June 29, 2007

Peasant Bread

This is the delicious bread my husband grew up enjoying: Peasant Bread from the Palo Alto, California Junior League Cookbook. It's a lovely ciabatta-like rustic bread that is brushed with melted butter and baked on a sprinkling of cornmeal for added crunch on the bottom. In addition to being simple to make, it's incredibly delicious! As far as I know, there are two volumes of these cookbooks, and I own one of them. Mine was given to me for my wedding shower from Paul's lovely aunt Pam. I love to have this link with California, especially so close to where my husband was born.This cookbook is just great, too. It's a brief but beautiful book that feels like my own little personal collection; a slice of another sort of life. And since it's true to California, it doesn't contain your average church cookbook casseroles...no, no. It does have some kitchy things like Coconut Mold with Brandied Prunes, Chicken Curry, Ceviche, and something called Gullixson Crab, but it also has rich dishes like 2-day Filet of Beef, a great Pasta Salad, Chicken in Vermouth, and Salmon in Mustard Cream. I'm sure you get the idea. It takes me to another world of women's luncheons and society dinners. "Why, yes, this recipe will be just the thing!"

Hope you make it soon! You'll love it!!

Peasant Bread

1 packet yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt

Stir these together until the yeast and sugar dissolve. Pour into:

4 cups all-purpose flour

Stir until dough comes together and is quite sticky. Transfer this to a well-oiled bowl, cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

Transfer dough to a floured cutting board and divide into 2 rectangular loaves. Place these loaves on a well-oiled sheet pan sprinkled with a generous amount of cornmeal (about 3-4 Tbsp). Let the loaves rise another 45 minutes.Brush the loaves with melted butter. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 15-20 minutes. Brush with more melted butter after removing them from the oven; let cool a bit, slice and serve!

June 22, 2007

Summer Grilling

Nothing says summertime like firing up the grill and tossing on a few steaks, kabobs, hamburgers or ears of corn on the cob. I started thinking that grilling often ends up with a protein heavy meal - the options are endless, after all. Every carnivore loves a slightly charred steak or pork chop, eh? We have been marinating and grilling our favorite flank steak for a few weeks in a row now, and occasionally, our dinners lack, well, vegetables. The easiest solution? Put the vegetables on the grill, too!

My parents are avid gardeners who've grown everything: peppers, onions, corn, potatoes, asparagus, blueberries, raspberries, green peas, green beans, (gasp for air!) broccoli, cauliflower, squash, melon, and the list goes on and on. I hope everyone can experience the taste of new potatoes cooked the day they are dug out of the ground. Simply brilliant.

For grilled corn on the cob, clean off the silk while leaving the husks on and soak the entire cob in water for about 15 minutes. This will allow the corn to steam inside its husk while on the grill. Place on the grill for 15-20 minutes or until the corn kernels are tender. Slather with butter, salt and pepper and enjoy!
Marinated Flank Steak

For this sweet, flavorful flank steak, marinate the steak overnight (24 hours, but 8 hours would do) in:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
1 green onion, sliced
ground black pepper
1 flank steak (about 3 lbs), trimmed of fat

Mix together and place in a large ziploc bag. Tenderize the flank steak by going over it with a fork, stabbing it throughout. This also allows the marinade to really be absorbed. Marinate in the fridge overnight. Cook the steak about 5-8 minutes over medium high heat for medium rare. The steaks are quite thin so cook accordingly.

June 3, 2007

Lemon Tart with Coconut Crust

These back to back lemon posts display, dear readers, what is the integral theme of my eating habit. It is called a rut. I'm not exactly proud of this but it is true - if I get one craving in my head, I don't let go of it for some time. (Note: making mac 'n cheese 5 days in a row) But, hey, at least it isn't another cake! Lemon and coconut are a fantastic pairing. Lemon tarts were some of my favorite desserts in Paris. Sold at every corner bakery, I adore the smooth and tangy lemon filling with a perfectly light crust.

So, you know it's a sad day when you get a call and the glorious lemon tart with a coconut crust you made the day before was idiotically left on the counter sans couverture and devoured by a resident ant colony. I can only picture what a happy death those ants must have experienced swimming into the perfectly baked (set but not gelatinous) smooth and creamy lemon filling. It was so good, damn it! I was so proud of myself for not over-baking it, too. It had a really simple crust made of only three things - coconut, sugar and egg whites – that spared me a lot of time in preparing the tart and tasted great, too.

I have somehow shed my sadness over this tart-loss and have vowed to bake again. At some point, anyway.

Top this tart with sliced strawberries or fresh blueberries for a delicious fruit tart, or leave it simply lemon fabulous. Or use tiny tartlet pans for individual servings! Lemon Tart with a Coconut Crust

Lemon Filling:
3 whole eggs

3 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained
(about 5-6 lemons)
2 Tbsp lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
pinch of salt 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed First, zest 3 lemons and set the zest aside. Juice those lemons first and then 3 others. This is the most time consuming part. Set up a small mesh strainer over a large glass measuring cup and squeeze, using a fork or a fancier tool to help.

Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, zest, and salt in a medium stainless steel saucepan. Add the bits of butter and whisk over medium low heat constantly for about 7-10 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil.

Cook until thickened and mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
Coconut Crust:
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites

Place the coconut and sugar in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the coconut is very fine. Add the egg whites and process until thoroughly incorporated. The mixture will be wet and sticky. Using wet fingers, press the coconut evenly on the bottom and sides of a well greased tart pan, or 8 individual tartlet pans. Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-30 minutes until golden. Half way through baking, press the crust down with the back of a spoon as the egg whites tend to puff up.

Remove the crust from the oven when golden, and pour in the lemon filling. Return to the 325 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes. Cook until set but not completely. The filling should still shake easily (not wobble like jello) when it's done. Cool completely to serve.

If using small tartlet pans, remove the crust from the pans after baking. Cool them 10 minutes, but remove them while still warm. Place back on a baking sheet and then pour in the lemon filling. This crust becomes quite sticky, so removing them after they're completely cooled would be tricky. However, since I made a large tart, I didn't trust myself to remove the whole thing nicely from the pan, so I just kept it in - up to you.