We went to a BBQ at the home of some friends yesterday evening and I wanted to bring a dessert. (I’m making a reputation for myself with party desserts.) I had a couple of previous winners that I could have made from stuff on hand, but they all needed to bake and uuuuuughhhh it was hot. Too hot to cook. Icebox cake to the rescue!
I typed this recipe on an iron Royal that I haven’t owned since probably 1999, so I know I copied it down in my teens. (Though I couldn’t actually cook until I was in my late 20s, I entertained a fantasy of being a chef and/or restaurateur as a teenager.) The source is a little foggy though. I have a vague notion that it was a cooking show on PBS, because I used to watch hours of cooking shows on PBS as a kid, but it could also have been Martha Stewart Magazine. This is one of those rare instances where Google fails me. I can find similar recipes but none quite like this.
The plate would have come back empty if this stuff weren’t so rich. Everyone wanted seconds but no one had anywhere to put it.
Summer Fruit Tart
Use a regular pie pan, not a deep-dish one.
- 1 pre-made Oreo cookie crust or make your own (see below)
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1-1/2 cups (12 oz) sweetened condensed milk
- 1/3 cups lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Fruit (I like a mix of kiwis and berries but you can use whatever you fancy as long as it isn’t crunchy)
- If you are making the crust yourself, remove the filing from about 20 Oreos and whiz the chocolate part in a food processor. Combine with 6 tablespoons melted butter and press into a pie pan. Using waxed paper will keep your hands clean. This stuff would much rather adhere to your skin than the pan.
- Beat the cream cheese with a mixer and slowly add the condensed milk, lemon juice, and vanilla. Scrape the bowl a few times because the cream cheese really wants to stick to the bowl. I have found that I can’t beat it at high speeds without sending it all over the room but that beating it for a long time at a low or moderate speed not only makes it smooth as silk but I swear it sets up quicker. It starts out very liquid and ends up like a very thick pudding.
- Pour the filling into the shell, level the top with a spatula, and adorn with the fruit. Thinly slice things like kiwi or peaches. Make whatever pattern looks nice to you. I usually do concentric rings because that’s what they did on whatever TV show or magazine I nicked this from, but I have seen cleverer folks than me on the internet making similar tarts and creating psychedelic patterns or simply heaping mixed fruit on top. Whatever you do, don’t skimp!
- BONUS: For extra pizazz, you can dust powered sugar on top or drizzle with a simple sugar-syrup glaze to make the fruit glisten.
- Chill for at least 2 hours.
Once upon a time I wanted some nice tender lamb meatballs for dinner but I couldn’t decide which of the four recipes in my big bad recipe binder to use. So I pulled them all out and listed the ingredients I liked and left out what I didn’t. I doubled up on what I really liked and managed to forget to list an egg while I was at it. I mixed those ingredients up and baked them up and fucking loved them. (Even without the egg.)
TIPS: 1) do not use a mixer or food processor to combine the ingredients. The meatballs will be tough instead of tender. 2) I use a 2 tablespoon disher (like a giant melon baller crossed with an ice cream scoop) to portion out my meatballs so that they are uniform and then roll them between my hands so that they are round.
My favorite lamb meatballs
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchement paper.
- Combine all ingredients by hand. Shape into balls the size of a golf ball. Place 1-2″ apart on prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
I like to serve these with The New York Times’ Rice Pilaf with Golden Raisins and a little dish of plain yogurt – or yogurt with a minced clove of garlic mixed in – and a mixed greens salad with a tart vinaigrette.
Over the past few years we have created the tradition of going to Lake Crescent Lodge for our anniversary. I love everything about the place, but one of the highlights is the food. On one of our first trips I had an omelette for breakfast that was stuffed with smoked salmon, sweet peppers, and cream cheese and served with a side of O’Brien potatoes. It was magnificent, and when we came home and found ourselves inundated with home-smoked salmon from friends and coworkers (was it an unusually good year for salmon?) I decided to re-create it to make use of this bounty. And let me tell you, having made this with both home-smoked and store-bought, they are both good, but the home-smoked stuff makes it great. It tends to be flakier, saltier, and smokier, which gives it real punch.
This is an any-meal dish. Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner. All of the above. I make it in the oven but you could totally convert this to a stovetop dish if you steamed or boiled the potatoes first.
Here’s how I eat it for dinner: with a little heated cream chese and some fresh chives and a simple salad of spring greens with a dijon vinaigrette.
Here’s how Matt eats it for dinner: with a liberal sprinkling of shredded cheddar and a bowl of cottage cheese. (Hot sauce not shown.)
And here’s how I eat the leftovers for breakfast, reheated in the microwave, with a fried egg and half an avocado and a little too much cream cheese.
Smoked salmon hash
2 large waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Golds
2 sweet bell peppers
1/2 one yellow onion
6 cloves garlic
1/2 lb hot-smoked salmong (not lox)
salt & pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Chop potatoes, peppers, onion, and salmon into 1/2″ pieces. Roughly dice garlic into 1/8-1/4″ bits. Combine all vegetables on a parchment-covered jelly roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well.
- Roast for 40 minutes, stirring once. 10 minutes before vegetables are done, add salmon.
- When plating, you may sprinkle the cheese of your preference over the top, which should melt a little by the time you stick a fork in it.
If you are firmly pro-bacon, allow me to refer you to the original version of the recipe. If you or someone you’re cooking for doesn’t eat bacon or is vegetarian or vegan, read on!
Sunday’s lunch: Vegetarian cream of leftover-tomato soup with a salad of spring greens and French vinaigrette and a slice of toasted Dave’s Good Seed bread with Earth Balance spread.
If you’re wondering what I mean by “leftover tomatoes” I mean that when I whack the top and bottom off of a tomato I throw these bits in a gallon zip-top bag in the freezer instead of chucking them in the compost. When the bag is full to bursting I move it to the fridge to thaw overnight and make a big batch of this soup the next day. It also freezes well, but I usually just portion it out over the course of the week and devour it all as lunch.
(Vegetarian) Cream of Leftover-Tomato Soup
half 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped (or one 12 oz jar, drained)
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 lbs (1 full gallon bag) frozen tomato tops, thawed (or two 28 oz cans, or 4 lbs fresh, chopped)
2 tablespoons prepared pesto sauce (or 1 tablespoon dried basil or 1/2 cup diced fresh basil)
1/2 cup light sour cream (or dairy-free sour cream or half a block of silken tofu)
- In a Dutch oven over medium heat, fry the onions and red peppers in olive or canola oil until onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic and sautee one minute more.
Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and cook, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to a reasonable level (about 1 hour), stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat. Add pesto and sour cream. Blend with immersion blender until pureed (or just chunky, if that’s your preference).
This year Matt asked me to bake cookies several times a week so that he could flood the break room at his day job with sugary goodness. This sounded like a great plan to me because I love to bake and getting all the cookies out of the house the very next day means less chance for me to eat them all myself. Even with the new pup underfoot (more on him soon) I have managed to crank out some good stuff without burning a single cookie.
Peanut Butter Blossoms from Better Homes and Gardens. These disappeared in a day. Soft little peanut butter cookies with whole Hershey kisses smooshed into the top – what’s not to like?
Lemon Bars from Ina Garten. I took the time to hand-squeeze five jumbo lemons to get a whole cup of lemon juice for these super-tart bars and it paid off – literally. After the pan was emptied and returned to me the same day I dropped it off I had a request from the shop manager to make a second batch just for him – and he wanted to pay me for my time.
Cowboy Cookies from my personal files. Crunchy-chewy oatmeal cookies full of chocolate chips and pecans. One of the few cookies I am physically incapable of resisting. I have no idea where I got this recipe. I jotted down the ingredients long before I ever started cooking, which makes it likely that I got it off of a PBS cooking show. I am shocked that I didn’t cite my source – that is not at all like me. I typed it up on a typewriter (I used to sort of collect them) and the instructions I invented make it clear to the current-day me that I had never baked a cookie in my life. Here’s a corrected version:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup flour
- 1-1/3 cups quick oats
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Beat in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add oats, chocolate chips, and pecans.
- Using a medium cookie scoop (I use a #50 disher) or a tablespoon measure, drop balls of dough 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until barely golden on edges. Let sit on baking sheet five minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Sorry about the crappy cell phone picture. I was going to tweet this and then take a better picture with the real camera but neither thing happened because I became consumed with consuming my incredible pizza.
Saturday night we made a roaring fire and put on a DVD from the library and had a make-your-own-pizza night. I supplied the ingredients and rolled out the crust and then we were each responsible for topping our pizzas as we saw fit.
Matt made his dream pizza: a little red sauce, an entire pound of shredded Italian cheese blend, and an entire 6 oz package of pepperoni. There was grease and oil oozing out everywhere.
And I made mine: oiled crust with caramelized onions and a whole log of fresh goat cheese. There was uncooked garlic in the olive oil, which stayed sharp and zippy after a quick bake, the caramelized onions were sweet, and the goat cheese was smooshy and tangy. I made the most obscene noises eating this pizza. We couldn’t hear our TV show at all. I had planned to have one slice and a big salad – but instead I ate the entire pizza in one sitting.
When I say this was the best pizza of my life you have to take into consideration that prior to making this, the best pizza of my life came from a hole-in-the-wall joint run by a New York Italian and an Italian Italian who order their ingredients from NY (their ricotta, at least – because Relita insists we have nothing like Polly-O ricotta on this coast) and have more than one large sign indicating that pineapple is verboten in their shop.
I can’t stop thinking about this pizza. I think pizza night is going to become a regular thing.
The Best Pizza of My Life
Pizza dough for one pizza (generally half of a recipe or half of a fresh ball from the store)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter or canola oil
1 large clove garlic
1 medium-large yellow onion, halved and sliced
1 4-oz log fresh goat cheese
- In a medium or large saute pan over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon butter or canola oil and cook the onions, stirring once every few minutes, for about 1/2 an hour or until they are chocolate-brown, limp, and fully caramelized. If they start to stick add a little more oil or a splash of water.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- If you are making your own dough, do so now. Then let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Roll dough out into a 12″ round and place on baking sheet or pizza stone. Pour the olive oil onto the center of the dough. Press or finely mince the garlic on top of the olive oil and use a pastry brush to spread the olive oil and garlic over the dough, leaving a 3/4 to 1-inch margin.
- Put the caramelized onions on the pizza and distribute evenly, with the same margin.
- Roughly chop the goat cheese and distribute evenly, with the same margin.
- Bake 12-15 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden. Your goat cheese may not melt. This is OK.
- Let rest 5-10 minutes, slice, and eat where people who can’t share can’t hear you.
I have a post scheduled for tomorrow but I just realized that lots of people are probably, like me, going to Halloween parties this weekend. So, just in the nick of time, I present my annual pumpkin pie post. (You’re welcome.)
This is a recipe I literally bled for. It is the most requested recipe of my own devising.
(The most requested recipe for anything I cook, is, btw, Cooking Light’s Monday Morning Potato Bread, and you should drop everything and make it right this minute.)
It took me years to perfect this recipe, and in the process I almost lost the end of my left thumb. If you want to wow your guests or your host at holiday get-togethers this is the recipe for you. This pie isn’t fancy but it isn’t plain, either. It’s exactly what you want out of pumpkin pie: silky smooth, slightly rich but not heavy, spicy but still pumpkiny, with no cloying aftertaste. I tried all sorts of fancy add-ins: nuts in the crust (not bad, but easy to burn them), crème fraîche in the filling (unpleasantly cheesy), and fresh ginger (overpowering!). You don’t need anything fancy. You just need this recipe. Click it. Do it. Bake it. Eat it. Thank me.
P.S. This year I plan to foolishly fuck with my recipe again. (Don’t worry – I’ll wear protective gear.) I will let you know how my inadvisable tweak goes.