Monday, August 26, 2013

Irish Cheddar Scones for Jessica's Virtual Shower

Happy, happy, happy day!  Today, some of my girlfriends and I are celebrating our sweet friend, Jessica, and the upcoming birth of her first daughter.  I first met Jessica, the talented lady behind Sunny Side Up, through a cooking board and our friendship has continued for several years.  Isn't she adorable with her baby belly?  

When we first met, she and her husband were living in San Diego.  Shortly after that, a job opportunity took them to China.  I absolutely loved learning about Chinese food and culture through her lens and was so impressed with how quickly she was churning out mouthwatering, eye-poppingly gorgeous, authentic dishes from her tiny kitchen.  Now she and her husband are back in the States and very much looking forward to raising their little one with the best of everything--homemade American staples, tasty Chinese fare, and lots and lots of influence from her Irish heritage.

To honor this background, the theme for Jessica's shower is "Jessica's Pot of Gold" and it will be filled with Irish-inspired goodies.  I've chosen to bring Irish cheddar scones studded with bright green onions.  They're light and fluffy and their texture is more like biscuits than scones.  To me, this is a very good thing.  Buttery scones with plenty of sharp Irish cheddar and fresh green onions just can't be bad.  At all.  

Jessica of My Baking Heart and Krystal of Mrs. Regueiro's Plate are our hostesses for this joyous event.  Jessica's round up is here and Krystal's is here.  Thanks for hosting, ladies, and congratulations, Jessica!

Irish Cheddar Scones
adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 tsp. salt
1 TBSP baking powder
6 TBSP cold butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 c. grated sharp Irish cheddar
3 green onions, green parts only, chopped 
2 large eggs
1/3 c. milk
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 tsp. hot sauce (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 375° F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line it with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add butter pieces and work mixture together with your fingers until uneven crumbs form.  Toss in cheese and scallions, then form a well in the middle of the mixture.

3.  In a glass measuring cup, mix together eggs, milk, mustard, and hot sauce, if using. 

4.  Pour wet mixture into the well in the dry ingredients and stir until dough is evenly moistened, but not overworked.  The dough will be very sticky.

5.  Generously flour a countertop or pastry mat.  Place the dough out on the counter and sprinkle flour on top.  Give the dough a few turns and pat into a 10-in. x 2-in. rectangle.  Cut the rectangle into five squares then cut each square in half diagonally for a total of 10 scones.

6.  Place the scones on prepared baking sheet, leaving at least 1 in. between them.  Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until nicely browned.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately or let cool on a wire rack.  Store, tightly wrapped, at room temperature, up to three days or freeze up to three months.

Yields: 10 scones

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Raspberry Aperol Floats

It's crazy to think it, but we're already on the tail end of summer.  And while I'm the kind of girl who can (and does) eat ice cream year round, I am also one to pretty much stick to using fresh berries in the summer when they're at their very best.  

Here, my favorite berries, bright, juicy raspberries, are paired with another favorite, Aperol.  Aperol is an Italian liquer made from sweet and bitter oranges along with a blend of herbs that creates the most perfect balance of sweet and not-so-sweet flavors.  I fell in love with it in Venice, where the Aperol Spritz has become a very common afternoon cocktail, particularly in the hot summer months.  The bubbles in the spritz come from prosecco, but in this summer treat, they come from club soda or unsweetened flavored carbonated water poured over classic creamy vanilla ice cream.

As summer winds down, make sure to take time to enjoy the things that are fleeting--berries, warm evenings, and time outside with those you love.  Sit on the back porch while the kids eat a scoop of vanilla ice cream, make up these floats to share with your sweetheart, and soak it all in before it's gone for the year.

Raspberry and Aperol Floats
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2013

1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. Aperol, plus more for finishing, if desired
6 oz. fresh raspberries
1 pint vanilla ice cream or gelato
2 (12-oz.) cans club soda or unsweetened flavored carbonated water (I like La Croix)

1.  In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring thyme, sugar, and water to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat, let sit 15 minutes for thyme to steep, then remove thyme and let syrup cool to room temperature.  

2.  Stir in Aperol then add berries and muddle gently.  Store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one day before using.

3.  To assemble floats, divide syrup among four tall float glasses.  Scoop equal amounts ice cream into each glass then top with 6 oz. (half of a can) club soda or carbonated water and an extra splash of Aperol, if desired.  Enjoy immediately.

Yields: 4 floats    


Monday, August 12, 2013

Meatless Monday--Coscous-Stuffed Peppers

Oh my goodness.  This time of year is always so overwhelming.  I love being a teacher, but WOW!  How is it that I manage to forget, every year, just how exhausting the prep work leading up to the start of school is?

When it comes to the beginning of school, there are some things I definitely DON'T forget.  The need for nourishing but easy meals is one of them.  I know I won't be chomping at the bit to create involved dinners during those first few weeks, but I always remember how hungry and tired I get.  I know I need to properly fuel my mind and body if I'm going to have even a chance of making it to Friday in one piece.  

I've got a few standby recipes, but I'm going to add this one to the list.  Sure, it takes a little over an hour from start to finish, but nearly all of that time is inactive time.  Once stuffed, the peppers go into the oven for nearly an hour, which is just about the right amount of time to watch a little tv, check my emails, grade papers, and wind down.  The original recipe also calls for a basil sauce, which you can make while they're in the oven.  I found I liked them better without the sauce and will just chop some basil and sprinkle it over the top of the peppers with a bit of olive oil next time, which I've reflected in this post.  The rest of my family really liked the sauce, however, so you may want to follow the link to the original and give it a try for yourself.

couscous stuffed peppers

Couscous-Stuffed Peppers
adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

1/4 c. plus 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 c. Israeli couscous
1 1/4 c. low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 c. dried currants
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 packed c. baby spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4-5 red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers
hot water, as needed
1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped or chiffonade

1.  Place an oven rack in the center position and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 

2.  In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 1 TBSP olive oil then add couscous and toast, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add vegetable broth and cumin and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes or until liquid id absorbed and couscous appears fluffy. 

3.  Meanwhile, prepare all other ingredients and slice the tops from the peppers and remove the ribs and seeds.  If needed, cut a very thin slice from the bottom to allow pepper to stand up.  (At this point, you may only want to cut four peppers in case you don't need the fifth.)

4.  When couscous is ready, pour it into a large bowl and add beans, currants, garlic, spinach, feta, and 1/4 c. olive oil.  Stir to combine and add salt and pepper, to taste.    

5.  Stuff the peppers with couscous filling and arrange in a baking dish.  If you have leftover filling, prepare a fifth pepper and arrange in dish.  Drizzle tops with olive oil and put 3/4 in. hot water into the bottom of the baking dish.

6.  Place dish in preheated oven and bake until the peppers are cooked through, about 55 minutes.  If the filling browns too quickly, cover with foil and continue baking.  (I covered mine after about 25 minutes.)

7.  Remove peppers from oven and allow to cool five minutes.  Meanwhile chop basil.  To serve, drizzle with one last touch of olive oil and sprinkle with basil.

Yields: 4-5 servings