Monday, July 30, 2012

Cherry Limeade Bars

When it comes to my two sons, the apple didn’t fall far from the maternal tree.  They are as adept at cooking and baking as I was at that age.  Lucky them, they live in the age of the Internet where recipes, reviews, and helpful hints are only a few touch strokes away.  My younger son is the guest chef today.  Like his mother he’ll Google ingredients just to see what he comes up with.  He loves maraschino cherries (we could not keep them in the house when he was a kid, though we ended up with loads of jars full of juice and perhaps the remnant of a cherry), and key lime, so Googled those ingredients and found this recipe on the Cheeky Kitchen blog.  He whipped up a batch and brought them over for me to sample and photograph.
Tasty and with a lot of zing from the lime juice, these make a most refreshing summer dessert.

My son, Andrew, who really loves his food!

Cherry Limeade Bars
1 c. flour
½ c. butter, softened
¼ c. powdered sugar
Dash of salt
6 oz. can maraschino cherries, undrained
½ Tbsp. cornstarch
3 eggs
¼ c. sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
¼ c. key lime juice
Green Gel Food Coloring

Preheat oven to 350° F.  In a large bowl, combine flour, butter, powdered sugar, salt and flour until well mixed.  Press into the bottom of a 9
”×9 baking pan. Pour the entire, undrained can of maraschino cherries into a blender, add cornstarch, and blend until well chopped (but not pureed).  Using a spatula, carefully spread the cherry mixture over the crust mixture.
Bake for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat together remaining ingredients. Pour over cooked crust and cherry mixture. Return to oven and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the mixture has set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Plum Streusel Coffeecake

Prior to making yesterday’s Plum Butter, I measured out ¾ pound of plums and set them aside to make coffeecake.  You know how you tear recipes out of magazines, then put them in a file and never look at them again?  Well, I decided to look at that file last week, and found this recipe from a 1995 issue of Gourmet.  My mother is the coffeecake maker in our family these days, but I wanted to give this one a try.  Imagine then, my dismay, when one of the plums went missing!  I have baskets of peaches, nectarines, a bunch of bananas, and sliced melon all available for consumption, but did my husband go for any of these things?  No!  He managed to find the plums (well, plumcots, if you must know) that I had hidden behind the cauliflower in the vegetable bin, and he ate one!

Boy, he said, was that plum ever delicious.

Yeah, I said through gritted teeth, I’ll bet it was!

For a man who can’t find the butter that is right in front of him, he was sure an ace at ferreting out my saved plums.  So, after an unwanted, and curmudgeonly, I might add, trip to the grocery store to buy one lone plum, I was finally on my way to creating this delicious breakfast cake.  It’s make ahead, can be frozen prior to baking and baked later, or frozen after baking, and it's beautiful, and delicious!

Plum Streusel Coffeecake
Gourmet, September 1995

For streusel
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

For cake batter
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 pound Melissa's plumcots (4 to 5 medium), sliced
confectioners' sugar for sifting over cake

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter and flour a 9-inch round or square baking pan at least 2 inches deep.

Make streusel: In a food processor pulse together streusel ingredients until combined well and crumbly.

Make cake batter: In a bowl with an electric mixer beat butter with sugar until light and fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and vanilla. Sift in flour with baking powder and salt and beat until just combined.

Spread cake batter in pan, smoothing top, and arrange plum slices over it in slightly overlapping concentric circles. Sprinkle streusel over plum slices and bake cake in middle of oven 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Coffeecake may be made 1 week ahead: Cool cake completely in pan on a rack and freeze, wrapped well in plastic wrap and foil. Reheat cake, unwrapped but not thawed, in a preheated 350°F. oven until heated through, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake slightly on a rack and sift confectioners' sugar over it. Serve coffeecake warm or at room temperature.

If you love coffeecakes, check out this book.  It’s the Bible for coffee cake lovers:

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Plum Butter

My grandmother used to be the queen of jams, jellies, and preserves.  There were very few days in midsummer when I would walk into her kitchen and not see a big pot of sugar and fruit bubbling away on the stove, or jewel-toned jars of preserves lined up on the wooden farm table waiting to be topped with liquid paraffin.  What remained in the bottom of the pot after the jars were filled was poured into a heavy ceramic bowl and placed on the table next to a big pile of warm biscuits.  I could not wait to dig in!

When she passed away and I inherited her cookbook, I immediately paged through looking for her recipes.  Largely, all I found was one lowly recipe calling for equal parts of sugar and fruit, cooked until done.  It was because of this lack of information, I think, that I set out to collect as many recipes for jams and jellies that I could, always envisioning my own kitchen smelling of hot fruit, and jars filled with the literal fruits of my labor.  This past week I finally decided to try one of them, choosing a recipe that I know my grandmother had never made.  She was an ace at apple butter, but plum butter?  Never!  Her plums were reserved for pies and coffeecakes.

This recipe is from a July 2001 issue of Gourmet magazine (yes, I have been saving them for a long time!).  It’s easy to do, just be sure not to overcook it (as I did the first time) or you’ll end up with something tasty, but akin to a gummy candy.

Plum Butter

1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
4 lbs. Melissa’s Plumcots, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
3 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Special equipment: 5 (1/2-pint) canning jars with lids and screw bands; a food mill fitted with fine disk

Sterilize jars and lids.

Freeze several small plates to use for testing butter.

Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot. Add pod and stir in remaining ingredients. Slowly bring to a rolling boil over moderate heat (this will take about 15 minutes), stirring frequently. Boil, uncovered, stirring frequently, until plums are tender, about 5 minutes.
Discard pod. Purée plums with liquid in batches in food mill set over a bowl. Transfer purée to pot and simmer over low heat, stirring and scraping bottom of pan frequently, until very thick, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (To test for doneness, drop a spoonful of plum butter on a chilled plate, then tilt; the mixture should not be runny. It should be about as thick as jam.)

Drain jars upside down on a clean kitchen towel 1 minute, then invert. Ladle plum butter into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of space at top, then run a thin knife between plum butter and jar to eliminate air bubbles.
Seal, process, and store filled jars, boiling plum butter in jars 10 minutes.

Let plum butter stand in jars at least 1 day for flavors to develop.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Zucchini and Rosemary Vichyssoise

My perpetual inability to grow zucchini grieves me.  Sure, I plant it, I plant LOTS of it.  And I get plants, BIG plants, some of them the size of a small Buick, but zucchini?  No.  Thank goodness it’s prolific elsewhere and always available, because I have a three-ring binder full of recipes for its use.  One of my favorite ways to use it is in soup.

A vichyssoise consists of four elements: onions/leeks, potatoes, cream, chicken stock.  That’s it.  Put that together in any reasonable combination and you have vichyssoise.  It can be served hot, cold, or room temperature.  I love it not only for its comfortingly smooth texture and light taste, but also for its ability to be turned into a wide range of flavored soups.

Vegetarians can substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock; vegans can do the same and completely eliminate the cream.  Almost any herb can be added to alter the flavor, and a wide variety of vegetables can be added as well.  I have made varieties of vichyssoise containing carrot, sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower (surprisingly rich and amazing with the addition of nutmeg), and zucchini.  The zucchini variety has graced many a St. Patrick’s Day table because of the beautiful green hue.  I’ve also found that it is a universal favorite, even the vegetable haters love this.  I serve mine with a slice of zucchini bread.  There is something about the slightly sweet and lightly savory that make this a fabulous combination.

Zucchini and Rosemary Vichyssoise
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
4 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred)
1 large russet potato, peeled, diced
4 medium Melissa's organic zucchini, thinly sliced
¼ cup whole milk or cream

1 zucchini cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Chopped green onions

Melt butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and rosemary. Add stock and potato; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add sliced zucchini; simmer until tender about 15 minutes. Working in batches, puree in blender. Season with salt and pepper; stir in milk or cream.

Cook cubed zucchini in saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds. Drain. Rewarm soup over medium heat. Ladle into bowls. Top with zucchini and croutons. Sprinkle with green onions.

For more great zucchini recipes, I recommend this book:

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Baked Eggs in Ham Cups

I am a nut about not letting anything go to waste, but sometimes it’s hard to decide what to do with just one or two mushrooms, a rather small and about-to-wither shallot, a slice or 2 of bacon, and those herbs that I bought at the grocery store and then forgot what I had planned to do with them.  That’s when I decide to make baked ham and egg cups for breakfast.  These can be prepared the night before and baked in the morning, so you can have an amazing breakfast to start your day.  The recipe can be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled depending upon how many people that you want to serve.  The filling is really up to you and can be altered to suit any appetite:

·        Vegetarians - Sauté mushrooms, scallions, strips of zucchini, and green pepper,
·        Meat lovers – Sauté spicy sausage and crumble crisp bacon,
·        Kids - Add crumbled bacon and extra cheese,
·        Spicy fans would appreciate the addition of jalapeno peppers and a drop of tabasco,
·        Cheese lovers would enjoy a mixture of cheese such as cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan,
·        For an Asian bent, sauté the mushrooms with Asian greens and stir in fresh bean sprouts.

Whatever you have in the fridge will work in these cups.  You are only limited by your tastes and imagination, just be sure to follow the basic formula below and you can’t go wrong.

Baked Eggs in Ham Cups
Serves 2

2 mushrooms, finely chopped
1 small shallot or 2 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Pinch of Kosher salt
Few grindings of black pepper
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives
2 slices Virginia ham (perhaps you have some leftover from yesterday’s dish)
3 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon of cream, half-n-half or whole milk
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (or whatever type lurks in your fridge)

2 (1/2-cup) ramekins

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray ramekins with PAM.

Melt butter in a medium or large sauté pan over moderate heat (depending upon how many you plan to make), and sauté mushrooms and shallot (or scallions) in butter with salt and pepper until cooked through. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and chives.

While the filling is cooking, crack eggs into a medium bowl, add the cream, half-n-half, or milk, and whisk together.  

Press a slice of ham into each prepared ramekin.  Divide filling between the two among cups and pour half of the egg mixture into each 
(OR if you don’t mind the soft yolk, simply break an egg into filled each cup. I’m not a fried egg, or runny yolk fan, so I prefer them scrambled.),and top with cheese.  Bake in the middle of the oven until cooked through, about 10 minutes for scrambled eggs or 15 minutes for the fried egg.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Ham Crepes with Sage-Infused Béchamel

Remember when crepes were all the rage?  Am I dating myself?  It seems as if there used to be a crepe restaurant in every large shopping mall.  Personally, I liked them.  I liked that they could be sweet or savory, light or heavy (depending upon the season),  and work for any meal of the day.  I showed you a quick and tasty breakfast using crepes here, and now I’m going to share a delicious recipe that works for brunch, lunch, or dinner.  Using already prepared crepes makes this a snap, plus it’s very forgiving, so feel free to change or add seasonings to suit your tastes.

Ham Crepes with Sage-Infused Béchamel

10 ounces ground, cooked ham (I used a thick slice of Virginia baked ham and ground it myself)
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons minced scallions
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard (or more, to taste)
Freshly ground pepper
Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with Pam; set aside.  Mix ham, sour cream, scallions, mustard and pepper until well blended. Divide mixture evenly between 6 crepes.  Carefully roll up crepes (directions on rolling crepes can be found here) and place seam side down in prepared dish.  Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  While crepes are baking, prepare sauce.  Place 1-2 crepes on each serving plate, spoon warm sauce over and garnish with sage leaves.

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
¾ cup whole milk
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
4 fresh sage leaves

Melt butter in a heavy saucepan.  Add sage leaves and sauté for 1 minute.  Stir in flour and blend thoroughly until flour is fully incorporated.  Gradually whisk in milk and continue to whisk over moderate heat until sauce is smooth and thickened.  Remove sage leaves; add salt and nutmeg.  Whisk again and remove from heat.  Makes 1 cup.