It still feels like the dead of winter here in Chicago rather than the first week of March so knowing Easter is only 41 days away is hard to believe. I’ve been the hold-out on complaining about the cold and snow but even I am growing tired of the grey skies and long for open windows with warm breezes and the sounds of birds chirping. Springtime is certainly synonymous with Easter as it gives us, on this northern latitude (41 degrees 88 inches), the promise of hope and rebirth/regrowth after a long winter. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and I’ll begin my annual ritual of practicing frugality. Here is a post from 2010 when the idea first presented itself to me.
Not much to this one other than I had a roll of phyllo/fillo dough and a gorgeous granny smith apple and we had a hankering for something sweet after a trying water polo game tonight. This is what I came up with. For Lent I’m going to limit buying food other than dairy, fruits and veggies in the hope of using up some of the surplus in our pantry and freezer. The idea came from an Ash Wednesday service I attended last night and the suggestion of practicing frugality in a brochure that was handed out. It said this, “Frugality goes completely against the grain of our culture that is so obsessed with “the pursuit of happiness”- which today means comfort, indulgence, pampering, pleasure, luxury and leisure. Practicing frugality means that we reject the notion that we need such things to make our lives fulfilled. Interesting idea, one I’m willing to try for 40 days (with a small break for the 7 days of spring break). So, after a dinner of grilled chicken, onions and red peppers with avocados, this sweet treat was made all from ingredients I already had on hand. See what you can make out of what you already have in your cupboard before you indulge in buying more. Should be an interesting and maybe inspirational month of posts.
Phyllo Dough Apple Strudel
- 10 sheets 14″x18″phyllo dough
- 4 Tablespoons melted butter or 1/2 butter and 1/2 coconut oil
- 1 large granny smith apple (chopped to equal about 2 cups)
- 1/4 cup walnut pieces
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 2 Tablespoons Coconut or agave nectar, or corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Chop apples and mix with lemon juice, 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, nectar, 1 Tbsp. sugar, walnuts, vanilla extract, salt and 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Set aside.
Mix melted butter (and oil), 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp sugar in a small dish. Lay one sheet of phyllo dough out and brush with melted butter mixture. Repeat layering until all 10 sheets of phyllo are used. Put all the apple mixture in the center of the dough. Fold one side over mound of apples. Brush top layer with butter and fold other side to overlap about an inch. Lay sheet of parchment paper over and flip so seam side is down on top of parchment on baking sheet. Press ends together gently (some juice will leak out when baking). Brush top with remaining melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and a little sugar. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until browned and puffed up. Let cool a bit before cutting using a very sharp knife. Serve alone or with vanilla ice cream (wish we’d had some).
Chopped apples, walnuts mixed with cinnamon, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla
and coconut or agave nectar
Brush phyllo dough with melted butter/coconut oil, cinnamon & sugar
mixture x 10 layers
With apple/walnut mixture in middle, fold top half over fruit, followed by
bottom layer,sealing with butter sugar mixture
Turn over with the help of parchment paper. With seam side down, brush
top with butter and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake until browned.
Some of the yummy juices will make its way out the ends…
Marzipan Apricot Tart
This all started when I was tagged in a Facebook post by my friend Lisa who wrote “Hey Amy Miller can you please please bake this for me?? :) I want this”. So what could I do when put to the challenge? Again, this is not my own recipe, just recreated for Lisa and a bunch of women from my Church who won an auction item for an evening at SheBeads in Wilmette. Lisa was duly surprised and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Not a ton of work, just following the directions and improvising on a few things like using dried beans in place of pie weights, they do the trick just fine. This tart is quite sweet because of the layer of Marzipan so I would pair it with a nice cold glass of cava or prosecco, a cup of tea or coffee. It reminds me of something you’d get in a Viennese pastry shop and enjoy in the afternoon.
And if you ever get a chance to make beads at SheBeads, do it. It’s a very cool process and the beads and the resulting bracelets all turned out to match the creators personality. They give half the fee to the charity, in this case our Church’s youth group work trip. A win, win for everyone. You also can order jewelry already made up from their website. Be sure to check out their Charity Partners to see all the good work being done by their small shop.
Marizipan Apricot Tart
- ACTIVE TIME: 25 MIN
TOTAL TIME: 2 HR (NOT INCLUDING COOLING)
INGREDIENTS FOR PASTRY DOUGH:
- 1/4 cup whole raw almonds (with skins)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
- 6 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 3 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
INGREDIENTS FOR CAKE:
- 1/2 cup whole raw almonds (with skins)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 7 ounces marzipan
- 1/4 cup apricot preserves at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- a 9- by 1-inch tart pan with removable bottom
Pulse almonds with 1/4 cup flour until finely ground (be careful not to grind to a paste).
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Beat in egg yolk, then add vanilla and almond extracts, beating well. At low speed, mix in almond mixture, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup flour until mixture just forms a dough.
Form into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap, then chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Press dough evenly over bottom and up sides of pan with well-floured fingers. Chill shell 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
Lightly prick shell all over with a fork, then line with foil and fill with pie weights. Bake shell until sides are set and edge is golden, about 15 minutes.
Carefully remove weights and foil and bake until shell is golden all over, about 10 minutes more. Cool shell completely in pan on a rack. (Leave oven on.)
MAKE CAKE WHILE SHELL IS COOLING:
Pulse almonds and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor until finely ground (be careful not to grind to a paste).
Beat butter and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add egg, beating well. Add almond mixture, salt, flour, baking powder and extracts and mix at low speed until combined (batter will be fairly thick).
Roll marzipan out to an 8-inch circle on a lightly floured surface and trim where necessary to create an even circle.
Fit marzipan in tart shell and spread with apricot preserves.
Spread cake batter evenly in pan and sprinkle with almonds.
Bake until golden brown and cake is set, 25 to 30 minutes (it should not wobble in center when shaken slightly).
Cool completely on a rack, about 2 hours.
Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving.
Can’t take credit for this recipe, just for reproducing it for a recent benefit I cooked for to raise funds and awareness for the Samaritan Counseling Center. Great concept of small, themed evenings in homes rather than yet another ‘gala’. My friend Sue who is on the board had volunteered to host a wine tasting and asked me to be her guest ‘chef’. I told her to use that term loosely. We met with the incoming board president who was co-hosting the evening and discussed wines and menu, settling on some small bites and dinner to complement the wines Sue had chosen. This “Italian Caviar” was one of the small bites along with classic gougeres, roasted bell pepper on toasted bread rounds and goat cheese and a lovely selection of cheese and artisanal salami.
My very funny friend Emily wrote this at the top of the recipe she shared…Straight from Fort Smith, Arkansas…. some of the best Italian you’ll ever have.
- 2 cups pitted black olives
- 1/2 cup anchovy fillets in oil (I used 1/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup tuna fish in oil
- 1/2 cup capers
- 1 T lemon juice
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 1 t Dijon mustard
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 T Olive Oil
- – - – - – - – - – - – - -
- 24 small new red potatoes, halved, hollowed and boiled
- Container marscapone
Chop and mix all ingredients from top list. Add olive oil a little at a time to produce firm, easy-to-spread mixture. If using a food processor, only pulse a few times.
Serve at room temp on dense, Italian bread. Or boil, halved and hallowed small, red potatoes; scoop in mascarpone; top with Italian caviar.
Often I find spur of the moment plans turn out to be more fun than long-awaited ones. Last night’s dinner, seated at the chef’s table for a 6 course with wine pairings was no exception.
Feast & Imbibe is a pop-up concept by partners Heather Bublick and D’Andre Carter who met while at Moto. D’Andre handles the food and Heather chooses the wine pairings. The dinner they prepared last night, served at Logan Square’s breakfast and lunch haven JAM, was nothing short of spectacular. I’m talking on the lines of NEXT good or as Heather shared with us, what she and D’Andre now say “schwa-quail-egg-ravioli-good”.
Dinner came together like this. A hallway conversation with a co-worker, several emails, confirmations and a last minute surprise from Heather of adding a 5th to our 4 top, a great young man from the premium reservations start up, Table Host, who was going to be there so “might he join you and you’ll all be seated at the Chef’s Table”. Easy.
So much to say about the conversations had but food and wine what this is all about. Suffice it to say my dining cohorts company was delightful. Feast & Imbibe is what we did. Our menu included 2 plates not listed on the night’s menu, below. Study Of Quail (Seared Quail, Celery Root Nest, Quail Egg, Quail Food) and Foie Gras Ice Cream (Pecan, Mango Puree, Mango Chip, Pomegranate Sponge Cake). Did I say, yeah, yeah, yeah yet?
Read on, study the photos for the artistry of presentation that matched the flavors, textures and fantasy used to create them and make your reservation soon. Planned menu changes are set for May 1 and again July 5th and I imagine this fun-loving, hardworking and incredibly talented pair will surprise and delight us all.
Top left, coconut braised lamb belly, tempura eggplant, grilled abalone mushrooms, butternut squash puree, cauliflower all with a hint of Indian spices. Top next, in rich chicken broth, lamain (hand pulled noodles), smoked fiddlehead ferns, perfectly cooked sea bass, pickled ramps and egg yolk. Top next, study of quail, celery root nest, perfectly cooked quail egg, mirepoix schmear, edible flower petals, quail food – sunflower seeds, freeze-dried corn. Top right, amazingly light and not too sweet chocolate & truffle fluff, beet sorbet on which D’Andre shaved spring truffle! Large photo, bed of marscapone cream, blood orange chip, roe, Meyer lemon reduction and bread crisps. Middle left, wines. Bottom left, Foie Gras ice cream, pecans, mango puree, pomegranate sponge cake with pineapple puree. Nuff said.
After quite a hiatus, I’m jumping back into the blogosphere and hope to woo you back.
I’ve been cooking and taking pictures this whole time but with a new position at work (a very fun and exciting one at that, being the 3D specialist for Crate and Barrel’s awesome, soon to be public, 3D Room Planner – for now a sales associate in a C&B Furniture Store near you can test drive it with you), an awesome 2 week trip out West AND getting my daughter off to college (she’s carrying on my families tradition at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa) life has been busy. Whew and Amen.
My garden actually survived Chicago’s ridiculously hot and dry summer thanks to a $10 soaker hose that delivered a long cool drink to those poor plants everyday so I didn’t have to. This super easy recipe uses tomatoes, basil and wild garlic flowers that are overflowing right now.
Summer’s End Pasta
Ingredients for 2 servings – multiply as needed
- 1 1/2 cups chopped cherry or other super fresh tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic – smashed and minced
- 4 basil leaves – rolled and sliced (**chiffonade)
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground pepper
- 3-4 Tbsp olive oil – use the best quality you can get for this one
- 6 oz dried pasta – fusilli, spaghetti, linguini
- generous grating of Reggiano Parmigiano
- 1 wild garlic flower stalk (pinch white flowers off from green stems)
This one is so easy the sauce can be put together while the pasta cooks. Mix chopped tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper in a medium size bowl and microwave for 2 minutes or heat in a sauce pan until the tomatoes soften slightly. Drain pasta and toss with tomato sauce, add grated parmigiano and toss again. Top with wild garlic flowers before serving. This simple dish is good hot, room temperature and even cold.
** Chiffonade is a cooking technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables (such as basil, sage or spinach) are cut into long, thin strips. This is generally accomplished by stacking leaves, rolling them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife, producing fine ribbons.
“Chiffon” is French for “rag” referring to the fabric-like strips that result from this technique. To chiffonade simply means to turn into rag-like strips, as seen in the 2nd picture above.
This technique is unsuited to small, narrow, or irregularly shaped herb leaves such as parsley, thyme or rosemary due to there being less surface area for the knife to do a practical job.
A few months ago my daughter did an extra credit project for her French class in which she researched Nutella and reported on it. She also made Nutella and the class taste tested it and the real deal. I wasn’t too surprised by some of her findings but hearing that hazelnuts make up only 13% of the decadent spread threw me for a loop. Common sense and some label reading shows that this is a special treat, not an everyday food. But only 13% nuts is… is nuts. I was also surprised that France consumes 26% of all Nutella sold worldwide. I’ve long thought of Nutella as a quintessential Italian sweet treat that schoolchildren eat slathered on a hearty slice of pane pugliese. Italy has had a long-standing love affair with hazelnuts paired with chocolate. Think Giandua ice cream, smooth and creamy or its nut studded counterpart Bacio, found in any self-respecting gelateria. Ferrero Rocher and Baci by Perugina are standards in the boot and have made their way to the USA in recent years. Despite Nutella’s Italian origin, France and the French people have embraced it the most. But, it was two American mothers who were ‘duped’ into believing that there were health benefits to eating it. Oy vey, only in America.
If you know French, you can learn all you’ll ever need to know about Nutella from Sarah’s Power Point Presentation and learn how to make your own, more nutritious, almost 100% nuts, spread below. There is a notable difference in how nutty and good our homemade spread tastes and with only 1/3 cup powdered sugar it is not overly sweet. Good on a spoon or piece of bread.
2 Tablespoons of Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut-Almond Spread vs. Nutella
Makes about 10 ounces
- 3/4 cup whole raw hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Place hazelnuts on a shallow baking pan. Keep to one side of pan, place almonds on other side. Toast until the hazelnut skins are almost black and the nut meat is medium brown, about 15 minutes. Keeping the hazelnut and almonds separated on the pan, stir each several time during baking to insure an even color.
- Wrap the cooled hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel. Rub until most of the skins come off. Some of the skins will remain but won’t add a bitter flavor if most is removed.
- Process nuts in a food processor, scraping down the sides and edges of the bowl occasionally. First, you will get coarsely chopped nuts, then a fine meal. After a few minutes the nuts will form a ball around the blade, before you know it you’ll have hazelnut/almond butter thanks to the heat and friction that extracts the nut oils.
- Add the powdered sugar, cocoa and vanilla. If the mixture seems too thick, slowly drizzle a little vegetable or nut oil to make a spreadable consistency. It will firm up as it cools so don’t thin out too much with oil.
- Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 months in an airtight container (it won’t survive that long with all the spoons dipping into it for ‘just a taste’). Stir before spreading in case separation occurs.
Spring has sprung in Chicago and I’m going out to work in the garden and yard while the getting is good. Just put 2 rounds of Irish Brown Bread in the oven and the Corned Beef in the slow cooker. I’m going to try to make Colcannon tonight and will post soon if it turns out. For now a little Irish ditty…
May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks.
May your heart be as light as a song.
May each day bring you bright, happy hours.
That stay with you all the year long.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.