Late May in Nashville means an abundance of fresh, juicy, local strawberries. Sliced strawberries on buttered bread toasted with a light sprinkling of raw sugar is just about a close to Nirvana as you can get when it comes to food.
This was our Friday lunch, and might be Saturday’s lunch as well and why not Sunday breakfast with a few slices of Gruyere added? We try to eat as many as we can while the local crop is plentiful. Simple is best, although over the years I have posted recipes for strawberry jam and Victoria sponge cakes with strawberries…let’s not forget the strawberry tarts. Those are all delicious and wonderful, but our absolute favorite way to eat strawberries is just like this. Simple and lightly sweet.
There is no recipe. Just grab some really good crusty-loafed bread such as sour-dough. Fresh local berries capped and sliced. Smear the bread slices with yummy softened butter and toast. Top toasted bread with sliced berries and a light sprinkling of raw sugar. It is as Easy-as-This.
Life is short, summer is here, treat yourself and others kindly and enjoy the bounty.
This, so far, has been one of the most beautiful and verdant Springs I can remember. A good amount of rain, lots of warm days and cool nights. This is the optimum time for growing lettuce and kale. I have a little raised bed and it has been amazing how many greens it produces. Here is the handful I picked for this salad..green and red leaf kale, butter lettuce and romaine…
I’m a big fan of canned seafood. My pantry is chock full of cans of tuna, salmon, sardines, salmon pate and even smoked herring. Canned fish and seafood are rich in protein and omega 3 fatty acids which are both important for our overall health. This salad is topped with a can of Wild Alaska Pink Salmon. The slight sweetness of the salmon paired with the crisp, tart greens, peppery radishes, thinly sliced cucumbers and some shaved asiago cheese is fresh, colorful and full of textural goodness. Sometimes I even use the olive oil from a can as the base for a vinaigrette salad dressing.
My salad today is not a real recipe with exact amounts of ingredients or techniques, just a meal, simple and seasonal. I plan to share a number of my favorite meals using canned fish over the next month or so….a fabulous simple pasta dish using chunks of canned tuna and tomatoes, a mock-nicoise salad, a grilled cheese with sardines….yes, it is one of my favorite grilled sandwiches!
My Little Garden Greens and Canned Wild Alaska Pink Salmon Salad
..simple sanding sugar with raspberry flavor….perfect for Spring…
I have learned lots of stuff during the past year…being at home a lot and being naturally curious…well…needless to say I have learned a lot. Some things I am pretty sure are just fillers for empty spaces in my psyche…others useful and interesting and some just fun.
A year or so ago I got interested in fruit powders and ordered a few from Nuts.com to play around with. More recently I saw a quick idea for turning plain sanding, or decorating, sugar into not only colorful alternatives to supermarket bought sprinkles, but to add real flavor as well using fruit powders. The powder added color and a really strong raspberry flavor, no fake dyes, not just color, but real fruit flavor. Quick, easy and fun.
Fruit powders are just dried fruits ground into powders. They are beautiful and delicious swirled into yogurt bowls, or added to smoothies. Strawberry, blueberry, pomegranate, cherry and raspberry are some of my favorites.
Dried raspberry fruit powder added to plain decorating sugar…
….a bit of water added, whisked and scraped out onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan….dried in a warm oven….
….chunks broken up and ready for decorating.
First day of Spring sugar cookies…make and tuck into an Easter basket or for a late night adult snack with a sip of port. Make your day delicious, colorful and curious.
For the raspberry sugar: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk together the sanding sugar and raspberry fruit powder. Add water and whisk until the sanding sugar is evenly coated with powder. Spread sugar out onto the prepared baking sheet. I used the whisk to spread out evenly. Place pan in oven. Turn off the heat. Let sugar dry for 30 mins to 2 hours in warm oven.
Remove pan and let raspberry sugar cool. Break up any clumps with your fingers.
For cookie dough: Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat together, using a mixer, the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla extract until blended. Slowly beat in flour mixture, on low speed, until well mixed. If need be, to form a dough, add a tablespoon of water until it comes together.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Form cookie dough into a flat disk. On a flat work surface dusted with a bit of flour, roll cookie dough out to about 1/4 inch thick more or less. Cut dough into squares using a 1 1/2 inch square cookie cutter, or cut into squares using a knife. Place cookies on prepared sheet pan. They hardly spread at all, so they can be close together. Gather any dough scraps, re-roll and cut until it is all used up. You should have about 36 cookies. Cover loosely with plastic and chill for 30 mins.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake cookies for 15 minutes or until a pale golden brown. Remove from oven. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack sitting on a sheet of parchment paper to catch sanding sugar when decorating.
Working with a few cookies at a time, brush the top of each cookie with a thin layer of corn syrup, then sprinkle each with raspberry sanding sugar. Let the cookies air dry for an hour. They are ready to enjoy and share.
It’s almost Spring…in a few weeks we will be thinking about eating cooler, not warmer, but for now let’s enjoy hearty bowls of hot soup and stews, healthy and filling.
This is a “pantry” soup using cans of cannellini and black beans, a large can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, onions, hot pepper flakes and sliced chicken sausages from the freezer. Shreds of sharp white cheddar, a skillet of hot cornbread and maybe a cold beer to round out a casual dinner while waiting for Spring.
Use the bread to sop up some broth for added flavor……..If you need a great, but easy cornbread recipe click here…it is classic and Southern and delicious.
here..have a bite…
A little recipe to get you started….feel free to be creative…add in some spinach or kale leaves, or any of your herbs. You can’t mess it up…it just as “easy-as-this”.
Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Add in sliced sausage pieces, garlic and onion. Cook, stirring, until garlic and onions are translucent.
Add in beans, tomatoes and water or broth. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer. Add in a generous pinch of red pepper flakes if you like hot, or less if you do not, and cook for about 10 minutes.
Serve with shredded cheese and your favorite cornbread and if you need a really good, classic Southern recipe, click here. You might need a cold beer to cool things down a bit. Enjoy the warmth and coziness while the weather allows.
Call it a quiche or a tart or a pie. No matter, it is all a variation of sweet or savory ingredients baked in a crust. My favorite way to cook is “one-dish”. I have never figured out if that is because I am not a fan of cleaning up lots of pots and pans just to end up with all the food together on a plate, or if I take a somewhat lazy approach to cooking? My “Savory Baby Cauliflower and Broccolini Deep Dish Pie” recipe is full of vegetables, cheeses, eggs all in a crust…one pan, one dish cooking.
Often I make up a meal out of whatever strikes me as interesting in the grocery. A couple of week’s ago I found some fresh clusters of baby cauliflower and very small broccolini, as well as a nice thick wedge of Comte’ on sale at Costco all baked up into this deep dish pie that is quite quick to assemble. Once it’s in the oven you can pretty much ignore it while it’s baking. If you can’t find baby cauliflower or broccolini just use regular, cutting into small clusters.
Trim any larger stems from each of the vegs and set aside. Roast trimmed heads in olive oil at high heat. Save and cook the larger stems in a pan of water while cauliflower and broccolini are roasting. Gather all of your ingredients at this time.
You can use a simple homemade or store-bought crust. Whatever works for you. Grainy mustard smeared over the bottom and sides add a delicious flavor to the crust along with a sprinkling of grated cheese. A good tip is to scatter grated cheese over the bottom of savory pies as it will melt and seal the crust and keep it from getting soggy.
Eggs, cream, spices and cooked stems all pureed in a blender or food processor.
Roasted broccolini and baby cauliflower layered in the crust. Filling poured over and topped with remaining cheese before baking.
Fluffy and light, crust thin and crisp, lightly browned and ready to eat.
1 store-bought pie crust or your favorite homemade
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 1/2 cups shredded Comte Cheese
2 oz Goat Cheese
4 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
Mexican Oregano, or whatever you have
freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 tsp, or jarred
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread trimmed cauliflower and broccolini out on pan. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Roast for about 12-15 minutes or just until veggies are just starting to char. Remove pan from oven. Set aside. Lower oven heat to 350 degrees.
While veggies are roasting, line a 9 inch springform pan with the pie crust. Smear bottom of crust with the grainy mustard and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Comte cheese over mustard.
In a small pan quickly boil the cauliflower and broccolini stems/trimmings in a bit of salted water until “fork tender”. Drain.
To a blender or food processor, add the cooked stems, goat cheese, eggs, heavy cream, oregano to taste, nutmeg, sea salt and black pepper. Blend until smooth and well mixed.
Spread the roasted baby cauliflower and broccolini over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle with another 1/2 cup Comte, gently pour blended egg-cream mixture over all. Top with remaining 1/2 Comte.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the pie is set in the middle and golden brown. Test with a toothpick or skewer. Remove from the oven. Set on a wire rack to cool for 10-15 minutes or until ready to serve cut in slices. Great with a simple salad and a glass of crisp white wine.
This year Valentine’s Day falls on a very wintry Sunday and what could be more delicious than a steaming cup of Le Chocolat Chaud, Hot Chocolate, made the French way sipped slowly on a bitterly cold morning? No powdery mixes with water added, but a full rich cup made with hot milk, good quality bittersweet chocolate chopped, raw sugar and vanilla extract. After all it is Valentine’s weekend and a little effort is called for. Nothing fancy or costly, just a cup of love.
Maybe a pinch of cayenne for some extra heat, or cardamom for a bit more exotic flavor?
Chopped Callabaut chocolate and sugar added to a cup…..
…hot steamy milk slowly poured in while stirring to melt the chocolate.
Make it, sip it, share it. Be kind, be well. Love and be loved.
Canning, putting-up, or freezing doesn’t have to just be done in the summer when local, fresh produce is available. Often in the winter there are sales in supermarkets on good quality produce from around the world.
I am a fan of “small batch preserving” whether it is canning, freezing or pickling…..jams, marmalades, sauces….don’t have to be a grand production…but a soothing, easy and fun kitchen endeavor.
In my work as a food stylist I often run into great deals while shopping for photoshoots that I just cannot pass up. Such were these juicy grape tomatoes with the sweetest flavor ever. For the shoot I needed quite a few cartons and as often happens there were lots left over to make a few cans of this stunning and delicious thyme roasted tomato sauce.
Keep your eyes open while winter grocery shopping. Look out for email sales notices that offer price cuts for your favorite vegetables and fruits. Cold weather days, stuck inside? Good times for making a batch to eat, and one to save for later, using my easy-as-this recipe.
Olive oil, tomatoes, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and lots of fresh thyme are all you need, although you may come up with some clever ideas to make this sauce even better?
Roasted until tomatoes start to split open and get a bit of charring then put into clean class jars poking with a long wooden spoon or skewer to release any air bubbles and break down the tomatoes even more to release juices, fresh thyme added to jars….lid on and freeze.
One quart for dinner with pasta, one jar in the freezer for later, both fresh and tasty.
Line baking sheets (one or two) with parchment paper.
In a large bowl toss the tomatoes in a generous splash of olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and most of the thyme, saving some to add to the finished jars of tomatoes. Spread tomatoes out on baking sheets in single layer.
Roast tomatoes until skins start to pop and char. I like a lot of char, but do what you like. Remove from oven. Pull out any larger thyme stems and toss.
Divide roasted tomatoes between jars. Use a long wooden spoon or skewer poke tomatoes down into jars to release any air bubbles and release more juices. Add fresh thyme leaves to each jar.
If freezing then leave a 1 inch head at the top of the jar to allow for the contents to expand when they freeze. Let cool completely before putting in the freezer.
This is a great sauce for pasta, or for adding to soups. Very good with roasted chicken as well.
Fresh pears in a brown sugared-whole wheat crust, baked until caramelized with just a splash of dark rum and a hint of cardamom might provide some comfort and solace for this week in winter, January 2021. The kitchen is where I find I can take a deep breath and bring forth something delicious and comforting. That is a good thing and I need that right now.
Fresh USA Pears from The Fruit Company, ripened to perfection, golden and red and juicy, sliced and wrapped in a buttery cardamom crust.
A “Pear, Brown Sugar, Rum and Cardamom Galette” with caramelized edges to die for.
Seek solace where you can find it. Be well. Be kind.
Pears, Brown Sugar, Rum and Cardamom Scented Galette
2 sticks/1/2 cup chilled butter, but into small pieces
1 to 2 teaspoons milk
2 large, ripe, but somewhat firm pears – cored, cut in half and thinly sliced, keeping slices together
2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cream to brush edges of crust
1-2 tablespoons raw or Demerara sugar for sprinkling
In a food processor combine whole wheat flour, granulated sugar, salt and cardamom. Pulse to mix. Add butter pieces and process until mixture is crumbly looking. Add egg and 1 teaspoon milk to processor and pulse until a dough forms. Add more milk if needed. Dough will be a bit moist.
Form dough into a ball, press out flat into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let dough sit out for 10 minutes.
Mix together cornstarch, brown sugar, rum and vanilla extract until well blended.
On floured surface roll dough disc out to make a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Edges will be jagged and that is okay. Place dough on parchment paper lined sheet pan. Gently place sliced pear halves, cut side down, on dough circle nestling them close together, leaving an edge of dough all around to fold over fruit. Fold dough edges up and over the sliced pears, leaving the center open.
Drizzle cornstarch mixture over and down between the pears. Brush edges of the crust with the cream and sprinkle the raw sugar over all.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until galette is golden brown and bubbly. Let cool on the baking sheet. Serve in wedges. Great with whipped or ice cream.
Spontaneous soups are often the best. What to have for lunch? Something cozy, delicious and quick. Yellow lentils, a package of Mahatma yellow rice with seasonings and a couple of golden beets in the fridge drawer and some chicken broth…30 minutes later and we were enjoying lovely, warm and steamy bowls of “Golden Soup”. So very “easy-as-this”.
In my early cooking days one of the most exotic items available in local groceries was Mahatma seasoned rice. There were no local import groceries, nor International aisles in supermarkets. There was little to be had from other cultures in the way of food….I thought a package of yellow seasoned rice was “it”. To this day a few packages reside alongside lots of other aromatic and culturally-dense rice in my pantry. No rice shaming please. Thank you.
Saltines and a heavy-handed splash of Cholula…lunch is ready. Be well. Do the right thing. Wear your mask. It can be as “easy-as-that”.
One 5 oz. package yellow rice with seasonings (like Mahatma brand)
2 small, or one large yellow beet, peeled and thinly sliced, then chopped
4 cups water
2 cups chicken broth (or veg)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme or Italian seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To Serve: Saltines and hot sauce, like Cholula
Saute onions and garlic in olive oil over medium high heat until slightly softened. Turn heat to medium.
Add in lentils, rice packet, beets and stir well. Pour in water, broth and herbs, a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil.
Turn heat to low and cook for 30 minutes or until beets are just softened. Add more broth or water if soup gets too thick. Taste, adjust seasonings if need be. Serve with crisp saltines and a splash of hot sauce if you like.