Foodie Friday: Philly Inspiration

Philadelphia is a food-lovers kind of town. Whether you want a fill of street food such as cheese steaks, roast pork, or soft pretzels, or have a hankering for a five-star meal, this town has a lot to offer.

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All things Philly pretzel at the Reading Market.

The first stop has to be Reading Market, where you can find all of those things, and lots more, under one roof. A better name would be EatPhilly, because that’s what it’s all about. You can grab a seat for breakfast or lunch, which I did with BU alum Sean Kardon one morning to catch up; buy some food to take home to prepare; or just graze your way through.

We were there for the DNC, which meant it was a madhouse around lunchtime. Although Kardon, who works for SEPTA (public transit), says it’s a madhouse around lunch every day. It was hot and I was overwhelmed on my first visit. Advice to visitors – go early and have a plan.

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A single blueberry crunch pie with buttermilk lemon ice cream at Vernick.

After multiple consultations with YELP, Trip Advisor and more, friend David Kidd, who lives in L.A., sent me a link to the Washington Post’s guide to eating there. Top on that list, a visit to Vernick. This relatively small restaurant has a reputation for being top-notch, so much so that one of our Uber drivers, who owns his own restaurant, says it was his favorite. It was good, but it’s not in my top three, except for the dessert, which was a blueberry pie served with a buttermilk lemon ice cream and blueberry sauce. It was neck and neck with the dessert at Butcher & Singer, a lemon icebox pie. Overall, for ambiance, service, and the steak, Butcher & Singer was the fave of the week in Philadelphia. The 18-ounce steak, split between the two of us, was pricey but worth every bite. It was perfectly seasoned and cooked. I will forever be spoiled by the steak. Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was finishing his dinner there as our appetizers were served.

 

Urban Farmer Philadelphia, which has a Cleveland location I will try, took tops for the appetizer, which was a cold seafood plate that included shrimp, oysters, lobster and mussels served in a large colander filled with ice ($65 for a small, which is enough for 4 as an appetizer). The wagyu steak, enough for two,  was equally pricey as the Butcher & Singer, but not nearly as delicious. It did have the added benefit of being searched by the Secret Service upon entering because an unnamed bigwig was staying at the associated Logan House (Secret Service means either POTUS, FLOTUS (past or present) or Joe Biden). They couldn’t say whom  (or they would have to kill us – actually they would lose their job).  Other than that, the environment, for what you are paying, is not particularly inviting. The space is open and modern. The lighting and seating, while comfortable, is more reminiscent of a high-end cafeteria. The service, however, was excellent.

Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, in the now-hip Fishtown, was worth the visit. With its two kitchens, one featuring a wood-fired oven, this is a fun spot where shared ordering is encouraged. It can get a bit noisy because it is filled with 20- and 30-somethings having a really good time. The chicken under a brick was perfectly seasoned, cooked and served on a cutting board, perfect for two. The desert menu was underwhelming, but I probably didn’t need it anyway.

Estia Restaurant was a find via a friend from Scranton. This Greek restaurant was across South Broad Street from our hotel in the arts district. This was a two-stop spot for lunch. Definitely try the sampler platter with tzatziki, melitzano salata (eggplant),  and htipiti (roasted red pepper, cayenne and feta). Hummus comes complementary with bread, but don’t dig in to the bread until the platter comes because the warm pita is to die for. My Mediterranean salad with roasted eggplant, salad greens and calamari, was to die for, so I ordered it twice. ABC’s George Stephanopoulus reportedly was dining alone at a nearby table(I forgot my glasses).

The trip was inspiring in so many ways, but one of the first things I made when I came back was a blueberry crunch pie, with this recipe from Williams-Sonoma.

Blueberry Crunch Pie

1 9-inch pie shell, docked and baked at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until light brown

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Filling

 

4 tablespoons flour

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

5 cups blueberries

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries.

Topping

3/4 cup flour

1/3 cup  brown sugar

1/3 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

8 ounces, 1 stick, butter, cut into 8 pieces

In a medium-size bowl, mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Scatter the butter pieces on top. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, work the ingredients together until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Set the topping aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

To bake: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar on the bottom of the baked pie crust. Add blueberry mixture. Sprinkle topping over. Place pie on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, until bubbling and brown on top.

Remove from oven and cool.

Serve with ice cream.

I will be working on the buttermilk lemon ice cream for a future column, but I loved the tang, sweet and citrus combination with the pie. I’ll also be working on the lemon ice box pie because I definitely want to try that one again.

Enjoy your weekend. Make the most of the blueberry season.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

 

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Wednesday Musing: Class Reunion

reunionThe reunion of the Villa Maria Academy for Girls Class of 1981 reunion (and every other class that was celebrating a 5-year celebration of freedom from our alma mater) was this weekend. Despite living in the same town where I graduated from high school, I have never attended a reunion. Indeed, when I graduated I vowed never to step foot back into those halls along West Eighth Street.

Like most vows of 17-/soon-to-be-18-year-olds, this was not a promise I could keep. Various writing assignments over the years would take me back there, although most of the time I tried to find someone else to go. It was not a happy place for me.

I think high school is a largely divided time. There are those who love it and remain fond of their years there. I see this with the parents who eagerly sit on the sidelines at football games at Fairview High School even when they have no children playing. I’ve heard more people introduce themselves with, Prep Class of 19XX as a modifier.

It’s true I met a lifelong fried at Villa, which as all girls and independent of Cathedral Preparatory School at the time. We met through alphabetical happenstance – Mead and Miller – of seating charts. She was a tall, blonde, tennis-playing extrovert. I was a short, overweight, brunette who was a serious introvert. Somehow we became friends. She called me Watson to her Sherlock.

She went off to Smith College, and then to the University of Chicago Law School, where she settled. I went to Boston University and then to work for my family’s newspaper (with a stint at a newspaper in Peoria, Ill., during a 5-year break from Erie). I saw Claudette over the years more often than any of my classmates who lived in the same town as I did.

So, after 35 years, we decided to go to reunion. Or at least part of the reunion. We skipped the event on the patio at the school – I’m still not stepping foot in there if I don’t have to. Instead we went to an event hosted by Kristin Carnes Talarico and Laurie Balkovic Bretz at the Erie Club.

Claudette took the time to remind me, during the 20 minute drive, that we liked our classmates. It was the administration we didn’t care for. This is true. There were some teachers who changed my life, such as John Kupetz (English) and Sister Susan Doubet (Calculus).

So we walked into the Erie Club, where about 30 of our 140-some classmates had gathered. I caught up with Marcy Rahner, Sally Walker, Andrea Nagle Deveau, Dana Frazer, Mary Heise  Blatt, Mary Therese Bowen, Kerry Hughes, Paula Maus Cameron, Chris Weber Podufal and many others.

As we caught up, I mentioned that my daughter was going to high school in the fall.

“Villa?” Some asked.

“Fairview.” I said.

Heads nod.

Many of us agreed that Villa was not a particularly good school academically. Most of us noted when we went to college, our classmates – even from public schools – were better read and prepared for college than we were. My math skills were on the mark, thanks to Sister Susan, but engineering turned out not to be for me. At least not at a school as large as Boston University. Thanks to John Kupetz, my knowledge and reading of American authors was sound enough to get me into sophomore and junior classes. But my overall reading of English literature was sadly behind. There were huge gaps in my knowledge of world history and cultures. I had a lot of catch up to do. And I was in the advanced classes in high school.

But that’s ancient history. And now I’m caught up on classmates, and if I missed anyone, I now have e-mail addresses. But my focus is on the future, not the past. I have a daughter about to navigate those same grades, different hallways.

Claudette did remind me that plum season will be coming up and one of her favorite dishes is plum chicken.

roast chicken with plumsPlum Chicken

1 whole chicken, or 1 whole chicken cut up (about 4 to 5 pounds)
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
3 to 4 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
1 quart plums, cut in half and pitted
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup chicken stock (for the cut up chicken, optional for whole bird)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Pat dry chicken or chicken pieces and place in a roasting pan. Rub with olive oil and then generously season with salt and pepper. Place rosemary and garlic underneath the bird in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes.

 

In the meantime, mix plums with honey in a bowl.

 

Tuck all of the honeyed plums into pan with the chicken and return it to the oven to roast.

 

For the chicken parts, roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and stir in the stock. Return pan to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.

 

To plate, put a piece of chicken on each plate and spoon some juices over.

 

If roasting the whole bird, roast for 20 minutes and check to see if the pan is dry. If it is, add half the stock. Return it to the oven and cook for another 20 to 35 minutes (depending on the size of the bird); the internal temperature should be 165 degrees in the thigh. Allow to rest 10 minutes and then remove chicken to a cutting board to carve. Reserve any juices and return them to the pan with the plums. Stir and spoon plums and plum juices on top.

 

Note: Discard rosemary before serving. You can squish out the garlic from its paper shell and stir into the pan juices or discard.

 

 

 

Strawberry Fields

Sunday morning dawned hot, at least by Great Lakes standards. It was in the mid 80s by 9 a.m. and 90 degrees by the time I got to the strawberry fields on western Erie County. The road to the fields is dusty, so you need to crawl along at less than 10 miles per hour or you will choke on the dust – even with the windows rolled up. My black VW was more khaki in color by the time I pulled off to the picking fields.

Eight-quart basket in hand, the Mason Farms employee directed me to my row and then walked me to the pink flag. You pick between the row and move the flag to your final spot when the basket is full. As I followed him, the field smelled of strawberry jam. Not just sweet smell of strawberries, but of the more intense flavor of jam as the berries simmer on the stovetop.

Filling the basket can take anywhere from 20 minutes to and hour and a half, depending how late in the season it is and how picked over the fields. The fields are irrigated, so the fruit is still abundant. Some years, when the spring is late and the rains are frequent, the berries are big, but lack punch. The smell alone told me these berries were full of sugar, a guess that was confirmed by multiple taste testings along the row.

But unlike my first pick, these berries were very mature. Normally, you want to hear a snap as you pull a ripe berry from the vine with its green cap intact. These separated easily from the vine, coming away almost silently without their little hats. This means that they won’t keep as long, and need to consumed or cooked quickly.

This isn’t hard. The difficult part is finding which recipe to make, especially with the temperatures pushing my tolerance for turning on the oven.

Bread puddings are very simple and don’t require much work, or oven time if you bake it in a muffin tin. My sister-in-law Jenna sent me a link to Ree Drummond’s Lemon Bread Pudding, which was a big hit in her family. She skipped the bourbon whipped cream, and so did I. Instead, I used plain whipped cream and topped it with macerated strawberries – strawberries that have had about 20 minutes to sit in some sugar or other sweetener, such as honey, and create a fresh sauce.

If you make this in a muffin tin, you can freeze the extra bread puddings and serve any time. I split the top off, added whipped cream and strawberries for a riff on a strawberry shortcake. I like brioche for this bread pudding, but you can use any dense bread, such as a loaf of Bill’s Italian Bread.

lemon bread pudding with berries

Lemon Bread Pudding

1 loaf bread, crust removed, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Sugar for sprinkling on top of muffins
Whipped cream
Fresh strawberries

Allow bread to stale overnight or toast it. Place in a large bowl once staled or toasted.

lemon bread pudding

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 1  muffin tin (12 large muffins).

Beat eggs and add half-and-half, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Mix to dissolve sugar. You don’t want a pile of sugar sitting at the bottom of this bowl. Pour over bowl with bread. Use your hands or a spatula to make sure all of the bread becomes covered with the milky egg mixture. Give it a couple of stirs.

Pack equal amounts into each muffin cup. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool long enough so that you can handle them. These are best served warm. If you choose to freeze them, defrost and then warm up in the microwave. Be careful not to overheat in the microwave (I like 15 to 25 seconds for one, but it depends on the power of your oven). Cut off the top and serve with whipped cream.

 

Salads are always easy and I love pairing spiced pecans with strawberries and spinch or a mix of greens. You can make your own spiced pecans or walnuts with this recipe:

Skillet Spiced Nuts

½ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 1  1/2 teaspoons spicy seasoning mix, such as one with ancho or cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups unsalted nuts (pecans, walnuts, or almonds)
2 tablespoons butter

Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. Coat with cooking spray. You will use this to cool the nuts.

Mix the sugar, salt and seasonings in a small bowl.

In a large cast iron or nonstick skillet, toast the nuts over medium heat until you begin to smell toasted nut, about 4 minutes. Add the butter and stir to melt and coat the nuts.  Stir in sugar mixture and stir to coat the nuts. Keep stiring until the sugar melts, about 2 to 3 minutes. When it has, remove the nuts to the prepared pan and spread out to cool.

Do not put into a container until totally cool. They should keep for about 3 weeks.

 

 

 

Strawberries Take the Cake

strawberry layer cakeThis cake is so worth it. I’ve been known to indulge in the sport of cake making on occasion, usually to be disappointed in the results. Cakes tend to be a lot of work, what with the sifting, measuring and the like. Generally, I only eat the frosting. Sometimes the cake, too, but because it is glued to the frosting.

So first and foremost – this cake is the bomb. The cake itself is delicious and will probably become my favorite basic cake when I don’t cheat with mixes. Mainly I use mixes because I’m willing to trade the somewhat artificial flavor for ease of making the final cake, as a vehicle for frosting or ice cream. But this basic cake, in all of its mixing, is really, really good. But there’s not shortcuts. When the directions call for mixing for 6 minutes, it’s not kidding around. The recipe is from Saveur.com, via Christina Tosi at New York’s Milk Bar.

There are multiple steps here. You will be making a cake, a cheesecake (crustless), strawberry jam, frosting, lemon curd and something called milk crumbs (from the Milk Bar). This being strawberry season, I already had already made the jam. You just need to tweak it with some vinegar – yes vinegar – which helps downplay the sweetness. I had some extra lemon curd left over from a Barbara Kafka recipe in the NY Times.

I will include her recipe here, plus include with my modification. One major modification I made to the recipe involves the construction. I don’t own 6-inch pans. So I baked the cake in 2 9-inch cake pans and the cheesecake in a 9-inch nonstick cake pan. I will include directions on assembly below.

The cake itself can go into the freezer and come out on a nice warm day around 4 p.m. and be ready in time for serving after dinner.

Vanilla Cake

This will make 2 9-inch round cakes or 1 8×12-inch sheet cake.

Nonstick baking spray
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 14 cups sugar
14 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
12 cup buttermilk
12 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 12 cups cake flour (I used White Lily)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare your cake pans by coating with cooking spray and then lining the bottoms with either rounds of parchment or a sheet of parchment – cut to fit the size of the pan. This will help your cake come easily out of the pan later.

You can use a stand mixer or hand electric mixer, but be prepared to beat for a while here.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and both sugars on medium-high speed for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Crack eggs in a separate bowl, to make sure there are no shells, then add them, one at a time to the creamed sugar and butter, mixing on medium-high speed for another 3 minutes.

Put the buttermilk, oil and vanilla into one measuring cup, then, with the mixer speed on  low,  slowly drizzle in it in. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until the batter doubles in volume and turns white – this will take about 6 minutes.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder salt. With the mixer speed on low, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape  batter into the prepared pans (pan) and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Remove from the pans (pan). Wrap the pan in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
This is the recipe from Saveur.
My take on it would be to use 12 ounces of your favorite jam, homemade or purchased (buy the best you can, making sure strawberries are the first ingredient). In a small bowl, combine jam, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 to 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.
12 ounces strawberries, hulled
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pectin
34 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sherry wine vinegar
1 12 teaspoon white wine vinegar
In a blender, puree the strawberries. In a small saucepan, whisk the sugar with pectin and 12 teaspoon of the salt. Put purée into the saucepan along with both vinegars. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil , and then reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook the jam, stirring, until thickened , 10 minutes. Remove the jam from the heat and let cool completely.
Strawberry Frosting
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons pickled strawberry jam
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
In a mixing bowl, beat with electric or stand mixer cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy. Mix in 5 tablespoons pickled strawberry jam and the lemon juice. The rest of the jam will be used in the cake.
Cheesecake
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Coat a nonstick cake pan with cooking spray.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat cream cheese and egg until light and fluffy. Add salt and sugar and beat for 2 more minutes. Scrape into prepared pan.
Bake for about 20 minutes. The top will not be brown, but the edges will have started to pull away from the edges.
Let cool on a rack.
Lemon Curd
 2 sticks butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
6 large eggs, room temperature and beaten in a small bowl
In a 2 1/2-quart souffle dish or 8-cup glass measuring cup, place butter, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cover with microwave plastic wrap and cook for about 4 minutes.
Remove from microwave and carefully uncover.
Add about 1/4 cup of the melted mixture to the eggs and whisk together (you are tempering the eggs, so work quickly). Scrape egg mixture into souffle dish and whisk constantly so you don’t get scrambled eggs.
Place back in microwave, uncovered, and cook for about 3 minutes. Whisk again. Cook again, uncovered, for about 2 minutes. Finish in a blender for a very smooth lemon curd. For this cake recipe, I don’t bother with the blender.
Don’t skip this. Some people like to snack on them. I wasn’t keen on the flavor by themselves, but in the cake, it is a great complement.
34 cup instant nonfat dry milk, such as Carnation
14 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
12 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 ounces (chips are OK) white chocolate, melted
Heat  oven to 250. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
In a medium bowl, whisk 12 cup of the dry milk with the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter and stir with  until the mixture forms small clusters. Spread the baking sheet and bake until dried and sandy, 20 minutes. Allow to cool.
Return the clusters to a bowl, break apart any that are larger than 12 inch in diameter. Add remaining 14 cup dry milk and toss until evenly coated. Pour the white chocolate over the crumbs and stir until evenly coated. If not using that day, refrigerate for up to 1 week.
To Assemble
Now that you are exhausted … This recipe really is a 2-3 day exercise. I baked the cake, cheesecake, and milk crumbs the night before.
While the cheesecake was still warm, not hot, I crumbled it into a medium size bowl with the lemon curd. Then beat until creamy. Cover and refrigerate.
The next day I mixed the vinegar into the strawberry jam and used 5 tablespoons to make the frosting. I pulled the lemon curd cheesecake out of the fridge to get to room temperature.
Now all you need is 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
1. Cut your cake into 2 6-inch rounds. Find a small bowl with a flat bottom that is 6-inches in diameter. Put the cake scraps into the bowl, pushing down and together so it forms a somewhat cohesive layer. Invert it onto a serving plate. Brush with 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice.
2. Spread with half of the leftover pickled jam and top with 1/3 of the milk crumbs.
3. Take a sheet of parchment paper that is long enough to go around the bottom of the cake. You want to cut it so it will be about 18-inches tall. Wrap the parchment around the cake and secure with tape in several places. This will become a form to keep the layers from falling over. This step is important.
4. Now spoon 1/2 of the lemon curd cheesecake over top and spread to the edges.
5. Top with 1 of the cut cake layers. Brush with remaining lemon juice, remaining jam and 1/3 of the milk crumbs.
6. Dollop and spread remaining lemon curd cheesecake on top. Place remaining cake layer on top. Spread frosting on top. Sprinkle with remaining milk crumbs.
7. Freeze for at least 12 hours.If you are going to freeze for longer, make sure to wrap in plastic and foil to protect the cake from freezer burn.
8. Remove from freezer at least 3 hours before serving. Remove parchment. Revel in its beauty. Slice and serve.
Best eaten outside, with candlelight and stars.
dinner outside
Best,
XOXO
Marnie

Berry Happy to See Summer

My favorite strawberry field opened for picking yesterday. I have been watching the little gems gradually take on their crimson hue. They are easy to grow yourself, I have a half-dozen plants, but the wildlife typically gets to them before I do.

Over the years, I have tried to encourage company on my outings to pick strawberries. I’ve dragged my daughter out on two or more occasions, but the heat, the bugs and the stooping aren’t her gig. They aren’t a lot of people’s gig, but I enjoy it. If I can wear jeans, then I’m down on my knees, which isn’t comfortable, but you can cover a lot of ground quickly. The mounds are protected by straw, so you need coverage. If it’s hot, I go for a tennis or running skirt (shorts included) and do the picking squat I learned from watching a lot of immigrant woman in the fields. Genetically, I’ve got the hands and feet for field work (country Irish), but I am several generations removed from the actual labor. Observation needed to be my teacher.

One of the first recipes I make with local berries is a tart with lemon curd. There are many variations on this approach depending on your time commitment and interest. The easiest is to buy a jar of lemon curd and a package of mini tart shells from the grocery store. Dollop some lemon curd into the shell and top with an inverted berry (like a pyramid).

tart shell

I always keep a box of these in my pantry. I prefer to make my own lemon curd (think of the filling in lemon bars) because I like mine on the tart side and I find commercial jars are too sweet. But it is a recipe that can go south on you quickly if you don’t pay attention to the double boiler.

You can top with any berry combination. The trick is to melt about a tablespoon of apricot jam in the microwave and mix it with the berries. That will make them glossy when you put them on top.

I recently tried a microwave lemon curd recipe I found on the New York Times site by “Microwave Gourmet” author Barbara Kafka:

  • ½ pound unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated or chopped lemon zest (typically 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated or chopped orange zest, optional
  • 6 large eggs
  1. Place butter, sugar, lemon juice and zests in an 8-cup glass measure or a 2 1/2-quart soufflé dish. Cover tightly with microwave plastic wrap. Cook at 100 percent power in a 650- to 700-watt oven for 4 minutes. Prick plastic to release steam.
  2. Remove from oven and uncover. Whisk together eggs in a small bowl. Whisk about 1/4 cup of the butter mixture into the eggs to warm them. Scrape egg mixture back into measure, whisking constantly. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes.
  3. Leaving dish in oven, whisk until smooth. Cook, uncovered, for 2 minutes more. Remove from oven and puree in a food processor or blender until completely smooth. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

 

The recipe works, although you do have to see what power your microwave is and adjust. Mine is 1050 watts, but I couldn’t just reduce the time by one-third. The overall time remained almost the same, but it took a fair amount of watching.

I prefer Ina Garten’s recipe, which takes about 5 minutes longer.

3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Remove the zest of 3 lemons, avoid the white pith. You can do this with a vegetable peeler. (I prefer to just zest the lemons). Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
Add the butter to the sugar and lemon mixture and pulse until light and creamy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Pulse until combined.
Pour into a 2-quart saucepan (it may look a curdled at this point, don’t worry). Cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees,  or just below simmer. A suggestion from AllRecipes.com says that this will take about 6 minutes. Look for the first bubble. Remove from the heat. Cool. Refrigerate in a glass jar or bowl, covered.

lemon curd tart with fruit

If you are inclined to make a full-sized tart, I’d recommend a shortbread crust, which is super easy and you don’t have to roll. You just press it in. I like this recipe from AddAPinch.com:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup powdered sugar

If you are using unsalted butter, which I typically do, you will need to add about 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together butter, flour, and powdered sugar (and salt if using unsalted butter). Press into the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan, a pie plate, tart pan, or other pan for your baking.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.

Remove from oven. Let cool completely before filling.

 

You can e-mail Marnie at marnie@marniemeadmedia.com.

I’m Jammin’ With Scones

scone with jamspThe appearance of rhubarb on the market is just the start of my summer love affair with jams. I’m too lazy to do the hot-bath method, preferring quick jams that immediately satisfy my need to create.

Last summer I discovered the delightful mix of strawberry and rhubarb together, especially if the rhubarb was chopped so that the texture didn’t get in the way of the flavor (my opinion). Still, strawberries had the starring role. The rhubarb was there to balance the overwhelming sweetness. As I experiment more with flavor, I find I like more complexity and the ability to taste the fruit and not so much the sugar.

A bag of half-eaten cherries made me wonder if the same magic could work with rhubarb. Cherries aren’t in season here yet, but they will be in July. But the markets are filled with fresh cherries from California, and, I bought a bag. Alas, they were hidden in the back of the fridge and were pushing their past-prime time.

Serious Eats provided the recipe road map, but the recipe included pectin and had a whole lot of sugar. So I cut the sugar in half, eliminated the pectin and added both fresh and ground ginger to add some heat to the sweet. Because I don’t use pectin, I allow it to simmer until it reaches the desired thickness. The end result is something that is as magical on a scone as it is paired with cheese, particularly creamy cheeses such as brie.

Once I had this delightful jam, I needed something that was equally delish to eat with it. I’ve been experimenting with scones, with some success, but so far this King Arthur Flour Cream Tea Scones has been consistently good.

Rhubarb Cherry Jam

6 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups pitted sweet cherries
1 1/4 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1 small orange
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

In a medium-sized heavy pot, add rhubarb, cherries. sugar and orange and cook over medium to medium-low heat until the sugar melts and the fruit starts to give off juices. Increase the heat (not high) to bring the mixture to a simmer and allow it to thicken, being careful to stir and scrape the bottom so it doesn’t burn. This is why a heavy-bottomed pot is so important for jam. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes. You can test it by taking a spoonful out and drizzling it on a cold plate. If it is very runny, it isn’t done. Remember it will thicken as it cools. Remove from heat and stir in gingers. Once cool, place in clean glass jars (2 to 4, depending on size) and refrigerate.

 

Cream Scones

The key to these scones is the freezing step. The colder the fat, the more steam escapes in baking and the fluffier it becomes. 8 scones.

2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
(or 3 cups unbleached white flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half (cream will be richer)
1 to 2 tablespoons melted butter, for brushing on top
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top

Line a 9-inch cake pan with a round of parchment or foil (coat foil with butter or cooking spray to prevent sticking).

Whisk together dry ingredients. When whisk in vanilla paste. Gradually stir in the cream, stirring just until the dough comes together. There should be no flour in the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be slightly sticky, but not terribly.

Pat dough into the cake pan. Use a knife to cut 8 pieces. Start by cutting in half, then cut those pieces in half until you have 8. Freeze for 15 minutes or overnight.

Heat oven to 425 degrees about 20 minutes before baking. Remove scones from freezer at this time.

Turn scones out of the pan (here is where the parchment/foil help). Peel off parchment/foil. Then turn right side up and gently break the scones into the 8 pieces. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (not needed, but it speeds cleanup). Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the scones are brown on top and not sticky in the middle. This may take a little longer if your scones didn’t defrost on top of the stove (mine took about 18 to 20 minutes because I had frozen mine overnight).

Serve warm.

These are best eaten within a couple of hours of baking. So you can choose to only cook the number you want and return the rest to the freezer.

 

Marnie Mead is a freelance writer and blogger with a love of food, travel and adventure. Reach her at marnie@marniemeadmedia.com.