So this is what I've been doing the past three days. We have just built two raised beds (there's another bed that's a mirror image of this one to the right). We felt we needed to do something to deter the rabbits, slugs, and French Bulldogs that devour our vegetables. My husband ordered 5 cubic yards of topsoil to fill the newly-built raised beds. Five cubic yards didn't sound like a lot to me, but when I found I could barely exit our garage after the delivery truck dumped it in our alley, I felt entirely different about how much 5 cubic yards actually is. Rain and more cold is on the way, so it most likely will be next week before anything is planted into the garden.
Next on our list? We're going to build a harvest table for the patio. I need a table to seat at least 10 people. Hopefully, after that is finished, we can begin hosting dinners for friends -- with vegetables from the garden!
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This Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Olives is a recipe I wouldn't necessarily make this time of year. It's a rather hearty meal that I prefer during cooler months. Usually, by now... by May, it's getting warmer and nice enough to be outdoors occasionally for dinner. By this time, I should be composing salads and wondering when the radishes will be big enough to pick and add to the greens. I should be purchasing strawberries at the grocery for a strawberry-rhubarb tart -- all things I had hoped to do while my family visited from Ohio for four days.
But we had yet another snow this past week. And although we were lucky here in St. Paul, Minnesota, not to receive snow that needed shoveling as many near-by communities did, our snow was mixed with a cold, constant rain that lasted for days. All of the meals I prepared for my family were baked in the oven. Nothing was grilled outdoors, and there was no sitting on the patio under warm spring sunshine. The way this year has gone so far, we may be eating hearty pasta dishes well into July...
Baked Pasta with Meatballs and Olives
+ adapted recipe from the Food Network +
• Kosher salt
• 1 pound rigatoni
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for brushing
• 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
• Pinch of red pepper flakes
• 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands
• 1 15-ounch can plum tomatoes, crushed, or 2 cups of homemade tomato sauce
• 4 large sprigs of basil
• 9 ounces pancetta, diced and browned
• 2 cups meatballs, cooked and halved (the recipe I use HERE)
• 1 cups sliced, roasted, red peppers
• 1 cup chopped black or green, pitted olives (I used green French Picholine)
• 3 cups grated, mild Provolone cheese
• 1 cup freshly grated ricotta salata
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
2. Cook the rigatoni to package directions; drain.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook until the garlic just begins to color. Add the large can of crushed plum tomatoes, and the small can of crushed plum tomatoes (or the 2 cups of fresh tomato sauce). Rinse out the tomato containers with a total 1 cup of water, and add this water to the skillet along with the sprigs of fresh basil. Simmer the mixture, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Discard the basil sprigs and season the mixture with salt.
4. Stir the browned pancetta into the sauce, then add the meatballs, roasted peppers, and olives.
5. Brush a large 3 to 4-quart baking dish with olive oil. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce, along with half of the grated provolone and half of the ricotta salata. Mix gently, then spoon into the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over top of pasta.
6. Bake pasta on the center rack of the oven for 30 minutes (the original recipe called for baking at 450˚F for 15 minutes, but I prefer baking longer at a lower temp).
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I still consider myself "on break" from Living Tastefully, finishing up my grueling painting project and preparing for the onslaught of out-of-town family next week (which I am actually looking forward to very much!). But I just wanted to share one of the meals I recently made. I loved it! And if you're looking for a non-meat recipe, you should definitely try this. Quinoa, as you may know, is now a huge favorite of mine. Quinoa Veggie Burger with Roasted Red Pepper Relish
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Slim chance I'll be working in my vegetable garden today...
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My daughter turned 20 this week. We celebrated by going out to dinner, then returned home for "cake". Growing up, my birthday cakes were always angel food with seven minute frosting. That was what I wanted... Always! But I have learned every year to ask my daughters what birthday cake, or birthday celebration dessert they fancy... Tradition has been thrown out-the-window by my girls.
Very rarely, any longer, is it a cake. When they were young I consistently made a chocolate-cherry cake with whipped cream frosting for each and every birthday. No more. Many times a tart is requested -- lemon meringue mostly; key lime sometimes.
When I asked my daughter last week what dessert she would like for her birthday she said, "I don't need anything". And I responded with something like...
Not having a birthday cake/dessert in this house -- unheard of!
It was all up to me... the decision rested on my shoulders! What would I bake for the celebratory dessert? I'd never served my family a pavlova, but who doesn't like a baked meringue? And an assortment of fresh berries and lemon curd whipped cream seemed liked the perfect filling for the meringue layers. I assembled it right before leaving for dinner, then placed it in the refrigerator until we returned. This just might be our new tradition. Most of us (me included) were sneaking a second piece.
* I'll be taking a short break to tackle my painting project, host a few guests, and help my daughter prepare for her trip abroad next month. See you again soon!
Pavlova with Berries and Lemon Curd Cream
Meringue Layers (recipe Yvonne Ruperti):
• 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch
• 6 large eggs whites
• 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
• Pinch of salt
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup (2 ounces) ground almonds
Lemon Curd Whipped Cream:
• 2 eggs yolks
• 1 whole, large egg
• 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
• 5 tablespoons cold butter
• 1 cup cold, heavy cream
• Powdered sugar, to taste
• fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries
• • •
To make the meringues:
Follow Yvonne Ruperti's recipe for the meringue layers on Serious Eats.
To make the lemon curd cream: 1. Whisk together the egg yolks, whole egg, 6 tablespoons sugar, fresh lemon juice, and finely grated lemon zest in a medium mixing bowl until well combined. Set bowl over a medium pot of simmering water over medium-low heat and cook, whisking constantly, until thick, 8-10 minutes. Whisk in 5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces, a few pieces at a time, until completely incorporated. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover surface with plastic to prevent a skin from forming, and set aside to let cool.
2. In a medium bowl, whip the cold, heavy cream until it holds soft peaks, adding powdered sugar to taste if desired. Fold into the lemon curd and chill in refrigerator.Assembly:
1. Place one meringue disk on a large plate. Spread half of the lemon curd whipped cream evenly overall. Scatter assortment of berries over lemon cream. Place second layer on top and repeat with remaining lemon curd whipped cream and berries. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
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A rainy weekend was spent in the kitchen baking Sour Cherry Focaccia. The same master dough recipe that was used for making Vanilla Cloverleaf Sweet Rolls, was the foundation of this delicious focaccia with tart cherries and almonds.
Again, as with the Vanilla Cloverleaf Sweet Rolls, the only change I made to the original recipe was to add additional flour (about 3-4 tablespoons) to the dough while mixing. Both times the dough was wet. I slowly added spoonfuls of flour to the dough until it was still soft, but did not stick to the sides of the mixing bowl.
I have a busy day ahead of me in the kitchen, making a Pavlova birthday cake for my daughter's 20th! Find the recipe for Bon Appétit's Sour Cherry Focaccia HERE.
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My S'mores Sandwich Cookies are the result of avoidance. I have been meaning to start a painting project; a project that I find over-whelming. Twenty years ago we converted a 3-season sunroom into a year-round space. The tongue-in-groove wood ceiling, walls, and trim, are painted purple, orange, and green -- a phase I was going through. My husband and I laid Mexican terra cotta tiles over newly-installed infloor heat. The brightly colored room has been the perfect backdrop for white canvas slipcovered furniture, old wicker, and plants; with large casement windows surrounding the entire space, it feels more like a screened porch during the summer months.
After 20 years, the paint is showing its age -- plus, I am just tired of it! My entire house has become quieter over the years, transitioning over to creamier historical colors. But as much as I'd like to see this room become what I've envisioned, I'm having trouble getting started on the work. I picked the paint color, but instead of running to the paint store to buy my supplies, I ran to my kitchen and started working on S'mores Sandwich Cookies.
To make S'mores Sandwich Cookies: I started by making Marshmallow Crème. After I had the crème refrigerated, I made the Old-Fashioned Graham Crackers with Turbinado Sugar. Once the crackers have cooled, give the marshmallow crème a stir, and spoon into a pastry bag. Pipe the crème onto a cracker (I used a 2-inch round cutter for my crackers. The marshmallow crème recipe was enough to fill 20 graham cracker cookies). After all of the marshmallow crème has been piped, use either a kitchen butane torch or the oven broiler to brown the crème. Mix semi-sweet chocolate chips with salted butter in a double boiler. As far as amounts go, I probably used 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips and just kept adding butter until good dipping consistency. Dip filled S'mores into the melted chocolate. Place dipped cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. It is best to let the chocolate set up and harden a bit before eating, but you may find it difficult to wait that long ;P Another option: sprinkle marshmallow crème with chocolate chips before torching, and melt your chocolate that way (sans butter).
If I disappear for several weeks you can assume that I have begun work on repainting my sunroom; that is unless I can bribe the painter, who I use for jobs I just don't want to tackle, to trade for a year of desserts?
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I did it! The big splurge. Still the most basic Viking range out there -- gas oven and cooktop. But the difference between this model and my former Viking range of 20 years is huge (convection, which I'm sure I will appreciate when baking). I wasn't planning on purchasing a new range quite yet, but Viking has just discontinued this color -- Kettle Black. I usually tend to choose matte over shiny and it was now or never. Hopefully, it will serve me well the during next 20 years!
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A weekend breakfast? Easter brunch? A platter of Bacon & Egg Tarts with Cornmeal and Black Pepper Pastry is perfect for either. Another easily prepared morning meal when you start a day ahead. Make the pastry dough, then line and freeze the tartlet pans overnight. (I recommend freezing the dough-lined tartlet pans for at least 30 minutes even if planning to bake the tarts immediately.) Bake the individual tart crusts the morning you plan to serve. Fry the bacon, fill the baked tartlet crusts and bake another 15 minutes or so, depending on size and depth of tins. Add a fruit or leafy green salad and, Voilà... breakfast!
I made small individual tarts filled with Parmesan cheese, apple-smoked bacon, and eggs in cornmeal and coarse black pepper crusts for breakfast today. I used shallow Matfer tin molds, but muffin tins would also work nicely, and hold more of the ingredients. Since the tart crusts I made were small and shallow, I ended up separating the yolks from the whites,and placing one yolk in each tart shell. I then added back egg whites to the tart shells by the teaspoonfull. Cracking a whole egg into a bacon and Parmesan-filled shell resulted in much of the egg white spilling out and onto the baking sheet. Using muffin tins with deeper cavities would prevent this from happening.
Rectangular Financier Molds (3 7/8-by-1 7/8-inches)
Round Tartlet Molds (3 3/8-inch diameter)
or, Muffin Tins
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup cornmeal
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
• 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 4 tablespoons ice water
FILLING, PER INDIVIDUAL SERVING:
• 1/2 to 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
• 1/2 strip apple-smoked bacon, partially cooked but still pliable; either left whole or diced
• 1 medium organic egg
• minced fresh parsley, for sprinkling
TO MAKE THE TART CRUSTS:
1. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and coarse black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once to combine. Add the butter and pulse briefly, until the size of small peas. Slowly add the ice water while continuing to pulse and stop when the dough just begins to clump. Do not over-process.
2. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap; flatten into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic; refrigerate 2 hours before rolling.
3. Roll the pastry dough, dusted lightly with flour, in between a sheet of wax paper and plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Line the tartlet molds and trim along the edges. There should be enough pastry dough to line approximately 20 tartlet molds. NOTE... a little trick I learned from my niece who attended the French Culinary Institute: Top the dough-lined tartlet mold with an identical mold, pressing together gently; freeze for at least 30 minutes. Turn the tartlet molds upside-down on a sheet pan to bake. This will reduce shrinkage of the tart crust while baking.
4. If using muffin tins instead of tartlet molds, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8-inch and cut rounds with a 4-inch diameter cookie cutter (or use a 4-inch diameter plate as a template and cut rounds with a sharp knife). Gently, and without stretching, press the pastry into the muffin tin. Because of the depth of muffin tins, the dough will crease in places. Be patient and genty press pastry onto the bottom and sides. Place the muffin tin in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake, line each pastry with a small round of wax paper and fill with dried beans. This will help avoid shrinkage of the tart dough while baking. You will get approximately 10 tarts with this recipe if using muffin tins.
5. Place the tarlet molds on a rimmed baking sheet, and/or muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 400˚F oven. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven. Carefully remove the wax paper and dried beans from the tart shells. The crusts should be a light golden color. Reduce oven temperature to 350˚F.
FILLING and BAKING:
1. Sprinkle the bottom of each tart crust with enough Parmesan to cover, 1/2 to 1 tablespoon. If using an entire 1/2 slice of cooked bacon, lay the slice over the Parmesan, bending to fit molds. Separate the egg yolk from the whites and place egg yolk in tart shell; add egg whites to the tart shell by the teaspoonful. If making tarts using the muffin tins, it will not be necessary to separate the egg yolk from the white; but add the entire egg to the muffin tin tart crust very slowly.
2. Bake tarts on the middle rack of the 350˚F oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the egg is done to your liking. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the minced fresh parsley. Serve.
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I feel pretty lucky. We have the greatest friends and neighbors. Whenever my husband talks about relocating to warmer climes, my response is always -- I could never leave all of our friends (or my kitchen!).
Case in point... yesterday a friend of ours who hunts morel mushrooms in the spring, and then dries them, made a huge pot of morel soup -- to share with us! He delivered it to our house in time for dinner, along with a loaf of bread from a local bakery. (See, aren't we lucky?) The soup was incredible and loaded with big slivers of morels -- a RARE treat. To show my appreciation, I made two Chocolate-Orange Ganache Tarts -- one for us and one to send home with our friends. A little decadent dessert after big bowls of earthy, rich morel soup. The grated zest of one large blood orange was added to the ganache and segments of the orange topped the tart. I suggest using a 60% bittersweet chocolate. The chocolate I used had a much higher percentage of bittersweet, and I compensated by really sweetening my whipped cream with powdered sugar and coarse orange sugar by ZUK-ZAK.
FOR THE CRUST:
• 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 4 tablespoons ice water
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE ( recipe: Martha Stewart)
• 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• Grated zest of 1 large orange, preferably organic
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
TO MAKE THE CRUST:
1. Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cold butter and pulse until the size of small peas. Slowly add the ice water to the flour while pulsing, just until the dough starts to clump and come together. If the dough does not hold together when squeezed between your fingers, add more ice water, drop by drop, until it does. Do not over-process. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Flatten into a disk and wrap completely. Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
2. Roll the dough between lightly-floured sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Transfer dough to a tart pan (I lined two 7-inch tart pans, but one 9- to 10-inch would substitute) and gently press into the pan without stretching the dough. Trim the edges and place in the freezer while preheating the oven.
3. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Remove tart pan from the freezer. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with dry beans or rice. Place pan on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans or rice and return tart pan to oven. Reduce heat to 325˚F. Continue to bake the tart shell until golden brown. Remove from oven. Keep oven heat at 325˚F.
TO MAKE THE GANACHE:
1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a large bowl.
2. Combine the heavy cream and milk in a saucepan; bring almost to a boil. Pour the liquid over the chocolate and let rest for 2 minutes. Whisk the mixture until smooth and let rest another 10 minutes. Whisk the orange zest and beaten egg into the chocolate.
TO MAKE THE TART:
1. Place the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and pour the chocolate-orange ganache into the pre-baked tart shell. On the middle rack of the oven, bake the tart at 325˚F for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. When cool, garnish tart with sweetened, whipped heavy cream and orange slices.
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