What do you do when a neighbor kindly gifts you a 3 pound zucchini? You make zucchini bread. Lots of zucchini bread. And if you’re me, where is the first place you look for a zucchini bread recipe? Smitten Kitchen, of course. Continue reading
Buying items just because they are on sale is only a bargain if you use them. Otherwise they’re a huge waste of money. Impulse grocery shopping usually comes back and bites me in the butt. My most recent example? Those cherries on sale at The Fresh Market were a great price. I was expecting cherries as delicious as the ones I got direct from the farm at Baugher’s. What I got instead was a heaping serving of disappointment. Continue reading
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Not only is that some commercial tag line, it’s also the God’s honest truth. Sometimes, bad first impressions can’t be overcome. Other times, if you look past them, you find that you were totally wrong. Like that time in middle school when both Kristen Heher and I thought each other was trouble, with a capital T. Maybe we were, but after we got to know each other, we were best friends for two years. As hard as it is for me to admit when I am wrong, it’s even harder not to share with you something so ugly it’s good. Continue reading
The moment I picked those berries, the clock started ticking. One reason the strawberries you buy at the grocery store taste so blah is because they’ve been in suspended animation. They get cold stored which prolongs their shelf life. Fresh picked berries, however, have essentially been removed from their life support system. The morning after harvest, the berries I had set aside from the mega batch of jam were already starting to dry out and wither. Their once shiny exteriors were flat and dull. I needed to get these berries into the kitchen stat. Luckily, the recipe on call that day was Strawberry Frozen Yogurt. I was asked to assist.
We scrubbed up and got operating. Berries were rinsed, hulled, and sugared. A splash of vodka (optional) was applied. After sitting for two hours, yogurt and lemon juice was added and mixed with a stick blender until smooth. The mix needed additional time in the refrigerator to chill. Then it was off to the ice cream machine. Thirty minutes later, the operation was a complete success and the yogurt was ready to go into the freezer.
This is one time suspended animation is your friend, not your foe.
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
The recipe I worked from called for french yogurt. I used Fage Greek Yogurt which the folks at Trader Joe’s usually have on hand. If you can’t get Fage or another greek yogurt, strain regular plain yogurt through a paper towel lined sieve in the refrigerator to remove the liquid. You will be left with a thick, creamy yogurt similar to Fage.
I’ve had this recipe for so long that I forgot where it originally came from. It was definitely something I got online. If it’s yours, thanks for sharing.
1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vodka (optional – this helps the frozen yogurt keep a soft consistency)
1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Transfer the strawberries and their juices to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any seeds, if you like.
Chill until cold, at least 1 hour. Then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
The notion of eating fresh relies heavily on eating what’s in season. Those strawberries you see at the market in the dead of winter…not so much in season. But the ones I just picked at Baugher’s Farm? Most definitely so.
What do you think a strawberry is supposed to taste like? After eating so many of the mass produced, genetically enhanced, grocery store giants, I had forgotten the beauty of a fresh strawberry. Right from the plant, it is warm from the morning sun. The skin is vibrant; bright, and shining red and the flesh is firm but gently yielding. Bite into a mega farm berry and you get a little sweet, a lot of bland with the texture of cardboard. Bite into a just picked berry and it’s an explosion of freshness. Sweet and bright all at the same time and then the flesh just sort of melts away in your mouth.
And don’t let size fool you. Store berries tend to be big. But bigger is not always better. I picked a peck of berries and the little guys were just as flavorful as the big ones. Some, even more so. And unless you’re using them in a way that you’re going to see the berry whole, does it matter if that strawberry goodness came from David or Goliath?
Now is the time to embrace the berry goodness of eating fresh. It doesn’t matter whether you pick your own or get some fresh picked, local berries at a farm stand or market near you. But be warned, after eating a handful of these you may not be able to go back to the wannabes waiting for you at the grocery store.
One great way to use fresh strawberries is to make jam. Make this recipe and your peanut butter, yogurt, oatmeal, and toast will thank you. Want more jamtastic ideas? Check out Food in Jars.
Fresh Strawberry Jam
I got a little carried away picking and ended up with an entire peck of berries. This jam recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled. A triple batch will yield a nearly full one quart mason jar. The cooking time will be longer for a bigger batch but be patient…and at least let the jam cool before you go digging in with a spoon to enjoy the berry goodness. The original recipe says this will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.
4 cups fresh strawberries, halved
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Combine strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 1 hour or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Cool to room temperature and store in a plastic or glass container.
What’s that? You say that you want more chocolate?
Molten Chocolate Magic
Adapted from “Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef” by Mark Bittman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more to butter the molds
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting
In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, heat the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. While that’s heating, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.
Beat together the melted chocolate and butter; it should be quite warm. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined.
Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins. Tap out the excess flour, then butter and flour them again. Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat, for up to several hours; bring them back to room temperature before baking.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the molds on a tray for 6 to 7 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides will be set.
Invert each mold onto a plate and let sit for about 10 seconds. Unmold by lifting up one corner of the mold; the cake will fall out onto the plate. Serve immediately.
The ultimate Hallmark Holiday is nearly upon us. Why not whip up a little happiness courtesy of The Minimalist’s Chocolate Souffle? The souffle doesn’t care if you are alone on Valentine’s Day and savoring its chocolaty goodness all by yourself or if you’re sharing it with someone special. C’mon, desserts don’t discriminate. Remember the black and white cookie from Seinfeld? “Look to the cookie”.
Me, I like to look AT the cookies, and souffles, and tarts, and all sorts of treats. And I especially like to gobble them down. But if you happen to be around when I make this, I will most likely share some with you. You might have to shoot me with one of Cupid’s arrows to get my hands off the spoon though…just so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Oh, and if chocolate doesn’t happen to be your thing (as if), Mr. Bittman has kindly shared a non chocolate, Simple Souffle.
Mark Bittman – The New York Times
About 1 tablespoon butter for dish
1/3 cup sugar, plus some for dish
3 eggs, separated
2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 2-cup or one 4-cup soufflé or other deep baking dish(es). Sprinkle each with sugar, invert it and tap to remove excess sugar.
Beat egg yolks with all but 1 tablespoon sugar until very light and very thick; mixture will fall in a ribbon from beaters when it is ready. Mix in the melted chocolate until well combined; set aside.
Wash beaters well, then beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until whites hold soft peaks; continue to beat, gradually adding remaining tablespoon sugar, until they are very stiff and glossy. Stir a good spoonful of whites thoroughly into egg yolk mixture to lighten it; then fold in remaining whites, using a rubber spatula. Transfer to prepared soufflé dish(es); at this point you can cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.
Bake until center is nearly set, 20 minutes for individual soufflés and 25 to 35 minutes for a single large soufflé. Serve immediately.
The holiday season finds many of us making the same things. And I’m always interested to see a different approach to a recipe that I’ve coaxed out of my kitchen. Like those Spiced Nuts I made before Christmas.
They had all been packaged and shipped and I’d already moved on to the next recipe on my list when I saw Deb at Smitten Kitchen had blogged about them as well. Her take on Candied Nuts employs egg whites and the oven while mine are constructed entirely on top of the stove.
But you know what? Her’s looked more like I wanted mine to look. All sandy and nubby with the spices. Not shiny.
And I like that hers is straightforward in the sweet/salty/spicy mix and only uses three flavors. The more complicated the flavor palette, the more chance for things to go wrong.
So although it’s absurdly early to say this is definitely what I’m going to make next holiday go round, it is at the top of my list. Hope it finds a spot on yours as well. I’m not going to post her recipe here because reading her post and drooling over her photos is half the fun!
Sugar and spice…quick, what’s the first thing you think of? Cinnamon sugar, perhaps? There’s nothing wrong with cinnamon sugar but sometimes I think it’s more interesting to pair up flavors that don’t usually get to hang out together. Like cayenne pepper and brown sugar. And cumin. And paprika. And chipotle. Continue reading