Month: October 2012

38 Power Foods, Week 20 — Papaya — Papaya-Candied Ginger Muffins with Cashews

38 Power Foods, Week 20 — Papaya — Papaya-Candied Ginger Muffins with Cashews

A crispy-moist, very gingery muffin made with oats, whole wheat, and yogurt. Don’t tell.

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Somewhere on toward 6:30 and there was no light anywhere that October morning. Only the too-lazy-to-make-their-own-coffee guys were struggling down the street to the gas station where ethanol-fragranced cheap brews waited.   No birds stirred.  The dogs slept on.  Donning jeans and t-shirt in the dark, she searched for her moccasins by sitting down and feeling around on the floor of the closet with her hands. Toddling down the hall to the bathroom, she made peace with her body, and then carefully made her way down the stairs, feeling each tread with her toes before proceeding to the next.

She approached it as she would a whole shark awaiting skinning, butchering, boning, and fileting down there in the deep, dark Saint Paul kitchen that morning. Coming around the corner, flipping on the light and the coffee maker in the same movement, she saw the big papaya waiting on the counter.  The big fruit didn’t know its last minute (save the time it took to brew the coffee)  had arrived.  And she had no idea how she was going to kill it.

In other words, I didn’t know from papaya. (Except all sliced up on a brunch buffet; I’m a mango girl.)

Looked like I should peel it, so I did.

Hmph.  I chopped off the ends. 

Sliced it down the middle.  This thing was gorgeous!  No wonder they call it “Fruit of the Angels.”  A little light was peeping through the shades in the dining room.

I sliced the papaya into moons and then chopped it up finely.  Next, I mixed up the wet and dry ingredients for the muffins in the 8-cup Pyrex (my go-to muffin bowl) and spooned the batter into the greased tins with my ice cream scoop:

These appear to bake forever and, actually, they do.  Count on 30 minutes at 400 degrees F.  They’ll be quite browned.

By then the dogs were padding around yawning.  (file photo)

Hey, Dave!  It’s breakfast!

papaya-candied ginger muffins with cashews  makes 14*
      These muffins are not the biggest powerhouse of nutrition, but neither are they shirkers.  They contain whole wheat, oatmeal, cashews, yogurt, and lots of papaya.  They’re also fairly low in fat, using just 1/4 cup canola oil for 14 muffins, which is less than a teaspoon of oil (40 fat calories) per muffin.  Not too bad!  I looked at six or seven papaya muffin recipes for ideas and then used my own proportions to create this recipe using things I had in the larder.

       One of my favorite Melissa Clark quotes is, “Muffins are just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast.”  Not so here.  Enjoy!

Background is my kitchen wall.  Love the color!

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 plus 2 tablespoons milk (or 3/8 of a cup)  
  •  1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup whole oats (not instant)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder**
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I like Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon–available online)
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied ginger (can sub 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted cashews   

  • 2 cups finely chopped papaya

directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease muffin tins thoroughly.

  1. Whisk together oil, yogurt, egg, and milk in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Stir together well all  of the dry ingredients (flour-cashews) in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl and stir until just combined. 
  4. Add the papaya and stir gently.  Divide prepared batter evenly among greased tins.***
  5. Bake about 30 minutes until quite browned.  Muffins will be moist.
  6. Serve hot or at room temperature as is or with butter, if desired.

*I made one 12-count muffin tin full and then greased a large oven-safe coffee cup and made one extra-large muffin.  You could also use a couple of custard cups to make the extra two muffins.

**These muffins are quite dense, though not heavy.  But if you’d like a lighter muffin, try increasing the baking powder to 2 teaspoons.

***I like to use an ice cream scoop, but a big spoon will do.  

about papayas

Papayas are available year-round (though they’re more prolific come summer and fall) and weigh about a pound each, though some grow much bigger.  Wonderful as is, or with plain yogurt, the beautiful orange “meat,” is delicious and the seeds are edible, too.  Full of antioxidants, along with vitamins (lots of vitamin C) and minerals, the papaya also contains papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins.

Nutrients in
Papaya
1.00 each (304.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value

vitamin C313.1%

vitamin A66.5%

folate28.8%

potassium22.3%

fiber21.8%

vitamin E11.1%

vitamin K9.8%

Calories (118)6%

chart courtesy WHfoods.com–click for more information about the beautiful papaya

If I had to say what papaya tasted like, I’d wager a cross between honeydew melon and mango.  And….

I can’t resist:  So buya some papaya! 

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Join our blogging group!

 I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about tasty papaya this week at these sites: 

 
Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

38 Power Foods, Week 19 — Kiwi — Quick Individual Kiwi Tarts with Gingersnap Crust

38 Power Foods, Week 19 — Kiwi — Quick Individual Kiwi Tarts with Gingersnap Crust

An ultra thin ginger snap smothered with hot pastry cream serves as the “crust.”

How the Quick Kiwi Tart with Gingersnap Crust came to be…

While I love to bake a pie as much as the next woman (more than most, I’d guess), I also like nearly instant desserts that are luscious and don’t wear out the soles of your trainers.  (Like after you’ve cooked for company all day and still need dessert.)  I have a pocketful of favorites like a 30-second pumpkin custard (it’ll be in my soup book) and a blink-done  individual chocolate flourless “cake.” I also have no-bake favorites like a strawberry ice cream parfait layered with crumbled ginger shortbread and fresh peaches. In cases of real emergencies, I buy ice cream and cones–and not just for the kids.

But today I needed a kiwi something.  Not exactly in my bailiwick; I use kiwi in fruit salads or the occasional smoothie.  I kept picturing the industrial size, looks/tastes-like-Paris fruit tarts they sell at Marigold Bakery and Cafe in Colorado Springs.   The perfectly trained pastry chef turned out racks of these tarts daily–as well as many other pastries and breads.  You can’t count on him to spell your best friend’s name right on her birthday cake, but you can count on a piece of a tart at 3pm with your coffee or a full tart at 8pm for emergency company.  If you order ahead, you can get 12 for your son’s rehearsal dinner.  In other words, you can depend on that tart.  It’s topped with all the glories of many kinds of fruit.  But it’s not spring; it’s not summer.  Berries are over and I don’t need a BIG tart at all.  I need a T-tiny tart… (as my fine old friend Susan Gimarc would say)   Well, one for me and one for Dave.  Maybe two for tomorrow, though he usually gets all dessert leftovers.  But that’s it.  Enter the very petite and quick “Kiwi Tart with Ginger Snap Crust” made in a small ramekin.  The crust for each tart is one gingersnap at the bottom of a ramekin or small bowl.  Topped with hot pastry cream, the cookie doesn’t crumble, but softens into a beautiful crust made for a spoon.   Here’s how:

quick individual kiwi tarts with ginger snap crust   makes 4

Make a small pan of vanilla pastry cream (crème patissière, which is very like vanilla pudding). Recipe below.

Place one thin gingersnap in the bottom of each of four ramekins.
These are my favorite gingersnaps.  (Except for my own, of course)

Spoon hot pastry cream into ramekins.

If not serving right away, cover each tart with plastic wrap (pressing plastic down to cream) to prevent a skin from forming on the pastry cream.  Refrigerate for up to one day.  Otherwise, let cool a few minutes, and then go to next step:

Stand 3-4 slices of peeled kiwi in the cream. (Optional:  Heat 1 tablespoon apricot jam in microwave and brush kiwi with it.)  Serve immediately with extra ginger snaps if desired.

Ingredients List: 
3 kiwi fruit; each peeled and cut into four thin slices
4 thin gingersnaps, store-bought or homemade ( I like Anna‘s Ginger Thins.)
Pastry cream (below)
Optional:  1 tablespoon apricot jam
  
pastry cream recipe 
               from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins*

  • 1 cup milk (whole or 2%)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract**

In a heavy saucepan, combine milk, sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks. Place over low heat and, whisking, bring to a boil.  Cook another minute and remove from heat.  Stir in butter, salt, and vanilla extract.

*There are many pastry cream recipes, but a lot of them make a large amount of pastry cream and many more use a larger amount of egg yolks.  Use whichever you like best. This one has a very simple and streamlined process, is tasty, and makes just enough for these four tarts.  You could also, of course, use a low-fat, light pudding or custard recipe if needed.  Difference between pastry cream and vanilla pudding?  I can’t tell much, though sometimes vanilla pudding doesn’t have eggs.  The difference, however, between pastry cream and custard is that custard is 1.  thickened only with eggs (no cornstarch or flour) and is 2. cooked in a water bath (bain marie) in the oven, while pastry cream or vanilla pudding is a stove top process.

**You can also flavor pastry cream with a little brandy or Grand Marnier–try 1/2 teaspoon first and add a second 1/2 if needed.

about those kiwi

Calories:  108 calories per cup of kiwi

Kiwifruit is one of nature’s perfect foods: low in calories, high in energy and an excellent source of antioxidants. Each one delivers a world of nutrition benefits, including:

  • Vitamin C: Each serving of kiwifruit has nearly two-and-a-half times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, proven to boost the immune system and fight the effects of stress and aging.
  • No fat: Kiwifruit is fat-free, an important consideration in today’s healthy diets and a rarity among foods containing so many other nutritional benefits.
  • Fiber: Two kiwifruit contain more fiber than a bowl of bran cereal, the tasty way to maintain heart health, regular digestion and lower cholesterol.
  • Potassium: A serving of California Kiwifruit has more potassium than a banana, ideal for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance and for releasing energy during exercise.
  • Antioxidants: Kiwifruit is an excellent source of antioxidants which are important in reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.
  • Low glycemic index: With a glycemic index of 52, kiwifruit is a fat-free, low-carb fruit that’s safe for diabetics and a smart part of any weight-loss diet.
  • Magnesium: Two kiwifruit deliver 30 mg of magnesium, which improves nerve and muscle function while boosting your energy level.
  • Lutein: Kiwifruit contains the phytochemical lutein, which works to prevent age-related blindness and protect eyes from various kinds of damage.
  • Folate: With nearly 10% of the recommended daily value of folate, kiwifruit is a good way to protect the health of mother and baby during pregnancy while helping prevent birth defects.
  • Zinc: Men will appreciate kiwifruit’s zinc content, which helps produce testosterone, while everyone can enjoy its other benefits like healthy hair, skin, teeth and nails.

Vitamin E: Kiwifruit is one just a handful of fat-free sources of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps lower cholesterol and boost immunity. (Info and photo:  Courtesy California Kiwifruit Commission)  

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 Today I’m baking oatmeal chocolate chips for the reception after the Historic Organ Recital at Prospect Park United Methodist (where I work as a choir director).  It’s 7:30 tonight, Friday, October 19.  See you there.  A favorite activity, I did it last week, too…

  •   a blog repeat, but fun:
    Saturday, I baked oatmeal chocolate chips for the authors in town for Opus and Olives, one of the premiere literary events in the Twin Cities held each fall  at the Crown Plaza Hotel in St. Paul. (Mark Shriver said he’d eaten his six all in a row; he’d had no food in hours while traveling!)  Dave and I also went the banquet and enjoyed a fine meal with great folks while we listened to the each author speak.  (My favorite was Cheryl Strayed, but then again, I adored her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.)

    Happy Tuck

    I also meet today for lunch with a wonderful editor/writer who I hope will be doing some editing on the book, 30 Soups in 30 Minutes.  This week– test on turnip soup (lovely–no details given away here) and lots of work in Microsoft Word, which isn’t nearly so fun as drumming up new soups in my kitchen.  Not sure we’ll be done with this little ditty by Christmas, but who knows?

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce

    Guinness Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar-Dill Biscuits or I’m So Full I Don’t Know Where I’m Going to Sleep Tonight

    Guinness Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar-Dill Biscuits or I’m So Full I Don’t Know Where I’m Going to Sleep Tonight

    Made in a deep, heavy 8 quart cast iron pot with a  lid  (Dutch oven)

    Last year around this time, I made a pot roast with big pieces of butternut squash and halved onions in the oven.  A day later I took the leftovers, including the gravy, and made stew.  Stew from leftovers is definitely an improvement over freshly made stew.   There’s a deeper, fuller, and more flavorful rich quality–without question.  It’s just that there’s usually less than when you make a fresh pot. That stew made very quickly with the addition of more onions, celery, and Guinness stout, etc., was divine.   I mean it, it was an incredible stew.

    No who knows totally why one time things are so scrumptious you want more and more — and another time (same ingredients and method apparently) it’s like, “This is ok. Yeah, we can eat dinner here.”  Perhaps it’s the quality of the meat (in the case of stew) or maybe it’s a little pixie dust.  Your taste buds might be on their “A” game so that you are able to season the pot in an extraordinary way.   Truly, I just don’t know.  I know when I’m tired — really exhausted– the meal prepared under those circumstances is plebian.  I just did that recently, so I know.  I know when I don’t give something my undivided attention that it’s bound to be less interesting.  (As in the kids are hungry-throw a bunch of cut-up chicken in the oven and make some rice for God’s sake.)

    Despite the fact that I make several pots of stew over the winter each year, I remembered that one.  I also remembered I was determined to recreate it from scratch if possible.  Hence this pot of stew that, by the end of the cooking, morphed into one big pot pie.

    Options:
    If you’d like stew only, add a cup or two more liquid, and skip the biscuits. I did not try it, but I’d guess it’s possible to make the stew all day in the crock-pot–cutting down the amount of herbs–, pour it into an oven-safe pot and bake with the biscuits right at dinner time.  Another option might be (again, I didn’t try this) to cool the stew and top it with puff pastry.  (If you put the puff pastry on hot stew, it’ll be melting.)  That might appeal to some cooks more than making biscuit dough.  Like Bisquick biscuits?  Go on; I won’t know, though I encourage you to learn to make biscuits.  I once knew a woman whose husband insisted he married her because she could make beaten biscuits in her sleep.

    Come cold, there’s little more satisfying than a pot of stew in the oven. (Play cards.  Listen to music.  Watch “Michael.”)  One of the interesting things about this stew is it’s made without potatoes though you could add some if you’d like.  I prefer root vegetables and stick with carrots, turnips, parsnips, as well as celery, onions, garlic, and butternut squash.   Serve this with another couple of cold Guinness stouts or a glass of your favorite Syrah or Côtes du Rhône if you’re not a dark beer person.  (You’ll still love the stew; I promise.) 

    Here’s how in a picture recipe (scroll down for separate ingredients list and biscuit recipe):

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  To an 8 qt Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons canola oil. When hot, add 2-3 pounds beef chuck (seasoned well with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper) cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces. Brown well in two batches, removing the first batch to a plate while you cook the second.

    To the second batch of browning beef, add 2 large chopped onions.  When beef is nearly brown, add four cloves chopped garlic.  Cook a minute, return first batch of beef to the pot, and stir in 3 tablespoons flour. Cook 2 minutes, stirring.

    Pour in 2 cups each beef broth and Guinness stout and stir well to scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pot. Add 1 bay leaf,  1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, a large sprig each of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage.* Stir in 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish or a good hard shake or two of Tabasco.
    Add 4 ounces quartered button mushrooms along with one each turnip and parsnip , 2 carrots, 2 stalks celery, and 1 cup of  butternut squash, all cut into around 1/2 inch pieces.
    Bring to a boil stirring occasionally.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Cover and bake in the oven 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until beef and vegetables are tender and sauce is thickened. 

     Remove from oven and take out the fresh herb sprigs.^ If stew is very, very thick, add a little water or broth.  Biscuits will soak up a lot of the liquid.
    Meanwhile, make cheddar-dill biscuit dough. It’s a very wet dough.  (See below for recipe.)
    Spoon biscuit dough (I used a wooden spoon) onto the top of the cooked stew. Brush biscuits with a tablespoon of melted butter. Biscuits will rise and expand to nearly cover top of pie. 
    Return to oven and bake uncovered another 20-30 minutes until biscuits are golden brown.

    Serve hot with a crisp green salad.  Store leftovers well covered in frig 2-3 days.  Rewarm in another casserole in oven.

    Serves 6

    Ingredients List:  2-3 pounds beef chuck roast cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch pieces; salt and pepper; 2 large onions; 4 cloves garlic; 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour; 2 cups each beef broth and Guinness stout**; 4 ounces button mushrooms; one each turnip and parsnip; 2 carrots; 1 cup cut butternut squash; 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 bay leaf, and 1 sprig each rosemary, thyme, and sage*; 1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish or Tabasco.

    *You may substitute two teaspoons each dried rosemary (crumbled) and thyme with 1/2 teaspoon ground sage.

    **If you don’t want to use beer, use all beef broth.

    ^ Leave in bay leaf.  Whoever gets it has good luck!

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    Cheddar Dill Biscuits for Pot Pie:

    • 2 cups unbleached white flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 2 teaspoons dried dill
    • 1/2 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter, diced–plus 1 more tablespoon, melted for tops of biscuits
    • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1 cup milk

    Stir together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add cold butter and using a pastry blender or two knives (you can use just your fingers or even do the whole thing in a food processor), cut in the butter until the butter is mostly blended and the mixture appears sandy.  Stir in cheese.  Pour in milk and mix well without over-mixing.  (Using a large spoon, divide dough fairly evenly around the top of the pot pie and brush with the tablespoon of melted butter before baking.)

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    two-dog kitchen and around the ‘hood
    It’s my Mom’s birthday today…Lovely to remember her on her special day.  She crossed the river in  ’85. One of my mom’s many good lines was, “I’m so full I don’t know where I’m going to sleep tonight.” 

    I often think of her in view the Hopi poem I heard again yesterday at the funeral of a fine, fine man… 

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow.
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet white doves in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry;
    I am not there, I did not die.
     

    In the house and yard this week….. 

    I’ve re-worked and re-photographed one of the favorite recipes on both blogs–Cherry Tomato Chicken Pasta with Basil.  Updated version coming soon to a blog near you.

    The 30 Second and No Pan to Wash Egg on Dinner Place (Cooking for One)–my other blog.
    Miss Gab loves to stay under the piano–whether I’m working there or not.

    Tuck ready for HIS close-up

    The last roses of summer from my huge, old fashioned bush.  I brought them in as buds over a week ago!
    Saturday, I baked oatmeal chocolate chips for the authors in town for Opus and Olives, one of the premiere literary events in the Twin Cities held each fall  at the Crown Plaza Hotel in St. Paul. (Mark Shriver said he’d eaten his six all in a row; he’d had no food in hours while traveling!)  Dave and I also went the banquet and enjoyed a fine meal with great folks while we listened to the each author speak.  (My favorite was Cheryl Strayed, but then again, I adored her book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.)

    Meantime,  we have lots of ripe cherry tomatoes from the garden to eat and…

    more ripening!  (It’s October 17…)

     And, because it’s October, I’m listening to the choir’s Christmas cantata (or playing it at the piano) every day.  This year, it’s By Heaven’s Light by Allen Pote.  For fun, it’s even on youtube, though it’s in six (I think!) different segments.

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce

    38 Power Foods, Week 18 — Citrus — Step-by-Step Pear or Apple Crostata (Pie 101)

    38 Power Foods, Week 18 — Citrus — Step-by-Step Pear or Apple Crostata (Pie 101)

    Scroll down for recipe.

    Come fall, I make crostatas regularly.  They’re beautiful, terribly good to eat, and generally make folks quite happy.  A free-form fruit pie (often made with homemade jam in Italy), they’re easier to make than traditional American pie and are show-stoppers when you have friends to dinner.  I’ve blogged the crostatas before, and have taught them several times for the Italian classes I’ve done at home.  But I didn’t think of them in terms of citrus until our Power Foods list came up this week.  While citrus (lemon particularly) is a huge part of my cooking, I think about it less in terms of baking.   

      For instance:  I rarely make a green salad without squeezing a lemon over it.  Either I have lemon and oil, lemon alone, or lemon before a vinaigrette.  Whatever choice I make, lemon, as an acid, is always followed by salt and pepper on my salads because salt dissolves best in acid.  For that reason, if I’m making a vinaigrette, I always put the salt in the acid — whether citrus or vinegar– before adding the oil. 


      Secondly, there’s little to perk up a piece of chicken, a steak, or a lamb chop like a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Of course you like lemon on fish, right?  Why not red meat or poultry?

    Another thing: I love lemon juice in chili.  I stuff my roasting chicken with big pieces of orange and a cut-up onion or sometimes roast a lemon in the bottom of the pan for the sauce.  I use one citrus or another to keep my cut fruit from browning.  There are so many ways I use citrus, I can’t count or write them.  I buy lemons by the bagful, but rarely go to the store without also buying limes.  Because I don’t eat oranges or grapefruit for breakfast, I buy those only when I’m cooking or baking with them.

    These fresh fruit fall crostatas, too, would be very much less without the citrus.  I make several kinds of crostatas, but these two, apple and pear, have orange and lemon zest respectively.  You could switch them out and use orange with the pear and lemon with the apple; I’m sure it would be lovely.

    Citrus is, of course, loaded with vitamin C,  provides fiber, folate, lycopene, potassium and other vitamins and minerals.   (More below.)  Yes, it’s great food…  But for me…it’s all about the flavor when I use it for cooking.

    A picture story…followed by the recipe.  Bake peace!
                            (Interested in traditional pie?  Read my PIE 101 post here.)

    First, the apple version:

    Option a (below) for moving pastry from board/counter to the baking sheet

    Apple close-up–ready to eat!

     
    Option b (below) for moving pastry from board/counter to baking sheet

    And, then the pear photos:


    Baked pear crostata close-up; I liked the pear best.
    The pastry recipe for this comes from Ina Garten, who, I am pretty sure got it from  Joanne Killeen and George Germon in CUCINA SIMPATICA; ROBUST TRATTORIA COOKING and maybe a few other places!  Just a little detective work of mine.  Despite the provenance, it’s a tasty tidbit for fall when the fall fruit is divine   As neither one of them made pear, I feel I’ve contributed to the development of the recipe and hopefully to the happiness of your tummies.  This is tres easy, and if you’re afraid of pastry, this is a great start.  There’s no form-fitting into pie pans or making a crust look “P” for perfect.  This is a free-form, rustic pie baked on parchment paper on a baking sheet.  If it spills over or runs through, it’s just crusty-gooey and even better.  Don’t hesitate.  Pretty for Thanksgiving, too.  Oh, in France, this is a galette.
     
     Here’s how I did it:
    Here is the apple at left and the pear at right.

    

    LEMON SCENTED PEAR-ALMOND CROSTATA
    4 large or 6 regular servings for each crostata
    Parchment paper needed for baking
    pastry:  (makes 2-freeze one for later or make 2)
    • 2 c white, unbleached flour
    • 1/4 c granulated sugar
    • 1/2 t kosher salt
    • 1/2# (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 1/4 c ice water

    In the food processor, fitted with the knife blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture is the size of peas.  Slowly add iced water through the feed tube until dough begins to come together. 

    Remove carefully from processor and divide in half.  Press each into a disc.  Wrap one in foil and freeze it.  Refrigerate the other for an hour is best, but you can roll it right away if you must.  Dust the counter very well indeed with flour and roll the disc, using a rolling pin, into an 11″ circle. 

    Place on parchment lined baking sheet until you have the fruit ready.  (Check out the pics above where I give you two options for getting the pastry from the counter to the pans.)  You can  a. fold it up gently and  quick like a bunny pick it up, and centering it over the baking sheet, place it carefully down and unfold it or, b. loosely roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and move the rolling pin over above the baking sheet, lowering it and loosening the pastry down flat onto the pan.   

    This is not easy to describe; I apologize for lack of prowess as a technical writer!

    Filling
    1-11/4# pears (Seckel or Bosc or a mixture), peeled, cored and cut into 1″ chunks
    1-2t grated lemon rind
    1/4 c sliced almonds
    1/4 c ea flour and sugar
    1/4 t kosher salt
    1/4 t cinnamon
    4T unsalted butter
    Preheat oven to 450 and place rack at center.

    In a large bowl, mix cut-up pears with lemon rind and most of the almonds, reserving 1T or so for the top of the crostata.
     In the food processor, make a crumb topping for the crostata by pulsing together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter until crumbly.  Remove the blade from the processor bowl, and, using fingers, pinch together the crumbs until they hold together.  
    Place pear-lemon mixture onto the pastry, leaving 1 1/2 inches around the edges.  Crumble topping on the pears evenly and sprinkle with the last of the almonds.  Fold the edges of the pastry up and over the fruit, gently pleating the dough at the corners.  You’ll be leaving most of the fruit covered by only the crumbly topping; the pastry just comes up around the edges of this pie.
    Place baking sheet in oven and bake 25-30 minutes (use the longer time above 5,000 feet) until golden brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before sliding pie off the paper onto wire rack to cool completely.
    Will hold at room temperature a day or so and in the refrigerator for several days, though it is best fresh.
    Note:  If you’d like to make an apple crostata with the other crust, it’s made almost like the above pie, but you’ll need 1 1/2 # (3-4 large Granny Smith) apples, 1 t orange peel and no nuts unless you choose to add some one your own.  If you do, toasted walnuts might be best.  This is Ina’s method!
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    More info on citrus nutrition HERE.
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    I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about tasty citrus this week at these sites: 

     
    Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
    Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

    Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
    .
    Want to join us?  We’d like to have you as part of the group.  Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce
    Pear-Grilled Fig Salad with Goat Cheese

    Pear-Grilled Fig Salad with Goat Cheese

     There are moments when I’m aware enough of the blessed goodness in my life.  Maybe.  I know not everyone has a counter full of butternut squash, apples, onions, shallots, garlic, hundreds (literally) of tiny green and red tomatoes, and Bosc pears.  I know not everyone has a warm snug lying next to them come the cold, dark morning.  Or a reason to get up and do something with the bounty in the kitchen downstairs.  I probably don’t truly understand it, but I get it.  My life hasn’t been all rose teacups and long walks along the river with the dogs.

    This morning I read a post on a blog I follow (there’s a link in my blogroll at right, too).

    leave it where jesus flang it

    Margaret writes daily there.   It’s a prayer journal of sorts.  She’s an Episcopal priest on an Indian reservation in South Dakota and life’s hard there.  The loss and the poorness and the hurt are hardscabble painful and it’s her job to keep showing up for the difficult moments and beyond.  Today she writes about people nearby whose babies have just died…  And (having had babies who died) I understand where this is and where it goes.  What I am drawn to these many years later is twofold:

    1. why…if we need each other so very badly through the crazy, hilarious, dipping, winding, bottoming-out life trek, and if church is meant to provide that for us…why are so many of us no longer part of that community?   Or, if we are a part, are those communities truly sustaining us? and 2.  a bursting grateful noise for all I have and all those who have loved me through the nearly killing losses.   I come back to the idea that to begin with thanksgiving is a perfect way to pray/live and I have to learn it all over again, all over again, all over again.   Even if God isn’t a welcomed presence in your life, I think the settling of near-constant thanksgiving in our bodies is a positive way to breathe on earth.

    Ok, well, yup———-

    and……truly:

    I’m grateful  to share a beautiful fall salad with you…speaking of that.  I often cook on the “Meatless Monday” protocol because it’s healthy and it makes sense to me.  It’s also a way to make me concentrate on most of the food on earth and, well, most of it isn’t meat.

    I spent yesterday late afternoon re-testing a soup for my book (Roasted Vegetable Soup with Sage) and as I got the soup nearly finished thought to make a little salad out of what I had.

    Which was beautiful Bosc pears, goat cheese leftover from a dinner for friends last Friday night (I grilled figs and filled them with goat cheese, a drizzle of honey, fresh thyme and black pepper), and some arugula.  Sigh.  Here’s how:

    pear – grilled fig salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and arugula

    serves 2 -3

    • 3 cups arugula
    • 2 ripe Bosc pear, cored and sliced (don’t peel)
    • 2 ounces crumbled Goat cheese (leave out for vegan option)
    • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (just put them in a small dry skillet for a few min.)
    • 4 fresh figs cut in half and briefly grilled* (or 4 chopped dried figs)
    • Juice of half an orange
    • 1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon walnut oil
    • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 

    In a medium shallow bowl, place arugula and top with pears and goat cheese.  Scatter walnuts around the edges of the salad and add the figs at even intervals.  Drizzle all with the juice, vinegar, and oil.  Sprinkle evenly with a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Place bowl on table to admire your handiwork before tossing.  Serve at room temperature.  (If you need to make this ahead and refrigerate, you’ll want to add the pears–which would brown otherwise– and the dressing at the last minute.  It’ll taste fine cold.)

    *To grill fresh figs:  Lightly brush a grill, grill pan, or small skillet with a bit of olive oil.  Trim stems from figs and slice in half.  Place figs cut side down in pan and grill over medium heat just a couple of minutes.  Turn and grill on the other side.  Note:  How long you grill these will depend on how ripe they are.  The riper, the less grilling–   If terribly ripe, don’t grill at all.

    I ponder here at the idea of saying “grace.”  I think grace is a difficult word to define and how it is we come to SAY it, I don’t know.  We also “say a blessing.”  Or “give thanks.”  Or “bless the food.”  Someone, somewhere I was, said a blessing I can’t forget the gist of, but can’t recall the exact words.  The idea was to be grateful for the food and for the nourishment to enable us to feed those without.
    I’ll think about it.  (If you know that blessing, leave it in a comment.)

    A thought:  the blessing is also a moment to breathe in an otherwise complicated, swiftly flowing existence.  To pray and– to eat– in the moment.  To be truly awake and aware of what’s before us and what will sustain us.  To be grateful for loving, preparing hands, the instinct to love,  the time to eat, and for the abundance.

    Phew.  My blog is different today.  Beautiful fall winds and smiles to you,
    Alyce

    P.S. COMING TO A CHURCH NEAR YOU!  (MAYBE)  I think I forgot to share that our daughter  Emily is officially ready to receive a call from the Presbyterian Church, USA.  After over three years in seminary, she preached to the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (maybe I got that right) last Monday and they pronounced her READY. 

    Speaking of being grateful
    38 Power Foods, Week 17 — Berries — Fresh Berry Cake

    38 Power Foods, Week 17 — Berries — Fresh Berry Cake

    Just looking at this cake will tell you that it’s not difficult to make and it’s NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don’t let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don’t take long.  In fact, though it’s two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it’s cool, you cut it in half.

    But listen, if you’re not a baker, this is just the cake for you… because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers–maybe three?–and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for Easter, Mother’s Day, or the Memorial Day picnic.  (Assemble this cake where you’re serving it.)  If you don’t have a special cake plate, don’t worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will, see a funky antique shop or a garage sale,  keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

    Another idea comes from my mother-in-law, who, when I was  a young wife, often made a similar cake using a homemade or store bought angel food cake.  To cut calories, she used Cool Whip, but I can’t go that far.   If I’m eating cake I want to eat cake.  Let them eat cake!  But if you really must cut the whipped cream for health or allergy reasons, try the Cool Whip version.
    Cook’s Note:  While October isn’t prime berry time (there are still a few blueberries coming from upper Michigan and Canada), I made this earlier in the year and knew it would be perfect for the Power Foods Berry Post.  Save the recipe for next spring if you’d like to try it with all fresh berries.
    I made this for Mother’s Day and took it to a friend’s.  We all had a tiny slice with a huge cup of coffee. 

     Easy Berry Butter Cake (Aida Mollenkamp–courtesy Food Network)

    Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins, plus cooling time | Active Time: 25 mins | Makes:8 to 10 servings

    • For the cake:*

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan

    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

    • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

    • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for coating the pan

    • 1 cup granulated sugar

    • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

    • 1/2 cup whole milk

    *Or use a purchased cake like Sara Lee Pound Cake

    • For the filling:

    • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

    • 1 cup heavy cream

    • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

      To assemble:

      • 1 1/2 pounds mixed berries*, washed (if you’re using *strawberries, they’ll also need to be hulled and quartered)  You might not need quite this many berries; mine didn’t fit on the cake. 
      •  
      INSTRUCTIONS
      For the cake:
      1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and flour, tap out the excess flour, and set the pan aside. Combine measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined; set aside.
      2. Place measured butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in color and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in color and the texture of wet sand, about 3 minutes more.
      3. Add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, then add milk and continue mixing until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, about 2 minutes more.
      1. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and turn out onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling.
      For the filling:
      Place mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream, sugar, and almond extract, increase speed to medium high, and whip until ingredients are combined and firm peaks form, about 15 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
      To assemble: *

      1. Slice cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Divide filling evenly between the cut side and the top of the cake. Divide berries evenly over the filling. Stack cakes on top of each other and serve.

       

      If using a purchased cake like frozen Sara Lee pound cake, you might want to slice it (into thirds, perhaps) while it’s still partially frozen.  (Recipe first posted in May of 2012)
       

      Note:  I’ll share with you that whenever I’ve made a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp, it’s been incredible.  I don’t see her on Food Network anymore; is she still on?  But she does have a lot of recipes.  One that immediately comes to mind is her lasagna. Can’t make that very often.
       

       I like berries because of all the things they can do for us…provide tons of vitamins, fiber, antioxidants,  memory ability boosters, and more…  But I also love them because they’re gorgeous, inexpensive (relatively),  taste incredibly good, and are low in calories.  Many of them are also easy to grow at home.  And while we’re out of berry season in most places in the country, I just got a couple of pints of Michigan blueberries much like the tiny wild Maine berries that are often lusciously sweet-tart and make such great pancakes and muffins.  For more on berries and why we should eat them, click here. 
        ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
       I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about beautiful berries this week at these sites: 
      Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
      Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

      Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
      .
      Want to join us?  We’d like to have you as part of the group.  Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com


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      Need some fall love?
      Try reading this week on my Dinner Place blog (Cooking for One):
      Sing a new song,
      Alyce
      P.S.  Fellow blogger @donteatalone.blogspot.com,  Milton Brasher-Cunningham, has just published a book you might be interested in:
      Check it out!

       

    Salmon on Kale with Lemon and Thyme–One-Pan Dinner

    Salmon on Kale with Lemon and Thyme–One-Pan Dinner

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     I’m a firm fan of the frozen salmon that comes in the individual or duo vacuum pack.  It’s delicious, less expensive than fresh, and sometimes fresher than the fish in the seafood case.  I’ve been buying packages  all summer long at a price of about $4 and change per approximately 6 oz. serving.  (This is a quote from my blog, DINNER PLACE– THE SOLO COOK.)

    What I didn’t say was that I’ve been shopping at Whole Foods for this fish.  And it. is. lovely. While we’ve been taught to beware of frozen fish, places like Whole Foods (or mail order Alaskan salmon companies) truly have incredible frozen fish.  That information comes straight from one of their fishmongers.

    This is a fun one-pan meal.  You cook up some onions, garlic, and kale with lemon and white wine…top with salmon, put a lid on it and call it dinner.

    Just for grins, read through this method before cooking. I don’t think you’ll need to refer back every other blink to the “recipe.”

    Try it:

    salmon on kale with lemon and thyme  serves 2

    Heat a 12-inch, deep skillet over medium high heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a chopped large onion and sauté  for about 5 minutes with 1 /8 teaspoon crushed red pepper.  Add 2 cloves minced garlic and cook another minute. Season with a pinch each of kosher salt and pepper and a teaspoon of fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme), chopped.  Stir.

    Add 5 ounces chopped kale (2-3 cups) and let cook down, stirring occasionally, 2-3 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, the juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup white wine, and season liberally with kosher salt and pepper.

    Add 2 salted and peppered salmon filets (about 6 ounces each) skin down.   Reduce heat to low.   Cover and steam about six minutes or until salmon is just barely firm, but still moist at center.

     

    Spoon greens out onto a plate and top with salmon.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

     

    Wine:  My friends, if you drink wine:  please buy yourself a case of Sineann  (Oregon) Red Table Wine ….  and have them ship it to your house.  Not only do you not need a wine opener (German-style glass topper you  open with your fingers), you have a lovely dinner wine for less money than many of the less expensive Pinot Noirs (not worth buying) in the stores.    Make the plunge.  Order yourself some wine.  Of course, Sineann makes some of my favorite Oregon Pinot Noirs (and a few other things)…at a bit steeper price…and they need a little (not a lot) cellaring.  The red table wine, on the other hand, is imminently drinkable.  Sineann makes a variety of wines that are all nearly perfect, but I must mention they also do a white table wine…I  have a case of that arriving Tuesday.  Winters are long in St. Paul.  Not that I’d know since it’s still seventy something  *$%&## degrees and dry as a bone out in my yard.  I may have wine, but my lilacs are almost dead.

    Sing a new song,
    Alyce