Tuesday, June 24, 2008

TWD: Mixed Berry Cobbler

For years, I never knew there was a difference between a crisp and a cobbler. As a matter of fact, I wasn't aware of the difference until this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe came out. Let it be known, there is definitely a difference.
Now, I'm not necessarily saying that a cobbler is fussy. But, I will say that cobbler is far more fussy than a crisp. A crisp is a 10-minute affair. You can chop the fruit, toss together the topping, and have it ready to bake before the oven is even preheated. Not so with a cobbler, which requires making a dough similar to a pie crust.

The end result was excellent, so I'm not complaining. The frozen mixed berries worked perfectly, and didn't require chopping, etc. The topping was crisp and crunchy, and just right under the mushy berries and melting vanilla ice cream. If I had to change anything at all, it would be the fruit. I have an aversion to anything that tastes too much like artificial raspberry flavoring--a lasting result of having Lyme disease at nine years old, and having to take a raspberry-flavored medicine that made me feel seasick all summer. The combination of the raspberries (which I have no trouble eating fresh) with the sugar and cornstarch came a little too close to hitting that old gag point. Next time, I might stick to blueberries and strawberries. Or, maybe take Dorie's suggestion in "playing around," and try it with apples and maple syrup. Yum!

Another note--you can ignore Dorie's pleas to eat this the day it is made. We did, of course. But, as a two-person household, we weren't about to finish it in one night. Unrefrigerated, it kept quite nicely and was very satisfying today. So, rest assured, if you do not finish it in one sitting, it will keep just fine overnight.

Overall, this was a great recipe. I'm definitely looking forward to using it for the base for many future variations.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

TWD: La Palette Strawberry Tart

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge was for a strawberry tart. It was an odd recipe for me, in that it was hardly a recipe in all. Instead, it was more, make a pie crust, put some jam and fruit on it, and serve, with something creamy on top. Easy enough.

The hard part was the strawberries. You see, I'm a bit of a stickler for the local/in season thing. I know that, for most places on the East Coast, this was a seasonal recipe. But, up in New Hampshire, strawberry season has not yet sprung.

So, I sat with my conscience to figure out how and if I could do this recipe. On Sunday, I determined that I could--I would just go to the local farm stand, which would have gotten the strawberries as locally as possible (they have sister farms throughout the East Coast). I resolved to start the crust when I realized that I was out of powdered sugar.

I went to the supermarket to fulfill my powdered sugar need (and, in the meantime, restock my butter supply, which it seems TWD quickly depletes). The heat got the better of me. It went from 60 degrees on Friday to 95 on Saturday, and it maintains, still today. At the supermarket, I got to thinking "do I really want to go all the way to the farm stand in this heat? Nah. Better to pick up the strawberries now, while I'm here." So, I did. My good, usually localvore self, bought California strawberries at a huge chain supermarket. Shame on me.

And, honestly, my dessert showed it. My tart would have been so much better with local, just-picked strawberries. The tart crust was wonderful (I've eaten pieces of the unassembled, leftover crust on its own since Sunday). The jam--which was locally produced in MA by Trappist monks--was wonderful. The fresh whipped cream, heavily dosed with vanilla, was wonderful. The strawberries...were okay. They were cold. And, in that point in time, this was a major attribute. But, they weren't strawberries. They were...well, strawberries.

So, I found myself a great recipe to use the next time that I have real, fresh, locally-picked fruit in season. At that point, this recipe will be nothing less than stellar.

As a side note, I did end up going to the farm stand later in the afternoon. So, this dessert followed the first all-local meal of my season--scrambled eggs with asparagus, spinach and blue cheese. Here's to the start of a season filled with ripe local fruits and veggies!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All About Me

Lisa, of Bumblebutton, tagged me for a meme. I'm pretty new at the whole blogging thing, so I hope I do this right.

The rules: Each participant answers questions about herself. At the end of the post the participant tags 5 people. Their names are posted letting them know they've been tagged. They then have to read the participant's blog. The tagged lets the tagger know when she's posted her answers.

What was I doing ten years ago? Ten years ago, I was just barely 17 years old. I had just completed my junior year of high school. The summer of 1998, I went with USY to Poland for ten days, and then spent six weeks in Israel. It's hard to believe that was ten years ago. It's also hard to believe that Israel felt so safe back then. I came home from that trip with such a heightened sense of myself--of who I am, and where I came from. I also came home with what was probably my only true tan in my entire life.

What are five (non-work) things on my to-do list for today:
1. Get my poor, sprouted potato seeds planted. I seem to have over-ordered seed potatoes, and don't have quite enough containers to plant all of them (okay, fine--I'm short 9--but at least we'll have lots and lots of potatoes to eat next fall/winter.).
2. Go to Wilson Farm stand. The TWD challenge is a strawberry tart, but it's a little early for strawberries in NH. If anyone will have them, Wilson will.
3. Bake the TWD tart, if I do find strawberries. If I don't, well...I guess I'll have to sit out this week. I'm pretty stubborn about not using produce that comes from all the way across the country.
4. Call Kelsey to work on ordering invitations for Amy's bridal shower.
5. Take pictures of my garden to share with friends and family who don't live nearby.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
1. Hummus with celery sticks.
2. Fruit--whatever is in season.
3. A cold glass of herbal iced tea. Maybe not a "snack," but I make it during that 3 PM hungry time at work pretty often to put off actual snacking until I get home.
4. A square of good chocolate.
5. Whatever I've recently baked. During the summer, this usually includes zucchini bread.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
This list could go on and on, but for now:
1. Buy a nice, fertile, flat piece of property to grow a lot more food on. I'd like it to be able to support lots and lots of veggies, a berry patch, and an orchard with all of the fruit trees I desire (apples, peaches, pears, and plums).
2. I love my house, so I'd probably stay there. But, I would like to give it a second floor, add on a deck and screened-in-porch, and remodel the bathroom (because it needs it), and the kitchen (because I'd like to).
3. I'd buy my family houses in the area that I live in. Not that they would have to live there full-time, but at least so that they could come for extended visits and have their own space.
4. Travel more--I'd definitely like to go out to California again, explore Washington and Oregon, and, of course, there is traveling to see my family more.
5. Buy a VW Westie, fix it up, and use it to go camping (Sally dog in tow, for this one).
6. Go to all the live concerts my heart desires, without worrying how far away it is (and having to get up in the morning for work), or how much the tickets are. I guess I already did this back in 2001-2003, but I'd love to have the ability to be that care-free again.

Places I have lived:
Hauppauge, NY
Boston, MA
Somerville, MA
Southern NH

Jobs I have had:
Office clerical
Bookseller at Waldenbooks, Borders, and Barnes and Noble (during various summers)
Cashier at HMV records
Ticket seller at the Children's Museum of Boston
Clerical in shoe buying department at Filene's
Financial Analyst at Filene's
Financial Analyst at a company that shall remain unnamed

And finally, those lovely bloggers that I have tagged...
Robin, of Made with Love
Danielle, of Sweet and Savory Eats
Steph, of A Whisk and a Spoon
Jacque, of Daisy Lane Cakes
Hygeia, of Phamished

Have fun, ladies!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies

This past week, I joined Tuesdays with Dorie, a weekly baking group. I have been reading a number of blogs from people who participate, and knew it was something I would like to join. What could be better than the promise of weekly sweets, while stretching my culinary skills?

The first recipe, French Chocolate Brownies, chosen by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook, definitely did push me to try something I probably wouldn't have otherwise. First of all, there is the fact that they are homemade brownies. Now, I'm all for made-from-scratch. I'm probably too all for made-from-scratch for the tastes of the people around me. However, those brownies from the box are damn good. So, I leave it to other people around me to bring the brownies (made from the red box, of course), while I concentrate on made-from-scratch goods that are different, or at least where the box varieties kind of suck.

The second "stretch" for this recipe was the raisins. I love raisins. I stick them in quick breads, and yeast breads, and bread puddings. My husband, who was fairly anti-raisin when he met me ("Why ruin a good oatmeal cookie?"), has even come around to the raisin side of things, due to my baking. But, raisins in brownies even made me raise my eyebrows? Why embellish a brownie?

For those who know me, you know that I believe firmly in trying a recipe exactly as written the first time around. That way, I have a feel for what the author intended, and I can tell if the recipe, itself is worthy. All bets are off if and when I make the recipe again. Then, I improvise to my heart's content (my mother's chocolate 10-pound cake comes to mind, the latest incarnation of which was a pistachio-white chocolate chip 10-pound cake). So, with that spirit, I pushed down my doubts and tried this raisin-enhanced brownie recipe.

I'm really glad I did. The rum-flamed raisins (the flaming part was surprisingly fun) served as moist little morsels throughout the already-moist, very smooth brownie. As a matter of fact, the brownies were so smooth and melt-in-your mouth that I dare say the raisins gave me something to chew. Otherwise, the rest could just dissolve blissfully without much help from my teeth.

So, the end result was that the raisins were a good idea. The other end result is that these made-from-scratch brownies were far better than the red box ever even dreamed of being. So, the next time someone says, "Why don't you bring some brownies?" I might not be so quick to decline in favor of something more complicated. These brownies brought brownies back to something that I am willing to make, and with pride.