Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Blueberry Vanilla Compote

Making compote is so simple and so delicious.  It’s a truly excellent way to preserve summertime fruits of all sorts.  We enjoyed a springtime compote of strawberry and rhubarb, but now we’ve moved on to a mid-summer fruit: the blueberry.

Blueberry Vanilla Compote

 I have really been enjoying a new-to-me book recently: Preserving Food without Canning or Freezing.  It discusses how to use sugar, salt, alcohol, oil, etc to preserve food.  These are truly efficient and low cost methods from ye olden days.  One of the highlights of how this book is written is that it’s not just one author’s list of recipes.  Instead the author requested recipes, via a kind of gardening club magazine, for preserving things from people all over Europe.  The resulting submitted recipes are printed in the submitter's own voice.  There are literally recipes for preserving 70 lbs of cabbage from the Ukraine, fermented tomato paste balls from Italy, and much more.

This recipe isn’t from the book per se, but compote does use sugar as a preservative.  I always thought canning was necessary but it turns out that isn’t always the case.

Blueberry Vanilla Compote

I love compote because it’s a great way to use fruit that you know you won’t have time to eat before it goes bad. 

Blueberry Vanilla Compote

Did I mention that blueberry vanilla compote goes really well with baguette & goat cheese?

Blueberry Vanilla Compote

The vanilla rounds out the flavor, while the lemon zest perks it up and saves it from being cloying.  We’ve got many more ideas on how to enjoy it up our sleeves, as well…

Blueberry Vanilla Compote

Blueberry Vanilla Compote
adapted from Kitchen Confidante

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon
Combine the blueberries, apple juice, and sugar in a saucepan.  Simmer gently for 15 minutes or so.  The longer you simmer, the thicker and more jam like the final product will be. When the compote is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stir in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Remove from the heat, spoon into jars, and store in the refrigerator.  These will last a minimum of one month, but due to the preservative effects of sugar, it will mostly likely last for up to 6 months.
Yield: about 2 cups of compote.

Blueberry Vanilla Compote

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

We've had a number of ideas that we've been kicking around lately. There are so many really easy products that you can make at home, but they involve a lot of that one all-important factor: time. Sarah and I are more of the instant gratification mindset. We want to make something and appreciate its deliciousness right away! Who wouldn't? Well, as Heinz ketchup assured us back in the '80s, good things come to those who wait.

If you have 3 vanilla beans and a cup of vodka, you are 8 weeks away from your own vanilla extract. We just made ours a couple days ago, so we're 7.5 weeks away from enjoying ours, and we can't wait to report back. We'll be brainstorming vanilla recipes in the meantime. (We're open to ideas...)

You can also use rum or bourbon if you prefer! I like the neutral flavor of vodka myself. You may discover (if you haven't already) that vanilla beans are pretty pricey. But once you've started using your extract, you can top it off with more vodka and the pods will continue to flavor your extract. Plus, if you use vanilla beans for a recipe, you can put the scraped out pods into the jar and continue to feed the extract, making it last forever. A good investment!


Homemade Vanilla Extract

  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup of vodka
Cut each vanilla bean in half (so that they will be completely covered by the vodka when they're in the jar. Slice each bean open lengthwise, exposing the seeds but keeping the bean intact. Place the beans in a jar that has a tight-fitting lid. Pour the vodka over, close the lid, and give a couple shakes. Put the jar in a dark, cool place, and once or twice a week give it another shake. After 8 weeks, your extract is ready!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Homemade Harissa

I’m obsessed with pinterest.  I especially love it as a place to collect delicious looking food photos, complete with links back to the recipes so you can make them at a later date.  I like it for home décor, fashion, and collecting cute pictures in general, but that’s beside the point.  In fact, to get to my point…I’ve been seeing harissa all over the place on Pinterest.  It’s a spicy, garlicky, north African condiment.  Sign me up!
harissa 1
I used a recipe for Garlic Scape Harissa from Tigress in a Pickle as my inspiration, but then delayed using my CSA garlic scapes for so long that I just had to revert back to regular garlic. 
harissa 2
The ingredients are dried adobo chilis, sundried tomatoes, olive oil garlic, coriander, and caraway. Dulcie confessed that caraway is her MOST HATED TASTE in the world, but the other flavors in this harissa are so strong that she managed to not choke when she tasted it. In fact, I am pretty sure she liked it. {dulcie's comment: This is true! I forgot entirely that caraway seed was even an ingredient!}

harissa 3
There are as many ways to use harissa as there are ways to use hot sauce.  I tried it out with toasted pita bread, butter, and hard boiled eggs first.  It was so good.  A northern African take on eggs with toast?  Or maybe just a made up concoction in my own Colorado-based head.  Either way – I highly recommend it.
harissa 5


  • 6 dried adobo chilis
  • 4 smallish sun-dried tomato halves (not packed in oil)
  • 4 big cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1.5 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (approx)
Soak the dried chilis and tomato in warm water for 10 minutes until softened.
Attempt to grind the caraway seed with a mortar and pestle.  I didn’t have much success so just kind of gave up, so I deem this an uncritical step.
Add everything but the olive oil to your food processor.  Use the small insert-bowl if you have one; the final quantity is only about 1/3 cup.  Start your food processor running, stopping to scrape down the sides periodically.  When things are looking finely chopped, start drizzling in the olive oil while the food processor runs.
Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to a month.
harissa 4

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Tartlets

I moved into my house this last fall, just in time to see the last raspberries clinging to their bushes. Now those bushes are fruiting again, and if I'm lucky enough to get to them before my toddler does (she considers them her own personal berry buffet), they are absolutely delicious. I wanted to use them in a recipe right away, and raspberries pair perfectly with the delicious lemon curd we made earlier this month. Time for some tartlets.
Once again, we turned to Alice Waters and The Art of Simple Cooking. I've used both her sweet tart dough and savory tart dough in the past, and they have both been lovely. The sweet and tender pâte sucrée complements the tart lemon curd perfectly.
If you have more raspberries, by all means, cover every bit of those tartlets with them! I had to make do with the leftovers from my aforementioned ravenous toddler. And the one thing we didn't have, sadly, was fresh whipped cream.

Lemon Curd and Raspberry Tartlets
  • 8 tbs butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 cups raspberries
Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Mix salt, vanilla, and egg yolk until combined. Add flour, and mix well until there are no dry patches. Chill for at least 4 hours or overnight until firm. Roll out dough and cut out 4 5-inch circles. Transfer the rounds to 4-inch tartlet pans, and press the dough into the pans. Cut off the excess dough around the edges. Bake the shells in a 350 oven for 15 minutes, or until they are golden. Fill tartlets with curd, and top with raspberries in a decorative pattern. Serve with fresh whipped cream.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Multigrain Crackers

Cooking for toddlers is a frustrating endeavor.  You put in some serious thought, make something you’re sure they’ll love…and they chew it a little bit, then spit it on the floor.  But I think I’ve finally figured out a trick.  Things in cracker form are almost always accepted, and maybe even begged for. 

crackers sq 1

Remember our whole wheat cheddar crackers?  The ones that made random, unknown toddlers tug on my pants and ask “more? more?”   These multigrain crackers seem to work the same magic!

crackers 4

These are even better, though, because they are easily transformed to an adult snack.  Cheese, a fresh basil leaf, and a quartered cherry tomato creates a perfect summer snack for late afternoon.

crackers 3

These have a lot of texture from the oats and whole wheat flour, then a little crunch from the corn meal.  Make sure you roll the crackers out as THINLY as possible for the most cracker-like experience.  Our thicker crackers tasted a little more like pie crust than crackers.

Multigrain Crackers

  • 3/4 whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c finely ground corn meal
  • 1/4 c oats
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. paprika
  • 4 Tbs. cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¼ c. water

Preheat oven to 400.

Start with the oats in a food processor and pulse until the oats are grainy sand textured. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse to combine.  Sprinkle the cold butter cubes, then turn on the processor and drizzle in the water.  The dough should pull together into a ball; add slightly more water if necessary.

Roll out the dough ON a cookie sheet that’s been lined with parchment or foil.  This way you don’t have to move the crackers after they’re cut out. Roll the dough as THINLY as you possibly can.  This is really the trick to the recipe – roll them thinly. I found it was easier to roll the dough in two batches – working with smaller amounts of dough helped me roll it more thinly.  Use a pizza cutter to score the rolled out dough into squares of 1 or 1.5”

Bake at 400 for 5-10 minutes.  After 5 minutes begin checking – the crackers on the outer edges may finish first.  Remove them and return the center crackers to finish baking.  They're done when they turn golden brown on the edges – it happens fast, so watch closely to learn how your oven treats theses crackers.

Thank you to Kitchen Stewardship for the recipe inspiration!

crackers 2

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Watermelon Fizz

As you may have noticed, we've been a little excited about coming up with concoctions to whet our whistles over the summer months. If I could pick one food that embodies this season, it would be the lovely and brilliantly pink watermelon.

We got out the juicer and made fast work of a watermelon that we had. I was shocked by the vibrant pink of the resulting juice. I thought that because watermelon has such a high water content that it might be a little more, well, watered down. But it is a lovely color, and the juice is so refreshing!

We added a little more pep to our drink by adding a 1:1 ratio of soda water. Bubbles! This drink is non-alcoholic, although you could easily add in a shot of vodka. And we also tried our hand at mint ice cubes - ice cubes with a mint leaf frozen inside. It didn't do a whole hell of a lot for flavor but it was cute, and we're suckers for cute.

To make mint ice cubes, you fill up cubes about a 3rd of the way and freeze. Place the mint leaves in, and fill up another 3rd. Once frozen, fill up the final 3rd. It doesn't take very long to do each layer (maybe 15-20 minutes), so it isn't quite as laborious as it sounds.

Watermelon Fizz

  • 1 cup fresh watermelon juice
  • 1 cup soda water (we used Perrier)
  • Mint ice cubes
First pour watermelon juice into a tall glass, top off with the sparkling water. This order reduces the amount of foam created.  Plop in a few mint ice cubes and enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Homemade Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is another one of those ingredients that is much less expensive to make at home vs. buying little jars of the imported stuff from the grocery store.  Good, homemade lemon curd has just a few ingredients (lemons, butter, eggs, sugar) and is packed with flavor.

Lemon curd rasp
You’ll need about 10-15 minutes to dedicate to the curd: it needs constant stirring while it’s slowly heated.  Then, suddenly, it thickens all at once and must be whisked off the heat to prevent curdling.
Lemon curd jars
But don’t worry, it’s easy. All you need to do is watch for the change – it happens fast, but it’s obvious.
lemon curd spoon
Recipe courtesy of Alice Waters, from the great cookbook The Art of Simple Food.

Lemon Curd

  • 4 lemons (zest one of them)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Zest one of the lemons, save the zest.  Juice all four lemons – there should be about 1/2 c. juice.

Next beat together in a non-reactive saucepan the eggs, yolks, milk, sugar, and salt until just mixed. Stir in the lemon juice and zest, then add the cold butter cubes. 
Turn the heat on medium low and slowly heat the mixture, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to coat a spoon.  Do not overheat or stop stirring or the eggs will curdle.  If the mixture begins to look grainy, or unsmooth in anyway, take it off the heat immediately and stir vigorously to cool it down and prevent curdling.

When thick, pour through a strainer to remove any errant curdles. Store in glass jars in the fridge.

lemon curd sq1

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lemon Thyme Dressing

Summer is here!  It’s hot, it’s sometimes humid (weird for Colorado), and so obviously you need a nice fresh dressing.
Lemon Thyme Dressing

Lemon Thyme Dressing

This is my current favorite summer salad dressing. It’s a traditional vinaigrette base fancied up with lemon zest and fresh thyme from the garden.
Lemon Thyme Dressing

We enjoyed it as part of our July Dinner Party (both on the salad, and on the arugula that graced the prosciutto gruyere tart).  We finished it off the very next day on a bag of spicy greens from our CSA.  It is very easy to make – just combine everything in the blender and then pour into a lovely little glass jar.  Done!

Lemon Thyme Dressing

  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Juice of one lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
Blend all ingredients but olive oil in a blender until smooth.  Then drizzle in the olive oil slowly while the blender is running – this helps emulsify the dressing so it doesn’t separate.  Store in fridge for up to 4 weeks.
Lemon Thyme Dressing

Friday, July 1, 2011

July Dinner Party {monthly menu}

Those proverbial dog days of summer are upon us. We've been seeing temperatures hovering around 90 for days. For our monthly get-together, we wanted a menu that was seasonal, as local as possible, and with minimal oven time.

Sarah and I have both ordered weekly produce from CSAs this year, although my box actually comes from Door-to-Door Organics and is not a true CSA. (But for an extra buck a box, my fruit and veggies come entirely from Colorado farms. Well worth it to me.) Putting our big boxes of produce to work is a challenge that we've been enjoying.

July Dinner Party Menu

The salad was refreshing and pretty: sugar snap peas and strawberries were from Aspen Moon Farms, Sarah's CSA farm of choice.  We tossed them both with baby greens and a lemony thyme vinaigrette.

The prosciutto, gruyere, and arugula tart was fabulously easy to make, and a bit like a dressed up pizza. In fact, we tried to sell it to our toddlers as pizza, but they weren't entirely convinced by all that leafy (delicious!) arugula. The puffed pastry minimizes time in a hot summer kitchen, and it only needs 20 minutes or so in the oven.
Prosciutto, Gruyere, and Arugula Tart
  • 1 sheet of frozen puffed pastry, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere
  • 3 oz prosciutto, cut into strips
  • a couple handfuls baby arugula
  • 1 tb olive oil
  • 1 tb lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400. Roll out the puffed pastry to about 10 x 14 inches. Fold the edges inward about 1/2 inch and crimp down with the tines of a fork all the way around, sealing it together and creating a pretty pattern. Using a fork, pierce the pastry all over. Place on a cookie sheet, and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
2. Spread 1 cup (saving 1/2 cup) of the Gruyere around the crust. Place the strips of prosciutto around the crust, and then sprinkle the final 1/2 cup of cheese on top.
3. In a bowl, toss the arugula with the olive oil, lemon juice, and add salt and pepper to taste. Place the lightly-dressed arugula on top of the tart.
4. Bake until golden, around 20-25 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

For dessert, we indulged in one of our childhood pleasures by recreating the Chipwich (i.e., a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich). You can read more about that deliciousness here.

And of course, our summertime cooking soundtrack:
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