Friday, May 20, 2011

Farmers Market to Table

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver the family has been very excited about growing and making our own food items. Obviously, we are not perfect, but we do make our effort. Not only is it ecologically responsible and what not, but it's fun. Not to mention, often times cheaper. I gave Ma a cheesemaking kit from New England Cheesemaking for Mother's Day. So, when Sister came home last weekend we made cheese! We got our milk straight from South Mountain Dairy at the Baltimore Farmers Market and made our very own pizza with it that night. It took less than an hour to make a pound of mozzarella!

While my dad took care of composing the pizzas, I composed a salad. Now, not everything was from the market, and the dressing wasn't even homemade. But I just made some cheese, so I get some liberties here. The point is, this could be made entirely from the market if you go on the right day.

Obviously for a salad, the quantities are left to individual tastes. I, of course, go heavy on the cheese. The lettuce is from the market and it's a mix. Next time, it will probably come right from the garden!

Since it's getting close to summer and the salad had fruit in it, I went with Annie's Mango Dressing. I believe a cider or basalmic vinegar type dressing would be excellent as well.

Pear & Cheddar Salad

Lettuce (I used a mix of red leaf bibb and romaine)

Bosc Pears, diced

English Cheddar Cheese, diced

Tomato, seeded and diced

Cucumber, diced

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Tardy Tart

It seems I've not been on here in quite some time . . . I also made today's feature recipe almost a month ago, so I'm a bit tardy in reporting on it. But I would like to share with you a most delicious tart, found in the Boston Globe last November. It's not dreadfully hard to make, but it does require some patience. As with any tart, ingredient temperature is important - make sure that butter is at room temperature! I used Bosc Pears because those are my favorite. They also don't fall apart during baking. I also found that the pears I bought were big enough that I only really needed two. It's never tragic to have leftover pears though.

Another secret? I added a splash of pear brandy to the frangipane.

**You can make the tart shell and fill it with the frangipane the day before and refrigerate this overnight. I wish I had known that when I was making it!

Pear Frangipane Tart
Serves 8


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Extra flour (for sprinkling)

1. Have on hand a 9-inch tart pan with removable base.

2. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk, cream the butter and sugar until soft and light. Add the yolk, and when the mixture is smooth, beat in the cream. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour and salt. Mix until the dough forms large moist clumps (it should not form a ball). Turn them out onto a lightly floured counter. Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in foil. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough to a 10-inch round. Lift the pastry onto the rolling pin and lay on the tart pan. Ease the dough into the pan, pressing it firmly into the edges. Roll the pin over the top to cut off excess dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.


4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 tablespoon flour
Pinch of salt
1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until soft and light. Add the egg and mix well. With a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Beat in the almonds, flour, and salt.


4 ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon water
1. Set the oven at 375 degrees. Using an offset or rubber spatula, spread the frangipane evenly in the pastry.

2. Arrange the pear slices overlapping, pointing the narrow ends toward the center and pressing the slices lightly into the frangipane.

3. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating from front to back halfway through baking. The filling will be firm and golden; if the crust is browning too quickly during baking, cover the edges with foil.

4. Remove the tart from the oven, and place it on a wire rack.

5. In a small saucepan, combine apricot jam and water. Stir over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until the jam loosens. With a pastry brush, brush the top of the tart with the glaze.

6. Cool the tart completely. Set it on a bowl so the rim falls off. Cut into wedges.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Times Table

This post is going to feature recipes from the Times that I put on my table. The last week has left me with little to do but cook because of . . . snow! Last night I made myself some white bean burgers, which were rather good. I'm not sure I would eat them on a regular basis, but they are a nice change of pace. They were also more sastisfying than I expected. I topped mine with some mustard and tomato . . . some cheese probably would have been a good addition. Cheese makes everything better! I give these 3 stars.

Next we move on to breakfast for dinner. This was a mushroom omelet with chives. I didn't have any gruyere (sadly), so I used mozzarella. It was still very good, but the gruyere certainly would have given it that little burst of exoticism. It was also rather filling for a snowy dinner. You could easily add any herbs you like to this. It only calls for chives and parsley, but what doesn't go with mushrooms and cheese?! 4 stars for this one.

Now, the omelet won't use up your whole box of mushrooms, so you can use the rest (as I did) for oven-steamed salmon with pan-cooked mushrooms. I wasn't overly excited by this before I made it . . . but it was easy, I had all the ingredients and I do have a special affinity for mushrooms. Needless, to say I was pleasantly surprised and would certainly make this again. I like roasted tomatoes with my salmon, so next time I plan to put some cherry tomatoes in the pan while the salmon is steaming in the oven. 4.5 stars.

Lastly we move on to my personal favorite: leek bread pudding. I found this to be a rather original creation. It's similar to stuffing and could easily be used as a snazzy substitute. I make homemade brioche in advance for this bread pudding and you can use the leftover chives from your omelet too! I also adapted this recipe into a mac & cheese, using cheddar, emmenthaler, and gruyere cheeses. Definite 5 stars for this savory treat.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Munching & Crunching

For any banana lovers out there, these are the muffins for you. You can really change the flavor by how you choose your granola - so choose wisely. I used maple pecan in the first batch and vanilla almond in the second batch. I preferred the maple flavor in these. I also topped one batch with granola and one batch with banana chips. To be honest, I sold the banana chip batch, so I never tasted them. I welcome any opinions if you'd like to weigh in on that matter. I do know the granola topping was very successful. Anywho, I find these quite easy to make, but they still sound somewhat exotic. The original recipe also has coconut and 1 cup walnuts (and only 1 cup granola).

Banana Crunch Muffins
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Adapted from Ina Garten)
Makes 18 muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
2 cups granola
Dried banana chips, granola, or shredded coconut, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 18 large muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and blend. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don't overmix.

Fold the diced bananas and granola into the batter. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each 1 to the top. Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!

In my family, nothing says holidays like pears. We always seem to find a new recipe each year. Last year was pear upside down cake. This year we're having pear butter. Now get out that food mill! Admittedly, this recipe can get a bit pricey, depending on the stock of your spice cabinet. But, you get at least a couple jars of pear butter!

Word to the wise: I tried using a sieve and a potato ricer to remove the skins. Only the food mill worked. Since I didn't have a working one, I had to run out, leaving my cooked pears by their lonesome, and get a food mill. Again, worth the effort methinks.

Of course you can serve this on just about anything from ice cream to toast. I have an extra loaf of brioche left in the freezer, so I plan to serve it on the brioche at my Second Annual Post-Thanksgiving Brunch. I can already taste it!

PS You will want a big (i.e. tall) pot. Not just to hold all the pears, but this recipe splatters quite a bit as it heats up.

Pear Butter
Bon Appetit, December 1992
Makes about 4 cups

4 pounds Bartlett pears (unpeeled), cored, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 orange slices
1 lemon slice
4 whole cloves
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of salt

Combine pears, wine and lemon juice in heavy large saucepan. Cover and simmer until pears are soft, pushing unsubmerged pears into liquid occasionally, about 25 minutes. Force through food mill or coarse sieve to remove pear peel. Transfer to processor and puree.
Return puree to heavy large sauce-pan. Add remaining ingredients. Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds slightly on spoon stirring often, about 50 minutes.

Discard fruit slices, cloves, vanilla and cinnamon. Spoon butter into hot canning jar, filling only to 1/4 inch form top. Immediately wipe rim, using towel dipped into hot water. Place lid on jar; seal tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.

Arrange jars in large pot. Add boiling water to pot so that at least 1 inch of water covers tops of jars. Cover pot and boil rapidly 15 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Cool to room temperature. Press center of each lid. If lid stays down, jar is sealed. (If lid pops up, store butter in refrigerator.) Store in cool dry place up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheesey Chicken

I see I had a request for "more cheese please!" so here is an old family favorite, discovered by accident. It used to be a Christmas Eve tradition . . . it's unknown where the tradition got to. It still makes an annual appearance in our house though. The recipe is written for a clay pot, but I believe it could be done in a slow cooker.

You would never know this cheesey chicken is actually rather healthy. I always like a tortilla to mop up the extra sauce (can't stand a dirty plate you see) and I like putting the sauce on some Spanish rice as well. You will definitely be joining the Clean Plate Club if you get this on your plate.

Chicken with Cheddar & Green Chilis
Clay Pot Cookbook
Serves 6

3 pounds chicken breasts, skin removed
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 4-ounce can diced green chili peppers
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, minced
½ cup defatted low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
1 cup reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese

Soak the top and the bottom of 3-quart clay pot in water for 10 minutes; drain.

Coat chicken pieces with mixture of flour, chili powder and cumin. Combine celery, onion, jalepeno, and garlic in presoaked clay pot. Top with chicken and green chilies. Pour in chicken broth.

Place covered clay pot in a cold oven. Set oven at 450 degrees. Bake, stirring once or twice, until chicken is tender and brown, about 1¼ hours. Remove chicken from clay pot. Skim and discard fat from cooking liquid in clay pot. Stir sour cream into cooking liquid until smooth. Return chicken to sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, until cheese melts and browns, about 10 minutes.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Souper Soup

Here's a nice little soup now that colder weather is coming. You can add just about any vegetable you have on hand, or any particular favorites you may have. Don't ignore the cheese on top - it's a must. My family likes to serve this for New Year's dinner; I've also made it for lunch on Thanksgiving day. It can be made vegetarian (just cut out the bacon) and serve as a main course or a starter dish. This is no Campbell's but it is Mmmm mmmm Good!

Now, get out your crusty bread . . . you don't want to miss a drop.

Mediterranean Vegetable Soup
Serves 6-8

½ small green or savoy cabbage slivered

3 or 4 large leaves of red white Swiss chard, slivered

1 tablespoon finely minced bacon or pancetta

1 garlic clove minced

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 celery ribs, sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled, and sliced

1 large or 2 small zucchini, diced

½ pound ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or about 6 canned whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

Other vegetables as desired

½ cup rice

6 cups meat or vegetable stock or water

1 cup cooked, drained white beans, like cannellini or Great Northern

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

6 to 8 tablespoons freshly grated cheese, preferably Parmigiano reggiano.

Rinse the slivered cabbage and chard. Steam for about 15 minutes in the water clinging to the leaves, adding a tablespoons if necessary to keep the vegetables from scorching. When they are tender but not falling apart set aside.

Meanwhile, combine bacon or pancetta, garlic, parsley, onion and sauté gently in the oil in a heavy stockpot or soup kettle large enough to hold all the vegetables and stock until tender but not brown - about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add remaining vegetables to the pot along with the broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes, just until vegetables are tender. Add cabbage and chard with the beans. Stir and bring to a simmer. Taste and add salt and pepper if you wish. Stir in the rice and continue cooking for 15 minutes, or until rice is done. Remove from heat and serve with a spoonful of grated cheese on top.