Monday, May 11, 2009

Because I had time!

While my tart was baking, I found the fifteen minutes were enough time to whip up some fresh blueberry muffins. From scratch. I will never, ever make blueberry muffins from a package again. Oh, and if you substitute heavy cream for the milk in the recipe, your muffins will be heavy, creamy and perfect. You can totally use frozen or fresh blueberries for this as well, and I made some strudel topping out of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Just 30 minutes on 350 degrees is all you need if you do jumbo muffins like I did.

Eat, drink and keep reading,
Kasey :0)

So what if I don't have the right pan?

After numerous attempts at making this dish, I have finally done it. I went through sliced fingers, soupy fillings and trial and error led me to this moment - perfection. Okay... so I was supposed to use a tart pan with removable bottom, and I used this ceramic pie plate instead. Still tasted great! And through all the trials and tribulations of assembling what can only be referred to as the worlds most high maintenance dough (Crisco does NOT behave the same way as butter when you're rolling out the dough!), it was well worth it when it was still flaky, buttery and all together scrumptious from the first to the last bite.

For the dough, you have to think of the 3-2-1 ratio. That's three parts flour, two parts fat, one part ice water. And that's it! After that, you can add things to sweeten it up (I added a little powdered sugar, since this was a sweet dish), fresh herbs if you're making something savory, or even cheese. Do make sure your butter/fat is cold, the water is freezing, and your hands are always cold and powdered down with flour (lightly). If you have warm hands, that finicky dough will stick right to them and start melting the butter in the dough, making it near impossible to roll out or transfer from one place to another. Oh, and it's a good idea to cut a small circle of parchment paper, drop a few pennies on the paper, and place on top of the dough once it's been pressed into the pan. Freeze for five minutes, than put the entire thing (pennies and all) into the hot oven. The freezing will set it and prevent the dough from overcooking, while the pennies will act as a weight to prevent the dough from puffing up (the paper is to keep the penny flavor OUT of your tart shell... duh).

Once you're shell is done (about 15 minutes or so), pop it out of the oven, set it on a wire rack in the pan, and let it cool completely. Try not to eat the edges like I did, or you'll end up with a rough looking crusty, craggly edge. I know it's tempting, but just wait.

Cream together 6oz of cream cheese, some powdered sugar and heavy cream, about the 3/4 cup of each (DO NOT USE HALF & HALF - this does NOT work!!!). Throw in some vanilla and cream it up until it looks like you're making stiff-peaked whipped cream (but better!). Spread that mess into the bottom of the tart shell, halve up some strawberries and place on top. THEN FREEZE. This is important because it sets the cream cheese and you want it to be as firm as possible. Let that mess freeze for at least the length of the movie you got from Netflix earlier today. Or to last through The Office marathon you planned on, since your Netflix didn't come (like the e-mail said it would).

This was one of the easiest and the more difficult desserts I've made. I think it's largely due to my new gun-shy attitude toward slicing strawberries (the scar is healing quite nicely), and my "brilliant" idea to use part Crisco and part butter in the dough. I will say that, without those experiences, this would never have come to be.

Eat, drink and keep reading,

Three paces and then... breathe.

Sometimes when Matthew and I can't agree on something, I envision this very scene. I think it's only right that there is a frilly umbrella above his head as well. And of course, I'm in a huge skirted number. Naturally.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How to pick a peach

Ahh, the Durham Farmers Market. A religious experience for some, and an overwhelming feeling of "home" once you begin your journey through. Today I picked up a fresh loaf of french bread (they were out of the polenta loaf, which is absolutely mouthwatering), fresh goat cheese (from Elodie Farms in Rougemont, NC), local tomatoes as big as my head, strawberry preserves for Matthew from some sweet ladies who sell the best he's tasted, and freshly brewed coffee (50 cent discount to all who bring their own mugs!). I'm super excited about all of it, and have even had a hunk of bread before I put anything else away when I got home. It's crispy on the outside, soft and slightly chewey on the inside, and was baked at about 3 am THIS MORNING. I don't bake ANYTHING at 3 am, so I will gladly pay someone else to do so for me. And the goat cheese from farmer Dave puts all other goat cheese to shame, especially his flavored kinds (think dill, sundried tomato, rosemary, garlic, even strawberry).

My next trip to the market will hopefully include a breakfast bread, some fresh farm eggs, thyme and some of that amazing smoked mozzerella I had two weeks ago. Super creamy with an almost hickory-like smokiness to it. Fabulous!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tomato, tomAHto

Okay, you culinary fans, this one is for you. Tonight, while Matthew worked his little bum off to keep a roof over our heads, I decided I shouldn't just skip to the nearest Qdoba for dinner, deciding to make something lovely at home instead. This recipe was part inspiration, part desperation. Part inspiration because I've made something similar from Rachael Ray's books dozens of times before. The desperation portion comes from the fact that I a) didn't have ricotta cheese that wasn't molding in my fridge, b) hadn't remembered to pick up parsley, and c) had some leftover red wine in my fridge (before any of you wine novices start your dry heaving, I only cook with red, I don't drink it). The result, with some added toasted whole wheat bread on the side, was this dish you see before you. An amazingly fragrant, creamy, fresh pasta dinner. Here's my layman's version of the recipe:

1. Boil the pasta in 1 part red wine, two parts water. Salt the water (or not... I'm not particular). Drain. This part should be easy.
2. Cut up a couple tablespoons of butter (if you lend yourself to be more Paula Deen than Rachael Ray, you'll add two sticks instead of the two tablespoons), throw into a large mixing bowl. Add a package of goat cheese (creamy, not crumbly), and a couple handfuls of parmigiano reggiano. If I catch you using the stuff in the green tube, we will have to have a chat. Reserve this bowl somewhere until the pasta is done.
3.Add drained pasta to this and toss. This makes the butter all melty and lovely. Try not to eat it yet.
4. While all this is happening, start a skillet on medium heat and add one chopped onion of your choice. I myself like your basic sweet onion, but if you have a preference, it's all good. Dice it up, throw it in the skillet with some olive oil and cover that mess quick! It'll splatter all over your nice new [insert product placement here] Anthropologie apron. Cook for about 5 minutes.
5. Add half a "normal" bag of frozen snow peas to the onions, along with a huge handful of torn up fresh spinach. Cook for another five minutes, until the spinach is almost wilty and weird looking.
6. Take your skillet mixture (did you turn off the stove??) and dump it into the cheesy pasta mixture. Mix, and throw freshly diced basil and cherry tomatoes on top. Mix again and salt and pepper to taste.

Easy, right? And you can add chicken in there, shrimp, tofu, tempeh even. It's fabulous. And the best part is, a good riesling goes well with it if consumed out in the setting sun on a porch. If you don't have a porch, try turning your television to the Discovery Channel and having lounging lions as your background.

Eat, drink, and keep reading,