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Posts Tagged ‘cooking with kids’

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It’s that time of year — asparagus is filling the green markets and being plucked from home gardens.  There is nothing as delicious to see than those bright green heads peeking up through the softening earth.  When I was a little one – there I go again talking about when I was —- my mom and aunt would take me in hand as they scouted the edges of irrigation ditches looking for the first spring crop.  I have absolutely no idea why asparagus grew along the ditches but if any of you readers do please tell me.  We would have asparagus every night until it got too warm and the asparagus disappeared.  It would also be canned and pickled.

When I use it in risotto, I like to add the trimmings to the stock to deepen the asparagus flavor.  And, if you don’t have stock or broth on hand, just add the trimmings to water and that will give you a flavorful stock.  If you have any on hand, a small dice of fennel also works to add some complexity to the final dish.

Serves 4

Approximately 4 cups hot chicken stock or low-sodium chicken

broth

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup finely diced onion

Salt

1 cup Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut, on the diagonal, into

thin pieces

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pepper

Place the chicken stock or broth in a large saucepan over medium heat.  If you have them, add the trimmings from the asparagus to the stock to add flavor.  Bring to a simmer; then, remove from the heat and keep warm.  

Place the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat.  When melted, add the onion and season with salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or just until the onion begins to soften.  Lower the heat, add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the rice is shiny and has absorbed some of the butter.

Return the stock to low heat.

Add the wine to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the wine.  

Begin adding the hot stock, about ¼ cup at a time, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, as each ¼ cup is absorbed and the rice is creamy but, al dente.

Stir in the asparagus and olive oil and cook for an additional 4 minutes or until the asparagus is still crisp-tender.

Remove from the heat and stir in half of the cheese.  Cover and let stand for 3 minutes.

Uncover and pour into individual serving bowls.  Garnish with the remaining ½ cup of cheese and a sprinkle of pepper.

Serve immediately.  

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If you are a past reader you know that I love “nursery” desserts like custard, puddings, floating island – almost anything that would have been served in an English nursery.  The only ones I don’t like are those with gelatin bases or what I used to call wiggle desserts.  A grunt is almost one of those nursery desserts but it is a little more grown-up.  But how I love the names of old-fashioned fruit desserts like this one.  Buckles, slumps, pandowdies, fools, betties, sonkers, crumbles – all silly names for delicious fruit desserts probably most of them from early English cookbooks.  I particularly love a grunt (also called slump) in the summer as it can be cooked on the stove top rather than in the oven so you don’t have to heat up the kitchen on those hot days.  This is one of my favorite recipes —- summer or winter.  You can use almost any fruit that is in season.  If using harder fruits, such as apples or pears, pre-cook them a bit longer to soften.

 

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup half and half

¼ cup cooled, melted unsalted butter

½ cup water

½ cup orange juice

¾ cup granulated sugar

8 cups blueberries

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch ground nutmeg

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Heavy cream or whipped cream for serving, optional

 

Combine the flour, light brown sugar and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk together to blend completely.  Add the half and half and melted butter and, using a wooden spoon, beat until a soft batter forms and no lumps remain.

Combine the water, orange juice and sugar in a heavy bottomed 12-inch frying pan.  Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved into the liquid.

Add the blueberries, lemon zest, and nutmeg, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes.

Uncover and drop the batter by the heaping tablespoonful into the bubbling fruit. Continue dropping until all of the batter has been used and the entire top is almost covered in dumplings.  Lower the heat to barely simmer, cover and cook for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a couple of the dumplings comes out clean.

Remove from the heat and set on a wire rack to cool slightly.

Serve warm, dusted with confectioners’ sugar or with heavy cream poured over each serving or whipped cream dolloped on top.  You could also serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt – do whatever your diet points you toward.

 

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When I was in my full-blown homemade Christmas celebration years, I would make lots and lots of candy. The candy was always a hit simply because most people had never tasted homemade. Some of it came from my childhood – my mom’s favorites were popcorn balls, bourbon balls, and divinity. Of her favorites, I only liked popcorn balls which I often used as tree decorations. Divinity was too sweet – even for me – and I have never liked any sweet that is flavored with alcohol. And most of the others were recipes I had gathered from old cookbooks or good home cooks. Peanut brittle and chocolate fudge were on my top-of list. Of all of these goodies, chocolate fudge is the only one that I continue to make every Christmas. It is easy to make, the recipes yields quite a bit (the amount depends upon how small you cut the squares) and is always a welcome holiday gift.

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (bits or a block chopped into small pieces, use the

highest percentage you can find to help cut the sweetness of all of the sugar)

2 cups toasted walnuts or pecans, optional

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

20 large marshmallows

4 cups sugar

Two 5-ounce cans evaporated milk

Lightly butter a 6 cup baking pan (square or rectangular) or a platter. Set aside.

Combine the chocolate with the nuts, if using, butter, and vanilla in a large heat-proof mixing bowl. Set aside.

Combine the marshmallows and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the evaporated milk and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Continuing to stir, boil for exactly 6 minutes.

Immediately remove from the heat and, beating constantly with a wooden spoon, pour the hot mixture into the chocolate mix. Beat vigorously for a few minutes or until the fudge is creamy. Quickly scrape the fudge into the prepared pan or platter, pushing slightly with the back of the spoon (or a spatula) to spread the fudge evenly.

Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting the candy into small squares. Store, in layers separated by waxed paper, for up to one week or, refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving

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Flavies gifts

Our lovely French friend, Flavie, spent the weekend on a farm in the Catskills and upon her return came bearing a basketful of beautiful vegetables she had picked just for us.  It was quite a diverse lot – tiny potatoes (purple and white), purple cauliflower, purple and green asparagus (which amazed me as it is long past New York asparagus season), amaranth, radicchio, Swiss chard, carrots, 2 wee stalks of broccoli, onions (red and white), garlic – all organically grown and fresh as fresh could be.

My first use was to sauté a few of the fingerling potatoes, the cauliflower, and the amaranth seasoned with some of the onion, chopped, and a clove or two of garlic.  I had a few scallops purchased that morning at the greenmarket that I had intended to turn into a ceviche, but thought why not sear them and top off the sauté.  That is exactly what I did and, once sautéed, I added a bit of butter and lemon juice to the pan and drizzled it over all.  Then, because it was all so brown and purple, I shredded a couple of cauliflower leaves for garnish and Eh! Voila! – to quote Flavie – we had a most delicious dinner.

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It really depends upon the size of the pan you bake it in whether you end up with a banana cake or a tea bread.  For some, the cake (which I bake in a shallow bundt pan) is not as sweet as they might like, but for us it makes a tasty side for a hot cuppa “joe” or afternoon tea.   To make it a bit sweeter, drizzle on a plain or lemon-scented glaze or dust with confectioners’ sugar.  To make tea breads, just scrape the batter into either a 9-inch loaf pan or 3 of those little loaf pans.  Because the ripe bananas add so much moisture, either as a cake or bread, the baked result keeps very well.

1¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

⅓ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

⅔ cup sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Lightly coat the interior of your cake or loaf pan(s) with nonstick baking spray.  Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.  Set aside.

Place the butter in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle.  Mix on low to just soften.  Add the sugar, raise the speed to medium, and beat until light and creamy.  Beat in the bananas and vanilla.  Slowly add the flour mixture, beating to incorporate.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s).  Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes (for a large pan) to 30 minutes (for small pans) or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and tip out of the pan(s) onto a wire rack to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature.   May be stored, well-wrapped and refrigerated, for up to 1 week or frozen, for up to 3 months.

 

GLAZE:  All you have to do is combine about 1½ cups of confectioners’ sugar with a tablespoon of warm milk and a tablespoon of melted unsalted butter until it is smooth and runny.  If you want lemon-scented, replace the milk with lemon juice (and, if you like, a bit of lemon zest).  Drizzle the glaze over the still-warm cake and set aside to allow it to harden slightly.

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