As the summer winds down, I thought I would sneak one more berry dessert into the mix. Although peak raspberry season is over, you can still find acceptable berries at your grocery store. This tart is the epitome of simple: a graham cracker crust, a sweet and creamy filling, topped with fresh berries. I can’t imagine anyone not liking this combination. The dessert highlights the berries by creating a subtle contrast in flavor and texture in both the crust and filling, but does not over power the delicate raspberries themselves. The tang of the berries are complimented nicely by the tang of the sour cream filling. Similar to a no-bake cheesecake recipe, the filling is a simple combination of cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar. By including the sour cream, it not only adds an extra layer of flavor, but also softens the filling and keeps the dessert on the lighter side. (more…)
It all started about a year ago at our wedding…
As a token for their involvement in our wedding, Scott and I presented two of our groomsmen, Reed & John, with bottles of Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon. I believe John was the first to suggest that he and Reed hold on to their bottles and we all drink them together at a nice dinner. Flash forward 10 months and four failed scheduling attempts and finally we all managed to congregate at our apartment for our “Stag’s Leap Wine Dinner.” However, in the time that it took us to plan this event, we found that we had another reason to come together and celebrate; our dearest friend Reed proposed to his girlfriend Kristina. Now we really had a reason to open those bottles of wine. (more…)
As promised, although slightly late, here is one option for using all of those perfectly ripe summer strawberries. These fresh strawberry cupcakes certainly let the sweetness of the strawberry shine. I used white cake and filled the cupcakes with berries marinated in sugar, grand marnier, mint and orange zest. Surprisingly so, these additions really help to make the flavor of the berry pop and add some depth to the overall taste. To top the cupcakes, I made a fresh strawberry buttercream. Using my traditional Italian Buttercream recipe (post to come soon), I added fresh, mashed strawberries. The juices from the mashing helped to not only flavor but also color the buttercream a perfectly pale pink. I purposely mashed the berries instead of pureeing them because I also wanted small pieces of the strawberry throughout the buttercream. If you are going to go to all the trouble of making fresh strawberry buttercream, you may as well show it off, right? To finish up, I adorned each cupcake with a small perfect berry (stems attached, for that just from the farm look) and there you have it.
Recipe: Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes
When I was growing up, a true sign of summer was a cold entree for dinner. With a mantra “It’s just too hot to turn on the oven!” my mother instilled a special magic around the idea of eating a dinner that was COLD. Since then, I have obviously come to embrace the idea that not all foods have to be served warm, or even cooked to be honest. (One of our favorite summer meals is a simple caprese salad – fresh mozzarella & tomatoes). However even to this day, when I prepare an entree to be served cold, I get that slightly excited feel I would get as a child. Summer has finally arrived when its “too hot too cook.”
Hoping to expand on my summer-time, cold entree repertoire, I was excited when I caught this recipe on an episode of The Barefoot Contessa (the food network show hosted by Ina Garten.) A true believer in her recipes, I decided to give this one a try (I am sure you all have your cookbook authors/chefs that you swear by – Ina is one of mine. I have never made a recipe of hers that hasn’t rocketed to the top of my “best dishes” list). I have tweaked the recipe more to my liking: the original calls for an ungodly amount of vegetable oil, I’ve added chopped peanuts, changed to whole wheat pasta, and I played around with different vegetable combinations – I’ve even added chicken. But no matter the final details, the basis of this recipe is rock solid. A bright, refreshing meal, this pasta dish combines the classic Asian flavors of sesame, soy, peanut, ginger, and scallions. Red peppers and sugar snap peas offer a fresh crunch, and add vibrant color to the salad. All the flavors and textures work well to compliment each other – as in most Asian cuisine, this dish has balance. There is something to interest all your tastes: sweet from the peanuts, salty from the soy, spice from the red pepper flakes, fresh green from the ginger and scallion. (more…)
I came across this recipe a couple of years ago thanks to a grilling edition of Bon Appetit. The first time I made the dish, it immediately became one of my “signature” meals. And what credentials must a dish have to be “signature,” you ask? …. I think the honest answer is that the men in my life praise it highly and request the meal again. (sad, I know.) With a small ingredient list, this relatively simple dish took me by surprise. I find that I am more and more impressed with recipes that call for 10 or less ingredients, as long as those ingredients are quality. A simple dry rub of paprika, bay leaves, cumin, and cayenne and this steak is ready for the grill. Don’t be scared by the addition of cayenne. With the inclusion of other spices and creamy Gorgonzola to compliment, the steaks are surprisingly tame. The cayenne adds extra dimension without adding incredible heat.
The original recipe calls for T-Bone steaks – certainly a quality cut of beef. T-Bones are pretty much what they sound like: a steak with a T-shaped bone with meat on either side. The larger side of the T-bone is a strip steak, while the smaller portion is a tenderloin. (Porterhouse steaks are very similar to T-bones, and often the names are used interchangeably, but porterhouse steaks contain a larger portion of the tenderloin.) With the combination of two great cuts of meat, this steak gives you the best of both worlds. (If T-Bones are too much of a splurge, you can easily create this recipe using a strip steak.) I must warn, however, that T-Bones are very large cuts of beef. And again, don’t let that scare you off. I like to buy one T-Bone for my husband and I. I will admit that I give him the larger strip steak and save the valued tenderloin for my plate, but shhh, don’t tell him, he doesn’t seem to notice. (more…)
Because of the nature of the business (pastry that is), my schedule is erratic at best. Days off are weekdays and never consecutive. Unfortunately, its the price I pay for doing what I love. Anyways, because my schedule can be demanding at times, I have recently decided that my rare day off will be appreciated and valued. Rather than running around trying to accomplish all the tasks that were cast aside the week prior, I have decided to spend the day, or at least part of the day, doing something fun and enjoyable. Last week, I treated myself to lunch out and even a glass of wine. I sat by myself at the bar and just enjoyed the simple pleasure of a cup of soup and a portobello sandwich. This week I decided I would go berry picking – strawberry picking, that is.
Strawberry season is just starting and my favorite local farm recently opened their “pick your own” season. Although picking our own is a nice activity that Scott and I enjoy doing together, I decided to use my day off to its full advantage and pounce on the first pick of the season. Living in the Hartford area, I think Rose’s Berry Farm is the best place for berries around. Located in South Glastonbury, Rose’s offers a variety of pick your own, concentrating on berries, but also including some harvest apples and pumpkins. (more…)
These are the new “Summer” cookies at work. While they don’t taste like watermelons, they sure do look like them. To make these cookies, we cut large circles from rolled out dough and then half the circles to achieve our “watermelon slice” shape. After they are baked, we spread a thin coat of icing (colored pink, of course) and pipe on the rest of the details. These would certainly be fun to serve at a BBQ as a small treat, especially if served alongside real watermelon slices.
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