Saturday, May 16, 2015

("Skookie") Skillet Raspberry Crumb Bars

 I never tire of my scenic commute from our home in the Salinas Valley 'burbs, that eventually leads to Highway One along the coast of the Monterey Bay. Beautiful! I'm surrounded by so much agriculture, and acres and acres of Driscoll berries.  We are so spoiled and blessed with fresh product, pretty much all year round!

It's exciting to see freshly picked berries, of all kinds, on sale-- two for the price of one!  Soon, I'll be making homemade strawberry jam, olallieberry jam (berries that are indigenous only to California and Oregon).

Sometimes, a fruit crisp is an unfussy way to make a delicious dessert that showcases spring/summer berries.

This dessert was no exception in how fast this was to make, and I hope that you try it.  I adapted this recipe from "I Am Baker's" blog. Amanda uses fresh strawberries, which sounds delicious.  With the exception of Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie, I much prefer to keep my fresh strawberries in their true uncooked form--like with my Fresh Strawberry Pie or Strawberry Cream Cake.  

Raspberries seemed an ideal substitute for this recipe, and they were on sale. Perfect! So, I grabbed my beloved cast-iron skillet and preheated the oven to 375F.
NOTE: Yes, you can use frozen berries, unthawed.

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sunday Gravy - Pressure Cooker Style

In my corner of the Central Coast of California, that I call home, we are experiencing a mish-mash of weather. One day, it's sunny and warm so we fire up the Weber to enjoy some grilling. The next day, the clouds roll in and bring some much needed rain (for just a short while) and I think more of slow cooking stews or pasta.  I'm okay with the change in weather, because I enjoy any kind of braised dishes.

Sundays have become my weekly afternoon to spend in the kitchen trying out new recipes.  I appreciate my Sundays as "me time" and being able to make more time-consuming recipes-- which has become therapeutic for me.

I can understand how a ragu sauce called "Sunday Gravy" derived it's name.  I can almost picture so many Italian Nonna's making this rich tomato sauce that has been slow cooking for hours on the stove.

From my internet research, I've learned that Sunday Gravy is an Italian-American dish-- very popular on the East Coast.  The "gravy" is more of a ragu that has been slowly simmered with various meats. There are many variations of this recipe, each of them touting to be "the best".  I've never had "Sunday Gravy" before, though I have heard about it from  few Italian-American friends who make this-- which left me longing to make it myself.

One afternoon, one of my most trusted recipe sources-- American's Test Kitchen ("ATK")-- showed an episode for their version of "Sunday Gravy".  I was smitten, and book marked their recipe.  The mouth-watering components of this dish were enough to finally entice me into make this in my own kitchen-- plus, it's no secret that we love pastas with tomato based sauces.

Braciole, (a pounded out piece of beef, that is stuffed with ingredients like raisins, pine nuts, cheese and prosciutto) is a  traditional meat ingredient for Sunday Gravy.  It's also a lot of work to do (and recipe I have yet to try making for myself).   

To cut back on the prep work, instead of making braciole, this recipe uses baby back ribs, homemade meatballs and hot Italian sausage.  Still, there is about an hour of prep work to do and that's why this isn't something to make on a work night. Hence, this was a Sunday supper. I rolled up my sleeves, put my ear buds to listen to an audio book, and got to work.

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Saturday, April 25, 2015

New York-Style Cheesecake with a Fresh Strawberry Topping

I've been rather scarce, this month, and I've missed not being able find time to edit and upload recipes that are backlogged on my computer.  Part of my absence was adjusting to being an empty nester.  I feel into a temporary sense of grieving.  On March 1st, my son packed up his car with his few personal belongings, and drove away, headed from California to Texas. (He was given an offer he couldn't refuse-- to apprentice as an electrician.) He's my one and only child (er, grown son) and it has taken me a few weeks to wrap my head around his being so far away, and that he really is on his own.  It's bittersweet, but I'm truly happy for him.

He was also one of my best (and most honest) food critics, who would often bring along his best friend to join us at the dinner table. The night before my son drove off to his new chapter in his life, I asked him what he would like for his last supper. For dinner, he requested "Osso Bucco", which I made for him. For dessert, he asked for his #1 favorite dessert-- cheesecake.

I've posted a German Cheesecake made with Quark (and it's still one of my faves) in 2011.  The most recent time I made cheesecake, it was in my pressure cooker. It only took 15 minutes, and turned out to be creamy and delicious.   But, because this would be my son's last supper in his childhood home, I decided to bake a cheesecake in a more traditional way.

Because I'm such a huge fan of Cook's Illustrated, America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Country (all one in the same companies), I researched what cheesecake recipes they had developed.  I've made cheesecakes in a water bath, which is hailed to be a way to avoid cracks on the cheesecake top.  This recipe doesn't use a water bath.  I trust ATK, however, so I rolled up my sleeves and got busy:

The crust is a traditional graham cracker crust, which is has three basic ingredients--
 ...crushed graham crackers, sugar and melted butter.

The crust is pre-baked for about 13 minutes, and set on a wire rack to cool. The oven is now preheating to 500 degrees. Yes, that's right! 500 degrees.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Indoor Barbecue: Kalua-Style Pork (Pressure Cooker Style) with a Pineapple-Mango Salsa


Hello friends!  I'm back from my self-imposed little vacation from my blog. To my world of invisible internet friends, one might think that every meal I make is blog worthy. I hate to burst anyone's bubble, but that's just not true.

Every once in a while, I simply lose my cooking mojo, and I resort to making a quick and simple pasta, soup, or some kind of quick skillet dinner.  My camera remains shut off, as I try to get something on the table in 30 minutes or less.  My husband never complains, knowing that I'll be back to trying out new recipes, photographing them, editing and writing and sharing them with all of you-- after he's eaten them, and given me his honest feedback.

I'm always delighted  when my readers write to tell me that they have finally taken the plunge into using a pressure cooker.   Pressure cooking has an undeserved level of fear that it really doesn't deserve.  If more people, who swear that their slow cooker is one of their most beloved cooking method, would try pressure cooking--they would quickly change their minds!  (However, if you want to make this recipe, you could do it in a slow cooker. Just increase the cooking time from one hour to 8 hours.)  See what I mean? Pressure cooking is a real time saver, and my slow cooker gets a little lonely-- though I still use it on occasion.

I have shared several recipes from America's Test Kitchen's cookbook, "Pressure Cooking Perfection".  When I downloaded the book into my kindle, I wasn't sure if I'd make a lot of their recipes. 

I was so wrong!  This will be the seventh recipes I've made, and enjoyed, from this book (you can find my recipe index here.)

If you've ever had genuine Hawaiian barbecued pork, this traditionally involves roasting a suckling pig in a pit with hot rocks, banana leaves and kiawe wood (the Hawaiian version of mesquite).  I don't know about most of you, but this is a lot more work than I'm willing to invest!  In the tradition of America's Test Kitchen, they figured out a way to adapt this recipe so that you can make it at home.

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