Comfort food to calm the chill: Fettuccine with garlic cream sauce and sautéed tomatoes

Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Tomatoes

I think it’s safe to say that we’re officially in the thick of a true Boston winter. There’s snow on the ground. Snow on the rooftops. Snow in piles. Snow on the way. It’s icy and slushy and downright cold. But you know what? It’s pretty glorious. Sure, native Bostonians and more experienced East Coast residents are still meeting our winter enthusiasm with mild shock and a lot of, “Just wait until mid-March, and you won’t love it so much,” but for now our family is definitely enjoying this long-lasting winter wonderland. If it’s going to be cold, it might as well be snowy. And we have plenty of both.

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Cold weather does call for comfort food though, the kind that warms you up from the inside out and makes you feel good and cozy on a truly blustery day. You can certainly go the soups and stews route, but for me, nothing says comfort like pasta. So pasta we shall have! And this pasta we have had, in fact — weekly at least — for a solid month. Maybe that’s why we’re still loving all this snow.

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Fettuccine with Garlic Cream Sauce and Sautéed Tomatoes
Adapted from The Kitchy Kitchen

• 16 ounces fettuccine
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 pint cherry tomatoes
• ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
• kosher salt
• freshly ground black pepper
• ½ cup cream
• 2 teaspoon lemon zest
• 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and sauté just until golden, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Lower heat, and sauté, tossing occasionally, until tomatoes are soft, another 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how hot you keep the pan.

In the meantime, cook the fettuccine to al dente, according to package instructions. When the pasta is nearly finished cooking (and the tomatoes are soft), add the cream to the pan with the tomatoes, give everything a good stir and heat the sauce until it’s almost simmering. Add the lemon zest and thyme, and stir to combine.

Pour the hot garlic cream sauce over the pasta, and toss to coat. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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How are you staying warm and cozy this winter season? Good food? Good friends? A good vacation void of snow and ice? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

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Salad for lunch, cookies for dinner: Peanut butter chocolate chip biscuits

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits3

Well, we’ve made it through the season of sweets, and now my blog reader and Pinterest feed are filled with fancy salads, whole grains and about seven gazillion paleo recipes. I suppose January is the time for all of that. It’s out with the, “Eat what you want because it’s Christmastime, y’all!” and in with the “No really, honey, I think you’ll like quinoa.”

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We’re doing our own version of the get-back-on-track bandwagon, but then again, I’ve always been an advocate of making healthy choices for meals if it means I can reward myself with a healthy dose of dessert. I say a salad for lunch is a pretty fair tradeoff for a stack of cookies come evening.

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So today, it’s a cookie recipe for you: peanut butter and chocolate chip biscuits. Consider it your reward for two good weeks of healthy eats. You can always have oatmeal tomorrow morning.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Biscuits

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Biscuits
Adapted just slightly from Winter on the Farm (Matthew Evans, p. 209) 

• ¾ cup light brown sugar
• 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 300 grams creamy peanut butter
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 ¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Then add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Beat in the peanut butter, salt and baking soda until well combined.

Slowly add the flour to the mixture, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll the dough into tablespoon-sized balls, and place about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press the balls down with the tines of a fork until they’re about ½ inch thick, then bake for 10-14 minutes, until the cookies are tan but not dark.

Makes about 40 cookies

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XO,
Katrina

Thanksgiving prep

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As of yesterday morning, our refrigerator is loaded, our pantry is stuffed to the gills and our freezer is uncharacteristically full. All of these facts can only mean one thing: Thanksgiving is around the corner. I am pumped.

For all of my fellow planner-aheaders and list-makers out there, Thanksgiving is like the ultimate holiday, right? I mean, there are menus to decided on, grocery lists to make, and then there’s that incredible shuffle that comes with trying to fit everything you purchased for a single meal into a much-too-small cabinet with much too little shelving. No? That last one is just me? Humph. Where’s my dad’s trusty larder when I need it?

Thanksgiving Prep

Part of the planning process for me involves a whole lot of half-baking ahead of time. My freezer is rarely stocked with much more than ice cream, frozen corn and a few teething rings, but when holiday time comes around, I take advantage of the space. There are tons of baked goods that do really well in the freezer post-mixed but pre-baked. Here’s what we’re rocking so far this year:

Cranberry orange scones
Butternut sage scones
Chocolate-pistachio sables
Ginger spice cookies
Lots and lots of pie crust

Sure, sure, it’s a whole lotta baked goods (and a whole lotta butter), and yes, we’ll have plenty o’ pie coming our way come Thursday, too. But most frozen baked goods can hang in the freezer for at least a month, so there’s no pressure to bake everything immediately if our tummies run out of space. (My pre-baby prep before Beany looked remarkably similar, actually. And though we had very little premade meals to speak of in the weeks following her birth, we had homemade cookies galore).

So the freezer is doing its part, and the rest of the meal prep will get rolling in the next few days. I’m planning to use this Mark Bittman recipe for make-ahead gravy (I’m not a gravy fan, so I shall trust my husband’s tastebuds for this one). And this easy cranberry sauce can pull together days in advance, too. Pies will do their thing on Wednesday (apple and pumpkin because we’re cool and traditional like that). Oh, and our turkey will be chilling in the refrigerator in a dandy dry brine this year (this one to be exact). Yes, I know I’m quite reliant on the New York Times this time of year, but the peeps there know their stuff.

Other than that, our menu is looking like an amalgamation of the usual fare and a few new spins. In lieu of traditional mashed potatoes, I’m making this mashed potato casserole with sour cream and chives (which can be made in the morning, conveniently enough, and heated up right before the meal). We’re going old-school sweet potato casserole with marshmallows (Martha Stewart to the rescue!), which can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator overnight. Then there’s green bean casserole (nothing fancy schmancy here; we’re trusting our pals at French’s), hashed Brussels sprouts (lest we forget the food group called “green”), the fruit salad my mom’s been making for as long as I can remember and a new sage dressing recipe from the November Bon Appétit.

Come Thursday, we shall eat and eat and eat. And eat and eat. And it will be grand!

I’d love to hear how the planning/prepping is going in your neck of the woods. What’s on your Thanksgiving menu? Any new recipes? Tried-and-true favorites? Any deep-fried turkeys?!? Do tell! ‘Tis the season for sharing, after all.

XO,
Katrina

Looking for a bit more Thanksgiving inspiration? Here are a few of my favorites from years past: cranberry chutney, mini apple and brie quiche, spicy roasted cauliflower with lemon, roasted carrots, salt and vinegar potatoes, French caramelized apple tartlettes, mini maple cream tarts.

Salty, sweet, gone: Chocolate-pistachio sables

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If the recipe list on my blog is any indication, I’m a pretty big fan of cookies. They’re my favorite dessert (aside from ice cream) and my go-to baked good for pretty much any occasion. Dinner with friends? Cookies. Housewarming party? Cookies. Something to take to work? Cookies. I’m staying home the entire day with absolutely nothing on the agenda? Cookies. And cookies.

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Chocolate Pistachio Sables

With Thanksgiving coming up, there are certain dishes that are givens (I’m talking to you, pie), but I always like to have a little something nibbly around, too, just in case the meal takes longer to cook than we expected or there are wild and crazy non-pie-eaters in our midst. Plus, Beany loves cookies, and though I wouldn’t call them bribes, we’ve been known to use them as “incentives” for good behavior. Everyone knows that in order to be a cookie eater, one must be among the nicest, most polite and patient members of society, so it’s only good parenting to let our 2-year-old know that, too, right?

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These chocolate-pistachio sables are our latest craze, adapted ever so slightly from the latest issue of Bon Appétit. If you’re in search of the perfect salty, sweet cookie combo, this is it. The cookies themselves have a great buttery texture like shortbread, and the chocolate-pistachio combo gives them a little holiday pizazz. Oh, and the flaky sea salt on top! Goooood stuff. The Maldon salt is a little pricey, but it’s worth it I think.

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Chocolate-Pistachio Sables
Adapted just slightly from Bon Appétit (December 2013) 

• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 ¼ cups lightly packed brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 egg white
• 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, coarsely chopped
• flaky sea salt (I used Maldon, available at Whole Foods)

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the egg white, and mix until combined. Then fold in the chocolate and pistachios.

Divide dough into four equal pieces, and roll each piece into a log about 8 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Push the dough together firmly so it doesn’t crumble apart, and then wrap each log tightly in parchment paper and chill until firm, at least 4 hours. [At this point, if you’d rather bake the cookies days or weeks later, stick the parchment-wrapped logs in airtight plastic and freeze them until ready to bake, up to 1 month. You don’t even need to defrost them before slicing and baking!]

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use a serrated knife to cut logs (one at a time) into ¼-inch-thick rounds, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, about ½ inch apart. Sprinkle the cookies with flaky sea salt, and bake for about 10-14 minutes (rotating the pan hallway through), until the edges are set and the center looks dry. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 8 dozen cookies

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There’s definitely tons of butter in this recipe, but it makes a gazillion cookies (i.e. eight dozen), so that’s really not so bad. I actually only baked one roll of them the other day and stuck the three others in my freezer for the day before Thanksgiving. So now my freezer is aptly packed with cookies, scones, pie crusts and more cookies. Can you tell the holidays are coming? Are you ready?!?

XO,
Katrina

Eat like a monkey: Ginger(monkey)bread

Monkey Gingerbread

The first time I ate monkey bread was for breakfast at a school friend’s sleepover when I was 12 years old. I remember watching, fascinated, as her mom cut Pillsbury Grands biscuits into six pieces each, rolled the dough into balls and then dunked them into a bath of butter and cinnamon sugar before layering them freely in a bundt pan. Forget the fact that it was premade dough, or that the bath of butter was actually a bath of margarine, or that I was much more of a pancakes-with-syrup-on-the-side kind of girl than a connoisseur of overly sweet morning concoctions; I convinced myself, while watching the magic unfold, that this would indeed be the greatest breakfast of my young life.

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Many moons later, and I honestly can’t remember how that monkey bread tasted. What I do remember, however, is crowding around a small kitchen island, a half dozen sleepy-eyed girls in mismatched pajamas and socks, happily pulling off balls of bread, one by one, until our tummies were content and our sugar spots filled. As much as I love baking for flavor, the recipes I savor the most, especially as our Beany grows older and more interested in the happenings of the kitchen, are the ones that bring with them an experience. Monkey bread, when eaten correctly, is an experience in itself. And if it tastes great, too? Well, then you really can’t go wrong.

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Ginger(monkey)bread

Adapted slightly from arielleclementine, Food52.com

1
 packet active dry yeast
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 1/3 
cup warm water (110 degrees)
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1
 cup whole milk
• ¼ cup molasses
• 3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus ¼ cup, if needed
• 2
 teaspoons kosher salt
• 2
 rounded teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 rounded tablespoon ground cinnamon
• ½ rounded
 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2
 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1
 stick salted butter, melted
• 1
 cup packed light brown sugar

Quickly stir together yeast, the teaspoon of sugar and warm water in a small bowl. Set it aside for about 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes nice and foamy. In the meantime, heat 2 tablespoons butter, milk and molasses in a small saucepan, just until the butter is melted. Set it aside for a minute or two to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Attach the dough hook, and turn the mixer on low. Slowly add the molasses mixture, followed by the yeast mixture. Keep mixing until the dough comes together, about 7 minutes or until smooth. (This is pretty sticky dough compared to other breads — it will stick to the bottom of the bowl — but add a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time, if it seems too wet.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for another minute to form a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it to coat in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot to rise until it’s doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Butter the bundt pan generously with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Put the melted stick of butter in one small bowl and the brown sugar in another.

When the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and pat into an 8-inch square. Cut the dough into 64 pieces, and roll the pieces into balls. One by one, dip the balls in butter, roll in brown sugar and place them in the bundt pan (distributing them as evenly as possible).

Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, place it in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise for another hour. (Although I didn’t try it, reviews of this recipe suggest that you can put the dough in the refrigerator at this point — overnight if you wish — and bake it later. Just make sure to allow an hour for the dough to come to room temperature and finish rising before you bake it.) Once the balls have risen, they should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.

Bake the monkey bread for 30 to 35 minutes in a 350-degree F oven, until the top is golden brown. Cool the cake in the pan for just 5 minutes, then invert it onto a cake stand and cool for another 5 to 10 minutes. Then gather the family, and enjoy! This monkey bread really does taste best when it’s warm from the oven, so don’t wait!

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I love how this recipe turned out, and though the process can be a bit time-consuming with all of the hands-on rolling and individual dipping, the bread itself actually comes together fairly easily. It tastes wonderfully gingerbready, and the gooey, carmely outer layer really takes it over the top. And just think how great it would be to stand around the kitchen counter with your nearest and dearest while you pull the bread apart and enjoy that surge of sugary goodness! I already have plans to bring it back for Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Get ready, little sister! You’re helping me with all the rolling and dipping!

XO,
Katrina

Taste of sunshine: Lemon sandwich cookies

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When I’m in the thick of summer, smack in the middle of the steamy heat and mosquito-ridden evenings, I have a hard time appreciating the season for what it is. I love cold weather, and my grumpiness level automatically shifts up a few notches when the temperature reaches 80. I know, I would have had a hard time in the pre-air-conditioning pioneer days. But then, there’s a reason I always ignored the townsfolk and set out in the dead of winter for all of my Oregon Trail journeys. No one wants to travel with me across rugged terrain in a covered wagon in mid-July. I’d be even worse than that grump pot Sally. And she always got cholera.

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So yes, my yoke and I much prefer the chill to the heat. But this summer has been a particularly good (albeit busy) one, and as the season officially starts to wind down for us, I’m finding myself surprised by how much I’m going to miss it. We’ve had lots of time with Jared home, lots of time with family and a whole lot of those eat-lunch-at-3-then-have-popcorn-for-dinner kinds of days. That total lack of schedule just doesn’t seem to fly for us any other time to year, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I can say we milked it for all it was worth.

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As summer starts to fizzle (not that you’d know by the temperature — 88 in Boston today! Eep!), we’re reminiscing on the good ol’ just-a-few-weeks-ago days while they’re still fresh in our memory. And we’re doing so with lemon because, well, lemon tastes like sunshine, and sunshine is good any time of year. These lemon sandwich cookies were a big hit in our house, especially with Beany. She’s never had an Oreo before, but this foray into sandwich cookies has revealed that’s she’s a twister and a licker. Every dot of frosting must be gone before she makes her move on the wafers. Then every dot of wafer is consumed with gusto.

You could certainly try these cookies with another citrus, but I do hope you’ll try the lemon version first. There’s just something so happy about a lemon cookie. And a lemon cookie with lemon frosting? Well, that’s about as much happy as a taste bud can stand.

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Lemon Sandwich Cookies 9

Lemon Sandwich Cookies
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart

Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• zest from 1 large lemon
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon vanilla
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (for sprinkling on cookies)

For the icing:

• 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• zest from 1 large lemon
• 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

To make the cookies, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt with an electric mixer on high speed until well combined. Add the vanilla, and blend to combine. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour until the mixture just comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, form it into a disk about ½ inch thick, wrap it and chill for about an hour, until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once the dough has chilled, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 1 ½-inch rounds from the dough, and place them 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle the tops with the granulated sugar, and bake until they’re just beginning to brown, about 13 to 17 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, beat the cream cheese and lemon zest with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, and mix until smooth. (The icing should be firm but spreadable; add a bit more sugar if needed.)

To make the sandwiches, place about 1 teaspoon of icing between two cookies, sugared sides out, and squeeze together gently.

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How is your summer winding down? Will you miss the carefree schedule, or are you antsy to get back into a routine? Any end-of-summer recipes you’re wild about these days? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

Easy breezy summer salad: Avoca roasted peppers and chickpeas

Avoca Salad

Like anything worth its while, blogging is one of those adventures that takes time, work and tinkering to really find your groove and get things exactly how you like them. Of course, then another few months go by, and you’ve changed your mind entirely. It’s the mark of any creative endeavor I suppose. Switcheroos and tinkering are just part of the territory.

This recipe is a remake of one that I posted when Splash of Something first began, back in the olden days of 2010, when I was but a wee lass typing away from our happy two-bedroom abode in Columbia, Mo. Oh, how life changes in two and a half years. But that’s another story. This is the story of a salad.

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Avoca Salad 2

A few weeks back, during one of my periodic tinkering-with-the-blog-design sessions, I added the dandy little widget at the right that features photos of the most popular posts of the day. For the most part, the widget is populated by more recent posts, which means the photos tend to blend nicely style-wise. The exception, however, has been the image of the original posting of this recipe, taken way back before we learned the merits of natural lighting, the importance of planning shots beforehand or the there-is-a-such-thing-as-too-close phenomenon of food photography. To be honest, it didn’t bother me when the old photo showed up. I like to think of the older images as just part of the progression. But poor Jared, who took the original photo, was haunted by it every time it showed up on the sidebar. “There it is again,” he’d say quietly, shaking his head in self-defeat. Then he’d walk sullenly into the distance.

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No, no, it was never quite so dire. But I made a promise to make the salad again, and here I am making good on it.

The really wonderful thing about revisiting these old recipes is the chance to eat them again and dabble a bit until they’re even yummier than you left them. This is a summertime favorite that I’d all but forgotten about, and I’m so happy that Jared’s photo aversion could lead us back to something so delicious. If you’re looking for a simple summer salad, I hope you’ll give this one a try. I shall never let it fall out of rotation again!

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Roasted Red Pepper and Chickpea Salad
Adapted slightly from Avoca Salads 

• 4 red peppers, cut in thick strips
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 14-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon ground coriander
• juice of 1 lemon
• ¼ to ½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
• 1 bunch scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss red pepper strips in 2 tablespoons olive oil, and roast for 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Transfer peppers to a bowl, and cover.

Heat remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and add chickpeas. Toss in the oil, and heat through for 5 minutes. Add garlic and spices, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until spices lose their raw aroma. Season with salt and pepper as you go, and taste along the way.

Transfer chickpeas to a bowl, add pepper strips, and season with lemon juice. Add parsley and scallions, and toss.

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How has your cooking/baking/blogging changed over the years? Are you apt to revisit old favorites, or are you all new, all the time? I’d love to hear about it!

XO,
Katrina

Three-ingredient strawberry sorbet

Strawberry Sorbet3

Although our oven joins us in a collective groan as the summer heat draws near, there’s one little appliance tucked in the back corner of the kitchen that lets out a happy squeal at the first sign of 90-degree days.

“Yippee da doo, eep eep eep!” Or something like that.

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Yes, after nearly nine months of hibernation, the trusty ice-cream maker is ready to run again. Oh, happy day! If anything can make me look forward to a sweltering summer, it’s the promise of ice cream, popsicles, anything frozen. And sorbet! Especially easy-to-make, tastes-like-summer-in-a-bowl sorbet.

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Isn’t it amazing how so few ingredients can make something so delicious? Strawberries, lemons and sugar. That’s it. Sweet doesn’t have to be complicated.

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Strawberry Sorbet

Strawberry Sorbet
Recipe by Genius Recipes, Food52

• 2 lemons (1 seeded and chopped, 1 juiced)
• 2 cups granulated sugar
• 2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled

Place the chopped lemon and sugar in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until combined. Transfer to another bowl.

Puree the strawberries in the food processor. Add the lemon mixture and the lemon juice, and pulse to combine.

Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker, and churn until frozen (it took about 30 minutes in my machine). Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container, and keep it in the freezer until you’re ready to serve.

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Are you looking forward to the warm weather and sunshine? What’s your favorite summer dessert?

XO,
Katrina

Once-a-year twice-baked cherry pie

Cherry Pie

Second only to the just-add-water blueberry muffins that I proudly baked during my earliest days of kitchen duty, cherry pie spent a good many years atop my menu of signature dishes. Of course, this was cherry pie by way of an 8-year-old chef in the mid-’90s, which basically meant a skillful combination of two newly defrosted Pillsbury crusts and one large can of Comstock cherry pie filling. Sure, the recipe wasn’t a from-scratch original, but I learned a lot during my years as a canned pie maker: No. 1: Always have foil on hand. No. 2: Top-layer piecrust is an ideal medium in which to practice your budding art skills. And No. 3: When in doubt, always add extra cherries.

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As it turns out, baking a cherry pie from scratch is a whole different beast, and, after witnessing the flying pits and cherry juice I’m still scrubbing from my kitchen cabinets, I can’t blame my mom for putting me to work opening a can rather than pitting cherries. Pitting cherries by hand (sans any fancy tool, mind you) has to be one of the worst kitchen jobs imaginable. Like any tech-reliant baker, I Googled how to do it and was happy to find promises of “super simple cherry-pitting techniques.” Unfortunately, this led to a rather grumbly battle between me, a hairpin and two pounds of stubborn fruit.

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In all fairness, the hairpin technique does work, but I wouldn’t call it super simple. Maybe super frustrating. Or super boring. (Or super hurry up because I want pie!!!) Jared tried to assuage my cherry-pitting boredom by propping the iPad on the counter and playing Arrested Development while he joined me in the dreaded task. It took the two of us nearly an entire episode to get the job done.

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But here’s the silver lining: Homemade cherry pie — the real deal, from-scratch kind as evidenced by the red-stained fingers of its dutiful bakers — is one of the best desserts on the planet. It really only took two bites for me to forget the woes of my cherry-pitting past. It’s tart, sweet, fresh and comforting — all the things a good cherry pie should be. And the twice-baked crust method, which I plan to use for all of my fruit-filled pies from here on out, is a great way to avoid a soggy layer underneath all of that juicy fruit.

Melissa Clark notes in this recipe that investing in a cherry pitter is totally worth it, if only for the one or two times a year when you bake cherry pie. It’s sage advice, and I’ll definitely be heeding it next time around. I’m sure my white kitchen cabinets will thank me.

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Twice-Baked Cherry Pie
Adapted slightly from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now (p. 189)

 For the crust:
• 1 ¾ plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
• 3 to 6 tablespoons ice water, as needed

For the filling:
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• ½ cup Turbinado or Demerara (raw) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 pounds sour cherries, rinsed and pitted
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
• 3 tablespoons heavy cream

To make the crust, pulse the flour and salt together in the food processor until just combined. Add the butter, and pulse until lima bean-sized pieces form. Add the water 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the mixture just comes together.

Pat the dough into two discs, one using two-thirds of the dough (about 12 ounces) and one using one-third of the dough (about 6 ounces). Wrap the discs in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (and up to 3 days).

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out the large disc of dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch circle, about 3/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate. Line the dough with foil, and fill it with pie weights. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the crust is light golden brown.

In the meantime, combine the cornstarch, sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place the cherries in a large bowl, and add the sugar mixture. Drizzle in the vanilla, and toss gently to combine.

When the piecrust is done, let it cool slightly, and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Remove the foil and pie weights, and pour the cherry filling into the crust.

Roll out the smaller disc of dough on a lightly floured surface to about 3/8 inch thick. Use a round cookie cutter (or small glass or jar) to cut out circles of dough. Arrange them on top of the cherry filling.

Brush the dough circles with heavy cream, and sprinkle the top of the pie generously with Turbinado or Demerara sugar. Bake until the crust is dark golden brown and the filling beings to bubble, 50 minutes to 1 hour (add a ring of foil around the outside of the crust if it begins to darken to quickly). Allow the pie to cool for at least 2 hours before serving.

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Cherry Pie2

XO,
Katrina

For diners big and small: Tomato mac & cheese

Tomato Mac & Cheese

By the time Beany turned 1, with a mouth full of teeth and a newfound interest in whatever sat on the plate of the person next to her, she’d pretty much lost all interest in the purees and baby foods we’d come to rely on as quick fixes for a hungry girl. Gradually, she started eating more and more big-people food, and we started feeling pretty proud of ourselves for the refined palate our toddler was developing. Now nearly 19 months old, she has a liking for sharp cheeses, spinach risotto and garlic and onion on anything. Of course, lest we get too proud in the matter, our tiny gastronome keeps us in check. Just last week, I caught her nibbling crayons (blue and yellow. Does that make it better?). So, yeah. The palate is a work in progress.

Tomato Mac & Cheese4

Refined palate and/or crayon-eating aside, Beany is a very much a toddler, and, like most little kids, she loves a good mac and cheese. She doesn’t get it often, but when she does, she devours it, and I’m happy to report that this version is her favorite to date. Maybe it’s the “Tigger tail” noodles instead of elbow macaroni (a switch made at Jared’s insistence), or maybe it’s the Gruyere and extra-sharp cheddar. Whatever the reason, she thinks it’s grand. We do, too.

Tomato Mac & Cheese2

Actually, I have a sneaking suspicion that most grownups love mac and cheese nearly as much as kids do, even though we’re programmed to think of it as kid food or a side for barbecue. The breadcrumbs and tomatoes really dress this guy up, and I’d happily serve it as a meal for company. You know, if Beany doesn’t get to it first. She’s a growing girl after all.

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Tomato Mac & Cheese3

Tomato Mac & Cheese
Adapted slightly from the Barefoot Contessa

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 pound cavatappi (or elbow macaroni)
• 4 cups milk (I use skim.)
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
• ½ cup all-purpose flour
• 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
• 8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated
• 4 ounces Monterey Jack, grated
• 1 tablespoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 3 to 4 fresh tomatoes
• 1 ½ cups bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and drizzle in the olive oil. Add the pasta, and cook according to package instructions. Drain well, and set aside.

In the meantime, heat the milk in a small saucepan (but don’t let it boil). Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large pot. Add the flour and cook over low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for another few minutes, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, stir in the three cheeses along with the salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add the cooked pasta, and stir until well combined. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish (or divide between two smaller baking dishes).

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and mix it into the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the pasta. Slice the tomatoes and arrange them on top of the breadcrumbs. (I also like to add a bit more freshly ground black pepper on top, just because it looks pretty.) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and the pasta is browned on top.

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Do you make any kid-friendly fare that’s fit for an adult crowd? Any fun additions to mac and cheese? Do tell!

XO,
Katrina

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