Friday, August 31, 2018

Recipe #123: Fresh Peach Crisp With a Surprise Topping!

When I think of peaches, I picture a hot summer day while sitting under an old oak tree or a couple of whiskered men in rocking chairs outside a filling station talking about the latest nothing.  Peaches scream summer, there's no doubt about it.  I can't rightly say the same about nectarines or plums...there's just something about a peach.  Perhaps it's the beautiful blush on the slightly fuzzy skin, looking almost like a watercolor.  Well, I could go on and on, but this is about peach crisp, not about what my memories are bringing to mind.  The filling has touches of almond and cinnamon, and the crisp...well, it vies for the same prize as the peaches because its makeup is not the usual oatmeal, but graham crackers.   Yes, you read it right, and once you try this wonderful crunchy topping, I think you will be hard pressed to go back to any other.  This recipe will make four lovely 3" ramekins of peachy goodness.  Now, let's prep and bake...

FILLING

4-5 fresh peaches peeled and diced                          1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract                                             1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

CRISP TOPPING

1 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs                     1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour                                                             1 stick + 6 tbsp. cold butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon                                                      pinch salt

WHIPPED CREAM

1 cup whipping cream                                              1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350.  Place all of the filling ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Let sit at least 30 minutes, but no longer than an hour.  In the meantime, make the crisp topping by mixing the dry ingredients with the butter either with a fork or a pastry cutter until it resembles peas or small marbles.  Do not overmix.  Spoon peach mixture evenly into the 4 ramekins and place the crisp mixture on top.  You should be able to mound the topping fairly high on each ramekin but it will go down a bit when baking in the oven...do not pack down.  Place ramekins on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crisp is a nice golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit about 20 minutes.  While the crisp is cooling, whip cream in a standing mixer or hand mixer on highest speed.  Whip the cream until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and vanilla extract, beating for about another minute.  Spoon the whipped cream over still warm peach crisp.  Bon appetit!








Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Recipe #122 : Cast Iron Pan Chocolate Chip Espresso Cookie

Who doesn't like chocolate chip cookies?  Well truth be told, two people I know don't even like chocolate, but they shall remain nameless.  Though we may have a tried and true way of baking something, sometimes it's fun to kick it up a notch and get out of our box.  This recipe requires you to have a cast iron pan, which if you don't, may be a little bit of a financial burden because they aren't cheap.  That said, I have two sizes of cast iron pans...an 8" that I use for the s'mores featured in recipe #115 (yes, I went and bought that size just for that particular recipe) and the 12" for recipe #63 Lou Malnatti's Deep Pizza (and yes, I went and bought that size just for that particular recipe also).   On that note, the espresso powder adds a nice depth of flavor and even though I don't drink coffee, I always have a jar in the pantry. The espresso powder makes the cookie a little darker, but my doorbell also rang just about when the timer was going to go off so took out of the oven about 2 minutes late.  You don't want to overbake your cookie, so don't answer that door and check a few minutes earlier than your timer.  Now, let's bake...

12" cast iron pan

1 stick butter at room temp                                     2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar                                                 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour                                                           1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt                                                                  3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. espresso powder                                            1 cup chocolate chips

10" cast iron pan

6 tbsp. butter at room temp                                       1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar                                                    1/2 cup sugar
1 cup plus 1 tbsp. flour                                                 1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt                                                                    1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tbsp. espresso powder                                           3/4 cup chocolate chips


Heat oven to 375 and prepare pan with vegetable spray.  In a standing mixer or large bowl with hand mixer, blend together the butter, brown sugar and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time (1 egg for the smaller cookie) to fully incorporate, then add vanilla.    Mix together in a medium bowl the flour, soda and salt.  Gradually add to the butter mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips and then pour batter into the pan, spreading evenly till pan is covered.  I use an offset spatula for this.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes for the 12" pan and 15-20 for the 10" pan, just until golden brown on top.  Cool for about 1/2 hour then cut into wedges.  Great under a scoop of ice cream.  Bon appetit!









Sunday, August 5, 2018

Recipe #121: Nectarine, Tomato & Feta Salad with Cucumber, Kalamata Olives and Peppers

When going over my thoughts regarding a fresh summer salad a few weeks ago, I was perusing the aisles in the produce section of my local grocery store and stopped at the peaches, nectarines and plums.  I didn't want it to be totally sweet like a typical fruit salad, but I was rather tired of my day-after-day green salads.  Personally, I have never cared for plums, and if I had to pick between a peach and a nectarine, I would always choose the latter and perhaps it's because I like the skin better on a nectarine.  Okay, but enough of that because we're getting away from purpose of the salad.  I thought one sweet element among a few savories would blend well, hence the salad I came up with below.  I know this may sound like an odd combination, and I have to be honest, up until the time that I actually tried it did I think it would work, but alas, I would make it again in a heartbeat.  My guests that I coerced (well, they thought the concept was interesting) into trying this also gave it a hearty thumbs up.  The dressing is nice as it's made with a more calming rice vinegar.  Now's lets prep and mix...

3 ripe nectarines, cut into slices, then halved       3 tomatoes cut into chunks (I used halved cherry
1 English cucumber cut into 1/2" chunks                      tomatoes from my garden
4 oz. crumbled Greek feta (I used a nice              2 scallions including tops, sliced thin
    tomato basil flavor                                            1 green pepper, sliced thin, then cut in half
4 oz. Kalamata olives, halved

Rice Wine Vinaigrette

1/3 cup olive oil                                                    4 tbsp. rice vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt                                                            1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1-2 tsp. honey depending on you taste

Gently toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl and when mixed arrange on a nice platter.  Put all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with lid or a small bowl and either shake or whisk to mix.  Spoon vinaigrette over salad.  Bon appetit!