Rhubarb Custard Pie

When I was a kid on the West Coast, my family seldom ate rhubarb.  After moving East, I  soon learned to appreciate this humble vegetable (a fruit in NY), which peeks through the cold ground in spring . . . one of the first harvests from the garden.  This is my favorite way to eat rhubarb.

1 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 T. flour
1/8 t. salt
3+ c. rhubarb, cut into 1/2″ pieces

Line a 9″ pie plate with a crust.  In bowl, combine ingredients.  Pour into pastry.  Cover with top crust.  Bake at 425F for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325F for 30 minutes.

Posted in Desserts, Eggs, Family Favorites, Pies & Pastry, Recipe Box | Leave a comment

Sorrel Soup

This past weekend, I had a great springtime haul from the farmer’s market, and I’ve been nibbling my way through it ever since. The first thing I made was strawberry shortcake with the amazing fresh strawberries (the supermarket can never compare!), and I’ve definitely got designs on that rhubarb. I sense more delicious desserts in the near future.

Fresh sorrel.

Fresh sorrel.

What I am currently enjoying is a sorrel soup based on purportedly Polish recipes I tracked down on the web. There appear to be many variations, but these generally matched the kinds of ingredients I had on hand.

Carrot, onion, and celery are the basis of the stock.

Carrot, onion, and celery are the basis of the stock.

I basically made a quick vegetable stock by sauteeing onions, carrot, and celery in butter with salt, pepper, and parsley, and adding water and letting them cook. I added potatoes and dill, and added more water until I had a good stock and the vegetables were tender.

Potatoes, chopped and ready to go.

Potatoes, chopped and ready to go.

Dill and parsley.

Dill and parsley.

I thickened the mixture with sour cream and flour (mixed together in a paste and thinned with broth, which mixture I added to the soup), before adding the chopped sorrel.

Thickening the stock with sour cream and flour.

Thickening the stock with sour cream and flour.

I have been serving it garnished with hard boiled egg, sour cream, dill, parsley, and some fresh chopped sorrel I reserved for the purpose, plus more salt and pepper. Even if it isn’t quite the real thing, it’s been totally delicious!

Sorrel soup, ready to enjoy.

Sorrel soup, ready to enjoy.

Posted in Polish, Soups & Stews, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Strawberry Shortcake

One of the best things about the arrival of late spring/early summer is the appearance of strawberries in season. Since I’m in D.C. this year, what I customarily think of as a June treat is a phenomenon of mid-May. I got some lovely strawberries at the Columbia Heights farmer’s market yesterday, and went about preparing them in what I think is the best way: as shortcake. Such a simple dish lets their freshness and flavor shine through.

You can make a good fruit shortcake dessert with any berry, with peaches, or presumably whatever strikes your fancy, but the classic way is of course strawberry. I’m including here my favorite recipe for the shortcakes themselves, which happens also to be extremely easy. Make the rest as you wish!

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Shortcakes
from Gold Medal Flour’s Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook

2 c. flour
2 T. sugar
3 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. butter, melted

Mix all dry ingredients. Add milk and melted butter; stir until just incorporated. Turn onto floured surface and knead approximately 10 times, or until just smooth. Pat down to about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or water glass, cut into rounds. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 450 F. for 10-12 minutes.

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To serve, prepare fruit by cutting up, adding a bit of sugar, and letting rest until juicy. Serve shortcakes hot out of the oven if possible, with ample fruit and juice and topped with whipped cream.

Posted in Desserts, Family Favorites, Summer Essentials | 2 Comments

Almond Bars

This recipe comes from one of mom’s colleagues, and produces great results. The bars are quick, easy, and delicious with a cup of tea. If done right, you’ll swear they’re made of marzipan. The key is not to overcook them: when in doubt, keep them on the underdone side for that gooey, almond-paste-y texture! Bring them to your next pot luck or bake sale — they are sure to be a hit.

Almond bars, hot out of the oven.

Almond bars, hot out of the oven.

Tess’s Almond Bars

1/2 c. melted butter
2 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1 c. flour
2 t. almond extract

Mix together all ingredients; pour batter into an ungreased 8×8 pan. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and granulated sugar. Bake at 350 for 15 min. Do not overcook!

Posted in Cookies and Bars, Desserts | 2 Comments

Croissant French Toast

This past weekend, I made a Sunday breakfast dish for myself, one I had previously only had in restaurants: croissant french toast. I had one large, slightly stale croissant, eggs, milk, and all the rest, and it seemed a good time to give it a shot. It’s French toast — how hard can it be?

The croissant French toast fries up nicely in the skillet.

The croissant French toast fries up nicely in the skillet.

I sliced the croissant in half as though I was making a sandwich, and used a batter of two eggs, half and half (it’s an indulgent dish — why skimp on the fat?), cinnamon, and vanilla. The croissant halves soaked up a lot of the goo, so I cooked them up over a relatively slow heat, to ensure that I didn’t end up with wet insides.

You can see the evidence of the croissant within.

You can see the evidence of the croissant within.

The result was as good as I’ve ever had, even at Sophia’s, even though the croissant base was nowhere near as good as what they’re working with there.

Moral of the story: making French toast is a great way to turn a mediocre croissant into a really lovely breakfast. Yummmy.

The croissant French toast, ready to eat, with butter, maple syrup, and a fresh cup of strong coffee.

The croissant French toast, ready to eat, with butter, maple syrup, and a fresh cup of strong coffee.

Posted in Breads, Breakfast, Eggs, From the Skillet, Leftovers | Leave a comment

Oven Pancake Revival

Feeling in a bit of a breakfast rut of late, I have revived my practice of making oven pancakes. I have written about oven pancakes elsewhere, but wanted to revisit them here, with some pictures that have not gone the way of the dodo. (A Swedish oven pancake, incidentally, graces the masthead of this web site.)

Breakfast is ready!  A Swedish oven pancake, ready to eat.

Breakfast is ready! A Swedish oven pancake, ready to eat.

An oven pancake is a baked egg dish, which I usually prepare in a cast-iron skillet. It consists of a combination of egg, flour, milk, salt, and butter, and is in many ways akin to a huge popover. I make two varieties: the Dutch Pancake, which really is basically a huge eggy popover, light and airy in texture; and the Swedish Oven Pancake, which is denser and more custardy, and which practically begs for imaginative additions. I love to slice up a ripe pear on top and sprinkle the whole thing with cinnamon before throwing it in the oven; but you could just as easily go savory by throwing in bacon and cheese and herbs, or whatever strikes your fancy.

Swedish oven pancake with pear and cinnamon.

Swedish oven pancake with pear and cinnamon.

Swedish Oven Pancake with Pear
Serves 2-4

2 eggs
2 c. milk
1 tsp. salt
1 c. flour
1-2 T. butter
1 pear
cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425. Beat together eggs, salt, adding milk and flour alternately to avoid lumps. Put butter in skillet and melt in heating oven; remove pan when butter has melted and pour in batter. Peel and slice pear; arrange slices on top of batter. Sprinkle cinnamon on top. Bake for 25 minutes, or until top is golden brown and edges have puffed up. Serve hot with syrup.

To make for a crowd, double the recipe and use a 9×13 in. pan instead of a skillet. Apples or other fruit, or perhaps even breakfast meats, would be suitable additions instead of pears. You can also make it plain — the original recipe is simply all of the above, minus the pear and cinnamon — or with whatever additions sound tasty to you.

The impressive Dutch pancake, fresh out of the oven.

The impressive Dutch pancake, fresh out of the oven.

Dutch Pancake
Serves 2-4
The Dutch pancake is more like a giant, eggy popover, and is prepared similarly to the latter, with a reduction in oven temperature partway through.

4 eggs
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 400. Beat together ingredients, alternating milk and flour. In skillet in oven, melt 2 T. butter. Pour batter into skillet. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 15 minutes. Serve with lemon and sugar.

Posted in Breakfast, Eggs, Everyday, Family Favorites, From the Skillet, Recipe Box | Leave a comment

Ribollita

Here in DC, the roomie and I have been having some cooking adventures. Tonight’s addition to the kitchen repertoire: Ribollita, a Tuscan stew in the true peasant-comfort-food mold, whose name means “reboiled.” The idea is to revitalize stale bread by incorporating it into a soup with hearty vegetables, spices, and a parmesan rind (way to use those leftovers!) so that it turns into something the consistency of oatmeal.

Ribollita in the pot.

Ribollita in the pot. Note how the utensil is sticking up in the stew. That’s a good consistency right there.

We followed Martha Rose Shulman’s New York Times recipe (reprinted below), based on a friend’s recommendation, with a few modifications. We added a chopped turnip to the carrot and onion mixture, did without the cabbage, used canned beans instead of dry (I sauteed them in a bit of olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper to give them a bit more oomph, and added water and wine to turn it into a soup/stew), skipped the bouquet garni in favor of just shopping the herbs, added rosemary to the mix (per our friend’s recommendation) and a little sage as well (it was getting all shriveled in the fridge), and didn’t bother with all that nonsense about using an immersion blender to really obliterate the bread pieces. As it turns out, the soaked chunks of bread come out like delicious little herby cheesy dumplings if you tear up the bread into bits the size of grapes. We both agree this is the best part.

Ribollita served.

Ribollita served with a glass of wine, and parmesan and parsley to garnish. Now that’s a hearty meal.

Incidentally, Ribollita is also the name of an excellent Italian restaurant in Portland, ME, which my husband and I dined at last fall when we were staying up that way, and which we thoroughly enjoyed. It’s just down the block from another Portland gem, Duckfat, which is a great place for a Belgian beer and frites. If you’re in the mood for more delicious, amazing, hearty, comforting fare in a great atmosphere, please climb the hill to eat at Caiola’s. Which is just next door to Aurora Provisions, who catered our wedding reception and who are just amazing. Please try their cardamom butter bars, as well as anything they might be preparing the day you are there. Yum, yum, yum!

Ribollita
from Martha Rose Shulman/The New York Times

6 ounces (1 scant cup) white or borlotti beans, soaked, if desired, for four hours and then drained
1 onion, cut in half
3 large garlic cloves, 1 crushed, the rest minced
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large carrot, diced
1 celery rib, diced
Pinch of red chili flakes
1/4 Savoy or green cabbage, cored and shredded (2 cups shredded)
1 14-ounce can chopped or puréed tomatoes, with juice
3/4 pound (1 bunch) Swiss chard, kale or a mixture, stemmed, cleaned and chopped or cut in chiffonade (3 cups chopped greens)
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf, a few sprigs each thyme and parsley, and a Parmesan rind
6 thick slices country bread, preferably whole-grain (about 6 ounces)

1. Place the beans in a medium saucepan, and add 4 cups water, the halved onion and crushed garlic clove. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add salt to taste, cover and simmer 1 hour. Remove the onion halves. Taste and adjust seasonings.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy soup pot, and add the chopped onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes, and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute until fragrant. Add the cabbage. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage wilts, three to five minutes. Add the tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes cook down and smell fragrant, five to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

3. Stir in the beans and their liquid, add the bouquet garni and another 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 minutes or until the beans are tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add the greens, raise the heat and simmer covered for another 15 minutes. The greens should be falling apart in the soup. Remove the bouquet garni.

4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the bread on the rack, and toast until dry but not browned, about 15 to 20 minutes. Break up into pieces. Remove about 1 cup of the beans and vegetables from the soup. Bring the remaining soup to a simmer, and add the bread. Submerge in the soup, and remove the soup from the heat. Let stand for 20 minutes until the bread is soft. Blend, using a hand immersion blender or the pulse action of a food processor. Return to the pot, add the beans and vegetables you set aside, and heat through. The ribollita should have the consistency of oatmeal. Dilute with water as necessary. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Spoon the ribollita into bowls or onto soup plates, drizzle olive oil over each bowl and serve.

Note: You can make ribollita with 5 to 6 cups of any type of leftover minestrone using the bread proportions above.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Posted in Breads, Hearty Fare, Italian, Leftovers, Main Dishes, Soups & Stews, Vegetables | Leave a comment