Monday, October 18, 2010

the miscellaneous rainy Monday post: baked feta and etc.

Greg's Homecoming tailgate burger


Another perfect fall weekend, another fun tailgate and another great Sunday bike ride checked off the list.  Before I head off for the beach for Fall Break I thought I'd post a little bit of this and that I've had on my mac "Stickie Notes" (if you have a mac, you have to use the Stickies app on your dashboard and save your sanity and some trees).

I've mentioned me collection of Le Creuset cast iron cookware and stoneware baking and serving pieces.  A bit of an addiction.  I decided with my first purchase to just buy whatever color I liked best that day and that would be my theme.  So I have pieces that are cobalt, flame, cherry, dijon and kiwi.  Every piece is well-loved, but two of the enameled cast iron pans are on my cooktop at all times:  the buffet casserole (technically a braiser) and my 2-quart round french oven.  My 5 1/2-quart round french oven takes third place for frequency of use followed distantly by my 7-quart oval french oven and my oval skillet grill (which I believe is no longer in production probably because it's shape can be pretty limiting).  Sure they look great, but really you need to cook with them to love them.  There has been just one rocky patch in our relationship during my recovery from surgery for my broken left elbow (a tennis injury which to Greg begged the question, "Is tennis a contact sport?").  Not going to lie, Le Creuset cast iron pots are heavy.  That would be one of the reasons they are amazing for cooking and baking.  When you cook or bake the pots stay warm for a very long time.  I can heat something at home, wrap it in blankets and it will be still warm when I get to Purdue.  They are heavy, they are expensive but nothing browns, bakes or braises better.  I use my big french ovens like a slow cooker in the oven.  Just love them.

how many pieces of Le Creuset do you see in this picture?  yes, I even have a mortar and pestle


I know you've read about my love of "Fine Cooking" magazine.  The current issue is an instant classic.  Maybe it was all of those 90 degree days and the dusty drought we've enjoyed here in Indiana, but bring on Fall and all of the wonders of warm comfort food.  Buy this one.  Better yet, subscribe.  Yes, I know it's almost $30 for one year; but go old school and hold that magazine, dog-ear it, prop it up in your cookbook stand (see the "Tailgating" special issue above by my cooktop), make something and send me a note about how much you love it too.  Next recipe to try:  pumpkin enchilada casserole with red chile sauce and poblano pepita salsa.  It sounds almost as complicated as a Bobby Flay recipe, but it also sounds fabulous.

okay, can't figure out how to rotate this image and my IT department is asleep
Last week I stocked up at Trader Joe's before the new Fearless Flyer came out so I'll need to go back soon to try all the new things I didn't see.  But I did pick up a couple of things that I will heartily endorse.  If you've ever had the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich at Panera (and if you haven't, why not?) maybe you've also discovered the joys of peppadew peppers.  They kind of make the sandwich.  Otherwise it's just delicious, soft tomato basil bread, feta, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cilantro jalepeno hummus (they have that at TJ's too by the way) .  As Panera describes them the peppadews are zesty and piquant.  Precisely.  You could add them to salads and dips too.  And they are kind of cute.  Give them a try.

try me!
Now my last little shopping suggestion might be hard to find outside of the great state of Indiana, but these little jams rock!  Two Cookin Sisters from Brookville, Indiana make some amazing canned goods.  Personal favorites (perhaps I've gifted you with some, I do that a lot since I know more about food than wine) are the Strawberry Margarita (yes, there is tequila in it) and the Cherries and Hooch.  Keep them on hand and use them to top cream cheese or goat cheese and serve with crackers.  Try to share with your guests.  I buy mine at the Harvest market here in WestClay or from the Wine Guy (another favorite thing/person/place) in Zionsville, but they're around at other gourmet locations or their website.

keep on hand at all times for spontaneous gracious living

Okay, I should be off to bed but I'll throw in one recipe before I sign off for a week at the beach.  Here's a little something to throw on the grill but since I'm so excited it's not exclusively grilling weather anymore, you can also put this in a dish and cover it to bake it in the oven.

Baked Feta 

8 oz. block of feta cheese, drained (really any size is fine, but use the block not the crumbles)
good olive oil (they always say this, but really you will taste the olive oil so make sure it's one you like)
Tablespoon or so of nice oregano (do your fall cleaning and make sure your herbs in jars are fresh)
4-6 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved (or a roma or two diced)

Please don't get all "I can't make this, she doesn't tell me exactly how to do it".  You really can't mess this up.  Place your block of feta on a sheet of aluminum foil (or in a baking dish just bigger than the block).  Generously sprinkle with oregano.  Toss on the tomatoes.  Generously drizzle olive oil over everything (1-2 Tablespoons for the 8-oz. block).  Fold up the foil to seal (or cover dish tightly with foil).  Bake on grill or in a hot oven (375 degrees or so, just throw it in with something else like maybe bread that you are warming) for 10-15 minutes until melted.  Serve with warm bread or toasted bread slices (you know, slice a baguette and brush with olive oil and then bake or grill a few minutes).

before grilling

oozing cheesy goodness out of the foil and into a Le Creuset stoneware dish



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