Monthly Archives: April 2010

Lingonberry and crème fraiche scones with cardamom icing…

There is nothing like the smell of fresh baked goods in the house.  In fact, a number of commercial industries use a “fresh baked goods” fragrance to entice customers to buy their products as it evokes a sense of home, warmth, and ease.   Kitchen supply stores, home showrooms, furniture stores, and even real estate agents capitalize on the power of this smell because of the connotations that it evokes in almost every human being. Baking is a complete lesson in chemistry as far as I am concerned, all the way from the recipe, to the nose, to the brain. Perfect proportions, ratios, balance, and chemical reactions. But, truth be told, I am not a baker nor am I trying to sell anything. I am also not exempt from the power of the smell of fresh baked goods, there is just something heavenly and relaxing about the aroma.

The ingredients for this recipe were originally destined for lingonberry jam drop cookies, but…we needed breakfast. Simple as that.  After two batches that came out dry and hard as stones, this third batch was perfection.  Moist, light, and flavorful, yet maintain the heartiness scones have to offer. Serve them warm with a drizzle of icing, and a cup of coffee, and how can your day go wrong? Plus, this is baking for non-bakers, a little more whimsical and a little more room for error.

Lingonberry and crème fraiche scones with cardamom icing…

2 ½ cup flour

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbs baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¾ cup unsalted butter

½ cup light whipping cream/milk

¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream

½ cup lingonberry preserves

icing:

¼ cup powdered sugar

2-4 tbs water

pinch ground cardamom

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine dry ingredients, giving them a good sift or aerate with a fork or whisk. Cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal.  In a separate bowl, combine cream/milk, crème fraiche, and preserves.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, until just moistened, dough will be sticky.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and kneed briefly and gently.  Pat out dough until ¾ inch thickness.  Cut into equal portions.  Bake on a greased baking sheet for 12-15 minutes, until tops turn golden brown.  While scones are baking, make a simple icing.  Add water tbs by tbs until sugar has no lumps but is not runny.  Add a pinch of cardamom and mix completely. This is a powerful spice, so flavor to taste.  Once scones are partially cooled, drizzle with icing.  I serve with lingonberry preserves and butter.

These scones are so easy to make and are delicious and can be made with any preserves you have in your kitchen. And hey…you might be able to use these babies subliminally when selling your home.

Cook together, toast to each other, and share!

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Locro de papas…

Locro de papas, is a traditional, if not ancient, high Andean stew made with as much variation and diversity as the people, languages, and cultures of the Andean mountains.  I’m sure this stew differs from town to town, if not kitchen to kitchen.  The only ingredients that appear to be in all forms of Locro  include: potatoes, salt, and avocado. That is it. So, I decided to use a fortunate primary source in recreating this ultimate comfort food, who indulged in this dish almost daily for close to two years. My husband lived in Ecuador, with an Ecuadorian family, and with an abuela who was a particularly amazing cook. Her specialty: Locro.  She also apparently had a wicked talent for starching underwear, but that is a different story all together.

This experiment with Locro purely relied on the taste and visual memory of my husband. With guidance such as, “a little more creamy”, “a little more salt”, “they served the potatoes whole and not diced like that picture”, and “they always had a cheese and hot chili sauce on the table to add right before you eat”, we were able to more or less recreate Abuelita’s recipe for an authentic Locro.  I did add a couple extras that are not necessarily traditional, yet not unknown to Ecuador: cilantro and lime.  Lime, avocado, and cilantro are my holy trinity so this only made sense to me.

Locro de papas

8 new potatoes, 4 of them cubed, 4 remain whole

3 spring onions, diced

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cracked pepper

6 cups water

½ cup light cream or whole milk

1 tbs vegetable oil

1 tbs butter

Any type of fresh cheese you can find: queso fresco/fresh mozzarella/goat cheese.

ripe avocados (1/4 per bowl)

*optional lime and cilantro

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, melt oil and butter together. Add onions and cook until translucent.  Add the 4 cubed potatoes, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper. Mix well.  Add water. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium.  Cook until potatoes are very tender.  Once tender, mash and incorporate potatoes into the broth, leaving chunks is fine.  Stir in milk and add the whole potatoes.  Simmer over low heat until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork, approx 30 minutes.

Serve each portion with 1 whole potato. Top with ¼ avocado, a lime wedge, some queso fresco, and cilantro. Serve with a variety of your favorite chili sauces family style at the table.

We did both with cheese…


and without….but always with lime and cilantro…

This is such a fun way to cook, I highly recommend blind cooking with your partner sometime.  Try and recreate a favorite dish from your travels or childhood, purely on memory, and it is amazing how instincts can guide you

My Ecuadorian friends, you know who you are, send me your variations!

Cook together, toast to each other, and share!


country crisp…

This weekend began with a major husband sweet tooth. It started with subtle suggestions while walking through the grocery store: “we used to grow rhubarb in our back yard, and my mom made the best strawberry rhubarb pie” and  “you know what sounds good? That whip cream you make, with these berries”. He then escalated to “remember those chocolate chunk, caramel cookies you made for me that one time?” and  “so…do you think you’ll bake this weekend”? This is as close as he gets to asking for something directly, so I thought I would help him indulge.

I started with what looked beautiful in the stores and markets, and spring is so promising with such bright and fresh produce.  I originally had hopes of finding the most amazing locally grown, burnt orange apricots I scored last year, but alas too early in the season.  However, I did stumble across perfectly in season rhubarb and mangoes.   I can’t tell you how sweet these mangoes smelled right in the bin, I was captivated from across the market.

Rhubarb, mango, berry crisp

Filling:

1 basket blackberries

2 small mangoes

2 hefty stalks rhubarb

¼ cup mesquite honey

¼ cup organic, unrefined sugar

1 ½ tbs flour

Topping:

1 stick unsalted butter

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup organic, unrefined sugar

¾ cup flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup organic rolled oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For filling, rinse and dice rhubarb and mango into ½ inch cubes, and place in a medium size bowl.  Add blackberries. Add honey and sugar, evenly coat fruit. Add flour and mix.  The flour will thicken the mixture as it bakes.

For the crumble, in a stand mixer, combine butter, sugars, and salt until creamy.  Add flour slowly.  Add rolled oats ¼ cup at a time until all well combined.

In a medium size cake/baking pan (11”x7”x2”) spread fruit mixture on the bottom, then top with crumble.  Do not pack down.  Place in oven and bake covered with tin foil for 40 minutes. Then bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes.  The crumble will be golden and crispy, and the fruit bubbling.

Amazing fruit, plus the kitchen cabinet resulted in the perfect spring crisp…and one happy husband. So easy, and a little bit country.

Of course my husband needed a more decadent bite to satisfy that sweet tooth…so we ate ours with the richest, creamiest, locally made, vanilla ice cream from the Tulmeadow Farm in West Simsbury, CT. And for me, just like chocolate cake, it is perfect for breakfast, heated and topped with warm milk.

Cook together, toast to each other, and share!


ode to the lemon…

As I was walking yesterday morning on my way to grab a coffee, I walked past a chalkboard that boasted a quotation from an unlikely source.  I chuckled at the memory of flipping through MAD magazine and was simultaneously struck by the unfortunate reality that the words on that chalkboard claimed.  Written in dusty, blue chalk were the words: “We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors, and furniture polish is made from real lemons” – Alfred E. Neuman.

Since I do not ascribe to any particular spring ideology or faith, I thought I would spend my weekend  by honoring the lemon…in food.  Lemons are readily available and in season year round, although citrus in general peaks during the winter.  However, I cannot think of a time of year where we should live without a good lemon vinaigrette, honey-lemon tea, or lemon curd on toast for breakfast.  Thus, lemons are always in my kitchen. We created this dish with the first spring greens available, livened things up with bursts of lemon, then threw everything on top of pizza dough.  To me this is rustic elegance at its best.

pizza bianca with wilted dandelion greens and lemon

(Makes two single serving pizzas)

single recipe pizza dough (store bought or homemade)

Pecorino Romano flakes

1 bunch spring onions

Sauce:

¼ cup fromage blanc

juice ½ small lemon (approx 4 tsp)

½ tsp lemon zest

generous pinch of kosher salt

¼ tsp cracked pepper

topping:

1 generous handful dandelion greens

1 generous handful arugula

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ tbs white wine vinegar

1 tsp hot Chinese mustard

juice of ¼ lemon

2 cloves garlic, shredded

Kosher salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Make sauce by mixing together ingredients, building from the fromage blanc. Make sure ingredients are well incorporated. Tastes better after marinating for a little while, the lemon flavor grows with time.

To make wilted greens, heat olive oil in a pan on medium-low heat, add garlic and vinegar, careful not to allow the garlic to brown.  Add lemon juice and mustard, and stir mixture until emulsified in the pan.  Take off heat.  Add greens and coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Add thinly sliced, raw spring onions.

After coming to room temperature, cut pizza dough portion in half, roll out to make a single serving pizza.  Lightly cover baking sheet with olive oil and semolina flour (or fine cornmeal).  Place dough on the pan.  Spread on as much sauce as you like.  Top with generous amount of Pecorino Romano flakes.  Place in oven until dough in browned, crispy, and bubbly, approx 10-12 minutes.

Top pizza with wilted greens, and garnish with more Pecorino Romano. Serve with lemon wedges family style, right on the cutting board for all to share. While people are eating you can make the second pizza, either repeat or try your own creation.

I also do a pizza with crisp arugula in a lemon vinaigrette and slow roasted tomatoes (or sun dried) with the same white sauce and Pecorino Romano.

Notes:

On warm spring days we love to grill our pizzas.  Brush the grill with olive oil and throw the dough straight onto the grill, assemble right then and there, cover grill, and cook until dough is nicely browned.

Any plain pizza dough recipe will do, just use or find your favorite. Some specialty grocery stores have delicious pre-made dough as well for ease of cooking.

I imagine the wilted dandelion green pizza would be delicious topped with a smoky bacon as well…but I wouldn’t know…but don’t dare me.

Cook together, toast to each other, and share!