Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blueberry-Ginger-Lemon Scones

Fresh blueberries and crystallized ginger set these scones apart. Moist, cakey, spicy and sweet, with a lovely contrasting tartness from the lemon glaze. Delicious!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pasta alla Carbonara

On those nights when we need dinner in a flash, and it seems that we have no food in the house, I can always turn to this simple, rich, delicious stand by (as I typically always have these ingredients on hand, whether in the pantry, fridge, or freezer). It cooks up in a matter of minutes, and, while delicious on its own, it can be made a million different ways. Throw in some mushrooms, or chicken, or shrimp... whatever you have on hand, and dinner is on the table in no time.

6 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1 pound of pasta (spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine, vermicelli, and bucatini are all good choices, but really any pasta will work)
8 eggs
Heavy cream (or half 'n half, or whole milk...whatever you have on hand)
1 cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Dash of chipotle powder
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Chopped fresh Parsley (optional)

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over medium heat.

Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until it starts to color and become crisp. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Drop the pasta into the salted boiling water and cook it 1 minute less than whatever it says on the package. Bite the pasta to check the consistency.

While the pasta is cooking, crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add the Parmesan, a splash of cream, the garlic, nutmeg, chipotle powder, and season with salt (keeping in mind that the cheese and bacon are both salty). Whisk vigorously until it becomes a homogeneous mixture. Season generously with black pepper (like a lot... as black pepper is a key flavor in classic carbonara) .

When the pasta is just about done, return the pan with the bacon to medium heat. Strain the pasta (reserving a cup of the coking water). Toss or stir the pasta into the bacon to coat the pasta with the remaining fat in the skillet. Vigorously stir the egg mixture into the pasta. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the egg mixture thickens and looks like a cream sauce, adding some of the cooking liquid if it becomes too thick. Toss in a handful of chopped parsley, and serve with a little extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Oh hot damn! This is my jam. . ."

Yesterday we went blueberry picking (I mean "$1.00 you-pick blueberries" are there any more beautiful words in the English language?) and came home with a little over twenty pounds. It really is the most charming activity. It just seems so wholesome, and is also somehow kind of zen. Whenever we go, however, I always find myself humming the Gummie Bears theme song which gets stuck in my head (as the bushes and the activity itself just conjure images of gummie berry bushes in my mind... lord knows why) So there I am happily picking away singing to myself as my fellow pickers look on in amusement ("Dashing and daring, Courageous and caring, Faithful and friendly, With stories to share. All through the forest, They sing out in chorus, Marching along, As their song fills the air...").

We intend on going back next week, right around the peak of the season to hand pluck some more with which to fill up our freezer. I braved the heat today, and stood over the stove stirring my cauldron of bubbling blueberry sugar, and was able to get through several batches of Blueberry Jam (my first batch of jam this year). So it officially feels like summer.

Hooray for jam!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Cream Puffs

Pate Choux is one of the best, fabulous food fake outs. It is kind of elegant, but deceptively simple to make (so don't be intimidated), and once you master it, variations of this same basic recipe can be used to make cream puffs, cheese puffs, profiteroles, and ├ęclairs. Super simple, and a very affordable way to wow your guests.

Pate Choux:
1 cup milk
1/4 pound butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs

Cream Filling:
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and the seeds from half of a vanilla bean)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Heat the milk and butter over medium heat until scalded. When the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and beat it with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and forms a dough (it will look essentially like mashed potatoes). Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2-3 minutes, until the flour begins to coat the bottom of the pan. Dump the hot mixture into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the eggs and pulse until the eggs are incorporated into the dough and the mixture is thick.

Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe one inch mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You should have about 35 puffs. With a wet finger, lightly press down the swirl at the top of each puff (so it won't burn during baking). Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly browned, then turn off the oven and allow them to sit for another 10 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Make a small slit in the bottom of each puff to allow the steam to escape, and cool upside down on a cooling rack.

Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on high speed until soft peaks form, add the sugar and vanilla, and continue beating on high until the mixture is stiff, but not dry. Spoon the cream mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip, and fill the cooled puffs, using the steam vent you created on the bottom. Refrigerate the puffs until you are ready to serve. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar, and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Easy Barbecued Ribs

Here is my simple and fool proof method for cooking delicious, tender, fall off the bone ribs at home. Smoky, spicy, sticky, and sweet, these mahogany beauties will be sure to wow all of your guests at your next back yard barbecue. The recipe is very simple (in a very semi-homemade sort of way) with lots of help from the store, for which I offer no apologies.

4 racks of Pork Spareribs
3 packets of a BBQ Marinade (I use McCormick Grill Mate Mesquite)
2 cans/bottles of beer
1 cup apple juice
2 Tablespoons minced fresh garlic
Your favorite bottled BBQ Sauce
Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Pimenton (Spanish, smoked Paprika)
a healthy dash of Chipotle Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
Liquid Smoke

In a large roasting pan with the rack removed, combine the beer, apple juice, marinade packets, garlic, and 1/3 cup bbq sauce. Add the ribs, turning to coat each rack in the liquid. Cover with aluminum foil, and marinate in the refrigerator over night or for up to three days, turning periodically to ensure even marination.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Remove ribs from the roasting pan, replace the roasting rack (leaving the marinating liquid in the bottom of the pan), and arrange the ribs on the rack in an even layer. Tent with aluminum foil, and bake for 10 to 12 hours, removing the foil half way through cooking, and basting with the pan juices every hour or so.

Meanwhile, combine 2-3 cups of bbq sauce, a splash of liquid smoke, a dollop of dijon mustard, the vinegar, maple syrup, chili powder, pimenton, and chipotle powder, and set aside.

Preheat your outside grill to medium-low heat (whether using gas or charcoal). Place baked rib racks onto the heated grill and slather with the doctored bbq sauce on both sides repeatedly, turning three or four times, for about 25-30 minutes, or until the ribs are nicely caramelized, and the sauce is thick and sticky. Remove from the grill, allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes, slice, and enjoy!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Beat the Heat: Frozen Key Lime Pie

10 graham crackers (usually about one package)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 tablespoons butter, melted

6 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (or you can substitute regular lime juice if you cannot find key limes)

1 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Thin lime slices/wedges

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and almonds in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until you have fine crumbs. Drizzle in the melted butter, and process until it comes together. Press into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and golden brown. Set aside, and allow to cool completely.

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until very thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze.

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Freeze for several hours or overnight.