Fresh Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler1

Even though fresh berries are now available year-round, nothing says summer quite like a fresh berry dessert. I make a great blueberry pie and so does Frances, but sometimes you want a blueberry cobbler and this one is it! I came across the recipe from the website kitchn – another favorite food site that I frequent. I don’t know if its claim as the “ultimate blueberry cobbler” is accurate, but I will say that it is darn good. And best of all, it can be thrown together in a few minutes. All you need is some really good quality vanilla ice cream for serving and summer dessert doesn’t get any better than this. One thing I love about this recipe is that it is neither gummy nor overly sweet. And the biscuits are a real treat; they are both light and moist and just perfect for soaking up the blueberry liquid. The recipe’s originator talked about the secret ingredient of the coriander. I honestly didn’t taste anything in particular that I could identify, but the overall effect was just lovely.

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler by Sheela Prakash of the kitchn and tweaked ever so slightly by me

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

2 pints or 5 cups fresh blueberries (24 ounces total), washed and dried well
1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Juice of 1/2 large lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Sanding or casting sugar for garnish
Vanilla ice cream for serving

Directions   IMG_3371

  1.  Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F.
  2.  Toss together the blueberries, 1/2 cup of the sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and coriander in a large bowl.  (I mixed the dry ingredients together first and then sifted them over the berries so there wouldn’t be any lumps. Then I added the lemon juice and gently tossed everything being careful to not break up the berries.) Transfer the mixture to an 8 x 8-inch baking dish or divide among 8 (6-ounce) ramekins.
  3.  Mix the flour, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt for the cobbler topping in a separate large bowl. Pour in 1 1/2 cups of the cream and stir until the dough is shaggy.
  4.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough just until it all comes together, about 30 seconds.
  5.  Pat the dough into a 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut into 8 square pieces or pat handfuls of dough into thick palm-sized disks if using ramekins. (I used a star cookie cutter because it was the 4th of July and because it was fun.)
  6.  If baking in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish, overlap the disks on top of the blueberries to make a “cobblestone” look. If baking in individual ramekins, top each ramekin with a disk of dough. If you have any extra topping, crumble it and sprinkle it over the surface of the cobbler. Sprinkle the biscuit dough with the sanding or casting sugar.
  7.  Place the baking dish or ramekins on a baking sheet to catch drips, or place aluminum foil beneath it in the oven. Bake until the topping is turning golden-brown around the edges and the fruit filling is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes for the individual ramekins, or 45 to 55 minutes for the 8 x 8-inch baking dish.  The blueberries will bubble up quite a bit and then will settle down once it is out of the oven.IMG_3372
  8.   Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Everything needs to settle down. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with vanilla ice cream.

Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

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My husband has never met a custard that he didn’t like, so when he asked me what a clafouti was that was in the case of a local bakery, I decided to surprise him by making one. I confess that I actually enjoy the occasional mindless, slightly tedious task that can be involved with food preparation. It’s a great time to catch up on my own thoughts or to have a cozy moment with a child, spouse or friend. So when this recipe called for 1 pound of stoned cherries, I didn’t flinch. If you don’t enjoy snapping the ends off of crisp green beans or peeling vegetables, then you can use a different fruit or a well-drained canned, pitted cherry. I, however, had some lovely, ripe cherries, a sharp paring knife and 20 minutes to spare for the task.

This recipe comes from an old French pastry book that I purchased in 1977. It is the Gaston Lenôtre’s Desserts and Pastries. So what is clafouti? It’s a baked French dessert of fruit, traditionally black cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter. This recipe uses a short pastry crust underneath. I know that my husband will be very happy tonight when dessert-time rolls around.

Cherry Clafouti (Clafouti aux Cerises)

Yield: Two 8-inch flans (about 6-8 servings)

Ingredients

Short pastry dough for 2 8-inch pie plates or flan pans

1 cup of whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

6.5 Tablespoons heavy cream

4 large eggs

Generous 3/4 cup, granulated sugar

4 drops orange blossom water (about 1/4 teaspoon)

1 pound of fresh, ripe cherries, halved with the pits removed (You will end up with about 3 cups of fruit)

Directions

  1. Roll out the dough and line 2 lightly buttered 8-inch pie plates or flan pans
  2. Refrigerate the pans for at least 1 hour before baking. This can be done one day ahead.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Line the 2 pie shells with waxed paper or foil and using dried beans or pie weights, bake the pie shells for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the paper or foil and weights and set the shells aside.
  5. Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy saucepan and allow it to gently boil for one minute. (If you are using a vanilla bean, you will add it in with the milk.) Don’t do what I did which was to carry on a texting conversation with my husband while the milk was on the stove. Of course, the milk boiled over. What a mess! After 1 minute, turn off the heat and add the cream and vanilla bean paste, if using. In all honesty, I’m not certain that this step is necessary. I have made plenty of flan and other custards over the years and I never cook the milk first…
  6. In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together with a wire whisk, until smooth and light yellow in color. Beating constantly, add the milk mixture a little at a time to temper the eggs. Stir in the orange blossom water. Place the bowl in a larger bowl of cold water and continue beating until the mixture is smooth and cold. You should end up with 3 cups of liquid.
  7. Fill the half-cooked pie shells with the cherries. Pour the creamy filling over the fruit. The pie pan should be no more than 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 minutes. Serve the clafouti warm or cold. IMG_3342

NOTE: If you use a fluted flan pan instead of a pie plate, you will have more ingredients than the pan can easily hold. I used one flan pan and one pie plate (both 8-inches) and ended up with a little of the custard left over because the flan pan isn’t as deep as the pie plate. The flan pan baked in exactly 20 minutes. The pie plate which was deeper took somewhat longer.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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It doesn’t take much for my thoughts to turn to salad for a summer dinner. Since it has been in the 90’s all week with no true respite in sight, I not only want a salad but I want some spice as well. It’s well known in Asian and South Asian cultures that you want to eat “Heat” when it is hot outside. The theory being that the spice makes you sweat, thereby cooling down your body.

I used to make a salad with cold glass noodles from the Frugal Gourmet, but I decided to change it up a bit. For starters, I’m not wild about glass noodles and I also wanted a bit more complexity to the chicken. I did make this dish with Banh Pho, a large Thai rice noodle, but I think that next time I might even use an Udon noodle instead. All of the prep can – and should – be done ahead, so you can make the individual elements the night before or in the morning and then do your assemblage when you are ready to eat. If you are really pressed for time (or lazy) you can use prepared roasted chicken from your grocery. It won’t have the same depth of flavor, but will still be good. A slightly fruity Rosé would be lovely with this or a Pale Ale.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Peanut Sauce

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the chicken

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)

3-4 star anise

2 Tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry

Water to cover

1/4 teaspoon 5 spice powder

2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce

2-3 small jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced, with the seeds (optional)

For the noodles

8 ounces wide Banh Pho rice noodles

Water to cover

2 teaspoons chicken bouillon cubes or 2 teaspoons “Better than Bouillon”

Sesame oil for drizzling

For the cucumbers

2 Persian cucumbers, sliced and cut into matchsticks

2 Tablespoons of low sodium soy sauce

1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon sugar (I used raw sugar but granulated will do)

2 teaspoons sesame oil

For the peanut sauce

2 Tablespoons unsweetened peanut butter (smooth or chunky)

4-5 Tablespoons hot water

3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 very generous teaspoon Red Chili Paste with Garlic or Sriracha to taste

Garnishes

Roughly chopped cilantro

Roasted and lightly salted peanuts

Directions

For the chicken

  1. Place the chicken breasts in a pan large enough to hold them in a single layer that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the other chicken ingredients and enough water to cover the chicken.
  2. Cover the pan tightly and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. While still warm, remove the chicken breasts and shred them using 2 forks. Place in a bowl or container large enough to hold all of the shreds. Using a fine-mesh strainer, pour the liquid over the chicken. Pick out the jalapeno slices if used and the star anise and add them to the chicken. Cover and allow to cool. This can then be refrigerated.

For the noodles

  1. If using the rice noodles, place in a pot large enough to hold them. Cover with tap water, place the lid on the pot and allow to soak for 1 hour. After 1 hour, add the bouillon and bring to a boil with the lid on. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the noodles for 10 minutes. (If using another kind of noodle, follow the package instructions.) Drain the noodles and drizzle with sesame oil to prevent them becoming too sticky. Allow them to cool, uncovered. They can be refrigerated.

For the cucumbers

  1. Place the cut cucumbers in a glass bowl or dish. Marinate them in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.

For the peanut sauce

  1. Mix the peanut sauce ingredients together until they are the consistency of heavy cream. Start with 4 Tablespoons of water and add more if necessary.

Assemblage

  1. Pour the well-mixed peanut sauce over the noodles and using tongs, toss it through. The noodles may have stuck together some, but you can carefully separate them as you mix.
  2. Place some 1/4 of the noodles in each bowl or plate and cover with 1/4 of the chicken shreds that you have drained from the liquid.
  3. Top with 1/4 of the cucumbers. Garnish with cilantro and some peanuts. IMG_3288

 

 

Steak with Corn Salsa

It’s always exciting to find yet another steak recipe when it seems that we’ve been cooking steak for years. This one was yet another gem from our favorite Wine Lover’s Cookbook that we feel vindicated in having picked up while in Healdsburg in Sonoma, California wine country.

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After all, we are truly wine lovers and food lovers, so who could turn down an entire book of pairings?! Food-wise, the recipe calls for a pairing with a radish daikon slaw, but easily would have been fine with just the salsa. In terms of wine, the recipe recommends a Zinfandel, and that a Sangiovese could work just as nicely. (We used the Zin and it was fantastic.)

Ingredients

Flank steak (1/2 lb/person)

Marinade

  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • 3 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup of sliced yellow onions
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle chiles in adobo

Salsa

  • 1 can corn
  • 1/2 cup roasted bell pepper (chopped, I buy the jar of roasted pepper which makes this a cinch)
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of white wine Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp of minced jalapeños
  • 2 tsp sherry wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Directions

  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a plastic bag or bowl and add the steak. Turn the steak a few times to make sure it is all covered in the marinade, and then let it sit in the fridge, in the marinade for 4-5 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. When oven comes to temperature, cut off the top of the head of garlic. Place it on foil and pour olive oil over the top. Stick in the oven for 45 minutes to make roasted garlic.
  3. Once roasted and soft, scoop the garlic cloves out of the head and place in a medium sized bowl and mash them lightly.
  4. Add the corn, chopped bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, jalapeños, sherry vinegar and basil. Mix thoroughly and then cover and refrigerate to let the flavors meld.
  5. Once the steak is finished marinating, bring a cast iron skillet or grill pan to high heat.
  6. Scrape the marinade off the steak, and add to the skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. Turn off the heat, cover in foil and let rest for about 5 minutes.
  7. Serve the steak over the the corn salsa.

Adapted from the Wine Lover’s Cookbook.

Soft Shell Crabs in Lemon and Butter

About a year ago, a new fishmonger opened up in our neighborhood. Curious, and great seafood lovers, Matt and I decided to walk in.

IMG_20170603_194948.jpgMuch to our pleasant surprise, it turned out that not only was our new fishmonger a great source of cooking information, but also a purveyor of the rarer fishy creatures of the sea.

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While we haven’t quite made the plunge to try sea urchins, we did jump on the opportunity to cook soft shell crabs which we happened upon this weekend.

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As it turns out, they’re very easy to make, as in basically you dredge them in milk, and then flour, and then you sear them for 4 minutes total.

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Following Lisa’s advice, we went the simple route of lemon and butter and it was a perfect light summer dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk (we used skim milk and turned out fine)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 small (4-inch-wide) live or already dressed soft-shelled crabs, cleaned (I didn’t want to deal with live crabs and our trusty fishmonger had them fresh)
  • 1 cup Wondra or all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose and it was fine)
  • 4 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee (we used ghee)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Combine milk, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and soak crabs 5 minutes. Lift 1 crab out of milk, letting excess drip off, and dredge in flour.
  2. Knock off excess flour and transfer to a tray.
  3. Repeat with remaining crabs, arranging them in 1 layer as coated.
  4. Heat clarified butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté crabs, upside down, 2 minutes.
  5. Turn over and sauté until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  6. Transfer crabs to a serving dish. Add butter pieces to skillet and cook until golden brown with a nutty aroma. Add lemon juice and parsley (mixture will bubble up) and remove from heat.
  7. Season sauce with salt and pepper and drizzle over crabs. Serve with fingerling potatoes or a light green salad.

Adapted from Bon Appetit Soft-Shelled Crabs Meunière.

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw

So I had half of head of red cabbage leftover from my red cabbage, goat cheese and walnut salad and hated for it to go to waste. I was making some lovely grilled trout and corn on the cob for dinner and thought about what would go well alongside that would be fast, easy and didn’t require any ingredients that weren’t already in my fridge. I was able to throw this together in minutes in the morning and left it covered on my counter until dinner. I hadn’t planned on blogging about this since it seemed almost too simple. But when my husband saw how beautiful it looked he decided to take a photo. And then of course, it tasted great. So especially now that it is officially barbecue season, this is one side that goes with just about any grilled meat or fish. I don’t actually have a grill, but broiled or oven roasted foods work well too. The amounts are a guideline and can easily be doubled or tripled.

Red Cabbage Lime Cilantro Cole Slaw 

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1/2 small head of red cabbage, cored and sliced thinly

1 medium carrot, peeled and grated with the large grate (or if you are REALLY lazy, you could use the bought julienned carrots)

Juice of 2 fresh limes

4 Tablespoons EVOO (I used a Meyer Lemon EVOO but you could use just a good quality plain EVOO)

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Directions

Toss everything in a non-reactive bowl and cover for a few hours, tossing when you think of it.

Nana’s Gazpacho

 

IMG_2105My mother, who recently died, was a wonderful cook and baker in her day. When I was growing up you never entertained at a restaurant, but always at home. It was a great treat to be invited to our house which was always warm and welcoming, where you got to engage in lively conversations and where the food was terrific. At the height of summer when the beefsteak tomatoes were big and red and ripe, my mother always made this gazpacho. She was way ahead of the curve since cooking at home in the 1950s and 60s was generally not so sophisticated. She would make this gazpacho (origins unknown I’m afraid, but I had a very similar one in Cordoba, Spain served with grilled prawns) and a delicious paella with flan for dessert. There are many wonderful and inventive versions of gazpacho that I enjoy, but this is still my favorite. You can get as fancy as you like with the garnishes or just go with some finely chopped cucumber and pepper and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Nana’s Gazpacho

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

3 medium sweet bell peppers ( I used orange and yellow but my mother used red and green)

1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced

6 large, very ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 scant Tablespoon Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black or Aleppo pepper

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika or 1 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika and 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1/3 cup EVOO

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 cups cold water

Directions

  1. To peel the tomatoes you can either plunge them into boiling water for 2 minutes and then into ice water OR you can cut out the core and using a sharp knife, grab the peel and start pulling/cutting it away from the tomato. It doesn’t have to look perfect since it will be pureed in any case.
  2. Coarsely chop the onion, cucumber, peppers and tomatoes and mince the garlic. Set aside.
  3. Mix your liquids with the salt, pepper and paprika.
  4. Working in batches, place about 1/3 of the ingredients in a blender and puree, leaving a little texture. In a large bowl, mix everything together so the mix is evenly distributed. Pour into containers and refrigerate.
  5. When ready to serve you can garnish it with finely diced cucumber, bell pepper and cilantro or use croutons.