Peaches Flambéed

There’s just something about dessert and booze?

Am I right? Am I right?

I think I am.

When I was younger if ever there was a dessert that thought had liquor in it I would savor each bite, convincing myself that the boozy flavor was in fact getting me tipsy. Much as I tried though, I never started to feel the telltale symptoms of being drunk. Poor little Kristina, I was just tryin’ to have a good time.

Despite my cravings for said boozy desserts the one after dinner treat I never tried was Bananas Flambéed I can’t for the life of me figure out why since I am all about sticky sweet bananas cooked in brown sugar, butter, and let set aflame with the help of rum or brandy. I mean, I totally get why people are obsessed with them. So why the hell haven’t I ever tried them?!

It’s a real mystery.

For those of you who don’t know, Matt doesn’t like desserts too much. He’s a fan of ice cream but not much else. He’s just not a sweets kinda guy, when I make cookies, I purposely put less sugar and try to add nuts and raisins so that they are more his style. Which is fine – more for me – but I thought to myself, maybe, just maybe, he would indulge in a little dessert that included booze. Plus, he’s sick right now, so I wanted to do something to make him feel better, cause that’s what doting girlfriends do when their boyfriend, who-only-gets-sick-once-a-year gets sick.

So I made him Bananas Flambéed and wouldn’t you know it folks, he loved it! Like big ol’ smile on his face fighting me for the plate of it love it. Oh man, I was tickled.

The trick to getting your non-sweet loving boyfriend to like flambéed fruit is to make it as non-sweet as possible, but putting it over some crusty crispy sourdough bread for instance and by adding some not to sweet vanilla ice cream. The bread ended up being the best addition ever, it soaked up some of the sauce but still provided the texture and flavor contrast necessary to keep a sweet dessert from becoming cloyingly sweet. (Even I don’t like desserts like that).

Well, we still had extra rum from my first attempt and I was craving peaches, so I started thinking, what if I made Peaches Flambéed? I was willing to bet it would be just as tasty, if not tastier. So I ran to the corner market and grabbed a couple yellow and white peaches, for variety, and scooted back home to make it and take pictures before it got too dark.

*On that note – the above photo was taken at night, so you can really see the flames, however the other photos I have of the peaches were taken during the day so the flames don’t look quite as brilliant, I apologize my friends.

What you’ll need:

2 Peaches, one white, one yellow (or two of the same)

1/2 stick butter, plus enough to smear on the bread

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup rum, preferably dark

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 slice of sourdough bread

Vanilla ice cream

What to do with it:

Slice peaches into medium sized strips – not too thick, cause that will be awkward to eat, but not too thin cause they will get mushy after being cooked too long

Heat pan on medium and add butter, allowing to brown EVER so slightly

Add brown sugar, let simmer

DON’T turn your back for a second to go check on your sick boyfriend, your sugar will burn and look like this. It’s a proven fact

Add peaches and cinnamon, to your not burned bubbly buttery sugar sauce, let them simmer for just a few minutes

While they are simmering though, lightly butter both sides of the bread and crisp up in another pan

Cut the crispy bread in 2 pieces and arrange at the bottom of a shallow bowl

Now its time for the real fun…

Remove the simmering pan from the burner that’s on – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP

Once its off that burner, pour the rum into the pan and THEN put it back on the flaming burner, tilting the pan slightly so that the flame may jump to the liquor. Watch it ignite!

It will flame for a minute or so, during which you can leave the pan alone, when it’s done flaming you can start plating, which should look a little something like this

 

What’s my verdict? Bananas are amazing, dense, and hold up to the butter rum sauce deliciously. But peaches, well peaches work with the sauce, taking it in and becoming something so damn delightful I just wanted to squeal like a little girl.

I did prefer the yellow peaches to the white in this recipe, though most of the time I am partial to white. So, you try both and figure out which one you prefer!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I still have a few more peaches around here somewhere

Rhubarb Pie and Grandma

Hello all,

Today I want to talk about my grandma, and about pie.
Mostly because they have to do with each other in my story, but also cause grandmas and pie usually go together, don’t they?

So here’s my story, I hate pie.

The crust is dry or burnt or flavorless more often then it is not. The filling has a tendency to be overly sweet, mushy or it tastes like the fruit is from a can that’s been hanging out in the back of the pantry, saved in case of apocalypse or something worse – like seriously not having anything else to eat and you’re on the verge of starvation.

Like I said, I’m not a fan of pie.

EXCEPT when it’s my grandma’s pie (cliche, I know).
I swear though, nobody does pie better than my grandma, Pauline.


Maybe it’s because she grew up on a farm full of fruit orchards in Canada with a big family full of hungry boys, and nothing warms you up like a hearty slice of pie in cold weather.

Maybe she makes such gosh darn good pie because when she grew up she went and had a big family (this time full of girls) and worked as a nurse so making pie was a good way to unwind after a long day of work and taking care of all her little ones.

Maybe, it’s cause now her 5 kids have all grown up and gotten married and had tons of babies themselves and the staple of every family gathering are Grandma’s pies.

Basically has had to stay on her pie game her whole life.

I have been thinking lately though, that if my grandma can make excellent pie, then maybe I can too. I might just have that pie making gene stowed somewhere in me.

She makes a most wonderful apple pie, a mouthwatering crusty and crispy pecan pie, pumpkin pie with filling so smooth and topped with leaf shaped crust pieces that will make you squeal with delight, but my absolute favorite pie is her rhubarb.

Rhubarb is divinely unique and not the most common of pies, its bitter when uncooked but addicting and tart when cooked and is absolutely positutely my favorite of Grandma’s pies.

So, while I was in LA for a few days for my dad’s birthday I cornered my granny with a pie cutter and said “Lady, you better give me your recipe for Rhubarb pie or I’ll slice you and put you in a pie!”

OMG I’M TOTALLY KIDDING

It really went more like this “Granny, you make the best pie in the whole gosh darn world, would you share your most delectable recipe for Rhubarb pie so that I may continue the family tradition.” Then granny smiled with her adorable, non-dentured, smile and said “Oh of course, honey girl!” That’s what she calls me, honey girl. I love my grandma.

Sidenote: I incidentally recently painted my kitchen table a color named “Rhubarb” and while slicing the stalks for the pie I decided to gauge just how well it matched

God damn that’s a match!

Moving on

What you’ll need:

For the most buttery and flaky crust:

2 1/2 cups flour, plus a little extra for rolling

1 stick of butter, cubed and frozen

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

8 Tbs water, ice cold

For the luscious filling:

5 cups Rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces

1 1/4 cup sugar, I used brown sugar

1/4 cup cornstart

2 Tbs lemon juice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 Tbs butter

What to do with it:

For the crust:

Combine flour, sugar, salt in a food processor and lightly pulse

Gradually add in the cubed frozen butter. I’ve learned that frozen butter is the secret to excellent pie crust. Pulse until the butter hunks are the size of your pinky nail

Now add the water, 1 Tbs at a time keeping watch of the dough’s consistency (flour has different absorbancy levels, so while I needed all 8 Tbs, you may only need 6 or 7). You want the dough to just stick together when you press it together between your fingers

Take the dough and squish it on the counter under your hands to break up the butter a little more to encourage that, oh so, desirable flaky crust

When you’re done smushing it around roll it into a ball and cut in 2 pieces then form those into 2 flat patties

Dust the two pieces with flour, wrap in plastic wrap and set to chill in the fridge for a little more than an hour

Once the hour is up, take out and let them soften for about 5 minutes…chill and then soften? I know, just do it

Take a floured rolling pin and roll out one patty on a floured surface until it is about a foot across, the edges don’t have to be perfect as you will be trimming them anyway

Fold in half and place inside your baking dish, I used my cast iron skillet since I don’t actually have a pie pan

Gently unfold to fill the pan and press into the edges

For the filling:

Preheat oven to 425

Place chopped Rhubarb into pie crust

Mix together sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and lemon juice in a bowl

Drizzle over rhubarb and gently mix around with your hands to coat

Dab with pieces of butter

Cover with the other patty of crust, that’s been rolled out, of course

You can cover the pie in a few ways, the coverall method in which case you would slit holes in the top to allow it to breath

OR the rustic way where you cut the rolled out dough into 1 inch strips and weave it – that’s what I chose to do

If you opt for this method just pinch the ends together with the bottom crust to close it off

*DON’T do what I did and forget to add 1 cup of the sugar – the copy of the recipe my granny gave me is old so the 1 1/4 cup sugar looked like just 1/4 cup. So there I was thinking to myself “God, who says pie is unhealthy, there’s only a 1/4 of a cup of sugar!” And anyone who has had unsweetened rhubarb can imagine my surprise when I first sampled a teeny bit of the filling through the pie crust. So there I was with an almost baked pie that was pretty nasty. In the event you did do that here’s the fix: take the extra 1 cup and mix with the tiniest amount of water to make it pasty and painstakingly drip it through the slots of the pie top. Then slosh the pie around with enough force to mix the filling, but not spill it. It’s an art, my friends, and I am here to say that I think I have mastered it.

The conclusion: The pie was delicious, the filling had texture and was tart yet sweet, and crust that wasn’t dry, overall a huge pie success for my first time.

But there’s just something about grandma’s pie.

Spinach and Ricotta Naked Ravioli

Scandalous name for a post, no?

That’s just the kind of mood I’m in

Does that sound bad?

Eh, it happens

I actually got the idea for this recipe here

Only I upped the ante by making my own butter and ricotta for the ravioli

I’m so fancy

So what exactly is a “naked” ravioli?

Let me break it down for ya

You know when it’s summer, and sweltering hot, and you’re trying to sleep but your damn blanket is making you so sweaty so you end up throwing it off in a fit of rage in the middle of the night? Wel,l that’s how I imagine naked ravioli was born. The little spinach ricotta filling just got too hot one day and while baking in the oven split open its little pasta blanket shell. And whoever was making them thought “why don’t I just get rid of this shell and let this ‘oli breath?”

That’s why these are such an awesome summer recipe, they are comforting and creamy thanks to the ricotta and the spinach keeps it fresh. And because there’s no pasta, there is no carb overload to weigh you down.

But wait, the plot (or rather, the sauce) thickens!

I dressed these raviolis ever so lightly with a brown butter sage sauce

What you’ll need:

2 cups of fresh Spinach – when cooked…roughly 2 bunches

2 cups Ricotta

1 cup Parmesan, grated

1 Egg

1 tsp. Nutmeg

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 stick Butter

1 bunch Sage, stems trimmed

What to do with it:

Preheat the oven to 500

Cook the spinach in 1 of 2 ways – wilt in a pan or boil for 1 minute. Don’t kill the spinach, you want it to retain some form, but you don’t want it to be stiff

Drain spinach thoroughly – squeeze it until you think it can’t be squeezed anymore. Excess water will ruin your ravioli’s curvacious figure

Once drained, roughly chop the spinach

Combine Spinach, Ricotta, Parmesan, Salt, Pepper, and Nutmeg in a bowl and mix well with your hands. Don’t be afraid to get them a little dirty

Scoop out Tablespoons of the mixture and roll into a ball – I prefer them be oval, but if a round ball tickles your fancy, go for it

Place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil
Cook in the oven for 5-7 minutes until the tops are gently brown

While they are cooking, heat butter in a pan on medium heat

Allow the butter to brown ever so slightly then add the sage leaves, cooking until the leaves begin to crisp and curl

*I have added the sage at the same time as the butter and found that the leaves crisp up too much and end up tasting just a little too burned plus the burnt pieces break off and muddle the gorgeous color of the browned butter

When the naked raviolis are done place them on your serving platter and top each with a few sage leaves, then pour butter across the tops

Maybe pair it with a refreshing gin and tonic?

Just a thought

Making Butter

Butter

Butter

Butter

Butter

Is there nothing better?

I don’t think there is.

Salted. Unsalted. Mixed with herbs. Mixed with honey.

You name it, I’ll eat it. YUM

Despite my ongoing love affair with it, and my constant claims to be the next Paula Deen, I swear to you here and now that I don’t use butter nearly as much as people think.

It got me thinking, sure, I cook and bake all the time. I usually make things from scratch, I rarely use food from boxes or packages. I use pure ingredients like butter, whole blocks of cheese, and loaves of artisinal bread. But then I got the idea in my head – what if I MADE those pure ingredients myself?

After reading Urban Homestead (Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City) by Kelly Coyne and Eric Knutzen, a book which my darling roommate brought home for me from the library, I realized just how simple it is to make butter, cheese, bread and so much more all from a home kitchen.

I mean, duh, of course those things are easy to make…a home kitchen is where they all started and those kitchens didn’t have industrial sized mixers and ovens. Shocking, I know. I think that living in today’s society and in a city especially creates a real divide between these old practices and the modern cook. It’s been my mission this summer to bridge the gap in my life, and I am now ready to share everything I’ve learned with you all.

So I’m starting with the most basic, butter.

What you’ll need:

1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream, at room temperature

Glass quart jar with tight fitting lid

Salt, if you want salted butter

What to do with it:

Pour cream into jar, fill a little less than halfway. You’ll have to do this in two batches. So why not use a bigger jar? Because you might not be able to securely hold a bigger jar in your hands

Screw the lid on, make sure its really closed

Start shaking

Shake until your arms feel like they are gonna fall off

Shake up and down, side to side, between your legs, over your head. Your choice, get creative. Make it a workout, put on some music, shake to the beat. This is your opportunity to get creative, churn to your heart’s content. Don’t let me down folks!

Seriously, I think that anyone trying to lose weight (or not gain weight) but who still wants to eat butter should make their own. I swear you will burn more calories making it than there are in the amount you will consume! Should I patent this butter workout idea? Probably, huh?

When you first start shaking, the cream will make tons of noise sloshing around

After 3-5 minutes of shaking, it’s gonna stop making noise. At this point you have made whipped cream (minus the sugar)

Keep shaking, you’ll start to notice the cream clumping and sticking to the sides of the jar. You’re almost there

You will know you have butter when you start hearing sloshing again. About 7-10 minutes in, if you make butter with frequency after this, this sloshing noise will be your saving grace, the finish line at the end of a race

Just…a…few…more…shakes…

Take a look inside the jar, you should see a big ol’ clump of pale yellow butter surrounded by a bunch of milk (buttermilk, to be more specific)

You’ve made it, my friends

Next you have to do what’s called “washing” the butter to remove any tiny pockets of buttermilk still trapped in the ball of butter – this step is VERY important. If you don’t wash the butter, the little buttermilk pockets will sour and spoil your butter

To wash, take the butter and run it under cold water gently squeezing and pressing the butter in your hands

Once you stop seeing little drops of milk coming out you can now add salt, if you want salted butter.

Per pint, I would say a sprinkle of salt is sufficient – no more than 1/4 teaspoon

When all is said and done, you will end up with 1 cup of butter (essentially 2 sticks) and 1 cup of buttermilk

Note: This buttermilk is not the buttermilk you buy in stores. This is authentic buttermilk and it is delicious. It’s basically milk with teeny tiny flecks of butter still left in it. I love using it in my coffee especially.

As cliche as it sounds, homemade butter just tastes better than store bought. It has an unadulterated fresh butter taste that I have never before tasted.

Since discovering the ease of butter making it has become my party trick of sorts, as I suspect it will become for you. If I’m going to my friends house to make dinner, I make a point to pick up some heavy whipping cream and impress everyone with my suave churning skills.

This is the butter you will want to use in simple recipes

Like on top of some homemade bread?

Maybe with a little fig jam?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go eat some of that fresh luscious stuff.

Parmesan Thyme Crackers

Sometimes I think we take the carbs in our lives for granted. Breads, crackers, chips, ect. They are always there when we need them, they last for a considerable amount of time, come in a multitude of flavors and pair nicely with TONS of stuff.

So, this post goes out to the crackers of the world. I salute you and your ability to accompany cheese so delightfully.

But first, let me introduce you to someone special. Someone that I rarely get to spend time with due to distance and my busy schedule when I do come into town.

I’d like you all to meet my mother’s Kitchen Aid Mixer.

It’s big, blue, and beautiful and my mother has adorned it with a many fantastic attachments.

If anyone was to ever bestow upon me this fine piece of machinery, I very well might die of excitement. I just don’t know what color I would want yet…mint green, royal purple, copper? With over 20 different colors how is a girl ever supposed to choose!?

I would surely feel the need to buy every attachment as well; the pasta maker, the meat grinder, the ice cream bowl, the citrus juicer, the ravioli maker. Yea, Kitchen Aid would make a lot of money off of me.

Anyway, moving on.

Crackers. I don’t make a habit of keeping them in my house. But they are one of those things I have always wanted to make myself.

I thought to myself, if I’m gonna take the time to make crackers, they are gonna be fancier. Personally, I think that anything containing fresh herbs are automatically elegant. And, as you may know, I adore anything with cheese.

Parmesan Thyme Shortbread Crackers seem to fit the bill.

Adapted from: Ina Garten

Makes about 46 crackers

What you’ll need:

2 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temp

6 ounces finely grated Parmesan Cheese

2 1/2 cups Flour

1/2 tsp. Salt

2 tsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves, chopped

1 tsp. Black Pepper

1 Tbs. water*

What to do with it:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Mix butter with an electric mixer or a hand mixer until creamy

2. Add in the Parmesan, then the Thyme, salt and pepper

3. Slowly add the flour 1/4 cups at a time

*if the dough seems a bit dry, add water

4. Flour a cutting board and when the dough has been well incorporated place it on the board and divide into 2 evenly sized mounds

5. Roll into 9 inch long logs (2 logs total)

6. Wrap each in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 25-30 minutes to firm

7. Take out of the freezer, unwrap and cut the dough into 1/4-1/2 inch slices with a very sharp knife. I got about 23 crackers per log

8. Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven. For a moister, breadier cracker, bake for 24 minutes, for a drier, crisper cracker about 32 minutes. Check on them all the while, I wanted my crackers to develop some extra color, so I left them for the 32 minutes.

Put a little salami on top for a protein filled snack

Smear a little cream cheese over it and top with a baby sprig of thyme for a creamy and cooling afternoon treat.

Or because I know you all to be crafty little foodies, make both of them, turn ’em in on each other and have a mini meat and cheese sandwich.

These crackers are herbaceous and savory and wonderful and addicting and light (despite the butter) and unique and a crowd pleaser.

So make them. You won’t regret it.