What says summer like corn and tomatoes? Granted, this cornbread has sun-dried tomatoes rather than fresh, but that’s an ideal way to enjoy the flavor of tomatoes without making your batter soggy with the weight and water of fresh tomatoes. If my dill plant hadn’t shuffled off its mortal coil (okay, it browned out), I would have included fresh dill, but I had to resort to dried dill. Feel free to swap that for straight-from-the-garden dill. Likewise, you can opt for just-cooked corn kernels or frozen and then thawed corn.
Along with the savory tomatoes and fragrant dill, I made this cornbread with Greek yogurt and grass-fed butter. Talk about satisfying! And thanks to the 50/50 split between cornmeal and buckwheat flour, this cornbread isn’t nearly as starchy as most versions are. Buckwheat has a much lower glycemic impact than wheat flours do, and although corn is rather starchy by nature, stone-ground cornmeal — that is, cornmeal that retains its germ — is less processed than de-germinated cornmeal is. Again, that translates to lower glycemic impact. Another cornmeal tip: stick with yellow cornmeal for its gorgeous buttery tone and higher vitamin A content (as compared to white cornmeal). This cornbread makes a great breakfast or side dish!
Dill Cornbread with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Makes an 8″x 8″ pan.
1 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, preferably julienned (look for tomatoes that are dried and bagged, NOT soaked in oil — oils used for that purpose are invariably highly refined)
1 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal, preferably organic
1 cup buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat (OR sorghum or brown rice flour)
1 T. dried dill OR 1 1/2 tsp. fresh dill, minced
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
7 oz. plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 cup whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 stick butter, melted, preferably from grass-fed cows
1 1/2 cups corn kernels*
If the tomatoes aren’t already julienned, chop them coarsely. Place in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak while you make the batter.
Preheat oven to 400F and grease an 8″x 8″ pan with butter. Set aside. If you’re using fresh corn kernels, prepare them now.
In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, buckwheat flour, dill, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients except for the corn. By now, the tomatoes should be soft. Drain briefly, then squeeze out the remaining water. Whisk into the yogurt mixture.
Scoop the yogurt mixture into the cornmeal mixture and stir well to combine. Stir in the corn. Promptly pour the batter into the waiting pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean and warm. Let cool on a wire rack.
Leftover cornbread can be refrigerated for a week. It’s especially nice when warmed in a toaster oven before serving.
* Use organic frozen kernels and thaw them first, or make fresh corn: boil 2 ears of corn in a large pot of water for 3 minutes, then promptly remove with tongs and let cool until you can comfortably handle them. To free the kernels from a cob, hold an ear over a large bowl, then hold a sharp knife at about a 45 degree angle to the cob and slice off the kernels, going away from your hand and towards the tip. Flip over the ear and repeat to remove the remaining kernels. One ear yields about 3/4 cup of kernels.
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Tags: breakfast, buckwheat flour, butter, cornbread, cornmeal, dill, eggs, fresh corn, gluten-free, milk, side dish, stone-ground, summer bread, sun-dried tomatoes, whole grain, whole-milk Greek yogurt
After recently reading Alice Medrich’s glorious book Flavor Flours, I was inspired to make a lower-sugar version of my own PB layer brownies. You can’t get more satisfying than the classic pairing of PB and chocolate! And even though these brownies are layered, they don’t take longer to make, because you can get the bottom layer baking in the oven, then mix the chocolate layer using the same mixer and bowl. No need to get out a clean bowl — it’s perfectly fine if a little bit of PB is mixed into the top layer. In the 10 minutes it takes to bake the PB layer, the chocolate layer will be ready.
If you’d like to put a different twist on these brownies the next time you make them, swap out the peanut butter for another yummy nut butter, like almond or cashew. Or try using crunchy instead of creamy nut butter for a different texture. Nuts + chocolate = always a great idea!
PB Layer Brownies
Makes an 8″x 8″ pan.
For the PB layer:
4 T. butter (1/2 stick) at room temperature, preferably from grass-fed cows
1/4 cup palm sugar OR sucanat*
1 egg, preferably from a pastured hen
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup + 2 T. natural PB (ingredient list should read “peanuts” or “peanuts and salt”)
1/4 cup buckwheat** OR teff OR brown rice flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
For the chocolate layer:
1 stick butter, preferably from grass-fed cows
3.5 oz. 85% dark chocolate
1/2 cup palm sugar or sucanat*
2 eggs, preferably from pastured hens
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup buckwheat** OR teff OR brown rice flour
Preheat oven to 350F and thoroughly grease an 8″x 8″ pan. I like to save my butter wrappers and use them to grease pans.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the palm sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again. Beat in the PB, buckwheat flour, and baking powder and scoop into the waiting pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove promptly.
While the bottom layer bakes, place the butter and chocolate into a small pan on the stove, cutting the butter into chunks and breaking up the chocolate to speed up the melting process. Heat over the lowest heat setting, stirring often, until the butter has melted and the chocolate is small lumps. Remove from the heat and continue stirring to finish melting the chocolate. Scoop into the same mixing bowl you used for the PB layer.
Beat the remaining ingredients into the melted butter and chocolate. Pour over the baked PB layer and return to the oven. Bake for another 25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean and warm.
Let cool on a wire rack. Brownies can be stored at room temp for 5 days or refrigerated for a week. (If your room temp is higher than 76F, it’s best to refrigerate the brownies right away.)
* Palm sugar is less sweet and slightly more coarse than sucanat, but either works.
** Buckwheat flour has a lower glycemic impact than sorghum or brown rice flours do, which is to say it won’t spike blood sugar levels as much.
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Tags: almond butter, brown rice flour, brownies, buckwheat flour, butter, cashew butter, chocolate, egg, gluten-free, low-glycemic, natural sweeteners, nut butter, palm sugar, PB, sucanat, teff flour, vanilla, whole grain
If you haven’t been grilling, haul out the skewers and tongs! And if you haven’t tried grilling shrimp, make them your next outdoor meal. They’re easy to slide onto skewers, and they taste even better when you grill them with their shells on — no need to peel first. (Although you probably want to de-vein them.) Seeing as shell-on shrimp are less expensive than peeled shrimp, your dinner will be tastier and more affordable! And if you choose U.S.wild-caught shrimp, those shrimp will be all the more buttery and delicious, plus you’ll be boosting the U.S. shrimping economy. For an incredibly thorough look at the differences between wild-caught/sustainable shrimp and farmed/non-sustainable shrimp, check out this helpful “this-not-that” chart from the research-obsessed folks at Seafood Watch.
Should you have any leftover grilled shrimp, they’re fantastic paired with pasta dishes like this one. You’ve got it all: buttery shrimp, juicy sweet/tart tomatoes, fragrant dill, savory olives, and quick-pickled sweet onions to provide a bit of crunch to contrast the pasta’s smooth texture. If you don’t have shrimp on hand, toss the pasta with any cooked fish of your choice, from cod to salmon. Summertime pasta is the perfect pair for seafood!
BBQ Shrimp Pasta with Olives & Dill
Serves 2. Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
For the quick-pickled sweet onions:
Thinly sliced sweet onion (Vidalia, Maui Maui, Walla Walla, or Texas Sweet)
Good-quality red wine vinegar (I adore Vinagre Añejo Gar de Rioja from Spain; it’s so smooth you could sip it just like a glass of Rioja)
For the shrimp:
2 long wooden skewers, soaked in water for at least an hour
8 large shrimp, preferably U.S. wild-caught shrimp
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
For the pasta:
2 servings of your favorite whole-grain pasta (be sure to use gluten-free pasta if you’re making a gluten-free dish)
Generous knob of butter for tossing with the pasta
Double handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of your favorite olives, halved or quartered
Fresh dill for garnishing
To make the onions, place in a jar and cover with a half-and-half mix of vinegar and water. The smoother the vinegar, the more lovely your onions will be — harsh-tasting vinegar will make harsh-tasting onions. Add a sprinkling of peppercorns and mustard seeds. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to a week. (This can be made well in advance.)
To make the shrimp, de-vein the shrimp but leave the shells on. Thread onto the skewers, putting 4 shrimp on each skewer. Brush generously with oil. Grill for about 2 minutes, then carefully flip and continue grilling for another 2 or 3 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque, pink, and curled.
To finish the dish, prepare the pasta according to the package directions. While the pasta cooks, peel the shrimp and cut each shrimp into quarters. Prep the tomatoes and olives. You might also want to snip the dill into small wisps. Drain a few of the thinly sliced pickled onions.
Drain the pasta well and place back in the pot. Add the butter and place on the still-warm stove. (No need to turn the heat back on.) Melt the butter, stirring often, and stir in the tomatoes, olives, quartered shrimp, and pickled onions.
Serve garnished with the fresh dill. This dish is best served and then eaten promptly.
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It may be too hot to cook, but using the oven only entails facing two short blasts of heat when you open and close the door, and roasting veggies is a great way to use your garden/farmer’s market surplus. Zucchinis growing out of hand? Roast ‘em! Too many eggplants on the vine? Throw them in along with the zucchinis!
I opted to use cherry tomatoes fresh in this dish because I wanted their extra-juicy texture to contrast the softly roasted veggies, but you could roast the tomatoes, too. And if you’d rather not turn on the stove briefly to toast the hazelnuts, you could toast them in the oven — slide them in during the final 5 to 10 minutes of roasting the veggies and stir them a few minutes into their toasting time. Whether roasted or toasted, the crunchy nuts add a welcome layer of texture. I just prefer stove-toasting them because I tend to burn nuts in the oven. Out of sight, out of mind… (On the stove, it’s easier to smell nuts toasting.)
For the cheese, I chose Point Reyes’ blue cheese — it’s made in California with milk from grass-fed cows, and it’s a perfect blend of creamy and tangy. If you want a blue so sharp it’ll make your eyes water, try a Spanish Valdeón; if you’d like a soft, mild blue, look for Salemville Amish blue cheese varieties from Wisconsin. Or if you’re not a fan of blue cheese, feta or soft goat cheese would be great choices.
Roasted Veggies with Toasted Hazelnuts & Blue Cheese
Makes as many servings as you want, but you can count on 1 medium zucchini, 1 small eggplant, and 1 Spanish onion as enough for 2 lunch servings.
Preheat the oven to 375F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss a few of your favorite veggies with coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil, working with one type of veggie at a time. I opted for sliced zucchini, sliced unpeeled eggplant, and sliced onions. Along with a generous drizzle of oil, toss each veggie with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
Place each veggie on its own portion of the baking sheet in case you need to pull some veggies out sooner than others. (Although the three I chose take the same amount of time to roast, smaller veggies like corn kernels or green beans may not take as much time.) Roast for 20 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans and flipping over the veggies after about 15 minutes. I like my veggies to come out just as they’re turning golden brown.
While the veggies roast, place a handful of chopped hazelnuts in a small skillet. (Use one handful per every 2 servings of veggies you’re making.) Dry-toast over medium-low heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the nuts are fragrant and turning golden brown. Immediately remove to a cool plate.
Top the roasted veggies with halved cherry tomatoes, toasted hazelnuts and a crumbling of blue cheese. Serve immediately. Leftover roasted veggies can be refrigerated for a week and used in salads, pilafs, sandwiches, and even stir-frys — just stir them in at the end of the cooking time.
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Tags: blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, easy meal, eggplant, feta, garden veggies, goat cheese, hazelnuts, onion, Point Reyes blue, roasted veggies, Salemville Amish blue, summer vegetables, Valdeón, zucchini
Long ago, in the days before Queen Wheat and King Corn took over the grain fields of the U.S., American farmers used to grow a lot of sorghum. It’s still grown today, but mostly as fodder for livestock. Fortunately, though, sorghum flour has made a comeback — it’s a gluten-free whole grain — and sorghum syrup has always been popular in Kentucky and a handful of other southern states. It’s a thick, dark syrup with a chocolate/ caramel/whiskey flavor. (Not surprising given that whiskey is often distilled from sorghum.) It’s not exactly what you’d drizzle onto pancakes, but sorghum syrup is a great sweetener for chocolate cakes and pumpkin bread … and, as it turns out, ice cream.
I stumbled across the idea of sorghum ice cream in Alice Medrich’s recent book Flavor Flours. While making ice cream with flour isn’t an entirely new concept — after all, cocoa powder is flour, and that’s in chocolate ice cream — I must admit that I hadn’t thought about including grain flour in ice cream. But when I spotted the sorghum syrup at the back of my fridge, I thought it would be fun to try making sorghum ice cream, if for no other reason than to get to clearly experience the flavor of sorghum. Paired with dairy milk, coconut milk, and egg yolks, the flour and syrup have their chance to shine.
Sorghum Ice Cream
Makes about 4 cups of ice cream.
1/4 cup sorghum flour
1 cup whole coconut milk
2 1/2 cups whole dairy milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
2 egg yolks, preferably from pastured hens
1/3 cup sorghum syrup
Pinch of sea salt
Fresh fruit for serving (optional)
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and milks and place over medium heat. Whisk occasionally as the mixture comes to a gentle simmer. When it does start to simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and whisk continuously for about 3 minutes. The mixture will thicken and become smoother as the flour absorbs the milk. Remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour the hot mixture into the yolks in a thin stream, whisking continuously. Pour back into the saucepan and place on low heat. Cook gently for 3 minutes, whisking continuously, to cook the yolks. The mixture will begin to look glossy and thick, like custard. Remove from heat and scoop into a fresh mixing bowl. Let cool on a wire rack, whisking occasionally to speed the cooling process.
Once the mixture is completely cool, refrigerate it overnight. The next day, follow your ice cream maker’s instructions to transform the sorghum custard into sorghum ice cream. (Or you could pour it into individual ramekins when you refrigerate it and instead enjoy it as sorghum custard.)
It’s best to freeze the ice cream in small containers so that you can transfer them from the freezer to the fridge about an hour before serving them. That way, you’ll have beautifully textured ice cream — since this recipe uses sorghum syrup and not white sugar (and the sorghum syrup represents about 12% of the total ingredients rather than the 25% or even 30% that white sugar normally represents in mainstream ice cream), your homemade ice cream will probably become very hard in the freezer. An hour thawing in the fridge works wonders to rectify that.
If you like, garnish your ice cream with fresh fruit when serving. I opted for sliced strawberries.
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If you planted tomatoes and peppers this year, prepare for the harvest! August and September are banner months for making salsa and chili. But how about pairing two of our nation’s favorite savory fruits (yes, tomatoes and peppers are actually fruits, not vegetables) with softly scrambled eggs? Even better, how about sprinkling the resulting slightly sweet and creamy dish with truffle salt?
Assuming that your truffle salt contains flakes of true truffles, a pinch or two of aromatic truffle salt will imbue your scrambled eggs with a smooth earthy contrast that will make your breakfast taste just as haunting as it smells.
Interesting bit of trivia when it comes to truffle salts: most are made with English black summer truffles. They’re considered to be a lesser grade than white Piedmont truffles from Italy or black Périgord truffles from France, but even the “lowly” English black summer truffle will elevate any dish it graces. (And there are desert lightning truffles in southwestern desert states like Arizona, but that’s another story for another post…) But no matter where in Europe the truffles in your truffle salt came from, if you’ve picked the tomatoes and peppers from your garden and procured eggs, milk, and butter from a local farmer, this scramble qualifies as pretty darned local!
Egg Scramble with Garden Peppers & Tomatoes … with Truffle Salt!
Figuring on 2 eggs per person, crack your eggs into a bowl and add 1 tablespoon of whole milk per egg. Whisk with a fork to combine. In a small skillet, melt a generous dab of butter over medium heat. For every 2 eggs you’re going to use, add 1 small chopped pepper (of whatever hotness you like) and 1/2 of a small onion, chopped, to the skillet. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until the veggies are softened and the onion is turning translucent.
Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the eggs. Let cook undisturbed for about 30 seconds, then start gently folding over the egg as it cooks. The continuous folding action will incorporate air into the eggs and — more importantly — will prevent the egg whites from overcooking. Remove from heat as soon as the egg starts looking set and dry.
Top with quartered cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of truffle salt. Serve immediately.
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Cereal. Salad dressing. Flavored yogurt. These are all things that are ridiculously easy, far more nutritious, far more delicious, and shockingly inexpensive to make yourself instead of buy. Cereal in particular is a snap. Just take any cooked whole grain, add milk of your choice (whole dairy milk, coconut milk, unsweetened almond milk, etc.), and some fresh fruit, and you’ve got a naturally sweetened bowl of instant breakfast. Or sprinkle on a hint of cinnamon or some toasted nuts.
The resoundingly great part about DIY cereal is that all the elements can be made in advance, from cooking the grains to toasting the nuts. Cooked whole grains last a week in the fridge, so whip up a pot on the weekend and have ready-to-go breakfasts for the entire week. Opt for buckwheat groats, steel-cut oats, millet, quinoa, brown/red/black/purple rice, wild rice, or whatever you like. If you don’t need to avoid gluten, rye berries, hulled barley, and wheatberries also make great DIY cereals. (Avoid pearled barley — most of the bran has been stripped away, meaning that pearled barley is not a whole grain.)
The larger the grain, the longer it will take to cook, BUT you can let the grain soak in whatever amount of water the package calls for in order to soften the grain and make it much quicker to cook. The general rule is that by soaking a whole grain for at least 6 hours, you’ll cut its cooking time by 2/3. That gives you the convenience of a non-whole-grain with all of the flavor, nutrition, and satisfaction of a whole grain. Case in point: brown rice takes 40 minutes to cook; soaked brown rice takes about 15. You’ve got white rice cooking time for an upgraded pot of brown rice.
And let’s talk price point. Contrary to popular belief, eating better costs LESS, not more. Price of steel-cut oats per ounce: 6 cents. Price of Rice Krispies per ounce (I was price-checking within the same store to make it fair): 44 cents. So you would pay SEVEN TIMES MORE to eat puffed air than enjoy a hearty bowl of oatmeal. And oats won’t leave you starving an hour later with no other recourse but to run to the office vending machine and pay top dollar for highly processed products. I’m pretty sure I can speak for Ceres — the Roman goddess of the harvest whom “cereal” is named after — when I say that making your own cereal is well worth it.
Real Deal Cereal
Cook your favorite whole grains (perhaps they’re left over from dinner) and put them in a bowl with your favorite milk. Whole dairy milk, coconut milk, and unsweetened nut milk are all great choices; grain-based milks aren’t the best idea since you’re already eating a bowl of grains, and even whole grains are rather starchy. Best to pair them with milk that’s fat- and protein-forward rather than being starchy itself. I used cooked brown rice and whole dairy milk.
Add your favorite fresh fruit, toasted nuts, toasted coconut, and/or a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. For my bowl, I dry-toasted sliced almonds and unsweetened coconut flakes in a medium skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, just until they were starting to turn golden brown. Be sure to keep an eye on the nuts and shake them once in a while to toast them evenly. (Completely cooled toasted nuts can be stored at room temp for several weeks in an airtight container.) And for my fruit, I opted for blueberries and sliced strawberries to give my bowl a fun patriotic look.
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You know something has gone mainstream when it moves from being found only in indie settings to becoming a multinational corporate product. Such is the case with cold-brewed coffee: once firmly in the purview of indie coffee shops, now Starbucks sells it. And considering that coffee soda is a natural fit for cold-brewed coffee, a fizzy cup of joe seems poised to be The Next Big Thing. In fact, your local indie coffee shop may already have it on tap! If they don’t, though, it’s easy to make it yourself, and it is oh-so-refreshing when it’s hot outside. This version is a cream soda version, but if you’d rather not go down the dairy road, simply omit the cream.
Coffee Cream Soda
Put about 3 ice cubes in a pretty drinking glass and fill about 1/3 of the way with cold-brewed coffee, either homemade or store-bought. (One of my javaphile friends swears by Chameleon cold-brewed coffee; I’m keen on my DIY version made with lightly roasted beans.)
Fill another third of the glass with whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows — as little kids say, that’s “ice cream milk” and will make your cream soda particularly creamy. Note that because cream and whole coconut milk have higher fat contents than whole dairy milk, they will tend to clump when added to an iced drink. Hence, I stick with whole milk.
Fill the final third of the glass with plain sparkling water. Add a tiny drizzle of vanilla and stir briefly. Voilà! Your coffee cream soda is ready. Now you’ll be cooler and slightly caffeinated (the water and milk dilute the caffeine content). If you want to play with different flavors, try a tiny drizzle of hazelnut extract or an even tinier one of almond extract.
Using grass-fed milk, good-quality coffee, and extract means that you won’t need any sweeteners. Yes, you can make your own healthy soda! And if you brew your own coffee, you’ll be getting barista quality for an incredibly reasonable price.
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With the price of pine nuts continuing to skyrocket, I’m always eager to try making pesto with other nuts. (Although technically, pine “nuts” are the seeds found within pine cones. Mediterranean stone pines and Korean pines lead the pack in terms of pine trees that bear seeds big enough to bother eating.) Cashews are probably the closest match to pine nuts in terms of having a creamy flavor and smooth texture, but you can use a wide variety of nuts and seeds and still call your concoction “pesto.” The word stems from Italian and means “crushed” or “pounded” — for the etymology buffs out there, “pestle” has Latin roots and a similar meaning — so really, pesto can be any blend of herbs, nuts/seeds, and garlic crushed into a toothsome paste.
Seeing as I was already tinkering with the basic ingredients quite a bit (I also swapped out basil for cilantro because I had cilantro on hand and wanted to use it), I went ahead and added sun-dried tomatoes to the pesto to give it an extra oomph of savoriness. You could toss the finished pesto with fresh tomatoes, too, but sun-dried tomatoes provide a deeper undertone of flavor. Or use them both!
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Hazelnuts & Cilantro
Makes enough for 4 servings of pesto as a garnish. Recipe can be doubled or tripled.
Depending on how much you like sun-dried tomatoes, start by soaking 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce of sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for at least 30 minutes to soften them. (I prefer to use sun-dried tomatoes that have already been cut into strips because those are easier to blend later.) Avoid sun-dried tomatoes jarred with oil — the oil used is almost always highly processed oil that’s better avoided than consumed. You’ll be adding your own top-notch extra-virgin olive oil to the pesto, anyway. Drain the tomatoes well.
Dry-toast a double handful of chopped hazelnuts in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan occasionally and keeping an eye on the nuts to make sure they don’t burn. It only takes a few minutes for them to turn golden brown! Scoop them into a food processor.
Add a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to the same skillet. Stir in 5 chopped cloves of garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until the garlic is beginning to turn golden brown. Add them to the food processor along with the drained tomatoes. Add a double handful of cilantro leaves, rinsed well and drained.
Process the pesto until you have coarse crumbs, adding more olive oil until you’ve reached your desired consistency. (More oil makes a smoother paste.) Taste and see if you’d like to add a pinch of sea salt. Blend again.
Toss the pesto with freshly cooked pasta, serve it with homemade flatbread as I did, use it as a garnish for poultry or fish dishes, or blend with ricotta to make a savory, creamy dip. Pesto offers endless opportunities!
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Scrambled eggs and poached eggs are easy, but when you start whisking eggs into cream and milk and then making custards and puddings, that’s a different story, because heating eggs tends to make them clump. And while fluffy clumped eggs are exactly what you want when you scramble them, you don’t want clumpy custard. So how do you make sure your custards and puddings are silky-smooth? You heat the eggs very gently and gradually, and you don’t stop whisking. (And if all else fails, you do some strategic straining with a fine-meshed colander.)
“French” vanilla typically refers to vanilla-scented, egg-enriched custards, pastry fillings, and creams, including ice cream. The latter is made by making a custard and then freezing it. (Some folks call that a frozen custard.) In this tart, the custard is made on the stove top and then baked in the tart crust.
Although traditional custards are made with cornstarch, I find using whole-grain flours like brown rice flours to be just as easy … not to mention more nutritious and more flavorful! Opting for eggs from pastured hens makes custard-making easier, too, since stronger eggs are easier to separate into whites and yolks.
What kind of fruit you put on top of the tart is entirely up to you, but fruit that can be cut into thin slices and fanned out makes an especially attractive dessert: pears, apples, peaches, nectarines, plums, etc. The only caveat is that fruit with purplish skin may start to bleed its pigments into the custard, so a plum-topped tart may start looking rather tie-dyed two days later. (The pink-skinned nectarine I used did precisely that, albeit on a lighter-hued scale.) Hence, a word to the wise when choosing your fruit — tan/orange/yellow skins are a better color match for vanilla custard than any fruit with reddish/purplish skin.
French Vanilla Custard Tart
Makes a 9″ tart.
For the custard:
4 egg yolks, preferably from pastured hens
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whole milk, preferably from grass-fed cows
1/4 cup cream, preferably from grass-fed cows
1/4 cup sucanat
1/4 cup brown rice flour
4 T. (1/2 stick) butter, preferably made with cream from grass-fed cows
For the crust:
1 cup raw buckwheat flour OR sorghum flour OR brown rice flour
Dash of sea salt
1 stick butter, well-chilled, preferably made with cream from grass-fed cows
1 T. sucanat
For the topping:
2 medium nectarines, peaches, pears, or any fruit you can cut into thin slices (although see recipe head note about fruit with reddish/purplish skins!)
You’ll need a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Grease the bottom and sides generously with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks with the vanilla. In a medium pot, whisk the milk, cream, sucanat, and flour. Bring it to a gentle simmer over medium heat, whisking and watching for the tell-tale wisps of steam to start rising from the pot. (This is easiest to see if you have a black-topped stove.) As soon as you see the tendrils, remove the pot from the heat and trickle the cream into the yolks in a thin stream, constantly whisking. Gently pour the whisked cream and yolks back into the pot and heat on low, still whisking, for 2 or 3 minutes or until the mixture thickens and starts taking on the glossy look of custard. Remove from the heat and whisk the butter into the custard. Keep whisking it occasionally to help the butter melt as you make the crust.
To make the crust, place the ingredients into a food processor, cutting the butter into large chunks. Process until coarse crumbs form. Add 1 tablespoon of cold water and continue to process until the dough forms a ball and goes whump! against the processor bowl. Press the crust into the tart pan, making sure it goes up the sides of the pan, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Keep occasionally whisking the custard. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Bake the fresh-from-the-fridge crust for 20 minutes or until it’s starting to turn golden brown. During the final few minutes of baking, cut the fruit into thin slices. Whisk the custard again and check to make sure it isn’t lumpy. If it is, you may want to strain it through a fine-meshed colander to strain out the lumps before pouring it onto the crust.
Pour the custard into the baked crust and top with the sliced fruit, laying them out in concentric fans (start from the outer edge and work your way to the center). Bake for 30 minutes at 350F or until the fruit is turning golden brown. Note: if you have too much custard to pour into the tart, enjoy the leftovers as custard! Pour over fresh fruit for a luxurious dessert or snack, or just pour the extra custard into a pretty glass and enjoy it as an extra-thick eggnog kind of dessert drink.
Cool on a wire rack. Leftover tart can be refrigerated for 4 days. If the tart stubbornly sticks to the sides of the tart pan when you try to cut a slice free, use the tip of a sharp knife to loosen the crust from each individual crenellation — slip the knife between the pan and the crust to help the crust unstick itself.
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Tags: brown rice flour, buckwheat flour, butter, cream, custard, dessert, eggs, European, French vanilla, gluten-free, milk, natural sweetener, nectarines, pastry cream, peaches, pears, plums, sucanat, tart, vanilla, whole-grain flours