Mrs. Carla Monti

Mrs. Carla Monti

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Beat the Heat!

I never let the weather dictate what I make in my kitchen. I've made chili in 90 degree weather after spending the day at the beach (yum!), and I make chilly desserts in the fall. I let my cravings and daily inspirations from Pinterest, food magazines, and food blogs motivate me to get cooking and baking. I tend to make a random combination of dishes in one sitting because I try to make the most of it when I have a couple of hours to spend in the kitchen.

A few nights ago I decided to try my hand at casserole-making with a meatless eggplant dish. I loosely based the recipe from Everyday Maven, but instead of using polenta, I used garlicky risotto as the base. First I sliced the eggplant into thick slices and sprinkled kosher salt over them, leaving them to release some of their water in a colander. Next I prepared the risotto with plenty of garlic. I then began to assemble the casserole, drizzling olive oil on the bottom, and then adding the risotto as the first layer. Then I began to layer the eggplant slices. I added some tomato-cabernet sauce, more eggplant, spread some mascarpone cheese, topped with fresh basil leaves, Italian breadcrumbs, and grated Parmesan. I finally topped the casserole with slices of munester cheese and set it to broil, giving it a delicious crispy cheesy topping.

After the casserole, I made Joy the Baker's amazing-sounding dark chocolate, pistachio, and smoked salt cookies (seen here). The only substitution I made was to use sea salt instead of smoked salt. Yum! These cookies were a great balance of sweet and salty and were a big hit at the office.

Now: Birthday Cake Remix! Today is my lovely mummy's birthday and when I asked her last week what type of cake/dessert she wanted, she surprised me by saying she wanted a vanilla and coconut cake. I found a recipe from Annie's Eats (whom I still love, even if she is too vanilla to read "Fifty Shades" ;) that I made, but with a different frosting. The cake itself took well over two hours! First, I made cake flour by sifting all-purpose flour along with cornstarch twice, and then adding salt and baking powder and sifting again (so the flour has a very airy and light quality). I got the measurements from the ever-helpful Joy The Baker. For the frosting, I made a chocolate whipped cream frosting, recipe from Joy of Baking, and added a healthy dose of Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur for a special little kick. For garnish, I toasted coconut flakes in the oven until nicely browned and crispy, and covered the top of the cake with it.

Happy Birthday Mommy! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer Salad Lovin'!

My desire to cook a bunch of fabulous, well-seasoned ingredients and then artfully display them in a serving dish has not abated! I came up with tonight's dinner also on the fly in the supermarket - all I knew for sure that I wanted, was to be able to pile all the ingredients onto my boyfriend's lovely colorful platter and serve. I decided to keep some ingredients from my previous family-style salads, such as white cannellini beans and bite-size balls of fresh mozzarella (bocconcini!). I decided to make rice pilaf as the base, so I boiled long-grain rice in a mix of water, olive oil, and white wine (Santa Margherita - the only white anyone should cook with!). I added garlic seasoning, chicken bouilon, and dried parsley for flavor. I diced thin chicken cutlets into one inch pieces and seasoned them with sea salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil to tie it all together. Then I filled a baking sheet with diced zucchini, yellow squash, and cherry tomatoes, doused in a healthy amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper. I roasted the tray of veggies for just under an hour, until the tomato skins had just popped and the zucchini and yellow rounds looked thoroughly roasted. Once everything cooled, I assembled the salad, layer by layer. First a drizzle of olive oil, and then I spread the garlicky rice pilaf onto the platter. Next I spread out the cannellini beans, topped with the bocconcini (mozzarella). I then filled the chicken in the center and topped with a spoonful of roasted veggies. The remainder of the roasted veggies I tucked onto the sides of the salad. I love the colors and contrasting textures!

Beautiful pops of color combined with the delicious flavor of slow-roasted vegetables. No "30 minute meals" here! Flavor takes time to seep into ingredients, to be absorbed by plain canvases such as rice or chicken.

Yesterday I went to brunch with some fabulous ladies and in honor of that occasion, I baked banana espresso chocolate chip muffins, recipe courtesy of Annie's Eats. I added a swirl of peanut butter and a handful of walnuts (are they not the perfect pairing to bananas whilst baking?) and they were a hit! A doubled the espresso powder and added a bit more mascarpone to compensate, and they were a great accompaniment to our mimosas (involving Prosecco of the Cupcake Wines variety, of course!)

Overall, lovely times spent in the kitchen this weekend! Next up is a very intriguing Joy The Baker cookie recipe I've had my eye on.... Stay Tuned!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Good Eats!

I can't believe it's already August! This summer has truly flown by. Between my new job and summer class, I haven't had as much time as I'd like to spend in the kitchen. In the past two weeks I did manage to get in there and cook a bit. One night for dinner, I made chimichurri sauce to go along with skirt steak I picked up at WholeFoods.

Chimichurri sauce is a very versatile marinade and sauce, made with lots of fresh parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and a hint of red pepper flakes. It is simple but flavorful, with a lovely vibrant green color. I used a recipe from Gimme Some Oven and it came out great. To accompany, I sauteed some diced butternut squash, yellow squash, and zucchini rounds in a pan with lots of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and white wine. I added some garlic bread and a healthy serving of a Merlot-Sangiovese blend of red wine to finish off the meal.

A few nights later I had some time for dinner, and picked up some gorgeous tilapia filets on my way home from work. I seasoned them simply, with salt and pepper, before dipping them in eggwash (two beaten eggs) and tossing in a bowl of Italian breadcrumbs. I baked them on an olive oil-greased baking sheet until the fish flaked when poked with a fork. I served it with rice pilaf and green beans tossed with sliced almonds and balsamic vinegar (sides not pictured).

This past week was the last day of one of my co-workers, who LOVES Spiderman so naturally, I tried my hand at Spidey-themed cupcakes! The cake part was chocolate with milk and white chocolate chips, and the frosting was a vanilla buttercream mixed with a little cheese cream to cut down on the sweetness.

And last but not least, we are throwing a birthday party today for one of our very good family friends, so I made two savory appetizers - mini corn cakes with sour cream frosting and pea garnish, and brie and jam filled phyllo cups (blackberry, raspberry, and apricot jam).

Mini Corn Cakes!

Brie Jam Phyllo Cups!