Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Spring in the East Valley- In the 80's

Heading home from a visit with my son and his family in Phoenix. We've had some great dinners at local restaurants and grilled at home. Hate to head back to "wintry mix".

By June it's too hot for Farmer's Markets around here but in spring they are overflowing with fresh vegetables. Saturday morning I went to the Gilbert Farmer's Market and sampled some cheese and flavored salts. We made BLT's with some golden orange heirloom tomatoes purchased there. The salty bacon highlighted the sweet tomato flavor. I'm taking the smokehouse salts home for summer grilling.

In season now, asparagus, beets, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, fava beans, fennel, grapefruit, leeks, lemons, lettuce and more.

Some of my favorites have been grilled asparagus, yellow and red beet salad with feta and nuts. A friend picked some lemons from the trees in her yard and suggested we make limoncello. We also have a couple of grapefruits that should be ripe in a day or two. Everything is flavored with chiles adding zest to any food.

Friday, March 25, 2011

AZ Midday KPNX Phoenix

This photo was taken just after my appearance on AZ Midday. The host, Destry Jetton, zipped from one segment to another. I'm usually worry that I won't have enough to say but always have extra thoughts. AZ Midday was different from other shows in that it was scripted and I was asked to review my segment and initial it. I had less time to set up in the kitchen and really had to rush.

Since rhubarb in in the supermarkets now in Phoenix, the Blueberry Rhubarb Muffins seemed like a good choice for TV. The stalks I purchased were a jewel-toned red, thin and tender. Rhubarb can be frozen without fuss- just place the stalks, cut up if you prefer, in an air-tight package and freeze.

Here's the recipe.

Blueberry Rhubarb Muffins

Sweet blueberries and tart chunks of rhubarb baked into tender muffins fragrant with the scent of cinnamon trumpet the arrival of spring. Because it grows in cooler climates, rhubarb is a popular fruit in Scandinavia. When fresh rhubarb is out of season, you can use frozen rhubarb in this recipe. Don’t thaw it before adding it but increase baking time slightly.

Makes 12 muffins

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a standard 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.
Combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon for the topping in a small bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender until coarse crumbs form and set aside.

Mix the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
Combine the milk, butter, egg, and vanilla in a small bowl and add to the flour mixture. Stir only until the flour is moistened. Stir in the blueberries and rhubarb. The batter doesn’t need to be smooth.
Divide the batter into the prepared muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup in each. Sprinkle some topping over each muffin.
Bake 18 to 23 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a couple of muffins comes out clean. Cool slightly on wire cooling rack. Run a thin spatula around the edge of each muffin and remove from pan. Serve warm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Promoting Scandinavian Classic Baking

Yesterday I had a new experience- I participated for about 30 minutes on a nationally syndicated radio show. Pierre Wolfe's America's Dining and Travel Guide is broadcast live on Sundays from 3-5 Eastern time and has been on the air for 20 years.

Here's the link: My segment begins about halfway across.

I was concerned about calling in at the right time because of the change to daylight savings time and being in Phoenix (where the time didn't change) but I was right on schedule. A friend met me at her office so I could use a land line.

Before the interview, I made a list of talking points and was glad I did. It refreshed my memory of the recipes in the book and the research I had done. One of the first questions Pierre asked me was about baking at high altitude. Fortunately I didn't need to give specifics, just agree that it is an issue. But because I had done some prep I felt confident I could answer questions. It's scary being on the air live!
Pierre's show is live and divided into 15 minute segments. If you click on the link, I begin after the first half hour. Rick Steves was the guest scheduled after me and I am impressed.

Later this week, on Thursday, I'm appearing on AZ Midday on KPNX Phoenix NBC 12 at 1 p.m. so I'm busy baking this week.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's National Pi Day- 3.14...

Do you remember pi from math class? 3.14 is as much as I remember since it's not something I use..ever.

But pie is another subject. Here are some tips if you want to learn to bake pies from scratch and have tender flaky crusts. I not opposed to refrigerated pie crust when time is short but a crust from scratch always gets rave reviews.

My best advice to baking novices is to try several methods for rolling out your crust and find what works best for you. I like to use a pastry cloth and sleeve on Grandma's wooden rolling pin but you can roll between two pieces of waxed paper or on a cold work surface such as marble or granite. I also make my crusts in the food processor because I think it is the easiest way to add the water when forming the dough.

Use a light touch and roll away from your self in 8 directions to form a round.

Chill the dough at least an hour before rolling to relax the gluten and give the fat time to chill. the dough will be easier to roll.

Flour your work surface lightly and lift the dough as you are rolling it so it doesn't become stuck.

It takes practice to bake pies with tender crusts but you'll be delighted with the results and shine in the light of compliments.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras=Party Time

In the US we refer to the day before Ash Wednesday as Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. Although it has become a huge event in New Orleans, this tradition appears in many cultures with different names such as Semlor (Sweden), Fastelavn (Denmark) and Paczki. The common theme is using up eggs, butter and milk that traditionally were forbidden during Lent.

Eastern European countries and the U.K serve pancakes on this day. Swedish Semlor and Danish Fastelavn, baked for Shrove Tuesday,are rich yeast buns with sweet fillings. Semlor are filled with almond paste and whipped cream and fastelavn contain custard cream. Polish Paczki are baked with various fruit fillings and fried.

Scandinavian Classic Baking has a recipe for Semlor that has been successfully taste-tested by my family.

In the spirit of Mardi Gras here is a recipe similar to Bananas Foster not quite as rich, and difinitely healthier!

Banana Burrito

Do you eat a banana everyday because it is high in potassium? Even if you don’t, try this easy dessert. Nutella is a rich and creamy combination of chocolate and hazelnuts. The brown sugar melts during baking forming a caramel sauce that is perfect with frozen yogurt or ice cream. Use bananas that are just ripe, as very ripe bananas will turn brown.

Makes 2 servings

2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (8 inch) flour tortilla
1 tablespoon nutella
1 banana, peeled and sliced lengthwise
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tablespoon whipping cream
Vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Pour butter into a 9-inch pie plate. Dip the tortilla into the butter and turn the buttered side to top. Spread nutella down center of tortilla. Arrange banana over the nutella and sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon and whipping cream. Fold tortilla to cover the banana.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until the tortilla is heated through. Cut the burrito in half and serve with ice cream.