Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fresh tomatoes and mozzarella

I thought everyone made this every year...but every time I take it somewhere people fall in love. So, here. Make this. When it's time.

Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Fresh Basil
4 large tomatoes, out of your yard or from the farmer's market
Fresh mozzarella balls
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Slice the tomatoes, generous slices but not TOO thick. Slice the fresh mozzarella balls, thinly. On a platter, alternate the tomatoes and mozzarella in a circle around the platter. Julienne the basil and sprinkle over the tomatoes and cheese, then drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you're doing this for guests, fill the center of the circle with basil sprigs.

At home, when I don't have four big perfect tomatoes, we cut the tomatoes and cheese into chunks, mix everything in a bowl and serve it over lettuces. The balsamic vinegar discolors the cheese so while it's not the best idea for parties, at our table it's a favorite.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Smoked Chicken Pasta

Truthfully, I did not stage this picture...I'm not that good. I just turned around and there it all was looks good.
When we have the big Branch Parties we fire up the big grill...a major undertaking. It takes four of those big bags of charcoal, that you get at Sam's, just to get going. More than one case of chickens and you're looking at eight to twelve bags of charcoal, plus the hickory wood that has to be cut. And split.
The point is...that meat comes off the grill and it's not smoked, it's SMOKED. It literally screams "I'm smoky! I'm smoky!" And every little tidbit that doesn't get eaten comes home, to show up later as the guest of honor in another dish of something.
Supper this night was the artisanal bread (I am telling you...this stuff ROCKS), mesclun salad from the garden and an apple torte. The pasta was the traditional fettucine recipe, with benefits.
Smoked Chicken Pasta
1 stick butter
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
Freshly grated nutmeg
1-1/2 to 2 cups shredded smoked chicken
1/3 cup basil, finely chiffonaded (?)
12 ounces pasta
Melt the butter, add the cream and let sit over low heat until warm. Add the cheese in four spaced-out batches, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. (I use a whisk.) Stir in freshly ground nutmeg, just to scent the sauce. Cook the pasta al dente. (I cook my pasta in a pasta pot, which has a liner. If you lift the cooked pasta out of the water and pour it into the cream sauce before it completely drains, the pasta water will keep the sauce from thickening too quickly. You could also just spoon pasta water into the sauce as needed.) Add the chicken and basil and fold to combine. Serve with freshly grated black pepper, and grated cheese for sprinkling.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Jalapeno cheese bites

Not for the faint of heart or those who worry about their cholesterol, but these cheese squares have been the hit of branch parties for the past three years. This year, I remembered to get the recipe.

Jalapeno Cheese Squares
1 jar Trappey's jalapenos, drained and chopped (the coarser the chop, the hotter the pie)
1 dozen eggs, beaten
2 pounds cheddar cheese, grated (Chef's comment: This looks like a ton of cheese 'cause IT IS! The is recipe is not for 98 lb. weaklings or those with a cholesterol problem.)

Layer cheese and jalapenos in a 13x9 inch baking dish. Pour eggs evenly over the top and bake at 350 degrees. Chef says the recipe says to bake for 20 minutes, but it usually takes 30 to 40 minutes for it to set and get slightly brown.

These go like hot cakes...when the Chef handed the platter to my sister-in-law, SIL took two for herself before she put it on the table!!