Sunday, August 9, 2009

Life is Uncertain.....

....Eat dessert first. ...Ernestine Ulmer

So, as I told you before, there are absolutely (Jess!) no French cooking classes available in Paris during the week we are all there. I so wanted to take a class, then make the meal for our group on New Year's Eve! Uhhh....before we grab our champagne bottles and head for the Champs Elysses!!! So, since I couldn't find an open class, I decided to follow the lines of "Julie & Julia" and teach myself! Since I have NO idea what foods will be in season, I decided to have some options for each course and wait to see what we're going to cook once we get there and hit the markets!

So, I have been cooking, I just haven't been posting them! (Not going to say here how busy I've been...) Anyway, I'm posting a dessert first! It really is by chance. You see, Dennis has this foreclosure property he's handling for Bank of America and there's a huge pear tree in the back.....he's been watching these pears grow for weeks and weeks, all the while hoping they would ripen before the buyer closes. So, the other day he walks into the kitchen and sets down a huge painter's buck filled with pears! A bucketful of pears?? What am I to do with that? Yea, you can eat one or two, and although I don't mind canning, uhhhh....when do I have time to do that?

Then I remembered the Pear Tarte Tatin recipe! I'd been concentrating on the main course recipes, thinking the dessert, appetizer and salad recipes would be a piece of cake (no pun), but I do have to give them each a trial run or two to make sure I've got them right! I looked at several recipes all over the internet and combined several into one of my own.

Pear Tarte Tatin

5-6 pears, peeled and cut into slices (I went for a more rustic cut, but you can get pretty fancy here)

1/2 lemon, squeezed (immediately toss pear slices with lemon juice)

1/2 cup sugar

1 pie crust (I used the Pillsbury crust...usually made with puff pasty....will try that on the next trial run)

After I cut up my pears, I tossed them with the lemon juice and sugar and let them sit while I prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Next mix together in a bowl:

3 tablespoons sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter

Splash vanilla (about 1/2 teaspoon)

1/2 cup flour

1 egg

Spread this mixture in the bottom of the pie crust, which you can put into a pie plate or place on a baking sheet, with the edges rolled up to form sides. Add the pears and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20-30 minutes, until the edges of the crust are golden brown.

Oh wait! I forgot to tell you to take out about 1/2 cup of the pears, before you put them in the pie plate, which by now should have made quite a bit of their own juices, with about 1 cup of the juices (add water, if necessary). Put them in a pot and simmer on low until the pears are soft...then mash them and continue to simmer until you have a glaze. Once the tart is cooked, spread the glaze over the top and voila (French word)!!! This tarte didn't last long around our house....evertime I came into the kitchen, the remains had a different shape and there was always a knife close by....Dennis ate it one tiny sliver at a time. We shared with a few friends and all thought it was fabulous, but I found so many different ways to make this, that I have to try a few more versions before I decide which will grace our New Years Eve table. Some are made with the crust on top and then turned over after baking...crusty crust....m-m-m-m-m-! Others are made with a caramel type glaze....more m-m-m. Keep an eye out for the next versions!!! Then you can help vote on the final version! Bon Appetit (French word)!

PS Sorry for the horrible pictures....tried a new camera...guess I should have read the instructions first! But you'll get the gist (Anglo-French word)!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Simple Pleasure......

When Melinda and I were deciding what foods we would make on our last trip to the cabin, I suggested a salad with grilled romaine....her response? What in the world would make you think of grilling romaine? Well, I didn't think of it....have no idea which Food Network show I saw it on, but I'm pretty sure that's the first place I ever saw it. Now I think that a salad is boring if the lettuce isn't grilled!

My absolutely favorite salad has always been a Caesar's Salad....with home made Caesar's dressing store bought, creamy type stuff for me! But until you've had a Caesar's salad with grilled romaine, you just haven't lived.

I grilled some romaine the other simple that it seems silly to post it here, but I will anyway. (THEN I'm going to give you my recipe for Caesar dressing). First of all, don't cut the bottom part from the head of romaine. Slice the head down the middle and drizzle olive oil over it (I also make sure to rub it over all of the leaves). Then I sprinkle with salt and pepper......let sit for about 30 minutes (really softens the leaves), then throw it on the grill. Now don't leave that only takes a few minutes to get a good crisp on each side!

I do this is at the very last minute, because the warm lettuce is so delicious! Once it's grilled, place it on the salad plate, drizzle with Caesar's dressing (below) and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and croutons.....enjoy!

Now for the Caesar's dressing!

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped or crushed (crushed is best)

3 anchovies or 1½ tablespoons anchovy paste

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoons black or white pepper

Salt to taste

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan, optional

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

It's important for me to tell you that when I make this dressing, I measure nothing! I just put the ingredients together, taste and adjust. The measurements provided here are approximate, so be prepared to "adjust"....

The first thing I do is to mix all of the ingredients except for the Parmesan and the olive oil. It's easier to combine the ingredients with the acid (lemon juice) first....then using a fork, stir the ingredients as you add the olive oil. Don't forget to taste and "adjust"! Sometimes I mix the Parmesan into the dressing AND sprinkle the remaining over the salad.

Also, because I'm on a lower carb diet, I don't add croutons. I grate LOTS of Parmesan and make Parmesan crisps. You just take about 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and put them on a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper...form them into circles about 3 inches in diameter and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. They are delicious!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

By Special Request.....

This recipe is for the special request from an old friend from high school. Enjoy, Tony!


3 c. milk (Update: I was actually short on milk and used evaporated milk...luscious!!!)
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs, separated
2 tsp. vanilla
5 bananas, round sliced
1 pkg. vanilla wafers

Mix all ingredients together, except for the egg whites,bring to a slow boil in a double boiler. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Once thickened, smash one of the bananas up and add to the pudding. Because I like what the warm pudding does to the wafer, spread a small amount of the pudding in the bottom of a large casserole dish, then add a layer of the wafers. Spoon more pudding on top of the wafers, then add a layer of the bananas, and so on and so on.

Beat egg whites. Add teaspoon sugar, teaspoon vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Spoon on pudding. Set in oven on broil until light brown.

I can't wait for you to try this.....please come back and let me know how you liked it. When I took my first bite, it was like a transport back into time. This dessert was at every family get together, picnic, and camping trip because it traveled well.....oh, and because everyone loved it!
These days, it's rare for me to make banana pudding.....because I rarely eat dessert, which makes it all the more crazy that the previous post was a dessert AND the next post is a dessert! I've hidden the bathroom scale in the closet!
Anyway....I hope you'll try this is sooo much better than the ones made with the instant's what the warm pudding does to those wafers that I love! I can't wait to hear back from you! Enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tis the Season.......

......for blueberries!!!! And the BEST recipe for blueberry pie is right here! I've been making this pie for years. What I love most about it is that fresh blueberries are mixed in with the cooked blueberries....when you take a bite, the fresh ones pop in your mouth. Fabulous! So, here's the recipe!
Fresh Blueberry Pie

3 cups blueberries

3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
dash of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pie crust (9 inch) -- baked
Fresh whipped cream for topping (recipe follows) or vanilla ice cream
Bring 1 cup of blueberries and water to a boil. Boil gently for 4 minutes; add butter. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Cook slowly, stirring, until thick and clear. Remove from heat; add lemon juice. Add the remaining 2 cups of blueberries; stir gently to combine. Pour into the baked pie shell. Serve chilled or at room temperature with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Fresh Whipped Cream
1/2 pt. whipping cream

3 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Whip cream with mixer. Be careful not to overbeat or else will get too thick like butter. When it begins to thicken, add sugar and vanilla; stir. Refrigerate.
This pie is meant to be shared.....and you will be loved for it!!!!