Monday, May 31, 2010

Sour Cream Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Rhubarb Compote

This recipe started with the compote...the pancakes were just a delicious vehicle for getting the fruity goodness into my mouth. I have made all sorts of rhubarb + berry combinations but am certain I have never merged the blueberry rhubarb worlds. Now that I have I really don't know what was stopping me before. The blueberry's rich, sweet flavor is enhanced by the ruby tartness of the rhubarb and when the fruits are splashed with maple syrup and cooked together, well, it's just good.

I love the crunch of cornmeal in my pancakes. I buy the coarse, stone ground variety which I think has the best texture. Whisked together with some whole wheat pastry flour and rich sour cream, you really can't go wrong. These pancakes are good keepers and reheat nicely the next day.

I made these in a breakfast-for-dinner capacity and then had the leftovers the next morning. There's something satisfying about forgoing the standard protein+veg dinner and instead diving into a stack of cakes with warm, summery fruit and a tall glass of milk.

For Compote:

  • 2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 1/3-1/2 cup maple syrup (depending on the desired level of sweetness)
  • 1 pint blueberries

Combine the rhubarb, water, ginger and 1/3 cup of the syrup in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to simmer and reduce the heat to medium. Allow to simmer for 8-10 minutes until the rhubarb has softened. Add the blueberries and cook for 10-15 minutes more until the compote has thickened and the blueberries have released their juices. Taste and add additional syrup if needed. Serve warm over the pancakes or store, covered in the refrigerator for a week.

For Pancakes:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup coarse ground cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted + more for cooking the pancakes

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, egg, vanilla and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula until just combined.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the skillet with butter. Add 1/3 cupfuls of batter to the skillet and cook, until there are bubbles on the surface and the underside is golden. Flip carefully and cook for an additional minute or two. Keep the pancakes warm as the rest are being cooked. Serve with the warm compote.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rhubarb Round-Up

It's rhubarb season and I thought it might be a good idea to remind all of you about some of the rhubarb recipes I've published as well as some favorites from other sources. Rhubarb is such a sweet, fleeting time and I always try and take full advantage of it.

Perhaps the most famous rhubarb recipe posted on this blog came from Guestblogger Alita for Rhubarb Slush. A sweet, dangerous, vodka-laden mix that is stored in the freezer. Scoop some pretty pink slush into a glass, top with ginger ale or the like and have at it. Beware, after the first sip you may wonder aloud - "there's really alcohol in here?" I can assure you that yes, there is, kind of a lot.

Rhubarb does well canned as jams and I have really enjoyed both the Rhubarb Strawberry Jam and Rhubarb Marmalade. The tartness of it compliments many fruits and I like the way the texture of it holds up through the canning process.

A personal favorite is my Honey Vanilla Rhubarb. The fragrance it gives off while baking in the oven is amazing. My good friend Burt had me over for dinner recently and made this for dessert. His twist was to make a traditional fool out of it by layering the rhubarb and juices with whipped cream. Beautiful and supremely delicious.

A recent rhubarb triumph are the Rhubarb Raspberry Tarts. Rich, red and deeply flavored, these tarts are a lovely springtime dessert or teatime snack.

One of my go-to recipes is Rhubarb Anise Upside-Down Cake from Gourmet. I make this every year and think it the perfect cake. The anise seed is a surprising and unique compliment.

And from around the blogosphere check out:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Asparagus Salad with Chervil Vinaigrette

Last year I planted chervil for the first time. It's a delicate, lacy looking herb with undertones of anise and fresh citrus flavors. I was surprised to see it sprout up this spring and didn't think it had the strength to come back on its own. Now, after some sunshine and spring rain, it's quite abundant and healthy so I have been thinking up all sorts of ways to use it.

I came up with this salad after buying my weekly bundle of asparagus. The thin stalks needed only a quick blanch in some simmering water for a couple minutes before they were ready. I had some leftover toasted hazelnuts from the Rhubarb Raspberry Tarts so gave them a quick chop and added them in. It was finished off with some shavings of pecorino and the chervil vinaigrette.

The vinaigrette itself can be modified in all sorts of ways by switching out different herbs and vinegars. I wanted something light that wouldn't overwhelm the other ingredients and so chose the white wine vinegar and a touch of lemon juice for acidity. This vinaigrette comes together in no time in the blender and also emulsifies nicely.

For 4 servings:

  • 1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup chervil leaves, stems discarded
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 4 cups lettuce mix
  • 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • Shavings of pecorino, to taste
Blanch the asparagus in a pot of simmering, salted water for a couple minutes and then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

In a blender, combine the oil, vinegar, chervil, lemon juice, salt and sugar. Blend, scraping down the sides once, until emulsified.

In a salad bowl, combine the lettuce, hazelnuts, asparagus and vinaigrette and toss to combine. Shave the pecorino over the top and serve immediately.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Strawberry Daiquiris

A couple weeks ago I was having the sort of day where daytime drinking was required. It being nearly noon, I thought something fruity was in order so that I could tell myself that the soothing alcohol spirits were healthfully enhanced by quite a few vitamin-packed strawberries. It's like a smoothie!!! - I said to myself.

I looked in my liquor cabinet, dutifully ignoring the almost-full bottle of Crème de Menthe that taunts me with its decided lack of uses and which I feel I will have for the rest of my life. I bought it because a Martha Stewart recipe required a tablespoon of it and ever since then, it has stared at me, green and dusty. Perhaps one day I will attack it and a Crème de Menthe something or other will show up here. Or, maybe one or all of you can just tell me what to do with it and I will listen.

I digress. I grabbed the bottle of Bacardi only to discover there was hardly any left and so picked up its cousin Malibu thinking it wouldn't matter if I did a little unorthodox mixing. I had a couple limes, a bag of frozen strawberries, and dumped it all in the blender. On first sip, I realized that my freestyle mixology had turned into magic because these daiquiris were good. Like, really good.

Deciding I needed to pass this magic onto you I recreated these cocktails, measuring this time, and have concluded that the Malibu might just be the secret underlying ingredient that brings it all together. Perfect for summer days (and nights), this frosty concoction is a winner.

For 4 cocktails (but really, 2 generous ones):
  • 1 pound frozen strawberries
  • 3 ounces Bacardi white rum
  • 2 ounces Malibu rum
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 cup lime flavored sparkling water
  • Lime slices for garnish
Put half the strawberries in the blender along with both rums, sugar, lime juice and water. Blend until smooth. Add the rest of the strawberries and blend again. Divide among 4 glasses, garnish with a lime slice and serve immediately.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rhubarb Raspberry Tarts

I know that strawberry/rhubarb is the classic combination but I much prefer the deeper flavors of raspberry/rhubarb. Raspberries add a ruby red richness to the tartness of rhubarb and I have had a lot of success canning a rhubarb raspberry jam in the past. With this in mind, I made these tarts, developing a toasty hazelnut whole wheat crust to complement the fruity filling.

These are perfect for company because although a bit fussy to make, they can be knocked out pretty quickly (or a day ahead of time) and are delicious and beautiful. Because these tarts are not baked in a tart pan and are instead free-form, all of their imperfections and flaws can be embraced and simply labeled as rustic. People fall for that every time.

I prefer mini-tarts, dividing the dough into 6 or 8 pieces but feel free to make one big tart or a couple. The baking times will need to be slightly adjusted according to size. I made six tarts for this go around and promptly ate one straight from the oven, served four for my guests, and ate the last one the next day for breakfast. The tart and a glass of milk was the perfect start to my day.

For crust:

  • 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream

For filling:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 2 cups diced rhubarb (cut into 1/4-inch pieces)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons kirsch
  • Powdered sugar for garnish

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Roast until just toasted, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Place the hazelnuts in a towel and rub them together to remove the skins. Set them aside.

In a food processor combine the flour, sugar, hazelnuts, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Process until the hazelnuts are finely ground. Cut the butter into 4 tablespoons and place in the food processor. Pulse until pea-sized crumbs form. Add the sour cream and turn on the processor until the dough comes together in a ball. Knead it a few times on a lightly floured surface and then form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to 3 days).

Divide the dough into the desired number of pieces and then roll out on a floured surface into circles an 1/8-inch thick. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough onto the baking sheet(s). Stir together the 2 tablespoons flour and 1 tablespoon sugar together in a small bowl. Divide it among the circles of dough and spread it evenly, leaving a 2-inch border. Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator while making the filling.

In a medium bowl, gently stir together the raspberries, rhubarb, sugar, kirsch and lemon juice. Divide the mixture among the circles of dough. Fold the 2-inch border of dough over the filling and pinch together to seal. Place in the heated 375 degree oven and bake for 30-35 minutes (more or less depending on tart size) so that the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Transfer the tarts to a wire rack to cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Adapted from the free-form fruit tart recipe in A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Soufflé Omelet with Spring Vegetables & Crab

A couple years ago I was introduced to the concept of a baked or souffle omelet through Mark Bittman's book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. His version is a sweet one which I posted here back in 2009. It remains a favorite of mine and a recipe I go back to often.

I decided to revisit the concept behind the baked omelet but instead made it savory by incorporating seasonal vegetables, herbs, and crab. It turned out perfectly although not as fluffy as the original since I had so many ingredients weighing it down. However, it is still so very airy and light due to separating the eggs and whipping the whites.

The small addition of lemon zest brightens the dish and complements the sweetness of the crab meat and delicate flavors of the spinach and peas. I used dill in this version but suspect chervil and/or tarragon would also be quite nice.

Although this seems like a quintessential breakfast or brunch dish, I envision myself making this again and serving it with a green salad for lunch or a light dinner.

For 4 servings:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1½ tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 cups packed spinach leaves (sliced if large)
  • ½ cup peas
  • 1 can crab
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup finely grated gruyere
  • 2 tablespoon fresh dill, chervil or tarragon or a combination
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a 10-inch oven proof skillet. Add the shallots and sauté for a couple minutes until soft. Add the spinach and stir until just wilted, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer the shallot spinach mixture to a bowl. Add the peas, crab, milk, gruyere, herbs, flour and sugar. Stir in the 4 egg yolks. Season generously with salt and pepper and set aside.

With a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold in the spinach mixture until the ingredients are distributed uniformly throughout the egg whites.

Heat the additional 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in the same skillet used to cook the shallots. Pour in the omelet mixture, smooth the top with a spatula, and let cook for 2 minutes, undisturbed. Place the skillet in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Invert onto a plate and serve.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Rhubarb Marmalade

I had this idea to make a rhubarb marmalade the other day and promptly went out, bought some stalks of ruby red rhubarb, a couple Cara Cara oranges, a few lemons and set about canning for the first time in a long time.

I have made marmalades three different times with mixed levels of disaster: Once, a clementine marmalade which never set up, despite my use of pectin. It was so liquidy that I marketed it to my friends as orangey goodness sauce. I made a grapefruit marmalade that was a bit better but saucy nonetheless. And now, this rhubarb marmalade that is decidedly un-saucy but for whatever reason separated in the jars so the rhubarb floated to the top and the jelly settled on the bottom.

I almost didn't post this out of canning shame but the way I see it, nothing is ever perfect, it tastes super good, and it actually looks kind of cool all layered and wrong in the jars. Oh well. I hand the jars to my devoted friends and say "just stir it, ok?"

For 8 half-pint jars:
  • 3½ cups finely chopped rhubarb
  • 3 oranges
  • 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 7 cups sugar
  • ½ teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 packet liquid pectin

Wash the oranges and lemon well. Slice off the peels with a sharp paring knife avoiding the pith and then cut the peel into thin strips or use a citrus zester. Set the peels aside. Cut off the pithy part of the fruit, and then cut out each citrus segment. Set aside.

In a large, 8 quart pot, combine the peels, water, and rhubarb. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the reserved citrus segments and sugar and stir constantly over medium heat until dissolved. Add the lemon juice and butter. Turn the heat to medium-high and stirring constantly, let the mixture come to a full, rolling boil. Quickly squeeze in the pectin, and stir briskly for one minute. Take the pot off the heat and set a timer for 5 minutes. Each minute, stir the mixture gently to distribute the fruit throughout the jelly.

Ladle the jam into the prepared, hot, sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. For detailed canning and sterilization procedures, click here.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Warm Jasmine Rice Salad

I have been in love with Spring more so than usual this year. It's been an early warm one featuring April lilacs, annuals in the garden that curiously survived the winter, loads of pretty chives, and grass that has required several mowings before it reached May 1st.

While I sit in the sun, I crave foods light and green and lemony and so one night tossed together this salad. It was one of those things that was so good that I wrote down how I sort of did it and then made it again so I could present it to all of you. I've been working on the yogurt dressing recipe that I've used here for a while and am pretty enamored with it. I love that it is creamy but not mayonnaise-based (for health reasons only, I could eat an entire jar of Hellman's with a spoon if no one was watching).

The salad itself is a simple combination of sweet peas, tangy artichokes and fragrant jasmine rice along with loads of chopped fresh herbs and lemon. It tastes best warm so try and eat it right away but leftovers are perfectly fine cold. I have eaten this on it's own for lunch and also had it as a side dish along with some grilled lamb.

For 3-4 main dish servings or 5-6 side dish servings:
  • 1 cup jasmine rice, uncooked
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup chopped mixed herbs (I used basil, chives and oregano)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 cup canned quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Steam or boil the rice. Meanwhile in a large bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, yogurt, lemon zest, poppy seeds, herbs and shallots. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Stir in the warm, cooked rice until thoroughly coated in the dressing. If using frozen peas, stir them into the warm rice which will "cook" them. If using fresh peas, blanch them for 1-2 minutes and then add them to the rice. Stir in the artichokes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if necessary and serve, with lemon wedges on the side.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Caramelized Plantains

I have been to Negril, Jamaica twice and was enchanted by the mornings there. The Caribbean sea was completely placid and turquoise, there were few people along the beaches, and I loved the tropical breakfasts we would eat each day. While sitting in the sun we would be brought plates of sliced mangoes and papayas, banana pancakes, and the Jamaican Island Breakfast consisting of saltfish & ackee, callaloo, plantains, and johnnycakes.

I developed a particular fondness for the plantains and would get a side of them each morning. Less sweet and more starchy than a banana, the plantains cooked up golden and crusty on the outside but tender and almost creamy on the inside. I have been making them at home ever since and have developed my own method and seasoning mixture that replicates what I ate in Jamaica quite nicely. I love the addition of the ground chipotle pepper because of the hint of smoke and spice it contributes.

When you buy a plantain at the store, don't buy one that is nearly black for the flesh will be too soft and won't cook up properly. You want one mainly yellow, with some black. If it's all yellow, just let it sit around on your counter for a few days until it looks ready.

I think that peanut oil really needs to be used here, but if you don't have any, canola oil can be substituted. Don't cook the plantains in olive oil but if you do, keep it a secret from me because it's just wrong.

For 2-4 side dish servings:
  • 1 plantain with yellow flesh streaked with black
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • Lime wedges, for serving

With a knife, cut off the peel from one end of the plantain. Remove the peel and slice it into 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, salt and chipotle pepper.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet (such as a cast-iron) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the plantain slices in a single layer. Using half of the sugar mixture, sprinkle each plantain slice with it. Allow to cook, without touching for 2-3 minutes until the edges are golden. With tongs, gently flip each slice and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture. Cook for 2 additional minutes, flip again and cook for 1 minute more.

Serve immediately with limes wedges on the side.