Archive for July, 2012
My sister, Lisa, who favors chocolate over most things, opts for ice cream pie instead of cake for her summer birthday celebration. For years my mother has made her a Black-Bottom Pie, a luscious dessert that is very simple to make. There are several steps that involve chill/freeze time, but other than that, this recipe is easily accomplished by the most novice baker.
True to its name, Black-Bottom Pie has a tasty, dark-colored chocolate crust. A satisfyingly thick, fudgy sauce covers the crust before the ice cream is generously added. Mint chocolate chip is Lisa’s preferred flavor, but almost any ice cream will work with this recipe: coffee, strawberry, dulce de leche, or even plain vanilla.
Summer birthdays scream for ice cream, but so does any sticky, sweltering day. This black-bottom ice cream pie, included in my Sweet Home cookbook, is a cool ending to any summer meal.
Black-Bottom Ice Cream Pie
1-1/4 cups finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs (about 25 cookies, such as Famous Chocolate Wafers)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 quart mint chocolate-chip ice cream (or your favorite flavor)
1/4 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (about 5 wafer cookies)
1. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Put the cookie crumbs, melted butter, and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine.
3. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie plate, being sure to cover the sides of plate too. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the chocolate, water, sugar, butter, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted. Continue to cook for another 1 minute, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
5. Pour the sauce over the cooled pie crust and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
6. Once the sauce has firmed in the crust, soften the ice cream slightly so it will be easy to scoop and spread evenly into the pie crust. Fill the crust with the softened ice cream. Sprinkle the top with the cookie crumbs and freeze the pie for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
For several consecutive days when my kids asked what was for dinner, I told them corn soup. When it came time to eat though, they would find no soup on the table, just steaming ears of corn. “I thought we were having soup?” they would ask. “Yea, well, we were...” I had the best intentions but I somehow got distracted, it was too hot to turn on the stove, or really, honestly, I just wanted to eat the sweet kernels right off the cob.
We had a French student staying with us for several weeks, and she had never eaten corn right off the cob. “That’s how they feed it to the animals,” she told us. Suddenly feeling less-than-genteel, I sheepishly showed her how we munched our way through ears of corn slathered with butter and sprinkled with salt. I can only imagine what she thought as we demonstrated this plebian skill—we probably did look like animals. Hey, je suis américaine. It didn’t take Ségolène long to jump in though, sporting a big grin from ear to ear!
Perhaps it was while presenting the merits of corn on the cob, I myself recognized the simple beauty of this summer pleasure. I did still have the desire for a cool, smooth, velvety corn soup, but I think in the back of my mind I wondered if it would be that much better than an ear of corn.
Well, it was and it wasn’t. After a good stint in the kitchen, I had a soup that was the essence of a buttery ear of corn. It was satisfying and toothsome. Corn soup, accompanied by some crusty bread and a salad, is a perfect summer meal. (Add a little smoked trout or grilled shrimp if you’re looking for extra protein.) While close, an ear of corn just does not satiate like a bowl of soup.
That said, soup requires more attention than simple corn-cob prep. But if you’ve got the time, the corn, and the inclination, go for it—especially if you’d like to feel a little more distingué.
P.S. I apologize if you’re looking to make something with an ingredient other than July’s ubiquitous peaches or corn, but really, how can one resist this annual joy?
Chilled corn soup
Serves about 6
While I had set out to make a velvety smooth soup, I ended up finding a heartier, thicker soup was my preference. I only strained about half the soup. For a more refined texture, strain all of it but keep in mind your yield will be less. Also, you may eat this soup warm, but on hot summer days it’s refreshing when chilled.
Additionally, I tried garnishes such as smoked paprika, sour cream, jalapenos, and scallion but found they all detracted from the soup’s delicate flavor. Nothing more than a sprinkle of chives is needed.
12 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
3 large leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced (about 1 heaping cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chives, chopped for garnish
1. Remove the corn from the cobs. Set aside the corn from 2 of the 12 cobs (about 1 cup). You will be using the the large amount of corn first and reserving the 1 cup for later.
2. Place the 12 corn-less cobs in a large stock pot and add the chicken stock and milk. Bring to a boil. and simmer for 5 minutes uncovered. Next remove the pot from the heat, cover, and allow to steep.
3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, leeks, and carrot, and stir for 8 to 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the bay leaves and garlic and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes.
4. Next, add 2 tablespoons butter to the sauce pan and while it melts, add the corn that was cut from 10 ears of corn. Add the salt and pepper. Continue to stir and cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.
5. Remove the cobs from the milk-broth mixture and pour the liquid into the sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
6. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it’s smooth. This may take some patience. Alternately, allow the soup to cool slightly and in batches, puree in a blender.
7. Here you may choose to leave the soup as is, or push some or all of it through a fine sieve and discard the solids.
8. Put the soup back in the sauce pan and add the remaining corn (about 1 cup). Reheat over low to medium heat, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is achieved. The soup will thicken some as it cooks. You may also thin with a little more broth or milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.
9. Serve warm or chilled with a sprinkle of chive.
I love riddles. I think they are great because they are fun to tell at school, with friends and with family. Another reason I like riddles is because you get to share them and pass them on. The first riddle below I learned from my best friend. Here are a few of my favorites:
1. You are walking with a man named Ed and you stop at a ditch where a dead man is lying. Ed turns to you and says: “Brothers and sisters I have none, but that man’s father is my father’s son.”
Who is the man in the ditch?
This is a riddle that won’t work to read but it is a good one to tell people. I wrote numbers in here but you really can say any number between 0 and 20.
2.You are the bus driver. Ten people get on the bus. Then at the next stop, 20 people get on and 3 people get off. After that 8 people get on and 2 people get off. Next, 9 people get off and 17 people get on.
What is the color of the bus driver’s eyes?
This riddle, like #2, you can only tell someone. Although, this one is kind of like 20 questions because they have to ask yes or no questions to get the answer.
3. A man is in California reading the newspaper. He read a column that was talking about how a couple from California were on a ski trip in Switzerland and the wife was murdered. The police were trying to find out who had killed her. After this man read all of it, he went straight to the police department, told them the husband killed her and brought them back to his house to prove it.
How did he know the husband had killed the wife?
1. The dead man in the ditch is the son of Ed. The reason is that if the dead man’s father is the son of Ed’s father, and since Ed doesn’t have any brothers or sisters, then he is the only son of his father.
2. The color of the bus driver’s eyes is the color of the person’s eyes that you are telling it to, because in the beginning you said that they were the bus driver.
3. The man who reported the husband to the police sold airplane tickets, and the husband bought a round-trip ticket for himself, but only a one-way ticket for his wife.
I am having a contest of riddles. I am going to pick my favorite riddle and it will be posted along with your name* and picture* (*optional*). The winner will also receive a mini riddle book made by me. To enter, just put your riddle in a comment by August 15 and I will post the winner August 20.
Really good, fully-ripe local peaches are now making their way to farm stands here in the Hudson Valley. Up until now we’ve had some okay ones, but I encountered many tasteless, hard peaches in the past month too. Trying to blanch a hard peach stinks.
There’s nothing quite like biting into that first juicy, chin-dripping peach of the summer…it is the taste of summer.
The past year’s erratic weather patterns—record spring highs followed by cold snaps—caused much speculation about the summer’s fruit crops. I unfortunately haven’t seen any sour cherries this month, nor do I think I will (boo-hoo!). Thanks goodness we’ve got peaches.
I came across this interesting piece on The New York Times site…
And guess when it was published? The August 9 date probably gives you a clue that it wasn’t this year, but it wasn’t last either…it was written over 125 years ago and we’re still dealing with the same issues.
Scrumptious peaches warrant celebration. While they need no adornment, of course I can’t resist baking them into a pie or muffins—it’s the hedonist in me.
And Ffrench just flat out won’t accept that watching-your-waistline excuse. “You can bake something — keep a couple of cookies yourself — and then give the rest away. That way nobody is getting a whole big box of cookies, or a giant cake that they can’t eat. Share the love.”
And have I got a recipe for you to share. If you even just like peaches, you’re going to love these muffins. Warm from the oven, the peaches in this irresistible morning treat become creamy, the taste reminiscent of peach cobbler.
These muffins are the perfect sweet ending to a weekend brunch, that is, if they make it to your table. It’s hard to resist eating them straight from the oven, steamy and moist.
I can’t take credit for this recipe however. It comes from former Magnolia Bakery owner Allysa Torey. If they had to, my family would wait in line for these muffins, just like Magnolia devotees used to queue up for cupcakes in the West Village. Bleecker Street is no longer the only outlet for the famed baked goods though. Magnolia cupcakes are available in numerous bakeries across the country, and even in Bloomingdales’ Dubai outpost. Now there’s a thought.
The only downside to this muffin is that they call for cake flour, which may not be a staple in your pantry. If not, just replace the 1-1/2 cups cake flour with 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch.
Peach Cobbler Muffins
Adapated from Sour Cream Peach Streusel Buns as they appeared in Allysa Torey’s At Home with Magnolia: Classic American Recipes from the Owner of Magnolia Bakery (Wiley, 2006)
For the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
For the muffins:
1-1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1-1/2 cups blanched, peeled, and coarsely chopped ripe peaches (about 2 to 3 medium)*
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place paper liners in 20 standard muffin cups. (I used folded cupcake liners, also called tulip baking cups, in the photo above. I also used white peaches, which explains the lack of a pretty peachy-orange color in the muffins.)
2. For the topping: Stir the flour, sugar, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Add the softened butter, and using two forks, gently incorporate the butter into the flour mixture until it is clumpy and the size of large peas. Set aside.
3. For the muffins: Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
4. Put the butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream together on medium for 3 minutes. Add the egg, and then the yolk, blending after each addition until fully incorporated, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. Stir in the vanilla extract.
5. With the mixer on low, slowly add half of the dry ingredients. Using a rubber spatula, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is moistened.
6. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined. With the mixer on low, add the rest of the dry ingredients until moistened, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with the spatula. Do not overbeat. Stir in the peaches using the spatula or a wooden spoon.
7. Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop, fill the prepared muffin cups two-thirds full. Sprinkle each muffin with a tablespoon of topping.
8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until pale golden and a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Let cool in the pan.
*To blanch peaches, fill a large pot 3/4 full with water. Bring it to a boil. Gently lower the peaches into the boiling water with a slotted spoon or spider strainer. Allow the peaches to boil for a quick 30 seconds, then drain the peaches, leaving them in the pot. Quickly fill the pot with cold water. As you pick up the peaches under the running water, the skin should slip right off. Alternately, you can fill a bowl with ice water and plunge the peaches in the cold water after draining.
It’s hot, huh? With temps above 90 I can’t bear to turn on the oven (it’s bad enough having to make dinner!). I do find solace at the farmer’s market though. When faced with irresistible mounds of delectable produce, it’s hard not to get a little excited about preparing a meal. In an effort to keep the oven off and the kitchen cool, I try to keep veggies raw and head to the grill for meats.
Inspired by the many mouth-watering recipes in Sophie Dahl’s newest book, Very Fond of Food, I recently put together a salad of tossed raw beets with lime and goat cheese. My husband Jim and kids were very skeptical. “Raw beets?????” one exclaimed, “why didn’t you roast them?” another moaned. Jim just looked doubtful.
Well, all were surprised, and I probably the most—because they ate it…and liked it. The key is slicing the beets thinly, preferably with a mandoline. They become pleasantly crunchy, but not too much so.
If you don’t have a mandoline, try out an inexpensive Japanese model. No need to dive right into the purchase of a fancy French mandoline, see if you use it first. You may or may not upgrade, as the Benriner is a great tool.
Another vegetable that responds well to the mandoline is the radish. Again, finely sliced, lightly dressed rounds of radish are so refreshing. Adding mint to the mix was another Sophie Dahl-inspired combo.
For those of you not yet acquainted with the lovely Miss Dahl, you can read more about her at the Huffington Post. A writer and former model, Sophie Dahl is the granddaughter of Roald Dahl (of whom I’m a very big fan). Sophie’s charming stories accompanying her simple yet sophisticated recipes make her books worth owning. (Plus, how can you not adore the woman who was the inspiration for Sophie in the BFG?)
Grilled salmon and a lemony arugula salad completed this no-roast dinner. If you don’t have access to a grill, stove-top grill pans work very well. I’ve had my Le Creuset square pan for many years and use it weekly.
What I’ve discovered is that all the tools in the world can’t make mediocre ingredients taste good. Local, fresh produce and wild-caught fish are what shape this fast, healthy meal. It takes just a little pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon or lime to make the natural flavors sing. It really doesn’t get much easier than this…well, take-out perhaps.
Beets with lime and goat cheese
Recipe adapted from Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food (10 Speed Press, 2011)
3 to 4 beets, peeled, quartered and very thinly sliced (a mix of golden and red beets looks beautiful)
Juice and zest from 2 limes
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon coriander, freshly ground
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
Place the beets in a bowl and toss with lime juice. Sprinkle with coriander, salt and pepper to taste. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Toss again and sprinkle with goat cheese and lime zest just before serving.
Radishes with mint
Recipe adapted from Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food (10 Speed Press, 2011)
2 bunches of radishes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
Flake sea salt or kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Finely slice the radishes using a mandoline. Place them in a bowl and toss with olive oil. Add all the mint minus a pinch. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Before serving, sprinkle the radishes with a pinch more salt, pepper and the remaining mint.
I’m not one for perfectly decorated cakes. While a cleverly-designed fondant-covered creation may look very tempting, the taste and texture often disappoint. I much rather prefer dense (or light, I’m not picky), moist layer cakes with big, fluffy uneven swirls of frosting—that’s perfection to me. I find them so inviting I have to keep myself from taking a fork and digging right in. My goal is always to bake the tastiest cake possible—decoration becomes an afterthought.
My daughter posed a challenge when she asked if we could make “a totally cool cake with marshmallow frosting” for her tie-dye party. I’m sure many of you have seen those rainbow layer cakes all over the Web. Martha featured one on her show. The Better Homes & Gardens May cover featured a sweet lemonade cake with variegated pink layers. I’ve been looking for an excuse to make one of these and thought this was my chance.
Camilla found an image that was even more interesting though. Instead of uniform, stacked layers, the cake she wanted combined colors in one layer like real tie-dye. “So totally cool,” she said. And it was.
For more on Tie-dye parties, click over to my post at Babycenter.com.
Totally Cool Tie-Dye Cake
This recipe makes a dense, moist golden cake. I did use a standard seven-minute frosting because Camilla wanted something marshmallow-like. However, for ease of decorating, I would recommend a heavier butter cream, for which I have given the recipe.
2-1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9-inch pans.
2. Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
3. Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream for 3 minutes on high until light and fluffy, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vinegar and mix until full incorporated. Next add the milk and flour mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat well after each addition, for about 20 seconds, making sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined, again stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the vanilla extract.
5. Divide the batter into 6 different bowls using the following amounts: 2 cups batter (purple), 1-1/2 cups batter (blue,) 1 cup batter (green), 3/4 cup batter (yellow), 1/2 cup batter (orange), 1/2 cup batter (red). Add food coloring to each bowl, stirring and adding until desired color is reached.
NOTE: You may substitute any colors. If using the amounts/colors above, the 2-cup purple batter becomes the outermost layer, with the other colors working their way in to the center of the cake, which will be red.
I did not give number of drops of food coloring as the amount depends on if you use gels, liquid, etc.
Begin by dividing the 2 cups of batter (purple in this case) between the two prepared pans.
Continue to divide the individual batters between the two pans leaving a one- to two-inch circle of each color showing (see below). This is actually easier than it may seem. The batter is very agreeable to this method, it doesn’t run or spread.
Continue spreading the batter in this manner until all the batters/colors are used.
6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Don’t be alarmed if the color of your cake looks brown or deep, deep purple. I promise it’ll be gorgeous when you cut it. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.
7. Frost when fully cool with Buttercream frosting and decorate with gel colors for a tie-dye effect.
Culinary Institute of America Buttercream Frosting
This standard buttercream recipe comes from the CIA in Hyde Park, NY.
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
8 large egg whites
4 cups unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. Combine 1 1/2 cups of the sugar with the water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue cooking without stirring to the soft ball stage (240°F).
2. Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment.
3. When the sugar syrup has reached approximately 230°F, whip the egg whites on medium speed to soft peak consistency. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until the egg whites hold to medium peaks.
4. When the sugar syrup reaches 240°F, immediately pour it into a heatproof glass measuring cup with a pouring spout. This will allow better control of the flow of the hot syrup into the egg whites. You can also stream the hot syrup into the egg whites directly from the pot, if desired. Pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites with the mixer running on medium speed. As soon as all of the syrup has been added, increase the speed to high and continue to whip until the meringue has cooled to room temperature.
5. Add the cubed butter gradually, mixing after each addition until fully incorporated and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Blend in the vanilla. The buttercream is ready for use or may be tightly covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE;
1. Place 1 layer, flat side up, in the middle of a plate or cake stand. Using a knife or offset spatula, spread enough frosting to make a 1/4 to 1/2-inch layer. Carefully set the other layer on top, flat side up, and repeat. Cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting.
2. Using small tubes of gel decorating colors, make 6 concentric circles, as shown below.
3. Using a pastry brush (or a flat, unused paint brush), start at the center gently pull the brush outward through each colored ring until you reach the outer edge.
Clean the brush, make sure it’s fully dry, and repeat the process next to the area you just pulled. Continue until the entire cake has been “tie-dyed.”
It’s just like opening a present when you cut into this cake…oohs and ahhs will abound. Even better if you can keep a secret until the cake is cut (not so easy in my case unfortunately!). Have fun.
Have you ever made a faux pas that still causes you to cringe? I certainly have. I produced a shoot at someone’s house, and had lunch catered. I carefully chose items—including a vegetarian option, several salads, and a pasta—that I thought would be crowd pleasers. The host had a nut allergy though, and when lunch arrived, he pulled the delivery boy aside and was told that every and I repeat every dish contained nuts. I was mortified. I had nothing to offer the host, but had I inquired about nuts in advance the dear man would not have gone hungry.
For you who have allergies, or have family members that do, this probably does not come as a surprise. “Duh,” you’re thinking. Of course you must ask! Lesson learned.
I now always inquire, whether we’re having weekend guests or a kids’ birthday party, if anyone has food allergies or aversions. I had a particular challenge last weekend when two of my guests were gluten- and dairy-free, and another had a nut allergy. Hmmmm, I guess I couldn’t start off the evening with my standard assortment of cheeses and toast, nor could I serve my favorite tamari almonds and rosemary cashews.
I went for fresh and easy: two big bowls of savory kale chips, a sweet container of crisp sugar snap peas, and cucumber sticks. I did offer one option for those who were not dairy- and wheat-free—luscious ricotta and tomato toasts.
The kale chips were a hit—even with the kids. Perhaps they’re an unexpected accompaniment to cocktails, but their salty, somewhat spicy goodness complemented the crisp rosé we were drinking, a yummy Domaine Houchart.
For those of you who associate rosé with Almaden jug wine of the 70s, you must try this wine. A friend recently declined a glass because she said, “oh I don’t like those sweet pink wines.” Jim insisted she take a sip, which she did, and was sold. The dry, bright wine was nothing like the fruity pinks she’d tried in the past.
I am smitten with the charms of rosé, and try to share the joy, buying Domaine Houchart by the case. It was introduced to us by a wine-importer friend; we were worried it would be out of our league financially but here’s the kicker: it’s only 9.99 a bottle (almost as cheap as jug wine!).
I have a feeling rosé has hit its stride. Last week there was a large display near the Whole Foods checkout with over 15 different wines in shades of pink, peach and melon. You can pick up a bag of kale chips there too. But for a fraction of the cost, you can make your own chips in a jiffy (you’ll have to buy the wine though!).
A cool glass of rosé and some healthy green crisps are a great way to toast the weekend.
Crispy Kale Chips
There are many varieties of kale. I’ve used ruffled, curly, and a flat-leaf kale to make chips and they all work. I like the curlier leaves, but it’s pure personal preference. When the kale is young, I leave in the ribs when chopping. If the kale is large and tough, remove the ribs before chopping the leaves. Add more black pepper for a spicier chip.
6 to 7 cups kale leaves, about 1 large head, stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two 11 x 17 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Place the kale leaves (rinsed and dried well) in a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss until all the leaves are coated.
3. Divide the leaves between the two baking sheets, spreading them in an even layer on each sheet.
4. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until crisp. Use a spatula to turn them once while baking. The chips are somewhat delicate, so use care when turning.
5. Allow to cool then place in a bowl or air-tight container.
Happy 4th of July everyone! To celebrate you can make this parfait for a snack or even if you’re having a party. These are so simple to make. My favorite part about them is how there is no specific recipe. Also it helps you cool off in the summer sun. All you need is: strawberries, blueberries and French vanilla (or vanilla) yogurt. I like to use special glasses such as a parfait glass or you can ask your parents if you can use one of their wine glasses. If you don’t have access to either of those, an everyday glass would work.
First get all of your ingredients ready, cut the strawberries into fourths (save the prettiest one for later) and figure out how much fruit and yogurt you will need to fill your glass.
Then add a large-sized dollop of yogurt into your glass.
After that you can start to add layers of strawberries and blueberries until your glass is filled up. If you are using a tall glass, add more yogurt after the fruit and then some more fruit and yogurt. Just keep layering.
Add your last amount of yogurt (which should be thin) and garnish with a few blueberries and the perfect strawberry you had saved from before.
A few months ago Jim came home from the store with a small adorable tin overflowing with fresh ricotta. He was so excited about his purchase. I love this about my husband. He oftentimes walks through the door after a food shopping trip with a special something that he just couldn’t resist, “look at these local strawberries,” he’ll declare as he pulls out four cartons of small succulent berries, or “check out this red snapper they had…it’s whole, I know exactly how I’m going to prepare it.”
Maybe that makes him an impulse buyer, but there’s something to be said for veering off a grocery list. There are times I get a dish stuck in my head and go to unneeded lengths to get the necessary ingredients. Let’s say we’re throwing a dinner party and snap peas are on the menu. I’ll drive to three different stores/produce stands in search of fresh peas. Because I don’t shop at just one store, I convince myself that I’m not wasting time. However, why not streamline the process? Go with the fava beans that I saw in the first market—which is what my hubby does (I am trying to learn from his efficiency!).
So while the ricotta was not on Jim’s list, the little containers of billowing cheese lined up on a special ice-filled cart were too hard to pass by. Forget the watermelon-feta appetizer that was planned, Jim had something better in mind—and am I glad he did.
He roasted grape tomatoes, fresh garlic and rosemary tossed with a splash of olive oil in our grill fry pan from Williams-Sonoma, which is indispensable to us at this point. (The grill pan itself is worth a whole post, but for now, if you don’t have one, they’re on sale at the moment and worth every penny…I promise! More on the pan later.) He cooked them until some were charred and a few just started to deflate and blister.
We broke open the ricotta and it was luscious—smooth, creamy, and pure. No stabilizers to make it jiggly like conventional store-bought ricotta (although Polly-O does have its place). We slathered generous portions of the cheese on lightly toasted sourdough and topped it with tomatoes. A perfect summer hors d’oeuvre. We’ve made this several times since, and the simple pleasure, accompanied by an arugula salad, has even served as lunch Don’t stop with tomatoes, try cucumbers, radishes, or grilled green onions atop ricotta toasts.
In a few short months, ricotta has become a staple in our house. Where I often used Greek yogurt, I now use ricotta—in pancakes, muffins, and cakes.
The one caveat with this recipe is the ricotta must be fresh. While we were lucky enough to find it locally, I know my mother in western Illinois will say that there’s no fresh ricotta within 50 miles of her town. So if your market doesn’t carry it, and you have no local Italian delis or specialty cheese shops in your area, you can make it homemade. “Yeah, right,” you’re thinking. But truly, this is a very simple thing to produce.
There are recipes all over the web, and I particularly like Melissa Clark’s how-to video (she adds yogurt to her milk/cream blend, which I omit). Just use the freshest, high-quality milk and cream you can buy. While the cheese may be Italian-style, it’ll be American-made!
A safe and happy Fourth of July to you all!
Ricotta Toasts with Grilled Tomatoes
2 pints grape tomatoes
Leaves from 1 large rosemary sprig
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound fresh ricotta
1 loaf of your favorite sourdough bread
1. Preheat the grill.
2. Place the tomatoes, rosemary, and garlic in a grill pan. Hold the pan over the sink or a bowl and toss the tomato mixture with 1 tablespoon olive oil, or more if desired.
3. Grill the tomatoes for 6 to 8 minutes over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally with tongs, until a few open up and several are charred. As an alternative, you may roast the tomatoes in the oven.
4. Place the tomatoes in a serving dish and toss with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Thinly slice the sourdough and toast. Sprinkle the ricotta with kosher salt and a few twists of freshly ground pepper. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve as a make-your-own hors d’oeuvre, assembling the toasts as you eat them.
6. Serve with blue plates or napkins for patriotic flair.