Thursday, August 16, 2012

Now That's More Like It

Enough of this healthy stuff.  Time to get back to the baked goods.

Ok, so this isn’t exactly terrible in the Things that Are/Aren’t Good For You department.  Full of good summer berries, and there’s not a ton of sugar.  But there is a stick of butter in there, so it won’t win any low-fat awards.  I made this for breakfast, by the way.

This was partly an experiment to see how well it would hold up over 24 hours, since I was looking for something to add to my catering repertoire.  I decided to sprinkle the crust with a bit of vanilla sugar before topping it with berries, and this seemed to do a great job as a barrier between the juiciness of the berries and the crust.  And of course you can go crazy with your fillings here.  I opted for blackberries and strawberries because I have a sea of blackberry brambles pushing on my back fence, and it’s a constant battle to keep them from overtaking the yard.  So this was my reward for having to wade through thorns and hack down runners on a too-warm day.  If I had been more ambitious, I would have topped it with some lemon curd, but instead I finished up a container of vanilla bean ice cream.

Ok, so you need to forget the ice cream if you’re going for a more healthy alternative.

And maybe dispense with the additional sprinkling of sugar.

And then there’s that stick of butter…

Mixed Berry Crostata

For the crust:

1 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs + 1 tsp sugar (I used vanilla sugar, but plain will do)
1 stick butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
¼ cup ice water

Berry mixture:

3 cups of mixed berries, rinsed, dried and cut into smaller pieces, if necessary
1 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbs vanilla sugar (again, regular sugar is just fine)
1 Tbs flour

Preheat oven to 425°.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and 1 tsp sugar.  Add the butter cubes and cut in with a pastry blender until the largest butter pieces are about pea sized.  Stir in ice water just until dough begins to come together.  Dump mixture onto floured surface (will still be crumbly) and knead lightly just until it comes together.  Roll into a circle about a foot in diameter.  Transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with the 2 Tbs of sugar.

In same mixing bowl, combine the berries, zest, sugar and 1 Tbs flour.  Mound this mixture in the center of the dough, leaving 3 – 4” all around.  Brush the exposed edges of the pie dough with a little water.  Bring the dough up, partially covering the berry mixture and ‘pleating’ it where it comes together.  Press slightly to get a good seal.

Place in oven and bake 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden, and the berry mixture is bubbly.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Going Against Character

Soon I’m going to have to stop with all of this healthy nonsense and get back to my usual, butter-laden dishes.  But I did this one a while back, and it’s been languishing in my ‘unposted’ pile for too long (with many others), so I thought I’d post.

You may (or may not) notice that the recipe calls for black beans when the photo, clearly, is missing them.   I know I intended to use them (for a catering job), and I can’t for the life of me remember why they were left out.  But then, I don’t like beans, so it’s not like they’re the first thing that pop into my head when raiding the pantry.

Also, in addition to the limes called for to be used in the dressing, I tossed my avocado cubes with a bit more of the juice to help keep them from browning.  I also read somewhere that if you’ll run the flesh of a newly cut avocado under cold water, it will stall the browning process.  I can’t say definitively that this works, although my experience is that it does seem to help, at least.  As a general rule in our house, avocados don’t stay around long enough to go brown, anyway.

If you don’t want to use quinoa here (although I’m getting more and more enamored with the stuff), you could always use cooked rice.  But if you haven’t tried quinoa yet, you really should.  It’s surprisingly tasty for being so darn good for you.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 Tbs olive oil
1 ½ cups broth or water
1 tsp salt

3 Tbs olive oil
Juice of 3 limes (about 6 Tbs)
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp chipotle chile powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp Mexican oregano powder
½ tsp each salt freshly ground black pepper

1 ear fresh corn, shucked
1 Roma tomato, finely diced
1 avocado, dices
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 green onion, finely sliced
½ cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped

Heat a saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 Tbs olive oil and the quinoa.  Allow to toast for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the broth and salt, bring the heat up to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to stand, covered, for another 5 minutes.  Remove lid and fluff with a fork.  Allow to cool.

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar or plastic container with a lid.  Cover and shake until mixture comes together.

Cook the corn until crisp-tender, either in the microwave or by toasting in a skillet (allow to char slightly).  Allow to cool a bit and then cut the kernels from the cob.

Add the vegetables to a large mixing bowl.  Top with the cooked quinoa, followed by the dressing.  Toss to coat.  Allow to stand about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.  Serve at room temperature.