If you are anything like me and constantly dream of being in France, constantly dream of living in France, or just have the desire for a short visit to immerse yourself in France's culinary history, this is the book for you. (Read the Wall Street Journal's review of Mastering the Art of French Eating, HERE). Author Ann Mah writes of her life in Paris after moving there with her diplomat husband in 2008, only to find herself on her own when he is transferred to Iraq for a year. The book chronicles Mah's process of acclimating into French life and discovering the unique foods of different French regions. When I am left only to my dreams, experiencing France through Ann Mah's writing is the next best thing to actually being there! Ann Mah's publisher, Penquin Group, will be giving away one copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating to a LivingTastefully reader. All you need to do to be entered into the drawing is leave a comment in the comment section of this post by the end of the day December 13th. At publisher's request, entries will be limited to the U.S. and Canada.
Since the book giveaway is about all things French, the recipe today is for Sablés de Trouville; a rolled, fan-shaped French cookie filled with almonds and lemon -- possibly one of my favorite flavor combinations. And to amp up the citrusy lemon taste just a bit, I drizzled the tips of the cookies with a mix of confectioners' sugar and fresh lemon juice; then sprinkled the glaze of icing with coarse, sparkly sugar (think holiday cookie platters!).
an adapted recipe from Debra F. Weber, About, inc.
• 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cups ground, blanched almonds
• 2 large egg yolks
• 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
• Confectioners' sugar
• Fresh lemon juice
1. Beat butter together with lemon zest, almond extract and vanilla extract until fluffy.
2. Gradually beat in the sugar and ground almonds until combined.
3. Beat in the eggs yolks.
4. Working slowly, beat in flour a little at a time.
5. Gather the dough into a ball and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic, for at least 2 hours.
6. PREHEAT OVEN to 400˚F
7. Divide dough into 3 portions. Keep portions you are not working with in the refrigerator until needed.
8. Roll the dough between 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (see NOTE below). Using a round cookie cutter approximately 5-inch in diameter (or a 5-inch bowl or plate as a guide), cut dough into circles; then cut each circle into quarters.
9. Transfer each triangle to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat. Bake for approximately 6-8 minutes.
10. Cool cookies on a rack. When completely cooled, mix together Confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl, using proportions to create a mixture the consistency of heavy cream. Spoon a small amount of the lemon-sugar mixture onto the tips of the cookies and sprinkle with coarse, decorative sugar.
NOTE: The original recipe instructs to roll cookies to 1/4-inch and bake for 5 to 6 minutes. I always prefer a thinner (crisper) cookie and a little browness around the edges; therefore I have increased my baking time by a couple of minutes. Roll and bake cookies to your preference.
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As is the case every December, I feel like I'm behind. Behind on baking. Behind on shopping. Behind on decorating for the holidays. I've been a little busy with other things...
1. I just finished cutting and sewing the Christmas stockings above. My sister, Antique-of-the-Week Susan, sent me old German grain sacks made of handwoven linen with black printing that she envisioned as Christmas stockings for her five grandchildren. And now they are. Check that off my list of things to do...
2. The drapes I mentioned I'm making for my daughter's new, old house in a previous post are practically completed. The drapery hardware just needs to be installed, allowing me to sew the hems in place.. the last step. Finally!
3. And then... well, there's Midge. Midge visits me for 8 hours each and every weekday. Midge likes to take long walks... even when it's cold.
I have yet to even begin everything I plan to do in my kitchen during the month of December. But yesterday, deciding to take some time to relax, I made what I consider to be a perfect winter salad. I poured some wine, called a friend, and had a very nice evening. The greens of the winter salad are topped with wedges of baked, French Brie. It seems as though every grocery store I enter in December has rounds of Brie on sale during the month, and I stock up. Crisp, cold apples are the perfect partner to the creamy cheese. I used organic Gala apples in my salad but any variety will do.
Right before the Brie is placed in the oven it's sprinkled with chopped, toasted walnuts. I, fortunately, have a freezer full of black walnuts that my husband gathered this fall on his father's farm. He has spent many a day shelling and picking the nut meat from the large bucket of walnuts he brought back from Iowa. When he finally finishes the black walnuts, there are also English walnuts waiting for him.
The only thing I served with the salad was a crusty baguette and glasses of wine, but a little seared steak would be an awfully good follow-up!
• 2 organic Gala apples, or other apple of your choice, sliced into thin wedges
• Apple cider
• 4 slices apple-smoked bacon
• 1/4 cup apple cider
• 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• kosher or sea salt
• 1 8-ounce round Brie
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• 1/4 cup black or English walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
• 5 ounces mixed salad greens
1. Dip apple slices into apple cider to prevent browning; set aside.
2. Dice bacon and cook in a small skillet until crisp. Remove bacon and set aside, reserving 1 tablespoon of the drippings in skillet. Add 1/4 cup apple cider, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon brown sugar to the drippings; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown sugar dissolves, sprinkle with a little salt and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Remove top rind from Brie. Cut the cheese into 6 wedges. Place wedges on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and walnuts. Bake Brie for 3 to 4 minutes or just until soft.
4. Toss the greens with a portion of the reserved apple cider-balsamic vinegar mixture. Arrange lettuce greens, apple slices, and the wedges of walnut-baked Brie on plates. Drizzle with a little more apple cider-balsamic dressing, if needed and sprinkle with bacon.
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Ahh yes... the humble cheese ball. But I want you to overlook its homely appearance; it's a huge favorite of mine. It also has French origins and that's probably what first appealed to me some 30 years ago when I found this recipe. An interesting concoction of ingredients -- I guarantee that anyone who tries this "cheese ball" will feel the same way about it as I do.
I served Peanut Butter Pâté, along with a smoked salmon spread, to guests while I stirred up risotto the other nite. It's a great appetizer to have at the ready during the holiday season.
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
• 2 Tbsp. butter
• 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
• 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
• 2 Tbsp. creamy peanut butter
• 2 slices bacon
• 3 green onions, finely chopped
1. Cook and stir mushrooms in butter for 5 minutes; stir in lemon juice. Remove from heat. Beat cream cheese and peanut butter until fluffy. Stir in mushrooms and cover. Refrigerate at least one hour.
2. Fry bacon until crisp; drain and crumble. Shape cream cheese mixture into a ball. Roll ball in bacon and onion; cover. Refrigerate until serving time.
3. Serve with assorted crackers.
• Keeps for several days stored in the refrigerator.
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My timing is a little off here. It's November. Thanksgiving is next week and I'm sharing images of an alfresco dinner that took place on our neighbor's patio in August. There are no more thoughts this year of dining under the stars. But I'm in the middle of a project -- making drapes (very nice actually ;-) for the large, arched window at the front of my daughter's house. As is the case with most things I do, it is taking longer than expected.
So I'm rummaging through old photos and recipes I've meant to share. And since this August dinner was at the height of summer's glory, many of the meal's ingredients will be sub-standard if purchased now. But I suggest that you keep this recipe for Crab Cakes with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing and Marinated Tomatoes and Corn tucked away for next year; it's the best thing I've eaten in a long time!
Crab Cakes with Buttermilk-Basil Dressing and marinated Tomatoes and Corn
... recipe HERE
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I've had this recipe for Pumpkin Mousse Tart tucked away for many years; every time I'd run across it I would think... I have got to make this (but never did). My husband loves pumpkin. This time of year he will purchase all things pumpkin -- coffee, smoothies, and frozen yogurt to name a few. So with his birthday falling two weeks before Thanksgiving, I thought it the perfect time to finally make this tart and pass along the recipe.
This is a dessert that actually benefits from being refrigerated for a day or two before serving which I, unfortunately, did not do. The consistency, flavor, and firmness of the wafer crust are at their peak after a long chill. Bake the tart one to two days before Thanksgiving and you are all set for a delicious holiday dessert!
• Chocolate wafer crust (recipe follows)
• 10 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 1 16 ounce can pumpkin
• 2 tablespoons milk or light cream
• 1 tablespoon rum
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon allspice
• 1 teaspoon finely-shredded orange peel
• 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 2 heaping tablespoons confectioners' sugar
• 2 teaspoons rum, optional
• thin slices of candied ginger for decoration
1. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, and brown sugar; beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs all at once; beat on low speed just until combined. Do not over beat. Gently stir in the pumpkin, milk or cream, rum, cinnamon, vanilla, ginger, allspice, orange peel, and lemon juice.
2. PREHEAT OVEN to 375˚F. Slowly pour the pumpkin filling into the chocolate wafer tart shell. Loosely cover the edge of the crust with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes more or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. The center should be slightly soft when tested. It will firm as it cools. Transfer the tart to a wire rack and cool completely. Cover and chill overnight.
3. Before serving, combine the heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and rum in a chilled mixing bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Serve the tart with whipped cream and slices of candied ginger, if desired.
CHOCOLATE WAFER CRUST (adapted recipe from Hungry Rabbit)
• 36 chocolate wafers (about 3 cups)
• 1/4 cup sugar
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1. PREHEAT OVEN to 350˚F.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the chocolate wafers, sugar, and cinnamon. Pulse until fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined.
3. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and 1 1/2-inches up the sides of either a 9 1/2-inch ring mold, pie plate, or springform pan.
4. Bake the crust on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
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Friend and fellow blogger Tom at Tall Clover Farm recently described my favorite kind of morning (read about it HERE). The kind of morning that begs for freshly baked scones to enjoy with a hot cup of coffee.
• Cherry Cream Scones •
adapted from Successful Farming Magazine | January 1995
• 3/4 cup dried sour cherries
• 1 cup boiling water
• 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
• 1 egg yolk
• 1/2 cup sour cream
• 3/4 cup half-and-half, or light cream
• 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
• 1 egg white, beaten
• 1/8 cup granulated sugar
PREHEAT OVEN to 400˚F
1. In a small bowl, soak cherries in boiling water for 10 minutes, drain and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and cream of tartar; pulse 2 or 3 times. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the size of small peas; transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
3. In another bowl, combine egg yolk, sour cream, half-and-half, and almond extract. Add to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until combined. Gently fold in the cherries.
4. With floured hands gently knead the dough while in the bowl, 6 to 8 times. This is an extremely wet and sticky dough. Sprinkle a little flour onto the dough while kneading if necessary, but the less flour used, the more tender the scones.
5. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten balls into 6-inch disks. Cut each disk into 6 wedges, arranging wedges so they do not touch.
6. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with the additional 1/8-cup sugar. Bake on middle rack of oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Scones are best eaten the day they are made.
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Every fall my husband tries to get back to the family farm in southwest Iowa to help with the harvest. And when he goes, I give him a list of wants.
Always topping the list is bittersweet. I have a wreath I made several years ago from bittersweet that grows wild on the farm and every year since I plug it with additional fresh bittersweet. When he hasn't been able to make it down to the farm in the fall, I've grudgingly purchased bittersweet at local floral shops to replenish the wreath. It's quite the pricey poisonous and invasive vine!
In addition to the bittersweet I also received buckets full of acidy-green hedge balls to fill urns on my front stoop, plus bags full of black walnuts (any volunteers to help crack shells and pick out the nutmeat? I didn't think so... ). But maybe the best gift from the farm was the Golden Delicious apples my husband brought back; big, beautiful, and sweet! I immediately got to work making tarts; turning to my favorite Almond Cream Apple Tart recipe (French, of course).
I have come to believe that ground almonds added to anything makes that anything taste better. I love almonds and this French Apple Tart is full of almonds in the form of almond cream, also called frangipane. Make your own ground almonds for this recipe by processing slivered almonds. Or if you have access to a Trader Joe's, the grocery store chain has 16-ounce bags of almond meal for $4.99 -- an excellent price!
If you are like me and include an apple dessert in your Thanksgiving menu, consider this tart. Along with pumpkin pies, I usually bake an apple tart or My Mother's Apple Crisp (recipe HERE) for one of our Thanksgiving desserts. Originally, I made this Almond Cream (or Frangipane) Apple Tart as one large tart. The two tarts I made this week were smaller, baked in 7-inch rings. adapted recipe by Ewen Lemoigne and Pierre Jancou
NOTE: Following the original recipe, the tarts in this post were baked at 400˚F. That gave these tarts a rustic, baked-in-a-woodburning-oven look. In the recipe below, I give an oven temperature of 375˚F -- see the final results for a tart baked at that temperature HERE.
• 1 cup slivered almonds
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for brushing
• 2 large eggs
• 1 tablespoon dark rum
• Baked pastry shell (recipe below)
• 3 large Golden Delicious apples, peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/8-inch thick
• 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. In a mini processor, pulse 3/4 cup of the almonds until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl. Pulse the remaining 1/4 cup of almonds, until coarsely chopped. Transfer to the bowl, add the granulated sugar, flour and the salt and toss gently to combine.
2. In another bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the 4 tablespoons of butter until creamy. Add the almond mixture and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the rum.
3. Spread the almond filling in the baked pastry shell. Arrange the apple slices on top in concentric circles. Brush the apple slices with the melted butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
4. Bake the tart for 45 to 50 minutes, until the filling is set and the apples are browned and tender. (Start watching the tart closely after 35 minutes.) Transfer the tart to a rack to cool slightly. Remove the ring and serve the tart warm or at room temperature.
Tart Crust Recipe:
• 1 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small piece
• 1 large egg yolk
• 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas. Add the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of ice water and pulse just until the dough holds together when pinched; if necessary, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of ice water. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, 1 hour.
2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Push a rolling pin over the top to trim any overhang. Prick the bottom in several places with a fork.
3. Line the tart shell with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes, until the shell is lightly colored around the edge. Remove the foil and weights and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden. Let cool before filling.
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So what have I been doing lately? In addition to keeping busy in my kitchen, I'm also keeping busy with Midge.
Midge is a 15 week old French Bulldog. She is not, however, mine. My Pipi is still doing fine at almost 13 1/2 years of age. Midge belongs to my daughter and her husband. She spends her days with me when her owners are at work -- and when her owners are out of town, which would be this weekend. I've forgotten how busy a puppy can be! YIKES!
adapted recipe from RealSimple | November 2013
• 1 cup pearl barley
• 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
• 1 tablespoon celery seed
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 handful torn radicchio
• 4 ounces salami, diced
• 2/3 cup chopped Manchego cheese
• 3 scallions, sliced (white part only)
• 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1. Cook the barley according to the package directions; drain and set aside.
2. PREHEAT OVEN to 450˚F
3. Toss the cauliflower, celery seed, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper on a baking sheet with 1-inch sides. Roast, tossing the cauliflower one or twice, until golden brown; about 16 to 18 minutes.
4. Combine the barley, roasted cauliflower, radicchio, salami, Manchego, scallions, vinegar, and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Serve either warm, or at room temperature.
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We just celebrated another Halloween; for some reason, a quiet Halloween for our neighborhood. Our tradition, however, of hanging out in our neighbor's front yard, around a raging fire, continued. There was a big pot of chili, plus my contribution of Pumpkin Bars.
Common Pumpkin Bars... with a unique difference. I have started using in my baking, organic, stone-ground, heritage flour from Sunrise Flour Mill in North Branch, Minnesota. I discovered them through the Mill City Market in Minneapolis where they sell their flour + additional products on Saturdays. The heritage grain is considered more digestible by many suffering from gluten intolerance. That would be my daughter. Whenever I know my daughter will be eating at our house, the Heritage Turkey Red Flour is used. And so far, so good! I'm thrilled that I can now make anything from yeast breads to cakes and cookies, tart crusts and pizza dough as I would normally do, knowing my daughter can be included in whatever we're eating.
TURKEY RED REFINED FLOUR... "This is a heritage grain which some people find more digestible. Most of the bran and germ are removed resulting in a spectacular white flour that is not bleach or bromated."
adapted from BETTER HOMES and GARDENS NEW COOKBOOK
• 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 4 beaten large eggs
• 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 cup canola oil
:: CREAM-CHEESE FROSTING
• 3 ounces cream cheese
• 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 2 cups confectioners' sugar
PREHEAT OVEN to 350˚F
1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and soda. In another bowl, combine eggs, pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Whisk together. Add dry ingredients and whisk until well-combined and no lumps remain.
2. Spread the batter in a parchment-lined 15-inch by 10-inch baking pan with 1-inch sides. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool bars before frosting.
TO MAKE FROSTING: Beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Slowly add the confectioners' sugar and beat until smooth. Spread onto the cooled pumpkin bars; serve unadorned or decorated with candy corn.
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"Remember my cabbage?" has become a reoccurring theme for me. Every spring I plant blue cabbage throughout my vegetable garden for additional color. Every fall I search for recipes, plus friends and neighbors, to help reduce my inventory; this year amounting to 30 large heads of cabbage.
I made Red Cabbage Braised with Maple Syrup twice within two days, reducing the amount of bacon and maple syrup, and doubling the number of apples originally called for. I thought it was pretty perfect.
+ Red Cabbage Braised with Maple Syrup
original recipe | Yves Labbé
• 3 strips apple-smoked bacon, minced
• 1 medium onion, minced
• 2 medium firm, tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
• 1 1/2 to 2 pounds red (or blue) cabbage, cored, outer leaves removed, and remainder shredded
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/3 cup maple syrup
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. PREHEAT OVEN to 350˚F
2. In an ovenproof saucepan of a flameproof casserole large enough to hold all the ingredients, sauté the bacon until crisp. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and place in the oven; bake for 30 minutes.
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