Sometimes I see an ad for a new gadget or appliance that makes me stop and wonder. Wonder why? Wonder at the desperation to come up with the newest thing to sell to people just “because”. The novelty seems to be the thing in itself.
There is an ad for a refrigerator that is showing up everywhere right now that has a camera(s) inside that connects to your phone. If you have one of these you can always know what you have, or do not have, on hand to eat. Personally this is just too much information for me. One thing I wonder is if when you open this refrigerator does it take pics of you as well? Could this be another social media app- InstaRefrigerator? Has it come to this? You heard it here first!
Most days I just open the door of my refrigerator and improvise. Improvised recipes can be the best. Finding “hidden food” in the back of the fridge might even lead to a blog post. I happily found a few cartons of kumquats at the back of my “no-camera” fridge a few days ago. I bought them over the holidays, forgot about them, rediscovered them and made marmalade. Part of the fun was the unexpected discovery of these orange orbs still just as plump as the day I bought them.
A marmalade with three ingredients…seeded kumquats, maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt. It’s as “easy-as-this”.
Seeding is simple. Cut kumquats in half and seed with a spoon or your fingers. It takes a little time, but can be meditative.
Thick syrup, softened sweet-tart kumquat marmalade smeared on hearty crusty bread toasted, or not!
Maple Kumquat Marmalade
- 3 pints of fresh kumquats, rinsed, cut in half and seeded
- 1 cup real maple syrup
- pinch of sea salt
- Place kumquats and maple syrup in non-reactive pan and bring to a low boil. Turn heat to simmer, stirring often. Cook for about 30 minutes or until kumquats are softened to marmalade consistency and juice has thickened. If necessary add a bit of water to mixture as it cooks down.
- Ladle marmalade into glass jars. Store chilled for up to 2 months.
Teresa Blackburn http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
Pure Vanilla Extract is one of the simplest & most appreciated gifts to give cooks. Bulk vanilla beans can be purchased online easily these days and combined with a good bottle or two of vodka or bourbon you have everything you need to make multiple bottles of richly flavorful Vanilla Extract is just a few weeks.
I have been thinking about why I like to make things a lot lately. As a child I made things with my hands all the time…little pieces of art or make-believe foods from mud, grass and sicks…pot holders and paint-by-numbers..my hands always busy and engaged.
I am like that to this day. I am pretty sure it is because the act of making stuff is something I can control in a world where so much is absolutely, insanely out-ot-control. When my hands and mind are engaged in a project I am more at peace and able to sort through my thoughts in a more calm manner. At the end of the process I have something to show for this time spent. An art piece, a cake or loaf of bread, a bottle of pure vanilla extract. Making stuff to share. We all have to find our way do we not? What is your method?
I split the beans…about 25 or so and add them to 6 cups vodka or bourbon. Add a tight-fitting lid and wait…..a small lesson in patience…..
….in a few weeks (2 to 4) you’ll have lots of pure vanilla extract. I keep my jar in a closet and shake it every few days to help release the vanilla bean seeds….week by week the color darkens to a deep amber.
I add a few of the vanilla beans to each bottle after I decant the extract. The vanilla flavor will just keep getting better.
Make stuff, share stuff….it’s as easy-as-this.
Homemade Vanilla Extract
- 6 cups good Vodka or Bourbon
- 25 vanilla beans, split
- 1 large glass jar with tight-fitting lid
- various decorative bottles with tight-fitting lids for decanting extract
- Pour 6 cups vodka/Bourbon into a large glass jar.
- Add split vanilla beans. Top with lid and shake.
- Keep in a dark closet or cabinet for 2 to 4 weeks, shaking jar every few days.
- Decant into decorative bottles. Add a few of the split beans to each bottle. Add tops and your ready to give away as gifts to your friends who love to bake. Bon Apetit!
Teresa Blackburn www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com www.foodonfifth.com
You know how you hear about something that is so easy you wonder why you never thought of it? This happens to me all the time. “Pickled Grapes” is one of those things. I first heard about them on two different NPR programs within one week. Touted as the “new olive” for a cheese plate I was so intrigued I had to see for myself. The how-to is child’s play for the novice or seasoned cook. The finished cold, crisp, spicy pickled grapes are divine served with a few well-chosen cheeses for a Holiday cheese platter. It is all as “easy-as-this”.
Gather a few clean, dry pint size glass jars with lids…seedless grapes…a few spices & vinegar and your ready to go.
Grapes rinsed & drained then packed into jars and covered with hot, spicy vinegar mix…cooled to room temp, lids added and then jars chilled….ready to eat. 30 minutes start to finish! They will keep in refrigerator for a few weeks. Good food gifts for friends who don’t like olives as well.
Some suggested cheeses – Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Raclette 5 Peppercorns, Reypemaer Gouda. All have a unique flavor and texture and are complimented by the “new olive”…the ‘pickled grape”! It’s as “easy-as-this”.
- Seedless Grapes – Red and/or Green, rinsed & drained, pulled from stems, enough to fill 4 or five jars – 6 cups?
- 2 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
- 3 garlic gloves crushed and then minced
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rosemary leaves from fresh stems + a few extra stems for jars
- 1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red chili pepper flakes
- Fill glass jars with grapes.
- Bring wine vinegar, garlic, sea salt, sugar, rosemary leaves & red pepper flakes to a low boil and then turn to simmer, stirring for a few minutes to dissolve salt & sugar. Remove from heat. Stir in a few rosemary sprigs.
- Immediately pour hot mixture over grapes in jars. Nestle sprigs of rosemary down into jars
- Loosely cover jars and let cool to room temperature. Then cover with tight-fitting lids and store in refrigerator until ready to use. You can eat within an hour or keep for up to a few weeks in the refrigerator.
- These are amazing and refreshing and everything delicious to serve with cheese & crackers or toss in a salad.
Notes: Other ideas to try when making the next batch…fresh thyme sprigs, red wine vinegar, whole garlic cloves…I bet you have some of your own ideas.
Based on recipes jotted down while listening to NPR shows.
Teresa Blackburn www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
In my house when the going gets a bit tough, I have an overwhelming urge to bake and bake and bake…the next few posts might be baked goods.
Lovely firm pears…juicy pluots…maple syrup and spelt flour all layered, sugared and baked in a short bread crust. Hello November….Hello Thanksgiving in Nashville, Tennessee….Hello?
Below are step-by-steps….just in case….
…..you want to make your own…right now…today..don’t you? It’s as Easy As This! Baking will make you feel better….I promise.
November Pear-Pluot Tart
Ingredients for Crust:
- 2 cups spelt flour
- 1 stick cold butter cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon ice cole water, if needed
Ingredients for Filling:
- 2 tablespoons red currant jelly, melted to brush on crust
- 3 ripe, but firm pears, cored, peeled and thickly sliced
- 3 pluots or plums, cored and thickly sliced (or small tart apples)
- 1/2 cup demerara or other dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter cut into pieces
- Grainy raw sugar to sprinkle over top of tart after baking
- Place spelt flour in a food processor along with the butter pieces and vanilla bean powder. Process until mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add maple syrup and egg yolk. Process until a dough forms. (Add ice water if needed) Remove dough from food processor and form into a flatten disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.
- Roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface into a large round. Fit into a 9 inch springform pan, folding extra dough to inside to form a thicker crust all around. Prick the bottom of the crust and chill for 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- When filling ingredients are ready remove tart shell from the refrigerator and spread the bottom with the melted red currant jelly.
- Fill tart shell with fruit, and then sprinkle the demerara sugar over the fruit. Top with butter pieces.. Bake until fruit is fork tender, not mushy, about 40 minutes. Fruit will begin to caramelize just a bit. Remove from oven and dust with grainy raw sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Notes: You can make this tart with all pears or pears and apples as well. Great Holiday dessert.
Teresa Blackburn http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
The so-called “dog days of summer” have gotten to me and when it comes to cooking I am giving in. Salads and variations-on-the-salad will be my mainstay for a bit. Cool foods that I can quickly and easily put together with ingredients that are readily and locally available. I will make foods that do not require breaking a sweat.
This colander of fresh Crowder peas in where we start today. I quickly cooked them in a plastic bag in the microwave…no hot water steaming up the kitchen on this 90+ degree day, then I rinsed them in cold water and let them drain for a bit.
Hmmmm….homegrown tomatoes & cucumbers from the Duren-Kemp garden of earthly delights. (That’s my son-in-law and daughter’s garden.)
A splash or two or three of this fab balsamic vinegar purchased down the street from Lazzaroli’s Pasta emporium.
Easy as this Lemon Salt & freshly ground black pepper added to taste… served with glass of chilled white wine and a baguette from Dozen’s Bakery.
A late summer, no oven or stove-top dinner, healthy & fresh, cool as a cucumber meal! Keep it simple, don’t work up a sweat with this “Crowder Pea, Homegrown Tomato & Cucumber Salad”. It’s another “E.A.T. ” (easy as this) meal brought to you from my little Food on Fifth kitchen.
(Almost No Cooking) E.A.T. Late Summer Salad of Crowder Peas, Homegrown Tomatoes and Cucumbers
- 2-3 cups fresh, shelled Crowder peas, lady peas or any other summer pea
- 4 medium size home-grown tomatoes cut into bite-size chunks
- 1-2 fresh smallish size cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled, sliced or cut into chunks
- a good balsamic vinegar, as much as you like to coat
- lemon salt & freshly ground black pepper (or just regular sea salt)
- Rinse & drain peas & put in a zip-lock bag left slightly open. Cook in microwave for about 8 minutes on high. Dump into a colander and rinse with cool running water. Leave to drain for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl toss together the cooled peas, tomato chunks & cucumbers.
- Season with salt & black pepper. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar to taste. Serve at room temp or chilled. Delicious with a crusty baguette and, of course on a hot day, a glass of chilled white wine. Bon Appetite.
Teresa Blackburn teresablackburnfoodstyling.com foodonfifth.com
Today’s temperature in Nashville, Tennessee as I post this at 6:34pm CST: 94 degrees and feels like 104 degrees (official report!). Let’s eat something cold, really cold like a chilled iceberg wedge with a frozen blue cheese dressing.
A cold blast-from-the-past with an updated twist.
As you know blue-cheese dressing is a must for this salad, but frozen blue-cheese ice cream dressing is even better!
I had a version of this salad while working on a photo shoot in Florida a few years ago. It was late in the day, I was hot & tired. I walked to a nearby restaurant close to my hotel for dinner at the end of the day. I lazily chose the “classic wedge salad” and when it arrived at my table the dressing was frozen….a blue-cheese ice cream dressing right on the top of my wedge slowly melting down into & between the leaves. Ingenious.
A good blue cheese with lots of veins….yogurt…hot sauce…my homemade lemon-salt and…….
….a generous grinding of my friend Jesse (Food Sheriff) Goldstein’s very own invention “Flower Pepper”. To be more exact “Uncle Daisy’s Organic Flower Pepper”. Jesse gave me a jar of his special pepper chock full of dried flowers as a gift and it added just the right flavor to this recipe. It is not available in stores but you can make your own. Go to Jesse’s blog post that tells you how.
Ingredients blended together and frozen in my ice-cream freezer but left a bit soft to scoop onto the top of the wedge!
Pancetta cooked until very crisp and most of the fat rendered in my Lodge cast iron skillet.
Updated….Neo-Classic Iceberg Wedge Salad…for hot days to cool you down.
Neo-Classic Iceberg Lettuce Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Ice Cream Dressing
Ingredients & Equipment:
Electric ice cream freezer ready to make ice cream according to package directions for your particular machine.
- In a bowl mix together Greek yogurt, blue cheese crumbles, a healthy pinch of lemon salt, a generous grinding of Flower Pepper and a few shakes of hot sauce to taste. Stir until well blended.
- Scrape mixture into the ice cream freezer and freeze according to package directions or until mixture is “ice cream frozen”. Scrape blue cheese ice cream dressing in a plastic container and pop in the refrigerator freezer while you prepare the salads. Don’t let the dressing get too frozen as it will be hard to scoop.
- On four plates place one Iceberg Lettuce wedge. Sprinkle tomato halves & crisp pancetta over the wedges.
- Add a scoop (or two) of Blue Cheese Ice Cream Dressing over each wedge right before serving.
Teresa Blackburn teresablackburnfoodstyling.com
Is it a dessert you drink? Or is it a drink you eat? Affogato, just another wonderful bit of magic from Italy, is traditionally vanilla ice cream “drowned” in a shot of hot espresso. This version uses a scoop of chocolate-peanut butter gelato which is a bit like gilding the lily, but fabulous.Two ingredients! It is “facile come questo” or as “easy as this”.
Gelato or ice cream of your choice….espresso hot..maybe a sprinkling of cocoa or instant espresso powder? The hot espresso flows over the gelato starting the melt…divine. An easy dessert for dinner parties…no cooking in this summer heat…immensely satisfying.
At first you eat it, then you drink it and then you’ll want more…buon appetito.
It’s hot outside…treat yourself!
Fabulous Affogato - 2 Ingredients Summer Dessert
Ingredients per serving:
- one shot of hot espresso
- one to two scoops of your favorite chocolate-peanut butter or vanilla gelato or ice cream
- Optional – Cocoa powder mixed with espresso powder for garnish
- Make espresso.
- Scoop gelato or ice cream into a short glass.
- Pour shot of espresso over gelato, dust with cocoa-espresso powder if desired. Eat with a spoon.
I am not a fussy cook. I find cooking, especially baking, very soothing. Keeping it simple and easy is my approach…some of it is intuitive but mostly not being afraid of the possibilities of missteps. It helps to be intrepid but it is not necessary. A good sense of humor helps as well! Many holiday days you can find me in my kitchen trying out new recipes and just playing around and this July 4th is no exception.
This recipe for my “Blueberry-Apricot Slab Tart” is very easy. Don’t you think the “slab” part is appropriate? The directions are easy, not many ingredients are needed and you can substitute the fruit as you like…peaches, blackberries, strawberries, cherries, plums are good substitutes.
A homemade or store-bought pie crust works equally well depending on how much time you have. I make my own crusts and when I do, I make extras and freeze to use later. This crust is one of my freezer crusts thawed, rolled out and topped with Creme Fraiche mixed with raw sugar and lemon juice then scattered with zest.
Apricots sliced, no peeling necessary. Blueberries nestled all around…..
….star shapes cut out of the pastry scraps and a dusting of decorating sugar this tart is ready for the oven! Easy-as-This!
Happy 4th of July. Peace and Love.
Blueberry-Apricot Slab Tart
- 1 pie crust dough (enough to cover a half sheet pan with scraps)
- 8 ounces creme fraiche (or cream cheese softened)
- 1/4 cup raw sugar
- the zest of one lemon
- the juice of 1 lemon
- 6 apricots, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
- decorating sugar (the crunchy kind used for cookies)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Roll pie crust dough out large enough to fit into the pan and up the sides. Trim edges and save for decorating top.
- Mix together the creme fraiche, raw sugar, and lemon juice. Spread mixture over the bottom of the crust.
- Scatter the lemon zest over the filling.
- Arrange apricot slices over the top and sprinkle the blueberries over all.
- Roll out and cut dough scraps into decorative shapes using a cookie cutter. and randomly place over the tart.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes until top is bubbly and crust is lightly browned. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Serve cut into slabs.
I have been traveling (check out my Instagram for photos on where) for a couple of weeks and away from my kitchen…lots of eating, but no cooking. Many recipe ideas are crammed into my brain from the trip and after some experimentation I hope to share some of those with you in later posts…a similar but not-creamed spinach dish topped with goat cheese that was sublime….a light-as-air three-layered dessert using sponge cake, whipped cream and phyllo dough…gnocchi-like noodles with a simple beef stew…chard chopped and sautéed in olive oil & garlic….oh my!
But for today…..peas and pasta.
A few weeks ago I picked my solo crop of green peas from my little garden and this is the easy dish I made, “Garden-Grown Green Peas, Crisp Bacon & Parmesan Tossed with Pasta”, a Carbonara riff.
A cool, sunny spring with just the right amount of rain gave my pea plants an extra boost and within a month or so I had vines laden with plump green peas! I was pretty thrilled as fresh peas have always been a favorite of mine.
The hot pasta was tossed in a quick sauce of chicken stock with a splash of cream, sea salt & black pepper for a leaner version of a classic Carbonara-style dish. I quickly added the steamed green peas, crispy lean bacon & a generous amount of shredded parmesan cheese. Bon Apetit!
Garden-Grown Green Peas, Crisp Bacon & Parmesan Cheese Pasta
- 1 lb fettucine or spaghetti noodles (regular or gluten-free) cooked, saving 1 cup of hot pasta water
- 1 cup chicken stock, low-fat
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1 cup fresh green peas (or frozen) quickly steamed in microwave
- 8 slices crisp bacon
- 1 cup shredded good quality Parmesan cheese
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- In a deep stock pot over low heat toss cooked pasta, pasta water, chicken stock, cream and salt & black pepper until noodles are hot and coated with sauce.
- Portion into 4 bowls and top each serving with peas, bacon and a generous portion of cheese. Top with additional black pepper. Serve immediately.
This dish is fresh, quick and very good for a spring dinner after a long day at work served with a crisp, cold, dry white wine.