Mrs. Carla Monti

Mrs. Carla Monti

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Baking with Fall Flavors!

Fall is my favorite season - a sentiment that is very much trending across the blogosphere, at the moment. The rich smell of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, the crisp bite of apples, the smooth taste of pumpkin, and the lovely browns, oranges, and reds that bedazzle many a fall-themed table setting. In spite of all my fall lovin', the reality check is this: I live in South Florida, land of perpetual sunshine and heat and humidity. Of course, one can love fall without the changing of the leaves, cooler temperatures, and apple picking, but it sure is lovely when those traditions are in play. And since yesterday marks the official beginning to the fall season, I would like to share some of my recent recipes inspired by the warm flavors of autumn.

Apple Cinnamon Cookies, recipe from Joy the Baker!

Strawberry lemonade cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese icing, recipe from Annie's Eats! I made these for a friend's pool party last weekend and they were a big hit! My serving suggestion? A bottle of the world's best Pinot Grigio - Santa Margherita! ;)

When I was in college in Lugano, Switzerland, one of my favorite things to eat was pizza. Pizza made in Italy and "Switaly", as we called small Italian-speaking region of Switzerland where we lived, is nothing like pizza made here in the U.S. The size is smaller, generally one pizza for one to two people, the list of possible toppings are endless and all fresh, and the crust tends to be thinner. In short, pizza in Europe is fabulous. My favorite pizza was called the "Bismarck" and I recently found two great Italian places here in South Florida that serve a version of it. One is my favorite local Italian cafe/bakery, Cosi Duci, and the other, a relatively new find for me, Panaretto Pizzeria, both locations run by true Italian owners/servers/etc.

Next is a simple dinner meal I made last week. Instead of the traditional egg wash and then flour/breadcrumb mixture dredging for fish - I chose to make something different. I took several different types of nuts, pulverized them in my Magic Bullet, and then dipped tilapia filets in beaten egg, before covering them in the nut mixture. I put the filets to bake with a bit of olive oil and they came out great! Yummy nutty flavor and nice texture. The nuts I used were a combination of: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and pine nuts! I served roasted veggies alongside the fish, a mix of butternut squash, yellow squash, and zucchini.

Another night, I made a simple rice salad with shrimp, avocado, small pieces of fresh mozzarella and cannellini beans (they are my go-to beans!). This is a delicious, simple meal that could be lunch or dinner.

Last but not least, my final dinner meal made last week was chicken cutlets marinated in freshly minced garlic, dried oregano, and pomegranate-infused balsamic vinegar! It was tart, flavorful, and delicious! I highly recommend investing in different fruit flavored balsamics! I served the chicken with roasted broccoli florets.

Another favorite fall cookie flavor is pumpkin! You can't go wrong with this tasty classic orange ingredient. I used a recipe from My Baking Addiction, and added butterscotch chips and walnuts to the delicious scents of spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. These cookies were the perfect size, about two bites, and a wonderful chewy texture. They were a big hit at work!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Fixin's!

My boyfriend and I spent a lovely long weekend exploring Key West, and after spending our days eating fresh seafood and other typical trip fare, I couldn't wait to get back in the kitchen and get to cooking. As much as I love to eat out, after so many meals you just want a home-cooked meal at the end of the day.  In honor of the first days of September and the coming days of fall (I am blatantly ignoring steady 95 degree temperatures and a raging hurricane season), I baked mini apple pie tarts today. My boyfriend had actually requested that I make him a whole apple pie a few weeks ago and I finally got around to making this fall staple this afternoon. My love for baking everything in miniature or individualized portions has not gone away, and I truly resisted getting out my mom's old Pyrex pie pan. Instead I put my individualized tart tins (with removable bottoms) to work! I found the perfect recipe from Eat Live Run and modified it accordingly. For the pie crust, I used Joy the Baker's awesome "How to" post and worked my way through it. Success! The pies were topped with, of course, a generous scoop of Häagen-Daz vanilla bean ice cream.

The best apple to use for apple pie or apple crumble are green Granny Smith apples. They are perfectly tart and firm, and are great at absorbing whatever flavor you add to them.

I flavored the apple slices with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, copious amounts of cinnamon, and a healthy dose of white sugar. Keeping it simple here is key! You don't want to crowd the flavors. Apple pie is classic and it's ingredient list classically simple!

Apple pie always wants to be dotted with little pats of butter!

For dinner, I used a recipe from Claire Robinson, who has a show on Food Network called "Five Ingredient Fix". I am intrigued by the premise of her show, not so much for it's time-saving qualities, but more so because I believe good food should contain few, but key and delicious ingredients. I caught one of her shows recently featuring a recipe called Turkey Robinson whose ingredients include ground turkey, fresh spinach, cannellini beans, and garlic-infused oil. The garlic-infused oil piqued my interest here - I could easily just add olive oil and minced garlic or even pop on over to a gourmet food store and pick up a bottle of fancypants garlic oil ... but I wanted to make it! One of my favorite magazines, Bon Appetit, recently featured an article about cooking garlic cloves in vegetable and olive oil until they turn black, thus making garlic oil. I tried my hand at it today and was impressed by the flavor of the oil when I used it to cook the turkey in later.

The meal overall pulled together well. I paired the turkey dish with yellow rice (my boyfriend always prefers rice to pasta, so I am invariably on a mission to make rice side dishes new and exciting) flavored with saffron and found the complements to be very pleasing. I was worried about seasoning the turkey, and I was continuously adding sea salt, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder to it, as well as tasting it throughout the cooking process - I must've seasoned it at least four times before I was satisfied! I don't particularly care for cooking with ground turkey - I would make this dish again using ground sirloin maybe. To top it off with apple pie a la mode was the perfect finish!

A Lovely Blog Recommendation!

I am very happy to announce that my lovely best friend Sarah has started her very own food blog! I have known her for six fantastic years, and since I've known her, I have been blown away by not only her insane cooking and baking skills, but also by her beautiful photography. I credit her as my main motivation for getting into the kitchen two years ago. I call her my baking muse or baking goddess, because her creations are divine! Her fantastic new blog is called Whisk Me Away and I really hope you hop on over and check it out, as her recipes, posts, and photographs are to die for! I am so proud of my busy bee best friend because everyone has been telling her to blog for some time now, and the finished product looks perfect. Congrats Sarah!