Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cherry Tomatoes and Brie on a Toasted English Muffin

For lunch the other day, I raided my fridge for 'whatever might go bad soon but still looks edible'. I ended up whipping together something that is halfway between bruschetta and a caprese salad, I suppose.

Cherry Tomatoes and Brie on a Toasted English Muffin
English muffin
Cherry tomatoes
Fresh basil
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
  1. Let brie sit on counter for a few moments to soften.
  2. Lightly toast english muffin, until crunchy on the outside but not burnt.
  3. Wash and chop cherry tomatoes (I quartered them and then sliced those in half).
  4. Rinse and coarsely chop fresh basil.
  5. Put tomatoes and and basil on toasted english muffin, sprinkle with olive oil and balsamic, then with salt & pepper (to taste).
  6. Apply small dobs of brie over surface (I cut off the rind).
  7. Toast in toaster oven for ~2 minutes, to soften the cheese.
  8. Enjoy!

I had a little nub of leftover brie from this weekend, so this seemed like a great way to use it. Any cheese works of course, but I'd say a nice soft cheese is just about perfect.  A month or so ago, we picked up a pack of flavour-infused olive oils from Costco, and so today I used one that was infused with basil. It's a very subtle flavour- but there is a huge difference between good quality olive oil and regular. I always use Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or an infused oil) when cooking, but the flavour difference really shines the most when the oil isn't used for cooking, but rather as a dressing.

PS - It's my birthday and last night I made maple butter tarts. Best Birthday Breakfast Ever.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Creamy Prawn Pasta

I know blog posts aren't as much fun without photos, but I figure they're still more fun than no posts.  Over the weekend, I dragged poor boyfriend out to Belconnen Fresh Food Markets, which is still not my favourite market in the city, but oh well. Variety is the spice of life.

We decided that it's a shame that we live in Australia and rarely eat prawns, or shrimp, or whatever you want to call them. I've got a good excuse for that though, the really fresh prawns, are sold whole. And that's gross. I strongly dislike having to pinch the heads off and de-vein and de-shell whole prawns. It's gross, and squishy, and icky.  So I don't buy prawn much, since the prawn tails tend to be pre-cooked and I have strong opinions about that too. I've just got opinions out the wazoo. Anywho, we found some raw king prawn tails and bought some and decided to use them in a pasta dish. Yum.

Creamy Prawn Pasta
250 g raw prawn (shrimp) tails
1 tub (250 mL) Philadelphia cream for cooking (or cream)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
bunch fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
half a red onion
half a lemon
pasta (pref. linguine)
Olive oil
Butter (~1/4 cup)

  1. If starting with frozen prawns, defrost them in warm water in the sink, either by running warm (not hot!) water over them in a colander, or by submerging them in a large bowl. If using fresh prawn, rinse in a colander.
  2. Start a large pot of salted water to boil, add pasta when water is boiled and let cook until desired consistency. Meanwhile;
  3. In a small sauce pan, melt butter.
  4. Peel and finely chop garlic and half a red onion, add to pan of melted butter and let sizzle on med-low heat.
  5. Wash and chop 2-3 leaves of basil and add to small sauce pan, stirring to combine all ingredients. I usually 'slap' the basil after I wash it. I don't know that this actually does anything, but it is supposed to release the flavours. To do this, put the rinsed basil in one hand and then clap. It's easy (and fun!).
  6. Meanwhile, wash and quarter cherry onions, then toss with a little olive oil.
  7. Spread tomatoes on a baking tray and broil (top element only) for ~5 minutes at 200C/400F (I used our toaster oven).
  8. In a large frying pan, melt more butter (oh so healthy, I know).
  9. Place prawns in one layer into the frying pan, squirt about 1/4 of a lemon's worth of juice (1-2 T), flip once prawn starts to pink up, after about 3 minutes to a side, and add the rest of the lemon juice.
  10. While prawn is frying, add the cream for cooking, or actual cream to the small sauce pan as well as several more leaves of fresh basil. Stir to combine and set to low heat.
  11. When prawn and tomatoes are ready, pour the cream sauce into the frying pan and mix all ingredients.
  12. Drain pasta and combine with sauce. Enjoy.
I served this in a big bowl with some garlic bread on the side. It was delicious with a sprinkling of parmesan on top. Boyfriend opted to add cracked pepper to his.   
On cream: I love the Philadelphia cream for cooking because it lasts longer in the fridge than regular cream does. I constantly find myself buying thick cream for baking or for adding 1 or 2 T to a dish and then end up throwing out the rest because I don't often cook with cream and it goes bad quickly once opened. The cream for cooking will probably last up to a week in the fridge once opened (maybe more) so it makes more sense, to me.
The sauce for this pasta was fairly runny, which I like.  If you'd prefer a thicker sauce, add 1-2T of flour (or cornstarch I suppose) to the melted butter and garlic in the small sauce pan. Also - for choosing your noodle, personal preference says that Linguine is the best type of noodle for this sauce, but if you don't have any or you don't like linguine, you could substitute a tagliatelle (thicker ribbon cut pasta, often egg noodles) or a fusilli (spirals) for example.

To make this recipe healthier - instead of frying the prawns in butter, use a smaller amount of olive oil and you could substitute some of the cream with milk, although this will guarantee a runnier consistency to the sauce as milk doesn't thicken as well as cream does.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

My apologies for the delay on posting this. I actually made it way back in April, but it was so delicious that it took me a whole month to stop licking my fingers and get on with posting. Either that or I got distracted by work. We'll go with the second one.

My good friend Nikka shared this recipe, and she says it's from a cookbook called 'A Taste of Oregon'.  I would have assumed Oregon would taste vaguely like oregano, but it turns out that it tastes like a cake that is so rich and delicious that it actually hurts your heart a little bit.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter softened
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Topping (consider doubling this)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional but recommended)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/170C.
  2. In a large bowl cream the butter, sugar and eggs.
  3. Stir or mix in sour cream, vanilla, flour, salt and baking powder until well combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients.
  5. Pour half the batter into a greased dish (9" cake pan, bundt pan or tube pan).
  6. Cover with half the topping (can split into thirds or etc for more 'ribbons' of flavour if you've doubled the topping).
  7. Add remaining batter and top with remaining topping.
  8. Bake for 1 hour, covering with foil in last 15-20 minutes to keep top from overcooking. The sugar will get too brown if you skip this step.
I do believe this would be best made in a bundt pan, but I don't own one, so instead I simply used a round cake pan, which resulted in a deliciously gooey and slightly undercooked centre. I *REALLY* like the gooey centre part, but if you're not partial to delicious and undercooked batter, you should seriously consider going with the bundt pan.

I am going to tell that this cake honest to goodness brought tears to my eyes. It was a near religious experience for me. This cake could end wars.

In other news - I haven't given up in the kitchen, things have just been rather dull.  I've got a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies that are begging to be blogged about though, but aside from that I've just been revisiting variations on chicken since we bought so much at Costco.