Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Blueberry Pie

This is why I'm glad I didn't have children. I know that sounds bad but hang in there. Ya see Almacucina turned a year old last week and I didn't even remember until now. 

See what I mean, I would have made an awful mother.

Therefore, my darling Almacucina, to make up for forgetting your birthday, or maybe adding insult to injury, I made a you a pie.  

What? You wanted a cake, a chocolate cake? Really? How did I not know that?  Maybe next year.  Because I already made you this birthday pie and some kick butt Lemon Curd Ice Cream.  So stop your whinning!

Seriously, I've been wanting to do a blueberry pie since the beginning.  Blueberries are coming into season now in Jersey, this seemed like the perfect time.  I used a version of my go to pie dough. And a real simple filling like this one, except I used potato starch instead of flour. 

blueberry pie

pie dough

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour

3/4 cup cold butter, cut up

1 Tablespoon sugar (raw cane sugar if you got it)

ice water (3-4 Tablespoons, enough to form the dough)

I always use my hands, but feel free to do this in a food processor. Mix the flours  and sugar together, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a course meal. Add the water, just enough for the dough to form. Knead it lightly until smooth, wrap and chill for about an hour. Cut off 3/4 of the dough (chill remaining piece) and roll it on a floured surface about 1/4 of an inch thick and large enough to fit into your pie pan. Trim the edges if need be so you have a uniform 1/2 inch overhang. Roll the edge and crimp to secure. Chill for 1/2 hour. 

filling and assembly 

3 pints blueberries
1/2 cup raw cane sugar, plus more for the top crust
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
rind of one lemon
1/2 batch of pie dough
2 tablespoons butter, cut up
1 egg yolk, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl whisk together sugar and potato starch.  In a large bowl add blueberries, toss with sugar mixture.  Add lemon juice and rind; mix well.  

Roll out the reserved pack of dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut strips about 3/4 of an inch wide.  It's nice if you have a fluted wheel cutter, which I know I had going into this project but dang if I could find it.  Pour blueberry filling into bottom crust and dot with cut up butter.  Starting at one end of the pie lay down strips of dough, interweaving them as you go to form a lattice top.  It's a little tricky but this dough is very forgiving and you can always piece any broken strips together with a little egg wash.  Press the ends of each strip into the edge of the bottom crust.  Whisk yolk with a bit of water and brush onto to crust; sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie on a cookie tray.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Turn oven down to 350 and bake for 40-50 minutes or until pie juices are bubbly and crust is golden.  Chill well before cutting.  Makes 8-10 slices.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Lemon Curd Ice Cream

If you told me last week I'd be making ice cream this weekend I would have thought you were crazy.  First of all I don't have an ice cream machine.  And second, I had to make ice cream on more then one occasion at different restaurants and there was always the anxiety of it not coming out right. You know, the dreaded ice crystals!

Of course, there really is nothing better than home made, freshly churned ice cream. It really is something special that just buying it at the WaWa cannot duplicate.

That's why I'm so glad I found this post which led me to this post, and now you're not crazy for telling me I'm making ice cream this weekend. 

It's ridiculously easy and the results are so rich and creamy you'd be shocked to leaned you aren't eating real, labor intensive, time consuming ice cream.  There are only two ingredients for the base and the rest is up to you.  The possibilities are totally endless.  I'll be dreaming up new ice cream flavors for the rest of the summer.

My first attempt is lemon curd ice cream.  It was the  perfect compliment for the blueberry pie I made (more about that later).   

As good as the ice cream was on the pie it's just as good by itself.  It's definitely more cream than ice so when I make this again I'm going to cut back on the sweetened condensed milk and add a bit of lemon juice.   That being said, it was delicious and a little addictive!  I kept going in the freezer and sneaking spoonfuls!  It kind of had a creamsicle vibe goin' on- sweet, mildly tart and so, so creamy! 

lemon curd ice cream

for the curd:

5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon rind

1 tablespoon butter

Mix all ingredients, except butter, in a medium metal bowl. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Cover directly with plastic wrap and chill.

for the ice cream: 

1 batch lemon curd
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 pint heavy cream, chilled

Whip chilled heavy cream until thick.  In a large bowl whisk together lemon curd and sweetened condensed milk. 

Fold heavy cream into lemon curd mixture. Scrap the bowl and make sure everything is thoroughly incorporated.  Transfer to plastic container, cover and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.  Makes 8-10 servings. 


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Sourdough Crepes

Again I owe a dept of thanks to Sourdough Surprises for prompting me to make something I wouldn't ordinarily make.  Crepes.  Crepes were never really on my radar.   I thought you needed a special pan and a special technique and a special occasion. It turns out none of this is true. You can make these in a regular sauté pan with just a little wrist action, on any given Saturday morning. 

I started with this recipe which, from all the other recipes I saw, seems to have an extra egg in it.  I left out the salt since I always use salted butter.  I didn't add much milk,  given the extra egg plus the fact that my starter is on the thin side even though I always try to get it to 100% hydration. (Since I refuse to buy a scale it's sort of hit or miss).

This being my first attempt at crepes I decided to kick it old school and just do a simple filling of fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The berries were exceptional. They were straight from Jersey by way of the Landsdowne farmer's market. They were so sweet and tender they needed no sugar at all! Seeing as the crepes had no sugar and the whipped cream had only a modicum, this is one dessert that's virtually sugarless. Cream and butter, yes. But sugar, not so much. It goes without saying I had two for breakfast.

sourdough crepes

1 cup sourdough starter (approaching 100% hydration)
3 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter (plus more for cooking)
1/4-1/2 cup milk (to thin it out)
2 pints strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl whisk together starter, eggs, butter.  Add milk to achieve a thin batter.  Heat a 10" skillet over medium heat; add enough butter to coat the pan.  Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into the center of the pan and swirl the batter out towards the edge trying to get it as thin as possible.

Cook for 1 minute or so and carefully flip. Cook for another minute. Transfer to parchment paper or wax paper. Repeat with the rest of the batter adding more butter to the pan as necessary. Separate finished crepes with parchment paper as you go.

Cut the tops off the berries and cut in half or quarters.  Add sugar if desired and set aside to macerate.

In a stand mixer whip heavy cream with confectioners' sugar and vanilla extract until thick.

To assemble crepes transfer each to a dessert plate, spread half with whipped cream and top with berries. Fold crepe in half over filling and then fold one side over the other. Top with more whipped cream and berries. Makes 8 crepes.

If you have any crepes left over just wrap them very well and freeze. They only take a couple of minutes to thaw out and then you can fill them with whatever you can imagine for a quick dinner or dessert.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pesto Valentino

There's something to be said for a dish made from ingredients which were still in the ground at the start of the recipe. I'm talking about fresh-from-the-garden herbs.  I'm talking about magic, green magic.

If you have any outdoor space at all that receives any decent amount of sunshine during the day, you owe it to yourself to get some herbs in some dirt before the end of this sentence.

I had the good fortune to stumble upon a certain variety of basil a few weeks ago called ValentinoIt is now soaking up the rays in a big pot on the deck. Large, green, puckered leaves of the most aromatic nature.  Very, very basil-y.  Like what I remember smelling in Italy. Every basil hereto forth will now be compared to this basil, and it will probably come up short.

I started with Valentino, but to truly amplify the magic I add more green, in the way of fresh oregano and lemon balm. These are also sunning themselves on the deck.  And then I added garlic and olive oil and Parm cheese and, yes, we're talking pesto but really it's magic. I wish there was a scratch and sniff button here for your sake. Do you really need a recipe, no you just need some dirt. But just in case...

pesto Valentino

1 cup fresh picked herbs (mostly Valentino basil)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon pine nuts, plus more for garnish

Put everything in the food processor and pulse until chunky-smooth. For pasta, or crostini, or mix with mayo for sandwiches or anything else you can think of.  I just tossed it with some tortellini and called it a day.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Strawberry Ganache Tartlettes

When you get a hold of some fresh and juicy "real" strawberries there's not much you can do to improve them. Except maybe to add chocolate. I found some wonderful organic strawberries at the market this weekend and I couldn't resist.  Although they weren't local berries, they were delicious and the texture was perfectly succulent!

For real, organic strawberries the shelf life is all too fleeting and that's as it should be.  So best to encase them in some sweet glaze and nestle them in rich chocolate ganache sitting in a buttery pâte sablée crust.  It's all a lot easier than it sounds. And the results are a fancy schmancy pastry worthy of the best Parisian pâtisserie.

pate sablee

1 cup flour
1/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten

In a medium bowl whisk together dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter until mixture is crumbly.  Add beaten egg and mix in with a fork (or your hands) just until dough forms.  Knead just until smooth, flatten to a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until firm.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a floured surface roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick. If using individual tartlette tins use one of them to measure where to cut dough. Leave roughly 1/3 inch around the tin.  Press the cut dough on the outside of the tin, pierce with a fork and cover with another tin. Trim off the excess and repeat with the rest of the dough. Makes about 18 to 24 tartlettes, (depending on the size), 1 large tart or 2 small ones.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely and unmold.

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (the best you can find)
1 cup heavy cream

Chop chocolate and transfer to a medium bowl. Scald heavy cream and pour over chopped chocolate. Let sit for a minute and then slowly whisk until mixture is smooth. Avoid over mixing or beating any air into the ganache as this will just result in unwanted bubbles, (and yes I did get some).

Divide ganache evenly into cooled tartlette shells and chill until firm. If you have any ganache left over be sure to dip a berry or two in it for a baker's treat!

18- 24 large strawberries
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
confectioners' sugar

Bring preserves to a boil in a small, heavy bottomed pot. Remove from heat and when still warm, but cool enough to handle, strain preserves to remove seeds. Chill completely.

When ready to assemble trim the tops off strawberries and place them in a large bowl.  Add preserves, a couple of tablespoons at a time, just to glaze berries.   Be careful not to drench them.  Top each tartlette with a berry and finish with a shake of confectioners' sugar.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Rhubarb and Apple Galette

How happy am I that the Lansdowne Farmers Market is now up and running every Saturday? Very happy! It's just an itty bitty market but it's big on great people, great produce and great fun.

I went there early this past Saturday and found it in full swing with a lively mix of venders and customers, kids and pets, music and great things to browse and buy. I ended up buying some homemade soaps for my sister (her birthday was the next day), a swiss chard plant (score!) and some truly fantastic rhubarb.

Rhubarb, which became the inspiration for this easy summer dessert. I know it's not summer yet but tell that to the thermostat. I married it with apple (feeling the strawberry rhubarb thing was becoming a little cliche at this point) and dressed it in a free form almond flour crust with an almost cookie like texture. The result is a simply beautiful, light, fresh, slightly tart, just sweet enough treat for any time of day including breakfast time!

rhubarb apple galette

1 cup unbleached flour plus more for rolling
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup cold butter cut up
2-3 tablespoons ice water

In a medium bowl combine flour, almond flour and sugar. Cut in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Add water, just enough to have the mixture come together as a dough. Knead dough briefly until uniform, wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

1/2 cup sugar
2  teaspoons corn starch
2 tablespoons water
3 cups cubed rhubarb
2 medium apples (honey crisp, pink lady) peeled, cored and cubed
1 egg for egg wash
sanding sugar

In a medium, heavy bottomed pot whisk together sugar, cornstarch and water. Heat on medium, add rhubarb and apples and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes just to soften the fruit and get the juices bubbly. Transfer to a bowl and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a piece of floured parchment paper or waxed paper roll out dough to a 14 inch circle. Place fruit in center, leaving a good 2 or 3 inches on the edge. Start on one side and work around folding the edges in over the fruit and sealing the overlaps with egg wash. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar or regular sugar. 

Carefully transfer, paper and all, to a cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly. Cool on a wire rack. Serves 8.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Black Bean Burgers with Boursin

It's unofficially officially summer, cook out season, so lets give the vegetarians a little love with a veggie burger that can stand up to the heat of the grill. There's no reason the carnivores should get all the fun.

Consider this black bean burger, it's full of muscle and flavor. It's got a ton of protein plus fiber plus all that other good stuff you eat veggies for in the first place. It's a true burger experience, yet it's not trying to be something it's isn't. And if you want to go full on vegan just omit the Boursin. 

Veggie burgers do need a little TLC on the grill so if you have a heavy hand you may just want to cook them in a grill pan. Either way the secret is to brush both sides of the burger with oil and make sure the cooking surface is hot.

black bean burgers with Boursin

1/2 cup millet
2 carrots
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup black beans (canned, rinsed and drained)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 cup tofu
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
olive oil
Boursin cheese
burger buns
your favorite burger fixins'

Cook the millet in 1 cup of boiling water. In a food processor add chopped carrots, raisins, walnuts, black beans, parsley, egg, spices and tofu. Pulse until mixture is roughly combined, season with salt and pepper. Add millet and pulse until mixture holds together. 

Gather up the mixture and form 4 to 6 patties, depending on how big you like your burgers. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

On a gas grill, brush grill with olive oil as well as both sides of each burger. With the grill on medium-high heat place burgers on grill. After 5 minutes carefully turn each burger 90 degrees and grill for another 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip burgers and repeat.

Top with Boursin cheese and close the grill top. Cook until cheese is melted. Serve on toasted buns with your favorite fixins'.