Cream of Celery-Apple Soup

For a second year I plopped, well planted really, six celery seedlings in my backyard in the spring. Celery is so easy to grow and the delicous taste is like nothing you will find in a grocery store. If you have a sunny spot in your yard, pick youself up a few seedlings and give it a go. If you plant more than two seedlings though, you’ll have some to share with the neighbors.

Makes about 3 quarts or eight 1 ½ cup servings

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium shallots or yellow onions, coarsely chopped
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup calvados, optional
1 1/4 pounds (about 10 large stalks) celery, sliced 1/2 inch thick crosswise
Some of the leaves reserved for garnish
1 large russet potato, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium apple, peeled and cubed
2 white (or orange) carrots
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade
½ cup heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat butter in a large (4-quart) heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, a pinch of salt and a few grindings of pepper and cook until translucent; about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté just until tender, about 1 minute. Add calvados (if using) and simmer to burn off any alcohol, about another minute.

Add potato, apple, carrots, and stock. Bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer and cook stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup until smooth. (To prevent splattering, fill blender only halfway, and allow the heat to escape: Remove cap from hole in lid; cover lid with a dish towel, holding down firmly while blending.) Return soup to pan; stir in lemon juice, and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve, garnished with celery leaves.

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Honey-Rosemary Sablés (Cookies)

Oftentimes in the windows of French pâtisseries the sablés are as big as your palm. They are definitely big enough to share, or not! For this recipe I’ve made them quite a bit smaller. You can always enjoy a second one without any guilt.

This sablé is not that sweet either. It also has a savory dimension with the addition of rosemary. It’s not overpowering but if rosemary is not to your taste, by all means swap it out for freshly chopped thyme or leave the herbs out altogether and let the honey shine on its own.

Makes about 60 cookies

2 1/4 cups (10.5 oz / 300 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon (3 oz / 85 g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (0.5 oz /10 g) vanilla sugar
1 cup (8 oz / 225 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup (3 oz / 90 g) premium wild flower honey
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or thyme)
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sanding sugar

In a medium bowl whisk together flour and salt, set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer add the granulated and vanilla sugars along with the butter. Using the paddle attachment beat mixture on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down bowl, add egg yolk and honey and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing well on low speed after each addition. Add the rosemary and mix just until combined. Tip dough out onto a counter-top and knead a couple of times to incorporate any stray bits.

Divide dough in half (each weigh about 14 oz / 400 g) and roll into two 12-inch long logs. Wrap each log in parchment paper, then wrap tightly in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours or better yet overnight.

When ready to bake off, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap 1 log of dough and brush with beaten egg. Sprinkle half the sanding sugar over the log, turning until evenly coated. Slice dough into 1/4-inch thick rounds, rolling log every few slices to avoid creating a flat surface. Place cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing about 2″ apart, and chill if necessary. Repeat by egg washing the second log and sprinkling with sugar.

Bake cookies, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through, about 10 – 12 minutes or until cookies are golden around the edges but still pale in the center. Let cool 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely.

Do Ahead
Dough can be made 1 month ahead; freeze instead of chilling. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before using. Cookies can be baked 3 days ahead; store airtight at room temperature.

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Fresh Fig Galette

The time to let fruit shine is when it’s in season. In this case figs are abundant at a market outside of Paris in September. So when I was invited to cook dinner for friends it was a no brainer to make something with figs.

I made a galette as I didn’t know if I would have access to a tart pan. All I added was a little course sugar and baked it off. When I made this recipe again recently I had half a recipe of frangipane filling from another recipe and a bit of apricot jam. Are they necessary no, but boy were the additions delicious.

Serves 6 – 8 depending on the generosity of the slices

For the dough, I used one disk from Simca’s Sweet Dough Recipe
Half the filling from the Frangipane Recipe
1 1/4 pounds of ripe fresh figs, cut into halves or quarters depending on their size
1/2 cup apricot jam
1 egg beaten with a teaspoon of water
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
Vanilla ice cream or Crème fraîche (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roll out the dough to a 12-inch diameter. Place on a parchment lined sheetpan and pop in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the freezer and using an off-set spatula spread the frangipane filling to within 2-inches of the edge of the dough. Then spread the apricot jam on top of the frangipane.

Distribute the figs on top of the fillings. Once the dough is pliable, gently fold the 2-inch preimeter of dough up over the figs and press gently to secure. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.

Bake on the parchment lined sheet pan for 50 – 60 minutes or until bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche.

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Basil Ice Cream

It been close to 10 years since I’ve made this ice cream flavor. Since I have an abundance of basil growing in my garden, I thought it was hightime I made it again.

Some recipes call for puréeing the milk mixture or chopping the basil. I found this to be a needless step if I just added a few more bruised leaves and let it steep a bit longer. 

Another direction I kept reading in recipes was to heat the custard to 175 degrees F or even 180 degrees F. I found that heating it any higher than 168 degrees F would cause it to crudle.

I’ll be serving a scoop of sublime summer ice cream with slices of David Lebovitz’s Moelleux of Summer Fruits. Makes about 3 ½ cups.

2 large sprigs fresh basil
1 1/2 cups whole milk, preferably organic
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided, preferably organic
3/4 cup (5.25 oz / 150 g) granulated sugar, divided in half
Large pinch kosher salt
5 large egg yolks

Special Equipment
Instant-read thermometer
Ice cream maker

Slap the leaves between the palm of your hands to release the essential oils. In a 2-quart saucepan add the basil, milk, 1 cup cream, and half the sugar. Heat to 190 degrees F stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let steep for an hour.

Have ready a large metal bowl and fine-mesh sieve sitting over a bowl of ice water. In a medium bowl whisk together yolks and remaining sugar. Add the beaten yolk/sugar mixture to the cooled milk mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk until the custard registers 165°F on an instant thermometer (do not let boil) or until the custard coats the back of a spoon.

Immediately remove from heat and pour through the fine-mesh sieve into the metal bowl. Stir in remaining ½ cup cream. Keep stirring until cold, 10 to 15 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or better yet overnight.

Freeze custard in an ice cream maker following manufacture’s instructions. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours.

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Fresh Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Swirl

It’s prime corn season! So when you’re tired of munching it off the cob but not ready for soup, you can make some ice cream. This recipe might be a bit more involved then say making a vanilla bean version. But it’s totally optional to coursely chop the corn kernals in a food processor. It does produce more flavor but how much corn flavor is too much? Only you can decide.

I’ll save you a step by not making you temper the eggs with the warmed milk. Just whisk the eggs and 1/2 the sugar in the saucepan, add the milk mixture and slowly raise the heat, stirring constantly until an instant read thermometer registers 150 degrees F or the custard coats the back of a spoon. I know, who knew you didn’t have to temper eggs!  I’ll pass your “thank yous” on to my friend Chef Dave who gave me the idea.

Oh and the blackberry swirl does add a nice tart balance. Next time too, I’ll make some honeycomb candy as a topping.

Blackberry Swirl 
6 ounces blackberries, fresh or frozen
¼ cup (2 oz / 55 g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Ice Cream Custard Base
3 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 ½ (12 oz) cups whole milk
2 cups (16 oz) heavy cream
1 cup (7 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar, divided
1 lg pinch kosher salt
3 – 4 fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (4 oz) Crème fraîche or sour cream

For the Swirl: Combine blackberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for about 5 – 7 minutes, stirring and mashing the berries while cooking to help release their juices. Once the berries have broken down, add the cornstarch, whisking until no lumps remain. Cook for another 3 minutes then remove from heat.

Strain mixture through a fine seive into a clean bowl, pressing the berries against the sides of the strainer to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the solid blackberry seeds that remain. Cover the blackberry purée and chill in the refrigerator for 3 – 4 hours.

For the Ice Cream Base: Using a chef’s knife cut the corn cob in half and slice the kernels off the cobs. Place corn kernels in a food processor and using the metal “S” blade coarsely chop.

Add the chopped kernels, any accumulated juice, and corn cobs to a large saucepan. Add the milk, cream, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, and thyme sprigs (if using). Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring and watching carefully so that it doesn’t boil over, then remove from heat. Let stand, uncovered to allow the corn to infuse in the cream/milk for about 1 hour, then discard corn cobs and thyme sprigs.

Using an immersion or regular blender, purée the corn/milk mixture. Set aside. In the same saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Add the puréed corn/milk mixture. Return mixture to medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon or an instant read thermometer registers 150 degrees F, about 10 minutes.

Pass custard through a fine sieve, pressing down on the solids. Discard solids. Whisk in crème fraîche (or sour cream) until smooth. Let custard cool in an ice bath, stirring occasionally, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours or better yet overnight.

Freeze corn mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, alternating with  drizzles of blackberry sauce and ending with a final drizzle. Do not mix together or you’ll just end up with purple ice cream.

Press a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

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Panzanella Salad

If I were to make this salad the classic way, I would leave well enough alone and include only Italian bread and garden-fresh tomatoes tossed in a vinaigrette. The bread would be a hearty, artisan variety with a crunchy crust like a ciabatta, boule or even a baguette. As well, with the classic version the bread used would be stale (you know; the ends left from dinner). But if you enjoyed all the bread last evening just toast some more in the oven for 15 minutes or so until crunchy and barely browned.

As for the tomatoes, August is the time for this salad as they are vibrant and delicious! Most likely you can get your hands on a couple of heirloom varieties either from your garden or a farmer’s market. The juiciness of these nightshades is also a plus as the tomato liquor will blend with the vinaigrette, adding another layer of complexity to the salad.

Of course, you can make your salad the classic way using only tomatoes and bread. Or, you can add other ingredients to your own taste. Thinly sliced shallots or red onions, cucumbers, and bell peppers could be options. There’s nothing stopping you either from adding chucks of amazing mozzarella, salt-packed anchovies, or canned imported tuna. Though, I wouldn’t recommend adding every optional ingredient listed below to the same salad.

4 ounces crusty bread torn or cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
3 tablespoons or so extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, more to taste
2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, preferably a mix of heirloom varieties
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallot or red onion (optional)
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn or cut into bite-size pieces (optional)
1/2 cup thinly sliced English or Kirby cucumber (optional)
1/4 -1/2 preserved lemon, pith removed and thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced (optional)
1 tablespoon capers, drained (optional)
Anchovies (optional)
Sliced Boiled eggs (optional)
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

1 teaspoon finely minced garlic (optional)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard or to taste
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (give or take) good quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or thyme (or a combination)
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons oil and a pinch of salt. Bake until they are dried out and pale golden brown at the edges, about 7 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

Cut tomatoes into bite-size pieces and transfer to a large bowl.

To make the vinaigrette in a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic (if using), mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture is thickened. Stir in the fresh herbs that you are adding.

Add bread cubes, tomatoes, and any optional ingredients and toss well. Dress with the vinaigrette (you may not need all of it).

Let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before serving. Taste for seasoning and toss with a little more vinaigrette and salt if needed just before serving.

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Classic Popovers

To achieve the lightest, fluffiest popovers, the eggs and milk should at least be room temperature. Some recipes call for some of the milk or even cream to be heated to about 100 degree F and whisked in at the last minute.

I didn’t heat the milk but I did let the batter rest for about an hour so that the flour was fully hydrated. I also set the bowl on the back of the stove, over the oven vent, while it was pre-heating.

1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) whole milk, room temperature
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

If the eggs and milk are cold, before combining them, submerge the whole eggs in hot water for about 10 minutes. Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl measure or weigh out the flour and whisk in the salt. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk together the warmed eggs and room temperature milk until very frothy and displaying visible air bubbles. This should take about 1 minute.

Add flour and salt to egg mixture and whisk until batter is the consistency of heavy cream with some small lumps remaining. Whisk in the cooled melted butter. Set the batter aside for about 45 minutes.

When ready to bake off, set a rack on the lowest level of the oven and if you have a pizza stone set it on top of the rack. Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees giving it a full 15 minutes to get really hot. Set the popover pan on a sheet pan and place it in the oven for about 3 minutes. 

Remove the pan from the oven and generously spray with non-stick cooking spray. Divide the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons of butter evenly between the 6 popover cups. Using a silicone brush, quickly brush the butter up the sides of each cup.

Give the batter one more quick whisk and fill popover cups about three-quarters full with batter. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Continue baking until golden brown, about 25 minutes more, give or take. DON’T OPEN THE OVEN DOOR!

Popovers lose their crunch quickly if left in the pan, so turn them out on a wire rack immediately and poke a small opening in the side of each with a paring knife to let the steam escape. Serve right away.

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Rhubarb-Honey (or any fruit) Crumble

As we are nearing the end of rhubarb season I thought I was through with recipes that included this vegetable that acts like a fruit. Well that and I’m kind of “rhubarbed-out.”

But I was visiting a friend who had rhubarb to pick before it was too late. He also happens to be a beekeeper and was harvesting honey.  Therefore, I wanted to feature his honey in a recipe.

If you don’t have rhubarb, any fruit would be equally delicious including blueberries, raspberries, peaches, blackberries, or a combination of them. You will just have to adjust the cooking time depending on which fruit you use.

Vegetable cooking spray or butter to grease baking dish
4 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) sliced rhubarb (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound fresh strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup honey
Pinch kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
1/3 cup regular oats
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons chilled butter , cut into small pieces

Grease a 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking dish with cooking spray or butter (if I have a choice, I always use butter). Set aside.

Combine rhubarb, strawberries, honey, salt, cardamom, vanilla extract, and lemon zest, and toss well. Spoon into prepared baking dish.

Place oats, flour, and sugar in food processor, and pulse 2 to 3 times. Add chilled butter, and process until mixture resembles coarse meal; sprinkle over rhubarb mixture, squeezing some of the crumbs together for more crunch.

Set baking dish on a sheetpan (to catch any drips) and bake at  375° F for 40 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

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