Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cherry Pistachio Skillet Cake

I used to bake a lot of loaf cakes, but now I am in the skillet cake phase.

My cast iron baby is seasoned just right (finally).

I have a 12" one for savory dishes, like chicken or meat, and another 10" skillet for just cakes.
I don't want to intermingle the flavors.

We all know by now my hatred of pitting cherries.
I have tried the paperclip trick (lame), the straw trick (a little better), but in the end, I always go back to my cherry pitter from Italy.
It's a messy job, but if you want a cherry dessert, someone's got to do it.

Here, I made a simple batter and added chopped pistachios to the ripe pitted cherries.

Don't be fooled by the lack of curb appeal here, this is a top 10 delicious cake.
So good.

Use as many cherries as you like, there are no rules.

Cherry Pistachio Skillet Cake:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for pie plate
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk mixed w/ a tsp of lemon juice)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 pound cherries, pitted
chopped pistachios and turbinado sugar for the top

Preheat oven to 350F and butter a 10" cast iron skillet (or pie plate works too).

Cream together the butter, extract, lemon zest, sugar and egg until nice and light.

Mix in the flour, salt, baking powder and almond flour.

Pour in buttermilk and mix together. You will have a nice, fluffy cake batter.

With a silicone spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and dot with the cherries and pistachios, pressing the fruit and nuts into the batter w/ the spatula.

Sprinkle the top w/ the raw sugar and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes (my cake was done in 40 minutes).

The fruit will sink to the bottom, but it's ok, you will be rewarded w/ the cherries when you cut into a slice.

Serve w/ vanilla ice cream.

Oh yum.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chocolate Cherry Brownies

These are the best brownies I have made to date.

This is cherry recipe number 2 this week, cause it's a week of cherries.
They are ripe and wonderful now.....use what is in season.

By all means, if you have a brownie recipe that you love, then just plop halved cherries into the batter before baking.

These are chewy and gooey and that cherry flavor w/ the chocolate takes these to a new level.

Chocolate Cherry Brownies:

1/2 cup cocoa (I use Hershey's)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup chopped pistachios (save some for the top)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
pinch of salt
ripe, sweet cherries, halved for the top (as many as you like)

Heat oven to 325F degrees.

Melt butter in saucepan with cocoa and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla and almond extract.

In a separate bowl, combine sugar, flour, nuts (if using) and salt. Add to the cocoa-butter mixture. Stir until just combined.

Pour into a greased or parchment lined 8 x 8-inch-square pan. Dot the top of the batter w/ the cherry halves, pressing into the batter.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Do not overbake, the brownies should be gooey.

Tomorrow, it's cherry skillet make sure you buy a double batch of cherries!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ricotta Crostini w/ Cherry Salsa

If you are lucky enough to find really good, ripe sweet cherries, then make this salsa.

Also, bake the cake I am posting tomorrow and the brownies I am posting the next day.

It's a week of cherries! So go with it!

I only cook with what is in season, so this week it is wonderful NY State cherries.

This cherry salsa was great on crostini with fresh ricotta, but it would also be good on pork tenderloin.
Make sure your cherries are super ripe and SWEET!

Cherry Salsa:

pitted ripe cherries, cut into thirds
a bunch of scallions, white parts too, sliced
pinch of sea salt & pepper
lemon zest
splash of balsamic vinegar

fresh ricotta
honey to drizzle

Mix up the cherry salsa and let macerate for a little while on the counter at room temperature.

Spread your toasts w/ fresh ricotta and spoon on salsa just before serving.

Drizzle w/ honey and enjoy!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Melissa Clark's Vietnamese Chicken

It's time to get your grilling on.

I have been cooking my way thru Dinner Changing the Game by Melissa Clark.
The recipes have all been pretty simple and delicious.

Here, it's about the marinade.....Ms. Clark puts the thighs under the broiler, but Ms. Snacks put her thighs on the grill.

I line the grill with heavy duty foil and grill the chicken thighs for about 25 minutes, turning one time.
They come out perfect every time, and you just roll up the foil and toss cleaning the grill.

The original recipe includes grilled eggplants, which I can only imagine making the dish even better, but the husband hates eggplants. boo hoo for me.

Make this for 4th of July.......we loved it over rice.


Here's how:

2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 scallion, white and light green part only, thinly sliced
4 Asian eggplants, halved lengthwise (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6-8 boneless chicken thighs

Light a grill or preheat the broiler.

Brush the eggplants (if using) with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Stir the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil into the remaining garlic-lime mixture and spread it all over the chicken. I let the thighs marinate for the day in the fridge.

Grill or broil the chicken and eggplants, turning once, until cooked through, about 5 minutes for the eggplants and 12 minutes for the chicken.

Transfer to a platter and serve over rice. I sprinkled some sesame seeds on top.

Really delicious!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Blueberry Coconut Skillet Cake

It's that time of year again....blueberries are here!

Not from a foreign land, but from New Jersey. They taste so much better when you pick them yourself.

To kick off the season, I created this terrific blueberry skillet cake with coconut.
My husband is a coconut lover, but if yours is not, just omit it. It makes a nice crunchy top and adds something special to an already delicious cake.

Let the blueberry baking begin!

Blueberry Coconut Skillet Cake:

8 tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
zest of a lemon
2 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1 tbsp vanilla
2/3 cup of coconut (I use Trader Joe's sweetened coconut, it is not as sweet as the stuff in the blue bag)
2 tbsp cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 cups of blueberries
extra coconut and turbinado sugar for the top

Butter a 10" cast iron skillet.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix the butter with sugar, lemon zest, eggs, and vanilla. Add in the coconut and milk.

Add in the dry ingredients and stir in the berries.

Pour into the prepared skillet and top with extra blueberries and sprinkle some coconut on top.
Add some turbinado sugar to the top for a bit of crunch.

Bake 35 minutes.

Delicious! Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Roasted Carrots w/ Feta, Walnuts & Dill

I go thru phases with vegetables....I used to profess that cauliflower was my first love, then Brussels sprouts became all the rage and stole my heart.

But I really always go back to the carrot.
Carrots are always available, and seem to never disappoint.

Old school.

I love peeling carrots, the smell is so spicy, and it is one of the only vegetables I love raw.

I have tons of dill plants going crazy right now in my herb garden, so this just seems like the right pairing for the roasted carrots.

But this would make a delicious Thanksgiving side dish (thinking way ahead), because you can prepare it ahead and serve it room temp.
If you don't have pomegranate molasses, then by all means, use balsamic vinegar instead.

This is SO good.

Roasted Carrots w/ Feta, Walnuts & Dill (adapted from Dinner Changing the Game)

a bunch of carrots, peeled and trimmed as you like
olive oil
kosher salt
1/4 cup of toasted walnuts
feta cheese
fresh dill for garnish
pomegranate molasses (found in Middle Eastern stores)

Lay the carrots on a baking sheet and drizzle w/ olive oil and sprinkle w/ kosher salt.

Roast at 425F for about 25 minutes, turning one time.

Upon taking the pan out of the oven, splash some pomegranate molasses (about 2 tsp) over the hot carrots. You can also use balsamic vinegar.

Transfer to a platter and garnish w/ the toasted walnuts, feta cheese and fresh dill.

Serve immediately.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Purple Potatoes w/ Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Roasting vegetables brings out the sweetness in their flavor.
A little kosher salt and olive oil and a side dish is born.

Here, I just roasted some pretty purple potatoes w/ cauliflower florets.

I added fresh sage from the garden and made a mustard vinaigrette to finish it off. And of course, added in pickled red onions, cause they are the icing on every salad.

Cut up some cauliflower and purple potatoes and lay on a baking sheet. Toss w/ fresh sage leaves.
Drizzle w/ olive oil and kosher salt.

Roast in a 425F oven for about 25 minutes, turning one time until veggies are browning.

Make the vinaigrette:

1 tbsp grainy French mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp white wine or white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
handful of chopped chives or scallions

Cook vegetables then add to a platter......pour vinaigrette over warm potatoes and cauliflower.

Garnish w/ pickled onions and fresh sage. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chocolate Coconut Muffins

One would think chocolate with coconut a strange combination, but trust me, it is not.

They compliment each other so nicely.

I found this easy recipe on Serious Eats after craving chocolate and chocolate, and couldn't decide which to bake together it would be.

These were SO GOOD!

This recipe makes 10 normal size muffins.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Muffins: (adapted from Serious Eats)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup shredded coconut, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375F. In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, 1/2 cup shredded coconut and sugar and mix until combined then toss chocolate with dry ingredients until evenly distributed.

In a separate bowl combine melted butter, milk, egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, mixing until just combined (some lumps are ok).

Line muffin tin with 10 liners then divide batter between lined cups. Sprinkle each muffin with remaining shredded coconut and bake until muffins are puffed and coconut is brown, about 25 minutes. My coconut burned a little bit, but no big deal.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before eating.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blossom Butter

Compound butters are wonderful to have on hand and are so simple to make.

When I first started cooking, I used ginger preserves and lime zest mixed with sweet butter to make the most impressive topping for grilled salmon and grilled corn! (I forgot about that recipe until now).

My chives are in full bloom right now and I like to make chive blossom vinegar, but what else to do with them?
How about a butter? Using edible flowers and herbs from the garden.

This is David Tanis' recipe and it was lovely on grilled salmon.

Blossom Butter (adapted from the NYT):

1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
2 teaspoons thinly sliced chives
1 chive blossom, pulled apart into tiny florets
2 teaspoons chopped dill
1 teaspoon thyme blossoms, roughly chopped or crumbled (or use chopped thyme leaves)
1 tablespoon mustard blossoms, snipped from flowering mustard greens (optional)
1 teaspoon whole-grain French mustard
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Put butter in a bowl. Add chives, chive blossoms, dill, thyme blossoms, mustard blossoms if using, whole-grain mustard, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Add a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix well with a fork until well combined. With wet hands, form butter into a log shape, then wrap in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill.

Bring to cool room temperature to serve.

This is great on fish and also nice with radishes on crackers!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Roasted Beets w/ Burrata & Mint Pistachio Pesto

Beets, I love you so.

I am always happy when I find yellow beets at the supermarket.
(Remember to roast them separate from the red ones, or you will have pink beets, the red ones bleed into everything).

This salad is just a bunch of layering.....some beautiful, sweet roasted beets with creamy burrata (I LOVE it), some greens and stuff from my garden.

The dressing?
This wonderful pistachio mint pesto, which is my new obsession. It's a nice alternative to basil pine nut pesto, and I always have so much mint growing in my garden.

No cheese in this pesto, so it's great with steak tacos (think gremolata). We also loved it on tortellini w/ peas.

Mint Pistachio Pesto: (adapted from Food52)

1 cup of mint leaves
1 garlic clove, (I use a microplane to shave the garlic)
1/3 of shelled pistachios
1/2 tsp salt
lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice (lime juice is also good)
1/4 cup of olive oil

Whiz all ingredients together in a food processor. Cover and store in the fridge.
Will keep about a week.

Roast beets at 400F for an hour, covered in foil.
When cool enough to handle, peel the beets, the skins will slip right off. Store for use in salads all week.

Slice and arrange w/ the burrata cheese and some greens and drizzle with some of the mint pesto.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Blueberry Dutch Baby

I love saying the word "Dutch Baby". It's funny to me.

I was served this large pancake at a bed & breakfast many years ago and was hooked.
It's a great way to serve a big crepe like pancake to a crowd.

This large funny pancake get lots of oohs and ahs when the come out of the oven, all puffed up and cocky, but then deflates, so take your photos quickly. :(

I have made a savory version and one with apples (my favorite).

Here, I whisked up the batter the night before, so all I had to do in the a.m. was preheat the oven.

I used some nice Florida blueberries and sprinkled with powdered sugar.


Blueberry Dutch Baby:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
2 tbsp sugar
pinch of ground nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven 425F.

Whisk the first 6 ingredients to make a batter (you can do this the night before and keep covered in the fridge).
Don't worry if the batter is lumpy (I'm a bit lumpy lately too).

Heat the 3 tbsp of butter in a cast iron skillet on medium heat until sizzling (must use cast's a science thing).

Pour the batter into the melted butter and top with blueberries (wild ones are the best).

Place skillet on the lower rack of oven.

Bake 16-18 minutes until puffed and golden.

Sprinkle w/ powdered sugar and quickly take your photographs! Hurry!

Serve w/ maple syrup and devour immediately.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Roasted Carrots w/ Rosemary Granola & Smoked Yogurt

I found these gorgeous heirloom carrots at the Farmer's Market (probably harvested and stored over the winter). They were $5. for a big bunch and I love a bargain.

I could have just roasted them along side my chicken, but why do that when I can be a madwoman and make other delicious things to go with them.
Don't want to ever be boring.

I am hooked on making stovetop granola these days. Ask any neighbor, it is always on my counter ready to snack on.
It takes 5 minutes to put together and lasts all week (unless you have a husband and kids).

Here, I made a savory granola, instead of breadcrumbs to top on salads and roasted vegetables!
A great alternative to croutons too.

Here's how:

Savory Rosemary Granola:

2 cups organic oats
3 tbsp maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or almonds
handful of raisins (optional)
a sprig of rosemary
1 tbsp coconut oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cumin

Heat oats in a nonstick skillet for about 2 minutes until starting to toast and turn golden.

Add in coconut oil, rosemary and nuts (careful not to burn the nuts). Add in spices and cook about 2 more minutes. Throw in raisins, if using.

Add in syrup or honey and boil the mixture, it should become a bit sticky.

Flatten out on a parchment lined baking sheet and let cool. Store in glass jar until ready to use.

Smoked Yogurt:

small container of Fage plain Greek yogurt mixed w/ 1 tbsp pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika).

Carrots with Honey Butter:

heirloom rainbow carrots, trimmed and cut into pieces
olive oil
kosher salt

Toss the carrots w/ the kosher salt & olive oil. Roast in a 425F oven for 25 minutes, turning once time so all sides get browned.

Microwave 2 tbsp of butter w/ 1 tbsp of honey and immediately pour over the hot roasted carrots.

Spoon some of the smoked yogurt on a platter and plate with the carrots on top.

Sprinkle the savory granola over the platter.

Garnish w/ fresh rosemary.

Dare to be different. I have always been.

This was so delicious.