Friday, February 25, 2011

Food For Thought

I debated back and forth about what I would describe as the theme for today's Food For Thought.  It was either going to be WWW (Worth the Work & Wait) or The Tale of Two Spring-forms.  Both names fit so well!  I guess I'll let you decide which you prefer after you read through ... and after you make them, of course!  :)

The first one is a Sicilian dinner that I made a few weeks ago.  It was rich, delicious ... and equally rich and delicious the next day!

Sausage-And-Rice Timbale
(This recipe is from FoodNetwork Magazine, March 2011, with a few adjustments.)

2 1/2 cups brown rice*
3 T butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 pound Italian sausage
2 t. dried basil
6 oz tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
4 T bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 1/4 parmesan cheese
4 slices provolone cheese

*The recipe actually calls for arborio rice ... but seeing as I was unwilling to pay $6 a pound for that ... brown rice worked great!

Prepare the rice according to the package directions.  When cooked, dump the rice out on a cookie sheet to cool.

In a large pot, melt 2 T of butter.  Add the chopped onion and cook until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the sausage and cook until browned.  Add the basil, garlic and tomato paste.  Turn the heat up to high and cook until the tomato paste browns, about 5 minutes.  Keep stirring this mixture as it cooks.  Add the chicken broth and scrap up any browned bits.  Boil this on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes until it thickens.  Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, grease the bottom and sides of a spring-form pan with the remaining tablespoon of butter.  Dump in the bread crumbs and then shake the pan around to coat the bottom and sides well with a thin layer of bread crumbs.  Dump out any leftovers.

At this point, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and slide a cookie sheet in.  You will want to put the spring-form pan on the cookie sheet when you bake it to keep your oven from being a Sicilian mess.

Dump the rice back into the large pot your cooked it in.  In a small bowl, beat the 4 eggs and 1 cup of parmesan cheese.  Add this to the rice and combine well.  This is going to be your crust.

Transfer about 2/3 of the rice mixture to the pan and pat it along the bottom and up the sides.  It's important that you moisten your fingers regularly to keep the rice from sticking to your hands and peeling away from the pan.  I ran a little drizzle of water from the faucet and re-wetted my fingers after every couple of pats.   When you are finished you will have about a 1/2 inch layer all along the bottom and up the sides.  Layer the 4 slices of provolone on the bottom of the pan.

Preparing the "crust".

Now spoon 3/4 of the meat sauce over the cheese.  Set the remaining 1/4 of the meat sauce aside for later.  

Notice the steam on left?  It smelled so good already!

Take the remaining rice mixture and flatten little handfuls into pancake sized pieces to lay on top of the meat.  This was a little tricky, but I carefully laid all the rice "pancakes" out and then pinched their sides together.  Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese over the top.

The top is gently pieced together.

Place the timbale on the hot cookie sheet in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.  Let it cool for about 5 minutes before sliding a butter knife around the outside the pan and then releasing the sides.  I left my timbale on the bottom of the spring-form pan rather than trying to transfer it.  Serve the timbale with a little of the extra meat sauce on top.  Che buorno!

Crispy on the outside ...

Saucy and savory on the inside!

The next recipe was actually our dessert at Christmas.  And, yes, while pumpkin is a seasonal dish ... cheesecake is not!  This is truly too decadent a recipe not to share with you ... we scraped our plates clean!

Pumpkin Walnut Cheesecake
(This recipe is from Taste of Home Magazine, Oct/Nov 2009, with my usual tweaks!)

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (grahams crackers chopped up in my food processor!)
1/4 cup sugar
6 T butter, melted


3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
15 oz can pumpkin
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
5 eggs, lightly beaten

6 T. butter, softenend
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup walnuts, chopped

First, prepare the spring-form pan by laying two sheets of foil on the counter and wrapping them up around the bottom of the pan. This will help keep all the cheese-cakey-goodness from running out the bottom.  Set the pan in a baking dish (I used my giant skillet that is oven safe).

The protective foil shield.
To make the crust, combine the cracker crumbs, butter and sugar.  Pat this in the bottom of the pan and about 1 inch up the side.  Set this aside for a bit.

The golden graham cracker crust.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugars until they are smooth.  Beat in the pumpkin, cream, cinnamon and cloves.  Add the beaten eggs and mix just until it's combined.   Pour this mixture over the crust (I think I had too much filling and had to toss some out ... bummer!).  Add one inch of water to the skillet/pan.

The cheesecake gooey goodness.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.  While the cheesecake is baking, prepare the topping.  Combine the butter, sugar and nuts to form a streusel.  After the first hour, slide the pan carefully out of the oven and use your hands to sprinkle the streusel over the top of the cheesecake.  Bake for an additional 30 minutes, until the center is just set. (If you move the pan gently and the center of the cheesecake doesn't slosh, it's ready.)

Cool the spring-form pan on a cooling rack (removed from the water bath) for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, run a butter knife around the edge of the pan.  Let the cheesecake continue to cool for another hour in a draft free location (I used my microwave).  Refrigerate overnight ... and then try not to eat it in one sitting!

The moment we were waiting for!


If you would like to join me in praying for my mom-in-love this weekend ... we are praying for three S's:  Strength, Stability and Strong Spirits.  Thanks!


  1. Love the sound of the timbale, think I'll make that for lunch tomorrow! Thanks!

    Stopping by from SITS.

  2. Pumpkin walnut cheesecake sounds divine, thanks for sharing the recipe!

  3. Oh WOW! Both look delcious! I love Arborio rice, but you are right... expensive!

  4. Hi! Well, I made the timbale and it was delicious! I made some changes to your recipe...are you curious? I switched the butter to vegetable margarine because I'm intolerant to lactose, but I was wondering if olive oil would work just as well? Then, I used lactose-free mozzarella instead of the cheeses. Instead of tomato paste and broth, I used a large bottle (700 g) of tomato sauce and added some boullion cube. But the most radical change was that I decided it would be a good idea to cook it in a bundt cake pan! Needless to didn't want to come out as neatly as I had planned. :-)
    Thanks so much for the cooking adventure!

  5. That Timbale looks amazing! I haven't tried it yet, but I wanted to tell you that you made me hungry!! It looks so good!!

  6. I'm not much of a baker, but that timbale looks like something I could really get into! Anything with sausage and cheese is a go in my book.

    Stopping by from SITS


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