Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer Sides: Carmelized Tomato Salad with Smoked Gouda

One of my most favorite things about summer is delicious tomatoes. I am absolutely head over heels for fresh tomatoes that are best at the peak of summer. They are delicious in a tomato sandwich which I'm pretty sure my mom enjoys at least once a day all summer long. And by tomato sandwich I mean just that... soft fresh bread (toasted if you wish), tomatoes, mayo (or miracle whip as is the case in our family), and to top it off a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and a little dill. I also love roasted tomatoes as a super simple side dish... Roma tomatoes, olive oil, fresh garlic, salt, pepper and roast in the oven for about an hour in low heat. To make a long story short, I love tomatoes because they are absolutely delicious when you let them shine and when prepared in super simple fashion.

Now that I've professed my love to tomatoes and given you a couple super simple recipes to boot, let's get to the matter at hand... a recipe with both tomatoes and cheese... my two loves (other than the hubs and the hounds of course!). Summertime makes me want to cook lots of fresh vegetables and this recipe is one that totally enhances the freshness. It screams summer to me. It was great as a side dish. I served it with sea bass topped with a super yummy cilantro, lime, jalapeno sauce (recipe will come... promise). I think this could also be great at a summer BBQ as an app. It's super easy. Toss it all together, throw it in a bowl, toast up some bread and put it on a table for your guests to pick at until it's completely demolished.  Either way it's the perfect summer side dish.

Caramelized Tomato Salad with Smoked Gouda

2 cups olive oil
1 3/4 lb cherry tomatoes, divided
1/3 cup sugar
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
8 oz smoked Gouda
8 green onions thinly sliced
baguette, cut into about 1 inch thick slices and toasted

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Place 1 1/4 tomatoes in a 8x8x2 inch metal baking dish and toss with oil, sugar, and thyme. Roast in preheated oven until tomatoes are tender, about 2 hours. Cool caramelized tomatoes in oil.

Using a slotted spoon transfer tomatoes to a large bowl. Transfer 1/2 to 3/4 cup oil from baking dish to a separate medium bowl, reserving rest of oil. Add vinegar to oil in bowl with oil. Whisk to blend oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Add reserved fresh tomatoes, cheese and dressing to bowl with caramelized tomatoes. Lightly toss just enough to combine all ingredients. Top with green onions and serve with toasted baguette slices.

Recipe adapted from epicurious 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adventures in Baking: Zucchini Whoopee Pies with Cream Cheese Filling

So, I had this grand idea a couple months back that I was going to start a whoopee pie business. I mean, these days, my grand ideas need to get in line cuz I keep having them, but I ain't doin them! Funny thing about this particular idea is that I'm a terrible baker. My first attempt was just short of awful... ok, it was awful. The pies had these weird chewy chunks in them and the filling was way too runny. After this attempt, I was pretty convinced that whoopee pies would not make me famous. Just as I was about to give up on my latest and greatest plan, I stumbled upon this recipe for zucchini cookie sandwiches... aka zucchini whoopee pies! Clearly my business was not going to happen over night and I was not going to become a top notch baker without a little, ok, a lot more practice so I figured why the heck not try my hand at these little guys and with just a couple minor hiccups in the process I ended up with an uber delicious end result and my excitement and ambition for this new venture is back! I still have a lot more practicing to do but at least now I know it's possible which makes me very happy.

The texture of the zucchini cookies is perfect for whoopee pies and the cream cheese filling worked out way better than the marshmallow fluff filling I attempted last time. It is the perfect consistency to hold the yummy cookies in place. I think the only change I will make at this point is to make the cookies smaller next time. Oh, and the recipe I used called for walnuts which I decided not to include because I'm not a huge fan of nuts but I have to say, I think I will include them next time. I think they'll add a little needed crunch.

So, without further adieu... a super yummy recipe for baked goods that even I could make! Enjoy!

Zucchini Whoopee Pies

1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
coarse salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated zucchini
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted

Sift flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt into a bowl. Set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, beat 1 stick of butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until fluffy and pale in color. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in zucchini, oats, and walnuts. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a parchment lined baking sheet, drop heaping tablespoons of zucchini batter about 2 inches apart. Bake until edges are golden, about 17 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

Beat together remaining 1/2 stick of butter, cream cheese, and confectioner's sugar until smooth. When cookies are cool enough to handle, drop a heaping tablespoon full of filling onto bottom side of one cookie and sandwich with another cookie. Repeat with remaining filling and cookies.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart