Archives for category: Holidays

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It was Easter. It was (is) Pesach. It was a super moon.

As tradition dictates, I spent the Sunday that is Easter with my grandmother on Long Island. I’ve written a post I think each year about this and the various shenanigans we get into. For instance there was this retro easter cake debacle I wrote about four (!) years ago.

Earlier this week I was flipping through the latest Bon App and came across a recipe for a very springy Rhubarb Cake (p. 66 of the April 2015 version if you have the hard copy). That’s it! Perfect, I thought. I’d make that for my grandmother, a woman who loves tart rhubarb baked into pies and cakes.

But of course neither the Union Square Greenmarket nor the Park Slope Food Coop is carrying rhubarb yet. Duh. It’s the first week of April. I think it may be another two weeks away. I picked up the organic blueberries on sale at the coop for $2.99 a pint in a pinch, hoping it would be an adequate substitution.

The blueberry was a hit. I’d still like to try this in a few weeks with the season’s rhubarb but I will definitely make this version again.

P.S. – I reduced the sugar quotient from the original recipe because blueberries don’t need to be offset the way rhubarb does. I also substituted 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour with spelt flour, because, well, regular flour is a little boring, and spelt flour has a subtle depth or nutty flavor I like.

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Blueberry Almond Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 8

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter*
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
2 pints blueberries, rinsed
1/2 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (would be fine to use all-purpose flour only, 1 1/4 cup)
3/4 cup blanched almonds
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (1/2 tsp vanilla extract if you can’t find vanilla beans)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a tart pan (or small rectangular baking dish) and set aside.

In a blender or food processor, pulse the flours, almonds, baking powder, and salt until the almonds are finely ground.

Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Scrape the little black seeds from the vanilla bean and reserve the pod for another use like making vanilla-scented sugar. Using your electric mixer on high speed, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Don’t cheat. Add the eggs one at a time to fully incorporated and then some, about another 3 or 4 minutes.

Reducing the speed to low, add the dry ingredients, and then the yogurt. Fold in half of the blueberries (one pint) and pour into the pan. Arrange the remaining blueberries on top.

If using a tart pan place this on a baking sheet (to catch any juices that may escape) and bake for approximately one hour, or until the cake is cooked through (comes clean with a toothpick) and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

*A note on butter: the quality of butter matters here. I use Kerrygold because it’s made with milk from grassfed cows and is the same price and sometimes cheaper than Kate’s butter from Maine.

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Galette is a galette is a galette.

Pie, or pastry, in the U.S., usually means sweet. It evokes sticky fruit spilling out of pastry in high summer. Or maybe pumpkin pie topped with clouds of whipped cream on Thanksgiving. I like these, I do. But I’m also partial to savory pies, meals tucked into flaky pastry. A galette is neither pie nor tart but the forgiving and rustic cousin—open, free-form, and baked flat on a baking sheet. And truly, pretty simple to make. Don’t let the pastry intimidate!

We had at least one vegetarian coming for Thanksgiving dinner here in Vermont this week so I wanted to make something substantial and special sans meat, rather than requiring the Brussels sprouts, green beans, potatoes, and cranberries to do the heavy lifting. A savory galette seemed both fetching and filling.

The recipe here is an adaptation from Deb Pereleman and Smitten Kitchen. I added whole wheat flour to the pastry mix, swapped yogurt for the sour cream, leeks instead of onions, and included pine nuts to the filling, because, well, why not?

The snow is just beginning to melt in the abundant—but cold—sunshine here; we got at least ten inches earlier in the week. The hardy sage plant in my stepmother’s garden (hidden under snow in one of photos below) still provided me with all the herbs I needed. And while the pastry chilled in the refrigerator I shoveled the entire walkway, it was the perfect amount of time.

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Butternut Squash Galette with Caramelized Leeks
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pastry
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice-cold water

Filling
1 small butternut squash (approx. 1 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 to 2 leeks, washed thoroughly and sliced thinly (white parts only), approx. 2 cups
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
3/4 cup fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated
1 to 2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves

Make the pastry: Combine the flour and salt in a bowl; place the butter in a separate bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for one hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Prepare the squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, cutting in half and scooping out the seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on a baking sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning once during baking. Set aside to cool slightly.

Caramelize the leeks while the squash is roasting: melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook the leeks over low heat (make sure it’s a low flame otherwise they will quickly burn!) with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Toast the pine nuts in a small pan on the stovetop then remove from heat. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese, pine nuts, and sage together in a bowl.

Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, leek, cheese, and sage mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool slightly before transferring carefully to a serving dish. You can serve warm or at room temperature. let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Serves 6.

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“I like to hang out with people who make me forget to look at my phone.”
-quote I heard recently

I’m in the middle of my summer sabbatical. As some of you know, each summer I take time off from my life in New York City and retreat to my on-again off-again childhood home of Vermont. This is the loveliest time of year in one of the loveliest places on earth. (That’s a fact by the way, not some silly opinion; seriously, check wikipedia.) The Champlain Valley of Vermont: the western side of the state, close to Lake Champlain, and not as far north as you can get, but pretty up there. It is where my heart feels most at home, most at ease. My father and stepmother have the good fortune of calling this place home year round. Up here in the summer I can swim in their pond, shower outside under the stars, read in the hammock on the back porch, and this month, play—or attempt to play—with the three new kittens that were born in their garage. We pick chard and kale and cukes and tomatoes and dill and basil from the garden.

It’s been a good summer for me so far but not without its challenges. I have been working harder than almost any other time in the past few years, while also tending to a tender heart. As you may have noticed I have not been too focused on making or writing about food and I miss it. Although I am editing a cookbook this summer and it’s been both a great pleasure and challenge and once I’m done with the manuscript can hopefully share some of the recipes here.

The only hitch in these lovely summer sojourns is that my time in Vermont must come to an end, and as much as I like Brooklyn, I never want to return to my 400-square-foot apartment or riding the subway or meetings or general lack of lakes to swim in.

While up here though, I, on occasion, leave what we call “the compound,” and venture out to swim in the lake, meet friends for dinner at Black Sheep Bistro, get pastries at Vergennes Laundry, shop at the Middlebury Food Coop (where I worked in high school!), eat ice cream at Lulu’s in Bristol (slumdog millionaire ice cream flavor anyone?), or, like I did today, go blueberry picking. Pelkey’s is the go-to place to pick blueberries in this part of the state in August. I’ve been doing it every summer for the last number of years in a row. Here’s a blueberry cobbler recipe on my blog from July 2011 (and an unrelated potato and green bean salad from July 2012, and a summer roundup from Vermont in August 2012).
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I picked six pounds of blueberries today in just under an hour. I would have stayed and picked double that but I was with friends including a one-year-old in need of a nap and it was about 85 degrees and I was without a hat to block the sun. So, what to make with all these blueberries? My friend Emmanuelle gave me a great idea the other day: Nigel Slater’s Cake for Midsummer, a not-too-sweet peach-and-blueberry inflected cake with hints of almond and orange zest. Slater, being from the UK, writes in the metric system of course, but so does the chef I’m working with and so metric to imperial conversions have become a snap for me.

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A Midsummer Cake

adapted from Nigel Slater
serves 8–10

175 grams unsalted butter, room temp (about 1 1/2 sticks)
175 grams sugar (orig. recipe, I reduced to 2/3 cup and used half white half brown sugar)
2 large eggs
175 grams flour (approx. 1 1/4 cup)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
100 grams ground almonds (scant 1 cup)*
1 tsp grated orange zest + splash of orange juice
a few drops of vanilla extract
200 grams ripe peaches, roughly chopped (1 peach)
150 grams blueberries (approx. 1 cup)

Grease and flour an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius).

Using an electric or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. (Use good butter if you can, it makes a difference here in the flavor.) One by one add the eggs and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and almonds then add, gradually, to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the orange zest, splash of juice, vanilla, and incorporate. Then fold in the chopped peaches and blueberries.

Transfer the mixture to the cake pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour and ten minutes, depending on the size of your pan. My 9-inch pan required about a 57-minute baking time. An 8-inch pan might take an extra five minutes or so. Stick a toothpick in and it should come out clean. Let the cake cool before sliding it out onto a serving plate. Some unsweetened freshly whipped cream would be a nice accompaniment, as would a strong cup of tea.

*I think a neat substitution would be cornmeal in place of the almonds. Or, buckwheat flour in place of the all-purpose flour.

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