Friday, 30 April 2010

Stud Muffins!

Why have one stud muffin when you can have six? I have always been a strong advocate for the beauty of excess.
This month's Bread Baking Day theme is Bread in Pots. Now I know I have about half a dozen cute little flower pots... somewhere in this house. By about the second day I gave up looking for them and decided that little black ramekins made a lovely choice in which to bake this month's bread.
But what to bake? A quick inquiry on Twitter gave me the answer. My friend Nancy suggested the Stud Muffin, which she herself had baked some time back. Of course, she referred to it as Italian Cheese Bread. Wimp. ;-) Too much of a lady to say stud muffin? I don't have that problem. STUD MUFFIN! I am easily amused..

The Stud Muffin is so called because it is studded with cheese and looks like a giant muffin. I switched up the Gruyere for ham, halved the recipe and baked it in 6 cute little black ramekins. (After 20 minutes of baking, I just kept an eye on them for brownness and internal temperature.)

Stud muffins always look cute in black. And they are delicious! Perfect for grabbing for breakie or throwing into a lunch sack.

Stud Muffin(s)
Rose Levy Beranbaum
The Bread Bible
online recipe sourced from CookEatShare, Two Girls Cooking

1 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp instant yeast
3/4 cup water at room temp

Place flour, yeast and water in medium bowl. Whisk until very smooth, about 2 minutes. It will be like a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to stand for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 oz Romano cheese
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup water at room temp
1 large egg
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Gruyere cheese, cut into 1/4 in chunks

Use either a grater or a food processor to finely grate the Parmesan and Romano cheeses. In a measuring cup with a spout whisk together the water and egg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together all but 1/4 cup of the flour, yeast, salt and pepper. Sprinkle this over the starter. Add the softened butter and mix with the mixer's dough hook on low speed while gradually adding the water/egg mixture until the flour is moistened, about 1 minute. Add the Parmesan and Romano cheeses, raise the mixer speed to medium and kneed the dough for 5 minutes or until elastic. The dough should be slightly sticky. If it doesn't pull away from the bowl, beat in some or all of the remaining flour.

Empty the dough onto a lightly floured counter and flatten it into a rectangle. Press 1/2 cup of the Gruyere into the dough, roll it up, and knead it to incorporate.
Place the dough in a medium/large bowl lightly greased with cooking spray. Push down dough and lightly spray the top. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough, allowing to chill for at least 8 hours or up to 2 days to firm and develop flavor. Pat it down 2 or 3 times after the first hour or two until it stops rising.

Turn the dough out onto a counter and knead it lightly. Round into a ball, push it down into the souffle dish; it will fill it about halfway. Cover lightly with a piece of wax paper and let it rise in a warm area until it almost triples, about 3 to 4 hours. The center should be 1/2 to 1 inch above the top of the dish.

Preheat the oven to 350 about 45 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking sheet lined with foil on it before baking.

Brush the surface of the dough with a lightly beaten egg, being careful not to brush it over the top of the dish (which would impede rising). Gently insert the remaining 2 tbsp Gruyere cubes into the dough, leaving them still visible.

Place the dish on the hot baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the dish from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. With the tip of a sharp knife, loosen the sides of the bread where the cheese may have crusted on. Unmould the bread on a soft towel on the counter to finish cooling. This will prevent the soft fragile sides from collapsing; turn it a few times to speed cooling. It will take about 1 hour to cool completely.

These Stud Muffins have been Yeastspotted!

BreadBakingDay #29 - last day of submission May 1st, 2010

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Light Rye... with Cumin! Oops.

Within this loaf lies a secret. Okay, not so much of a secret any more. Instead of the required caraway seeds blended into the dough.. I put cumin seeds. In my brilliance the other day, I decided to put seeds with seeds in my spice rack. Caraway and cumin looking like good friends side by side - and since I use cumin so often... I just grabbed it and threw it in. It wasn't until I was glazing the loaves and sprinkling the caraway on top that I realized what I had done.
I put those babies in the oven and hoped for the best. Luckily I like cumin - though if I didn't like it I suppose I wouldn't have any on hand anyway.
The flavours are bold, now having both cumin and caraway, and particularly good toasted.. with cheese.
So there you have it - a pretty loaf with a not-so-dark secret. A happy mistake!

Hamelman’s Light Rye Bread (Home recipe/formula)
Makes 2 large loaves
recipe sourced from Bread Baker's Blog, an excellent blog on... baking bread!

Medium rye flour 4.8 oz (1 1/8 cups
Water 3.8 oz (1/2 cup)
Mature sourdough culture 0.2 oz (2 tsp)

Final Dough
High gluten flour (or bread flour) 1 lb, 11.2 oz (6 1/8 cups)
Water 1 lb, 1.3 oz (2 1/8 cups)
Caraway seeds 0.6 oz (2 1/2 T)
Salt 0.6 oz (1 T)
Yeast 0 .16 oz, instant dry (1 1/2 tsp)
Sourdough 8.6 oz (all of the above minus 2 tsp)

Total 3 lb, 6.5 oz

1. Sourdough: Prepare the sourdough and ripen for 14 to 16 hours at 70 deg. F

2. Mixing: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl. In a spiral mixer, mix for 3 minutes on first speed and 3 to 4 minutes on second, until a strong gluten development is achieved. Desired dough temperature: 78-80 deg. F.

3. Bulk Fermentation: 1 hour.

4. Dividing and Shaping: Divide the dough into 1.5 pound pieces. Shape oblong or as a round boule (as in above photo).

5. Final Fermentation: 50-60 minutes at 78-80 deg. F.

6. Baking: With normal steam, 460 deg. F for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 440 deg. F and bake for 20-25 minutes. Just before loading [the loaves into the oven] score the loaves by making 3 or 4 cuts across the surface, perpendicular to the length of the loaf.

Caraway Seed Variation: Caraway seeds can be added to the top of the loaf. Gently press the top of the shaped loaves with a damp cloth (or lightly spritz with a fine mist of water from a small spray bottle) and then sprinkle caraway seeds onto the moistened surface.
*I use an egg glaze (1 egg whisked with 1 tsp water) and then sprinkle on the seeds.

This bread has been Yeastspotted!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Further Adventures in Cheese - Halloumi!

This month's cheesy challenge at Forging Fromage was Halloumi! A step up in difficulty level for us, to be sure, but with very satisfying results. Halloumi is a Greek cheese, semi-firm and great for grilling or frying as it doesn't melt easily.

My experience was a bit of a comedy of errors, but my cheese turned out wonderfully regardless. To weight the cheese I used bricks, washed, from next door. They fell. Twice. Five bricks in a tower for the 30 pound pressing, 7 for the forty. I finally rigged up a buttress system on the floor, with the cupboards, door, and stool supporting the tower of bricks. Success.

My little bundle of curds, wrapped in cheesecloth and placed in an up-until-now unused plastic steaming insert from my rice cooker, layered with a small plate and then a tea towel to protect it from dust, firmed up perfectly under my sometimes falling tower of bricks.
The cheese was then brined, refrigerated, and then sliced and fried and marinated with lots of goodies, below.
I wonder what we will make next month?

Halloumi - Making Artisan Cheese, Tim Smith
(I made a half batch and got just over a pound)

2 gallons whole milk
1/4 tsp mesophilic direct-set culture (Not sure if my culture was mesophilic or thermophilic but it worked fine anyway)
1/8 tsp calcium chloride, diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1/2 tsp liquid rennet, or 1/4 tab dry rennet diluted in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
1/2 cup cheese salt (I used pickling salt)
Brine solution*
1 tsp dried mint, rehydrated in 1/2 cup boiling water (I used a handful)


Heat the milk in a double boiler to 86F (31C), then add the starter culture and blend for two minutes. (I use my slow cooker, on high with a thermometer in it set to alarm)

Maintaining the target temperature of 86F, add the rennet & calcium chloride, stir for one minute, and let rest for forty minutes, or until a clean break. To test for a clean break, use a curd knife to make one cut through the curds.

Cut curds into 1/2" (about 1cm) cubes, trying to keep them as uniform as possible.
Slowly heat curds to 104F (40C); this should take forty-five minutes. Continually stir the curds to keep them from matting. Once the curds reach target temperature, maintain the curds at that temperature for an additional twenty minutes while continuing to stir.

Drain the whey off curds into a cheese cloth-lined colander that is set in a catch bowl. Reserve the whey.

Blend mint into the drained curds with a spoon. (I blended the mint in before straining, easier that way) Pour the curds into a 2-pound (900g) cheese cloth-lined mould. Fold a corner of the cheese cloth over the curds, and press at thirty pounds for one hour. Remove the cheese from the mould, and unwrap the cheese cloth. Turn over the cheese, and rewrap it with the cheese cloth. Press at forty pounds for one hour. The cheese should be firm with a spongy consistency.

Heat the reserved whey in a pan to 190F (88C). Take the cheese out of the mould, and cut it into 2" (5cm) thick strips. Put the strips into the heated whey, maintaining the target temperature for one hour.

The cheese should have a thick consistency. Drain it into the cheese cloth-lined colander, and let it rest at room temperature for twenty minutes.

Coat the cheese with 1/2 cup (145g) of cheese salt, and let it rest for two hours at room temperature. (?) I just strained some of the hot whey, threw in some pickling salt and let it sit in there for a bit - then I drained it and wrapped it in wet cheesecloth and put it into tupperware and refrigerated overnight - turned out salty and delicious and perfect.

Yield - 2 pounds (900g) (for the full batch)

The recipe got vague in parts, we had to fill in the blanks, but the results were excellent so I'm not complaining.

Brine Solution
A brine is a supersaturated solution of salt and water, in which cheeses are literally bathed. (Brine solution consists of 2 pounds (905g) of salt stirred into and dissolved in 1 gallon (4.5 l) of water, heated to 190F (88C).
The types of cheeses that are usually brined are hard cheeses, such as Gouda and Emmental.
Brining occurs directly after a cheese is removed from the press. The cheese is literally dunked into this salty bath. Once in a the brine, the cheese begins to absorb salt, and the proteins begin to harden and form the rind.

Serving the cheese - I sliced the halloumi, pan-fried it, and tossed it in a bowl with olive oil, harissa, minced preserved lemon, diced roasted red peppers, minced garlic and fresh thyme. Delicious on a little crusty bread.

Feel free to join us in our cheesy adventures!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Get Yer Grill On - With the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cookbook

The Kansas City Barebeque Society Cookbook
25th Anniversary Edition
Barebeque.. It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
Kansas City Barebeque Society
Ardie A. Davis, PhB
Chef Paul Kirk, PhB
and Carolyn Wells, PhB

This book is, in a word, a hoot. Over the top porktacular, the recipes are by all different members of The Kansas City Barbeque Society, some 11,000 members strong.
You are not going to find a lot in the way of health-food in this book, indeed it is meat-heavy and proud of it. You will find that some of the recipes call for pre-packaged ingredients and some even call for MSG! You don't see that everyday - but in fact I do own a bottle of MSG - I picked it up at a local Indian market, labeled as Chinese Salt. Actually it said Cinease Salt, but I was intrigued and bought it anyway. It was only when I looked it up online that I realized that Chinese Salt is actually MSG.
Back to the book - living nowhere near the Southern US, I was tickled by the characters and the names of the dishes in the book - they seem right out of a movie. Smashed Potato Pig Butt Bake anyone? Flying Pig BLT Salad, Butt-Kick'n Beans, Buffalost, Elk for Dummies, and Redneck Mother Chicken Livers with Bacon, Spicy Cheese Grits, and Crispy Onion Rings are but a few of the colourful offerings.
Who could resist that?
Vegans, avert your eyes..

The first dish we tried was Big Billy's Southern-Style Fried Chicken, by Billy Rodgers. He was inspired by a New Orleans chef and includes some very interesting spices along with the ones you would expect in fried chicken. I loved the addition of cardamom and cloves, and got a chance to use my MSG! (optional). They were intensely flavoured and crunchy. I ate the leftovers for breakfast.

Getting our pork on, we tried Anne Rehnstrohm's Grilled Pork Roast with Pepper Jelly Glaze. This was incredibly simple and flavourful - also, I finally had a reason to use the pepper jelly sitting in my cupboard.

In the Seasonings chapter, I used Ginger's Sweet Glaze Rib Rub by Don Przybyla. We loved the low and slow method of cooking the ribs, but found the glaze way too mild. I ended up brushing on some BBQ sauce later.

With the ribs we had Duane Daugherty's Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes. I loved the idea of this dish. It is pretty traditional, spuds, onion, bacon, cheese.. but has you marinate the sliced spuds in a tomato-base BBQ sauce and sprinkle with a little cumin. Nice and smokey to pair with your BBQ meats. And who doesn't love pork with their pork? Actually, this is a bit of a meal in itself - I packed the leftovers up as lunches.

Cheesy Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes action shot.

And, to prove that man cannot live on pork alone, we tried Paul Kirk's Grilled Greek-Style Zucchini. This is very handy as the ingredients are assembled, wrapped up in a foil packet and thrown onto the grill with the rest of your dinner.

And my all-time favourite - a Grilled Banana Split! Kell Phelps offers this delicious take on the classic banana split - grilling the banana, stuffed with chocolate, until they are both tender and melty. Dress it up with ice cream and chopped peanuts and you are in dessert heaven. I am spoiled for banana splits now - I will always make them grilled. I ate all of mine and half of hubby's.

The Kansas City Barbeque Society Cookbook will appeal to a certain type of person. It is rustic and unsophisticated and proud of it. With the 200 all-new recipes, you will discover facts and trivia about the Society's 25 year history as well as BBQ tips and even tips on competitive BBQ.

Put on you faded blue jeans and grab a beer, it's time to get your grill on.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Cookbook Review: Rick Tramonto's Steak with Friends - perfect for Father's Day!

Steak with Friends
At Home, with Rick Tramonto
Rick Tramonto
with Mary Goodbody

This is Rick Tramonto's seventh book in his illustrious career, and it focuses on good food at home with good friends and family. A strong spiritual and family man, Rick loves nothing more than to share his favourite foods with the ones he loves. If you are not familiar with Mr. Tramonto already, he was one of Food & Wine's Top Ten Best New Chefs in 1994, and named Best New Chef in the Midwest in 2002 by the James Beard Foundation.
What could be more exciting and inviting than a home-cooked steak dinner? Steak with Friends contains 150 recipes for steak, seafood, and comfort foods, plus accompanying appetizers, salads and desserts.
This delicious book with beautiful photos and personal stories would make a great Father's Day gift for the man on your list.. and yes, it would be great for women too! (Okay, I admit, I am still afraid of the barbecue - I do the prep and sides and hand the grilling over to hubby.. but I have it on good authority that many women do grill!)

So, what delicious dishes did we try?

The first dish we tried was the Vegetable Spring Rolls with Three Dipping Sauces.
I love that there were three sauces, no more single sauce servings for me! The variety alone made the apps seem more special. These are veggie wraps, I had to sub out the bibb lettuce as I couldn't find any, so mine have baby spinach instead. Very tasty, I am a sucker for a good spring roll. Of the three dipping sauces, I love the Roasted Red Pepper Sweet-and-Sour Sauce best. There was also a Lime Vinaigrette, and a Plum Hoisin Sauce. In fact, the volume of sauce was pretty generous in relation to the amount of rolls in the recipe - I made twice the amount of rolls and also some simple chicken satays to help use up the sauces - yum!

What better starter is there than Mussels? I love that they seem so special, present well, and are so easy and inexpensive to make!
These are Rick's Ale-Braised Mussels, Belgian Style. I think this is the first time I have ever braised mussels in beer, I usually use wine, and the flavour was definitely a steak-house delight. Also, his mussels had diced ham in the recipe which was a delicious way to use up leftover ham. I think I still like wine-braised best, but we greatly enjoyed these. So did the new neighbour, who by now is thinking it isn't such a bad thing living next to a cook..

The same night we tried the Grilled Steak Caesar Salad. How can you go wrong with grilled steak thinly sliced, gracing Caesar salad and homemade croutons? A steak-house classic and a house favourite around here. Especially those croutons, I am surprised there were some leftover for dinner..

Okay, this next one has two parts: We made his perfectly grilled T-Bone Steak. (And by we I mean hubby, refer to above) On top you see the beginnings of the Gorgonzola Crust. Far better than just a compound butter, the crust has panko bread crumbs in it and heats up to create the most delicious topping for a steak that you have ever had. Gilding the lily? Maybe, but so delicious! The only problem, according to hubby, is that we don't have a photo of the perfect grill marks on the steak before we started the crust - you'll just have to take my word for it.

Voila, the finished T-Bone Steak complete with Gorgonzola Crust. Have you ever seen anything more inviting? Rick even offers wine pairings with many of his recipes. Because a good steak deserves a good bottle of wine, am I right?

And, of course, the ultimate steak dinner needs the ultimate spud. To complement our glorious Gorgonzola-crusted T-bone, I made Rick's Twice-Baked Potatoes with Irish Cheddar. Now, I admit, although I did pipe the filling in as suggested - mine melted down to a puddle of oozy goodness. It could very well have to do with my own faulty math as I divided the recipe, but no matter - the spud was delicious and almost a meal in itself. Almost.

Want to bring upscale steak-house to your home? Please friends, family and neighbours? Steak with Friends will help you reach those goals. Now, what time is dinner? I'll bring the wine!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Corn Crepes and Greek-Style Orzo Salad

Wondering what to do with your leftover grilled meat? This simple crepe recipe makes an elegant looking wrap for repackaging last night's barbecue.
They are delicate, care must be used when cooking them, but the results are delicious. Best of all, the batter can be made well in advance leaving you more time for drinking wine and dancing around in the kitchen. Which we all do, right? Just me? Hmmm..

Corn Crepes
adapted from Michael Symon, Live to Cook
for Symon Sundays with Ashlee Wetherington

1/2 cup corn kernels (I used tinned, sweet)
1/2 cup flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 coarsely chopped red pepper
1 coarsely chopped green onion
olive oil (in a mister would be best)

Preheat oven to 400F.
Puree all together in a food processor. Pour into a small jug and let sit in fridge at least 2 hours or overnight.
Mist small amount of oil into a non-stick crepe pan on medium heat.
Pour in a couple of tablespoons of batter and swirl to coat the pan.
Cook until starting to brown on one side, flip and cook other side.
Lay flat on work surface and cook the rest of the crepes. They will be delicate.

Stuff with prepared cooked meat:
Symon uses duck confit, I used leftover grilled pork tenderloin, shredded.
Add a little Coffee BBQ Sauce*
And leftover kernels of corn. I also sprinkled more on top.
Wrap and place into an oven-proof dish.
Bake for 10 minutes and serve with extra BBQ sauce.

Coffee BBQ Sauce
adapted from Michael Symon, Live to Cook

1 small onion, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
1.5 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup espresso
1 cup Spicy Ketchup
1/2 tomato juice
1/2 tsp chipotle powder

Sauté onion in olive oil until soft and starting to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low simmer and let cook gently for 2 hours. Strain.

And to go with our crepes, Greek-Style Orzo Salad!

Greek-Style Orzo Salad
adapted from Mark Bittman
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
for Souper Sundays with Deb of Kahakai Kitchen

4oz orzo, cook until al dente in boiling, salted water, rinsed with cold water

Juice of 1/2 lemon, or white wine vinegar to taste
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tomato, small dice
1 red onion, small dice
1 large green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
handful fresh oregano leaves
big pinch fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss together in a bowl, adjust seasoning to taste. Salad will be better if it can sit out at room temperature for up to an hour before serving.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Babes Make Potato Chive Bread!

I love chives. They are the first life to poke through the soil after a long, dark winter - just when I am sure spring will never return. I never cease to be amazed that a land left so barren looking by long, cruel frost can once again be made green and effulgent. In my tiny patch of nature, first the chives say hello; then the lily of the valley poke spires through the dessicated looking ground; then buds start to form on the lilacs. Before I know it they are all singing in three part harmony, a celebration of life.

This month our hostess Babe is Sara of I Like to Cook. She has given us a wonderful vegan recipe to try, which uses up any mashed potatoes you might have around and stars fresh garden chives. The recipe only calls for 2 tbsp of chives, a mere whisper. If you are like me, and prefer your foods to bellow instead, greatly increase this amount.

This is a fun, simple, and delicious bread - what are you waiting for?

If you'd like to join us as a Bread Baking Buddy, please email Sara a link to your post by Friday April 30. She'll have a round up posted a few days after that. Sara's email is iliketocook AT shaw DOT ca

Potato Bread with Chives
from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

"The addition of mashed potatoes gives this bread a moist, dense texture and delicate flavor that is accented by that of the chives. This bread is best eaten slightly warm from the oven on the day it is made. It is also good toasted."

2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar or pure maple syrup
2 Tb corn oil
2 tsp salt
1 cup cold mashed potatoes
1 cup soy milk or other dairy free milk
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 Tb minced fresh chives

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and 1/4 cup of the water. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of water, the corn oil and the salt. Mix in the potatos, then stir in the soy milk. Add about half the flour, stirring to combine, then work in the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Transfer to a lightly floured board.

Lightly flour your hands and work surface. Knead the dough well until it is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes, using more flour as necessary so the dough does not stick. Place in a large lightly oiled bowl and turn over once to coat with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a large baking sheet and set aside. Punch the dough down and knead lightly. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle with the chives, and knead until the dough is elastic and the chives are well distributed, 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into one large or two small round loaves and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly and cover with a clean damp towel or lightly oiled plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400'F. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the loaf or loaves. Bake on the center oven rack until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size. Tap on the bottom of the loaf or loaves - if they sound hollow, the bread is done. Remove from the sheet and let cool slightly on a wire rack before slicing.

The Bread Baking Babes
Click on each link to see how they fared with the Potato Bread with Chives!

This bread has been Yeastspotted.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Nigella Quick Collection App!

Dear Santa, please bring me an iphone so that I may try some of these fantastic apps that are coming out these days. Also, please let me look as sexy as Nigella as I am holding my new phone. And if I didn't have to wait until Christmas... even better.
Hey, you know what Mother's Day needs? Yup, some sort of Santa - besides the husband.
Am I the only one who makes out a list every year? Not to give to the kids, of course. To them I am all selfless and their presence is present enough... yada, yada, yada... but to hubby goes the real wishlist. Hey, Christmas was four months ago, and my birthday is a whopping five months away.. I have to milk these holidays for all I can.

I love the idea of the apps, Natalie MacLean has one that reads barcodes in the local liquor stores. How cool is that?

Now that Nigella has an app, clearly I need an iphone.. and one of those ipads.. even though I am not quite sure what they do.. but I am pretty sure I need one.
Nigella Quick Collection is a groundbreaking cooking app for iPhone and iPod touch that brings together exclusive recipes with unique video and audio features alongside cutting- edge technology designed to make a busy life easier and bring Nigella’s advice and inspiration to users everywhere.

I had the opportunity to try one of the recipes from Nigella's Quick Collection app. Delicious and easy, Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Two Cheeses. This app would be great for figuring out what to make after working all day.

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Two Cheeses
By Nigella Lawson, from the Nigella Lawson Quick Collection Application

Funnily enough, although I seem to be cooking pasta for my children on a permanent loop, I don’t have it for supper myself that often. It’s not that I don’t like it: rather, I like it too much. So it’s always a treat, but this pasta is a particular one, a top-treat, good for a supper to lift the spirits after a long working day or in front of Saturday night telly.
Although this dish was inspired by a long-ago torn-out recipe from a magazine (long-ago lost too!), it has been fiddled with over the years, so I am not sure that it is very faithful to the original.

2 tbsps garlic oil
250g cherry tomatoes, preferably on the vine
2 tbsps dry vermouth (or white or rosé wine)
250g pappardelle pasta
75g St Agur or other soft blue cheese
25g Parmesan flakes
1–2 tbsps chopped chives
good handful of basil leaves
freshly ground pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425 F. Heat a large pan of water for the pasta.
2 Put the oil into a small, deep roasting tin and add the little tomatoes, without any attached stem. Shake to coat as best you can.
3 Pour the vermouth or wine over them and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, by which time some of their redness will have seeped into the oil.
4 Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, then drain it and toss into the hot cooked tomatoes still in the tin.
5 Crumble in the blue cheese, then toss in the flakes of Parmesan and keep stirring until the cheeses melt into the pasta.
6 Add the chives and some pepper to taste and decant into 2 bowls, tossing most of the basil leaves through in each bowl, but topping with a few.

Serves 2 for a greedy supper

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes and Two Cheeses by Nigella Lawson from the Nigella Quick Collection Application Copyright © 2010 by Nigella Lawson. Excerpted by permission of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

A few of the hot features include:

• More than 40 minutes of audio and video content, including tips and recipe demonstrations
• Search and browse the recipes by chapter, book, mood, or what’s in your fridge
• Bookmark favorite recipes and add notes by text or voice
• Use voice control to email a recipe so it can be printed out and used later
• Use voice control to display a recipe’s next step, eliminating the need to touch the device with sticky fingers
• Let friends and family know what you’re cooking, or ask them to pick up ingredients at the store, using Facebook Connect and email
• Shopping list feature sorts the ingredients—from one or multiple recipes—into a handy list
• 70 recipes selected by Nigella, 10 of which are new and exclusive
• Browsable recipe cards—beautifully produced with full-color photographs

So Santa, what do you say? Hubby? Kids? Anyone?