Cooking for two is boring -- I want to cook for the entire blogosphere!

Thursday, July 28

Free-Form Plum and Apricot Tart

Question: How do you make fruit un-healthy?

Answer: Add two sticks of butter to it.

As much as I love reading Cooking Light and eating sensibly, there's something so satisfying about boatloads of butter. Somehow it feels a little bid badder to do it in summer, with so many fresh things around.

We signed up for a fruit CSA again this summer and came home this week with apricots and plums. They are tiny little things, and while I enjoyed one at lunch, they really begged to be cooked. More carnivorous chefs than me would probably make apricot chutney or jam to go over roast chicken. I can't help but indulge my sweet tooth.

I pulled together a free-form apricot and plum tart, one of those where you roll out the dough and fold it over the fruit, leaving the top open. I thought I'd be clever and cook the fruit down first. Bad idea. The filling became super soupy; meanwhile the butter crust started melting in the heat. Sigh.

In the end it was a lot more trouble than it was worth, and I wish I'd just saved the fruit compote to serve over vanilla ice cream. (Certainly more appealing than having the hot oven on for 45 minutes.)

Do you have a good recipe for a free-form tart? 'Cause I need one.

Friday, July 8

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Redux

A few summers ago I made this wonderful buttermilk cake originally published in Gourmet (ah, Gourmet - moment of silence, please). For the Fourth of July this year, I decided to try it again. This time, instead of strawberries, I made it with blueberries and raspberries - and voila, patriotic cake!

It's as good as ever.

Saturday, May 7

Experimenting with Desserts

A few months ago at a party we met a guy who's opening an ice cream store not too far from us. He doesn't know it yet, but he and I are going to become best friends. He's going to let me taste all the new flavors before they go public, and he's going to love my peanut butter and jelly sandwich ice cream idea (I won't get royalties for that, but I'll get a free pint whenever I want it). Ah, the dreams of the sugar-obsessed.

(Edited to add... The ice cream shop is Ample Hills over in Prospect Heights. And they've (sort of) done the PB&J thing. Go check it out!)

This brilliant ice cream maker (chocolate-stout ice cream with chocolate pretzels? Sign me up) is also an ace baker - he brought some amazing blondies to the party, barely cooked through with giant buttons of white and semisweet chocolate oozing out.

They inspired me to make some of my own using the butterscotch chips I bought on a whim a while back. I didn't try the amazing-sounding malt blondies from the Baked cookbook but stuck with the uber-simple Joy of Cooking recipe. These turned out butterscotchy, chewy, and a bit too sweet for me. They were unfortunately kind of one-note - next time it'll be the Baked blondies.

I got in such a baking mood that I decided to try out some meringues (the blondies recipe leaves you with an extra egg white). I've forgotten how amazing meringue tastes and how beautiful and glossy it is.

Here's the meringue recipe I used - "sugar kisses." I loved this one because it only makes 2 dozen cookies and uses only 2 egg whites. The sad part is that I couldn't get it to hold its shape very well - I'm not sure if that's me or the recipe, but it was the same all three times I made it, so I am thinking recipe?

The first version I made had blue food coloring (they were to match a theme for a party) with green sugar sprinkles, and if I had been throwing a birthday party for a four-year-old boy, they would have been perfect - they looked just like dinosaur eggs. Not so much for a bridal shower, though. So I tried again. The second version was a disastrous experiment with mint flavoring - do not make a mint meringue. Don't. Please. Yuck. I did salvage the resulting minty fluff by whipping it into a batch of brownies (mint brownies are much better than mint meringues). The third batch was white(-ish - the oven kind of browns them), vanilla flavored, and topped with crystalline blue sugar. Though still egg shaped, at least these looked pretty and tasted good. Success? Success.

I made the recipe as printed in my cookbook, which is a bit different from the online version:

I mixed in a teaspoon of extract at the very end, after the meringue was almost holding a stiff peak. I didn't pipe the cookies but plopped them by the tablespoon onto the sheet. I also sprinkled some sugar over the top before baking and put them in a 250 deg. oven for 60 minutes, followed by about 1 1/2 hrs in the oven with the heat turned off and the door closed.

How lucky I am to work at an office of people who will take some of these treats off my hands...

Sunday, May 1

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Next up in our food adventures: growing our own.

I planted cherry tomatoes ("bloody butchers"), parsley, basil, peppers (a mix of ancho, jalapeno, Hungarian wax, and others), and a red potato which has been growing like gangbusters in our little bathroom greenhouse. I am envisioning salads & salsas come summer.