June 26, 2012

Cherry Turnovers

Danish Pastry Dough, mentioned in this post from last November, is truly great stuff.  Producing a pastry with multiple crisp, buttery layers, anything you make from it--an tart, croissants, danishes or turnovers, for instance--is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. 

Someone please remind me next January or February to make a few extra batches of this dough and store it in the freezer.  Please. 

Why?  Because when cherry season hits (late May through June) it's just too darn hot to spend hours in the kitchen folding dough and waiting for it to rise and chill.  (And on the weekends when it isn't too hot, it's too nice outside to be stuck in the house babysitting a batch of dough.)  But when cherry season hits, I definitely want a couple batches on Danish Pastry dough at the ready so that I can make Cherry Turnovers or Blueberry Turnovers or Chocolate Croissants or...

I pulled my last batch of Danish Pastry Dough out of the freezer after picking some cherries at my mom's house recently, because Jason wanted cherry turnovers.  Cherry pitting is hard work, but you'll be glad to know that this recipe requires less than one basket of cherries, so it's not too bad.  If fact, once you've pitted those cherries and made the dough, you're almost finished.  And as I mentioned before, people tend to go nuts over fresh-from-the-oven buttery pastries with pockets of freshly picked, sweet, summery fruit.

Cherry Turnovers
Makes 8 turnovers.

one recipe Danish Pastry Dough
one heaping cup pitted cherries, quartered (This is approximately equal to one pint cherries, minus the stems and pits and minus the handful of cherries that one must use as "tastes" while pitting the rest.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of kosher salt
all-purpose flour for rolling

 Preheat oven to 400F.  Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment paper.

Gently combine quartered cherries, sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Let sit a few minutes.

Roll chilled pastry dough into a large rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Get the rectangle as big as you can get it without it tearing.  I usually end up with something about eight or ten inches by 16 or 18 inches.  Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut the rectangle into eight 5" squares.  If need be, roll each square gently after cutting to maximize surface area.  If butter seeps through while rolling, sprinkle the exposed butter with flour just enough flour to cover. 

Picture each square divided in half diagonally.  One by one, place one heaping tablespoon of cherry filling on one half of each square.  Use your finger to wet the edge of the square with just a little water, then fold the other side of the square over the filling, forming a triangle.  Seal the edges by pressing down with the times of a fork.

Set filled turnovers on parchment-lined baking sheets and let rest at room temperature 15 minutes.

Bake turnovers 15-20 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until golden brown.  Let sit at least 10 minutes before serving.

June 21, 2012

Quick-and-Easy Finger Foods for Early Summer

A friend of ours was coming to dinner.  It was early June and suddenly WAY too hot to cook.  He asked what I'd like him to bring, and I asked him to bring "some sort of appetizer.".  I thought I would somehow get motivated to make a few appetizers and we'd have a good selection of tapas and call it dinner.  Our generous friend went to Trader Joe's and brought a delicious spread including mascarpone, apricot stilton, goat cheese, prosciutto, salami, roasted peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, a baguette and two bottles of wine.  We arranged the food on serving dishes and gathered around the table for a really enjoyable and easy meal (and a few we plan to enjoy soon).

Somewhere in the course of the meal, I decided that I'd like to eat like that at least a few times a week through the summer.  And so we have.  Here's a quick list of the things we've enjoyed in our quick-and-easy June finger food meals (with a few alternatives throw in).  To me, an ideal meal includes one meat, two cheeses and four vegetables.  A starch and a plate of fruit are entirely optional.

From the Farmers Market 
  • Llano Seco Rancho Ham: a 3 pound organic applewood smoked ham sells for about $25 at the Saturday Farmers Market.  Slice it up and serve cold or at room temperature. 
  • Pedrozo Dairy's cheeses -We love the Northern Gold and miss the Coriander  
  • Pickled Okra from Adams Olive Ranch. Of course, this is a great source for olives, as well, but the pickled okra is Grace's favorite. 
  • Fresh fruits: apricots, nectarines, peaches and apriums
  • Berries
  • A loaf of bread from one of the bakehouse vendors

From the Grocery Store
  • Salami cut into slices
  • Canned sardines or smoked trout
  • Tillamook Cheddar Cheese
  • Asiago Cheese with Olive Oil & Rosemary sold at Trader Joe's 
  • Olives  good salty ones or kid-friendly black ones, many of which are grown"next-door" in Corning, California 
  • A crusty baguette or a loaf of jalepeno-cheese bread or a box of crackers
  • Marinated Artichoke hearts sold in jars
  • Roasted Red Peppers sold in jars

From the Kitchen
  • Carrots & Cucumbers cut into sticks and spears
  • Dill Pickles -a fermented version from Cheeseslave 
  • Pickled baby onions: -A refrigerator pickle: Bring to a boil one cup water, one cup white vinegar, a tablespoon each sugar and salt, 10 peppercorns, a bay leaf, a couple allspice.  Pour over cleaned, peeled baby onions packed into into a quart-size jar.  Let sit in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before serving.
  • Lemon-Pickled Turnips  from Eating from the Ground Up.  I haven't made these yet, but don't they look good?
  • Radishes with some good salted butter
  • a loaf of sourdough or a couple rounds of  flat bread

June 19, 2012

Grilled Cheese with Curtido

I bring my lunch to work almost every single day.  Usually I bring some form of leftover something-or-other and usually I'm pretty content with it.  But some days, there just isn't anything left over (or what is leftover isn't very appealing).  On those days I have to figure out something I can put together in less than 15 minutes (while also making breakfast for the kids, pouring my coffee, packing a snack for myself and--on school days--demanding that my eight-year-old put her clothes on) Thankfully, we have microwave at work.  Though in theory I definitely lean toward the "the microwave is evil and probably making our food toxic" camp, in practice, I find a warm lunch much more satisfying than a cold lunch, so I do use a microwave almost daily.

Did you you know that grilled cheese sandwiches reheat fairly well?  They do.  So some days I throw together a quick grilled cheese in my cast iron skillet, wrap it in wax paper and, when lunch time comes, I reheat it for 30 seconds, maybe tuck in something crunchy or pickled to make it feel more adult, and viola: a quick, simple, comforting lunch.

Today I made a grilled cheese sandwich on sliced sourdough bread with mozzarella cheese.  (Monterey Jack would have been perfect though.) After reheating, I tucked in a couple wedges of creamy sliced avocado and a few tablespoons of curtido for a spicy, healthful crunch.  That was a good sandwich.

Grilled Cheese, Previously

How to make a Perfect Grilled Cheese.  Okay, I might not make a "perfect"grilled cheese in the morning rush, but still, this is the theory.

Eggplant Panini   Another adult grilled cheese.

Regarding the Microwave

Microwave Corn For The Win An Entertaining Post by my good friend Jenny

June 8, 2012

Ice Cream & Waffles

It's okay to eat ice cream for dinner, right?  I don't mean grocery store ice cream this time.  I mean, It's okay to scoop homemade ice cream onto a nice, golden brown homemade waffle and tell the kids it is dinner, right?  Because as much as I want to feed my kids a balanced, healthful dinner every night, sometimes that doesn't happen.  Sometimes I resort to a frozen something-or-other or a leftovers-free-for-all.

And sometimes I just have a hankering for some specific thing or an emotional need for some kitchen therapy.  One evening last week I found that we were low on bread and that we had cream that needed to be used before it's expiration date.  So I had to make ice cream to use the cream.  And I had to start a loaf of sourdough bread, but since I hadn't used my starter in more than a couple days, it needed to be fed first.

Feeding a starter is a process in which one removes most of the starter and adds to the remaining starter equal parts (by weight) flour and water.  The good bacteria in the starter then feast on the new food (flour and water), resulting in a nice, bubbling, active ("fed") starter within 4-12 hours.  But discarding that cup of unfed starter can seem wasteful.  Before I started baking with sourdough, I kind of chuckled at the blogger-bakers who felt they had to use their unfed starter somehow to avoid wasting it.  I reasoned that I'd rather throw away--compost--a cup of starter, which might "waste" a few nickels worth of flour, than use a bunch of other ingredients with more monetary value to avoiding "wasting" the starter.  But the thing is that unfed sourdough starter adds a lot of good flavor to baked goods.  There are so many fun unfed starter recipes out there.  Generally these recipes rely on a little yeast or baking powder as the leavening agent, because the starter, being less active than a fed starter doesn't have much leavening power.

So I fed my starter in preparation for making a loaf of sourdough bread, and with the unfed starter I made waffles.  I used a mixture of yogurt and sour cream in place of the buttermilk, because I didn't have any buttermilk on hand.  (I've been meaning to order some buttermilk cultures so that I can make my own buttermilk, because after reading all the propaganda put out by raw milk activists, I'm a little leery of grocery store milk (but I still buy pasteurized cream, go figure).  I don't know why I don't just chill and buy some buttermilk.  I don't use buttermilk that often anyway.  It's just one of those weird moral dilemmas.)  I used melted butter, not vegetable oil.  And these waffles were pretty good.  But, really, I don't think it was the waffles we were thinking about when we ate them topped with fresh sliced strawberries and fresh vanilla ice cream.


If you have an ice cream maker collecting dust somewhere, pull it out.  And make this simple vanilla ice cream.  This recipe is super-easy.  It doesn't require cooking and cooling a custard.  It only takes a few minutes of work with a whisk (or an electric mixer) and soon you'll have delicious homemade ice cream to top the late spring berries that are available at the market now.  Once you've made Vanilla Ice Cream, you might find yourself motivated to set aside the time to make Caramel (or Salted Caramel) Ice Cream, which does require heating and chilling, but it is oh-so worth it.  (With our waffles and strawberries we ate Vanilla Ice Cream, but Caramel Ice Cream would also be a great waffle and/or berry topping.)

Vanilla Ice Cream
Only slightly adapted from Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream Base #1
Makes 1 quart, plus a few tastes

2 farm fresh eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk eggs on medium-high speed one minute.  Gradually add sugar while continuing to whisk. Whisk until sugar is completely dissolved, scraping bowl once or twice.  There should be no grit if a drop of the mixture is rubbed between thumb and finger.  Reduce speed to low and stir in milk, cream and vanilla. Mix well.  Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's directions.

June 7, 2012

Creamed Onions

A pound and a half of small white onions* (all less than 2" in diameter), sliced into rings and sauteed in 1 tablespoon of butter, with a little salt and pepper. A minced clove of garlic and two tablespoons butter added when they have softened and browned a little. Then a tablespoon of flour, and a minute later, a splash of good whole milk or cream, maybe a 1/4 cup.  Let simmer a minute, top with a handful of good breadcrumbs** and broil a minute or two in the oven.

Not at all light, but creamy, sweet and deeply satisfying. Like onion rings, but with more onion and less crunch.

* Something about the freshness of spring onions makes them worth showcasing in their own dish.  One could certainly make creamed onions with bigger onions; they would make a wonderful side dish in the fall and winter, but I used baby onions that I harvested from my garden.  You can find similar onions in the farmers market throughout spring:  small red or white bulb onions with the greens still attached.  For this dish I removed the greens and will saved those that are tender enough to eat for another use (fried rice). 

**A few years ago I laughed at my grandma when I caught her saving bread crumbs from bread she was slicing.  Oops.  Now, when I make sourdough bread, I slice it before freezing it, which leaves me with a smattering of surprisingly flavorful bread crumbs.  I've taken to saving these in a mason jar in the pantry.  As long as all the crumbs added to the jar are thoroughly dry, they'll keep at least until I find a use for them. 

June 1, 2012

(Salted) Caramel Ice Cream

This is good, really good.  Smooth. Rich.  Creamy.  Caramel that won't put your teeth out.  I like this ice cream served on a sugar cone (that helps with portion control).  (If someone has an ice cream cone maker sitting around, I'd be willing to trade you a quart of homemade ice cream for it; I'd love to try making my own cones.)  This ice cream would also be wonderful on a waffle and/or topped with early summer berries.

Caramel Ice Cream / Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Adapted from Ben & Jerry's Sweet Cream Base #1 
Makes 1 quart.

3/4 cup sugar
2 T unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups cream
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
2 farm fresh eggs 

1.  Melt sugar over medium or medium-low heat in 2 quart saucepan. Don't stir, just use a heat-proof spatula to move un-melted sugar to the center of the pan.  Let sugar melt and caramelize.  When it is a deep amber color--before it starts to smoke--add butter and gradually stir in cream. Caramel may seize (harden) and that's okay. Just lower the heat a bit and busy yourself with something else in the kitchen, so that you can keep an eye on it and stir it occasionally while the caramel melts into a sauce.  This may take 20 minutes. When the caramel has melted into a rich sauce without clumps, stir in milk and vanilla extract (and sea salt, if you want Salted Caramel Ice Cream).  Transfer mixture to a storage vessel and chill thoroughly in refrigerator.*

2.  Whisk eggs in bowl of electric mixer on medium speed one minute until fluffy.  Scrape sides of bowl. Whisk a few seconds more, then continue to whisk while slowly pouring in chilled caramel mixture.

3.  Churn mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturers directions.  This ice cream tends to be a little softer than most.  Plan to transfer the churned ice cream to the freezer and store at least a few hours prior to serving if you prefer a scoop-able texture.

NOTE:  If you have concerns about consuming raw eggs, you could certainly cook them:  In step one, after adding milk, but before adding vanilla, temper the eggs by whisking some of the hot caramel mixture into them, then add the the egg-caramel back to the remaining caramel in the saucepan.  Heat over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until custard thickens some.  Remove from heat, add vanilla (and salt), strain to remove any "scrambled egg" bits, chill and proceed with Step 3.


For proof of my ice cream making obsession a running list of the ice creams I have made and more of my thoughts about them, please see my note, Homemade Ice Cream Notes.  Flavors recently added include Cherry-Chocolate Chip, Simple Vanilla, Oatmeal Cookie and this Caramel.