Bacon-Wrapped Dates with Chèvre

For the weekend– this is the quickest, easiest crowd-pleasing appetizer I know. Top it with a little balsamic honey glaze, and you’re golden!

 

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Ingredients: 

20-30 large medjool dates

16 oz. plain goat cheese (chèvre)

20-30 piece high quality, center cut bacon

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 375. Use a pairing knife to slice each date open on one side and remove the pit. Make sure you keep half of the date intact (so it looks a little like a hot dog bun). Take a teaspoon full of goat cheese, roll into a ball, and stuff into each date. It’s ok if it overflows a bit. Next Wrap each goat cheese stuffed date with a piece of bacon, making sure it wraps all the way around. It is so worth it to splurge on the bacon. Really, it makes all the difference. If you’re in the Seattle area, go to the Ballard farmer’s market on Sunday and get bacon from Skagit River Ranch. It tastes like candy.

Arrange dates on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until bacon is crispy.

Meanwhile, heat balsamic in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Once it begins to simmer, stir in honey, reduce to medium low, and let cook about 8 minutes, until it thickens. When dates are done, arrange on a platter and drizzle with glaze.

Serves 12-16 as an appetizer.

 

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Nectarine Sauce with Limoncello and Lavender

Happy August!! Stone fruit is in its full glory here in Seattle. This is a quick and easy dessert that can stand alone or go atop vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream. It also pairs well with my favorite lemon curd tart! Impress your friends with the sultry summer flavors of lemon and lavender.

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Ingredients:

6-7 large organic nectarines (except not those varieties that were recalled from California!–though hopefully this is no longer an issue)

1/4 cup limoncello (you can buy this at specialty liquor stores or you can make your own)

1 Tbs. slightly dried lavender, chopped (go walk around your neighborhood and find a big lavender plant. If you’re in Seattle this will only take approx. 2 minutes. Bring home a few sprigs and tie them up to dry a big–just for about a day.)

 

Wash your nectarines and use a paring knife to cut them into bite-size chunks. Place the chopped nectarines in a medium sized pot over med-high heat. Add the limoncello. Bring the mixture to a slight boil. Stir in the lavender and turn the heat down to med-low. Cover and let cook 15 minutes. Remove the cover and cook another 5 minutes. Let cool.

Et voilà!

 

Serves 4-6.

 

 

 

 

Lemon Curd Berry Tart

This tart has come to be my ultimate summer night dessert. I’ve probably made it every week for the past 2 months for whoever is around and willing to taste it. I just think the contrast between the bright yellow lemon curd and the little circles that form around the berries when the tart is baking is so striking. Plus the crust is so easy and the whole process only takes about 25 minutes of prep time. I originally got the lemon curd recipe online from Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa), but I’ve discovered that I like the texture better with one less egg, the zest of four lemons instead of three, and close to half the sugar. Really the more lemon zest the merrier–the essential oil in the zest give the lemon curd it’s depth of flavor. I’m always looking for ways to cut sugar in recipes and I can’t imagine using the full amount of sugar suggested in the original recipe–how would you taste all the lemon-y goodness?

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Ingredients:

Lemon Curd:

zest of 4 lemons

scant 1 cup sugar

4 Tbs. unsalted butter, softened

3 eggs

juice of 3 lemons

pinch of salt

Zest the lemons using a microplane zester or the finest side of a box grater. Mix the zest with the sugar in a large bowl. Cream the butter and sugar with the back of a wooden spoon, smashing them against the side of the bowl to combine. Once the butter and sugar are well incorporated, beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing with a fork. Next add the lemon juice and pinch of salt. Stir well. Heat mixture in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, for about 7-10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Crust:

scant 2 cups flour

1 stick butter, chilled

6-7 Tbs. ice water

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Cut butter into flour and salt using a pastry cutter or your hands. When butter resembles small peas, add 4 Tbs. water and begin mixing with your hands. Add the rest of the water, 1 Tbs. at a time, until dough comes together. Chill in plastic wrap or a ziploc bag for at least 30 minutes.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 325. Press dough into the bottom of a pie or tart pan. I like to press it instead of rolling it out because then I don’t have to dirty a counter top and a rolling pin. Plus a bit of a thicker, more rustic crust, works well here. Use a fork to press along the edges of the tart to make it a little fancy. Pour in your lemon curd. Finally, arrange blackberries or raspberries in circles or lines in the lemon curd. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is slightly golden.

Serve with fresh cream!

Serves 6-8.

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polka dots

 

Whole Wheat Pear Tart

This recipe was happily born of a bit of laziness. I didn’t have white flour and I had just been to the store and really didn’t want to go again, so I decided to make my tart crust out of whole wheat flour. I often use whole wheat flour for more savory pies and pastries, but wasn’t sure how it would work for a dessert. It turned out to be the perfect balance to the sweet pear and custard inside, resulting in a finished product that is equally good served topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream after a summer dinner or enjoyed with a cup of strong coffee as an indulgent breakfast.

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Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

10 Tbs. cold unsalted butter

pinch of salt

5 Tbs. ice water

2 Tbs. cold milk

3 large D’anjou pears, cut in half, cored, and sliced very thin

4 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla

cinnamon for sprinkling

To make the crust, pulse flour, butter, salt, water and milk together in a food processor or mix in a kitchen aid (or work together with your hands). Bring dough together in a ball. Flatten, and press into a tart pan. Chill for at least 20 minutes.

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Preheat oven to 350. Beat together eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla. Remove tart shell from fridge. Arrange thin pear slices in concentric circles around bottom of tart pan. Pour custard over pears. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Turn down to 325 and continue to bake until custard in set (about 20-25 more minutes.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon if you like. Let cool. Serve chilled.

 

Strawberry Port Ice Cream

It’s been forever since I’ve recorded a recipe here! Time has really gotten away from me. My energy has turned to other tasks in the past few weeks, but I’m getting back on the cooking train. This ice cream seemed the perfect fit for a day like today in Southern California– it’s 90 degrees and feels like summer is officially here (not that it ever really left). If you have an ice cream maker, homemade ice cream is not a terribly time consuming project, and the results are beyond worth it. I just have a hand crank machine and I freeze the inner canister the night before and make the custard a few hours before spinning the ice cream. This is a recipe I’ve been playing around with a few months. I’ve found that cooking fresh strawberries down with a little port wine really brings out the sweetness and adds a level of complexity to the flavor.

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Ingredients:

1 pint fresh, ripe strawberries (preferably organic), sliced

3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

2 Tbs. water

3 Tbs. Port (don’t break the bank on this–Trader Joe’s has some good, inexpensive ones)

2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided

1 1/2 cups 2 % milk

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided

the tiniest pinch of salt

5 egg yolks

In a small sauce pan, heat sliced strawberries with water and 1/4 cup sugar. Let the mixture come to a light boil, then turn down a bit and simmer 6-7 minutes until strawberries have started to break down and liquid has started to reduce. Add Port and 1 tsp. vanilla. Let simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.

Separate eggs. Have eggs ready in a medium bowl. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl and place a smaller bowl inside the ice bath. Pour 1 cup of the cream in the small bowl. Save whites and use them for something! In a medium sauce pan, combine milk and 1/2 cup of the cream with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and pinch of salt. Heat over medium heat until the milk begins to steam. Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla, turn off the heat, and let sit for a minute. Beat the egg yolks and add a bit of the hot milk mixture to the eggs, beating well to incorporate. Add in a bit more, stir and then a bit more. Adding a bit of the hot liquid at a time prevents the eggs from scrambling. Once you’ve added about half of the milk mixture to the eggs, pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk mixture and turn the heat on to medium. Using a heatproof spatula, slowly stir the custard until it begins to thicken (about 7-8 minutes).

Place a strainer over the bowl of cream sitting in the ice bath and pour the hot custard through the strainer to remove any lumps that may have developed. Stir the custard into the cream and let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in the strawberry mixture. Pour the finished custard into a pitcher or container and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. Freeze according to your machine’s directions.

 

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Something a Little Different: Gluten Free Chocolate Raisin Muffins

I decided to try to make something passable as a muffin without flour. I was making this recipe up as I went along, but I ended up being really happy with the results. Luckily I wrote down my process. These muffins are made mostly of nuts, seeds and fruit, so they are high in fiber and good fats, relatively low in carbs and pack a punch/ keep you going for a long morning. Plus the super dark chocolate makes them extra delicious!

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Ingredients:

1 cup raw walnuts

1/2 cup raw almonds

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 egg

6 prunes

2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup maple syrup

2 Tbs. heavy cream or coconut milk

1 Tbs. coconut oil

1 bar of extra dark chocolate (at least 85%)

Preheat oven to 350. Grind walnuts and almonds in food processor until a smooth meal is formed. Add cornmeal and pulse to combine. Add salt, baking powder, and spices and pulse to combine. Dump dry ingredients out into a bowl. Blend prunes, applesauce, maple syrup and heavy cream together in processor. Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients. Crack an egg into the hole and beat with a fork. Dump applesauce mixture into beat egg. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir in sunflower seeds, raisins, flax seeds and chocolate chips. Grease a muffin tin. Fill each of 12 muffin cups with a heaping 1/3 cup of muffin mixture. Bake 20-25 minutes. The muffins won’t puff up the way most muffins do, but they will get golden brown and delicious.

Meanwhile, melt coconut oil and extra dark chocolate together in a double boiler. Once muffins come out, drizzle each with chocolate.