Monday, May 19, 2008

Raspberry Streusel Bars

Raspberry Streusel Bars
from Cook's Illustrated, Published September 1, 2005
Makes twenty-four 2-inch squares

This recipe can be made in a standing mixer or a food processor. Frozen raspberries can be substituted for fresh; be sure to defrost them before combining with the raspberry preserves. If your fresh raspberries are very tart, add only 1 or 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to the filling. The bars are best eaten the day they are baked but can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days (the crust and streusel will soften slightly with storage).

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
2/3 cup granulated sugar (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened to cool room temperature
1/4 cup packed brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces), light or dark
1/2 cup rolled oats (1 1/2 ounces), old-fashioned
1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces), chopped fine
3/4 cup rasberry preserves (8 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup fresh raspberries (3 1/2 ounces)
1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. (If using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width.) Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with flat beater, mix flour, granulated sugar, and salt at low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. With machine on low, add 16 tablespoons butter one piece at a time; then continue mixing on low until mixture resembles damp sand, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. (If using food processor, process flour, granulated sugar, and salt until combined, about 5 seconds. Scatter 16 tablespoons butter pieces over flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles damp sand, about twenty 1-second pulses.)

3. Measure 1 1/4 cups flour mixture into medium bowl and set aside; distribute remaining flour mixture evenly in bottom of prepared baking pan. Using hands or flat-bottomed measuring cup, firmly press mixture into even layer to form bottom crust. Bake until edges begin to brown, 14 to 18 minutes.

4. While crust is baking, add brown sugar, oats, and nuts to reserved flour mixture; toss to combine. Work in remaining 2 tablespoons butter by rubbing mixture between fingers until butter is fully incorporated. Pinch mixture with fingers to create hazelnut-sized clumps; set streusel aside.

5. Combine preserves, raspberries, and lemon juice in small bowl; mash with fork until combined but some berry pieces remain.

6. Spread filling evenly over hot crust; sprinkle streusel topping evenly over filling (do not press streusel into filling). Return pan to oven and bake until topping is deep golden brown and filling is bubbling, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool to room temperature on wire rack, 1 to 2 hours; remove from baking pan by lifting foil extensions. Using chef's knife, cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Greek Salad

The summer following my junior year of college, I took the trip of a lifetime and traveled all through Europe with 3 friends. We were gone for 3 1/2 weeks, stayed in youth hostels, and traveled by Eurail with about all we owned on our backs.

We toured Amsterdam, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Greece. We visited the Anne Frank House, climbed the hill to the castle Neuschwanstein, took a cruise down the Rhine River, saw The Vatican, and Michelangelo's David. We even took the touristy yet beautiful Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg. In Heidelberg, Germany is where I first experienced Marzipan (covered in chocolate) and it remains one of my favorite confections - so much so that I named my blog after the yummy sweetened almond paste!

By the time we got to Greece (our last stop before returning home), we were "all toured out" and exhausted. All we wanted to do was relax on the beach, never mind that we were blocks away from the ruins of The Parthenon. I have barely any pictures from Greece in my photo album, but the memories that stay in my mind from Athens have to do with the food. In Greece, I tasted the most delicious Greek food. In particular, I remember the rice pudding and the greatest Greek Salad I have ever tasted. It could be that it was in Europe that my love affair with food started. I have yet to find the recipe for rice pudding that takes me back there (I'm still searching), but I have found a terrific recipe for Greek Salad. (I only omit the green peppers). I made it the other night with chicken I had marinated briefly in some of the dressing and grilled. εύγευστος! (Delicious!)

Greek Salad
From Food Network Kitchens
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more to taste
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 pound), trimmed of tough stems and torn into bite-sized pieces
6 ounces calamata olives, about 1 cup
1/2 pound Feta cheese, crumbled
1 English (seedless) cucumber, trimmed, cut into 1 inch chunks
12 ounces vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch wedges, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes and drained
1 green pepper, trimmed, seeded, and diced
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, garlic, salt, and oil. Stir in the oregano and pepper to taste. Set aside.

When ready to serve: In a large bowl lightly toss the lettuce with some of the dressing. Divide the lettuce among 4 salad bowls. Scatter the olives, cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, and peppers over the top of the greens. Serve and pass the remaining dressing at the table.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Don't you just love Spring? This is a picture of one of my rhubarb plants which comes out of the ground every Spring. When my mom and dad moved to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, they gave away their rhubarb plants to me and my brothers. Rhubarb requires a dormant period when the ground is frozen, so it doesn't do very well in warmer climates. I figure this plant has to be at least 25 years old and is still producing fabulously. Over the years, I have found that people either love it or they hate it. Fortunately, my family loves it. I usually make my mom's signature Rhubarb Custard Pie or my new favorite, Rhubarb Raspberry Pie (which I'll have to post about later), but last week I made a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp since I had the ingredients on hand and it comes together quickly. The fruit looked great all by itself sprinkled with sugar.

I used the topping recipe from Heidi at 101cookbooks. You can count on Heidi to substitute more healthful ingredients in a recipe and it still tastes great. This recipe uses white whole wheat flour and oats for a healthful whole grain topping, and yogurt in place of some, but not all, of the butter. You can substitute just about any fruit you have on hand. But don't expect it to be around long...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Milan Cookies

What a busy time of year this is - soccer, chorus concerts, baseball, and birthdays. (This is why my blog posts have been few and short!) Last week though, the girlfriends managed to get together for a coffee date/playdate. These cookies were a huge hit. I was looking for a recipe to use up some egg whites I had left over and I found Gale Gand's Milan Cookies. You can check out the recipe here. Gale uses citrus flavors in her recipe, but I'm a big fan of Pepperidge Farm's Mint Milanos, so I substituted vanilla in the cookies and peppermint extract in the chocolate filling. Scrumptious!

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies
·12 tablespoons butter, softened
·2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
·7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
·2 tablespoons vanilla extract
·2 tablespoons lemon extract
·1 1/2 cups flour
·Cookie filling, recipe follows
Cookie filling:
·1/2 cup heavy cream
·8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
·1 orange, zested
Cream the butter with a paddle attachment then mix in the sugar. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
Cookie Filling: In a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl. Whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools). Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.


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