June 24, 2012

Pasta with Garlic & Goat Cheese

It's garlic season! Garlic is a once-a-year crop. Planted in the fall, its heads are harvested in June or July. Over the past several years, I've learned to appreciate the large, pungent cloves of freshly-dug local garlic, which are much more flavorful than the puny, withering heads you buy in the supermarket (from last year's crop).

Anne, the owner of Kitchen Conservatory in St. Louis, grows thousands of garlic heads each year and sells them at the store. This is hardneck garlic, which has one row of large cloves around a center stem...no smaller, useless cloves toward the center like the softneck garlic sold in grocery stores.

Anne dug her garlic just last week. To highlight its freshness and flavor, I always make something with garlic as the star ingredient. This time I made a single supper of pasta with garlic & goat cheese.

 recipe adapted from Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food

serves 2 as a main dish

large head of garlic, cloves separated & peeled
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 springs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped off
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
6 ounces fresh pasta (I used linguini)
4 ounces crumbly goat cheese
juice of one lemon
salt & pepper, to taste
  • Slice the garlic thinly. 
  • Pour the oil into a small pan & add the garlic. Cook over a very low heat for 20-25 minutes, until the garlic is tender, golden, and sweet. Don't burn it or it will turn bitter.
  • Add the thyme & red pepper (if using) to the garlic oil after 15 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until is is al dente, drain, & toss gently with the garlic oil. 
  • Add crumbled goat cheese & lemon juice and stir gently. Check for seasoning. Add salt & pepper if needed.

June 18, 2012

Cherry Streusel Pie

It's almost cherry season. Well, I hope it's almost cherry season...I read recently that Michigan's cherry crops suffered through some strange spring weather this year & farmers may lose 90% of their fruit. This makes me very sad.

Awaiting the arrival of Montmorency tart cherries is something I look forward to every year. Sour cherry pie is probably my favorite dessert of all time. 

Luckily, I still had a few pounds of last year's cherries in the freezer. So, last week I tried a new pie recipe that I found on Bon Appetit's website. 

It's made with a traditional pie crust on the bottom (I used my favorite crust recipe), a sour cherry filling (no gooey canned stuff, please!), and a crispy, cinnamony struesel topping...perfect for those of use who can't seem to get that top pie crust to look pretty!

Cherry Streusel Pie
 recipe from Bon Appetit

For the streusel:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 

For the filling:
1 cup (scant) sugar *
3 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 pounds sour cherries, pitted **
* I like a tarter (more tart?) pie, so I cut back to 1/2 cup of sugar.

Look for fresh sour cherries at farmers' markets or use Bing cherries instead and add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice to the filling.  
  1. Roll out pie crust disk on floured surface to 13 1/2-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim overhang to 1 inch. Fold edges under. Crimp, forming high rim (about 1/2 inch above sides of dish). Chill at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.  
  2. For the streusel: Mix first 5 ingredients in bowl. Add melted butter and vanilla; rub in with fingertips until small clumps form. Cover & let stand at room temperature. (Can be made 4 hours ahead.)
  3. For the filling:  Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 375°F. Place foil-lined baking sheet in bottom of oven to catch spills. Mix first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Add cherries; toss to coat. Let stand until cherries begin to release juice, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer filling to chilled crust, mounding in center. Sprinkle streusel over, covering completely and pressing to adhere.
  4. Bake pie 20 minutes. Tent loosely with foil. Bake until filling bubbles thickly and streusel is golden, about 1 hour 10 minutes longer. Cool on rack.

June 11, 2012

S'mores Tarts

For my Shakespeare in the park picnic dessert, I wanted to make something s'mores like. You see, I have this thing for s'mores and anything s'more-ish...cupcakes, bars, scones, cocktails....any thing. So, when I saw "s'mores in a jar" on Pinterest, I knew I'd found my easy-to-pack sweet dish.

That recipe was simply crushed graham crackers, chocolate pudding, and marshmallow fluff layered in jars & topped with toasted mini-marshmallows. Sounded easy enough, but since I didn't want to invest in new jars, I re-imagined this dish as individual tarts...graham cracker crust, fluff, pudding, minis on top (which we toasted at the play with a brulee torch).

Thanks to Jon Gayman for snapping this pic.
While these tarts were cute & fun, they were not very foodie-friendly, having been constructed with all pre-made/packaged products. Plus, the marshmallow fluff simply melted away into a liquidy mess. Eww.

And, we can do better than that now, can't we? Here's my "gourmet" version:

S'mores Tarts
For the crust:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar
  • Combine all ingredients and press into the bottoms & up the sides of mini-pie tins or a 9-inch pie plate (or one big s'mores pie).
  • Bake at 400° for 5 minutes (10 minutes if making one larger pie). 
  • Remove from oven & let cool completely before filling.

For the milk chocolate pudding filling (recipe from Epicurious):

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces fine-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and a pinch of salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then gradually whisk in milk and cream. 
  • Bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then boil, whisking, 2 minutes. (Mixture will be thick.) 
  • Remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. 
  • Fill cooled crusts with pudding & chill until set.

For the marshmallow topping (recipe from Bon Appetit):

1 cup sugar, divided
4 egg whites
Pinch of kosher salt  
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and simmer syrup without stirring until the thermometer reads 240°, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.
  • Meanwhile, place egg whites, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip on high until frothy. Slowly add remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whip until soft peaks form. Continue whipping until medium peaks form. 
  • Reduce speed to medium, then pour hot syrup into meringue in a slow, steady stream while whipping. Increase speed to high and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium and whip until meringue is cool.  
  • Spread on top of the pudding-filled crusts. Keep chilled until ready to use. Use a brulee torch to lightly toast the marshmallow before serving.

June 8, 2012

Eggplant Caponata

Another recipe that I had recently pinned on Pinterest was for a complex-looking eggplant caponata. I love caponata; eaten cold on crackers, it makes for a light summertime lunch. Add some read wine, and it's a nice little dinner. Leftovers are pretty good stirred into hot pasta or layered into a veggie lasagna.

There's just so much going on in this version...a little tartness from vinegar & lemon juice, a little heat from red pepper flakes & garlic, a little sweet from raisins & sugar, a little salty from olives & capers, a little depth from fried eggplant & unsweetened chocolate.

The key to this recipe is to follow all of the cooking times. If it says to cook each step for 10 minutes, please do so...it's essential for developing the flavors. 

Eggplant Caponata
recipe adapted from Saveur

serves 6-8

3 cups olive oil
2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 ounces tomato paste
14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
6 ounces green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup capers, drained
2 tablespoons finely chopped unsweetened chocolate
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup finely shredded basil
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add eggplant and fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 3–4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large bowl; set aside. Pour off all but 1/4 cup oil and reserve for another use. 
  • Return skillet to heat, add onions, celery & garlic and season with salt & pepper; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 10 minutes. 
  • Reduce heat to medium and add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes. 
  • Add crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes & oregano and continue cooking for 10 minutes. 
  • Stir in olives, vinegar, lemon juice, raisins, capers, chocolate & sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl with eggplant, add basil & pine nuts, and mix together. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Let cool to room temperature before serving.

June 4, 2012

Shrimp Butter

The second "found on Pinterest" recipe that I tried for our picnic in the park last week was an addicting mixture of sauteed shrimp, onion, lemon, cayenne, and butter...lots of butter...aptly named shrimp butter.

I don't really know what else to say about this dish...other than it's essentially SHRIMP FLAVORED BUTTER. And, it's REALLY GOOD spread on toasted bread or crackers & paired with a glass of tart white wine.

And, well, to be honest...I also smeared some on hot corn-on-the-cob and it was PRETTY DELICIOUS.



recipe from Epicurious

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 lb medium shrimp in shell (31 to 35 per lb), peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup minced onion
2 1/2 teaspoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper *
  • Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté shrimp with salt and black pepper, stirring, until just cooked through, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a food processor, reserving skillet (do not clean).
  • Cook onion in 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape onions into processor and cool mixture to room temperature, about 15 minutes. 
  • Add lemon juice, cayenne, and remaining 9 tablespoons butter and pulse until shrimp are finely chopped. 
  • Pack shrimp butter into a 2-cup ramekin or serving bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, at least 6 hours (to allow flavors to develop). 
  • Bring to room temperature 45 minutes before serving. (Kelly's Note: I assumed this step was to let the mixture soften enough to spread, but I discovered that it doesn't get hard like chilled butter does. So, I think this step is optional.)
* I thought it could stand a little more heat, so I sprinkled the top with more cayenne.