Strawberry Shortcake

strawberriesIn my world, strawberry shortcake means and says summer:  it brings to mind hot summer days with picnics, barbecues, 4th of July celebrations.  There is nothing like the taste of a strawberries freshly picked from the garden or the local farm stand:  they are small, plump, red and have the sweetest smell.  The beauty of strawberry shortcake is that from one party to the next it will taste different according to how the host flavors the strawberries, the whipped cream and what biscuit recipe is used.  I have yet to meet a person who does not like strawberry shortcake.  Here is my version … Happy 4th of July!shortcake making

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

  • 8 cups strawberries, washed and halved
  • 1/4 cup lemon verbena simple syrup
  • one recipe whipped cream
  • one recipe baking powder biscuits

Half hour to 45 minutes before you will serve dessert, mix the strawberries and the syrup. If you do not have the syrup, mix the berries with 3 tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of vanilla extract.  Let sit.

BAKING POWDER BISCUITS (makes about a dozen)  I get my recipe from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.photo-106

  • 4 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 sticks unsalted  butter (3/4 cup)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • one egg wash (one lightly beaten egg)

Preheat the oven at 400 degrees.  in a large bowl. whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining.biscuit making

Pour in the heavy cream; using a rubber spatula, fold the cream into the dough, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together.  The dough will be slightly sticky.

Turn the dough into a lightly floured surface.  With floured fingers, gently pat the dough into a round about 1 1/4 inch thick, pressing any loose bits.  Do not overwork the dough.  Use a floured 2 1/4 inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits as close as possible, using one cut edge as the edge for the next biscuit.shortcakebaking shortcake

Place the biscuits on an unlined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Before baking, brush rounds with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar if desired.  Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the biscuits are golden and flecked with brown spots, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

FLAVORED WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon mascarpone
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon limoncello (optional)strawberries and cream

In a large bowl whipped the heavy cream until soft.  Slowly mix in the rest of the ingredients   and beat until a bit more soft but not stiff.

When ready to serve, split the biscuits in half horizontally with a serrated knife.  Place the bottom part of the biscuit on a plate, spoon a dollop of the cream, spoon some strawberries and accumulated juice and cover with the biscuit top.  Serve with remaining cream and strawberry mixture.strawberry shortcake

NOTE: If you do not have a biscuit cutter you can use a glass but make sure to do a clean cut without twisting the glass in the dough as it will stop the biscuit from rising when baking.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Vichyssoise

leeks and potatoesHere is a cold soup to add to your menu for the hot summer days ahead.  The subtle onion taste from the leeks and the creaminess of the potatoes makes it a favorite either as a first course on a hot summer night or as a main meal for lunch in the garden with a tossed salad and a nice cheese platter.

I like to garnish it with chive flowers when they are available in the early summer days and the rest of the year with fresh chives.vichyssoise ingredients

VICHYSSOISE (serves 8 to 10)

  • one tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cups sliced leeks, white and light green part only , washed clean of sand and dirt (about 3 medium leeks)
  • 1 medium spanish onion chopped
  • 1.5 pound yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into one inch chunks (about 5 medium potatoes)
  • 6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • chive flowers or chives for garnishchivescleaning leeks

In a heavy saucepan melt the butter with olive oil.  Add the leeks and onion and sauteed until wilted, about 3 minutes.  Do not let the mixture brown.  Add the potatoes and give a good stir to mix all the ingredients.

Add a pinch of salt and the stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce, cover and simmer until the potatoes are done; about 20 to 30 minutes.cooking leeks and potatoes

When the potatoes are done turn the heat off and let the soup cool to room temperature (about one hour).potato leek soup

When cool process to a fine purée with an immersion blender or a food processor.  Cool completely in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.  Add the heavy cream.  Season to taste and serve.  Garnish with the flowers or chives.

NOTE: for a lighter fare you can substitute half and half or milk for the heavy cream.  In colder days this soup is also delicious served hot.vichyssoise

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Mushroom Soup

mushrooms

Spring brings to mind the melting of the snow in the grass, daffodils, crocuses coming up and lots and lots of yard and garden cleaning.  Between raking, burning and repairing winter damage there is not much time spent in the kitchen on those weekends.  It’s still a bit too cold to sit in the yard with a sandwich so soup is in order.  We bring our team effort into the kitchen and while I make the soup Philippe prepares his famous grilled cheese sandwiches.chopped mushrooms

I like to use a mixture of mushrooms as they all have a subtle difference in their individual taste and an assortment brings a bit more depth to the dish.  It also allows me to mix in a bit of the more expensive mushrooms without going overboard on the expenses.  It is a great way to experiment with what is available and in season.  This time I used a mixture of shitake and baby bella mushrooms.

MUSHROOM SOUP

  • 1.5 pounds mushrooms sliced or chopped ( about 8 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup extra dry white vermouth
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup milk

Melt the olive oil and butter in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauteed until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and sauteed another 10 to 15 minutes. The mushrooms will release their juices and then start browning a bit after that.  That is the stage you want them at.cooked mushrooms

Pour the vermouth and deglaze the pan, mixing well (about 2 minutes).  Add the stock, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

Strain the mushrooms and other solids, put the stock back in the stockpot but for one cup.  In a food processor or blender, puree the mushrooms with the one cup of stock until smooth.  Return to the stockpot and mix with the stock.  Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and milk and heat without boiling and serve.mushroom soup

NOTE:  This recipe can serve 4 to 6 as a main course.  You can also use it as a first course and it will serve 8 to 10.  As with many soups and stews, this soup can be made a day or two in advance and benefits from sitting and allowing the flavors to develop.  You can also substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock for a vegetarian version.morrels

from my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Meatball sauce

spaghetti and meatballsWhen one thinks of Italian food, spaghetti and meatballs comes to mind. It’s a great go-to recipe when you have a crowd or a pot luck dinner.  It can be made in advance,  it’s easy to reheat, and everybody loves it from the youngest to the oldest member in the family.   If you are vegetarian or want a lighter meal you can skip the meatballs and only have the sauce.  It is simple, fast and I tend to make a big batch so I can freeze it or reheat it later in the week. Make sure you use San Marzano tomatoes as the taste will make all the difference!tomato sauce ingredients

MEATBALL SAUCE

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 2 – 28oz crushed tomatoes 
  • 1- 28oz whole tomatoes coarsely chopped or cut in the pot with kitchen scissors
  • 3 onions diceds
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon italian seasonings or one teaspoon each of dried basil, thyme and oregano
  • salt and pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven.  Add onions and sautée until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, stir and add the wine and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes if you opt not to make meatballs.  If you do, simmer the sauce while making the meatballs and don’t worry about timing.meatballs ingredients

FOR THE MEATBALLS (makes about 30 -2 inches meatballs)

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 3/4 lb ground veal
  • 3/4 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 onion minced
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 cup parsley minced
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flouregg shells

In a small bowl mix the breadcrumbs and milk and let sit for 10 minutes while mincing onion, garlic and parsley.

In a large bowl mix meats, breadcrumb/milk mixture, onion, garlic, parsley, parmesan and egg making sure all the ingredients are evenly distributed without over mixing.  Season with salt and pepper.meatballs

Put the flour in a shallow plate.  Shape the meat mixture into 2 inches round balls. Roll each balls in the flour to get them covered slightly and place in a baking dish.  You should roughly end up with 30 meatballs.  When done, heat 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and brown the meatballs.  Depending on the size of your pan you might have to do this in 2 to 3 batches.  You don’t want to cook the meatballs, only browned them.  As they get ready slowly put them in the simmering sauce.  When all done, continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes to finish cooking the meatballs.meatball makingmeatballs in sauce

Right before serving you can chop 1/4 cup of fresh basil and stir into the sauce. Serve with fresh pasta:  thick spaghetti, bucatin or fettuccine and lots of grated parmesan, nice crusty bread and a bottle of red wine.

NOTE: as this recipe makes a lot, you can freeze some of the leftovers for later or crush the meatballs in the sauce and use it as a base for a meat lasagna.empty spaghetti plate

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Tuscan (inspired) soup

tuscan soupI always feel soup is in order when the days get colder.  Here is a soup I like to serve on a Saturday for lunch.  Served with a big chunk of crusty bread and plenty of fresh grated parmesan it is a welcome meal in front of the fire while it is freezing outside. It is also a great way to enjoy all those winter greens available this time of year.  Experiment by substituting or combining kale, swiss chard or spinach.ingredients in bowls

TUSCAN SOUP (serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced or pressed in a garlic press
  • 1 chopped tomato or 1 cup tomato coulis
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon each oregano and basil
  • 1 cup zucchini diced
  • 4 (loose) cups baby kale
  • 1 can (15 oz) white beans

Heat the oil in a large stockpot, add the carrots, celery and onion.  Cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tomato or tomato coulis, stock and herbs and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered 10 to 15 minutes.  Add the zucchini and simmer another 5 minutes.  Add beans, simmer another 5 minutes.  Off heat add the kale, cover and let sit 10 minutes.  Serve with grated parmesan.bowls and linen

NOTE:  This soup is great as a vegetarian meal but for you meat eaters, if you want a more robust meal you can add 8 oz of cooked sausages or grilled chicken when adding the beans.serving soup

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher

Tomato Coulis

tomatoesTomatoes will not be in season for another six or seven months.  As I look at the sleeping garden outside I dream of the taste of a freshly picked tomato – the classic taste of summer.  In the meantime I make do with what is available in stores.  Once in a while my local farm stand will have a basket of tomatoes at a reduced price, which are not as great as their August counterpart but are perfect for tomato coulis. The beauty of the recipe is that you can use tomatoes that are a bit “beat up”, cutting around the “bad” parts.  This tomato coulis keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks and freezes beautifully – It involves simple ingredients cooked together and can make a perfect base for sauce.  It can also be used as followcutting tomatoes

  • substitute a cup of coulis in a recipe that calls for one chopped tomato in a soup or stew
  • add one tablespoon of tomato paste for every cup of coulis and reduce at a simmer for 15 minutes for a quick tomato sauce
  • puréed in a blender and use as a light sauce for fish or chickentomatoes on cutting board

TOMATO COULIS (makes about 10 cups)

  • 5 to 6 pounds tomatoes washed, cored, blemishes removed and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium onions chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon basil

Heat the oil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir for a minute.  Add the tomatoes, salt and herbs.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.  Take the cover off and cook for another 15 minutes.  The coulis will be watery and thinner than a sauce.   Use immediately or cool down and pack in containers.photo-46photo-45

NOTE:  when I see tomatoes on sale or have a lot of tomatoes about to go bad that is when I make coulis and often use different kinds in the mix: cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, etc.  Instead of regular onions you can substitute leeks, red onions or shallots.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucherpreserving tomatoes

Persimmon Avocado Salad

persimmonsNowadays with fruits and vegetables available year round, there is something special and wonderful about produce that is only available for a short interval of time each year.  When you stop and really think about it, along with shorter days, cold and snow, winter brings some incredible produce: pomegranates, meyer lemons, chestnuts, quince, and one of my personal favorites: Persimmons.  I go to Russo’s in Watertown and buy them by the case! And then it’s persimmons and yogurt for breakfast, persimmons served with a cheese course, persimmon as a snack instead of an apple, and persimmons in a salad either as a light first course or as beautiful ending to our meal.  Enjoy them while they last! It’s a short and delicious season!

PERSIMMON AVOCADO SALAD (serves 4) I count 1/2 persimmon and 1/4 avocado per person

  • 2 fuyu persimmons, blossom removed and peeled
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1 recipe of lemon vinaigrette or your favorite

Cut the persimmons in half and slice each half into 1/4 inch pieces.  Quarter the avocado, peel and slice into 1/4 inch pieces the short way.

On a platter, spread the baby arugula as a base and scatter the persimmons and avocado.  Drizzle with half the vinaigrette and serve immediately.persimmon avocado salad

NOTE:  there are 2 kinds of persimmons (1) Fuyu: short, firm, round, crisp, and better suited for salads… (2) Hachiya : longer and “pointy” shaped that needs to get very very soft to be eaten.  You can just dig in with a spoon and eat the flesh which has a slight honey taste.

From my kitchen to yours,

CK, la fille du boucher