Thursday, August 26, 2010

Figs Poached in Port and Thyme Over Creamy Yogurt Cheese Plus a Fig Giveaway

(Update: August 30th 8:19 PM - With help from, a winner of the fig giveaway has been picked!
Drumroll . . . . . . . . .    Congratulations Lindsey!  And a big thank you to all of you for joining in the fun.)

Mr CC and I are eating figs these days. Fresh, juicy, oozing-figgy-syrup California figs. They are impossibly delicious.

Mostly we eat them out of hand; unadorned, as you see above.  Did you know that figs are filled with antioxidants, are free of fat, cholestrol and sodium and are an excellent source of fiber?  Yes they are.  Eat them with the skins on for optimum health benefits.

The figs you see here were sent to me by the California Fig Advisory Board, who want to give away a box of fresh California figs to a randomly selected person who leaves a comment on this post.  The lucky winner will receive beautiful fresh figs delivered direct to her/his door!

 The deadline for this giveaway is Monday, August 30th at 5:00 PM, so please leave your comment soon. And please be sure to leave a way for me to get in touch with you in case you are a winner. 

I don't have a lot of time to cook these days, so I came up with this very quick and easy fresh fig dessert.
The poached figs came together in about 45 minutes from cutting to chilling.  Allow more time for the yogurt cheese as it has to drain most of its liquid to be firm enough to stand up to the weight of the figs.  I started preparation for this dessert in the afternoon and it was ready to serve by 7 PM.

The photo for this recipe does not do the dessert justice, but I promise you the result is delicious.  Give it a try and see if you don't agree.

Figs Poached in Port and Thyme over Creamy Yogurt Cheese
Christine's original recipe
2 cups Greek-style yogurt (I used Strauss Family Creamery Plain Whole Milk Yogurt)
2 pounds fresh figs - I used 1 pound Black Mission and 1 pound green Kadota figs (about 28 figs total), cut into quarters
1/4 cup aged tawny port (I used Taylor Fladgate 20 year-old)
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the figs)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
pinch salt
To make the yogurt cheese, dampen a piece of cheesecloth large enough to hang over the sides of a large strainer.
Line the strainer with the cheesecloth and set it over a large measuring cup or bowl.
Spoon the yogurt into the cheesecloth and place the whole thing into the fridge for several hours.
When the liquid has drained from the yogurt, you should have about half the amount of yogurt you started with. Keep cold until ready to use.
To prepare the figs, place the quartered figs, sugar, thyme, Port and salt in a medium saucepan, stir and heat until just bubbling.
Reduce heat to a simmer and cook over a heat diffusor for about 15 minutes or until the fruit is cooked through and a nicely thick syrup has formed.
Adjust the sugar to taste, remove from the heat, allow to cool for a few minutes then transfer to a large glass measuring cup and place in the fridge to cool until thoroughly chilled.
To serve, place a spoonful or two of yogurt cheese into a glass dish and top with the poached figs.

More figgy recipes coming soon!

Cook's Notes:
Vanilla sugar may be made by placing a split vanilla bean in a jar of baker's sugar (superfine), closing the lid, giving it a shake, and storing it until you need it. I leave the bean in the sugar until all the sugar is all used up; for me, that can be a year or more.

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, August 9, 2010

Plum Cardamom Ice Cream

I love cardamom.

I especially love using whole seeds that have been extracted from their cute green pods.

When I bought plums last week, I made a gluten-free plum and cardamom galette, which turned out fabulously, thank you very much.

I saved some of the sliced plums from that recipe to make ice cream and when it came to deciding on a recipe, cardamom, this time using whole seeds, just seemed like the right flavor combination.

Plums are in season right now so get them at their peak. If you can, source them organically and locally.

I think you will like this.

Plum Cardamom Ice Cream
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
2 cups (heaping) sliced fresh plums*
2 packets Splenda or 2 tablespoons sugar (or to taste), depending on how sweet the plums are
2 1/3 cups 2% milk
seeds from 4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2-inch piece vanilla pod, split
3 large or 4 medium egg yolks
1/4 cup Splenda/sugar blend*** or 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy cream

Combine the sliced plums with the first measurement of Splenda or sugar and let sit for 15 minutes to juice.
Using a large saucepan, simmer plums over medium heat until they have cooked for at least 5 minutes.** Remove from the heat, cool 5 minutes then purée in a food processor. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the milk, cardamom seeds and vanilla in a large saucepan until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat and allow to steep for 20 minutes to 1/2 hour. Remove the vanilla pod and strain the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Put the milk back into the saucepan. You can scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk at this point if desired.
Beat the egg yolks with the remaining Splenda/sugar blend or 1/2 cup sugar until the yolks are a pale yellow and have thickened so the mixture falls in ribbons from the beaters.
Gently whisk 1/3 of the warm milk into the eggs until combined then whisk the egg mixture back into the milk and heat over medium low, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon and your finger leaves a mark when run across it.  Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes.
Gently whisk the puréed plums into the custard****, pour into a large glass dish or pitcher and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until thoroughly chilled (overnight is best).
Just before processing, stir the cream into the custard until blended, then process according to the  manufacturer's instructions of your ice cream maker.

* I used a combination of red and yellow plums that I had leftover from this recipe. They were sweetly tart, which I like. The amount of sugar you use for the ice cream will depend on the tartness or sweetness of the plums you use.

** I learned the hard way that some fruits must be cooked to reduce their acid affect on dairy.  I didn't do this with the first batch I made which resulted in a curdled custard. So, please, stew your plums.

*** I have also learned through trial and error that the addition of sugar to the beating of the egg yolks is pretty much paramount to ice cream success.  I'm not liking that this is true but I'm afraid it is.  So I use the least amount of Splenda-sugar blend that I can get away with.  It works for me and adds just a small amount of sugar per serving. As always, if you are not a Splenda user like I am, go for the sugar rush. I will not judge you.

**** Alternatively, you can add the plum purée to the ice cream while it is processing, resulting in a more ribboned effect.

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Farmers Market Fresh Frittata with Corn and Zucchini

Fast, fresh, easy.
Creamy and delicious.
20 minutes prep time, 30 minutes cook time.
Serve as part of a special weekend brunch or whip up for a quick weeknight dinner.
What are you waiting for?
It's Saturday and I'm off to the farmers market for more.

Farmers Market Fresh Frittata with Corn and Zucchini
Christine's original recipe
(print recipe)
8 large eggs
4 medium zucchini cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 ears corn, shucked, kernels cut from cob
1 cup shredded white cheddar
1/2 teaspoon Benson's Supreme Garlic and Herb Seasoning (to taste) and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil for the pan
a sprinkle of finishing salt (optional)
Crack eggs into a large glass dish and whisk gently with a fork until blended.
Add about 1/4 cup water and stir until blended.  Eggs will be thick.  Set aside.
To prep the zucchini, cut off the stem and flower ends, slice lengthwise in half and then lengthwise again into quarters. Cut the zucchini crosswise into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces.
To prep the corn, remove the husks and silk. Place the corn cob standing up in a wide bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut down the cob, releasing the kernels into the bowl.  Do not cut too deeply into the cob.
Sauté garlic over medium heat in about a teaspoon of olive oil until softened and aromas rise.
Add zucchini and sauté until it is just tender. Do not allow to burn.
Add the corn kernels, the Benson's seasoning (or salt), and a few grinds of pepper and stir to combine.
Allow most of the water that the zucchini will throw off to evaporate, but not all of it.
Pour the eggs over the vegetables and mix oh so gently with a fork.
Allow to cook for 3 minutes to set the bottom.
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the frittata.
Going around the edge of the skillet, lift the edge with a spatula to allow uncooked egg to run into the space created.
 Keep lifting and turning until only the middle of the frittata jiggles when you shake the pan, adjusting the heat so the bottom doesn't burn.
Transfer to a 325-degree oven and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the middle is softly set.  A knife inserted into the center of the frittata should come out clean.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with finishing salt if desired, and let sit for about 5 minutes.
Cut into wedges and serve.

Please use no more than medium to medium-low heat to prepare this dish otherwise the eggs will turn out rubbery.
The cheese may be combined with the eggs prior to pouring over the vegetables if desired. This will result in a more homogenous egg-cheese mixture, but, hey, I was playing.
Fresh chopped herbs may be used with abandon.
The Benson's salt-free seasonings are one of several that I've been experimenting with. A subject for another post. Substitute sea salt if desired.

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, August 6, 2010

Christine's Quick and Easy Pasta Sauce With Ground Turkey

The title actually says it all about this recipe.  It can be prepped, cooked, and ready to spoon over pasta in about 45 minutes.

My boys (now men) know this sauce well; until they had grown up and fledged, I'd made it for them often, always tossed with spaghetti (although today I used gluten-free spirals), and it never failed to satisfy.  Sometimes I think they liked it better than pizza.

The meat is optional and leaving it out will result in a sauce suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike.

A note about the ground turkey: That mushy stuff sold in some stores that looks and feels like it has glue in it? Try not to use that. Instead, find a good source for ground turkey that looks as though it really was extruded through a grinder rather than mashed into paste.

Yes, I'm using canned tomato products but if you have home made sauces, go for it.  The measurements are not set in stone.  What you want to achieve is a thick, tomato-y sauce that will cling to your pasta.

This is dedicated to my boys (now men).  The recipe is a secret no longer so hone up on those knife skills and get chopping.

Christine's Quick and Easy Pasta Sauce with Ground Turkey
(print recipe)
1 pound ground turkey (not the mushy stuff), or other ground meat, optional
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large sweet onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeds and veins removed, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
2 small Padrón peppers or 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeds and veins removed, minced
1 tablespoon (or more) organic Italian herbs
1 28-ounce can organic peeled tomatoes (I use Muir Glen Organic tomato products)
1 15-ounce can organic tomato sauce (preferrably sugar free)
1 6-ounce can organic tomato paste (preferrably sugar free)
1/4 to 1/3 cup dry red wine to rinse the cans (more certainly may be used)
small handful fresh basil leaves, torn
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
olive oil for the pan
If using ground meat, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high.
When a bead of water dances on the skillet, add roughly 2 teaspoons olive oil then the ground meat crumbled into pieces.
Allow the meat to sear for about 3 minutes then break apart with a wooden spoon and continue to sauté until no pink shows.  Drain all liquid (save this for the dog or kitties), remove to a plate and set aside.
In the same skillet, add a bit more olive oil then toss in the onions.  Sauté until they soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir, allowing the aromas to come up from the pan, about 2 minutes.
Add the peppers, Italian herbs, and the contents of each can.
Rinse the cans with red wine and pour into the skillet.
Stir and break the tomatoes up with your wooden spoon.
Add the cooked ground meat,
the torn basil leaves, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, give it a good stir and simmer it for about 15 minutes.  At this point it's ready for pasta, although you can simmer it longer if you have time.

I said it was simple.


Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gluten-Free Plum Galette with Cardamom, Sugar-Free or Not

I have a new god(dess) and her name is Carol.

A year ago when I went gluten-free, I tried my hand at making GF pancakes, pies, tarts, fruit galettes and more.  Some of them worked fine, others came out so-so and yet others were total disasters.  Mostly I couldn't get away from the "beany" taste and/or gritty texture that the flours I was using imparted, so I just gave it up altogether.

Sometime during the year I realized how much I missed pie crust.  Light, flakey pie crust.  It almost became an obsession.  I grew up on my mother's pies.  She taught me by example how to make flakey, light-as-a-feather crust.  I just had to find a way to make a GF pie or tart that sung to me.

Not too long ago my subscription link to Carol's blog Simply Gluten Free heralded her new GF flour.  A gluten-free flour that Carol guarantees can be used cup for cup like regular flour to make cakes, pies, cookies, breads, pastries, pizza(!), and more.

Was this to be my pie crust salvation?

I ordered some.  As soon as it arrived I made pie dough, rolled it into a large rustic circle and filled it with beautiful fresh plums.  I popped it into the oven.  I waited.  For 50 minutes I waited.  It was agony.

Finally it was time to remove the galette from the oven.  Then it had to cool ...  more agony.

Finally I cut a piece.  I took a bite...

Heaven!  It was heaven.  It had flake.  It had lightness.  It was delicious.

Carol, I bow to you.  You done good!

Gluten-Free Plum Galette with Cardamom
Christine's original recipe inspired by Carol Kacinski's Amazing All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour
(Print recipe)
Ingredients for pie crust:
1 cup gluten-free flour (see link above)
1 packet Splenda or 1 tablespoon sugar
tiny pinch salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons each cold heavy cream and cold water
Whisk together flour, sugar, salt.  Place in food processor and add butter pieces. Using quick pulses, process until butter and flour resemble fine sand, about 5-6 pulses.
Through the feed tube, add the cream in several pours while pulsing and stopping, pulsing and stopping, then add just enough water to make the dough come together. Pinch mixture between your thumb and fingers. If it holds together, it's ready.  Take care to not add too much liquid or your dough will be too wet.
Pour dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap, gather the edges of the wrap and make the dough into a ball.  Flatten the ball into a disc and refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Ingredients for plum filling:
10-12 ripe plums (yellow and red is nice), pits removed, cut into 1/4-inch slices. Makes approx. 3 cups* see Cook's Notes
Splenda packets or sugar to taste** see Cook's Notes
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon tapioca starch
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter cut into tiny cubes
heavy cream and vanilla sugar to finish the pie crust
While the dough is chilling, combine the plums, sugar, cardamom and tapioca starch in a bowl. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes for the plum juices to form.
Roll out the pie dough on a pastry cloth sprinkled with gluten free flour to a rough diameter of 14-inches.
Roll the dough up onto your rolling pin and center on a large parchment-lined baking sheet or pizza pan.
Place the plums (juice and all) in the center of the dough, spreading them to within 3-inches of the edges.
Dot the plums with the butter.
Fold the pie dough about 1/2-inch over itself, pleating and pinching if necessary, forming a smooth edge.  Bring the smooth edges of the dough about 3-inches over the plums, pleating as you go around, leaving a good portion of the plums showing in the middle of the galette.
Brush the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with vanilla sugar. This is optional but makes for a nice crust.
Bake in a 380-degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly.
Cool 30 minutes before cutting.
Eat and enjoy!  Then just think of the possibilities...

* I actually used 20 plums (10 red and 10 yellow) which made a total of 5 cups. I saved 2 cups of the mixture to make ice cream. Which will be coming along soon. ;)

** I have not provided a measurement for the Splenda or sugar because the amount you use will depend on how tart or sweet your plums are.  Add it sparingly and taste until it is to your satisfaction.  The plums I used were fairly tart so I added 7 packets of Splenda, which amounts to approx. 6 tablespoons of sugar, which is just under 1/2 cup. The finished fruit was tart with a sweet finish.

One more thing:  Just to keep the record straight, Carol doesn't know that I'm writing this post.  Well ...  she does now, now that I've published.  But there is no collusion here.  She didn't ask me to write this and I received no freebies for doing so. I'm just terrifically excited by the GF flour.

Copyright © 2005-2010, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved