Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chewy Medjool Date-Nut Pie

Soft, chewy, fresh dates arrived in town and I had to make this gooey pie. The recipe comes from the book, Pie by Ken Haedrich, which is really a modern day pie bible. This beast-like book rivals a large dictionary in size and is over-flowing with nothing but pie recipes! The instructions are quite long and boring however, so I’ve rewritten them for impatient people like myself.

I have discovered one really can live off pie. Just don’t tell my doctor!

1 store bought pie dough (Or better yet purchase one already formed in the freezer aisle)
4 large eggs
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups soft Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (I used pecans)
Whipped cream or ice-cream for garnish (optional)

1. In between sheets of wax paper, roll out the store bought pie crust to stretch it slightly and flatten it out evenly. Peel off the top paper and flip it upside down onto a 9 ½ inch Pyrex deep dish pie plate. Flute the edges. Pre-bake according to the box directions.

2. Next, pre-heat the oven (or turn the temperature down likely) to 350 degrees.

3. In a stand mixer beat the eggs and brown sugar on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. Add the melted butter and beat briefly. Add the corn syrup, vanilla, and salt and beat for 30 seconds.

4. Scatter the dates and nuts evenly over the pre-baked pie shell. Slowly pour the filling over them. Cover the edges with foil or a pie crust shield.

5. Bake the pie on the middle oven rack for about 45-50 minutes, or until the center seems set but may be slightly jiggly.

6. Move the pie to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, cover loosely with aluminum foil and refrigerate for several hours until chilled. Serve with whipped cream or ice-cream as desired.

Recipe from "Pie" by Ken Haedrich, with lots of bastardization by me, the impatient Laura Flowers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Red, White & Green Pressed Sandwich with Dry Cured Olives

For me, dry cured olives in this sandwich give a much needed punch of acidity. A sort of wake up call to the mellow mozzarella, tomatoes and bread. I found the olives at my local Co-Op, but am guessing you can find them at some olive bars.

If you can’t find dry cured olives, any favorite good quality olive should work. If you don’t like olives, you could try a drizzle of red wine vinegar instead.

1 baguette
2 balls fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, or any favorite variety, sliced
A couple handfuls of fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup seeded & chopped dry cured Greek Thasos olives (or any favorite olives)
Olive oil, or basil olive oil
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Salt & pepper, to taste

1. Heat up a Panini or sandwich press to medium high.

2. Slice the baguette into manageable sandwich size pieces, then cut the pieces down the middle.

3. Drizzle the insides of the bread with olive oil.

4. Top one half with olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if using. Top with the other half of the bread.

5. Press the sandwich until the bread is toasted and the cheese starts to ooze. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches.

Makes 3 to 4 sandwiches

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pinoli Amaretti (Italian Almond Macaroons Rolled in Pine Nuts)

These little macaroons are quite easy to make, but you must leave the egg whites uncovered on the counter all day. I know this sound scary, but trust me. By doing this the egg whites will have evaporated out some of the water, ensuring your cookies will be chewy and perfectly puffed.

I set the egg whites out at breakfast and made the Pinoli Amaretti in the late afternoon. You could also leave the egg whites out before bed, and throw the cookies together in the morning.

These go great with a cup of espresso, and I’ve been drinking a lot of it today as an excuse to eat more cookies!

4 egg whites
1 ½ pounds almond paste, broken into pieces (not marzipan)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups pine nuts

1. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Leave the whites on the counter uncovered for several hours or overnight. Refrigerate and reserve the yolks for another use. (I suggest ice-cream!)

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper.

3. In a stand mixer combine egg whites, almond paste, granulated sugar, and powdered sugar. Mix on low to combine, and then on medium speed for 3 minutes.

4. Place some of the pine nuts in a small bowl and replenish as needed.

5. Scoop the dough using a size 60 cookie scoop (or enough dough to make two teaspoons), and roll in the pine nuts. Place 1 1/2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

6. Bake one sheet at a time for 16 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Slide the parchment paper with the cookies on it onto the counter. Let the cookies cool completely then gently pull them off the parchment.

7. Store in a covered container.

Makes about 80 cookies.

Notes: A size 60 cookie scoop is smaller than a standard size 50 cookie scoop. I found mine in my local kitchen store. They are often advertised as mini cookie scoops.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strawberry Dutch Baby with Fresh Strawberry Rum Syrup

The strawberries are finally ripe here! So Monday afternoon a friend and I made the two hour drive to Knapp’s Farm, where the strawberry plants were so loaded with fruit they drooped to the ground. In no time we had picked 30 pounds of plump, juicy berries.

So what does one do with that many strawberries besides make jam? I have no idea, but I’m having fun finding out! It seemed like Dutch Babies and Strawberry Rum Syrup would be a great way to start.

Strawberry Dutch Baby
2 eggs, at room temperature
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Powdered sugar
1 cup sliced strawberries
Strawberry Rum Syrup (Recipe below, make syrup before starting Dutch Baby)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Beat together the eggs, milk & salt. Then beat the flour into the mixture until smooth.
3. In a 9 to 10 inch skillet melt the butter over medium heat on the stovetop. Pour in the mixture and cook for exactly 1 minute.
4. Place the skillet in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 350 degrees.
5. Bake until puffed over the edges and nicely browned; about 15 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven and top with strawberries, powdered sugar, & strawberry syrup. Slide onto a plate, cut in half, and move half to another plate. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Fresh Strawberry Rum Syrup
This stuff is so good I drizzled it over my cereal this morning. It would be great with ice-cream too.

½ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
2 cups strawberries
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tablespoons white or dark rum
Small pinch of salt

1. Clean, hull, and puree strawberries in a food processor. Set aside.
2. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat boil the water and sugar until clear.
3. Add the pureed strawberries, lemon zest, rum & salt. Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature until the mixture is at a high simmer. Cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Syrup will thicken more as it cools.
4. Cool slightly and serve warm over pancakes. Cover leftover syrup and store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Notes: Knapp’s Farm is located in the Green Bluff Growers Community just north of Spokane, Washington. The web site can be found at http://www.greenbluffgrowers.com/.

Recipes by Laura Flowers

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Machine. The Yogurt. The Cooked Fruit.

I spotted a used Euro Cuisine Automatic Yogurt Maker a couple days ago for $20 on the clearance shelf at Bed Bath & Beyond. I snatched it up and excitedly hauled my backside to the checkout counter, all the while eyeballing everyone around me like they wanted to take my prize away. Yes, they all thought I was nuts. Who needs a yogurt maker when you can buy yogurt at the store so cheaply?

For me the best part of making my own yogurt is I get to control everything that goes into it. No more high fructose corn syrup, strange stabilizers, or gelatin for me. I can even make non-fat yogurt, it just takes a bit longer to incubate. If you eat a fair amount of yogurt you need one of these things!

This little machine makes it so easy to throw together a batch of yogurt that I have no idea why this isn’t more common to do. It should be! I’ve topped the yogurt here with cooked fruit, but have also enjoyed it with fresh strawberries and a drizzle of honey so far. I’ll be making my own yogurt from now on for Greek tzatziki sauce and Indian cucumber yogurt sauce too.

You’re also going to need a candy thermometer, a cheapie will work fine. This recipe makes a nice thick yogurt.

4 1/2 cups whole milk (Organic preferably)
1 (5.3 or 7 ounce) container plain Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt (Used as a starter)

In a saucepan heat up the milk over medium heat stirring often until it's reached 180 degrees. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Once cooled to room temperature (hotter will kill off the cultures), mix a little of the milk together with the yogurt until smooth and then pour the mixture back into the pan stirring to combine.

Pour or ladle the mixture into the glass jars. Place the jars in the yogurt machine and cover with the domed lid. Set the timer for 7 hours, or to the manufactures directions. Don’t move the machine during this time or the yogurt may be ruined.

Remove the domed lid carefully so that the condensation doesn’t drop back into the jars. Let the jars cool to room temperature, then cover with the provided lids and chill for at least three hours before using.

Cooked Fruit
This isn’t a recipe; instead it’s a guideline for you to cook freestyle. Use whatever fruit or combination of fruits you like, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and just enough sugar to sweeten the fruit to taste. Frozen fruit and fresh fruit work equally well.

Here’s what I did this time.

2 cups sliced frozen strawberries
1 cup chopped frozen rhubarb
¼ cup granulated sugar
A squeeze of lemon juice
A small pinch of salt

Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over medium to medium high heat and stir frequently for several minutes until the fruit is soft and begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Recipes by Laura Flowers

Notes: You can purchase acidophilus yogurt starter if you don't want to use a container of yogurt.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Crispy Brownies aka Gooey Chocolate Overload

About a week ago my doorbell rang at 7 A.M. jolting me up out of a dead sleep. I rolled out of bed, groaned loudly in protest, and answered the door in my pajamas and wild hair. There I was greeted by a giant paperboy in a bicycle helmet, dress shirt, tie, big nervous eyes, and a newspaper being shoved into my hands. My first thought was, “Why the heck is the paperboy handing me the paper? Can’t he just leave it by the door like other paperboys?”

Then this crazy paperboy handed me a beautiful stack of handwritten recipe cards, and finally my brain cells started to kick in. “Oh, this isn’t the paper boy!” It was Eric, my husband’s co-worker. He and his wife Bethany had beautifully written down several of their favorite recipes to share with me, and he was dropping them off before bicycling to work. What a thoughtful surprise!

This brownie comes from one of those pretty little cards.

1 package fudge brownie mix
1 package mini marshmallows
1 ½ cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 Tablespoon butter
1 ½ cups Rice Krispies Cereal

1. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil and brush lightly with oil. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees or to brownie box directions.

2. Prepare brownie mix for chewy brownies. Bake according to box directions.

3. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the marshmallows. Bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely, or until marshmallows have solidified.

4. Melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter in a saucepan over medium low heat stirring frequently. Turn off the heat and stir in the cereal. Pour over the brownies and smooth out the mixture.

5. Refrigerate until the topping is set. Carefully remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the foil. If they are too soft to be removed, freeze for 30 minutes and try again. To cut, brush a chef’s knife with oil and cut into strips, then into squares. Repeat with the oil as needed.

Recipe via Eric and Bethany Newell. Pictures by Laura Flowers.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

International Conference on Food Styling & Photography; a Personal Journey Part II

Continued from yesterday's post, click on the title for Part I:

As I walked into the main room for breakfast I was permeated by a high energy of creative excitement. A collective synergy of the most creative and generous sprits I would meet in my entire life. It brings me to the brink of tears to think that I’m back on isolated Idaho soil separated from this feeling, and from the people who live art and food as part of who they are. People, who for the first time in my life experience, were much like me.

Breakfast was continental style; bagels, muffins, fruit, juice, and coffee. I piled my little plate and sat down in an empty seat next to Mathew Kimura from Creative Palates. Mathew develops recipes in The Test Kitchen for Canadian Living, the big food magazine in Canada. We connected quickly and he immediately pulled out his portfolio of a few pieces of his work, including his new feature recipe in the magazine. He’s quite a talented and enthusiastic person, and I think we’ll see more of him as the years go on.

After breakfast, we were herded into the main lecture hall for quick introductions and told to choose one of two lectures to attend for every time slot, a photography class and a food styling class. Ugh! I had to choose?? That’s like trying to pick your favorite kid!! “No Tommy, I really do like you the best. Ok maybe I like Sally better.” Do you see the dilemma? I quickly analyzed the situation, and since I had absolutely no food styling experience I had better attend that one.

Laura Shapiro and Alice Hart were the speakers. Alice, stylist and owner of Food for Films was new to me, but I know Laura’s work well. Laura wrote “A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove”, a favorite book of mine about American women’s history in the kitchen. Recently, I shot the Peach Supreme Pie from that work. A coveted family recipe like that needs a picture. I should remember to send it to her.

I didn’t learn too much from that lecture, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Besides, I think I needed a soft entry point as my brain would soon enough leak out of my ears from information overload.

Much too soon it was lunch. What in the world do you feed food stylist, chefs, food photographers, food writers, recipe developers, and food bloggers? Can you imagine that kind of pressure on the staff and planners? They pulled it off beautifully! Lunch was a gorgeous Nicoise salad topped with rare tuna, or Portobello mushrooms for the vegetarian option. Wine and coffee were also served, and the meal was finished with a beautiful little sponge-like cake filled with raspberry mousse and fresh raspberries. It was here I got lucky. I happened to sit at the table with the most wonderful fun group of people! I also met chef Susan Reid and photographer Brenda Hickory from King Arthur Flour at that table, who I would later become fast friends with.

After lunch everyone filed into the main conference auditorium for Global Style with Argentinean food stylist Marcela Sorondo (on the right) and New Zealander/living in London/works all over the world food stylist Clare Ferguson (on the left). I loved this session! Clare’s personality and fun nature shine through her. She makes you want to be her friend. Kind hearted Marcela, a food stylist almost by nature, only called it “food styling” years after she heard the term, and realized it fit with what she was doing. The generous energy emitting from these two amazing women was so powerful and loving, just listening to what they had to say was joyful. I was trying to absorb everything so quickly my brain was started to melt out of my ears! I’m no food stylist, but I often wish I had a few food stylist friends!

I choose the session on sustainable styling next, with corporate stylist Stef Culberson and photographer Mette Nielson. What I learned there is about the huge amount of food wasted in commercial food photography. Their message; keep it small. There’s no need to waste resources to that level. Well honestly, I’ve never had that kind of problem here! However, it was quite an eye opener.

Eventually it was time for dinner. I got lost again of course. Dinner was in a building down and across the street. I spotted a crowd I’d noticed earlier at the conference and found my way to the food! Once inside, I found the King Arthur crowd and joined them. You can’t help but to feel welcome around Susan Reid and Brenda Hickory, and we laughed and laughed. A New England Lobster Dinner was on the menu, and I’ve never had a whole lobster before. I’ve been landlocked my entire life, and who wants old lobster? As I laughed about not being able to crack it open, Susan (on the right) took my plate and cracked the whole thing in less than a minute! That’s her in the picture making faces as she pretends that it’s terribly difficult work. The other picture is me playing with lobster claws. My goal this year is to be more playful with my food photography, does this count?

Susan and Brenda headed out early for a good night’s sleep. That left me to mingle with everyone in the room. I followed my gut and visited countless people, but those who stand out most are Walter Ezell, a new friend who runs Menu Works Inc. in Greenville, North Carolina. Walter felt he needed to tell me not to give up, no matter how many times I hear the word no. When a message comes out of nowhere like that I listen. Thank-you Walter. Chilean photographer Jorge Gonzalez who’s curious intelligence glow in his eyes and show in his voice is another who comes to mind. Also a standout, commercial photographer Greg Bertolini, who looked so bored I made a beeline for him to see what it was about. The look on Greg’s face was so opposite of my curious wonder I struck up a conversation.

Greg Bertolini does commercial photography and has big name clients like Coca Cola. I originally asked him what he did, and couldn’t pull much of an answer out him until he finally admitted this (paraphrased), “Look, I’m five years from retirement so I’m on the downhill slope.” Once we started to talk about something we both loved; Italy (he’s retiring there with his wife in a few years), Vespas (I own one), and art (he has a fine art background); a new Greg came to life. A fun, interesting, playful, animated new friend emerged from this once bored looking human. Greg has the spirit of a true artist, and I hope we get to be friends. He’s really a neat person, and I like him very much. (I found out later Greg wasn't bored, just very shy.)

Sunday arrived, and another day of meeting interesting creative people, attending fascinating classes; like Harold McGee’s talk, Food Style without Boarders about chefs who challenge the line between art and food. As well as an interesting group panel, Growing Your Visual Awareness with Delores Custer, Steve Adams, and Lorna Rhodes, which I recall being fascinating, but my brain was so full by this time I swear it stopped allowing things to be absorbed!

Sadly before I could blink the conference was over! I made a beeline for Susan and Brenda and asked if I could go to dinner with them. Susan used to be a chef in town so who better to hang out with? She took us the The Blue Room in Cambridge. The food was excellent! We shared and passed around our plates. This time Susan didn’t even have to crack a lobster for me! I had sautéed chicken livers, wood grilled sardines, and lambs tongue salad with fingerling potatoes. By time dessert came we might as well have been old friends. Susan picked up the bill to my protest, but I paid her and Brenda back by sneaking them flowers to work this morning.

There are so many more people worth mentioning, but I’ll get to them in other works. For now I better stop writing before this post turns into a novel.

I am grateful for this unique and amazing conference, for the time I got to share with others, for these wonderful new friendships, for the artist energy that renewed my own, for knowing I’m not alone on this food journey anymore, for everything I’ve learned. I hope these friendships will last for the rest of our lives. I really do.

A special thanks to the Washington State police officer who didn’t give me a ticket after all I could say when he pulled me over was, “Yeah, you caught me” and laugh! I hadn’t slept more than 3 hours a night for about a week and the bags under my eyes were about a mile long. Maybe the scene was so funny he couldn’t help but laugh and let me go. Or maybe he felt sorry for me. Either way, I’m ok with that!

Writeup & photography by Laura Flowers. Pictures were taken with a Lumix DCM-LX3 point & shoot camera.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

International Conference on Food Styling & Photography; a Personal Journey Part I

View from the Boston University Dorms taken with a point & shoot

How does one begin to speak of an epic, highly personal journey? A countless flood of thoughts rush through me as I consider this. Do I talk about vegan writer and brilliant photographer Linda Long? Or perhaps world traveler Clare Ferguson who’s bigger than life passionate personality leads her food styling? Or maybe beautiful food stylist Marcela Sorondo whose thoughts of her beloved Argentina bring her to tears when she thinks of the current unrest in her country. I could begin this story by sharing new friends; chef Susan Reid (Picture on the left), and photographer Brenda Hickory from King Arthur Flour, who I loved instantly and who spoiled me with a fantastic dinner of lamb tongue salad, chicken livers, sardines and even better conversation. Maybe I could start with the fun Dunkin Doughnuts girls at the Logan Airport who laughed and played with me. Or perhaps with the cop who laughed and decided not to give me a ticket as I attempted to drive home completely jet lagged?

The list goes on and on. There are scores of stories to tell, so I’m just going to have to start from the beginning. I hope you have some time, this might take awhile.

Arriving in Boston by plane last weekend, I was armed with instructions to catch a bus, and a train, and another train. They looked simple enough. However, I’m famous for getting lost. My complete lack of direction has placed me in funny situations on many occasions. This time was no exception. I made such a mess of things that it’s a miracle I made it at all. I’m not certain, but I think I may have been heading to Florida via the subway system. The kindness of those around me was remarkable! Everyone wanted to help.

A group gathered around me to explain where I had gone wrong, and provided me with instructions on how to get where I really wanted to be. As I finally neared my intended destination, I was aided by a shy younger man in pleather pants and long dreadlocks who looked surprised I asked him for assistance. His face lit up and he was happy to help me get to the right stop. However, as soon as I stepped out of that train I got lost again! I must have looked confused, because a student ran up and helped me get to the dorms where I was staying at Boston University. The people in Boston are a joy to be around. I am grateful for them.

Hungry after finally checking in, the friendly front desk girls pointed me in the direction of “Brown Sugar”, a Thai restaurant down the street. When I’m at a new restaurant I typically ask the wait staff to surprise me with something they love. My waitress came to the table with delicious young coconut milk with coconut pieces floating about the glass, and later with a foil packet of perfectly poached mixed seafood with mixed vegetables in a very tasty spiced broth. I would risk jet lag again just for that meal!

The next morning I headed off to the conference a bit apprehensive of what to expect. Would I be unwelcome? An outsider from Idaho I came without knowing a soul. Fortunately for me, I got lost again on my walk to the conference center and began to trail a sophisticated, intelligent, New York looking little lady who I accurately guessed was heading to the same place. Thankfully, what I lack in direction I ironically make up in intuition. I caught up to her, and what I noticed first was this brilliant mischievous smile in her eyes. As we walked we talked, she introduced herself as Linda Long, fashion photographer turned food photographer.

Linda, a vegan now for 33 years, stopped me on our way into the building and guided me over to a table. Wanting to show me something that must have been important to her, I waited while she dug through her bag. What she pulled out completely blew me out of the water. Her book “Great Chefs Cook Vegan” slid into my hands as I stood in stunned silence. I opened this beautiful work as she began to unfold the story within. I knew immediately this text would be groundbreaking to both the vegan, and the cookbook world.

Linda was a fashion photographer long before she entered the food realm, and what she brings to our world is life and accessibility. For this project she asked famous chefs to create a vegan dish using any ingredients they wished. No restrictions. What they came up with is the most creative collection of vegan recipes I have yet to lay eyes on. She didn’t stop there though. She took classic, beautiful, black and white photographs of each and every chef and placed a full page shot of them next to their recipes. Linda has a rare and special ability to capture everything alive and beautiful in her subjects.

I was off to a wonderful start.

To be continued tomorrow, but first I'll try to tempt you to come back with a little dessert! Served at Saturday's lunch, this sponge-like pastry was filled with raspberry mousse and fresh raspberries. I often wondered what they serve chefs, food photographers, and food stylists at these conferences. Can you imagine the nervousness of the staff and planners?

Notes: Click the title above or the link below for Part II. http://www.thecookingphotographer.com/2009/06/continued-from-yesterday.html

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lemon Spaghetti with Grilled Asparagus & Tomatoes

I’m hording all the asparagus! It’s all mine, MINE! I’ve been buying it cheap at grocery stores, rinsing it clean, snapping off the ends, patting it dry, and freezing for future use when this tasty veggie can no longer be acquired. However, I did set one bunch aside to make this unfussy, yummy pasta.

1 pound spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus
½ cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup freshly shredded asiago cheese
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
3 to 4 Roma tomatoes, cut in half then cut into half moon shaped slices
Garlic powder
Salt & lots of freshly cracked pepper to taste
About 1 cup reserved pasta water

1. Turn the grill to medium high. Break the rough ends off the asparagus. Rub the asparagus in olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper & garlic powder. Grill the asparagus until grill marks for or until tender. Remove from the grill and cut into 1 inch pieces.

2. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions in salted water. Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water near the end of cooking time.

3. Meanwhile place ½ cup olive oil, the lemon juice, asiago cheese, salt, fresh basil, parsley, tomato slices, chopped asparagus, and lots of fresh pepper to taste into a large bowl and stir together.

4. Drain the pasta after setting aside the pasta water. Toss the hot spaghetti into the bowl to coat. Add additional pasta water if needed. Serve immediately.

Notes: Asparagus can be cut into 1 inch pieces and sautéed in a skillet with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in place of grilling.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Monday, June 15, 2009

Marion Berry Pie with Disaronno Liqueur

Disaronno is an amaretto flavored Italian liqueur that I like to use in place of extract at times. It adds a very mellow background to this pie, which makes it interesting enough that people wonder what you did differently, but not so much so they can pinpoint the changes.

A note of caution: I think I ate nearly the whole pie! It’s delicious and dangerous all at the same time. Make sure you have friends and family around when you make this one. Or not...

7 cups frozen Marion berries (or blackberries)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
¼ cup Disaronno Liqueur
2 Tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Prepared or purchased pie dough
1 egg white mixed with a small splash of water
1 Tablespoons sugar for sprinkling the topInstructions

1. Set the oven rack to the lower third and preheat to 425 degrees.

2. Roll out purchased pie dough between wax paper to stretch and even out. Place on the bottom of a 9 ½” Pyrex pie dish. Brush with egg white.

3. In a small bowl mix together 1 cup sugar and the cornstarch. Don’t skip this step it helps the pie consistency.

4. In a large bowl toss together the Marion berries, sugar mixture, and liqueur. Arrange in the pie dish and dot with the butter. Cover with the second crust and press gently to seal the edges. Tuck the edge pieces into the pie dish leaving enough to flute the edges. Crimp the edges together.

5. Brush the top crust lightly with egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Make slits on the top for venting.

6. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes until the crust is deep golden brown. If the edges start to get too brown cover them with foil or a pie crust shield. Move to a cooling rack and cool completely.


1. Purchased pie crusts need to be pretty deep golden brown before they are really done. Lightly golden will leave you with raw dough on the bottom.
2. Instructions for fluting pie crust at http://www.wikihow.com/Put-a-Fancy-Edge-on-a-Pie-Crust.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Zucchini Carpaccio with Almonds

This recipe comes from “My Italian Garden”, by Viana La Place. I’ve made it my goal to photograph her recipes as often as time allows. They are simple, beautiful, and quite underrepresented in her book. How can one understand the beauty of raw zucchini without a photograph? I also find her instructions interesting, she even instructs the reader on the preferred shape and color of the platter. La Place really emphasizes that food is part of a beautiful life. I couldn’t agree more.

This dish is simplicity in beautiful Italian form. It may not be for everyone, as many of us are not used to raw zucchini. I found it wonderfully clean tasting, just slightly rich from the olive oil, and salty from the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The almonds add texture and another dimension to this summer salad.

You’ll need a mandolin or wide vegetable peeler to make this one.

½ cup whole almonds
4 small, very firm zucchini, preferable just picked, ends trimmed
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea Salt
Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

PREHEAT the oven to 375 degrees.

SPREAD the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

SELECT a large oval platter, preferably white. Use a mandolin or a wide vegetable peeler to make long shavings of zucchini. Spread the zucchini on the platter, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt.Working over the zucchini with a standard vegetable peeler, SHAVE enough Parmesan to lightly cover the zucchini.

Coarsely CHOP the almonds and distribute evenly over the cheese. Immediately before serving, embellish with an additional very light drizzling of olive oil.

Recipe by Viana La Place. Picture and write-up by Laura Flowers

Friday, June 12, 2009

Clarkston Special Pizza with Frank’s RedHot Sauce

I’m flying over Montana at the moment and thought this would be a great opportunity to write down some of the recipes I’ve been slacking on. This one is a replication of a favorite pizza from Fazzari’s in Clarkston, Washington.

Fazzari’s is a throwback to the old school pizza days with dark lighting, red lamps, and long tables for communal sitting. The last time we were there, a group sitting beside us gave us two half full pitchers of beer they couldn’t finish. I’m not one to turn down free beer! So of course we had to do our best to polish that off as well, and to do that I doused my pizza until it was drenching in Frank’s Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

I didn’t make it half a week before “the urge” drove me to recreate the Clarkston Special. I should have taken on a career as a pizza maker. Then I’d get to live a pizza filled life. I wonder if one can ever grow tired of pizza.

Psst. One more thing. I just got interrupted with breakfast. While flying! Did you know they had breakfast in first class? I need to be wealthy when I grow up so I can fly like this more often! Oh wait, I am grown up. Darn!

Zesty Old School Style Pizza Sauce
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Place all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir together.

Makes 1½ cups of pizza sauce. Enough sauce to cover three medium, or two large pizzas.

Clarkston Special Pizza
1 (12 to 14 inch) stretched pizza dough on a pan (See notes below)
1Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Zesty old school style pizza sauce
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella
2/3 cup shredded provolone
3/4 cup pepperoni (See notes)
1 cup cooked Italian sausage
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano
Salt and fresh cracked pepper
Franks Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce to taste (The best part!)

1. Make the Zesty Old School Pizza Sauce.

2. Heat up the grill to hot and close the lid.

3. Brush the pizza pan lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. Stretch and roll the dough and place on the pan. Brush with 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Spoon on as much pizza sauce on as desired.

4. Top pizza with the mozzarella, provolone, pepperoni, Italian sausage, green bell pepper slices, Parmesan Reggiano, and a dash of salt & pepper.

5. Set the pizza on the grill and close the lid. Turn grill to medium high and cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until cooked through. Turn to medium for a thicker crust pizza and cook longer. Remove onto a cookie sheet with tongs.

6. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

1. To reduce the greasiness of the pepperoni, place them in a bowl and microwave in 30 second increments until partially cooked. Pat the grease with a paper towel before using.

2. See http://www.thecookingphotographer.com/2009/04/lets-talk-dough-pizza-dough.html for information on pizza dough and grilling techniques.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Easy Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cookies for Chaotic June Days

It's a crazy hectic busy time of the year for me. I’m traveling frequently, prepping fresh fruit for storage, enjoying the weather outside, and heading off to Boston Thursday for the International Food Photography Conference. To say I’m a little behind is an understatement!

My poor blog is suffering as a result of my frenzied life. I’ll do my best to write as I go, and hope you’ll forgive my lack of appearance a bit around foodie blogland. Come fall I’ll be trapped inside due to the Northern Idaho frigid weather and be my old self again.

I want to say thank-you to my Dad for the first class ride to Boston and back! I have no idea what it’s like to be in first class, but I’m guessing I’ll enjoy it. I really appreciate the help.

Since everything is going at high speed I’ve streamlined my cooking and baking. Nothing complicated has come out of my kitchen lately and this cookie is an example of that. I used my standard chocolate cookie batter and added a fun food product I found in the baking aisle: Dark Chocolate Raspberry Crème baking pieces by Hershey’s.

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cookies
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract
½ teaspoon white vinegar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Raspberry Crème Baking Pieces

1. Melt 1 stick of the butter in a skillet over medium heat until deep golden. Set aside and cool for 10 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. In a stand mixer, cream together the melted butter, softened butter, and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and vinegar and beat until well combined. Next, add the cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and mix until combined. Add the flour and beat on low speed just until incorporated, be careful not to over mix.

4. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and stir in the baking pieces.

5. With a standard (size 50) cookie scoop or 1 Tablespoon, scoop the dough onto the cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes until no longer wet looking. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 3 minutes. Move to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Notes: Melting half the butter in a skillet is optional. The cookies turn out well with 1 cup of softened butter too.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Monday, June 8, 2009

Aromatic Potato & Arugula Soup with Tomato Garnish

I love this soup! Probably because it’s green, red, white, and looks pretty. Who cares about taste anyway? You just have to look at it right? You don’t have to taste it.

Kidding aside, this is a wonderful soup; clean, light, healthy, aromatic, and with wonderful flavor. It’s just rich enough to be a meal, but light enough to be a summer one. I’ll be making it several times throughout the season, as I need only to heat up one stove burner on hot muggy days.

3 Tablespoons butter
½ medium sized onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1 1/3 pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, diced with skins intact
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 (32 ounce) boxes Swanson Chicken Broth, preferably msg free, (or 8 cups chicken broth)
1 (5 ounce) package baby arugula, chopped coarsely
10 basil leaves, cut into strips
3 Tablespoons Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
3 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
Shredded Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish (optional)

1. In a large pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and season with salt. Stir occasionally until the onions soften and start to turn translucent. About 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper, and a dash of freshly cracked black pepper. Stir until fragrant; about 30 seconds.

3. Add the olive oil and potatoes. Cook for a few minutes to let the potatoes soak in some of the oil and soften. Then add the broth, bring to a boil, cover and turn to medium low. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

4. Add the arugula, basil, and parsley. Cook for a couple minutes to soften the leaves. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

5. Spoon the soup into bowls and add some of the diced tomatoes to the center. Top with a little shredded Pecorino Romano cheese if desired.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Blueberry Mint Lemonade or a Pitcher of Mojitos

There's something special about lemon, blueberries and mint together. Tangy, sweet, tart, and refreshing this lemonade is wonderful on a hot afternoon. The recipe also works well with limes instead of lemons. At that point though, you’re awfully close to making a pitcher of blueberry mojitos. So if you feel you need to take the next step, add a cup of white rum to the pitcher.

For Simple Syrup
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1/ ½ cups water

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. Boil until the sugar is melted and the liquid is clear. Set aside.

For Lemonade
Simple syrup from above
1 ½ cups fresh lemon juice (Or lime juice if you prefer)
1 lemon sliced (Or lime)
½ cup frozen blueberries
20 small or 10 large mint leaves
5 ½ to 6 ½ cups water to taste

Stir all the ingredients together in a pitcher. Chill until ready to use.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Friday, June 5, 2009

Southern Cob Salad with Pimiento Cheese Dressing

I noticed a version of this salad in June’s BHG magazine. I love cob salad and variations on the theme are a happy sight. I’ve streamlined the recipe for weeknight preparation. I don’t like to spend a ton of time on salad prep, and prefer to quickly get to the eating part.

Pimiento Cheese Dressing
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar, (I used Tillamook Vintage White)
½ cup mayonnaise (Low calorie is fine)
½ cup milk
2 ounce jar diced pimientos
A few good shakes of Frank’s Red Hot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce to taste
Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste

In a small food processor puree the ingredients together for a minute until it starts to thicken. Pour into a serving container and set aside. The dressing can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.

4 hard boiled eggs (Make ahead for faster preparation)
½ cup pecans
About 1 pound boneless breaded chicken tenders from the deli, KFC, or other fast food (Or cook and slice up a package of MorningStar Farms Chik'n Patties for a vegetarian version.)
2 prewashed packages of lettuce, any type you prefer
1 (15.8 ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, cut into short strips
1 avocado, diced
1 recipe Pimiento Cheese Dressing
Salt & Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Paprika to taste

1. Cut the hard boiled eggs in half. Scoop out the yolks into a bowl, mash with a fork, and stir in just enough pimiento cheese dressing in to make creamy. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste. With a cookie scoop, scoop the mixture back into the eggs. Go sparingly so you don’t run out of yolk mix. Sprinkle with paprika and set aside.

2. Place the pecans on a plate and microwave in 30 second increments until toasted. About 1 to 1 ½ minutes.

3. Cut the chicken into slices. Warm in the microwave on medium heat for a short time if needed. Set aside.

4. Arrange the lettuce on the plates. Top with a little of each topping in small piles around the plate. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Drizzle with the pimiento cheese dressing.

Recipe by Laura Flowers with inspiration from BHG magazine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Open-Faced Veggie Sliders

These were supposed to be little closed sandwiches, but the men around here gobbled them up so quickly I had to make due with open faced ones. I should also mention they scarfed them down only after eyeing them suspiciously, making fun of this “non-man food”, and then rapidly proceeded to inhale them in one bite. Dishboy Scott proclaimed them the best thing he’s ever eaten. While this is a high compliment, it’s the term he uses when he likes any food really well

Hence, they were good and lasted all of about two minutes. At least I got a photograph before the rest were snatched off the tray.

1 baguette, sliced
2 short and chubby zucchinis, cut into rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into rounds, ends discarded
Red onion slices, cut small to garnish
Spinach leaves, long stems removed (small ones look nicer)
Hummus, any favorite variety or make your own
Olive oil
Garlic powder
Salt & freshly cracked pepper

Turn the grill to medium high. Coat the zucchini slices with olive oil, a sprinkle of garlic powder, salt and freshly cracked pepper. Grill on both sides just until light grill marks form. Set aside.

Salt and pepper the tomato slices. Set aside.

On a baguette slice spread a semi thick layer of hummus. Top with spinach leaves, a tomato slice, a zucchini slice, and a couple small red onions. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches. Top with another slice of bread if desired.

Notes: I made my own red pepper hummus. Someday I’ll write the recipe down, but to me hummus is like peanut butter and jelly. I just throw a little of this in, and a little of that in, until it tastes “right”. This drives Dishboy Scott’s scientific side insane, which makes my ornery side very happy.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Monday, June 1, 2009

Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard

Perfect homemade vanilla bean frozen custard needs nothing but garnish, and I wouldn’t bother eating the garnish. Well ok, I would if there were a few beautifully ripe strawberries garnishing my bowl.

I own a small 1 ½ quart ice-cream maker and have to chill in two batches. I'd cut the recipe in half, but this is truly slow food as it takes two days to make correctly. Although not a difficult recipe, the waiting can be madness. It’s easier to refreeze my bowl, than to wait longer for the custard to set up properly a second time.

5 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Small pinch of salt

Split the vanilla bean in half and scrap the seeds and add the pods to a large sized saucepan. Add the milk, heavy cream, and pinch of salt and cook over medium low stirring frequently until you start to see bubbles form. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside for 20 minutes to let the vanilla bean steep.

Meanwhile add the egg yolks and sugar to a large bowl and beat with a spoon until combined and thick. About 1 minute.

Pour the vanilla mixture into the egg yolk mixture a little at a time stirring briskly to temper. Pour in the rest of the milk after a couple short pours and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and heat over medium low stirring frequently until it lightly coats the back of a spoon. Don’t let the mixture come to a boil or bad things can happen to your beautiful custard!

Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and divide into two storage containers equally with ½ a vanilla bean in each. Cover and store in the refrigerator overnight to chill and set up the custard.

The next day, remove the vanilla bean and freeze according to the directions on your ice-cream maker. Store in a covered container in the freezer.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

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