June 24, 2011

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries...

Summer is in full swing and that means stone fruit!  Cherries, peaches, plums, etc. are all in season now and there is nothing like biting into a perfectly ripe peach, juice running down your chin, face lifted to the sky & sunshine warming your cheeks. 
However, taking that fruit and turning it into a cobbler or crisp isn't a bad option either...  especially since it requires little effort and that is what most of us with hectic lives and schedules need.

In honor of the Cherry Festival held in Traverse City, Michigan I thought I'd give a nod to the Wolverine state with a Cherry Crisp.

Cherries are so beautiful with their glossy, dark ruby skin and I love the snap of it breaking open when you bite into it.  Their season is short, so when they are around get them while the gettin's good!

farm-stand cherries

Cherries are also full of health benefits, they are a good source of fiber and vitamin C.  They also contain anthocyanins which act as a natural antioxidant and also an anti-inflamatory. 
So now that you know how good they are for you, grab a bag of cherries and make a crisp for the ones you love.

Cherry Crisp
  For the filling:
  • 2 cups cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- First step is to pit the cherries.  A cherry/olive pitter isn't imperative, but it certainly helps.
pitted cherries & my weapon of mass destruction...


-Combine cherries, sugar & flour. 

-Divide evenly into 4 ramekins (or a small baking dish).

   For the crumb topping:    
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- Combine flour, oats, brown sugar & cinnamon in a medium bowl. 
- Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (the fastest way is to use your fingers).

ready for the oven
- Sprinkle evenly over filling.

-Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.
golden brown deliciousness
Life is just a bowl of cherries...This idiom means that life is pleasant, but one can interpret it a couple different ways. Sometimes life is sweet and sometimes it's just the (cherry) pits. Thankfully today is not the latter.

June 19, 2011

Channel your Inner Fat Kid

Consider yourself warned:  This recipe is not for the faint of heart.  It is not low-fat, low in calories, low in sugar OR low in taste.  Once in a while, we need a splurge and this is a really good one.

If we're being perfectly honest here,  my "inner fat kid" doesn't exactly need to be channeled.  She happily resides within & unfortunately can be pretty demanding most of the time.
I have had a love affair with Nutella for as long as I can remember.  There is just something about that smooth, chocolately, nutty yumminess that makes me smile whenever I have it and luckily for me there is usually a jar in the cupboard.

My favorite combination of flavors is salty & sweet, so when I was thinking about doing a dessert, I wanted to add in a salty element somewhere and the crust just seemed the natural way to go.  Pretzels are my go-to snack so they are always on hand and thus, a dessert was born...

The slight saltiness and crunch of the crust balances out the smooth richness of the filling and it all works very nicely together.

Note: this tart is so decadently delicious, you may want to consider turning the lights down low and putting on some Barry White before eating it...

Nutella Tart with Pretzel Crust

For the crust you will need the following:
  • 1 cup pretzel crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
To make the pretzels crumbs, put a couple of cups of your favorite pretzels into the food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs.  You don't want big pieces of pretzel but you aren't looking for something as fine as breadcrumbs either.
Remove from food processor and put in a bowl with the other 3 ingredients and mix to thoroughly combine (it should look like wet sand).

Divide the crumbs evenly between 3  5" tart shells or 1  8" shell.  You will need the tart forms that have a removable bottom.  Press the crumbs firmly around the sides,  being careful to cover completely and evenly coat the bottom.  The  crumbs should be evenly distributed along the sides and the bottom so that the crust is even all around.

Put the tart shells on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes at 325.   Remove from oven and let cool completely.

To remove the tart from the form, hold the sides firmly and press up on the bottom to release it.  Be careful to do this gently so you don't break the sides.

For the Filling:
  • 12 ounces good quality chocolate.  I use 56% Valrhona.  It is a semi-sweet chocolate that works well here.  I would not recommend milk chocolate, it is too sweet for this.
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces sugar
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup Nutella
- Chop the chocolate and set aside.
- Mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a small bowl and set aside.
- Combine the milk and cream in a small pot and bring to a simmer.
- SLOWLY add a small amount of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly.  (This is tempering the eggs so they don't scramble when it gets combined)
- When about a quarter of the mixture has been added to the eggs, add the rest of the egg & sugar mixture to the milk mixture, whisking as you add it and cook over med-low heat until the mixture thickens, about 6-8 minutes.
- Pour the egg & milk mixture over the chopped chocolate and mix until completely combined and smooth.
- Pass through a fine sieve to catch any little bits of egg that may have scrambled.

- Let mixture cool slightly before filling the tart shells.

- Fill shells to just below the top edge of the sides and refrigerate until completely set, about 3 hrs.

- Top with Fleur de Sel or chopped roasted hazelnuts as garnish.

    June 11, 2011

    Cocktails Anyone?

    If you are anything like most of the people I know, you enjoy the occasional libation... I bought a watermelon a few days ago and my first thought aside from devouring that ice cold coral flesh (with a little sprinkle of kosher salt) was cocktails!  A watermelon mojito is the perfect thing to have in hand when it is blazing hot outside.   It is fruity, light and refreshing.

    For my watermelon mojito I use a watermelon rum,  but if you can't find that just use a plain light rum or experiment with whatever sounds good to you. (Bacardi makes a red peach rum or a dragonfruit rum that would be delicious).
    What's the worst thing that can happen?  If you don't like it, pour it out and crack open a beer...

    The inspiration for the drink came from a recipe for Watermelon Daquiris by the Domestic Goddess herself, Nigella Lawson.

    Watermelon Mojito
    Start with the simple syrup:
    3/4 cup sugar
    1 1/4 cup water
    2 fat sprigs of mint

    -Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pot until the sugar is completely dissolved.  remove from heat and let it steep for 15 minutes.  Remove mint leaves and chill in refrigerator.

    12 - 2 inch cubes of watermelon, frozen
    1/2 cup rum (flavored or light)
    1/4 cup mint simple syrup (more or less to suit your taste)
    half a sprig of mint, leaves roughly torn
    juice of half a lime

    Put everything in the blender & whirl into frothy pink perfection.

    A few suggestions for watermelon bites to go with your pretty pink drink:
    -watermelon with feta cheese
    -watermelon cubes with a drop of aged balsamic vinegar (NOT the stuff from the grocery store. This is the thick, sweet, syrupy stuff in a tiny glass bottle that'll set you back a few pennies)
    -watermelon, proscuitto & basil
    -watermelon, tomato & basil

    Happy Summer Days!