Blueberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce

May is the season for blueberries in Florida but it’s in July when they are ripe in Minnesota. This year I had the good fortune to enjoy them during both seasons. I made this sauce at my brother’s in May and had to do it again here at home. It’s a delightful alternative to a traditional BBQ sauce. Slather it on your next baby-back ribs or grilled chicken. Makes 5 – Half Pints.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 medium shallots, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup water
5 cups (1 lb, 6.5 oz or about 3 pints) fresh blueberries, washed and picked over
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
3 chipotles in adobe
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Penzey’s taco seasoning (optional)
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add shallots and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. If either starts to brown add some of the water.

Then add blueberries and remaining ingredients. Bring sauce to a boil, reduce to barely a simmer and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool 5 minutes. Using a stand blender blend sauce until smooth. Return sauce to pan and continue cooking to desired consistency.

Divide into sterilized ½ pint jars and process in a water-bath according to the USDA canning instructions.

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Swedish Cinnamon Buns (Kanelbullar)

Right of the bat you’ll see the word TANGZHONG in the recipe and you might ask yourself what the heck is tangzhong? In a nut-shell it’s the method of pre-cooking a portion of the flour and liquid. This gelatinizes the starches in the flour, transforming the two ingredients into a viscous paste (think papier-mâché).

It is then cooled and added to the remaining ingredients. Sometimes it’s referred to as a roux starter, water roux or yudane. This mixture traps more water in the dough which creates a bread that is more more tender and somewhat more shelf-stable. Feel free to google the word for pages and pages of additonal information.

David Schmit Photography

For the Tangzhong:
5 tablespoons water
5 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Dough:
5 tablespoons (2.5 oz) unsalted butter
½ cup (4 oz) whole milk
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
¼ cup (2 oz) granulated sugar
3 cups + 2 tablespoons (14 oz) bread flour
1 teaspoon fine kosher or sea salt
1 large egg, room temperature
Cooled tangzhong

For the Filling:
5 tablespoons (2.5 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
Pinch of fine salt
4 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the Egg Wash and Topping:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
Pearl sugar for topping

Make the tangzhong: Combine water, milk and flour in a medium saucepan. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook mixture, whisking constantly, until thickened, no lumps remain and forms a paste, about 1-2 minutes. Remove to the bowl of a stand mixer to cool.

In the same saucepan heat milk and butter, allowing the butter to melt. Allow to cool slightly then add to the tangzhong and whisk until combined and cooled to about 100 degrees F. 

Make the dough: When the combined tangzhong and milk/butter mixture has cooled set a seive over the bowl and sift together the yeast, cardamom, sugar, flour and salt. Attach the dough hook to the mixer. Mix on medium low until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Increase mixer speed to medium and knead mixture for 4 – 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and clears the side of the bowl.  It’s okay if a bit of dough sticks to the bottom of the bowl. You can also mix and knead the dough by hand but it will take longer, more like 8-10 minutes.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for about an hour or until 1 ½ or 2 times its original size. Once the dough has risen take and pull the outer part of the ball of dough up and over the middle of the ball about eight times (this is the equivalant to “punching  down” the dough but in a much gentler fashion). Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning in a small bowl make the filling. Remove dough from the bowl and place it onto a clean countertop. Roll out with a rolling pin until it is in the shape of a rectangle that is about 16 by 20 inches in size. The dough should be smooth enough that you do not need to add flour during the rolling process. If however, it happens to stick, sprinkle a little flour over the dough as necessary to prevent from sticking. Using an off-set spatula, spread filling in a thin layer over the entire surface of the dough. 

Fold the dough like a business letter going the long way: bring the top third of the dough down over the center third and bring the bottom third up over both the center and top third.  You may need the bench knife to coax the dough from the counter top if it is sticking. Roll out folded dough to about 8-inches in width. Using the bench knife, sharp knife or a pizza wheel, cut the folded dough into 15 – 18 equal size strips (depending on how large you want each of them).

Working with one piece of dough at a time, twist the strip of dough as you hold it between your thumbs and forefingers until it has a spiralized shape.

While you continue to hold the dough in the thumb and forefinger of one hand, use your free hand to wrap the twisted strip of dough around two or three middle fingers of the hand that holds the dough strip, tucking the last bit of the dough strip up and through the center of the circle you have just created. Place the shaped bun on a prepared baking sheet. Once you have 7 or 9 buns shaped and placed on one of the baking sheets, cover with a clean flour-sack towel and set aside. Continue with remaining buns, shaping and placing them on the second baking sheet before covering with the towel. Let covered buns rise for an additional 30-45 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar. Reduce oven to 375 degrees and bake one tray at a time in the lower-third of the oven for 15 – 18 minutes or until golden brown. The rolls are best served warm but any remaining can be stored in a sealed container for up to 3 days.

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Fresh and Zippy Asparagus Soup

When asparagus is local and abundant, it’s time to make this soup. Not only is local the freshest, it’s also likely that the end that is generally tough is tender enough to include in the soup. The only way to know it though, is to cut a bit off and taste it. If it’s not tender just snap off and discard the tough part and proceed.

There’s another version of asparagus soup on my blog, but this one has a bit of zip by adding a serrano or jalapeño pepper.
Makes about 8 cups

1 pound fresh asparagus, washed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
1 large carrot, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 medium celery stalk, cut into ¼-inch dice
1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, trimmed and minced
2 – 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 – 3 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped of leaves and minced, reserve some for garnish
1 medium Yukon potato, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
4 – 5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock, preferably home-made
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Taste the bottom-end of a couple of stalks to determine if they are tough and woody or tender enough to cook. Trim about half of the tips to reserve as garnish. Cut spears into ½-inch pieces.

Over medium heat melt butter and olive oil in a large heavy bottomed stock pot, Dutch oven, or French cocotte. Add onions, carrot, celery, serrano, or jalapeño a pinch of salt, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until onions are soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté briefly to soften but do not allow to brown. Stir in the fresh thyme, then add potatoes, asparagus (minus the reserved tops) and stock.

Bring just to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender when pierced with a knife.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the reserved asparagus tips for a few minutes, or until crisp tender. Drain the tips and place them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Doing this also preserves their bright green color. Once the tips are cool, drain them and set aside.

Purée soup until completely smooth using an immersion blender or in batches using a heavy-duty blender. Bring the soup back to a simmer, add the cream and cook uncovered until desired consistency is reached. Stir in the lemon juice (if using) and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, then top each bowl with asparagus tips, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a sprinkle of chopped thyme. Serve while still hot.

If freezing, omit the cheese, cool and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours. Then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot, stir in the cheese and serve.

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Spinach Briouats

When in Morocco these are called briouats (bree-wats). If you nibbled on one in Greece, they would be called spanakopita. If making these in India one might added cooked, diced potatoes and/or peas. In France, the phyllo would merely be wrapped around a disk of chèvre before being sautéed. Regardless of what they may be called, they are easy to make and delicious.

10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and dried
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, fine dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
10 or so fresh mint leaves, minced
2 oz (about 1/2 cup) fresh white goat or Greek feta cheese, crumbled
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup dried breadcrumbs
¼ cup plumb golden raisins
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 sheets thawed frozen phyllo dough, or more depending on how much filling
Vegetable oil for frying, optional
Lemon wedges for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place spinach in a colander and squeeze out as much water as possible. Leave in colander. 

In a small dry skillet set over medium heat toast pine nuts, stirring often to prevent from burning.  Remove them to a plate and set aside to cool. Return pan to the fire and melt the butter. Pour melted butter into a heat-proof bowl, set aside.

Return the same pan to the fire and add the olive oil. Sauté the onions until they are softened, add the garlic and continue cooking for another 30 seconds or so. Add the spinach and sauté for a minute or two to evaporate any additional water. Remove all to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool.

Chop the cooled pine nuts and add to the mixing bowl. Add the minced parsley, mint leaves, cheese, beaten egg, breadcrumbs, raisins and salt and pepper to taste.

Lay a barely damp towel on a half-sheet pan and lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of that. Carefully unwrap the phyllo and unfold it on the plastic wrap. Have ready another towel to cover the phyllo. Take one sheet the long edge of the phyllo closest to you. Cover the remaining phyllo.

Using a pastry brush, brush the phyllo sheet with the melted butter. Divide the dough in half and then each half in thirds or fourths, depending on how big you want the finished appetizer.  Take a teaspoon of the filling (if making smaller) or a heaping teaspoon and set it on the end of the strip (closest to you). Fold the strip as you would the US flag. Brush the end with a bit more butter and fold to close. Repeat the process until all the filling has been used. Rewrap the phyllo dough and return it to the freezer.

If baking, set on a parchment lined sheet pan and brush both sides with a bit more butter. Make for 15 – 18 minutes or until golden brown.

If frying, add a couple of inches of oil to a saucepan and heat to 325 degrees F. Fry until golden on each side, remove to a paper towel lined plate. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon.

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Indian Inspired Coconut Rice Pudding

I had some left-over basmati rice in the fridge the other day along with a bit of coconut cream. Did you know you can freeze rice and thaw in the refrigerator? It reheats just fine.  Or you can make rice pudding.

I wouldn’t have thought it would take about 40 minutes give or take a couple to cook this pudding, but it does. And yet, even with the extended time on the stove the rice is perfectly al dente. If you want the pudding a bit more liquid stop the cooking process at about 25 or 35 minutes. 

Regardless of the total cooking time keep an eye on while it’s simmering and stir quite often. Otherwise, it will likely burn on the bottom. After about 25 minutes pick up the pace and stir constantly to the desired consistency. Makes six – 4 oz servings

1/2 cup (1 oz/ 30 g) sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup (1 oz / 30 g) sliced, blanched almonds
2 cups (8 oz / 225 g) cold, cooked basmati rice
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup coconut cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup (2 oz / 55 g) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon koser salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (2 oz / 60 g) golden raisins

Optional ingredients:
2 wide strips of orange zest
Drizzle of pure maple syrup
Drizzle of heavy cream
Replace cardamom with ¼ teaspoon cinnamon or a few grindings of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the coconut and almonds in separate pans (as they may finish at different times) for 7 – 8 minutes or until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove each to separate bowls and set aside to cool.

In a heavy bottomed 2 1/2 – to 3-quart saucepan add rice, milk, coconut cream, heavy cream, sugar, orange zest (if adding), cardamom, and salt.

Bring just to a boil; then lower heat and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 40 minutes. (I used a flame diffuser to keep the heat under control.)

When the pudding has reached the desired consistency, remove from the heat, stir in vanilla and raisins. If serving immediately, divide into individual serving bowls, sprinkle with toasted coconut and sliced almonds and serve. If storing for even a short time, omit the toasted coconut and almonds until ready to serve. Cover with plastic wrap pressing down directly on the pudding to keep it from forming a skin. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Chocolate-Almond Coconut Cake

As usual I was perusing recipes on the web as well as thumbing through the numerous cookbooks I own looking for a dessert to end a Spring dinner with friends. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to bake a coconut cream tart or a chocolate cake. I ended up combining two of my loves; coconut and chocolate.

The following recipe is inspired by a cake from Cooks Illustrated. They used marshmallow fluff for the filling. I on the otherhand made an Italian meringue because in the end, it’s just a toasted coconut buttercream. Makes one 8-inch, three-layer cake.

Coconut Cake
1 large egg, room temperature
5 (5 1/2 oz / 150) large whites, room temperature
3/4 cup cream of coconut 
1/4 cup whole milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 1/4 cups (9 oz / 255 g) cake flour (not self-rising)
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar 
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
12 tablespoons (6 oz / 168 g) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened

FOR THE COCONUT CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease three 8 x 1-inch round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment paper rounds.

In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup whisk together whole egg, egg whites, cream of coconut, milk, vanilla, and coconut extracts. Set aside.

Set a sieve over the bowl of a stand mixer and sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Using the paddle attachment and mixing low speed adding butter, 1 piece at a time, mixing until pea-size or smaller pieces remain, about 1 minute.

Re-whisk the egg mixture. With the mixer running on low pour in half the egg mixture. Increase speed to medium-high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low, add remaining egg mixture, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir by hand.

Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and smooth tops with rubber spatula. Bake until tops are light golden, and toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and let cool completely on rack, about 2 hours.

Coconut Buttercream
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
6 tablespoons water
4 egg whites (4 oz), room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt 
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar 
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 1/3 cups (4 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM: In a small saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Set over low heat. Swirl the pan to dissolve the sugar completely.  Once the sugar has dissolved, stop swirling. Increase the heat and boil to 240 degrees F (check it using a candy thermometer).  Wash down the inside wall of the pan with a wet pastry brush. This helps prevent sugar crystals from forming around the sides and falling into the sugar mixture, causing an undesirable chain reaction.

While the sugar is coming up to temperature, in the impeccably clean bowl of an electric mixer, whip the eggs whites on low speed until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar, increase the speed to medium and beat until soft peaks form. Once the eggs are at soft peaks turn down the mixer so as not to overbeat the egg whites while the sugar mixture is come up to temperature.

Once the sugar has reached 240 degrees F, with the mixer running, pour the hot sugar syrup in a thin stream down the side of the bowl of soft-peaked egg whites. Beat on medium-high speed until the egg whites are stiff and glossy, about 4 – 5 minutes.

Add the butter one tablespoon at a time and beat until each piece in incorporated when whip for about 30 seconds. Whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and extract and beat until light and fluffy.

Remove and reserve about 1 cup or so (to be used to crumb coat the cake). Add the toasted coconut to the remaining butter cream and mix to combine.

Chocolate Glaze and Decoration
½ cup (1 1/2 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut, toasted
½ cup sliced almond, toasted
1 cup heavy cream 
¼ cup light corn syrup 
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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Smoked Duck Rillettes

IMG_0305Makes Twelve – 3 ounce ramekins

2 1/2 pounds duck tenderloins, tendons removed
1 1/2 cups duck fat, divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 cups chopped shallots
2 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper or to taste

optional ingredients according to personal taste
3 tablespoons armagnac or brandy
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
a few grindings of nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For serving: Toast points, for serving with, jam or marmalade, cornichons, pickled carrots, onions, radishes.

Using a stove-top smoker place a tablespoon of cherry wood or oak chips in the center of the pan.  Set the drip pan over the wood chips. Spray the grate with food release spray and place on top of the drip pan. Line half of the tenderloins on the diagonal across the grate. Secure the lid leaving about a half-inch gap. Place the pan on a medium fire and watch for the smoke to appear.  When it does, close the lid completely, turn the heat to medium low and allow to smoke for about 8 – 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and check to ensure the duck is cooked.  If so, remove with tongs and set aside to cool. Pour off any accumulated juices and reserve. Clean out the burnt wood chips and repeat the process.

While the second pan of duck is smoking. Place a skillet over medium heat and add about a cup of duck fat. After the fat begins to sizzle add the black pepper and cook swirling the pan to allow the pepper to bloom. Next add the shallots and sauté until translucent about 8 minutes; add the garlic. Continue cooking for another 2 – 3 minutes, watching carefully so as not to burn the garlic. After the garlic is tender stir in the herbs, remove from heat and pour into a bowl to cool. Return the pan to the fire and pour in the reserved juice (from both batches of duck); reduce liquid by half. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Once the tenderloins are cool, cut into thirds and place half of them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal “S” blade.  Pour in half the shallot mixture and pulse until roughly chopped.  Place in a bowl to reserve and repeat with the remaining duck and shallot mixture. Combine the second batch with the first, pour in the reduced liquid and stir to incorporate.  Heat a quarter cup or so of duck fat just until melted. Pour enough fat over the chopped duck and stir to combine to allow the rillettes to become moist but not wet. Reserve any remaining duck fat.

Pack into clean jars or ramekins and set in the refrigerator to become firm. Once firm portion the remaining liquid fat equally over the portioned rillettes just to cover. Return to the refrigerator to allow the fat to firm then top with lids and rings.

The undisturbed rillettes will last in the refrigerator for about a week or jar can be placed in the freezer for up to 6 months. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator. When ready to serve remove from the refrigerator about a half hour prior to serving.

Photo by David Schmit Photography

Photo by David Schmit Photography

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Chocolate Buttermilk Ice Cream

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup wild flower honey
6 large egg yolks
Pinch Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup crème fraîche

Have ready a bowl of ice water along with a sieve placed over a medium heat-proof bowl.

In a medium saucepan combine first 5 ingredients and place over medium-low heat. Whisk mixture constantly until an instant read thermometer reads 170 degrees F.

Remove from heat, add buttermilk and chocolate; whisking until chocolate has melted completely, then whisk in crème fraîche. Strain the mixture through the sieve and leave bowl of what is now called chocolate crème anglaise in the ice bath stirring until cold. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to proceed churn the crème anglaise in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer to a container and freeze until ready to serve.

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