Blue Bird Days

Four years ago we left the mountains and moved to my husband’s home state of Oklahoma. We were filled with hope and expectation and like so many romantic-types our dreams were slightly elusive. The vision of what life would be was a far cry from what life actually was.

We found ourselves suddenly, willingly, on a path that felt overwhelmingly “off”. What ensued were two years of stretching and growth in the midst of regret.

Despite our own personal (and perhaps petty) dissappointment there was an outpouring of light. We enjoyed the close proximity to our families. We delighted in our sweet son, Cecil. We welcomed our second beautiful son into the world, James. And so the dailyness of life helped us to hobble on.

Two years ago we moved back to the mountains, to the same town we’d left twice before. That old adage third times a charm comes to mind. Call it fate or providence. I call it God. We’ve come to the conclusion that we’re just supposed to be here and lucky for us there’s no where else we’d rather be.

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Commitments aren’t my forte. So I’m hesitant to put the cart before the horse here. But I’ve missed sharing recipes and for some inexplicable reason I feel like I’m supposed to do this, maybe just today, maybe next month. We’ll just see what happens 🙂

This is a little Early Spring menu. I always anticipate the change of seasons, and where I live March and April don’t typically feel very springy (although this year is quite the exception!). This is my remedy. Ostensibly springy foods just cozied up a bit.

SALMON WITH CRÈME FRAÎCHE AND HERBS
We make this year round. It’s incredibly fast and delicious for very little effort, perfect for a weeknight! I always serve it over brown rice to sop up the sauce. THAT SAUCE. It’s wonderful and I’m not typically comfortable boasting about things because I get all sweaty. As for sides, the asparagus recipe below would be nice for special occasions, but my favorite side is boiled (pronounced “bowled” if you’re from East Texas) frozen peas with a drizzle of olive oil and finely chopped fresh mint.

Also, not to be a pain… but you MUST (!) use crème fraîche! NOT sour cream!! It’s expensive and I’m sorry.  I think you’ll forgive me after you try it.

Lastly, if you’re feeling really decadent, you can double the sauce. That’s just an unspoken universal truth. In life, you can always double the sauce.

1 pound salmon filet (approx)
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

1/2 cup creme fraiche
juice of 1 small lemon, approx 2 Tbs.
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped fine
1 tablespoon shallots or fresh chives, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried dill (fresh would probably be awesome, but I always just use dried)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375* F

2. In a large baking dish that will more than accommodate the fish, lay a piece of parchment paper about twice as large as the baking dish (let the extra paper drape over the side). On the section of parchment that is sitting in the dish, drizzle 1 tsp. of olive oil.  Lay fish skin-side down on oiled parchment.  Drizzle fish with remaining 1 tsp. olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Prepare the creme fraiche sauce.  In a medium sized bowl mix the remaining 8 ingredients: creme fraiche through the pinch of pepper.

4. Pour sauce mixture over entire fish.  Fold the unused side of the parchment over the fish.  Fold the edges three times to create a parcel and seal thoroughly.  You’re steaming the fish in the parchment so its important that the edges stay sealed.

5. Bake approximately 15-20 minutes**, until parchment envelope puffs up and fish begins to flake.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 mins before opening parchment at table.

(Serves 4)

** Depending on the thickness of your salmon filet, it might need more time in the oven. I’d start checking around the 18 minute mark. I’ve had 1 1/4″ – 1 1/2″ filets require closer to 25 minutes.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS BUNDLES
In the photo above I was tinkering around, testing different versions of this recipe. Asparagus and pork in any form were just made for each other.  Here is my spin on this old-world classic. I don’t like the other components to cover up the natural flavor of the asparagus, so I keep all the garnishes pretty light.

To make this dairy-free, simply omit the parmesan cheese shavings.  The other flavors are very pronounced and you won’t miss the cheese a bit.  The little touch of parsley and lemon zest on top add just enough flavor and color.

1 pound asparagus
6 slices prosciutto
1-2 T. olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
parmesan cheese shavings, using a vegetable peeler
2-3 T. parsley, coarsely chopped
1 t. lemon zest

  1. Preheat oven to 375* F.
  2. Cut off the bottom third of each asparagus stalk.  Divide the stalks into 6 little piles (approx. 4 or 5 stalks per pile, depending on the size of your asparagus).  Wrap each pile of asparagus in 1 slice of prosciutto and place bundles with the prosciutto seam-side down on a baking sheet or sheet pan.  Repeat with remaining piles, leaving a little room between each bundle.
  3. Drizzle the bundles with olive oil, fresh ground pepper, and the tiniest pinch of salt (prosciutto and parmesan together are quite salty, so you need very little). Roast approximately 20-25 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and just beginning to brown.
  4. Before serving, lightly scatter with chopped parsley, a couple of parmesan shavings and a pinch of lemon zest over each bundle.

(Serves 6)

CITRUS INFUSED STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKES
This is a great way to serve those first strawberries of the season that may not be the most ripe and flavorful, but they’re red and pretty and you just want some. Also, I’m more of a cupcake-shortcake-gal as opposed to a biscuit-shortcake-gal, just my personal preference.

Strawberries:
1 lb. strawberries, hulled, sliced
1-2 tsp. orange zest (preferably organic)
juice of 1 orange
3-4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium-sized bowl mix together all ingredients. Taste & adjust. Macerate at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until shortcakes are ready.  Or prepare ahead of time and store in the fridge, but bring to room temp 30 minutes before serving.

Shortcakes:
1 1/2 cups flour (for GF use: 1 c. rice flour, 1/3 c. potato starch, 1/4 c. tapioca flour, 3/4 tsp. xanthan gum)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, at room temp (for dairy-free use coconut oil)
3 tablespoons canola oil (or other neutral flavor cooking oil)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg (or 2 for more of a denser sponge-cake)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup sparkling water, like Perrier

barely-whipped cream, to serve (2 cups heavy whipping cream, 1-2 T. sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, whisk until soft peaks form)

confectioner’s sugar, to serve

  1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Generously butter a 12 cup muffin pan.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In the bowl of your mixer, beat together the butter, oil and sugar until light and fluffy, approx. 2 minutes.  Add the egg and then the vanilla.
  4. Alternately, and on low-speed, beat in the flour mix and sparkling water, until just blended. Divide batter between muffin cups. Bake 15 – 18 minutes, until tops are brown and cakes have set.  Test with a toothpick. Allow to cool a few minutes before removing from pan.
  5. To serve, slice each cake in half, horizontally. Spoon macerated strawberries and their juice over the bottom cake half, top with a big dollop of barely whipped cream, place the cake’s “hat” on top.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar.

(Makes 12 shortcakes)

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Summer Strawberry Tart {gluten-free}

Strawberry Tart {gluten-free}Strawberry Tart {gluten-free}

At last Spring has sprung. The snow is melting. Our daytime high is reaching the mid-fifties.

Ahhhhh.

We had fresh strawberries for dessert with friends the other night (thank you, Andrea!) and they were some of the best I can remember. Turns out they were $1 per pound at my grocery, too. So, I snatched up 5 pounds with this very tart in mind. I stumbled upon this recipe years ago in Martha Stewart’s Living magazine and it’s been burning a hole in my overflowing recipe to-do file ever since.

Much to Adam’s annoyance, I didn’t get started until 9:00 pm last night and didn’t finish until 11:15 pm.  Such working hours can put a strain on any relationship, especially when you live in a 500 SF studio apartment. Needless to say there was grumbling and growling from the general direction of our bedroom when I removed the tart from the oven, set it to cool, etc, etc.  I’m happy to report that serving the tart for breakfast, no less on a ho-hum Thursday morning, smoothed things over quickly.

So, my marriage is fine and the tart?  Well, the tart is quite good. Labor intensive, but worth it. I will definitely make this again.

STRAWBERRY TART
Adapted from Martha Stewart

I decreased the sugar content by half because I thought my berries were plenty sweet on their own and I hate when fruit desserts are ruined with too much sugar.  However, next time I will use the full amount of sugar called for because this filling should be sweet, almost like jam, but with more texture.  The crust is buttery and not too rich and I just feel that the full amount of sugar would have balanced things out nicely.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t adjust a thing.

Pate Brisee (tart dough/crust)

  • 3/4 cup sorghum flour *
  • 2/3 cup white or brown rice flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch (not flour!)
  • 1/3 cup tapioca or arrowroot starch
  • 1/3 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 15 tablespoons clarified butter (0r regular butter, or Spectrum organic shortening) chilled and cut into small pieces **
  • 1/4 cup ice water

Pulse flours, sugar, salt in food processor. Add clarified butter pieces and pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running add water until dough just comes together.

Alternatively, mix flours, sugar, and salt with whisk. Cut in butter using two knives or a pastry cutter until mix resembles coarse meal (butter is the size of peas). Add water and mix with a spatula or spoon until dough just comes together.

Divide dough in half, wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour (when I’m in a rush, I’ll freeze the dough for 10 minutes or so to speed up the process).

Strawberry Tart

  • 3 pounds strawberries (about 8 cups), hulled and sliced
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch or arrowroot starch
  • 1 batch of Pate Brisee (above)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • turbinado or sanding sugar for dusting

Soak strawberries and sugar for 1 hour.  Drain off liquid and discard (or keep!  it makes a great simple syrup for iced tea!). Add cornstarch to berries and stir.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out half of dough on lightly floured surface to approximately 10″ in diameter, or approximately 1″ overhang.  Gently lay dough in 9″ removable bottom tart pan, gently press dough into sides. Prick the bottom with a fork.  Pour strawberry mixture over dough. Refrigerate to keep dough firm.

Roll out second half of dough on lightly floured surface to approximately 10″ round. Remove tart from refrigerator and carefully lay the top layer of dough over the filling and press edges to seal.

Using a paring knife, make decorative slits in tart top. Mix oil and water and brush the top of the dough. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Place tart on baking sheet and bake 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and continue to bake an additional 30-35 minutes until top is brown and filling is bubbling. Cover with foil if to begins to brown too quickly.  Remove from oven and cool completely before serving.

* If you’re not gluten-free simply substitute the mix of flours with 2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
** If you’re not casein-free substitute real butter for the ghee or shortening.