Saturday, February 27, 2010

Black and White Cookies

I have to give my sister, Meghan, all the credit for making these. She found the recipe, she made the cookies, and she had the patience to ice every single one of them beautifully. And let me tell you, they were a huge hit at the Birthday Dinner.

These cookies are exactly like the Black and Whites you would find in a bakery - cakey rather than chewy, and enough flavor in the delicious icing to actually taste the chocolate.
Meg followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen with no changes that I know of, so here's the link:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Farfalle with Creamy Mushroom Gorgonzola Sauce

Another rich dish to serve for a special occasion, this pasta was creamy and delicious. The tangy taste of the Gorgonzola (or blue cheese, as my mom requested) mixes nicely with the earthy mushrooms and peas for a hearty side dish that will please everyone!

If you are making this for a dinner party, you can make the sauce ahead and refrigerate it until needed. Slowly reheat it while you are cooking the mushrooms and the pasta. This recipe is also easily doubled.

Farfalle with Creamy Mushroom Gorgonzola Sauce
from Everyday Pasta
Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups whole milk, room temperature
5 ounces Gorgonzola (or blue) cheese, crumbled
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound assorted mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (I like to buy the already-sliced baby bellas)
3/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 pound farfalle pasta

Melt the butter over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the milk all at once and whisk until smooth. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, continually whisking as the sauce grows thicker. Remove from the heat. Add the Gorgonzola and stir until melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and golden, about 12 minutes. Stir in the peas. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the farfalle and cook to al dente according to package directions (I usually cook one minute less than the box directs). Drain and transfer to large bowl. Add the Gorgonzola sauce and mushroom mixture and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauce

If you are looking for a good beef dish for a special occasion, then this is it! The sauce is very rich and I normally prefer a good marinade over a sauce, but it was perfect for a celebration. Giada's original recipe calls for cooking the steak in a heavy skillet, but in my house, we always grill if we can! Chuck's instructions are below. My recipe also reflects the changes I made to the sauce, most notably halving it - there was waaaaay too much for the amount of meat there was. Enjoy!

Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauce
slightly adapted from Giada's Family Dinners
Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
1 (2-pound) flank steak
olive oil
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the wine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces by half, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Strain the sauce into a small bowl, pressing on the onions to extract as much liquid as possible. Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm.

Meanwhile, rub olive oil and salt and pepper into the meat. Heat the grill to medium-high. Cook 5-7 minutes on one side; flip meat and cook 7-8 minutes; flip again and cook 5-7 minutes for medium.

Transfer steak to cutting board and let rest for several minutes. Slice thinly across the grain and serve with warm sauce alongside.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seared Scallops over Wilted Spinach

This recipe was the catalyst for the entire Duet Birthday Dinner. My mom really wanted us to make it, so Meg and I created the rest of the menu around it. It turned out really well and I loved the texture of the scallops over the wilted spinach. Special thanks to Carrie for taking charge of it!!

We left out a few things from the original recipe, namely finely ground walnuts since my dad is allergic, and mushrooms since they were going into the pasta. Everyone enjoyed this and I look forward to actually making this myself one day soon!

My apologies for the poor quality and the lack of pictures for the next couple of posts. Dinner needed to be served!

Seared Scallops over Wilted Spinach
adapted from Traditional Home, October 2009 issue
Makes 6-8 side dish servings

20 sea scallops (about 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 ounces fresh baby spinach
shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place flour in a medium bowl and add scallops a few at a time; tossing to coat.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet. Add half the scallops and saute without moving them until browned, about 3 minutes. Turn scallops and cook about 2 minutes more. Remove from skillet and place on a a heat-proof platter, keep warm in oven. Repeat with the rest of the scallops, adding more oil if necessary. Bake for 5 to 8 more minutes, or until scallops are opaque.

Melt butter in same skillet. Add shallots and cook 4 to 5 minutes until tender, stirring. Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; return to heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 2 minutes, stirring to loosen brown bits.

Gradually add spinach to skillet, tossing to wilt before adding more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer spinach to a serving plate; top with scallops and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hearty Winter Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

This salad was delicious - although I would probably name it something with "Mediterranean" in the title since it includes olives and feta. I also think it would be very tasty with a nice arugula blend. The dressing was nice and garlicky and highlighted the salad nicely. If you don't have sherry vinegar, you can use balsamic vinegar - the dressing will just be a little more acidic.

This was a Giada-heavy meal and the only thing I really adjusted was the serving size that she indicated. If you are serving this as a first course or along with a substantial dinner, you will get many more servings out of the amounts below.

Hearty Winter Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette
from Everyday Pasta
Makes about 6-8 servings

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 large garlic clove
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 (10-ounce) bag baby mixed greens, rinsed and spun dry
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 ounces feta cheese, coarsely crumbled

Blend the vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper in a blender until garlic is finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly blend in the oil. (Alternatively, you can mince the garlic and whisk together all the ingredients except the oil. Then slowly add the oil while whisking until emulsified.)

Toss the baby greens, bell pepper, olives and cheese in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to coat.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cranberry, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Dip

This was sooooo good. That pretty much sums up what everyone said about it! The sweetness of the caramelized onions really accented the tart cranberries well. And then layered over a bed of creamy goat cheese, how can you go wrong? The only change I will make next time is double the amount of goat cheese, as most of us agreed that we wanted more of that flavor. This is a great dip to make in advance or to bring to a party because there is no baking. Nothing to keep hot!

I also noticed on the original post from Beantown Baker that her original recipe used blue cheese instead, which I love as well, so I may try that another time! Other than that, no changes made so I will link you to where I got the recipe:

Cranberry, Caramelized Onion, and Goat Cheese Dip

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baked Caprese Salad

The first recipe from the Duet Birthday Dinner, this is a delicious little bite that looks gorgeous and is easy to assemble! A twist on the standard tomatoes and mozz; the tomato and mozzarella are placed on a toast slice and baked again to melt the cheese. A piece of fresh basil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper complete this wonderful appetizer.
Make sure to use good quality olive oil and fresh basil is a must! Here's the link directly to Giada's recipe:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pumpkin Blondies

I know it's not really pumpkin season, but I have a ton of canned pumpkin puree in my pantry from when I stocked up in the fall. Obviously, I didn't get a lot of baking done then, so when I needed a little treat for my mommy group, these looks easy enough and I had all the ingredients.
These were delicious - nice and moist from the pumpkin, but sweet enough to make a great little dessert. I subbed in semi-sweet chocolate chips for the white chocolate in the original recipe but otherwise didn't change a thing. Here is the original from Dinner & Dessert:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dinner for Four

I have been wanting to try braised short ribs for a long time; but it always seemed like too much effort for just the two of us, and they are too expensive for a large dinner party. So when my brother and his girlfriend set up a night with us to come over for dinner, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to put these on a menu!

The best thing about these short ribs is that you can make them up to THREE days in advance and just reheat. How great is that for a make-ahead dinner!? And I am assuming, as with all thing braised or stewed, that these just get better overnight.

I can't wait to report on how this all comes out!

Dinner for Four

  • Spicy dill dip with cut veggies
  • Olive and cheese plate with assorted crackers
  • Baked mozzarella and tomato basil antipasto with parmesan crostini


  • Beef short ribs braised in red wine
  • Smashed garlic potatoes with blue cheese
  • Parmesan-roasted broccoli
  • Tomato flatbread


  • Bakery cupcakes
  • Assorted chocolates