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Archive for August, 2009

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Make melon salsa.

I made this a while back, when we were still getting boxes from our CSA.  I like melons, but I don’t love them.  I probably would order the healthy side of fruit option with a sandwich instead of fries a lot more often if it wasn’t usually just a big pile of cantelope and honeydew chunks, with a half a strawberry thrown in so that they can actually argue that it is indeed a fruit salad.

This however was a wonderful way to use up the very gorgeous melon we got from Eatwell.   I’m not sure exactly what kind of melon it was, as the outside skin was a gorgeous shade of yellow, but the inside tasted like cantelope. 

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I think this recipe would work with any basic cantelope or honeydew type of melon, though I think watermelon would be too watery.

I found this recipe on the always amazing blog, Smitten Kitchen, who in turn based hers on a variation in Gourmet.  I changed things up a bit using what I had in the fridge, and brought it to a barbeque with some tortilla chips.  It was a huge hit.

Cantaloupe Salsa
Adapted from Gourmet and Smitten Kitchen

Makes about 3 cups of salsa

2 cups finely diced cantaloupe or other melon (about a half a melon, maybe a little less)
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1-2 sweet gypsy peppers (depending on the size), diced.  If you can’t find gypsy peppers, I would use one small red bell pepper, chopped very finely.
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (2-inch-long) fresh hot red or green chile, minced (use the seeds if you want extra heat)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together and eat as soon as possible.  After about 2-3 hours it will start turning watery and not attractive, so you can’t really make this too far ahead.

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Unfortunately, that day threw me another lemon…or melon..and my digital camera is no more.  So, if any food bloggers out there have recommendations for a good one, please let me know!

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Happy Birthday

Today my blog turns 1.

A year ago today, I began this blog with a post on pickled tomatoes.  Since then, I made homemade ricotta and my own pie crust, attempted gnocchi, cooked with some new ingredients, like chamomile and farro, and hopefully inspired some people to try some of my recipes.

The one big change I’ve made is that I’m no longer subscribing to a CSA.  I really enjoyed being a member for the last year, but we decided not to renew our membership.  Eatwell Farm’s CSA program really is wonderful and I would still encourage people to consider it.  Right now though, we live within walking distance of an excellent farmer’s market, that it seems to be a better value right now, to take the time to shop there.  So, while I won’t be blogging about whatever goodies are in my box on any given week, I do plan on continuing to focus on good, local, seasonal produce.

And so, in honor of my last year as a blogger, here are some highlights from the last year.

Roasted Tomato Tabouli

I made this again recently, substituting cilantro for the basil, and it was delicious.  Something about the roasted tomatoes really elevates this salad and gives it so much flavor.  It’s a great dish for right now, with tomatoes and herbs at their peak.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Smoked Cheddar

We got so many butternut squashes in our CSA over the last year, and this was one of my favorite things to do with them.  Just looking at it makes me excited for the fall.  The smokey cheddar and the sweet, tart apple really make this dish taste like a real dish, and not just a bowl of pureed vegetables.

Red Wine Risotto with Mushroom Marmalade

Probably one of the more sophisticated dishes.  I haven’t had a chance to make this again, though I keep it in the back of my mind.  The marmalade is really unusual, but makes it taste like a restaurant style dinner.

Bay Infused Champagne Cocktail

So simple and so delicious.  I’ve made this a few times for parties and it’s a great way to dress up cheap cava.  I want to try experimenting with different infused simple syrups, so if I have any success, I’ll be sure to post that.

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

Best Christmas morning breakfast ever.  I made it again in the spring with strawberries and tons of lemon zest.  Delicious.

Saffron Scented Pear Upside Down Cake

When it comes to desserts, I think people gravitate to two camps – chocolate and spice.  This cake really should be considered the molten chocolate lava cake of the spiced dessert world.  It’s just the height of spicy decadence.  So good.

Braised Pork with Grapes and Balsamic over Creamy Polenta

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I just picked up a huge bunch of grapes at the farmers market this weekend, so now that they are in season, I plan on making this a lot.

Strawberry Scones

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One of the things I’ve made the most since discovering the recipe.  I love this scone recipe.

White Pizza with Ramps and Asparagus

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My first time cooking and eating ramps.  Apparently ramps season is just a few weeks long, so I will be scouring the farmers market next May to buy up as many of them as possible.

Peach and Lavender Gallete

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My pie crust!  And oh so delicious.  If I had to pick a number one favorite from the past year, this would be it. 

Salt and Sugar Pickles

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I feel guilty putting this on the list since it’s not really a recipe, but a technique.  But it’s wonderful.  I do it all the time now.  Such a great way to serve summer vegetables.

Goat Cheese and Leek Gallete

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I would be a vegetarian if I could eat this every night. 

And that’s the last year.  I’m looking forward to continuing this blog, trying more new recipes, and hopefully gaining more faithful readers.  Thanks for reading!

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Back in May, when the cherries were just in season, I bought a whole bunch to make Martha Stewart’s delicious looking cherry almond teacakes for my book club.  And it was a disaster.  I am not sure how such a delicious looking recipe could result in such a hot mess, but that’s what happened.  They looked cute, but tasted terrible.  Others have had better luck, so I must have done something wrong.  I didn’t have the time or desire to try again, so off I went to book club, with my store bought ginger snaps to talk about Tom Perrotta’s The Abstinence Teacher. 

When Smitten Kitchen posted these cherry brown butter bars a week before my July book club, I knew it was time to conquer the cherry dessert again.  This time, I had much better luck, and Confederacy of Dunces was made all the more enjoyable by something so delicious and easy on the valve.  The filling is creamy but not too rich, and the crust is nice and buttery. 

The recipe originated in Bon Appetit, where it was more of a traditional tart.  Smitten Kitchen adapted it to make it more finger food friendly, which I just love.  It’s hard to find fruit based desserts that you don’t need a fork for, and I think this would work with any seasonal fruit.  I think I’d like to try it with chunks of persimmon in the winter.

If you do make it with cherries, a cherry pitter is helpful.  I know Alton Brown is all anti uni-taskers, but a cherry pitter also doubles as an olive pitter.  So, if you eat a lot of olives like I do, it’s a worthwhile investment. 

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Cherry Brown Butter Bars

Crust:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Pinch of salt

Filling:
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
About 20 or so cherries, pitted

Directions

To make the crust

Preheat over to 375°F.  If you don’t have a square tart pan (and honestly, who does?) cut two 12-inch lengths of parchment paper and trim each to fit the 8-inch width of an 8×8-inch square baking pan.  Press it into the bottom and sides of your pan in one direction, then use the second sheet to line the rest of the pan, perpendicular to the first sheet.  Or you can just cut a big sheet of parchment paper, squish it down so it lines the pan, and hope for the best.  Which is what I did.  The corners of the tart came out kind of gimpy, but the rest of it was fine.  So unless you want perfect corners, I say, make life easy on yourself.

Using rubber spatula or fork, mix the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Add flour and salt and stir until incorporated.  Transfer dough to your prepared pan, and use your fingertips to press the dough evenly across the bottom of the pan.  Bake the crust until golden, which, if you are using Bon Appetit’s oven, is about 18 minutes.  If you are using my freakishly hot oven, it’s closer to 14.   

When it’s done baking, transfer it to a rack and cool in pan.  Maintain the oven temperature.

To make the filling

Cook butter in heavy small saucepan(preferably a lighter colored one, so you can keep a better watch on the color of the butter) over medium heat until deep nutty brown, stirring often and watching carefully so it doesn’t burn, about six minutes.  Immediately pour browned butter into glass measuring cup to cool slightly.

Whisk sugar, eggs, and salt in medium bowl to blend.  Add flour and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Gradually whisk browned butter into sugar-egg mixture; whisk until well blended.

Arrange pitted cherries, or the fruit of your choice, in bottom of cooled crust.  I wanted to make 20 bars, so I arranged the cherries as best as I could in evenly spaced rows of 4 X 5.  If you are less picky than I am or want to make bigger or smaller bars, feel free to put the cherries in however you want.  But, keep in mind that it might be harder to get smooth cuts if you are trying to cut through a bunch of cooked cherries.  Not impossible, but you do have to be a lot more careful so you don’t drag them out.

 Carefully pour browned butter mixture evenly over the fruit.  Bake bars until filling is puffed and golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes.  Watch the bars carefully.  Cool bars completely in pan on rack.

Use the parchment paper overhang to carefully remove it from pan in one piece and place it on a cutting board and cut them into squares with a very sharp knife.

You can make these a day or two in advance and store in the fridge.  I found the bars actually tasted better the second day because it gives the custard more time to absorb the cherry flavor.

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And it still tastes good!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love me some risotto.  In fact, risotto was one of the first things I ever taught myself to make, after practicing a risotto recipe in the first cookbook I ever purchased over and over again in my tiny little studio kitchen, using a non-stick saucepan, a non-stick frying pan, and a plastic ladle, because that’s all I had at the time.  I’ve since gotten better equipment and better skilled at making it, but I’ve never done anything else with arborio rice besides make risotto.

Until now.

Arborio rice works really nicely in this rice salad.  It’s still has a creamy taste to it, even though there’s no dairy in this salad at all.  It’s really fresh and summery, and would be great for a barbeque or a light lunch. 

Lemony Rice Parsley Salad
from Food and Wine

Ingredients
1 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 small sweet Italian frying pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/3 cup oil-cured pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

This is a pretty loose list of ingredients and I didn’t really measure anything, just tossed everything together and adjusted for taste as I went along.  Also, I have no idea what a sweet Italian frying pepper is.  I bought a Hungarian wax pepper at the farmers’ market and used that, though I think any pepper would do except for a green bell pepper, which would probably be too harsh tasting.  I also skipped the capers and just upped the olives a bit, and for those, I just used kalamatas because that’s what was in the fridge.  I actually liked the briny taste of them in the salad, and would do it again over using the oil cured kind.

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.   Add the rice and simmer over moderate heat until just tender, about 14 minutes.  Drain thoroughly.

In a large bowl, toss the rice with the olive oil and lemon juice.  Stir in everything else and season with salt and pepper. 

Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature with the lemon wedges if you’d like (though I skipped those too).

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