Tuesday, September 12, 2023

As Local As It Gets

Over the Labor Day Weekend Sweetie and I visited our daughter, her fiancee, and his son in Redmond, WA. We had never been to their new rental and discovered that they have a nice big backyard with mature fruit trees. There is also a water feature with waterfall that Aaron has been working on. It was a muddy, overgrown mess but he re-lined it and with the help of his son they hauled rock and set up a set of pumps and fountains. Our last day there a new, more powerful pump arrived so the waterfall part worked! It really is beautiful and well designed and adds so much to the outdoor experience.

One of the fruit trees in the backyard is a Granny Smith. Sweetie and I decided to prepare the apples and make an apple galette for dessert. The apples had quite a few blemishes and signs of worms, but our own apples do, too, so we knew what to do. It happens if you don't spray the apples.

We also discovered that there was a small Asian pear tree. Sweetie loves Asian pears! Next year we will go back when cherries are in season since there is also a large cherry tree. Yay for local fruit!

Want to make your own? You can use your own apples or get some Granny Smiths from the market or farmers market. Then use the recipe found HERE, without the bourbon and add a teaspoon lemon zest.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Baked in Parchment

This is an absolutely wonderful way to cook fish with a deeply flavored Mediterranean vibe. This is based on a recipe by Ellie Krieger that I found in the Washington Post newspaper. Her version is with flounder and olives. I made mine with red snapper and no olives, but I did include capers. I also replaced the cherry tomatoes with large-ish chunks of Black Krim tomatoes from my garden. I found out that I didn't have any green beans, so I used red and yellow pepper strips. As you can see, the recipe is a long way from where it started.

Baking foods in parchment paper, or 'en papillote' as the French say, is a lot of fun and makes for easy clean up. You actually serve the dish in its paper packet in order to capture all the juices. When you are finished eating, the paper gets tossed and there are no pots or pans to wash up. Perhaps the best reason to cook this way is that the fish stays really moist. Don't forget to have some crusty bread on hand to sop up those captured juices!

finished fish surrounded by packet and juices

Snapper with Peppers and Capers en Papillote
Based on a recipe by Ellie Krieger in the Washington Post
Serves 4

1 medium lemon
2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic, minced or finely grated
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup red and yellow pepper strips, with no stem or seeds or ribs
1 cup fresh tomato, cut into bite sized chunks
four (4-5 oz each) fillets of snapper (could also use flounder or sole)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion from onion that has been cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves (optional)

Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.

Zest the lemon into a small bowl. Set zested lemon aside. To the small bowl add the chopped capers, garlic, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Cut the zested lemon in half. Capture the juice from one half in a small bowl. Cut the other half into wedges for garnish.

Place 4 sheets of parchment paper (12 x 18-inches) on a flat work surface. Fold each sheet in half  then open flat. Work in batches if needed if you don't have enough counter space.

fish over peppers and tomatoes

lemon zest-caper mixture over fish

On each piece of parchment, near the fold, place 1/4 of the red pepper strips. Then arrange the tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with the salt and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place a fillet of fish on top of the tomatoes then top each piece of fish with 1/4 or the caper mixture. Make sure the caper mixture runs along the whole piece of fish. Place 1/4 of the onion slices on top of each dressed fillet, then drizzle each piece with 1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the lemon juice.

One at a time, take the parchment and fold the empty half over the top of the fish and roll the edges, crimping to seal tightly. Make sure to leave a little room around the fish for expansion in the oven.

Place the packets on a large, rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through.

Open each packet, being careful to avoid the steam, and serve on plates in the packet, or, if desired, transfer the packet contents to a plate along with the juices. Garnish with parsley (optional) and the lemon wedges.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Another Peach Pie

Sweetie can never have enough pie. I was lucky and found some ripe white peaches in one of our local markets, so I bought enough to make a pie, with a few left over for snacking. This recipe is a story one, but pretty simple.

This pie was a little different than some. I used only one disc of pie dough, rolled it out to about 12-inches in diameter on a large piece of baking parchment, then in the middle 9-inches or so I put a thin layer of flour mixed with dry bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon of each.

In a small bowl, I combined  2 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, and 1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon. I mixed this all together with a mini-whisk and poured it over the prepared (skinned, pit removed, each peach cut into 16 slices) peaches in their bowl.

I used a silicon spatula to gently turn all the peaches until they were coated with the cornstarch mixture. Then the peaches were arranged in the middle of the pie dough, right on top of the flour mixture.

The edges with no fruit were folded up and pleated with clean, wet hands. The extra moisture helps the pleats stick together to hold in the fruit since there isn't a pan to do that. A teaspoon of sparkling sugar went over the damp folds of the dough, with a few settling over the fruit, too.

This gallette pie went into a preheated 375 degree oven on top of a preheated baking stone. After 5 minutes I reduced the heat to 350 degrees F and baked until it was golden brown and the pastry was flaky, about 25-30 minutes more. I used a pizza peel, sliding the parchment paper and pie onto the peel, into the oven and off the peel, then onto the peel when it was done baking. 

The different part was dividing the thickeners, with the sugar part getting mixed with the bourbon and the fruit. It worked wonderfully well. The juices were thick, the bottom wasn't soggy, and the pie was delicious, if a little flat (because the peaches cooked down). You didn't really notice the bourbon as such, but it gave the overall pie a great taste. Try it!

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

The Lilies of Summer


The garden is going well, at least partly because of all the rain we had over many months this spring and early summer. The two Black Krim tomato plants are huge and the first ripe tomatoes have been picked. I used the first one to make bruschetta over the weekend. Didn't take any photos but they were just like the ones HERE. We did have the first of the yellow pear tomatoes today, in our dinner salad...or was that yesterday? It's like that right now.

We are not getting as many zucchini as usual, an unusual problem for zucchini growers. It's actually just enough to have a couple, grilled, every third day or so with whatever Sweetie is putting on the grill for dinner.

Those are the only veg I planted this year. A bit more than last year, but still far behind most years. I'm beginning to think that I need to hire a gardener or else to resign myself to weeds and tall grasses. I just can't get on my knees to weed anymore, so that discourages me from planting a lot, too.

Still, it has been a glorious summer for lilies. The pink 'naked ladies' are blooming by the farmhouse, but I don't have photos yet.

I've had the early earth tone ones

and the pink Orientals mixed in with daisies

and without daisies

plus one purple Oriental

then there have been drifts of gorgeous white Orientals with pink spots

with the most recent blooms being my favorites, the creamy Orientals with peach, apricot and orange markings.

Through much of July and still blooming there are always the day lilies

The roses have been blooming, too, on and off, but they start in the spring. The lilies are truly at their best in July and August, giving me a beautiful reason to appreciate summer.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Babes Bake Approachable Loaf

Starting something new is always a little scary...exciting, but scary. That holds true for bread baking, too. It's double if the bread is made with yeast. It's too easy to end up with a doorstop instead of the desired lovely, light, delectable loaf. This month our wonderful Kitchen of the Month, Kelly of A Messy Kitchen chose a recipe for an approachable loaf...one that isn't too hard, doesn't have a million ingredients, and, if all goes well, let's you have a nice loaf of wheat bread that makes great toast and sandwiches and French toast...you get the idea.

So the first thing that you do...and don't freak out...is you make a starter of sorts. That means that you take flour, water, and a little yeast and mix it together a day or two before you want to make that loaf of bread. This does two things: it gets you going and committed to making the loaf, and it allows for extra flavor as that mixture sits (part of the time in the fridge) and the yeasties get busy.

The recipe we were given assumes that you have a sourdough starter. I don't, but if you make this starter a few days in advance, it works just as well.

So one thing to remember is that you can't kill those yeasties with cold, but you can kill them with too much heat. Use barely warm water when you are making the starter and when you are making the loaf dough. You will need a warm place for the loaf to rise, but you don't do real heat until it goes into the oven. Another tip: knead a lot. I suppose you can knead too much, but if you are doing it by hand that is unlikely to happen because your muscles will complain before you over knead. The kneading creates these long elastic-like strands that help the loaf to rise in the oven. If you have kneaded enough, your dough in this recipe will feel very smooth.

So follow the recipe as given below. The top one uses my version of the starter (levain) and the one below it is the one we were given, which uses a sourdough starter. If you don't have access to Edison flour or a good white whole wheat flour, use regular whole wheat flour...it will be fine, just a bit darker.

Have fun with this. Allow the dough enough time to rise. Oh, by the way, you are in charge of the rising timing. I made my dough early in the morning, did the first 90 minutes with the fold half way through, then lightly oiled the top of the dough (I used a spray olive oil), put a clean shower cap over the bowl and put the whole thing in the fridge. About three hours before I wanted to serve it, I took the dough out, shaped it and put it in the greased loaf pan. By the time it rose and I baked it, it was just in time for dinner. If you want to make the dough one day and bake it the next day, no problem...just leave the covered dough in the fridge overnight. Remember...cold doesn't kill yeast. You do need warmth for rising, but cold allows you to bake when it works for you!

If you do bake this lovely bread and want to be a Buddy, simply email Kelly by the end of August to be included in the round-up and get a Buddy Badge. Include your URL and a photo for her for the round-up.

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes, too, to see what they have done with this great bread!

The Approachable Loaf - My Variation
from the WSU bread lab

60g flour ~½ cup (I used all purpose)
60g water~½ cup + 1 tsp
dry yeast ~¾ tsp (I use RapidRise)
30g flour ~1/4 cup (I used all purpose)
27g water~1/4 cup 

Final dough:
290g white whole wheat flour ~2¼ cups (I used King Arthur Baking White Whole Wheat Flour)
247g water ~1 cup + 1 tbsp + 1¾ tsp
7g sea salt ~1 tsp sea salt
2.4g yeast ~¾ tsp + tiny pinch
23g honey ~ 1 tbsp
17g olive oil ~1tbsp + 1 tsp
80g levain ~generous ⅓ cup (Add the rest back to your starter)  (If you use all the levain, add another 50g or more flour to the final dough)


A few nights before baking, mix levain ingredients until well incorporated. Cover and let rest 12-15 hours at room temperature.  After that, cover and put into the refrigerator for a couple of days. The morning you plan on baking, remove from the fridge, uncover, add a mixture of 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup water and mix well. Let sit, uncovered for a couple of hours. You will have more than is required for the final dough.

Final Dough:

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer, holding back about 10% water.  Mix on low for a few minutes to combine.  Increase speed to medium low and knead until the gluten begins to develop some stretch, about 5 minutes.  Slowly add in the remaining water and knead for another 5 minutes until the dough is well developed.

 Let the dough proof for about 90 minutes, folding after 45 minutes by bringing up the sides to the center all the way around.    

After a fold.

After rising a bit.

Shape into a loaf and place in a greased 8x4" loaf pan.

Let rise for 60-90 minutes until the dough has doubled and/or risen above the edge of the pan by about ¾-1".

Score if desired.

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Load the bread and reduce the temperature to 375°F.  Bake for 40-45 minutes. (If browning too quickly, lower to 350°F.)

Remove to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling.  Slice when completely cool.


The Approachable Loaf - Original Recipe
from the WSU bread lab

60g flour ~½ cup (I used all purpose)
60g water~½ cup + 1 tsp
2g starter  ~¾ tsp

Final dough:
290g white whole wheat flour ~2¼ cups (I used fresh ground Edison and reground the sifted bran a few times)
247g water ~1 cup + 1 tbsp + 1¾ tsp
7g sea salt ~1 tsp sea salt
2.4g yeast ~¾ tsp + tiny pinch
23g honey ~ 1 tbsp
17g olive oil ~1tbsp + 1 tsp
80g levain ~generous ⅓ cup (Add the rest back to your starter)  (If you use all the levain, add another 50g flour to the final dough)


The night before baking, mix levain ingredients until well incorporated. Cover and let rest 12-15 hours at room temperature.  You will have more than is required for the final dough.

Flexible: this was pushing 18 hours.

Final Dough:

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer, holding back about 10% water.  Mix on low for a few minutes to combine.  Increase speed to medium low and knead until the gluten begins to develop some stretch, about 5 minutes.  Slowly add in the remaining water and knead for another 5 minutes until the dough is well developed.

 Let the dough proof for about 90 minutes, folding after 45 minutes by bringing up the sides to the center all the way around.    

After a fold.

After rising a bit.

Shape into a loaf and place in a greased 8x4" loaf pan.

Let rise for 60-90 minutes until the dough has doubled and/or risen above the edge of the pan by about ¾-1".

Score if desired.

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Load the bread and reduce the temperature to 375°F.  Bake for 40-45 minutes. (If browning too quickly, lower to 350°F.)

Remove to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling.  Slice when completely cool.


Saturday, August 12, 2023

More Blackberries

We've been lucky this year. A number of the mornings have been foggy, so getting out early and picking blackberries has worked and saved me from picking them in the blazing sun. Too much time in the sun isn't good for me anymore, so 'Yay!' for foggy mornings. I used some blackberries picked this morning to make a cake to take to a celebration dinner.

Blackberries always remind me of our son Max. When he was tiny he would go with Sweetie to walk our black lab, Shogun, around the block in the morning. When the blackberries were ripe, he would return home with his face and hands stained purple with the juices, having eaten his fill from the community garden that was in the first part of the walk. Later, when we moved north, he and his friends would make 'feasts' on grape leaves, with ripe blackberries, the first Gravenstein apples, and any walnuts that had ripened, although there were few of those and even less walnut meat once they had broken the shells by stomping on them! Max would have been 41 today. Happy Birthday Max!

This recipe is a variation of one I tried a few years ago. It's for a fruit upside-down cake baked in a skillet. Last time I baked it in the early spring with rhubarb and strawberries. Now we are in late summer, so the berries are mostly local blackberries plus some raspberries from Costco. The last time it seemed like the recipe was skimpy on the cake part, so this time I adjusted it to work in a 10-inch cast iron skillet, but kept the original ingredients in the recipe below because this time there was too much cake...although it's good cake! You can bake this up fairly quickly...about 25 minutes in the oven. The key is to have room temperature butter and eggs for the cake so harder to do spur of the moment.

You can use any kind of fruit for the topping. At this time of year you might want to use figs, or plums, peaches or nectarines, late fresh apricots or early pears, plus any kind of berry...they would all be delicious! There is also nothing stopping you from including chopped nuts as part of the topping, or even un-chopped nuts as part of the design you make with the fruit. Get creative!

No fresh fruit? Frozen berries would work, too, although they might break down a bit more. Canned peaches or apricots would work, too, as well as the old standby, pineapple. I didn't get a photo of the cake cut, but I can tell you that is was delicious with the two kinds of berries.

You can always leave a comment with a URL linking to your own post if you try something wonderful and want to share!

Double Berry Upside Down Cake

recipe by Elle - sponge recipe from The Baking Explorer

Serves 8


4 oz. butter or margarine, melted 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Most of 1 pint fresh blackberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries


8 tablespoons or 107 oz. butter or margarine, soft 
107 oz. (about 3/4 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
107 oz. (about 1 cup) self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1/4 teaspoon lemon oil or extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease a 8 or 9-inch cake pan, line the bottom with parchment and butter it lightly OR use a seasoned cast iron skillet as is.

Place the melted butter, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon corn syrup in the bottom of the pan and stir gently to combine. Place the berries in a nice arrangement on top of the butter mixture. Set aside.

In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat until light in color and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. This can be done by hand, with a hand held or stand electric mixer or in a food processor. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated. Scrape beaters (or spoon) and bowl often. Add the flour and vanilla and lemon, if using, and beat gently/on low, just until incorporated. If you beat too much you might make the cake tough.

Dollop the batter over the arranged fruit in the pan and use a small offset spatula or the back of a large spoon to smooth the batter into an even layer.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning 1/4 turn about half way through the baking time, until golden brown. Center will spring back if lightly depressed with a finger. Sides of cake may be starting to pull away from the pan. As you can see in the photo below, because I used a wide skillet, the batter barely covered the fruit in some places.

Let sit about 2-3 minutes on a wire rack, then cover pan with serving plate and, carefully, turn plate side down. Let the pan sit over the plate a minute, then remove the pan. If any of the fruit stuck to the pan, use a small spatula to scrape it off the pan and return it to the fruit pattern. Serve warm or let cool to room temperature to serve.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Southern Take On Peach-Blackberry Pie

Maybe it's just my perception, but I often think of pecans, brown sugar and bourbon as being key components to turn a dessert in the direction of the American South. Pie is also a favorite southern dessert, often a fruit pie. That was one of my Dad's favorite things to eat, although Sweetie also loves his cream pies.

This year has not been the best one for local peaches in the market. We had a lot of rain in the spring when the trees are usually blooming and setting fruit, so the crop is smaller. We had an unusually cool spring and early summer, too. As a result, local peaches are later and they seem smaller, too. Peaches that are shipped in have been uniformly rock hard.  You can put those rock hard peaches in brown paper bags and some will ripen, but some just get brown in the center near the pit by the time that the outer fruit is ripe. They also don't have as much flavor and tang as fresh, tree-ripened local peaches.

Fortunately I finally found some ripe white peaches at a local store, so I bought enough to make 4 cups of slices. I picked a pint of blackberries from the vines down the hill. That was enough fruit to make this wonderful pie! It is one of the best pies I've ever made...and it smells great, too.  Don't be put off by my instructions to use clean hands a lot...for this pie it makes things much easier. The fruit gets piled pretty high, so putting the topping on with your cupped palm works well.

Along with the two kinds of fruit, there is, of course, a pie shell, unbaked, plus a very Southern crumb topping that has melted butter, flour, brown sugar, bourbon, and pecans. Sweetie said that the crumb topping was what made this pie exceptional. It's a slight variation on one in a King Arthur Baking recipe. I didn't cover the topping with foil until some of the pecans had started to get pretty brown, so do keep an eye on that topping and cover it with heavy foil before I did!  So is this the best topping ever for a pie? Make it yourself and see what you think!

Peach and Blackberry Pie with Pecan-Bourbon Crumb Topping
a variation on Fast Summer Berry Pie by King Arthur Baking

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 prepared single-crust pie dough (I used 1/2 package Pillsbury ReadyCrust)
1 cup all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons bourbon
1/4 cup chopped or broken pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh blackberries in a bowl
4 cups ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Position oven rack on the lowest level. If possible, place a baking stone or baking steel on the lowest rack.

Fit the pie dough circle in a regular-depth 9-inch diameter pie plate, metal if possible. Tuck under the edges to sit on top of the pie plate edge, then use your thumb and forefinger of opposite hands to flute the edge. Chill the pie shell until ready to fill.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and salt. Add the bourbon to the melted butter, then pour the mixture into the flour mixture. Stir until crumbs form, then use your clean fingers to make sure that it is uniformly mixed. stir in the pecans. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, dry breadcrumbs, and salt. Add the blackberries and stir to coat lightly. Use clean fingers to gently remove coated berries back to their original container. Add peaches to the cornstarch mixture and gently toss to coat as well as possible with remaining mixture.

Scoop half the coated blackberries into the bottom of the prepared pie pan. Scoop about half the coated peaches on top, then scatter some more of the blackberries over the peaches, more peaches, more blackberries, more peaches until all the fruit is in the pie pan.

Use clean fingers to break up the clumps of topping a bit, then take palmfuls and use the crumbs to top the piled up fruit, covering the fruit with the crumb mixture.

Place the pie on a cookie sheet or pizza pan and place into the preheated oven onto the steel or stone or oven rack (if using glass, ceramic, or stoneware pie pan, do not use baking stone or steel...put directly on the oven rack to avoid breaking the pan). Bake at 25 degrees F for 15 minutes, being careful to cover the topping with heavy duty foil if it starts to over-brown. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. and bake, covered with foil, for an additional 45 - 50 minutes, or until the filling near the edges of the pie is bubbling. The crust should be at least golden brown and the topping will likely be browned.

Remove from the oven and cool before slicing and serving.

Monday, August 07, 2023

Having Fun with a Board

 Although charcutier boards have been a thing for a while now, I haven't really tried to master one before last week. Still, I always thought that it would be fun to play with a serving board and a mixture of sliced meats, prepared cheeses, nuts, fruits, veg, crackers, and other small snacks and to create something tasty but nice to look at , too.

Last week there was an event that seemed just right for a charcutier board, so I explored what was in our pantry and fridge, bought a few things that were missing and tried it out. Being playful didn't mean that I didn't apply some of the elements of design to it. I decided to go with symmetric placement and repetition, made sure that there were variations of color and texture and that there were all of the elements.

The photo at the top shows the finished product...almost. I also pushed some of the pistachio nuts aside in one corner on each side and added, right before serving, a few ripe blackberries! Unfortunately I didn't take a photo of that, but the one above gives a pretty good idea.

Included were:
sliced salami, sliced deli roast turkey, cubes of Swiss cheese and cubes/shards of sharp cheddar cheese, cucumber slices, almond crackers, mini-pretzels, pistachios, mango balls, and blackberries. The salami slices were folded in half and lined up with the cheese and crackers keeping them together. The turkey came in nice folds.

Monday, July 31, 2023

My Favorite Way To Use Up Zucchini

It's that time of year...the zucchini are producing like mad. You may have a neighbor who, in desperation, delivers extra zucchini around the neighborhood under cover of night...or in person during the daylight. Perhaps you planted a few too many plants yourself and now you are looking for another way to use some of it up. Either way, I have the recipe for you.

I discovered this way of using up zucchini over 40 years ago. One of the lovely things about zucchini is that it's pretty bland. It also soaks up the flavors that are cooked with it. You'll love this veggie-rich pasta sauce because you can simmer it for a half hour and it tastes like it has been cooking all day, with the flavors getting richer all the time.

To start you are best off if you have a blender. No blender? How about a food processor? Not good with that? How about a box grater? If you have one of those three, you can make this recipe.

You'll also need a good sized skillet or Dutch oven because this make a lot of pasta sauce. Check out the ingredients called for, too. The spices make this dish, so I hope that they aren't too old.

I use a blender and put half the zucchini pieces in, add half a can of tomato sauce, a couple tablespoons of water and then pulse it until the mixture looks like ground beef mixed with tomato sauce. You can also blend it further if you prefer a smoother sauce. Choose your favorite pasta or ravioli to cook and serve this sauce with the pasta and a bit of grated Parmesan and you have a fine meal...that uses up zucchini. It tastes even better the next day after sitting 24 hours in the fridge.

You can make this sauce with no meat and it is delicious. You can also brown either ground beef, ground turkey or chicken, or Italian sausage to mix into the finished sauce and you get a heartier sauce. Without the meat this also makes a great sauce for putting thinly on a pizza crust or, a bit more thickly, on the inside of a calzone.

Too Much Squash Pasta Sauce

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium squash, cut into chunks (any summer squash, but zucchini works best)
2 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
note - fresh oregano, basil and rosemary can be used - use twice as much, or more, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 lb ground meat if using (beef, turkey, or Italian sausage - I use turkey) (or 8 oz. sliced mushrooms)

Optional: fresh basil and/or good Parmesan cheese

 Add the oil to a large skillet or Dutch oven and, over medium-high heat, cook onion and garlic until translucent and barely brown, about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.

While onions/garlic cook, put half of squash in a blender (or food processor). Add 1/2 of the can of tomato sauce and 2 tablespoons of water. Pulse blender, removing top and stirring every couple of pulses, until mixture is broken down but still chunky or process in food processor until mixture still has some texture. Once onions have finished, pour this mixture into the pan. Lower heat to simmer and deglaze the pan with the tomato mixture, scraping up the browned bits. (Note: no blender or food processor? If you have a box grater, grate the zucchini and then add to the pan along with all the tomato sauce.)

 Put the rest of the squash into the blender, add rest of that can of tomato sauce, pulse the same way the first batch was done. Add this batch to the pan of meat mixture and stir. Add the additional can of tomato sauce and stir to combine.

Add diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper to pan, stir. If not using meat [see blow] (or if you just also want mushrooms), add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms to the pan along with the diced tomatoes and seasonings.

Return to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer at least 2 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to avoid scorching. (The longer the sauce simmers, the better it will taste.)

If desired, you can add meat  for a more complex taste. In large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Brown ground meat. Stir drained meat into sauce until well combined. Continue to simmer.

While sauce is simmering, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on package, until al dente. Drain pasta well.

Put generous serving of pasta on plate. Top with pasta sauce and garnish with fresh basil and/or good parmesan cheese shards.

note - this sauce tastes even better if allowed to cool and left in the refrigerator overnight to blend the flavors. Reheat over low heat until simmering.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Puffy Pancake for Dinner

 If you think that pancakes are just for breakfast, have I got a surprise for you. This Dutch Baby, a kind of pancake you bake in the oven, is savory and it's topped with the flavors of summer - fresh corn, tomatoes, zucchini and basil. It goes together quickly, aside from the chopping time, and makes a great supper or delightful side dish.

I made mine with all-purpose flour, but the original recipe calls for whole wheat or half and half. If you are gluten free, I would just use a gluten free all-purpose flour mixture. King Arthur Baking sells a nice one, but many stores carry others.

You could also substitute other veggies live beans or summer squash, although the trio I used is wonderful and is just the taste of summer for me. I did use a sweet white onion, but I suspect that a yellow onion, red onion, or scallions/green onions would work well, too if that is what you have on hand. Fresh corn can be replaced with frozen corn, which is what I did since I didn't have fresh corn on hand.

The recipe says to mix the flour with the salt and pepper, but I think that with all the whisking going on to make the batter for the pancake that you could just add it along with the flour, which would save a dirty bowl. Whisk the flour in slowly so that it doesn't clump up as much.

Be ready to eat this while it is hot from the oven. I had a quarter left over and reheated it in the microwave the next day for another dinner, topped with a little shredded cooked pork shoulder. That was delicious, too.

Savory Dutch Baby with Summer Veggies

Serves 2-3 as dinner, 4-6 as a side
I apologize - this recipe came from the Washington Post, or Better Homes and Gardens or Southern Living...should have written down where.

For the Veggies:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced 
3/4 cup corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 1 ear - OK to use frozen)
3/4 cup zucchini, diced 
1/8 teaspoon each salt and pepper
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
4 large basil leaves cut into chiffonade ribbons for garnish

Use a 10-inch cast iron or oven proof skillet to heat the oil to shimmering. Add the onion, stir, and sauté for 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the corn and the zucchini, salt and pepper, stir and sauté  for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stir and sauté another minute. Place veggies in a bowl. Cover and keep warm while the Dutch Baby cooks.

For the Savory Dutch Baby:

1/2 cup flour...whole-wheat entirely, or 1/4 cup whole-wheat and 1/4 cup all-purpose, or 1/2 cup all-purpose, or 1/2 cup gluten free flour mix
3/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened oat milk)
4 large eggs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil

Wipe out the skillet used to cook the veggies. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and move the oven rack to the middle of the oven.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs to combine, then whisk in the milk until well-combined. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and a dash of pepper and then slowly whisk in the flour to fully combine. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skilled and swirl to coat the pan and sides. Place into the oven and heat for 10 minutes - you want the skillet to be good and hot. Carefully add the batter to the hot skillet and then put it into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. The pancake will puff up! When golden brown, remove from the oven and top the pancake, still in the skillet, with the warm veggie mixture. Garnish with the basil chiffonade ribbons. Serve at once.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Busy with Summer Visits

Guess there won't be very many posts for a few more days. Sweetie and I are having fun with visiting young men who all love basketball. The first one to arrive did much of the work of putting together a basketball hoop setup. Now that we have a paved driveway (although a sloped one) it makes it possible to dribble and shoot. Of course he had to adjust to the slope, slight as it is. Makes the ball bounce at a different trajectory than a flat floor or pavement, but it didn't take love for him to figure it out! 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Another Use for Olallieberries

Since their season is short, I like to find various ways to use the berries. This salad was enhanced with a handful of olallieberries. It's a packaged cabbage and kale salad with sunflower seeds and dried cranberries and a poppy seed dressing. I added some avocado chunks and walnut pieces, too. The berries really added a summer vibe to the salad! 

The Sweet Dark Berries of Late June and Early July

Last year the county finally repaved our road. It had been decades and really needed it! In order to do the job, they sent crews around in advance to clear brush and bushes that were too close to the road. In the process, they cleared quite a bit of our olallieberries, the sweet dark berries that look like super large (or long!) blackberries. They ripen about three weeks before the blackberries and are delicious, having blackberry flavor, but just a bit different.

A few days ago I made a galette with some of them, very similar to THIS one, but with an added tablespoon of cornstarch, plus three tablespoons dry bread crumbs. The sugar was brown and there was no nutmeg or citrus zest, but I did paint the bottom of the crust (the part not folded up over the fruit) with orange marmalade before adding the fruit mixture. The added bread crumbs help thicken the juices...olallieberries are very juicy!

It was even better than the three berry one, but there were a few more seeds! Sweetie loves these fruit galettes...he even paid attention to when the berries ripened this year and hinted that a galette would be a great way to use them. The whipped cream on the side was a good idea (because whipped cream is almost always a good idea, right?) as it mellowed the intense berry flavor a bit.

As you can see, this is an easy and quick way to enjoy the fruits of the season. Stone fruits work well, berries work well, and combined they are wonderful. Get a taste of summer...try making a galette! Because you start with already made crust dough, it goes really quickly if you are using berries that only need a quick rinse and dry like blueberries or blackberries or...olallieberries.

Olallieberry  Galette

enough pie crust dough for one crust - your favorite recipe or use (as I do) on Pillsbury Ready Crust crust.
2 pints olallieberries ( or blackberries)
sugar to taste (I used about 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs, unseasoned

1 tablespoon flour
2-3 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

Take the pie crust dough and, on a lightly floured surface, roll it into a circle about 12 - 14 inches in diameter. Gently fold the dough in half and in half again, then move to a large baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Gently unfold the crust to a full circle again.

Wash, rinse and dry the fruit. . Set aside.

In a large bowl stir together the sugar, salt, cornstarch, and flour. Add the berries and toss gently with your clean hands to lightly coat the berries. 

Use a pastry brush or the back of a spoon to spread the marmalade over the inner 6-8 inches of the prepared dough circle. Pile the mixture over the marmalade into the center of the prepared crust circle leaving a few inches all around the outside uncovered.

Wet your hands and begin folding the outer few inches of dough up over the piled berries, using the dampness on your hands to seal the pleats as you go. Dampen again as needed. Bring the dough up and pleat it until all of the outer dough has been placed up and over the fruit.

Brush the galette with the beaten egg. If desired sprinkle with sanding or regular sugar (optional).

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until the crust is golden, about 20 minutes. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 - 8.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Happy 4th of July for Fellow U.S. Readers

Although we keep our holiday celebrations pretty muted because our current dog and our last dog (so a combined 30+ years) are and were sensitive to fire works sounds, it doesn't mean that the holiday is any less meaningful. 

So hair to the red, white and blue, even though we have never been fully the nation we hope to be, we are still a great experiment that, so far, has meant a better life for many. Let's hope that as we go forward we continue to grow and mature and spend more of our time and energy on giving each citizen a better shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am grateful that I have a life, I have liberty to do as I choose (for the most part) each day...but is anyone really ever finished pursuing happiness?

Although this is essentially a political day, I choose to look at it as a day to enjoy a good BBQ and some great side dishes. Sweetie will take care of the BBQ. I'm working on what else to eat tonight. Any suggestions? We had sweet corn on the cob last night, plus a fresh green salad. Maybe tonight will be kale salad? Corn and black bean and sweet red pepper salad? Roasted sweet potatoes and grilled zucchini? Suggestions gratefully accepted.

Hope your July 4th is wonderful!

Friday, June 30, 2023

Apricot Frangipane Pie and Finding Mistakes

 Do you ever have one of those days when the recipe you are making keeps having issues...and then you correct them in time but end up losing so much time? I had that kind of day making this pie.

I wanted to bring this pie with us to a dinner party the same evening. Since I'd already made this pie once before as a tart, I didn't think it would be difficult and so I started at about 3 pm, thinking it would be ready by about 4:30 with plenty of time to cool before we left at 5:15.

The first mistake I made was in choosing a pie plate. I should have gone with something pretty flat...maybe 1 1/2 inches high. Instead I went with a beautiful white ceramic plate that was about 2 1/2 inches high. I used the already made pie dough circle which I had remembered to take out of the fridge a while before...so that part was fine. Then I made my first mistake by putting it into the freezer. I often do that with single crust pies before blind baking because it helps to keep the dough from shrinking during baking. The part I forgot was that you don't do that with ceramic or glass pie plates. Going from freezer to hot oven works fine with metal plates, but not glass and ceramic! Fortunately I remembered after I took it from the freezer and before I put it in the oven! Let it sit awhile to warm up a bit, added parchment and my baking lentils (pie weights) and blind baked it. So far so good!

The next mistake was in not adjusting the recipe for a thicker filling. I needed twice as much filling for a pie 2 1/2 inches high. That includes having more room temperature eggs and butter, more ground almonds, and all the filling ingredients really. Fortunately I had an extra egg at room temperature and I used all the butter in the two butter dishes because that butter was at room temperature. The ground almonds almost ran out before the measuring cup was filled, but there was just enough! Another disaster averted. As you can see from the slice above, I really needed all that filling. The recipe below has been adjusted so the filling is what you see in the photo above.

The final mistake was not realizing that a thicker filling would require a longer baking time. Again, I was fortunate because I had the time I'd allowed for cooling...and I used it all! The pie went from the oven to the carrier. Once we got to our destination I asked the hostess to put the pie in the fridge to cool while we visited and ate. Even so, the very center was a bit warm.

Was it worth it? Yes! It was an awesome pie, everyone loved it and offers to leave some for the hosts were accepted (which is not always the case). Sweetie and I enjoyed a slice last night to finish it off.

I made this with fresh apricots which I blanched and peeled. You can also use canned apricot halves and still have a delicious pie. The fresh apricot season is pretty short so it's nice to know that there is another option. Of course you can also use another fruit with the frangipane filling...anything that goes well with almonds will work well...fresh pitted cherries, especially sour cherries would be awesome a would most berries.

The apricot jam on the bottom crust and on the tops of the apricots after baking (for shine) really is optional, but you do get a bit more apricot flavor that way.

Apricot Frangipane Pie

Serves 8

Prepare the crust:
Make your own favorite pie dough recipe for a single crust or use
Pillsbury Readycrust or similar packaged pie dough circles, as I did

Let the dough come to room temperature, then roll to a 12-inch diameter circle. Carefully transfer dough circle to a pie plate and shape dough to the sides of the pan. Turn under the edges and flute. If using a metal pan, place in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. If using glass or ceramic skip that step.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the rack in the center of the oven.

Remove tart shell from freezer.  Line the prepared pan with parchment and fill with pie weights. I use lentils or dry beans and they work great!

Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on a rack. Remove the parchment and pie weights carefully and use the back of a spoon to gently press down any puffed crust, then bake another few minutes to let the bottom fully bake. Let crust cool. When cool, if desired, brush bottom of crust with apricot jam, using a pastry brush.

Prepare the frangipane filling:

6 tablespoons soft butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons 
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups almond flour or mixed nut flour

10 apricot halves, peeled, pitted, and patted dry
1/4 cup apricot jam, warmed (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

To make the filling:  Beat together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and almond extract.
Beat in the eggs, then add the almond flour, stirring just to combine.

To assemble the tart: Spread the filling in the bottom of the crust.

Place the apricot halves in a pattern on top of the filling, pressing them down gently so the bottom of the fruit is covered.

Bake the tart in the preheated 350 degree F oven for 45 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Filling will puff up around the apricots.  Cool slightly or completely before serving. If desired, brush the tops of the apricots with apricot jam, using a pastry brush.