Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tomato-Basil Tart

When summer heaps its blessings of real garden-fresh tomatoes and pungeant basil upon me, I find as many opportunities to use them in the kitchen as I can. This recipe, using a pate brise crust and your choice of cheeses, is easy to make and delicious to consume. Plus, its beautiful, simple presentation inspires hungry awe in your family and guests. I made two of these tarts for a local houseconcert a couple of weeks ago and they were very well received.


Delicious Summer Duo Tart

1 pate brise crust, pressed into a tart pan and baked in a 450 degree F. oven until crust is lightly browned and thoroughly dry.

1 1/2 cup shredded baking or melting cheese, like gruyere, swiss, mozzarella, queso fresco or feta (reduce the amount if you use feta)

4 garden-fresh roma tomatoes, cut into thin wedges and drained on paper towels

1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves

4-5 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup mayonaisse

1/4 cup grated aged cheese, like parmigiano reggiano, pecorino romano or cotija cheese

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the baking cheese into warm tart crust. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degres F. Arrange tomatoes on crust. Process basil and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Combine garlic, basil, mayonaisse, aged cheese and remaining cup of baking cheese in a bowl and spread over tomato wedges.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden on top.

Let rest for five minutes before cutting and serving.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Golden Crescent Rolls

This recipe was also given to me by an Amish neighbor. These crescent rolls melt in your mouth! The first time I had them, I was a guest at an Amish quilting and the smell wafted through the house and mingled among the Pennsylvania-Dutch gossip that drifted from corner to corner of the quilt frame. While I think our host must have done something magical with her crescents to make them taste so fabulous and come out so fluffy, mine were good enough to be gobbled up immediately by my family.

Make sure you have plenty of real butter on hand!


Edna's Golden Crescent Rolls

2 packages of yeast
3/4 cup warm water (around 105-110 degrees F)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
2 additional tablespoons butter

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, butter, eggs, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.

Place in a greased bowl, turn once to grease the top, and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled.

Punch down, divide in half and then roll each portion into a 12-inch circle. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter and brush over the dough.

Cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll each wedge up crescent-roll style.

Place on a greased baking sheet 2 inches apart with the point-end on the bottom.

Cover and let rise until doubled.

Bake at 375 degrees F. for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with the additional butter.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No-Cook Cucumber Relish

This recipe was originally given to me by an Amish friend whose family uses it as a sandwich spread. For me, it reminds me of the bread-and-butter pickles my mom used to make around this time every year. While this doesn't take as long as those pickles did, the basic ingredients are the same. I make a couple of batches and freeze it. Some I eat on sandwiches and hot dogs and some I eat straight out of the jar. ;-) If you want to use it like bread-and-butters, just slice instead of grating or chopping the cukes.


No-Cook Cucumber Relish

7 cups unpeeled grated, chopped or sliced cucumbers
1 cup diced green peppers
1 cup diced onions

Make a brine using:

1 cup vinegar
2 cups sugar

Stir to dissolve the sugar, but do not heat! When sugar is dissolved, add:

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon celery seed

Pour over cucumber mixture and refrigerate in a covered container. Let it stand for 24 hours in the fridge before using. Freeze some for later.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vanilla Ice Cream

We've tried a lot of vanilla ice cream recipes and certainly none of them have ever been rejected, but once we'd tasted this recipe, we realized we'd never need another. This recipe comes from The New Best Recipe book from the people from Cook's Illustrated, and it's a custard-style ice cream, which means it's made with lots of egg yolks. So if you're in the country and have access to fresh, free-range eggs (and there is a difference, believe me) and raw milk, this recipe is the way to go. We use a hand-crank ice cream freezer because we like for everyone to earn their ice cream, but the same outcome can be had with an electric ice-cream freezer.

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half and scraped out, or 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks

Fill a sink or large bowl with ice-water and have a strainer ready over another large bowl that will fit inside the sink or large bowl. Heat the milk, cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the vanilla seeds and pod (if you're not using a vanilla bean, wait until later to add the extract) in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to bread up the vanilla seeds, until steam appears and the milk is warm, about 175 degrees, which takes around five minutes. Do not boil the milk.

Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl until combined and pale yellow. Whisk half the warm milk mixture into the beaten yolks, 1/2 cup at a time, until combined. Whisk the milk-yolk mixture into the warm milk in the saucepan over medium heat amd cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until steam appears, foam subsides and the mixture is slightly thickened or measure 180-180 degrees. Do not boil or eggs will curdle. Immediate strain the mixture into the bowl you have ready and set it in the ice-water bath. Cool and stir until it comes to room temperature. Cover, refrigerate, and chill until it gets down to 40 degrees, 3-24 hours.

Remove and discard vanilla pod. If you're not using a vanilla bean, add the vanilla extract now and stir well. Pour the custard into the ice-cream freezer and churn following the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until solid, at least a few hours, depending on the freezer. We usually wait until the next day to serve it. It will keep up to two days.

Black Raspberry Cobbler

The previous owners of our little cabin in the woods christened the acreage by which it's surrounded "The Thicket" because of the thick growth of brush and cane fruits throughout the woods. All around the cabin grows berries of all kinds, mostly red raspberries, blackberries and black raspberries. Our first year in The Thicket, I was pleased to find that I could fill many baskets with blackberries and black raspberries, and we seized the opportunity to eat as many fresh berries as we could. But we also made Black Raspberry Cobbler, a fabulously delicious treat that we topped with homemade vanilla ice cream.

You'll notice that there are several steps in between which you do not stir your ingredients. Folow these directions and you'll end up with a moist cobbler with a delicately crispy top crust.


Black Raspberry Cobbler

1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups black raspberries
1/2 cup sugar

Pour the melted butter into the bottom of a 7"x11" baking dish. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, 1 cup sugar, flour and baking powder. pour this mixture over the butter but DO NOT STIR.

Pour the berries over the batter and butter but DO NOT STIR.

Pour the remaining sugar over the berries but DO NOT STIR.

Bake the cobbler at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until the crust is browned and set. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream!

Banana Split Muffins

Years ago, Tina, one of my best friends, made these muffins for our family and we were immediately smitten. This recipe is just slightly different from the one she made for us--hers had Miracle Whip and this one has real mayonnaise. Before you shun the recipe because of the mayo factor, notice that the batter doesn't include eggs. The mayo replaces the eggs and makes the muffins deliciously moist. It's a perfect recipe for when you have some of those near-liquid bananas to use. Sixteen-year-old Bard and four-year-old Baby made six batches of these today, giving us enough to eat and enough to freeze for quick breakfasts.

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Banana Split Muffins

1 1/3 cup mashed bananas (about 6 medium)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup semi-sweet miniature chocolate chips
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup real mayonnaise, not light or fat-free
1/3 cup drained, chopped maraschino cherries
12 maraschino cherries, cut in half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine bananas and mayo. Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped cherries. Fill greased or paper-lines muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done. Press a cherry half, cut-side-down, into the top of each muffin. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire cooling rack. Makes one dozen muffins.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Alfredo Sauce

Here's a simple sauce that offers a whole lot of flavor. Be sure to use freshly-grated parmesan cheese, not the Kraft kind, because that has stabilizers and anti-caking agents that keep it from melting, and it ends up a globby mess. Grating your own cheese is so easy with a MicroPlane Grater and a hunk of Parmagiano Reggiano. By the way, I just read in Cook's Illustrated that this raw cow's milk cheese manufactured in the North of Italy really is superior to any U.S. parmesans for a variety of reasons, including animal care and feeding/grazing, hand-processing as opposed to mechanized processing, and aging time. Apparently the U.S. manufacturers of parmesan take quite a few shortcuts, and it shows when put to the taste test. So if you're ever tempted to replace your more expensive Reggiano with a Wisconsin parmesan, remember that. Creates quite a dilemma for locavores. Unless, of course, you live in Northern Italy.


Alfredo Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream (try to find some that isn't Ultra-Pasteurized because it thickens better)
1 clove of crushed garlic
1 1/2 cups freshly-grated Parmagiano Reggiano or other high-quality grating cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the cream and heat very slowly for about five minutes, then add garlic and cheese and whisk. Heat through and cook on low until thickened. Stir in parsley. Serve this over fresh fettucine noodles!

Friday, August 24, 2007


My daughter requests this as soon as tomatoes begin to ripen. When we start to tire of Pico de Gallo, we bring this to the table. This would be delicious with Genovese Basil Bread!



Ingredients for sauce:
12-14 ripe plum tomatoes, fresh from the garden, diced into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine these ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the bread:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, slivered
thickly-sliced rustic bread

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Saute the garlic until golden, 2-3 minutes. Throw away the garlic and keep the oil. Toast the bread in the garlic oil then cut each slice in half. Top with room-temperature sauce.

You can also sprinkle this with a bit of parmesan and pop it in the oven for a couple of minutes until it's hot and toasty.


Nettie's Pico de Gallo

Summer isn't officially here until the first heaping bowl of Nettie's Pico de Gallo hits the table. Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, peppers and cilantro, a shake or two of salt and a squeeze of fresh lime, and you've got it. I keep a gallon jug of this stuff in the fridge for as long as the seasonal ingredients can be had locally, and then we settle for second-best in the dead of winter; with each huge batch I make, I freeze half for later.

This recipe is totally improvisable, though the original was written out for me by my sister-in-law's mother, Nerita, who grew up in Mexico. She, too, improvises, but gave me some idea of proportions. When it comes down to it, it's all about taste, so do what you like. Add more lime, less lime, cut back on the onions, add more peppers. If it's good for you, you've done it right!

Nettie's Pico de Gallo (or "Garden Fresh Salsa")
(This will make a small batch. If you're smart, you'll make a big batch.)

Garden Fresh Tomatoes--about four large ones (I use a combination of romas and heritage types. This will NOT taste as good if you use store-bought tomatoes, unless you use grape tomatoes, which taste most like real tomatoes and not like water balloons)--cut into bite-sized pieces either by hand or with a food processor
One large onion--sweet or storing--diced
One or two jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (be careful when doing this not to get seeds on hands or put hands in eyes!). Add more jalapenos or a stronger pepper if you like it hot.
A small bundle of cilantro, chopped finely (tip: if you have a food processor, add the cilantro to half of the onion, quartered, and chop them together in the processor. Do the same with the jalapenos and the other half of the onions)
One lime, juiced
Kosher salt to taste

Mix all of these together, adding a bit of olive oil if it seems too dry, and serve with good chips!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Red Beans and Rice

Last year, when finances were really tight, I had to come up with creative ways to feed a large crew. One very excellent blessing was that I learned to cook dried beans. What's even better...we actually liked them!

This is the best red beans and rice recipe I've found. It certainly takes time, but it's quite delicious!


Red Beans and Rice

1 pound red kidney beans, dry
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
5 ribs celery, chopped
As much garlic as you like, minced (I like lots, 5 or 6 cloves)
1 large smoked ham hock, 3/4 pound of Creole-style pickle meat (pickled pork), or 3/4 lb. smoked ham, diced, for seasoning
1 to 1-1/2 pounds mild or hot smoked sausage or andouille, sliced on the bias
1/2 to 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves, crushed
1 or 2 bay leaves
Tabasco to taste
A few dashes Worcestershire sauce
Creole seasoning blend, to taste; OR,
red pepper and black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Fresh Creole hot sausage or chaurice, links or patties, grilled or pan-fried, one link or patty per person (optional)
Pickled onions (optional)

Soak the beans overnight, drain and put fresh water in the pot. Bring the beans to a rolling boil, making sure the beans remain covered by water. Boil for 45 - 60 minutes, until the beans are tender but not falling apart. Drain.

While the beans are boiling, sauté the onions, celery, and bell pepper until onions turn translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

After the beans are boiled and drained, add the sautéed vegetables to the beans, then add the ham hock (or ham or pickle meat), smoked sausage, seasonings, and just enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 2 hours at least, preferably 3, until the whole thing gets nice and creamy. Adjust seasonings as you go along. Stir occasionally, making sure that it doesn't burn and/or stick to the bottom of the pot.

If possible, cool the beans, refrigerate, reheat and serve for dinner the next day. They'll taste a LOT better. Add water to get them to the right consistency.

Serve over basmati rice.

YIELD: 8 servings

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Genovese Basil Bread

One thing that I have in abundance this time of year is basil. It's something I absolutely must plant, along with tomatoes, onions, swiss chard and my other herbs. For years, I've had this recipe for Genovese Basil Bread that I found on the King Arthur Flour website, but I just never got around to making it.

When I finally made it, it was declared absolutely yummy, so it's an instant favorite in our house.

This recipe is made in a similar fashion to french bread, so you'll roll out the dough with a rolling pin and then roll each piece up jelly-roll style.

The recipe makes four individual-sized loaves, so if you've got a hungry clan, you'll want to make several batches!


Genovese Basil Bread

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cups Fresh Basil Leaves, coarsely chopped and lightly packed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package dry yeast
1 cup very warm water (105-115 degres F)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus a bit more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat oil in a heavy, large skillet (I love my cast iron skillets!) over low to medium heat. Add basil and garlic and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Dissolve the yeast in water in a small bowl. Let it stand for ten minutes.

Mound 2 1/2 cups of the flour onto your work surface or in a large bowl; make a well in the center. Add the dissolved yeast, basil mixture, salt and pepper to the well. Mix the ingredients that are in the well, and then incorporate the flour. Knead on a lightly floured surface until it's elastic, adding a bit more flour if it's sticky, for several minutes.

NOTE: You do NOT need to incorporate all 3.5 cups. Just add flour until it's only slightly sticky. This is a sticky dough, so don't try to add flour until it's smooth and firm or your bread will turn out rock-hard.

Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning once to coat with oil, and then cover it to let it rise until it's doubled, about 45 minutes, depending on the warmth in the rising space.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down the dough. Knead it on a lightly floured surface until it's smooth, about three minutes. Cut the dough into four pieces and then roll one out on a lightly-floured surface to an 8 x 5 1/2" rectangle. Roll it up jelly-roll style, starting at one long end. Transfer to the greased baking sheet, seam side down, then do the rest of the pieces the same way. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes, until the pieces are doubled.

While they're rising, preheat your oven to 450 degrees farenheit. When the rolls have risen, slash the tops diagonally along the top about three times. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until they're golden in color and sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of a roll.

Serve warm with REAL butter!