Tequila Por Mi Amante

August 19, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . .

During strawberry season, Randy and I were at some friends talking about drinks made with strawberries.  We discussed Homemade Strawberry Soda and Strawberry-Prosecco Muddle which put Randy in mind of this strawberry-infused Tequila, the name of which means Tequila for My Beloved.  After doing some research, it appears a recipe for this was first published in 1939 in The Gentleman’s Companion (which you can purchase leather bound for a mere $499) by Charles H. Baker, and then again in Gourmet magazine in 1940.  Randy recommends drinking this chilled straight-up in a liqueur glass.  In my research, I saw many recommendations for drinking this over ice with lime and club soda.  Using it in a Paloma was also recommended on several sites – this one sounds great to me because it uses grapefruit soda, which I love.  (Addendum:  It IS great!!) In any case, you will need some patience because it takes a few weeks to infuse, but I think well worth the wait.

Ingredients

1 quart sun-ripened strawberries, the more fragrant and juicy the better!

about a pint of 100% agave Tequila, reposado recommended

Method

Wash and hull the strawberries.  Cut them in half and place in a quart jar.  Pour Tequila over the strawberries to fill the jar, then seal tightly with the lid.  Place in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.  Drain the Tequila through a fine mesh strainer and put the beautiful pink liquid back in the jar or in a decorative bottle.  Keep in the fridge or freezer.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

This tasty and healthy salad was introduced to us by “Aunt Cindy and Uncle John” (my brother and his wife).  They had recently made this for Cindy’s niece’s bridal shower and loved it so much they made it for Mom/Granny’s 86th birthday party.  I discovered the original recipe on Health.com.  Two adaptations were made from the original – roasting the asparagus instead of adding it to the edamame cooking water and using marinated artichoke hearts vs. plain. We all agreed that this is a “keeper”!  It’s fast, easy to make, delicious and impressive.  When we saw that they were using a jar of pre-shaved Parmesan cheese purchased at Costco, we thought this recipe would fit right in with the Sandra Lee semi-homemade approach :-).  So if you use the pre-shaved cheese, it’s even faster to make!

These quantities make 4-6 servings and the recipe can easily be made in larger quantities by doubling or tripling.

Ingredients

1 garlic clove, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 (14-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 cup frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans)
1 pound medium asparagus, tough ends removed, and cut diagonally into thirds
1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese (about 2/3 cup)

Instructions

1. Rub the inside of a large salad bowl with cut sides of the garlic clove; discard garlic.

2. Add oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper to the bowl and whisk until slightly emulsified. Add the artichokes, tossing gently and set aside at room temperature.

3. Meanwhile, place the edamame in a large pot of boiling salted water and cook 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and cook until asparagus and edamame are crisp-tender (about 3 minutes). Rinse under cold water, drain well, and blot dry with a towel or paper towels.  FOR ROASTED ASPARAGUS:  Cook the edamame for about 5 minutes, drain and pat dry.  Oven roast or grill the asparagus whole, lightly coated with a little olive oil.  Once done, cut into 2-inch pieces.  Proceed to step 4.

4. Add asparagus and edamame to the artichoke mixture and toss to blend.  Arrange shaved Parmesan over all and serve.

Strawberry Cream Cake

July 8, 2011

Margaux says….

I made this for my Granny’s 86th birthday.  The strawberry season is much too short, and this year it seems even shorter (and even non-existent).  All the strawberries I’ve gotten so far have been pretty flavorless, and when my mom went to get some for this cake, she said that they’re already gone from the farmer’s market in Peoria (IL).
Luckily, Aunt Suzy (not knowing of my strawberry troubles) sent me a text on Tuesday asking if I wanted her to pick up a bucket of strawberries at a farmer’s market in Menomonie, WI that she stopped at on the way down for the party.  YES!  I was seriously considering buying supermarket strawberries because I was determined to make this cake!  I’ve made it a few times over the years, and I was NOT going to let a strawberry season go by without making it.  And the strawberries she got were the biggest, most beautiful and sweetest ones I’ve had this year.  So my strawberry season went out with a bang!

Aunt Suzy says . . . 🙂

This cake isn’t the easiest to make, but it’s also not the most difficult. I think more than anything, it’s just time consuming, because you have to hull and slice all the strawberries. Otherwise, the cake is a cinch to make, and the frosting is just as easy! And it’s really fun to build. Adding the cream layer is a little tricky. I found it was easiest to place dollops on and then gently spread them outward to the edges.
Voila! The cake is light and spongy, so the puree soaks in nicely. And the cream cheese/whipped cream topping is so velvety-smooth! It really is a crowning culinary achievement, and your friends will ooh and ahh when you bring it out!

Best Strawberry Cream Cake

from Cook’s Illustrated 2006

If using a cake pan, you will need one with straight sides that are at least 2 inches high; otherwise, use a springform pan. The cake portion can be made ahead of time, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, and frozen; thaw the frozen cake, unwrapped, at room temperature for about two hours before proceeding with the recipe.

Cake
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 lbs. medium or large strawberries (about 2 qts), washed, dried and stemmed
4-6 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp kirsch
pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour round 9 x 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tbsp sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tbsp sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60-90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.
3. For the strawberry filling: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tbsp sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tbsps, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.
4. For the whipped cream: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).
5. To assemble the cake: Using large serrated knife slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

My Mom, a.k.a. Granny, is a great pie baker of the traditional persuasion.  What I mean is that she had a few basic pie recipes – nothing fancy – that she was well known for because they were so outstanding.  Growing up I didn’t appreciate this because I definitely liked cake better than pie.  If I did like pie, it was the cream or custard variety where I’d eat the filling out and leave the crust. Now it’s the opposite!  I prefer pie, love the crust and fruit filling trumps cream/custard.  When rhubarb season rolls around it heralds the fruit pie-baking season for me.  Last year, we posted all kinds of fancy rhubarb dessert recipes.  Time to appreciate the basic approach of this timeless and classic rhubarb pie.

Margaux says…

This is one of my favorite pies!  I don’t think I’ve ever actually made it, but mainly because I haven’t needed to…you can usually bet that there will be one of these at my Dad’s house this time of year, and more than once, sort of like apple pie in the fall.  So if I get a craving, I can just invite myself to dinner.  But I completely agree with Aunt Suzy…sometimes a basic, classic pie just totally hits the spot.  And this one fits the bill!

This recipe is geared to a 9-inch pie plate.  Adjust quantities up or down for other sizes.  Line the oven bottom with foil and preheat to 425°.

Ingredients

Your favorite pie crust for a 2-crust pie (see Margaux’s)

3-4 cups rhubarb

1 scant cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons butter, in chunks

NOTE ON THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR:  We like our rhubarb pies on the tart side, adding less sugar to the filling and then sugaring the top crust. You will want to add a little more sugar to the filling if you like things on the sweeter side.

Instructions

Roll out half the crust and line the pie plate with it.  Mix the rhubarb, sugar, orange zest and flour in a bowl and turn into the crust.  Dot with the butter chunks – don’t forget!  I can’t tell you how many times Granny or I have had to poke the butter through the holes in the top crust.  🙂

Place the top crust over the filling.  Crimp the edges and then cut slits in the top crust.  If you want to get fancy, you can cut a beautiful pattern into it.  Margaux’s other Grandma had a lovely traditional family pattern that she used.  My Mom took a more practical approach, cutting a few slits to make sure the steam escaped.  Sprinkle sugar over the top crust.

Place the pie in the pre-heated oven.  Bake at 425° for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350° and bake for another 30-45 minutes until done.  (Electric ovens seem to finish closer 30 minutes, gas ovens take longer.  Start checking after 30 min.) Don’t forget to turn the heat down after the 15 minutes!

Enjoy warm or room temperature, plain or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  And don’t forget to leave some for breakfast (of champions)!

Rhubarb Ginger Jam

May 27, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . .

It’s rhubarb season and time to get busy!  This recipe comes via my friend, Sue, who got it from her cousin, Madelyn, also a friend.  I’ve never made rhubarb jam or sauce, preferring to go straight to desserts.  I’m glad I made it and am on my second batch – it’s fun to give to friends.   From search results, I saw several recipes that used fresh ginger and think I will try that next.  I also learned this recipe was published in the Washington Post in May of 2007, which acknowledged it came from Bon Appetit.  The jam can be stored in the refrigerator without having to go through a canning process.

8 cups chopped rhubarb (roughly 2 lbs.)

2-2 1/2 cups sugar (I used 2)

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely diced

zest of 1 lemon

Place all ingredients in a large pan or Dutch oven.  Stir to combine and then place over medium heat, stirring constantly (so it won’t burn) until the sugar melts.  This takes 10 minutes or so and requires some muscle – I thought it would never melt!


Once the sugar is melted, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Turn heat down to medium-low and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, at a good bubble until thickened.

The recipe said it could take from 20-40 minutes to get to the desired thickness.  I cooked both batches for 20-25 minutes and was pleased with the results.  I think there’s a caution about cooking it down too much because it thickens somewhat after taking it off the heat.  Cool to room temperature, although if you’ve got some vanilla ice cream on hand, scoop some out and put the jam on it while still warm!

Once cooled, place in jelly jars.  Refrigerate. Alternatively you can seal the jars by placing the jam in the jars while hot. Place the lid on the jar and turn upside down to create a vacuum.  After 15-30 minutes, turn the jars upright to seal the lid.  Refrigerate after opening. The quantities in this recipe made a little under 5 cups of finished product.  I’ve had it on said ice cream and on toast, but I bet it would be good mixed with plain yogurt or served on pound cake.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

It finally feels like spring here!  I’m not trusting it’s here to stay, so I decided to take advantage of the spring feeling and make this quinoa recipe.  I’m not sure whether to call it a salad, a side dish or a main dish – it could be any of those!  It can be served warm or room temperature so there are many possibilities. And, it uses preserved lemon, so what’s not to like?  (It would be good without the PL if you don’t have any on hand.)  I think you’ll find it’s a snap to make with many layers of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds or toasted pine nuts
  • 1 cup quinoa, thoroughly rinsed (any color will do, even though I favor the red)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 preserved lemon peel, diced (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, mint or cilantro or a combo

NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS:  I like Trader Joe’s dry roasted Spicy and Tangy Almonds.  If you use these, cut back the cayenne pepper to 1/8 teaspoon since the almonds pack a little heat.  If you don’t have preserved lemon, I think grated zest of 1 lemon would be delicious.

Directions

1.   If using pine nuts, toast briefly in a dry skillet over medium heat. This will take about 5 minutes, and stir constantly as they will burn easily. Set aside to cool.

2.   In a saucepan, combine the rinsed quinoa, water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, about 15 minutes. Cool slightly, then fluff with a fork.

3.   Transfer the quinoa to a serving bowl and stir in the chopped nuts, lemon juice, celery, onion, preserved lemon, cayenne pepper, cumin and herbs. Add the olive oil, then adjust salt/pepper if needed before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Aunt Suzy says

Wouldn’t you know it?!  After stating my purist approach to rhubarb desserts  in a previous post – no strawberries please –  this recipe caught my eye.  I made it for my book club gathering last Friday and the entire time I was making it, I had my doubts.  The biggest doubt, besides the adulteration of the rhubarb with strawberries, was about the vanilla.  I had never seen a rhubarb recipe using vanilla.  Cinnamon?  Yes!  Orange zest and juice?  Yes!  But never vanilla.  However . . . I am glad that I persevered because this dessert is really tasty.   So whether you are a rhubarb purist or you already like strawberry-rhubarb desserts, I recommend you give this a whirl.  Strawberries are at peak right now, at least in the Midwest, and rhubarb is plentiful.

A note about the name and ingredients:  The original recipe in Bon Appetit said that “crumble” is the British word for desserts we call “crisp”.  It also called for hazelnuts, which I don’t particularly like, so I substituted walnuts.  I might try it in the future with the hazelnuts, but since I was making it for the first time for company, I felt walnuts were a safer bet.  If you don’t have whole vanilla beans handy, you could add vanilla extract.  I  believe for this recipe to truly be smashing, it needs local, in-season strawberries.

Lastly, I am so happy to have my Hanson Brothers 25lb antique scale when something calls for ingredients in ounces!  I’m not sure of the exact date of manufacture, but it was made in Chicago, IL sometime after 1898 when the company was founded and probably before 1940.  Even though it’s old, it lives up to their promise of “honest spring scales”!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes OR frozen and grated on the large holes in a box grater
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup walnuts OR husked and toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved (about 4 cups)
  • 12 ounces rhubarb (preferably bright red), ends trimmed, stalks cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick pieces (about 3 cups)
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preparation

Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, and salt in medium bowl; whisk to blend. Add butter. I used a technique for adding butter that Randy taught me.  Freeze the butter and grate, then add to the dry ingredients.    

 

Rub in with fingertips until mixture sticks together in clumps. Mix in oats and nuts.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Place 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl and scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk to blend well. Add sugar to strawberries and rhubarb in a large bowl; toss to coat well. If using vanilla extract, add to fruit and sugar mixture after the sugar has been added.  Stir well to distribute.

Scrape fruit filling into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping evenly over filling.  Bake crumble until the filling bubbles and topping is crisp, about 45 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Spoon warm into bowls and serve with ice cream.  (oops!  Didn’t get a pic of the finished product with ice cream.  That’s what happens when having company!)

Aunt Suzy says

Upon seeing Margaux’s recent post on Fettucine with Asparagus, Peas and Pancetta, I thought “I will be making this!”.   I too love pasta and had just purchased asparagus and sugar snap peas at the farmer’s market.  Margaux’s remark that a vegetarian version of this might also be nice, prompted me to make this as a veggie side dish to accompany the salmon I was planning to make for dinner.  I made modifications based on what I had on hand.  This was delicious and I can’t wait to make the original recipe with the pancetta!

Pasta with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas in Lemon-Herb Sauce (by Aunt Suzy Test Kitchen :-))

12 ounces small pasta (I used tri-color fusilli)

2 to 2-1/2 cups asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths

2 to-2 1/2 cups sugar snap peas, strings removed and cut into 1/4-inch lengths

4 large scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

The dark green part of the scallions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons olive oil

juice of one lemon

zest of one lemon

1/4 cup parsley, or more to taste

1/4 cup basil, or more to taste

1/2 cup parmigiano, grated, plus more for passing

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta liquid.  Drain pasta and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the asparagus in a saute pan and cook for 1 minute in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil at medium high heat.  Turn the heat down to medium and add the sugar snaps, the sliced green onions (white and light green parts) and garlic.  Saute for 3-4 minutes more, then put the lid on the pan and cook for 2 more minutes.  The vegetables will get slightly brown on the bottom of the pan which will add extra flavor. 

Place the cooked pasta into a large pot and add the vegetable mixture.  Stir to combine and then add 1/4 cup of the pasta water, the green parts of the scallions, the lemon zest and juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, the parsley and basil.  Stir to combine and then add the parmigiano cheese, stirring to thoroughly mix in.  Add additional pasta water a little at a time if too dry, which I did not have to do.  Serve with extra parmigiano to pass.

Aunt Suzy says

When I first saw this shaved asparagus pizza recipe last week from Smitten Kitchen, I thought it looked delicious, not to mention beautiful to look at.  With great asparagus so plentiful right now, I wanted to make it at my first opportunity,  My friend Sue had asked about adding goat cheese and that got me thinking about other ingredients.  Randy and I made pizza on Saturday night using Vicolo Pizza frozen crusts which are cornmeal based and are our go-to pizza crusts.  I wanted to try the recipe as described on Smitten Kitchen and also to add some other ingredients to see how they worked. True confessions . . . I might be posting this just so I can show these cute Mozzarella Pearls that I just discovered at Whole Foods.

On top of that base of Parmigiano and Mozzarella, I placed the shaved asparagus.  On the right in the photo below is the basic recipe and my riff on it can be seen on the left.  I added roasted red pepper, Niciose olives and feta cheese.  Both sides of the pizza were delicious!  Randy went even further and used pizza sauce as a base, green olives, red onions and roasted red pepper and no mozzarella.  He said it was one of the best pizzas we’ve ever made, and we both agreed that shaved asparagus is a winning pizza ingredient!

 

Margaux says

I love pasta dishes.  I would eat pasta every night for dinner if the rest of my household felt the same as me.  However, as much as my husband loves pasta, too, he doesn’t feel the same way as I do.  And Desi doesn’t really like it at all.  Seriously, where did this kid come from??  No mac n’ cheese, no spaghetti…sometimes its really hard to come up with dinner ideas!  This dish was a winner because Desi loves asparagus, peas and bacon, and we even got him to eat a few noodles, too!

I used proscuitto because my grocery store didn’t have pancetta, and I didn’t feel like making an extra trip to Whole Foods.  I think I could have just used bacon, and it would have been just as delicious.   It also would have been really good vegetarian.

Fettucine with Asparagus, Peas and Pancetta
by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen

* 12 ounces fettuccine or penne
* 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
* 1 1/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
* 2 cups shelled fresh green peas, blanched 1 minute in boiling water, drained, or frozen peas (do not thaw)
* 1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts separated from dark green parts
* 2 garlic cloves, pressed
* 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
* 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
* 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
* 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided

Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

Meanwhile, cook pancetta in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 teaspoon drippings from skillet. Add asparagus to drippings in skillet; sauté 3 minutes. Add peas, white and pale green parts of green onions, and garlic; sauté until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add vegetable mixture, 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid, dark green parts of green onions, 1/2 cup Parmesan, cream, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, half of parsley, and half of basil to pasta. Toss, adding more cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls if needed. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle pancetta, remaining parsley, and basil over. Serve, passing additional Parmesan cheese.