Friday, May 27, 2011

grilling season

it's that time of year at last! time for meals on the grill. time for laughter and a whimsical summer rosé and for lingering in the garden 'til dusk (which is how we learned we have a hedgehog).

because of the reality of our weather (evenings can be cool, even in summer), we had a grill table made by a blacksmith - then husband repurposed some old palettes as the actual table bits. it has a grill down the middle of it, which both means people can grill their own food and keep warm, as the metal boxes holding the charcoal warm under the table. even the cats have noticed and come and flop down under there as the evening starts to get chilly.

we find ourselves grilling most anything we have at hand and even learned that grilling mussels works very nicely!  you just pop them on the grill and they open right up when they're done (if they don't, throw them away!). i stirred up a homemade aïoli (garlic mayonnaise) to go with them.

aïoli (garlic mayonnaise)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt
1 tsp. vinegar
1 egg yolk
1 T warm water
canola oil (at the beginning)
a good fragrant olive oil

whirr this all together in a food processor until it's frothy and bubbly, then, while the processor is running, begin to VERY slowly (i cannot stress the very enough) drizzle in oil - i almost always use a combination of a good quality rapeseed (canola) oil (i owe you all a post on how the danes have made canola oil posh) and a fruity extra virgin olive oil. i start with the lighter canola, as it helps the mayonnaise come together (it can be temperamental and i have had many failures) before adding the heavier olive oil, once it has begun to look like mayo. i'm not really sure how much oil i add, but somewhere around a 1/2 cup makes a good batch.

this pork tenderlion, i browned on the stove, then wrapped in ramsløg (those wild garlic you get in the spring) and bacon, then wrapped it in foil and we finished it off on the grill. once the wild garlic season is past, you could use any other herbs...sage would be lovely, as would spinach or even just coating it in a nice pesto before wrapping in bacon.

a standard part of virtually any grilled meal at our house includes sliced eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (corgette), sweet red peppers, onions (small ones, leave the skin on and slice them in half), asparagus - whatever is tasty and in season. we even grilled some small artichokes (cut in half). i make a bowl of olive oil filled with minced garlic, salt, pepper and chopped, fresh herbs to brush over them while they're on the grill. we eat them as soon as they're ready.  sometimes, i bake some small potatoes on the grill - scrubbing them well and wrapping them in foil.

but the very best thing we've been making on the grill is homemade tortillas. the recipe comes from the river cottage bread book and has me so convinced that i will never buy store-bought tortillas again. they are easy and outstandingly delicious.


2 cups flour
1/3 cup of water (you may need a little more or a little less, so don't add it all once)
1 T salt

mix well, using the dough hook on your mixer. if it's too dry, add a bit more water (flour can behave differently depending on the grind and frankly, the weather). put it aside in a bowl and let it rest for at least half an hour. then form into golf ball size balls and roll them out with a rolling pin. then put them in a hot pan - i use a bit of olive oil, tho' the original recipe doesn't - we find it makes them a bit more pliable. we usually flip them and then put them directly on the grill at the end, where they puff up wonderfully. we also make quesadillas right on the grill, by filling with cheese and pesto and other yummy things and folding them over as they cook.

as an accompaniment, i nearly always make a big bowl of creamy tzaziki


1 C (250 grams) greek yogurt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 a cucumber, grated
salt and pepper to taste
a few leaves of chopped, fresh mint if you have it

grate the cucumber, salt it and put it in a sieve to let some of the moisture drain out. squeeze it well and add it to the yogurt and garlic, stir it well.

now if the sun would just shine this weekend...because writing this made me quite hungry.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Royal Wedding Whoopee Pies

A few years ago we visited New Hampshire and I discovered, for the first time, whoopee pies.
Once again, America brings you a delicious (albeit decadent and dubiously named) baked good.

When I was a child I used to be mortified by that old song, Makin' Whoopee.
(Did they think that kids couldn't figure out what that meant?)
If you can remember the lyrics, you will also recall that the direct result of makin' whoopee is marriage.  (It was a different time, of course.)
In Maine, the state which has made them its offical state "treat," they are spelled whoopie pie . .  . so maybe it's only in England that they have gotten confused with sex.  I really don't know.  Maybe no one in America has that association; just me. 

At any rate, they are definitely something to get excited about.  And as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew that they would be the perfect treat for our Royal Wedding tea party last Friday.
Was it only a week ago that we were glued to our television screens . . . happily mocking Princess Beatrice's hat, and cooing over the perfection of Kate Middleton, and singing along with all of the hymns?

We were also drinking tea and eating whoopee pies . . . and believe me, the wedding coverage lasted a lot longer than the whoopee pies did.

While whoopee pies have been common fare on America's East Coast for a while now -- and East Coasters love their doughnuts, too -- they are just starting to catch up with the rest of the foodie world.  In the last few months I've spotted a whoopee pie cookbook . . . AND they have been added to the Starbucks menu.
Clearly, their moment has arrived.

This is an English version of the recipe -- and much improved for it, in my opinion.
They are miniature, instead of fist-sized.  And instead of a sickly sweet filling (containing vegetable shortening, no doubt), you add clotted cream and jam.
They are perfectly proportioned for snacking -- and they are lighter than a scone and much less sweet than a cupcake.  I predict that they are going to be our preferred treat all summer long.

Whoopee Pies
with clotted cream and jam
(from the Waitrose weekly newsletter)

50 grams of softened butter
50 grams of caster sugar
1 medium egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
125 grams of self-raising flour (or, the same quantity of plain flour with 1 teaspoon baking powder)
50 ml whole milk
clotted cream and jam (raspberry or strawberry)
icing sugar for dusting

Note:  this quantity will make 20 halves -- or 10 miniature whoopee pies.  It would, and could, easily double.
That would probably be a good thing as they are very MOREISH.

Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and light -- at least 3 minutes.
Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Fold in the flour in 2 batches, alternating with the milk to form a soft mixture.

Drop the dough, with two teaspoons, onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
Slightly level the surface of each blob with the blade of a knife or the back of a spoon.
Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until risen and firm to touch.  Remove carefully!
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
** I made these night before and kept them in a sealed plastic bag.  Once cool, they aren't very delicate.

Just before serving, slather them with the cream (you could substitute thick whipped cream) and jam and sandwich the two halves together.  A dusting of icing (powdered) sugar makes them look nice.
Lemon curd would also be delicious, I'm sure.  Next time I make these, I'm going to try that variation.

Also on the tea party menu:  sugar cookies, chocolate covered strawberries and miniature "wedding cakes."
The cakelet tin was purchased from Williams-Sonoma (as was the wire cupcake stand).
There were also finger sandwiches, and meringues with fresh berries and cream.

Instead of champagne, the girls drank elderflower cordial and sparkling water.

Taking the party out into the garden . . .

Like the Queen, my daughter wanted a blanket for her lap.  (It was a rather chilly day, but at least -- big sigh of relief! -- it didn't rain.)  Unfortunately, you can't see her strapless white lace dress . . . as it is covered by her gray hoodie.  The first rule of eating al fresco in England:  bring a "cardie."

CONGRATULATIONS  to the winner of the Mad about Bread giveaway.
To Michelle in Madison:  We are giving the official title of Bread Baker back to you!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

blueberry muffins

these blueberry muffins were characterized as "to die for" on the website where i found the original recipe. in its original state, which was lumpy and far too thick (needed more liquid and more eggs), i think dying of them would have been closer to the truth. however, i adjusted the recipe and they were quite good, tho' i think it would take an awful lot for me to die for a muffin. use fresh, plump blueberries, they're what makes it.

blueberry muffins

1.5 C flour
3/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 C sunflower oil
1/2 C buttermilk
2 eggs
1 C fresh blueberries

1/3 C flour
1/4 C butter, cubed
1/3 C sugar

preheat your oven to 180°C/375°F. place the dry ingredients in your mixer bowl. in a large measuring cup or another bowl, mix together the oil, buttermilk and eggs and pour them slowly into the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed. when it's well-blended and the lumps are gone, gently fold in plump, fresh blueberries.

in a separate bowl, mix the topping mixture together (i found it was good to do this with a fork, but you can also get in with your fingers) - you can add a bit of cinnamon as well if you feel like it.

pour the batter into prepared muffin tins and sprinkle a bit of the topping on top. bake for 20-25 minutes and serve the hot muffins immediately with a fresh pot of tea. fresh from the oven, they don't even need butter, tho' it's quite yummy to butter them later once they're cooled down. if any of them survive the first round of serving, that is.

*  *  *

and don't forget to enter to win the river cottage bread book!
we're drawing the winner on friday!


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