Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Honey I Love You Fig Tart

     I just cannot believe the bounty of figs on the fig tree this year! Ever since our friends Vince and Jim carted it out here to live  6 years ago it struggled to produce 4 or 5 figs in a summer.  It did much better at their house in the city, where it lived in a whiskey barrel in the backyard. The fig seemed to enjoy it's life there but  eventually it grew too big for the barrel so we gratefully adopted it. After the first few years I began to think it didn't like the suburbs. I never wrapped it up in the winter as had been suggested. Every spring looking at a bunch of feeble branches sticking out of the ground I was sure I had killed it. Oh, it would come back but it never seemed to reach it's full potential; until this year. Every few days I am gleefully plucking big, juicy purple fruit and hunting with anticipation for more to ripen. I'm thinking that fig doesn't miss his barrel at all!
     So what do you do when you have a lot of figs? You buy some more and make Honey (I love you) Fig Tart with a ginger snap crust and honey flavored coeur a la creme filling, green and purple figs, and raspberry glaze. Well, that's what I did anyway!

Honey I Love You Fig Tart

2 cups (about 12 ounces) ginger snap cookies
1/4 cup melted butter
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese at room temp
1/4 cup honey plus 1 Tablespoon for glaze
2 Tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
10-12 ripe, fresh figs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Process ginger cookies in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl and add melted butter, stir until all butter is absorbed. Fill a 4 X 9 inch removable bottom tart pan (or a small round tart pan) with the crumb mixture and press it gently into the sides and bottom. Chill for 5 or 10 minutes and then bake for 10-15 minutes. Chill baked crust as you prepare the glaze and filling. For the glaze, heat preserves in a small pot on low heat, add honey and stir to combine. Remove from heat and set aside. In a medium bowl beat cream cheese  with a spatula or wooden spoon (or you can also use an electric mixer). Add honey and mix until soft and creamy. Leave the crust in the tart pan and fill with coeur a la creme. Chill another 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove the tart from the pan and either leave it on the metal bottom or transfer it to a fancy serving plate (one of which I do not have). Arrange sliced figs on top of filling and brush with glaze. Makes 8 servings.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Berry Buckle

     Summer's winding down, at least according to the calendar. Labor day, back to school then, boom, Christmas. But actually Summer is in full swing. You can feel the tremendous energy of everything ripening, a palpable culmination, Summer's raison d'etre. And I want to celebrate. I want to celebrate with berries. I want to celebrate with Berry Buckle.
     Buckles are no fuss cakes made with fruit and topped with a sweet crunchy layer. Most recipes I've seen have a list of ingredients for the cake and one for the topping. But I found this recipe a few weeks ago and it's truly brilliant because you just save some of the mixture from the cake (before the wet ingredients go in) and use that for the topping. Genius! This is life changing, better yet it's everything a great cake should be. It's delicious, sweet, moist and so easy to put together! Honestly, it's so good there simply is no improving on it. So I did the next best thing and made it more complicated. Can't fault a girl for trying.   
     Basically I just switched out the some of the AP flour for a mix of whole wheat pastry flour and almond flour (I highly recommend the almond flour part); mixed up the sugars as well, cane sugar and brown; added some cinnamon; and used blackberries and raspberries. That's just my spin on it but either way buckle up and take this cake for a ride.

Berry Buckle

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raw cane sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up into tiny pieces
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup milk
16 ounces berries (blues, blacks or raspberries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a nine by nine baking pan. In a large bowl combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugars. Add the cut up butter and work it into the dry mix with a pastry cutter or you hands until mixture is crumbly. You could also use a food processor, but really your hands will work just as well.  Set aside 1/2 cup. In a small bowl whisk together egg, milk and vanilla and add to dry mixture, folding in just until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan, top with berries and reserved dry mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool before serving. Makes 10-12 servings.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

BBRS Pancakes

     Let me just start by saying I love pancakes. I can, have and will continue to have them for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and midnight snack. I love them with blueberries and maple syrup. I love them made with buckwheat flour. I love them with buttermilk and lots of butter. I love making them, flipping them, stacking them one on top another. I love making that first cut and forking up that first three-tiered wedge dripping with co-mingled butter and maple syrup. I. Love. Pancakes.
     I mean come on, who doesn't want cake for breakfast? Do you want cake for breakfast? Yes, please! OK, I'll make them. Them? You mean more then one? Yes, two, three sometimes even four! Four cakes for breakfast?! Yes! I like where this day is going!
    My favorite pancakes these days are blueberry buckwheat ricotta souffle pancakes. Or BBRS. I've adapted this recipe from the back of a bag of Hodgson Mill buckwheat flour. Yes, you've had blueberry pancakes, you've had buckwheat, you've had blueberry buckwheat, you've had blueberry ricotta souffle. But have you had blueberry buckwheat ricotta souffle?? It's a whole different animal and you really should take it for a ride. It's a pancake that's light, fluffy and meaty all at the same time. Grounded in dark grains of buckwheat and borne aloft by ethereal whipped egg white.  Held together with the tang and texture of ricotta cheese and all studded with glorious tart blueberries.
     Yes, you're going to have to get some bowls dirty. Yes, you're going to have to whip egg whites (well, one egg white). Yes, you're going to have to coach these cakes into a flat round shape. Is it worth it! Yes, yes, yes, it is soooo worth it!

Blueberry Buckwheat Ricotta Souffle Pancakes

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 Tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 egg separated 
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
2 Tablespoons melted butter plus more for the pan and even more for the finished pancakes 
2 cups of fresh blueberries, more or less
maple syrup for serving

In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In a smaller bowl whisk milk and ricotta, add egg yolk and melted butter and combine. In a third bowl (clean, no grease or your white will not whip up), add egg white and whip by hand or use an electric hand mixer until you achieve soft peaks. Now is a good time to preheat your skillet and grease with a couple of pats of butter. Add the ricotta mixture to the flour mixture and fold gently, do not over mix. Next fold in beaten egg white and gently fold, the mixture will still be a little lumpy but that's OK. Make sure you skillet is hot and depending on the size, spoon out 2 or 3 dollops of batter (about 3 Tablespoons worth). Smooth the batter down to a four inch circle.  Embed 10 or 12 blueberries in each pancake. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes or until bubbles start to form on top. Flip and cook another minute or 2. Repeat until all batter is gone. Serve immediately with more butter and maple syrup. Yields 8 to 10 pancakes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Black Cardamom Plum Cake

     Plums are in season! I found a  great variety at the Lansdowne Farmer's Market this past Saturday. I asked one of the vendors if they were sweet. He answered yes, and said to go ahead and taste one. Quite a salesman! They were purple on the outside and yellow on the inside. Crisp and pleasantly sweet with a nice little zing of acid from the skin. I was sold!

     My plan was to make a plum cake. I knew I had a recipe for it somewhere, but I my search came up empty. So, to the google I went and saw more plum cakes then I care to remember. Some of them mentioned cardamom however, and this piqued my interest. 
     I remember cardamom, decordicated cardamom. Somewhere in the archives of my baking days I seem to remember making a cardamon coffee cake. I checked my local market and found nothin. But we made the trek out to Wegman's today and sure enough they carried it.  Only it was $11.00 for a small spice sized bottle! Really? I don't think so. I simply didn't see myself using enough of it to justify the cost. 
     Out of curiosity I looked in the international food isle. There in the Indian section I found a small package of black cardamom. Hmmmm, I thought, what if....
     Black cardamom is used widely in Indian cooking. It has an intense smoky aroma due to the method used for drying the pods. In fact, it smells like a backyard barbecue. But if you slice open the pods, remove just the seeds, grind them in a spice mill (or a mortar and pestle), mix with cinnamon, and counter balance with lemon and vanilla, you have a perfectly wonderful flavor blend for a late Summer plum cake.

Black Cardamon Plum Cake

1/2 cup butter (plus some for the pan)
3/4 cup raw sugar (plus some to sprinkle on top)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (plus some for the pan)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 /2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black cardamon (remove seeds from 2 pods and grind in a spice grinder) or ground cardamon (but then it wouldn't be black cardamon plum cake
zest of lemon
1/2 cup milk 
10-12 plums, sliced into quarters

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. Add lemon zest, scrap the bowl and beat again, making sure everything is incorporated.  In a small bowl mix together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamon. Add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the butter and sugar mixture, starting and ending with flour; beating well after each addition.  Butter and flour a 9” cake pan. Pour batter into pan and arrange plum slices on top. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 12 to 16 slices. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's All Good Bars

     Just 'cause it's 100 degrees out doesn't mean you stop wanting baked yummies. It just means you don't want to turn on the oven to bake. Well, thankfully I came across this ingenious recipe a couple of months ago and I've been playing around with it ever since. I'm a nut for dried fruits and I'm fruity for nuts so this bar is right up my alley. It's super sweet and kinda addictive, but since it's all good ingredients like raisins, figs and almonds there's no guilt involved. Right?

     I'm still on my corn flour kick so I switched out oats in the aforementioned recipe with half corn flour and half whole wheat pastry flour. I also went with a mix of dates, figs and raisins. These are a snap to put together, but be warned, they do need to be refrigerated on hot days.

      It is required that you have a food processor, there's no other way to get the filling to the right consistency.

It's All Good Bars

1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
3/4 cups corn flour
3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
5 dates
1/4 cup coconut oil, at room temperature
10 more dates
10 figs
1/2 cups raisins
1/4 cup water

Line a 9X9 inch pan with parchment paper letting the excess hang over the side. In a food processor add almonds, both flours, sugar, cinnamon and 5 chopped up dates. Whiz the mixture to combine. Add the coconut oil and whiz until a crumbly mixture is formed. Press half of the mixture evenly in the bottom of prepared pan and refrigerate for an hour or until very firm. Reserve the rest for the topping. Soak the raisins in water for about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile chop remaining dates and figs into 1/4 inch pieces. Drain excess water from raisins and whiz with date and fig pieces in food processor until you have a gooey filling. Gently spread the filling evenly over the crust. Top with remaining crumb mixture. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. Makes 16-20 servings.



Corn Crusted Tomatoes

     Here I go again with tomatoes, but you can't have too many recipes for tomatoes this time of year. The little ones pictured above are from a volunteer out by our pond. The large beauties  are from the organic, non GMO garden of my niece's son Ryan. And look what else he's got...


and more tomatoes 

     I found out today that frying isn't just for green tomatoes, it's also great for red and orange tomatoes, if they are the right variety. I'm not sure which variety Ryan grew (there are hundreds of varieties of tomatoes), however I do know they worked out splendidly in this recipe. 
     It's a simple dish, but oh, so satisfying. The sweetness of fresh tomatoes bursts out from under a crunchy corn crust. Paired with a mixed green salad (with little grape tomatoes in tow) it makes the perfect summer lunch.

Corn Crusted Tomatoes

4 fresh homegrown firm tomatoes
2 cups corn flour 
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs
corn oil for frying

Divide the corn flour into two separate flat dishes. Add paprika, salt and pepper to one of the dishes. Slice tomatoes 1/3 inch thick. Pat dry with paper towels. Dredge tomato slices in unseasoned cornflour and set aside. Next crack the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk. Working in batches dunk tomatoes in beaten egg, making sure both sides get coated. Dredge in seasoned corn flour, again making sure both sides get coated. Once the all tomato slices are coated, add about 1/2 inch of corn oil to a large, heavy bottom frying pan and heat on medium high until oil is hot, about 1-2 minutes depending on the size of your pan. Fry 3 or 4 slices at once, again depending, for 2 minutes on each side or until crust is golden. Serves 4.    


Monday, August 13, 2012

Pizza Broccoli Rabe

     There's a great sandwich shop not far from here and they make a chicken, broccoli rabe and provolone sandwich that will knock your socks off. My husband and I will usually split a large one and neither of us walk away hungry. I thought of this sandwich when I was shopping today and I came across some beautiful bunches of rabe.
     Broccoli rabe is so freaking full of powerful nutrients it's like it's bigger on the inside than it is on the out side. Kinda like a nutritional tardis! Vitamins K, A, E and C are off the charts; It's also loaded with calcium and iron. Iron, ladies! We all need more iron. It also has protein, yes you can get protein from vegetables. And do I really have to tell you it's got fiber? Oh, and bonus, it's incredible delicious. Much more flavorful then broccoli. Are you out the door on your way to buy rabe right now!? OK, finish reading, then go.
     My idea was to recreate the knock- your-socks-off sandwich but without the chicken (more humane), and make it open face (less carbs). However, what I ended up with was a pizza and a darn good one at that.
     The best way to cook broccoli rabe is to blanch it then saute in olive oil and plenty of garlic. You may be inclined to skip this 2 step process, but believe me this is the best way achieve tender, melt in your mouth broccoli rabe awesomeness.
      For the base I chose whole wheat Naan bread and for the cheese it had to be sharp provolone. I added a grilled red pepper for color and another layer of flavor. If I had had roasted reds on hand I would have saved myself the hassle but I didn't so I couldn't, and it was great anyway. The recipe calls for canned (or jarred) roasted red peppers, but the photos show grilled. Such is life.

Pizza Broccoli Rabe

for the broccoli rabe:

1 bunch (around 12 ounces) broccoli rabe
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Sea salt to taste 
Clean and trim broccoli rabe. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 4 quart pot and add rabe. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until crisp tender. Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat, add garlic. Drain broccoli rabe and rinse in cold water. Drain thoroughly and add to skillet with crushed red pepper. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste, remove from heat and set aside.

for pizza    

1 package whole wheat Naan (two slices)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 more cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
cooked broccoli rabe
1/3 cup roasted red pepper, drained and sliced
4 ounces sharp provolone, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
garlic salt and more crushed red pepper and oregano

Turn broiler on high. Place naan slices on baking sheet and brush them with olive oil. Sprinkle with chopped garlic and oregano. Top each slice with broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and sliced provolone. Cook under the broiler for 5-8 minutes or until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with garlic salt, and more crushed red pepper and oregano if desired. Makes 4 servings or 2 if you're really hungry.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Edith Piaf Pilaf

What does it say about us when we feed the birds with foods that in other parts of the world are used for human consumption? Does it say we‘re so well off we don’t need to eat bird food? Or does it say we‘re ignorant of the benefits of these foods?
Case in point, millet. Millet is the tiny white bead with the minuscule black spec found in common bird seed mix. But it’s not just for the birds. According to some sources millet is one of the top 10 most important grains in the world and sustains 1/3 of the world’s population. In this country millet is largely used for cattle feed and bird seed, but I think that’s about to change.
Although there are several verities of grain designated as millet (not all from the same genus) they all thrive in hot, dry climates where other grains will not grow. Considering the trend of hotter, dryer weather we’ve been experiencing lately you may be seeing a lot more millet in your future. Best to get a jump on it and start trying some new recipes now.

People all over the globe have been enjoying millet's sweet, earthy flavor and easy digestibility for ages, literately. Seeing as it was one of the earliest cultivated crops you can well imagine the variety of uses for millet that have come down to us through the millennia. Porridge, soup, stews, flat breads, and beverages (both alcoholic and non); it’s been boiled, steamed, puffed and baked whole in pastries. Depending on the amount of water and the cooking time, millet can be toothy like rice or downright soft like mashed potatoes. And when baked whole, millet yields to a pleasing crunch.
It’s not too shabby in the nutrition department either. Millet is a good source of magnesium, manganese and phosphorus, as well as fiber, protein and vitamin B3.
With all this in mind I set out to create a recipe for millet pilaf. I was guided by the theme of birds, so in addition to millet there are sunflower seeds and dried apricots which are cut into tiny pieces. The title, of course, is inspired by the petite Parisian chanteuse named after a sparrow. I predict we'll all be eating like birds soon, and with millet on our plates we'll even be crowing about it and  singing it's praises.

Edith Piaf Pilaf

1 cup millet, rinsed in a fine mesh strainer
2 cups vegetable broth (or more, follow the package instructions)
1 cup fresh blanched peas, 
1/4 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 Tablespoon fresh herbs, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted sunflowers seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
Toast the millet in a heavy bottom pan, stirring often until grains are lightly browned and your kitchen smells like fresh baked bread. Cook according to the package instructions. Generally more time and more water will give you a creamery end product. 

As the millet is cooking you can blanch the peas and do all the fussy chopping that this recipe requires. Maybe the birds will be singing outside your window. This is a good time to toast the sunflower seeds. Again, heat a pan and add the seeds, stirring gently for about 5 minutes until they are lightly golden and your kitchen smells amazing. 

When the millet is ready, Add the minced fresh herbs (I used lemon thyme, rosemary and chives 'cause that's what's growing right outside my kitchen) to the olive oil in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper. Add millet, peas and apricots and mix. Spoon into serving bowls and top with sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Serves 4.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Grilled Peaches

     We grow some pretty tasty peaches around here. I don't know what it is this year but all the peaches I've tasted have been outstanding. Sweet, juicy and firm. Delicious baked or just for snacking. And totally phenomenal grilled! I guess all fruits at their peek can seem like a dessert all by themselves, but peaches more so. I think it's the velvety skin and the succulent flesh. It's almost sacrilegious to add anything else. Almost. 
     Almost, as in "Grilled peaches with honey, lavender and mascarpone".  Here's what I love about this recipe. It's super simple, lets the fullness of the fruit shine through and allows you to savour all the elements of the dish together and/or separately.

     It's not overly sweet, but if you like it sweeter go ahead and add more honey. I used this creamy raw honey from Lancaster, PA, barely a teaspoon per serving. It has a deep floral taste and a soft feel in the mouth. If you can't find a similar product, please use whatever honey you like. Another plus to this dish, it works well for dessert or breakfast, and boy do I like having dessert for breakfast. The one important thing is to make sure your peaches are ripe but still firm. This insures they will grill up nicely and still hold their shape. 

Grilled Peaches with Lavender, Honey & Mascarpone

for one serving (if you want more do the math)
1 peach, halved with stone removed
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon raw white honey
1 small scoop (1 ounce) mascarpone, at room temperature
1 sprig dried lavender

Peaches can be grilled outside on a gas or charcoal grill on a medium flame.You can also grill inside on a hot grill pan. Brush the cut sides of the peaches with olive oil and place on grill. Let cook for 3-5 minutes and then gently pick up and turn 90 degrees to get your grill marks just right. Let cook for another 3-minutes. Plate your peaches and drizzle with honey, sprinkle with lavender and add a scoop of mascarpone.