Archive | June, 2010

Apple Crumble Tart

29 Jun

Just as everyone is ramping up their vegetable garden, ours is quietly dying.

You see, as you all were digging out of snow and ending your hibernation, I was picking the bounty of my garden.  You were jealous.  I was proud.

In March, we ate sweet grape tomatoes picked from the vine and gathered fresh strawberries by the handful.  In April and May, we picked large bunches of greens from the local organic farm and filled our crispers with wholesome goodness.  In June, it started to get hot.   I mean, really hot.  The weeds began to take over the garden plot because I couldn’t bear the heat and exertion needed to keep them at bay.  “Not to worry though”, I thought, “Jessica’s Organic Farm will keep me well stocked until fall.”

Until I went for my weekly trip, only to find that they were CLOSED for the summer.  CLOSED!  Where would I buy my fruits and veggies?

As I ponder how to deal with this tough situation,   I will tell you exactly how not to deal with this problem:

Don’t buy bagged apples.

I saw these at the local super BJ’s and thought I would give it a try.  I go organic as much as possible but I am willing to eat a few non-organic apples if neccesary.  Also, the price was right.  About $5.99 for 12 pounds of apples.  We eat a lot of apples.

Look at these things.

The outside appearance of most of the apples was terrible.  A few of them looked pretty good from the outside but were filled with deep bruises and mush, grainy insides.  Ewww.

The bag sat for awhile and I realized that I was not going to make a special trip to return the apples and I needed to use them up quickly. (That little one on the left breaks my heart–look at that bruise!)

Luckily, I had a pie crust in the fridge too…and set about making something with those sorry, sad, apples.

I looked around and found a recipe for Apple Crumb Pie from petebakes! and set out to modify it a little.

Here is what I did:

1) Peel, core, and slice about 8 apples.  You may need less if you can use most of your apple….mine were terribly damaged and I managed to cut out a lot of them.

2.  Put your sliced apples in a bowl with 1/2 cup of suagr and 2 T. of flour.  I added 1 T of cinnamon–because I like it.

3.  Get your pie crust ready.  If you are lazy, like me, use the one in your fridge. I used a tart pan instead of a pie pan because I wanted it to look pretty. If you are feeling particularly inspired, try this tart recipe (just so you know, but I am sure you have noticed, I have at least one reference to smittenkitchen in every post)

4.  Layer in your apple slices.  (This was the first time I actually layered in my fruit slices.  Usually I just dump everything in–this time I took care to layer things nicely and I was happy with the results!)

5.  Mix up your crumble. Or get your little sweetie to mix it up for you.  We mixed 1/2 cup sugar, 6 T butter chilled and cubed, 2 T of oatmeal, 3/4 flour, 1 T cinnamon, 1/2 tsp kosher salt. You will want to either process once in the food processor or use a fork or your hands to end up with a dry crumbly mixture.

6.  Sprinkle this over the entire tart.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Let cool and serve with vanilla ice cream (or cinnamon ice cream if you have it!)

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The Easiest and Best Homemade Pizza —EVER!

25 Jun

A couple of weeks ago, we had a potluck dinner party/end of the school year/ pool party for some of our new friends and their families.  The theme was: Italian Summer and everyone brought  great food to share.  We had an assortment  of pastas, salads and fruits, pesto, panna cotta and tiramisu.  My husband grilled some steaks and some veggie kabobs (which, my son would like to point out, are not very Italian.  But they were good.)   We had wine, beer and cocktails made with Lemoncello, soda, lime and mint leaves.  It was a good time and everyone left full and happy, if not, slightly tipsy.

The morning of the party, I decided to whip up some pizzas for the kids using a new recipe that I had found on Smitten Kitchen.  I realize that could have been a very risky move—-everyone knows that you don’t try out a new recipe on guests, right?

I had faith in Smitten Kitchen and just wanted to try something new.  So, I went for it and was pleasantly surprised with the results.  Actually, very, very surprised with the results.  It didn’t seem possible that the pizza crust dough could involve so few ingredients and be so perfect.

I truly think that I have found my go-to pizza crust for the rest of my life.  This is the recipe that I will pass on to my children—-it is seriously that good.

The day after the party,  I decided to make the pizza again.  Me and the kids can eat pizza everyday and I wanted to be doubly sure that the dough would turn out just as perfect.  It did.

If you feel like trying your hand at this easy peasy pizza—you really should. You will never go back to store bought pizzas again.  And you may even stop eating pizzas out (unless you are in NYC, and then you will buy a slice everyday.

Here is the recipe, borrowed from Smitten Kitchen which was borrowed from Jim Lehey.  Keep reading for  step-by-step instructions:

Jim Lahey’s Pizza Crust

I doubled the recipe and made about six 6-inch pizzas.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cold water
Olive oil, for bowl and pans
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly add 1 cup cold water. Mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine. Switch to a dough hook and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

2. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size.  This is a good time to prepare your toppings and have a nice big glass of wine.  My dough is resting beneath the towel and my wine is ready!

3.  After the 2-4 hours are up, split the dough into halves, and form each into a log. Place each log on a generously floured surface, and allow it to rest (covered) until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.  The photo below shows the logs post rising.  See how puffy!

4.  At this point, you are ready to make your pizzas into the shape you want. I was feeding a bunch of kids so I made a bunch of little pizzas.  I didn’t roll out the dough–i just kind of stretched it out.  They weren’t beautiful but artisan.

6.  Next, add toppings.  I did the basic marinara with mozzarella, for my picky eaters.  But I also made some with pesto (leftover from the party), cherry tomatoes from my garden, and a combination of mozzarella and Parmesan.  Yummers!

Just looking at the toppings makes me crave this pizza!

7.  I prepared my mini pizzas and then stuck them in the fridge until I was ready to eat them.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees and bake for about 10-15 minutes.   (I tried the recipe both using a pizza stone and without—and I liked the chewy-ness of the crust without the stone.  I also put the oven on the HIGH broil setting for about 15 minutes before I put the pizza in.  I wanted the oven to be as hot as possible.)

Look at that pizza!  It is so professional looking, easy and delicious.  Make it and let me know what you think.

Jam Filled Thumbprint Cookies

13 Jun

This weekend was a blur.  Between dinner parties, swim meets, running, and ballet performances, it is amazing that any laundry was done in our house and even more amazing that anything was actually produced in our kitchen.  Luckily, my seven year old son was barred from video games for the weekend and decided to finish up his book, one in the Boxcar Children series (yes, kids still read those books).

At the end of the story, the author had provided little games and activities to add extra enticement to the series and that is where my son stumbled on the recipe for Jam-Filled Thumbprint Cookies.

“Can I make them, Mom? I won’t even need your help,” he asked.

“Sure, but you have to do it by yourself,”, I said, as I casually looked at the ingredients list.  “There is nothing there for him to get hurt on.”, I thought to myself.  I turned back to my collection of food magazines scattered on the bedroom floor and continued to plan meals for the week.

Not long after, the barrage of questions began.  I started to hear him talking to himself and I realized that my baby boy had gotten in over his head.

“Mom, what does 3-4 (3/4) mean?”

“Mom, it says 1 cup.  Which cup am I supposed to use?”

“Mom, is the flour in the big white bag that says “salt” on it?”

“Mom, can you help me?”

His sweet pleading and his valiant effort was enough to pull me off the floor and into the flour filled kitchen to help.  It was funny and endearing to see him checking and then double checking the recipe, measuring very precisely, and then wiping his messy hands all over his shorts.  It was nice to be in the kitchen together; baking, because it was his idea, and not a project that I thought up.   After a  very few minutes of working together in the kitchen, he decided that he wanted me to finish the cookies so that he could watch TV.  And so I did.  It had been a long weekend.

Jam Filled Thumbprint Cookies

This must be the simplest recipe for thumbprint cookies ever invented.  Only four ingredients, no mixing in a special order, perfect for kids.  They actually turned out quite good too….the cookie is very buttery and dense and it counters the strawberry jam perfectly.

350 degrees, 15 minutes.

You will need:

3/4 c butter melted

1 c sugar

3 cup flour

1 egg

your favorite jam

1. Melt the butter.

2. Add the sugar and egg.  Mix together.

3. Add the flour. Mix until well combined.

4. Put dough in fridge for awhile.  (We left ours in the fridge for a couple of hours while we went grocery shopping.)

5. Roll into 1 inch balls.  Press indentations into each ball with your thumb.

6.  Using a tiny spoon, fill each indentation with jam.

7.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the jam is bubbly.

Let cool slighty and then feed to your amazing children!

Meet the cook!  He loved the cookies….as you can tell.