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Sour Cherry Pie

Sour cherries are extremely hard to acquire here in Southern California. They’re coveted by many pastry chefs at the farmers market because they are great for baking and due to the limited supply. Your best options are to pre-order them or to have them shipped to you from Oregon or Utah. Personally, I haven’t had much luck with sour cherries the past few years but I scored some last week at the Hollywood Farmers Market. I bought just enough to make one pie. I explained to my son that a sour cherry pie is a seasonal treat and that it is important to use the best ingredients when making them.

For this pie, I used Grist and Toll’s pie crust recipe. Grist and Toll is a local flour mill in Pasadena that produces high quality flour worthy of such a special treat. Typically I use my own pie dough recipe, but the owner encouraged me to try her recipe and I was pleased with the results. The recipe calls for their Sonora wheat flour. One important thing to note is that the crust browns more quickly then other pie crust recipes, so it is important to keep an eye on the pie and tent it early enough in the baking process to prevent it from burning before the contents of the pie are completely cooked. The only two changes that I made to the pie crust recipe are: 1) I added one additional tablespoon of sugar, and 2) I used a food processor instead of cutting in the butter by hand.

When you buy sour cherries, you can pit them and freeze them until you are ready to use them. They freeze beautifully. This is a great pie for Father’s Day or for the Fourth of July. And if you can’t acquire sour cherries this year, there’s always next year. Enjoy!

Sour Cherry Pie

Yields one 9-inch deep dish pie (about 8 slices)

3/4 cup of granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons of organic cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 vanilla bean pod, scraped for seeds
6 cups of sour cherries or tart mountain cherries (washed and pitted)*
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 Grist and Toll’s double-crusted pie crust recipe or your favorite pie crust recipe**
1 tablespoon of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of sugar crystals
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
1. Preheat oven to  375° .

2. Place the cherries and lemon juice in a large bowl. In a small bowl, add the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Pour the dry mixture over the cherries. Stir to combine. Set aside.

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3. In a lightly floured workstation, roll out the first pie crust dough into a 12″ inch wide circle, 1/4″ thickness. Work quickly so the dough doesn’t soften. Gently roll the pie crust around your rolling pin and transfer it to your pie dish, draping it over the edges as you unroll it. Press the pie crust down into the dish and cut off any excess crust. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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4. Place a large piece of parchment paper on your workstation and lightly dust with flour. Roll out the second piecrust dough into large circle, a little bit larger than the last piece. Go a little thinner than 1/4″ thickness. Using a fluted pastry wheel or a pizza wheel, cut into 1″ strips. You should have about 12-14 strips. Place the strips in the freezer for about 5 minutes and remove.

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5. Remove the pie dish from the refrigerator. Give the cherry mixture a quick stir and pour into the pie crust. Place 6 to 7 vertical strips on the pie, all in the same direction.

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6. You will weave the remaining strips in one strip at a time, horizontally, to make it look like an Easter basket.

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7. Cut excess dough on the edge. You don’t want the edges to be doughy when baked. Fold over the edge and seal the pie crust. Then crimp the edges using your forefinger from one hand and your thumb and forefinger from the other.

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8. Place the pie in the freezer for five minutes. Remove.

9. Using a pastry brush, brush the heavy cream all over the lattice top. Sprinkle with the crystal sugar.

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10. Place the pie on a baking sheet and place it on the center rack of the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes.

11. After 30 minutes, tent the edges of the pie with foil to prevent it from browning too fast.

12. Bake for an additional 20-25 minutes. Remove the tent and bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until golden brown.

13. Remove the pie out of the oven place on cooling rack for about 1 hour before slicing. Serve with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

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* Finding sour cherries may be difficult. Try the farmers market or order them from your local cherry farmer if possible. If you have no other options, you can use frozen tart cherries, but you may need to increase the cornstarch a bit.

** If using the Grist and Toll pie crust recipe, you can make it in the food processor. See pictures below. You want to add all the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add the butter and pulse 6-8 times. Add the water vinegar mixture and pulse a couple more times. Then transfer the entire mixture to your workstation and proceed with the recipe as written. If you choose to use another double crust pie recipe, make sure the pie crust can hold up to the juicy filling. I tend to work my piecrust dough a little bit longer to give it more structure when making cherry pies. You still want the piecrust to be flaky and not tough.

Creole BBQ Shrimp

The first time I tried New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp, I expected grilled shrimp on the barbie, but tasted something completely different. The shrimp didn’t come off a grill and they weren’t coated in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce – instead, they were swimming in a delicious sauce made with butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and Creole seasoning. Essentially, they are a “peel and eat” shrimp dish in a spicy rich sauce. Since then, I’ve tried a few versions of this dish at different restaurants in New Orleans and BBQ shrimp has become one of my favorite Creole dishes.

Unfortunately I don’t live in New Orleans, so to fulfill my craving, I developed my own version of this recipe. It most closely resembles the BBQ shrimp dish I had at Mr. B’s Bistro, though with a couple of adjustments. At Mr. B’s, they don’t hold back on the heat or the butter, but in my version I cut the amount of butter used in half, and I also add fresh thyme and lots of garlic. You can add more heat if you like, but don’t reduce the butter any more than I did, as this amount will make a generous amount of sauce. Finally, in New Orleans they use gulf shrimp for this dish, but I recommend using local wild-caught shrimp with the shell and head on.

This dish is very easy to prepare and takes less than 15 minutes once all the prep is done. Serve with a French baguette or rice to sop up the delicious sauce. If you like shrimp, try this dish – it will become one of your favorites. Enjoy!

 
Creole BBQ Shrimp

Serves 2

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, divided
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoon of Creole seasoning (recipe follows) or store bought like Tony Chachere
1/2 teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 lbs of wild-caught shrimp or prawns (16-18 per pound), with shell and head on
Sea salt to taste
1 lemon, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 French baguette, toasted (or cooked long grain rice)
Tabasco sauce for serving, optional

1. Cut the butter into 16 equal pieces.

2. Heat a large stainless steel sauté pan to medium-low. Add 2 pieces of the cut butter (1 tablespoon) and heat until melted. Add the garlic and thyme leaves and sauté for one minute.

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3. Add the Worcestershire sauce, Creole seasoning, Cayenne pepper, black pepper and bay leaf. Stir well and increase the heat to medium-high.

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4. Add all the shrimp into the pan and stir to coat. Cook for about 1 minute.

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5. Push the shrimp to the back of the pan and whisk in the remaining butter, couple pieces at a time, until the sauce thickens.

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6. Stir and cook for about 1 more minute. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Add the lemon slices and parsley and cook for 30 more seconds.

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7. Serve with a toasted baguette or cooked rice.

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Creole Seasoning

Yield 1/4 cup

2 tablespoon of sweet paprika
1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1 teaspoon of thyme
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika

Place all and ingredients into a glass mason jar. Secure a lid on top and shake until the mixture is combine. Store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

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Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins

You rarely find fresh cherries in pastries and desserts because cherries aren’t available year-round like other fruits. In California, cherry season is from mid-April to early June, so if you blink you just might miss it. This week, I bought the last of the season cherries from Murray Family Farms. While Murray’s won’t have any more cherries available this season, there are other farmers that will have cherries available for a couple more weeks, but after that we’ll have to wait until next year.

Due to limited availability and a very short season, I am always torn whether to just eat them fresh or bake with them. With that said, I do enjoy adding fresh cherries to baked goods. In this recipe, I created a dark chocolate muffin recipe with fresh cherries. The slightly bitter chocolate and the tart dark cherries compliment each other well. These muffins are moist in the center and crunchy on top from the raw turbinado sugar, which adds a golden brown color that contrasts nicely with the dark brown muffins. Try this recipe before cherry season is over. Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Yield: About 16 muffins

2 cups of Sonora wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of Valrhona cocoa powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
½ cup of unsalted butter, soften
3/4 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of whole milk
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of pitted and chopped ripe dark cherries (Bing or Tulare)
2/3 cup of dark chocolate chips
Turbinado sugar for topping

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line the muffin pans with cupcake liners.

2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk and break up any lumps. If the cocoa powder is lumpy, sift the dry ingredients.

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3. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter on medium speed for 2 minutes.

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4. Add one egg, beat until combined. Add the second egg ask beat well until smooth.

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5. Add sour cream, milk, and the vanilla extract. Beat until the mixture is smooth.image6. Set the mixer on low speed. Slowly add the in the dry ingredients until just a few streaks of flour is visible. Turn off the mixer and release the bowl.

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7. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dark chocolate chips and the cherries, but don’t over mix.

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8. Scoop the batter with a large ice cream scoop into a lined muffin pan. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

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9. Bake for 20-22 minutes, but don’t overbake. Check with a toothpick at the 20 minute mark.

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10. When the muffins are done, immediately remove them from the muffin pans and transfer to a cooling rack. Cool for 10 minutes and serve with a tall glass of milk or coffee.

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Asian Noodle Salad with Chicken Meatballs

A refreshing cold noodle salad really hits the spot during warm-weather days. When I think of noodle salads, “bun” (a Vietnamese rice vermicelli noodle salad) comes to mind. This dish also has fresh vegetables, lettuce, fragrant herbs, and includes some type of protein. The protein can be grilled pork, lemongrass chicken, shrimp paste, crispy tofu or even egg rolls. Nuoc cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce made with fish sauce, ties the dish together. I love bun because it’s light yet satisfying with many layers of flavors and textures. Bun is the original “lean cuisine.”

Here is my version of bun using a chicken meatball recipe I created. My kids love meatballs, and these are made with Asian flavors that really compliment this noodle salad. The meatballs are so versatile that you can use them in a Thai curry, in Vietnamese sandwiches or serve them with rice and eggs for breakfast. The meatballs freeze well too so you can make them in advance and then heat them up in the oven before serving. Enjoy!

Asian Noodle Salad with Meatballs

Yield: 4 servings

1 pound of ground organic chicken
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, slightly beaten
2 teaspoons of hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon of chili paste
2/3 cup of panko flakes
Mai Pham’s Vietnamese dipping sauce recipe
8 ounces of thin rice vermicelli (cooked and drained)*
1 ripe tomato, cut into wedges
1 Persian cucumber, cut into 1/4 inch circles
4 ounces of chopped romaine or baby greens
1/4 cup of thinly shredded carrots
1/4 cup of fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro leaves
1/8 cup of toasted peanuts, chopped
Lime wedges for serving

1. Mix the chicken, onions, ginger, cloves, egg, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, chili paste and panko flakes until just combined. Don’t overmix or you will end up with tough meatballs.

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2. Roll into 2″ meatballs. You should have roughly 16 meatballs.

 

3. Heat a 12-inch cast-iron or stainless steel pan on medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Brown on each side until you get a nice sear, which will take about 1 minute per side. Be sure to sear all sides as if it were a cube.

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4. Place the meatballs in a paper towel-lined colander. Set aside.

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5. To assemble the the noodle salad, place some noodles on the bottom of 4 serving bowls. Place some mixed greens on top and arrange the rest of the vegetables and herbs. Place 4 meatballs in the center and sprinkle the peanuts on top. Serve with the Vietnamese dipping sauce and lime wedge.

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*Rice noodles come in different thicknesses. Make sure you use the thin rice vermicelli noodles and follow the cooking instructions on the package.

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Walnut Thumbprint Cookies

I absolutely love ground nuts in cookies and one of my favorite nuts to bake with are walnuts. Unlike other nuts, walnuts are earthy and slightly bitter, so they add a little more complexity to cookie recipes. They are also full vitamins and minerals and high in polyunsaturated fats, which are good for the heart. Adding ground walnuts to cookies is a good way to make them more healthy and this is a great and delicious recipe that is popular with both kids and adults. I took a traditional thumbprint cookie and gave it a nutty make-over by adding ground walnuts to the cookie dough and using homemade strawberry jam for the filling. It is a beautiful marriage of nuttiness and tartness.

As with most of my sweet recipes, this one has 1/3 less sugar than traditional cookie recipes. My kids can’t tell the difference, not to mention they make me feel less guilty when I eat them! If you like, you can substitute the the ground walnuts with ground hazelnuts when hazelnuts are in season. Happy baking!

Walnut Thumbprint cookies

Yield: About 2 dozen

1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1/2 cup of ground toasted walnuts or toasted hazelnuts*
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Strawberry, raspberry, or apricot jam

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the two flours, baking powder and kosher salt. Set aside.

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2. In a stand mixer, add the ground nuts, butter, and sugars and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute until fluffy.

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3. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended.

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4. Lower the speed to the lowest setting. Slowly add the flour mixture. Blend until just combined.

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5. Refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours (can be refrigerated up to 2 days).

 

6. Preheat the oven to 350°. Remove the dough from the refrigerator.

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7. Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop, portion out the dough so that all 24 scoops are even. Roll them into balls.

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8. Place the dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using your thumb, press in the center of each ball to create an indentation.

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9. Add 1/2 teaspoon of your favorite jam in the center of each cookie dough.

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10. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.

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Long-Cooked Broccoli Frittata

I first tried long-cooked broccoli at Campanile restaurant, visiting the restaurant many Thursday nights to eat one of their delicious sandwich creations. Nancy Silverton, former owner of La Brea Bakery and co-owner of Campanile, is the genius behind the delicious long-cooked broccoli sandwich, and this broccoli was unlike any I had ever eaten. It was soft but not mushy, and slightly sweet with lovely caramel notes. The long cooking process helps draw out the natural sugars from the broccoli. Though she has since sold La Brea Bakery and Campanile has closed its doors, Silverton has written many cookbooks, and in one she shares her recipe for long-cooked broccoli. I’ve used the recipe many times and have adapted it slightly here, adding it to my frittata recipe.

This frittata is delicious, but he broccoli is the star in this recipe. While the broccoli does takes about 1 1/2 hours to cook, don’t let the long cooking time intimidate you. You only need to stir the dish occasionally during cooking, so you can go exercise, prep other food, or read a book – just stay nearby so you check up on it from time to time. This the perfect dish to make on a leisurely Sunday morning, and I recommend serving it with light salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette. As an alternative, you could use this long-cooked broccoli in pasta or on pizza. Enjoy!

 
Long-Cooked Broccoli Frittata

Serves 6

12 ounces of broccoli head (sliced 1/4″ thin)
1/8 cup of Kosher salt
1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)
1/2 small onion (thinly sliced)
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
8 large eggs
2 tablespoons of heavy cream (optional)
1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for topping
1/4 teaspoon of freshly-grated black pepper

1. Bring 2 quarts of water and 1/8 cup salt to boil. Add the broccoli and boil for 2 minutes.

2. While the broccoli is boiling, get an ice water bath ready.

3. When the broccoli is ready, using a spider strainer, transfer broccoli to a ice water bath. Remove the broccoli and pat with paper towels until dry.

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4. In a 12″ stainless steel sauté pan, add the olive oil, blanched broccoli, onion, garlic, sea salt, and red pepper flakes.

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5. Cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

It should look like this at the halfway point.

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6. Once the broccoli is done, preheat the oven to 375°.

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7. In a large bowl, crack the 8 eggs. Add the the heavy cream and whisk.

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8. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the black pepper. Give it another good whisk.

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9. Turn up heat to high on the broccoli. Wait 1 minute. Add the eggs over the broccoli. Cook over the burner for 1 minute. Transfer to the the oven.

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10. Bake for about 10 minutes. Make sure the center is set and not jiggly. Broil for 1 minute until the top is golden brown.

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11. Remove from the oven. Loosen the frittata using a fish spatula. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Grate additional Parmigiano-Reggiano. Slice into 6 triangles.

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12. Serve warm with a side salad. I like to serve it bottom side up, since it has a nice golden color.

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Strawberry Frangipane Tart

Frangipane is an almond filling used in French pastries, most commonly found in almond croissants. I absolutely love frangipane because it is only mildly sweet for a custard-like filling and it brings out the best in almonds. Frangipane also compliments seasonal fruits well, especially in tarts. Strawberries at your local farmers market are at the peak of their sweetness right now, so what better time to make a strawberry frangipane tart!

This strawberry frangipane tart is beautiful enough to serve at dinner party, but casual enough to whip up for Sunday brunch at home. It is also a forgiving recipe, because the tart crust is free-form – that is, there is no need for a special tart pan and no need to create perfect edges. The crust is very flaky and crumbly, which balances the texture of the fillings. Also, the frangipane helps absorb the natural juices from the strawberries, which results in jammy strawberries in this tart recipe. When strawberries are not in season, you can use this recipe with other fruits like stone fruits or apples. Happy baking!
Strawberry Frangipane Tart

1 tart – 6 servings

3/4 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
3/8 cup of granulated sugar (divided into 2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
3/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt (divided into 1/4 teaspoon and 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of ice water
3/4 cup of ground almonds
1/3 cup of confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon of organic cornstarch
3 ounces of butter (room temperature)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract (optional)
1 pint of ripe strawberries (washed, hulled, and cut in half)
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
2 tablespoons of raw sugar or crystal sugar for sprinkling
1. To make the tart crust, place the flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a food processor. Pulse 3-4 times.

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2. Add butter. Pulse 3-4 times.

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3. Add water. Pulse 2-3 times until the dough comes together.

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4. Move the dough to your work station, then gently knead until it just comes together and form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.

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5. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

6. To make the frangipane, spread the ground almonds on a small baking sheet. Bake at 300° for eight minutes. Cool.

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7. Place the cooled ground almonds, confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, cornstarch and 1/8 teaspoon of salt in the food processor. Pulse 5-6 times.

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8. Add the butter and pulse 3-4 times.

9. Add the egg and extracts and process until smooth.

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10. Transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

11. To make the tart, remove the tart dough from the refrigerator. Remove the frangipane from the refrigerator.

12. Preheat the oven to 400°.

13. Dust a little flour on the work station. Roll the tart dough to a 13-inch circle.

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14. Transfer dough on to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Place the dough in the freezer for five minutes. Remove.

15. Spread frangipane all over the dough up to 1 1/2 inch around the edge. (You will have extra frangipane. You can spread the rest on brioche bread or croissants and bake until golden brown)

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16. Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, until all the frangipane is covered.

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17. Fold the edges of the tart dough over the strawberries, creating a pleat as you fold them over.

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18. Brush the edges with heavy cream.

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19. Sprinkle the edges with the raw sugar. Sprinkle the remaining sugar evenly over the strawberries.

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20. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes. Cut a slice and serve.

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Wild Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry is one of the most popular muffin flavors at a bakery. You will typically find this flavor alongside chocolate, bran and lemon poppy seed. For me, though, I grew up baking and eating blueberry muffins from a box. I remember Betty Crocker had a blueberry muffin mix that came with a can of wild blueberries from Maine – you drained the blueberries and folded them in at the end before baking. The muffin batter was rather ordinary but the wild blueberries, bursting with intense flavor, made up for it. Then I finally had a blueberry muffin from a fancy bakery. Since they used fresh local California blueberries, I expected the muffin to be spectacular but I was a bit disappointed. The muffin itself was good, but the blueberries were lacking in flavor.

So what makes a good blueberry muffin? First and foremost, intense blueberry flavor. You want the blueberry flavor to seep into the batter. I’ve made blueberry muffins with fresh local berries but find that frozen wild blueberries from the Northeast had the best flavor, at least for baking. Second, you want a dense but moist muffin. You achieve this by not overbeating the eggs and by using sour cream and oil in the batter instead of butter. The reason I usually don’t use butter in most of my muffin recipes is because, since it is solid at room temperature, it tends to harden the muffins once they are a day old. Finally, I like to add sugar crystals on the top to create some texture. It gives the dome a nice crunchy top. Try this recipe and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Wild Blueberry Muffins

Yield: 1 dozen

1 1/3 cups frozen organic wild blueberries*
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil (or a neutral flavored oil like organic canola)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sour cream
Sugar crystals* or raw sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and line a muffin pan with 10 cupcake liners. Set aside.

2. Take the frozen blueberries and 1 tablespoon of sugar and toss together in a small bowl. Set aside.

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3. In large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk and set aside.

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4. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the milk and sour cream. Set aside.

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5. In a stand mixer, beat the coconut oil and granulated sugar on medium speed for 1 minute.

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6. Reduce the speed to medium low. Add the the eggs, one at a time, beating until just blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

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7. Add the milk and sour cream mixture and vanilla. Beat until just combined.

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8. On the lowest setting, slowly add the flour until just combined. Don’t overbeat.

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9. Remove the bowl off the mixer. Add the blueberries to the batter and fold gently with a rubber spatula until just combined. Be careful not to crush the blueberries.

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10. Scoop the batter with a large ice cream scoop into lined muffin pan. Sprinkle with sugar crystals.

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11. Bake in the oven on the center rack for about 20-25 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Turn the oven to the broil setting and broil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and remove the muffins from the muffin pan. Place the muffins on a wire rack to cool. Cool for about 15 minutes. Serve with butter.

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*You can find frozen wild blueberries at specialty markets like Trader Joe’s.

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp

Kan Pong Sae Woo is a popular shrimp dish at Korean-style Chinese restaurants. It is essentially sweet and sour shrimp with a little heat. My older son loves shrimp and whenever we order take-out at Dragon restaurant in Koreatown, we include this dish in our order. Dragon makes their shrimp with a lot of batter, but I created a version with a light cornstarch coating. The shrimp in this recipe is supple and juicy and has a little pop when you bite into it. The trick is a method call salt-leaching.

Salt-leaching is a technique used by many Chinese chefs and I learned it from reading one of David Rosengarten’s books. You add roughly 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of raw shrimp, toss and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse. Add more salt. Rinse. Add more salt. Rinse. This process does not make it salty, but glossy, supple, and almost crunchy….like sweet shrimp at sushi restaurants. You can use this technique for other recipes like shrimp fried rice or when adding shrimp to a stir-fry. You will be pleased with the results. Enjoy!
Sweet and Spicy Garlic Shrimp

Serving Size: 2 or 4 with other sides

12 ounces of medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (31-40 count per pound)*
1 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of organic ketchup
1/2 teaspoon of ground chili paste (Sambal Oelek)
1/2 teaspoon of organic soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon of ginger juice*
1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of pineapple juice, optional
1/4 cup of cold water
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of organic cornstarch or potato starch
1 1/2 cups of sunflower oil or peanut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced crosswise
6-7 dried Tien Tsin or Arbol chiles
Steamed Jasmine rice

 
1. Place the shrimp in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle the 3/4 teaspoon of salt and toss to coat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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2. Meanwhile, add the sugar, vinegar, ketchup, chili paste, soy sauce, ginger juice, salt, and pineapple juice in a small bowl. In another small bowl, add the 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch and water and whisk well. Set aside both mixtures until ready to use.

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3. At the 30 minute mark, heat oil in a wok or a deep-fryer to 375°.

4. While the oil is heating, thoroughly rinse the salt off the shrimp with cold water. Add 1/4 teaspoon more salt and toss. Wait 30 seconds. Rinse. Repeat one more time. Pat dry with paper towels.

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5. Transfer the shrimp to large bowl and add 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Toss well.

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6. Once the oil reaches 375°, add half of the shrimp. Deep-fry the shrimp for about 45 seconds or until the coating is nice and crispy. Remove the shrimp with a spider or slotted spoon and place them in a colander lined with a paper towel. Repeat with the process with other half of the shrimp.

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7. If using a wok, carefully pour out the oil into another pan. Place the wok back on the burner on high. Add garlic and sauté for 15 seconds.

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8. Give the water and cornstarch mixture a quick stir and add it to the sauce mixture. Pour the entire mixture to the wok.

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9. Once the sauce thickens, add all the cooked shrimp, dried chiles, and scallions. Toss to coat. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.

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*When buying frozen shrimp, make sure there are no other ingredients besides shrimp. Avoid shrimp with additives like sodium tripolyphosphate. There is no need for preservatives. If at all possible, purchase wild caught shrimp.

*To make ginger juice, finely grate about 1 teaspoon of ginger. Squeeze the grated ginger over a fine mesh sieve. Discard the ginger solids and use ginger liquid for the recipe.

Cherry Ricotta Hand Pies

First of the season cherries have arrived in California! Cherries are one of my favorite fruits, in part because the season is so short. Since cherries aren’t available at the market year-round, they feel extra special when they become available. When they’re in season, I especially like to bake them in desserts like muffins and pies. A good cherry pie is crispy and flaky with a nice golden color. When I think back to my first cherry pie experience, oddly enough, it was at McDonald’s.

Back in the 80’s, McDonald offered two different pie options: cherry and apple. They were delicious, deep-fried, individual hand pies. My mom would buy me one after ballet or choir performances and it always made me smile. McDonald’s cherry pie inspired me to make own version, but with a couple changes: my pie is baked instead of fried, and also has ricotta added to cut down on the sweetness. The dough is flaky and the crystal sugar adds a little crunch. There are some steps required before assembling the pies, so please read the entire recipe before you start. Also, you can prepare the pie crust a day in advanced. Enjoy!

Cherry Ricotta Hand Pies

Yields: 4 hand pies

Ingredients

1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 stick of cold butter (cut into cubes)
1/8 cup of cold water
2 cups of pitted red cherries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoon of organic cornstarch
Pinch of Kosher salt
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
8 ounces of ricotta, drained overnight in cheese cloth
1/2 teaspoon of lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1 egg, beaten (divided in half)
2 teaspoons of whole milk
Sugar crystals for sprinkling

 
1. To make the pie crust, place flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, and salt in a food processor.

2. Pulse 3-4 times.

3. Add butter, pulse 3-4 times.

4. Add water. Pulse 2-3 times until the dough comes together.

5. Move the dough to work station, gently knead until it just comes together and form into a disk. Do not overwork the dough or it will yield a tough crust.

6. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

7. To make the cherry filling, add cherries to a sauce pan and turn the heat to medium.

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8. Cover pan with lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

9. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, cornstarch and salt. Remove lid and stir in the dry mixture until no lumps are visible.

10. Add lemon juice and cook for 2 more minutes.

11. Remove from heat and cool completely. Set aside.

12. To make the ricotta filling, add the ricotta, lemon zest, vanilla extract, and 1/2 of the beaten egg in a small bowl. Stir until just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

13. Take the other half of the beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of milk and whisk. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until needed.

14. It’s time to assemble the pies. Lightly dust a work station with flour. Roll out pastry dough until 1/8 of an inch thick. Cut into 4 inch squares.

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15. Add a tablespoon of ricotta filling and a tablespoon of cherry filling on top. Brush with egg wash around the perimeter. Fold over and seal, making a rectangle. Using the tines of a fork to press along the edges to secure the seal.

16. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other four hand pies. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

17. Preheat on oven to 350°. Remove the hand pies from the freezer and score 3 diagonal lines on top of each pie. Brush with egg wash. Sprinkle sugar crystals generously on each hand pie. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until nice and golden brown. Place on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

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