Thursday, June 10, 2010

Upside Down Tomato Basil Bread

There you go, the title says it all, doesn't it?! I made this recipe the first time last year at the very end of the tomato season, we liked it so much that I could not wait to make it again.
With two vases full of bright green amazing fresh basil and the first tomatoes coming in my CSA box yesterday this bread was something I could not pass up.
The dough is super simple to make, just mix everything, let it rest, open and use - plus the dough is wonderful to work with, really lovely dough.
Filling and topping are also easy and quick to put together. It takes a bit of time to wait for the dough to rise so you need to keep that in mind, but other than that this is a bread that is not only pretty and tasty, but it is also fun to make and eat.
The process of making this bread is similar to that of making cinnamon rolls, so after it is baked you can grab individual little buns filled with basil and Parmesan cheese and topped with bright and fresh ripened tomatoes. Do I need to say more?!
The recipe I got from the blog Simmer Till Done and basically I followed the recipe as is! My only thing yesterday was that I didn't have enough cheese for both dough and filling, so I only used in the filling. It was pretty flavorful and cheesy that way, I didn't hear one single complain, only "yums" and "this bread is really good" (the husband is a carb lover, he even remembered this one from last year, big thumbs up!)
I will post here how I made it, but take a peek at Marilyn's post, the pictures she has from her bread are really nice! Here is her post: Upside Down Tomato Basil Bread
This is a great snack to use up basil and summer tomatoes!

Can you see the layers of basil goodness in there?!

Upside Down Tomato and Basil Bread
(Adapted from the blog Simmer Till Done)

1 package (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons warm water
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used half whole wheat, half white flour on my rolls)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper


4 – 5 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 cup shredded (or grated) Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (I didn't measure it, just added to taste)

Tomato Topping

3 large or 4 small-medium tomatoes

To make dough: put yeast and warm water in a bowl, mix with a fork and let stand for about 5 minutes. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, cheese (if using) and mix well, add 2 cups of flour and mix well with a fork or wooden spoon, keep adding more flour until you can gather the dough with your hands. Add flour only until the dough forms into a nice smooth ball. Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic (or a towel) and let it rest for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size/volume.

For the filling mix all ingredients in a small bowl, set aside.

For the topping: remove seeds and coarsely chop the tomatoes, set them in a colander to remove any excess moisture as you prepare everything else.
I seasoned my tomatoes with salt and pepper before putting in the pan, but that is optional.

Preheat oven to 375 F, lightly oil a 10 inch round pan, cover the bottom of it with a round of parchment paper (makes it easier to remove the bread later on!) and lightly oil the paper itself.
Spread the tomatoes on the bottom of the pan and set aside.
On a floured surface, gently roll the dough into a rectangle of about 11 x 24 inches. Spread gently the basil and cheese filling on the surface of the dough. Roll the dough on the long edge as a log, make sure to roll it gently but tightly, as not to leave air bubbles. Cut the roll into 1 inch slices and place slices with the cut side down on the prepared pan with the tomatoes.
Put pan over a sheet pan (just in case of any drippings occur) and slide into the oven. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until the rolls look golden on top.
Cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, invert onto a big plate and serve!

Note: if you would like your tomatoes to caramelize you can slide the inverted bread into the oven with the broiler turned on for about 2 minutes - I skipped this step!
Also, you can let the dough rise a second time for about 20 minutes (while your oven preheats perhaps!) after placing the rolls in the pan, I also skipped this step as I didn't even realize it was in the recipe. It turned out great without this step, so I am not complaining about my little shortcut!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Springtime Pasta with Homemade Ricotta

I love cookbooks, I have a thing for it and always find one more that I "need" to have!
However, even though I have many cookbooks and love to read and reread the recipes on them or on my favorite cooking magazines, for most of the time I use recipes and pictures more for an inspiration rather than something to follow strictly. For the majority of the recipes I choose to make end up tweaking a bit here and there and adapting when needed with what I have on hand.
To be quite true, what I have in the fridge is usually what dictates what I am going to make for our meals. I look in the ice box, a peek in the pantry, and I am out for a search of inspiration on said cookbooks and magazines!
The pasta pictured above was a case of a "let's see what is in the fridge" day. Armed with a bunch of spring veggies and some delicious homemade ricotta (my favorite!) I created the dish you see, which turned out to be pretty good, if I do say so myself!

First I set the oven on high and put some of the veggies I had in the fridge to roast: broccoli, carrots, yellow squash and asparagus - all seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. Meanwhile I set a pot of water to boil and cooked some whole wheat penne.
Once the veggies were roasted and the pasta was cooked I tossed them together, added a few marinated artichoke hearts I had left in a jar and seasoned everything well with salt, pepper, and lots of delicious extra virgin olive oil. A few blobs of ricotta and grated fresh Parmesan cheese completed our one dish deliciousness of a meal! Could not have asked for more!
And this coming from someone who is not a big pasta fan. Seriously, pasta is something that I never crave or wish for, I actually never liked pasta until I tried the whole wheat variety, I find it a lot more flavorful and it has a bite to it which I grew to enjoy. (Regular pasta to me doesn't taste like anything... blech!) But I still don't eat pasta frequently, I need to be really in the mood to gobble it up.
To me this dish proved how the simplest foods end up being the most delicious and flavorful ones. Roasted veggies are just the best, and look at the bright colors! Plus there are few things that good cheese doesn't make it all the better, right?!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Lentil Salad

I have been on a lentil kick this past few weeks, which is a good thing as, with all the protein, fiber and iron they have, lentils are not only delicious but also nutritious and super good for you.
Yesterday I cooked some lentils in veggie broth and a smashed garlic clove and ate a full cup of it just drizzled with olive oil and a bit of grated Parmesan on top with my lunch, boy was that delicious. So simple but awesome in flavor!

The other day though I decided to do something a bit more elaborate with my plain jane lentils and I dressed them up a little making one of the best lentil salads I have ever made or eaten. I didn't make a note of quantities as I just did it by taste, but it is so simple to make that an exact recipe is certainly not necessary.
I mixed up cooked lentils with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, fresh thyme, and fresh oregano. Then I seasoned it all with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. To complete the goodness and add a nice salty touch to it I sprinkled a few small cubes of ricotta salatta cheese on top and that was it. As simple as that, as delicious as it could be!
I absolutely loved the lentils with the sun-dried tomatoes and the balsamic, just awesome! Plus the fresh herbs made it all the better.
Just an idea for a great side dish to company meals (and leafy green salads) during the warmer months. I really like beans and lentils and during the summer I love to add them to my salads, yum!!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Back and with Mushroom recipe to share!

Clearly it has been months since I my last post in the blog... gee, where does the time goes? Seriously, is it just me or this year is flying by?
Everything has been nice around here with us in the past few months. I was one happy gal going back to school, loved my classes to the last second of lectures, so much so that I decided to apply for Grad School and pursue a masters in Nutrition. Right now I am still waiting to hear from the University to see if they accepted me or not, so keeping my fingers crossed here!
And while I wait I am taking a summer nutrition class (one that counts for the masters already), this time I chose an online class since Matheus will be out of school pretty soon, but I have to tell you that taking online classes is not quite my thing. I like to go to the class, watch the lecture and interact with the teacher, I like to see and talk to people! Besides, when you are taking a class online you have to manage your own studying time, being very organized and disciplined to not miss any assignments (and man do I have many of them!).
Anyways, I am truly enjoying my nutrition class and since I am home most of the time I am also having more time to play in the kitchen. Lots of recipes being made and photographed lately, and here is one that I made that the three of us just absolutely LOVED: Mushroom Ragu
Since my favorite publication (Cooking Light) decided to entirely reformulate their magazine in the worse way possible (why, why did they do that to my favorite mag???), I had to start looking for new cooking/food mags that would present me with nutritious and delicious dishes, and luck me, I did find a great one. Besides Eating Well which I already liked a lot and have know for years, I have been very fond of a relatively new magazine lately: Clean Eating.
Man this magazine is colorful and has great recipes from a nutritional point of view, plus they have the same views/ideals in terms of food as mine: fresh foods, no refined sugars, no processed foods, dishes based on whole grains, vegetables and fruits... I could not ask for more.
I have been making many dishes from Clean Eating and we have been adoring them all. Their recipes are tasty, made with fresh and simple ingredients and easy to make - always a big plus, right?!
The one that stood out from the ones I made so far was definitely the Portobello Mushroom Ragu from the May/June 2010 issue.
The sauce was delicious, fragrant and so flavorful. Matheus loves mushrooms, he is crazy about it and he devoured this declaring the best pasta sauce ever. Even the husband (big meat eater) loved this one too and kept commenting throughout the meal on how good it tasted.
And I really liked it too! I am not one who likes canned tomatoes, for some reason I think it tastes like the can, but I let the sauce cook covered for almost hour and the flavors melded beautifully, leaving no vestiges of canned tomatoes at all. The recipe called for all portobello mushrooms but I used a mix of that and creminis, so feel free to use your favorite mushroom here. If you like mushrooms, you have to try this one!
Here is the recipe the way I made, enjoy!!

Mushroom Ragu
(adapted from Clean Eating Magazine)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
12 oz mushrooms (I used portobello and cremini), cleaned and diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (15oz) can chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pan, sautee onions for about 3 minutes, add garlic and sautee for a minute more. Add mushrooms and thyme and continue to sautee for a few more minutes until the mushrooms start to soften. Add the tomatoes and cook until the mixture is thick. Serve over pasta or polenta.

My Note: The recipe states to cook sauce for 10 minutes, I cooked mine for about 40 to 50 minutes (while I was preparing the rest of the meal), and I found that the flavors were way better than after only 10 minutes. So feel free to adjust cooking time here to your preferences.
And if 10 minutes is all you have to cook the sauce then by all means go with that, this sauce is so delicious that even with 10 minutes of cooking I am sure you are still going to enjoy!