French Fruit Tart — A Classic

French Fruit Tart — A ClassicCamp de Cuisine
I’ve written about my daughter and her summer kitchen shenanigans a few times over the past weeks. And, you might be happy to know that things are still going full steam (just ask my dishwasher). Right now, she seems to be in a French pastry phase. While I fully support her curiosity and creativity, I am wondering when she’ll get to the one bowl or less phase….

Though she hasn’t quite reached that Julie & Julia work her way through an entire cookbook level of obsession, she’s pretty close. For Fourth of July, she made Pâte à Choux for red, white and blue cream puffs with raspberry cream and blue sprinkles. That same week, she tackled French Macarons and they turned out way better than any of my attempts. The macarons actually had feet—and anyone who’s watched any of the baking championships knows how important feet are. Thankfully, my sons are her taste testers or there would be no way for my husband or me to fit into our pants.

This week, my kitchen (and the dishwasher) is getting a much-needed break as my teenaged chef de cuisine is attending a summer pastry camp. (Where was this when I was 12?) Yesterday they made a classic French Fruit Tart and I actually learned something new. If you spread a thin layer of semi-sweet or white chocolate on the bottom of the tart shell and then put the pastry cream in, the tart will not get soggy. (My mind is blown.)

These tarts are so versatile and fairly easy to make that you will find it easy to whip one together for any of your summer get-togethers. To make it even easier, I will substitute a good quality vanilla pudding mix like Dr. Oetkers or even Bird’s custard mix instead of making the pastry cream. Feel free to use any combination of ripe summer fruits to finish.

French Fruit Tart — A Classic
Adapted from Sur la Table
Finish the top with the ripest, most luscious seasonal fruit you can find. Summer berries are an obvious choice, but also try slices of nectarines, plums, poached pears, mango, or kiwi, depending upon the season.  Read more…

Gam’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Gam’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Cool Beans
This has been the Summer of Experimentation in my house. I am never quite sure what I will walk into when I get home. Because, for lack of a better term, my daughter is bored.

To battle this, she’s been spending her time watching food network and cooking. Her brothers (and their friends) are making out like bandits. By the time they get home from baseball, there are plenty of “snacks” for them to eat. Sometimes it’s cookies and sometimes it’s biscuit BLTs. Yesterday I came home to raspberry whipped cream filled cream puffs, because sure. Why not? It is for this reason that we made homemade ice cream for the 4th of July.

There is a history of ice cream making in the family. My grandmother used to make ice cream in the summer for Sunday dinner. It was really good but it was such a production. Gam had this Italian monstrosity of a gelato maker that she was incredibly proud of. But, it was so heavy she had to wait for my dad to get there so he could lift it onto the counter. Not gonna lie though, that machine made fantastic ice cream.

The Il Gelataio was also very loud. Gam fired that thing up right after dinner and made sure we were all waiting with baited breath listening for when the sound changed—meaning that the ice cream was almost ready. (Heaven forbid we actually talk to each other and not hear the sound change. That would be tragic.)

Her passion for the Il Gelataio was probably only matched by her strong opinions about the flavors of ice cream she would make in it. Coffee was one of her favorites as was strawberry or peach. But, if there was one flavor to rule them all it was Vanilla Bean. Not just vanilla. Vanilla Bean. She was adamant about that. (My sister is probably reading this with tears rolling down her face from laughter.) Gam was a bit obsessive about it. Even when Gam would buy ice cream at the store it would never be straight up vanilla. Nope. Vanilla Bean. (And don’t get me started on which brand she thought was the right one…)

For the 4th we made two flavors. The first is a coffee ice cream with crushed Oreos in it. The second, of course, will be vanilla bean.

I did mess with it a bit. Since it was served alongside some apple pie, I swirled some dulce de leche in when it was still soft and then threw it in the freezer to harden. It’s a nod to my grandmother with a hint of rebelliousness ‘cause nothing says Fourth of July like a little rebellion!

Gam’s Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart Read more…

Zucchini Pickles

Zucchini PicklesPickle Play
The recent hot weather means that my garden is in full swing. The cucumbers have found their way into various salads. The green beans have been perfect when lightly steamed. And, we’ve been eating the super-sweet cherry tomatoes like they are candy. It’s been manageable so far but I can tell that veggie overload is coming soon.

If there is one problem with growing your own veggies it’s the possibility that you will find yourself with too much. Sure, you could give some to your neighbors and friends but sometimes even that is not enough to lessen the load. Or worse, what you have a lot of isn’t what everyone wants to eat. Homegrown tomatoes are easy to give away. (There have been times when I had to break up fights in the office when I brought my extras in. Okay…fights might be a strong word.)

Zucchini, on the other hand, can present a challenge.

I love zucchini. My family merely tolerates it unless it comes in chocolate bread form. So, when I do plant it, I always have more than we will consume.

If you find yourself up to your ears in squash, try making these Zucchini Pickles that I adapted from the Zuni Café Cookbook. It’s one of my all-time favorites and a must-have for the avid cookbook collector. These Zucchini Pickles are an interesting way to use up your squash harvest. And, they make for a nice change from the usual summertime backyard dill pickles. It’s nice to have choices…

Zucchini Pickles
Adapted from the Zuni Café Cookbook: A Compendium of Recipes and Cooking Lessons from San Francisco’s Beloved Restaurant

Yields 2 to 3 pints Read more…

Almond Stone Fruit Tart

Almond Stone Fruit TartGone Stone Crazy
In case you haven’t been in the produce section lately, I am here to let you know that stone fruit season is upon us! And, that makes me very happy. It also creates a bit of a problem…

I am a fool for stone fruits. I look forward to this season every year. To me, there is nothing better than a juicy peak-of-season peach. I have been buying nectarines by the dozen…and don’t get me started on the cherries. I’ve become a bit of a stone fruit hoarder. I just can’t help myself. I see ‘em and I gotta have ‘em.

My fruit hoarding has presented other problems. Usually, I can count on my family eating all of the fruit before I can even get to it. But, my current obsession means that they are having trouble keeping up—which is how I found myself with a few pounds of black plums that needed to be consumed ASAP. So I made this almond stone fruit tart.

The best thing about this tart is that you can use whatever fruit you have on hand as long as you let it dry a bit before baking. I’ve made it with peaches and nectarines. Cherries are good too or even a combination of all three and, of course, plums or pluots are amazing!

Almond Stone Fruit Tart
This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. She uses orange sections for her tart. I decided to be different…

If you want to make this tart gluten-free, we recommend using King Arthur Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour instead of the regular flour.

This tart takes some time to make, and we have marked where is possible to prepare some of the steps a day or so in advance for ease of assembly on the day you bake it. Read more…

Pan-Fried Trout with Lemon Butter Sauce

Pan-Fried Trout with Lemon Butter SauceGone Fishin’
For whatever reason, I have always associated Father’s Day with camping or living in the mountains. I have no idea why. I guess dads and camping kinda go hand in hand? Growing up we didn’t do a lot of camping and the only mountain living we did was in a condo at Tahoe. Perhaps I have seen too many movies, read too many books or looked at too many L.L. Bean catalogs but the picture of frying fresh rainbow trout by the side of a river in a cast iron skillet over a campfire is what I see when I think of Father’s Day.

I have the perfect skillet for it too; My grandfather’s vintage 9-inch cast iron skillet that he would take with him on camping trips building trails in the early days of the Sierra Club. That skillet has seen a lot of miles. On a whim, I pulled it out not too long ago and pan-fried for dinner some of the excellent trout we have in our meat case. Trout is not usually something I make often—mainly because it just seems so much better eating it on the banks of the river you just pulled it from but that night it hit the spot.

We all over-ate.

Trout is best prepared simply. You can dredge it in a little flour or cornmeal to give it a little crunch or, like I did, heat a little butter and olive oil in the pan and fry it up as is. Squeeze a little lemon on it and it’s heaven on a plate.

We are hoping to get away and do a little camping as a family this summer though unfortunately, it won’t be for Father’s Day this year. If you find yourself with the time and the inclination, I encourage you to grab a tent and your fishing pole and find your own A River Runs Through it moment…just don’t forget the pan.

Pan-Fried Trout with Lemon Butter Sauce
Yields 4 servings 

Read more…