Aromatic Roasted Pears and Plums with Star Anise, Vanilla, Balsamic and Maple Syrup E.A.T #34

Hey there December…..Welcome. Time for cozy cooking.

A  shallow baking pan, a sheet of parchment, Pears and Plums pitted, whole vanilla beans and star anise,  maple syrup and balsamic reduction…that’s it…you’re done. Is it a dessert? Is it a savory side? It can easily be either one. Your choice.

I split and used the vanilla bean seeds earlier for making a custard, but I always save the split beans for other uses.  There are a few teeny seeds still inside and they added just the right hint of vanilla to the roasted fruit. Real maple syrup and a balsamic reduction drizzled over the fruit making sure to fill the pitted part.  Is there anything like the aroma of star anise when roasted? It’s all a rather special blend of ingredients that leave the roasted pears and plums a bit caramelized and very aromatic.  This can be a desirable fruit dessert topped with a scoop of ice cream or gelato, or eaten as a side with roast pork or turkey. Add this to your winter go-to easy everyday recipes. It’s as easy-as-this.

Aromatic Plums and Pears

Ingredients:

  • 4 plums, cut in half & pitted
  • 4 pears, cut in half and pitted
  • 1 to 3 split vanilla beans
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 1/4 cup balsamic reduction glaze
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spread fruit out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  3. Drizzle fruit with balsamic glaze and maple syrup. Scatter vanilla beans and star anise over fruit. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until fruit is just fork tender, not mushy. Bake time may vary.
  4. Serve in fruit in bowls topped with a scoop of ice cream or as a side dish with roasted chicken or pork. Also great as a holiday side with a roasted turkey.

Note: You can also do this with crisp apples or peaches.

Teresa Blackburn Food Styling.

Deliciously Easy Chocolate Meringue Tarts

Life can get crazy hectic this time of year can’t it? One day it is summer weather all casual and laid back and the next thing you know it is wintry weather with lots of layers needed for venturing out. Along with that,  “The Holidays”.  I try to keep this time of the year as laid back as possible. I have never been a perfectionist and for that I am thankful.  This works well during the Holidays.  When it comes to Holiday cooking,  I go for delicious and simple, not fussy. These little chocolate meringue tarts are all of those things.

The tart shells were store-bought then filled with a simple dark chocolate pudding and topped with a meringue. That’s it. I try to cut down on the “crazy” any way I can.

Sometimes you just can’t wait.

Deliciously Easy Chocolate Meringue Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 10 pre-made mini tart shells (fresh, boxed or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 eggs – yolks and whites separated carefully – 4 yolks for pudding
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites for meringue
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Note: or you can used meringue powder and whip according to pkg directions

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan whisk together the 1/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt. Slowly whisk in the milk and egg yolks until well blended.
  2. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened. This takes about 6-8 minutes. Remove pudding from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula for gently push pudding through the sieve.
  3. Immediately add butter and chocolate chips. Stir until melted. Add vanilla extract and blend well.
  4. Place mini  tart shells out on a flat tray and fill with warm pudding. Turn oven to 400 degrees.
  5. Whip egg whites with a mixer until soft peaks and then slowly add in sugar. Beat a few more minutes. Spoon meringue onto filled tarts. Place in oven and bake just until meringue starts to brown. Remove from oven to cool on a rack until ready to serve.

Note: If you have pudding left over cover and chill for later!

teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Winter Squash Roasted with Pomegranate Molasses and Thyme E.A.T. #33

 

 I am enjoying how we just slipped into Fall…no whimper, no bang…hardly a notice…just an opening of the eye and here we are. Fall foods are abundant. The deep green skins of acorn squash with a brush stroke of orange here and there.  Butternut squash so sweet when roasted turning to a deep rich gold.  Aren’t you glad Fall is here?

This bowl of roasted squash would be great for a holiday side.

 A couple of acorn squash and one butternut squash is quite enough for 4 people. Some fresh thyme scattered about and pomegranate molasses drizzled over before and after roasting gave the squash an amazing glaze with just right crisp edges. . The skin on both squash was soft enough to eat as well.  The key was using smaller size squash, which are easier to cut and naturally sweeter.Are you familiar with pomegranate molasses? It is pretty easy to find these days at larger supermarkets, but more often at import markets. I purchase it in Nashville at K & S Market on Charlotte Avenue.

There is no real recipe, just an easy how-to that can be prepped ahead of all the hustle and bustle. Add an easy roasted chicken, recipe here. It’s all as easy-as-this.

Pomegranate Molasses and Thyme Roasted Winter Squash

Ingredients:

  • 2 smallish acorn squash
  • 1 smallish butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate  molasses
  • 1 handful of fresh thyme
  • large flake sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Carefully cut all squash in half and scrape out seeds. Cut acorn squash into rings and then cut rings in half. Trim top from butternut squash and cut into pieces lengthwise.
  2. Toss squash with a bit of olive oil. Spread out flat on a sheet pan.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Drizzle squash with 1/4 cup of the pomegranate molasses. Sprinkle on sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss fresh thyme leaves over all.
  5. Roast for about 20 minutes. Squash should be fork tender, but not mushy. Remove from oven. Cover loosely if not serving immediately.
  6. Right before serving drizzle with remaining pomegranate molasses and additional fresh thyme sprigs. Double or triple recipe for a crowd.

Teresa Blackburn    www. teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

A Day in the Life of a Cookbook Shoot – “Little Everyday Cakes”

A day in the life of this particular cookbook photo shoot started out with many layers of cakes of all sizes and shapes baked and cooled and ready for their moment in front of the camera.

Before: Early morning Spice Cake getting “dressed”……
After: Spice Cake all  “dressed up and ready” for the camera.   Photo by Danielle Atkins Photography

Have you ever been on a food photo shoot? It’s probably not exactly what you might expect. Here are some images of behind-the-scenes from the shoot earlier this year for Candace Floyd’s “little everyday cakes” with photographer Danielle Atkins shot at Food Sheriff Studio here in Nashville.

Cookbook food shoots involve lots of schleping….not my favorite thing to do…but it’s a must. Props, props and more props. There are never, ever enough and it is a flow of “more” into the studio or location every day. I started with around 15 boxes and ended on wrap day with more than 20!  Not to mention my food styling kits armed with special items for making these cakes look casually pretty and delicious.

For this “one subject” cake cookbook we needed lots of cake stands of all sizes, scads of small plates and saucers,  tons of little bowls……..

…dessert forks, regular forks, cake servers…knives…..

…..spreaders,  spoons of all types, did I say hundreds of napkins of all colors?….blues, greys, whites and chalky colors, soft reds and pinks…vintage prints….all laid out on many fold up tables to choose from with all of us contributing.

A typical day for us started at sunrise with many cake layers, tubs of frosting, fresh fruits and sauces. A good strong cup of coffee or two as well.

There is nothing quite like “following the light” as you work during a day on set where all the images are to be shot with natural light.  You actually learn a lot about the sun and clouds, soft and hard light, which cake works best in a kitchen window or on a table a few feet away. It is a study in working with nature, not against.  It is capturing what is there at any given moment and using it to enhance. It is a lovely thing when done well.

Scenes from behind the finished photos….beautiful light through old studio kitchen window…

                         

…setting up for future images……

….photographer, Danielle Atkins and author, Candace Floyd.

Images from Dani’s screen as we adjust, shoot, adjust and shoot until it’s just the way we want it. Many days, lots of laughs and collaboration, lots of hard work, cakes to bake and every now and then a bite or two!

    

To see the finished images and get the recipes to make these little everyday cakes pick up a copy of “little everyday cakes” from your local bookstore, Amazon or Spring House Press.

For more information and a recipe from the book, “Mexican Chocolate Cake” see my last post here, “Look Honey I Shrank the Mexican Chocolate Cake”.

http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

Look Honey….I shrank the “mexican chocolate cake”!

I may never make a full-size cake again after styling and receiving my first copy of Candace Floyd’s “Little Everyday Cakes”. I immediately went to page 94 and baked the above two layer, 6 inch cake for no special reason except that I just wanted a slice.  One slice. That’s all. This was the perfect cake…the perfect slice….very dark chocolate cake, not overly sweet, with a spicy cayenne bite, plenty of cinnamon and fluffy coffee liqueur-chocolate ganache frosting. Thanks Candace.

photo: Danielle Atkins Photography

This photo is the one from the book that I styled, shot by photographer extraordinaire, Danielle Atkins. I love this image. Just looking at it tells a story. Isn’t that what a good photograph should do? Of all the cakes in the book that are lovely and delicious, this photo inspired me to bake this particular cake.

The holiday season is just around the corner and you will no doubt be looking for just the right gift for the dessert lover on your list? This is it. A book full of “50+ perfectly proportioned confections to enjoy any day of the week” to eat and share. Ask for it at your favorite local bookstore, or purchase from the publisher Springhouse Press, or online at Amazon.

Cover photo: Danielle Atkins Photography “Chocolate Malt Cake”

There are one layer cakes, square cakes and round cakes, layered cakes and cakes you cut up to serve…cakes that only take one egg, loaf cakes, seasonal cakes and easy cakes that are for breakfast and brunch. All the kinds of cakes we love to eat and bake shrunk down to serve 4 to 8 people. Elegant cakes and simple old-fashioned cakes along with a whole section on glazes and sauces and frostings.

Life can be complicated and hard. Some days you need to do something nice for yourself such as baking a cake just because you want a slice! Then pass it on.

mexican chocolate cake

Ingredients for cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (150g)
  • 7 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa (53g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I think I added 1/4 teaspoon!)
  • 2/3 cup water (156g)
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, room temp (56g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened (84g)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (106g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (99g)
  • 2 eggs room temp

Ingredients for ganache frosting:

  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur such as Kahlua
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • dash of cayenne pepper

Directions for cake and frosting:

  1. Preheat oven to 325F (165C). Grease two 6 inch round cake pans. Line pans with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper. Dust pans with flour. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cayenne.
  3. Combine water, milk and vanilla.
  4. Place butter in a mixing bowl. Using an electric stand or hand mixer on medium-high, beat until creamy.
  5. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture and milk mixture a little at a time, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat just until smooth. Scrape batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
  8. Bake cakes for 30-35 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Place pans on wire rack and let cakes cook 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and let cook, top sides up, completely.
  9. While cake is baking place the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl along with the coffee liqueur, ground cinnamon and cayenne pepper.
  10. Heat the cream in a saucepan just until bubbles begin to form around the edges.
  11. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let stand 10 minutes. Stir mixture until the chips are completely melted and mixture is smooth. Let cool completely. (Refrigerate to speed up cooling process if you like.)
  12. When mixture is cool, beat with an electric mixer on high-speed until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.
  13. To frost the cake place one layer on cake stand or plate. Spread one-third of the frosting on top. Place second cake layer on top and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.

(for my photo I added some sanding/decorative sugar just for the crunch.)

Recipe by: Candace Floyd for “Little Everyday Cakes” published by Springhouse Press 2018

teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

 

 

 

Young Guns Hatch Chili Pie with Cheddar-Cornbread Topping

We all have our family, home-life traditions and stories.  One of our is the annual September green chili roasting. Each year Wouter returns from his summer working in Santa Fe with a load of New Mexico  Hatch Chillies straight from the source….this year the “source” was pretty funny indeed……see name on box below…..

….those of you who know Wouter well may be aware that he had a very, very, wee, small part in the movie “Young Guns 2” of which much silliness has ensued at his good-natured expense. Or maybe you do not know this nugget of information? This is just one of the many “random Wouter-isms” that continue to keep it all interesting.

What were the chances of a recent Dutch immigrant in 1990 to modern New Mexico to end up playing the role of a late 1800’s immigrant carpenter with an accent, in an American western movie soon after his arrival to America? The scene with Wouter is about 3-5 seconds long and his one line is “They’re bringing someone in” right before a big gunfight in the movie.  Only in America I guess!

The bounty of chillies this year were particularly colorful and plump, just right for roasting.

Wouter really does most of the work as I “assist”.

When the chillies are puffy and charred then it is time to steam and peel and cook up something fitting. We put most in bags and freeze them for later cool weather soups and stews. We give away bags to friends who love them as much as we do.

This recipe for cornbread topped chili pie is very easy and flexible. The chillies could be any of your favorites. You can use fresh or canned as long as they have their own unique flavor. The roasted Hatch chillies have a delicious smokey, rich aroma and flavor.

As the weather cools off, hopefully very soon, this is a good one to add to your “one pan” dinner list. Good with a salad or coleslaw, additional chillies and a cold beer.  Thanks Wouter and the Young Guns Hatch Chili Factory for the flavor and the memories.

Young Guns Hatch Chili Pie topped with Cheddar-Cornbread

Ingredients for filling:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves smashed
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red chili powder
  • 3 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1.5 lean ground beef
  • 2 roasted hatch chili peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 1 can (15.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1 cup self-rising yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1.5 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. For filling, saute onions, carrots and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent in a heavy 10 inch skillet. I use my cast iron for this. Season with salt & black pepper. Stir in chili powder and tomato paste. Mix well.
  3. Stir in ground beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks, until meat is well browned.
  4. Add roasted chili peppers, can of tomatoes and black beans. Stir gently to blend. Set aside off the heat.
  5. In a mixing bowl whisk together the cornmeal and flour. Add the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter and blend together. Add shredded cheddar.
  6. Spread cornbread mixture gently over the top of the chili-meat mixture in the skillet spreading to cover.
  7. Bake until cornbread topping is a light golden color and filling is bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.
  8. Cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com           www.foodonfifth.com

 

 

A Galette of Cherry Plums with Vanilla Bean-Brown Sugar Crust

Racing through Costco recently I spied bags of a red fruit I did not immediately recognize…Cherry Plums….small, mottled red, looking like cherries on steroids or lilliputian plums.  I grabbed a bag for later investigation.

These ping-pong ball size stone fruit taste more like very spicy sweet plums than cherries. You, reader,  may know all about them, but once again I realize there are so many edibles in this world that I have not encountered…even in my part of the world….even at Costco!

Cherry plums are noted for their sweet, spicy flavor and are most commonly used for jams and preserves as well as for baking and are grown most commonly in the Middle East.

Pitted, sliced and sugared before being baked in my vanilla, brown sugar crust. Some stone fruit can totally collapse when baked in a pie as you know, but these Cherry Plums kept their shape and did not become mushy, but softened to the just-right stage.

Cut fruit swaddled in the vanilla-sugared crust then baked until golden brown and slightly caramelized.

It’s been a hard news week, a sad news week, a dramatic news week. Make something good happen in your world…even if it’s your kitchen world. It can be simple or grand, fancy or plain. Just make something good.

A Galette of Cherry Plums in a Vanilla Bean-Brown Sugar Crust

Ingredients:

  • 15 to 18 Cherry Plums, pitted and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • For crust: 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons raw sugar, divided
  • pinch of salt
  • 12 tablespoons cold butter cut into small pieces
  • vanilla beans scraped from one vanilla bean
  • ice water as needed to mix crust dough
  • one egg mixed with a bit of water to brush on finished crust

Directions:

  1. Toss cherry plum slices in a bowl with cornstarch, granulated sugar and lemon zest until well mixed. Set aside.
  2. Put all-purpose flour in food processor bowl along with 2 tablespoon raw sugar, a pinch salt & vanilla beans. Pulse just to combine.
  3. Add cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and pulse a few times until flour is grainy looking.
  4. Slowly add ice water by tablespoons with processor running just until dough begins to come together to form a ball. Turn off processor and scrape dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour. Gather dough into a ball, flatten, wrap in plastic and chill for 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  6. Roll chilled dough out to a circle (not a perfect circle) about 14″ in diameter. Fold in half and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and unfold.
  7. Pile cherry plum slices in the middle of the dough circle and fold edges up over the fruit leaving the middle open.
  8. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons raw sugar.
  9. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and fruit is bubbly and just beginning to brown on the edges. Adjust time according to your oven. More or less.
  10. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note:  This Galette can be made with apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches or any berries using the same recipe.

Teresa Blackburn    http://www.teresablackburn1@mac.com