Goat Cheese, Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Flatbread

Goat Cheese Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Flatbread

This is one of my favorite appetizers. Inspired by the flavors of the “Roasted Garlic Bulbs” starter at Moonshine, one of my favorite restaurants in Austin, this version is made a little heartier, prepared on a flatbread (instead of a crostini) and with the addition of Italian sausage. The cool, tangy goat cheese is perfect with the rich roasted garlic. Easy and delicious!

 

 

For a substantial appetizer for 4 people, use:
2 flatbreads
2 oz. goat cheese
Head of garlic, roasted
4 oz. crumbled Italian sausage, browned
6 peppadew peppers, sliced
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 basil leaves, chopped into ribbons (optional garnish)

If you haven’t used roasted garlic before, you must try it. The normally strong, sharp flavor of garlic becomes softer and nutty from roasting. I love roasted garlic in pasta dishes or just slathered onto a slice of bread. It’s easy to make, see how to make Roasted Garlic here.

Goat Cheese Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Flatbread 2

Put pizza stone in over and preheat to 425 degrees. Toast flatbreads on hot pizza stone for 2-3 minutes per side to give them a good crunch. Remove from oven and let rest on the hot stone for 2 minutes. Meanwhile combine sliced peppers in a small bowl with balsamic vinegar to coat. Spread goat cheese on flatbreads, and top with roasted garlic, Italian sausage, and marinated red peppers. Garnish with chopped basil, slice and serve.

Enjoy!

Roasted Garlic

There are fewer foods that flavors change as dramatically as garlic by introducing heat to it for about 45 minutes.  Raw garlic goes into the oven sharp and pungent and emerges soft, a little sweet and nutty.  Roasted garlic is great in pasta dishes, mashed potatoes, or just spread on a cracker.  It’s just so delicious!

roasted garlicroasted garlic 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasting garlic is really easy, all you need is garlic, a little olive oil and some aluminum foil.  Remove some of the outer paper from the head of garlic and trim about ¼ inch from the top of garlic to expose the cloves.  Put into foil, drizzle about 1 tsp. olive oil onto the exposed cloves and close the foil into a ball.  Roast in 400 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until cloves are golden colored and bulbs can be squeezed out of the paper.

Enjoy!

Sous Vide Flank Steak – Do you Sous?

sous vide flank steak 2A few years ago, the owner of Serve Gourmet, a wonderful little kitchen specialty shop in Austin, Texas told me about a technique of cooking called Sous Vide. A bath of water is set at a selected cooking temperature, food is sealed in a pouch, and cooks in the water for a set time.

I didn’t get it.

As time went on, I head more and more people talking about Sous Vide. In restaurants, I would hear of specials like “Sous Vide Short Ribs in a Balsamic Fig Reduction” or “Sous Vide Root Vegetables in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce”

After trying some of these dishes, I was hooked. How can this method completely transform certain ingredients, especially meat dishes? The science behind it is actually pretty simple. A water bath is set to a precise temperature, usually the temperature that is desired for the internal temperature of what is being cooked. For example, since I like my steak a perfect medium rare, I would set the water temperature to 130 degrees. It’s impossible to overcook, because the internal temperature of the steak can never exceed 130 degrees.

Traditional methods of cooking steak create somewhat of a bulls eye effect of doneness. As the outside gets exposed to very high heat, it must be removed at the exact point the inside reaches that perfect 130 degrees. Not with Sous Vide. Since the water temperature is the same as the internal temperature, my medium rare steak is medium rare from top to bottom, side to side. Since I like a good sear on meats, after cooking I will sear my steak in a screaming hot cast iron skillet for a minute per side. It doesn’t really raise the internal temperature much, and it adds to the flavor and texture.

sous vide flank steak

I was lucky enough to receive a Sous Vide Supreme as a gift from a friend. My first attempt was a flank steak cooked for 8 hours to a perfect 130 degrees. A general rule of cooking meat Sous Vide is “the tougher the meat, the longer it cooks.” While the internal temperature of the meat won’t rise above the selected cooking temperature, the connective tissues in the meat that make it tough are broken down by this prolonged cooking time, leaving a perfectly cooked that is tender and juicy.

I’ve made steaks, pork chops, sausage, chicken… all stellar. Sous Vide chicken is especially good in a dish that diced or shredded chicken is needed. Season a few chicken breast, seal in cooking pouch and cook for an hour at 165 degrees. Perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. Enchiladas anyone?

I would love to know what your favorites are using Sous Vide. I have only scratched the surface, and want to learn more!

Holiday Baking

Now that the weather has started to turn colder, even in Austin, it is starting to feel like the holiday season is upon us. There is a very distinct difference between “holiday season winter” when sitting by a fire with hot chocolate, spending time with friends and family, holiday parties, and tis-the-season-to-eat-everything-in-sight is on the mind, and “after new year’s winter” when it’s cold, the days are short, and all I long for is springtime and a nice sunny patio to sit.

One of my favorite things to do over the holidays is baking for friends and family, although I haven’t done as much of it lately as I should. I found these adorable Gingerbread Cardboard Treat Boxes on amazon.com, they are a perfect, festive way to spread some holiday cheer to loved ones.

Happy baking!

La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival

la dolce vita food and wine festival 2

Held on the beautiful grounds of Laguna Gloria, La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival is an event I’ve been wanting to try for years. Benefitting The Contemporary Austin’s art education program, more than 40 of Austin and Central Texas’ top restaurants, vineyards and coffee shops come together to showcase their best offerings.

la dolce vita food and wine festival Having recently been to other festivals, with long lines and long waits, we thought it best to arrive early. Not here; getting in was a breeze. Show your tickets, visit the table with the endless rows of wine glasses, grab one, and you are on your way.

As you make your way through the Laguna Gloria’s twelve lakeside acres, there were many delicious samplings, from Swift’s Attic “Devils on Horseback” (candied bacon wrapped figs stuffed with gorgonzola) to the savory pork and beef meatballs from East Side Showroom in a chunky, hearty, tomato sauce. For a fun twist on a Texas classic, head over to Ranch 616’s booth to get their Frito chili pie prepared right in a snack sized Frito’s pack. All the Frito pie goodness you love but cooled off and lightened up with lettuce, pico de gallo and a creamy cilantro sauce.  Thankfully there were lighter dishes, from sushi, salads, gazpachos and those delicious roasted red peppers with herbs on a cracker from Travaasa Resort and Spa.

la dolce vita food and wine festival 3And let’s not forget about the desserts! The ladies of Delish were working hard to keep their table of cloud topped merengue cupcakes replenished, while passing out their unique crispy treats. They had the most beautiful table hands down. The folks at Amy’s Ice Creams were offering a decadent brownie, topped with pumpkin ice cream and candied pralines.

The variety of wine is equally impressive. Along with a substantial presence from Twin Liquors, with French, Italian and Spanish offerings, there were some surprising finds from Texas wineries. My top pick was a smooth velvety Sangiovese-Cabernet blend called VIVIANO from Llano Estacado in Lubbock, Texas. It’s 100% Texas grapes with substantial tannins,  and a velvety, smooth finish. The much raved about Becker Raven (Malbec-Petit Verdot blend) was a close second. It’s dry, smooth, and easy drinking to pair well with much of the variety in food samplings.

When you need a break from the delicious bites – and you will – take a glass of wine down to the lake and rest up under the twinkling lights for the next round of tastings.

Garlic and Herb Croutons

garlic and herb croutonsOnce you make these, you will never go back to pre-packaged croutons again! I usually make these with whatever kind of bread I have sitting around that is going a little stale. My No Knead Bread makes flavorful rustic croutons. These make a great topping for any salad, soup or just to grab a handful to snack on. They are that good!

Ingredients:
12 oz bread, torn into bite sized chunks
¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, grated or finely minced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Add bread to large bowl and sprinkle with pecorino cheese. In a measuring cup, pour ⅓ cup oil and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine and drizzle over bread mixture, turning with a wooden spoon to coat evenly. Arrange bread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or roasting pan and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn with spatula and cook an additional 10 minutes. Let cool, and store in air tight container for several weeks.

Enjoy!garlic and herb croutons 2

No Knead Bread

You don’t knead this bread, but you do need this bread recipe. Corny, I know.No knead bread 2

This bread has probably impressed more of my friends than the most complicated, intricate dish. And it is so easy. All you need is enough time to let the dough rise.

I found this recipe a few years ago on the NY Times website. I adjusted the recipe slightly to adapt to the size of my Le Creuset 4 1/2 Quart Dutch Oven and the how much bread we wanted. The first few times I made this, I made it pretty much how they instructed: Let rise 12-18 hours, work in a ball on a floured surface, let rest on a plate for 2 hours covered with a towel. But looking at the commentary in the original recipe, you will see statements like “rise time 12-18 hours” and “it might look like a mess, but that’s OK.” I thought to myself, this seems like a pretty forgiving recipe, and I bet I can make this easier.

~No knead breadAnd it still works just fine.

Ingredients:
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus a few big pinches for after dough rises
Almost ½ tsp yeast (just fill it almost to the top of the measuring spoon)
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cup cool water

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. It will look like you have a shaggy blob. That’s OK. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 12 hours.

This dough does take a long time to rise. But if you need to speed it up some, let it rise in the microwave. Take a mug full of water, and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. Place covered bowl in microwave with the steamy cup of water and close the door. Yeast rises better in warm humid environments, and you’ve just created a nice steam room for your rising bread. I do this with most recipes that require rising.

After rising, the dough will be more than double original size and very sticky, with lots of yeast bubbles on the top.
Now here’s where I deviate from the original recipe. Instead of letting rise in a bowl, working on a floured surface and flipping onto a plate, I just work everything right in the bowl. Only one bowl to wash instead of three. Perfect!  I hate doing dishes.

Take a few big pinches of four and sprinkle on top of dough. Use your fingers to separate sticky dough from sides of bowl, sprinkling some flour on sides and bottom of bowl to prevent dough from sticking back to bowl. Work dough into a ball and put back in floured bowl. Your fingers will have some sticky dough on them, this is normal. Place a towel on top of bowl, and let rise again for another hour or two.

About 20 minutes before cooking, put covered Dutch oven in cold oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Once preheated, take out of oven and carefully flip dough into Dutch oven. Give it a shake to center the dough, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take cover off and cook at additional 15 minutes. Bread will have a beautiful brown crusty finish. Remove from Dutch oven and let cool on wire rack before slicing.

Serve with olive oil or some delicious herbed butter. Enjoy!No knead bread 3

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Dark Chocolate CupcakeI think desserts should be indulgent, with the perfect balance of rich and sweetness coming together.  I love making these cupcakes, because it’s a rich, dark chocolate cupcake with a light, fluffy, sweet Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting. The balance of the two together work perfectly.

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 cup milk
½ cup brewed coffee
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup boiling water
Find the recipe for the Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting here.

dark chocolate cupcakes 2Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Add dry ingredients to bowl of stand mixer.  Add wet ingredients, except for boiling water and mix on medium speed to combine thoroughly.  Reduce speed to low and add the boiling water.  Turn mixer up to medium-high for 2 minutes.  You want it to whip thoroughly but not splash out of the bowl!  Adding boiling water to chocolate cake recipes allows the flavor of the cocoa to blend out of the cocoa powder and reach its full flavor.   Place cupcake liners in cupcake tin.  Distribute batter evenly, there will be enough for 24 cupcakes with each liner about ¾ full.

Bake on center rack of oven for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Top with Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting or other frosting that you love.

Enjoy!

Marshmallow Buttercream Frosting

Dark Chocolate CupcakeThis frosting is a lighter and fluffy alternative to a traditional buttercream.  It’s somewhat less sweet, and definitely less dense, thanks to the substitution of marshmallow creme (fluff) for some of the butter and sugar that is found in a traditional buttercream recipe.   It is a great frosting for my Dark Chocolate Cupcakes.

 

 

Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. milk
1 container (7 oz.) marshmallow crememarshmallow buttercream frosting

Let butter come to room temperature until very soft, about two hours.  Using the paddle attachment in a stand mixer, mix butter, vanilla, milk and ½ sugar on low, until combined.  Mix on high for 2 minutes.  Turn mixer off and scrape frosting down off sides with a spatula and add another cup of sugar.  Stir on low to combine and then mix on high for 2 minutes.   Scrape down and repeat with remaining ½ cup sugar.  Whip on high for approximately 5 minutes on until fluffy.  Add marshmallow creme and combine on low for one minute.   Frosting will be light, fluffy and sweet.  I like to pipe frosting onto cupcakes but this can easily be spread with spatula.

Have fun with colors and piping patterns!frosted cupcakes

Enjoy!

Walton’s Fancy and Staple

waltons fancy and stapleACL weekend is upon us! After a few long days of sun, music, eats, drinks and endless walking, I needed a little recharge to get ready to do it all again on Sunday. We took a stroll over to Walton’s Fancy and Staple on this chilly morning, for the first time feeling like cooler weather may soon be upon us.
Walking into Walton’s, much of the décor from the century old grocery and feed store was maintained in the design of the restaurant. The brick and restored wood beams are charming and southern. There are options for everyone, ranging from a long display case of pastries, brownies and macaroons, to traditional brunch dishes like biscuits and gravy and French toast. They also serve up a large variety of lunch items like sandwiches, salads, soups and have specials, daily.

waltons cortado
Walton’s serves coffee from Cuvee, a craft coffee company that roasts their beans right outside of Austin. Grab a cortado if you want all your wake up in a shorter shot or a cappuccino to sip with your brunch.

 

 

 

waltons shrimp and grist

~Keeping with the tradition of sampling one sweet and one savory dish, we tried the shrimp and grits and the challah French toast. Four jumbo blackened shrimp served on top of a large portion of jalapeno cheddar grits were perfectly spicy and cheesy.

waltons challah french toast

Dipped in a crème brulee batter, the Challah French toast was surprisingly light and fluffy. The fresh tangy blueberries and blackberries balanced the sweetness of the sweet batter and maple syrup.

 

Very popular for brunch, come early like we did, or grab a mimosa and be prepared to wait a bit.