Baked Brown Sugar Rhubarb with Blood Orange

Baked Sugared Rhubarb

Rhubarb, one of the best parts about spring, is late this year in the Northeast. We just started seeing this perfect pie fruit at farmers markets in the last week or so – I’ve been looking for it since mid-April! Rhubarb is definitely a favorite of mine. Always a fan of tart and tangy, rhubarb is juicy, sweet, yet slightly sour when baked with sugar. Although my grandmother didn’t have many recipes for it, her mentor, James Beard has a few in “The James Beard Cookbook” which is where I got the idea for this super simple baked rhubarb recipe.

Growing up in Minnesota (the rhubarb capital, in my opinion), rhubarb was a spring staple that grew in a small garden next to our driveway (and often all the way thru fall). It was reliable and always available for a last minute pie or crisp. The fibrous stalks are similar to celery but red and the flavor is fruity and tart instead of watery and flat. Every year I am shocked by the price of rhubarb here in the NY/NJ area where this everyday almost weed-like fruit in Minnesota runs anywhere from $3.50-$4.50/lb here. But this doesn’t stop me from whipping up some of my rhubarb favorites and maybe some day I’ll even take my mother up on her offer to drive a truckload out from Minnesota (is the rhubarb business any good in the northeast?).

This is the first of many rhubarb recipes I’ll be posting this year and quite possibly one of the easiest. Rhubarb is cut and mixed with brown sugar and blood orange juice and then baked until tender. It can then be combined with blood orange segments and served over anything from yogurt to ice cream or even granola. It’s simple, colorful, and full of tangy rhubarb flavor.

Happy Spring (and Rhubarb Season)!

Baked Rhubarb

 

Baked Brown Sugar Rhubarb with Blood Orange

Baked Brown Sugar Rhubarb with Blood Orange

Ingredients

1 lb rhubarb
1 cup brown sugar
1 blood orange
vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream (optional)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash the rhubarb the rhubarb and cut in 2 inch pieces. Place in a mixing bowl. Zest blood orange and add to the rhubarb. Peel and segment orange (segments can be made by cutting the peel off with a pairing knife and then slicing between the membrane of each segment). Reserve segments. Squeeze the juice from the remaining membrane/body of the orange over rhubarb. Add sugar and mix well, ensuring that the rhubarb is fully coated. Spread rhubarb in one layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 20-30 minutes until tender.

Mix rhubarb with orange segments and serve over ice cream, frozen yogurt, or with yogurt and granola.

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Coconut Green Beans and Peas

Coconut Green Beans and Peas

Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. It’s also becoming quite trendy. In New York, Whole Foods has even included a hot bar/buffet of Indian Food in their prepared food section. There is still room for improvement in the quality of mainstream Indian food but I think my grandmother would have been as pleased as I am to see this flavorful cuisine take off. There are a few Indian style recipes in her book, “The Art of Good Cooking,” such as Curried Carrots and Peppers and Indian Beef Curry which I’ve done for this blog. Like many of her international recipes, these were unique and practically ground breaking when they were written in the 1960’s – before what some may consider the food revolution. The availability of spices like ground coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds, or garam masala have come a long way since then. I, however; didn’t begin to enjoy Indian food until my late teens when my step mother introduced healthy and flavorful north Indian style recipes such as this coconut green bean and peas dish.

I used to think that Indian food was way too spicy and had too much cream or oil, making the spices taste muddled. Unfortunately, there are still many restaurants that make it this way. I actually find that there are very few places that produce really good Indian food – the way my step mother introduced it to me. This style, which is also similar to the cooking style of celebrity chef Madhur Jaffrey, focuses more on the freshness of the main ingredients that bring out the unique flavors in each of the dry spices. There are many recipes that use this technique – this just happens to be one of my favorites.

The combination of sweet peas and green beans with the spices and Serrano pepper is a great way to add diversity to your vegetables. The coconut adds an unexpected tropical component that’s surprisingly tasty. There are so many different textures in this dish yet they all seem to come together with each spiced bite. It’s often served along side a protein like chicken but if you’re like me (or you’re a vegetarian) and you enjoy just eating green vegetables by themselves or as a snack, this makes an excellent alternative to those boring boiled green beans.

Indian Green Beans and Peas

Coconut Green Beans and Peas

Coconut Green Beans and Peas

Ingredients

1/4 cup vegetable or peanut oil
2 teaspoons urad dal (optional)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds (all black or black and yellow combined)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 small Serrano pepper, seeded and chopped
1 lb green beans, trimmed and halved
3/4 lb green peas
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 teaspoons freshly chopped cilantro
salt and pepper

Instructions

Heat a medium-large pot of water over high heat until boiling. Salt water and add green beans to blanch, 3-4 minutes. Drain immediately.

In a large wide skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add urad dal (if using), mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Add the Serrano pepper and reduce heat to medium. Cook for another minute until mustard seeds begin to pop. Be careful not to burn the seeds.

Add the green beans and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add the peas and stir. Cook another 10 minutes or until green beans are tender, stirring frequently.

Add the shredded coconut and chopped cilantro. Cook for one minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Stir well before serving.

Serves 5-6

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Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cakes

Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cake

If you’re not familiar with speculoos or cookie butter, you’re missing out. This growing trend started a few years ago and is now said to be one of Trader Joe’s best selling products. Some may argue that the popularity of cookie butter peaked back in 2014 but I see more of it now, especially in baked goods, than I did then. It’s a deliciously simple concept: ground spiced shortbread cookies and oil are made into a spreadable butter, similar to peanut butter or nutella. The idea seems to have come from Belgium and Biscoff was one of the first, most recognizable brands in the US. The dessert-like spread is a wonderful nut-free alternative for those with nut allergies and although it’s easy to eat by the spoonful or simply on toast, it turns out this sweet spiced cookie spread makes an amazing molten lava cake.

It’s safe to assume that almost everyone is familiar with chocolate molten lava cakes these days. The rich chocolaty individual cakes with soft centers have initiated all sorts of spin offs. BuzzFeed even has a list of 15 Molten Lava Cakes You Could Fall Hard For, which includes butterscotch, dulce de leche, chocolate peanut butter, and even fruit based lava cakes. Cookie butter lava cakes are curiously missing.

My previous attempts at baking with cookie butter have been disappointing at best. I often find that cookie butter tastes muted or dull in baked goods unless there is a high concentration of it. I’ve solved that issue here. These little muffin sized cakes are not only easy to make but chalk full of cookie butter flavor. Moist cake surrounds gooey cinnamon spiced cookie butter lava that flows generously down the center when gently sliced. This indulgent sweet is every bit as good as the original chocolate version…and you don’t have to worry about accidentally burning anything (like melted chocolate). The molten center with the cinnamon scented cake is ridiculously tasty. Good luck eating just one.

Cookie Butter Lava Cakes

Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cakes

Cookie Butter Molten Lava Cakes

Ingredients

3/4 cup cookie butter or speculoos
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a muffin tin.

Melt butter with cookie butter in a microwave or in a small saucepan over low heat. Cool.

Beat eggs and egg yolks with sugars until well blended. Mix in vanilla.

Whisk butters into egg mixture. Add flour salt, and cinnamon. Mix well.

Spoon or pour into muffin cups to about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 7 minutes or until sides are cooked but centers still jiggle.

Yield: 11-12 cakes

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Scallop Tacos with Avocado Salsa Verde and Cumin Scented Slaw

Scallop Tacos with Salsa Verde

This dish combines two of my favorite things: seafood and tacos. I’m not sure when I became such a huge fan of seafood. Maybe the lack of availability in Minnesota, where I grew up, made me appreciate it more once I moved to the East Coast. I now cook with seafood any chance I get, especially if the seafood is caught locally or by someone I know. And this is exactly how I came up with these scallop tacos with avocado salsa verde and cumin scented slaw recipe.

The north fork of Long Island is full of wonderful fish and seafood from the surrounding Peconic bay and Long Island Sound. I often look forward to long days of clamming in the summertime or slurping fresh oysters in late fall. This year there was an abundance of bay scallops in wintertime. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to cook with these at my father’s place out on the North Fork. These fresh little bites of the sea are so tender and sweet. They are perfect in salads, soups, stews, or just by themselves but paired with creamy avocado and tangy tomatillos, they really come alive.

Similar to fish tacos, this recipe needed a crunch to complete the total package. Slaw was a natural choice but instead of a mayonnaise version, I went with sort of a Mexican crema version. The dressing is simply crema (sour cream and heavy cream combo) and cumin, giving it that hint of classic Mexican-American food flavor. The crunch of the cabbage with the smooth spicy salsa and delicate scallops are an addictive combination when wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. Whether you make this for lunch, dinner, or even a Cinco de Mayo celebration – this shellfish twist on classic fish tacos is sure to get the fiesta started.

Scallop Tacos with Avocado Salsa Verde and Cumin Scented Slaw

Scallop Tacos with Salsa Verde

Scallop Tacos with Salsa Verde

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb (about 8 tomatillos), diced
4 scallions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 small avocados
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 jalepeno or Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 a small green cabbage, sliced
1/2 a small red cabbage, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt
1 lb bay scallops, rinsed and dried
6-8 tortillas

Instructions

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté tomatillos, 1/3 of the scallions, and garlic for 5-10 minutes until softened. Remove from heat and chill.

Dice avocados and add lime juice, tossing to coat. Add avocado along with jalapeno, remaining scallion, and cilantro to the tomatillo mixture. Stir to combine.

Place sliced cabbage in a medium mixing bowl. Mix sour cream with heavy cream in a small bowl. Drizzle cream over cabbage, tossing to coat. Add cumin and salt to taste. Mix well.

In a large sauté pan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bay scallop and sear 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute to sear the other sides. Remove from heat.

To assemble tacos:

Heat tortilla a tortilla in a dry pan (optional). Place a few spoonfuls of slaw in the center of a tortilla. Add a spoonful of salsa verde. Add 6-10 scallops (depending on size) and another spoonful of salsa verde. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro. Serve warm.

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Lemon Meringue Tart

Lemon Meringue Tart

When was the last time you went to a diner and had a slice of classic lemon meringue pie? The sugary lemon filling topped with mile-high meringue is a somewhat satisfying end to that all-American diner meal, usually consisting of french fries and something sandwiched. Often mediocre and overwhelmingly sweet, lemon meringue pie can easily be improved upon through a homemade version…or in this case, a French-American hybrid.

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Shrimp Parmesan with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Shrimp Parmesan

Pasta has become a classic American staple. It’s origin maybe Italian but in the past 50 years, it’s become one of the go-to easy dinners that many families enjoy at least once a week. My grandmother didn’t have many pasta recipes. The few that she had remained part of her unpublished recipe set that she developed later in her career. The trendiest dishes of the 1960’s, when her cookbooks were written, were of mostly of French origin. The pasta explosion came later. Even so, it’s become so common that there are many pasta dishes that can now be considered classics. These include dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, lasagna, and some cases chicken parmesan (or parmigiana). In most Italian red-sauce restaurants, the chicken is really the focus of this dish and pasta is really a side, if included at all. I’ve always preferred a more equal balance of protein and pasta. And although I enjoy a good chicken parm, I am also a seafood lover and found this deconstructed shrimp parmesan to be the perfect lighter alternative to the original red-sauce classic.

This recipe is fairly simple but be prepared to dirty more than a few pots and dishes. Fresh shrimp are lightly breaded and then sautéed (not fried) until just barely golden and tender. The shrimp are then mixed into al dente penne pasta (feel free to use whole wheat or grain) combined with homemade simple tomato sauce and fresh basil. Store bought tomato sauce can be used as a shortcut but making your own is so simple and inexpensive, I highly recommend it. Finally, toss in fresh mozzarella, parmesan cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, and basil to make a caprese salad parmigiana mixture that’s not only fresh but bursting with Italian-American flavors.

Shrimp Parmigiana

 

Shrimp Parmesan with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Shrimp Parmesan with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil

Ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 - 28oz can crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1lb jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup all purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb penne pasta
Handful basil leaves
1/2 cup ciliengine mozzarella, halved
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes halved

Instructions

Preheat a large wide saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When almost smoking, add onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Saute for about 5 minutes, just until onion is translucent. Add crushed tomatoes and stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and oregano. Allow sauce to simmer over low heat while you prepare the shrimp and pasta.

Place flour with a little salt and pepper in a separate bowl or pie plate. Crack eggs into a bowl and beat with a fork to break up yolks. Place Mix bread crumbs with a ¼ cup of the parmesan in a separate bowl, pie plate, or baking dish. Working in batches, dredge shrimp in flour, then egg wash, and then in the seasoned bread crumbs, tossing to coat evening and shaking to remove any excess. Place on a plate until ready to cook.

Heat a pot of bowling water and prepare pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining oil. When oil is almost smoking, add shrimp in batches. Brown 1-2 minutes on each side, careful not to overcook. Remove and place on a separate plate.

Tear or chiffonade basil leaves. Add about half to the sauce and stir. Remove sauce from heat and add drained pasta. Mix well. Stir in remaining ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ciliegine, cherry tomatoes, and shrimp.

Serve hot with remaining basil.

Serves 6.

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Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms

I often associate stuffed mushrooms with summer. It may seem illogical but there’s something about the portability of this perfect party appetizer that reminds me of long summer days filled with picnics and barbeques. These mushrooms are baked in the oven but that shouldn’t stop you from trying them on the grill. Tender caps are the perfect vessel for the sweet lump crab mixture reminiscent of salt water bays and blue crab season. Summer will be here soon, I can feel it.

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Herbed Goat Cheese, Roasted Tomato, and Asparagus Quesadilla

Goat Cheese Roasted Tomato and Asparagus Quesadilla

Quesadillas have become somewhat of a Mexican American/Tex-Mex classic. The concept of a two tortillas sandwiched together with melted cheese couldn’t be simpler. Unfortunately, this common appetizer isn’t usually as healthy as it is simple. Arguably the most popular versions include a large amount of cheddar cheese, possibly some meat or chicken, and sides of both salsa and sour cream for dipping. Sure it’s delicious but why not take that same concept and make a healthier spring version? That was the idea behind this light and flavorful veggie-packed quesadilla.

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Cinnamon Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies

Homemade chocolate chip cookies are one of the easiest yet tastiest sweets to make. They satisfy almost any chocolate cookie craving. I’m always looking for ways to put a twist on classic treats or maybe just an excuse to make them more often. Oatmeal is one of my favorite variations of this popular go-to cookie. It adds an interesting chewy texture and makes it easier to pretend that chocolate chip cookies are good for you. Raisins and cinnamon are common and natural pairings with oatmeal, especially for a cookie. However, I find it hard to pass on chocolate in a chewy cookie. Also, raisins seem too healthy for a dessert that still contains butter and sugar. The chocolate with the chewy oatmeal and the zip from the cinnamon are worth cheating on that spring beach body diet.

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Eggs Jalisco

Eggs Jalisco Style

If there’s one type of cuisine my grandmother knew well, it’s Mexican. She and my grandfather took frequent trips to Mexico. While my father and uncle were off misbehaving, my grandmother explored the vibrant crafts and flavorful foods. She learned how to cook both traditional and untraditional dishes, adding her own twist when they returned to New York. Eggs Jalisco is an example of just that: traditional Mexican flavors with a twist …two twists actually because I couldn’t help but add fresh avocado and tomato as well.

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