Monthly Archives: June 2011

Rhubarb Sauce

So, you’ve decided to make yesterday’s rhubarb pie recipe, but you’ve realized you bought too much rhubarb.  What to do?  The answer:  Make rhubarb sauce.

Growing up, each summer, my mom made big batches of rhubarb sauce.  She kept some in the freezer, and we enjoyed it all summer long.  My sister and I would eat it for breakfast, and sometimes, it was a side for dinner.  Back then, we ate it like we did applesauce—on its own.

When I decided to make rhubarb sauce for the first time, I talked to both my mom and my grandma.  Equipped with no specific recipe, both just advised me to cook the stalks down with a bunch of sugar, some water, and a little strawberry gelatin mix for color.

Well, being the natural-food obsessor that I am (I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I cannot stop thinking about where my food comes from—yes, I realize how obnoxious I’ve become), I wanted to recreate my mom’s lovely pink rhubarb sauce without the gelatin.  Having just seen beautiful pints of strawberries at the farmers’ market, I thought that the addition of strawberries would enhance both the color and the flavor of the sauce.

Well, the sauce was a success.  Both the consistency and the flavor matched the sauce I grew up with.  This time around, however, I realized the potential of the sauce.  While I did eat most of it straight out of the jar, I also spooned it over vanilla ice cream and spread some on toast, and I know it would be great over pound cake with whipped cream.  Oh, the possibilities . . .  Continue reading

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Rhubarb Pie

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that you would see a lot of recipes inspired by the farmers’ market this summer.  Well, this is the first of those recipes.  I actually made this pie a few weeks ago, but with the school year wrapping up, I just couldn’t find the time to sit down and write the post.

As you may remember, my Grandma DeWall taught me how to make pie.  At 90-years-old, she showed me how to make her perfect crust and taught me the tricks of making an exceptional pie.  I have made a lot of pies since then, but my favorite is still the one she first showed me how to make:  rhubarb.

Some of you might say, “Rhubarb, what’s that?,” or, “Isn’t that a vegetable?”  Well, yes, rhubarb is considered to be a vegetable.  In fact, in appearance,  it resembles celery (don’t worry, not in flavor). However, when cooked down with sugar, it is a sweet-and-sour treat, and in this pie, it is divine.

Rhubarb

This pie is different from most.  It is a custard, and as a result, the filling is creamy and sturdy.  When cooked properly, the filling stands up and produces a nice, clean slice of pie.

When cooked improperly, however, the custard does not set, and instead of just having a runny pie—like you would with most fruit pies—you end up with an undercooked-custard mess.  Believe me, it has happened to me, and it is a sad situation.  To ensure that your pie is finished, take the time to fully bake it. It is my opinion that people are so nervous about the crust over-browning that they pull pies out of the oven before they are finished—or maybe that’s just me.  Cooking times for pies are not precise—especially if you’re like me and like to overfill your pies.  Be patient.  Wait until you can see the filling in the center of the pie bubbling.  Depending on the pie, this may take an hour or it could take  1 1/2 hours.  It just depends.  In my experience, it is better to leave a pie in the oven too long than too short.  Just keep the pie on the bottom rack, and if you notice the edges of your crust getting too brown, cover the edges with foil. Just do not take your pie out too early, or you will regret it! Continue reading


Tiramisù

Happy Belated Father’s Day to all of the dads out there! I meant to post this on Sunday, but  life took over — and you all know how that goes!

Father’s Day has always been a bit of a big deal in my family. My dad loved sweets, and Liz and I always enjoyed making cakes for him on Father’s Day; he was our taste tester and always joked that he “needed a little bit more” of whatever it was that we’d made as he hadn’t been able to taste it well enough the first time. He passed away when I was in high school, but we always find ourselves baking something when Father’s Day rolls around. There’s just something so comforting about baking.

This year, we had the luck of going to dinner on Saturday night at one of our good family friend’s houses. We’ve been meaning to get together for quite some time, but schedules (mostly mine & Liz’s) tend to get in the way, so we never get to spend as much time with this wonderful family as we would like. In keeping with tradition, Liz and I both wanted to bring something fun for dessert for Mr. D. After our dad passed away, Mr. D truly stepped up to the plate to help out Liz and me whenever we have issues. While Liz opted to make a pineapple upside down cake, I, naturally, decided to go the more Italian route. I’ve been wanting to make Tiramisù for a while now, and, knowing that he appreciates fine Italian espresso as much as I do, I took this as the perfect opportunity to break out my Bialetti, brew some Lavazza, and whip together this treat.

I first made this recipe as a freshman in college; my friend Heather and I were both in the same Italian class and chose to present on the culture of Lazio and, as a treat for our peers, made some tiramisu. Unfortunately (or, perhaps, fortunately), we added a wee bit too much espresso and rum that time around; it still tasted pretty good, but the bottom layer in particular was too soggy and the mascarpone a bit too rummy. Having learned my lesson, I was ready to try making it again, this time taking some advice from America’s Test Kitchen.

A few recipe notes:

  • I highly recommend getting Italian lady fingers, or savoiardi. The fluffy things one can buy at Safeway are lovely when eaten alone, but they don’t stand a chance when dipped into a cup of espresso. They fall apart instantly (this was mistake numero uno the first time I made this). For those of you in the DC area, there’s a great shop called The Italian Store in Arlington, Virginia that sells a ginormous pack of these for like five bucks.
  • Use good ingredients; the beauty of Italian food is that it is relatively simple and is designed to let the flavors of the ingredients shine through. It shows when you don’t use good quality mascarpone and espresso.
  • Refrigerate overnight. Technically, you only need to chill this for about 4 hours, but I suggest chilling it longer. The flavors combine so well, and I’ve found that the leftovers a day later often taste better than when I first served this!
  • This recipe requires no less than 3 mixing bowls, at least one of which should be chilled (your largest one) and another of which must be heatproof. Be prepared.

This is not exactly a simple recipe, but each step is easy. Best of luck and happy eating!

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Eggplant Lasagna

Who doesn’t love lasagna? Lasagna has always been one of those comfort foods that I know I can whip up pretty quickly with only a handful of ingredients. It’s a dish that combines three of, well, pretty much everyone’s favorite foods: pasta, cheese, and tomatoes. Sure, it might be a bit messy, but I’ve come to love its rustic charm. The other fantastic part is that it is relatively difficult to screw up. Foolproof comfort dish? I’ll take it.

I think that I’ve mentioned a billion times that I LOVE using seasonal ingredients. I think that food just tastes so much better when you use vegetables and fruits at the height of their season. While browsing the vegetable section at my local grocery store the other day, I came across some particularly gorgeous-looking eggplant and added two to my shopping cart. Turns out, so did my friend Caroline at her end of town, and she invited me over for dinner last night to cook with some of the loveliest purple vegetables around.

Hello, Chef Extraordinaire!

I know quite a few people that despise eggplant, but it’s actually quite a versatile ingredient. I’ve used it plenty of times in stir fry, curry (er, well, my mom does, and I claim partial credit for helping chop…still not over my fear of making Indian food!), and, after its been sauteed or grilled, as the perfect topping for a sandwiches or on a pizza. I’ve found that drying it out with a little salt or precooking it is particularly good when making something like eggplant parmesan or lasagna; it makes the eating experience much more pleasant since you avoid the risk of soggy food.

Caroline came across this recipe for lasagna on the Real Simple website. What makes this dish so fantastic is that, instead of using lasagna noodles, it uses eggplant, eliminating the carbs and adding in an extra serving of vegetables. It was quick and easy to make, and you can prep some parts while others cook. We even decided to make our own sauce using canned tomatoes, which made the whole recipe relatively inexpensive. Served with a side salad of spinach tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, and it was the perfect meal in under 45 minutes. Winning? I think yes. Take that Charlie Sheen!

So enjoy this scrumptious recipe for a quick, healthy dinner. It’s a delicious way to get in some phytonutrients and to eat some (naturally) purple food. Happy eating!

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Sesame-Peanut Noodles

Everyone has fallback recipes—recipes that they turn to on a busy night or on a night when trying something new seems like too much work.  My ultimate fallback recipe comes from Ted Allen’s book The Food You Want to Eat.  Ted’s recipe for Sesame-Peanut Noodles is not only easy, but it is both comforting and healthy.

While many pasta recipes are packed with simple (but delicious) carbohydrates, these noodles are different.  Instead of using traditional pasta noodles, for this recipe, I use soba noodles.  The word soba is Japanese for buckwheat, and these noodles are made of buckwheat flour.  Soba noodles are high in protein and B vitamins.  They have a nutty taste, and, to boot, if you choose 100% buckwheat noodles, they are also gluten-free!

Soba Noodles

When I made these noodles the other day, I was excited, because this recipe gave me the chance to take advantage of my, now thriving, herb garden.  I am growing a variety of herbs—basil, thyme, rosemary, Italian parsley, lemon verbena, mint, chives—but for this recipe, I grabbed a handful of my fresh cilantro.

Cilantro In My Garden

Below, you will notice the long ingredient list.  Do not be apprehensive. Once you decide you want to prepare different Thai and Chinese dishes, you will need to stock up on some of these traditional Asian ingredients. You won’t be sorry to have these ingredients on hand; most are non-perishable and will keep for months.  If you don’t have any of the fresh ingredients on hand, then you can make the dish without them.  It is still delicious.  The reason this dish is a fallback recipe for me is that, even if I don’t have any fresh produce around, I can still throw it together.  You can even throw in some shredded chicken or tofu.  It just never turns out bad. Continue reading


Chocolate Lava Cakes

Dessert lovers, beware. Your diets are about to go downhill.

Who doesn’t love a spoonful of molten chocolate? Well, minus me. Sure, I generally opt for the fruit dessert, but even I can’t resist a warm chocolate cake sometimes.

After reading Megan’s last few dessert-oriented posts, I couldn’t help but think how great a spoonful of gelato would taste atop a warm chocolate cake. I first made this dessert when my friend Lucy came to visit me. Lucy studied abroad in Florence at the same time that I did, and I was lucky enough that she was already living with my host family when I arrived. She was a great resource when I first moved to Italy, and I’m glad to count her among my friends. I wanted to make a special treat when she came, so I chose to make these chocolate lava cakes as the perfect ending to our Italian meal.

This recipe produces a dessert that is quite rich, and the cakes taste great with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla (or crème fraîche!) ice cream. The molten chocolate inside is always a great surprise to guests, and the instant gratification of a warm, gooey cake is hard to beat!

I hope you consider making these next time you are craving some chocolate. Even better, make this with some crème fraîche gelato; I’m pretty sure that’s a pairing that’ll be hard to beat! Happy eating!

….and on a completely unrelated note: If you haven’t had any artichokes yet this season: RUN. I am currently eating a bowl of lightly braised baby artichokes with garlic and onions, and I am in foodie heaven. GAH.

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