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“I have a richard. I have balls! My balls are big. My richard is BIG! You think you’re frustrated? I am the head of the department and still have no say.” –  Jason said to Melissa last night when she complained that Hollywood is run by a gang of chauvinistic pigs and she constantly is put in her place only because she’s a woman.

He did not actually say “richard”, you understand.

Both Jason and Melissa were venting their frustration with work, as what a better place for that than a merry Ho Ho Ho party. Their pain, however, meant nothing to us. We laughed so hard at Jason’s sudden and so passionate conclusion that we almost got into an accident. Melissa cried, Brian sprayed his beer all over the table and Leslie’s groovy hat, and I fell off my chair and rolled down the kitchen floor and then a full stoop down to the courtyard.

The party, as spontaneous and last minute as it was, rocked. Even Cosmo had a blast. In fact, he was so hung-over this morning that when I took him to the Pet Wash, instead of his ritual attempt to escape, he looked into the groomer’s eyes and whispered: “ ‘S’up. No perm, please. Just a quiet trim today”.

One lesson I took from last night is to plan the menu better. And by that I mean to prep the food BEFORE a party, so when the guests arrive I get to actually hang out with everybody and enjoy my friends. Last night I spent two hours in the kitchen getting the food out, thus making people migrate into that hot and crowded chamber in order to see me. Not a soul complained, however, once they sunk their teeth into the MUSHROOM PUFFS with a side of SPINACH WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SALAD and steaming hot CAPRESE TARTS.

I really want to tell you how I made those, as I am still getting thank you phone calls mostly because of those tarts. You’ll have to take my word for how amazing they are, as I don’t even have a picture to share. Why? As soon as I got those little tasty bastards out of the oven, all I managed to do was to cut them in wedges and before I knew it the little triangles disappeared from under my knife. By the time I brought the food into the living room, the platter was half empty. Five minutes later the tarts were just a gloomy and sweet memory.

Let’s give the recipe for my CAPRESE TARTS a try nevertheless.

Your essentials:

–       2 sheets of puff pastry

–       6 small/medium Roma tomatoes

–       fresh basil, handful

–       12-16 thin slices of buffalo mozzarella

–       1/2 cup good olive oil

–       1/4 cup aged balsamic vinaigrette

–       1 tbsp honey

–       kosher salt + black pepper to taste

–       1 egg for egg-wash

Roll out your thawed out sheet of puff pastry to a 9” x 18” rectangular. Using a 9” bowl (upside down) cut 2 even circles out of the dough. Take a paring knife and gently draw a circle on each piece of pastry, about 1/2” from the edge. Prick the inner circle with a fork, thus preventing the bottom of the pastry to grow when in the oven. Treat the second sheet of pastry with the same manner. Place the tarts on two sheet pans (2 tarts per baking sheet) lined with parchment paper. Put aside in a refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.

Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds and all juices. Dice the rest of the tomatoes and put into a bowl. Chiffonade fresh basil leaves and combine them with the fruit. (Yes, tomato is a fruit.) In a separate cup whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Pour the mix over the tomatoes, toss around, and store everything in the icebox to chill.

Preheat the oven to 425°. Pull out the tarts and tomatoes and place on the counter. Using a slated spoon, scoop out a little of the tomato/basil mixture and spread within the inner circle of the dough. Now place the mozzarella slices on top. Break the egg into a small bowl, add a touch of water or heavy cream, and whisk it with a fork into an egg-wash. Brush the outer edge of the tart with the egg-wash, and fold it over the caprese mix.

Place both sheet pans in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately. You won’t have a choice anyways.

I’m off to finish baking Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies that will serve as stockings’ stuffers and also will replace my panties on our Christmas Tree…

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Growing up in Poland, back in the 70s, I was caught between two worlds – one of the Catholic Church and the other ruled by The Communistic Party. One excluded the other…in theory. Both of my parents belonged to The Party. While for my father it was a career choice, my mother just fought for survival.

Those aspirations didn’t stand the test of time. My father’s very promising “career” dissolved in pouring streams of vodka, which also cost him his family, and life in general. My Mom, on the other hand, left The Party, dealt with the aftermaths, and then struggled most of her adult life to raise two kiddies as a single mother in a post communistic country. Worry not, she’s now happily remarried and finds zen among her roses and hundreds of other flowers in her gardens.

(Oops, this is getting personal… Consider it a warning.)

Before Mom got another chance at life, however, we lived a life of double agents. Officially, we were forbidden to BELIEVE in god, and consequently to practice any religion. Yet my fanatically Catholic grandmother would have none of that. She understood the risk of standing up to The Party, hence she took it upon herself to introduce catechism to her god-deprived grandchildren under the veil of her house. We were like the first Christians in the ancient Rome secretly praying and hiding away from the merciless hands of Nero.

(This reminds me of the most beautiful love story from the times of the Roman Emperor called “Quo Vadis”, written by a Polish writer Henry Sienkiewicz. The novel earned him the Nobel Prize, and was also adapted by Hollywood into a movie. Look it up. The book is a brick, but when you start reading you’ll never want it to end.)

Fast forward some 20 odd years, I’m living my American Dream in the heart of sunny California, with the Love of my life by my side and a happy pup, who’s only worry is to eat as much as he can get away with, and poop at least once daily. I no longer go to church nor pray as grandma taught me, but I still love Christmas and cherish those traditions. One other thing that she instilled in me (which has recently come back into my life as a recovered omnivore) is Meatless Friday. That’s right, a diehard Catholic won’t even have a bite of kielbasa on Friday, just like a Jew won’t use electricity after sunset as Shabat begins. While the Catholics follow the rule for the religious reasons, I myself do it for the health of our planet.

In that way, our household represents thousands – and hopefully soon – millions of families that protest against the massive meat production in America. It sounds like a joke, but all of the methane gas released by the corn-fed cows when they fart and belch hugely attributes to the natural imbalances and global warming we’re struggling with these days, not to mention the millions of gallons of water that are used to support the meat industry.

I wrote about these issues before, and I’m not here to preach. I’d rather entertain you with my monkey tricks and do some cooking. Still, I want to participate in spreading the word and thus raising awareness. We can all adjust our comfortable lives by only an inch to make a mile of a difference.

Now it’s time for the fun part. I took you on this whirlwind-time-travel-journey, shadowed by the godless Communists, alcoholism, and global warming only to talk to you about…eggs. Super duper healthy and scrumptious eggs for that matter.

We get ours organic and from the happy chicks that run freely and chew on nutritious grass and grains. I know it’s usually about 2 bucks more per dozen, but then again it’s money we WON’T be spending on medication. I reckon a healthy egg a day will keep the doctor away. Plus it tastes so much better than a pill.

Loose eggs

Here’s a dish we recently enjoyed for breakfast, which could also be easily incorporated into a lunch menu, or even a Friday dinner for all I care. I married a squash, that’s been on everybody’s mind since the Autumn Equinox, with the good all-year-round eggs. Butternut squash would be too sweet in this meal for my palette, so I chose a beautiful green and orange Acorn Squash.

One beautiful fall day I raised the veg in front of my eyes and said out loud: “Today is the day”. I gave it a kiss goodbye and with a big, fat, super-sharp knife I cut it into wedges, removed the seeds, and lay it flat on a sheet pan. Then the wedges got showered with a mist of olive oil, salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence. Properly dressed, the beauty was put into an oven, preheated to 350˚, for circa half an hour. After the “sauna”, the lady took time to rest, cool off, and get ready to be stored away in the refrigerator.

The very next morning (and it was Friday) I offered I’d make eggs for breakfast. Eggs with a twist. The twist was the squash (duh!) scalped and cut in cubes, then incorporated into a mix of eggs on a heated pan, seasoned with salt, pepper, fresh basil, a touch of turmeric, and…grated mozzarella! For the final touch I roughly chopped a few scallions and dusted the eggs on a plate. Voila. Here’s your delicious, gorgeous, organic Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Acorn Squash, Mozzarella & Scallions

Acorn Squash

The eggs were perfectly cooked, yet still soft. The squash was softly bound with the scramble by the elongated and omnipresent arms of the cheese. Each bite was gently set on a piece of toast, and then quickly lost in the depths behind our hungry lips. It was a breakfast of champions. It was a power-shot for the rest of that day. It was a manifestation of beauty and happiness on a plate.

May you all experience a Meatless Friday that will keep you satisfied and satiated on every level desired.

Happy Friday!

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