Wednesday, August 24, 2011

End Of Summer Canning...Apricot Jam

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While I was packing tonight for an unexpected trip, I remembered I had bought peaches to make jam this weekend. They surely weren't going to go to waste!  In less that an hour, the time it took to throw some clothes in the suitcase, this jam was ready and sitting in the counter waiting to cool.  It is almost midnight now and before I turn in I will stick the jars in the refrigerator to be enjoyed later in the year.  That's how easy this recipe is!

I really encourage you to buy some peaches (Georgia or South Carolina are really the best) and apricots this weekend and try this out.  It will probably be the last time you can get them before we start getting ready for the Fall bounty.  You will be so glad you did come winter.

I probably won't be posting again until after Labor Day so keep cool and I will see you in September.

Below you will find the recipe I used including some of David Leibowitz commentary.  The photos are his too, I definitely didn't have time for that!

About six 1 cup (250ml) jars

I should note that I like my jam on the tart side. The amount of sugar shown is based on how much apricot puree I got from this particular batch of apricots. Because fruit doesn’t grow in standardized quantities, my general rule is to use three-quarters of the amount of sugar per one-part apricot puree. So if you use more, or less, apricots, simply use for each cup of puree, by volume, three-quarters cup of sugar. David Leibowitz

Apricots become quite tangy once cooked, so you’ll find this is not very sweet. I don’t recommend using less sugar, since it may not jell correctly. A bit of lemon juice added at the end provides additional balance, and Europeans often crack a few apricot kernels open and add one to each jar before pouring in the jam, which isn’t meant to be eaten, but gives the jam a subtle, bitter almond-like flavor.


2 pounds (1kg) fresh apricots

1/2 cup (125ml) water

6 cups (1kg) sugar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

optional: 1 tablespoon kirsch


1. Cut the apricots in half and extract the pits. If you wish, crack a few open and put a kernel in each jam jar you plan to fill.

2. Place the apricots in a very large stockpot, and add the water. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the apricots are tender and cooked through.

3. Put a small plate in the freezer.

4. Add the sugar to the apricots and cook, uncovered, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. As the mixture thickens and reduces, stir frequently to make sure the jam isn’t burning on the bottom.

5. When the jam looks thick and is looks slightly-jelled, turn off the heat and put a small amount of jam on the chilled plate. Put back in the freezer for a few minutes, then do the nudge test: If the jam mounds and wrinkles (as shown in the photo), it’s done. If not, continue to cook, then re-test the jam until it reaches that consistency.

(You can use a candy thermometer if you wish. The finished jam will be about 220ºF, 104ºC.)

6. Once done, stir in the lemon juice and kirsch, if using, and ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use.

Storage: I find this jam will keep up to one year if refrigerated. If you wish to can it for long-term preservation, you can refer to the USDA Canning Guidelines for techniques.

From David Leibowitz 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Glazed Lemon Tea Cake With Berries and Cream

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When Citarella opened in New York City I used to stop by on weekends and buy their lemon pound cake.  I don't know if they still have it or if it's made by the same people, but I have never had one like theirs.  It was soft and moist and terribly lemony.  Luckily, it came in small individual loafs, enough for two rounds of afternoon tea.

For years, I have tried unsuccessfully to replicate that pound cake.   The texture was never quite right or the flavor not as lemony.  The catalyst this weekend was the gorgeous strawberries at the farmers market.  All I could think of on the way home was pound cake with berries and whipped cream for dessert! We did have a guest for dinner, the perfect the quest started for a recipe to complement the loot and satisfy the craving.  I think this time I finally succeeded.

Because of its long and flat shape, I call this a tea cake and as an alternative, would serve it alone for afternoon tea.  It freezes well so once it's completely cooled,  wrap half and stick it in the freezer for unexpected occasions.  My daughter likes a thicker lemon glaze on top so I have included an optional glaze from one of the recipes I worked with.

The recipe is a blend of Martha Stewart's and Ina Garten's lemon pound cake.  I have found that although buttermilk (Ina's) sounds great in a cake, it makes for a very tight crumb.  I much prefer the texture you get from whole milk, something I have learned the hard way.

Martha Stewart's Lemon Pound Cake

I used Martha's recipe primarily and added a few things from Ina's such as the thicker lemon glaze on top and the 1/4 tsp of baking powder to make the cake slightly less dense.  What neither of them said to do was to make a few holes in the cake with a toothpick, while still hot ,and immediately pour the glaze.   

Serve this for dessert with your choice of berries and cream or alone for afternoon tea.  Either way it's to die for!

8/22/11 If you want an unforgetable experience, cut a slice of the frozen poundcake, stick it in a preheated toaster ovem set to toast and cook 12 minutes.  Let cool....Yummmmmyyyyyyyyyyy!

Serves 8


5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan

3/4 cup, plus 4 tablespoons sugar, plus more for dusting

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus finely grated zest of 2 lemons, plus more for garnish (optional)

1/4 cup milk

2 large eggs

Glaze (optional)

1 Cup confectioners sugar
2-3 TB fresh lemon juice

2 pints of strawberries
1 pint of blueberries or blackberries

Whipped heavy cream


1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Dust with sugar, and tap out excess; set aside. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Stir together 1 tablespoon lemon juice and the milk.

2.Put butter and 3/4 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in eggs and zest. Working in two batches, alternate mixing in flour mixture and milk mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes.

3.Meanwhile, stir together remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. In a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Upon removing cake from oven, take a toothpick and make about 10 holes in the pound cake.  Immediately brush with 2/3 of lemon glaze until all is absorbed. Let cake cool in pan 10 minutes. Add the rest of the glaze. Unmold cake. Garnish with zest.

Combine strawberries, and blueberries or blackberries, and  1/3 cup sugar in small bowl and toss gently to blend. Add fresh mint if desired. Let stand until juices form, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Cut cake crosswise into slices. Serve with berries and whipped cream or ice cream.

Optional:  If you want a heavier glaze on top, reduce step #3 to 3 tbs  sugar and 2 tbs. lemon juice.  Pour over the cake while still hot. Then combine 1 cup confectioners' sugar with  2 - 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Photo: Randy Major, Jan Gautro

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Easy Summer Squash Risotto

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Yellow summer squash is coming out full force now to the point that I picked out some this past weekend, at the grocery store of all places, with nothing really in mind.  They looked too beautiful to pass up.  My favorite way to enjoy yellow squash is in a casserole, but that doesn't really work out when there is just two of us during the week.  The weather helped too, just a high of 89 degrees (!) so the kitchen was nice and cool by dinner time.

There is no precooking the squash in this recipe so all you really need is one pan to cook the risotto and another to simmer the broth. Easy cleaning!

This goes well with sliced fresh tomatoes in olive oil, chopped basil and balsamic.  If calories are not a problem, a sliced baguette is a must!

Serves 4


6 cups chicken broth
3 yellow squash or 1 green zucchini or a combination of both

3 TB butter
1 bunch green scallions or 1small yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove mashed
pinch of saffron
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped italian or curly parsley
1/3 cup Parmiggiano Reggiano

Optional: Basil Pesto


Pour stock into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Slice the squash in rounds and quarter it. 

In another saucepan melt 2 TB butter and add the garlic, scallions or onions.  Cook until onions are tender.  Add rice and a pinch of saffron and stir until kernels are well coated with the butter.  Add the wine and let it cook until all liquid is absorbed.

Add 1/2 the squash and immediately start adding the broth 1/2 cupful at a time.  Continue stirring and cooking making sure almost all the liquid is absorbed before you add more broth.  When the rice is half cooked, add the rest of the squash.

The risotto is done when the rice grains are creamy on the outside yet firm but  tender to the bite.  It will take 20-25 minutes.  Have a drink while you are cooking...time will fly!

When the risotto is done, add the last 1 TB butter, the chopped parsley and the cheese. You might need to add some salt and pepper depending on the broth you use.

As an option, you may add a half teaspoon of pesto to the risotto before you serve.

Serve hot and pass the parmigiano.

Foodspotting photo

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Versatile Eggplant Caponata

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Caponata is a sweet and tangy eggplant dish very similar to the French ratatouille. It can be served by itself,  as a spread for crostini or crackers or mixed into a pasta dish.  If you have a vegetable garden or potager as my friend Sandra Jonas does, at this point  you will be going nuts looking for new ways to cook all that your garden is producing.  I remember last summer we couldn't find enough friends to give out our giant zucchinis to or recipes to prepare them.  Needless to say, this year we did not plant a garden and,in turn, are the happy recipients of the surplus from our neighbor's gardens.

This simple recipe for caponata should take care of the eggplants and tomatoes in your garden.  Serve it for lunch on a baguette or bring it along on a picnic.  You can also serve it on crostini or crackers as an appetizer. 

Serves 6


 1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 small red or spanish onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small red pepper thinly sliced (optional)
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoon golden raisins
2 tablespoon drained capers
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Toasted baguette


1. Cook eggplant, red peppers and onion in olive oil until browned and tender, about 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook another 5 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes, drained capers, raisins. wine vinegar and sugar; simmer until the tomatoes break up slightly, 5 to 10 minutes approximately.
 3. Serve spread on toasted baguette. (As a variation, you might want to add a thin slice of mozzarella to the hot toasted baguette before spreading the caponata.)

Photo: Andrew Scrivani, NYT

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fresh Florida Red Snapper With Tomato Corn Salsa

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There is no greater pleasure than having friends who go to the coast and bring back freshly caught red snapper ready to go in the pan.  Nothing.  Really fresh food is so rare these days that being able to enjoy it is a real treat. 

Just this week we got a call from one of my daughter's friends saying that her husband and a friend had just come back from the Gulf with a cooler full of fresh snapper they had just caught.  That evening, she showed up at the house with the fish already cleaned and filleted.  Now THAT is what I call a really good friend.

When you get fish this fresh, don't gild the lily. A little butter or olive oil, garlic, lemon and onions will do the trick.  If you want to be a little more creative, do what I did and sautee some corn, parley and fresh tomatoes and serve over or next to the snapper.  Steamed red potatoes in butter and parsley ft the meal to a tee. 

Serves 2


1 1/2 lbs red snapper fillets, cleaned
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
Olive oil
2 TB butter
1 ear fresh corn
1 tomato
1/2 cup fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Flour for dusting


Marinade the snapper for at least 2 hrs. in 1/2 the onion chopped, 2 garlic cloves mashed and half the juice of one lemon. Discard the marinade.

Warm oven to 300 degrees

When ready, pat the fillets dry in paper towels and lightly dust with flour on both sides.  Shake off excess.  In a skillet, melt 2TB of butter and 2TB of oil on medium high and add the snapper.  Cook approximately 4 minutes on each side.  You might have to lower the temperature a bit so butter doesn't burn.. Cooking time may vary depending on size of fillets.  Transfer the fillets to the oven to keep warm.

Now, if the pan is very dirty, wipe it with a paper towel.

Cut off the kernels from 1 fresh ear of corn.  Slice the other onion half.  Chop the tomato and parsley 

Add 1 TB each butter and oil and saute 2 cloves of garlic mashed and finely chopped.  Add the onions and corn. cover and cook for a couple of minutes stirring frequently.  Uncover and add the tomato and juice. Add salt and pepper. Cover and cook about 2 more minutes.  Add parsley and squeeze the other lemon half over it.  Cover and cook 1 minute.

Remove the fillets from the oven to a serving platter.  Pour the tomato, corn  and onion sauce over it and sprinkle more parsley on top.  Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Photos Lindaraxa
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