Archives for posts with tag: strawberries

I’m trying to get my groove back in the kitchen.  Once you’ve lived in one place for a few years, you have your own routine however mundane it is.  You know where you like to buy your tomatoes from, where the best bread is, and that Reinick Farms has the most delicious eggs.  Now that I’m in a big city, I have a lot more to choose from.  Despite this advantage, I’m stumped as to where to get my groceries, which farmers’ markets are the best…I’m giving them all a trial run.  I will soon learn which places fit me.

It’s funny how these things enter some peoples’ minds.  I’m picky about these matters, going into X supermarket isn’t going to cut it for me.  It does make things a little more difficult, but way more fun.  Who doesn’t like to explore a city looking around for the best food it has to offer?  So I’m enjoying myself right now-getting a feel for the city until I find a job.

I picked up strawberries at a farmers’ market.  A fresh strawberry is a thing of beauty.  They bring back many childhood memories for me.  I remember sitting in our garden where wild strawberries would grow, basking in the sun and feasting away on those tiny gems.  Finding local strawberries always excites me, the taste is completely different and on top of the great taste, the little green stems are ever so cute.

I decided to make strawberry crumble bars inspired by a grocery store near my parents’ house in Rhode Island.  Layered bars are a favorite of mine- the different layers, textures, and crunch are quite appealing to me.  These bars are so very delicious, especially with that heavenly dollop of melting whipped cream on top.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Crumble Bars

Makes 9 large bars

Ingredients

for the crust: (adapted from Ina Garten’s lemon bar crust)

1 cup flour

1/4 cup  cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

pinch of salt

for the strawberries:

1 1/2 pints strawberries, hulled and quartered

sugar, to taste (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup crème fraîche

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the crumble topping:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup oats (not instant)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

4 tablespoons butter

pinch of salt

Method

Prepare the crust by combining the brown sugar and flour in an electric mixer on low-speed for a minute.  You should use the paddle attachment.  This can also be done in a bowl if the don’t have an electric mixer.  Add in the seeds from the scraped vanilla bean and then the flour and mix until just combined.  Press the dough into an 8″ by 8″ baking dish and chill for at least one hour.  After it has chilled, bake it in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, or until it just starts to turn light brown.

While the crust is chilling, prepare the strawberries by heating them in a saucepan over medium heat with the sugar and remaining vanilla bean seeds.  Add in the vanilla extract and allow the strawberries to wilt slightly.  Cook for 5-7 minutes.  Let the strawberries to cool and once cool mix in the crème fraîche.  Set aside in refrigerator until assembly.

Before the final assembly; mix the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, and walnuts together.  Using your fingers knead in the butter until the mixture is a crumbly texture.  Set aside.

Before baking the crumble bars preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, Take the prebaked crust and layer the strawberries on top, followed by the crumble topping.  Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the crust turns golden.  Allow the bars to cool for 15 minutes.  Serve warm with whipped cream.  They’re also good at room temperature or chilled.

This cheesecake was the finale to my husband’s birthday dinner.  There were no surprises here, my husband has simple tastes and knows what he likes and for dessert it was this cheesecake.  The original version, or inspiration, for this cheesecake is from Pastiche’s Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with a Raspberry Coulis.  For years, everyone in my family has loved this cheesecake.  It’s so good that when you first take a bite of it you can’t think for a moment.  It is so lovely, whipped like clouds and so very smooth on your palate.  It is the ultimate form of decadence.  We arrive early to Pastiche, just so they don’t sell out of this incredible dessert. You chocolate lovers out there may not agree, but there’s enough love to go around.

Here I come along and try to mess with perfection.  I add lime zest, my ode to Miami and the amazing Key Lime Pie I had there and I changed the fruit around because the apricots at the market were so gorgeous, that I simply could not resist.  The color, oh my, too beautiful for words, light orange with a slight  blush developing on the sides.  I scooped those babies up and picked up a pint of strawberries, with the stems still attached.  I don’t know if I’m brainwashed, but I’m convinced that strawberries with stems taste better than ones without.

Since introducing my husband to Pastiche’s cheesecake, I have recreated it for him several times.  In all honesty, I think the base for the recipe came from the inside of a Philadelphia Cream Cheese Box.  Over the past few years I have adapted it and added my own flair to it.  I wish I had the patience to make homemade graham crackers for the base, but when you’re making cheesecake you’ve got to be totally crazy to make homemade graham crackers for the crust.  Totally crazy.  Instead, I use amaretti cookies and almonds, and they work together quite nicely.

My husband had the boys over for his birthday dessert.  My husband, becoming too macho in front of his friends, didn’t want me to put candles on his cake or have him cut it, as I had planned.  Perhaps, he should rethink his favorite dessert–Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, doesn’t sound that macho to me.

Vanilla Bean Lime Cheesecake with Stewed Strawberries and Apricots

Serves 8

Ingredients

Crust:

1 cup of amaretti cookie crumbs

3/4 cup ground almonds

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons raw sugar

5 tablespoons melted butter

a pinch of salt

Filling:

16 ounces of cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup sugar

4 eggs, at room temperature

2 tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean, scraped

1/4 cup heavy cream

zest of 1 lime

Fruit topping:

10 apricots, pitted, peeled, and cut into segments

1 pint strawberries, stems removed and quartered

1/4 cup sugar (use less or more depending upon the sweetness of your fruit)

juice of 2 limes

Method

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together all the ingredients for the crust in a bowl and press into a 9″ springform pan.  Bake the crust in the oven for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Prepare the filling by creaming together the cream cheese, ricotta, sour cream, and sugar with an electric mixer.  Beat in the eggs, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, vanilla beans, and lime zest.  Pour the batter onto the cooled crust and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and let it cool, then place the cheesecake in the fridge for 6-8 hours.

Prepare the fruit topping by combining the strawberries and apricots with the sugar and cooking them with the lime juice on medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a loose jam.  I like to leave the chunks in, but you may puree and strain them out if you wish.  Serve the sauce chilled on the side with the cheesecake.  Dust some confections sugar and lime zest on top of the cheesecake as a garnish, and also a sprig of mint, if you’d like.

*don’t fret if your cheesecake cracks a little on top, it adds to the homemade feel!

Apricot

Figs are absolutely gorgeous.  When I cut into some fruits, I’m in awe.  The colors the textures, the perfect contrast in tones and shades make me *swoon*.  Take a kiwi fruit for example, that lime green color and the black seeds are beautiful.  The same goes for figs.  I cut one of those babies in half and I stare at it and revel in its beauty like it were a real baby.  Maybe I’ve got issues, but I’m all about the appearance of the food I eat.  I love it when food is so well presented that it s a feast for the eyes.  If you know me, you know I go absolutely gaga for jewel-tones.  This probably relates to my love of figs, that deep, dark purple is one of my all-time favorites.

I just remembered that every time my husband and I walk by this new gelato place that is about to open, I gush about how I love the sign.  I go on and on about how it’s so my style (because nothing in this town is my style hehe).  Mind you, the sign only says “mia’s gelato” and I rave about it for a block until my husband says, “get over it!!!”  The reasons I adore that sign are because the font is modern, in all lowercase and the colors work so well together.

I just mentioned the sign to strengthen my point about beautiful colors.  Strengthening arguments: a very useful skill picked up in Grad school *insert sarcastic smiley here.*  (Don’t get me wrong, Grad school is great but there are some things about it, I will never understand).

Anyway, the puff pastry is savory and sweet.  I think I started this recipe with an idea for something more savory, but along the way it turned into a dessert.  Oh well, that is what happens when you don’t use a recipe and just wing it.  Regardless, when I took a bite, it was nice and warm.  I thoroughly enjoyed all the flavors in it.  They worked together even though I was skeptical about the combination I had come up with.  The chevre I used was so mellow that it did not overpower the other delicate flavors.  The honey and brown sugar caramelized beautifully and resulted in a nutty and sweet taste.  The thyme also melded beautifully in unison with all the other ingredients, creating a lemony perfume throughout.  The fruits, oh yes the fruits, figs and strawberries were warm and rich in flavor.  I’m sure everyone loves puff pastry, how could you not, so flaky and buttery and the perfect vehicle for just about anything, yum.

I admit, this dish is a little more work than most of my recipes, but it is definitely worth it for a special occasion.  You can also substitute the figs or strawberries with other fruits, you switch the cheeses I used with mascarpone cheese.  It is so versatile, make it your own or try it this way.  Either way, it’ll be tasty.

Sweet and Savory Fig and Strawberry Puff Pastry

Serves 6

Ingredients

7 ounces of puff pastry, rolled into an 8″ by 10″ rectangle

15 strawberries, sliced

15 figs, sliced

honey, for drizzling

2 tablespoons brown sugar, or more depending on how sweet your fruit is

2 tablespoons pine nuts

3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from sprig

2 tablespoons on butter cut into small pieces

for the chevre/ricotta base:

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

2 1/2 ounces mild chevre, softened at room temperature

1 tablespoon fig white balsamic vinegar (or plain white balsamic or white wine vinegar)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

fleur de sel, to taste

black pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a food processor pulse together all the ingredients for the ricotta/chevre base until smooth.  (Or mix together by hand in a bowl).  Next, place the rolled out puff pastry on a cookie sheet and spread the cheese mixture on top evenly, all the way to the edges.  Then, assemble the fruit in an attractive pattern.  I did two rows of figs and two rows of strawberries on the diagonal.  When the fruit is placed on the puff pastry, sprinkle it with the brown sugar, pine nuts, and thyme.  Drizzle the honey on top and dot on pieces of butter all over the pastry.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Serve warm with a dollop of ricotta cheese and a drizzle of honey, if desired.

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