Apple Beehive

buzzing with anticipation 4I’m not sure what Elisabeth Prueitt had in mind when she created the Apple Beehive, but my mind immediately went to Rosh Hashanah. For the Jewish New Year, it is customary to dip apples in honey to symbolize our wishes for a sweet year for family, friends and all the Jewish people. There are quite a few sweet options available for us to choose from. Why specifically apples and honey?look at those layers

In researching this question, the interpretation I discovered on the website torah.org, resonated quite strongly with me. Their insight regarding the apple part of the equation, is explained this way:
“On most fruit trees the leaves appear before the fruit, thus providing a protective cover for the young fruit. The apple, however, makes a preemptive move by appearing before the leaves. The Jewish people are compared to an apple because we are willing to live out our Jewish lives even if this seems to leave us unprotected. “

The choice of honey was brilliantly explained with this insight:
“A bee can inflict pain by its sting, yet it also produces delicious honey. Life has this same duality of potential. We pray that our choices will result in a sweet year.”

This dessert is gorgeous in its purity. Gossamer thin slices of apples are shingled with butter, cinnamon and sugar. That’s it. Nothing else. When baked, the apple slices fuse together into a sweet-tart conglomeration that belie its simplicity. This is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The flavours are surprisingly complex for so few ingredients.

A mandoline makes slicing the apples easy. If you have stellar knife skills, you can just use a sharp knife. Granny Smith apples are the perfect choice for this as they are tart and hold their shape when baked.slicing applesBrushing with melted butterIt really looks like a beehive before it goes into the oven.before bakingDuring baking, the apples shrink and caramelize, losing the lofty height it once had. It doesn’t quite resemble a beehive as much after baking, but this is so delicious, no one will complain. Just remember to take a before picture to show everyone!after bakingOnce the beehive comes out of the oven, brush it with some melted apricot jam to give it a glossy coat. glossy from apricot jamDelicious warm or at room temperature, it can be served plain.a naked sliceOr gild the lily and add some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.with some whipped creamOr do as I did and drizzle it with salted caramel sauce.everything's better with salted caramelWishing you all a happy, healthy and very sweet new year.

Click here to print recipe for Apple Beehive.

 

Roasted Peaches with Ricotta Buttercream

five roasted peachesMy Instagram feed is starting to fill up with everything pumpkin. It won’t be long before the pumpkin spice fairies start sprinkling that crap on everything. Come on guys, it’s only early September. There are still amazing local peaches at my market. Let’s take our time and go slowly into fall. peachesThis was my “Summer of Ricotta.” Arguably, not quite as much fun as the Summer of George, but still pretty great. I taught my friends how to make homemade ricotta. I felt like a science teacher. There is something quite magical about watching the curds separating from the whey. I ended up making it almost every week. We ate it on toast with peaches and honey, with garlic roasted tomatoes and with strawberries and almonds. We ate it stirred into hot pasta and then we whipped it with feta and cream cheese for a dip.

Brooks Headley, former pastry chef at Del Posto in NYC, created this recipe. This is my take on it. He topped the peaches with a crispy panko breadcrumb topping. I went a little rogue and made a crumble topping with Biscoff (Speculoos) cookies, pistachios and butter. If you can’t find  Biscoff cookies, you could use graham wafers or gingersnap cookies.

The peaches are poached in the oven in a mixture of equal parts white wine vinegar and honey. This combination is brilliant. It coats the peaches and the residual liquid cooks down to a thick syrup that is ambrosial.

Check out the video I made to show you how to make these peaches.

 

two roasted peaches

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Peaches with Ricotta Buttercream.

one roasted peachtake a bite

 

“Grate” Tomato Sauce

forkful of pasta 2Last week, it occurred to me that my husband has become much more sociable, while I am have become considerably less so. It seems like every few months he comes home regaling me with a tale about a recently acquired friend. Our kids joke about dad’s new BFFs.

I don’t think I have made a new friend in over 25 years, unless you count Kelly Rippa. My daughter tells me that Kelly is only my friend in my mind. I believe that Kelly would really like me if only she knew me. We have so much in common. Both of us fly into a rage when our husbands chew fruit in close proximity to our ears. It’s a documented disorder, check it out.

I was reading an interesting article about how smartphones have destroyed a generation and it got me thinking about what constitutes a real friend. Do you have to have face to face contact to be real friends? Over the past few years, I have gotten to know a fellow blogger, Wendy (The Monday Box) through reading and commenting on each others blogs. I consider her to be a new friend.

Last weekend, one of my husband’s new friends came to visit us at the cottage. He and his wife arrived bearing a huge basket of vegetables from their garden. It was such a thoughtful gift. I have been cooking with it all week. There were 4 huge heirloom tomatoes in the basket and a few bulbs of garlic. I was inspired to make a batch of quick tomato sauce. When mother nature gives you gorgeous produce, don’t mess with it too much.

I have only made my own tomato sauce once, and that was many years ago with my friend Marla. We bought a few bushels of plum tomatoes from the market and spent all day peeling and seeding them and then proceeded to cook them down for hours. The kitchen looked like a crime scene. There was red pulp and juice everywhere. It cured me of canning forever.

When I saw in Bon Appetit magazine, how Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen makes her tomato sauce, I was encouraged to try making it again. No peeling or seeding. She just grates the tomatoes on a box grater and cooks them very briefly. No fuss or muss.grating tomatoes A generous amount of garlic and olive oil meet in the pan for a few minutes. A few sprigs of rosemary are added and then in goes the grated pulp from 4 large tomatoes. Make sure to salt with abandon. Tomatoes and salt are best friends and depend on each other to shine. sauteeing garlic and rosemarycooking tomatoesI added a small squeeze of Mike’s Hot Honey. I seem to be possessed with a desire to add it to everything I can. Chef Ashley finishes her sauce with 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter. I whisked in just 2 teaspoons and felt it was delicious with just that small amount. Enriching tomato sauce with butter is Marcella Hazan‘s trick and it’s glorious. spagettiI kept it simple and added just a few tiny fresh tomatoes, basil and Parmesan cheese.tomatoesbasil

3 bowls of pasta 2

spagetti and sauce in bowl 2Click here to print recipe for _Grate_ Tomato Sauce.

stick a fork in it

 

Banana Fudge Chocolate Cake

Cake with unlit candlesWe’re not into big, full-on birthday celebrations in our house. We’re just not the partying kind of family. 4/5 of us fall squarely into introvert territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as I have recently learned from a wonderful book called The Introvert Advantage.

So while we do celebrate our birthdays without much fanfare, the one thing I do insist on is a homemade birthday cake. Even if I do have to bake my own cake. Everyone in our family has their favourites. My oldest son and husband always request Almond Berry Shortbread Cake, my youngest son will accept anything with chocolate, see here, here, here, and here.

My daughter usually requests Carrot Cake with Lemon Curd Filling. However, this year when I asked her what kind of cake she wanted for her August birthday, she told me I could surprise her and make anything I wanted. She knows I love to bake new things so I’ll have fresh material for the blog. What a great daughter.

Anything I want? I was a little overwhelmed with such wide parameters. Sometimes less choice is a good thing. I turned to one of my favourite baking books for inspiration. Bobbette and Belle is filled with classic baked goods with a unique twist.

I decided on baking the Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake since my daughter loves chocolate very much. I seem to recall that her first word was chocolate. If you plan to bake this cake, and you really should, plan on baking it over 2 days to allow yourself time to enjoy the process. There are 4 component parts to the recipe.Cake and presentThere are 3 layers of dense super-moist banana cake. Note that you will require 7 ripe bananas to make this! Most banana cake recipes call for 3 ripe bananas, so we are veering into deep banana territory here.Cake with slice removed 2The 3 layers are sandwiched with a deep dark chocolate fudge frosting. Then, the whole thing is covered in a silky light chocolate buttercream. Finally, the cake is topped with a chocolate glaze that drips ever so artfully down the sides of the cake.

I made the fudge frosting and buttercream on day one and the cake layers and glaze on day two. Here’s a video showing how the whole thing was assembled.

This cake was met with rave review from everyone who got to try it.Cake with slice removed

A very happy birthday indeed!!

slice with lit candle

Click here to print recipe for Banana Chocolate Fudge Cake.

slice laying on its side

Zucchini with Corn and Ricotta Pasta

serving pastaZucchini and I have a complicated relationship. She and her sister, summer squash and her cousin, the adorable pattypan squash, lure me with their shiny skin and vibrant colours. I bring them home from the farmers market, bathe them in olive oil, honey, salt and chile flakes and grill them for a few minutes. Sadly, I am always disappointed by their bland flavour and watery texture. yellow and green zucchinipattypan squash Then I saw a recipe in the June issue of Bon Appetit for Summer Squash and Basil Pasta and I was convinced to give zucchini another chance. Apparently, if you sauté the heck out of the zucchini, for over 15 minutes, it becomes jammy and saucy. That’s when the flavour transformation happens. All the water evaporates out of the zucchini and the flavour becomes concentrated and delicious.

This is my take on the Bon Appetit recipe. I have adapted it slightly.

Slice up lots of garlic and start frying it gently in some olive oil. The original recipe leaves the sliced garlic in the final dish. I don’t love crunching down on big bits of garlic so after the garlic is lightly golden brown and has imparted its gorgeous perfume to the oil, scoop out the sliced garlic and discard it. slicing garlicsauteeing garlicZucchini needs salt. Lots of salt. Don’t be afraid. adding saltOnce the zucchini has wilted down, add some raw corn and keep cooking until the zucchini deepens in colour and gets all jammy. Don’t forget some spicy heat. I used red pepper flakes.zucchini cooked down to jammy consisitencyI finished the dish with some grated Parmesan, fresh mint, basil and a big dollop of ricotta cheese. If you happen to have any homemade ricotta hanging out in the fridge, even better. big bowl of pasta

Click here to print recipe for Zucchini and Corn Pasta with Ricotta.with a scoop of ricotta