Monday, September 27, 2010

Saving the fruits of your labor

Friday, September 3, 2010

The easiest raspberry tart













I had the good fortune to meet a wonderful person Barbara, who comes from Italy, through my studies last year and we both love to cook and share gardening and recipe ideas so this simple but very classic tart comes from her repetoire.... It is easy
To make the dough for 2 tarts - simply add 2 sticks of butter (cubed) to 2 cups of flour and a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt and bring to a crumble in the mixer, then add some cream ( liquid whipping cream) to bring the dough together, then remove from mixer, cut in half and flatten, wrap with some plastic and place in refrigerator for min an hour or up to two days.
Preheat oven to 350F and roll out dough and place in a buttered and floured dish. Then press in the raspberries into the dough, sprinkle over some sugar, some maple syrup and a dash of lemon juice. Then fold over the extra dough for the "rustic" look and paint on some egg wash... voila, place in the oven for 1 hour, I start by putting it in the bottom tray of the oven for 30 minutes, then at that point change it to the top tray. Remove and let cool for 15 minutes and then serve... perfect by itself or even more delicious with some whipped cream or ice cream! Variations that have worked are putting some thinly sliced apples on the base and topping them with blueberries or a combo of blueberries. raspberries and blackberries. I have to say though the crisp simplicity of the tartness of the raspberries with a little sweetener is a real winner, try it and wow your guests at your next soiree....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Edible Flowers....



Today I decided to make cupcakes.... it has been at the back of my mind to make some for many many months and since a neighbor has a birthday we need to celebrate I though it would be fun to make some and decorate them with some edible flowers from my garden. I was always interested in edible flowers and on our farm in Ireland I would eat wild primrose and violets under the hedgerows of our boreen that went go through the fields...This year I sowed a ton of nasturtiums, and have borage and calendula scattered throughout my garden, these serve the purpose of both pest control, added interest of color in vegetable beds and of course as edible treats for salads, entrees and deserts

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crazy for Pesto
























I always love to make pesto this time of year when the basil is so prolific you just have to do something before it reaches it tipping point and start to go bitter.. usually just about when the flowers buds appear on the plants. As I have stated in some of my previous posts, I am so fortunate to have an amazing neighbour Anton, who I and all of my friends refer to as the "Renaissance Man" he is such a person as he has so much knowledge in so many fields and is an amazing gardener. He is of of course much more organized than I am and has already harvested his first and second crop of basil and made amazing pesto, and he offered me the third cutting today and even sprayed it off last night so there would be no grit on it and make an easy job for me to prepare.. now that is helpful!

Since pine nuts are so expensive, I decided to make the pesto with walnuts ( Anton advised me to soak them overnight and then dehydrate them to near crispness to give a "clean" taste) and it worked out perfectly. Since I plan to use the pesto over the course of the coming months and year, I decided to freeze the pesto in zip lock bags which claim little storage space in the freezer and which are a breeze to use as you can just cut off the portion of the log of pesto that you want for the waiting culinary creation.
There are of course so many recipes out for pesto but I used a ratio of 2 cups basil to 1/2 olive oil to 1/2 cups nuts, a pinch of salt, a clove or two of garlic and processed it in my food processor. I did not add cheese as this doesn't freeze as well. Bon Courage with your pesto making efforts!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rhubarb.. oh rhubarb




As a young child growing up in a rural part of Ireland, I was fascinated by the huge rhubarb plants that grew in our garden that we revered by my mother so when I grew up I decided to grow it in my own garden and enjoy the fruit of my labor to the fullest every spring time. Of course the usual suspects of classic Irish style rhubarb tarts are always a favorite of mine but a recipe the the May edition of 'Living" by Martha Stewart caught my eye as I was browsing in a store, I though no more of it as I didn't want to buy the magazine but a few weeks later a friend of mine gave it to me and it was a sign I needed to make the delicious looking Rhubarb Upside Down Cake!

First to harvest, with the help of my little son, we went out and grabbed a few stalks from one of the plants and two stalks was all that was required as they weighted a pound! One thing I warn all children who come and play is that the leaves of the plant are poisonous but I have yet to find a child that was compelled to eat the greens....



Here is the link to the recipe...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

To bee or not to bee....a labor of love























Today saw the passing of a new milestone in my life, our bee hives are assembled and we picked up and installed our nucleus of bees! It was quite the relief after months of planning, field trips to beekeeper supply companies, bee seminars ect. Beekeeping will not be a big money spinner but will provide me with a biodynamic source of honey I can trust for sale to my customers through the farmers market in the fall of 2011. I am so excited to spend time learning more about the art of beekeeping, to spend time listening to their amazing humming and to get inspiration from the bees to be as active and devoted to their work as I want to be to mine.... Of course we also look forward to making wax candles, and maybe to some honey next year if we are lucky! To celebrate our 'bee" adventure I decided to create a warm goats cheese salad with honey and lavender for one of my friends

Recipe - Warm goats cheese salad with honey and lavender
Ingredients:
Slices of french baguette rubbed with garlic and toasted lightly
Honey
Dried Lavender flowers

Method: Place the toasted baguette in an ovenproof dish and place disks of goats cheese on top, add some honey and the lavender flowers, place under the broiler until the goats cheese is warm and serve over greens! Simple, classic and so delicious!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cafe SELMA Irish Themed Breakfast

Cafe SELMA is an iconic place in the times we live in..... it's an amazing volunteer-run community breakfast made from entirely locally-sourced goods held in the beautiful home of Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe...... I found out about it by word of mouth, in this case, the mouth of my good neighbor Anton and I was eager to find out more and experience it for myself! I was a regular visitor in the summer of 2009 and was eager to volunteer to cook an Irish themed breakfast around St. Patrick's Day... sure enough as the date loomed closer I found myself juggling baking lots of buttermilk scones and soda bread, but only with the best local and home made ingredients of buttermilk, butter ( all made by Jeff McCabe) and wonderful Michigan flour.... these ingredients really made an outstanding difference in taste from regular store bought ingredients and the end result was truly authentic and delicious. In addition, Anton and I prepared Irish potato cakes served with Hoop House greens and rashers plus authentic "porridge" made Irish style and served with home made creme fraiche.
See review here
http://www.repastspresentandfuture.org/rita-conroy-martin-brought-us-a-lovely-taste-of-ireland-with-our-own-local-ingredients/
Apart from the wonderful food, one encounters really interesting and community minded people at Cafe Selma and the volunteers are a blast to work with. All of the proceeds go towards micro lending to local farmers who wish to commence operations or even expand to having a hoop house to enable year round food production. It was a real pleasure to work with someone like Kate Long who is starting up her own farm operations this year and I was so inspired by her work ethic and attitude at the Cafe that I wanted to volunteer at her farm as she gets it set up.

Sure enough the call came to do so a few weeks ago and I introduced my son to the world of community spirit and volunteerism, see picture below of him shovelling compost that would be the foundation of the outdoor vegetable beds. Kate and others like her are the cornerstone of the future of sustainable agriculture in Michigan, armed with academic and practical knowledge through the Michigan State Organic Farming Program, they are sure to succeed!













For more information on Cafe Selma visit http://www.repastspresentandfuture.org
The experience at Cafe Selma inspires me to strive to have a community breakfast or dinner in our own neighborhood!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Three Kings Day Cake- Galette des Rois

Christmas Time was finally rolling to an end and I decided to celebrate January 6th in a typical French fashion by creating a Galette des Rois inspired by a visit to Paris in 2002 that left a wonderful impression on me. Why it took me 8 years to recreate this amazing creation is beyond me! Perhaps having a young impressionable 2 year old that I am trying to create traditions for is part of it, or perhaps it is just old fashioned decadence or slavery to my dormant sweet tooth!



In any case, having the recipe book ' Paris Treats" by Doris Greenspan definately helped as there within is the following wonderful recipe.... which is make by combining almond cream and vanilla pastry cream together, and baking them in a puff pastry.. yum yum


Pastry Cream is a classic ingredient one must learn to make if you want to recreate all of those yummy French tarts and it is pretty easy...
Ingredients: 2 cups of whole milk and add to this a teaspoon of vanilla essence or a vanilla pod
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup (125 grams) sugar
1/3 cup (45 grams) organic cornstarch shifted
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature

Method:
  1. Bring the milk and the vanilla bean to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover the pan, turn off the heat and allow the milk to infuse for at least 10 minutes or up to one hour. ( if neccessary, you can reheat the milk before proceeding)
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and set aside a smaller bowl that can hold the finished cream and be placed in this ice bath.
  3. Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a heavy bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking constantly, drizzle one quarter of the hot milk over the yolks. When the yolks are warm, whisk the remainder of the milk into the yolks in a steady stream, remove and disgard the vanilla pod (if you used this)
  4. Put the pan over medium heat and whisking vigorously, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep at the boil, still whisking all the time, for one to two minutes, then pull the pan from the heat and put the cream into the smaller bowl. Then place this bowl in the ice bath (you can add cold water to the ice now)and stirring frequently, cool the cream to 140F
  5. Remove the cream from the ice water bath and whisk in the butter. Return the cream to the ice water bath and keep it there until it is thoroughly chilled.

Almond Cream- Ingredients:6 tablespoons unsalted butter,3/4 cup confectioners sugar. 3/4 cup blanched ground almonds. 2 teaspoons all purpose flour, 4 teaspoon organic cornstarch, 1 large egg at room temperature.

Method: To make the almond cream in a food processor, fit the processor with the metal blade, add the butter and confectioners sugar and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Add the ground almonds and contunue to process until well blended. Add the flour and cornstarch and process. then add the egg. Process for about 15 seconds more or until the cream is homogenous.

I didn't have blanched almonds on hand so I blanched them myself by bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the almonds to it for 1 minute, then draining and cooling them under cold water and then rubbing their skins off which were loosened by the hot water. I then "dried" them off with a towel and then ground them in the processor. Other option is to use the raw almonds with their skins and grind them skins and all in the processor, the author of the book where I got this recipe has done that and no one has complained!

Putting it all together is easy:

Ingredients,14 ounces puff pastry- Pepperridge Farms is $4.50 per packet, Dufour is more expensive at $14.00 or Trader Joes used to carry an all butter puff pastry that was very economical but I am not sure they carry it anymore...3/4 cup almond cream, 1/4 cup vanilla pastry cream, 1 tablespoon dark rum, I large egg, trinket

Whisk the two creams together and add a tablespoon of rum. Then roll out your puff pastry base for the bottom of the tart, typically the cake should be a circle but I decided to make mine a square shape as is was easier for me using some egg wash, paint a border around the edge of the pastry. Then spoon the cream onto the base and spread it smoothly over the pastry, stopping when your reach the egg painted border. You can then place a trinket or a bean anywhere on top of the cream and press it in gently. Cover the cream coated base with top portion of puff pastry , pressing it firmly around the borderto glue the two pieces together. You can then press the edges together with the tines of a fork to both decorate and seal them.

Brush the entire galette with with beaten egg. Cut a small circle of dough, a steam vent out of the center of the galette, slide the galette into the refrigerator, and chill it for 30 minutes.

Center a rack in the oven and follow the heating intruction for the puff pastry as per the package