

As I get older, I cherish the opportunity to learn all I can about the food I grew up with.

Old Fashioned Pork Roast and Gravy ~ My Mama's Recipe

Note* You can use any pork roast you want for this recipe. I prefer to use a more inexpensive cut of pork (I used pork shoulder here). It is good if the roast has at least a thin layer of fat on top so you will be sure to get enough drippings to make the gravy. I used a pretty large roast here (6 1/2 lbs.) because I wanted to have leftovers to use in other dishes but you could go as small as 3 lb. and use the same method, the cooking time will just vary.
**I like to serve this with boiled potatoes and either steamed green beans or roasted brussel sprouts, like I did here. I made the brussel sprouts by taking halved, trimmed brussel sprouts, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them out on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees until browned and tender, about 30 minutes.

Pork Roast (see note above)
garlic powder
salt and pepper
4 T. flour
2 c. water

1. With the oven rack in the middle position, preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pat pork roast dry with paper towel and sprinkle liberally with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Place in a 13x9 inch baking dish (or you could us a roasting pan).

2. Roast pork until the internal temperature registers 145 degrees, when checked with a thermometer in several places (for my 6 1/2 lb. roast, this took around 3 hours). Transfer the roast to a serving platter and cover loosely with foil, set aside while making the gravy.

3. To make the gravy: Add the water to the baking dish, being sure to scrape the browned bits form the bottom of the pan. Remove the liquid to a fat separator. Separate the fat from the liquid. Alternately, if you don't have a fat separator you can poor the fat out of the pan first then poor the water into the pan and scrape up the bits.

4. In a medium saucepan add 4 T. fat and whisk in the flour. Cook over medium heat for a couple minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor. Slowly whisk in the liquid and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute to thicken. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Skillet Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs

What if I told you that you could have spaghetti and meatballs on your table in under an hour and you'd only have to dirty one pan to make them?


This recipe will change your life.

That is, if you love spaghetti and meatballs but always thought they were too much of a hassle to put in the weeknight dinner rotation.

I love spaghetti!

A lot.

Skillet Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
~serves 4~

Recipe source: adapted slightly from The Best 30-Minute Recipe.

2 slices of bread, crusts removes and bread torn into chunks
1/4 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
1 egg yolk
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 T. minced fresh parsley
1/4 t. dried oregano
salt and pepper
1 lb. (93% lean ground turkey
2 T. olive oil
26 oz. spaghetti sauce of choice (about 3 c.)
2 c. water
8 oz. thin spaghetti, broken in half
2 T. minced fresh basil

1. In a large bowl, mash together the bread and buttermilk with a fork until a paste forms. Add in 1/3c. parmesan, egg yolk, garlic, parsley oregano,1/2 t. salt and 1/8 t. pepper. Mix well. Add in the ground turkey. Using your hands mix until well combined.

2. Form into approximate 1 inch meatballs (about 2 T. meat mixture per meatball). Heat olive oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add meatballs and cook until well-browned on one side, 1-2 minutes. Gently turn meatballs and brown briefly on the second side. Remove meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Pour off the oil in the skillet (but leave behind any browned bits).

3. Lower the heat to medium-high. To the empty skillet add the tomato sauce, water, spaghetti and 1/2 t. salt.  Cover and cook, stirring often (watching and adjusting the heat to maintain a lively simmer),until the spaghetti begins to soften and bend, about 8 minutes.

4. Nestle the meatballs down into the simmering pasta and sauce, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, gently stirring (and scraping the bottom of the skillet to keep it from sticking), until the spaghetti is al dente and the meatballs are cooked through, about another 8 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle with the basil. Serve with extra parmesan cheese.

Garlic and Rosemary White Bean Dip

Now that the warmer months are just around the corner, I am trying to discipline myself into eating more fresh veggies, especially during lunchtime and snacks. I was actually planning on making hummus (which I love to eat with vegetables), and when I got to the store I decided to switch things up on an impulse. 

This dish has a roasted garlic flavor from cooking whole, smashed garlic cloves in extra-virgin olive oil before adding them to the beans. I also kept the assertive flavor of rosemary tamed by bruising a sprig of fresh rosemary with the back of a chef's knife and then adding that to the garlic/oil mixture. Both became mellow and not overpowering to the dish at all.

Garlic and Rosemary White Bean Dip

Serve this dip with fresh vegetables, crackers or crostini. It would also make a good sandwich spread.

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef's knife
1 rosemary sprig, bruised with the back of a chef's knife
1 (15 oz.) can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 T. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper 
cayenne pepper
2 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling (optional)

1. Make the garlic-rosemary oil. Place the oil, garlic and rosemary in a small skillet (8 inch) or saucepan over medium low heat. Heat until the garlic and rosemary sprig begin to sizzle and bubble around the edges, (adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain just a slow bubble). Cook for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool for a few minutes while gathering the rest of the ingredients. Remove the rosemary sprig.

2. In a food processor, place the beans, the garlic-rosemary oil, lemon juice and a pinch each of salt, pepper and cayenne. Process until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the food processor as needed. Adjust the salt and pepper according to taste. Scrape the dip into a serving bowl. Stir in the chopped parsley and lightly drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil (optional). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Tomato

I can't believe I got over halfway through the month before it sunk in that April is National Grilled Cheese month!

Thank goodness I still have time to redeem myself. So let's go...

Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches will forever have a memory association for me of being at a Grateful Dead  show right after I finished high school.  Like literally everyone came directly there right after graduation.  We spent the entire weekend there in that big ol' community campout area and it was one wild weekend (if you ever went to one then you know...).

I remember during the day, walking around the campsites and cool people would be selling grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches made on camp stoves and sell for like $1. You could get cheap banana pancakes in the mornings and grilled cheese and tomato in the afternoon. They tasted so good after a night of extreme festivities.

Such fun memories from that weekend!

Anyway, I have some fool-proof methods for you, if you want to make the perfect grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and they are this:

1. The most important one is dealing with the tomatoes: you need to get rid of some of the moisture in the tomatoes, nobody likes a soggy grilled cheese sandwich. This is what I do. I slice the tomato about 1/4 inch thick and season both sides with kosher salt. Then I lay the tomato on a triple layer of paper towel, and cover them with another triple layer of paper towel. I then put a lightweight baking sheet on top of the tomatoes to further press them. I let them sit at least 10 min. Then the tomatoes are well seasoned and ready to use!

2. The cheese: I am a firm believer that shredded cheese makes for the best grilled cheese. More specifically, medium cheddar shredded on the large holes of a box grater. (No pre-grated cheese from a sack please.) Shredded as opposed to sliced makes for a more evenly melted and creamy grilled cheese sandwich every time.

3. Softened, salted butter. I use unsalted butter for everything but toast, rolls and grilled cheese. Important in  this gal's opinion.

4. Lastly, don't rush it. Slow and steady wins the race. The longer you let it cook, the crispier it will be on the outside and creamier it will be on the inside.

If you follow these methods I promise you will be enjoying a seriously delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

Classic Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwich
~makes 1 sandwich~

2 slices of whole wheat bread (or whatever bread you like)
2-4 (1/4 inch thick) slices of tomato
kosher salt
1/2 c. (approximate) shredded medium cheddar cheese
1 T. salted butter, softened

1. Sprinkle both sides of the tomato with salt (just as much as you would like them seasoned). Place tomato slices on a triple-thick layer of paper towel. Cover with another triple-thick layer of paper towel. Place a lightweight baking sheet on the tomatoes and let the tomatoes drain for at least 10 minutes.

2. Heat a nonstick skillet (10 inch or 12 inch) over medium low heat while preparing the sandwich

3. On one slice of bread layer half the cheese, the salted tomato slices, then the other half of the cheese. Place the second slice of bread on top. Spread the top bread slice with half the butter. 

4. Place the sandwich in the hot skillet, buttered side down and spread the remaining butter over the other side of the sandwich. Cook over medium to medium-low heat about 10 minutes per side, until the sandwich is toasty brown and the cheese is ooey gooey.

5. Remove the sandwich from the pan and let sit for 3-5 minutes to let the cheese set a little (so it doesn't ooze out everywhere when you cut it). Cut however you like, or don't.