Monday, March 18, 2013

grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup topped with kale pesto

It's a cold and blustery day here in Pittsburgh. Perfect weather for a warm, nourishing and healthy soup. It all comes together in about a half hour, if you multitask the components. The kale pesto is an ingenious idea, and not my own. It's an adapted recipe from Dr. Weil's new cookbook based on his health supportive restaurants, True Food Kitchen. However, I didn't have the necessary eight cups of kale to make the pesto. I had about four cups, therefore I substituted the rest with parsley and carrot tops (yes, carrot tops!). You can actually eat the leafy green top of a carrot. It's an outstanding source of chlorophyll, high in vitamin K and rich in protein. Who knew! They're not especially flavorful, but that's why it's great in pesto. Add pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and you got yourself a lovely satisfying topping in soups, salads or pasta. 

The soup is super easy to make. I just used canned tomatoes, a bouillon cube and some italian spices. The grilled cheese part is the easiest. Slice up some good cheddar cheese and put it between two slices of your favorite bread. 

kale pesto
4 cups kale, cleaned, stemmed and chopped 
2 cups parsley, cleaned 
2 cups carrot tops, cleaned
1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
¾ cup olive oil
½ cup pine nuts
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water.

Plunge the kale into the boiling water for 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the kale from the hot water to the ice bath. The cold water allows the kale to keep its bright green color. After 3 minutes, drain kale in a colander, then squeeze it firmly to press out excess water.

Put kale and remaining ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The pesto will keep for up to 3 days.

tomato soup 
Two 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes ( I used one fire- roasted and one plain crushed tomato)
One bouillion cube
One teaspoon each of dried oregano, marjoram, basil and thyme
One teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water

Heat a medium sized pot on low heat. Add olive oil and spices and toast for a couple minutes. Add bouillon cube, salt and water. Add canned tomatoes. Simmer for about fifteen minutes, depending how thick or thin you like your tomato soup. The longer you simmer, the thicker and more flavorful it becomes. It actually tastes better the next day! 

For the grilled cheese sandwiches, I heated about a tablespoon of olive oil, placed the sandwiches down on the pan and used a heavy lid to sear the bread until golden and crusty.

Ladle the soups into bowls, top with kale pesto, and a good amount of cracked black pepper and a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for heat.

Friday, March 15, 2013

guinness chocolate cake

Here's a recipe to get me back into the swing of things. I love baking. I love frosting cakes. But I've realized I like it on my time and with my ideas. Not baking and decorating for a mismanaged bakery with poor quality ingredients and even less quality people. So, moving on. My wheels are spinning about setting up my own business. I have some ideas, but I'm going to keep them to myself for awhile until I get a better handle on what I want to do. In the meantime, here's a great St. Patrick's Day cake recipe. I followed it to a tee (except I only had two eight inch pans, so one of the cakes is a 9 inch in diameter) hence the little decorated flowers to show off the tier. The white frosting is simply a stick of butter and a cup of confectioner's sugar, a tsp of vanilla and a couple tablespoons of heavy cream to bring it all together. The guinness, or any stout beer will do, gives this cake a lovely rich and roasted taste and helps to accentuate the strong dark chocolate.

Here's the link to the recipe:

And here are my photo's 

MMMMM... Guinness!

Four sticks of butter!

The melted butter, guinness and cocoa powder mixed. It might look like it would be sweet and delicious, but there's no sugar added yet. So hold your horses before you start licking the utensils!

Heavy cream for the frosting.

Frosting the edges