Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, Olives and Pecorino

Margaux says…

This pasta salad caught my eye on “Food and Wine” because of the olives and tomatoes…I really love that combo of flavors in a pasta salad.  But what made this excellent is the mixed herb pesto that you toss it with, and the shaved pecorino that you toss in after it’s completely cooled, so that it doesn’t melt.  This dish has a ton of flavor and will be in regular rotation on our “pasta Wednesdays” in the summer!

Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, Olives and Pecorin0

adapted from Food and Wine

1 pound penne

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 garlic cloves, halved

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped thyme

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped marjoram

Salt

1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes—halved, seeded and quartered

1/3 cup Calamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 cup coarsely grated Tuscan Pecorino cheese (3 ounces)

Freshly ground pepper

Cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the penne and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large serving bowl.  Let sit to get to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, marjoram with 1/3 cup of olive oil.  Add more olive oil if you think it’s necessary…the original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but I felt that was a little much.  Scrape into the bowl with the pasta and season with salt, then toss together.

Then toss in the tomatoes and olives and let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to develop flavor. Just before serving, add the Pecorino, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

MAKE AHEAD The pasta can be tossed up to 2 hours ahead.
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Easy Strawberry Tart

June 26, 2013

Easy Strawberry Tart - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

This was the weekend of getting stuff done.  Actually, every weekend needs to be the weekend of getting stuff done, but somehow that doesn’t happen.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, my husband and I (more my husband, less me) are remodeling our house.  FOREVER remodeling our house.  Right now we’re re-doing our upstairs bedrooms…all three of them.  It’s going slowly, as usual.  Since it’s summer, we’re also trying to make our outdoor spaces more livable so that we go out there more often.  I always feel like we spend more time at Home Depot and Menard’s than we do actually doing any work…but that might just be because I really don’t like those places very much.

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This weekend I got the front yard looking pretty great…mulched, weeded, re-planted a bunch of stuff.  And meanwhile, in the backyard, Jason painted the wicker furniture that I found in the alley a while back.  I love finds like that!  Now all it needs are some cushions and we’re on our way to some outdoor living!

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So complicated baking projects were out of the question…but I had two quarts of strawberries that I needed to do something with ASAP.  I saw this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website last week, and thought it would be the perfect quick dessert to use up most of the strawberries with.  I love tarts, but making the pastry cream can be so time consuming and tedious.  This was a great alternative, and who doesn’t like a dessert with cream cheese??  It reminds me of a dessert my Aunt Gigi always made for summer gatherings, especially the Fourth of July, strawberry pizza.  It’s the same idea, with a shortbread-type crust, cream cheese topping and fresh strawberries.  This is even better I think, though, because it has about twice the amount of cream cheese filling…yum!

Easy Strawberry Tart

adapted from Everyday Food

1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for handling dough
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup seedless red currant jelly or apple jelly
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend flour, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt until moist crumbs form (this may take up to 1 minute). Transfer dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. With floured fingers, press dough evenly into pan and up sides. Dip a dry-measuring cup in flour, and use it to press dough firmly into bottom and against sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 10 to 15 minutes. Using a fork, prick crust all over. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, pressing down gently once or twice with a spoon during baking if crust puffs up. Cool completely in pan.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth; spread mixture evenly in bottom of baked crust (still in tart pan). Starting from outside edge, arrange strawberry halves, stemmed side down, in tight concentric circles on cream cheese. Microwave jelly in a small bowl until liquified, about 30 seconds (keep a close eye so it doesn’t boil). Gently brush strawberries with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Chill in pan at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours); remove from pan just before serving.

Strawberry Shortcake

June 24, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We’re kind of into strawberries around here. And I’ve been buying them like crazy this year, as usual, even though they’re not that great (all the rain around here made them kind of tasteless). Usually at my house we just eat them fresh with yogurt, or just, well, fresh. But since they don’t have a lot of flavor this year, I’ve been making desserts out of them (add lots of sugar and voila, they taste better!), like strawberry pie, and this amazing strawberry shortcake.

The strawberry shortcake I grew up on was basically a buttermilk biscuit recipe with a little more sugar in it. My husband grew up on angel food cake as the cake part. Both good, but this is so, so much better. The shortcake is so delicious that I’ve been just eating the leftovers plain-ahem-for breakfast. And the recipe is super easy since it’s done in the food processor. I was stressed because I didn’t start making it until after dinner, but it was no problem!

If you don’t have a food processor, you can still make this recipe! But first….you should really invest in a food processor. It’s one of my most-used kitchen tools! Mine is a Cuisinart from the early 90’s that I got from my mom. (She hates to cook, but when I was a kid thought for a minute that she might like it and took a bunch of cooking classes and stocked our kitchen with fancy tools. Lucky for me, I have most of that stuff now.) Anyway, it’s a fantastic machine and if you can find a used one at a garage sale or something, it will most likely work great! But anyway, I’m guessing you’re not going to run out and buy a food processor for this recipe, so in the meantime…I’ll give you instructions below.

Aunt Suzy says . . .

A while back we posted another recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. We might call it the shortcut shortcake because the “cake” is Joy of Cooking cream scones, which have only 4 main ingredients with heavy cream filling in for the butter and eggs. From looking at Margaux’s recipe, these will be much richer and probably more classically “shortcake” as we Americans would think of it for this dessert. I’m going to have to try this once we get strawberries up here in Minnesota. Our winter lasted into mid-May so we are waaaaaaaay behind! Hey, Margaux, how about we make these for breakfast at Wimbledon?

Strawberry Shortcake
adapted from Everyday Food

the shortcake

1/2 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons cold (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse flour, baking powder, sugar, and the salt until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal but with some pea-size bits of butter remaining, 10 to 12 times. In a medium bowl, whisk together cream and the eggs; pour over flour mixture, and pulse until some large clumps begin to form, 25 to 30 times.

If using a pastry cutter instead of a food processor: cut the butter into the dry ingredients in a large bowl using a pastry cutter until the mixture is a coarse meal, with some small chunks of butter. Whisk together the cream and eggs, pour into the butter and flour, and using a wooden spoon (or your hands, which is easier), mix together the mixture until large clumps form. Do not overmix.

Using a half-cup measuring cup, gently pack dough, invert, and then tap out onto a baking sheet. Repeat to form 8 biscuits. Bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, about 15 minutes.

The strawberries:

Hull and quarter about 6 cups of strawberries. Mix them in a large bowl with about 1/2 cup of sugar. Let is sit for at least an hour, until they get nice and juicy.

The whipped cream:

Beat 1 1/2 cups whipping cream with 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form.

Assembly:

When shortcake has completely cooled, you can carefully cut them in half lengthwise with a serrated bread knife. Add strawberries and whipped cream and serve!

Greek Quinoa Salad

June 2, 2013

Greek Quinoa Salad - Sweet and Savory KitchensMargaux says…

In the warmer months, we eat a quinoa salad at least once a week. Everyone loves it…including my picky son, it’s super quick and easy, and nice and healthy. I should really call this one “clean out the fridge” salad, because I often make it when I really need to go shopping and I have to just use up whatever is left in the fridge. We always have most of these things on hand because they’re all favorites of my son. I find that you can add or subtract any ingredient, based on what you might have on hand. Some other things that would be good tossed into this are avocado, parsley, chopped fresh spinach, mint, celery, zucchini, green onion, radishes, pine nuts or white beans.

Greek Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1/4 red onion, fine chop
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (leave out for vegan)
1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Rinse and drain quinoa. Add water and quinoa to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it starts boiling, cover, run down heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes. Dump immediately into a large serving bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, chop your veggies. When the quinoa is cool, add all veggies and beans to it and mix.

Make dressing: Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over salad and mix well. Carefully stir in feta. Serve at room temperature with warmed pita and white wine as a main dish. Also great as a side at a BBQ, or with chicken.

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.

Margaux says…

I bought a lavender plant last summer just to make this recipe (well, and I really like lavender in general, but that’s what really motivated my purchase), and am just now finally getting around to it! Luckily I was able to take all my herbs in for the winter, and they stayed alive. My mother-in-law brought me a bag of Meyer lemons last time she visited, which lit a fire under me to make these. The recipe is from the “Three Aunts and a Mom” cookbook that Aunt Suzy gave me, and this recipe is from my Aunt Judy.

The original recipe has a glaze on it, but I was concerned that they would turn out more muffin-like than cupcake, so I made a basic lemon butter frosting.  If you’d rather do the glaze, just mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with 5-6 tablespoons of lemon juice, and add a few teaspoons of zest.  But I thought they were really good with the frosting.

The Meyer lemons made the cupcakes sweeter than they probably would be with regular lemons.  They were very delicious, but unless you’re a major sweet-tooth, you’ll probably only be able to eat one.  They would be perfect for an early spring birthday party, while lemons are still in season.  If you don’t have fresh lavender available, rosemary would work as well.

Fresh Lavender and Lemon Cupcakes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup extra fine granulated sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tsp finely chopped lavender or rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lavender, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk, vanilla and lemon juice.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter on medium high for 30 seconds; add sugar and beat on medium high for 2 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping bowl often. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture in three parts, ending with flour. Beat on low after each addition until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups to 3/4 full. Bake 22-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from muffin pan and let cool.

Lemon Frosting

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until combined (will look crumbly). Add lemon juice and zest, and beat until smooth. Add more powdered sugar or more lemon juice to desired consistency.

Margaux says…

Every year I make Granny’s Peach Pie at least twice.  It’s always been my absolute favorite pie, over all pies.  But every year, I say that I want a FRESH peach pie, one that celebrates the sweet, juicy, wonderfulness and deliciousness of the peach, a fruit that I absolutely adore, and that is only around for a nanosecond.  Not that Granny’s doesn’t…hers definitely has a huge peach flavor, and it is a wonderful pie (obviously, since I make it so often).  But my mom always talks about her mom’s peach pie, and how it’s like eating fresh peaches with whipped cream, and the thought of that appeals to me.

It took me so long to make this for a few reasons.  For one, I know I love Granny’s pie, and good peaches are in short supply usually, so I just stick to that recipe.  Secondly, my Grandma Major wasn’t particularly known for her pies (she made beautiful cakes, though!), and my Granny is…her pies are the best in town.

But this year I found a good source for peaches, and have been buying them in bulk weekly for about 4 weeks now, so I decided to give it a try.  I actually tried another fresh peach pie recipe earlier in July, but it was WAY too sweet and had way too much of the peach mixture that you pour over the fresh peaches.

Then my mom reminded me about Grandma’s recipe, and wrote it down for me.  OH MAN, is it good.  There’s still a few days left to get good peaches…you should definitely use them for this.  Next year, I’ll be making both Granny’s and Grandma’s peach pies, that’s for sure!

Grandma’s Fresh Peach Pie

One 9″ baked pie shell
7 peaches
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 2 pieces
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Peel peaches by dropping them into boiling water for about 1 minute, then taking them out and gently peeling the skin off.  Crush one cup peaches.  Combine water, sugar, cornstarch and lemon in a saucepan.  Add peaches, bring to a boil.  Cook over low heat, constantly stirring, until thickened and clear..2 to 3 minutes.  Turn off heat, and add butter.  Cool slightly.  While cooling, slice remaining peaches into pre-baked and cooled pie shell.  Pour peach mixture over sliced peaches.  Chill for at least 3 hours.  Serve with fresh whipped cream.