Sauces, Glazes, Dressings & Garnishes
Lately, I’ve had a difficult time deciding what to make in the kitchen. I’ve been tired and my hands have been bothering me, so whatever I make has to be quick and easy. I haven’t been super inspired by anything – I’ll settle on a recipe and then a bit later, change my mind…
It was the same thing a couple of weeks ago for Superbowl. I hemmed and hawed but ultimate decided on this Mediterranean Layer Dip, which I’ve had bookmarked for a while. I was not disappointed – the dip was fantastic! It had lots of flavor and was easy to customize to personal taste. I can’t wait to make it again.
Mediterranean Layer Dip
Makes a 12-inch plate of dip
- 1½-2 containers store-bought hummus (or homemade if you prefer)
- 1/4 a red onion, diced
- ½ a cucumber, seeded and diced
- 3-4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
- 1 recipe cilantro pesto (below)
- 1 recipe oven-dried tomatoes (below)
- Additional optional toppings: chopped banana peppers, olives, or more toasted pine nuts
Ingredients for the Cilantro Pesto:
- 1 bunch (1½ c.) fresh cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbs. pecans or walnuts
- 2 Tbs. pine nuts
Ingredients for the Oven-Dried Tomatoes (also from Annie’s Eats)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- pinch of sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- pinch of black pepper
- extra-virgin olive oil
Make the Oven-Dried Tomatoes: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 225F. Place tomatoes on baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sugar, salt, and pepper. Bake until tomatoes are mostly shriveled up, about 3 hours. Store in the fridge until ready to be used.
Posts for vanilla extract have been flying around the blogosphere for quite a while. Reviews are always great – wonderful flavor, a fun and create gift… but I held back from trying it myself, mostly because vanilla beans are so expensive. I finally ordered myself a bunch from the highly recommended and economical Beanilla, and decided to make vanilla extract myself. (It helped that my jar of vanilla extract was running dangerously low!) I’ve seen instructions where as few as 3 vanilla beans can be used for 8 oz. vodka (i.e. on Joy the Baker, Chocolate & Zucchini, and My Baking Addiction) or even with run. I started off this way, using vodka and Tahitian vanilla beans, but after 2 months, I ended up with a vodka strongly flavored with vanilla rather than vanilla extract. I added two more vanilla beans and within a few days, the vodka had turned into vanilla extract.
Homemade Vanilla Extract: Starter
- 8 oz. vodka
- 4-5 medium vanilla beans
Pour vodka into a clean airtight container.
Split the vanilla beans lengthwise. Add split vanilla beans to vodka.
Close and shake. Store in a cool, dark place for about 2 months, shaking once a week.
Homemade Vanilla Extract: Reuse
You can keep adding to vanilla extract. When other recipes call for vanilla beans, throw the remaining bean into the jar and add a little more vodka. This way, your jar will never be empty.
When jar of vanilla extract is empty, remove vanilla beans and dry them out and reuse them in another vanilla extract starter set or throw them in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. The beans can be used up to 3 times for vanilla extract, as the vodka soaks up only so much flavor.
First off, apologies for the lack of posts lately, and the lack of posts over the next week or two. I’ve been very busy with work, stuff around the house, and family & friend commitments. I do have several recipes to share with you saved off, but I just can’t seem to find the time or energy to sit down, write my posts, and upload my photos. But I promise, I’ll be back to a regular schedule soon.
I first tried vanilla sugar a year or two ago. A friend gave me some of it, not quite sure what it was (the label wasn’t in English). I love it immediately. Just a hint of vanilla that brightened up my tea and provided a lovely garnish for some scones. Since then, I’ve been stocking some in the house, mostly for tea, coffee, and a sprinkle on some baked goods. It’s ridiculously easy, keeps forever, and is a great way to extend the life of those expensive vanilla beans. When homemade, the vanilla sugar is even better than the store bought. It is flecked with little black vanilla seeds, and gives off a wonderful vanilla scent when you unseal the container. (And now I want a cup of tea, with a bit of vanilla sugar in it!)
Vanilla Sugar: Starter Set
Yields 2 Cups
- 2 c. sugar
- 1-2 vanilla beans
Put 2 c. sugar in an airtight container.
Split the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and mix them into sugar. The add the vanilla bean.
Allow to sit at least overnight before using.
Keep it going: As you use the sugar, continue to add more. Add fresh vanilla beans (seeds and bean) or, if you have the bean leftover from another recipe, just the bean. This keeps indefinitely.
Uses: Use in place of granulated sugar in baking, stir into tea or coffee, in hot chocolate mix, a sprinkle on french toast or fresh fruit
The past couple weeks have been pretty rough. Too much work, too little sleep. Too many errands and chores, too little relaxation. So this past weekend, I promised myself that I would do what I wanted to do. I refused to do any work; I refused to do chores or errands. It was all about me.
The weekend ended up being packed. I went for a walk with a friend. I made strawberry muffins for Stampin’ Up, and at Stampin’ Up, I made Christmas cards (Christmas in August). I went out to dinner and drinks and to see Wicked in the city. And then, since I’ve been craving warm, cozy meals (hopefully thinking that the heat would finally break), I spent the day making marinara sauce, two batches of veggie lasagna, ziti with spinach and spicy Italian sausage, and homemade focaccia bread. (Stay tuned for recipes this week). This was lunch, dinner and dessert for the week as well as breakfast and lunch for the “Bakery.”
The below marinara sauce was the base for the weekend’s cooking. It’s taken me a while to perfect it. I loved my mom’s marinara sauce, but her recipe wasn’t very helpful when I first started cooking – a list of ingredients to add “to taste.” I ended up taking her recipe and a couple of others, building and adapting until I found a combination I was happy with. Now, I’ve made the sauce so many times that I really can go by taste, without a recipe, but I wrote the proportions down, just for you. The recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.
By Books n’ Cooks
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, small dice
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 14 oz. water
- 1 6-oz. cans tomato paste
- 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbs. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. sugar
* May add dried parsley, red pepper flakes, additional herbs and seasonings according to preference.
In a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, water (I fill the empty tomato can halfway with water, swirl to get remaining tomato bits), and tomato paste. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When sauce is warm, taste and add additional herbs if needed. (I love the basil and fennel and typically have a heavy hand with those.)
When heated and starting to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 2 hours. Pull out bay leaf before serving.
This is a big year for many of my friends – the bit 3-0. Everyone is choosing a different way to celebrate. We had a ladies weekend at the spa for the first 30th birthday of the year, enjoying massages, pedicures, wraps, and the like for one friend’s birthday. For the second and most recent birthday, another friend hosted a birthday BBQ and asked K and I to bake her cupcakes. We were excited to provide dessert for the BBQ and the three of us made a night out of baking. We had a great night munching on a tomato-mozzarella tartlet, drinking limoncello cosmopolitans (had to beg a neighbor for ice), and baking up a storm. For the celebration, we made Cosmo Cupcakes and Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes or what K’s friend fondly dubbed “boozecakes.”
In the spirit of “go big or go home,” I decided to garnish my Limoncello Cupcakes with slices of candied lemon. These sweets were easy to make, but did take a while. It took about two days before the syrup to dry enough for me to handle them. Completely worth it. Like any good cook, I had to try the lemon slices before serving… again and again and again. They’re very sweet, with a slightly stronger taste in the candied rind, and set on top of a cupcake, make a striking presentation. Not going to lie, I was also eating the leftover lemon syrup with a spoon (but would probably be a great addition to a hot or sweet tea or mixed drink).
Candied Lemon Slices
Adapted from Use Real Butter
Makes 1-3 dozen slices
- 1-3 lemons
- 2 c. sugar
Cut lemons into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, 10-12 slices per lemon. If the slices tear easily, they’re too thin.
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath and set aside. When water is boiling, blanch lemons for 1 minute. Remove with a strainer and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking.
In another medium saucepan (or the one you just used) over medium heat, bring 1 c. water and the sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Lower to a simmer and add lemon slices. Simmer for 1-2 hours (I did about 90 minutes).
As water boils, set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
With a set of tongs, remove slices from syrup, allowing excess sugar to drop off, and set on a wire rack to dry. This may take up to 48 hours.
Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style
- 1 c. seedless raspberry jelly
- 3 half-pints fresh raspberries
To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed.
Serve over cheesecake, a chocolate torte (like this chocolate mousse cake), pancakes, or biscuits. If you have any other suggestions, please share!
Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca
served with French Bread and Sage Butter
Adapted from Veal Scaloppini Saltimbocca Bon Appetit, Sept 2002
Ingredients for Chicken Scaloppini Saltimbocca
- 1 box spaghetti
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/2 c. white cornmeal
- 1 Tbs. herbes de Provence (I used Italian seasoning instead)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 4 chicken (or veal) cutlets, cut into chunks (or, pounded thinly and then sliced)
- 1/2. c. thinly chopped prosciutto
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
- 1/2 c. dry Marsala wine
- 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 c. butter (1/2 a stick)
Mix cornmeal, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper in a large ziplock bag. Seal and shake to mix thoroughly. Add chicken/veal, and shake again, ensuring that all pieces are coated.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add chicken/veal, prosciutto, and sage. Saute.
Meanwhile, start boiling a pot of water for the spaghetti, and cook according to package. If finished before the chicken/veal, toss with olive oil and keep warm.
When chicken/veal is browned and cooked, add Marsala wine, chicken broth, and butter. Reduce.
Serve over spaghetti, with French Bread and Sage Butter.
- 1-2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
- 1 stick butter, softened
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
Combine all ingredients so that butter is well mixed.
Sage Butter will keep for a week or two in the fridge.
From: Fine Cooking No. 96
Yields: 1 cup
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1/4 c. prepared horseradish or finely grated fresh horseradish
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp. black pepper
Combine all ingredients.
Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. For a little extra kick, we added an extra tablespoon of horseradish.
May be refrigerated for at least 3 days.
Serve with beef tenderloin, such as a Fennel & Rosemary Crusted Beef Tenderloin.