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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Blackberry Fool

A few weeks ago, next to some mountains in Utah, two boys and their mom pulled a neighbor's blackberries out of the freezer. They grabbed the cream from the fridge that had been delivered overnight from a local dairy. They consulted the recipe at the end of the picture book they had checked out from the library a few days before.

The boys whipped the cream with an electric mixer. Zzzzzzzh. In just a few minutes: whipped cream. "You should lick the beaters," the woman said to her boys. And they did. Mmmmmmm.

The woman defrosted the berries in the microwave, then the boys enjoyed smashing the berries with a fork. Everyone took a turn pressing the berries through a colander. Then the boys sprinkled sugar over the fruit and together they mixed the fruit into the cream. They placed the mixture in the fridge for several hours.



For their afternoon snack, the family ate the blackberry fool, on their back steps, looking up at their mountains. The baby was napping, but he enjoyed the dessert after dinner that night.

Something wasn't quite right with their fool, though; it was too runny. The mom thought maybe they should have whipped the cream longer, or maybe used fresh berries. And next time she might reduce the sugar. But that's for the next iteration of this fine dessert!

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat illustrates some ways the world has evolved over the last four hundred years, as viewed through the preparation of blackberry fool. The source of the cream and the blackberries, the people that prepare it, the tools they use, and the people that eat the fool change over the centuries. But everyone licks the spoon and bowl clean!

As I wrote this post I discovered some criticism about the way this book portrayed slavery in 1810 South Carolina. See here or here for more information. I understand the objections, though admit to conflicted feelings since the book is otherwise so lovely. But be aware and use your best judgement as you read it with children.



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Blackberry Fool


Source: A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall

2 1/2 c fresh blackberries
1/2 c sugar, divided in two
1 teas vanilla
1 1/2 c heavy cream

Mash the berries with a potato masher, large fork, or food processor. With clean hands, press the crushed berries through a colander or sieve to remove the seeds. Sprinkle the fruit with 1/4 c of the sugar. Stir.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 c of sugar, the vanilla and the cream. Using a whisk or whatever kind of beater you have, whip the mixture until it makes soft peaks, but not stiff ones.

Fold the sugared berries into the whipped cream. Taste it to see if it's sweet enough. Add more sugar if you need it. There should be streaks of white and purple.

Refrigerate for 3 hours or more, and then enjoy!

Note: We used frozen berries, which the recipe says you can, but I want to try it again. Our fool ended up too runny. So either we didn't whip the cream enough or there was too much extra moisture in the frozen berries.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Mint and Lemon

This is a simple and easy salad made delicious by the lemon and mint dressing.

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Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Mint and Lemon


Serves: 4-5

Use this recipe as a guide. If you like more or less of anything change what you add.

Serves 4-6

2 medium cucumbers (about 1 pd), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut 1/4-in thick slices
1 teas salt
4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 pd) and cut into 3/4-in thick wedges, or halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
8-10 large fresh mint leaves , cut into thin strips
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper

Toss the cucumbers and salt in a large colander set over a rimmed plate or a bowl. Fill a zipper-locked plastic bag with ice water and set the bag on top of the cucumber slices. Allow to drain for an hour. Thoroughly rinse the cucumber slices under cold, running water and pat dry with a towel. The salad will be considerably less watery if you complete this step, but in a pinch you could skip it if you taste for seasoning before serving.

Place the tomatoes into a large bowl and add a tiny bit of salt being careful not to overdo it since the cucumbers will remain salty. Add the cucumbers, onion, and mint and toss gently. Drizzle the oil and lemon juice over the salad and toss again. Season with pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Corn, Bacon, and Avocado Salad

A delicious option for corn-on-the-cob season, my favorite time of year.



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Corn, Bacon, and Avocado Salad


Source: Inquiring Chef
Yield depends somewhat on the size of your ears of corn. With really large ears, I halved the recipe because I knew I'd be the only one eating it and I ate generous servings probably 3 times. But I made it again with smaller ears of corn and there wasn't as much.

4 ears corn, shucked
6 strips bacon
1 red pepper, finely diced
1 large avocado, diced
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
juice from 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. While bacon is cooking, cut the kernels off the ears of corn.

Remove the bacon and let it cool on a paper-towel lined plate. Spoon out all but 1 T bacon grease from the skillet, then put the pan back on medium heat. Add the corn kernels to the hot skillet and don't stir for a couple of minutes until the corn sizzles. Then stir occasionally until the corn is cooked and the kernels have begun to brown. Place the corn in a large bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the corn is cooling, dice the red pepper and avocado. Chop the cilantro and crumble the bacon. Mix it all together, add the corn, stir in the lime juice, and season with salt and pepper. Feel free to improvise with the ingredient ratios--I added extra avocado when my ears of corn were very large. 



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam

I'm a fan of strawberries and rhubarb combined. So I'm going to enjoy them throughout the year.


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Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam


Adapted from: Southern Living Little Jars, Big Flavors
Yield: 4 half pint jars

This makes a rather thin-spreading jam but it tastes wonderful.

2 c sugar, divided
3 c strawberries (if you use frozen allow them to partially thaw)
3 c sliced rhubarb (if frozen allow them to thaw partially)
1 pkg. pectin (the original called for 1.59 oz. package, but I found only 2 oz.)

Stir 1 c sugar into the strawberries and let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve.

Place rhubarb and remaining cup of sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and the sugar is melted. When it begins to simmer, turn it down and stir frequently. Remove from heat and let it cool for 10 minutes.

Combine the strawberries and the rhubarb and pulse in a food processor 8-12 times until slightly chunky. Transfer into a glass or plastic bowl and let stand for 15 minutes. Gradually stir in the pectin. Stir constantly for 3 minutes. Let stand, again, for 30 minutes.

Ladle mixture into clean half pint jars or other freezer containers. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Freeze upright in the freezer where they can remain for up to a year. Thaw in the refrigerator and use within 3 weeks.

The book recommends Ball Fruit Jell Freezer Jam Pectin. (Next time I'll try it.)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rhubarb Baked French Toast

When we were last together, Betsy and I tried this recipe. This particular product was made with red rhubarb, but the rhubarb in my garden is green, which won't be as pretty. Of course, it will taste just as good. The original recipe is for breakfast or brunch, but we think it would be a delicious dessert bread pudding.

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Rhubarb Baked French Toast


Adapted from: The Washington Post
Serves: 8-10, but this can be halved and cooked in an 8X8 pan

For the filling:

8 oz. trimmed rhubarb stalks, thick stalks cut in half vertically, cut into 1/2 inc. slices
1/2 c  sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange
3 T orange juice
1 T cornstarch

For the french toast:

2 teas unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 c sugar, divided
12 slices quality firm bread, sandwich or challah, white, or part wheat
6 large eggs
1 1/2 c whole or low fat milk
1 teas vanilla
1 teas ground cinnamon
powdered sugar, for sprinkling

The filling can be made ahead and makes preparation faster if you are serving this for breakfast. Combine the rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the orange zest and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb becomes soft,

In a small bowl, combine the juice and the cornstarch and stir until the cornstarch is dissolved. Add it to the mixture in the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from burner and cool for at least 10 minutes. Store in the refrigerator if keeping it overnight.

For the French toast:

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9X13 pan with the butter and arrange 6 slices of bread in an even layer on the bottom. Cut the bread to fit, if needed. Sprinkle the slices with 2 T sugar. Evenly spread the filling over the bread. Place another layer of bread on top of the rhubarb. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 T sugar.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla in a large measuring cup or bowl. Pour it over the bread layers, pressing down gently to help the bread absorb the liquid. Let it sit for 5-15 minutes until the egg mixture has soaked in completely. Sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon and move to the hot oven.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the top has become puffy and firm and it has begun to brown. Sprinkle with powdered  sugar and serve immediately.

Serve with strawberries, either sweetened or unsweetened.

If you choose to serve this as a dessert,  I recommend you leave the bottom layer as is but cut the bread into cubes for the top layer.





Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Chocolate Sesame Crunch Bars

A variation on a no-bake cookie, these crunch bars are another way to use the tahini languishing in your fridge after you make hummus. The most time-consuming part for me was stirring the tahini, but if you use tahini more often the less it will settle in between uses.



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Chocolate Sesame Crunch Bars


Source: The New York Times

8 oz Rice Chex, puffed rice, or another crunchy, light cereal like cornflakes
10 oz milk chocolate, though I used a mixture of milk, semi-sweet, and bittersweet because that's what I had on hand--use what chocolate you prefer
1 1/4 c tahini, well stirred

Prepare a 9x13 pan by lining with parchment or wax paper.

Break up cereal by pulsing in a food processor just until broken into bits. You don't want to turn the cereal into powder. Place cereal in a large bowl.

Chop the chocolate. Add the tahini to the chocolate and melt it in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time. Then pour the melted chocolate and tahini mixture over the cereal bits and mix quickly.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and spread it out in an even layer. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, until the bars are hardened. Cut into bars and eat right away, then put the remaining bars back in the fridge. These treats begin to melt quickly, so they're best eaten right out of the fridge, which unfortunately limits their portability.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pan-seared Salmon with Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

I've had this recipe for cooking salmon since sometime in the 90s and I'm not sure where I got it. It is a good, basic recipe, simple and tasty. However, the recipe was annoyingly vague in ingredient amounts. I have included more precise measurements.


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Pan Seared Salmon with Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

Serves 4

4 salmon fillets 4-6 oz. each
2 T vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:

1 c sour cream
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped (2 T minced)
juice of 1 lemon (3 T lemon juice; fresh is best, but bottled will do in a pinch)
1 small shallot, minced (or  1-2 T finely chopped scallion or chives)
small pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl whisk together sour cream, dill, lemon juice, shallot, red pepper. Season with salt and pepper, roughly 1/4 teas each. Set in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Remove the pin bones from the salmon (see these instructions). Coat a large skillet with 2 T oil and place over medium heat. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. When hot, add the fillets to the pan flesh side down. Cook for 4-6 minutes until the surface is browned. Turn the fish over and cook for 2-5 minutes on the other side, depending on how thick the fillets are. You can use a knife to check that the fish is flaky and mostly opaque. Most experts recommending that salmon be a bit under cooked with a little rare meat in the center. But it is a matter of taste. Remove from pan and let rest for around 5 minutes.

Notes:

This sauce makes more than I can use with 4 servings of salmon; you may want to halve it since it doesn't really store well. Or you can plan on enjoying what is leftover as a vegetable dip or thin it with milk and use it as a creamy salad dressing.

I've substituted dill seed for fresh dill but I haven't done it for a long time, so I can only recommend that you use a half teaspoon and taste the result. Add more if you want more dill flavor. It will be a bit crunchier but will still taste of dill.

Check out these two sites for help (although when pan searing you may not want to brine):

brining

pan-searing