July 29, 2010

Plum skillet cake

This cake is from the current (August 2010) edition of Martha Stewart Living magazine. I knew I would be making this cake as soon as I saw the recipe. It's stone fruit season and we have been having a lot of them around here and that means coming up with ways to use them all up! Although the recipe calls for plums, you could use peaches or almost any other fruit you like. I don't think I've ever really had a dessert that used plums before, so I decided to give this one a try. I made some minor adjustments to the recipe and the recipe I used is below. The cake is very light and makes a nice summer dessert (though you do, unfortunately, have to turn on your oven).

Plum skillet cake
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for the skillet
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for skillet
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 large egg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 ripe plums, thinly sliced
zest of 1 lemon and juice and half the lemon

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch (I used a 10-inch and cut the cooking time to about 25 minutes) cast iron skillet. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. Slice up the plums very thinly and place them in a bowl with the lemon juice, tossing gently to coat. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in the egg and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk.

Pour the batter into the skillet and smooth out the top with a spatula or spoon. Fan the plums across the top and sprinkle with sugar (coarse sugar like turbinado works well for this, too). Bake until golden (an inserted toothpick should come out clean), about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly and then serve in wedges. Refrigerate any leftovers.

July 25, 2010

Stuffed clams

These stuffed clams were a great Friday night dinner treat for my husband and I with a couple of frosty beers and some stuffed banana peppers. I really enjoyed these clams a lot. The measurements for this recipe are approximations. I didn't really measure out all of the ingredients into the bowl as I was putting together the mixture. I eye-balled them. You can adjust them to your liking and experiment (for example, do you want less breading or a spicier mixture?). It will also depend on the size of your clams. I used about two dozen little neck clams. Try out the mixture below and see what you think. This made enough for a dinner dish for two or an appetizer for about four.

Stuffed clams
about 2 dozen little neck clams (scrubbed)
2 cloves garlic, minced
about 2 tablespoons minced green pepper
about 2 tablespoons minced onion
about 2 tablespoons minced celery
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
salt to taste
zest and juice of half a lemon
a few dashes of hot sauce
about 1 teaspoon minced  fresh oregano

about 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
about 1/2-3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I used whole grain)
olive oil and a pat of butter


Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the clams on a baking sheet and place in the oven for about 2-3 minutes (until they open). Discard any clams that do not open. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Turn off the oven.

Cook the bacon in a small skillet (or bake in the oven). Set aside to cool and then chopped it up into small pieces. In a small skillet, cook the garlic, green pepper, onion, and celery in olive oil until soft. Set aside.

When the clams are cool enough the handle, grab a medium mixing bowl, a plate, and a cutting board. Take the clams one at a time and break the shell into two halves. Remove the clams from the shell using a knife, spoon, and/or your fingers. I tried to do this over the mixing bowl because a lot of clam juices will be in the shells. This way, you get more of the clams juices and flavors into the mixture rather than wasting those juices (just be careful to not get any pieces of shell into the bowl). Place all the clam meat on the cutting board and all of your shells on the plate. After all the clams are removed, mince up the clam meat and add it into the mixing bowl with the clam juices.

Add the bacon and vegetables into the bowl along with all of the other ingredients except the breadcrumbs, oil, and butter. Mix the ingredients well. Slowly add the breadcrumbs until you reach a good ratio of breadcrumbs to the other goodies. The clam juices and lemon juice will help provide moisture, but you will likely need more. In the vegetable skillet, warm a pat of butter and some olive oil. Slowly add this to the mixture until it becomes moist. If more moisture is needed, you can add more olive oil and/or lemon juice. Once the stuffing is moist enough, begin stuffing it into the clam shells and place them on a baking sheet. Top each clam with a sprinkling of more smoked paprika, if desired.

Place under a pre-heated broiler for about 3-5 minutes (until the tops are golden). Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce.

July 22, 2010

Peach lassi

Lassis are drinks that you usually get in Indian restaurants, and they are often made with mango. The recipe for this lassi was for mango, too, but since peaches are in season and we had a whole bunch of them, we used peaches. The recipe is from a great book entitled Thoroughly Modern Milkshakes. This is a slightly sweet and cool drink that goes well alone or with spicy foods. You could probably use most any fruit(s) you had on hand. My husband helped me out with these while I was finishing up our dinner.

Peach lassi
1-1/2 cups ice cubes
about 2 cups roughly chopped peaches (we left the skin on- it's up to you)
1 cup low or non-fat plain yogurt
about 2-3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of sea salt

Blend all of the ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately.

July 18, 2010

Grilled pork and stone fruit with a balsamic, honey, and black pepper glaze

Stone fruits have arrived here in western New York! My husband has been bringing home bags of peaches and plums from a farm stand near his work and he just got the first apricots the other day. I decided to incorporate some of these fruits into a savory dish. It worked out very nicely. We got some heritage hog pork from the farmer's market in the morning and grilled it up along with some of the fresh stone fruit for a delicious, local meal. Along side of that we had some locally grown rainbow chard that was sauteed with garlic, onions, and some red pepper flakes. It was all very tasty! This recipe serves two (with some extra glaze) and can be easily adjusted to serve more by grilling up more pork and fruit.

Grilled pork and stone fruit
2 pork chops of your choice
2-4 ripe but firm peaches, plums, and/or apricots, sliced in half with pit removed
Olive oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Balsamic, honey, and black pepper glaze
about 1/4 to 1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons honey
about 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Pre-heat you grill or grill pan. In a small sauce pan, combine all the glaze ingredients and warm over medium heat. Stir occasionally until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Taste the glaze at this point and add more ingredients if you want it sweeter, or a bit spicier, etc. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until it reduces by half and become thick.

While the glaze is reducing, grill up your pork chops and fruit. Season both sides of the pork with salt and a small amount of pepper (remember, it is also in your glaze). Make sure to oil the grill so that the fruit doesn't stick. Grill the pork. When you flip the pork, add the fruit to the grill cut side down. You can rotate the fruit and pork if you want criss-crossed grill marks. Flip the fruit to the skin side after the cut side gets grill marks and begins to caramelized. Cook the pork to your desired done-ness and cook the fruit until it begins to get soft (you want it to stay fairly firm).

Place the pork and fruit (cut side up) on your plates. Pour some glaze on top making sure to get it in the holes of the fruit.

July 3, 2010

Cauliflower and broccoli stuffed manicotti

This is a recipe inspired by a similar recipe in Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home cookbook. As soon as I read his recipe, I knew I would have to try it. I am a big fan of both broccoli and cauliflower and they are both readily available locally right now. Plus, it's a good way to sneak a few more vegetables into your pasta meals (or for kids!). We had a few surprisingly cool evenings this past week, so I took advantage of one of them to make this (because I don't like to turn on the oven too much in the summer). This dish is a bit time-consuming, but my husband and I both agreed that it was time well-spent after just one bite. I did make my own white sauce, but used a good-quality jarred organic heirloom tomato sauce. You can certainly buy both at the store if you want or make both on your own - whatever you prefer. The recipe below is what I made. It will make enough for about 10 well-stuffed manicotti noodles, or about four to five servings.

Cauliflower and broccoli stuffed manicotti
manicotti noodles
about 1-1.5 cups of broccoli (stems and florets), roughly chopped
about 1-1.5 cups of cauliflower (stems and florets), roughly chopped
about 2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 cup cream
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 small shallot, peeled and minced
about 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
about 1-2 teaspoons fresh oregano, roughly chopped
about 2 cups good quality tomato sauce (chunky)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
about 1 cup fresh basil leaves
about 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
olive oil for cooking
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Add water, broccoli, and cauliflower to a large pot and bring to a boil. Cook until soft. When soft, remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon or similar and place in a medium bowl. Bring the same water back up to a boil and use it to cook your noodles until al dente. Drain, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the water (add it to the broccoli and cauliflower bowl). Set the noodles aside in an even layer (so they do not stick) to cool enough to handle.

In a medium sauce pan heat about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes, a dash of salt, and some pepper. Cook just until the garlic and shallots begin to soften (about 1-2 minutes). Add flour and whisk together, cooking for about 1 minute. Add cream and whisk. Continue to cook, whisking often until the cream begins to thicken. Whisk in about 1 cup of
Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then turn off heat and set aside.

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Add about 1 tablespoon of white sauce to the vegetable bowl. Using a potato masher and mash the broccoli and cauliflower until smooth, but still has some texture. Stir in salt, pepper, oregano, and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup

Add tomato sauce to the bottom of a baking dish (so that it covers the bottom and comes up the sides about 1/2 - 3/4 inch. Stir in red wine vinegar and a bit of pepper. Use your fingers or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off to add the broccoli and cauliflower filling to the noodles (get them really full!). Place the noodles in the baking dish in a single layer on top of the sauce. Add the white sauce on top of the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining
Parmigiano-Reggiano. Then add the basil leaves (tearing larger ones, if needed). Lastly, top with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Bake uncovered for about 35-45 minutes, or until the cheese is all bubbly and golden. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.