Recipes and Me

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Peach & Cream Scones

These Scones. I’m telling you. If you’re like me and still lusting for peaches constantly, all too aware of the season that will soon end, here is a recipe you will want to have on hand. The combination of beautiful yellow peaches with tangy cream cheese in this fairly healthy scone (you know I love whole wheat flour) makes the perfect breakfast treat with a cup of coffee or a nosh with afternoon tea. They also freeze amazingly well so you can make a batch, freeze some for later and bake when you’re ready. I’m always drawn to recipes that are versatile. You want to stuff your face and eat every last one of those scones now? Go for it. Who’s stopping you? You want to have breakfast at the ready for a couple of days but freeze some off for company staying with you later in the week? That works too.

The one cautionary note I will make is that you want to use peaches that smell amazing and are ripe but you don’t want peaches that are becoming overly ripe, they’re too juicy for this. If you give the peach a slight squeeze and it gives a bit but still has structure, you’re good to go. If you squeeze and make a big greedy fingerprint, it’s too ripe. 

Peach & Cream Scones
Makes 10-11 scones

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting
½ cup white wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
*You can do 2 cups all-purpose flour if you don’t have white wheat/whole what pastry flour on hand
¼ cup coarse or granulated sugar + more for sprinkling
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ cup (8 tbsp) cold unsalted butter, grated like cheese *tip: freeze for 10 minutes while gathering other ingredients
1 tbsp melted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp cream cheese, cut into small cubes or broken up into small dollops *it’s easiest if you buy the rectangular packaging rather than a round tub
1 cup fresh yellow peaches, diced

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk flour, salt, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl or large glass measuring cup add the buttermilk and cubes of cream cheese. Give it a quick stir. Refrigerate the buttermilk/cream cheese mixture while you start the dough. 

Add the grated cold butter to the dry mixture and toss well to combine. Use your fingers to pinch the butter into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is well incorporated. Work quickly so the cold butter doesn’t warm too much from the heat of your hands.

Add the diced peaches and buttermilk mixture. Fold the wet ingredients and fruit into the flour just until combined. The dough will be very crumbly. That’s okay and exactly what you want in this case. Do not overmix (it will be tempting).  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Pat it together into a large round, about 1 inch thick. Pat it on top also to even the thickness of the dough. Using a pastry cutter, cut out rounds (or triangles) and place the scones on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Don’t let any of the dough go to waste! As you run out of room to cut more rounds, pat the dough into a smaller circle and continue cutting out rounds. You should be able to get 10-11 scones out of the batter, using all of the dough. Brush the tops of the scones with the melted butter. Sprinkle the scones with coarse sugar.

Bake 18-23 minutes until golden brown.  Remove scones from the oven and let them cool a few minutes on the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.


Saturday, August 8, 2015

Peach and Plum Cornmeal Galette

Peach obsession. That’s what I’m dealing with right now. A serious peach obsession. I’ve been downing these guys like it’s some kind of marathon. I went to the gym to work out the other night (I know, weird) and when I came home the first thing I did was go to the fridge and grab a peach.  “But didn’t you want a glass of water?” someone less strange than me might assume.  Nope. I had to have a peach. I picked a huge one I had just picked up from the market a couple of days before and my decision was rewarded big time with cold juicy sweetness. It was so ripe I nearly squealed with delight. Since I’m incapable of getting sick of this crazy wonderful fruit I have been making something with peaches weekly. Lately I’ve been making a peach and plum galette that is simple but beautiful and oh so summery.  Plums can be an underrated fruit, in my opinion, but I’ve been getting some really fantastic ones at the market this year. Like peaches, plums are just as wonderful when eaten right after being picked from nature’s bounty but they are equally wonderful featured in baked desserts. You get a magnificent burst of hues from magenta to dark purple and the deep red juice rolls along the crust amplifying striations of a homemade kind, the kind that speaks to a person’s love affair with the kitchen. It’s one of those desserts that is both fun and easy to make, yet it receives all sorts of oohs and aahs from those that discern you must have spent an eternity slaving away in the kitchen. You will know better and smile in proud satisfaction.

Peach and Plum Cornmeal Galette       
Serves 6

1 cup all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur which gives me great results.), plus a bit more for fruit filling and for dusting
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon fine sugar (I use caster sugar here and a coarse sugar for the fruit but granulated sugar would work fine here if you don’t have caster sugar.)
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (8 tablespoons) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (I usually cut the butter and put it in the freezer while I’m gathering the other ingredients.)
*European butter or American butter with a higher fat content recommended- trust me, it makes a big difference. I use Kerrygold which is now very easy to find. Plugra also works great.
2 tablespoons very cold water
1 ½ pounds mix of peaches and plums sliced thin (1/4 inch to 1/3 inch, no thicker)
*You can use whatever mix you like. I use yellow peaches, red plums, and black plums. This mix gives great color variation!
1/3 cup coarse sugar (I use coarse turbinado cane sugar. It gives a richer taste than granulated sugar.)
Egg wash (1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water mixed)
Parchment paper

Put a few tablespoons of water in a glass with a couple of cubes of ice and set aside.  Pour 1 cup all-purpose flour, the cornmeal, fine sugar, and salt into a food processor and pulse several times to mix. Add the cubes of cold butter to the mix and pulse until the mixture starts to turn a bit yellow and is coarse meal texture. Slowly add 1 tablespoon cold water while continuing to pulse mixture. If needed add up to 1 additional tablespoon until the dough starts to pull together. Do not overmix. Lightly flour a counter or work surface and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead the dough a couple of times and then form a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic and put in in the fridge for at least an hour. I often make the dough the day before I need to make the galette to get it out of the way and the next day it’s there ready for me. 

When you’re ready to make the galette, take the dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to roll it out. Set the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Tear off a large piece pf parchment paper and place it on a work surface. Lightly flour the parchment paper and a rolling pin. Place the dough on the parchment paper and roll the dough out to 14 inches round, starting from the middle and rolling in each direction. Repeating this will give you an even thickness. It may crack at the edges and that is okay. Just mend the cracks as you work. This is a rustic tart. Don’t worry about it too much. Imperfection is great here. Transfer the parchment paper with the dough onto a rimmed baking sheet (nonstick preferred) and set it aside. In a large bowl mix the thinly sliced peaches and plums, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and the 1/3 cup coarse sugar. Mix well but be gentle so you don’t break the fruit. Pour the fruit filling into the very center of the dough, piling high rather than spreading out. Use your hand to gently push the filling down so it spreads out evenly. Leave a 2 inch border from the edge of the dough. Fold the border up pleating it as you go (once again, don’t get frustrated and strive for neat here. Just fold that thing up and however it falls will be beautiful). You may get a few cracks. Just mend quickly so the juice from the fruit filling doesn’t start to run through. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake the tart for 40-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the juices from the fruit are bubbling. 

Transfer baking sheet to a cooling rack and let it cool for 15 minutes. Slice and serve! 

*The galette can be served both warm and at room temperature. It will keep in the fridge up to 5 days.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Warm Weather Pasta Salad

It’s hot here in DC, hotter than I think it’s supposed to be just yet. It’s also raining like the tropics almost daily so I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the weather this year. But I do know one thing. Humidity is already a constant. I find myself craving icy beverages (read rosé) and cool salads loaded with veggies or fruit. Salads are never boring to me. At least, they never have to be. You can experiment to your heart’s content. You can clean out your fridge to keep your overly ambitious trip to the market from going in vain and end up with bright new recipes to keep in your repertoire.

This salad is no ordinary pasta salad. It’s chocked full of asparagus, spring peas, and zucchini, with a briny hit of feta for a great Mediterranean flair. I used a spiralizer for the zucchini to make zoodles. It adds a little whimsy to the dish which I’m always a sucker for but you can of course do zucchini ribbons or thin slices, whatever works for you. I also used a whole wheat penne in this recipe which adds to the nutritional value. I find I eat much less pasta with this dish and still remain full compared with a white flour pasta. The high fiber content is the secret here which helps you stay full and satisfied, a great advantage with whole grain pastas.

Warm Weather Pasta Salad
Serves 4


Pasta Salad:
14 oz whole wheat penne pasta
1 bunch of asparagus *not the big fat spears, just the everyday modest ones (20-22 spears), woody stems removed and remaining stalks cut in half (resulting in 40-44 pieces)
1 large zucchini zoodled with a spiralizer or julienned or ribboned with a vegetable peeler
¾ cup fresh peas (you can use the frozen variety if you have a hard time finding fresh shelled peas)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (toasting instructions included below)
5 oz crumbled feta (not an exact science here, throw in what you like)
2 tbsp chopped parsley

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (use the good stuff for salads- I find fruity olive oils like Arbequina work well)
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp red chili pepper flakes
1 tsp salt (2 tsp if using kosher salt)
1 pinch of sugar
Fresh ground pepper to taste


Toast the pine nuts in a sauté pan over medium heat for 2 minutes, tossing once. You don’t need them to brown. You just want to get some of the natural oils going. Pour the pine nuts into a small bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile make the zucchini zoodles with your spiralizer (or ribbons with a vegetable peeler). I like to give the zucchini zoodles a rough chop to make things easier down the line. Have you ever tried to eat spaghetti or zucchini noodles and penne all together? Let me just say, it’s trickier than you think. Giving the zoodles a rough chop makes the end result easier but it still maintains a great curly look to the vegetable. Set aside. Cook the penne pasta according to package instructions until al dente (9-12 minutes depending on the variety). Do NOT overcook. You need the pasta al dente so it has the capacity to absorb some of the dressing. While the pasta is boiling, use a small bowl to prepare the salad dressing (use a whisk to mix the liquid ingredients first and then add in the garlic and spices. Whisk again and voilà). Set the dressing aside. When al dente, drain the pasta in a colander and add it to a large mixing bowl. Pour 2/3 of the salad dressing over the pasta and mix well. Let it sit and absorb all that great flavor!

Fill the pot again with water and bring to a boil though you only need to fill it half way for the veggies. The pot and stove will be quite hot so it will come to a boil very quickly this time. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath in a medium to large bowl (cold water plus a good number of ice cubes) to shock the veggies and set it aside. This will ensure the vegetables stop cooking exactly when you want them to and is also the trick for maintaining a bright color after blanching. Once the water comes to a boil, add the asparagus and peas. After 2 minutes add the zucchini zoodles and boil for an additional minute. Drain the veggies in the colander and immediately dump them all in the ice water bath. Let them sit in the water bath for 1 minute. The ice will melt completely and you can drain the veggies again in the colander. Add the drained veggies to the pasta. Crumble the feta and sprinkle on top. Add in the chopped parsley and pine nuts. Pour the remaining 1/3 dressing over everything and give the salad a nice mix. Do this with a light hand so you don’t smash the feta. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. I find the feta and salt in the dressing is usually salty enough for me but you may want to add a little salt and pepper depending on your taste buds. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit 5 hours or overnight in the fridge. This is a great make ahead recipe for a picnic or gathering the following day. The pasta will keep for up to four days though I like to finish it by day three as the veggies start to lose some of their brightness.

I’m not going to pretend this recipe doesn’t have a number of steps or is a one bowl kind of prep (obviously) BUT all of the steps are super easy, take very little time, and the reward is fantastic.

Invite a few people over, open a nice bottle of rosé and put this salad on the patio table to enjoy a relaxed and simple summer meal.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

I can’t get enough of strawberries come May. I wait like an anxious kid through winter for them to come into season so I can devour them daily. I admit I’ve already prepared this drink twice this week. It’s refreshing, light, and perfect on a warm afternoon. It whips up quickly and can be easily multiplied to please a crowd for your next spring or summer backyard soirée. There’s something about the cool fizziness that just screams lazy summer afternoon. 

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade
Serves 2

6 large strawberries
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
2 tablespoons good honey
6 medium sized mint leaves
1 liter bottle of sparkling mineral water

Quarter strawberries and place them in a blender. Finely chop the mint and add it to the strawberries. Blend the strawberries and mint until the mixture is finely chopped and well mixed. Add the honey and lemon juice and blend well on your blender's puree or liquefy setting until the texture is smooth. And be sure to scrape down the blender – don’t leave that beautiful strawberry puree trapped in the cap! Pour the strawberry puree into two glasses and add sparkling water. Give the drinks a quick stir, add some ice, and voilà, your sunny Saturday is waiting for you.

Happy drinking!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Lavender Hot Chocolate

The last several weeks have held teasing moments of icy winter weather with major storms hitting just north of us in DC. It’s been bittersweet. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Georgia girl. Cold will never, ever, be my thing. That said, there’s something nostalgic about snow days cozied up on the couch under a blanket and listening to how quiet the world has become outside those frosty windows. It’s serene. Time seems to stand, just creeping by. Laundry seems logical yet wholly unnecessary and more of a distraction to the extra moments of peace that have just been granted. Cradling a mug of fine hot chocolate while settling in to a good movie is a perfect way to spend those chilly winter days. Adding lavender to the mix elevates this classic wintertime favorite. And with Valentine’s Day just upon us, it’s also a pretty sexy recipe for a sexy night in (hey now).

Lavender Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

2 ½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon dried lavender buds
1 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dutch process cocoa powder

Pour milk into a medium sized saucepan. Add the lavender buds. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a simmer. Remove milk from the heat and steep for 4 minutes, whisking occasionally.  Strain the mixture to remove the lavender buds and any milk skin. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Over medium heat whisk in the chocolate until smooth. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar. Turn the heat off.  I love this hot chocolate served with homemade whipped cream but it’s just as fantastic without it.

Stay warm!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Spiced Holiday Nuts

Recipes that are quick and simple yet super delicious are kind of my mojo. 2014 has been a year of swallowed time, by work, by obligations, by shear exhaustion. Having these quick showstoppers I can whip out at any time the occasion calls for them is such huge life saver. You all know I have a thing for gardening. I love growing vegetables and I adore growing herbs. I find a way to work herbs into most recipes. They complement and bring out the natural flavor in so many dishes. This recipe is incredibly easy, yet so grown up dinner party classy that people will be asking you for the recipe even if there's not a ton to it. And can I just say, rosemary...rosemary is like my spirit animal. It's woodsy fragrance gets me every time. Somehow it makes me sort of enjoy winter (picturing snow topped log cabins here) which, for those of you that know this about me, is no small feat given that winter is a season that is usually dead to me. But these spiced nuts scream relaxed cocktail party snacking and, most importantly, HOLIDAY- so really, what's not to love?

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy New Year, Cheers to 2015!
Spiced Holiday Nuts
serves 4 (as party of a cocktail party menu with other nibbles)
1 cup raw unsalted cashews
1 cup raw unsalted almonds
1/2 cup raw unsalted pecans
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine nuts in a medium bowl. Combine salt, sugar, and ground pepper in a small bowl and set aside. Drizzle the olive oil over the nuts and stir thoroughly to combine. Sprinkle chopped herbs and sugar, salt, and pepper over the nuts. Stir to combine. Transfer nuts to a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring at 8 minutes, until cashews are noticeably golden. 
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fig and Honeyed Mascarpone Buckwheat Tart

Autumn.  Here you are in all your red and yellow hued splendor.  As the leaves start falling, crisped by the cooled air, I can't help but want to curl up with a good book, a cup of tea, and something a little sweet.  Right now my "something" is figs. The luscious jammy texture and adorably perfect size make figs my snack of choice at the moment. Out of my moderate obsession with this healthy and delicious culinary powerhouse, this tart recipe was born.  It combines the robust fig flavor with that of wildflower honey, slightly tangy mascarpone, and a nutty buckwheat crust.  A generous slice of this tart goes very well with tea indeed.


Fig and Honeyed Mascarpone Buckwheat Tart
serves 8 (or 4-6, or decide)

Buckwheat Tart Crust:
2/3 cup buckwheat flour
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (pink salt recommended - it's my new thing and it's fantastic)
2 tablespoons cane sugar (use what you like but sugar with a deep molasses-y taste does well here)
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons very cold water

In a food processor add the flours, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine the ingredients. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until the flour mixture gathers into pea sized crumbles. Continue to pulse while slowly adding the cold water 1/2 tablespoon at a time (you may need as little as 1 tablespoon or as much as 2 tablespoons). The dough should come together into somewhat of a ball.  As soon as it does, you're done...with that. Remove the dough and, using your hands, form it into a disk 1/2-3/4 inch thick. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to overnight. If you do plan to chill it longer than 30 minutes, you will need to let it sit out for 10-15 minutes before rolling it out. 

Once you're ready to roll:
On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough into a 11 inch circle about 1/4 inch thick. Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll it onto a 9 inch tart pan. Lightly press the dough into the edges and sides of the pan. It may start to crack a little. If it does, you can gently push the dough back together. With your rolling pin, roll gently (I feel like I'm saying "gently" a lot. Maybe it's because I'm so heavy handed and tend to pummel things with my rolling pin?) across the top of the pan to remove overhanging dough. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Line the pastry dough with tin foil and add pie weights to the center. Bake for 17 minutes. Remove the foil and weights and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes until the crust is firm and nicely browned. Set the crust aside to cool.

Honeyed Mascarpone Filling:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/4-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons good honey (I use wildflower honey but I've also used buckwheat honey with seriously wicked results.)

Using a stand mixer, whip mascarpone on a low speed, slowly adding the vanilla extract and then the honey. Slowly add the whipping cream until the filling is smooth. Careful- if you overdo it, it will become a texture akin to butter (not what you're going for here). Scoop the filling into the tart and spread it evenly.
*I've used different brands of mascarpone and find I sometimes need only 1/4 cup of whipping cream and sometimes closer to 1/2 cup, which is why I've made the noncommittal notation above regarding the cream measurement.

Fruit Topping:
The crowned jewels, 12 large ripe figs
*I use Black Mission or Brown Turkey Figs. The Black Mission Figs are a bit sweeter and earthy. The flavor of Brown Turkey Figs is a bit more delicate.

Quarter the figs (or cut into 6 segments if they are very large) and arrange them on the tart in a circular pattern starting from the outside working your way towards the middle.

Above all else, Enjoy!