Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake + Kitchen Tools #1

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake all dressed up with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt is an easy, alternate idea for Holiday celebrations that will be much appreciated by those looking for something naturally sweet without using a lot of granulated sugar. Rich, almost caramelized, pears with nutmeg then generously drizzled with maple syrup while hot out of the oven is good for a few days warm or cold.

I like how the maple syrup pools in the pear.

There is nothing quite like freshly grated nutmeg. Do you have one of these graters, or a nutmeg grinder? They are inexpensive and will become one of your most used kitchen tools if you, like me, find the jarred ground nutmeg somewhat pale in aroma and flavor. Whole nutmeg grated is a much used spice at our house. Wouter adds it to his meatballs and always in his wonderful mashed potatoes. Just a hint is often all that is needed. This cake recipe calls for a generous amount and is just the thing paired with real maple syrup.

Notice how I grated the nutmeg onto a sheet of parchment paper? Parchment is another “kitchen tool” that I use every day for measuring flour onto, lining cake pans or sheet pans so I don’t have to scrub them so much….small pieces are good for using like this instead of another dish to wash! Can you tell washing dishes is not my favorite thing?

Melon ballers in various sizes are great for coring apples and pears, making melon balls of course….or butter balls.  It was so easy to core the pears to create a bowl to hold all that tasty maple syrup using this small melon baller.

See that wee paring knife? It is my go-to knife for so many jobs in the kitchen…I finally bought a good one that has a thin blade that sharpens well. It was not the cheapest nor the costliest, but it fits my hand just perfect and came from E. Dehillerin in Paris. I picked it up at our local Willliams-Sonoma.

So that’s four kitchen tools….nutmeg grater or grinder, parchment paper, melon baller and paring knife….basics…not trendy…forever useful, especially for these days of seasonal baking.

Warm, aromatic cake drizzled with Vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt. Yum.

Pear, Maple and Nutmeg Cornmeal Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 stick butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 ripe, but firm pears, halved, cored and peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, divided
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup 2 percent milk
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup, divided + extra for serving
  • 2 large eggs, lightly whisked
  • 2 cups vanilla greek yogurt, whipped for serving

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9″ round x 2″ deep cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter to a cast iron or other heavy skillet. Set over medium heat. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the butter.
  3. Place pear halves in a circle in the bottom of the pan, cut side up. Sprinkle cut sides with 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Turn pears over with cut side down. Sprinkle with another 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook pears until most of the liquid has evaporated and cut sides are beginning to lightly caramelize, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Place pears, cut sides down, in the prepared 9″ round cake pan.
  6. Quickly whisk together remaining 1/4 ground nutmeg, flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  7. Whisk in milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, eggs and remaining melted butter just until smooth. Pour mixture over pears and bake until golden brown, for about 20-25 minutes. Test with a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake. Remove from oven and using a skewer make a few random holes over the entire cake surface. Drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup maple syrup. Let cake cool on a wire rack while syrup soaks in for about 15 minutes. Carefully invert onto a serving plate.
  8. Cut cake into 8 wedges with each person getting a pear half, drizzle with another bit of maple syrup and add a dollop of vanilla greek yogurt.  (This cake keeps well for a few days and is deliciously seasoonal either warm or cold.)

(This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Ruth Cousineau from Gourmet Magazine February 2008 that I clipped and saved. I tweaked a few things to make it easier to make. Thanks Ruth for the inspiration.)

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

 

Thanks-Giving Parmesan Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage & Butternut Squash

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Thanksgiving….giving thanks.

Thanksgiving is upon us and in my life there is so much to be thankful for that my mind reels. The list is long and I try to keep it in the front of my mind most days whether it is a holiday or not. It is not always easy but I try. Do you have a mental list of things you are thankful for?

For these savory “Parmesan-Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage and Butternut-Squash”, if you do not have a classic French madeleine pan, use a cast iron corn stick pan. I bought my pans at Amazon but recently picked up a few more at TJMaxx. You can find a previous madeleine post I did for “Chocolate  Black-Peppercorn Orange Madeleines” here as well. Madeleines are traditionally sweet and originated from the Lorraine region in France. My Southern, seasonal twist uses yellow polenta, sage and butternut squash as well as parmesan cheese and will be a wonderful addition to any Thanksgiving meal. Also great with chili or soups.

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Fresh sage leaves in the bottom of the pan….batter spread on top…..

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…baked for 15 minutes until golden brown…..

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…flipped out onto a cooling rack and while hot I shredded more Parmesan over the top.

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I made this recipe earlier in the year for a project I was working on with a friend. In that recipe I did not use butternut-squash, but I had some left from a photo shoot and did not want to let it go to waste so shredded it and tossed into the batter for a more seasonal twist!

Be Thankful. Be Kind and Share.

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Parmesan-Polenta Madeleines with Fresh Sage and Butternut Squash

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Ingredients:

  • coconut oil spray
  • 1 bunch fresh sage leaves
  • 2/3 cup instant polenta
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese + extra for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded butternut squash
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • special equipment: 2 madeleine pans

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray madeleine pans with coconut spray.
  3. Place one or two fresh sage leaves in the bottom of each “madeleine” space. Press down into the molds using your fingers. Respray with coconut oil. The oil will secure the sage leaves to bottom of the pan.
  4. In a mixing bowl blend together instant polenta, flour, baking soda, Parmesan cheese, sea salt & black pepper.
  5. Stir in the melted butter, eggs, butternut squash & buttermilk. Blend well. Spoon batter into the pan over the sage leaves just to batter being level. Pat into mold with you fingers. If batter gets too dry then add a bit more buttermilk. This batter is thicker than your regular cornbread batter.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes or until madeleines are golden brown and puffy. Remove pans from oven and cool for a few minutes. Turn pans upside down to release madeleines from pan. While they are still hot sprinkle more Parmesan on top. It will slightly melt into the surface. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven until ready to serve. Can be reheated as well. Store any leftovers in a plastic bag for a few days.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com      www.foodonfifth.com

April Sunrise Saturday Asian Pear Tartlets

Asian Pear Tartlets

“An April Saturday at Sunrise…Asian Pear Tartlets”

Upon awakening, three Asian Pears glowing on the kitchen counter, pate sucree, dollops of butter & raw sugar cubes, drinking cups of milky hot coffee…welcome April.

I almost always get out of bed before sunrise. It is my favorite time of day. Quiet. The light is soft and gentle, a bit blue-grey with pale golden tones, especially in early April. My kitchen will be dawn-dark, then slowly…very slowly sunlight creeps in, across the tables & counters, leaving everything in its path stunningly lighted.

Asian Pears

(Notice how blue-grey the light is?)

Asian Pears

Ingredients: Rounds of Pate Sucree, olive oil, Asian Pears ripe, good butter & raw sugar cubes (or just raw, loose sugar), sea salt.

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There are many perks…both personally & culinarily…in my work as a food stylist. The perfectly perfect rounds of Pate Sucree (see above photo) were left over from a photo shoot job. I brought a few home for these quick & easy tartlets, freezing some for later ideas. But it is really easy to make your own. These are “round”…I could never roll out any dough this perfect, so when you make your own just let them be randomly wonderful. (see end of post for recipe for pate sucree)

Pâte sucrée is the French term for a sweet short crust pastry used to make tarts. 

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1. Peel Asian Pears & cut into thin wedges. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on each round of dough. Spread out with your hands. Pile pear slices in the center of each round.

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2. Top pear slices with a few cubes of sugar & butter. Gather edges of dough up over the fruit leaving the center open. Sprinkle each with a pinch of sea salt. I used crunchy, flakey, Maldon, my personal favorite. Place each one on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, pop in the refrigerator for 10 minutes while you heat the oven to 375 degrees.

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(Now…notice how the light changed in 10 minutes…tartlets are ready for the oven..the sunlight just beginning to top the trees.)

3. Bake tartlets for about 30-40 minutes until a deep golden brown. Serve hot or warm.

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Because I did not have to make the pate sucree it only took about 15 minutes to make the tartlets plus the baking time. As I pulled the Asian Pear Tartlets out of the oven the sun absolutely flooded my kitchen…shafts of golden light hitting everything…a Saturday Sunrise, early April.

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Quick & Easy Pate Sucree Recipe:

A quick & easy Pate Sucree….Pulse 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup sugar + a pinch of salt together in a food processor. Add 2 sticks of cold butter cut into random pieces + 2 egg yolks and pulse unto crumbly. With machine running drizzle in 1/4 cup cream or milk just until mixture comes together to form a ball. Remove from processor. Divide dough into two balls, pressing each into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill until ready to use or at least 30 minutes. Divide into smaller balls of dough and roll out into circles about 6 inches across.

April is here for the blinking of an eye…enjoy it.

“Sunday Morning Spring Strawberries, Butter & Sugar on Bread…Breakfast”

It is so fine to have a special seasonal treat on a lazy Spring Sunday morning while working on the New York Times Crossword puzzle with a friend. This was one such morning and Wouter made us a favorite treat that his mother made for him using sweet, small strawberries as they come into season.

At first I thought “how fattening”, “how decadent”, but I, in my infinite quest to try new combinations of familiar foods, succumbed and had one of the most deliciously indulgent breakfasts. My crossword working buddy Terry Martin and I gobbled up these little treats on bread as it might be our last meal.


Wouter’s Quick and Easy Recipe for “SMSSBSB” Breakfast

1. Cut up fresh, small strawberries into thick slices. (Don’t even try this with the strawberries from the supermarket with the white centers! It will not taste the same.)

2. Take slices of a good whole grain or white bread and smear each slice lavishly with softened butter such as Kerrygold.

3. Cover butter with slices of berries and then using a fork slightly mash to gently release juices.

4. Sprinkle teaspoons of raw or turbinado sugar over berries and eat.

During local strawberry season, wherever you live, treat yourself and try this regardless of any diet or food issues you might have. This is Dutch Soul Food and should be enjoyed at least once by all.

As an afterthought I do think next time I will have a glass of chilled Prosecco, Cava or Champagne while gobbling these little open-faced berry sandwiches.

  

Yum!