Summer Cheese Board

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Happy Memorial Day! I’d like to tell you I’m currently lounging in the pool, sipping on a cold drink atop a float in the shape of a pineapple…but that simply would not be true.

I hope you are getting your fix of R&R this weekend. Believe it or not, my favorite thing to do with some extra time off is clean. Organize and clean. De-cludder, de-stress. They go hand in hand. Ever since I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve felt an urge to purge. To rid myself of the unnecessary “stuff.” I’ve always loved purging, but this book gave me a whole new outlook on it. Things I had been hoarding became easier to say goodbye to. It became more simple to let go of the things that did not bring me real joy. Organized home, organized life!

I’ve decided to curate a cheese board each season, starting with summer. Memorial Day, the un-offical official start! I could eat cheese and charcuterie every single night for dinner. It just never gets boring. Why? Because there are endless combinations and configurations and ways to make each bite different and exciting. Textures and flavors, salty and sweet, soft and crunchy. There are countless ways to adapt to your tastes, offering a new experience with each little pick and taste.

For the summer edition, I centered everything around a cheese I recently discovered: French Brie with Garlic & Herbs. Brie is wonderful all on its own. The addition of the dried herbs takes it to level 2, with new depth and freshness that wasn’t there before. Creamy and dreamy. From there, I selected an assortment of fruits, nuts, and meats that say summer to me. I can personally guarantee that if you show up to any gathering with this in toe (don’t forget a bottle of Riesling, chilled) you will be the instant life of the party. No questions asked. Get on it!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

  • Fresh burrata
  • French brie with garlic & herbs
  • Extra sharp cheddar
  • Black pepper salami
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Dried apricots
  • Red grapes
  • Blackberries
  • Sesame breadsticks
  • Black pepper water crackers
  • Parmesan crips
  • Walnuts
  1. Leave cheese and meats out at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to board assembly.
  2. Arrange cheeses, meats and remaining ingredients as you see fit. There is no wrong or right way in my book! Place things next to each other that you want your guest to experience together.
  3. Pair with chilled Riesling.

Mint Infused Chocolate Chip Cookies

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

For months I’ve been itching to by fleur de sel. Fancy, delicate sea salt… perfect for topping chocolate chip cookies resulting in that balance of salty and sweet. The other day I finally sprung for it. The above shot was like the moment I’d been waiting for. Pure satisfaction: perfectly round balls of cookie dough. I resisted the very real temptation to eat the dough raw.

The awesome Andrea Bemis is the author of this recipe, found in her new book Dishing Up The Dirt. Fresh mint, infused into melted butter, gives these cookies a subtle yet super fresh twist. I am all for it. The best part? Nature has given me free mint for the picking, right on the side of my landlord’s driveway. These cookies were destined to be.

Without a doubt, this is the best cookie recipe I’ve ever tried. Melted butter makes for thats perfect chewy consistency that I love in cookies. I’m sold on Andrea’s recipe. I doubled it the first time I made these. Take that, Monday!

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Makes about 12 large cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • heaping 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips, plus additional for topping cookies
  • sprinkle fleur de sel on each cookie
  1. Place the butter and the mint in a small saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter, swirling the pain occasionally. The butter will foam and froth, then crackle a bit as it cooks. A few brown bits may form, and thats totally fine. Once the mint is fragrant (after 2 to 3 minutes), set the mixture aside to cool for 30 minutes (you don’t want it to solidify, just to cool down and let the mint infuse the butter). Strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to press the mint leaves to extract any juices.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and both sugars until the mixture is completely smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, beat for 1 minute longer.
  3. In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, scraping down the bowl as needed. Fold in the chocolate chips and continue to mix until well incorporated.
  4. Scoop the dough into a ball, place it on a piece of parchment paper, wax paper or plastic wrap, and flatten it slightly into a thick disk. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. About 15 minutes before you’re ready to begin baking, place racks in the center and upper third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  5. Use a scant 1/4 cup scoop to form he dough into mounts on the prepared baking sheets, placing more more than 4 cookies per sheet. Leave about 3 inches between each cookie; they’ll spread while they bake.
  6. Top each cookie with a few extra chocolate chips, a sprinkle of fleur de sell and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking, until they’re golden and lightly brown on the bottom. 14 minutes was the sweet spot in my gas oven. Let the cookies cool for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack. Let one baking sheet cool to room temperature before reloading with the remainder of the dough.
  7. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to a couple of months.

Recipe adapted from Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up The Dirt.

Walnut Basil Pesto Pizza

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

One of my biggest kitchen struggles has been good pizza crust. I have an old gas oven (love it) but my crusts had time after time come out soggy. I tried a pizza stone but to my despair, it left all crusts limp. All I want is some crispy, browned bottomed crust! Too much to ask? I tried my faithful cookie sheet and I think that was 50% of the crispy battle. This lovely pizza dough recipe comes from the amazing Andrea Bemis’s new cookbook, Dishing Up The Dirt!!! So excited for this girl! Get yourself a copy. It’s a treat for the eyes and the stomach. It makes my heart so happy to see her in her element, getting down and dirty with real food. She’s seriously inspired me to live on a farm. I will have chickens one day or my name isn’t Cuoco!

This crust is super!! Thin and crisp. It’s almost focaccia-like. My favorite part is that you can do it all from the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook, so there’s little to no mess. All you need is time! While the dough is rising you can get other tasks done, so don’t worry. Look at you go, you multi-tasker! Own it. Be wonder woman in the kitchen and don’t let anything scare you. Thank you Andrea for this tasty dough recipe!!! Congratulations, lady! #DishingUpTheDirt #DUTD

Yield: A little less than 2 pounds of dough, enough for 2 large thin crusts

For the Dough:

  • 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water, more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl
  • 1-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Pesto & Cheese topping:

  • 1-1/2 cups packed basil
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
  • 2 sun dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • wild arugula
  1. In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and sugar in water warmed to 110 F. Give it a good stir. Proof for 10 minutes or until frothing.
  2. Mix in the salt, olive oil, and the flours until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment and knead it on low for 6 minutes. If the dough appears too dry, drizzle 2 tablespoons more water.
  3. Rinse out the large bowl, pat it dry, drizzle it with oil, and use a bowl to rub the oil all over the bowl. Return the dough to the large bowl and cover the bowl with a damp cloth. Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Transfer the dough back to you stand missed and knead it on low for 3 minutes.
  5. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover it with the damp towel, and set it aside to rise for an additional hour, or until it has doubled in size again.
  6. Slice the dough in half. Freeze one half for a rainy day! (see note below). Take the half you’re going to use and roll thinly onto a oiled baking sheet.
  7. Add basil, olive oil, walnuts, parmigiana region, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Grind until smooth, about 30 seconds. Taste it… devious all on it’s own! Spoon half of the mixture onto the pizza and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 500 F for 10 minutes. Top with wild arugula and serve.

*Be sure to transfer your frozen dough to the refrigerator the morning before you plan to use it. Remove it from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you make your pizza so the dough can come to room temperature.

Dough recipe (Chesua’a Perfect Pizza Dough) is from Andrea Bemis, Dishing Up The Dirt, 2017. Pesto recipe is from Saveur Magazine.

Blood Orange Cream Doughnuts

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Confession: doughnuts are my guilty pleasure. When you’re craving a pillowy cloud of dough filled with cream, chocolate or jelly, nothing else will do. Long Island is seriously lacking in good doughnuts (sorry, Dunkin, you don’t count) and this recipe is going in my arsenal for good!

Citrus season is in full swing. Those beautiful blood oranges are begging to be used. Their color is so vibrant and their flavor, robust. This cream filling is to die for. Punchy, zesty, but not too sweet. Try not to eat it by the spoonful before you fill the doughnuts. I dare ya! My husband took these all to work so I snagged this ONE photo before he ran off with them… Oh well. I’ll just have to make more.

Makes 12 doughnuts

Doughnut Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 4 cups bread flour (I prefer King Arthur Flour)
  • 1 qt vegetable oil, for frying

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice (from about 6-7 oranges)
  • 1 tbsp fresh blood orange zest
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Coating:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  1. In a small bowl, mix together yeast, warm water and sugar. I have best luck with luke-warm water. You can’t have it too hot or you’ll kill the yeast. Mix and let sit for 10 minutes, until it begins to foam.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, mix salt, eggs and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the milk and 1 cup of flour. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated.
  3. Change your attachment to the dough hook. Turn mixer to medium-low and add in the remaining flour in 1/4 cup increments. The dough will come together in a sticky ball. Turn mixer to medium speed and “knead” the dough until it slightly elastic.
  4. Turn the dough out into a large buttered mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set it someplace warm to rise until it has doubled in volume. I find the best place to do this is on top of a warm oven. I let mine rise for about 2 hours.
  5. Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out to be about a ½ inch thick and cut into 3 inch circles (you can use a biscuit cutter, or a drinking glass). Place the dough circles on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Do not reroll scraps. You an fry them separately for snacking, or discard them.
  6. Allow to donuts to rise one more time, until they have at least doubled in size, and appear to fluffy and filled with air. I let mine rise about an hour.
  7. While the donuts rise, preheat cooking oil to 370 degrees in either an electric fryer, or on a stovetop in a heavy bottomed dutch oven.
  8. Fry each donut until it is golden on the bottom, flip and fry until the other side is golden. Be very careful when transferring the donuts to the oil, if they are handled too much, they will collapse. The finished donuts should be golden on each side, with a white ring around the middle, this shows a perfectly risen donut, and will ensure that it is nice and light in the center.
  9. Place fried donuts onto a paper bag or paper towels to drain any extra grease.  Toss donuts in granulated sugar, and place on a cooling wrack to cool to room temperature.
  10. To prepare the filling, in a small pot whisk in blood orange juice, zest, sugar and eggs. Continue whisking on medium-low heat until it starts to thicken slightly. Whisk in butter one tbs at a time. Once the butter has been added, continue whisking until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or until it has cooled completely.
  11. In a mixing bowl, whisk heavy cream and salt together until it forms stiff peaks. Carefully fold in the blood orange mixture. Place in the refrigerator for at least another 30 minutes.
  12. Right before serving, cut small holes in the side of each donut, I do this with a paring knife in the shape of an X.  Place filling in a piping bag, fitted with a round tip (a long tip works best). Fill and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Bakeaholic Mama.

Classic Chocolate Brownies

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

You know that glossy, flaky top coat that magically appears on the surface of boxed brownie mix? I’ve been trying to replicate that effect in homemade brownies for years with little success. Recipes I’ve tried in the past are either too fudgy (yes, it’s possible) or too cakey and dense. I want that *perfect* brownie: decadent chew and that shiny top that flakes when you bite into it. Too much to ask for? Was it the dairy? The flour-to-egg ratio? I had no idea. Then suddenly it happened. The heavens opened up and Food.com asked me to photograph this recipe. The hunt is over. I kid you not, these are quickly becoming my new go-to! I adjusted a few small things and sure enough it hits all the right marks. The fudge factor is right on. A+, brownies. Bravo. Well done.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Yield: 28 brownies

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup melted butter, cooled
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9″x13″ pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with non-stick spray.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in cocoa powder. Remove from heat and pour mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. Add in sugar and vanilla until combined. Add eggs one at a time and beat. Mix in dry ingredients until fully combined. Be careful not to overmix. Fold in chocolate chips. Use a spatula to scrape all of that goodness into the lined pan.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and cut into 2×2″ squares.
  5. Store in an air-tight container.

Recipe adapted from Food.com.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

These are a staple on my family’s table. Mushrooms have that wonderful earthy, deep flavor. Organic white caps are perfect for stuffing. I love a good drizzle of olive oil and a light stuff with cheese, breadcrumbs and fresh herbs. The more cheese, the merrier. Roasted nice and long so that the cheese and crumbs become crispy and golden brown. You can’t have just one.

When it comes to stuffed mushrooms, I like to keep it simple. I’m not into stuffing with crab or extra fluff. Let the mushroom shine. They’ll steal the show.

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco for Food.com

Servings: 24 mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 24 large mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (I prefer a 50% parmesan, 50% pecorino blend)
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated mozzarella for topping
  1. Clean mushrooms under running water to remove all dirt. Carefully remove stems from mushrooms and chop stems.
  2. In a medium skillet, melt butter and add garlic. Add chopped mushroom stems and saute until lightly brown. Add parsley stir, and remove from heat.
  3. Add cheese and stir to combine. Add bread crumbs, stirring until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Lightly fill each mushroom cap with the sauteed mixture, but don’t pack too tightly.
  5. Set on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 400F degrees for about 24 minutes (if they’re smaller caps, check them after 20 minutes).

Recipe adapted from Food.com

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes with Sweet Potato Chocolate Frosting

cupcakes

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

cupcakes-3

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

cupcakes-4

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

cupcakes-5

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

cupcakes-2

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Total Time: 1 hr 10 mins / Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

It’s a chilly Halloween night.

I’m not a fan of Halloween. I didn’t grow up celebrating it. I don’t like to be scared, tricked or fooled. For me, the only good things that come from it are It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, and chocolate. Lots and lots of it. Times like these have me craving a bite into a rich brownie or washing down a piece of chocolate cake with cold milk. With all this chocolate overload, I know what you’re thinking. Why can’t chocolate cupcakes be healthy? Is this really too much to ask for? Well, I won’t go as far as to say that these are healthy, but I can guarantee you they are healthy-er. This incredible 2-ingredient frosting recipe comes from the genius folks at Food52, shared earlier this week. Two ingredients… sugar? Butter? Magic? No. Nothing but sweet potato puree and semi-sweet chocolate! This is huge, people. We’re talking about vegetables AND chocolate!!! My favorite thing about this frosting is that the consistency is the same as your regular frosting. Smooth, velvety and rich in texture and flavor. It’s not too sweet, of course, which is my preference when it comes to desserts like these. I give you full permission to lick the bowl and the spoon after whipping this frosting up. Do it like no one is watching. And even if they are, who cares! You’re eating vegetables!

Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)
  • 1/4 cup espresso coffee
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups flour (I prefer King Arthur Flour)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream

Sweet Potato Chocolate Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1-15oz can sweet potato puree
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 24-cupcake pan with parchment liners.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, cocoa powder, chocolate and espresso coffee (I brew a Godiva Espresso pod in my Tassimo brewer). Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Let cool while you prepare the rest of the batter.
  3. In a stand mixer, beat the sugar and eggs on mediums speed until light and fluffy. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Gradually stir dry mixture into the sugar/egg mixture until just combined. Stir in the chocolate espresso mixture until smooth. Stir in the sour cream.
  4. Spoon the batter into muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. To prepare the frosting, add the sweet potato puree to a saucepan and simmer on medium-low until very warm. Turn the heat to low and add the chocolate. Stir until smooth and all chocolate is melted. Let cool and chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes before frosting.
  6. Frost your cupcakes with pretty swirls and store in a closed container for up to 3 days.

Cupcakes recipe adapted from Food Network. Frosting recipe courtesy of Food52.

Whipped Basil Feta & Cherry Tomato Toast

TOAST 2

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Oh, how I love summer vegetables! Lately, I don’t even want to think about eating meat. All I can think about are bountiful, beautiful summer vegetables and fruits. All the heirloom, cherry and grape tomatoes. All the basil (a real obsession… good thing it grows like a weed). I’m especially in the mood for light meals for lunch. Open-faced toasts are super popular today. You are familiar with the avocado toast revolution. You’ve seen the avocado rose break the internet. A nice change from all the avo are cherry tomatoes: plump, juicy and full of flavor. I picked up feta at the grocery store today for a salad I’m making later in the week. Looking through my fridge, I decided to, quite literally, whip together the feta with a little Greek yogurt. Seasoned with salt, pepper and a little onion powder. I folded in fresh basil because I simply cannot get enough of it! A rough chop releases all the herb oils, getting all that flavor into the cheese mixture. I like to be heavy on the salt and pepper. Under seasoning is a sin.

Check out your local farmers market and bring along a big basket! I’ll be stocking up on all the summer fruits and vegetables this weekend. Also pick up a big loaf of Ciabatta or Sourdough. Or, try this spread on smaller crostini for a party starter. Don’t worry– the avocado rose won’t mind taking the back seat this time. Go on and get toasty!

TOAST

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Yields: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of Ciabatta or Sourdough bread
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 8 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 10-12 cherry tomatos, sliced
  1. Drizzle olive oil on toast slices. Toast in toaster oven until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip feta and yogurt on medium speed for 2 minutes until fluffy. Season with onion powder, salt and pepper. Whip for an additional 1 minute until incorporated. Fold in chopped basil.
  3. Spread feta mixture evenly on 4 slices of toast. Slice cherry tomatoes and distribute evenly on top of toast. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Crispy Baked Chicken Wings

FullSizeRender-2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Prep Time: 15 mins — Total Time: 35 mins — Serves: 8

Summer’s officially here! And with it, an increase in outdoor cooking, grilling, and chilling.

My husband and I live in an upstairs apartment, so… no grill for us! But I love our gas oven. Leave it to the oven to make something super crispy. We were in the mood for flavor-packed, tender chicken wings. We devoured these in minutes. For this recipe, I got a little help from the expert: Emeril. I can tell you this is my go-to recipe from now on! Fire up the, er, oven– and invite all your friends over! This pairs perfectly with a tasty arugula salad and baked sweet potato fries.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs organic chicken wings
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss chicken wings with lemon juice. Add pepper, garlic and onion powders, and salt. Add thyme, crushing it between your fingers as you go. Add cayenne and melted butter. Stir mixture thoroughly, then arrange wings in one layer on baking sheet.
  2. Cook 20 minutes, then rotate sheet and flip wings. Cook until wings are browned and cooked through, 10 minutes. Glaze or serve with your favorite dipping sauce. I chose BBQ!

 

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse.