Friday, July 30, 2010

Plum and Nectarine Tart with a Brown Butter Custard and an Almond Crust

Nectarines are one of my favorite fruit varietals, but the past couple years, the nectarines have been rather lackluster--mushy, bland, blegh.

So I was ecstatic when I realized that for whatever reason, it's a good year for nectarines.

I bit into a particularly flavorful specimen, and brown butter came to mind. "Nick," I said, "Wouldn't these nectarines be great with brown butter?"
"Um, not really."

Undaunted, I decided that I wanted to make a tart that incorporated nectarines and brown butter. Almonds sounded like a good idea, too.

I ended up using plums as well as nectarines, which was a delicious decision. The brown butter flavor is very subtle, but this is an overall satisfying sweet.

You could really use any summer stone fruit in this tart--peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries--they'd all be good, so feel free to play around.

Plum and Nectarine Tart with a Brown Butter Custard and an Almond Crust

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 or 4 (depending on their size) plums, cut into wedges
  • 3 or 4 (depending on their size) nectarines, cut into wedges
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle (you can also use a hand-held mixer), combine the butter with the turbinado and granulated sugars, the almonds and the egg and beat at medium-low speed until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder and lemon zest and beat just until a soft dough forms. Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap the dough and flatten it into a disk. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°. Spray a 10-inch tart pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place the dough in the tart pan, and press it around until it covers the bottom and comes up the sides. Take care to patch any holes. Bake the crust in the center of the oven for 10 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 350.
In the meantime, in a small skillet, cook the butter over moderate heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 4 minutes; take the skillet off the heat and set it aside. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer or the cleaned stand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar, almond extract, lemon zest and salt. Add the flour and beat at low speed until smooth. Add the brown butter and beat the filling at low speed until incorporated.
Pour the custard into the tart crust. Starting from the middle and working outward, spread the fruit in a spiral. Bake in the center of the oven for about an hour. The tart is done when the edges of the pastry are deep golden brown and the custard is slightly puffed. If anything is browning too quickly, cover it with foil.

(Our view from the porch during out recent Ocean City visit.)

(Crabs! A special summertime treat.)


There are times when nothing but some fresh, creamy guacamole will do. I usually start craving it a couple weeks before I actually make it, but I don't make it right away because, for various reasons, I dismiss the craving as inconvenient. There comes a time though, when I just have to give in and make the green goodness, but I try to do it when there will be other people around.

Why? Because I can eat a massive amount of this stuff all by myself. I've been known to make it as an appetizer to go with a margarita, then become so enamored of the dip and its attendant chips (not to mention the margarita) that I forget to make dinner altogether.

Therefore, this batch was made when a fellow guacamole-lover was coming to dinner. We had to put it to the side so that we didn't spoil our dinners, because it was just too satisfying to stop eating. I love guacamole in the summertime, especially with some grilled meat to follow the chips-and-dip binge.


  • 2 avocados
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of white pepper
  • Tiny pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • Tiny pinch cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 1 Finely diced jalapeno
  • Half of a tomato, finely diced
Place the avocado and other ingredients through the cayenne into a bowl and mash until it's mostly smooth, but has a few chunks left. (Or make it very chunky of completely smooth-whatever you prefer). Taste for seasoning, and add any of the prior ingredients if needed. Remember, though, that the jalapeno will add heat. When seasoning is to your taste, stir in the rest of the ingredients. Grab some chips and enjoy.

(Another summertime favorite--toasted whole grain bread with tomatoes, salt, pepper, and mayonnaise. Mmmmm.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July's Daring Cooks: Nut Butters

On the 18th, I opened the eagerly-anticipated challenge for July, and my first thought was "Ummmm...Nut butters? Huh?" 

Upon further exploration, however, I thought, "Genius!" I've been reading a lot about cold soba salads, and I had been wanting to try one. I had spent the afternoon craving sushi yet guilt tripping myself about the expense of my bi-weekly sushi habit; but it seemed that with the posting of the Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing, my Asian craving would be satisfied in a cheaper manner. Instead I'd just guilt trip myself about how much fat might be in a Cashew Sauce. It's good fat, though, right?

Dishes like this one are frequently made with a peanut sauce, but I was intrigued by the cashew idea. That way I could also guilt trip myself about the fact that cashews are more expensive than peanuts. But they're cheaper than sushi, right?

The initial recipe suggested using linguine or thin rice noodles, but like I said, I've been reading a lot about soba noodles. It sounded like a yummy, more authentic alternative, and because they're made with whole wheat, they're relatively healthy. And it's another thing to guilt trip myself about--'Soba noodles are more expensive than pasta. Should you maybe just use some whole wheat pasta?'

Ultimately, though, this recipe made enough for at least 3 days of meals for me, so I'd say it's cost-effective, as well as delicious. If you make this, though, just be careful with the ginger and garlic--they can be quite potent.

I contemplated making the other nut butter recipes, but they seemed rather wintery. I have, however, posted the recipes below, because they sound delicious, and it might be a reminder to me to make them when the air gets a bit crisper.

Blog-checking lines: The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Customize the salad by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables. Shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and julienned red peppers would make nice additions. Obviously, you can omit the shrimp, or substitute chicken or tofu or the protein of your choice. The dressing is equally as good with peanut butter rather than cashew butter.

Cashew Butter
  • 1 cup (240 ml) cashews (they can be roasted or unroasted)*
Cashew Dressing
  • 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
  • Hot sauce to taste (optional), Sriracha is a perfect choice if you have it
Noodle Salad:
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) soba, linguine, or thin rice noodles
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) thinly sliced (julienned) fresh basil
  • 1/8 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. A cup of cashews will make about the 1/2 cup of butter needed for this recipe. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)

Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. When the noodles are about 3 minutes from being done, add the shrimp to the boiling water. Drain noodles and shrimp into a colander, rinse, and set aside.Meanwhile, prepare cashew dressing: Combine ginger, garlic, cashew butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and water in food processor or blender. Process/blend until smooth. Be sure to process long enough to puree the ginger and garlic. You might want to add half of the garlic and ginger, perform a taste test, and add the rest to taste.

The dressing should be pourable, about the same thickness as cream. Adjust consistency – thinner or thicker -- to your liking by adding more water or cashew butter. Taste and add your favorite hot sauce if desired. (If the cashew butter was unsalted, you may want to add salt to taste.) Makes about 1 ½ cups (360 ml) dressing. Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator.

Combine the shrimp and noodles, carrots, cucumber, onions, cilantro (if using) and basil in a large bowl. Add about ½ cup (120 ml) cashew dressing; toss gently to coat. Add more cashew dressing as desired, using as much or as little as you’d like. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad or serve with lime wedges. Sprinkle with chopped cashews if desired. Also sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like spicy food.

Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.

  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Salt to taste
Spice Blend:
  • 1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
  • 1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
  • ½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
  • 1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)
  • Hot basmati rice for serving
  • Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
  • Sliced almonds (optional garnish)
Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.

Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.

Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms

Yield: 4 servings
Recipe notes: Substitute your favorite pasta or rice in place of the egg noodles. Use fresh rosemary or parsley in place of thyme if you prefer.

Pecan Cream
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) coarsely chopped pecans*, toasted
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 ml) salt, more as needed
  • ½ pound (225 g) egg noodles or pasta
  • 4 (6-ounce / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped shallots
  • ½ pound (225 g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves
  • Chopped pecans, (optional garnish)
Prepare pecan cream. Grind pecans in a food processor for about a minute or so until smooth, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside pecan cream. (*If starting with prepared pecan butter, blend ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (90 ml) pecan butter with the water and salt until smooth.)

Cook noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.

If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.

Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits. If needed, add another teaspoon (5 ml) of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh thyme to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.

Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Add a scoop of the mushroom pecan sauce to the top of noodles. Lay sliced chicken on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and/or a pinch of chopped pecans if desired.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mexicanish Stuffed Tomatoes

These tomatoes are a great summer side, and you get your starch and your veggies all in one nice little package. Or, the tomatoes could make a light meal when served with a salad.

We liked ours with skirt steak that had been rubbed with salt, pepper, and a lot of crushed garlic, then grilled.

Mexicanish Stuffed Tomatoes

  • 6 medium tomatoes
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • Kernels from 2 ears of corn
  • Half of a medium onion
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped cilantro
  • 3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the tops off of the tomatoes and carefully scoop out the insides, reserving the insides in a large bowl. Lightly salt the insides of the tomatoes and place them upside down on a plate or a layer of paper towels. Leave them like that for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, cook the rice according to package directions. In a large saute pan, cook the corn and onions until the onions are soft, but the corn retains a bit of crunch. Salt to taste.

Add the rice and the corn and onion mixture to the tomatoes in the large bowl. Add cumin, cayenne, lime juice, cilantro, and half a cup of the Monterey Jack cheese. Taste and add more seasonings or lime juice if necessary. 

Spoon the rice mixture into the tomatoes, top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese, and bake for 25-40 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and the cheese is browned, but the tomatoes are not yet falling apart.

Caramel Cake

 Do you ever feel like the miscellaneous leftover bits of foodstuffs lurking in the depths of your fridge are giving you the evil eye? Woefully staring at you and muttering, "You should really use me. You're so wasteful. I cost money, and there are starving people somewhere, and you're a bad person."
No? Maybe I just have a guilt complex, but that's what this rich, salty caramel was saying to me. It added, "I'm delicious, and the fact that you decided to be lazy and store me in the sauce boat means that I'm really in the way."

Oh, what to do? Luckily, inspiration struck with the help of a fellow blogger, who made a white cake with a caramel icing. 'Hey,' I thought, 'I could just make a fluffy white cake and pour the caramel on top! Brilliant!'
What was not brilliant, however, was putting the cake in the oven, pouring a glass of wine, and taking some cheese and crackers out to the porch in order to bask in the glorious evening.
"I totally will not forget that I put a cake in the oven. It'll be just fine."

Of course, I walked back inside for a refill, and was greeted by the timer's persistent 'BeepBeep! BeeeeepBeep!'
'Oh, man. I wonder how long that's been going off.'
Well, all was not lost. I scraped the overcooked bits off the bottom and pretended that this confection was supposed to be dry and dense rather than light and fluffy. Plus, the caramel, much like Spanx on a fat girl (which I'll need after all this baking), worked to hide some of the cake's imperfections.
Also effective was pouring a bit of milk onto the plate on which the cake rested. Sort of like a tres leche cake. But not really. It did make it a little more moist, though. Or, like Nick's co-worker discovered, the traditional glass of milk on the side worked quite nicely, as well.

The caramel and cake combined to make the kind of not-too-sweet dessert that has you coming back for one more little slice, and then another little one, okay, just one more tiny little one. In fact, it was yummy enough that I might just have to make this cake again in order to score myself a redemption, and to use up that last little bit of caramel, as its gaze is becoming increasingly malevolent.
The cake can certainly be redeemed because for one, it's a Julia Child recipe, and because it's simple and inexpensive. And the caramel? It needs no redemption, it just needs to be eaten. I know I can do it.
Julia Child's Biscuit Au Beurre 
Butter Sponge Cake

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour

Butter and flour a 10 inch cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks, add  the vanilla, and continue beating for several minutes until mixture is thick, pale yellow, and forms ribbons.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and salt together until soft peaks are formed; sprinkle on the sugar and beat until stiff peaks are formed.

Scoop one fourth of the egg whites over top of the egg yolks and sugar mixture. Sift on one fourth of the flour, and delicately fold in until partially blended. Then add one third of the remaining egg whites, sift on one third of the remaining flour, fold until partially blended, and repeat with half of each, then the last of each and half of the tepid, melted butter. Do not over mix; the egg whites should retain as much volume as possible.
Turn into the prepared cake pan and tilt the pan to run the batter to the rim all around. Set in the middle of the preheated oven and cook for 30-35 minutes. The cake is done when it has puffed, is light brown, and has just begun to show a slight line of shrinkage from the edges of the pan. Note--Julia Child states that the cooking time is 30-35 minutes. I have found, however, that the cake is ready far earlier than that--I would suggest that you start checking the cake at 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand in the pan for 6-8 minutes. It will sink slightly and shrink more from the edges of the pan. Run a knife around the edge of the pan, and reverse on cake rack, giving the pan a sharp little jerk to dislodge the cake. If cake is not to be iced, immediately reverse it so its puffed side is uppermost. Allow to cool for an hour or so.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Delicious Fish: Fish Grilled in Corn Husks

I was looking through some food blogs the other day when I stumbled upon this little goody. I don't know what it was about this recipe, but it elicited that OhMyGodIHaveToMakeThat response.

Maybe it was the fact that a week of 100+ degree days had me going to all kinds of lengths in order to avoid turning on the oven. I had previously learned the hard way, while making delicious blueberry bars, that keeping the oven on for any amount of time can cause the already over-taxed air conditioner to fall so far behind that there is no longer any hope of keeping the house cool. I don't even want to think about what the electricity bill is going to look like.

Therefore, I've been looking for recipes that can be cooked in a skillet, in the toaster oven, or better yet, on the grill. This, with some freshly made pesto-tossed quinoa, was perfect. Plus, it just sounded fun.

The original authors of the recipe used salmon, which sounds absolutely delicious, but I had some flounder in the freezer that I needed to use up. As I put it to Nick, "I have some old fish that I should probably use." Now doesn't that sound appetizing?

The original authors also added butter to the mix, which I decided to forgo because of the vast amounts of butter that I had recently consumed, due to my blueberry bar addiction. Otherwise I left the recipe pretty much intact, although part of the reason I like this recipe so much is because of its adaptability.

You could add all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and spices, and you could use all kinds of fish. Even shrimp would work well. I particularly like the idea of adding some basil and/or parsley to the mix, or maybe some smoked paprika or fresh garlic.

My parting words of wisdom: do not, while attempting to get a picture of these fish husks, put the fully-cooked packets back over the direct heat. The dried-out corn husks will catch fire, and you'll find yourself swatting at them and hoping that you're not about to burn your house down.

You should check out the pictures on the original site--they're much better than mine, and I doubt they caught their dinner on fire. Plus, that grilled fennel is pretty high on the what-to-make-next list.

Flounder Grilled in Corn Husks
(Adapted from Another Pint Please...)

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 3 tsp capers, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
  • 4 6-ounce pieces flounder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
When shucking the corn, attempt to keep the husks intact, and set them aside. Cut the kernels off of the ears of corn, and in a medium bowl, mix them with the red pepper, capers, and scallions. Take 4 6-ounce portions of flounder and place them in the corn husks, and season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the corn mixture on top of the fish, and tie the husks closed. You'll likely have some corn mixture left over. You can eat it raw along side the fish, toast it in a skillet or in the toaster oven (or oven), or put it in a cast iron skillet or other flame-proof vessel, and place the skillet on the grill while the fish cooks.

Cook the fish in the corn husks for 6 minutes over direct heat, and then 6 minutes over indirect heat. Carefully untie the husks, scoop out the filling, and enjoy. Meal can also be served left in the husks.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another Summer Favorite: Rib-Eye Steak with Warm Tomato Corn Salad

This is another one of our all-time favorite summer recipes. It might seem silly to cook a steak in a skillet when it's grilling season, but it'll make sense after you try this and say, "Holy f..... s..... this is good,"  with your mouth full. Plus, it's great for those people who don't have access to a grill--it tastes like pure summer, and it only dirties one pan, no grill needed.

In fact, this meal is so good that you'll find yourself thinking about it randomly. For example, I was opening my locker when I remembered this recipe, out of nowhere. "I have to make that," I thought as I re-did the locker combination because I, in my distraction, messed it up the first time. I hate those dial locks. They make me feel like I'm in grade school.

Anyway, you will not regret making this. It's a perfect balance of fresh and meaty, sweet and spicy, and it makes for lovely grown-up dinner.

Rib-Eye Steak with Warm Tomato Corn Salad
(Adapted from Epicurious)

  • 2 (12- to 14-oz) boneless or bone-in rib-eye steaks (1 1/2 inches thick)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 Italian frying pepper (Anaheim chiles also work), seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 cups corn (from 4 large ears)
  • 1/2 lb cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup finely sliced (chiffonade) fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Pat steaks dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet (we like to use cast iron) over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté steaks, turning over once, 10 to 12 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate and keep warm, covered with foil.

Pour off fat from skillet, keeping any brown bits in skillet, and return to moderately high heat. Heat oil and add onion, and frying pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping up brown bits, until onion is golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder and sauté, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in corn and tomatoes and cover skillet. Cook until corn is just tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in any meat juices on plate, basil, lime juice, and salt to taste.

Transfer steaks to a cutting board, then cut across the grain into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with tomato corn salad.

Serves 2-4
(The saddest tomato plant ever)
(And the second saddest)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Blueberry Crumb Bars

So I was just telling some of my co-workers that I made some delicious blueberry crumb bars, but forgot to bring them in. And I really meant to bring them in, because, as the doctor said, "Wow. Those sound buttery."

"Yes they are," I said. "I made a double batch and used a pound of butter."

This is where a fellow nurse stifled a gasp and became very wide-eyed. "But each batch was the size of this patient's chart," I tried to justify.

But really, there's no getting around the fact that these specimens contain a  lot of butter. That's why they need to get the heck out of my house. These little bars of crumby, gooey deliciousness are like little pies (my most favoritest dessert ever), but better, because you can eat them with your hands. Everything is better when eaten with the hands.
We made these for our Fourth of July picnic, at which point we pondered the origins of their deliciousness. We pronounced,"They're the perfect combination of sweet (the blueberries), salty (the dough), starchy (the dough), tart (the lemon), smooth (the filling), and crunchy (the topping)." Not to mention buttery. With all of these fantastic flavors and textures all going on at the same time, your tongue just can't say no. At least mine can't--these things are becoming seriously problematic, much like the zucchini patties.

Like one of Nick's co-workers said, "Your brain tells you to eat it, and you have no choice." 

These bars are easy to make, and they're delicious the day after they're made, which makes them quite convenient. Also convenient is the fact that they're super-portable. The perfect summer food.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
(Adapted from Epicurious)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced or chopped almonds
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (about 15 ounces) or one 12-ounce package frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
  • 1 cup blueberry preserves (10 to 11 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel (packed)
For crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with aluminum foil, and spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.

Add flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon to a food processor and mix for a few seconds until combined. Drop the chunks of butter onto the surface of the flour, and pulse a few times until the butter has turned into pea-sized lumps. Dump this mixture into a large bowl and add the oats. Mix to combine.

Transfer 2 cups to medium bowl; mix in almonds and reserve for topping.

Press remaining crumb mixture evenly onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until golden and just firm to touch, about 20 minutes. Cool 10 minutes.

For filling:
Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Spread evenly over crust in pan, then sprinkle reserved topping over.

Bake bars until filling bubbles thickly at edges and topping is golden brown, about 50-60 minutes; cool in pan on rack. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip into 6 pieces, forming 24 bars.

These bars are excellent the day they're made, but I think that they really reach the peak of perfection on their second day of existence. Store covered in the refrigerator.