Thursday, June 25, 2015

Savory Mushroom Burgers with Blue Cheese

I love marinated and grilled portabello mushrooms. They are meaty and juicy and carry the flavors of the marinade...usually red wine, garlic and fresh rosemary. When I serve them instead of meat burgers there are never any left. Still, I got to thinking that putting them on top of a burger and adding some good blue cheese would be even better.

We've made them twice now. The first time we scarfed them down so quickly that I didn't get any photos at all. This Sunday I managed to get a couple of photos, but I also found out that the wine you use in the marinade really makes a difference.

The first time I used a fruity light red wine and I really liked the result. This last time I used a spicy zinfandel and it wasn't as successful. Both were still delicious, but the zinfandel soaked mushroom was more assertive, so the burger and cheese were a bit overwhelmed with the strong flavor of the wine. Next time, and there will be a next time because these are that good, I'll use a milder, fruity red wine again and perhaps a bit more blue cheese. We put them on toasted hamburger buns and added nothing else. If you don't care for hamburger, just make the mushrooms, toast the buns, melt the cheese on on side of the buns, add the grilled mushroom and any fixins you like...lettuce, bacon, tomato slices, onion, etc and you will still have an awesome sandwich.

The mushrooms do well when you allow enough time to marinated them for at least 8 hours. I put them into a ziploc bag with the sliced fresh garlic and 3-4 springs fresh rosemary, then add about 1 1/2 cups red wine. I put the bag into a shallow bowl to encourage the liquid to be near the mushrooms, not out at the corners of the bag. Once about 2 hours have passed, I turn the bag over so that the other side gets marinated, then over again in 2 hours, and over again the final two hours. When you are ready to grill the mushrooms, drain them well, brush with olive oil and grill them long enough to heat them all the way through, plus to get some grill marks and char. Discard the marinade. If you like you can put the rosemary sprigs in the barbecue to create rosemary smoke, but that's optional. The mushrooms have plenty of rosemary flavor from being soaked in it.

I made these with ground beef, but you could use ground turkey or chicken, or a mixture of ground meats. For the blue cheese, use the kind you like the most and the amount you prefer. We only had a little left from the previous time we made these, so it was a little less than I like, but still gave that wonderful blue cheese flavor. For the buns, again, use the kind you like to use with burgers. If you can make your own and it will be even better!

Mushroom Blue Cheese Burger Stacks
Serves 4

4 medium portabello mushrooms, stem removed and wiped clean
3-4 stems fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic (or more if you like), peeled and sliced
about 1 1/2 cups red wine
gallon ziploc bag or large plastic bag and twist tie
flat pie plate or bowl
freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
your preferred hamburger seasonings
2 - 4 oz gorgonzola or other blue cheese
4 hamburger buns

About 8 hours, but at least 4 hours before you plan on eating, begin to marinate the mushroom. Place the mushrooms, rosemary and garlic in the plastic bag. Add the red wine and any pepper. Seal the bag and shake to distribute the ingredients. Place the bag in the pie plate or shallow bowl so that the mushrooms are flat in it and the marinade surrounds the mushrooms as closely as possible. After 2 hours, turn the mushrooms upside down and again place the bag so the mushrooms are flat and surrounded by the marinade. Continue to marinate and turn every two hours. When you are ready to cook them, drain off the marinade and discard it. Brush the mushroom smooth side with olive oil.

Season the ground beef as you prefer for hamburgers, then shape into 4 patties. Slice the blue cheese into thin slices and put next to the patties, but not on them. Take the drained and oiled mushrooms, patties and blue cheese, plus the buns, to the barbecue. Grill the mushrooms and burgers until done, turning once half way through. Again, the burgers should be prepared the way you like burgers. Toast the buns on the grill, too. When it is almost time to remove the burgers, top them with the blue cheese, close the grill and let the cheese melt.

Stack a grilled bun bottom, mushroom, smooth side down, burger, grilled bun top. Serve at once.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Goes With Hummingbird - Pineapple? Banana? Pecans? Cinnamon?

The Cake Slice Bakers are posting this weekend and the June Cake choices included a lovely blueberry coffee cake, a decadent caramel layer cake, a pretty pink lemonade cake, and my choice, the Celebration Hummingbird Cake. I've never made a Hummingbird Cake before. No one seems to know the origin of the name, but it has been a highly requested recipe from Southern Living Magazine for over 30 years. The recipe itself comes from the Southern Living Cake Book and to make it very celebratory they used Browned Butter Frosting and a Cream Cheese Custard filling, plus piping the icing in a basket weave for the cookbook photo. Not being in a crafty mood, I simplified my version.

The hummingbird cake is very moist because it has crushed pineapple and ripe bananas, along with the usual cake ingredients. It has just a touch of cinnamon and some crunch from toasted pecans. I only made one change to the cake part by substituting a stick of melted, browned butter for 1/2 cup of the oil. For the icing and filling of this delicious, decadent layer cake, I substituted my favorite cream cheese frosting. It has the cream cheese of the called for in the filling and I already used browned butter in the cake, so it's OK it's not in the frosting. The recipe for this wonderful cream cheese frosting is from a good friend and it is over 30 years old, too, so the timing is right. It is softer than the browned butter icing, has a small amount of sour cream which goes a long way to softening the super sweet effect you often get with confectioner's sugar icings. Pretty easy to work with, too.

My smart daughter was here helping with the cake creation and she suggested sprinkling some rum over the cake layers right before icing them to carry out the Caribbean vibe. It was brilliant! you caught just a hint of rum in most bites and a big hit of banana and pineapple. The pecans not only add crunch, but hey looked pretty on the top as decoration. Even though I put waxed paper strips under the edges to keep the icing off the plate edge, it was so delightfully gooey that the icing left tracks where the paper had been as I pulled the paper out. Lori's Cream Cheese Icing the kind of icing that you could just stand over the bowl and eat it with a spoon. Too rich to do it for long though.

I suspect I will be asked to make this one again. We had some friends over and I never did get a morning light photo...the cake was totally gone before I could get a shot. The photos I did get were with night time light. Don't worry too much about how it looks...just make this cake! You'll be glad you did.

Be sure to visit the other Cake Slice Bakers posts to see which of the month's choices they made.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

So Many Posts and So Many Views and Irish Blonds

Sometime yesterday when I wasn't watching the number of all time page views for this blog passed 500,000! I started in October of 2006 and I will soon have posted 1,000 posts, so it shouldn't surprise me to reach that many page views, but it does.

When I started, blogging was a fairly new thing, especially food blogging as a specific category. Over the years it has grown and grown, sort of like the food shows that now saturate the TV airwaves. Some bloggers have become more commercial, either by accepting ads on the blog, by using the blog to further a business, or by having give-aways of merchandise of interest to food bloggers and foodies. I did that for a while, having drawings to give away copies of some nice cook books. After a while, though, I decided that I didn't really want to have my blogging be anything other than posting recipes and things about my life, including participation in a few baking groups I belong to or have belonged to. It has become for me a sort of diary and digital recipe box, along with a way to be creative with photographs, writing, and the alterations of recipes.

Today's recipe is a perfect example of that creative impulse. While working on my new Index ...which may take a while...I came across a recipe I had baked for blondies, the anti-brownie. For some reason my mind started turning to how I could incorporate some Irish elements into the recipe, including Irish whiskey. Now I know that chocolate and Irish whiskey go well together since one of my all time favorite cake recipes is for a chocolate Bundt cake with Irish whiskey in it. Putting it effectively into a blondie recipe might be more difficult. Redheads and women with dark hair and fair skin are often the types we associate with Ireland, but they do have blonds, too. Hence, Irish Blonds.

In thinking about Irish baked goods I remembered that they often contain currants (as in current scones and tea brack for instance), so I decided to soak some currents in Irish whiskey, then use the whiskey that didn't soak in as part of the liquid in the recipe. Irish recipes also often contain golden raisins, so I decided to use some of them. I like walnuts in blondies, so those were included, too. Part of the all-purpose flour was replaced with King Arthur Flour Irish whole-meal flour, too. Then I added white chocolate chips, not because they are Irish but because the recipe now sounded like one that would do well with white chocolate.

While they were baking I took a cock-eyed photo of late afternoon light on the farm by the back fence. The fragrance of these cookies baking was too intoxicating to stay in the kitchen.

Sweetie might have just been dazed by smelling them baking when he said it, but he declared these the best bar cookies I've ever made. They are very chewy...think nuts, currants, raisins and the whole wheat flour making them more than usually chewy...but still soft except for the edges by the pan sides. They are fruity sweet instead on overly sugar sweet because I reduced the sugar a bit. You can really taste the Irish whisky, especially in the currants, but it is complementary rather than assertive in flavor. You might enjoy these, too. Believe me, you don't have to be Irish to enjoy them.

Irish  Blonds
A variation of a recipe by Jill O’Connor in Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey, Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth.

1/2 cup currants soaked in
1/2 cup Irish whiskey

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour or Irish whole-meal flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder

1  cup nuts – I used walnut pieces, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup golden raisins

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to lightly coat a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Melt the butter and sugars together in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter and sugars are blended and completely melted and starting to bubble gently. Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla and salt. Drain the Soaker currents over a small bowl. Set the currents aside and put the liquid drained off into the egg mixture.Slowly whisk the eggs mixture into the cooled butter and sugar mixture just until combined. Whisk in the flours and baking powder to form a loose batter. (Make sure the batter is cool before stirring in the remaining ingredients, otherwise the chocolate will start to melt before the bars are baked.)

Stir the nuts, white chocolate chips, golden raisins and the drained currents into the cooled batter. (I mixed all of the "mix-in" ingredients together in a very large measuring cup before adding to the batter. That way I knew that there wouldn’t be a clump of nuts here and a clump of white chocolate there, but rather a nice mix of all the goodies.) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake until the top is shiny and slightly crackled and feels firm to the touch, 30 – 35 minutes. A wooden skewer inserting into the batter should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then cut into bars and serve.

Makes 15 large or 30 small bars.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Muesli Rolls for June

Seems I was too sleepy this morning at 6:30 when I was trying to post my June Bread Baking Babes post so I was not able to complete the linky tool link up. Going to try again! If it doesn't work, you can check out the other Bread Baking Babes June post via the link in this post.

Well, it didn't work and I apologize to the Babes for messing up the link, too. Maybe next month.

Babes on A Healthy Roll

In some circles these beautiful round muesli rolls would not be considered healthy, but if you think about bread like brioche or cinnamon rolls with all that butter and not much fiber, these muesli rolls, brought to us by our Kitchen of the Month Baking Soda or Bake My Day, are full of goodness like sunflower seeds and dried fruit and whole wheat flour, dried apricots and flax seed. I skipped the sesame seeds since I'm on a diet that says to avoid them, left out the pumpkin seeds because I forgot to buy them, and skipped the chocolate chips since I really don't enjoy bread and chocolate mixed.

I loved these rolls. They were not too sweet, made excellent toast, were good with cheese, but also fine just plain or with a little butter. Mine were on the large side since I only made 10 with the dough provided, but that meant that one roll was just enough to share with Sweetie.

When I toasted them I actually sliced them into 4 slices since they were pretty round, too. Do try these and become a Buddy by sending an e-mail to Baking Soda by June 29th. Include a photo and your experience with them. I found them very easy to make although I left off the rolled oats topping because in my experience that kind of topping just falls off.

Also, be sure to visit the posts of the rest of the Babes crew. This month we welcome two new Babes, Judy of Judy's Gross Eats and Karen of Karen's Kitchen Stories. Welcome to our crazy group Judy and Karen. You have been devoted Buddies and it will be great baking with you!

Muesli Rolls 
by Dean Brettschneider - Bread makes 15 rolls

450 gr (2.3/4 cups) strong bread flour
50 gr (1/3 cup) wholemeal or whole wheat flour
40 gr (1/2 cup) jumbo rolled oats
8 gr  (2.3/4 tsp) instant dry yeast
10 gr (2 tsp) salt
30 gr (1.1/2 Tbs) treacle or blackstrap molasses
20 gr (1 Tbs honey
20 ml (4 tsp) olive oil
370 ml (1.1/2 cups) water

40 gr (scant 1/2 cup) walnut pieces (chopped small)
30 gr (3 Tbs) linseeds/flaxseeds
20 gr (2.1/4 Tbs) sesame seeds
80 gr (1/2 cup) sunflower seeds
80 gr (2/3 cup) pumpkin seeds
40 gr (1/4 cup) dried apricuts, cut into pieces
80 gr (1/2 cup) small chocolate chips/drops (optional)

100 gr (1 generous cup) jumbo rolled oats to decorate

Place flours, oats, yeast, salt and wet ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Using a wooden spoon, combine to form a dough.  Tip dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes, resting it for 1 minute every 2-3 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Check dough throughout kneading for stickiness; add a little more water or flour if necessary to achieve a soft dough that's  not too firm.

Add walnuts, seeds, dried fruit and chocolate(if desired). Knead until well incorporated and combined into dough.  Place dough in  a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave in a warm place for approximately  1 1/2, until dough has doubled in size. Gently knock back dough in bowl by folding it back onto itself several times. Cover again and leave for a further 30 minutes.

Tip dough upside down onto a lightly floured work surface.  Sprinkle flour over top of dough (which was on the bottom of the bowl).  Very carefully turn dough over and gently flatten to 2cm (3/4 in) thick.  Using a dough scarper or large chef's knife, cut dough into 7cm (2 3/4in) squares.  Using a pastry brush, brush the tops with water, Sprinkle entire surface of each roll with rolled oats, and pat down gently to stick them on.

Line a baking tray (cookie sheet) with baking (parchment) paper.  Place rolls onto lined tray (sheet), leaving a 2-3cm (3/4-11/4in) gap between each roll.  Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and leave to prove for 30-45 minutes, depending on room temperature.

Place rolls on baking tray (cookie sheet) in a preheated 230C/450F/Gas 8 oven, apply steam and quickly close oven door.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning tray around halfway through baking if needed Remove rolls from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.

The Bread Baking Babes are:

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sweetie's Pie

My Sweetie is always appreciative when I bake, but he really, really likes fruit pies. We have been hard at work on replacing the old front porch, although we are keeping the old railing and the same footprint, so it won't look that much different. We now have a support post near the house on the baking center wall and another one at the end of the porch roof beam, near the stairs, instead of the single beam that cut up the space before. Not only does that look better, but it should make it easier to use the space, maybe by moving the wicker couch and chair outside to join my rocking chair. A lot of the wood you see here will be replaced with treated lumber or redwood. There will be extra flashing and plenty of fasteners. Sweetie builds for the ages.

Anyway, all of this fixing up is a lot of work, especially for Sweetie. A couple of days ago I took some berry baskets down the driveway while he was down there feeding Merlin. We both filled up a pint basket and I went back later and filled another one. What we were picking are the olallieberries that grow near the road. They are plentiful right now and big and fat with juice and berry flavor. Once they are finished it won't be long before we have an overload of blackberries, so it promises to be a berry good season. It's also going the be a great one for morning glories in my garden, thanks to my thoughtful daughter who sent me seeds. Here's today's beauty:

The reason I needed so many berries was because I made Sweetie a mixed berry pie. To those ripe and juicy berries I added some strawberries from our local farm stand and some blueberries from Fresno. Local blueberries usually come in in July.

There really isn't a recipe for this pie because I didn't measure the ingredients. I made sure that I had enough berries to pile high in the pie pan, mixed together some flour, sugar and corn starch ( about 1/2 cup each for the first two and about 2 tablespoons of corn starch, then added some ground nutmeg, perhaps a teaspoonful, and about 1/2 teaspoon of dried and pulverized orange zest. I sprinkled this dry mixture over the mixed up berries and then tossed the berries gently with my clean hands to coat the berries with the mixture, then lined the pie pan with ReadyCrust pie dough from the store, dumped in the berry mixture and distributed it in the pan with the middle higher than the edges, folded the excess pie dough towards the center, swabbed the dough with milk, then sprinkled on some sanding sugar. That all takes only a few minutes once the berries are picked.

I had preheated the oven while I prepped the berries and put the pie together. The top rack had a pizza stone on it, so it took a while to get up to 400 degrees F. I baked the pie at 400 for 15 minutes, then turned the oven down to 350 degrees and baked it another 15 minutes. The filling was bubbly, the crust was golden brown and it smelled heavenly.

After dinner we had a portion each, but it was still too warm to actually have a slice. The next day the filling had cooled, so it was slicable and seemed to taste even better! There is one piece left for Sweetie to enjoy after working on the porch. It might taste even better than the rest.

If you find yourself with a lot of berries or with a Sweetie who loves pie, consider making this pie, too. If you need a real recipe, the Internet is full of them. Most of all, enjoy the sweetness of early summer berries while they last.

In case you think that we only eat baked goods, here's what I had for breakfast the same day:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Repetition Can Be Good At Dinnertime

After I had been blogging a while, but still a long time ago, I decided that one use of this blog was as a digital recipe file and that I would avoid putting up recipes that I had made before. Now that I've been blogging well over eight years, and because I have not been very good at keeping the index up, now and then I do repeat a recipe that I love and cook over and over again.

One of these is the recipe for a creamy and easy to make cole slaw dressing, especially at this time of year since cold salads of all kinds are a staple. Toss it with some finely chopped cabbage and shredded or grated carrots and you have a fine dish to take to a pot luck, put over pulled pork, or enjoy with almost any grilled poultry or meat. The link to that recipe is HERE.

Speaking of salads, I don't really blog about those because I don't consider salads to be recipes. The amounts of ingredients I use vary depending on what is in the garden and in the crisper...and my mood. Because of my restricted diet we almost always start with either Romaine or iceberg lettuce, or both. After that I toss in carrots, snow peas, cucumbers, red pepper, squash, celery, hard cooked egg, cooked chicken, tuna, left over cooked beef, left over salmon, various nuts, flax seed, various cheeses, croutons, bacon, tomato, avocado, any number of combinations. Dressings vary, too. Rarely I'll add leftover broccoli or peas or corn. The best salad is fresh from the garden tomatoes, sliced, then sprinkled with a little balsamic vinegar and a little good olive oil, with a grind of pepper over it all being the finishing touch. Anyway, if you would like a salad recipe posted when I make them, let me know.

A recipe that I almost never think about, but then get a sudden yen for is the one which combines beef, mushrooms, onions and stout. I first made it with Guinness, but there are lots of new stouts in the market, so I vary which one I use now. This last time I made it, last week,  I skipped the pastry topping and it was still delicious, especially since I served it over mashed potatoes and the leftovers over noodles. The recipe is HERE. The photos from the last time are at the top and below. Seeing the photo makes me want to cook it again. By the way, it's one of those recipes where it helps to make it the day before you eat it and let the flavors mellow in the fridge, but then the leftovers get better and better, too, each day that passes, for about 4-5 days.

Do you have a recipe you turn to over and over? If it's from this blog, let me know which one and I'll post it again. That is the one thing I do wish might happen now and again...folks letting me know if they have tried one of the recipes and how it turned out. That's what the comments section is for, in part, although I do love comments from y'all about the post...or yourself.

XO, Elle

Thursday, June 11, 2015

At Last

Yesterday was exactly three month since my cataract surgery on the second eye and a day past 16 weeks since the first cataract surgery. During those 16 weeks I couldn't really drive due to double vision, which is usually corrected with glasses. At first it was because I was healing from the surgeries, so no glasses could be ordered. It takes a little while for the eyes to get to the point where the eye doctor will write a prescription. I had figured on about three weeks for the glasses to be produced but instead they had to be sent back a number of times, so it ended up being 9 weeks on top of all those weeks of healing! Poor Sweetie had a lot of extra driving to do, even though I curtailed my social schedule a lot on optional visits and events.

At last the glasses I tried on this Monday were correct. Not perfect, but correct enough for driving and general wear. Not as good on the close work, but I have readers and, frankly, couldn't imaging sending them back again. The optometrist was probably even more upset than I was and did a terrific job of nagging the lab, but apparently the lab had new people who messed up, trouble with machines breaking and terrible quality control. The optometrist has switched now to a new lab for their current and future orders, thank heavens.

So here they are. They look exactly like my old ones. The new frames I picked out were part of the production problem, so the gave me, no charge, frames like my old ones, plus my old frame to keep (which is unusable because we messed up the screw area when we removed one of the lenses after the first surgery so I could use them for the other eye. Sorry if that doesn't make sense, but trust me, it's all good.

To celebrate I went to lunch and a movie with my good friend Barbara. Saw a sweet flick called 'I'll See You In My Dreams' about friendship, love, loss and karaoke. On the way home I though about all the lovely berries and apricots in the kitchen and decided to see if I could adapt the 5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake to a vanilla cake with fruit. A surprise for Sweetie for dessert, right?

First I helped him with fitting and securing the second new post of the front porch, then watered a couple of plants in the garden which were wilting in the heat despite the overnight and early morning light rain (rain in unusual for us), and checked out the color of the stain I'll use on the whole porch once the new section is installed. The new stuff will replace the 30 year old deck that has led to the old front porch since before we moved in. The joists underneath are dry rotted here and there, too, so it will probably be some time in July before all that stain goes on.

Finally I was able to get in the bake center and make the cake. Amazing how quickly it all went together. I diced an apricot and some strawberries into a small dice and added a handful of blueberries to the mix, then measured and stirred the dry ingredients and sprinkled some of that over the fruit and tossed it a bit. In another bowl I whisked together egg, oil and milk then added a splash of vanilla. The fruit was tossed into the dry ingredients, the wet mixture went on top of that and it was all stirred together with a fork. That batter went into a Pyrex bowl which I had buttered lightly. The bowl went into the microwave (on high) for five minutes.

That's it! Turned it out to cool, added sliced strawberries when it was time to serve and added scoops of vanilla soy ice cream to the bowl at the last minute. Delicious! You couldn't really taste the apricot because the blueberries and strawberries were more dominant flavors. The cake was a moist sponge and went perfectly with the fresh berries and ice cream. I'm going to try this again with other flavors. Sweetie had two servings, so I know 'he who doesn't like cake' will eat it anyway...and enjoy it.

5 Minute Apricot Berry Mug Cake
A variation of a recipe from Don Fulton
Serves 1-2

(I doubled the recipe and cooked it in a Pyrex bowl big enough that the mixture didn't go over the sides, although it did reach the top edge during baking...then settled down to about an inch below the edge)

4 tablespoons self-rising flour

4 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon orange zest

dash ground nutmeg

dash salt

1/2 apricot, diced small

1/4 cup strawberries, washed and diced small

1/4 cup blueberries, washed and picked over for debris

1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons oil

a small splash of vanilla extract

1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Sprinkle some of the dry ingredients over the fruit and toss lightly. Add to the dry ingredients. Mix together in another bowl the egg, the milk and oil and mix well. Add the vanilla extract, and mix again. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix well. Pour the batter into a lightly buttered large mug.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high). (If doubling the recipe as I did, use a larger container and cook for 5 minutes on high.) The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.

EAT! (this can serve 2 if you want to feel slightly more virtuous). And why is this the most dangerous cake recipe in the world? Because now we are all only 5 minutes away from apricot berry cake at any time of the day or night!

I served the cake in bowls with lots of sliced fresh strawberries and a small scoop of ice cream, but the cake all by itself is delicious! 
The photo suffers from being taken at night, but I wanted you to see the inside to see how moist and spongy it is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Spring Berries In A Cobbler

The blackberries are going to be amazing in about a month. The flowers are larger than usual and there are four or five times as many as most years. I might even make enough blackberry syrup to keep for the winter.

Right now we are enjoying the berries of spring which are either olallieberries or boysenberries or another similar berry. The vine grow down by the road and are mixed in with grape vines and mint, so picking them mean peeking under grape leaves as well as berry leaves and then a sudden rush of mint smell when mint leaves are bruised either underfoot or because they are in the way of nabbing that perfect, large, ripe berry nearby.

These berries are a dark raspberry red when ripe, the juice sacs are large and they come easily off the vine when ripe and don't leave any part behind like raspberries do. They tend to be a bit tart, even when very ripe. Last week I made a nice cobbler with a couple of freshly picked pints of them. It really is easy to make a cobbler, especially with fruit that has a lot of juice. The basic method is to bring the fruit to a boil, usually in the oven, then place dollops of cobbler batter over the hot fruit. The topping bakes into something closer to biscuits than dumplings, but the part where the batter sits on the fruit soaks up some of the juices as it cooks while the top of the cobbler gets nice and golden brown. You may want to taste the fruit before starting the recipe. If it's too tart you add some sugar at the beginning of cooking so it melds with the fruit by the time you top with the cobbler batter.

Fruit Cobbler

2 pints fresh berries, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Sugar to taste
Shortening or spray oil for greasing the baking pan
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 - 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter

Optional- sanding sugar and / or sliced almonds to top cobbler batter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 9x9-inch baking pan. Set aside.

Pick through the berries, discarding any that are falling apart or moldy.Put the berries in a large bowl and sprinkle with the flour and with any sugar being used to sweeten the berries. Toss gently with clean hands.

Put the berries in the prepared baking. Cover pan with foil and bake in oven until fruit is hot and released juices are bubbling, about 15 minutes.

While fruit is baking, in a large mixing bowl combine the flour, self-rising flour, salt and brown sugar.

In a smaller bowl combine the buttermilk and almond extract.

Cut the butter into about 10 pieces, then work the cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter, two knives, of your clean fingers. Worked mixture will have mostly very small particles of flour/ butter with some slightly larger, dried pea sized bits of butter. To this mixture add the buttermilk mixture, stirring quickly with a fork, just until liquid is absorbed. You should have a soft dough. Add a little more buttermilk if you still have dry flour mixture in the bowl.

Remove the hot fruit from the oven and remove and discard the foil. Place dollops of the cobbler over the surface of the hot fruit. If desired, sprinkle with sanding sugar or sliced almonds.

Return baking dish to hot oven and bake until cobbler is golden brown, about 12 - 15 minutes.

Cool on a rack at least 10 minutes. Fruit will be very hot! Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish if desired with cream, custard, whipped cream, or ice cream.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Black Rice Salad With Cherries And Snow Peas

At first there is something a bit forbidding about a bowl of black rice salad. It is so dark and mysterious looking and if you are not familiar with black rice it doesn't even look that tasty. Add to that the legend that it used to be forbidden rice...available in China only to the elite. It's a wonder anyone eats it.

If you do, you will know that this is a first rate dish. The rice is nutty tasting and it goes so well with the bright citrus notes of the lime and orange, with the sweet cherries, the delicate snow peas and the crunch of sliced almonds. It's an unusual combination, but delicious.  I added grilled chicken, cut into bite sized pieces, to the salad to make it even more of a main dish. Sweetie at two portions and not just to get more chicken.

Surprise your family with this dish or take it to a pot luck or picnic. If you leave out the chicken it can sit at room temperature for quite a while. Black rice can be found at Costco according to a friend, or I/m pretty sure you can buy it at Trader Joe's. I've had my bag of rice a few years and I got it there, so it's likely they still have it. You can absolutely buy it on Amazon. This recipe makes enough for a crowd, but it keeps well, too, so it can make a couple of meals if your numbers are smaller.

So whats with the photo at the top? Well, I forgot to take any photos of the rice dish, so you get to see my photo from last week's trip to the redwoods. The photo below is from my 2012 post of a similar rice dish. Pretend that you see cucumber moons, snow peas and sliced almonds instead of celery, OK?

Black Forbidden Rice with Cherries
based on a recipe of Giada De Laurentiis'

Serves 6 - 8

3 1/2 cups water
2 cups black forbidden rice 
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon dried orange zest or fresh orange zest
a few drops orange oil (skip if you use fresh orange zest)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
1 green onion, sliced, white part only
1 small cucumber, peeled if peel is tough, cut into thin half moons
6 oz fresh cherries, pitted and halved
2-3 oz. fresh snow peas, ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 chicken breasts, grilled and cut into bite sized pieces (optional)
1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup Champagne vinegar 
1/4 cup olive oil 
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce 
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
For the rice: In a medium saucepan, bring the water, rice, ground ginger, orange zest (and orange oil if using) and salt to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer , cover the pan, and cook until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and place in a large serving bowl. Let cool to barely warm.
Add Italian parsley, green onion, cucumber, cherries, snow peas and chicken breast pieces (if using)  to the serving bowl with the cooked rice. Stir to combine.

For the dressing : In a medium bowl, whisk together the champagne vinegar, oil, honey, lime juice, soy sauce and lime zest until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the rice and cherry mixture and toss gently to combine.  When ready to serve, stir in the sliced almonds. Serve warm or at room temperature.