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Monday, August 27, 2012

Blueberry love

Hi, everyone, I hope you all had a relaxing weekend enjoying the last of the summer weekends.  Today I’d like to celebrate my most important fruit of the summer…blueberries. On the weekend I baked two of these loaves (cakes really) one was meant for a girls brunch, but never made it through the afternoon.  
By God’s good graces, today’s recipe is simple and quick to just throw together before running to get breakfast done.  After the batter is whipped up, and the blueberries are mixed in, bake it for about 50 minutes. Simple!  And that’s how I bring my favorite summer berry into my cakes. And ladies please don't forget to use really Greek yogurt for the yogurt the recipe calls for, Fage yogurt to be exact. Enjoy!

Zingy Blueberry-Lemon Yogurt Loaf made with freshly squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, Greek Fage yogurt and Juicy blueberries. Is then lightly brushed with a lemon syrup then drizzled with a vanilla glaze.
Blueberry Lemon Yogurt Loaf
For the Loaf:
1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed
For the Lemon Syrup:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
For the Vanilla Glaze:
1 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.
Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely.
To make the vanilla glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons of the vanilla extract and water. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of water if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.
Yields: 1-9×5 loaf

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Apricot dreams

Have you all been making the most out of your summer? Of course, you have danced around the beach with you new Marc Jacobs Bikini, and strolled down wearing your DVF wedges. But have you really made the most of your summer season. Did you take a bite out of that freshly cut peach from your farmers market stall or ate a wedge of freshly cut watermelon and letting the juices run down the side of your mouth. I know i haven't. Once August 1st strolled right in, I fell into a minor panic that I hadn’t made the most of the summer fruit season. I realized that I hadn't made my apricot jam or my Greek Cherry spoon sweet that pairs heavenly with the Greek Fage yogurt,  So, it’s crunch time. I’ve created a to do list of all the things I’d like to make before the end of the month, and at the very top of it is my Jam. I hope you give it a go and enjoy summer all year round!  

Apricot Jam
six 1 cup (250ml) jars

2.5 pounds fresh apricots
1/2 cup water
6 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
One lemon, halved
optional: 1 tablespoon amaretto

Halve apricots, remove pips and slice halves into half again. If you wish, crack a few  apricot kernels and add them to each jam jar you plan to fill. Place these in a big saucepan with the water, cover and cook on medium high until the fruit has softened right downAdd the sugar and the vanilla bean, scraping the seeds into the hot fruit. Cook uncovered skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. As the mixture thickens stir frequently to make sure the jam doesn't burn on the bottom. Place a small plate in the freezer and cook the fruit mixture for about 5 minutes at a rolling boil. To test if it’s ready, just drop half a teaspoon full of the jam onto your cold plate. Let it sit a minute and then push your finger through the middle of the jam. If it wrinkles and is feeling nice and thick then it’s ready. If not continue to cook, then re- test the jam until it reaches that consistency. Once done stir in the lemon juice and amaretto, if using and ladle the jam into clean jars. Cover tightly and let cool to room temp. Once cool refrigerate until ready to use. 

Storage: I find this jam will keep up to one year if refrigerated. If you wish to can it for long-term preservation, you can refer to the USDA Canning Guidelines for techniques.

Europeans often crack a few apricot kernels open and add one to each jar before pouring in the jam, which isn’t meant to be eaten, but gives the jam a subtle, bitter almond-like flavor.

The jam recipe has been adapted from one by David Lebovitz. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Jello

Have a happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? As predicted, mine was a total stresser: 2 kiddie birthday parties, errands and a house hold that needed plenty of work. In the midst of all that, I found time to make a 2 tier cake (for one of the parties), blueberry muffins, and blueberry pancakes for Sunday's breakfast. All i wanted to do was relax and make jello. A Chocolate Jello to be exact. A chocolate jello i could share with my chocoholic friends. 

Knowing i had no time what so ever to make a simple jello, i still couldn't get it off my mind. This fantasy had to become reality and therefore inspired today’s recipe. I’d love to share it with you and hope that you to would have a sweet chocolaty weekend as i. Enjoy!

Espresso Sauce (optional)

1 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup milk1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, (I'm sure if you don't have the granules you could use instant coffee granules)
With a whisk, whip the yolk and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a bowl until well combined.
In a heavy non stick saucepan, mix together the milk, remaining sugar, and espresso granules and bring to a boil.Pour one-third of the milk mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly. Return the egg yolk mixture to the pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.Pour through a mesh strainer and cool to room temperature, then cover and chill.

1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
1/3 cup (75 grams) unsalted butter, melted
In a medium sized bowl combine the chocolate wafer crumbs and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the 8 inch spring form pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

7 oz. semi sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups milk1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 teaspoons gelatin powder
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powdera pinch of salt

Pour 3 tablespoons of water into a medium bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. (make sure all of the gelatin is well hydrated. Add drops of water if not fully hydrated.)
Chop the semi sweet chocolate and place in bowl.
In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, whisk together the milk, heavy cream, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder and bring just to a bare simmer, stirring gently. Make sure sugar has melted.
Remove from heat and add the gelatin mixture, gently stirring to combine. Add this to the chopped chocolate. Stir until completely cooled.Cool to room temperature and pour into cooled crust.Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or until set and cool.
To unmold the gelatin, grease the inside of the pan with vegetable oil before pouring the gelatin mixture inches Run a sharp knife against the sides of the mold to gently separate the filling. Invert a serving plate on top of the cup and invert both the plate and cup in one motion. Shake slightly to loosen if necessary and unmold. It may take a few tries and patience.Spoon chilled espresso sauce right over the dessert.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sunny Greek Salad

No Greek summer would be complete without island hopping, soaking up the Grecian sun and eating a 'Horiatiki," or as we know it, the "Greek salad".  Ripe juicy tomatoes, crisp European cucumber, crunchy yellow onions, Kalamata olives, fragrant Greek oregano, extra virgin olive oil, and let's not forget the feta cheese (and not a leaf of lettuce)... these are the ingredients that secure this salad as a world-wide favorite, whether an appetizer, side dish, main course, or even a snack.
Even if you haven't had the pleasure of soaking in the Grecian sun while dining at a small taverna (or Greek-style restaurant) by the beach, while wearing your bikini and Havaiana flip-flops, you definitely had the pleasure of knowing a Greek salad at some point or another. Unfortunately, I have come to tell you that you have been dooped, played for, bamboozled. What most of you think is a Greek salad, is not in fact a traditional Greek salad or Horiatiki; it is the Greek American interpretation of the Greek salad.  A marriage of convenience between a garden salad with tons of creamy "Greek" dressing (whose dressing in fact is far from Greek) and feta, of which the outcome is grounds for a speedy divorce. A traditional Greek salad should have no lettuce, spring mix or any other kind of green leaf other then the dried Greek oregano; further, Greeks have never included any creamy dressing concoctions on their vegetables other than the famous "avgolemono”, but that's a discussion for a cooler day.  A real Greek salad is dressed with simply extra virgin olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.

The Horiatiki appeared when tourism increased in the 60's and 70's, and Greek dishes were gaining popularity. A creation made by the 'wannabe' restaurateurs of the time, that wanted to charge more for a simple salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions which had fixed pricing from the government. Therefore, with the addition of a slab of feta cheese, they accidentally created this wonderful salad while inflating the price.

Nonetheless, the Greek salad, with its beautiful color composition and bold flavors, made its way as a summer salad in every Greek household, and eventually all over the world. The unique combination of summer vegetables with extra virgin olive oil, Greek feta and Greek oregano won our hearts and our taste buds.

Grab your havanianas and your SPF, and start your island hoping, and when your tummy grumbles and hunger strikes, feed it at the local seaside taverna. Your reward, not only the Grecian sun, but the "horiatiki" you will be enjoying!

Greece: Agia Paraskeui Beach near the Ionian Sea in the area of Sivota, in Thesprotia.

Horiatiki aka Greek Salad

4-5 large, ripe, tomatoes
1 large red onion
1 cucumber
1/4 pound (113.5g) of Greek feta cheese, sliced or cumbled
dried Greek oregano (rigani)
sea salt
top quality extra virgin olive oil
1 dozen Greek olives (Kalamata, green Cretan olives, etc.)

Wash and dry the tomatoes, cucumber. Clean off the outer skin from the onion, wash, and dry.
Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized irregularly shaped chunks. Salt lightly. Slice the cucumber into 1/4-inch slices, cutting slices in half (whether or not you peel the cucumber is a personal choice). Salt lightly. Slice the pepper into rings, removing the stem and seeds. Salt lightly. Slice the onion into thin rings.
Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers and onion in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, pour olive oil over the salad, and toss. Just before serving, place the feta on top of the salad, either as a slice or crumbled, and toss in some olives. Sprinkle the cheese with oregano (and pepper if desired), drizzle the oil over the top, and serve with crust bread.

Tips: Before you cut the salad, place all the vegetables in the refrigerator for an hour. The coolness of the ingredients brings out the flavors.