2.26.2011

Creamed Tomatoes on Toast


When I was a kid, we went home for lunch. No school lunches back then. We lived in a little
 town called Algonac in Michigan. Dad drove us to school in the morning and again after lunch but we walked home, weather permitting of course. It was about a mile. I've often thought since: my poor mother. The entire family (including my dad) came home for lunch. She had to plan three meals a day. And she fussed, too. It wasn't just a bunch of pb and j's on the table. We had hot lunches....and some kind of fruit or pudding. I always remember stewed prunes being served with mac and cheese. Who knows why that one particular lunch stayed in my mind?

So here I am, with just me to worry about, still looking around for innovative luncheon ideas. We tend to get repetitive, don't we? Probably the time element. I even wrote a post about it a while back. But every once in a while, a friend may be coming over, or I feel like rewarding myself and I really want something special. What to make that's fast and delicious??  In the summer when tomatoes are at their best, my favorite company go-to sandwich is a tomato sandwich à la Ina Garten. I like her dressed up version. But for speed (and just for me) I take those lovely, garden-fresh red tomatoes, add some butter lettuce, real mayo and plunk it on some fresh country bread. Heaven, for sure.


Unfortunately, it's officially still winter so I'll save those two sandwiches for summer. Even when we can get lovely tomatoes this time of year, they just don't taste the same as the ones you get in the summer at the farmer's markets. Then I ran across this super recipe in
 Simon Hopkinson's book, Roast Chicken and Other Stories. I really love this cookbook. Last August it was listed in the top 10 cookbooks by the London Observer.  I've started reading it again, wondering how I missed this gem of a recipe the first time around. 




This dish is simple with tons of flavor. You don't have to have perfect summer tomatoes, either. I love the garlic in the cream. (And watch it, it boils over in a flash.) I used the full 1 1/2 cups of cream called for. Way too much. It was still good, but 1 cup would have been better. As it turns out, I didn't use plum tomatoes either, but bought the nicest tomatoes I could find. The dish was every bit as good as I expected. Lovely on a chilly or rainy Saturday.

Creamed Tomatoes on Toast
From Simon Hopkinson's Roast Chicken and Other Stories



Ingredients:

8 ounces heavy cream (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
6 ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise and cored
Salt and pepper
12 basil or mint leaves, torn into pieces (I used basil)
4 slices of French country bread, grilled or toasted and brushed with a little olive oil

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Simmer the cream with the garlic and reduce by one-third. Put the tomatoes, cut-side uppermost, in an ovenproof dish and season them with salt and pepper. Strain the cream into a bowl and stir in the basil or mint. Lightly season and pour over the tomatoes.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cream is reduced and is thick and the tops of the tomatoes are slightly blistered. Meanwhile, have ready the toast on 2 plates and spoon a few tomatoes onto each slice. Spoon some residual cream over the top. Serves 2.



2.22.2011

Spring Pleasures


You'll never guess what made its initial appearance in my market last weekend. Rhubarb. Yup. It's here. And bright red, which of course means hothouse rhubarb and that's fine with me 'cause I love that deep red color. Over the years, I've droned on ad nauseam about my love for rhubarb, so I hope you're as crazy about it as I am....I've got quite a few recipes to try this spring. (Is it spring where you are yet?) Last spring I made my mother's famous rhubarb pie (pure rhubarb and nothing but) and saved the post in drafts so I'll definitely post that this year. And a crumble. And muffins and maybe even a cobbler. Get ready, my friends, lemon is going to take a back seat for a bit; divine rhubarb is in my kitchen.


I had to begin with this recipe. The color is just so gorgeous and once you make the rhubarb curd, it'll lead to some other lovely recipes. Think about it....rhubarb curd. The mind boggles with ideas. We're all so used to seeing lemon curd, but this is the first time I've ever made a rhubarb curd. It's delicious! It was all I could do to keep from eating it by the spoonful before I made the bars. The cookie crust balances out this bar perfectly. If you have leftover curd, mix it with yogurt over fruit. Top your next custard or pudding with it. How about serving it with panna cotta? I might try that one next.


So enjoy, my friends. Save this recipe for summer or if hothouse rhubarb is already  in your market, make something.....anything....it will make you think spring has sprung!


Bench notes:  I really think a slightly thinner cookie crust is a better idea, so next time I'll go with a larger baking dish. You need to adjust your baking time as a result. Keep a close eye on it. 
And, I like a little more rhubarb with my bar. 1/4 inch was just not enough. (But I did use a tad too much in this batch.) Again, you'll have to adjust your cooking time.


Rhubarb Bars

From Lara  Ferroni, Food Travel Life



Ingredients for rhubarb curd: 

400 grams rhubarb (about 10 to 15 stalks)
1/3 cup sugar

6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar  
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
50 grams (3 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Ingredients for the crust:
4 ounces butter, room temperature
1 cup (136 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
about 1/2 of the Rhubarb curd recipe from above
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


Method for the curd:

Wash and chop rhubarb into 1/2 inch chunks. There is no need to peel, but if your stalks are particularly large, you might trim off any tough parts. Stir the rhubarb and 1/4 cup of sugar together and let sit for about 10 minutes. Place in a medium sized pot with about 1/4 cup of water and cook over low heat until you can no longer see whole pieces. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature. Blend to a smooth puree if you desire (this will remove any remaining little stringy bits, but it isn’t necessary).

In a double boiler (or a bowl over boiling water), whisk the egg yolks, remaining sugar and salt. Whisk until well combined and warm. Add about 1 cup of the stewed rhubarb and the lemon zest. Keep stirring until the mixture is warm again. Check for taste and add more of the pureed rhubarb until you get the desired flavor and color. Remove from heat and stir in the butter chunks.

If you are not using the curd immediately, let it cool to room temperature and then store refrigerated for up to a week.

This recipe makes more curd than you’ll need for the Rhubarb Bars.

Method for the bars:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Place the butter, flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a mixer. Start on low speed (to keep the flour from flying everywhere), stir until it resembles course crumbs. Then increase speed slightly and continue to mix until a soft dough forms. It’s kind of magic.

Take the dough and press it into a 9" x 5" baking dish (see bench notes). Let rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes, and then bake until it is lightly golden, about 20 minutes. While the dough is baking, finish preparing the curd.

Pour the enough curd onto the crust to make a layer around 1/4 inch thick (see bench notes), and bake for another 10 minutes, until the curd has set. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate if desired (it’s easier to slice when chilled, but not necessary). Dust with powdered sugar before slicing if you’d like.



2.18.2011

Paper Lemon Cookies


My sister Sharon is, and always has been, crazy for lemon desserts. Aside from lemon meringue pies (our mother and grandmother were absolutely the best pie makers ever) and lemon angel pies, she also loved our Aunt Mar's lemon cookies. Crisp, buttery and lemony, Sharon and I attempted to replicate them, but had no success......we both finally came to the conclusion she left an ingredient out of the recipe when she passed it on.

Our Aunt Mar (who was my father's mother's sister and lived across the street from us our entire childhood) had a serious relationship with lemon flavoring. It found its way into nearly all her desserts. Cookies, cakes, muffins and puddings. Didn't matter what, she added lemon flavoring. Not extract and never real lemons, mind you, but that old fashioned lemon flavoring. I'm not complaining, she was a fine home cook. She made everyone in our family (and probably the entire neighborhood) her famous sponge cake with 7 minute frosting for every birthday. Lemon flavoring in that cake too, along with vanilla. 
I make it to this day, but use lemon extract. (Can you even buy lemon flavoring any longer?) Aunt Mar's little house even smelled like lemon inside. 

Anyway, our Mother used to bake some meringues, fill them with her version of lemon curd and top them with whipped cream. I also recall something called Lemon Sunshine that consisted of lemons, gelatin, sugar, eggs with the whites beaten and added last. I have the recipe someplace. An airy lemon parfait, sort of.



My sister and I. (I'm the one with skinned knees.)

So recently when Kim from My Kentucky Home posted a recipe for Lemon Meringue Muffins, you better believe I copied it and emailed it to my sister in Michigan immediately.  She's probably made them already. I'll make them for company the end of the month.

As is the way, just because I seem to be thinking lemon everything right now,  I was reading through one of Marion Cunningham's cookbooks and came across this delight: Lemon Paper Cookies. I couldn't resist. Thought I'd try them first before I sent the recipe on to my sister. She's really going to like them and her sewing group will want the recipe for sure. 
They turned out delicate, lacy AND lemony. Perfect with tea or coffee for an afternoon treat.




Bench notes: The recipe suggested cutting them less than 1/4 thick. I found that next to impossible so settled on 1/4 thick and they turned out perfectly. 
Also, 2 hours in the refrigerator was not enough. It's a very fragile dough. I ended up putting it in the freezer for a bit and then cut my slices quickly with a very sharp, thin knife. Otherwise they tend to break into pieces. But never fear, you can push them together and they still turn out beautifully.


Joyce's Paper Lemon Cookies

From The Supper Book by Marion Cunningham


Ingredients:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups allm purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional: raw sugar for sprinkling on top (I did not use)

Method:
Cream the butter and sugar. Add then vanilla, zest and lemon juice. Beat until smooth.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well.
Turn out on a piece of waxed paper and form the dough into a cylinder about 12 inches long 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly and refrigerate 2 hours, or freeze until ready to use.
Preheat oven to 350. Don't grease the cookie sheets. (I used parchment paper)
Cut 1/4 inch slices with a sharp knife and place about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Place unused dough back into the refrigerator. Bake 7-8 minutes, watching carefully the last couple minutes. They should be lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet, then remove to racks to finish cooling.


2.14.2011

Millet and Lemon Chicken


Dinner in under 30 minutes? Check. Inexpensive? Check. Delicious? Check. A healthy grain? Check. Family friendly? Absolutely. All you need is a green vegetable and dinner is on the table. You know that show called "5 Ingredient Fix?" This dish beats it. Four basic ingredients: chicken, lemons, crème fraiche and millet. 


This recipe for Lemon Chicken has already made the blog rounds,  so please be patient with me. It's the idea of serving it over millet that intrigued me; I've heard of millet, but never tried it. I'm sold. It's brilliant. And here you thought it was bird seed. Well, actually it IS bird seed...but you're going to love it anyway. Better than couscous, I promise. You may know all about it, but if you don't or want to learn more, check
here.

As far as this recipe is concerned, Lemon Chicken served on TOP of millet is on my favorite dinner hit list right now. Thank you Amanda Hesser for the fabulously simple and elegant Lemon Chicken recipe. Thank you Luisa for suggesting millet, albeit for an entirely different chicken recipe, but still.... I just combined Amanda Hesser's Lemon Chicken with Luisa's millet idea and came up with this. There's a lovely gravy and I should have put more on the chicken before I took the photo. Oh well.
If you're one of the four people who hasn't made this chicken yet :)...you should, or make it again and serve it over millet, my dears.

Bench notes
When cooking millet, keep a couple things in mind: The flavor of millet is enhanced by lightly roasting the grains in a dry pan before cooking; stir constantly for approximately three minutes or until a mild, nutty aroma is detected and then add your cooking liquid. I used chicken stock. The grain has a fluffier texture when less water is used and is very moist and dense when cooked with extra water. I liked the fluffy version.


Amanda Hesser's Lemon Chicken 



Ingredients:

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
4 whole chicken legs (thighs attached)
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup crème fraiche

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. After 3 minutes, add the butter and oil. Season the chicken generously with salt and very generously with pepper. Place the chicken, skin side down, in the skillet and brown well on both sides, turning once. 

Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a knife. (Yes, I know 15 minutes doesn't sound like enough time, but if you browned it well, it's perfect. At least mine was. Use your instant-read thermometer. It should read 165. Check for clear juices just in case though.)


Return the skillet to the stovetop. Transfer the chicken to a platter and keep warm. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Place over medium heat, add the lemon juice, and stir to scrape up any pan drippings. Simmer for 1 minute, then add the crème fraiche and stir until melted and bubbling. If the sauce is too thick, add a few tablespoons of water. Pour the sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with lemon zest and additional pepper. Serve hot. 

Serves 4.


Spiced and Herbed Millet
From The New York Times, March 1, 2006

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil
2½ cups millet
½ teaspoon ground cumin (omit for this particular recipe)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. 

Method:

Place olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add millet and stir until glossy. Add cumin and broth and stir.
Raise heat and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently just until millet has absorbed all the broth, about 25 minutes.
Remove from heat and add lemon juice, parsley and extra virgin olive oil. Work them into the millet using a fork, fluffing mixture. Transfer to a warmed bowl and serve.
6 servings.

2.11.2011

A Valentine's Day Mini Meme




Happy Valentine's Day!



Have fun with this mini meme!


Do you remember your first kiss?
1. Who gave it to you?
2. How old were you?
3. Where did it happen?





2.06.2011

Valentine Painted Cookies


My Valentine's gift to you this year are these adorable painted cookies. Rather than making a design with frosting, this design is baked into the cookies. They were such fun to do! Easier than they look, too. And if you have kids, they could do the painting; it doesn't need to be hearts, could be shamrocks or a birthday candle or even funny faces! As you can see from the photos below, the bottom side of the cookie is the painted side. What's even better, these cookies are not too sweet, which is kind of unexpected with a sugar cookie. What better present for your Valentines?

Painted Cookies

From The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark


 

Cookie Ingredients:
12 (1  1/2 sticks) tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1  3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup almond flour

Cookie Paint Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs, room  temperature
2 tablespoons corn syrup
Food coloring

Method for the cookies:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and confectioners sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

In another bowl, combine the flour and almond flour. Add gradually to the butter mixture, scraping down the sides. Place the dough in a piece of plastic wrap and wrap it tightly. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or over night.

For the Cookie Paint:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, flour and corn syrup. Beat until smooth. Allow the mixture to rest, covered, for 1 hour.

Divide the mixture into several containers and stir in food coloring as preferred. I only used red, but you can see by the accompanying photo below (from the book), you can do any design your heart desires. Little play on words there. :) 

To Paint and Bake:
Preheat oven to 325. Line several baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper. If using parchment paper, spray with a cooking spray and then blot with a paper towel.

Using the cookie paint, paint on the parchment paper with a brush, your fingers or a stencil. (I made a little heart stencil out of heavy paper. Do you remember doing those in school?) Don't forget to make your artwork smaller than the cookie! Use one ever so slightly thick coating (I used a paintbrush). The cooking spray on the parchment paper makes it a tad difficult if you use a thin layer as the cookbook suggested. You'll understand when you try it.

Flour a work surface and roll out the cookie dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters.(I used 2 1/2 inch round) I rolled out the dough between sheets of wax paper so I didn't have to deal with flour on the cookies. If you roll out in flour, be sure to dust the flour off the cookie before you put it down on the paint.


I placed each cookie top side down onto the painted heart on the baking sheet. I found the heart design on the cookies turned out more even that way. Took me one batch to figure that out! Press firmly. Repeat with the remaining dough. Sprinkle plain tops of the cookies with granulated sugar before baking.

Bake for 9-12 minutes (I found it took longer) or until the cookies are firm and the edges are barely golden at the edge. They will be browner on the painted side. Cool the cookie sheets on a wire rack before removing from the parchment paper.

2.03.2011

Mini Flautas


Quesadillas are a perennial favorite with everyone, but they can be really messy to eat. And if everyone's either sitting around watching the game, or standing at a cocktail party, spills will happen. Phoebe and Cara at Big Girls, Small Kitchen have a solution: Mini Corn and Leek Flautas.


Flautas, which means "flutes", usually refers to a flour tortilla that is rolled up around a filling and deep fried. As opposed to Taquitos which are a corn tortilla rolled in a similar fashion with a filling of beef, chicken or cheese and fried until crisp. Flautas are sometimes rolled to be narrower on one end, resulting in a long, narrow cone shape, like a flute. But the main difference is that usually Flautas are flour torillas, and Taquitos are made of corn tortillas.


Phoebe and Cara came up with a mini flautas version, so easy to eat, and a super combo of ingredients. (
You could certainly use your own imagination for fillings.) Also, they didn't want to deep fry, so they baked them in a hot oven. I'd say it was a huge success. Mine weren't as picture-pretty as theirs (I tried to cram too much filling in), but they were yummy, crunchy and dipped in a lovely cilantro lime crema, everyone loved them.


Mini Corn and Leek Flautas
From Phoebe and Cara at Big Girls, Small Kitchen



Ingredients:
16 large tortillas
1/2 lb smoked cheddar cheese (or sharp white cheddar), shredded
1/2 lb Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
1 cup leek confit (recipe follows)
1 15oz can corn, rinsed (If in season, use 5 ears of fresh corn, kernels removed)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne
Cilantro-Lime Crema for dipping

Method:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Using a 3-inch round, cut each tortilla into 5 smaller rounds.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cheeses, leek mixture, corn, cumin, salt, and cayenne and toss to combine. On a clean work surface, brush each round with a little bit water. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each round, and roll together so the edges overlap (they should look like mini tacos, and the water will help the edges bind). Place the flautas seamside-down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, about 20 per sheet.

Bake the flautas in the oven for 10 minutes, until the tortilla is nicely browned, and the cheese is bubbling. Allow the flautas to rest on the cookie sheets until cool enough to touch. Arrange on a platter and serve immediately with some sour cream or cilantro-lime crema for dipping.

Bench note: you can bake the flautas in advance, and then reheat them in a 400 degree oven until they recrisp. Makes 80 flautas.

Leek Confit



Ingredients:

2 large leeks, white part and light green part only, cut in half and finely sliced
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup of water or stock
½ tsp salt

Method:
On the stove, melt 2 tbsp of butter over medium-low heat in a lidded sauté pan or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add the water or stock, turn the flame down to low, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes stirring occasionally, until the leeks are completely soft and beginning to turn to mush. Take the lid off and cook uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 more minutes. Makes 1 cup.


Cilantro Lime Crema
From Martha Stewart, Everyday Food, March 2009


Ingredients: 
16 ounces reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper

Method:
Stir together sour cream, lime juice, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 2 cups.


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