Sunday, July 13, 2014

Black raspberry cream scones

I have a problem.  I am swimming in black raspberries.  I realize that, in the grand scheme of things, this is not the worst issue to be faced with, but still.  After living in this house for the better part of 12 years, I finally went bushwhacking behind my fence, and discovered what may be the most enormous patch of black raspberry bushes ever.  And guys?  This year is a GOOD year for black raspberries.  For the last week, I've been picking at least a quart a day, and I am rapidly running out of freezer space.  (To avoid a large blob of frozen berries, rinse them, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze.  Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag.  Ta dah!  Nicely frozen berries.)  I have been scouring my cookbooks, blogs and assorted magazine, now with an eye towards recipes that use as many berries as possible in one go.

Before you state the obvious, no, I don't make jam.  For one, I don't love standing over a pot of bubbling fruit on a steamy hot July day, and two, I had a bad experience with canning gone wrong a few years ago.  No one thinks a jar of strawberry flavored botulism is a good idea, so I've avoided jam making ever since.

This morning I had that most luxurious of entire Sunday, free of responsibilities and "to do's".  With nothing hovering over my head, I decided that a lazy start to the day, coupled with scones, sounded just about ideal.  Plus, I could stuff berries in them!  Two birds, one stone.  I'm increasingly in love with Marion Cunningham's "The Breakfast Book" (I realize that I'm decades late in discovering this classic, but better late than never!), and flipped through that.  She had a recipe for dried fruit cream scones which looked simple enough, and malleable enough to adapt to my berry based needs.

What resulted was one of the easiest, quickest and tastiest breakfast treats I've made in ages.  With cream scones, there's no cutting in of cold butter, which I always find inexplicably daunting.  Heavy cream is both the fat and the liquid in this recipe, and the results are out of the oven in 20 minutes.  Theoretically, you should probably let them cool before snarfing them down like a bear after a long winter of hibernation.  I did not.  And they were awesome.

Black Raspberry Cream Scones
(Adapted from Marion Cunningham's, "The Breakfast Book")


  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup frozen berry/fruit of your choice (Amount approximate; I'm pretty sure I jammed a cup in these.  If using larger berries or fruit, chop them to smallish pieces.  And while you could use fresh, I like using frozen here, as they hold their shape well.)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream (I used 1 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup half and half, because that's what I had on hand, and it worked just fine.)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (plain sugar would work, too)         

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line an ungreased cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl, and stir with a fork until mixed well.  Still using a fork, drizzle in the cream, and stir into the dry ingredients.  The dough will be quite sticky.  At this point, add your frozen berries, and stir them into the dough.  They may resist; this is ok.  You will knead them into submission momentarily.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board, and knead 8-9 times, stuffing uncooperative berries into the dough as needed.  Pat the dough into a rough circle, approximately 10 inches in diameter.  

Brush the whole thing with melted butter (getting the sides as much as possible, too), and sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.  Now here's where you need to decide something you want small, dainty, reasonably sized scones, or do you want scones that take over your entire small plate?  I opted for enormous scones, so cut the dough like a pizza into 8 wedges.  You can go smaller, certainly, and get 12 out of this dough.  If so, reduce the baking time, and watch them closely. 

Place the scones on your prepared baking sheet, leaving one inch of space between them. 

Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Ideally, allow to cool before inhaling, but that's optional.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shortcut Hollandaise

  I will freely admit that I have a couple of arbitrary food phobias.  Not in the eating department, particularly, but in the creating department. 
  While a whole pineapples makes me nervous (it has armor, for crying out loud), I've come to grips with it.  Largely by having the store core and peel it, but that still counts!  However, two things have consistently struck fear in my culinary heart.  Phyllo pastry is one of them (All those delicate sheets!  That have to remain covered with a damp towel!  At ALL times!  And brush them with melted butter!  Right now!).  Who needs that kind of pressure from pastry? 
  The other is Hollandaise sauce.  Growing up, my mom made it often, and it was hands down my favorite way to consume green vegetables of virtually all sorts.  Broccoli was a good one, but fresh from the garden asparagus was far and away the best.  And, being my mom, she whipped it up with no more stress or fuss than you or I might exert, say, pouring a bowl of cereal.  In the past several years, when we've had a chance to be in the kitchen together, she has given me a demo innumerable times.  And yet I've never, before today, tried to actually make it myself. 
  I had a lovely bunch of fresh asparagus from the farmer's market that needed to be used soon, and, in a fit of wild bravery, decided that it was time to conquer the fear of Hollandaise.  There is, however, something about my mom's double boiler technique that somehow seemed a bit more "mad scientist" than I was willing to tackle, so I dug through my cookbooks until I found Ina Garten's recipe, which requires only a blender, and some melted better.  And guys?  SO EASY.  I feel like the biggest asshat in all the land for not having done this before.  There are no tricks.  It's not hard.  It takes less than five minutes.  And I happily ate pretty much the whole batch, dipping spear after spear of lightly steamed asparagus into it. 

Shortcut Hollandaise Sauce

(From Ina Garten, "Barefoot Contessa; Foolproof")

 2 large eggs, at room temperature**
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

**If, like me, you aren't the best advance planner, and your eggs are in the fridge, there's a quick fix.  Pop them in a bowl full of hot tap water for a couple of minutes, and they'll warm right up and be ready to use.

  •  For planning purposes, before you start this, get your veggie of choice prepped and underway.  I blanched some fresh asparagus, and tossed it in the simmering water just before I started this. The timing was perfect.
  • Put the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne in the blender, and blend on low for 15 seconds.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan until it is VERY hot.  Remove the insert of the blender lid, and with the blender on low, very carefully pour the hot butter into the blender with the lemon mixture.  (Have a towel butter splatters are a hazard.).  Blend for 30 seconds, until the mixture is very thick.  
  • Serve immediately.
(Ina's side note states that while best used immediately, if made ahead, you can add a tablespoon of very hot water, and blend it again, and it will be fine.  I would have tested this for you, but, umm...there's none left to try.  Next time.)

  And that's it!  Seriously!  It's fantastic, and I'm kicking myself for all those Hollandaise-less years I unnecessarily inflicted upon myself.  Don't be like me.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Slow Cooker Lasagna

  My favorite lasagna recipe of all time comes from a stain-splattered copy of Canadian Living's "Country Cooking" cookbook, and it is a masterpiece.  It's loaded with spicy Italian sausage and red peppers in the sauce and oodles of spinach in the unctuous bechamel.  Obscene quantities of cheese are a given.  It is delicious beyond words, and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. creates a mountain of dishes that would daunt the most enthusiastic of dishwashers (of which I am not one).  A pot for the noodles.  A pot for the tomato sauce.  Another for the bechamel.  And on and on.  Sadly, this is often a disincentive, and I opt to make something else rather than be forced to participate in my own ad for dish soap.

  Cue angelic chorus, friends, because an easier way has been discovered!  One large pot is all that's needed, and your Crock Pot.  Yes, you can (and should!) make lasagna in your Crock Pot.  I was as dubious as the next person, but have been converted.  And like most new converts, I will not rest until you, too, have experienced the same joy.

  I used a few recipes initially as jumping off points, and after a few attempts, have settled on a combination that exactly replicates the flavors of my favorite labor intensive dish.  This is a very adaptable recipe, and feel free to play around.  I used spinach, lasagna and red peppers, because that's what I love best.  If you're vegetarian, maybe a mushroom version would be up your alley, or eggplant (saute both prior to popping them in).  Ground beef, turkey or pork would all work well, too.  More veggies, different ones, whatever blows your skirt up!

  You can do this either on HIGH for 3 hours, or LOW for 6.  Either way works well (I've tried both), just factor into your planning that whichever you choose, you'll need to let the lasagna sit in the Crock Pot, covered, for an hour after it's done cooking.  This gives the sauce a chance to settle in, and prevents you from having a tasty, if sloppy, bowl of lasagna soup.

  It is a great thing to make when you wake up to see this...

 ...and realize that nope, you are NOT going to work, or anywhere else for that matter, for some time.

  • (2) 24 ounce jars or cans of Italian tomato sauce
  • 9 thick lasagna noodles with wavy edges (NOT "oven ready")
  • 24 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese OR cottage cheese
  • 1 lb hot Italian sausage
  • 2 boxes of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 large red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella or Provolone cheese
  • Parmesan cheese for topping
  • Spray your Crock Pot with non-stick spray.
  • In a large saute pan, cook the sausage until it begins to brown and break up, then add your diced red pepper.  Continue cooking until the sausage is fully cooked, and the peppers are tender.  Add your jars of tomato sauce, and stir until combined and warmed through.
  • In the Crock Pot, put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pot (to keep things from sticking).  
  • Now start layering!  Break your lasagna noodles into halves (ball park, it's not at all necessary to be fussy) and place them in the Crock Pot in a single layer.  Cover the space the best you can, but don't sweat any gaps.  Dollop large spoonfuls of ricotta (1/3 of your container) over the noodles, and gently spread it evenly over the noodles.  On top of this, evenly distribute 1/3 of your spinach.  Next, pour or ladle 1/3 of your sauce on top of the spinach.  Sprinkle 1/3 of your shredded Mozzarella over the sauce.  Add another layer of noodles, and repeat for two more layers.  In the end, you will have three complete layers, ending with noodles.  Pour a thin layer of sauce over the top layer of noodles, and sprinkle on a handful of Parmesan.
  • Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 hours, or LOW for 5-6 hours.  At the end of the cooking time, turn the Crock Pot off, and let it sit for one hour prior to serving.  It will be a bit loose, but not soupy, and by the next day, will be completely firm.  
Note: This will result in a cheesy, gooey, lasagna, which is my preference.  If you covet the crunchy edges, however, popping the whole thing under the broiler (please make sure your Crock Pot can withstand this, first!) for a few minutes would brown and crisp the top up nicely.
Serves 6+, generously.