Tomato Mozzarella Appetizer

IMG_1620

This is a quick and tasty appetizer that you can either serve to guests or snack on yourself while you cook.

Tomato Mozzarella Appetizer

Fresh mozzarella cheese
About an equal volume of ripe tomatoes

  1. Slice mozzarella into pieces about 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Slice tomatoes into pieces about 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Arrange the slices on a serving platter, alternating between tomato and mozzarella pieces.

Slow-Baked Salmon

This is my favorite baked salmon recipe.  Because you only cook it partway in the oven and let it finish cooking using the retained heat, it turns out to be very tender.  It’s also a fast and easy dish.

Slow-Baked Salmon
Adapted from Joanne Chang  of Flour Bakery

Yield: 4 servings

2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet with skin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 lemon (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and smear it with 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
  3. Cut salmon into 4 equal pieces and lay them skin side down on the baking sheet.
  4. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the salmon pieces.
  5. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the fish looks opaque and the thickest part feels firm when you press it.  (If the fillet is thick, you may need to increase the baking time – just keep checking the fish so you don’t overcook it.)
  7. Remove salmon from oven.  If desired, squeeze lemon juice over salmon.
  8. Let salmon rest on baking sheet for 5-8 minutes to finish cooking from the retained heat.

Carrot Cake with Cranberries

IMG_2441

Since I love carrot cake, I couldn’t resist trying Dorie Greenspan’s recipe.  I like this one just as much as the carrot cake with pineapple – which one you choose might depend on how much motivation you feel to grate carrots (2 cups in the other recipe versus 3 in this one).  I do find this one to be a little fluffier though; the other one is denser and more moist.

Carrot Cake with Cranberries
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: One 9″ round 2- or 3-layer cake

Cake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened both work)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/4 – 2 cups sugar, depending on how sweet you like desserts
  • 1 cup canola or safflower oil
  • 4 eggs

 

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 – 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, depending on how sweet you like your frosting
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Make cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Grease and flour two or three 9″ round cake pans, depending on how many layers you want your cake to have (or how many cake pans you have).
  2. With a mixer, beat sugar and oil together on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add eggs and beat on medium speed until batter is even smoother.
  4. Beat in baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
  5. On low speed, beat in flour just until it is incorporated.
  6. Stir in grated carrot, walnuts or pecans, coconut, and cranberries.
  7. Pour batter into baking pans.
  8. Bake cakes for 40-50 minutes.  A knife inserted near the centers will come out clean.
  9. Cool cakes for 5 minutes and remove cakes from pans.  Cool to room temperature on wire racks.  At this point, they can be stored overnight in an airtight container at room temperature, or wrapped tightly and frozen for up to 2 months.

 

Make frosting:

  1. With a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  2. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar.  Beat until mixture is smooth.
  3. Beat in lemon juice.

 

Assemble cake:

  1. Put one layer right side up on a serving plate.  Spread frosting generously on it.
  2. Smooth frosting to the edges of the layer with a spatula or spoon.
  3. Add second layer upside down and spread with more frosting.
  4. If you have a third layer, add it right side up and frost the top.  If you have any frosting left, you can frost the sides as well.
  5. Refrigerate cake for 30 minutes to set frosting.

 

Storage notes:

Room temperature: The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Freezer: The cake can be frozen uncovered and then, after it is firm, wrapped tightly and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months.  When you want to eat it, defrost it (still wrapped) overnight in the refrigerator.

Linguine Pasta with Shrimp, Sausage, and Tomatoes

IMG_1621

My friends and I found this recipe for pasta on AllRecipes.  We decided to add some Italian sausage, and we loved the result!

Original recipe

 

Linguine Pasta with Shrimp, Sausage, and Tomatoes
From AllRecipes

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups diced tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
salt and black pepper to taste
1 (16-oz) package linguine pasta
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 pound Italian sausage (the kind without a casing)
1 teaspoon Cajun or Creole seasoning
Shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and sautee garlic for 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomatoes and wine.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often, until tomatoes turn into a sauce.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Put in linguine and return to a boil.
  6. Cook linguine uncovered for about 11 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  7. Drain linguine in a colander in the sink and run cold water over it.
  8. In a bowl, season shrimp with Cajun or Creole seasoning, salt, and pepper.
  9. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  Cook shrimp for 5 minutes until the outside is pink and the center is no longer translucent.
  10. Remove shrimp and stir fry Italian sausage in the leftover oil.
  11. Stir linguine into the saucepan with the sauce.  Stir in shrimp and Italian sausage.  If desired, top with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Classic Walnut Brownies

IMG_2878

These brownies are very intensely chocolate-y!  They’re perfect for people who love chocolate and don’t want a very sweet dessert.  If you are allergic to walnuts, you can substitute pecans.

Classic Walnut Brownies
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Yield: 8″ x 8″ pan of brownies

5 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Line a 8″ x 8″ baking pan with foil and grease the foil.
  2. Cut butter into several pieces, and coarsely chop the chocolate.  Combine them in a non-stick saucepan and heat over low heat on the stove.  Stir constantly until the butter and chocolate just melt and mix together.
  3. Remove saucepan from heat.  With a whisk or wooden spoon, stir in the sugar.  The mixture will look grainy.
  4. Stir or whisk in eggs, vanilla, and espresso powder (if using).  Stir in salt and flour.
  5. Using the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, fold in walnuts.
  6. Scrape batter into baking pan, smooth the top, and bake for 30-35 minutes.  The top will look dull and a knife inserted in the center will come out clean.
  7. Cool to room temperature.  Invert the pan of brownies onto a rack and remove foil.  Re-invert brownies onto a cutting board and cut into 16 squares using a sharp knife.