Thursday, September 13, 2012

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

My kitchen overflowed with cherry tomatoes last week as my 2 plants hanging halfway off the deck have finally decided to produce! The plants look like they are ready for the compost heap, but after inspecting the trailing vines, I found lots of bright red tomatoes that were sun ripened and ready for picking! What to do with all these little guys? You can only eat so many salads! Then I remembered something I read on Pinterest... here we go again...

The tomatoes were cut in half, placed on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet cut side up, drizzled with olive oil (just a tiny little bit!), sprinkled with sea salt and roasted at 200 degrees for about 4 hours. It was almost overnight, but thanks to DH, I turned them off before going to bed!
The next morning, I put them in a jar (Oh, dear! They shrunk up so much that they fit into a small jar!!) and covered them with olive oil (thanks to my son-in-law for Trader Giotto's). I added a large clove of garlic, sliced, and a few sprigs of rosemary. You can sprinkle them with herbs as they are baking, if you prefer. The little jar is still sitting on the counter, but I haved used them several times this week.

One night, I tossed them into olive oil, red pepper, parlsey, garlic, shrimp, lemon juice and a dash of white wine. Cooked this until the shrimp were done - about 3 minutes - and tossed with angel hair pasta. YUMMM!

Another day, I added the drained tomatoes to a turkey and mozzarella panini. And finally, I added them to stuffed tomatoes. Don't laugh, the roasted tomatoes added a new dimension to the baked stuffed tomatoes. The roasted tomatoes are sweet and almost caramelized. They make a great addition to many dishes... use your imagination and enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pear Clafouti

Clafouti is a traditional French dish made by pouring pancake-like batter over fruit - easy to make!
Traditionally, it's made with cherries but pears are in season and beautiful this fall. It's a perfect time to try Ina Garten's recipe for Pear Clafouti.

Every time I type clafouti, I hear Julia Childs saying (in her unmistakable voice) cla-foo-tay'! And I smile! Did you see the movie Julie and Julia? We were in Paris after it came out and saw the movie poster on a circular "billboard" on the street. Of course, I saw the movie - several times! I'm not that crazy about Julia, but I do love Paris!!

So, here is Ina's recipe for Pear Clafouti. Bake it in a quiche pan, if you still have one. Or you can use a pie plate or any round casserole dish. It needs to be eaten warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar and DH would dollop it with whipped cream.

Pear Clafouti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (it IS French!)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 firm, but ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10x1 1/2-inch round baking dish and sprinkle bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Beat eggs and 1/3 cups sugar in the bowl of electric mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in flour, cream, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Arrange pear slices in a single layer in the prepared pan. Make them pretty.... pinwheel or spiral.
Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and custard is firm, 35 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Salted caramel. Have you notice that this is one of THE most popular flavors? I like sweet and salty and so does my daughter, Kelley. For her birthday at our house this weekend, I made these cupcakes. I found them on the blog "Sprinkle Bakes" via Pinterest. (I also "borrowed" her photo complete with caramel frou frou!) They are "from scratch" (unlike the box variety that most home cooks call "homemade" these days!) and improve with age. I'm not going to kid you, they are NOT quick and easy, but they ARE well worth the effort. I knew Kelley would love them too and appreciate the effort. After all, she is the cupcake Queen having her own baking business for several years. I was really nervous making them, especially when it was time to frost! Her decorating skills are on an entirely different level than mine thanks to instruction from master cake baker/decorator Eileen Carter. But, Mama always said I didn't have sense enough to think there was anything I couldn't do, so I spent a good part of the day Friday baking these beauties!

Wouldn't you do anything for your children? I would. I love my two better than anything you can name. They are such very different people, but both are dear to me in their own way. Kelley and I have been buddies since she was little. She's a fantastic mom, loving wife and dear daughter/friend. I am so proud of the young woman she has become, but I do wish she would stop having birthdays!!!

Here's the recipe, but as you would expect, I made a few changes! The original was Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes. I had already made 2 batches of caramel and was not about to make the 3rd just for decoration. If you want to go that far, go to the blog and get the entire recipe. I'm giving you the Double Salted Caramel version! Pay attention to where the recipes call for unsalted or salted butter. NO SUBSTITUTES! ( I also did NOT say this recipe is inexpensive to make!)

Confession: I burned the 2nd batch of caramel! PHEW!! If that happens, throw it out and start over.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon SEA SALT
1 stick UNSALTED butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin pans with papers. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Cream butter and brown sugar on medium- high speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat well after each addition.

Fill muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Salted Caramel Filling
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons SALTED butter, cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, room temperature

Melt sugar in heavy bottom pan over medium high heat. Whisk the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color (shiny new penny color for me). Add butter and stir until melted. Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam and pop!) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Cut a small round piece (plug) from the top of each cupcake. Pour in 1 teaspoon caramel sauce and replace the cake piece. Set aside.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick SALTED butter
1 stick UNSALTED butter
1/2 teaspoon SEA SALT
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine sugar and water in heavy bottom saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color (shiny new penny, again). Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes or until it is just barely warm but still pourable.
Beat butters and salt in large bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined.  Add caramel; beat on medium- high speed until light and airy and completely mixed (about 2 minutes). Mixture should be ready to use immediately. If it is runny, refrigerate until creamy. (Your caramel was too hot!). Top caramel-filled cupcakes with frosting.