Cooking, Two

I started writing something else, but this menu just won't go away, so here it is. That's the way with writers, sometimes the writing part of our brains bangs on the rest of our minds and won't stop being loud and annoying. Same with my fictional characters, they do their own things and often I'm just here for the ride.

It's Italian, with home-made bread. I wanted to make the the bruschetta today for myself, but I forgot the tomatoes! Oh well, next time I pop down to shops, I'll get them. The bruschetta recipe belongs to my ex's aunt Cindy. Cindy was a beautiful wonderful woman, who died of breast cancer about five years ago. She was 48. I try to keep her memory alive by remembering how much she loved cooking, and being with her family.

Tomato Bruschetta
Finnish Bread
Chicken Parmigiana with green salad
Tiramisu Cake

Your shopping list:
Starter:
6 or 7 Roma tomatoes,
fresh basil, oregano, salt and pepper
olive oil
Italian or French bread-- two loaves

Entrée: (the bread recipe is first, so if you want to make it, add the ingredients, otherwise, you can make the bread ahead of time.)
one skinless, boneless chicken breast per person,
2 jars/cans spaghetti sauce and up to 1 can of water
1 egg
bread crumbs, or cracker crumbs, very very fine
Montreal Steak seasoning
Minced garlic
powdered onion
oregano, basil, fennel and “Italian seasoning”
kosher salt
olive oil
bagged salad, and tomatoes to add, if you wish (or avocados, or cheese, or whatever plus whatever dressing you like)
spaghetti noodles
mozzarella and parmesan cheese (about a quarter cup per person, roughly)

Dessert:
1 chocolate/devil's food cake mix
a couple eggs (how many are called for on your cake mix?)
cooking oil
1/2 cup coffee or espresso
2 T. coffee flavoured liquor (optional)
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sugar
cocoa powder (for garnish)
coffee beans or a plain chocolate bar (optional, for garnish)

OK, the bread takes about three hours to make, top to bottom. If you wish, you can make it the day before. However, I'll warn you, it's a slightly sweet, very yummy bread. It's easy to eat an entire loaf and not even realise you've done it! It sounds difficult, but this one is easy, and pretty forgiving. Just slice the loaves at a slant, or 45*, to make the pieces pretty. Serve with butter.

Finnish Bread
2 c. Milk
4 T. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 pkg. yeast
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
5 1/2- 5 3/4 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/4 c. lukewarm water. Scald milk, then add butter, sugar and salt. Let cool to lukewarm. (you can warm the milk in the microwave just enough to make the butter and sugar melt in).

Pour into lg. mixing bowl. Stir in dissolved yeast; add spices and 2 1/2 c. flour. Beat with electric mixer on low, 30 seconds., scraping often. Beat at high speed 2 min.

Beat in 3 c. flour, by hand. Turn on to well floured surface and knead 8-10 min (adding flour as needed to keep from being sticky). Place in greased bowl, let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Divide dough into 4 parts; divide those into 3 parts, roll into ropes and braid.

Place on greased cookie sheet; let rise until double, about 45 min.

Bake at 350 for 20 min, or until golden brown. Brush with 1 beaten egg and 1 T. water, right out of oven.

Now to the menu preparation: This menu might take four hours altogether. It's all relatively easy to make, might take twenty minutes for your starter, an hour all told for the entrée; the dessert will take the longest, so I recommend starting that one first. You need to let it cool before you can frost it.

Bake your cake as directed on the box. Substitute coffee for the water. Line a 13x9 cake pan with foil or parchment, let a couple inches hang off, like a tail. Grease well, with non-stick spray. Let it cool, completely on a wire rack. (This takes about an hour).

Holding the tails, lift the cooled cake out, and then take a good look at it. Using a sharp knife, carefully level the top of the cake. You want it flat, not rounded. Eat that bit, however you like! Put the cake back in the pan, or on a serving plate-- it's up to you.

Mix 1/4 cup of the espresso and the liqueur in a bowl, and brush it over the cake.

Mix your mascarpone and the rest of the espresso until well blended. Beat the sugar and cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks form; slowly fold in the cheese and coffee mix. Spread over the cake; make pretty little swirls with your spoon back

Dust the cake top with cocoa through a strainer. Cut into squares, and then in half (into pretty little triangles). Garnish with coffee beans, if you like, or shaved chocolate. (Take your chocolate bar, and your veg peeler. Carefully “peel” your chocolate bar, a couple peels per plate.) Cover, put in the fridge. You can make it a day ahead, too.

Carefully slice your Italian bread into little rounds. Brush them with olive oil and place them on a cookie sheet. You're going to toss them in the oven for about five minutes-- you want to broil them, so they're lightly toasted. Chop all your tomatoes and toss with finely chopped fresh herbs, salt and pepper. Sprinkle about two tablespoons of olive oil on them, and gently toss again. Spoon the tomato mix on the bread and return them to the pan. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, and return to the oven, just long enough to melt the cheese. Serve on a pretty plate, and give your guests a small salad plate to eat from. Starter's done.

Put your salad into a bowl. If you're adding tomatoes, avocados, cheese, whatever, throw those in, on top of the greens. Don't stir it in, just let the layers show, it's prettier that way. You can toss quickly before you serve. Set aside, and let them all get to room temp. Freezing cold salad sucks.

Start your water, add a little kosher salt and when it's ready, boil your pasta. Just follow the directions on the boxes, it's easier that way.
In a medium sized sauce pan pour your sauces, add your spices (to taste), garlic, oregano, fennel, basil, any of your “Italian” seasoning. Let them simmer together on very low while you make your chicken. If it's too thick, you can add a little water at a time, until it's at your preferred thickness.

Heat your oven to 350*. Clean up your chicken breasts, trim the fat and then sprinkle Montreal seasoning, onion powder, garlic, and any other seasoning you like on them. In a bowl, beat your egg. Dip the cleaned chicken breasts in the egg, both sides, and then slather in bread crumbs. Set them aside on a plate, or cutting board. Let them sit for about five minutes. Then, do it again. You want them “double dipped.”

Set them aside again, and put 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in the bottom of a baking dish. Put that dish into your hot oven. You want the oven to heat up the oil for you. It'll take about five minutes, is all. Then, carefully place your chicken breasts into that hot oil. Bake the chicken for 20-30 minutes. Flip them half way-- carefully, or you're going to rip off the crumbs. Carefully spoon 1 or two tablespoons of sauce over the chicken breasts, like you're putting gravy on them.

Take a look at the chicken breasts, if the juice runs clear, they're done.

OK, plating is the hard part of this meal, because it's not all on one plate. Your guests can make their own salads, while you plate the entrée. You should have already given them their bruschetta, and probably any wine is already poured (if you're drinking it).

You want to give your guests a salad bowl or plate, so they can have the greens, and then toss the salad quickly before dishing it. That part's pretty easy.

On the dinner plate, dish up a serving of spaghetti; half on, half off the pasta, place one chicken breast. Then pour about a half cup of sauce over them. Sprinkle 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese over the chicken and pasta.

After dinner, when dessert is calling, just carefully place one triangle of cake on a dessert plate. This is when you peel the candy bar over it, or sprinkle a couple coffee beans.

Voilà! All done!

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