Archive | August, 2010

Peach-Raspberry Upside-Down Cake

31 Aug

I am sitting here on the final day of August in Seattle, rain drenching my windowsills and sending the tiny golden tomatoes on my porch into chilly convulsions.  Is it summer still? All is confused.

I should be basking in the sun in my front yard, eating ripe peaches and sipping Lillet on ice to cool down.  Instead, I have on a sweatshirt, wool socks and am sipping hot tea with lemon and honey for warmth.  Summer is so short here in Seattle, we count on every day of sunshine possible from mid-June to September.  Having just one sunny day taken from us feels like treachery of the worst sort… a winter storm in August?  Unreasonable.  I am counting down the days until I leave for Paris, but I know that they, too, are having an unfairly rainy summer.

What to do in times like this? Eat berries and stone fruit, of course.  Nothing says summer like raspberries and peaches, especially when topped with freshly whipped cream or homemade vanilla ice cream.  I have a wonderful recipe for upside-down pear cake that adapts well to any fruit, and it seemed like a perfect way to use the fresh fruit from my farm share.  Summer marches on, and ’tis best to enjoy every little bit that we can.

Peach-Raspberry Upside-Down Cake
From Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

3 medium peaches
1 pint fresh raspberries
3 tbs butter
3/4 light brown sugar
1/2 lb unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup blanched almonds (any nut will work here, just omit the extract) finely ground
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat the 3 tbs butter with the brown sugar in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat until the sugar is melted and smooth, then remove the pan from the heat.  Peel the peaches and cut them into slices about 1-inch thick.  Overlap the slices in the sugared pan, going around the outside and fan into the center.  Nestle raspberries between slices and/or sprinkle them over the peaches.

For the cake: Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the vanilla and extract (if using).  Beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth.  Stir in the nuts, followed by the remaining dry ingredients.  Spoon the batter over the fruit and smooth it out with an offset spatula.

Bake in the center of the oven until the cake is golden and springy when pressed with a fingertip, 35-40 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for a few minutes, then set a cake plate on top of the pan, grasp both the plate and the pan tightly, and turn it over.  Carefully ease the pan off the cake.  If any fruits have stuck to the pan, simply pry them off and return them to the cake.

Serve with freshly whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Quinoa with Spice-Roasted Shrimp and Pistou

26 Aug

I was craving shrimp recently when I came across this recipe in Food and Wine Magazine.  The green-hued, herb-flecked quinoa stopped me in my tracks, and I knew I had to make this ASAP. If you haven’t had quinoa before, you will find that it is a great, healthier replacement for rice in many recipes.  Hailed as probably the best plant-based source of protein, it has a delicate nutty flavor that pairs nicely with just about anything.

It was such a hit in my house that I have made it a few times since, and it will definitely be in regular rotation.  Pistou is easy to make and freezes well, so you can make a big batch of it, pop it in the freezer, and then take it out when you are ready to use it.  I also used a nice smokey pimenton (from World Spice here in Seattle) in the rub for the shrimp, which really knocked this dish out of the park and reminded me of the importance of using the best quality ingredients for every aspect of a recipe.

Quinoa with Spice-Roasted Shrimp and Pistou
From Food and Wine September 2010

1/2 lb medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup canola oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
2 tbs flat-leaf parsley
1 tbs fresh rosemary
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 tbs finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 1/4 cups water

In a resealable plastic bag, toss the shrimp with the first 6 ingredients, 1 tbs of the oil and 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper until coated.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425.  In a food processor, pulse the basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, garlic and cheese.  Add 2 tbs of oil; puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a saucepan, combine the quinoa, water and the remaining 1 tbs of oil.  Season lightly with salt and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over low heat until the quinoa is tender, about 15 mins.  Let stand for 5 mins.

On a baking sheet, roast the shrimp for about 8 minutes, until curled and pink.  Cut the shrimp into thirds and add to the quinoa with the pistou.  Toss well and serve.

Charred Fava Bean Salad with Lemon and Tarragon

20 Aug

I do love beans.  Any kind of bean, really.  I could eat beans every single day of my life, and practically do.  Because we eat a mostly vegetarian diet, beans are the stars of many of our home-cooked meals.  Fava beans happen to be my favorite of them all, and I never can wait until they are in season.  When they are, I am always looking for recipes that are different and creative like this one.

Be warned that it takes some time to prepare fresh fava beans, but they are well worth the wait.  First, you must remove the beans from their exterior pods.  Then, each bean is encased in a white-ish, secondary pod that should be removed.  This is most easily accomplished by boiling the beans and slipping them out of their secondary casing.  Then voila!  Perfect bright green beans that are incredibly versatile.

This recipe comes from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, via Food and Wine Magazine.  I make several variations of it, depending on what I have on hand (this time I used mint and basil because I have so much of both in the garden), but it tastes best when made exactly how Vongerichten describes.

If you have never tried fava beans, I highly suggest trying out this recipe the next time you come across some fresh ones.  My local grocer has been long out of them, but my farm share delivered them to me just last week.  I have never used frozen ones, but if that is all you have, experiment and let me know how they turn out.

Charred Fava Bean Salad with Lemon and Tarragon
From Food and Wine

3 lbs fresh fava beans shelled (2 1/2 cups)
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tbs finely grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 tbs chopped tarragon

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, blanch the fava beans for 1 minute. Transfer to the ice water, drain, then peel them.

In a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over low heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the jalapeño and cook for 1 minute longer. Season with salt.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Add the fava beans and cook over moderately high heat, without stirring, until blackened, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving bowl and season with salt.

Add the butter to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until it just starts to brown, about 30 seconds. Add the shallot and cook over low heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Add the garlic-jalapeno mixture and warm shallot vinaigrette to the beans along with the cheese and tarragon and toss well to coat. Season the salad with salt and serve.

Pie Crust with Leaf Lard

15 Aug

When I think of summer, I think of pie.  Cherry, peach, blueberry… I could live on fruit pie during this time of year, and I also like to freeze pies now for later in the year.  There is something wonderful about pulling out a blackberry pie for dinner in February, right about the time when I can barely remember what fresh fruit tastes like.  I am especially excited now that I have found the secret ingredient for perfectly flaky crust every time: leaf lard.

Leaf lard

The folks at Wooly Pigs would like you to know you can do much more with their leaf lard than make great pie crusts.  This is true, but it is also the secret to a pretty amazing crust.  Curious what exactly is leaf lard?  It is the highest grade of lard obtained from the pig, has no “piggy” flavor, and therefore is ideal for use in baked goods.

Think using lard is gross?  In my mind, nothing is grosser than using Crisco, which is made from highly-pesticide-laden cottonseed oil,  which is then partially hydrogenated to turn the liquid into a solid.  I am pretty sure my body knows how to process lard, a natural product, better than it does Crisco, which is made in a lab.  I still use mostly real butter in my crusts, but I have found that substituting 1/4 cup of leaf lard for some of the butter makes for the best crust I have ever made.

Finding leaf lard can be the tricky part.  We are lucky here in Seattle to have quite a few local farmers who raise pigs, but the lard is generally only available after the animals are slaughtered, often requires that you render it yourself,  and is quickly sold out.  The folks at Wooly Pigs had it on hand this summer when I stopped by their stand at the University Market, and fully rendered too.  Good news for those of us who don’t want the mess of doing it at home.

Pie Dough with Leaf Lard
Adapted from The Bakers Dozen

*This makes enough for a double crust recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick butter
1/2 cup leaf lard
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup ice cold water

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the butter and lard until the mixture is crumbly, with a few coarse, pea-sized pieces of butter.  Sprinkle in the water and mix with a fork, adding just enough until the mixture is moistened and begins to clump together.  Gather up the dough and form into a flat disk.  You can use this dough immediately.

Chocolate Framboise Torte

9 Aug

A marriage brings together two people, two families, and two completely different sets of friends.  This sometimes works out well for all involved, and is sometimes the cause of much strife and strain.  My husband is not from this area and so his list of friends was short when I met him, but his friends the Senturias are the kind of people you feel lucky to meet.

The Senturias live on a couple of acres and they have grown from wowing me with their gardens to raising all manner of animal, brewing their own biodiesel, and other tasks that I have always wanted to do but can only dream about on my little parcel of city land.  I live vicariously through them and love chatting about preserving tomatoes, feeding chickens and keeping bees.  I love just walking through the garden and spotting the first red tomatoes of the season, or picking fresh berries and eating them out of my hand.  Their life is a good one, and their girls are so grounded and wonderful.  There is a real happiness that exists in their home.

Whenever they ask us over for a meal, I start to dream.  I know everything served will be picked fresh from their garden that morning, and I have enjoyed chicken, eggs and lamb from their own animals too.  Kirsten always bakes fresh bread, and I love walking into their kitchen to find tiny zucchini still covered in dirt, lettuces waiting in their ice bath, knobby carrots still clinging to their tops and a puff of flour rising from Kirsten’s hands as she hugs us hello.  Afternoons there are bliss.

So when they invited us over for lunch recently, I knew I had to bring something good for dessert. The girls like chocolate (who doesn’t?) and now that fresh raspberries are in season I can’t get enough of them.  I turned again to my “Pure Chocolate” cookbook and found just what I was looking for in the Chocolate Framboise Torte.  Light and airy, but still rich and chocolate-y, this cake has a delicate aroma from the raspberries that is quite lovely.  The recipe is fairly easy to make, just make sure your eggs are really at room temperature before trying to whip them.  Almost like a chocolate souffle, this cake will deflate a bit as it cools, which you can disguise with a dusting of powdered sugar, a layer of ganache, or whipped cream and fresh berries.

Chocolate Framboise Torte
From Pure Chocolate

7.5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick butter, plus 7 tbs unsalted butter, room temp
7 ounces thawed frozen raspberries, juices reserved, or 1 1/4 cup fresh
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbs Grand Marnier
5 large eggs, seperated
3/4 cup plus 2 tbs sugar (14 tbs)
1/2 cup cake flour

Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (preferably flared) and line with parchment circle.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate over low heat.  Remove when nearly melted and continue stirring until completely smooth.  Add the softened butter in three parts, stirring until no visible traces of butter remain.  (If the butter begins to melt and separate, stop and allow the chocolate more time to cool.)  The finished mixture should be glossy and smooth.  Set aside to cool until the mixture is the consistency of softened butter.  Briefly return to the double boiler if it begins to thicken too much.

In a food processor pureé the raspberries and sugar for one minute. (note: the book doesn’t say how much of the sugar to use here, so I guessed and used 2 tbs.)  Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds.  Stir in the Grand Marnier. Set aside.

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg yolks with half the sugar at medium-high speed, increasing to high speed until light and tripled in volume, 5-6 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.  The mixture should be smooth and glossy.  Fold in the raspberry pureé.

Chocolate folded into the yolks

Meanwhile, sift the flour and set aside.

Clean and dry the whisk attachment and in another bowl begin whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed, increasing the speed to allow them to become frothy.  With the machine on, slowly add the remaining sugar and continue whipping until the peaks are stiff but are not dry.  The mixture should have a glossy appearance and creamy consistency.

While the egg whites are finishing, fold the sifted flour into the chocolate mixture.

Lighten the chocolate mixture by quickly folding in 1/3 of the whites, then gently fold in the remaining whites in two parts, trying not to overmix and lose the volume.  Evenly spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, until the top appears lighter in color.  A cake tester inserted in the center will have a few moist crumbs.  Let the cake cool at room temperature in the pan for about 15 minutes.

To remove from pan, run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the cake.  Invert onto a cardboard cake circle or metal tart pan bottom.  Wrap in plastic and chill completely in the refrigerator.  (The cake can be wrapped in plastic once cooled and placed in freezer up to a week prior to assembly.)

The table set for lunch

House-smoked salmon

Bella preparing hot chocolate

Pan-roasted Corn and Tomato Salad

4 Aug

Last summer, I was enraptured by Mark Bittman’s 101 salad recipes in the New York Times.   So many creative options, from vegan to meat and seafood and noodles, so that no matter what I was in the mood for there was a salad recipe to cover it.  I loved his idea of making a grilled cheese with good bread and a small amount of very good cheese, letting it cool and then turning it into croutons to top tomato salad with fresh basil (or anything else).  Yum.

But one of my favorite salads from last summer was actually not part of the 101 series. I found it via his Minimalist series, and this salad makes perfect use of the perfectly sweet fresh corn and tomatoes that are only available during the summer.  This salad should not even be attempted any other time of the year, á mon avis, and Bittman agrees.

I have made this recipe so many times and I have played around with the ingredients a bit.  I like to use pancetta  in place of bacon, and often I don’t use any meat at all, substituting some olive oil instead.  I like to add fresh herbs to just about everything, and this corn pairs well with cilantro, basil, mint or any combination of the three.  Even a dash or marjoram would work well here.  Sometimes I add salt and pepper, sometimes not.  The point is, use what you like and what you have on hand and it is pretty hard to screw it up.  This salad simply screams SUMMER!!

Pan-Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad
From  The Minimalist with Mark Bittman

2 slices bacon, diced
1 red onion, chopped
4-6 ears of  fresh corn, depending on size, kernels removed
2-3 fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 jalapeno diced (or more, to taste)
1 lime, juiced
1 avocado, diced

Using a very sharp knife, slice the kernels from the corn (I have found that doing this in a large bowl, or even in a brownie pan works well  to keep them from going everywhere).  Fry the bacon in a skillet, and once the fat has rendered add onion and cook in bacon fat about 2-3 minutes until the onion starts to soften.  Add kernels and cook about 5 minutes more.  The corn is just going to get warm all the way through, but you don’t want it very cooked in order to keep the fresh flavor of it.  Take off the heat.  Gently stir in tomato and avocado.  Season with lime juice.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


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