Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Salted Dulce De Leche Cheesecake Bars

I started subscribing to Bon Apetit again after an absence of many years. In my first issue I came across a recipe that sounded awfully good to me. Cheesecake bars, flavored with Dulce de Leche and sprinkled with Sea Salt. Man, what's NOT to like about that combination.  So here's the recipe adapted from Bon Apetit, June, 2010.

2 1/4 cups graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons melted butter

3 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup Dulce De Leche (available at your grocery store)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2/3 cup Dulce De Leche
3 tablespoons heavy cream
sea salt or fleur de sel

Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Press into lightly greased (spray Pam is fine) 9 x 13 baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool.

In a mixing bowl combine cream cheese and sugar until fully blended. Add eggs one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add Dulce De Leche and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Pour and scrape over crust and spread evenly all the way to the edges of the pan. Bake at 350 for 38 to 42 minutes until filling is puffed, browning, and starting to crack. Remove and let cool.

Heat glaze, combine and spread over baked cream cheese and sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate for an hour.

Now a couple of specifics. Salting the dessert, you want to be careful as it's a fine line to perhaps salt it too much and it's easy not to salt enough. Here's what you do, salt it once, somewhat liberally, and then refrigerate. When you go to cut the squares, test one, and if the saltiness is not enough, salt again. That should be sufficient, and perfect.

Also, a cold cheesecake dish like this with a creamy middle and sticky dulce de leche topping can be difficult to cut cleanly. Here's a method I found that works. One, use a heavy knife or even a dough cutter and run it under hot water, dry with a paper towel, and make one cut through the dessert. Then, run again under hot water, clean off cheesecake crumbs, dry, and make another cut. Continue this way until you've made four to six cuts in the cheesecake. Then, remove a "large square" from the pan and place on cutting board. Again, run hot water over the knife, wipe clean, and now you can cut down directly onto the cheesecake until you have evenly shaped squares that are the size you want. Repeat with the remaining "large" squares in the pan. This way you're not trying to cut even squares inside the pan. Also, this will prevent most of the scattering of crumbs from the cutting process.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lime Cake with Strawberry Compote

Fresh Strawberries. Especially perfectly RIPE fresh strawberries. What do ya do with them?  Well, here's one thing you can do with them. Try combining them with a freshly made and delicious Lime Cake from King Arthur Flour.

This cake has a delicate lime essence to it and when paired with fresh fruit is the perfect summer dessert. You could use Raspberries or Strawberries. I chose Strawberries for this time.  Actually, the Strawberries ran out, and the leftover cake was great all by itself.  Do give it a try.

Ingredients and Method:

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups King Arthur Flour
1 cup milk
grated rind of two limes

1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2/3 cup superfine or confectioners sugar

Strawberry Compote
1 small basket fresh strawberries, de-hulled and quartered
1/3 cup water
4 tablespoons sugar

Coarse white sparkling sugar for topping

Combine the butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat thoroughly after each

Add salt, baking powder and flour and milk and mix well. Mix in lime zest.

Pour batter into 9 x 13 lightly greased baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown and a cake tester (toothpick) comes out clean.

Remove to cooling rack. Mix together lime juice and sugar in a small bowl. Using a toothpick pierce the top
of the cake all over.  Using a brush spread the lime glaze all over the warm cake. Let it soak in and repeat with the brush until all the glaze has been absorbed by the warm cake.  Sprinkle the top of the cake liberally with sparkling sugar for decoration.

Combine the strawberries, water, and sugar in a bowl. Stir to distribute sugar and water throughout the berries. Let sit for an hour in the refrigerator to allow the berries to "juice".

Slice the cake, top with strawberry compote and a touch of whip cream.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel

A few blocks from where I live a new produce stand has opened up. I stopped by there the other day and was amazed at the quality and freshness of the produce. In addition to all the produce, they also have a wide array of jams, jellies, pickled condiments, infused olive oils and infused balsamic vinegars. I was so surprised at the quality and array of products I sought out the owner to inquire as to his sourcing for product.

Come to find out they are Pike Street Produce!  Ever heard of Pike Street Market in Seattle?  It's pretty famous. And known for the quality of their produce. So I was pleasantly surprised to see them open an extension just a few blocks from my house. Here's a shot of the downtown Pike Street Market in Seattle:

As I scooped up some fresh corn on the cob, heirloom tomatoes, and some pears, I came across the strawberries. Huge and fresh and smelled delicious. Right beside those was some fresh rhubarb.  I've
had strawberry rhubarb pie before and love it, but I didn't feel like messing with pie crust. That's when I decided may strawberry and rhubarb streusel might be good.  Oh, it was, especially warm with a touch of ice cream. Give it a try. One of the best summer desserts I've had.

Ingredients and Method:

4 medium rhubarb stalks
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 stick of butter, melted

Combine strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, 1/3 cup flour, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a bowl. Spread fruit mixture evenly in a 9 x 13 inch greased baking dish.

In another bowl mix together 1 cup flour, oats and brown sugar. Pour melted butter over it and blend well with a fork. Break apart any large lumps. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the fruit mixture. Use the back of the fork or a spoon to press the streusel slightly into the fruit.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Beringer Great Steak Challenge


Guess What?  This is a portion of an email I received today!

Dear Ron:

Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected as one of the Regional Finalists for Region 1 in the Beringer Great Steak Challenge for your Filet Mignon with Balsamic Shallot Reduction. As a Regional Finalist, you have won $1,000 to use towards travel expenses to attend the Regional Final at the Comcast Bite of Seattle at the Seattle Center in Seattle, WA.  Once there, you will cook your recipe live against 9 other Finalists from your area.  The winner will then fly to Beringer Vineyards in Napa Valley for a chance to win $15,000 at the Beringer Great Steak Challenge Finale, filmed and aired by the Cooking Channel! 

Woo-Hoo!  I'm cooking at the Bite of Seattle as a Regional Finalist!  I am so pumped.

Here's the Beringer Great Steak Challenge link:  www.GreatSteakChallenge.com

Here's the Bite of Seattle link:  http://www.comcastbiteofseattle.com/

And here's the link to my Blog Recipe for the sauce I'm making for the Filet Mignon

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grilled Balsamic Avocado

Summertime and it's BBQ time. What grill side dishes do you like to make along with your ribs, burgers, steaks, etc?  Corn on the cob?  Grilled tomatoes? How about grilled onions?  Sure, they are all great.

But I just came across an easy, quick, absolutely knock-out killer grill side dish.

Two words:   Grilled Avocado!   Yup, grill up some avocado. Here's how:

Take one or two Hass Avocados. Split in half and remove the seed. Use a paring knife and cut squares into the avocado inside the skin.  Then take a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and sprinkle into the crevices of each half.

Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.

Place skin side down right over the high heat of the coals or gas. Let cook for approximately 5 minutes. The squares of avocado will actually start to puff a bit inside the skin. Actually, the photo in this post was untouched. The chunks of avocado move around in the heat.

Remove and serve immediately.

I simply cannot describe to you how delicious these are. And they make such a GREAT accompaniment to any BBQ outing.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Eggs Benedict

I know, I know, Eggs Benedict is what we only eat when we're out at a restaurant and want something different, right?  Too much hassle to make at home, right?  Not right.

It's easier than you perhaps think. Follow along and you'll see.

Ingredients and Method:
5 eggs, 3 separated
1 stick of butter
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
Canadian Bacon or thinly sliced ham (I prefer the ham)
1 English Muffin
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
parsley for garnish

Add water to a saucepan or small frying pan and bring to gentle rolling boil. Add white vinegar to boiling water. (vinegar keeps the egg whites from separating too much)

Melt butter in ovenproof measuring cup or similar. (you the want the butter to be very hot)

Separate 3 eggs and add yolks to mixer or blender.

You can prepare the Hollandaise sauce in a blender, food processor, or even with a Kitchen Aid mixer. I used the mixer with the wire beater attachment.

Add remaining two eggs to a small bowl.

Ready? Set, Go!

Begin toasting the split English Muffin.

Gently slide the two eggs into the boiling water. 4 minutes for soft poach, and 6 minutes for medium poach.

Turn the mixer on high and beat eggs until beginning to foam. Then, in a thin stream, add the butter to the eggs while the mixer, or blender, or food processor is on high speed. Add cayenne and lemon juice and continue to beat on high for a minute or two.

Lay toasted English Muffin on a plate, layer with Canadian Bacon or ham, lay one poached egg on each muffin, and drizzle with the Hollandaise sauce. Garnish with a bit of parsley.      That's it!  Enjoy!