Thursday, June 29, 2017

Grandma's Pantry

Grandma had a utility room in the back of her house, the back door of that room led to the backyard and her prolific vegetable garden. In the utility room she had a wall of shelves where she stored her home-canned goods. As the summer progressed, the shelves would start to fill up with items like canned apricots and peaches, pickles, and jams and jellies of all flavors. Over the winter the shelves would lighten up as she either used her goods or gave them away. I remember her being so proud of her canned goods and they would be arranged in a certain order.  Though I loved being the recipient of her fruits and vegetables I didn't quite understand what was so amazing about some shelves with food in jars!

Well, I have become my Grandma. Though I don't have a utility room to store my canned goods, I do have some dedicated shelves in one of my kitchen cabinets. During the summer the shelves fill up with jams and jellies. I get a strange sense of pride seeing this happen, especially knowing that the hours spent prepping and stirring will provide culinary joy for loved ones and friends. My family knows if they are out of jam to grab some out of the cabinet!

So far this year I've made strawberry, apricot, apricot-pineapple and boysenberry jams. Coming soon will be fig, peach, peach-raspberry, and pear vanilla jam.  Later this fall I will make batches of apple butter and the canning year will conclude with over 70 jars of pomegranate jelly. In between, I often make some pickles or preserve some peaches.

My 6-year old granddaughter helped me make jam last Saturday.  While we were working she asked me how I knew how to make jam.  I explained how my Grandma taught me. Doing so brought back memories of her canning shelves. Perhaps, years from now, my granddaughter will recall her Nana's jam shelves while she's making jam for her family!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Strawberry Cornmeal Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

A mutant cold/flu bug attacked my household recently, knocking both my husband and I out.  I missed a week of work and, 2 weeks later, am still congested and coughing, not 100%.  I finally am feeling good enough to get back in the kitchen and have been making jam, pies and other goodies. I missed being in my happy place!

While passing my time in the sick bed I perused a blog a friend recently told me about, Half Baked Harvest.  Goodness, is there a lot of inspiration to be found there!  This cake caught my eye so I made this for a quick dessert.  The leftovers were good for breakfast the next morning.

Strawberry Cornmeal Cake with Buttermilk Glaze

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal         
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh strawberries, halved

Buttermilk Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-4 tablespoons buttermilk          
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one 10-12 inch cast iron skillet or cake pan. 
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, honey, buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla until combined, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at time, beating after each until incorporated. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt and beat until combined. Fold in the strawberries. 
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake.
To make the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar and buttermilk together until combined. 
Drizzle the glaze over the cake. Slice and serve slightly warm.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Boysenberry Pie

In early summer, the boysenberries ripen in central California.  There aren't too many berry patches around here as they are a labor-intensive crop and not as lucrative as almonds and peaches. My favorite fruit stand has a few rows of them.  Each year I eagerly await their Facebook posting that they are now picking and taking orders. This year I bought 2 flats, most of which are in the freezer waiting to be made into jam or baked goods.  Some didn't make it past the ride home from the fruit stand, they were so sweet, I couldn't just eat one!  Some made it into an old-fashioned boysenberry pie.  This is a pie like Grandma would make; fresh berries, sugar, some thickener, in between two layers of crust. Nothing fancy but it's oh, so good! 

This recipe is easily adaptable to any kind of berry.  If you like a touch of spice, you can add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and/or 1 tablespoon lemon juice.  If you want more sugar, brush the top crust of the pie with milk or cream and sprinkle on 1 teaspoon of sugar before baking.

Boysenberry Pie

Pastry dough for 2-crust pie
4 cups ripe berries, washed, stems and hulls removed
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine sugar and flour.  Add the berries and toss gently to mix.  Pour mixture into a pastry-lined 9" pie pan.  Dot with 2 tablespoons butter.  Top with top layer of pie dough, seal and flute edges, and cut vents (or other decorative openings).

Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbly, 45-55 minutes.  If crust edges are browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.

Serve faintly warm, preferably with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

2-crust pies can often be plain looking, they don't have to be!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Raspberry Rhubarb Crostata

I'm always amazed at how many people have never eaten rhubarb.  My family had rhubarb desserts and sauces quite frequently. I look forward to the red stalks appearing at my local fruit stand each spring.  I keep saying I'm going to attempt to grow a rhubarb plant! As I was walking through the produce section of the grocery store I spied rhubarb on sale and bought a few stalks.  My initial intention was to make a crisp.  At the same time I bought raspberries as I was going to make my Hubbers raspberry popovers for breakfast.  Well, lo and behold, he had plans I didn't know about so I was faced with the dilemma of what to do with a basket of raspberries! I started searching recipes and found this crostata recipe from my favorite cookbook author, Ina Garten.  Problem solved as it uses both rhubarb and raspberries!

A crostata is basically a rustic pie baked on a sheet pan rather than in a pie pan. They are so easy to make, just roll out the dough, top it with filling, and fold the edges to form a border over the filling.  This pastry recipe makes enough for two crostatas.  Wrap the extra disc well and freeze for another time.

I will make this crostata again.  We had it for dessert one night (and I shared with my next-door neighbors) and breakfast the next (not any more calories than toast with jam is my excuse!)  Rhubarb can be a little tart but the sweet raspberries softens the tartness.  It's a delightful little dessert, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Raspberry Rhubarb Crostata

For the Pastry (makes 2):

2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ pound (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, ½-inch-diced
¼ cup ice water

For the Filling (makes 1):
¼ cup cornstarch
4 cups (½-inch-thick) sliced fresh rhubarb (1¼ pounds)
6 ounces fresh raspberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Turbinado or demerara sugar, such as Sugar in the Raw
For the pastry, place the flour, granulated sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss carefully with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button just until the dough comes together. Turn onto a well-floured board, cut in half, and form into two disks. Wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (If the dough is refrigerated for more than an hour, let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling it out).

For the filling, place 3 tablespoons of water in small bowl, whisk in the cornstarch, and set aside. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the rhubarb, raspberries, granulated sugar, orange zest, and orange juice. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until some of the juices are released. Stir in the cornstarch, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cool.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry into an 11- to 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface and transfer to the prepared pan. Pile the raspberry rhubarb mixture onto the pastry, leaving a 1½-inch border all around. Fold the border up over the filling, pleating if necessary and pressing lightly. Brush the pastry with egg wash, sprinkle just the pastry with turbinado sugar, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the pastry is browned and the filling is thickened. Cool for 30 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.