Friday, October 22, 2010

Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding

What to do with a loaf of challah bread? If asked that question, the first two things that come to my head are french toast and bread pudding. Maybe I need to expand..but I am happy with these options since I don't tend to make them too too often. That was until this school year started... I now have a loaf of challah bread coming home with my son every three weeks from his school. Whew! Need to get creative here! So far I have only had one loaf to deal with and since I had company over for dinner the day I received my challah I decided to share (aka not get stuck with a loaf of bread to nosh on!).

Not everyone loves bread pudding. I happen to think it's pretty great. If you have a basic recipe for bread pudding you can pretty much add anything to it that you like. Nuts, fresh fruit, dried fruit, chocolate can all make a really delicious dessert. On this particular night I knew my guests were dark chocolate lovers so that's the route I went. I didn't need to look far for a recipe. I have watched enough Food Network to know that my girl, Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) has made a few bread puddings in her day. The recipe I based this one off of was for rum raisin, but I ended up transforming mine into a dark chocolate version. This recipe is just a jumping off point. You can add more chocolate than I did, use different bread ( I think Ina's recipe originally calls for croissants), or add some nuts to the mix. Whatever you fancy!

Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding
Serves 8-10

Adapted out of "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook", Croissant bread pudding

3 extra-large eggs (Ina always uses extra-large eggs. So do I. I don't question greatness.)
8 extra-large egg yolks (after this rich dessert, won't it feel good to wake up in the morning and make yourself an egg-white omelet??)
5 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 loaf challah bread, sliced or cubed or torn
1 cup (or more) dark chocolate chips (I like Guittard's Extra Dark Chocolate Chips which are 63% cacao)

Preheat the oven to 350

Whisk together the eggs, half and half, sugar and vanilla. In a baking dish (about 2 1/2- 3 quarts or whatever will hold all the bread and liquid) place a layer of the bread, top with chocolate chips, then top with the rest of the bread. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and allow to soak in for at least 10 minutes (I let it sit for about an hour), pressing down to get the bread to absorb the liquid.

Place the pan in a larger one filled with about an inch of hot water. Cover the entire thing with aluminum foil, making sure that the foil doesn't touch the pudding. Cut a couple holes in the foil to allow steam to escape. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 40-45 minutes, until it is puffed and custard is set. Allow to cool a bit before serving. Really good with a little vanilla ice cream or whipped cream!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Easy Lunchtime Pizza

Who doesn't want an easy lunch option when they have been running around all day long? I get sick of sandwiches, and picking through the refrigerator isn't the most exciting option, unless you are able to turn random items into a masterpiece. This is what I do when I make pizza in my house. Dig though the produce and cheese drawers and create a delicious pie. Making pizza can be simple, though making the dough, and rolling it out can take a little more time than one wants when eating midday.

My inspiration for this quick pizza came from a bite that I had at our close friend's house last month, grilled figs wrapped with prosciutto and stuffed with fresh mozzarella. In my opinion, the flavors in this combination hit a home run. Sweet, salty, creamy. As I was eating this, I kept thinking how good all these items would taste on a pizza (this is what I do with almost everything I eat..anything can be turned into a pizza.) On my next trip to Whole Foods I stocked up on the ingredients, but instead of grabbing yeast to make the dough, I bought a package of naan. Naan is an South Asian flat bread, popular in countries like India and Pakistan, that mimics that of a thin crust pizza dough when cooked. And the fact that a piece of naan is the perfect size for a personal lunch-size pizza made it my choice on this shopping trip.

The longest part of this meal is preheating the oven. I like to cook my pizza at 500, so waiting for the oven to heat can take a while. I cook it so high because it keeps the ingredients from getting mushy and overcooked but makes the crust charred and crisp. Just the way I like it. If you would rather cook your pizza at a lower temperature, no problem, you'll just have to cook it longer so the overall time may end up being the same. Take my advice...wait for the oven!

Use this recipe as a starting off point for inspiration. You can make any pizza on one of these little naans... even following the same cooking times regardless of the ingredients you use. Get creative, this is the perfect opportunity to create your perfect bite!

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza
serves 1

1 piece naan (I buy mine at Whole Foods)

extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper


1-2 small fresh mozzarella balls, sliced thinly (this makes all the difference for pizza. Don't buy the rubbery stuff!)
1 slice good quality prosciutto, torn into bit size pieces (I like to use San Danielle if I am cooking with it...go for the really good stuff if you are eating it cold)

3 fresh figs, sliced in half ( I like the green Kadota's since are softer and sweeter than Mission, but use whatever you can find. Figs are still in the grocery stores right now, at least they were earlier this week, but if you can't find them you can use fig preserves instead. Dab it on in about six spots- I like the Dalmatia brand sold at Whole Foods).

Preheat oven to 500. If you have a pizza stone make sure it in in the oven before turning it on. I prefer to use a pizza stone since it helps create a really crisp crust. If you don't have a pizza stone, drizzle a cookie sheet with olive oil and place in the oven before turning it on and heat it with the oven. Once the oven is preheated, place the pizza directly on the sheet. This will help you achieve the crunch without the stone!

To assemble your pizza:

Drizzle naan with a little oil. Rub it all over the bread with your hands (the best tools!) Sprinkle with a little kosher salt and freshly grated pepper. Finely grate some Parmesan, creating a fine base layer. Scatter mozzarella slices, figs and prosciutto on top and pop in the oven. This will take about 5-7 minutes to cook. After 5 minutes keep an eye on it so that it doesn't get too charred (unless you like it that way!)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Shrimp Saganaki

I know there are a lot of you out there that are looking for a quick, delicious weeknight meal. A lot of what I cook doesn't fall into the "quick" category, but I wouldn't cook something more than once that wasn't delicious. I've made this dish a bunch of times and everyone who I've served it to has been a fan.

This dish is simple because it only has a few ingredients. The flavors are fresh and bright and you can really taste each and everyone of them. The prep work is simple, just a few things to chop. If you use peeled and deveined shrimp that really cuts down the time you spend preparing to cook this meal. I made this tonight and prepped it while my son ate dinner, then cooked it while my husband put him to bed. 10 minutes of prep, 15 minutes of cooking. In my book, that's fast.

Oh, by the way. Fall in on and so is the cooking in my house. Stay tuned for lots of yummy recipes. Hopefully I'll be back here weekly to share them with all you food loving blog followers!

Shrimp Saganaki
Food & Wine March '09

Serves 4

2 TBS each olive oil and canola oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
salt to taste
Hot pepper flakes to taste
1 1/2 lb peeled, deveined and sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced in half lengthwise
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 oz crumbled feta

Hot crusty bread for serving

Heat oil in a large saute pan over med/high heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper flakes. Cook for another 5 minutes, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Add in shrimp and olives. Cook another 3 minutes. Add in dill and feta and cook 1 more minute. Serve hot with the bread to soak up all the delicious juices!