Fresh Fig and Walnut Bread

About 10 years ago, I brought a group of Catholic High School teachers to Israel for a program that I created. Among the many wonderful things that we did during that visit was to travel to the Catholic Maronite Palestinian village of Fassuta on the Lebanon border in the Upper Galilee. We were given a tour of the village by the then mayor, who seemed to know everyone there. We were unable to move more than a few feet without someone greeting us and inviting us in for fruit or coffee or juice. One older woman had a small but beautiful garden with fig trees and grapes. We happened to be there at the exact moment of fig ripeness perfection and she immediately started plucking these plump beauties right off of the tree and passing them around. I probably ate six or eight of them before I had to cry “uncle.” I have been spoiled for fresh figs ever since and have never been able to find any in my market that even come close to tasting like those figs from a garden in Fassuta.

However, I was watching a video from POV Italian Cooking about making fig bread from slightly over-ripe fresh figs and decided that the figs that I could find in my market would probably work for this recipe. I made a couple of small changes, including adding toasted walnuts and the result is an AMAZING “tea” cake. If I close my eyes, it can make me conjure up that beautiful garden in the Galilee.

Fig and Walnut Bread8

Fresh Fig and Walnut Bread from POV Italian Cooking and tweaked by me

Yield: One 9 x 5 inch loaf

Ingredients

1 pint (2 cups) fresh, ripe figs

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature

2 large eggs, lightly whisked with the vanilla

1 cup plus 2 rounded Tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour (or substitute 1/4 cup for whole wheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1 packet Lievito Pane Degli Angeli OR 1.5 teaspoons baking soda plus 1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 Tablespoon cognac (Even though there is vanilla in the Lievito Pane degli Angeli, I like to add additional vanilla.)

1 cup toasted and coarsely broken walnuts

Fig and Walnut Bread7

Directions

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. with the rack in the center. Lavishly butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan (preferably non-stick) and line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper which you then also butter. Pour 2 rounded Tablespoons of granulated sugar into the bottom. Carefully angle and tap the pan so that the sugar coats the bottom and sides. This gives a lovely sugary crust to the outside of the bread. Fig and Walnut Bread4
  2. Cut off the bottom and stem of each fig. Split the fig into quarters and cut the quarters into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on the size of the fig. Place in a bowl and with the back of a fork, slightly mash the figs. Take 2 tablespoons of the flour you will measure out and toss it with the figs. This will prevent the fig pieces from all falling to the bottom. Set aside.
  3. In a standing mixer (or by hand) cream the softened butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix through.
  4. In a medium bowl, measure out the flour, salt and Lievito Pane degli Angeli or the baking soda and stir through to mix.
  5. In 2 or 3 additions, mix the dry ingredients with the butter, sugar and egg mixture until you have a fairly thick batter. Fold through the walnuts and figs by hand. Don’t worry too much about smushing the figs, although try not to over-do it!
  6. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top is a lovely dark brown and the smell is intoxicating. And yes, when a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean! Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a cooling rack. Fig and Walnut Bread3By then you should be able to handle the pan with your bare hands. Run a thin spatula or knife around the edges of the pan. Turn the bread out onto the rack, remove the parchment and allow it to cool completely (if you can wait that long.) The bread is then ready to eat.

Budino al Cioccolato (Chocolate Crème Caramel)

I knew that I could get my husband moving quickly – something that simply isn’t in his nature – if I told him that my half & half had spoiled and if he wanted budino for dessert tonight I needed him to run to the store NOW to buy more. Andrew loves all custards and puddings and this version is rich and sophisticated yet simple to make. Oh, and did I say that it has dark bittersweet chocolate?! And the hint of lemon in the caramel is a surprising twist. This is truly a wonderful dessert – delicious any time of the year.

I found this recipe years ago in the New New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey and I have been making it ever since. I believe this cookbook is now out of print, but copies are still available through used book dealers. It contains many wonderful older recipes.

Budino is not difficult to make. The trickiest part is making the caramel, but once you have learned how to do that, you will be able to make flan and caramel sauce with ease. And if you mess it up the first time, remember that it is only sugar and you can easily start again. Follow my directions exactly and you will likely get it in one.

Budino can be made the day before but it at least should be made 4 to 6 hours before you wish to serve it, giving it enough time to set and chill. I make mine with half & half, but you can use whole milk. If you go with anything thinner – well, it just won’t be the same. If it makes you feel any better, there is only a quarter cup of the half & half per serving. You want to use the best eggs and a good quality dark chocolate. I like to go with a 64% to 70% cacao. Left-overs will keep for several days un-molded in the refrigerator. Once you taste this you will wonder why you haven’t made it before.

Budino al Cioccolato (Chocolate Crème Caramel) Budino al Cioccolato

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the caramel

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 Tablespoons water

Juice of 1/2 lemon

For the custard

1 cup of half & half or whole milk

2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate

2 large eggs

2 egg yolks from large eggs

1/4 cup of granulated sugar

Pinch of Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Boil 3 cups of water and keep warm.
  2. Set out 4 half cup oven-proof custard molds on a cooling rack.
  3. Combine the 1/2 cup of sugar, water and lemon juice in a light-colored saucepan and bring to a boil on medium heat. (If you use a dark pan, it will be difficult to impossible to see when the sugar has become just the right color. This is one of those things that you wait for and the ALL of a SUDDEN – it’s done.)Allow the mixture to boil WITHOUT STIRRING AND DO NOT TOUCH! If you stir, the sugar will evaporate before it ever caramelizes and nothing burns like hot sugar. You are looking for the mixture to become a light amber color. It will take about 8 to 10 minutes(ish).

    Just be patient and DO NOT walk away! Nothing much will happen for the first 6 minutes or so. And then all of a sudden, you have caramel. If the sugar gets too dark, it will taste bitter so REALLY, DON’T WALK AWAY! Okay, this is the hardest part and you got it in one. Now quickly divide the caramel into each custard cup and swirl the liquid so it climbs part way up the sides of the mold. Be careful because the sugar is still very hot, but do it right away before it sets.

  4. While the caramel is cooling, heat the half & half or milk with the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts.
  5. Beat the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar until smooth. Slowly whisk the chocolate milk mixture into the eggs. You don’t want the eggs to curdle so you need to bring them up to the same temperature as the hot liquid which is easily done if you pour in just a little of the hot mixture at a time. Budino al Cioccolato10
  6. Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the custard into a bowl with a lip or a large measuring cup. Discard the foam.
  7. Divide the custard into the prepared custard cups and place them in a baking dish large enough to easily hold them. Place the dish in the oven and carefully pour enough boiling water around the cups to come about 1/3 of the way up the sides. Bake until the custard is set – about 30 minutes.
  8. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool. Once you can easily handle the cups, remove them from the water and place them on the rack to cool completely. Lay a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate the custard for at least several hours. Budino al Cioccolato2
  9. When you are ready to serve, take a thin, sharp knife or metal spatula and run it around the edge of the custard. Place a shallow bowl over the custard cup, flip the dish and the mold over and give one firm plop. The custard should come out in one piece along with the caramel.

    A small disk of the caramel might remain in the dish. That’s fine. You can wash it out with hot water – it’s sugar after all – or you can chip out pieces and suck on them like candy. I’m not judging.

 

Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins

I have a fairly extensive collection of cookbooks that I have amassed over the years. I enjoy reading them the way other people enjoy novels, although I like those too. I recently picked up my cookbook from Macrina, a popular artisanal bakery in Seattle. I recall buying the cookbook for a particular recipe that I had seen somewhere, only to find that it wasn’t actually included in this collection. Oh well. I hadn’t really made anything from the cookbook yet, but in glancing through it, I came across this vegan recipe for a breakfast muffin. Not actually being vegan, I will only bake things that would be delicious to a non-vegan and which doesn’t require that I purchase a lot of flours and ingredients that I wouldn’t otherwise normally use. This recipe fits that bill. The only purchase I needed to make was for an egg replacement since up until now I have used aquafaba or applesauce. This recipe does not require any special skills or techniques and results in 8 fluffy, fragrant and filling muffins. The texture is light and this recipe produces one of THE best muffins I have ever had. The ginger is a back-note so if you are not a ginger person, don’t let this put you off. Give them a try – you won’t be disappointed! Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins8

Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins from More from Macrina by Leslie Mackie with Lisa Gordanier

Yield: 8 standard-size muffins

Ingredients

Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins5

1.25 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons egg replacement (I used Bob’s Mill)

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted and coarsely chopped

2 ripe medium bananas (I like mine almost black for baking when the flavor is the most developed)

2 teaspoons peeled, grated fresh ginger (I always have a jar of this in the fridge for and find that it works beautifully and cuts down on my effort!)

2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)

1/3 cup amber agave syrup

3/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/3 cup canola oil

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Garnish

4 small pieces of candied (crystallized) ginger, cut in half on an angle

1/4 cup turbinado or demerara sugar (which actually I forgot to use!)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the rack in the center position. Oil the top of a standard-size muffin tin with canola oil and line 8 cups with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, egg substitute and salt in a large bowl. Add the toasted, chopped walnuts and mix well.
  3. In a blender or food processor, puree the bananas until very smooth. Add the canola oil, orange juice, vanilla and agave syrup and pulse through. Using a spatula, mix in the lemon zest and ginger until thoroughly combined.
  4. Working quickly and gently with a rubber spatula, fold the banana mixture into the dry ingredients in 2 to 3 additions. Do not over-mix which can result in tough muffins – and who wants those?) Only fold until all of the flour is moistened. Don’t worry about a few lumps.
  5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling them to the top and mounding them somewhat. (As they bake you will see why you oiled the top of the muffin tin.) Top each muffin with a piece of ginger and a sprinkle of the sugar – which I forgot. (If you use the sugar it will glisten a bit more than mine but should not be enough to really affect the flavor. I added a bit post-baking for the photos.) Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins4Bake for 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown on top and a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins3
  6. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then carefully lift the muffins out of the pan and directly onto the wire rack to cool completely. The muffins are still a bit soft at this point. Once cooled – yummmmmmmmmm! Vegan Banana Ginger Muffins7

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

My husband has a summer cold – the worst! And while normally I would make a big pot of chicken soup, I didn’t have the ingredients on hand and was feeling a bit lazy. Cold summer soups have their place and I enjoy everything from a cold cherry soup to a spicy tomato-based gazpacho, but sometimes a cold soup just won’t cut it. In the Middle East, lentil soup is ubiquitous – summer, winter, spring or fall. This version of lentil soup is ready in an hour and a half, can be made from ingredients you already should have in your pantry and is both nutritious and satisfying. What it isn’t, however, is beautiful. Of course, you can pretty it up with croutons and sprinkle it with parsley or cilantro and you can add rice or other grains to make it heartier, but at its simplest it is perfect as is. It can be “veganized”, substituting EVOO for the butter and using a good quality vegetable broth.

Mediterranean Style Lentil Soup

Yield: About 8 servings, although it will serve more if you add grains and/or serve it as a first course

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter or EVOO

1 large onion, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)

2 stalks of celery, including with leaves, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice

2 cups of brown lentils

8 cups of beef or vegetable broth

Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Zest of one large lemon

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 rounded teaspoon ground cumin

Juice of one large lemon, or more to taste

Garnishes

Garlic croutons

Italian flat-leaf parsley

Black sesame sticks (I buy mine from Nuts.com)

Cooked rice or other grain such as cooked bulghur

Directions

  1. Rinse and drain the lentils. Melt the butter (or heat the EVOO) in a pot with a tightly fitting lid (5 quarts or larger).
  2. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot to the pot, along with a teaspoon of salt and saute until the vegetables have softened. Add the lentils and the broth and bring to a boil. Skim the liquid if necessary. Add the turmeric and lemon zest, cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 1 hour or until the lentils will smush with the back of a spoon.
  3. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add the cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice, taste and adjust your seasoning. I happen to like things pretty lemony so may add as much as the juice of two lemons, but that is personal preference.
  4. Serve as is or garnish. Leftovers keep well refrigerated. Just give the soup a good stir if the liquid separates a bit.

To Make Garlic Croutons

  1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut slices of day-old bread into large dice. I like to leave on the crust. Toss them with drizzled EVOO (Garlic EVOO if you have it). Sprinkle the cubes with garlic powder and some Kosher salt.
  3. Place all of the cubes in a single layer on a baking pan. (I cover mine with foil or parchment to make clean-up easier.) 
  4. Bake, turning once for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the bread is nicely browned.

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart

We’ve reached that time in the summer when heirloom tomatoes are beautiful and affordable and my herbs are growing like crazy on my terrace. I like to make do-ahead meals and when the temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s vegetarian meals are especially welcome. The produce will never be better than it is right now.

I came across this recipe for a tart that with a few tweaks of my own is a perfect dish for a light summer supper or brunch. All it needs is a green salad and a crisp Chardonnay and you couldn’t ask for a more satisfying summer meal.

My recipe for the crust makes extra so you can throw together a quick galette for two later in the week.

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta Tart from Tasting Table and tweaked by me

Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta

Yield: One 11-inch tart plus enough extra dough for a 7 to 8-inch galette

Ingredients

For the crust

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to 1/4 cup more for dusting

1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, Parmesan, Asiago or Pecorino Romano)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

2 sticks of cold unsalted butter, cubed

1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons ice water

For the filling

8 ounces whole milk ricotta

8 ounces goat cheese (chevre)

1 cup grated Parmesan, Asiago or Romano

1 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves

2 teaspoons lemon zest (I used 1 large lemon)

3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 large egg

Healthy pinch of red pepper flakes

1.5 teaspoons Kosher salt

For assembly

About 1 pound of heirloom tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick (I also used some multi-colored grape tomatoes to fill in spaces and because I liked the look)

1 Tablespoon olive oil (I used a lemon-flavored EVOO but any will do)

1 Tablespoon honey or Agave

Flake sea salt and freshly ground black pepper for sprinkling

Fresh basil and mint leaves for garnish

Directions 

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, cheese and salt together. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the food processor. Pulse at 1-second intervals until butter is the size of peas—should be about 10 quick pulses. Add the ice water and pulse again about 10 times until the mixture is crumbly but holds together when pinched. Lay a clean tea towel on a work surface. Dump the crumbly dough mixture into the center of the towel. Grab the four corners of the towel together and twist to create a beggar’s purse, pressing the dough into a round. Use your hands to pack and flatten the round. Transfer to plastic wrap or waxed paper and refrigerate for at least one hour. Any unused dough can be frozen for a future use.
  2. When you are ready to bake, roll out the dough on a floured piece of parchment or a pastry cloth to about a 14-inch round. Brush off any excess flour and drape the dough over the rolling pin to transfer to the tart pan. Press the sides against the pan. In making this again, I would create a bit of a rolled over edge to my crust as I do for all my pies. [The original instructions said to use your rolling pin, run it across the top of the tart pan to trim any excess dough. I did this, which is what you see in the photo, but personally, I prefer a somewhat higher edge and will create one in future.] The excess dough can be frozen and used for a small galette. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour to reduce shrinkage.
  3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  [The original recipe said to bake at 425 degrees F. but I found that to be too high for my oven and my crust is a little darker than my ideal.]
  4. Make the filling by combining all of the filling ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Set this aside until you are ready to use it. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta7
  5. Using the tines of a fork, pierce the dough all over. Line the dough with foil and fill with baking weights or dried beans which can be stored when cool to use over and over. Bake until the dough is puffed and golden along the edges, about 15 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and continue baking for about 10 minutes more. Remove the tart shell from the oven and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Do NOT turn off the oven. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta5
  6. Pour the filling into the tart shell and smooth it with a spatula. Layer the tomatoes in a concentric circle (or any pattern you like) over the filling. Drizzle with the olive oil and the honey and sprinkle the tomatoes with the flake salt and cracked black pepper. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta4Bake until the tomatoes are wilted and the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta3Allow the tart to cool completely. Garnish with fresh mint and basil leaves, then slice and serve. Heirloom Tomato and Ricotta8

 

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Dal is a cornerstone of Indian meals. They are wonderful with lamb and chicken or as part of a healthy vegetarian meal. And while I truly love Indian food, I have to be honest – it doesn’t make the most compelling photographs. Don’t be put off by that. The flavors in this dal are rich and smoky and yet mellow all at the same time. It’s very easy to make and if you get into South Asian or Middle eastern cooking, all of the ingredients will become staples in your kitchen as they are now in mine. Make the full amount since left-overs will not go uneaten.

I highly recommend the cookbook linked below. It is full of step by step instructions and photos so that even a novice cook can make successful meals.

Smoky Yellow Split Peas from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer

Smoky Yellow Split Peas

Yield: About 6 cups

Ingredients

1 pound Yukon Gold or russet potatoes

1 cup split yellow peas

4 cups of water

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2-4 dried red cayenne chilies (like chili de Arbol), stems discarded

1 Tablespoon whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 medium tomato, cored and diced

1.5 teaspoons Kosher or sea salt

2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

Directions

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice. Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold water to prevent them from darkening.
  2. Place the split peas in a 4 quart saucepan. Smoky Yellow Split Peas1Add water to cover and rinse the peas, rubbing them gently between your fingers. Remove any debris that may be lurking (pebbles or the odd skin of the pea). Drain the peas and repeat until the water runs clear. Then add the peas to 4 cups of water in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. White foam should rise to the surface. Using a spoon, remove the foam and discard it.
  3. Drain the potatoes and add them to the peas along with the turmeric. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for 20-25 minutes or until the peas are tender and the potatoes are cooked. Smoky Yellow Split Peas2
  4. In a small skillet, add the chilies, coriander and cumin Smoky Yellow Split Peas4Smoky Yellow Split Peas3and toast the spices over medium high heat, tossing them occasionally until the chilies are blackened and the coriander seeds are reddish in color. Everything will smell smoky and aromatic. Transfer the spice blend and the tomatoes into a blender and puree.
  5. Once the peas and potatoes are cooked (there will be liquid remaining in the pot), add every bit of the tomato and spice paste to the pot. Stir through. This can be made ahead to this point. Stir in the salt.
  6. Increase the heat to medium high and allow the dal to boil vigorously, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle and the dal to thicken. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to smush some of the potatoes and yellow split peas for an even thicker sauce. Garnish with cilantro when serving.

Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream

Berries! They are everywhere. Not too long ago, Frances and Matthew gave me a lovely cookbook from a winery that we had visited together a couple of years ago on a trip through Napa and Sonoma. It has recipes and wine pairings which is wonderful for anyone asking the question of what goes well with [fill in the blank].

I’m always looking for new desserts that are easy and delicious. This one caught my eye because it uses fresh thyme along with the now ubiquitous berries. I happen to be growing a bumper crop of lemon thyme on my terrace and it pairs beautifully with the blackberries. The cookbook gives a recipe for making your own pistachio ice cream but I a) don’t own an ice cream maker; (b) have zero freezer space to make ice cream; and c) don’t want to spend so much time making dessert, so I simply purchased a very good quality “Mediterranean” Pistachio ice cream. If you want to make your own ice cream, buy the book. DO NOT OMIT the ice cream and do not buy that phony strange green stuff. This dessert really needs the pistachio ice cream to play off of the berries. “Crisp” is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. I might consider doubling the topping next time I make this since it sort of disappeared as a topping, simply melding with the berries and giving the berries some heft.

The dessert is not impressive looking (which could be why there was no photo of it in the cookbook…) and you won’t think this is the greatest thing you have EVER eaten. I’m just being honest. However, after taking that first bite, you will say “Wow, this is REALLY good.” It’s also surprisingly filling, so you could get 6 portions out of it. And once I added the pistachio ice cream and took that first bite – well, it was just a bit of perfection.

I don’t happen to live where wild blackberries grow, but if you do, they would be wonderful here. My blackberries came from the produce section of my local market.

Blackberry Thyme Crisp with Pistachio Ice Cream from the Winemaker Cooks by Christine Hanna

Blackberry Thyme Crisp6

Yield: 4 to 6 servings with ice cream

Ingredients

4 cups/455 grams fresh blackberries, washed and drained

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/3 cup/65 grams granulated sugar

1 generous teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (preferably lemon thyme)

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Blackberry Thyme Crisp1

For the topping 

6 Tablespoons/45 grams unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup/100 grams packed brown sugar/Demerara sugar

1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar

Generous 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or fine salt

6 Tablespoons/85 grams cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes

For serving

Good quality pistachio ice cream

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/190 degrees C. Lightly butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the berries with the sugar, cornstarch, thyme, lemon juice and vanilla. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes, while you make the topping and the oven heats up. Blackberry Thyme Crisp3 (2)
  3. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until combined. Add the butter and continue processing until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Blackberry Thyme Crisp2
  4. Turn the fruit into the prepared baking pan and spread the fruit to an even layer. evenly spread the topping over the fruit.Blackberry Thyme Crisp4Blackberry Thyme Crisp5
  5. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with the ice cream.

 

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Rhubarb season is brief and, therefore, especially sweet. This galette combines two of my dessert favorites – rhubarb and frangipane. Frangipane is an almond-flavored cream, although I have made this galette using hazelnuts instead. Either will work. [If you are looking for a vegan frangipane recipe refer to my recipe for Apple Frangipane Tart.] 

Don’t be scared off by the length of ingredients or directions. This galette is quite simple to make if just follow the steps. The dough can be made ahead and it makes enough for two galettes, so you can freeze one half for a last minute dessert. I was admittedly somewhat skeptical about the method for making the pastry but I followed it to the letter and it worked absolutely perfectly and was flaky and buttery.

I love making galettes because they are free-form and flexible. And if you REALLY don’t wish to make frangipane, you could simply roll into a disk a 7-ounce tube of almond paste for a similar taste but without the inherent creaminess of the frangipane. I also decided to throw in a 1/2 pint of raspberries – well, because I could. Make this soon while rhubarb is in season!

NOTE: I did go a bit overboard on my fruit, using closer to a pound of rhubarb in addition to the raspberries. While delicious, the galette might have been a little prettier with slightly less fruit, so that the dough could have been folded over more.

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette from Alexandra’s Kitchen

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette11 (3)

Yield: 1 approximately 9-inch galette

Ingredients

for the rhubarb:

3/4 lb rhubarb stalks, cut into 2-inch lengths

1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (I used 1/3 cup)

zest from one orange

1/2 pint washed and dried raspberries (Optional)

for the pastry:

2½ (320g) cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

½ teaspoon kosher or table salt

2 sticks (16 tablespoons | 8 oz | 227 g) unsalted butter

½ cup + 2 tablespoons ice water

for the frangipane:

1/2 cup almond or hazelnut flour or finely ground almonds or hazelnuts

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

pinch salt

2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 egg (small if possible)

2 teaspoons vanilla, rum, brandy or bourbon (I used Armagnac)

for assembly and serving:

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 to 2 tablespoons sugar for sprinkling, turbinado or Demerara sugar is nice

vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and place a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. Prepare the rhubarb:Toss the rhubarb and raspberries, if used, with the sugar and orange zest in a large bowl and set aside. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette
  3. Make the pastry:In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt together. Cut the butter into small pieces, then add to the food processor. Pulse at 1-second intervals until butter is the size of peas—should be about 10 quick pulses. Add the ice water and pulse again about 10 times until the mixture is crumbly but holds together when pinched. Lay two clean tea towels on a work surface. Dump half of the crumbly dough mixture into the center of each. (Don’t wash the food processor!) Grab the four corners of the towel together and twist to create a beggar’s purse, pressing the dough into a round. Use your hands to pack and flatten the round. Store one of the rounds in the freezer for a future use. Keep the other nearby handy or ideally refrigerate the dough for 1 hour to overnight.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12- or 13-inch round. Use as much flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking, and every few rolls, flip the dough over. Transfer dough to a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pan. If you have space in the fridge, chill the pastry while you make the frangipane. [I just rolled my dough out onto the parchment so I had one less thing to clean up.] Rhubarb Frangipane Galette1
  5. Make the frangipane: Combine almond flour, sugar, salt, butter, egg, and vanilla in the uncleaned bowl of the food processor. Purée until smooth. This can also be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. You may need to allow it to warm to room temperature to make it spreadable.
  6. Spoon the frangipane into the center of the rolled out dough leaving a 1- to 2-inch border. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette4 Heap the rhubarb and all of the juices into the center of the frangipane and spread out to cover. You can cherry pick the really red pieces and arrange them on top — the bright red stalks look so pretty in the end. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette5 Fold the exposed edge of dough towards the center to make a rustic enclosure. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette6
  7. Brush the edge of the dough with melted butter. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette9Drizzle the remainder over the exposed rhubarb. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. [Do NOT panic if you see fruit and butter leaking from the galette. That is totally normal.] 
  8. Remove pan from the oven and let rest on cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes or until Silpat or paper is cool enough to handle. Grab the edges of the paper or Silpat and slide to a cooling rack to cool further or to a cutting board to serve. Cut into wedges. Serve on its own or with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. Rhubarb Frangipane Galette14

Sriracha Cashews

Sriracha Cashews1The temperatures have peaked in the 90’s and even with air conditioning, I want EASY. I came across these nuts in an otherwise underwhelming recipe that used way too much soy sauce and was more effort than the result warranted. (I may make it again with some major changes, which I will post at a later date.) The nuts were to have been the garnish, but for me, they became the main attraction. And they are so ridiculously easy to make! Fair warning, though, they are addictive. Munch them with drinks – or anytime – and use them as a garnish over a simple stir-fry to take it to the next level. All you need are two ingredients, plus a sheet pan and an oven. The original recipe only made a half cup of nuts, but I have increased it to 2 cups because, let’s face it, a half cup will be gone before they are barely out of the oven. These nuts have just the right amount of spice – not so much that you will blow off the top of your head but just enough to wake up your taste buds.

Sriracha Cashews as part of a recipe for Grilled Soy-basted Chicken Thighs

Yield: 2 cups of nuts

Ingredients

2 cups of raw cashews

1/2 cup of Sriracha sauce

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Mix the cashews with the Sriracha sauce in a bowl until all of the nuts are well coated. Pour onto the sheet pan, separating the nuts into a single layer with a little space in between. Don’t go crazy doing this. It’s simple, right?
  3. Bake in the oven, stirring once until the nuts are roasted and dry. The time will vary according to your oven, humidity etc. The original recipe suggested 20 minutes, but mine took about 1 hour to be the way I like them. The color when finished was almost mahogany. Roast them until the nuts are no longer sticky. Allow them to cool and then start munching. Sriracha Cashews

NOTE: If you are making these ahead and they get a little sticky, just pop them onto a sheet pan and put them back in a 300 degree F. oven for about 3-5 minutes to refresh them.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad3 (2)NOTHING says summer quite like ripe, juicy, red slices of watermelon. I’ve eaten watermelon my entire life, but I first ate it with feta or Bulgarian cheese on a visit to the YMCA in Jerusalem about 8 years ago. It was a revelation. The salty tang of the cheese was the perfect foil for the sweet, juicy melon. It wasn’t on any menu – you just had to know to ask for it. Ever since that fateful meal, I have been combining the two ingredients. It really doesn’t take anything more than a drizzle of a good olive oil, but tonight I decided to add some fresh chopped mint and chives from my terrace garden along with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice and a drizzle of a fruity EVOO. Add the oil and lime juice just before serving for simply the most refreshing summer salad ever! While I have included measurements, I honestly just eye-ball everything. So don’t get too bogged down and use the measurements as a guideline only.

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Watermelon and Feta Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

6 cups of watermelon, without the rind and cut into large cubes

7 ounces of feta or Bulgarian cheese (Feta is ubiquitous and is very close to Bulgarian cheese.)

About 1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves, cut into ribbons

About 2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh chives

About 10 cracks of fresh black pepper

Sprinkling of sea salt or Kosher salt (The feta is fairly salty on its own, but I found that just a sprinkling of additional salt was needed to make everything sing.)

Juice of one lime

About 2-3 Tablespoons of a fruity EVOO

Watermelon and Feta Salad2

Directions

  1. Place the watermelon, feta, mint, chives and black pepper in a bowl. Watermelon and Feta Salad1
  2. Just before serving, add the lime juice, salt and EVOO. Toss gently.