Monday, November 30, 2009

Japanese Addresses... Derek Sivers

Check out the 2 minute talk Derek Sivers gave at the TED Conference in India.  Good stuff...

Embracing Restraint.

My name is Brigette Feltus, and I am longwinded.  I want to be brief but it's really difficult.  I suppose I need to attack this at its source and take on the monster head on.  This is not a learning disability.  It's not for lack of knowing better.  It's emotional.  It's a symptom of a childhood borne insecurity that has been hard to shake. Ironically, I often tend to run on and on about things that don't really matter, and keep the important stuff to myself because I'm afraid of upturning the boat to everyone's disapproval.  It would no doubt behoove me to do some streamlining.  Speak the truth more, but say less.  Let go of fear.

I was painfully shy as a child, and as far as certain loved ones were concerned, that was my "place" as a child... to be seen and not heard, and I was submissive to that position well into my young adult years... It was easy to be submissive because I come from an environment where I was surrounded by very strong personalities who demanded dominance and reminded me often... be seen and not heard.  But that submission made me miserable, so, now, in opposition, the fighter in me never wants to shut up! It's a horrible conflict in me. It might even be why I am so creative, so to complicate this further, I must also say that in very positive ways it has also made me who I am.

I've been observing my interaction with the Austrian.  There is this thing he does repeatedly which drives me nuts, and like a well choreographed dance between us, I, in response, have my ritual reaction to it, which always got us nowhere fast.  I'd get angry, fuss, complain, ask "why???" over and over again, as if the why really mattered, and we'd end up annoyed with each other and an otherwise perfectly good day would go on with a stinky cloud over our heads.  We would eventually make up, because this thing he'd insist upon doing as if it was so important, really wasn't in the bigger scheme of life, and I'd always point that out and admonish him for ruining our day, which, in my mind, left me still sour and resentful.

The other day, when he started in with that thing he does, I stopped myself.  Instead of following ritual, I decided to change the choreography.  I simply stopped him in the middle of that thing he does, and said I didn't want to hear it.  He attempted to continue.  I smiled, "Babe, I love you, but everytime you do this  we fight, and it's all for nothing. You will agree it's not important to either of us if you're honest, so I'm not going to engage in it.  I don't want to hear it.  Work it out on your own without us fighting about it." 

A few minutes passed, while he tried to decide if he should be pissed at my failure to cooperate with his attempt to engage me with that thing he does.  I didn't sit waiting for a response.  I confidently carried on with what I was doing before he started, as if that conversation was done.  He eventually took a deep breath and let it go.  Just like that.  I watched him do this, then gave him a big kiss right on the soup-coolers, because I was proud of him.  Our day was kept intact.  No stinky cloud.  No sour taste in my mouth... and we were able to go on with our day lovingly in each other's company. 

Sometimes, it would seem, less is indeed more!

As recently as last weekend, I was showing my blog space to a very closely related loved one, (forgivingly, they shall remain nameless because they are truly a loved one) who is historically known to frequently have me on the phone for hours at a time telling me all the details of what's going on in their lives.  This person asked me what I was up to these days, and so, excited about my blog writing,  I told them about this blog space, and they wanted to see.  Halfway through my giving them a tour of the blog page, this person blurted out impatiently,  "I don't need to know all that stuff, Brig.  What your opinion is about this or that, or what you're cooking, or whatever it is you're writing here isn't important to me.  I just want to hear from you and know you're okay."   Seen but not heard.  The child in me wanted to cower into a corner because that's where she'd been taught she belonged.  The fighter in me wanted to let out a display of emotionally irrelevant truths that might cut, might divide, but certainly wouldn't fix that broken moment.

I took a breath, and exercised restraint, because even though the little girl in me was immediately insulted, I knew that getting upset wasn't going to make me feel any less insulted.   So I asked myself a question quickly.  What is it in this very moment that ultimately would make a difference for me?  I turned to my loved one, and with wide eyes and a smile, asked them how many hours long our last phone conversation was, and what the subject matter was that we discussed.   They replied that we talked so long because I was interested.  I smiled silently.  My loved ones face changed immediately, as if  they suddenly understood something they didn't see before.  They got my point, and I could see that there was some level of desire to retract what had been said.  After all, we'd been sitting there looking at my blog all of about 10 minutes. Certainly, even if they really don't give a damn, they could manage to suffer through a few minutes, out of sheer kindness, right?  So, I waited a few moments for the recognition to sink in, then continued to show them what I've been working on, as if they'd never said a word.  They were engaged, and actually asked questions, read a couple of my articles and said that they would try some of my recipes soon.

I don't know if my loved one was transformed by that moment of truth sitting with me in front of my computer, but I was just a little bit, because I spoke truth instead of defending the pitiful child in me who is a past memory, not a present reality.  Cowering would not be the answer.  Sometimes defensive aggression mode is not the answer either.  Sometimes you are not really in danger at all but go into defensive mode based on some former reality that doesn't really apply.

Sometimes I write so elaborately because I'm afraid of not being understood, therefore not heard.  It's not conscious.  I just do it on autopilot because I'm afraid I'll miss someone or some bit of information.  Wait.  That's not me.  That's her.  The little girl who used to live my life in the shadows.
She's been gone a long time now.  I don't know what it is that makes humans keep trying to warm up what's cold and dead instead of enjoying what is real in the moment.
I'm working on being a more efficient writer because, in the moment, I know better.  I'm embracing restraint in every part of my life.  Ironically,it's mostly as an exercise in getting freer.  But also,  if I'm honest, like most people, I want to be seen and heard, and I know that the very thing that scares me, I create if I allow myself to run on and overwhelm the reader.

Imagine that.

Thanks to Derek Sivers for the spark.

Sweet Potato Kahlua Swirl Cheesecake!

Sweet Potato Kahlua Swirl Cheesecake, all packed up and ready to go to 
Auntie Ruby's house for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Yes, there are quite a few pictures in this posting.  I couldn't help it.  I needed you to see this one from every angle, to see the surface, the sides, the crust up close, the interior goodness.   I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned these photos say more than I ever could...

I don't make this more than once or twice a year, for a special occasion... usually at Christmas or New Years, or, as is the case this time, for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Many years ago I used to make a cheesecake with pumpkin and kahlua.  This is a much different taste.  The squash-like flavor of pumpkin is not anywhere near as sweet or rich as sweet potato.  I played around with it until the sweetness and moisture balance was right and the following recipe is the result.

When it was time to serve up desserts, and our family partook in the first mouthful of this creamy rich pleasure, eyes closed, moans escaped, my name was called out.  It was good for me.   Ha!  I love a successful experiment.   The wedges of this cheesecake went so fast that I didn't get any.  I was happy that I'd made two....

...and that at the last minute, I'd decided to leave one at home.  Three days have past, and everyone who's passed through our doors has had a taste... and for now, this decadent treat, with its coffee liqueur infused swirls of cream cheese, the natural sweetness of sweet potato and vanilla, and its graham cracker-gingersnap cookie crust,  is all  but a memory.  You'll find this to be surprisingly not cloyingly sweet because the potatoes are allowed to carry that part of the flavor profile, with just enough sugar added to balance the chemistry.

There are two very basic things you'll need to know about making cheesecake.  You need a bain marie, and a 9 inch spring form pan.   A bain-marie is a french technique that loosely translates to mean a water bath.  Sometimes it's used to melt chocolate by setting the bowl of chocolate over a pot of hot water.  The other use, which you'll be doing here, is to place a pan of water on a rack in your oven below the rack your cheesecake will cook on.  The purpose of this is to maintain a moist environment in the oven so that the surface of your cheesecake will not dry out so much that it cracks.  Now, this is not a huge tragedy.  It will still taste the same if it cracks... well.... it might actually have a slightly less tender surface... but it will not ruin the cheesecake except for the esthetics, which in this case, I must say, is something worth preserving.  The cheesecake I decided to keep at home, was the first one I did, and I forgot to use a bain-marie, and there was an enormous crevice across the middle of it when I pulled it from the oven.  Again, not a tragedy, but not perfect.  The second cheesecake, as you can see had a much better appearance because I added the bain-marie to the oven.  
A springform pan is a pan made especially for baking cheesecakes and other types of breads and baked goods that are deep  and would be difficult to remove from the pan if the sides were not removeable.  A spring form pan has a base, and a removeable ring that clamps shut onto the base, then when your cake is done and you are ready to remove your cake, you simply release the clamp and voila!  The one I have is made by a german company called Oetker. has one you can purchase here:

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)
Mashed Sweet Potatoes (Don't confuse these with yams. They have purplish burgundy skins and orange insides.  Anything else is NOT a sweet potato.  You'll need 2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes.  I don't list a number of these because it depends on how big your potatoes are.  Err on the side of having too much and save the extra to make sweet potato pancakes the next morning...Peel and cut them into large cubes to cook them faster in boiling water, then drain and mash and allow to cool completely before using.) Cream Cheese (For quicker preparation, get the whipped/spreadable cream cheese in tubs.  You'll need 24 ounces for one cheesecake) Graham Crackers (Find these in the cookie and cracker aisle.  You'll not use the entire box.  You'll need enough to make 1 cup  of  crumbs in a food processor.  Save the leftovers for s'mores..) Gingersnaps (Also in the cookie and cracker aisle.  You can find these in just about every American grocery store.  You can substitute another brand or similar ginger flavored crunchy cookie. You'll need enough to make 1 cup of  crumbs in a food processor.) Unsalted Butter (you'll need 1/4 cup for this recipe) Powdered Sugar (I try to make it a habit to buy organic, whenever possible but if you can't find it, conventional powdered or confectioner's sugar will do just fine for this purpose.  You'll need 1/4 cup for this recipe) Eggs (You'll need 6 eggs, go for organic and farm fresh if you can...) Vanilla Bean (You'll be using the inside of a vanilla bean in this recipe.  If you can't get one, then use 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract.   But I highly recommend using the bean...) Demerara Sugar (...or Turbinado Sugar... either will work.  You need 1 1/4 cup for this recipe. Regular granulated will work...) Ground Cinnamon, Ground Ginger, Whole Nutmeg (I buy this whole because it keeps its flavor better that way. You simply use a rasp to grate off as much as you'll need... 1/2 teaspoon for this recipe.) Kahlua Liqueur (Find this in any liqueur store or grocery with a liqueur department.  It's great for cold weather drinks by the fire.  A little in your coffee will warm things right up!  You'll need 1/2 cup for this recipe)
Cut your potatoes into large cubes, place in a large pot, add enough water to cover, boil rapidly until cubes are tender to the fork.  Drain, mash, and set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 360 degrees.

In the large bowl of a food processor, add equal amounts of gingersnaps and graham crackers and pulverize until a grainy meal is formed.  There should be no large chunks. Make sure you have 2 cups of crumbs.

Mix in 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, and then 1/4 cup of unsalted butter.
Press this crumb, powdered sugar and butter mixture into the bottom of your springform pan, making sure to cover the entire bottom of pan, and pressing up the sides a bit. 
Gently put this crumb crust into the oven to bake for 5 minutes then remove and cool. 
While this is cooling make your filling.
Whip your cream cheese in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy.
Add sugar and mix til combined. 
Scrape the inside of your vanilla bean into the bowl and mix until combined. 
Add eggs, one at a time with mixer going on medium speed.  Stopping to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula in between each egg.
Once all the eggs are combined with the cream cheese, transfer 1/2 of this mixture into a separate bowl and put aside.
Add 2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup of Kahlua liqueur, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg to the remaining half of your cream cheese egg mixture.  
Mix until combined.
You should now have a cream cheese filling and a sweet potato filling in two separate bowls. 
You will now pour 1/2 of your cream cheese filling into the bottom of your crust in the spring form pan.  
Then pour 1/2 of your sweet potato filling on top of that and spread around gently so as not to disturb the previous layer. 
Then pour the other 1/2 of the cream cheese filling in and spread around gently.
Then the final layer of sweet potato filling goes in last.  
With a butter knife, gently drag through and lift, swirl and pull through the filling  to create a swirl pattern, being careful not to disturb the crust.
Place a pan of water on the lowest rack in your oven.
Place your cheesecake in the oven and bake, undisturbed for 45 minutes.  
Turn off oven and open door just a crack. 
Leave cheesecake in oven to cool for at least one hour before disturbing.  
After one hour, remove from oven and transfer to refrigerator to chill completely. 
When ready to serve, gently slide a butter knife between the cheesecake and the inside of your springform pan to separate it.  
Then unlatch the clamp of the springform pan.
With a firm metal pancake turner or spatula, go along to bottom of the cheesecake to gently release it from the base of the pan, then carefully slide the cheesecake onto a plate, platter, cake pedestal, etc... 
Serve chilled. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Roasted Winter Vegetables

It wasn't until I had my child that I began to turn a corner in terms of how I felt about vegetables.  You could get me to eat almost anything raw.  But the only cooked vegetables I ever actually liked was green beans.  Perhaps it's because where my mother comes from, they cooked everything until there was no possibility of getting any sort of poisoning.  At the same time, unfortunately, all natural texture, color, fragrance, taste, and nutrients got  altered as well.  My mom loves to tell the story of how she'd find wads of soggy napkins full of spinach that I'd stuff in my pockets and smuggle out of the kitchen because I didn't want to eat it and I'd forget it was in the pocket and put the clothing in the dirty clothes hamper like that.
Anything other than legumes, I was never interested in eating if it was cooked.  Even the green beans, cooked in the same fashion as my grandmother cooked them, for hours, with a big piece of salt pork, long past when the heat sucked the green out of them, and they were more of a greyish green and if I remember correctly, slightly transparent!
There was a time in our historical past that there was the challenge of keeping foods fresh and safe to eat.   I believe that is where that long cooking technique comes from.  If you cook something long enough salmonella, ecoli, botulism, and other food-borne cooties would just surrender and die.  It also made it possible to perserve foods so they would last longer in the refrigerator.  Food was cooked in large batches on the weekend, and the same pot of beans, greens, or peas would be pulled out as a side dish every night for a week.  Crops were cooked then frozen and sometimes kept for months... or even longer... *horror music here* 
The nutrients were so thoroughly extracted from the vegetables by this long cooking that the leftover broth was often saved and drank.  They called this pot liquor.
Then I grew up, and at some point discovered that it wasn't that all those vegetables were on their own just generally disgusting.  It was their preparation that was so unappealing to me.  I've eaten foods from alll over the world, and learned that with most vegetables, fresh and not overcooking is the key to delicious flavor.

I'm telling you all of this to say that you too might find that you will like vegetables more if you learn how to cook them in ways that the flavor is still intact and in some instances, such as this recipe, enhanced by cooking techniques and the addition of some simple staple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

Winter vegetables include squashes and root vegetables, basically.   I've seen recipes for roasted squash, and separately for roasted root vegetables, but I haven't seen one that combines them all.
This recipe is SO easy that you will be able to do this blindfolded by the time you make it a second time.  Even the kids loved these vegetables, because some elements like the carrots, butternut squash, and the beets are sweet.  I will leave the amounts open to your discretion depending on how many people you want this to feed.  Of course if you can, get your veggies fresh at the farmer's market!!!  There will be a world of difference in the flavor!!  If you're wondering why there's sweet potatoes, and yams on the ingredients, they are not the same thing.  Scroll over the link to see the difference.   Note also, that I've listed Olive Oil, not Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  It's different.  The extra virgin will have too much moisture in it, and your veggies will not caramelize and will instead be oily and soggy. 

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)

Drop your pearl onions into a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes.  Not longer.  Drain.

To peel them, cut off a small bit of the root end, then squeeze the other end so the white pearl onion comes out of its skin. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cut the rest of your vegetables in 1 inch chunks.  Leave skin on everything except the Butternut squash.  
Add a generous amount of herbs and enough olive oil to be able to thoroughly coat all of your veggies.  
Mix everything together by tossing with large wooden spoons. 
Spread your veggie mixture onto cookie sheets or jelly roll pans... (anything flat with low sides) in a single layer.  You may have to use more than one depending on how much you're cooking.   Don't try to crowd your veggies onto one pan.  It's important for them to caramelize and that won't happen if they are piled on top of each other.  
Sprinkle a little salt and fresh ground pepper over everything and put it in the oven!

Allow to cook for 20 minutes (or until golden brown edges appear on the top).
Toss to turn over. 
Allow to cook for 20 minutes longer or until veggies are golden brown at the edges and tender to the fork. 

Remove and arrange on a platter.  If you like you can sprinkle pepitas over the top for a little extra salty crunch!

Eat while still sizzling hot!  

Give a Pyrate a Camera and...

All photos in this post were taken by the Pyrate, under the supervision of Alina Wallace.

"The Chicken", our Gargoyle Gecko Up Close

"The Chicken" part two. 

Praying Mantis Sees His Reflection

 African Head

Great, Great Aunt Beulah's copies of Little Women and Little Men, Sequined Butterfly, and Incense Burner

God-Papa Richard's Chopped Wood





...Another Man's Trash

Plantlife 1

Plantlife 2


Plantlife 3


Byrd of Paradise

Plantlife 4

Along Came a Spider 1

Along Came a Spider 2

Along Came a Spider 3

Along Came a Spider 4

Along Came a Spider 5

 Plantlife 5

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What To Do When You Cook Too Many Sweet Potatoes: Sweet Potato Oatmeal Pancakes

It's Thanksgiving morning.  Last night, the Austrian, the Pyrate, and I wrapped up our contribution to Thanksgiving Dinner.  We made two beautiful Sweet Potato Kahlua Swirl Cheesecakes, an Apple Persimmon Pie, and prepped a huge bowl of winter vegetables to be roasted this morning.   For the cheesecakes, the Pyrate peeled a heaping pile of sweet potatoes which turned out to be about double what I actually needed for the cakes.  So, this morning when we woke up, excited to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I had the great idea of making pancakes with some of the leftover mashed sweet potatoes.  And perhaps tomorrow we'll bake the rest with a pecan topping to have with leftover turkey we bring back from my Auntie Ruby's House.

This morning we got the winter vegetables in the oven, then I set about the business of making these absolutely delicious Sweet Potato Pancakes.   You can serve them up any time of year.  It doesn't take long to boil a couple of sweet potatoes and mash them, however you can also use candied yams from the can if you insist you don't have time for that step.

We whipped  these up in less than 30 minutes, and shortly we were piled into my bed in our pajamas watching the parade, plates in hand, and happy as can be.  A very nice moment.  These pancakes were such a hit in our house this morning, that we've decided to make them a Thanksgiving tradition in our house every year.  I love traditions!  So I'm excited to add this healthy sweet treat to ours! 
Serve these up with candied pecans and pure grade A maple syrup.

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)
Oat Flour (You'll need one cup and it's found in the same section as regular flour in the subsection where there are organic meals, and/or in the organic section of the grocery store.  Alternately, use the link above to order it online.)  Whole Wheat Flour  (Also one cup of this and it's found in the same section where regular flour is found.) Demerara Sugar (this natural sugar can be found in your baking section, turbinado is also good, but if you can't find either you can use plain granulated.  I used vanilla sugar I made by storing a used vanilla bean in an airtight container full of Demerara sugar) Baking Powder (also in baking goods section where the flour is)Nutmeg (I prefer to keep whole nutmeg nuts in an airtight jar in my spice pantry instead of the pre-ground kind.  You can find whole nutmeg in most stores, especially in international groceries and organic groceries.  When using this you simply use the fine side of a grater or a rasp to take from the nut what you need then replace the rest in the airtight container for use at another time.) Cinnamon (the ground assortment) Cloves (ground) Egg  (You'll need two large eggs) Orange Juice (pulp-free) Milk (1 cup of 2 %  reduced fat) Vegetable Oil (canola, peanut, or vegetable oil are fine...)Mashed Sweet Potatoes (You'll need 1/2 cup)

Mix all dry ingredients together:
1c oatmeal flour, 1c whole wheat flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp ground cloves
 In a separate bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients.
 2 eggs, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup milk, 1 tbsp oil, 1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes.
Heat your griddle, add a little peanut oil so your cakes don't stick.
Check your batter, it should pour easily from a ladle.  If it seems a bit thick, add more milk a few tablespoons at a time til it's a consistency you can pour onto your griddle, but not runny.
Pour batter onto hot griddle and spread a bit in a circular motion.  
Do not disturb your cakes until they are done on one side.  
You will know when they are done when you see air bubbles form and begin to burst on the surface, and the edges begin to look dry. 
Flip them over quickly with a griddle spatula (pancake turner).
Let them cook on the other side until brown and  the center of each cake feels slightly firm and no longer soft in the center to the touch. 
Transfer done pancakes to a dish and keep warm in an oven set at the lowest possible temperature until ready to serve.  
Serve with butter, syrup, and garnish with candied pecans. 

Mmm. Mmm. MMM.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sunday Farmer's Market Brunch for Ten... Part Five: Almondberry Tarte

Potato Leek Gratin, Farmer's Market Quiche, Almond Berry Tarte, Nectarine/Plum Pound Cake, Herb Infused Breakfast Meats.  Served on vintage, hand-painted, artistan signed plates from the Tonalo region of Mexico, 1940' s green Seneca Driftwood glasses, vintage Coorsite ball pitchers, crystal cake pedestals all from my collection.  All vintage wares come from my spelunking on ebay and in flea markets for a fraction of their worth. Shall I blog about my spelunking???(Ikea flutes bought on sale for less than $1 each... I have about 50 stored away for parties.)

 I should have made two of these Almondberry Tartes because this one dissappeared faster than I could blink!

No, there is no such thing as an Almondberry, so don't bother googling it!  The berry farmer at the farmer's market was kind enough to let me sample his berries Sunday morning.  The blackberries were tart, the blueberries were mild, and the raspberries were just right.  I decided to take a basket of each of them home, not quite sure what I would do with them.  I'd also purchased a lovely little plastic container from the Almond growers, filled with naturally sweet, fresh ground almond paste.  I didn't know what I would do with that either.  But I knew that marzipan was one of the austrian's favorite things from back home.

This pie/tarte looks pretty on the table, but I must warn you that structurally, you won't be eating this in neat little wedges because it falls apart.  You'll have to serve it with a spoon.  The berries are made into a compote then layered over a cream cheese/sour cream mixture, with almond paste in the very bottom.


Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries   You'll need about 6 cups total, and you can use any combination of the three, two, or one kind of berry.  Demerara Sugar  I try not to use white granulated sugar when I can avoid it.  If you can't find Demerara or Turbinado sugar, the same amount of regular granulated will work as well.  Vanilla  I used Vanilla Bean Paste which you can find in most larger Whole Foods or other gourmet shops.  You can also use the same amount of pure Vanilla Extract.  Flour Pie Crust I don't mind making my own crusts when I have the time, however, you can also get perfectly good ready made pie crusts in the refrigerator section where you find the cookie dough, biscuit, croissant doughs in those tubes.  The one I use is not frozen, and is sold in a box with two crusts ready to go into your favorite pie dish or tin.  Sour Cream 1/2 cup.  Cream Cheese  Get the spreadable kind in the tub.  You'll need 8 oz. for this recipe. Egg  You'll need one egg... farm fresh?  find them at your local farmer's market! Almond Paste You'll find this almond paste sometimes in the form of marzipan in some larger grocers, almost all middle eastern, mediterranean, or international grocers.  Or use the links above to purchase online or make your own a day or so ahead of time...

Prepare your crust by placing it in a tarte dish/pan and turning in the edges so that they don't hang over the edge of the pan. 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spread the almond paste into the bottom of the pie crust and press into place with your fingers and smooth and place the dish on a cookie sheet covered with foil. 
In a medium size sauce pan cook berries, 1/2 cup of water, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and a teaspoon of cinnamon over medium heat. 
While berries are cooking, make the cream cheese filling.
In a mixing bowl combine egg, cream cheese, sour cream, and vanilla until well combined.  
Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the almond paste in the pie crust. 
Your berries should be cooked down and a syrup formed.  Don't over cook, you want them to be softened but not completely broken down. 
Spoon the berries over the top of the cream cheese mixture. Save extra berries and syrup for serving at the table or use at another time over pancakes or waffles.

Bake your tarte for about 40 minutes, until crust edges are nice and golden. 

Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sunday Farmer's Market Brunch for Ten... Part Four: Herb-Infused Breakfast Meats

 Potato Leek Gratin, Farmer's Market Quiche, Almondberry Tarte, Nectarine/Plum Pound Cake, Herb Infused Breakfast Meats.  Served on vintage, hand-painted, artistan signed plates from the Tonalo region of Mexico, 1940' s green Seneca Driftwood glasses, vintage Coorsite ball pitchers, crystal cake pedestals all from my collection.  All vintage wares come from my spelunking on ebay and in flea markets for a fraction of their worth. Shall I blog about my spelunking???(Ikea flutes bought on sale for less than $1 each... I have about 50 stored away for parties.)

This is a quick tip more than it is a recipe.  You can use this technique with any kind of meat you might be cooking in a pan.  You'll want a selection of fresh herbs.   You'll want to cut them up right before you add them to the pan so that the cut edges don't dry in the air and their flavor infuses with the oils in the pan and absorbs into the meat.  So, wash your herbs, set aside, get the meat into the hot pan to start cooking, then chop your herbs and add to the pan.
We used regular and spicy Jimmy Dean bulk pork sausage  that I formed into patties, uncured bacon  (surprisingly you can now find that a great number of even the larger companies that sell bacon have an uncured version, just note that it will NOT last long in the refrigerator so don't buy more than you'll use within a couple of day after opening it.), and chicken apple and habanero & green chile assortments of chicken sausages from Aidells.  While it's cooking on one side, chop your herbs and sprinkle over the top, then turn and cook for remaining time without moving it around too much so that the herbs will stick into the carmelizing meat.
That's pretty much it.
I told you it was simple.  The Austrian did this part as well for our brunch.  So you know it must be easy!
We used rosemary, thyme, and oregano.  But sage, tarragon, basil,  and marjoram are also great.

Sunday Farmer's Market Brunch for Ten... Part Three: Nectarine/Plum Pound Cake

 Potato Leek Gratin, Farmer's Market Quiche, Almondberry Tarte, Nectarine/Plum Pound Cake, Herb Infused Breakfast Meats.  Served on vintage, hand-painted, artistan signed plates from the Tonalo region of Mexico, 1940' s green Seneca Driftwood glasses, vintage Coorsite ball pitchers, crystal cake pedestals all from my collection.  All vintage wares come from my spelunking on ebay and in flea markets for a fraction of their worth. Shall I blog about my spelunking???(Ikea flutes bought on sale for less than $1 each... I have about 50 stored away for parties.)

Sorry there's not a better picture of this delicious treat!  That's an improvement I'm working on!

I am so proud of this off-the-cuff throw-in that I came up with for our brunch!  Be sure to cursor over the little book icons here for additional tidbits and treasures...
This is another improvisation based on what was available at the farmer's market on Sunday morning.  There was one farmer who had dried fruits, both sulfured and unsulfured.  Beautiful  Nectarine halves and Plum halves.  You can use pretty much whatever fresh dried drupe (stone) fruit you want.  I recommend unsulfured  if you're buying from a farmer for several reasons. Sulfur is used on dried fruits to preserve color and allegedly nutrients.  But it changes the flavor and aroma of the fruit and to my experience gives it a faint bitter aftertaste.   If you're buying it fresh from the farmer they should have some unsulfured on hand.  This will not last long, so just get as much as you need and use it up within a week.  As for color preservation, I don't particularly think that's as important as flavor, and some of the color will come back when you reconstitute the fruit for this recipe.  There are different grades of dried fruit ranging from extra fancy to standard.  The higher grades are what you want for this, if you can find them.  What you get at a farmers market will be fancy to extra fancy typically, which have more moisture and depth of sweetness and flavor.  In your supermarket or grocery store, read the packaging, usually it will tell you the grade.  Otherwise just look for moist, flexible dried fruit.

You can also improvise with what kind of cake batter you use.  Any dense and moist loaf cake or  muffin batter will work.  For this recipe we use a standard pound cake recipe.  You can even make the cake batter from a box mix if you're in a serious hurry.  But pound cake batter is very simple... couldn't be simpler.  In fact I commissioned the Austrian to make the batter for me while I was whipping up some other thing for the brunch.   Pound cake was originally made with a pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour.  It has evolved from there...

Alright so here it is!!

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)
 Unsalted Butter you'll need one cup of butter for this recipe.  I don't use salted butter when I cook.  I want to have the most control over salt intake as possible.  Eggs As you know, I'm going to tell you I love brown eggs from the farmer's market!  All-Purpose Flour You'll need 2 cups of this.  I like to get the unbleached sort because it makes me feel like I'm a little closer to nature.  :) Baking Powder  While researching ingredients for this recipe, I learned that this is a combination of baking soda, an acid (such as cream of tartar) and a moisture absorber (such as cornstarch).  This is info I'll keep in mind should I be making something that requires baking powder and I'm out.  If I've got cream of tartar, baking soda, and cornstarch I'm straight!  Demerara Sugar 1 cup will be used in this recipe.  You can use regular white sugar, but I prefer to use  healthier Demerara or Turbinado raw, steam-cleaned sugars in recipes that call for granulated sugar. You'll find this in most larger grocery stores, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, etc... You can also subtitute other sweeteners but you'll have to experiment around with them to get the flavor and moisture content right... Vanilla You'll need 1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract, or the inside of one vanilla bean scraped into your batter bowl.  But DON'T TOSS THE POD!  Get yourself a jar or airtight, container  and put the used vanilla bean pod inside and fill with sugar.  In about a week this Vanilla Sugar can be used in all kinds of recipes for intensified vanilla flavor.   Dried Fruit  2 cups are needed for this recipe.  I used 1 cup of Nectarines, and 1 cup of Plums.  See my notes above regarding grades and assortments that work. Rum  Even though we have a great deal of rum in our liquor cabinet, most of it we didn't buy.  People bring alcohol as hostess gifts when they come.  Sometimes they bring rum.  If you must use a readily available famous brand get the best they sell.  Yes, even to cook with.  It will make a world of difference.  I try to always keep some Bajan  rum in my cabinet.  My favorite that's readily available in better grocers and liquor stores, is Mount Gay Rum.

Take butter and eggs out of the refrigerator at least 2 hours before you're ready to start so they come down to room temperature. 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a medium sized saucepan put dried fruit and 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 of brandy or rum, and put on stove on medium heat to reconstitute. 
In a mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer for 30 seconds (til fluffy)
Beat eggs, sugar, and vanilla together into butter .
Check your fruit on the stove and stir.  It should be absorbing the water, and becoming rehydrated.

Mix flour and baking powder together.
Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture with mixer on medium speed.
Turn off the fruit. 
Coat the inside of 9x13 inch baking pan or casserole dish with spray Canola oil (or put some oil on a paper towel and wipe entire interior surface of pan)
Pour half of your cake batter into pan/dish.
With a slotted spoon, spread all of your reconstituted fruit in a layer over the batter, leaving the leftover juices behind in the pan. 
Pour other half of your cake batter over the fruit and spread around.  Don't worry if some of the fruit shows through.  This is a rustic cake and that will be just fine.  
Put into your preheated oven and bake until cake is firm to the touch in the center and golden brown.  About 40 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes then cut into large rectangular pieces, serve warm or room temperature.

You can substitute any of the following fresh fruit for the dried fruit in this recipe:
Pineapples, Peaches, Apricots, Mango, Tangerine.   Simply use them in slices... no pre-cooking needed.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday Farmer's Market Brunch for Ten... Part Two: Farmer's Market Quiche

 Potato Leek Gratin, Farmer's Market Quiche, Almondberry Tarte, Nectarine/Plum Pound Cake, Herb Infused Breakfast Meats.  Served on vintage, hand-painted, artistan signed plates from the Tonalo region of Mexico, 1940' s green Seneca Driftwood glasses, vintage Coorsite ball pitchers, crystal cake pedestals all from my collection.  All vintage wares come from my spelunking on ebay and in flea markets for a fraction of their worth. Shall I blog about my spelunking???(Ikea flutes bought on sale for less than $1 each... I have about 50 stored away for parties.)

This is the second of a five part blog mini-series about the brunch I hosted for my sister and her friends this past Sunday.   The other recipes will all be posted today as soon as I can get them each written.   Where you see the little book icons, you can scroll over the book and a window will pop up with additional info about ingredients or techniques or tools and such. 

My Farmer's Market Quiche is a great alternative to normal scrambled eggs.  Especially if you're like me... finicky about eggs.  I don't like them poached, runny, sunny side up, easy over, or anything like that.  I like them well beaten, well boiled, well cooked, and well seasoned.  This is a very simple recipe that can be pimped easily once you learn the basic structure of this thing called a Quiche... basically it's a savory egg tarte, made with beaten eggs, veggies, cheese, and if you want, meats, and all ingredients except for the crust and the eggs are optional and interchangeable.  If you do as I've always suggested and read through the entire recipe completely prior to even shopping for ingredients, you will be able to make this recipe happen in about 40 minutes, including baking. 

THE PLAYERS: (your grocery list)

The quantities listed are for one Quiche.  In my estimation, the perfect Quiche has certain variables always... a flaky flour pie crustYou can make your own, or, for time economy, like I did, just buy it in the grocery store.   The ones in the refrigerated section where you find those biscuits and croissants in a tube, ready to bake are much much better than the ones in the freezer section... Pilsbury makes a pie crust that comes in rolled circles without the pans.  I have my own pie and tarte dishes so, this is better for my purposes... about 8 farm fresh eggs(that's means what, class?  that's right! farmer's market!!!). I prefer large brown... As for the veggies I use 1/4 cup of diced ingredients from each of the following categories: and as for specific ingredients, it depends on my mood, and what I find in the farmer's market that week, and what flavor profile I want, mexican, french, italian, etc....  Some sort of diced onion, brown, red, green, shallot, leek, etc... for this particular recipe, I used Vidalia onions for their savory sweetness.   Some sort of peppers... green, red, yellow, sweet italian, pepperoncini, jalapeno, chipotle, etc... I used 1/2 red bellpepper and 1/2 yellow bellpepper per Quiche.  Some sort of herbs... thyme, oregano, basil, sage, etc... In this one I used fresh oregano, thyme, and rosemary to compliment the herbs I used in the other dishes for this meal.  Some sort of coarsely chopped greens... spinach, kale, bok choy, cilantro, etc... For this one I used sweet pea greens, which you may not find... use spinach if your farmer's market doesn't have them.   Some sort of semi-hard cheese... parmesan, aged gouda, romano, manchego, asiago, cheddar, etc... I used 1/2 cup of shredded Emmentaler cheese.  Optionally, you can also add 1/4 cup per Quiche... diced and previously sauteed meat of some sort... salmon, bacon, shrimp, ham, ground chicken, crab, lobster, turkey... pretty much any protein you like can work if paired with the right accompanying components above... I used 1/4 cup of diced and sauteed Canadian bacon for  two of our Quiches, and I left the third Quiche completely meat free.  That's everything I used for our Quiches on Sunday.  But you can add mushrooms, asparagus, marinated artichokes, broccoli, peas, to your sauteed veggies, and pretty much anything you like.  It's also a great way to use leftovers that aren't enough to make a whole new meal.  But for this particular time, just try it my way before  you try to experiment.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees if it's not already on from putting the potatoes in.

Dice your ingredients.  
Saute all of your vegetables (and meat) except for the greens in a pan with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, over medium high heat just until onions become transparent.
Prepare the pie crust.  Place it in pie tin or dish and create a scalloped or crimped edge. As you can see, from my photos, it doesn't have to be flawless to look beautiful.  The imperfection of your work will add a rustic look to the end result.  (and it won't make a darn bit of difference to the way it tastes!!)

Place your sauteed veggies (and diced meat) in the pie crust and spread to cover the bottom. 
Spread your fresh chopped greens over the top of that. 
Then your fresh herbs. 
Then 1/2 of your cheese. 
In a separate bowl, vigorously beat your eggs with a whisk until whites and yolks are completely combined
Add 1/4 cup of milk to the eggs and whisk again just until combined.
Pour egg mixture over the ingredients layered in your pie crust. 
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Grind a bit of black pepper and sea salt over that. 
Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, then check for doneness.  
Quiche should be golden on top and fluffy but firm, crust should be just golden.  Keep an eye on this, and if the crust looks like it's done but the egg part seems to not be done, use a strip of foil to to wrap around the crust edge to prevent it from burning.  
Serve hot or at room temperature.  



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