Socca

This provençal flatbread or pancake is made with chickpea or sometimes it’s called garbanzo bean flour; which makes it gluten free. If you don’t have a soccca pan you can use a well seasoned 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet.

When you go to Provence be sure to grab a triangle when it’s hot from the fire. It is generally wrapped in a piece of paper with enough olive oil drizzled on top that it will run down your arms. That’s okay too as it’s delicious.

Makes two 9 or 10-inch (23cm) pancakes
Serves 4–6

1 cup (130 g) chickpea flour
½ cup olive oil, divided
1 ½ tablespoons (8 g) minced rosemary, divided
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk together the chickpea flour, 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 tablespoon rosemary, salt, and 1 cup water in a medium bowl until smooth; cover and let batter sit at room temperature for 2 hours or even better let is sit overnight in the refrigerator.

When ready to proceed position 2 oven racks, one being in the middle of the oven and the other being close to the broiler. Heat the oven on maximum heat (like 500 degrees F) for at least 20 minutes, with the pan inside.

Remove the pan from the oven and pour in about 2 tablespoons of oil. Place it back in the oven to heat for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven again and quickly pour in half the batter. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven.

After 5 minutes, turn on the oven’s broiler and move the pan to the upper rack. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the socca starts to brown and even burn a little in spots especially around the edges.

Once the socca is brown remove the pan from the oven and using a large spatula remove the socca to a cutting board. Sprinkle it with remaining rosemary, salt, cumin, pepper and an additional drizzle of olive oil.

Cut into triangles and serve it while it is still hot. Repeat with remaining oil, batter, rosemary, salt, cumin, and pepper.

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Confiture de Figue (Fig Jam)

Assortment of Provençal jams

Confiture de Figue is my favorite. Maybe it’s because I was in Provence the first time I enjoyed it. While sipping on a steaming bowl of café au lait, I slathered this confiture on a toasted baguette for breakfast. It didn’t hurt that I was sitting at the dining table of La Pitchoune.

Now more often than not, whether I’m staying friends, at a B & B or even a hotel, a delightful confiture de figues is the jam pot I seek out pour le petit déjeuner (for breakfast).

4 pounds fresh figs
3 – 4 strips of  organic lemon peel, yellow part only
3 – 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups (21 oz) granulated sugar
4 – 6 tablepoons (2 – 3 oz)  cup honey, depending on your sweet tooth
½ cup water
3 – 4 fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

If canning have ready 8 half pint jars, sterilized and ready to go.

Boil a large kettle of water. Place the figs in a heat-proof bowl and completely cover them with boiling water, allow to stand for 10 minutes. Drain, stem, and chop the figs into eighths. It should yield about 6 cups.

Using a vegetable peeler, zest 3 or 4 strips of lemon into 1-inch wide by the length of the fruit capturing the yellow part only. Cut the strips into 1/8-inch pieces. Set aside. Juice the lemon, using 2 ½ tablespoons and reserving the remaining for another use.

Combine figs, sugar, honey, water, strips of lemon, lemon juice, and thyme sprigs (if using) in a large, heavy bottom Dutch oven. Let mixture sit for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat to medium to medium-low and cook for 40 – 50 minutes, stirring ocassionally at the beginning but then stirring constantly for the last 20 minutes to as not to scortch the confiture. The thermometer should be 205 degrees F. Process jars according to manufacturer’s directions.

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Brown Butter Cornmeail Cake with Summer Fruit

1 ½ pounds (about 700 g) apricots, peaches, or plums
12 tablespoons (6 oz / 170 g) unsalted butter
½ cup (2 ½ oz/ 70 g) polenta
1 cup (4 ½ oz / 130 g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup (5 ¼ oz / 150 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (1 ¾ oz / 50 g) brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chopped dried lavender (optional)

1 ½ to 2 tablespoons course sugar, such as turbinado or coarse sparkling sugar

Melt butter in a light-colored, heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally or stirring until the butter is amber-colored and smells nutty. Immediately pour the butter into a separate bowl and allow to cool for about 25 minutes or better yet refrigerate until solidified.

If using peaches peel by cutting an X on the non-stem end and blanch in boiling water for 15 – 30 seconds (depending on ripeness). Remove to an ice bath, cool and then peel. Halve the fruit and remove the pits. Slice the fruit into 3/4- to 1-inch wedges. Set aside.

Grease a 9 x 3-inch (23cm) springform or cake pan with butter and line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Set a seive over a medium mixing bowl and sift together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using with the paddle attachment beat the cooled brown butter and both sugars until combined. Add the eggs one at a time and beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, or until light-colored and fluffy. Add the vanilla or almond extract mix until combined.

Add the cornmeal-flour mixture to the bowl and mix just until combined. Scrape batter into the prepared cake pan and use a spatula to spread it to the edges and smooth the top. Arrange the sliced fruit in concentric circles over the batter and gently pressing each slice as you go. (Avoid placing the fruit up against the sides of the pan. You’ll thank me later when removing the cake from the pan.)

Sprinkle the course sugar over the top and bake for about an hour or until the center feels just set or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of cake crumbs.

Remove to a cooling rack and run a knife around the outside of the cake before any bubbled sugar cools and sticks to the pan. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche.

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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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