April and May, in photos

I am so constantly amazed that you can take such lovely images with an iPhone!  I’ve got a beautiful bunch of peonies gracing my yard right now and it never ceases to make my day when I catch a glimpse of them.  I’ve been running around like a crazy person for the past few weeks – celebrating several Baby Showers, training for my first Half Marathon (four weeks away!), fundraising for the New York Marathon (yay Fred’s Team!), and getting into some serious yoga.

Here’s a little summary in photos of my past few weeks:

Baby Showers…

Planting herbs…

Running…

Fundraising for Fred’s Team…

Yoga!  I’m learning to handstand, among other things.

 

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with Basil

So I made mention of this recipe a few weeks ago via facebook and instagram, but am only now getting around to sharing it with the rest of you. I will be getting into some details about what exactly is keeping me so busy lately in the next few days, but for now you’ll just have to settle for this. And when I say settle, I mean you should be prepared to drool a little over it. Unless you hate springtime, and strawberries, and rhubarb, and other such lovely things. Which would be weird, you know, since Spring is the best. But I digress.

I usually love nothing more than a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, but I went the crumble route this time for a bit of a change. Ahem. Ok, that’s not really true. I needed a breakfast that I could eat on all week and I thought crumble sounded better than pie. Crumbles have oatmeal toppings and stuff, and oats are definitely healthy and breakfast-esque. Call it whatever you want, but I’m just gonna call it delicious and let you decide which meal you want to add it to.

 

Oh! You may have noticed that I added basil to it. Well, that’s an interesting story, actually. See I had just poured all these beautiful strawberries into my baking dish and I noticed a piece of a strawberry leaf stuck to one of them. In typical Emily fashion (easily distracted) I thought “Hey, that’s pretty. I wonder if I have any herbs to throw in here…” Turns out that the only herb I had was basil, and I kind of thought that might not be too bad. And it was actually awesome.   The bright basil flavor perfectly balanced out the sweet strawberries/tart rhubarb, and I felt like a total genius. So go out and try something new. It might be awesome. Also, try this, because I can guarantee that it is.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble with Basil*

Serves 6-8

Topping:

1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (coarse sugar)
Zest of one lemon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

1 ½ cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 ½ pints strawberries
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch

¼ cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

 

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

Filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, basil, and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

Remove topping from refrigerator and use your fingers to break it apart over the fruit.  This part doesn’t have to be pretty – just crumble it over top and it will spread out as it bakes.   Place baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbly, 40 to 50 minutes.

*I usually like to be very clear where I’ve gotten my recipes from, but in this case, I have no idea from whence it came.  I had this recipe saved on my hard drive simply as Fruit Crumble and I haven’t the slightest whom to credit it to.  If it looks familiar (like I may have plagiarised it from you) do drop me a line and I’ll be sure to give credit and link back.

Cranberry Pepper Jelly

Do you all love cranberries as much as I do?  They’re sweet and tart and oh-so-versatile and really pretty little things, too.  We always had cranberry sauce (from the can.  Best. Stuff. Ever.) at our holiday get togethers, and I’d be lying if I told you that I only ever had one helping.  This year for Thanksgiving I tried a homemade “canned” cranberry sauce recipe that turned out beautifully, if I do say so myself, and I plan to share that with you in just a few days, but right now I’m kind of obsessed with this stuff: Cranberry Pepper Jelly.  It was the simplest jelly to make – I spent about 45 minutes on it yesterday – and even though the ingredient list is (perhaps oddly) lacking in spices, flavor-imparting liquors, or other such things, it still manages to pack a knockout punch of tart-sweet-hot that will blow your mind.

I found this on the Bon Appetit Thanksgiving App (aside:  At first I was like, Really, Bon Appetit?  Do we really need an app for that?  Turns out: Yes.  Yes, we do.  It’s a wonderfully concise collection of holiday recipes that runs the gamut from traditional favorites to modern twists, and my OCD mind loves their genius organizational scheme.) in the Southern Menu section.  Folks down here love to serve pepper jelly over cream cheese as an appetizer and I see no reason to fix what ain’t broke.  My guests for Christmas Dinner will be arriving in the afternoon a few hours before the meal is set to begin, and my ancestors would no doubt do some of that much threatened “Rolling Over in Their Graves” if I didn’t have something for my partygoers to nibble on in the meantime.   Another plus for this one is that it doesn’t require any canning.  I put mine in a wide mouth pint jar for easy dipping, and according to the recipe it will keep for 3 weeks or so in the fridge.  But, really, good luck with that.

Cranberry Pepper Jelly

Adapted from Bon Appetit

I couldn’t find red jalapeños in my neck of the woods, so I bought “Red Chiles”.  Which, in my experience, could range in flavor from bell-pepper-mild to habanero-hot.  Mine were on the hot side, which is what I was going for to balance out all the sweet-tart from the cranberries, but I think this would be an excellent area in which to experiment if you were so inclined.  Although I would recommend sticking with peppers on the red side of the spectrum so as not to muddy up the lovely color of the jelly.  I’ll be serving this over whipped cream cheese with some sort of very elegant cracker (ahem. Triscuits anyone?).

3 red bell peppers, finely chopped

2 Fresno or red jalapeño chiles, seeded and finely chopped

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup liquid pectin

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen and thawed

Combine peppers, chiles, sugar, red pepper flakes and salt in a heavy wide pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Stir in pectin and lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Stir in cranberries and simmer gently until they burst and juices thicken, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer jelly to a jar, let cool, and cover. Will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.  Makes about 1.5 pints.

Thanksgiving

I had the most lovely Thanksgiving!  I was able to visit some family (at a very lovely locale) and the food was, of course, delicious.  I’m so lucky to have such a fun and wonderful extended family with many good cooks and it was one of the best holidays I can remember.  Here is just a tiny peak at the lovely week we spent on St. Simon’s Island.  Enjoy!

Fig Focaccia with Maple Balsamic Onions

You guys.  I am fascinated by bread.  It’s like magic.  Really!  Flour (essentially ground up grass, people), water, salt, and yeast magically combine and transform each other into the most basic food there is.  I mean, think about it.  There are as many recipes, flavor profiles, and add-ins as there are people on the planet.  You can go in any direction you want and it’ll still probably turn out delicious.  And yet,  it’s one of the most terrifying things to make… at least the first time.  Yeast is intimidating to a lot of people.  I think it’s fear that you’ll kill it off in the beginning and then do all that work just to pull a dense, flat, flavorless loaf from the oven.

The first bread I ever made was the famous, Jim Lahey No Knead Bread.  You know, the one every food blogger alive has posted about.  It was so simple, and it’s a great way to sort of jump in to bread baking, but you know, only in the ankle deep part of the shallow end of the pool.  It was a great confidence booster when it turned out not just edible, but actually tasty.  So once I realized that I could totally handle this, I started to branch out a little.  I made white bread, and wheat bread, and dinner rolls… And then I discovered focaccia.  Focaccia is like that super fun friend you have that is up for anything.  The laid back one who goes along with whatever and who always has a great time.  Really!  It’s the most straightforward dough to make, but then you can add whatever you want to it, and I don’t think you could mess it up.

Um, Emily?  That kind of sounds like pizza…  I know, and it’s actually like pizza’s cousin.  You don’t usually add as many toppings to focaccia as you would to pizza, but the dough is very similar.  You’re just sort of seasoning focaccia, so you have a bread that will (hopefully) accent your meal, rather than be a meal, like pizza.  Focaccia should be fairly flat, and have a delightfully crispy, crusty outside with a tender, rustic inside.  It’ll usually rise a little more than a pizza-type dough since you’re not weighing it down with as many toppings;  and it’s a more substantial bread since most of the surface area will be exposed and will bake up crusty and golden, unlike with pizza where we cover it with sauce and cheese so the crust is only really crusty on the bottom and the edges.

If you have any inclination at all to get into bread baking, you should definitely try focaccia.  I most often make it very simply with just sliced olives, rosemary, salt and olive oil.   It makes a great appetizer, or addition to your meal – I’ve even sliced it and used it for sandwiches.   I found this particular recipe a couple of years ago when I was looking for something a little more creative for having guests over, and it has become my favorite thing to make to impress people.  The original recipe was for strawberries and maple balsamic onions (a divine combination, you guys.  Divine.), and I have made that several times with excellent results, but figs are in season right now so I substituted them in for the berries.  I actually like the strawberries a little better since they are a little more tart than figs, which I think balances out the sweet onions a little better, but it was still delicious.  I love cooking things like strawberries and figs, etc, in the oven – the flavors get a little deeper, a little more intense, and they get all crispy edges and soft insides… In other words, they get perfect.

So, go forth and knead!  If you’ve never tried a yeast bread before, I encourage you to give it a go.  It’s really pretty simple, and it’s very satisfying to turn that dough up above into this:

And don’t be afraid to get creative with your toppings – I’d love to hear about your favorite focaccia bread, so please share!

 

Strawberry Focaccia with Maple-Balsamic Onions

via Saveur.com

 

1¼ oz package dry yeast

1 cup warm water (100–110 degrees F)

1 teaspoon honey

2½ cups flour

1 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup plus 5 Tbs olive oil, divided

1 medium sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced

2½ teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1½ teaspoons pure maple syrup

1 cup strawberries, hulled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8–inch pieces

8–10 fresh basil leaves, sliced chiffonade

Coarse sea salt

 

Combine yeast, water and honey in a medium bowl; let rest for about 5 minutes, until bubbles form on the top. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and kosher salt; set aside. Add ¼ cup of olive oil to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour wet ingredients into dry. Stir well to combine, then turn dough onto a lightly flour surface and knead until dough is smooth and supple, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place it in a bowl greased with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rest until the dough approximately doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Brush a 9×13–inch baking sheet with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Remove dough from bowl and press it into the sheet with your fingers until it touches the edges. Using your fingers, gently press indentations into the dough, all over the surface. Gently brush the dough with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; let rest, lightly covered, until it puffs up slightly, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and caramelized, 15–20 minutes. Stir in balsamic vinegar and maple syrup; let cook until liquid is evaporated, 2–3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly press figs into the top of the dough, then scatter onions and basil evenly across the top. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top and sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Bake until the focaccia is golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into pieces. Serve drizzled with more olive oil or spread with fresh goat cheese.

*As I mentioned above, I have also used strawberries here.  I really think you could substitute any number of things with outstanding results, so if you don’t have/like figs use whatever you want.

Summer Bounty

OK, so I know I tell you guys about my farmer’s market outings all the time, but I just can’t help sharing one more.  There is so much color and vibrance in the produce – and the people – and I simply love to photograph the goings on.  Now, in the height of the growing season here in Georgia, there is so much variety in the produce that it makes for a lovely sight.  Enjoy!

Also, if you’ve joined me on Instagram, you know that I have an overabundance of blueberries… Suggestions?

Augusta, Georgia

A couple of weekends ago, I spent some time in one of my favorite places: Augusta, Ga.  I lived there for almost two years while I was in school, and I absolutely love it.  It’s one of the oldest cities in Georgia, and it has some really lovely old buildings in the downtown area.  I never took the time to take many photos while I lived there, so I was really excited to have a couple of hours with nothing to do while I was visiting.  I spent some time wandering around downtown on Sunday morning, and because most folks were in church that time of day, there was no one around but me.  I’ve mentioned before how much I love old southern towns, and Augusta is a really great one for photos since it’s been around for so long.  I just love the architecture of the old south – it’s so classic and beautiful, and it only gets better with age.  You can see the whole set here, on flickr.  Enjoy!

 

Cherry Berry Cobbler

I wanted to call this “Odds and Ends Cobbler” but I didn’t want to put anyone off with such a strange name.  The recipe I used was originally called “Blueberry Cobbler”, but since less than half of the fruit I had was actually blueberries, I didn’t really think that made much sense.  (Side note: All the blueberries came from my bushes!  Yay for summer fruit!)  I had a carton and a half of Rainier cherries, a handful of raspberries from the yard, a pint of strawberries from the farmer’s market, and a fair sized bowl of blueberries that I had recently picked.  My recipe called for 30 ounces of blueberries, and I ended up with 28 ounces cobbled together (No pun intended.  Oh, you know you want to laugh at that.) from my various shopping/picking excursions.  I was very happy with the recipe… It was easy to put together and the biscuits were amazing.  The cinnamon sugar on top gave them just the perfect amount of sweetness and crunch, and I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be eating some version of this pretty regularly for the next several months.

Oh, by the way, I’m now totally into instagram.  Join me, it’s awesome.

 

Blueberry Cobbler

Cooks Illustrated Cookbook

Filling:

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

pinch ground cinnamon

pinch salt

6 cups (30 ounces) fresh blueberries, rinsed and picked over, or equivalent of whatever fruit you have.

1 1/2 teaspoons grated zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice

 

Biscuit Topping:

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons stone-ground cornmeal

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

For the filling, stir the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt together in a large bowl.  Add the berries and mix gently until evenly coated; add the lemon zest and juice.  Mix to combine. Transfer the berry mixture to a 9 inch glass pie plate or 8 inch square baking dish, place the plate on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until the filling is hot and bubbling around the edges; about 25 minutes.

For the biscuit topping, whisk the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl to combine.   Whisk the melted butter, buttermilk and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Mix the remaining sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.  One minute before the berries come out of the oven, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no dry pockets remain.

Remove the berries from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.  Pinch off 8 equal pieces of biscuit dough and place them on the hot berry filling, spacing them at least 1/2 inch apart so they do not touch.  Sprinkle each mound of dough with the cinnamon sugar.  Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuits are golden brown on top and cooked through, about 15-18 minutes.  Cool the cobbler on a wire rack before serving.

Sweet and Savory Kale

I made this for the second time in 10 days just so I could show it to you.  I mean, that’s just the kind of person I am, you know?  I took this one for the team, but don’t get used to it or anything.  Just kidding, dear readers – I would have made it again with or without you. It was that good.  Actually, I have a confession regarding this one:  I’ve never had kale before this.  I know.  I can’t believe it either.

I know kale is having a moment right now, but I’ve always heard how bitter it is, and you have to cook it just so to enjoy it… and on and on and on.  Aside from all that, though, we already like greens around here.  I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that I could serve only cooked greens to my husband for every meal and he’d be OK with that – we love collards, and spinach, and turnip greens and we eat them regularly, so I never saw the need to pick kale during my shopping.  So what changed, you ask?  Well, I sent Jacob to the store for salad – like spring mix, folks – and he bought me this.  So I really had no choice but to cook it for dinner.  And since I had no reliable recipe to fall back on, I just used the one on the back of the bag.  And guys?  We loved  it.  It’s basically just cooked down with a sort of semi-vinaigrette (I say semi because you use some chicken stock, and I’d never put that in a vinaigrette) and that’s it.  I’ll probably make this one regularly with additions or subtractions as I have the time and/or inclination to play with it, but this one is definitely going to be a staple in our house, and I hope you’ll give it a try too.

 

SWEET AND SAVORY KALE

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ medium onion-chopped
3 cloves garlic-minced
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
1 lb bag of kale greens

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion softens stirring often about 5 minutes. Stir in mustard, sugar, cider vinegar and chicken stock. Bring to a boil on high heat. Add kale, cover, and cook about 15 minutes stirring often. When liquid is reduced by about half and greens are tender, serve and enjoy.

*The recipe also had the option to add 1/3 cup dried cranberries for the last 10 minutes of cooking and then sprinkle with sliced almonds when served, which I omitted due to the preference of my guest, but I’ll definitely give that a try next time.