Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Fruit Crumbles

 This recipe is an adaptation of Ina Garten’s Peach and Blueberry Crumbles.  I had no blueberries on hand, absolutely LOVE how delicious plums are when baked into a tart, crisp, crumble, or coffeecake, so decided to substitute plums for blueberries.  Am I ever glad that I did; these are sensational!  I served them to guests, topped with a scoop of vanilla frozen custard, and they practically licked their bowls clean.  These are so easy, and here’s a little hint for you, if you double the recipe for the crumble, you can store half of it in the freezer making short work when you decide to make these again, probably within days of making it the first time.  Yes, they are that good! 
Ready for the oven
Summer Fruit Crumbles

For the fruit:
1 pound peaches (I used one box of Melissa’s Organic Peach Bites)
1 pound plums (I used one box of Melissa’s Plumcots)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the crumble:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in cold water. Peel the peaches, slice them into wedges, and place them in a large bowl. Pit plums (no need to peel) and slice into similar size wedges, and place in bowl with peaches. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes before spooning into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of food processor. Pulse until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it's in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you want to make these early, store the unbaked crumbles in the refrigerator and bake before dinner.  These will keep 1-2 days in the fridge.

Don’t these look delicious?!

This post is linked to: Full Plate Thursday

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Strawberry Butter


By now your pantry should be full of a wide variety of homemade jams and jellies. I have given you a lot of delicious recipes (This one is my very favorite!), so you have no excuses. Here is a clever use of what may be an overabundance of jam if, like me, you have gone wild with all of the fresh produce. It is simple to make, delicious on toast, scones, and biscuits, and lovely to have on hand when serving a special breakfast to out-of-town guests. The color, depending upon the jam you chose, is lovely and reminiscent of springtime and Mother's Day, so keep this in mind for the future.

Strawberry Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons jam

Beat together until well blended.  Spoon into an attractive serving dish and refrigerate until ready to use.  Keeps 1-2 weeks.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Flounder with Champagne Grapes

My guess is that while a lot of you are enjoying the sweet juicy grapes of summer, you are enjoying them in their original state. Some of you may have turned them into jam or jelly, but only a small percentage probably uses them in cooking. I'd like you to change that. Grapes add a pleasant, subtle taste and hint of sweetness to many dishes.  They can turn the most basic piece of chicken or fish into an elegant meal for company. This recipe, from a 2005 issue of Gourmet magazine, took me all of ten minutes to prepare. Ten!  Clean your grapes and chop the shallots ahead of time, and your assembly will be a breeze. A side of broccoli and crusty roll make this an excellent, tasty, and healthy lunch or dinner.

Flounder with Champagne Grapes

Gourmet, October 2005

4 (6- to 7-oz) flounder or sole fillets
All-purpose flour for dredging fish
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot
2/3 cup sweet vermouth
7 oz. stemmed
Melissa’s Champagne grapes (1-1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 250°F.
Rinse fish and pat dry. Season both sides of fillets with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking off excess.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until it begins to smoke, then sauté 2 fillets, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, about 4 minutes total. Transfer with a slotted spatula to a platter and keep warm, uncovered, in oven. Add more oil if necessary, and sauté remaining 2 fillets in same manner, transferring to platter.

Add shallot to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add vermouth and simmer, scraping up any brown bits, 1 minute. Add grapes and cook over low heat, swirling skillet, until just heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and add butter, swirling until incorporated. Add lemon juice and season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce with grapes over fish and serve immediately.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Royal Baby George!

Getty Images

Like the rest of the world, I was anxiously awaiting the birth of the Royal Baby. Perhaps it’s because Diana and I were expecting at the same time - her with her second child, me with my first - that I've always felt such a kinship with her, and suffered mightily with her loss. I've always been a devoted Royal Watcher, and having created a special scone for the Royal Wedding, I just had to make another, more diminutive scone, for the new prince or princess. 

A boy it is, so these scones needed to be flecked with blue. I chose dried blueberries in order to be able to inject even more flavor by hydrating them with hot water and lemon oil. It's a subtle addition, but a welcome one. Have some tea and a Royal Baby scone, and celebrate the birth of Prince George Alexander Louis Windsor!

Royal Baby Scones

1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 cup sour cream
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Pour boiling water over blueberries, stir in lemon oil, and set aside for 20 minutes to allow to hydrate. Drain.

I am a firm believer in making scones in a food processor, not just for ease, but to keep the dough light.  Into the work bowl of your food processor, place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Pulse to combine, 10-12 times. Add the cubed butter, and pulse again until a coarse meal forms. Pulse in the sour cream and egg yolk just until combined, and a soft dough is formed.

Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface, patting into a circle 3/4 to 5/8 inches high. Cut with a small (baby), ruffled biscuit cutter.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet.  Make an egg wash with the remaining egg white and 1 tablespoon of water.  Brush egg wash onto scones, then top liberally with sanding sugar.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges are brown.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Fresh Bing Cherry Sauce

My mother used to make a delicious Bing cherry sauce that she served at Christmas brunch atop her incredible cheese blintzes. I don't know how she did it, and she wasn't talking. It's not that she had intended to keep the recipe a secret; it was more that there was no recipe. She often cooked like her mother, my grandmother, did. A little of this, a handful of that, a pinch of seasoning, all mixed together until it “looked right.” This was one of those recipes. But it's Bing cherry season and all of those fresh, delicious cherries were calling my name, so I decided to give it a try. You know what?  I did it. You know what else?  I think mine is just a little bit better. This sauce is going to be a component in tomorrow's dessert, but it is also excellent on top of ice cream, with a nice slice of ham, dolloped on top of a chicken cutlet, or drizzled over the aforementioned blintzes. Whatever you do, make this sauce!

Fresh Bing Cherry Sauce

3 heaping cups of Melissa’s fresh Bing cherries, pitted
1/3 cup granulated sugar (more to taste)
2-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Meyer Lemon juice
Few gratings of fresh nutmeg

Place cherries and sugar in a medium size saucepan and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. As the cherries release their juices, break them up a bit with the back of your spoon.  Meanwhile, combine cornstarch, water, and lemon juice in a small bowl; set aside. When mixture comes to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture all at once, stirring constantly. Bring mixture back to a low boil and simmer for one more minute. Remove from heat and grate a small amount of nutmeg right into the pan. Stir again to incorporate. Cool. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Spicy Watermelon Margarita

It you are looking for the perfect cocktail to accompany your fresh guacamole, you need look no further.  It’s summer, and what better time to punch up the old standby margarita cocktail than with the deliciously sweet juice of fresh watermelon.

This clever recipe from The Sweet Life blog combines hot with cool, by adding a Serrano pepper to the mix.  I substituted Triple Sec for the Cointeau used in the original recipe, and used Key Lime juice for extra flavor.  Ahhhh, refreshing!

Spicy Watermelon Margarita

2 cups watermelon juice*
1 Serrano pepper sliced in half, seeds removed
1 tsp. salt
1-2 cups sugar
Lime wedges
1 cup tequila
1/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice
1/2 cup Triple Sec
Ice cubes

In a medium saucepan place watermelon juice, Serrano pepper, salt, and 1 cup of the sugar.  Simmer over low heat until sugar dissolves. Taste and add more sugar, if desired.  Cool.

When mixture has sufficiently cooled, pour into a serving pitcher and place in the fridge for thorough chilling.

 When ready to serve, moisten the rim of 6 6-ounce glasses with the wedges of lime, and dip them into margarita salt that has been spread out on a saucer.   Place glasses into the freezer to chill.

While the glasses are chilling, add the tequila, lime juice, and Triple Sec to the watermelon juice mixture. Remove glasses from freezer and serve margarita mixture over ice. Garnish with lime slices.

*To make watermelon juice, simply cut a watermelon into large chunks, remove the seeds, and whir it in a food processor until liquid.  Pour mixture through a strainer to remove pulp, and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Make Guacamole


Making guacamole in my new molcajete made me feel like a wild woman. Tossing fresh ingredients into a stone bowl and smashing them with a rock is truly liberating. No measuring, no delicate spoons, or clumsy cups, just a handful of this, a pinch of that, avocados scooped from the shells, and mash, mash, mash.  Delicious. My suspicion is that I'll be serving guacamole of some sort with nearly every meal. Anything that pairs well with avocado would make a nice addition to guacamole. Imagine it with hearts of palm, roasted corn, black beans, bits of bacon, or mango for a hint of tropical sweetness, or...shrimp!  I get heady just thinking about it.

The thing to remember is that while there are recipes - plenty of them - you can really just go with what you like and have on hand, providing that you have avocados, fresh lime juice, and a hot pepper of some sort (I prefer Serrano.). 

I began with a couple of small cloves of garlic.

 I added kosher salt (to both season the guacamole and aid in the grinding) and half of a seeded Serrano pepper. 

A small wedge of onion was next, followed by the juice from a Key Lime. I mushed it together until it formed a paste, and then I added the flesh of two ripe Melissa's avocados.

Mush. Mush. Mush.

 I then gently stirred in chopped tomato, a pinch of cumin, and about a tablespoon of chopped cilantro. The latter is a personal choice. People either seem to really like cilantro, or they really don't. I happen to like it, but leave it out of you prefer. 

Grab some chips and go to town. No need for a serving bowl, you already have one. 

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