Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You Say Zucchini, I Say Crostini

Crostini are one of my favorite things to make and eat. Crusty bread topped with a mix of fresh ingredients that I can eat with my hands? I’m all over it. Great for hors d’oeuvres, they deliver a tasty blend of flavors all in one crunchy bite.

I was given some beautiful zucchini and tomatoes from right off of the farm stand and thought that they were the perfect candidates for a tasty crostini topping. A shaving of Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese adds a sweet, salty finish that really ties all of the components together. I find that these are best served warm or at room temperature.

For the crostini, since my grill happened to be on, I toasted my bread right on top of the grates. You could also bake them on a sheet tray in a 350 degree oven until golden. If you know you will be toasting in the oven, just make sure to preheat.

I adapted this recipe from Gourmet, June 1996.

Zucchini Crostini:
Makes about 20 crostini

- Olive oil for sautéing and for brushing crostini
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 large zucchini, cut down the center and thinly sliced into half moons
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
- ¼ cup basil, torn
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 loaf crusty Italian/French bread, sliced on a slight bias
- Parmiggiano Reggiano, shaved into strips with a peeler


• Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent
• Stir in zucchini and garlic and cook until the zucchini just begins to soften
• Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper. Stirring occasionally, cook for about 2 minutes
• Add white wine and allow all liquid to reduce by half, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove mixture from pan and slightly cool.
• Brush bread slices with olive oil on each side and toast on the grill/in oven
• Top crostini with zucchini mixture and finish with a shaving or two of Parmiggiano Reggiano strips

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunny Tea

When the temperature starts to swelter, you can’t quite beat the cool lift that comes from a sweat- beaded glass of freshly brewed iced tea. A refreshing way to take advantage of the bright days of summer is to place a pitcher of water and tea bags out in the sunshine. With sun tea, nature is your kettle, brewing slow and lazy as the season itself. Put those beaming solar rays to work early, and in the meantime, prepare your sunglasses and a lounge chair for the upcoming reward.

To sweeten and add flavor to your sun tea, try playing around with simple syrup infusions. By infusing the syrup you allow it to take on the essence of whatever you’d like your iced tea to taste like. A mixture of equal parts sugar and water, simple syrup is perfect for cold drinks because it easily disperses throughout without having to melt. You may add the sweetener to the entire pitcher of sun tea, or serve separately so that everyone can add their desired amount.

Inspired by an August 2009 article of Cooking Light that put several different spins on iced tea using simple syrup, I tried out four of my own flavor combinations. Using both green and black sun-brewed teas I had a lot of fun making all of the infusions. The raspberry basil, and peach, orange, mint teas were my favorite. Sun tea with regular simple syrup is also just as good; add a squeeze of lemon and you’ve got summer in glass.

Below are my recipes for you to try, but I definitely encourage creating your own as well!

Sun Tea:
- 2 quarts water
- 8 tea bags, green or black
- Sunshine

• Tie the eight tea bags together and place into a two quart glass pitcher or jar
• Place pitcher in the direct sun and let tea steep for 45 minutes to an hour
• Remove tea bags and refrigerate

Simple Syrup:
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar

• Bring sugar and water to a boil and remove from heat

Cucumber, Ginger, Lime Green Iced Tea:
Using a peeler, remove the rind of one whole lime. Place the rind in a small bowl with ½ cup grated cucumber and 5 slices of peeled fresh ginger root. Cover ingredients with 1 cup of hot simple syrup and let stand for 30-45 minutes. Strain mixture and discard solids. Add to sun-brewed green tea.

Raspberry Basil Iced Tea:
Mash 1 cup of raspberries in a small bowl and add ¼ cup of chopped fresh basil. Cover ingredients with 1 cup of hot simple syrup and let stand for 30-45 minutes. Strain mixture and discard solids. Add to regular/black sun-brewed tea.

Lime and Mint Green Iced Tea:
Using a peeler, remove the rind of one whole lime. Place rind in a small bowl with ¼ cup chopped fresh mint. Cover ingredients with 1 cup of hot simple syrup and let stand for 30-45 minutes. Strain mixture and discard solids. Add to sun-brewed green tea.

Peach, Orange, and Mint Iced Tea:
Peel and dice 1 peach. Mash in a small bowl (if the peach is not completely ripe, place in the microwave for about 30 seconds). Add orange rind strips from half an orange and ¼ cup chopped fresh mint to the bowl. Cover ingredients with 1 cup of hot simple syrup and let stand for 30-45 minutes. Strain mixture and discard solids. Add to regular/black sun-brewed tea.  

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tuxedo Strawberries

Dress up your chocolate covered strawberries in something a little more formal. Perfect for weddings, anniversary parties, pre-prom celebrations, and generally any event that requires spiffy attire; tuxedo-clad strawberries add black-tie style to dessert buffets and party tables. They are fun and easy to prepare, and add a special touch to a classic confectionery favorite that will bring a smile to all of your guests. All you need is a bunch of strawberries, a few pounds of melting-chocolate wafers in dark and white chocolate and a still hand.

1. Melt both dark and white chocolate wafers over a double boiler until completely smooth. Make sure that you do not get any water in your chocolate, as it will seize. Once chocolate is melted, turn off the burner to prevent overheating. White chocolate is prone to being a little thicker. If you find that it is too thick, add a bit of neutral oil such as canola or vegetable to loosen it up.

2. Holding the strawberry by its stem, dip only one side into the white chocolate. Lay on a prepared tray lined with parchment paper and allow chocolate to set.

3. Once white chocolate is completely set, dip each side of the strawberry into the dark chocolate to create a “jacket.”

4. Use a toothpick to steadily draw on the tie and buttons with dark chocolate.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Passionate

A couple of weeks ago I was on vacation in Antigua, West Indies, where among the breakfast buffet I came across this strange looking fruit. Do you know what it is?



This alien orb oozing with seeds and slimy pulp is a yellow passion fruit; and it tastes much better than it looks. Having only sampled its flavor in the sorbets and beverages of which it commonly stars, this was my first experience with a real one. I enjoyed the passion fruit, scooping the seeded yellow flesh directly from its rind. Tart and texturally awkward at first bite, the fruit’s entirely edible innards have an acidic taste that is sweet, bright, and purely tropical.

Passion fruit grows in the Caribbean and warm-weather regions, and also comes in a smaller, more widely recognized purple-rind variety. Other than being eaten raw, it is often prepared in jams and jellies, sauces, drinks, desserts, and even wine.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Food Blog: Step One

Hello Blogosphere! Welcome to Cook’s Book--a food blog, by me, Marisa.

Although I’ve never written a blog before, it seems as though I’ve been blogging the old-school way for some time. As a child, I filled pages of marble notebooks and yellow legal pads with daily narratives and thoughts on things like what I wanted to be someday. In high school I kept a similar type of book, where eventually beside a scattered mash up of favorite quotes and lyrics, I scribbled a list of pros and cons between Johnson and Wales and the Culinary Institute of America to help decide which culinary school to attend (CIA won).

I fell in love with food when I realized that contrary to the way it may have seemed growing up in a home where Mom sighs upon thoughts of entering the kitchen, cooking does not have to be a chore and eating is more than a necessity. Going to different restaurants, watching cooking shows, and working bottom of the totem pole jobs both front and back of the house fueled my desire to pursue culinary arts; for me, an exciting world of culture, creativity, and hard-work, with boundless opportunities to always learn more.

I’ve been working with and around food for about seven years. For the past two, you could catch me bouncing around town running in and out of grocery stores getting paid to food shop. I work for a Long Island culinary school and yes, that is a big part of my job description. I’ll eat just about anything or at least try it. When cooking, I like to keep it simple and of course, delicious! I can do fancy but would rather not. I usually cook for family, and though they love it and are always supportive, their response to anything too abnormal, untraditional, or froufrou is typically a crinkled nose and a “what’s that?”

Graduating from CIA at 19 years old and not quite prepared to jump into a real job, I pursued further education in communications to learn more about writing and journalism. The ultimate goal in mind: food writing. I graduated with my Bachelor’s from New York Institute of Technology about a month ago. This blog is kind of like a self-propelled start to a dream. Perhaps it is one of the first steps to making a career from writing about food happen; it is an immersion into the food scene and a way to gain experience in the kitchen and at the keyboard. Like the notepads of my past, it is a new “book” to confide in and I am excited to share it with you.

Cook’s Book is a compilation of gastronomical experiences—a web-based, visual cookbook filled with cooking, eating, photos, and writing. Kind of like my own little cooking show or magazine. In addition to various recipes, ideas, and how-to’s, there will be food news, and anything else you can think of—seriously, if you have any suggestions please e-mail me. I’d also be happy to answer any of your food-related questions!

Thanks for visiting Cook’s Book! Here some food articles I’ve written:

The Pomegranite Predicament
Is This Why You're Fat?
What The Fructose?
What's the Deal with All the Seals?
Stop Pouring on the Pounds!
A Shot of Hype, A Gulp of Gimmickry, An Inevitable Crash
Kitchen Gadgets Galore