The Christmas That Went All Pear-Shaped

Hi everyone, I hope you’re enjoying the holidays! Do you have exciting plans for the new year, or perhaps for New Year’s Eve? Because Gil and I are antisocial, we’ll be dining at our favorite local-ish restaurant — Café Matisse — instead of going to a party. And because we’re old and geeky, our reservation is bordering on Early Bird Special territory so we can be home early enough to watch at least the first installment of the LOTR trilogy. (Tradition must be given priority, after all.)

For Christmas, we visited my family in Louisiana, though Gil’s visit was cut short when Ru and Otis got sick. The boys are on the mend now, but we thought it would be unfair to burden our teenaged dog sitter with arse-spraying mayhem when she should be with her family, enjoying a day free of frequent walks and poop-stained carpet (I hope), so Gil flew home on Christmas Eve to tend to them. I know what you’re thinking: “How will Gil survive a full year without boudin?” amirite? But don’t worry, I ate his portion at the family party that evening, so as a couple, we’re covered till next Christmas.

In a stab at healthy eating, I also indulged in loads of fresh citrus from my Dad’s trees this year. I gloried in satsumas, mandarins, kumquats and grapefruit, and even fit a couple of Meyer lemons into my bulging carry-on. My distress at coming back to a fruit-scarce home was unnecessary because I returned to find huuuuge boxes of grapefruit, apples and pears sent by our friends in Florida!

So for the next week I’ll be sharing recipes for grapefruit, apples and pears just in case you lucked into similar bounty.

Gluten-Free Flaugnarde with Pears | Minimally Invasive

In honor of our pear-shaped Christmas, I thought I’d start with this indulgent breakfast recipe — Gluten-Free Flaugnarde with Pears. Though a cousin to the clafoutis and the Dutch baby pancake’s doppelganger, it tastes less eggy and doesn’t puff up quite so much in the oven. I made a few adjustments to the recipe, which I’ve detailed below, but even with the changes, Gil ate roughly 2/3 of the finished product, so I’m comfortable labeling it a complete success.

What were the highlights (or lowlights) of your holiday season?

Gluten-Free Flaugnarde with Pears adapted from Food & Wine

While adapting this recipe to make it gluten-free (with Cup4Cup flour), I winged a few other minor changes. There was no butter listed in the ingredients, so I took a page from the Dutch Baby rulebook and melted a tablespoon of unsalted butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet until the foam subsided, then poured in the batter. (I think I’ll skip this preheating step next time, as the crust was a little bit tough.) I swapped out dark rum for my homemade dark rum-based vanilla extract and liked the results, so I adjusted the amount of rum in the recipe and added regular vanilla extract for flavor. Then the pears cried out for a little cinnamon, so I sprinkled a small amount over the top before baking, but can see myself using a heavier hand next time around.  

3 large eggs
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
2 pinches of salt
1 cup warm milk
1/2 tablespoon dark rum
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 ripe medium Bartlett pears— peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Cinnamon, to taste

In a blender, combine the eggs, flour, salt, milk, rum and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes before proceeding with recipe.

Preheat the oven to 450°F and coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch cast iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Pour the batter into the pan and arrange the pear slices on top. Dot with the remaining butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and remaining sugar and bake in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake for 30 minutes longer, or until the flaugnarde is puffed and deeply golden.

A New Look + The Winter Market

It’s done! Nearly eight years after starting this blog, I gave it a major design overhaul last week! And thank goodness; I just couldn’t look at that raggedy old thing any longer. My lack of anything resembling technical knowledge kept me from tackling it for all those years, but I figured I’d give it a stab, because how hard could it be with one of WordPress‘s highly-praised themes? But still, I couldn’t do it alone, so here’s a big thank you to Gil for setting up a test site and to our friend Jason, who helped me get this behemoth up and running yesterday.

There are a few new features here that I’d like to tell you about. First of all, there’s a top nav to help you get around and a proper home page with some fun features! I’ll likely add some functionality to it in the future, but for now, you can find recent blog posts as well as projects there. Think of the Projects page as a portfolio-lite; it has a few selected images from projects I’ve worked on (mostly cookbooks) along with descriptions and external links to each. To see more of my photography, just click on the Portfolio link in the top nav.

You can sign up to receive an email when new posts are published by using the subscribe box in the blog side navigation or in the footer. Connect with me on social media via the links above the main logo or write to me (I’d love to hear from you!) from the Contact page. There’s also an honest-to-goodness About page now; I figure it’s about time you know a little more about me, and maybe see a picture, even.

Anyway, take a look around — I hope you like what you see! (And if something isn’t working, please let me know.)

Now for some food!

I’m not sure why I gave up the Farmers’ Market Feast series when our weekly market moved to a monthly one over the winter because I never miss one, even though I don’t get to load up on local vegetables at it. So this is my inaugural Winter Market post, and also the last until November because I’ll be back to a weekly schedule in May! Hooray!

Aged Goat's Milk Cheese @ Minimally Invasive

This lovely specimen of aged goat cheese comes from our friends at Edgwick Farm. There was a bit of give around the edges which promised a creamy interior; it was all I could do to hold off from cutting into it before taking this shot.

Aged Goat Cheese @ Minimally Invasive

Just look at that gooey loveliness! The slight goatiness was offset by a drizzle of local honey from Nina’s Red Barn Farm. I’ve consumed a little over half of the cheese in the past two days, which is why I don’t buy it too often; I simply can’t resist the temptation it throws my way.

Roasted Mushrooms & Egg @ Minimally Invasive

Now this little slice of heaven was my Sunday morning breakfast. In my 20s I really loved brunch or brunching; it seemed like such a civilized way to start the day and served as a good excuse to have a bloody mary at an outrageously early hour. (So naughty!) But after years of consuming lord knows how many mediocre egg dishes and entire fields of lukewarm fried potato chunks, I realized I really was in love with the idea of brunch. Now that I’m older, I find I can make a better meal than most brunchy restaurants offer, so it’s a good excuse to indulge.

Roasted Mushrooms & Egg @ Minimally Invasive

Wiltbank Farm is new to our market, selling flavorful oyster and shiitake mushrooms. I wanted to feature the oysters without much interference, so I tossed the mushrooms with some olive oil, a hefty amount of thyme and red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and threw in a few whole garlic cloves for good measure. After 15 minutes on a roasting pan in a 425 degree oven, they were deliciously schlumped and caramelized, so I smashed the garlic cloves into a paste, tossed the paste with the mushrooms and the angels sang.

This was an ideal nest for a perfectly fried duck egg from Edgwick Farm. After trying them for the first time this weekend, I feel sure they’ll be on the menu for as long as I can find them. The flavor isn’t so different from a chicken egg, but they’re much more substantial, and if you’re a yolk lover like I am, you’ll love the ridiculous size of these. I felt I ate like a queen.

And here’s a little yolk porn, just cuz. Have a great week!

Yolk Porn @ Minimally Invasive

Happy New Year!

or, my pre-teen self is looking on with pride

I think most of us could say we’d like to believe we’ve changed for the better in some essential way over the years, whether in quality of character or by simply by growing into our selves. My husband is vexed whenever he’s immediately recognized by someone who hasn’t seen him in 20 years, but with good reason, I’d say. (Proof: Gil then, Gil now.) I have no illusions on that front, but at least the bad perm years have passed me by. Still, some things never change, and as evidence, I’ll point you to my new year’s day breakfast: pizza. If that pimply, awkward girl could’ve eaten pizza every morning for breakfast without hearing a lecture, believe me, she would’ve.

kale, smoked cheddar, prosciutto, egg

But this was a far cry from the Pizza Hut of my youth. I kept it simple, starting with dough already resting in the fridge, then adding whatever I had on hand: kale (sautéed in olive oil), smoked mozzarella, prosciutto and an egg. The egg makes it breakfast-y, you see.

from Beecher's
The smoked mozzarella of my dreams.

But a little more on the mozzarella… I’m sure you’ve been lured by smoked mozzarella at the grocery store and came to regret buying it, as I have. The prepackaged stuff is oddly insipid as part of a larger dish, while the smoke flavor overwhelmes on its own. But this was an entirely different beast, as you probably can tell from the picture above. I saw it in the case at Beecher’s last week and had to give it a try based on looks alone. It tastes of bonfires and woody, ashy smoke and winter in the best way possible, if that doesn’t sound too strange. If you’re around the Flatiron district, please make the trip to Beecher’s (and while you’re at it, Eataly) and enjoy the experience.

gluten-free pizza

The pizza started with a wonderful, complex gluten-free dough from Shooting The Kitchen that had been resting in the fridge overnight. It’s incredibly sticky right out of the bowl, but a liberal dusting of rice flour makes it easily workable. I always form the dough by hand instead of rolling it out because of counter space issues, but you’ll end up with a prettier, more uniform pizza if you take that extra step.

gluten-free

After forming the dough, you can brush it with olive oil (though I forgot to, and it was fine), then add your toppings. Here, I layered smoked mozzarella and sautéed kale before baking it for five minutes at 500 degrees. At that point, I cracked an egg over the top and baked for about six minutes longer, or until the egg was set, but still runny. Once it was out of the oven, I topped the pizza with prosciutto and shaved parmesan, added a little salt & pepper and a drizzle of truffle oil before tearing into it.

gluten-free piazza

I’ll approve of this breakfast at any age.

Steak & vegetables. And more vegetables.

all good things

Grass-fed & -finished beef with red chimichurri over a raw kale salad. My Paleo lunch did not suck in any way. At all. Big thanks to the folks at Walnut Grove Farm who made this gorgeous bit of sirloin possible. (They’re only at the market once a month, so I’ll be stocking up next time I see them. They’re a good source for leaf lard, too, once I get through the three cups of rendered lard still sitting in my fridge. It’ll be a while.)

The steak was so juicy and beefy, it didn’t really need the chimichurri, but I’d already made it a couple of hours before, just in case. You never know. It’s really my favorite sauce for steak, with bold flavors that somehow don’t overpower (or get overpowered by) beef, but it’s great on potatoes, eggs and probably a lot of other dishes I haven’t yet thought of, too.

vegetables

Like many chimichurris, this one uses lots of parsley. I stopped my preparations to take a picture because, really, doesn’t this look like a bouquet? You could wrap the base in florist’s tape and ribbon and sell this to a bride for an outrageous price.

vegetarian breakfast/brunch

I was beginning to feel a little left out of the annual “What am I going to DO with all of this zucchini/squash?” discussion, so I picked up a metric shit-ton at the market. I already had plans for most of it, though — Summer Squash with Baked Eggs from The Kitchn. This is one of those recipes, like that amazing ratatouille from a few years ago, that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts, helped in no small measure by a liberal dose of smoked paprika. I plan to make this a regular feature for the next few weeks, while summer produce is still around.

Continue reading “Steak & vegetables. And more vegetables.”

Sweetness and Light

with cinnamon sugar

Aaaaaah, cinnamon-sugar popovers. Remember them? I thought they’d remain nothing more than a pleasant memory, but I had a craving and decided to test the claim that Jules Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour can be subbed one-for-one with standard wheat flour.

with cinnamon sugar

I tried it once before with biscuits, and wasn’t entirely pleased with the results, but these popovers sure looked like the real thing:

with cinnamon sugar

But the flavor, the texture? How did they taste?

Indistinguishable from the real thing, which is to say, eggy, moist, light and springy.

I suspect the problem with the biscuits was just a lack of moisture. Popovers are made of a fairly thin batter, so that wasn’t an issue here. But I’ll test my biscuit theory again sometime soon and let you know.

Get the recipe from David Lebovitz in the New York Times Magazine. To make these gluten-free, just sub Jules Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour one-for-one in the recipe.

Good morning

I worked up a batch of gluten-free biscuits this morning, adapted from Ms. Edna Lewis‘s recipe. They were just a touch dry so I’ll add more buttermilk next time, but they went down just fine with a little Meyer lemon curd (much more on which later).

Happy first day of spring!

Sinful. Just… full of sin

I just looked over my last few posts and realized they’re all about capital-C Comfort foods. Thick, rich chocolate pudding, mascarpone cream, spicy soup… while I’m on a roll, let’s add one more to the list, shall we?

Bacon Jam — a wonderful motivator, I’ve found.

As a reason for getting out of bed: Spread it on toast, top it with a perfectly (or not) poached egg for a sunny, sweet and savory start to the day.

with bacon jam and avocado

It’ll get you into the kitchen instead of grabbing a quick bite. Fast food pales in comparison to this grilled cheese sandwich: Bacon jam blanketed in cheddar cheese and studded with avocado between two slices of buttered (and I mean buttered) bread, then grilled till the bread crunches at the first bite while the filling simply yields itself.

bacon jam

It’s also a reason to, I dunno, clean the fridge maybe? If you already happened to be in there, and the jar was staring you in the face and no one’s watching you could take a spoonful straight from the jar. (Not that I’d ever dream of doing such a thing.)

I’m certain there are other, more diabolical motivational uses for this, but I’ll have to work on them. As it is, I’m mostly motivated to make another batch since I gave away over half. But four out of four carnivores agree; this stuff is perfection.

Thanks to Stephanie, for posting about this at Fresh Tart.

grilled cheese with bacon jam & avocado

grilled cheese with bacon jam & avocado

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Sinful. Just… full of sin”

A brief hello

We’ve had a busy, busy, busy few weeks. Between traveling to St. Louis for Passover, catching up at work, and puttering around the house, I haven’t been doing a lot of cooking by my standards, though there has been some. More updates coming soon, but for now a picture from today’s birthday brunch at Double Crown — Samuel Delany (the guest of honor) posing with his picture from last week’s New York Magazine.

Happy birthday, Chip! Here’s to many, many more.

Redo weekend

090627_pancakes1

Sometimes it’s a good idea to revisit old favorites. I’ve been really blah with overtones of meh lately about pretty much everything including preparing meals. Like Milli Vanilli, I’ll blame it on the rain, but that doesn’t make the prospect of cooking any more exciting. So what’s a girl to do when her hair is permanently frizzy, she hasn’t seen the sun in days and can’t be bothered to update her cooking blog? Declare a Redo Weekend!

The day started with an update to the cornmeal blueberry pancakes I first tried last summer. With so many gorgeous berries at the market right now, it seemed a shame to limit the pancakes to blueberries, so I halved the batch and did a strawberry version as well. Couldn’t decide which I liked more, so I just alternated them on the plate and doused the stack with maple syrup.

090627_pancakes2

Cut to two hours later.

After waking from my sugar coma, I got to work on another old favorite: tongue tacos and refried beans. Mmmmm-hmmmm. I’d picked up a three-pound behemoth at the Snoep Winkle Farm booth a week earlier and it had been weighing heavily on my mind. I tweaked the old recipe pretty heavily, doubling the beer in the braising liquid and adding hefty amounts of toasted cumin and coriander seeds.

090620_tongue1

After braising, I set the tongue aside to cool. Then came the peeling, which didn’t skeeve me out nearly as much this time around.

090620_tongue2

It still wasn’t pleasant, mind you, but my toes didn’t curl at all. PROGRESS!

090620_tongue3

While my hands were still covered in tongue juices (am I not the most enchanting creature ever?), I shredded the meat before cooking it down a second time with onions, additional spices and even more beer.

090620_tongue4

The tongue tasted heavily of beef as you’d expect, but turned silky and tender in a way no other cut can. We had the tacos with and without salsa because, again, it was too hard to decide which way was better.

090627_tacos

No picture of the refried beans because I’m just not that good of a photographer, but they were creamy and delicious. I used borlotti beans (an odd choice, I’ll admit) from Rancho Gordo cooked in the usual way — onions, garlic, cumin, beer, beef broth, salt & pepper — until they were soft, then fried them with some bacon fat and onion, mashing them down as they simmered. It might be too soon for another Redo Weekend, but I’m really tempted to do this again for the 4th.

Inspiration has been peeking around the corners for me this week, so I hope to have something new for you soon. But in the meantime, enjoy the weekend and try a redo if you need to.