Monday, April 15, 2013

Dessert Sandwiches

Happy Monday!  I thought that this week should start off sweet.  As I ended my crazy weekend yesterday, I opened a nice bottle of red wine and gave into my sweet tooth.  I took two of my favorite fruits and a few of my favorite sweet spreads and smashed them between two slices of freshly baked french bread.  To top if off I grilled them in a butter coated pan making this a spin off of my favorite savory sandwich, grilled cheese. 
I thought as I ate them with my husband that these yummy, indulgent sandwiches would be a perfect spring/summer dessert to serve at any party, small or extravagant or just to enjoy at home like I did with a great glass of red wine.  And, don't forget to scrape the plate for every last melty, gooey drop.  Enjoy!

Grilled Almond Butter, Marshmallow Fluff and Banana Sandwich

2 slices french bread
1/2 banana, sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon almond butter
1 tablespoon marshmallow fluff
1 tablespoon butter

Spread the almond butter on one slice of bread and the marshmallow fluff on the other.  Top the the almond buttered bread slice with the banana.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place the prepared slices of bread in the pan.  Cook for 1-2 minutes.  Place the marshmallow fluff slice on top of the banana, almond butter slice.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown.  Carefully flip the sandwich and cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown and the almond butter and marshmallow fluff has melted and become gooey.  Slice the sandwich in half and server immediately.  Makes 1 sandwich.

Grilled Nutella, Dark Chocolate and Roasted Strawberry Sandwich 

2 slices french bread
2-3 large strawberries, sliced
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon Nutella (more if you are obsessed like myself)
6-9 squares Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate
1 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place the strawberries in a small mixing bowl.  Drizzle the olive oil over the strawberries and season with sea salt.  Toss to combine.  Spread the strawberries on a foil lined baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Spread the Nutella on one slice of french bread.  Place the roasted strawberries on top of the Nutella.  Then add the dark chocolate squares on top of the strawberries.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place both pieces of bread into the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Place the plain piece of bread on top of the prepared slice of bread cooked side up.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until golden brown.  Carefully flip the sandwich and cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden brown and the chocolate and Nutella has melted.  Slice the sandwich in half and serve immediately.  Makes 1 sandwich.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Lemon Garlic Scallops with Rustic Farro Risotto

My husband, Greg and I are huge fans of Chef Gordon Ramsay.  We watch all of his shows and always enjoy seeing him take on a challenge and inspire people, including myself.  Whether it is a horrifyingly dirty restaurant, crazy families, at home cooks making their dreams come true or the chefs in Hell's Kitchen attempting to get through a dinner service, Chef Ramsay always seems to bring in his amazing teaching guns and because of his passion for food he gets through to all of them.  While I can't technically call my (dance) students "donkeys" I appreciate his tough teaching style with a big heart.  

Lately, Greg and I have been keeping up with Hell's Kitchen watching them try to execute a perfect risotto and a beautiful sear on their scallops.  While I don't claim to be a professional chef, I do however love both of those dishes and with a little help from Chef Ramsay's cookbook, A Chef For All Seasons, was up for the challenge of putting my own creative twist to them.  

I admit I was nervous about getting the scallops perfectly cooked, but I was certain that my version of risotto would be a creamy perfection.  I decided to finally try out the farro that had been sitting in my pantry for weeks.  Then taking a look in my refrigerator, I found asparagus and a portabella mushroom screaming to be added to the farro to make an earthy, rustic risotto.  Now, if you haven't tried farro yet I highly suggest you do.  Farro is an ancient grain and great substitute for rice or pasta and the nutty flavor is wonderful.  It's also low in gluten and high in fiber and protein.

Lemon Garlic Marinade

6-9 sea scallops
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
A few dashes of red pepper flakes (optional)

In a small bowl mix the lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a bowl.  Place the scallops in a flat glass container or tupperware and pour the marinade over it.  Set aside and allow to marinate for about 20-30 minutes. 

Rustic Farro Risotto
2 tablespoons of butter, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups farro (I bought mine at Trader Joe's)
1 large portabella mushroom, chopped
10-12 asparagus stalks, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I prefer Pinot Grigio)
2-1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup Trader Joe's cheddar/gruyere cheese or 1/2 cup parmesan

In a small pan over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon of butter.  Add the mushrooms and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium sauce pan heat the vegetable broth to a low simmer and keep warm while making the risotto.  Be careful not to boil.

In a dutch oven or large sauce pan heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic and asparagus and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the farro and cook for another 2 minutes.  The farro should become fragrant at this point.  Add the wine and cook until all the wine has been absorbed.  Using a ladle, pour 1 ladle full of vegetable broth into the farro, stirring constantly.  Cook until the broth has been absorbed into the farro.  Continue this process with the rest of the broth.  The farro should become tender and creamy.  Turn off the heat and add the cheese.  Stir to combine.  Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  Cover to keep warm.

Cooking the Scallops

In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Place the marinaded scallops in the pan arranged in a circle.  Cook for about 3 minutes until golden brown.  Turn over each scallop, placing them in the same order they were arranged.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes.  The scallops should feel bouncy when pressed lightly.  Be careful to not overcook.  Serve immediately on top of the farro risotto.

Makes 2-3 servings

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Smashed Blackberry-Basil Toast with Ricotta

If you remember a couple of weeks ago I featured spring time cocktails that I had made for my cousin Challise and her fiancee Zach.  The Blackberry-basil bourbon was so wonderful I could have drank at least 3 (or more), but contrary to popular belief I do use fruit and herbs for other things.  

I have to say I am usually a pretty big breakfast eater.  I love having dippy eggs (eggs over easy) with buttered toast along with my hot cup of coffee in the morning.  Something about the smell of eggs cooking in the pan while my bread toasts in the toaster always puts me in a good mood.  However, there are a few mornings where I do want something a little lighter, especially in the spring and summer months.  So as I  perused my refrigerator a few mornings after making those spring time cocktails I decided why not put those beautiful berries on my toast.  The freshness of the berries and basil on top of the creamy ricotta made for a deliciously perfect breakfast, which I enjoyed in the sunshine on my patio.  With coffee of course.

Smashed Blackberry-Basil Toast with Ricotta

1 piece of bread, toasted
7-9 blackberries, washed
3-4 large basil leaves, washed and chopped
1-2 tablespoons ricotta
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the berries in a small bowl.  Carefully smash them (blackberry will stain) with either a fork or potato smasher.  Add the chopped basil and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Generously spread the ricotta on the toast.  Top with the blackberry mixture and enjoy!

Notes:  All of the ingredients can be adjusted to your taste.  Also a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic would be a great addition.  This recipe can also be made in a larger batch and spread on sliced french bread for a party appetizer.