Friday, July 31, 2009

Win Movie Tickets to Private Screening of Julie and Julia in LA

(Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.)

It's finally here! Julie and Julia is opening in theaters nationwide next Friday, August 7th.

However, 20 lucky Food Blogga readers will get a chance to see an early, private screening of the film in Los Angeles on Thursday, August 6th.

Here's how to win your free tickets!

Just tell me why you'd like to see the film.

For an extra chance at winning, tweet about this give-away, and let me know.
I'm @foodblogga

10 winners (each receiving 2 tickets) will be announced next Monday, August 3rd! Good luck, everybody!

More about Julie and Julia:

Read my movie review.
Check out my delicious day with Julie and Julia in LA.
Food Blogga is selected as Julie and Julia's "Blog of the Day"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Recipe for Easy Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

baked epplant parmigiano

I realize that most of the country is melting right now, and that everyone is looking for no-bake dinners and salads. But sometimes, in spite of the heat, a girl's gotta have some warm, belly-filling, Italian comfort food, like eggplant parmigiana, or more affectionately, eggplant parm. As far as I'm concerned, eggplant parm is a year-round food, but it's the best from August-October, prime eggplant season.

Eggplants have a long history. The earliest ones were grown in India between 4,000-5,000 years ago. Eggplant was introduced to the Mediterranean region in the early Medieval period. That's when Italians discovered eggplant, and they still prize it for its rich, creamy, flavorful flesh.

Eggplant parmesan, also known as melanzane alla Parmigiana or Parmigiana di melanzane, is a treasure of Neopolitan cuisine. It consists of thick slices of breaded eggplant that are fried in olive oil until golden then layered with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil and baked until bubbly.

In the US eggplant parmigiana is most commonly found at pizzerias, delis, and Italian-American mom-and-pop restaurants. It's typically inexpensive, delicious, and satisfying, but not low-cal. So if you love eggplant parm, but don't love the calories that come with it, then make your own baked eggplant parmigiana.

As for the hot weather, just crank your AC, then make a big batch of eggplant parm in your comfortably cool kitchen.

epplant parmigiano serving 2

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana
Serves 4
Print recipe only here.

Traditionally, eggplant is fried in oil on the stove top. However, baking it drastically reduces the calories and fat without sacrificing flavor. Plus you get to eat more.

2 large eggs
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
a couple of pinches of salt
3/4 cup bread crumbs (preferably plain)
1/4 cup grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese
1 large eggplant, cut into 3/8-inch thick slices (yield 10-12 slices)

Marinara Sauce:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano tomatoes*
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like some heat)
a couple of pinches of salt
2 heaping tablespoons each of finely chopped fresh basil and parsley
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Reggiano-Parmigiano cheese

1. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, crushed red pepper, and salt. Pour into a wide, shallow bowl or plate.

2. Mix breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheese in a separate wide, shallow bowl or plate.

3. Slice eggplant. Dip one slice at a time in the egg mixture, allowing excess to drip into the bowl. Dredge in the bread crumbs, ensuring that the entire slice of eggplant is coated with the crumbs. Place on a large baking sheet. Repeat with remaining slices.

4. Bake eggplant at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, or until golden and crisp.

5. While the eggplant is cooking, the marinara sauce can be made. In a medium pot over medium heat, warm 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add shallots and saute 2-3 minutes or until translucent. Add the canned tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt. Stir until well combined. Reduce heat to medium-low. Let sauce lightly bubble for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Turn off heat. Stir in the fresh herbs.

6. To assemble the eggplant parmigiano, use either one 9-inch round or 8-inch square baking dish. Start by covering the bottom of the dish with a layer of marinara sauce. Add 4 slices of baked eggplant (larger slices on the bottom), and top with 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella and 1/3 of the grated cheese. Repeat two more times, or until all ingredients are used.

7. Bake at 400 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble and the cheese turns golden brown. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

*San Marzano tomatoes are Italian plum tomatoes that are prized for their sweeter, less acidic flavor. They can be found in Italian specialty markets and some major supermarkets.

You might also like:

Farro with Grilled Vegetables Salad

Mediterranean Wheatberry Salad with Lentils and Chickpeas

Penne with Fresh Ricotta and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes

Here are a few more Mediterranean eggplant dishes you might like:
Eggplant Rolatini and Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade at Proud Italian Cook
Mediterranean Eggplant at Karina's Kitchen
Italian Grilled Eggplant Cakes at Andrea's Kitchen
Roasted Eggplant and Pepper Pasta Salad at What Geeks Eat
Lentil and Eggplant Pasta with Rosemary at Tofu for Two

Monday, July 27, 2009

Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

ribe eye with chimichurri sauce

Want to make your plain 'ol grilled steak suddenly sexy? Drizzle it with chimichurri sauce, a bold Argentinian sauce made from a mixture of herbs, garlic, oil, and vinegar.

In most Latin American and South American countries chimichurri sauce is used either as a marinade or a dipping sauce for grilled meats. Since chimchurri sauce is so flavorful and easy to make, it's becoming increasingly popular in The States as well.

Chimichurri sauce isn't just for grilled steak; it gets along beautifully with other grilled meats, such as chicken and pork, and even tastes great on seafood, eggs, tofu, vegetables, and many sandwiches.

So next time you make grilled steak, toss the A-1, and make a batch of chimchurri sauce instead. Then turn on some salsa music, and get ready to sizzle.

Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Serves 2
Print recipe only here.

Chimichurri sauce can be made up to one week ahead. Just note that the garlic flavor will intensify over time. If that's not appealing to you, then either add the garlic later, or saute it first in some olive oil before adding it to the sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce:
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano OR 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 jalapeno (the more the seeds the hotter the flavor) OR 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 garlic clove

2 (8-ounce) rib eye steaks
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. For the chimichurri sauce, place all ingredients in a small processor; process until smooth. Alternatively, finely mince ingredients and whisk with oil and vinegar in a small bowl.

2. Place in an air-tight container for a minimum of 1 hour or up to several days in advance. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes prior to serving.

3. Preheat the grill to high.

4. Remove steaks from the refrigerator 15-20 minutes prior to grilling. Season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper and rest on the counter top.

5. Place steaks on the grill, and cook 4-5 minutes, or until lightly charred. Flip steaks over, and cook 5-6 minutes for medium rare. (For the most accurate results, use a meat thermometer. 135 degrees F is medium rare; 140 degreees F is medium; 150 degreees F is medium-well.)

6. Remove steaks from the grill, and place on a platter. Tent loosely with some tin foil, and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing. (Don't skip this step! It will keep the steak juicy and tender on the inside.)

7. Plate your steaks, and drizzle with chimichurri sauce. Serve immediately.

You might also like:

The Southwest Hamburger

Grilled Lamb Sandwich

Here are more chimichurri sauce recipes:

Chimichurri (made with capers) at Herbivoracious
Short Ribs with Chimichurri Sauce at From Argentina With Love
Steak with Mint Chimichurri Sauce at No Recipes
Chimichurri Sauce at ECurry

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Mom's Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin

I wanted blueberry muffins a couple of weeks ago. Not just any blueberry muffins. I wanted my mom's blueberry muffins, because I have loved them since I was a little girl. So I made a phone call:

Me: "Hi, Mom. Could I have your recipe for blueberry muffins?"

Mom: "Oh, sure, honey." (Sounds of papers shuffling.) "Here it is -- my recipe for Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins."

Me: "Nooooo. I want your recipe for blueberry muffins."

Mom: "Honey, this is my recipe. It's the one from Jordan Marsh. I have been using it for as long as I can remember."

Me: "You mean all these years that I thought I was eating your blueberry muffins, I was actually eating Jordan Marsh's muffins?"

Mom: "I'm afraid so, honey. Do you still want it?"

Me: "Well, of course I still want it. But I won't call them Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins. I'll call them My Mom's Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins."

Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin

I gotta tell ya, it wasn't easy discovering my mom's blueberry muffins were actually Jordan Marsh's, the now defunct, but once hugely popular department store. I remember shopping at Jordan Marsh with my mom when I was a kid; it was the place where we bought shoes and handbags and kitchen appliances, but not blueberry muffins. That's because they didn't sell them in Rhode Island. For the beloved Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin -- a moist, cakey, berry-studded delight with an irresistible crunchy sugar topping -- you had to go to Massachusetts.

The iconic Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin was created by baker John Pupek in 1961. Pupek took pride in his muffins, folding in the blueberries by hand and overseeing the baking of each batch. Apparently his muffins were so delicious that they transformed disagreeable children into angels. After Jordan Marsh closed in 1990, Pupek opened his own bake shop where he sold the cherished Jordan Marsh blueberry muffins as well as other sweets made famous by the store. Much to the dismay of his loyal customers, Pupek closed shop in 2004. Physically worn out, the baker needed a rest. Upon his retirement, Pupek swore to never sell the Jordan Marsh muffin name. He told the Boston Globe, ''if people said they had a Jordan Marsh muffin and it was horrible, it would kill me."

Fortunately the treasured Jordan Marsh blueberry muffin recipe is available online and in some cookbooks, such as Nick Malgieri's How to Bake. Since we're in prime blueberry season, now is the perfect time to make a batch (or two) of these blueberry muffins. Just don't be surprised if after making them, you suddenly have a urge to toss your old blueberry muffin recipe, or to go shopping for a new pair of shoes.

My Mom's Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins
Makes 12 regular size muffins
Print recipe only here.

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pint blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
1 teaspoon sugar for blueberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon for blueberries

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line a 12-mold regular size muffin pan with paper muffins cups.

Using a hand mixer, cream butter, sugar, and salt until soft. Add eggs, and mix until light and fluffy. Mix the flour and baking powder together, and stir into the batter, alternating with the milk. Stir in the vanilla. Mix until just incorporated.

This is my mom's tip, and it works beautifully: In a small bowl, sprinkle blueberries with 1 teaspoon each sugar and cinnamon. Gently toss until well coated. Fold into the batter. Spoon batter into the 12 muffin cups.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are light gold and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before removing each muffin and placing on a wire rack to cool.

You might also like these sweet blueberry treats:

Mom's Blueberry Sweet Rolls with Vanilla Glaze

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Food Blogga is Julie & Julia's "Blog of the Day"

(Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.)

A few years ago when I was at the bookstore, I picked up a copy of Julie Powell's memoir Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment. It was described as the story of a woman, who within the span of one year, cooked all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and then wrote a blog about it. I wanted to buy the book since I loved Julia Child, but I remember thinking to myself, "What the heck is a blog?"

I bought it, and less than 48 hours later, had finished reading it. Powell writes with passion and wit. Whether or not you like her sharp tongue and irreverent humor, you can't deny that the girl is a talented writer. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard that her book was being made into a film. Three years after reading Julie & Julia and tens of thousands of food blogs later, I was tickled to actually meet Julie at a promotional event in LA.

(Amy Adams as Julie Powell. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.)

Today I'm thrilled to announce that Food Blogga is "The Blog of the Day" on the official Julie & Julia movie web site. I am flattered to be among such esteemed company and to be associated with this delightful film.

Since today marks the 367th post on Food Blogga, it's safe to say that I have gotten the hang of this blogging business. Thanks, Julie. Plus I now know how to make a mean boeuf bourguignon. Thanks, Julia.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Julie and Julia 2009: A Movie Review

meryl streep as julia child
(Meryl Streep as Julia Child. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.)

There is bread, and there is love. Sometimes there is both. In the upcoming film, Julie and Julia, Stanley Tucci, portraying Paul Child, the adoring husband of Julia, played by Meryl Streep, toasts her, saying: "You are the butter to my bread, the breath to my life." That quote encapsulates the overall tone of the film -- sweet, sincere, and deliciously uplifting.

The film is based on two bestselling memoirs: Julia Child's My Life in France, which was published posthumously, and Julie Powell's Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen.

The film is actually like two films: One tells the story of Julia Child's loving marriage to Paul and her rise to culinary fame in post-WWII France. The other tells the story of Julie Powell, who on the eve of her 30th birthday, gives herself a masochistic gift: Cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. In one year. In her tiny Queens, NY apartment. With a cat. And an unbelievably supportive husband. And blog about it.

amy adams as julie powell
(Amy Adams as Julie Powell. Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.)

Meryl Streep is extraordinary as Julia Child. She captures Julia's effervescence perfectly, not to mention her delightful way of saying, "do" as "dooooooo," yet never comes close to caricature. She's so charming that I found myself missing her when she wasn't on the screen.

Amy Adams and Chris Messina, who play Julie and Eric Powell, are well suited as actors. Though Adams has the meatier role, Messina does a fine job of making Eric's role interesting. In fact, at an LA movie-promoting event last week, Powell told Messina that his portrayal of her husband was so spot on, it "was freaky."

Ultimately the movie is a celebration of Julia Child and her remarkable influence on the culinary world. It is also a celebration of food bloggers and aspiring writers. For example, when Julie (Adams) says to Eric (Messina) late in the film, "I'm going to be a writer," he responds, without missing a beat, "You are a writer." (Food bloggers will no doubt be cheering at this point.)

Whether you're a dedicated foodie, a blogger, a Meryl Streep fan, or just a sucker for a good romantic comedy, you'll find much to like about this film. For those of you expecting an exact retelling of Powell's book, which was seasoned with wicked humor and stirred with expletives, just realize that the screenplay is loosely based on the book. As Julie Powell shared with her audience in LA last week, "It's a romantic comedy. It's a sweetened version of reality." Exactly. And like any good romantic comedy, everything works out deliciously at the end. Sort of like a light, sweet, beautifully whipped French meringue.

Julie and Julia
opens August 7, 2009. Stay tuned though -- I'll be offering 20 complimentary tickets to an early August 6th screening of the film in LA!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Mexican Torta: It's One Big Belly-Busting Sandwich

Mexican torta

Seems the latest food trend is food trucks, more specifically gourmet food trucks. Or as one San Fransisco owner calls his, "mobile bistro." From LA to Austin to NYC, dozens of urban, hip food trucks are charming epicureans with fare ranging from duck dumplings to pavlova with red fruit gelée. Hotdogs and hamburgers have been usurped by their more politically correct cousins, organic free-range chicken and grass-fed beef.

But what about the old food trucks and carts? You know the ones -- the quintessential LA taco trucks and the hot pretzel carts run by a gruff guys named Sully or Bobby. Are they being squeezed out? Last March in East LA, Mexican food truck owners, under fire from restaurants who claim they're hurting business, began a campaign called "Save Our Taco Trucks."

Personally, I'd like to see both camps succeed. Because, let's face it, getting affordable, healthful, organic meals from a food truck is terrific. So is getting an artery clogging carne asada (marinated steak) torta when the craving strikes.

I don't remember the name of the taco truck in LA where I tasted my first torta, but I do remember it was very late, I was very hungry, and the food was very good, soul-soothing good, actually.

A torta is a popular Mexican sandwich consisting of a split telera roll that is packed with any of various fillings ranging from meaty chorizo and pulled pork to vegetarian-friendly eggs and beans. In the US tortas have been called "American hoagies," "Mexican hamburgers," and "tacos on a bun." They're none of those; they are tortas, Mexico's beloved sandwich that comes in numerous regional variations. Like all quintessential Mexican street food, tortas are cheap, fast, and filling. They're also the new "It" sandwich if you trust author JJ Goode of Details magazine; he recently rung the death knell for the panini and bahn mi and christened the torta the "new best sandwich contender."

Mexican breakfast torta

If you don't have a good taco truck near you, don't worry. Here's how to make a great torta:

1. Go to a Mexican market, and buy a good telera roll -- a big, round, flat, mildly-crusty roll. (Bolilos are similar, but oblong in shape). Don't have a Mexican market? Use a Kaiser roll instead.
2. Choose your favorite filling -- maybe ham, chorizo, steak, fried fish -- and pile a lot of it on your telera roll. Lift the sandwich. It should be heavy and require two hands; if it doesn't, then add more filling.
3. Garnish the sandwich with a few toppings. Lettuce, tomato, and cheese are optional, but avocado, refried beans, and hot sauce must be included. Period.
4. Grab a big stack of napkins, a cold Dos Equis, and your oversized torta, then find a comfy chair. Plop yourself down on it, embrace your torta with two hands, and eat until your stomach hurts.

Egg and Chorizo Breakfast Torta
Makes 1 sandwich
Print recipe only here.

This breakfast torta pairs well a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a big mug of strong coffee. Of course, I wouldn't stop you from enjoying it with a cold Dos Equis.

1 teaspoon canola oil
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ pound chorizo
2 large eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Few dashes of hot sauce
1 tablespoon Mexican crema,* optional
2 tablespoons canned refried beans
2 slices of ripe avocado or 1 tablespoon prepared guacamole
1 telera roll, split in half, lightly toasted*

1. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion and chorizo, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until meat is browned and crisp.

2. In a small bowl whisk eggs, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add to the skillet; stir frequently until eggs are cooked through yet still soft.

3. Place telera roll on a clean work surface. Spread both halves with Mexican crema. On the bottom half of the roll add refried beans; top with chorizo and egg mixture and fresh avocado slices. Serve immediately.

Shopping Note:
Mexican crema is a Mexican sour cream which is available in the refrigerator section of Mexican specialty markets as well as many major supermarkets. Regular sour cream is a good substitute.
Telera are available at Mexican specialty markets. A Kaiser roll or a soft crusted baguette are good substitutes.

You might also enjoy these articles about food trucks:
Food Truck Nation by Katy McLaughlin of the WSJ
In Defense of the Great Taco Truck by C. Thi Nguyen of the LA Times
7 Tasty Food Carts (and Trucks) from Across the Country by of Ariel Schwartz of SFWeekly
Twitter for Your Lunch by Gillian Reagan of the NY Observer
Foodies Flock to Twitter Savvy Food Trucks by Shaya Tayefe Mohajer of the AP, as seen on MSNBC

You might also like these sandwiches:

Italian Chicken Cutlet Sandwich with Broccoli Rabe (Rapini) and Provolone

Grilled Lamb Sandwich

Monte Cristo Sandwich

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Delicious Day With Julie & Julia

OK, I'm gonna come right out and say it. I like the taste of celebrity. Hobnobbing with Julie & Julia author, Julie Powell, and Executive Chef Brian Malarkey, of Top Chef fame, yesterday in Hollywood was amazing.

chatting with Julie & Julia author, Julie Powell
Julie & Julia author, Julie Powell.

I was invited to an exclusive event hosted by Columbia Pictures for the upcoming film Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. (Yes, the same two talented actresses from the 2008 film Doubt.)

After meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood, we were escorted to the Hollywood Arc Light Cinemas for a private screening of the film. Then we attended a cooking demo hosted by Brian Malarkey of San Diego's The Oceanaire Seafood Room. I know you remember him from season 3 of Top Chef. He was the one with the cute hat, affable personality, and sublime dishes. Yesterday, he whipped up Julia Child's 2 1/2 hour-long-boeuf bourguignon in about 8 minutes, while he chatting amiably with Julie Powell. What can I say? The guy has serious skills.

brian malarkey
Chef Brian Malarkey makes Julia Child proud as he prepares her famous boeuf bourguignon.

We also met the film's food stylist, Susan Spugen, who shared some food styling secrets and insider tips with us. And for you food bloggers out there, don't worry if your food looks a little messy; Susan says, "messy is the new black" in food photography. So go ahead, and toss some crumbs on the plate.

susan spugen, Julie & Julia food stylist
Food stylist, Susan Spugen, melts cheese with an electric paint dryer. Yup. That's how it's done.

The day ended with Julie Powell and actor, Chris Messina, discussing their experience with the film. Writer/director Nora Ephron wrote the screenplay, which is based on Julie's book Julie & Julia. Julie said she acted as a consultant on the film, and was thrilled that "beautiful, petite, red-headed, Oscar-nominated Amy Adams" was portraying her.

Julie & Julia actor, Chris Messina
Actor, Chris Messina. He's even cuter in person, ladies.

Chris Messina, who was surprisingly approachable, self-deprecating, (and cute!), offered interesting insight into filmmaking and acting and said that he was humbled to work alongside such respected actors as Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Amy Adams. He also shared how he prepared for the numerous eating scenes in the movie: he would starve himself all day, so he'd be ravenous by the time of the shoot. Of course, even starving didn't help the day he had to eat 36 bruschettas in a row.

I have a lot more to share with you about the film and my experience. Look for it in an upcoming post. In the meantime, check out my updates about the event on Twitter @foodblogga.

me and billy riggins!

And to top the day off, while in Hollywood, I spotted the adorable and delightful Derek Phillips, who plays Billy Riggins on Friday Night Lights (The best drama on TV). I became so giddy that I didn't even notice the departure of my entire group, that is, except for oh-so-sweet Nicole of Baking Bites, who hung around to take our pic. Thanks, Nicole!

If you haven't seen Friday Night Lights, do yourself a favor. Go buy the first three seasons. Come home, grill some burgers, open up a couple of cold beers, and start watching. Then thank me in the morning.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nectarine and Raspberry Crumble. It's Not a Cobbler or a Crisp.

nectarine and raspberry crumble

It's that time of year again when people everywhere find themselves completely confused about crisps, crumbles, and cobblers, not to mention brown bettys, slumps, and grunts. I talked about this last year, and many of you bravely fessed up to your own inability to remember which is which. I think I'm finally starting to remember. How 'bout you? Think you know the difference yet? Let's find out.

(Click here to cue Jeopardy music.)

And no cheating, Dad.

1. This dessert has a dough-like crust, which can be enclosed or made as a biscuit topping.
What is a ___________.

2. This dessert is made by mixing fruit with sugar and spices and topping it with a streusel, which is a mixture of butter, sugar, flour, and nuts.
What is a ___________.

3. This dessert is made by mixing fruit of your choice with sugar and spices then topping it with a crisp mix made of butter and sugar and a binding agent such as flour or oatmeal.
What is a _____________.

OK, hands off the keyboard, folks. Let's see how you did. #1 is a cobbler. #2 is a crumble. #3 is a crisp. If you missed any, don't worry. The best way to learn something is by doing it -- so make all three desserts and eat them!

Start with the simplest of all, my Triple Berry Rhubarb Crisp.

rhubarb berry crumble half bowl

Then try the bit more complicated but still very doable Fresh Apricot and Cherry Cobbler with Buttermilk Biscuit Crust:

apricot cherry cobbler full plate

Finally make this Nectarine and Raspberry Crumble. Nectarines are coming into season right now, and their sweetness and aroma blend beautifully with tart fresh raspberries. The fruit is perfumed with fresh ginger and vanilla extract then coated with an irresistible streusel topping made with brown sugar, pecans, and a medley of spices. It's delicious as is, but I won't discourage you from topping it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of silky creme fraiche.

nectarine and raspberry crumble

Nectarine and Raspberry Crumble

Serves 6
Print recipe only here.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

4 cups sliced fresh nectarines, about 7-8 medium sized fruits
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh (or unthawed frozen) raspberries
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch round pie dish with cooking spray.

To make the crumble, place the butter in a bowl. Using your hands, break it into small pieces, then work in the sugar, flour, and pecans. Gently mix it, breaking up any large clumps. Using a rubber spatula stir in the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.

To make the fruit filling, in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the nectarines and sugars. Cook until slightly tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the raspberries, ginger, and dissolved cornstarch. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble up, about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract.

Pour the fruit filling into the prepared pie dish, and sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the topping is golden and fruit filling is bubbling up around the edges. Allow to cool before serving. It's best served at room temperature or just slightly warm.

You might also like:

Peach and Blueberry Galette

Mini Custards with Limoncello-Spiked Raspberry Sauce

Summertime Strawberry Pie

Here are more delicious summertime crumbles:
Aran's Almond and Cherry Crumble
Chris's Blueberry Crumble
Christine's Peach and Blackberry Crumble
Joey's Nectarine Crumble
Julie's Apricot Berry Crumble

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Four Amazing Potato Salad Recipes for Your Fourth of July Cookout

Americans will be celebrating the Fourth of July this weekend, and that means loads of hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, watermelon, and, the perennial favorite, potato salad.

patriotic potato salad
Patriotic Potato Salad

Although most people will be enjoying traditional American-style potato salad with mayo, I won't, and neither will anybody in my family. Why? Because when my brothers and I were kids, my mother wouldn't dream of letting us eat mayo-based potato salad at cookouts. After all, how could she know how long it had been baking in the sun? There was no way she was going to risk her brood getting food poisoning, so we either skipped the potato salad or had our own olive oil and vinegar based potato salad instead.

string bean and potato salad with prosciutto
String Bean and Potato Salad with Prosciutto

Although it has been shown that mayo-based potato salad may not be as dangerous as once thought, I still prefer worry-free oil and vinegar based potato salads. If you're not sure which type of potato salad to make for this Fourth of July weekend, then I have four amazing potato salad recipes for you to try:
  • Lemongrass and Ginger Potato Salad
  • Arugula Pesto Potato Salad
  • String Bean and Potato Salad with Prosciutto
  • Patriotic Potato Salad
arugula pesto potato salad
Arugula Pesto potato salad

Tips for making great potato salad:
  • Use waxy rather than floury potatoes, such as Yukon gold, red bliss and fingerlings. They have a creamy texture yet keep their shape well when cooked. Although russet potatoes are exceptionally tender, they don't hold their shape well when boiled and tend to get mushy.
  • Cut potatoes into equal-sized pieces so they will cook evenly.
  • Don't overcook potatoes. Take them off the heat while they're still slightly firm. Drain and let cool before assembling the salad.
  • With or without skins? It's a personal preference. If you leave the skins on, be sure to scrub them well before cooking. Peeled potatoes work especially well for absorbing sauces such as pesto.
  • Season the potatoes while still warm to absorb the flavors more fully.
  • Warm potato salads taste best the day they are made; however, cold potato salads often taste better the next day. If you're making potato salad ahead of time, hold off on adding raw onions or fresh herbs until just before serving. You'll avoid unpleasant pungency and keep your herbs looking fresh.
lemongrass ginger potato salad
Lemongrass and Ginger Potato Salad

So here's wishing my fellow Americans a safe and spectacular Fourth of July weekend with lots of good friends, lots of sparklers, and lots and lots of potato salad.

You might also like these recipes for the Fourth of July:

The Southwest Hamburger

Chili Lime Fruit Salad

Elote, or Mexican Grilled Corn

Grilled Watermelon Slices with a Honey-Lime Syrup