Italian Caprese Sliders
Ok I admit it, I lied. It is #NationalHamburgerDay and it’s been years now so I’m reposting this one. I’m also making them for the holiday.
I know everyone is probably tired of these, but in honor of their being chosen in the Top 5 by the LA Times Battle of the Burgers, I’m reposting them (for the last time I promise). I’ve made a new batch because I really didn’t like the pictures in the old posts.
When I was growing up my father was a true grill man – charcoal only and whatever he was making, there was one beer to splash on the food and one for him! I on the other hand, love my gas grill (and I think dad has one now too) mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to mess with the charcoal. Of course, dad would probably not been caught making “wimpy” sliders and I am generally prone to enormous burgers stuffed with cheese but as I mentioned in a previous recipe for the Bacon Sliders, my husband brought home a “slider” pan which I determined wasn’t worth much, but I did like the sliders so here’s another variation. If you have the time, it is well worth it to make fresh rolls from either your own or the frozen dough.
Italian Caprese Sliders Printable Recipe
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 lb hot Italian sausage
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 med onion finely chopped
1 bell pepper finely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
18 (White Dinner Rolls freshly baked – your recipe or frozen dough best)
8 oz fresh Mozzarella cheese sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 large Roma tomatoes sliced in 1/4 in thick slices
36 large fresh basil leaves stems removed
freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
- Freshly baked rolls
- Garlic, Onion, peppers and fresh herbs
- Ready to mix
- Mix gently
1 Gently but thoroughly mix together the ground beef and ground Italian sausage (removing from the casings if any), along with the Italian spices, chopped onion, chopped Bell pepper and 2 cloves of minced garlic.
- Use spatula to measure squares
- Use spatula to measure squares
- Cut squares
- Cut entire pan into squares
2 Press the mixture into a jelly roll pan using a rolling pin to make a flat even layer. Cut the meat into 2″ squares.
3 Grill 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through to a temperature of at least 160.
4 If not fresh from the oven, wrap the rolls in foil and warm on the top rack of the grill while the burgers are cooking on their second side.
5 When the burgers are done, place a slice of mozzarella on each burger and tent with foil while preparing the buns.
6 Whisk together olive oil, balsamic and remaining 1 clove minced garlic
7 Place the burger with cheese on the bottom of the bun, add a slice of tomato and two good-sized basil leaves and drizzle each burger with 1/2 teaspoon of the balsamic/olive oil dressing.
Italian Caprese Sliders
Cheesecake is always popular around here and I recently got a large container of blueberries. When I asked what I should do with them, Son’s girlfriend suggested blueberry cheesecake and since she was about to graduate and planned on celebrating at an Italian restaurant it seemed like a great idea for an at home dessert after the meal. Of course Son (who loves cheesecake but not so much blueberries) forgot to take or mention it so it didn’t make it to the celebration. I have no doubt it will be eaten anyway! I recently used this same basic recipe for an Oreo version requested for a birthday and found it is an excellent one, a little lighter texture than my usual favorite (which uses 2 2/1 pounds of cream cheese and no sour cream).
Printable Version Blueberry Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups finely ground cookie crumbs (I used the white chocolate peanut butter ones)
2 tbs butter (because these cookies were very moist I didn’t add the extra butter to keep the crust from being soggy, but if you use a dry cookie you should)
9 or 10 inch springform pan
1 1/2 lbs cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup flour
8 oz sour cream
1 lb (about 4 cups) fresh blueberries (frozen or canned works too – if you use canned in syrup, don’t add sugar)
1/2 cup sugar (I like them to stay a little tart so if you want sweet add 1 cup instead of 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon butter
grated zest from one lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
2 cinnamon sticks
Cookies in the food processor
Place the cookies in a food processor and grind them finely.
Ground cookie crumbs in the pan
If the crumbs will not stick together between your fingers, add small amounts of melted butter until you can just flatten them together. Place on the bottom of a springform pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese until it is light and fluffy, add sugar gradually and keep beating until it is mixed in completely.
Add the eggs one at a time blending well after each egg.
Add vanilla, salt and flour
Add the vanilla, salt and flour and mix until smooth, scraping down the bowl to incorporate all ingredients.
Add the sour cream and mix well.
Pour into prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When the time is up slightly open the door and let the cake stay for an extra hour without disturbing – no peeking you want it to cool slowly to prevent cracks, although in this case the blueberry topping will cover any that might happen. After an hour, cover with plastic wrap – not touching the top but over the pan and refrigerate at least overnight.
Ingredients for fresh blueberry sauce
Blueberries in the pan
Wash the berries and place in a medium saucepan. Add the remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to a simmer to thicken to the consistency you prefer. A little less time and you will still have some whole blueberries, a little more and a thicker sauce. Remove the cinnamon sticks and refrigerate, covered until ready to serve.
For serving you can either cover the top of the cheesecake, or serve the blueberries on the side, topping each slice separately.
This month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was one I was looking forward to but unfortunately, due to an unexpected but exciting event (my sliders were chosen as one of the top 5 in the LA Times Battle of the Burgers so I was invited for photos and a visit to the test kitchen in Los Angeles) I was only able to do it at the last-minute and wasn’t able to put in the effort I would have liked. Then, rushing and suffering from a clear lack of concentration, I stopped to make dinner and set the dough aside without flouring it enough and it promptly stuck back together after being so nicely made.
In the late 1970’s, I was privileged to know Baba, an 80 something woman from Yugoslavia who was an amazing cook and who was gracious enough to teach me some of her recipes, even giving me an ethnic recipe book her church put out that I still use. She took a lump of dough and using only her fingers, made it into a piece the size of a tablecloth, perfect with no holes or thick spots and so thin you could easily see through it. I have tried a couple of times, but really didn’t have the patience to perfect it (and of course it was much easier to just buy it) so I haven’t done it in years. Since I was too tired to remake the dough after dinner, I separated it as best I could and in the end it was edible, but not spectacular. The dough recipe is wonderful and easy to work with, stretching nicely without breaking and I was so proud of how it turned out . . . before dinner! I will definitely make this one again.
Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.
Here is the recipe, just as given by Erica who did such a wonderful job (the only change I made was to use pizza flour as suggested by Audax)!
*Note 1: To have enough to fill my 9” x 9” baking dish with 18 layers of phyllo I doubled this recipe.
*Note 2: Single recipe will fill a 8” x 5” baking dish.
*Note 3: Dough can be made a head of time and froze. Just remove from freezer and allow to thaw
and continue making your baklava
1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour
1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt
2. Mix with paddle attachment
3. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water (I had to add a tablespoon more)
5. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil
8. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best ( I let mine rest 2 hours and it was perfect)
Rolling your Phyllo
** Remove all rings and jewelry so it does not snag the dough**
Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. I have included a fantastic video at the end of the post on how to roll out your phyllo dough, using a wooden dowel, which worked perfectly for me. You may also use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you.
1. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
2. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-flour.
3. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out.
4. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel
5. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel (see attached video for a visual, its much easier then it sounds)
6. Remove; notice how much bigger it is!
7. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Don’t worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice.
8. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen phyllo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine
9. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.
Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
For the syrup:
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
· 1 1/4 cups (300ml) water
· 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)
· a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove
When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. When you combine the two, one of them needs to be hot, I find it better when the baklava is hot and the syrup has cooled
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved
2. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
3. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks
Ingredients for the Filling:
1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon
15 to 20 whole allspice berries ( I just used a few pinches)
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter ** I did not need this much, less then half**
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
2. Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside
3. Trim your phyllo sheets to fit in your pan
4. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet
5. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade phyllo is thicker so it’s not needed)
6. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
7. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
8. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
9. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top
11. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can’t cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9×9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
Next morning all syrup is absorbed
16. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.
17. Serve at room temperature
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.
Additional Information: I have included some videos and links to help you through the process
How to roll the phyllo dough –
Excellent 3 part video showing the whole process –
Making Hollow Baklava Rolls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FvM8cWzjKI
Making Baklava Rolls – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H51egHWv0sQ
Nut Free Baklava –
Gluten Free Baklava
Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
As we have already established, I’m a picky eater. I generally don’t do salads of any kind mostly because I don’t like condiments – no ketchup, no mustard, no dressing (or anything with vinegar in it), absolutely no mayonnaise and healthy is clearly not my strength so coming up with a healthy potato salad recipe was a big challenge for me. I’m not a big yogurt fan either, but some of the flavored ones are ok so I went with that. The best part though is that I do love potatoes in pretty much any form so I had something to work with! This was inspired by the sweet potato casserole that usually goes with Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks to Jami for a great challenge.
Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!
Ingredients for 4 side or 2 main course salads:
2 large sweet potatoes cubed into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bacon or regular salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6 pineapple rings
1 1/2 cup pecans toasted
1 cup coconut (1/2 toasted)
1 6 oz orange yogurt cup
1 11 oz can mandarin oranges
4 large fresh lettuce leaves
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tablespoon marshmallow cream
Sweet Potatoes for baking
Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle with cinnamon and bacon salt
Drizzled and sprinkled
Mix to coat.
Coconut, pineapple and pecans
On a second baking sheet place the pecans, 1/2 of the coconut and the pineapple cut into half circles and sprinkle the pineapple and pecans with brown sugar, cinnamon and bacon (or regular) salt.
Roast both pans in 400 degree oven for approx 10 minutes until the coconut and pecans are toasted – watch carefully they will go from brown to burned quickly. Remove them from the pan and continue to roast the sweet potatoes and pineapple for a total of 30-45 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool.
Roasted sweet potatoes
Drain the mandarin oranges, reserving the liquid. Mix enough of the liquid with the orange yogurt to thin it to a pouring consistency.
Roasted and ready to mix
Reserve 2 pineapple 1/2 slices and cut the remaining into bite sized pieces. Mix the sweet potatoes, pecans (reserving a few for garnish), toasted coconut and bite sized pineapple pieces together in a mixing bowl with the dressing.
On the serving plate lay down the lettuce, add the potato mixture, surround with the reserved pineapple half slices and the mandarin oranges, sprinkle with the untoasted coconut, reserved pecans and dried cherries.
Top with a dollop of marshmallow cream.