Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beat the Burger Blues

I think we've hit the point in the summer where everyone is bored with burgers. The old beef on the grill (or in our case, the old turkey in the pan) just is not cutting it anymore. But you just can't walk away from the burger, it's practically the official food of summer! It's not labor intensive, you don't need to turn on your oven and it goes with so many delicious sides, coleslaw, potato salad, fresh corn, mmm, fresh corn.

I started itching for new burger ideas when I read about the Daily Chef's Caraway and Mustard Seed Mozzarella Stuffed Pork Burgers (how's that for a long string of things-you-want-to-eat before BURGER). Then Lady Gouda had me drooling for her greek burgers, made with lamb. I have to admit, I was a bit tetchy (seriously - word of the day) over missing out on so many delicious burgers because of our turkey-only status over here.

But Lady Gouda came to my rescue by mentioning the possibility of creating an asian burger. GENIUS I tell you, GENIUS. Using her ideas, I threw together a turkey burger that I will not groan at the sight of. Imagine the juicy delectable flavors of a dumpling with a bun instead of a wrapper.

especially tasty with sesame noodles

1 lb turkey (if you were going to use another meat, I'd go with pork rather than beef)
1 T minced ginger
1 T minced garlic
2 scallions chopped
two dried thai chilis, cracked to let the seeds out (feel free to try a bit of sambal, I didn't have any)
2 T soy sauce
1/2 t fish sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
smidge peanut or other cooking oil

optional - hoisin to top

Pour a small amount of oil in a pan. Add the garlic, ginger and scallions and the chilis. Cook for only about a minute or two, enough to take the bite out of the garlic and soften the ginger a bit. Remove the red chilis (but allow the seeds to remain). Allow to cool enough to handle. In a medium bowl, mix together the turkey, the garlic, scallions, ginger, soy, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and a healthy dose of freshly ground black pepper. When thoroughly combined, form into 4 patties. For turkey in a pan I cook each 4-6 minutes per side, you don't want to dry them out, but you simply can't have undercooked turkey, so watch them. Place on a bun and add a bit of hoisin in place of ketchup.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

I'm having a bit of a difficult time with decision making today.

Last night I'd planned on making baked mozzarella sticks (baked, not fried) and a luscious fresh tomato no cook pasta dish. But, I couldn't find any ripe tomatoes. So now I have these beautifully breaded mozzarella sticks hanging out in my freezer just waiting for their turn in the oven, but I have no freakin' clue what to have with them. I keep trying to channel my fried mozzarella stick eating days but I'm pretty sure back then I considered them a main course all on their own.

Please help me decide? Pretty please? I promise to give you the recipe for the mozzarella sticks if they turn out.

Come on. Just vote. One click. Do it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Piggy Come Home

I'm in love.

It's a bit awkward seeing as my fifth wedding anniversary just passed, but what can I say. He's British and he's adorable. We've never met, but I know we'd be so happy together.

His name is Horace.We met online. But doesn't everybody these days?

Don't worry, his friends are totally cute too, if you're looking to hook up yourself.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Not So Neighborly

As you can see, this is clearly NOT bread salad. Why not you ask? Well this is a tale of shopping gone wrong, when good neighbors go bad.

Failure 1: Our local bakery sold us a stale baguette. What do you even do about that? Can you return it with a chunk missing and explain you nearly lost a molar trying to gnaw on it? That you are not a beaver equipped with tree tearing teeth?

I tried to make the best of it. When you get lemons, make lemonade. When you get stale bread, make bread salad. A beautiful, fresh, Greek Bread Salad.

Failure 2: There was no feta in the fridge. Not behind the pickles, not stacked under the leftovers. Nowhere. Ryan was forced to run out for some. Turns out not only were we out of feta, but also out of cash. The store would not let him use a credit card. "Minimum credit card purchase $10," they said. Very neighborly. Also, illegal. Ryan abandoned the feta. I abandoned all hope of a well made greek bread salad.

The silver lining: I'd planned a whole greek meal, so there was pastitsio in the oven, and it was delicious. It's like a greek lasagna, with layers of sauce and noodles, the cinnamon making a subtle but tasty difference from italian fare.


For the meat sauce:
2 T butter
1.5 C chopped yellow onion (this was 3/4 of a large onion for me)
1 clove garlic minced
1 lb ground turkey (or beef, or lamb)
1 t salt (plus more to taste)
pepper (to taste)
1 t oregano
1/2 t cinnamon
2 C canned tomatoes (use crushed, or crush whole ones yourself)
1 bay leaf
2 T tomato paste

For the bechamel/crema/whatever you want to call it
3 T butter
1/2 C flour
2 C milk
3 beaten eggs

Also you need:
3/4 pound ziti, penne or elbow macaroni cooked according to the package directions and drained.
2 C grated parmigiano reggiano or romano cheese
1/4 C bread crumbs

In a Dutch Oven (or other pot/pan with lots of surface area and high sides), melt 2 T of butter on low heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 minutes until the onions are translucent and softer. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the ground meat and increase the heat to medium. Add your salt, pepper, oregano and cinnamon. Use a spoon to break down the meat and brown it. When there is no more pink, stir in the canned tomatoes and tomato paste and add the bay leaf. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 35 minutes covered.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Cook the pasta according to the box, drain and set aside. Begin on the cream sauce. Melt the butter in a pot, then whisk in the flour to form a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes on low heat. Stream in the milk, whisking constantly (this works best with warm milk, but I'm often too lazy to heat it separately). Make sure your heat is very low, and add the eggs, one at a time, whisking thoroughly between each. If the heat is two high you will have scrambled eggs. Once they are incorporated, you can increase the heat and keep whisking until it starts to thicken. Ideally, you'll time it so that this is ready when it's ready to be layered on, and not before, but because everything's baked together, it's okay if you mess it up a little.

Build your pastitsio in a large pan (9 x 11). Grease the bottom. Then lay down the breadcrumbs to coat. Add half the pasta, making sure it covers completely. Next comes the meat sauce, all of it. Smooth it down so that it covers the pasta, make sure to get the edges too. Then you add half of your crema/bechamel/cream sauce thing. Pour it over the meat sauce so the whole layer is covered. Top with half of the cheese (about a cup). Next comes another layer of pasta (the rest of the pasta). On top of the pasta, use the rest of your bechamel, then the rest of your cheese.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350F. Let rest before cutting into it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tomato, Tomahto

I'm continuing farm fresh week here at the hungry hippo. It all started with a trip to the Trenton Farmer's Market, which you can learn more about at Half a Yard. Today - you say tomato, I say tomahto - why Jersey tomatoes are pure bliss.

I hate to break this to you, but what you've been eating is NOT a tomato. In fact, this time of year I'm reminded that what I've been eating is not a tomato. Or what I've been avoiding is not a tomato. Those limp pinkish things that they put on sandwiches? The mushy wedges lurking in your salad greens? NOT TOMATOES. I promise. Because tomatoes are an amazing, amazing thing. When the summer gets nice and hot, Jersey works its magic and somehow, these perfect red globes appear to remind you of everything a tomato could and should be.

A true Jersey tomato is heaven sliced with just a sprinkle of salt. If you must, slice some fresh mozzarella to place on top of the slices and drizzle with a smidge of extra virgin olive oil (yes, it must be extra virgin - this is about the best ingredients, nothing less). You can then top with a beautiful confetti of fresh basil (unless your husband gets violently ill from basil like mine does).

If you've acquired enough of them, you might find yourself willing slice them up to become the star of a BLT.

But if you have a true bounty of them, it is time for gazpacho.

I know. Shut up. Just add a set of googly eyes and it looks like a muppet head. I'm still working on the food photography thing.

Muppets aside, I'm serious about the cold soup. I'm so serious that it's been about three years since I've had gazpacho and I'm still hung up on it. There's no way I could hope to touch the perfection of what I had, but ever since I tasted the gazpacho at Chez Les Anges, I cannot get the thought out of my head. Gazpacho with avocado. Why don't more people do this? The silky creamy avocado is the perfect balance to the sharp fresh spicy tomato. They were M.F.E.O. (made for each other - those of you who have also seen Sleepless in Seattle too many times know this).

inspired by Chez Les Anges

1 whole avocado (per 2 people - save until the end)
1 medium cucumber, peeled, chopped (seeded too if you have a crappy blender) if you seed them, add another third of a cucumber
3 1/2 baseball sized ripe tomatoes, chopped(bonus if they're farm fresh)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 slices slightly stale good bread, torn into pieces
2 T red wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar because that's all I've got, but I would have preferred red wine)
1 T hot sauce
1 1/4 C water (or more if you like it thinner)
1/4 C olive oil
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

If you have a real blender for heaven's sake use it. I only have an immersion blender and it was messier than I care to discuss and did not get the soup as smooth as I would have liked.

If you have a real blender, combine everything but salt and pepper and process until smooth. Then add salt and pepper to taste.  If you own a real blender maybe you don't need to chop everything?  If you're stuck with an immersion blender, you have to chop your solid ingredients. HAVE TO.

If you only have an immersion blender, put all liquid ingredients (hot sauce, water, vinegar, oil) in a pot and then add the garlic, cucumber and tomato. Get it as smooth as you can, then add the bread. Let it soak a bit to soften up. Then try your best to keep the blender actually immersed as you continue to blend. Then add salt and pepper to taste.

Chill in the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, peel and pit the avocado. Place half and an avocado in each bowl. We had them served all in one piece, but certainly slice if that strikes your fancy. That would probably avoid the muppet face problem. Although, if you're trying to feed this to kids, you may want to look into googly eyes, hard boiled eggs perhaps? With olives?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Visions of Sugar Plums

On Saturday Half a Yard invited me to share some photos I took at the Trenton Farmer's Market. Over here on the Hungry Hippo, I'm cooking up the goods. And these my friend are not the confections of Nutcracker and Night Before Christmas fame; these are adorable sweet, juicy little plums. Small children may not dream of them, I can't say as I saw any fairies dance, but I certainly had visions of a plummy baked good. I ended up with this plum torte (again, what is with people? This had a cakey base. How is this a torte?...Hmm, googling reveals we should probably blame the Italians - anything round is a torta. Fine. I still say it's more of a coffee cake).

The deep golden brown color? Oh yes, that would be cinnamon and sugar sprinkled all over it. And the plums deepen in color to the beautiful purpley red. Tasty and pretty, what more could you want?

modified from Splendid Table's Original Plum Torte recipe

Most of 1 pint of sugar plums (I strongly suspect you could use other fruit for this if you liked)
1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz)
3/4 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 C flour, sifted
1 t baking powder
1 pinch salt

to sprinkle on top:
1 T white sugar
1 T brown sugar
1 t ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 F.
Cream together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, mixing well between each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Mix until just incorporated. Grease and flour a 9" springform pan. Pour in the dough and use a spatula to get it as even as you can. Then start on the plums. Sugar plums are VERY hard to pit neatly. I gave up on using halves. I ended up getting two messy halves of plum and then cutting those in half two times (so what's that? eighths?) making the cute little triangles you see in the picture. Arrange them over the top of the cake. If you use regular plums, slices or halves will do nicely. Mix together the white sugar, tablespoon of brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle liberally on top. This is what gives it that nice coffee-cakey flavor. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 350. It's done when a knife comes out clean.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Perfection of a Peach

I'm never more aware of how beautiful produce is than when I'm at the farmer's market, but I have to believe there is none more beautiful than a peach. I love them so, I even had them put in the flower arrangements for my wedding. Peaches are more than just pretty fuzz however, they're also delicious. I could not help buying a few on my last trip to the market.

There are two basic kinds of peach, the freestone and the cling. The clever, clever peach naming people did this to help us. Freestone peaches detach easily from the pit, whereas the cling peaches, (wait for it)...cling. Which is better? Well, some say the cling are juicier and more delicious and others are just hung up on what a pain they are to work with. I say get freestone if you're intimidated by the work of a cling, it's better than being overwhelmed and avoiding peaches.

For those of you still emotionally scarred by the heat wave of 2010 (or is that just those of us on the east coast?), I strongly recommend a refreshing bowl of cantaloupe and peach soup. I promise it won't even heat up your kitchen.

One of my other favorite uses for fresh peaches is a peach and raspberry tart. The fruit is laid on top of a delicious cakey base, no messing with difficult pie crusts. I made one of these just yesterday since my peaches had already ripened.A peach is ripe when it smells like a peach. Don't worry if the ones you find at the farmer's market aren't quite ripe. You can ripen them easily at home. My nana is the absolute authority on ripening stone fruit and she swears by the paper bag method. Just tuck your fruit in a paper bag on the counter and check on it periodically. When your peach smells like a peach, you're done! Just make sure you use it before it gets mushy (although the cantaloupe and peach soup will hide a multitude of sins), so if you're not planning on using your peaches right away, don't buy them ripe.

For more on my latest trip to the farmer's market, stop on over at Half a Yard, then poke around for more fabulous crafting and gardening info!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vintage Flour Sifter

Sometime about two years ago, I told you about my favorite kitchen implement with the idea that I would periodically tell you about other things in my kitchen that I love. Clearly, I didn't get very far with that, but it's not because there's nothing else to love. When I was making my berry tart last week, I needed my flour sifter, and was reminded of how much it makes me happy. These days flour sifters are pretty modern squeezy affairs or battery operated ,(sweet heavens, BATTERY OPERATED? What is the world coming to?) they have none of the old fashioned charm that is at the heart of why I bake in the first place. I bake to create a feeling of home, warmth and love, not because I want to feel sleek and modern! My flour sifter may not be fancy and new-fangled, but it more than makes up for it in vintage charm. It originally belonged to my nana, but I was grateful to take it off her hands and replace my make-do method of sifting flour through a strainer (if you have neither room or inclination to own a sifter, believe me, it works). If you want a pretty vintage flour sifter like mine, check out ebay. I'm also kind of in love with the Androck geese sifter, but there's no excuse for owning two!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Daredevil Baking

Many people feel comfortable modifying a recipe when cooking. Taking out this, adding a bit of that, putting the whole thing over rice instead of pasta. If you know flavors and basic cooking techniques, all you really need is an idea. But baking can be a little more tricky. "It's like chemistry!" They warn us. "Measure exactly!" They chide (never mind that most of the people here in the US use volume measures rather than weight measures which are inherently less accurate). Basically, the messages we get are that changing things in a baked goods recipe has dire consequences. But I've started thinking, why? How would you improve a cake recipe if you didn't play with it? Biscuits don't make themselves lighter on their own! I feel like we're condemned to trying every recipe ever written rather than messing with one on our own. Of course, you may be more of a daredevil than I am and play with your baking, if so I really want to hear about it, because I've had a block against doing this. Ideally, I'd love to take some type of class so that I really understood how it all worked, what makes a recipe lighter or denser or crumbier. But for right now, I'll confess, I messed with a recipe due to an utter lack of ingredients. We've been slowing heading for Mother Hubbard status over here at the Hippo and I officially ran out of flour after that last quiche. Really. I used the very last dregs of the container to roll out the dough. And then, I read Confections of a Closet Master Baker (yes I know the link is to a different book, it was retitled for the paperback version) and was struck by a desperate need to bake. A little bit tricky when there's no flour. So I hmmed and harumphed and stared at her scone recipe until I figured it out. I used milk and sour cream instead of heavy cream, and cherries instead of cranberries and no lemon extract, and then I had to use self-rising flour, which meant cutting out the baking powder and salt (luckily, I checked and the ratio was just about right). The result, totally not what the author had in mind, but pretty tasty nonetheless. But more importantly, I learned that maybe I should play with my baking recipes a little bit more often, just to see what happens. It's not nearly as likely to be a catastrophe as you may think.

crazily modified from Gesine Bullock-Prado's recipe
Makes about 12 scones

1/4 cup sour cream + 1/4 cup milk (original: 1/2 C heavy cream) plus additional for brushing the top
1 large egg
3 T sugar, plus additional for sprinkling on the top
2 1/4 C self-rising flour (original: 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour, 1 T baking powder, 1/2 t salt)
6 T cold unsalted butter
1/2 C dried cherries, chopped (original 1/2 C dried cranberries)
The original recipe also called for 1 t lemon extract, which I did not have

Preheat your oven to 400 F. Whisk together the milk and sour cream. Then whisk in the egg and the sugar until well combined. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and butter (I use the stand mixer, but everyone else seems to use a food processor). Blend until the flour and butter make a coarse meal. Add the milk/egg mixture alternately with the berries. Knead the dough with a bit of flour, then roll out to 1/2 inch thick. Gesine wants you to use a fluted scone cutter, but I use an upside down drinking glass- either way, cut out 1 1/2 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes at 400 degrees until golden brown. Remove and place on cooling rack.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Getting Over Brunch

I hate going out to brunch. It's sort of awful, because it seems once you are an adult, you are expected to do this type of thing in order to socialize. I realize many people did this in college, but everyone I knew in college understood that one does NOT eat in the morning after a long night of going out. Anyone civilized slept late and ate later. My main problem with brunch is public eggs. I feel ridiculous even typing it, but there it is. I can't eat public eggs. Eggs at home? Certainly. Eggs at a friend's house? Why not? Eggs out? No thank you. I have tried, but it makes me invariably queasy. So brunch invitations often fill me with dread (unless I'm with my closest friends who know I'll order a grilled cheese from any diner at any hour of the morning rather than eat eggs out). So why not pancakes, you ask, they make them with chocolate chips now...? Or caramelized french toast? Or waffles? Because these are not breakfast foods, not really. THEY ARE DESSERT, masquerading as breakfast. And I simply can't get down that much sugar in the morning. Blame my mother and her rule about no cereal with sugar higher than the third ingredient, but sweet and breakfast do not work for me. So there it is. Happy social gathering, fraught with anxiety. And of course, later, when I get home, there's always that feeling of having missed out on ordering something wonderful. So, after my latest brunch outing, I decided to cheer myself up with a homemade quiche. This one is quite filling (I did make it for dinner) and very delicious.

Better Homes and Gardens (I think?) by way of my friend Laurie

1 half recipe dough
1 1/2 C milk or cream (I used half milk and half cream - a do it yourself half and half)
4 eggs
1/4 C chopped onion (the onion cooks pretty well in the quiche, but if you are very sensitive to onion you may want to precook them)
3/4 C chopped cooked broccoli
3/4 C-1 C cooked chicken (you could chop it, I pulled mine apart into bite sized pieces)
1 1/2 C grated cheddar cheese
1 T flour

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Put the dough in a 9" pie plate. I used an 8.5" tart pan with removable ring. Such a HUGE error in judgment. It was not quite big enough, and the removable ring aspect meant that the eggy part leaked and seeped and went everywhere. Cover the the dough with foil and weigh it down with pie weights. Put it in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove the foil, prick the bottom and return to the oven for 4-5 more minutes until browned and dry. Lower the oven temp to 325 F.

Beat the 4 eggs and add the milk. Then add the broccoli, onion and chicken. Toss the cheddar with the flour, until the cheese is coated. This will keep it from sticking and clumping in your quiche. Add the cheese to the egg and filling mixture. Mix well. Pour into the cooked shell. Bake at 325 F for 40-45 minutes. (Mine definitely took on the longer side). A knife inserted near the middle will come out clean when it's done. Remove from oven and let set for 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Do you have any friends that give you a culinary inferiority complex? Because as much as I consider myself a competent cook, I totally do. My internet friend Robin is incredible. Everything she makes for dinner sounds straight off a restaurant menu. I'm serious.

Gorgonzola-stuffed chicken breasts with fig-balsamic reduction and roasted asparagus,

Blue cheese-apple puff pastry tartlets, chicken roasted with olives and lemon, and quinoa with swiss chard and currants,

Pork roast with garlic, port, brown sugar, chile paste and five-spice powder,

Lamb chops with orange, rosemary and pistachio gremolata, honey-glazed root veggies (carrots, parsnips, turnips), and farro with fresh peas and radishes. Candied ginger shortbread for dessert

Intimidating and insanely mouth-watering right? The trick with friends like this is not to give up, or become discouraged because you will never cook as well as they do. Oh no. The trick to to get them to give you their recipes. I've been hoping she'll start a food blog, because then I could read about all her delicious meals in more detail, but no such luck. Although, today I can share one of her recipes with you! These empanaditas are incredibly addictive, and it's a pretty flexible recipe. I changed the filling based on what I had readily available, and you can too. Of course, you can also assume Robin's way is the way and I'm sure you can't go wrong.

Courtesy of Robin, who actually is a professional at this kind of thing. She has one cookbook out already and promises another one soon. But I'm not giving up hope on the food blog idea. Come on Robin! Do it!

first is my adaptation of the filling, followed by Robin's original

First you need a crust. Robin allows a store bought crust (you need the kind with both a top and bottom for enough dough). I make my own from my standard recipe, but empanaditas are a lot of work, so you may want to cheat.

My filling
1.5 pounds diced butternut squash (I dice it small, smaller than an inch)
olive oil
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
2 T Mrs. Renfro's Green Salsa

Robin's Filling
1.5 pounds diced butternut squash
Olive oil spray
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
5 or 6 roasted, peeled, seeded pasilla chiles (I used canned this time), diced
3 (?) T hot salsa

If you'd like them to brown up nicely, like many pie adjacent items, they could do with an egg wash. - Clearly, I did not do this, my poor empanaditas in the photo suffered from lack of egg wash, and being cooked in a toaster oven, because as I may have mentioned before, IT'S HOT HERE and there was no way I was turning on the real oven.

Dipping Sauce (I made this up. Ryan likes to dip.)
1 C sour cream
2 T lime juice
2 t cumin
(mix well)

Preheat oven to 400. Spread squash on a baking pan, spray with olive oil spray, sprinkle with salt, roast for about 30 minutes until soft. Check it, and allow extra time. If you cut the squash bigger it will take longer to cook. Cool. Mix squash, chiles (if you're using Robin's filling), goat cheese and salsa together in a large bowl until well blended.

Roll out the pie crust until it's a bit thinner than for a regular pie. Then cut out 3" circles. Robin has a pastry cutter, but you know I just use a drinking glass turned upside down. You can roll up the excess dough, and roll it out to cut even more circles. Then roll out each circle a little bit more, and place a heaping tablespoon of filling on the top half. Fold over to form a little half moon shape and then use the tines of a fork to make the edges look nice (a step I neglected in the insane heat - don't skip it, it's pretty). If you're going to make them right away, you can baste the tops with a little egg thinned with a bit of water, then pop them in a 400 oven on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, until crisp and golden. You could also freeze them (before you do the egg wash). They cook up beautifully. This recipe will make about 40.

Serve with dipping sauce.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beautiful Berry Tart

My husband's indifference in the face of dessert is never more obvious than when he is in a bakery or pastry shop. Where the rest of us drool and ooh and aah, he is entirely unmoved by the rows of plump eclairs, the delicate sfogliatelle, the deepest darkest layers of chocolate . If you totally twist his arm, he will reluctantly agree to a fruit tart. When he gets around to eating it though, he will exclaim over its deliciousness. I'm pretty familiar with the routine now, so for his birthday I always used to get him a little one. Now, if you've ever priced one of those suckers at a bakery, you know where I'm coming from when I say that stuff ain't cheap. So out of respect for my budget, I learned to make one. It's really not difficult and there are ways to cheat so that it's even less work. Also, it looks very fancy schmancy, which is nice if you have guests or just like praise.

Crust - Julia. Cream - Bon Appetit by way of epicurious.

for Julia's dough - for an 8-9 in. tart pan
1 1/2 C sifted flour (so, sift the flour, then measure it)
1 1/2 T sugar
8 1/4 T butter (Julia calls for a mixture of butter and shortening, but I never use shortening)
3-5 T ice water

for the filling
1 8 oz container of cream cheese
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C whipping cream
3/4 t vanilla
1 T lemon juice

for the topping
1/4 C jelly or jam (pick a complementary flavor for your fruit of choice, apricot works best on light color fruits) - I used blueberry, but had planned to use raspberry.
3 pints berries (or other fruit)- I used 1 pint of raspberries, 1 of blackberries and filled in with just enough blueberries. 3 pints may be too much, but better to have left over berries than a naked tart.

For the crust:
You need a pie crust. You can purchase one (clearly the easiest tactic). You can make my standard pie crust. You can make a crust of your choosing, or you can try Julia Child's pie crust (well, her Patee Brisee Sucre). Start by sifting the flour, then measure out one and a half cups, and add the sugar to this. Then pour into a food processor, and add the butter. Process until it has a sort of sandy consistency. Then add a bit of water. Don't add too much. I like to work it by hand, sort of kneading, once I've added the water, it's easier to tell if the dough is right that way. Form it into a flat disc and refrigerate for about an hour. For heaven's sake do NOT listen to Julia and put it in the freezer for an hour. It would come out solid like a rock (not that I know from personal experience or anything). You want it cold so it's easier to work with, but still pliable. Roll it out to the proper size, then put it in the tart pan. I use one with a removable bottom, similar to this. It makes it much easier to get out later. Anyway, when you get the dough in the pan, use a fork to prick all over the bottom. Then cover the whole pan/dough with foil and weigh it down with pie weights. Bake at 400F for 8-9 minutes. Then remove the foil and weights and bake an additional 7-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the tart pan and cool on a rack.
For the filling:
Use a mixer to combine the cream cheese and sugar. Then add the vanilla and lemon, and mix again. Finally, add the whipped cream, and run your mixer on high for a few minutes until the whole mixture is much lighter and fluffier. It should be much less dense than frosting. When finished, you can use a spatula, and fill the center of your (cooled) tart crust. Please make sure the crust is completely cool or the creamy stuff will melt and you'll be sorry.
For the fruit:
It is time to pretend you are an artist. Arrange the fruit so that it looks pretty. Heat up the jelly in a sauce pan until it is no longer gelatinous. When it is basically a liquid, you can use a pastry brush to brush it on all the fruit, which will make the fruit shiny, but also help in case your fruit isn't perfectly ripe and sweet.

Ta Da! You are done.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sneak Peek


is what I'm supposed to be making for you, RIGHT NOW. But it is at least 100 degrees in my kitchen (and no I am not speaking hyperbolically, it really truly is over a hundred in there), and I am not doing today what I can put off until tomorrow (My mother just rolled her eyes and said yes, Scarlett - not that she's here with me, I can just predict her reaction).

Anyway, I promise, tomorrow, a beautiful berry tart recipe, and a current picture. Right now, I have to go sit in our one air conditioned room and build up stamina so I can fry up tortillas for tostadas. Because nothing says Happy Fourth like boiling oil and Mexican food!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Almost Fourth!

Despite years of fabulous fourths, this year I will be sitting home in my city apartment with no view of the fireworks and no one to celebrate with except Ryan. It's a very sad state of affairs. Don't worry it's not like I'm incredibly bitter and self-pitying. Hopefully, you have something more scintillating on the agenda. And just in case your plans require food, here are some of the hippo's best fourth suggestions:

There's nothing that says party to me like fried chicken. Best news, you can totally make this ahead of time, like in the morning before it's too hot to be anywhere near a kitchen.

And where there's fried chicken, there better be cornbread or biscuits.

Need a main dish that's got more kick than the usual burgers and hot dogs, but don't want to slave over the hot oil? Buffalo chicken sandwiches are fast, easy and break with tradition without getting too far away from the junk food feel of the day.

It's not a picnic without potato salad and coleslaw. Just remember your food safety rules and don't leave them sitting out in the hot sun. Two hours is the maximum foods like this can go without being in the fridge.

If you're dying to take advantage of the fresh produce at your farmer's market, try a beautiful tomato and green bean salad.

For dessert, whip up a summer easy and seasonal peach and raspberry tart. Or go all american, and put together some apple turnovers.

Whatever you make, have a wonderful Fourth of July! And for those of you without plans, or trying to hide from unwanted guests, I'll be back tomorrow with a delicious berry tart.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Thai Beef Salad

There are not a lot of things that my mom makes that I can't also make. Plenty of things that I don't make, but not so many that I can't make. This is one of the ones I can't. True confession of the day: I have never in my entire life cooked a steak. Not once. In my early days of cooking I was a bit broke for steak , and then by the time I could afford steak (thanks to Ryan), I could never make steak (thanks to Ryan's long list of things he does not eat for health reasons). So while I bet I could follow my mother's recipe here and come up with a delicious thai beef salad, it's something that I'll admit, straight up, I've never done. Also, I don't know how to grill. Well, I can grill corn in foil packets, but other than that I don't know how to grill. This will happen to a person after 11 years of living in city apartments. I've never poured lighter fluid over charcoals, never turned the knobs of the gas grill, none of it. My extent of grill knowledge is this: if you're sure there's gas in the tank (I mean really, really sure), make sure a squirrel hasn't eaten the gas line, because that will get you every time. Anyway, you'll just need to trust me, this is absolutely delicious, and refreshing in the summer, and if you can't cook steak or work a grill, feel free to come over to my mom's, because she's got it down.

This is also fabulous as a sandwich, cut up the steak a bit smaller at the end and put on good thick slices of crusty bread.


1 lb grilled rare (sirloin- can also use flank, but it's tougher)
1 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cucumber, sliced thin (I use English cukes- fewer seeds)
1 tomato chopped
the recipe calls for a bunch of watercress, but there are a lot of anti watercress folks out there, so you may want to use Boston lettuce or spring greens, but it is nice to use at least some of a green that's a bit spicy.
1/4 C thinly sliced scallion tops (green only)
1 carrot, shredded

1t sugar
1T lime juice
1T coriander
1/2 clove garlic, smashed and minced well
1T soy sauce
3T fish sauce

gluten-free note: You will need to find gluten free soy sauce and fish sauce. Thai Kitchen makes a gluten free fish sauce.

Mix together the dressing ingredients and set aside. Grill the steak and the onion. Rub the steak with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Use thick slices of onion and use a skewer or turkey basting pin to hold rings together. Heat the grill to medium high, closer to high. Oil the grill, by taking a paper towel and pouring some oil on it (you can use a cheap oil for this) and hold the towel with tongs and wipe the grill surface quickly so that it's oiled. Put the steak and onion on. After a minute, lower the grill medium from medium high. For a rare steak it should be about 4 minutes a side. Use a meat thermometer, the temp should be about 115-118 F when you take it off for a rare steak. When you take it off, cover it and let it sit for 5 minutes it should get to 120 F. The onion should take about the same as for a rare steak. Toss the greens with the dressing reserving 1 T for the veggies. Toss the veggies (the grilled onion, cucumber and tomato) with the final tablespoon of dressing. Then create a bed of greens and arrange the beef, onion and vegetables on top.


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