Cheesy Garlic Bread

Growing up in a heavily Italian area of New York, I’ve had every type of garlic bread imaginable. Garlic knots, garlic rolls, French-bread-cut-in-half garlic bread… the delicious list goes on. I have two favorite garlic bread experiences in recent memory. The first was the French bread type of garlic bread at a restaurant called Parm (think old standby Italian spot meets trendy, Instagram-worthy chain). The second was from a pizza place on the Upper West Side, and it entailed six, count ’em, SIX, garlic knots smothered in a melty layer of mozzarella cheese. It was those knots that got me thinking, “I should make this myself so that I can eat them ALL THE TIME!!! Will I gain weight? Probably… but that’s a small price to pay for such a satisfying lifestyle”.

I came down a little from that initial cheese high, but was still craving more. So, you guessed it! I decided to marry these two garlic rich experiences and make my own supply.

fullsizeoutput_1135

fullsizeoutput_1132

If you’re wondering why the end of the baguette looks like a butt, it’s because it was meant to look like a fish tail but the baker had a bad day. No need to buy a fancy loaf for this recipe– I got this butt loaf at my local supermarket!

INGREDIENTS:

1 baguette, cut crosswise and then lengthwise

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup grated parmesan

6 Tbsp butter, melted

5-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

 

2 Tbsp chopped parsley

Garlic powder, to taste

Italian seasoning, to taste

1/2 cup red sauce, if desired

fullsizeoutput_112c

fullsizeoutput_1130

DIRECTIONS:

Makes 4 large servings or 8 small servings (i.e. for a non-monster unlike myself)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the cut baguette, crust side down, on the sheet. Set aside.

Sprinkle garlic powder and Italian seasoning into the melted butter. Add the chopped garlic cloves and stir. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, or until the butter has started to harden again.

Spread the butter mixture over the doughy parts of the baguette. Sprinkle the baguette slices with mozzarella, dividing it evenly over each one. Repeat with the parmesan.

Bake for 15 minutes, then broil for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese starts to bubble and brown. If you don’t have a broiler you can skip this step, but it makes the flavor even better!

fullsizeoutput_1131

Heat up your red sauce in the microwave or in a small saucepan.

Sprinkle the baguettes with parsley and let cool until it is nice and warm but not hot. Dip in your red sauce and enjoy!!

fullsizeoutput_1134

Balsamic and Basil Strawberries

I’ve loved balsamic vinegar since I was a kid. When I was four, I used to dunk raw heads of broccoli into a small glass bowl filled with the stuff. My mom said I was the only kid she ever heard of who liked vinegar that much. Even now, it’s one of my favorite condiments; it’s tangy but there’s enough sweetness to balance the strong acidity.

For my mom’s birthday tea, I made Kahlua-whipped cream filled strawberries with turbinado sugar sprinkled on top. I enjoy Kahlua, but it invokes more of a cozy, wintertime feeling than I would want to experience right now (current temp in NYC: 84 degrees, F… humidity: the papers in my desk feel moist to the touch, as do the multigrain crackers residing in my cabinet). Thus, I opted against making Kahlua strawberries this go around, and decided instead to make more savory and refreshing balsamic-whipped cream filled strawberries with a basil garnish to fulfill the savory flavor profile of the balsamic cream.

IMG_1150

The first time I tried whipping the cream in my hot, sticky apartment, it collapsed a few whips away from being finished, partially because of the heat, and partially because I added too much vinegar too close to the end; I think the acidity cut the fat. Expletives were yelled. Fists were brandished. I put my sweat-tainted shirt back on (yes, I was working in a sports bra with a fan aimed directly at my sweltering, cream whipping bod), and trekked back to the store. This time, I bought not one, but two pints of heavy cream, in case the same thing happened again.

I got back to my apartment and with newfound determination and beads of sweat running down my forearms, whipped the cream successfully. When I went to put the cream in my piping bag, I discovered that something atrocious had happened to it, which I shan’t get into. Anyhow, I opted to use a spoon to insert the cream into the hulled strawberries rather than spend my afternoon searching West Harlem for a new pastry tool.

If you don’t mess up the cream like I initially did, these strawberries are very easy to make, and are great for a savory dessert or appetizer on a hot summer day. With that said, they’re best served cool, or the cream will become watery. I know this firsthand because I tried to bring some downtown to my friend Melissa, and they melted on the subway. She still ate them, which I love her for.

IMG_1143

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound strawberries, washed and hulled

1/2 packet gelatin, dissolved in a few tbsp of boiling water, at room temp (whisk with a fork as soon as you add the water so it doesn’t become lumpy)

3 basil leaves, cut into ribbons

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (the sweeter the better)

1 tbsp confectioner’s sugar

1/2 pint heavy cream

IMG_1116

DIRECTIONS:

Chill a mixing bowl and a whisk in the freezer for at least an hour.

Pour the cooled gelatin-water mixture into the mixing bowl. Add the confectioner’s sugar, balsamic, and cream. Whisk until soft peaks form. Using a metal teaspoon, dollop about a tablespoon into the core of each strawberry. Top the cream with a basil ribbon. Serve immediately.

IMG_1156

Enjoy!

Leslie