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rhubarb and biscuits

By on Jun 16, 2011 in breakfast, experimenting, love | 3 comments

Rhubarb, that most recalcitrant of vegetables, unapologetic about its tartness that can veer almost to the point of being inedible until the intrepid cook bribes it with sugar. But too often the sugar overwhelms the rhubarb’s voice, devolving into a sugary mush that is shoveled off into a pie crust and labeled a “spring treat.” Many people claim to hate rhubarb, and with good reason. They have not been introduced to its true character, they only know it as a minion of the succulent sweet strawberry. It demands more respect, not a slathering of sugar. It needs to dance with other flavors, be a partner in a tasty tango, tripping lightly along the tongue, not saddled with cement shoes made of sugar and dragged down as that sad soggy piece of pie left at the end of a spring picnic. So here… rhubarb is gently yet swiftly stewed with grapefruit, arguably on par with its own tart attitude, gentle amounts of sugar, cloves and cinnamon, then nestled snugly on piping hot biscuits that have already been flirting with salty sweet butter and the revelation of raw honey. No sad filling buried under layers of crust or streusel, allowed to break free of its usual strawberry partner, here the rhubarb has its day.   Rhubarb Compote on Biscuits (roughly enough for six biscuits) * Compote inspired by recipe found in Deborah Madison’s Seasonal Desserts Biscuits 9 oz. flour (a hair under 2 cups) 2 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 1 1/2 tsp. sugar 3 oz. chilled butter, diced (3/4 stick) 6 oz. milk   In  a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Using fingers or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until it is distributed throughout and it looks like you have a bunch of small pebbles. Pour in the milk and mix by hand just until a dough is formed. You should be able to see small chunks of butter. Do not over mix. At this point, you could roll it out and bake it, but patience is a virtue here. If you can’t wait, pat the dough out into a 4×6 rectangle, cut into six square biscuits, and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 400º for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. If you do have some patience, pat the dough into a large rectangle, then fold into thirds, rotate 90 degrees, gently roll it down until it is about 4×6, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. If you have loads of time, you should refrigerate for an hour, roll it out to three times the size, fold into thirds, roll it out again, turn 90 degrees, fold into thirds again, press down firmly, rewrap it and refrigerate for another hour, and repeat two more times. This really does give you the best results, but if you don’t have the luxury of time, I like to cut it down to about 20 minutes and only repeat this once. This is basically akin to making a pastry where you are creating layers of butter that will give you that biscuit with heavenly flaky layers. Once you have done the final turn, pat the dough out into a 4×6 rectangle, cut into six square biscuits, and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet at 400º for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.   A Bit of Rhubarb Compote 2 luscious stalks of rhubarb, cleaned and lovingly cut into roughly 1″ pieces 4 cloves, ground pinch sea salt 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar (I prefer raw) app. 3 Tbsp. grapefruit juice (side benefit, you get to eat the grapefruit you get it from while everything is cooking) 1/8 tsp. cinnamon   Place everything into a small saucepan, cook over medium low heat until broken down into a rough puree, approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool to room temperature, if desired.   If you work the timing out, start cooking the rhubarb before you pat out and cut up the biscuits, which leaves you with the puree being done with a time to cool off a bit before the biscuits come out of the oven. I adore topping the biscuits with a touch of salted butter and raw honey. The biscuits are also amazing with just the butter and raw honey. Have I mentioned raw honey? It is an amazing food. Go find some now. I will wait.      ...

grilled chocolate french toast indulgence

By on Jan 22, 2011 in breakfast, experimenting, for one | 0 comments

January in the Midwest invariably comes with ice cold winter mornings, where thermometers shiver in their bindings, looking pale as the red mercury falls into single digits, even negative ones. Weekend mornings in such weather seem to slow, time freezing along with everything else. This is the time for deep, rich foods, the kinds that keep you happily drowsy while hibernating indoors, swaddled in wool sweaters and thick socks. An early morning grocery store trip invites the sleepy brain to buy a quick muffin or some such thing from the deli. Slowly but surely, a voice inside the head begins to whisper then howl the ingredients hiding at home, if you would just give it a few minutes. Homemade bread, strawberries, egg, and there, quietly in the pantry, wrapped in plastic… dark Belgian chocolate. The muffin is ignored. Home again, home again, jiggety jig, it is time it is time to eat gloriously like a pig. A few strawberries are swiftly sliced, tossed lightly with a scant hit of sugar and left to macerate, the sweet sugar slowly and achingly drawing out the rich juices that are lurking in these cross-continental berry anomalies in the middle of January. Two thick slices of buttermilk honey bread are carved off the loaf. A quick dip of egg, milk, vanilla and salt is whisked together. A few tablespoons of chocolate are chopped into gorgeously brown shards and chunks. A generous pat of butter is heated to a sizzle in the pan, the bread swiftly dipped into the egg mixture and gently laid into the hot creamy sizzling skillet. One side cooks, the slices are flipped, and the chocolate is sprinkled across the newly golden landscape of each slice, where their flat patina melts into a luscious shine. The two slices are swiftly flipped into a sandwich and removed to a waiting plate. The smallest splash of balsamic is added to the strawberries, a few slices artfully arranged on top, a few bits of the juice spooned over all. Indulgence requires some presentation, after all. The plate and bowl with the remaining strawberries are removed to the table, where the hibernating chef sinks down, grateful for the internal voice that remembered such ingredients. The rich warmth of the dark chocolate swirls with the bright strawberries, ferries along by the soft quiet warmth of the bread. The extra strawberries are added in, the remaining juice drizzled on, letting nothing go to waste. Indulgence for a cold Saturday morning. Grilled Chocolate French Toast Sandwich. With Strawberries (recipe is just for one, but the egg mixture is likely enough to make at least two servings, maybe three) 4 strawberries, sliced 1 tsp. sugar 2 thick slices homemade bread (preferably something white, nothing too strongly flavored) 1 egg 1/4 milk 1/2 tsp. vanilla 1/8 tsp. salt 3 Tbsp. dark chocolate, finely chopped generous pat butter splash balsamic vinegar (optional) Toss strawberries with sugar in a small bowl, set aside. Whisk together egg, milk, vanilla, and salt. Melt the butter in a skillet. When the foam starts to subside, dip both sides of the pieces of bread into the egg mixture, lay into the skillet. When one side has cooked completely, flip over. Carefully sprinkle the chocolate over both of the pieces. If they are not melting nicely, slap a lid over the skillet to trap some of the heat, but briefly. 30 seconds or so. When the other side has finished cooking, transfer both pieces to a plate and flip them into a sandwich. If using, add the barest splash of balsamic to the strawberries. Cut the sandwich in half, arrange a few slices of strawberries on top of each half, drizzle on a little juice. Enjoy (along with the rest of the strawberries,) then return to...

apple-cranberry mini-galette for the new year

By on Jan 1, 2011 in baking, breakfast, for one, love | 0 comments

Resolutions generally abound about dieting, generally in a very self-flagellating manner. The usual suspects arise, declaring things like butter bad, then a hand dips into an overly processed box of non-fat cookies. These never make sense. Why not resolve eat well, eat real food, just don’t eat as much, and just basically be mindful of what you eat? Every so often, indulge. As the old nugget goes, moderation, and even moderation in moderation. Don’t waste a single moment on guilt, on naming foods as good or bad. Robbing a bank is bad. Food is just… food. And I mean real food, not powdered drink mix or boxed cake mix or tortilla chips covered in frighteningly bright orange dust. Treat yourself to small tidbits of goodness that nourish your soul as well as your body, eat them mindfully, savoring every last flavor, making it last. You will eat less, which is a side benefit, but trust me… mostly you will eat WELL. So why not ring in the New Year with a small galette, just for one. A wee bit of pure goodness, of a small hit of flaky pastry goodness, a gentle muted crunch of baked apple, and a tart hit of cranberry to smack  your tastebuds, slapping them awake for the New Year. It will be a good one. Apple-Cranberry Galette for One 2 oz. of your favorite tart dough 1 small tart apple 12 frozen cranberries (about) 2 tsp. sugar dash cinnamon a grate or two of fresh nutmeg a pinch of salt a small pat of butter, cut into small pieces buttermilk or regular milk (optional) turbinado sugar (optional) cold water Preheat your oven to 425°. Peel the apple, cut into smallish chunks, place in bowl. Roughly chop cranberries, add to the bowl. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt over all, mix well. (It should be noted here that you can use any spice you like. I actually started experimenting with this using ground ginger, but at this small of quantity, it overpowered everything else and didn’t let the apple sing through. Notably, I have really powerful ground ginger, so I backed off and went a little more traditional. And of course there is the fresh grated nutmeg, because almost everything is better with fresh grated nutmeg.) Lightly flour your counter, and roll the dough out into roughly an 8 inch circle. Brush off any excess flour and transfer the dough to a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Gently mound the apple-cranberry mixture into the center of the dough, leaving roughly a 1 1/2 inch margin around the edge. Dot the top with the pieces of butter. Fold the dough up and around in folds over the filling, using the water if necessary to adhere the folds to one another. If you like, gently brush with buttermilk or milk, and sprinkle with turbinado sugar (this is mostly a finishing thing… there is probably a more proper glaze out there, but most are too much of a pain and wasteful when you are just making the one. Put it in the oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until it’s lovely and brown, checking after 20. Remove from oven, stare at it droolingly while you let it cool for at least ten minutes. (If you have a cooling rack, it probably wouldn’t hurt to place the baked tart on there to keep the bottom crisp.) End up burning your tongue on a piece of it anyway when you snatch a piece of fruit out of the hot center. Enjoy the New...

french toast

By on Dec 3, 2010 in breakfast, for one | 0 comments

Thick moist slabs of homemade whole wheat bread are cleaved from the loaf, releasing a subtle sweet scent of molasses. A fresh egg is cracked into a bowl, followed by a flow of creamy white milk and a splash of vanilla, then vigorously whisked together into a sweet emulsion. Bright orange zest is added, sparkling amidst the smooth beige liquid. A quick pinch of salt to balance it all, then left to sit quietly. A pan clatters to the stove, followed by the quiet poof of the gas as the flames pop up, quietly blue. A fresh pat of yellow butter hits the pan where it tosses and turns, writhing down to a slippery foamy mass. The dense bread is dipped briefly in the milk and eggs, then gently nestled into the sizzling buttery pan. The heady aroma of vanilla and orange twist upwards out of the pan, causing the salivary glands to immediately activate. A swift flip of the bread reveals a lusciously browned underside. A few more minutes, and the newly minted french toast is slid onto a waiting plate. More butter is spread over the top, then all is anointed with real maple syrup. The coffee has not been made. The butter is melting. Coffee will have to come...

eggs in a basket

By on Nov 11, 2010 in breakfast, for one | 0 comments

Sun broke on that glorious morning. A brief cough, a good nose-blowing, a languorous stretch, and then suddenly… a sense of smell. The kitchen, long ignored during the pouty reign of the flu, was awakened. Out of the fridge emerged a loaf of homemade wheat bread, which had been happily hibernating up until this point, and a single, glorious egg. The burner was lit, the pan slapped down, a pat of butter melted away. A single thick slice of the heady sweet whole wheat was gutted in the middle, then both portions thrown into the just melted butter. The single egg was cracked into the wound of the bread slice, and over a low, low heat, slowly, it cooked. The delicious warm scent of molasses from the bread mingled with that sharp hit of a freshly frying egg. Sea salt and ground pepper were sprinkled over all. With great trepidation, the bread and egg were flipped as one, miraculously holding together. A hit more black pepper, the telling sizzle of the cooking egg, the slowly browning bread, and suddenly… it was done. With one swift move, the whole was slid onto a plate, the subtly sweet and salty aromas mixing together to dance about in the nose, so eager to use its freshly renewed senses. Sweet, salty, silky buttery egg yolk, smooth velvety egg white, densely moist bread, warm sunbeams… a glorious morning. Morning Glory Eggs in a Basket 1 thick slice whole wheat bread (in this case it was my old family recipe, which involves a bunch of molasses, so I’m guessing a sweeter wheat is a good idea) 1 glorious egg pat of butter salt freshly ground black pepper Excise the center of the bread, leaving a good thick border so it still holds together well. (1/2″ or more). Melt butter in skillet over low heat, make sure it’s covering the bottom of the pan. Place both parts of the bread in the skillet, keeping the main hunk with the hole cut out in the center of the pan. Crack the egg directly into the hole. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the whole. Cook for at least a minute, and do not disturb the bread with the egg in it. I like to use the center piece, which is cooking in another part of the pan, as the test for the main bread with the egg. When it has nicely browned, flip the whole thing over, add a touch more pepper, use the center piece in the same manner to test for doneness. Slip the whole thing onto a plate, find a sunny window to sit next to, and...

solitary rewards

By on Oct 11, 2010 in breakfast, for one | 0 comments

Another solitary Sunday morning. The Saturday spent coaxing the apples into buttery submission would soon merit a reward. Butter was melted, flours both white and whole wheat were sifted with ground ginger, a hopeful complement to the cloves and cinnamon stewed into the apple elixir. Buttermilk was whisked into the butter. A solitary egg was brought forth, the perfect amount for pancakes for one, and whisked in, followed by a luscious deep hit of vanilla. Everything was gently folded together. Water skittered across a blazing hot skillet, showing its readiness to prepare the fluffy breakfast cakes. The pancakes lofted in the heated pan. Another pan was brought out, and thick slabs of bacon were slapped in. Soon there was the soft sigh of the steam from the cooking pancakes and the sharp sizzle of the cooking bacon. And suddenly… it was ready. Pancakes were lovingly laid on a plate, the bacon carefully drained and placed next to it. The apple butter remnants were scooped over the pancakes. Coffee was poured. The warm late morning sunlight slanted through the window, and at long last, there was...