Rhubarb is in season right now, so catch it while you can. Instead of making the usual suspects (pie and crisp), why not try this simple, delicious, sweet-tart compote? It can be spooned over ice cream, big meringues with whipped cream, pudding or pound cake, or swirled into your morning yogurt if you’re feeling virtuous. I’m having a friend for lunch tomorrow and plan on serving it over panna cotta that’s chilling as I write this. I’d planned on making something else for dessert, but abandoned those plans as soon as I spotted those crisp, rosy stalks at Elawa Farm’s garden market this morning.
Raspberry Rhubarb Compote
makes 1 1/2 cups
5 medium stalks rhubarb chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
6 ounces fresh raspberries (1 small container)
1 vanilla bean
zest of a lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cut bean in half width-wise and save other half for another use. Cut bean-half length-wise and scrape seeds out by running knife along length of pod.
Place chopped rhubarb, raspberries, vanilla bean seeds and the pod you just scraped them from, lemon zest, sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Stir.
Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until rhubarb has softened.
Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash some of the softened rhubarb pieces and stir to distribute.
Turn off heat and stir in the lemon juice. Remove vanilla bean pod.
Spoon warm over ice cream or allow to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. Compote will thicken as it cools.
Apple dumplings hold a special place in my heart. My Grandmother Porter, of German descent and a product of the Depression Era, could not stand to waste a thing. Her cooking was simple, hearty, and utterly delicious, and everything she made was from memory, learned no doubt from watching her mother and grandmother. During her long stays with us she roasted chickens, creamed cabbage, made beef stroganoff, mashed lots of potatoes, and baked. Baking was what she loved most.When she baked apple pie, bits of dough were often leftover. Tossing them out would have been wasteful, so she cobbled these bits together, stretched them over a quickly peeled apple, and baked it alongside the pie. This was a great treat because you didn’t have the unbearably long wait until after dinner to cut into the pie! Apple dumplings were green lighted for after-school snacks, devoured just out of the oven.
This is my version of apple dumplings, though I add butter to my crust which she never would have done (she used shortening only as shortening makes the most tender crust). I love the combination because it delivers buttery-flaky goodness but remains tender from the addition of shortening.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening, chilled and diced into small pieces
11 tablespoons butter, chilled until very cold and diced into small pieces
4-6 tablespoons ice water
8 small apples (I used Cortland, Granny Smiths are great)
1 lemon, zested then juiced
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 tablespoons butter, diced into 8 pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Butter a rectangular baking dish that generously fits 8 apples. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, sugar, salt, and pulse a few times until combined. Add cold butter and shortening, pulsing until mixture resembles coarse meal. Through the feed tube, add one tablespoon of ice water at a time, stopping immediately when dough comes together in a ball.
Turn dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, flatten into a disc and thoroughly wrap in plastic. Chill for at least one-half hour.
While dough is chilling, add lemon juice to a large bowl. Peel and core apples, tossing each in the lemon juice as soon as you’ve peeled it. Sprinkle lemon zest over apples and stir to combine.
Combine sugar, cinnamon, and allspice in a small bowl. Set aside 2 tablespoons of mixture for sprinkling over pastry.
Pour sugar mixture over apples, coating each one thoroughly including the centers.
When dough is thoroughly chilled, remove from fridge and and roll out on a well floured surface, turning disc every few rolls to prevent sticking. When dough has been rolled into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness, cut 6-in diameter rounds until you have 8. I used a 6-in diameter bowl and cut around it with a knife, but you can free form it. This is rustic at its best!
One at a time, place each apple in the center of a dough round and wrap. Set in buttered baking dish.
Press a square of diced butter into each hole.
Using a pastry brush, brush each dough covered apple with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture.
Bake for 45-55 minutes, until crust is golden and apples are tender.
Let me set the record straight: I am NOT, by nature, a baker of fancy desserts. Or overly involved desserts. If you’d like any sort of crisp or pie, I can do that for you. Cookies? Coconut cakes? Lemon bars? I’ve got you covered. But 30 layer crepe cakes? Dyed, rolled and personalized heart cookies? Homemade cream puffs and eclairs? That train is driven by my daughter Hannah.
And Martha, of course. Martha Stewart has, through her beautifully shot magazine and her PBS television series Martha Bakes, convinced my daughter that anything is easily achieved in the kitchen. Our kitchen. Admittedly Hannah and I watch the show together, but most of the time I would be content to simply observe the goings-on in Martha’s world of baking. H wants to actually make it all. Just yesterday morning, the first thing out of her mouth was, “Good morning Mommy. Can we make cream puffs today?” And because I’ve silently sworn to say no less often, cream puffs it was.
There were a few stumbles, a few tense moments, but we got messy and we laughed a lot. We also agreed that the entire puff/eclair making process was much easier than anticipated, so you should seriously give it a shot. The pate a choux dough was a snap with only 5 ingredients (butter, sugar, salt, flour, eggs), and if you aren’t interested in making pastry cream filling, you can throw in ice cream and top with chocolate or the maple glaze for profiteroles. I say make the glaze – it was so good I could have bathed in it.
Thank you, H, for continually pushing me to try new things! My world is brighter and much more delicious because of you.
Click here to check your local listings for the PBS series Martha Bakes.
Click here for the Maple Glazed Cream Puffs and Eclairs recipe.
Both of my kids were having a crummy couple of days, so I surprised them by making dessert mid-week (something usually reserved for weekends) and having it ready for their after school snack as they walked in the door yesterday. As my grandfather wisely once said, “Life is too short – we should have dessert first.”
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp recipe found here. Make it now before rhubarb is out of season!
I spent a fair amount of time thinking about food during my juice cleanse, including what I wanted to make when it was finally over. A Thai inspired meal was at the top of my list as crunchy, bright, full-flavored ingredients were what I craved most while abstaining from “real” food. (To be honest I was also craving a burger like mad, but didn’t want to ruin my good behavior in one fell swoop.)
Summer rolls are one of those snacks I always pick up at the market (and eat in the car on the way home) but never take the time to make from scratch. They are wonderfully versatile – just fill with what you love or have on hand. I used shrimp, red bell pepper, scallions, cucumber, carrots, and thinly sliced jalapenos. Avocado, bibb lettuce and lightly blanched asparagus would be great additions as well. Just don’t leave out the mint and cilantro – they are the ingredients that will elevate your rolls above the ones from your corner grocer.
Thai Summer Rolls with Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce
1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 4 inch matchsticks. If you’ve never cut veggies into matchsticks, watch this quick tutorial on how to julienne here (a julienne cut is a smidge thinner than a matchstick cut but it really doesn’t matter).
1 large or 2 small cucumbers, peeled and cut into 4 inch matchsticks
2 red bell peppers, cut into 4 inch matchsticks
4 scallions (white and light green parts only), quartered lengthwise
2 jalapenos, seeds and white membranes removed, cut into very thin slices
1 bunch mint, leaves removed from stems
half bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems
16 rice-paper wrappers (available in the Asian food section of most stores)
Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe below)
Add shrimp to a pot of boiling water and cook until opaque, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
Drain shrimp in colander and run under cold water to stop cooking and to cool completely. Dry with a paper towel, then carefully slice each in half lengthwise with a paring knife (you can do this on the cutting board if you prefer, but I find they wiggle around too much).
Fill a large bowl with hot tap water and spread a clean damp dish towel out next to the bowl.
Soak one rice-paper wrapper in the hot water until soft and pliable (about 15-20 seconds).
Lay wrapper flat on the damp kitchen towel and place a few mint and cilantro leaves in a row across the middle of the wrapper, leaving an inch or so on each side.
Lay three shrimp halves in a row on top of the cilantro and mint leaves.
Lay three thin slices jalapenos in a row over shrimp, and add 1/16th of the the other vegetable matchsticks on top of jalapenos.
Fold top half of wrapper over filling, then fold in the two sides. Fold bottom part of wrapper up snugly but gently to close, then pat to seal. Place pretty side up on a damp paper towel-lined platter and cover with another damp paper towel.
Repeat steps 4-8 until all sixteen are complete, leaving room between each on platter so they do not stick.
Make dipping sauce.
Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/4 teaspoons chile garlic paste
4-6 tablespoons water
Whisk together all ingredients except water in a bowl. Whisk in 4 tablespoons water one at a time and blend until smooth, adding more water until desired thinness/consistency is reached.
I was also really craving something creamy and sweet, so I made toasted coconut cashew sundaes with caramelized pineapple. They were INSANELY good, and not just because I was dairy and sugar deprived. See recipe below.
Cashew Coconut Sundaes with Caramelized Pineapple
1 ripe golden pineapple, peeled and cored (if the bottom smells like fragrant pineapple and you can easily pluck a leaf from the top, it is ripe)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup cashews, chopped
1 cup coconut flakes (sweetened or unsweetened)
vanilla ice cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread chopped cashews and coconut in a sheet pan and bake for 6 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring a few times while baking, being careful not to burn.
Remove cashews and coconut from oven and carefully move oven rack to top position.
Turn oven to broil.
Cut pineapple into 8 lengthwise spears, pat dry and place on a foil lined baking sheet.
Pack each spear with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.
Broil for 2-4 minutes, turning pineapple over and rotating tray at least once. Remove when most of the sugar has melted but before it burns. This happens quickly!
Place 1 warm pineapple spear in each bowl (cut in half if necessary), reserving extra pineapple for another use. Scoop ice cream onto pineapple and sprinkle each with warm coconut cashew mixture, reserving extra for your morning yogurt or oatmeal.
P.S. I’m thinking a splash of rum on each sundae would be pretty fantastic. I wish it would have occurred to me then!
recipes and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante
This weekend, we enjoyed a casual dinner at home with two of our dearest friends. Feeling in need of a cozy late winter meal, I made succulent pan seared lamb chops with dried cherries and port (recipe here), oven roasted Brussels sprouts over toasted pecan and pearl onion studded wild rice, and a lemon tart with fresh whipped cream. While I do love to go out, nothing beats spending a leisurely evening by the fire with good friends and a great bottle of red.
The lamb could not have been simpler to prepare, and the dried cherry port wine sauce was divine. If lamb is not your favorite, the sauce would be wonderful with pan seared duck breasts or pork tenderloin.
I’ll post the lemon tart recipe later this week. It was my first entirely successful gluten-free crust (meaning it rolled out beautifully, held together like a dream, and had the taste and texture of a traditional crust) so I must share it with you.
Yesterday I spent four and a half hours on these cookies. I am not making this up. The most ridiculous part, however, is not the amount of time that it took. It’s that I made them for my son’s classroom Valentine’s Day party. I’m sure all of those 8th grade boys will spend LOADS of time appreciating the work that went into them. And by loads I mean the 2 seconds it takes to either shove them into their mouths whole or use as projectiles in a sugar fueled food fight.
In retrospect, I think dying the dough three different colors was a wee bit ambitious, though my favorite cookies turned out to be the ones made from rolling the scraps together. And yes, I am aware that Martha Stewart is not losing sleep over facing me in a cookie decorating throwdown.
Speaking of Martha, here is the recipe I used if any of you have a spare half day to devote to baking cookies. I didn’t even get to the making of the filling and turning them into sandwich cookies part!
I doubled the recipe and ended up with 58 cookies using a 2 1/2 inch wide cookie cutter.