Friday, August 14, 2009

Saucy Toffee

You know that giddy feeling you get when you make something new AND it turns out fantastic? That's what happened when I made Nigella Lawson's Sticky Toffee Sauce--or maybe it was just the sugar. Either way, this stuff is to die for. Even James was raving about it, and it usually takes a lot to get him excited about food. I guess it's because he's swimming in pizzas all day :) Anyway, not only is this sticky toffee sauce incredible, it's easy. My favorite. I can't wait to make it again, even if it means not being able to zip up my skinny jeans. So worth it.

Sticky Toffee Sauce

* 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon soft dark brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
* 3/4 stick unsalted butter
* 2/3 cup heavy cream

Put the sugar, syrup and butter in a pan and slowly bring to the boil, allowing the butter to melt and the sugar to dissolve. Let the mixture bubble for a couple of minutes before carefully adding the cream. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until the sauce is thick, sticky and glossy.

I freaked out when my sauce didn't seem to be turning thick and glossy, but not to worry! Once I turned off the heat, it came together like gangbusters. I also added a pinch of salt to the mix during the cooking process. Next time I'll add a little more though to really get that salty n' sweet flavor--alternatively, I wonder what would happen if I used salted instead of unsalted butter?

I served the sauce warm over chilled bowls of vanilla haagen daz. The sauce starts melting the ice cream right away, so I suggest pre-scooping your dishes and sticking them in the freezer for a bit before adding the sauce.

Pizza Margherita

I saw Julie & Julia a couple days ago and of course it inspired me to get cooking again. I've slacked off lately because James works at a restaurant and usually brings home delicious stuff at the end of the day. But, after watching the film I decided to get back into my groove. First up? My own spin on margherita pizza. Yes, my boyfriend works at a pizza place, but it's Greek-style pizza. This one was different, I swear!

At my place in Boston, the pizza stone has become a popular kitchen accessory. I made a delicious margherita pizza two months ago and decided to give it a whirl back here in CT. Though I was pizza stone-less, the results were still quite tasty. The secret is letting the tomatoes marinate for at least four hours. That way they really take on the flavor of the basil, olive oil, garlic and seasonings.

10 or so grape tomatoes halved
1/3 C EVOO
1 clove garlic, minced
5 fresh basil leaves, sliced.
S&P to taste
dash red pepper flakes.

I'd suggest using your own discretion with the seasonings. I like my food a little spicy, so I add a liberal amount of red pepper. The only think I wouldn't slack on is the fresh basil. It makes all the difference.

Hot, Hot, Hot Dog

People often mistake my passion for food as a sign of culinary snobbery—and while I certainly love a good meal at a four star restaurant, nothing beats a simple dish really well done. Case in point: Blackie’s. Family-owned and operated since the early 1920’s, Blackie’s is a modest roadside food stand caught in a 50’s timewarp that offers a limited, but decidedly delicious menu of standard fare: hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream. What is it, then, that has made Blackie’s in Chesire such an attraction? What could possibly inspire such cult-like devotion from it’s customers? Why, pepper relish, of course. Basic is definitely the name of the game here. No chili, cheese, or unruly combonation. Ketchup, spicy brown mustard, and pepper relish. It might sound rather boring, but this pepper relish is nowhere close to that jarred green stuff you find in the supermarket. It’s brown, hot, spicy, and a little sweet. It takes the perfectly juicy Hummel-brand dogs to the next level. I loaded my dogs with a layer of mustard first, then a generous helping of relish. I like my spice, but this stuff definitely has a kick. Some of it got on my face and it was a little burny afterwards—but so worth it. Does it get any better, you may ask? At $2.50 a dog, you bet it does.