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Archive for the ‘dairy’ Category

how recipes go

I was digging around for a container of soup last night, and out plopped a bag of blueberries. I had frozen the berries at the peak of their season, having bought a pint (or two) too many.

You can’t get a better surprise than this during the first snow after the first hurricane of the season. And on the first night that you turn on your heat, the though of blueberry anything feels like a vacation in the sun.

I was envisioning a blueberry coffee cake, but that didn’t seem right. Then a friend reminded me of a rhubarb crumb bar that was adapted from another rhubarb crumb bar that was adapted from a blueberry crumb bar that was adapted from another blueberry crumb bar that I might want to check out.

Did you get all that?

But, isn’t that just how recipes go? We find something that looks good, we do a little research, we check out the “original” recipe — if you can ever really call a recipe an original — and then we tweak  until we can call it our own.

And not that anyone ever owns a recipe, but there are some that are just classically you. I’ve got a few of them — the aforementioned soup, a pear tarte tatin, almond chocolate chip cookies, and lemon bars — and friends request them regularly. So, when I heard bars, I though of my turn-to  lemon version. Blueberries instead of lemon? Do I need to ask?

And then, of course, crumb topping. Yes, definitely with crumb topping. A brown butter crumb topping. With all these recipes scattered across my screen, I set to work. While I mixed and browned and baked, I scrawled a few notes, taking an ingredient from here, a technique from there. A little cornmeal in the crust. A lot of lemon in the blueberries. And that nutty brown butter in the crumb.

And voilà. Introducing blueberry cornmeal brown butter crumb bars. Pull up a chair.

Blueberry cornmeal brown butter crumb bars

This recipe is based on my lemon bars with their cornmeal crunch. I then added a brown butter crumb topping, inspired by une gamine dans la cuisine. If you haven’t browned butter before, what are you waiting for? Brownies? Blondies? Squash? Yes, yes, and yes. 

Makes 9-16 squares

For the crust:

- 1 C sifted flour

- 1/2 C fine yellow cornmeal

-  pinch salt

- 1/8 t baking soda

- 3 T unsalted butter (room temperature)

- 1/3 C white sugar

- 1 egg

- 1 T yogurt

- 1/4 t vanilla extract

For the filling:

- 3 C blueberries (fresh or frozen)

- 3 T white sugar

- 3 t cornstarch

- 1 lemon for zest and juice

For the crumb topping:

- 6 T unsalted butter

- 1/3 C brown sugar

- 1/2 C flour

- 1/4 C fine cornmeal

- a pinch or two of salt

Prepare. Preheat oven to 350ºF and put a rack in the upper 1/3 of the oven. Grease an 8X8 square pan with vegetable oil or line it with parchment.

Make crust. Stir together the flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Beat butter in another bowl until creamy (I use my mixer). Add the 1/3 C sugar and beat for about a minute until smooth. Beat in the egg, yogurt, and vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. The dough will be sticky, so this is going to get a little bit messy. Scoop the dough into the pan, spread it around evenly (I just did this with wet fingers), and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top gets just starts to brown.

Make the filling. While the crust is baking, mix together the blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest and juice.

Make the topping. To brown the butter, cook it in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter starts to foam. After about 5 minutes, the butter will start to brown as the milk solids cook. Once you see little brown specks (the solids), take the butter off the heat. It should smell nutty. In a bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, cornmeal, and salt. Then pour the browned butter over it and mix everything together.

Put it all together and bake.  When the crust comes out of the oven, pour the filling over the top (it should be a magenta color by now!) and then crumble the topping over the blueberries. Bake for another 20-30 minutes until the topping sets — it won’t change color much, so you’ll have to test the firmness with your fingers.

Serve. It’s best to let bars to cool completely before cutting if you want everything to be neat. If you can’t wait, try to hold off for at least 5 minutes before digging in.

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Enough chit-chat. Let’s cook, shall we?

See that up there? The New York Times calls it barley soup with mushrooms and kale. Barley soup with mushrooms.

If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, you’re thinking: why isn’t it called mushroom barley soup with kale?

Is it barley-er than the classic soup? Is it less mushroom-y? No and no. The mushroom and barley get equal billing here (and share very nicely with supporting actor kale). Which really should make it mushroom barley soup with kale.

If I had to compare it to what I know of mushroom barley soup, I’d say it’s, well, soupier.

Maybe we should call it soup with barley, mushrooms, and kale.

But that just sounds odd, don’t you think?

Barley soup with mushrooms and kale

I adapted this recipe from the New York Times, skipping the dried mushrooms and upping the garlic. I’m still working up the guts to use regular kale, but for now I’m dipping my toe in with the more tender baby kale. Be patient with me, people, be patient. I’m getting there. 

So here’s the thing: I’ve never been a fan of mushroom  barley soup – it always seemed thick and slimy. But this one is, as I said before, soupier. And it’s good. Good enough that I ate it for lunch four days in a row. As it sits in the fridge, the barley will absorb more of the liquid, so you’ll have to add some liquid (I just used water) to thin the soup a bit. To keep it bright, I squeezed some lemon and chopped some parsley after re-heating. Admittedly, by day four, I was happy to see the bottom of the pot.

Serves 4-6

- 1-2 T olive oil

- 1 large onion

- 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms (sometimes called baby portabellas)

- 4 cloves garlic

- 2 qt (8 C) water

- 3/4 C pearl barley

- a handful of fresh parsley, divided

- a few sprigs thyme

- parmesan rind

- 5 oz baby kale

- lemon for juice

- kosher salt and black pepper

Chop, cook, and stir. Cover the bottom of a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven with the olive oil and heat over medium until shimmering. While the oil is heating, chop the onion and thickly slice the mushrooms. Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring frequently until just tender (don’t let it brown), about 5 minutes. Then add the mushrooms, continuing to stir for another 3 minutes or so until they start to soften and release their moisture. Mince the garlic and add it to the pot with a good pinch of salt. Cook and stir for another 5 minutes until the mushrooms start to reabsorb their moisture and the whole mix dries out.

Simmer. Add the water, barley, a few sprigs each of parsley and thyme, and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes. The barley won’t yet be cooked through.

Slice. Stack the kale leaves in bunches and slice crosswise into slivers.

Keep simmering. Add the kale to the simmering soup and continue to simmer, covered,  for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve. Remove the parsley and thyme sprigs, taste for salt and pepper, and stir in a few squeezes of lemon. Chop the remaining parsley and sprinkle a pinch over each bowl.

Store. The soup should keep in the fridge for a few days, but the barley will absorb liquid. Just add a bit more water before you reheat to get the right consistency. Don’t forget the lemon and parsley. I suspect that the soup also freezes well.

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It all started with apples.

Poor apples. They’ve had a rough go at it this year, and I missed apple picking. Unless you were on the ball, you probably missed apple picking around here too. Luckily, two of the farms at my Monday market still proudly display a full range of red and green and yellow beauties. I buy them in twos and threes and they hold me over until the next week.

My favorite varieties are Jonagold and Honeycrisp. In the afternoon, I pull out a paring knife and balance the dull side of its blade against my thumb, pushing through the rough, unwaxed skin and covering a plate with apple slivers. I pair the slices with a spoonful of sweet creamy peanut butter. Sometimes two spoonfuls.

Last week, I barely saw home, and the apples piled up. I had enough for a tarte tatin. But a tarte tatin can’t be eaten alone, so I invited a group over for dinner.

The group grew to ten, the tarte grew to two, and the apples, well, I no longer had enough of them. A quick run to the store for a few more apples, and dinner was on the way.

The guests arrived and we crowded around the table for eight set for ten.

It was a simple dinner. We started with soup. Next up, a kale salad with roasted beets and orange. Another salad brought by a friend. And a tortilla española* that was a last-minute addition when I realized soup and salad might not be enough.

Shoulder to shoulder and hip to hip, we drank wine and prosecco out of tumblers.

Ten soup bowls were swiped with bread, ten plates were scraped with knives. When I rose for seconds, I found on the buffet (also known as a microwave cart hastily cleared moments before everyone arrived) a few kale leaves swimming in a large bowl, a cube of avocado embracing a spoon, and a Molly scratching the last few dark bits of egg and potato stuck to a 14-inch (!) pan.

“Did I not make enough?” I whispered. Molly solemnly nodded.

I looked around. My guests were sprawled on the sofa, chairs, and floor.

Retreating to the kitchen, I pulled out the tarte tatins, apples still tucked under crusts whose edges were tinged with sticky scarlet pomegranate caramel. I covered each pan – first the blue skillet, then the orange – with a plate and flipped. I expected an apple or two to latch on to the skillets. I didn’t expect some of the apples to have turned into circles of mush. I guess a few of my mismatched apples** were better for sauce than pie.

I hid in the kitchen for a few moments, thinking. I spooned the clinging apples and mush from the skillets and arranged them as artfully as I could.

A smile on my face and a Times article in my head, I emerged with a tarte in each hand. “Pomegranate applesauce tarte tatin for dessert!”

* The tortilla española. A tortilla española is a Spanish potato omelette, similar to an Italian frittata. I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to Cook Everything (the yellow cover).  For the recipe from the updated version of Bittman’s book of the same name (the red cover) , check out Molly’s story of her trip to Spain. Let me know if you’re interested in the version I made – I’ll gladly whip another tortilla and report back to you.

** The apples. I used a mix of market- and store-bought apples that included Mutsu, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Gala, and Granny Smith. I did a  bit of research and I think the Honeycrisps were the sauce culprits.

Pomegranate apple(sauce) tarte tatin

Tarte tatin is a traditional French upside-down caramelized apple tart. Still obsessed with pomegranate, I found a recipe that combines this tart fruit with this sweet tarte (hehe!). I cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup and the tarte was still plenty sweet. I know that the recipe might seem daunting – make caramel? flip over a burning hot skillet?  – but if I can do it, so can you. I’ve made tarte tatins with pears and tomatoes, and there are a bunch of things I’ve picked up along the way.

First, the caramel. It’s pretty easy to burn the caramel, so you need to watch it closely. If you’re afraid the caramel is starting to burn, take the skillet off the heat immediately and assess the situation: let things cool down a bit, dip a fork in the caramelizing syrup, and carefully taste it. Carefully because you don’t want to burn your tongue. A slight burnt flavor – think crême brulée – is fine, but if you taste smoke, start over.

Then, the flip. The tarte will be prettier if you flip it just out of the oven. Get out your oven mitts and extra kitchen towels. Place a plate on top of the pan and cover the plate with a towel. Grasp the pan-plate-towel pile with oven mitted-hands, hold your breath for a moment, and turn the whole thing over. Some caramel might spill out onto the towel, but you’ll be fine because your hands will be protected. If you want to wait until the tarte cools, it will turn out almost as pretty, but a few apples will probably stick to the skillet. Just scoop them off and put them back on the tarte. 

1 pie crust or puff pastry (I make this sweet pâte sucrée or pâte brisée, or just buy puff pastry)

- 1 1/2 C pomegranate juice or 1/2 C pomegranate molasses/pomegranate syrup (thickened pure pomegranate juice; don’t bother with the ones that add sugar)

- 4-8 of  your favorite baking apples, depending on size (you want enough to fit tightly into your skillet); for me, the most reliable are Granny Smith

- 1/4 C (1/2 stick) butter (or margarine for a non-dairy tarte)

- 1/2 C sugar

- large pinch kosher salt

Prep. Preheat oven to 400ºF and let pie crust/puff pastry come to room temperature.

Reduce. Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil until it reduces by a third (down to 1/2 cup ) into a thick syrup. If you use purchased pomegranate molasses/syrup, you don’t need to boil anything.

Slice. Peel and core the apples, then slice into halves or quarters. I like halves, but you can fit more apples in if you use quarters.

Caramelize. Melt butter in a heavy oven proof 9- or 10-inch skillet and then sprinkle evenly with sugar. Cook over medium heat without stirring until the mixture begins to bubble all over and turns lightly golden. This should take about 3 minutes. Remove from  heat.

Cook. Tightly fill the skillet with apples, cut side up,  and sprinkle with salt. Keep in mind, the apples will shrink as they cook and you might be able to slip  in a few more slices midway. Return the skillet to medium heat and cook the apples without stirring  until a thick, deep amber syrup bubbles up between the fruit. (OK, even though you’re supposed to leave the caramel alone to do its thing, I usually flip the apples once or twice to make sure they soak up the caramel evenly. Just make sure to leave the cut ends up because when you flip the tart, you’ll want the rounded sides facing the top.) This will take about 20 minutes. Pour the pomegranate syrup over the apples – the mixture will bubble up. Cook until the juices further thicken. The apples will be a deep burgundy color. Remove from heat. With a spatula, make sure that the apples are tightly packed.

Tuck. Roll out the crust between two sheets of wax paper into a circle one inch larger than the skillet (i.e., leave an extra inch all around). Slide the crust over the skillet and tuck it in around the apples and at the edges of the skillet. The crust doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to flip it over anyway. Cut a few slits in the crust to let air escape.

Bake. Bake the tarte until the crust browns and the juices at the edge are thick and scarlet in color. This takes 25-30 minutes. Remove the skillet from the oven and let cool for five minutes minute. (If you let the tarte cool for too long, the caramel will thicken and the apples are more likely to stick to the pan. But if you’re nervous, just flip it later.)

Flip. Place a large plate over the skillet. Using oven mitts and kitchen towels, hold the skillet and plate together and carefully flip over the tarte. Lift the skillet — if any apples are stuck to the skillet, just put them back into place on the crust. Let the tarte cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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turn to a can

My farmers market has a few last heirloom tomatoes, but their supply is dwindling and the market itself will soon close shop for the winter. (Winter? Yeah, winter tends to come early and stay late in my neighborhood.)

So, while you hunt from market to market, farmer to farmer, for the last of the season, eaten like an apple with a sprinkle of salt, I have some ideas for tomatoes during the winter.

Skip the tomatoes that look like they might be good – the uniform red tomatoes on the vine – and go for the ugly and the small, things that will cook up well. Anything that makes you think of basil when you take a sniff. Earlier in the summer, I used baby/cherry/pear/whatever-you-call-them tomatoes to make tarte tatins. Like the classic French dessert, traditionally made with apples, you caramelize the fruit, cover it in puff pastry, bake, and flip. The small tomatoes, the most reliably sweet winter orbs, concentrate their flavors in the oven, especially when bathed in tangy flavors – balsamic vinegar or pomegranate syrup. (And, Edible Boston just featured one of my caramelized tarte tatin (Creative Director Michael Piazza’s professional photo here) in The Tomato story (PDF here) of their fall 2012 issue. Woohoo!!!)

What else can you cook with tomatoes in the winter? Well, there’s always tomato sauce. Grab a bunch of plum tomatoes, also a decent option when the weather turns chilly, and get peeling. I’ve always found tomato peeling a  bit fussy – boiling water, slicing an X in the tomato’s bottom, dropping it in the water, waiting a few seconds, fishing it out, plunging it into ice water, waiting for it to cool, and then peeling the slippery fella.

Lucky for you, I found a tomato trick: freeze the tomatoes until hard (a few hours), take them out and let them defrost until  you can handle them (about 10 minutes) and the skins just slip off. When frozen, the liquid in the tomatoes expands (like an ice cube) — you can actually see the tomato skin stretch until it splits — and then contracts as it warms, leaving behind wrinkly skin too big for the shrinking tomato. Cool, no?

Of course, when your grocery store fails you, just turn to a can. In this realm, San Marzano tomatoes are the best for whatever you want to make.

And if it’s tomato sauce you’re after, Marcella Hazan’s recipe is the way to to. It has been circulating for years; I only discovered it last week — I’ve missed a few other bandwagons in my time — but I’ve been making up for lost time here, with three batches already under my belt.

Here’s the deal. Crack open a can of tomatoes. Empty it into a saucepan with an onion and a few pats of butter. Simmer for nearly an hour. When fat droplets form at the surface, it’s ready.

Fish out the onion and eat it if you’d like. Sprinkle the sauce with salt to taste, but don’t taste your way to the bottom of the pan. A little pepper, maybe a dust of parmesan, a scatter of basil, and you’re ready to top (drown?) some pasta.

If you have any sauce left, store it in the fridge. It’ll be gone in a few days.

PS – for some grilling ideas, head over to my latest Come to the Table article in JPost, “Grilling Time, Come Rain or Shine.”

Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce

This recipe is all over the internet – the version I used is on Food52. The butter in the sauce provides just the right amount of indulgent cream and sweetness. 

Serves 4-6 (enough for about 1 pound of pasta)

- 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (whole); or 2 lb fresh tomatoes, peeled

- 1 onion

- 5 T butter (unsalted)

- salt and pepper to taste

- basil, parmesan, etc.

Crush. With your hands, crush the tomatoes into small chunks.

Simmer. Peel the onion and cut it in half. Mix in a saucepan the crushed tomatoes, onion, and butter, and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer over low heat, stirring every once in a while and breaking up any remaining large tomato chunks into bite-sized bits with the back of a wooden spoon. The sauce is ready when bright red fat droplets rise to the surface.

Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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“It’s almost zwetschgendatschi time,” Melanie informed me over lunch the other week.

Punctuated by my attempts to pronounce the name in the Swedish accent that I seem to adopt every time I try to speak German (find the real pronunciation here), Mel brought me up to speed.  Her family in Munich has a zwetschgen tree in the backyard. It bears small, deep purple plums that ripen over the span of a short week or two in late August/early September.  During that time, there’s a mad rush to use up all zwetschgen before they drop off the trees. Enter the zwetschgendatschi. It’s a cake made in a sheet pan nearly the size of the oven and uses up about half a trees worth of plums.

A week later, I found the first zwetschgen in the grocery store and bought about a dozen. I called Mel, we made plans for a Sunday of baking, and I set to work researching recipes. Following Mel’s guidelines very closely. The dough shouldn’t be too sweet. The zwetschgen should be sour. Streusel is optional, but not necessary. Whipped cream is not optional.

Over the next few days, I found two base recipes and studied technique. I practiced cutting and folding the plums into quarters while leaving the skin intact. This sounds like a lot of trouble, but when you’re arranging the plums in overlapping rows like roof shingles, jammed against each other all the way to the edge of the pan, you’ll be thankful for the efficiency. Because when you’re trying to use up a tree’s worth of fruit in one large cake, you want the zwetschgen packed as tightly as possible.

When Mel arrived at my place 10:30 am on Sunday morning, I was ready. But a quick glance at the mere pound of plums sent us straight to the grocery store for more. With three more pounds of plums in hand, we rolled up our sleeves and set to work.

We made a yeast dough, watching as my mixer kneaded it into a perfect ball. While it was rising, we carefully quartered our plums. There’s nothing like working side by side over a cutting board.

The dough doubled, I rolled it out and then we stretched and pushed it into the edges of the pan. We arranged the plums, gently pressing each one into the dough, tips upright in a tight phalanx formation. Datschi most likely comes from the Middle High German word detschen or datschen which means to press.

We sprinkled the plums with sugar, Mel reminding me not to make the cake to sweet, and then popped the tray into the oven.

While we waited, I made lunch. As we sat down to the table, we could smell the zwetschgen concentrating in the oven as they sank deeper into the sweet rising dough.

Plates cleared, Mel called her mother, then her brother, the sound of lively German in the background when I pulled the glistening cake out of the oven.

As the cake cooled and the juices pooled, I whipped up some cream sprinkled with confectioners sugar.

I carried the tray around my apartment, trying to find the perfect light for capturing its beauty. This shot was taken on a blanket on my balcony. (And then the blanket, splotched with a few sticky spots of juice, went straight into the washer.)

We finally cut into the cake into large rectangles, the knife slipping between zwetschgen and hitting the soft bread-like cake beneath and reaching the pan with a thud.

The scoop of whipped cream! Don’t leave it off. It slowly melted, the cold mingling with the warm, the sweet cutting the tart.

I invited a few other friends over that evening to help get through the pan and had just a few rectangles for the next day’s breakfast (and lunch) by which time the plum flesh had deepened from a golden green color to a rich ruby red, the syrup dyeing the dough nearly all the way through.

Happy weekend, all!

Zwetschgendatschi (Bavarian plum cake)

Zwetschgendatschi is a plum cake made in Germany (and nearby countries) with the small, oval zwetschgen plums (also called Italian prune plums or damson plums or quetsche in French) that ripen in early fall. The cake has a yeast dough and is jammed edge to edge with plums.  Pick out  plums that are just slightly tender. If they’re too ripe, they’ll fall apart when you cut into them. Plus, the whole point of the cake is to use up the plums before they pass their prime.

This cake is classically made in a sheet pan – I used a 13X18 cookie sheet with a raised edge.

Serves 12-15

- 1 C whole milk

- 1 T dry yeast (approximately one packet)

- 1 t + 1/2 C + 2 T sugar (you add sugar three different times)

- 1 t + 4 C flour

- 1/2 C butter (one stick), plus more for greasing

- pinch of salt

- 1 egg

- 1 lemon for zest

- 4 lbs zwetschgen (Italian plums)

- 1 pint heavy cream

- 2 T confectioners sugar

Proof. Warm milk  in a small pot until  lukewarm (don’t let it bubble). Remove from heat and sprinkle in the yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of flour. Cover with a cloth towel and set in a warm place for about 20 minutes until the top is frothy (i.e., proof that the yeast is alive and working).

Melt. Melt the butter and let it cool while the yeast is proofing.

Knead. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or just a regular bowl if you want to knead by hand), stir together sugar (1/2 cup), flour (4 cups), and salt. Add the milk mixture, melted butter (make sure it has cooled – you don’t want it to cook the egg), egg, and lemon zest. Knead until the dough comes together into a solid ball. Knead by hand for a few minutes. You shouldn’t need any extra flour while kneading.

Rise. Return the dough to your bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, poke a hole in the plastic, and place the bowl in a warm  place. Let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour.

Slice. You’re going to want to slice each plum into quarters. You can do it the old fashioned way – cut all the way around the pit and then cut each half in half, but this will make arranging the plums a bit more difficult. The other way sounds a bit more complicated, but works really well with these plums. Slice the plum on only one side and pluck out the pit (these plums are “freestone” ones, so the pits pop right out). Gently open the plum halves without cutting the skin. Make two more cuts to flatten the plum into quarters, still keeping the skin intact.

Preheat. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Press. Generously grease a large cookie sheet. When the dough has risen enough, knead it a few more times by hand and then roll it out into a rectangle around the size of the pan (don’t worry if it’s not exact). Transfer the dough to the greased pan and press and stretch it until it reaches the edges. It will initially spring back, but evenutally it will stay in place. Try to get the dough the same thickness all around.

Arrange. Place the plums quarters on the dough in layered rows, flesh side facing forward and with the stem tips facing up. If you’ve flattened the plums, lean each one up against the next, overlapping like shingles on a roof. Now you see why it’s worth the early effort of cutting the plums carefully.

Bake. Sprinkle the plums with sugar and  bake for about 30 minutes until the dough gets golden brown. Let cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before eating.

Whip. Whip together cream and confectioners sugar. Watch carefully so you don’t overwhip to make butter (trust me, I’ve done it).

Slice. Cut the cake into 3X4 or 3X5 rectantgular pieces.

Eat. Top each slice with a good spoonful of whipped cream. Have at it!

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I’ve lost my kitchen.

In the battle against my friend’s CSA (shared with me while they were on vacation), the CSA won. 

Earlier this week, my friend Ilana and I drove out to the farm to gather our goods. It’s a half pick -em-up and half pick-your-own kind of farm.

I will spare you the details of everything rolling around on my counters and threatening to nudge open my refrigerator door.  Luckily, farm-fresh food seems to stay farm-fresh longer than store-fresh food stays store-fresh. So my abject fear of watching everything rot before being able to stuff it all in my mouth has been allayed.

Over the past few days, there have been salads, tomatoes by the handful, sauteed chard, and zucchini bread.

And today, I give you frittata.

It can’t get much easier that frittata, which is essentially a quiche without a crust.

Here’s the formula: slice and saute some vegetables, beat some eggs, sprinkle some cheese, bake, broil, and eat.

Seriously. That’s it.

Best part? It’s great cold.

And so, I also give you breakfast.

Zucchini and tomato frittata with feta

The inspiration for this frittata came from Steamy Kitchen and the New York Times. Use whatever vegetables and herbs you have on hand – asparagus, broccoli, potatoes, chard, basil, mint, thyme. I like to slice everything really thinly so it cooks quickly (easiest if you have a mandoline).

- 1 onion

- 2 zucchini

- 1-2 tomatoes (depending on size)

- 1 T dill

- 2 T olive oil

- 2 t butter

- 5 eggs

- 2 T milk (I used 1%)

- 1/4 C feta

- salt and pepper

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF and put one rack in the middle of the oven, one rack below the broiler. Slice onion into thin half moons. Using a mandoline or knife, slice the zucchini into very thin rounds. Slice the tomato into ~1/4 inch rounds. Chop dill.

Saute. In a non-stick, ovenproof pan (8- or 9-inches), heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add butter and onion and saute until the onions brown (but don’t let them burn), about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Continue to saute until the zucchini wilts and starts to brown, another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

Whisk. Whisk together the egg, milk, and dill.

Pour. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the egg mixture over the zucchini. Stir a little bit. Arrange sliced tomatoes and crumble feta on top of the eggs.

Bake. Bake the frittata on the middle rack until the eggs set, 7-8 minutes.

Broil. Turn on the broiler and move the pan to the rack below the broiler. Broil for 2-4 minutes until the feta and tomatoes start to brown.

Eat. Traditionally served room temperature or cold (when it’s much easier to cut), I love this right out of the oven.

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My great-uncle Ludwig lived in Paris where he and his wife Marta owned a fur shop in the center of the city. The first time I visited Paris with my family, Ludwig and Marta invited us to Furriers Tuileries for coffee. We walked along a small street nestled between the shops of Rue Saint Honoré and Rue de Rivoli to find Ludwig standing in the doorway of the cozy store, his bright blue eyes smiling when he saw us approaching.

Surrounded by coats and hats, we sat on straight-backed cafe chairs around a small round table laid with cheese and crackers and fruit – tiny plums and peaches. The fruit was sliced. The conversation was somewhat formal as the grown-ups caught up on the years since my parents’ last visit.

I balanced a small plate on my knees and covered it with crackers and fruit. When I was ready for seconds, I tentatively reached for another cracker, this time spreading it with soft creamy cheese, leaving behind the chalky white exterior. It was my first taste of room temperature cheese. It was not my last.

Ludwig and Marta eventually sold the store and Marta passed away. Whenever I visited Paris, Ludwig and I would meet in his apartment and sit on his brocade sofa and share a platter of cheese and crackers and slices of ripe fruit. Gradually our conversations became less formal. We shifted from English to French and had more to talk about than how I was doing in school.

When Ludwig visited New York, the whole family would go out to eat. When it was my turn to choose a place for lunch, I’d suggest a brasserie for steak frites. When it was his turn, he’d suggest a diner in Queens. He liked fried eggs and hash browns.

He once brought my mother an Hermès scarf that had belonged to Marta. As we sat in the diner, waiting for our food to arrive, I fingered the scarf’s hand-rolled edge and slightly rounded corners that indicated it was a vintage piece.

The last time I saw Ludwig, he sliced fruit in his tiny Parisian kitchen while I browsed the living room walls, the paintings, the books concealed behind the paned glass doors of the cabinet. There were a lot of history books.

After we chatted, he insisted on accompanying me in a taxi to my rented apartment. We chatted easily in the back seat as we rode from one end of the city to the other, crossing the Seine into the Left Bank. He got out of the taxi and walked around to open my door, asking the driver to wait until I disappeared through the courtyard and into my temporary home.

As I tell this story, I realize that it seems to have written itself and meandered to where I didn’t expect it to.

I meant to start off with a phrase that my mother told me was Ludwig’s life philosophy: n’achetez pas des bananes vertes - don’t buy green bananas. Though I never heard him say it, I often repeat this phrase to myself when I’m in an outdoor market at the peak of the season. Even though I didn’t know Ludwig well, his life always something of a mystery to me, my memories of our rare visits are strong. This French side of my family that introduced me to petite Parisian apartments, stores of another time, and fruit that you slice rather than chomp.

The recipe that reminded me of Ludwig is a blueberry peach tart. The peaches, whose scent welcomed me to last week’s farmers market, are sliced and arranged atop an almond frangipane layer. The blueberries nearly bursting with juice scatter in the center. The tart was baked for a celebration – my friend Shoshana had just defended her dissertation. Our friends gathered at my place for tart and many glasses of champagne.

The moral of this story may be obvious, but I’m not a moral-of-the-story kinda gal. Nonetheless, the tart makes me think of Ludwig and Ludwig makes me think of beautifully fresh fruit, careful preparation and making family feel like beloved guests and guests feel like family.

Blueberry peach frangipane tart

This recipe is very similar to the pear frangipane tart I made several months ago, but I changed the citrus flavor from orange to lime. This recipe may make a bit more frangipane than you need. You only want to fill the crust about halfway to the top.

Makes a large (9.5-10 inch) tart.

- 1 batch pâte sucrée or pie dough: the recipe that I use is here and here – make sure not to work the dough too much – you just need a few pulses. Also, before rolling the dough out, remember the fraissage step: gather the dough together into a pile, and then with the palm of your hand, push it away from you against the counter a few times. This will help make the dough flakey.

- 3 T unsalted butter (or margarine if making non-dairy)

- 1 1/2 C almond flour – sometimes called almond meal, this is very finely ground almonds. You can find in made with raw almonds (the flour will be light brown) or blanched almonds (the flour will be a very light beige). You could also make your own by grinding up 1 1/2 C blanched almonds – but be sure to add half the sugar to avoid making almond butter in  your food processor.

- 2/3 C sugar

- 1/4 t salt

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 lime for zest

- 2 eggs

- about 3C fruit: 3 C blueberries or 3 peaches and 1.5 C blueberries; other stone fruits will work as well

Prep. Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9.5 – 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Roll. Roll the pastry dough out between two sheets of wax or parchment paper (to make it easier to transfer to the pan) into a circle about 2 inches larger than your pan. Remove the top sheet of paper. Gently lay the dough on the pan and slowly remove the second piece of paper. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Roll your pin across the top of the pan to trim off any excess dough. Use this excess to patch any cracks.

Chill. Refrigerate the tart shell for 30 minutes until firm.

Bake. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Place a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper (not wax paper which will smoke) on the raw dough and fill with pie weights or raw rice. You want to weigh down the crust so it doesn’t form bubbles. Bake the dough for 10-15 minutes until it just starts to turn golden. Place on a cooling rack. Keep the oven on.

Mix. Melt the butter (I use my microwave). In a medium bowl, mix together almonds flour/meal, sugar, salt, vanilla, and lime zest. Lightly beat the eggs and then mix them in. Pour in the cooled butter and mix. The frangipane will be a bit gritty looking.

Slice. Slice peaches (or other stone fruits) into even slices. I got about 16 per peach because I like the slices thin.

Fill. Spread the frangipane in a thin layer on the tart shell, about half of the way up the edges. Don’t feel compelled to use all of the frangipane because you don’t want it to overflow after you add the fruit. Arrange the fruit as artistically as you’d like, but keep it in a single layer.

Bake. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check the tart after 30 minutes and then every few minutes until the frangipane turns golden and is no longer jiggly. Let cool before serving.

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I promised you summer and here it is again.

This time it’s dinner. (Don’t worry, a fruit and almond tart is coming your way soon).

This dinner was eaten as close to outside as you can when you live in the city, and your balcony is barely large enough to hold your (flourishing!) herb garden let alone a chair, and your view, if you can call it that, is a parking lot and the City Hall belfry whose bell  chimes every hour from 9 am to 9 pm. So you open all the windows and doors and sit in the summer breeze stirred by the fan. Because no matter how nice it is outside, this just isn’t the type of dinner that can be tucked under a sheet of foil and into a picnic basket and carried to the park. This pasta must be eaten mere minutes out of the pot (or in my case, after a few quick frames and a prayer that at least one of them does the food justice).

The formula is simple. Cook and drain a handful of pasta. Quickly sauté some vegetables with oil in the same pot. Add back the pasta for a few minutes. Pour over hearty greens and let them wilt. Grate some cheese. Sprinkle with something crunchy.

Now I skipped one step, perhaps the most important step, because I wanted to give it a paragraph all to itself. Just before you lift the pasta pot off the stove and run over to the colander in the sink, scoop out some of the cooking water. Hold onto that starchy, salty water because you’re going to use it very soon. When the vegetables are cooked – softened but not so much that they no longer look like themselves – add in some of the set-aside water along with the drained pasta. As you mix everything together, the starch and oil will unite into a silky smooth sauce that just barely coats everything. The sauce all but disappears into the rest of the ingredients, but you know it’s there. Under its light gloss, the pasta shines, the vegetables sing.

And with that, I’m off for a  walk. Happy weekend everyone!

Pasta with tomatoes and arugula

This is not really a recipe, but more of a technique, so feel free to substitute whatever ingredients you like. I used orecchiette, that little ear-shaped pasta, but anything will do, even plain old spaghetti. Instead of grape tomatoes, try zucchini or mushrooms or peppers (though the peppers will probably need to cook a little longer). Any hearty green should work as well – how about young chard or spinach or my favorite, pea shoots? Herbs – basil can’t be beat in the summer, but mint would also be great. I’ve made this with mozzarella instead of parmesan. And for crunch, try other nuts (they really are better if you toast them) or ground pita chips. But whatever you do, don’t forget to scoop out that pasta water.

Serves 1

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high. Throw in a few pinches of salt and return water to a boil. Add 2 handfuls of dry pasta (about 1/2 cup) and cook for one minute less than the directions suggest.

While the pasta is cooking, throw a handful of blanched almonds into a 350ºF oven to toast for about 5 minutes or dry toast them in a small skillet over medium heat — watch them carefully because the window between toasted and burnt is a small one. Cut in half 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes (about 20-25). When the almonds are toasted, roughly chop them by hand or with a few pulses in a food processor.

When the pasta is ready, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and put it aside for later. Drain the pasta (do not rinse).

Return the pot to the stove, lower the burner to medium and drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of the pan. Add in the tomatoes, another small pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until the tomatoes start to release their juices and break down; don’t let them turn to mush — they should still look like tomatoes. Add back the pasta and about 1/4 cup of the pasta water and stir for a few more minutes. The starchy water plus the oil will make a nice silky sauce that lightly coats everything.

Arrange a handful of arugula on a plate or in a bowl. Pour the pasta and tomatoes over the arugula. Over the pasta, tear 3-4 basil leaves , grate 1-2 tablespoons of parmesan, and sprinkle a few pinches of toasted almonds.

Eat quickly. Have some gelato for dessert.

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If this blog were any indication, seasonality would seem to have passed me by.

There’s been no I-need-to-come-up-with-something-new-to-make-with-my-endless-supply-of-CSA-zucchini-and-kale dilemma.

No there-are-so-many-amazing-fruits-and-vegetables-in-the-farmers-market-that-I-bought-several-flats-worth-that-will-go-bad-if-I-don’t-make-this-crumble-tart-jam-cake-right-now panic.

Instead, I visit my local farmers market like clockwork every Monday. I fill my bag. And then I eat everything out of hand or simply prepared.

Cherries? If they make it home from the market, I can barely wash them before a dozen pits are piled in a bowl.

Blueberries? Straight into my morning yogurt.

Peaches? Eaten dripping down my chin and trickling to my elbow over a sink that, more often than not, has a few dishes to catch any remaining juice.

Heirloom tomatoes? They’ve only just started appearing around here but the first few I’ve snagged have been sliced  and topped with fresh mozzarella, a sprig of basil, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sure, a fleeting garlic scape or two made an appearance in June, but most of my baking and cooking over the Summer months has revolved around my pantry. It started innocently enough. There was the pomegranate syrup that jumped from tomato tarte tatin to carrots. Then the pistachios that flitted across a salad and landed in biscotti. Now I’ve grabbed the rose water from the biscotti and am adding it to my first truly summer dessert of the season.

Enough chatting and let’s get on with it. I give you plum cake!

Let’s start with the plums. They’re the little ones sold by the pint. You can fit three comfortably in your hand, maybe four. (These are not the nearly apple-sized monsters you’ll find in the grocery stores!) The ones I’ve been using reveal bright red flesh under their dark purple, nearly black, skin.

Now, the batter. It uses brown sugar instead of white, deepening the cake’s sweetness. I add a little bit of my current pantry obsession – rose water – and lime zest, the batter speckled with tiny green flakes. Overlook the fact that the original recipe calls for nearly 10 minutes in a stand mixer – I suspect that a few minutes with a whisk and a strong arm will bake up just fine.

Plum cake with lime and rose, ready for the oven

Scoop the batter into the pan, arrange the plums on top, and pop it into the oven where the batter puffs and the plums sink. No wonder Dorie Greenspan calls it Dimply Plum Cake. Seriously, how can you not love a cake that sounds like a smile?

As you’d expect, Dorie doesn’t disappoint.

Cut a slice, and you can see how the juices that have pooled into the impressions left by the plum pits continue to seep into the cake below. Take a bite and your teeth cut smoothly through the plum skin that has melted into the golden dense cake. The slightly tart plums and specks of lime mingle with the sweet brown sugar cake and hint of rose, lingering in your mouth after nothing but crumbs remain on your plate.

If you can, save a square or two for breakfast the next day.

****

One more note before we get to the recipe. Since it’s the first Wednesday of August (August!), drop by the Jerusalem Post to read my next Come to the Table column. This time we’re talking about Panama and the ceviche recipe that a chef gave me on my trip there a few years back.

****

Dimply plum cake with lime and rose

This recipe is an adaptation of Dorie Greenspan‘s Dimply Plum Cake that I discovered  via Deb at Smitten Kitchen.  I changed up the flavoring a bit, using lime zest and rose water. Feel free to substitute your favorite stone fruit (maybe even berries) and citrus zest. The cake is dense an a bit crumbly – Deb is spot on when she likens its texture to a coffee cake. You can keep the cake on the counter for 2 days, tightly wrapped, but it’s amazing a few minutes out of the oven when the plum juices are still pooling. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a whisk and some muscle and everything should turn out great. Don’t try to replace the butter with margarine as the cake doesn’t turn out as nicely.

Makes 16 small servings.

- 5 T unsalted butter – make sure to bring to room temperature

- 3/4 C brown sugar

- 2 large eggs

- 1/3 C flavorless oil (I used canola)

- 1 lime for zest

- 1 1/2 t rose water (I use Cortas brand)

- 1 1/2 C flour

- 2 t baking powder

- 1/4 t salt

- 8 very small plums (3 or 4 should fit comfortably in your hand; if you want to be exact, they should just shy of 2 inches in diameter)

Prep. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8×8 square pan.

Mix. Using a stand mixer, beat the room temperature butter until soft and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and  beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition for another minute. So, that’s 8 minutes total so far. Add the oil, lime zest, and rose water and beat until smooth and creamy – “satiny” as Deb describes.

Add. You’re supposed to first whisk together the dry ingredients, but I cheat. Here’s how: Add flour, baking powder, and salt to the bowl. Don’t mix it into the wet ingredients yet. Use a spoon to gently mix together just the dry ingredients so that there are no big lumps of baking powder in one spot and a pile of salt in another. Then turn the mixer back on until the dry ingredients are just incorporated with the wet.

Cut. Slice the plums in half – I used Deb’s tip of slicing on either side of the pit so you don’t have to twist the halves to get the pit out. And, as a special bonus, you get a leftover slivers of plum to snack on while baking.

Arrange. Use a spatula to help pour the batter into the pan. Using an offset spatula, or, if you don’t have one, a spoon and a steady hand, spread and even out the batter. Arrange the plums, flesh side up in a 4X4 matrix. Gently push them down into the batter.

Bake. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes until the cake puffs up and turns golden. When you stick a toothpick in, it’s OK for a few crumbs to cling, as long as the batter is not still liquidy.

Cool. Let cool for at least 15 minutes and then run a knife around the edges to help remove the cake from the pan.

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Happy Fourth!

Before you light up the grill and pull out the sparklers, click on over to the Jerusalem Post and check out a couple of recipes in my Come to the Table column. This month we’re talking about rose water and orange blossom water, two floral extracts that have a history longer than that of vanilla.

You might have  noticed that I bake orange blossom water into any sweet that contains almonds. In my research for the article, however, I came across several savory recipes that incorporate orange blossom water and it’s now my new secret weapon, er, ingredient. Look out, because another salad with orange blossom dressing is coming your way soon and it’s a winner.

Until then, happy sunning and eating!

Beet, orange, and feta salad

This recipe, adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbook Plenty, is a spin on the classic Moroccan salad of oranges and olives, meant to cool down the palate from spicy foods. The addition of beets makes a more substantial hearty and earthy side dish, and I followed Elise Bauer‘s beet roasting instructions . I’ve replaced the olives with feta as the salty counterpart to the sweet beets and acidic citrus. The orange flower water in the dressing provides a sharp, slightly bitter flavor to round out the dish – use a very mild oil to really let the orange blossom shine. Be careful when handling beets as they stain everything that gets in their way, including your hands. I’ve provided a few time- and effort-saving shortcuts for several of the steps.

Serves 6 as a side dish

- 4 large beets

- 3 T olive oil, divided

- 1 head of radicchio

- 3 oranges

- 1/3 C crumbled feta cheese

- 1/3 C grapeseed or other mild oil (canola or vegetable oil will work too)

- 2 t orange flower water

- 3 T red wine vinegar

- salt and pepper

- 3 T chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Roast (or boil). Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a roasting or cookie sheet with foil. Scrub the beets, remove their greens, and place in the pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover tightly with another piece of foil so that the beets don’t dry out. Roast for 1 – 2 hours, depending on their size. They’re ready when tender and easily poked with a fork. Once the beets have cooled for a few minutes, but are still warm to the touch, peel off their skins. Cut them into small, bite-sized chunks. If you don’t want to turn on your oven, instead of roasting, boil the cleaned beets in salted water for 45 minutes to 1 hour until fork tender, and proceed as above.

Grill (or don’t). Heat a grill pan (or a grill if you have one) over medium-high heat. Quarter the radicchio, leaving the core intact, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Grill the radicchio for several minutes on each surface until the leaves start to soften and brown. When cool, cut out the core and chop into bite-sized pieces. If you like the bitterness inherent in radicchio, skip the grill and just chop the leaves into small pieces.

Segment (or slice). Cut the tops and bottoms off of the oranges and then slice down the sides to remove all the peel, including the white pith. You’ll be left with round, naked oranges. Over a small bowl, use a paring knife to remove each orange segment by slicing between the membranes (then throw out the membranes). Or, slice the orange flesh into circles.

Compose. Spread the beets and radicchio on a large plate. Dot with orange segments and crumbled feta.

Dress. In a jar, mix together the grape seed oil, orange flower water, and vinegar. Taste for salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and garnish with parsley, if you’d like.

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