Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries

Cherries are back! Which, always makes me think of the song, "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," written by DeSylva & Brown in 1931. The lyrics go like this:

"Life is just a bowl of cherries.
Don't be so serious;
Life's too mysterious.
You work, you save, you worry so,
But you can't take your dough when you go, go, go.
So keep repeating it's the berries,
The strongest oak must fall,
The sweet things in life,
To you were just loaned,
So how can you lose what you've never owned?
Life is just a bowl of cherries,
So live and laugh at it all."

Maybe we should all spend more time not taking life so serious, and doing things like this:

In addition, with cherries at their peak, why not make the classic French dessert, "Cherry Clafoutis," named from the lingering regional dialect of Provence, Northern Spain, and Northern Italy, known as "Occitan." It's the same as the natural beauty line of products by "L'Occitane en Provence," meaning "the woman from Occitania." Also note, that a "clafoutis" (kla-foo-tee) is only made with cherries. If other kinds of fruit are used, the dish is properly called a "flaugnarde."

This enhanced recipe from Martha Stewart Living caught my eye, because of the addition of kirsh (cherry brandy) and the seeds of a vanilla bean (as opposed to vanilla extract). The recipe turned out perfectly; although, my family thought it should be a little sweeter. So, maybe next time I'll add another 1/4 cup of sugar. In addition to a dusting of powdered sugar, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or a dollop of creme fraiche or whipped cream, makes a nice addition.

Cherry Clafoutis

Serves 8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds cherries, stemmed and pitted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 tablespoons kirsch
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10" porcelain tart dish (I used a 11" deep dish pie pan), and fill with cherries. Set aside.

Sift flour and salt together into a large bowl. Add sugar. Gradually whisk in whole eggs, egg yolks, milk, and cream. Add vanilla-bean scrapings and kirsch; whisk to combine.

Using a sieve, strain the batter over the cherries.

Bake until puffed and browned, about 45 minutes.

Let cool until warm; it will sink slightly. Dust with confectioners' sugar, and serve!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Feeling Ugly? Eat This!

We all know that we should incorporate more fruit in our diets. Not only is it good for your overall health, it's also good for your skin! Fruit contains high water content, which is good for hydration, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals needed to make you feel healthy and energized. And because fruit contains high levels of vitamin C, it will help boost collagen production, repair tissue damage, and protect your skin against free radicals! Now that's super food!

Honey has been used to enhance beauty since the dawn of time. Although the beauty benefits of honey are usually topical, incorporated into face masks, hair masks, and baths, etc., ingesting it will help you from the inside out. After all, you are what you eat! Right? The ancient Romans gave honey to their Olympic athletes to boost performance and endurance. Honey also has antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, which helps boost your immune system and prevent disease. In addition, honey is good for hangovers, sore throats, and a teaspoon before bed helps you sleep! No wonder Aristotle called it the nectar of the gods!

Now that we understand that fruit and honey is good for the skin, so is mint! Mint is a popular herb used in shampoos, lip balms, and mouth rinses. But it is also found in many beauty products to sooth itching and infections, look for "menthe" on the labels. Mint has a high salicylic acid content, which is good for loosening dead skin cells, resulting in clearer skin. Mint can also help with digestion problems, such as bloating, and is also good for headaches, nausea, colds, and even the flu!

Want to feel better and look better, too? Try this "Fruit Salad with Honey, Lime and Mint!" This is the perfect refreshing summer salad! In fact, it's the only way I can get my fruit-phobic husband to eat his fruit! I recently served this along side chiles rellenos, instead of the typical beans and rice. It was delicious and kept the meal from being heavy or unctuous. Feel free to use any fruit you prefer or have on hand, e.g., berries, kiwi, honeydew, etc. Add this simple recipe to your repertoire and you will have no problem eating your way to healthier skin!

Fruit Salad with Honey, Lime, and Mint

Serves 4-6

5-6 cups fruit, cut into bite-size pieces (I use 1 whole cantaloupe and 1 pint strawberries)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Place all the fruit in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until just before serving.

In a small bowl, mix the honey, lime juice, lime zest, and chopped mint together. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the fruit and gently toss to combine.

Recipe slightly adapted from Ellie Krieger.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Grandma's Rhubarb Pie!

Rhubarb is one of the first fresh garden products of the season in cold climates. The stalks of these perennials are most often used in pies, which is why rhubarb is sometimes referred to as "pie plant." Although rhubarb is considered a vegetable, in 1947, a New York court decided that because rhubarb was used as a fruit in the United States, it was to be considered fruit, thus reducing tariffs on imported rhubarb. If you've never cooked with rhubarb before, I have a fabulous old-fashion recipe for you!

I feel it's important to preserve recipes from the past. Those personal recipes of honest home cooking are our history, it's what makes us American, it's what makes us family. This recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is from the wonderful Ruth Zylich of Barton, New York. This slightly sweet and slightly tart pie is a favorite of my husband and all of his family. Sometimes it's nice to take a deep breath and revisit the classics from our past.

Ruth's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

2 cups cubed rhubarb
1 cup cubed strawberries
2 eggs
2 heaping tablespoons flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cinnamon, sugar, and 1 tablespoon butter, to finish the top crust
1 double-crust 9" pie dough (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the rhubarb and strawberries in a 9" unbaked pie shell.

Mix the eggs, flour, sugar, and salt together and pour over the top of the rhubarb and strawberries.

Place the second pie crust over the top, trim and crimp the edges to seal. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Cut 4 slits on the top and dot with the butter.

Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and continue to cook for 45 minutes, or until the rhubarb is done.

Double-Crust 9" Pie Dough

Recipe from America's Test Kitchen

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" pieces
6-8 tablespoons ice water

Process the flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined. Add the shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse crumbs, with butter bits no larger than small peas, about ten 1-second pulses. Turn the mixture into a medium bowl.

Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of the ice water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more ice water if the dough will not come together. Divide the dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 4" disk. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling.