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Archive for July, 2009

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A dear friend came to visit last weekend.  After a long cross-country flight and a long night of sleep thwarted by jet lag, I thought she deserved to wake up to baked goods.

This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten’s cheddar dill scone recipe, however, I wound up modifying the recipe from the strawberry scones I baked a few months ago.  Ina’s recipe (and many of the other scone recipes out there) all use eggs, whereas this one, which originated at Confessions of a Tart, does not.  That makes it so much easier to mix up the night before and can sit in the fridge overnight, waiting to be baked in the morning.  Perhaps dough containing eggs will do that too, but since I’ve had such good luck with this strawberry scone recipe, that I decided not to tempt fate.  I tweaked the basic recipe a little, adding extra cream to account for the loss of moisture from the berries and the addition of cheese, and upping the salt a bit.

Cheddar Dill Scones
Inspired by Confessions of a Tart and Ina Garten

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, in cubes, slightly softened
1 cup half-and-half or cream or cold buttermilk
4 ounces grated cheddar
1/2 cup minced fresh dill

Directions
Combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Add butter, using a pastry cutter or your fingers to evenly mix the butter into flour.  Stir in dill and cheddar; then add cream/half-and-half/buttermilk all at once.  Gently stir dough until it holds together.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to incorporate dry ingredients.  Be gentle so you don’t  overwork the dough.  Sprinkle dough with flour if it gets sticky. 

Pat the dough into a circle 3/4 inch thick.   At this point, I wrapped it up in plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge to bake in the morning.  But, either way, just before you bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet or cover it in parchment.  Don’t skip this step or the cheese will drip out and burn on the pan.

Cut circle into 6-8 wedges, then transfer wedges to the cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between them. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown and spring back when you push them. 

 The scones will be quite rich, but very yummy.  A perfect breakfast to start off a day of wine tasting.

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To accompany my leek galette, I made two side dishes. 

The first was a simple heirloom tomato salad. 

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This is why farmers’ markets rock. 

To make this, I just diced up about 2 pounds of a bunch of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and tossed them with some torn up basil leaves, olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and some salt and pepper.

The second was a chilled cucumber avocado soup.   I made it a few hours in advance and was worried it would turn brown, but it stayed pretty and green all day long in the fridge.   It took me a while to find this recipe, which comes from the Washington Post, as it seems lots of avocado soup recipes have chunks of things like corn in them.  I wanted something smooth and creamy, and this one fit the bill perfectly.

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I’m reprinting the original recipe, however I only prepared about half of it, using just 2 large avocados and one cucumber.

Ingredients

2 medium cucumbers peeled, seeded and quartered, with 8 thin slices reserved for garnish (may substitute seedless cucumbers)
5 avocados, flesh mashed slightly
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 scallions, roughly chopped, both white and light-green parts
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 lemons (juice only)
1 to 2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
3 to 4 cups cold water
Salt

Directions

In a food processor or blender, puree the cucumbers and avocados just until smooth. (If using a blender or small food processor, puree in batches.)  Add the garlic, scallions, cilantro and lemon juice and pulse just to combine.

Add 1 cup of the yogurt and a little bit of the water to adjust the texture.  At this point, the recipe recommends that you keep adding yogurt and water with the motor running, pulsing it as needed and salting to taste.  Since I knew mine would be sitting in the fridge all day and it tasted plenty yogurty enough, I stopped adding those things.   Instead, I threw in 5 or 6 ice cubes to keep it ice cold.   By the time it was ready to serve, most of the ice had melted completely, and I was able to remove the others.  I then whisked in just an extra couple tablespoons of water to thin the soup out a bit more. 

Give it a taste before serving as this soup really needs salt to taste good.

To serve, divide among individual bowls and garnish with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, cilantro or whatever you’d like.

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Summer Dinner Party, Part I: Sweet Basil Cocktails, Salt and Sugar Pickles, White Bean Dip

Summer Dinner Party, Part II: Leek and Goat Cheese Galette

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I am the pie crust queen!

I have now made pie crust #2, this time in savory form, and it worked like a charm.  I still can’t roll it out in a nice shape to save my life, but I have truly conquered my pie crust phobia.

As the main event in my dinner party, I prepared a leek and goat cheese galette.  Our guests were vegetarian, but even if you are not, you should make this.  It was awesome.  The leeks get all creamy and rich and the cheese is nice and tangy.  We devoured it.

I found the recipe on the Garden of Eating blog, but as it turns out, it originated in a cookbook I own, Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  Since this recipe was so good, it has inspired me to pour through that book and make more things from it.

I wasn’t sure if leeks were in season, but I managed to find them at the farmer’s market, so apparently they are.  The book suggests using onions or scallions if leeks are not available.  You do need a ton of leeks – 6 to be exact – but don’t skimp.  They cook down and you make a rich sauce for them, so they really are not overwhelming at all. 

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Goat Cheese and Leek Galette

Ingredients

6 large leeks, including an inch of the green
3 tablespoons butter
1 tsp chopped thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup cream or craime fraiche
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsps chopped parsley or 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
1/2 to 1 cup soft goat cheese to taste, about 4 ounces

I forgot the thyme and didn’t miss it.  Also, I found I needed more wine, probably about 3/4 cup so don’t drink the bottle before you are done cooking.

Galette dough (Not wanting to tempt fate, I used Martha Stewart’s pate brisee recipe, but the original one that is supposed to accompany the dish can be found here.)

Directions

Thinly slice and wash the leeks. You should have about 6 cups. 

Melt the butter in a large skillet or saute pan. Add the leeks, thyme (which I forgot and didn’t miss) and 1/2 cup water. Stew over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the leeks are soft and tender, about 12 minutes.

Add the wine and stir, scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan.  Add a splash or two more of wine if needed, and continue cooking until it’s reduced.  Add the cream and cook until it just coats the leeks and little liquid remains. Season with salt and pepper.

Let cool for  at least 10 minutes.  At this point, since I was not ready to assemble the tart, I just removed the pan from the heat and covered it for a couple hours. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the dough for one large galette on a counter or upside-down cookie sheet and transfer to a greased baking sheet.

This time, it looked a little less misshapen than last time, but I still do not understand how one rolls out a circle.  Sigh…

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When you are ready to assemble, stir in all but 1 tbsp of the beaten egg and 2 tbsps of the parsley (or all the tarragon) into the leek mixture.  Spread the leek mixture on top of the dough, leaving at least a 2-inch border around the filling. Crumble the cheese on top then fold the dough over the filling (again, depending on how large a border you leave, you can close it up completely or leave some of the filling visible in the middle).

Brush with the reserved egg and bake until the crust is browned – 25-30 minutes.  Remove, scatter the remaining parsley over the top, and serve.

The end result was really good.  I may be buying up leeks every time I see them to try this thing again.  It really makes a fantastic vegetarian main couse.

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Previously:Summer Dinner Party, Part I: Sweet Basil Cocktail, White Bean Dip, Salt & Sugar Pickles

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On Saturday night, we had friends over for dinner.   The farmers market is just incredible right now, with all the wonderful summer produce everywhere, so I had a lot of fun planning out this meal.  Since I tried several new recipes, I’m going to make three posts over the course of this week.  Today, drinks and appetizers.

We aren’t really cocktail people, but I thought it would be fun to try making one.  I found this recipe in Food and Wine, created by Todd Thrasher.  When we lived in DC, we were lucky enough to enjoy his drinks at the wonderful speakeasy-style bar, PX, and as his other home, the absolutely incredible Restaurant Eve.  His drinks were always fantastic, so I knew this drink would be good.

Sweet Basil

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10 basil leaves, plus 1 basil leaf for garnish
Ice
3 ounces Lillet blanc
1/2 ounce gin
1 ounce Simple Syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled until the sugar dissolves, and cooled)

In a cocktail shaker, lightly muddle the 10 basil leaves. Add ice and the Lillet, gin and Simple Syrup and shake well.  Strain well, using cheese cloth,  into a chilled glass and garnish with the remaining basil leaf.

The drink was amazing.  My only complaint is that this drink was very sweet.  I prefer less sweet cocktails, and if  you do, I suggest reducing the simple sugar and the Lillet and increasing the gin by equal amounts to get to a balance that works for you. 

To accompany it, I wanted something mild tasting that wouldn’t taste weird with the basil drink.  I made a simple white bean puree and some pickled crudite.

White Bean Puree

I’ve made this dip a number of times, and each time it turns out differently.  Basically, I throw a can of white beans into the food processor and add whatever is around – herbs, spices, onions, garlic, whatever.  This time, I used 12 scallions, a clove of garlic, juice of half a lemon, and a splash of olive oil.  Add some salt and you are good to go.

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Salt and Sugar Pickles

Back in February, I wrote about the easiest appetizers ever.  I take that back.  These are the easiest appetizers ever.  I got the recipe from the June 2007 Food and Wine.  Mix equal parts sea salt and sugar and sprinkle on cut vegetables.   Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and the mixture quickly brines the vegetables.  Serve immediately, because the vegetables get watery and soggy after about an hour.

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Food and Wine recommends radishes, daikons, cucumbers, and watermelon.  I used radishes and lemon cucumbers, both of which were great.  The salt and sugar mixture is very subtle, but cuts the raw taste of the vegetable just enough, so you feel like you are eating a yummy snack and not just a pile of bland vegetables.  I really think this might become an entertaining staple. 

Later this week, I’ll blog about the sides and the main course.

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I have an irrational phobia of pie crust.

Actually, it’s not entirely irrational.  When I first started learning some basic cooking techniques, I watched an Alton Brown episode on pie crust.  Inspired, I decided that that year, for Thanksgiving, I was going to make the best damn pie crust anyone had ever eaten.  So that Wednesday night, I got home from work, and armed with Alton’s meticulously researched directions, set about on my pie crust adventure.

And two hours later, my kitchen was covered in a crumbly, buttery mess, and I was in the grocery store buying Pillsbury frozen crusts.

Ever since then, I have pretty much stayed away. I keep frozen ones in my freezer for quiches and other quick meals.  I’ll do pies with cookie-type crusts to press into the pan, but I don’t think I’ve attempted a proper pie crust since then. 

Until now.

I’ve been seeing beautiful fruit tarts popping up in others’ blogs and I was getting the itch.  When I went to the farmers market on Saturday and saw some gorgeous peaches and lovely organic lavender, I knew my time had come to conquer my pie crust fear.

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And I am so glad I did.  I used Martha Stewart’s pate sucree recipe, which wasn’t too difficult.  And the nice thing about a galette is that its shape is free form and rustic looking so when the directions call for you to roll the dough out into a circle and your flattened dough looks more like the shape of Michigan, you don’t have to resort to Pillsbury.

Peach Lavender Galette
Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Plum Galette and Food and Wine’s Peach Lavender Cobbler

Ingredients
For the Crust
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling
5 cups peaches, pitted and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (approximately 5 peaches)
2 teaspoons lavender blossoms (just tug the little bulbs off the stem, they should come off pretty easily)
1 Tablespoon flour, plus more for work surface
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar (I used vanilla sugar), plus more for sprinkling (Martha suggests turbinado, I used vanilla sugar again)
1 egg white

Directions

To make the crust
In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, and salt.  Add butter and process for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

With the machine running, add ice water, drop by drop and slowly add egg yolks, until the dough just holds together without being wet or sticky; about 30 seconds. Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is too crumbly, add a bit more water.

Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Grasping the ends of the plastic wrap with your hands, press dough into a flat circle with your fists. Wrap dough in the plastic and chill for at least an hour.

To make the galette
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle a lightly floured work surface with flour.  Roll out dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick.  Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 hour. 

In a large bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon flour, sugar, and the lavender.  Gently toss in peaches until evenly coated with the flour mixture.

Transfer to the dough, leaving a 2-inch border all the way around. Fold border over plum mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere the folds.

Brush edges of dough with reserved egg white, and sprinkle with either turbinado sugar or vanilla sugar.  Bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes.  Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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It was really good.  The lavender works perfectly with the peaches, which are slightly floral themselves.   And yes, I am posting two pictures of it because I am so pleased with my crust.  You would never know that that dough was once shaped like Michigan.

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 We brought it over to some friends’ place, where it was a hit.  The only bad thing about it was parting with the leftovers, but my friends gave me something very exciting in return.  Something I’ve been wanting for a while.  Stay tuned, as I’ll be cooking with it later this week…

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Yes, those are anchovies.

Don’t close your browser in digust, it is going to be alright.  Trust me.

I stumbled upon this recipe while looking for ways to use the zucchini that is now starting to pour in from my CSA.  I’ve used anchovies before, so I’m not bothered by them.  They really do get a bad rap.  In this recipe, they disintegrate into the sauce and the result is a briny, rich taste.  You would probably guess that there were olives in the dish before you guessed a fish.

It’s an easy dish and a good way to use your zucchini.  It was wonderful with a glass of white wine.

Pappardelle with Zucchini, Anchovies and Mint
Food and Wine, January 2002

Ingredients
4 ounces anchovies, drained and minced
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
2 tablespoons snipped chives
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
Coarse sea salt
1 pound dried pappardelle
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese and lemon wedges, for serving

I had some lemon pepper pappardelle from Trader Joes in my pantry, so I used that.  I also substituted a green onion for the chives.

Directions

In a large bowl, mix the anchovies, mint, chives and 2 tablespoons of the oil.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1/4 cup of oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper; cook over moderate heat until the garlic is lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, season with salt and cook over moderately high heat, tossing, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the zucchini and the reserved pasta water and toss over moderate heat. Transfer the pasta to the bowl with the anchovies and herbs, season with salt and toss well.  Serve right away, passing the Parmesan and lemon wedges at the table. 

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