Fresh Cherry & Apricot Clafoutis

Fresh Cherry & Apricot ClafoutisRainy Day Cherries
It is the month of May, right? Ok. Good. I just wanted to check because as I gaze out my window right now it’s looking a whole lot like February. What is this rain, people? I had big plans for this weekend and now they are all washed out…

For the past week, I have been getting notices from some of my favorite U-Pick farms that they will be open for business this weekend. (Let the cherry and apricot picking begin!) And while I have no problem going picking in a light rain, the thunderstorms and torrential downpours that are predicted might be a bit much. My disappointment in possibly not being able to go is less about the fruit and more about this being the first time in years that we actually have a free weekend to go a-pickin’.

I love U-Pick farms. Probably to the point of obsession. I just get so much joy being outside on a ladder trying to find the best ones. Plus my kids still think it’s fun which is fantastic because the list of activities they deem acceptable to do with their parents is minuscule.

At this point, I am in wait-and-see mode. Sunday looks like it might be okay. And, yes, I can grab some at the store since the cherries and apricots are in. But, the experience is not the same. They kinda frown on climbing ladders in the Produce Department. Party poopers!

Fresh Cherry & Apricot Clafoutis Read more…

Swedish Pancakes

Swedish PancakesBreakfast in Bed
Mother’s Day is this weekend. And, while you would imagine that all thoughts would be on Mom, I can’t help but think of my Dad.

Mother’s Day was always kind of a weird day growing up. As a kid, I had a love-hate relationship with Mother’s Day. Obviously, I loved my mother and wanted to celebrate her. But, more often than not, Mother’s Day landed on my birthday and instead of having cake and celebrating with my friends, I would be forced to go to a Mother’s Day brunch at some restaurant because that is what my grandmother wanted to do. Not an 8-year old’s idea of a good time!

After my grandparents moved to Arizona, we celebrated Mother’s Day in the way you would expect with handmade cards (or the occasional school made pottery project of nondescript nature) and breakfast in bed. That’s where Dad comes in…

Mom had a snazzy white bed tray that was great for breakfast in bed because it had these cubbies on the side for a newspaper or whatever. But, the cubbies made the tray stable. You could push yourself up to a seated position without spilling the orange juice. And, if you weren’t eating, the top would stand up like an easel so you could read or write, etc. It was perfect. As a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

Dad was the king of weekend breakfast. If there were waffles on the iron, toast that was French, or pancakes on the griddle, he was in charge. And, as you can imagine, these were some of the rotating items on the annual Mother’s Day menu. There was one option though that will forever be tied to my father, Swedish Pancakes.

I have a very distinct memory of standing by his side at the stove while he instructed me on the ins and outs of perfect Swedish Pancake preparation. They can’t be too thick but they can’t be too thin either. And the trick to spreading the batter out evenly in the pan is all in the wrist. Swedish pancakes were a big deal and without question for me a favorite Mother’s Day option.

Now that I have my own family, the tradition continues. Even my angst-y teenagers get excited and smile when I announce that I’m making Swedish Pancakes for breakfast. I have also passed on all of the prep knowledge to my daughter. And, I am happy to announce that she’s got the batter spreading wrist action down.

There will be no Swedish Pancakes for me this year though. My boys’ 15th birthday is on Sunday… So, yeah.

Swedish Pancakes
These pancakes are served folded with butter and dusted with confectioners’ sugar. They are also great with a squeeze of lemon, or a smear of jam, or berries on the side. Read more…

Flan

FlanThat’s the Flan
The older I get the more I notice how time is speeding up. The month of April is gone and I seriously have no idea where it went. It’s crazy to believe that we are now in the Month of May. But if it is early in the month of May you know what that means…

For me, Cinco de Mayo is just another excuse to make Mexican food which, frankly, I make a lot. However, for Cinco de Mayo I like to step up my game. I try to dig a little deeper into Mexican cuisine and get to the good stuff beyond tacos and enchiladas.

One such dish is flan.

True, flan is not exactly unheard of. You can basically get it in any Mexican restaurant but it’s not something that your average home cook just whips up. I will whip up a batch of guacamole at the drop of a hat. Flan? Not so much.

Flan can be sort of polarizing. I have found that people either like it or they hate it. There is not a lot of grey area. For the most part, it’s a texture thing. Not everybody likes that eggy custard mouthfeel. Personally, I love it. Though it may seem daunting, Mexican flan is not difficult to make especially if you do individual servings. I have had more difficulties with the bigger versions coming out clean.

When making flan, ingredients matter because the recipe is so simple. Make sure you use good quality vanilla. You can also use the seeds from a vanilla bean if you want big vanilla flavor. I like to add a little cinnamon to mine. Try to use a true Ceylon cinnamon if you can.

Regardless of what you serve at your fiesta this weekend, enjoy the great weather, good food, and good friends. And, most of all be safe.

Flan 
Adapted from The Art of Mexican Cooking by Diana Kennedy
Yields approximately 8 servings Read more…

Piri-Piri Chicken

Piri-Piri ChickenHot Chicken
Now that the weather has turned nice, I have been doing a lot of grilling. I mean I don’t think I have turned my oven on in at least two weeks. Well, at least not for dinner…

I have grilled ribs and burgers. I grilled some salmon a couple of different ways. And, of course, a whole lotta chicken. Chicken is the easy choice when your question to those who live under your roof about what sounds good for dinner gets no response. Just the sound of crickets. This happens nine times out of ten (which means we have what I want for dinner nine times out of ten). And, if they don’t like it, too bad. Ya should have spoken up when you had the chance!

I will say that their non-response gives me leeway to experiment a little. This can be a good thing when I am feeling like I am in a cuisine rut. It is how I found my latest obsession, Piri-Piri Chicken.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Piri-Piri Chicken hails from North Africa and is actually the invention of the Portuguese settlers who lived there. The piri-piri sauce is basically a hot sauce made from African Bird’s Eye Chiles. And it’s spicy y’all. You can buy it at specialty markets or online where there are a number of possibilities to choose from. You can also make your own but the challenge is finding the chiles. Bird’s eye chilies are hard to find fresh in the US. You can substitute other red chilies like Thai chiles, Fresno, New Mexico, or pequin—and they can also be difficult to find in markets. I’ve been asking our produce buyer to bring in Fresno chilies forever and he does, whenever he can find them, but it is sporadic at best. Now that we are heading into warmer weather we should see more in the markets so cross your fingers.

When I made my Piri-Piri Chicken, I made my own sauce but had to substitute with serrano chilies (since that was all I could find). While it tasted really good, it didn’t have that punch of heat I was looking for so I am going to try again. but this time I am going to do it with the Nando’s Peri Peri sauce that we carry in front of our meat counter.

Fair warning, you have to let the chicken marinate for a while so this is probably best done on a weekend. And, since the weather is going to stay beautiful, I would say you have your Saturday evening meal planned…

Piri-Piri Chicken 
Adapted from Epicurious
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Lemon Pound Cake Bliss

Lemon Pound Cake BlissBunny Brunch
Easter is sort of a mixed-up holiday. First of all, not everyone celebrates it. For those who do observe Easter, not everyone does it on the same day. (Orthodox Easter is a week later this year). And then there is the Easter feast—some people do breakfast, some do brunch and some do dinner. And then some people just do chocolate…

We don’t really have a set celebration for Easter. We have done dinner and breakfast. But, for the most part, we default to brunch. Now that the kids are older and it’s harder to get them out of bed, there are no egg hunts to be concerned about. (The baskets still happen though. Lord help us if there are no baskets! However, now they are less about the chocolate bunny and more about things like movie tickets and clothes without stains…I still sneak a little chocolate in though.) No egg hunts mean we can sleep in and start the party a little later which is great on a Sunday. Nothing like enjoying a beautiful late morning and a lovely Bloody Mary while dining al fresco…

As for the food, we always have a ham which we like to serve with some sort of biscuit to make little ham sandwiches. We like a really good cheddar biscuit or one of our favorites like these Sausage and Sage Biscuits or our Easy Self-Rising Biscuits.

Then there is some version of eggs. They could be scrambled or deviled but there are always eggs. Casseroles are a frequent choice as well. Our Asparagus Bread Pudding Layered with Fontina is perfect for Easter Brunch.

And, of course, Easter baking wouldn’t be complete without the sweet stuff. Hot Cross Buns are a must. And, traditionally we have carrot cake or this Carrot Cake Cheesecake for dessert. But, I took a poll this year and the results tell me I should go in a different direction. This year is less about the carrot and more about the lemon.

I’ve been sort of on the bundt cake bandwagon lately. (They’re just so easy to do and there a so many fun pans!) So I think I am going to use a new tiered bundt cake pan set that I just got and make a show stopper of a lemon cake cause cake is good no matter the time of day.

Lemon Pound Cake Bliss
Yields 12 to 16 servings

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