Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

The Farmer's Market has been one of my favorite things to do on weekends. Since I was a little girl, my mom and I would walk around and just look at all of the beautiful produce that as an adult, I would learn to make into some really, really tasty dishes.

I have never ever made fried green tomatoes but for some reason at the farmer's market last Sunday, I saw these gorgeous green heirloom tomatoes and the thought just popped into my head. The week before, I had made caprese salad with red and yellow tomatoes and since I bought cauliflower, broccoli and these insanely orange carrots for lunch, I wanted to add something warm and crunchy to it.

There was no real recipe I followed to make them. At the restaurants I worked at, I saw a few variations on fried green tomatoes and well sorry, chefs but I wanted something completely different. One chef used actual, under ripe green tomatoes which is traditionally used but I wanted the flavor of really ripe, fresh tomatoes and so I chose heirlooms. Another chef coated them in tempura batter and deep fried them. The problem for me with this method is that the tomatoes are so delicate that they need to be cut on the thicker side to make sure they don't fall apart in the fryer. Plus, tempura batter just doesn't have enough flavor. I wanted them to be closer to the real, Southern comfort food. So, without any actual form or structured recipe, here's how I did it:

Take 3, ripe and firm, green heirloom tomatoes and cut them about 1/4 of an inch. Lay them on a sheet pan and salt each side to draw out a little bit of moisture. This keeps them from getting soggy.
Prepare your breading assembly line...
1 cup of flour with a teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder goes into a shallow dish.
2 eggs, beaten with a splash of buttermilk goes in another.
And a mixture of mostly regular seasoned breadcrumbs, with some panko breadcrumbs and a little bit of cornmeal goes into another dish. All together you will want about 2 cups of crumb/cornmeal. Does this make sense?? let me know if it doesn't :)
Now, prepare the oil in a pan. There should be enough so that the oil will come up half way over the tomatoes. In a 10 inch pan, I used about a cup and a quarter. Heat this over medium-high heat and get it hot enough so they immediately begin to bubble and fry once the tomatoes hit, then you can turn it down to medium.
While the oil is heating, coat the tomatoes in the flour mixture, then dip them in egg mixture then finish in the breadcrumbs.  Now you have about 10-12 slices ready to fry.
Gently lay the slices in the oil and let them cook until golden brown on both sides.
Let them drain on a paper towel, top with some freshly grated Parmesan and serve with a tangy ranch dip.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Ricotta Waffles with Peaches Blueberries and Granola

One of my favorite parts of doing this blog is the photography. I love setting everything up, getting everything just right and making sure everything looks delicious. There was a time when I had enough hours in the day to make sweet treats and photograph them and learn how to adjust light and backgrounds and figure out how to get better a food photography. But this picture was taken right before I took the first bite. My parents were sitting across the table, ready to eat their waffles and patiently waited for me to get a shot. Im sure they thought I was crazy because I was discussing the lighting and angle with T and everyone was waiting to eat!
I guess sometimes you have to let go of structure and just let food be food on a plate.

I really love this breakfast treat because its all of my favorite components of dessert that I absolutely love. The heat of the crisp waffle and warm peaches melted the ricotta slightly and released all of the sweet flavor of vanilla bean and orange zest. For texture, the granola adds crunch a little spice with, of course, cinnamon. I hope you enjoy these recipes, but for the record, I used waffle mix and added almond extract...shhh :)

Of course you can make french toast and use the recipes, you can serve the fruit over ricotta filled crepes too.
Simple Granola   
makes 8 cups
5 cups          Rolled Oats
1 3/4 cups    Sliced Almonds
3/4 cups       Light Brown Sugar, packed
1/4 tsp.        Ground Cinnamon
1/4 cup        Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup        Honey
2 Tbsp.        Maple Syrup
2 tsp.           Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350
1.  Combine the oats, almonds and brown sugar in a large bowl.
2.  Stir together oil, honey, maple syrup, extract and cinnamon. Heat in the microwave just slightly.
3.  Pour the wet ingredients over the oats and almonds and mix until everything is coated.
*You can freeze half of this mixture for up to two months and bake the rest for smaller batches, which is what I do, because it is quite a lot.
4.  Bake on one or two sheet pans for 15 minutes or until everything is dark golden brown. About half way through, take it out and stir the granola on the pan with a rubber spatula.
5.  Once the granola is completely cool, store it in an air tight container for about a week.

Ricotta Topping-Makes 4 servings
2 oz.       Cream Cheese
2 Tbsp.   Goat Cheese
1/4 cup   Sugar
Zest of half an orange
1/2 ea.    Vanilla Bean
8 oz        Ricotta Cheese
1 tsp.      Almond Extract

1.  Combine the first three ingredients and mix until smooth. Add the vanilla bean and the zest.
2.  Mix in the ricotta and almond extract. Done!

Peaches and Blueberries in Syrup-Makes 4 servings
2 ea         Large Yellow Peaches, peeled and cut into wedges
1 pint       Blueberries
1/3 cup    Brown Sugar
2 Tbsp.    Butter
1 tsp.       Vanilla Extract
a pinch of salt

1.  Melt butter and brown sugar in a large saute pan over medium heat
2.  Add the peaches and cook until tender, about 4 minutes.
3.  Add the blue berries and cook one more minute and remove right before the blueberries burst.
4.  Add the salt ad vanilla
4.  Divide and pour fruit and syrup over each waffle.

Top the waffle with a large scoop of ricotta topping and sprinkle granola over the top. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 8, 2011

"Cream Butter and Sugar Until Light and Fluffy"

 Oh my goodness...deep breath...keep going.
With all that has gone on with my family these past few months, I am completely exhausted, mentally and physically. Cancer is the pits. Readjusting our lives and making sure everyone in our little family is safe and sane and as comfortable as possible has taken precidence over almost anything. The last thing usually on the list is myself but lately, with everyone getting a little more used to whats going on, I can get back to what makes me happy.

Baking. "To bake is to breathe" says Mariel as she looks across the table at everything she just made. Lemon cake with raspberry jam and lemon buttercream to go with the batch of mini cupcakes filled with lemon curd, gluten free vanilla filled chocolate cupcakes and blueberry macarons.

There is simply nothing I would rather do all day, everyday than bake. I decorate cakes and cupcakes and make little sweet petites at work, but when I am able to take butter, sugar, flour and make it into anything I want, to be able to study it and develop it into what hopefully will end up as a little speck to be cleaned up by a napkin on someones delighted mouth, well, I am in heaven.

I am designing what hopefully will be a sucessful event where people can come and enjoy some dessert- the dessert that people have seen on this blog which hopefully could lead to some business, eventually leading up to the OriginalCinn empire that will over throw the over-buttered Mrs. Deen and the like. Although, Cat Cora and I should totally get together sometime because she is delightful...sigh...Anyway, planning this thing, is very exciting and quite a lot of fun. I am crossing my fingers and dotting my "I's" to make sure this event is well planned, and everything looks great and tastes fabulous.

It took me a little bit to be able to get back to baking, all things considered. But it is important to maintain a sense of self and to keep busy in a fun and productive way to stay positive and sane. So I just keep breathing, and keep going and keep baking as best as I can so all of this can go somewhere.