Category Archives: techniques

corn off the cob: barley risotto

Welcome to a new summer series on A Pear to Remember: corn. Corn is not so exciting—or appealing—when processed for sandwich bread, condiments, granola bars, candy. But let’s consider an ear of corn picked from tall green fields: a 63-calorie vegetable with less than 1 gram of fat, 2.4 grams of protein, and 8% of our daily requirement for dietary fiber. Not so evil.

Sure, we could boil cobs to death and slather with butter. Or, we could slice off the kernals for something a little more exciting. Risotto would not be my go-to summer dinner, unless we’re stirring in seasonal herbs and veggies. The wonderful thing about substituting barley (a fiber-packed whole grain) for arborio rice is how much better it holds up to the cooking process. Risotto is lovely, but there is a fine line before arborio rice becomes thick, gummy and impossible for leftovers. Barley is hearty, more forgiving, and stands up to reheating for lunch. And risotto need not be intimidating: pour, stir, pour, stir, pour and stir under tender—you can do it. Play music, relax.

everyday food, barley risotto, corn, basil, a pear to remember

Here is a substantial summer supper, and a new use for your basil bush beyond pesto.

Barley Risotto with Corn and Basil

from Everyday Food, serves four

1  32 oz. carton reduced-sodium vegetable broth

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

coarse salt and ground pepper

1 cup pearl barley

1/2 cup dry white wine

corn kernels from 3-4 ears or 10 oz. package frozen corn kernels

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

1/2 cup grated (about 2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

trader joes, vegetable broth, low sodium

In a medium saucepan, bring broth plus 4 cups water just to a simmer. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan (or Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add onion, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add barley; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.

quaker brand, barley

Then add wine; cook, stirring, until evaporated, about 1 minute.

Add 2 cups hot broth mixture; simmer, stirring occasionally, until almost absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. (I find it’s better to leave a little broth-y than to let the grains overcook and dry out).

Continue adding broth mixture in this manner until barley is tender and mixture is creamy, 40 to 50 minutes (you may not have to use all the broth, but I save it for re-heating the next day). Add corn; cook just to heat through, 4 to 5 minutes.

Stir in basil and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, with extra cheese.

My servings may look a little corn-heavy (I used four ears!), but it was sweet, crunchy corn I (literally) purchased in the middle of a field from an overall’d Delaware farmer and I wanted to use every last bit.

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the other white meat

Last weekend, we ventured to Delaware to celebrate Pop’s birthday. What could I cook for him? I needed a second dinner request when his favorite “bratwurst and and sauerkraut” sounded less crowd-friendly. Second pick: Pork chops. Andrew was concerned, having only had dry, flavorless pork chops. I’d never even seen a pork chop, but surely it’s all a matter of the right recipe?

It is indeed. Thank you, Gourmet magazine.

This was a fast, flawless meat dish. Because it’s a striaghtforward recipe, and sometimes that’s what really makes great cooking. The carnivores in my family agreed this was genuinely better than any restaurant chop they had ever experienced. And this is a do-able dinner: sear it, roast it, sauce it.

Pan-Roasted Pork Chops with Cranberry Reduction

tweaked from Gourmet, 2001

For the pork chops

4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) rib pork chops

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the sauce

2 medium shallots, grated on the large holes of a box grater

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cup unsweetened dried cranberries

3/4 cup chicken stock or broth

3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled until added at the end

Before you begin, place the dried cranberries in the chicken stock to plump up for the sauce. 

Cook the pork chops: Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in your largest skillet over moderately high heat until very hot but not smoking. Heat the pan for at least a minute to caramelize the meat. Brown the chops, leaving untouched for about 3 minutes per side.

If the chops are a tight fit in the pan, brown just two at a time or use two skillets.

Transfer skillet to oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally 2 inches into meat registers 155°F, 7 to 9 minutes. Check the internal temperature at 6 minutes so the meat does not overcook.

Transfer chops with tongs to a platter, leaving fat in skillet, and cover chops loosely with foil to keep warm.

in the same skillet…

Make the sauce: This sauce may sound fussy, but having all the ingredients ready to go in the skillet just means pour, stir, pour, stir until the sauce reduces and thickens. Only a few minutes.

Sauté shallots in fat remaining in skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add wine and deglaze by boiling over high heat, scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half.

Add cranberries and stock and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to swell, about 2 minutes.

Stir in brown sugar and thyme and simmer, stirring about 3 minutes more minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in butter until incorporated, then season with salt and pepper.

Don’t worry my fellow vegetarians, the accompanying creamed spinach is up next! Indulgent, yes, but it made a few spinach converts. Pops included 😉

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family dinner

Like my recent bean posts, today we’re talking about discovering new foods on my journey to be a Less Picky Eater. You say picky, I say vegetarian. Tomato, tomahto.

There are people who think they are not squash people. I did not grow up a squash person, only the occasional zucchini—which, I’m sorry, hardly counts. It was only three years ago I ventured into acorn squash (halved and roasted as cheesy basmati bowls), butternut, and mostly recently spaghetti squash.

I love that you can purchase butternut squash pre-cut in the grocer’s deli section (it makes this recipe a breeze). Despite my sharpest knife, I have nearly severed limbs attempting to break into that son-of-a-gourd. A few dollars more, this is true, but I find the cost of pre-cut butternut squash absolutely worth the 20 minutes, tears, and blood loss that accompanies the raw gargantuan gourd.

This is a spectacular, I mean truly remarkable soup worth adding to your repertoire. There are few dishes I make twice (too many new recipes bookmarked!), and this has already become one of them. It has two steps—roasting and blending—six ingredients, and can feed a grateful crowd without a drop of sweat on your end.

I recently served this for the entire family to accompany my favorite asparagus ravioli in brown butter sauce. Andrew does not consider himself a fan of squash or mushrooms, but he always gobbles this up with compliments to the chef (c’est moi). Pops, also not a known for a squash preference, took home the leftover soup! As Kramer would say: Oh mama.

Roasted Squash Shittake Soup

adapted slightly from Martha Stewart, serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as an appetizer

2 3/4 lb. butternut squash, pre-cut into 2-inch pieces

1 onion, peeled and quartered through the stem

4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean with a paper towel

4 small garlic cloves, unpeeled

olive oil

5 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock (I love Pacific Organic)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine squash cubes, onion, mushrooms, and unpeeled garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil just to coat (about 1/2 cup) and 2 teaspoons salt (sea salt or Kosher). Toss and spread in a single layer. Divide onto two baking sheets if needed; there should be space between all the vegetables or they will steam and not brown.

Roast until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes, rotating pan and tossing vegetables halfway through. Let cool, then remove skins from the garlic by squeezing out the pulp.

Transfer vegetables to a medium saucepan; heat over medium. Pour in 2 cups stock; puree with an immersion blender until smooth (or you can do this in an upright blender, transferring the veggies straight from the oven to the blender).

With the blender running, slowly add remaining 3 cups stock, and puree until smooth. (If serving later, refrigerate in the pot at this point). Bring soup just to a simmer. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

A brief bit about broth: I used vegetable broth upon the first trial of this soup, and while I usually do not prefer the flavor it did work well here. I used chicken broth on the most recent batch, and while the different was subtle, I preferred the vegetable broth. Moral of the story, use either.

For what soup was your grandmother best known?

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hungry husband 101

This is the story of one hungry carnivore, his vegetarian chef, and $70 to feed the couple for one week.

The dilemma: packaged chicken tenders and thighs suffer neglect in our freezer, and are often frost-bitten within the month. Hence, we regularly throw away $5 of the $7 spent on pre-cut chicken parts (leaving less room in the fridge for useful things like asparagus and potstickers).  The other problem: meat-eating hubby does not prefer to partake in the post-work cooking hour his wife so enjoys.

This is a week of particular budgeting, and meals that work with ingredients in the fridge (always an effective method for a frugal menu): tacos, spaghetti, bok choy with potstickers, and tuscan white beans with grilled bread. The common denominator: these all work with chicken. And Chicken is Andrew’s middle name.

With my birthday dutch oven in mind, I picked up a 5 lb. chicken at Trader Joes for $6.17. That’s less than (quality) chicken breasts alone.

Now, I created A Pear to Remember to be a place for accessible cooking, and I realize many cooks do not own a dutch oven. Well let me tell you that I made my very first roast chicken in a 9 x 13-inch ceramic casserole, and it worked out just lovely (read more about Tweety McCluck, and my adoption story, here). Do not allow the lack of a handsome green pot (known affectionately here as Monsieur Pesto) to hinder you from conquering a little chicken.

On a personal note, there is something wholly satisfying about preparing and presenting a juicy, golden bird to the chicken lover(s) in your life. This recipe produces a truly succulent, flavor-packed entrée to last throughout the week. And the house will smell fantastic.

Poulet en Cocotte

“Chicken in a Pot”

adapted slightly from February 2008’s Cook’s Illustrated

1 whole roasting chicken (about 5 lbs.), giblets removed and discarded, wings tucked under  back

2 teaspoons kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

1/4 teaspoon black  pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, sliced into wedges

6 medium garlic cloves, peeled

1 bay leaf 

1 medium spring of rosemary

1/2-1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees.  Pat  chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking.  Add chicken breast-side down;  scatter onion, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary around chicken.

Cook until  breast is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Using a wooden spoon inserted into cavity of bird flip chicken breast side up and cook until chicken and vegetables are well browned, 6  to 8 minutes.

Remove Dutch oven from heat and cover tightly with lid.

Transfer pot to oven and cook until an instant read thermometer registers 160  degrees when inserted in the thickest part of the breast and 175 degrees in the  thickest part of the thigh, 80 to 110 minutes. Clear juices from the thigh are also a simple indicator of doneness.

Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil and rest 20 minutes. Actually, I placed the chicken on a large serving platter with a lip to catch the juices, and moved it to the cutting board just before carving. This is a handy time to watch a video on carving a chicken, in case you also needed a little guidance (I found this one incredibly helpful).

At this point, I let the chicken cool and packed it all in one container for Andrew to enjoy throughout the week. Okay, let’s be real: I first took photos while Andrew pulled bits from the carcass. Two thumbs up from a very happy husband.

If you are interested in serving it right away, you can continue with the following: Strain the chicken juices from pot through a fine-mesh strainer into fat separator, pressing on  solids to extract liquid; discard solids (you should have about 3/4 cup juices).  Allow liquid to settle 5 minutes, then pour into saucepan and set over low  heat.  Carve chicken, adding any accumulated juices to saucepan.  Stir lemon juice into jus to taste (jus: a sauce from natural juices; pronounced zhoo). Serve the chicken, passing jus at table.

Not to brag, but for a vegetarian carving a chicken for the first time, I was pretty dang thrilled the cuts resembled recognizable pieces of meat.

And the onions? Beauty incarnate.

See more of my food budget and shopping tips here.

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best of 2011

Drumroll please… the most delicious, memorable, must-make dish from our kitchen in 2011…

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

 

In case you didn’t catch it the first time around, here is the post again. Here’s to a healthy and delicious 2012!

 

There are things only some of us can do. Things that require unique talent and skills few possess (unless you’re my friend Mark, who actually has one of these rings at home).

Homemade ravioli is not among these feats.

A Pear to Remember is the place, after all, for deliciously do-able cooking. Homemade ravioli is impressive, elegant, divine in every way, but not impossible. Not even hard. Not even hours of work.

Pasta from scratch?? Not today. Won ton wrappers are these magical pre-cut pasta sheets Giant stores carry adjacent to the bagged salads. They are ever more common at grocery retailers, and Asian specialty stores would surely carry them, too. You can also make this without a food processor so it’s not such a fussy equipment endeavor. There are several steps, but few take more than a minute and a half. With a friend, these could easily be ready to go in 40 minutes. (Trader Joes, where speciality cheeses are not overpriced, also makes this an affordable meal).

This marks our most special meal to date. And, in my book, the most delicious by far. Here’s to memory-making on Monday nights!

Asparagus Ravioli with Brown Butter Sauce

Fine Cooking (April/May 2011), serves 4

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces, tips reserved

6 tablespoon marscarpone

1/3 cup whole milk ricotta

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; more for serving

1 tsp. anchovy paste (optional)

cut the tips at an angle for topping at the end

1/2 tsp. minced garlic (must be fresh, the jarred stuff is too harsh)

Pinch cayenne pepper

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

36 wonton wrappers

4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

finely grated lemon zest to taste

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat (using this same water for the pasta later maintains nutrients!). Have ready a medium bowl of ice water (if you have a colander to rest inside, this is one less draining step). Boil the asparagus tips until tender but still bright green, about 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon (thanks, Kathy!), transfer to the ice water. When cool, transfer with the slotted spoon to a small bowl and set aside. Cook and cool the asparagus spears in the same manner; dry them on paper towels.

In a food processor (or by hand), chop 1-1/2 cups of the spears very finely and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining spears to the tips.

Add the marscarpone, ricotta, Parmigiano, anchovy paste, garlic, and cayenne to the chopped asparagus; mix well. Season to taste with coarse salt and fresh pepper.

Let’s stop for a sec to talk minced garlic.

I knew nothing about fresh garlic growing up; if this is your first encounter with it: welcome!

To mince garlic well, whack a single clove with the side of a wide knife—makes peeling a snap. To chop the garlic very, very fine, slice the clove a few times, sprinkle with a big pinch of coarse salt, and chop away. Just keep running over the clove with your knife; the salt will help mash it into a paste to blend beautifully into your dish.

You can also rub your garlic clove on a microplane for the same, quicker, effect! (Use the same zester for the lemon at the end; no need to clean between).

Arrange 18 wonton wrappers on a work surface (a cookie sheet is perfect for both prepping and post-boiling) . Put 1 level Tbs. of the asparagus filling in the center of each wrapper (don’t get too caught up in measuring).

Using a pastry brush, moisten the edges of each with water. Top each with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to seal, expelling any air bubbles as you seal. If you don’t plan to cook the ravioli immediately, cover them with a damp cloth.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil over high heat (ideally, the same pot with the blanched asparagus water).

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat and add the almonds, shaking the pan. Cook until the butter turns light brown, about 6 minutes, and then immediately transfer to a small bowl.

Add the ravioli, about 5 at a time, to the boiling water (I lowered the boil so the pockets would not explode; it worked). When they rise to the surface, after about 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to warm plates or pasta bowls. Spoon the brown butter mixture over the ravioli. Top with the reserved asparagus pieces, a grinding of pepper, a sprinkle of Parmigiano, and a little lemon zest, and serve.

Thanks to the Bitten Word for inspiring me to try (and conquer) this recipe!

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better to give (than to eat all the cookies)

The holidays storm in each winter just moments before we get around to our pocketfuls of good intentions. Like the grand notion of baking for every family on our new street. We had a day in mind, and Andrew swore he would stand by my side and not allow yet another baking disaster. But we found endless errands to run on Baking Day, and Christmas week was upon us.

In the end, we attempted a less complicated recipe. Naturally—as December tasks go—at the last minute.  On my only previous attempt, I had produced a succesful batch meringues. And. They. Are. So. Dang. Simple. While I don’t know if they really count as cookies, they were well-appreciated and enjoyed by our neighbors. Fewer neighbors than we planned, as only one-third baked as pretty enough to give as gifts. The remainder resembled teeny toadstools, and were utterly delicious.

Note: we doubled this recipe, and they lasted well for four days in an airtight container on the counter. Maybe they last longer, but they all were eaten by then. Also, if you do not want to purchase superfine sugar, you can pulse regular cane sugar in a food processor. I used Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips; you could also use a dark chocolate bar.

Dark Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

adapted from Emeril’s recipe, yields four dozen small cookies

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2/3 cup superfine granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until fluffy but not at all dry. (Be careful not to over beat.) Add the sugar gradually, about 3 tablespoons at a time. When 1/2 of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla extract. Continue beating and adding remaining sugar in batches, until all of the sugar is dissolved and the meringue is very shiny and tight. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the chopped chocolate.

Working one teaspoon at a time, push a teaspoonful of meringue from the tip of 1 teaspoon with the back of another teaspoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 1-inch of space between cookies. Or, quickly spoon mixture into a plastic gallon zip-bag with the tip cut and dollop onto the parchment. Place baking sheets in the preheated oven and turn the oven off. Leave the cookies (undisturbed) in the oven for at least 2 hours and up to overnight, or until cookies are crisp and dry. I like to leave them overnight, but only when I have another dessert in the house to hold me over.

In case the neighbors want to know…

Per Cookie: (48); Calories: 44; Total Fat: 2.5 grams; Saturated Fat:0.5 grams; Protein: 1 gram; Total carbohydrates: 5 grams; Sugar: 5 grams; Fiber: 0 grams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Sodium: 3 milligrams

Now I did not create this blog as a venue for profanities, but I had to chuckle when one meringue recipient stated, “These are fucking unbelievable.”

Some other gifts I whipped up last week:

This pillow for Mom’s birthday I stitched over an insert. It was the sweater I wore in my high school senior portrait.

And a few handmade scarves I presented in these darling World Market take-out boxes to my co-workers. Andrew called them Lindsey’s Scarf LoMein.

What’s your favorite gift you gave away this year?

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it’s your birthday, baby (back ribs)

our beautiful new back yard that looks into the autumn woods

Andrew’s birthday celebration went off without a hitch—unless you count the new mouse in our house. In case you are counting, the score this morning is Mouse: 0 , Us: 1.

Thanks to Mom and Pops for the awesome firepit (and hand-me-down grill), we were all equipped for a woodsman’s birthday celebration with fire, hot coals, and meat.

It’s likely some of you visit A Pear to Remember for healthy, vegetarian recipes, but for the hubby’s birthday that would not do! On the menu:

Andrew’s Low-and-Slow Baby Back Ribs

Grilled hot dogs

Grammy’s Mac and Cheese

Grilled Rosemary Veggies

Mixed Greens

If you’ve ever been a dinner guest in our little home, you know about Grammy’s Mac and Cheese. I make it (by request) a lot. It’s completely unfair I have not yet posted the recipe here, but should my father-in-law and I really start that pub we talk about, I’m saving this dish for the House Special.

Andrew’s Baby Back Ribs

this amount fed 12 hungry guests, with some leftovers

3 whole slabs pork baby back ribs

olive oil

coarse salt

black pepper

Sweet Baby Ray’s Original barbecue sauce

Preheat the oven to 225F.

On a roasting sheet lined with aluminum foil, remove the back membrane with a knife (click here for a really helpful how-to video).

Brush both sides with olive oil; salt and pepper all over.

To make this a less messy, more efficient task, I prepped a small bowl of olive oil and a small bowl of 3/4 coarse kosher salt 1/4 ground black pepper within easy reach.

Top side up, wrap each set of ribs with foil leaving the top exposed to avoid steaming. Roast in the oven about 4 hours, until brown outside and no pink remains.

When cooked through, remove pans from oven and immediately brush the top with BBQ sauce. With a sharp knife, section the ribs into four-piece servings. Serve with additional sauce.

Enjoy with beer, meat-eating friends, and lots of napkins.

 

 

Next up: those rosemary grilled veggies I was talking about…

 

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rethinking the bean

Research Andrew’s favorite vegetable on wikipedia and you find the unfortunate truth:

Green beans are often steamed, boiled, stir-fried, or baked in casseroles. A dish with green beans popular throughout the United States, particularly at Thanksgiving, is green bean casserole consisting of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and French fried onions. Green beans are of nearly universal distribution. They are marketed, canned, frozen, and fresh.

Precisely the problem.

I’ve told you before, I am not a green bean gal. Perhaps because I knew them only in canned form for most of my life.

The market on Saturday had a few touches of summer remaining: eggplants, peppers, peaches. Then I spied a few crunchy beans, encouraged to find there is still time to try something new. Before we move into canned casserole season (good grief!), give it a try: grill your greens.

Lindsey’s Grilled Green Beans

1 lb. fresh green beans

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

crushed red chili flakes (preferable not from a jar living in your pantry since the last presidential election)

three cloves fresh garlic, crushed

coarse salt, fresh black pepper

Wash the beans well. Using kitchen scissors (one of my favorite tools), snip just tip of the closed ends.

With the side of a large knife (or bottom of a small skillet), whack each clove of garlic until it comes out of its papery skin and is well smashed. Into a gallon-size bag, put the washed and trimmed beans, a drizzle of olive oil to coat the beans, a small drizzle of balsamic vinegar, the garlic cloves, salt, pepper, and pinch of red chili flakes.

Marinate the beans at least 20 minutes—though you could refrigerate for an hour or so; they’re hardy.

Distribute the beans on the grill (or grill pan) over medium heat, turning occasionally. Cook until they have grill marks and are tender when pierced with a small sharp knife.

Should you want to dress things up a bit, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds or freshly toasted almond slivers.

If you don’t have a grill or grill pan, use this same recipe for green beans roasted on a metal baking sheet (or two, don’t crowd the veggies!) at 400F until tender—about 30 minutes.

What food do you love that your significant other absolutely does not?

 

 

 

a vintage photo, ringing in the new 2010 with more spectacular string beans… roasted sicilian-style for my closest girlfriends.

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the salty blues

Just the other day, we talking about foods too rarely made at home. Less than two hours before the neighborhood cookout, and I hadn’t made anything to share (nor had I showered/picked out an outfit/plugged in the hairdryer). Minor limitation: no time left in the day or money left in the budget to purchase ingredients. What’s a Lindsey to do?

Make homemade crackers, of course.

Flour? Check. Butter? Check.

You remember my indulgent blue cheese binge when Andrew went hiking recently? I still had 3/4 block of Blue, and knew Andrew would not volunteer to eat the stinky cheese. The inspiration came from a sunny day in March, reading  cookbooks with cousin Ruby on the porch, teaching her small phrases like “caponata” and “who loves Ina”.

Excuse me for a moment while I share a gratuitous photo of the sweetest strawberry ever.

Yes, it was this memorable afternoon that Ru and I came across this appetizer. When Ruby pointed to these and said, “Uh-oh!” I knew she meant that I would may eat the entire batch.

Well, little cousin, by the time you’re old enough to read this (which may be next week, at your pace) your teeth should be able to handle the serious crunch. Thanks for the inspiration.

Blue Cheese and Walnut Crackers

inspired by Ina Garten

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

8 oz. Stilton or other blue cheese, crumbled (about 12 ounces with rind), at room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cheese together for 1 minute, or until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it’s in large crumbles, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until combined.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 12-inch long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the walnuts in a square on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts, pressing lightly, and distributing them evenly on the outside of the log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the log 3/8ths-inch thick with a small, sharp knife and place the crackers on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes (check around 18 minutes) until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking (I also flipped with a small spatula halfway through). Cool and serve at room temperature. Fabulous with wine or my father-in-law’s frozen margaritas. You definitely don’t need to like blue cheese to enjoy these salty snacks—ask the hubs. And the neighbors.

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a berry delicious Fourth

You remember I don’t bake, right? Fear of diasters + actual diasterous results prevent me from trying too frequently. You would not believe how flat the almond-blueberry “muffins” I made for company last weekend, yeesh.

So how about a do-able dessert endeavor?

I want everyone to have a memorable and safe fourth of July, and surely this calls for a patriotic pie. Andrew and I will be attending a big neighborhood celebration in his hometown. I am re-posting my favorite festive treat from last year’s celebration in Pennsylvania, because you must make it this year. In case you need a reminder why:

1. It’s really easy (think: add. stir. eat.)  

2. With a food processor, it’s fast and mess-free 

3. You can make it in advance (and make lots of people really happy when you two show up)  

4. The majority of ingredients are nutrient-dense–antioxidants, dietary fiber, whole grains, monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals (a few points over other desserts you may be considering…)

5. It travels and keeps very well  (though there will be fights for the last piece; sneaking down before breakfast was my tactic)

      

Fresh Berry Tart with Toasted Nut Crust

Vegetarian Times

crust   

1/4 each whole almonds, pecans, and hazelnuts   

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour   

1/4 cup sugar   

1/4 tsp. salt   

6 tbsp. chilled unsalted butter, diced   

1 large egg yolk   

filling   

1/2 cup light sour cream   

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt   

2 tbsp. light brown sugar   

1 tsp. vanilla extract   

1 cup blueberries   

1 cup raspberries (or halved strawberries)   

1/4 tsp. grated orange zest   

1 tbsp. orange juice (from the same orange)

other goodies to get the job done

food processor

9″ tart pan with removeable bottom (other reasons you need this pan)

 

FOR THE CRUST   

Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 9-inch tart pan with cooking spray.    

Spread nuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven 10-12 minutes, until browned.   

Pulse nuts, flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until the nuts are ground to powder.   

A side note about cubed, chilled butter. This is really key in certain baking recipes. When I worked in a bakery, I was cubing 20 lbs. of butter for endless cookies and scones. Ah, memories. Cut your butter with a sharp knife at the beginning of your recipe and return the cubes to the fridge until the recipe calls for them.   

Add butter to food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.   

Add egg yolk and pulse until moist clumps form.   

    

    

   

As you can see, the mixture seems really crumbly. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of your prepared pan.   

A flat surface, like the bottom of a measuring cup, is the best way to ensure an even surface. The nut mixture doesn’t seems like quite enough for the edges, but it’s just right once the bottom is even.   

Your malleable, nutty crust should be about 1/4-inch thick.   

   

Now here’s a fantastic crust technique so you’ll never need pie weights. Pierce the crust well with a fork and freeze for 30 minutes. This keeps the crust from poofing up without the mess of foil and weights and other complications. Who loves simplicity??   

Adjust the oven temperature to 400F. Bake the frozen crust for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. Cool.   

FOR THE FILLING   

Whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, brown sugar, vanilla, and orange zest in a bowl.    

Toss berries (or fruit of your choice) with the orange juice in a separate bowl.    

(Please, please don’t skimp on the orange zest, it really makes the tart special).   

Spread the sour cream mixture into the crust with a spatula. It didn’t seem like enough filling to fill the tart, but it is just enough so scrape every drop from the bowl!   

I really want to experiment with peaches on the next round of this tart, but it is ideal for berries, as they are less likely to brown or bleed color into the sour cream mixture while resting in the fridge for a few days. Nonetheless, the acid of the orange juice kept my strawberries fresh for the mere day and a half the tart lasted among company 😀   

Spoon the berries over top a little at a time, until the sour cream mixture is evenly covered. (No one says it can’t be a little artistic, though)! It really does look beautiful however you arrange your fruit—yet another thing to love about this beautiful dish. I also sprinkled additional zest over the finished tart.   

Refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes before serving. And take my advice, cut thin slices—my tart somehow fed twelve, but we would have loved seconds.   

 

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