A Passion for Peonies: Now and in 6 months!

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If you’re like me, you are crazy for peonies and the season to enjoy them is just too short.  It is peony time in my garden and I am cutting these beauties as fast as they bloom,  to fill the house with their intoxicating perfume and showy flowers. I just can’t get enough of them!  Hélas, their showtime is limited and the bliss is much too short lived. Continue reading

Rhubarb-Yogurt Crumb Cake

As a little girl growing up in Canada, one of my favorite spring ritual was sneaking into my neighbor’s garden and cutting the first stalk of rhubarb.   Then I would dip the raw rhubarb in sugar and bite into what could be compared to sour candy today.  How I loved puckering up to this sweet-sour creation!   Although I’ve expanded my palate considerably, I still love finding the first rhubarb of the season at farmers’ markets and baking it/stewing it into many permutations.   I can’t get enough of it!  My morning oatmeat gets topped with rhubarb stewed with cardamom pods, barely sweetened, throughout  rhubarb season.  I love waiting for fresh rhubarb all year long.

Rhubarb has been documented in China as far back as 2700 BC where it was used for medicinal purposes.  It was brought to Maine in the late 1700s then it spread to Massachusetts.  It is a low calorie vegetable, often mistaken for a fruit as it is often used in desserts.  Rich in antioxidants, vitamin K, calcium, lutein, fiber, vitamins C and folates, it is a  nutritional powerhouse.

Many rhubarb recipes over sweeten it with cloying amounts of sugar or combine the vegetable with fruit such as the popular strawberry-rhurbarb combinations.  I like to let the tartness of the rhubarb shine on its own and this recipe does just that.  I’ve taken an old fashioned rhurbarb crumb cake recipe, substituted Greek yogurt for traditional sour cream and doubled the amount of rhurbarb.  The cake is moist and just sweet enough to really taste the rhubarb.

Rhubarb Yogurt Crumb Cake

CAKE

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 c unbleached flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 c non fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 c rhubarb, diced in 1/2 inch pieces
  • zest of an orange

CRUMB TOPPING

  • 1/2 c light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 c unbleached flour
  • 1/2 t cinnamon  (you could add nutmeg and ginger if you prefer)

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a 9 X 13 inch baking dish and lightly flour.

Whisk the eggs, orange zest  and yogurt together.  Combine flour, sugar, baking soda in a large bowl.  Fold in the yogurt mixture and  gently mix in the rhubarb.  Spread evenly into your prepared dish.  It will be very thick.

In  a smaller bowl, using a fork or your fingers, combine all the crumb ingredients and mix until it ressembles coarse oatmeal.  Sprinkle over your cake.

Bake 45 minutes in the center of the oven.

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Serve plain or warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Variations are to substitute lemon zest and lemon yogurt.

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Enjoy!

 

 

Tequila-Lime Flank Steak with Grilled Scallions

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imageThis is a really delicious steak that is a go-to dish all summer long in our home and perfect for Memorial Day weekend.   Skirt Steak or flank steak can be used for this tasty marinade.  The steak needs to marinade at least 3 hours or overnight so plan ahead.   The marinade will tenderize the meat and impart great flavor.  The steak can be sliced for fajitas with the usual fixings(guacamole, salsa, sautéed peppers and onions) or served with your favorite side dishes for a cookout steak dinner. I hope this will become a staple of your grilling season too!  Left-overs, as if there will be any, are great in a sandwhich the next day.

TEQUILA LIME FLANK STEAK MARINADE(adapted from Sara Foster’s Fresh Everyday Cookbook)  serves 8

4 T tequila

2 T Worcestershire sauce

2 T light soy sauce

2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and minced

4 scallions minced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 T brown sugar

2 t freshly  ground black pepper

3 lbs flank or skirt steak

2 t sea salt, or more to taste

2 limes, cut into wedges

Mix the tequila, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, jalapeno, scallions, garlic, brown sugar, and pepper together in a small bowl.  Place the steak in a shallow dish or a marinading bag and pour the marinade over it.  Coat the meat completely with the marinade and place it in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight.  Remove the steak from the marinade and salt and pepper the meat on both sides.  Heat up your grill. Grill the steak 3-4 minutes per side for medium-rare temperature.  Remove the steak and tent in foil to let the meat rest for another 5 minutes.  Slice on the diagonal and serve with the lime wedges on the side, sizzling hot.image image image

GRILLED SCALLIONS

2 bunches of scallions, trimmed

1/4 c olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Brush the scallions with oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  While you are grilling the flank steak, toss them on the grill, for a couple of minites, turning occasionally to prevent from burning.   Serve along with the steak.  If you love onions and you’ve never tried grilled scallions, you will be amazed at what a tasty addition these make to grilled meats.  Love ’em!

Happy Memorial Day!

 

 

 

Sweet Paris Send-Off: Coconut Layer Cake

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Background art by French artist Laurence Pardoux

Background art by French artist Laurence Pardoux

When a friend was celebrating a birthday right before leaving on a trip to Paris, I couldn’t resist surprising her with a dessert send-off soirée imbued with joie de vivre.  My soul sister Ann loves coconut (moi aussi!) so I decided to attempt my first coconut layer cake for the occasion.  You can find the recipe for this classic triple layer confection here:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Coconut-Layer-Cake-102696

The coconut-covered cake was decorated with clematis “Etoile violette” flowers and showcased on a fluted crystal pedestal cake stand to give it a little je ne sais quoi.  To create a Parisian ambiance, an  Eiffel tower replica, a gift from Ann, was given center stage placement on the table with some passion flowers woven through it.  The gold-edged botanical dessert plates were placed on a purple velvet throw next to gold damask serviettes for some added French flair.   An antique metal tray holding the wine glasses was accented with a gold fleur-de-lis.   A French bronze candelabra was set on a stack of French books, a nod to the Old-World charm of Paris.  A bouquet of fresh hydrangeas from the garden completed this little dessert table vignette.   Elegant, French, et  très délicieux!  Bon voyage!

imageimage“Paris is always a good idea.”  Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina

 

Azalea Arrangement in Chalkboard Crate

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For a recent outdoor luncheon, I went looking in the garden for flowers to use in a centerpiece. Azaleas were at their peak so I decided to showcase them on a buffet station.  The guests who would be attending this garden luncheon were the women of the International Club of Philadelphia.   Continue reading

Brussel Sprouts, Fava Bean and Leek Risotto with Planked Salmon

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When I stumbled upon this recipe from the fabulous blogger on Kitschnflavours I had to make it for my brussel-sprout-loving husband who also works in the rice industry.    A match made in heaven!  Please click on the link for Johnny Hepburn’s delicious recipe:
http://feedthepiglet.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/brussels-sprouts-broad-bean-and-leek-risotto/

Because my husband also loves fava beans, I made some substitutions to the original recipe.   I started the risotto by sautéing 4 oz of diced pancetta, swaped fava beans for the broad beans, used shreaded brussel sprouts and finished the risotto with the zest and juice of a lemon.  So delicious we made it twice in one week! The first time we had it alone as a meal and it was substantial and satisfying with complex flavours.  The second time we served planked salmon over the risotto.   I will write about planked salmon in another posting.

With fava beans coming into season soon, this is a lovely spring dish to add to your repertoire.  A very unique risotto that commanded rave reviews.  Enjoy!