Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rustic Red Raspberry Turnovers

Yuck! Blech! Eww! Dee-sgusting, as a younger relative of mine used to say. What started out as an experiment in new flavors and pastry technique ended up in the garbage. Seriously, doesn’t the title sound wonderful? And I was able to find fresh, organic raspberries on sale for half-off at the grocery store. This recipe was literally begging to be made.

Starting from the inside, the fruit filling was much too tart. So sour, in fact, that my ears hurt when I sampled the turnovers. I was intrigued by the use of cinnamon and nutmeg, spices I normally associate with apples, but their flavors were completely lost in overwhelming sourness of the raspberries.

I’m going to have to make a more concerted effort to find my heavy maple rolling pin. Rolling out refrigerated pastry with a wimpy rolling pin is just too difficult. I thought using my non-stick rolling pin with a sticky butter pastry would allow me to get away with little or no additional flour. Not as much as I would have liked.

And, yes, I have multiple rolling pins. I collect them along with wooden spoons. Perhaps I should rename this blog “The Rolling Pin and Wooden Spoon”?

I don’t recommend using old-fashioned wide champagne glasses as pastry cutters. I didn’t have a 4” round cookie cutter, so I substituted the glasses which are a little narrower. Their edges aren’t really sharp enough to easily make the cuts.

And lastly, if you run into this recipe online, ignore the comments recommending that you cut the baking time in half. As sensible as it sounds that 20 minutes at 400°F is too long for tiny pastries and will burn them, it’s not. I pulled mine out after 10 minutes, as the commenters recommended, and they had barely cooked. Nor was the taste anything special.

The one good thing to come out of this whole mess is that I discovered how easy it is to make pastry dough in a food processor. I may retire my trusty pastry blender.

Verdict: What were they thinking??

Rustic Red Raspberry Turnovers

(source: Fine Cooking)

Buttery Shortbread Pastry Dough

9 oz. (2 cups) bleached allpurpose flour
7 oz. (14 Tbs.) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. chilled heavy cream
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. table salt

In a food processor, combine the flour, butter, egg, sugar, cream, lemon juice, and salt and pulse until the dough starts gathering together in big clumps. Turn the dough out onto a counter and gather it together. Shaper the dough as directed in the recipe you’re making.

Yields enough dough for 1 single pie crust, 8 mini tarts, or 12 turnovers

Rustic Red Raspberry Turnovers

1 recipe Buttery Shortbread Pastry Dough
4 tsp. granulated sugar; more as needed
1 tbs. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 cups (8 to 10oz.) fresh red raspberries, rinsed and air-dried or patted dry with paper towels
1 to 2 Tbs. milk

Divide the pastry in half. Pat each half into roughly a square shape about 1 inch thick, wrap each in plastic, and chill for 20 minutes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll out one square of the pastry into a 9x14-inch rectangle. If the dough is too sticky, dust it too with a little four. Cut the dough into six rounds, each about 4 inches in diameter. Remove the excess dough from around the rounds and discard or save for another use. Run a metal spatula under each round to separate it from the counter.

In a large bowl, stir the 4 tsp. sugar and the flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the raspberries and gently toss to coat. Taste and add more sugar if the fruit seems tart.

Put a heaping tablespoon of raspberries (three to six berries, depending on size) in a single layer on one half of each dough round. Press gently to flatten the berries a bit. Dampen the pastry edges with a little water and carefully fold the other side of the dough over the berries to make a half moon. Press the edges of the dough together with your fingers or the tines of a fork. If any small cracks formed in the, pinch them together as best you can with damp fingers. Use a spatula to transfer the turnovers to the baking sheet.

Repeat this process with the remaining half of the pastry dough and the rest of the berries. When all the turnovers are assemble, refrigerate for at least 15 min. and up to 4 hours. Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F.

When ready to bake, brush the tops of the turnovers (but not the edges or they will get too brown) with the milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 min. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Compost: eggshell, lemon rind

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vegetable Curried Rice

Stop reading. Go directly to the recipe and then your kitchen. You will be making this rice for dinner tonight. Yes, it’s that good. And so easy. I made it to accompany the lackluster Crumb-Coated Red Snapper. It was the only flavorful thing on my plate.

I have to confess that I left out the veggies and nuts. Corn makes me gag. I always pick out the peas from the fried rice when I get Chinese take-out. And as much as I like almonds, I don’t like my rice to be crunchy.

But even with most of its ingredients missing and canola oil substituted for the olive oil, this rice dish was a real treat. I will be making it often.

Please ignore all of the above if you are one of those unfortunate people who hate curry. I happen to love curry, so this is the perfect recipe for me.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Vegetable Curried Rice

(source: Taste of Home)

½ cup uncooked long grain rice
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
½ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/3 cup frozen corn thawed
1/3 cup frozen peas, thawed
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted

In a small saucepan, cook rice and onion in oil until rice is lightly browned and onion is tender. Stir in the broth, curry powder, salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 12 minutes.

Stir in corn and peas. Cover and simmer 3-6 minutes longer or until rice and vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with almonds.

Yield: 4 servings.

Recycle: olive oil bottle

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crumb-Coated Red Snapper

Ah, the cool breezes of fall have arrived. As my windows have closed, my kitchen has opened. I can finally turn my stove on. For my inaugural fall meal, I chose a quick and easy fish fry. I’ve been trying to eat healthier, trying to stay away from fried and fatty foods, but since this recipe only uses two tablespoons of oil, it didn’t seem unhealthy.

I see a lot of fish recipes that call for Red Snapper but I can never seem to find it offered for sale. I substituted Tilapia. I also substituted canola oil for the olive oil. I just don’t like the taste of olive oil. Canola oil confers the same health benefits as olive oil without the heavy taste. Canola has now become my go-to oil.

I was quite disappointed with this recipe. The breading was what attracted me initially. I liked the idea of the Parmesan cheese and lemon-pepper combination of flavors but they disappointed. Perhaps the quantities need to be increased. This recipe was singularly tasteless.

Verdict: Totally tasteless

Crumb-Coated Red Snapper
(source: Taste of Home)

½ cup dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt
4 red snapper fillets (6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheese, lemon-pepper and salt; add fillets, one at a time, and turn to coat.

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook fillets in oil in batches for 4-5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Yield: 4 servings

Recycle: oil bottle

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shrimp Salad Rolls with Tarragon & Chives

This past summer was one of the hottest summers on record. Wait. Don’t I say that every year now? Gotta love global warming. My kitchen is normally closed during the summer, but I usually manage to sneak in a few meals during cool days. This year, I couldn’t even do that. The 90° days were relentless. I rapidly grew sick of salads, sandwiches and tuna salad and was desperate for some variety.

Thank goodness for email. I subscribe to several different recipe sites who send me daily or weekly emails full of seasonal recipes. Summer is not usually good because most of the recipes are barbeques and I don’t own a barbeque and, as noted above, I was sick and tired of salads and sandwiches. When this recipe arrived in my inbox, I perked right up. Not tuna and wraps could easily be substituted for the rolls. I don’t eat a lot of bread.

It also gave me a chance to try fresh tarragon. It was a revelation. I rarely use fresh spices, so I am accustomed to dishes needing 24 hours to reach full flavor. This recipe was fantastic from the first day. I’ll be adding tarragon to my herb garden next year.

Other than peeling all that shrimp, this is an easy recipe to make. You can eat it in rolls or wraps, or as a salad, like I did. I’ll definitely be trying the lobster variation next summer when my local grocery has a sale on lobster.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Shrimp Salad Rolls with Tarragon and Chives
(source: Fine Cooking)

Kosher salt
2 lb. Large shrimp (31 to 40 per lb.), preferably easy-peel
¾ cup finely chopped celery with leaves
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup finely sliced fresh chives
1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
6 hot dog rolls, preferably New England-style split-top rolls

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until bright pink and cooked through, about 2 minutes. The water needn’t return to a boil. Drain in a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Shell the shrimp, devein if necessary, and cut into ½- to ¾-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, stir the celery, mayonnaise, chives, tarragon, lemon juice, ¼ tsp. salt, and ¼ tsp. pepper. Stir in the shrimp and season to taste with more lemon, salt and pepper.

Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler to high. Toast both outside surfaces of the rolls under the broiler, about 1 minute per side. Spoon the shrimp salad into the rolls, using about ⅔ cup per roll, and serve.

Variation: Make it a lobster roll: Substitute 1-1/2 lb. (4 cups) cooked lobster meat for the cooked shrimp.

Compost: leftover lemon, celery, chives and tarragon

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


One would think by now that I would have learned the two most important rules in cooking: Never try out a new recipe when company is coming for dinner and never, ever enter an untried crust recipe in a pie baking contest.

Even I can’t believe that I had no idea how the crust tasted when I entered my pie on Saturday morning. Especially considering what I had gone through to get to that point. The Granny Smith apples that I had used in last year’s filling were a disaster. They were too tart and too hard. I don’t like my apple pies to be crunchy. Since I was going back to my regular filling, I decided that I needed to change my crust recipe. I took a peek into my Silver Palate Cookbook and fell in love. Pastry crusts with shortening or butter are familiar, but one with both? And who puts sugar in their pie crusts? I had to try it out.

I have arthritis in my hands, so mixing stiff pastries is difficult for me. I used chilled butter, but opted for room temperature shortening. Mixing wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated so I probably could have used chilled shortening also. As for the ice water, I distinctly remember the woman who gave me the cookbook and who was also the most fabulous cook I had ever met, told me that ice water in pie crusts was absolutely necessary. Cold water wouldn’t do. It had to be ice water. So I gamely filled my glass measuring cup with water and dropped ice cubes in to create my ice water.

I used a pastry blender to mix my ingredients but balked at tossing it with a fork after adding the ice water. In the past, I have tried using my favorite wooden spoon to blend in water with disastrous results. I always use my pastry blender. Judging from A’s comments after tasting the crust, perhaps I should have used a fork. I also skipped the "smearing" step. I couldn’t see the point.

Not surprisingly, the toughest part was trying to roll out chilled pastry. I couldn’t find my heavy maple rolling pin so I had to use my lighter everyday rolling pin. I wasn’t able to roll the pastry as evenly or as thinly I wanted. Big disappointment.

Something I should have remembered about pastry dough using butter is that it browns/burns more easily than pastry dough using shortening. I should have left my aluminum foil edging on longer than I usually do. I wasn’t happy with how brown the edges became.

As for the big taste test, I was happy with it because it tasted much less flour-y and dough-y than my usual Betty Crocker recipe. A had a different take on it. She pointed out that it was tough. There are two things that can make a crust tough: too much flour and too much handling. I think that I was guilty of both.

A just got a new silicone mat that she is raving about. I am still using my old fashioned pastry cloth to roll my pastry. I have to use a lot of flour to keep my pie crusts from sticking to it and my rolling pin. I’m definitely going to take A’s advice and invest in some new technology.

And now I understand the "smearing" step. In my zeal to mix the water and dry ingredients, I probably went overboard with the pastry cutter. If I had tossed it with a fork and then smeared the result on the counter (or a new-fangled silicone mat), I could have mixed the ingredients just as effectively but with a lot less handling.

I’m going to try this recipe again but follow the directions to the letter. If the result is still not great, I have plenty of time to find a new crust recipe for next year’s apple pie baking contest!

Verdict: Needs a do-over

(Source: The Silver Palate Cookbook)

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter, chilled
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, chilled
5 to 6 tablespoons ice water, as needed

Sift flour, sugar and salt into a mixing bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening. Working quickly and using your fingertips or a pastry blender, rub or cut fat into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Sprinkle on ice water, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, and toss with a fork. Turn dough out onto your work surface, and, using the heel of your hand, smear dough away from you, about ¼ cups at a time. Scrape it up into a ball and wrap in wax paper. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Roll dough out to ¼-inch thickness on a floured work surface. Line a 9-inch pie plate with half of the dough. Crimp edges for a single-crust pie.

For prebaking, line dough in the pie plate with foil and fill with beans or rice. Bake in a 425°F oven for 8 minutes, then remove beans and lining. Prick bottom of dough with a fork and return pie plate to oven to 10 to 13 minutes longer, or until crust is golden brown.

Makes one 9-inch double crust, or two 9-inch single crusts.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Orange-Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

Obviously dessert for the Valentine dinner had to involve chocolate. That was a given. And the theme was “pairings”, so it had to be chocolate-something. I considered chocolate-raspberry, but raspberries aren’t in season now, so I decided on chocolate-orange instead. This recipe sounded good, but not difficult to put together. Frankly, after the Buche de Noel, I wanted something simple. (The original recipe includes a blood orange compote served on the side, but I skipped that.)

The ingredients don’t require comment, except for the chocolate. The recipe specifically states that the chocolate should not exceed 61% cacao. After perusing the available options at the grocery, I decided to go all out and get the Ghirardelli 60% cacao. Unfortunately, I had written on my shopping list the one pound of chocolate required for the cake, but forgot to add to that the additional 6 oz needed for the glaze. Realizing this on the morning of the dinner, I opted to make the glaze out of ordinary chocolate chips. Oh, and light rather than dark corn syrup. I don’t use corn syrup very often as it is, and really can’t see keeping two bottles of the stuff.

This recipe goes together really easily. You don’t even need a mixer, just a couple bowls and a spoon or whisk. Also you can just melt the chocolate/butter mixture in the microwave.

The recipe calls for a 10” cake pan with 2” high sides. I just used my 9” springform pan. You do want high sides because this recipe makes quite a bit; my pan was full. I’m wondering whether a 10” pan may be essential in this case. I did bake it until the tester came out with “moist crumbs attached”, which turned out to be over an hour (although I have doubts about my oven’s thermostat). But the cake was dry on the outer edges and maybe a little bit underdone in the middle. Which is not entirely a bad thing, because the middle was moist and fudgy.

I’m not sure why the recipe suggests applying the glaze only in the center. I would apply it all over, like a frosting.

The flavor was absolutely out of this world. It totally blew me away. It also blew away my coworkers, when I took the leftovers in the next week. Cut the pieces small, because it is heavy and rich. Very chocolatey without being too sweet. It also freezes beautifully. I don’t see anything wrong with making the glaze from regular semisweet chocolate chips. Whether the cake itself would be as good made with regular chocolate chips, I don’t know. I may have to do some research on this point…

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Orange-Scented Bittersweet Chocolate Cake


2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream


6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (do not exceed 61% cacao), chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter 10-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Combine chocolate and butter in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate-butter mixture is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; add both sugars, orange liqueur, and orange peel and whisk until blended (mixture will look grainy). Add eggs, 2 at a time, and whisk until just blended after each addition. Whisk in sour cream. Add flour mixture and stir in with rubber spatula just until incorporated. Transfer batter to prepared pan; spread evenly.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes. Run small knife around sides of cake to loosen. Invert cake onto rack; peel off parchment. Cool cake completely (center may sink slightly).

For glaze:
Combine chocolate and butter in small metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until chocolate-butter mixture is melted and smooth. Whisk in corn syrup. Cool glaze until barely warm but still pourable, about 10 minutes.

Pour glaze onto center of cake. Using small offset spatula, spread glaze over top of cake, leaving 1/2-inch plain border around top edge. Let stand at room temperature until glaze sets, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and store at room temperature.

Recycle: liqueur bottle, sour cream carton, corn syrup bottle

Compost: eggshells