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Friday, May 17, 2013

Easy Peasy Blueberry Tart

I had a ball of leftover pie crust dough last week. It had been in the refrigerator for a bit and I knew I needed to do something with it or I'd end up having to throw it away. I wanted to be able to use all of the dough and not have any scraps to mess with. I was also looking for quick and simple... hmmmm. What to do? I opened the freezer, as I am wont to do these days, trying to find things I can clean out of there in preparation for our impending move at the end of this month (yes, I know, we just moved here, right?). I saw a bag of frozen blueberries and knew that my crust was gonna marry those blueberries.

I decided on a free-form tart. I rolled the dough out into a roughly circular shape. In a bowl, I mixed the frozen berries (about 2 cups) with 2 TBS of cornstarch, a 1/4 cup of sugar, a teaspoon of lemon zest, and a few shavings of fresh nutmeg. I stirred that all together and plopped it in middle of the crust.

I folded up the edges and made an egg wash. I brushed all exposed crust surfaces so that they might develop a beautiful golden luster in the oven. Lastly, I sprinkled toasted sliced almonds and sanding sugar on the top of the crust. I baked it at 400 F until the crust was nice and golden (I think it took about 35 minutes). It was delicious! So quick and easy!

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I know what you must be thinking... two posts in two days! Stop the presses! It is somewhat exciting. My little boy is starting to go to bed earlier and earlier. Tonight, he was in bed asleep by 7:30. To top it all off, my husband is out of town on business. My time is my own this evening. It doesn't happen that often these days, so I figured I'd make the most of it.

I celebrated by making another of those sandwiches I've been so fond of lately and then made a big old pot of this delicious dish. It may not be much to look at, but, boy, does it have some flavor! Majadra is of Lebanese origin and has rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. It also has a hint of spice and is absolutely delightful. You can serve it as a side dish or a main dish. I like to fill a bowl full to the brim and eat it with a spoon. It's very tasty. The best part is that it makes a decent amount and it tastes just as good reheated the rest of the week. It makes a perfect leftover lunch.

The other nice thing about it is that it's pretty simple to make. While it's not fast, it takes about an hour to complete it, the actual prep work is minimal and involves slicing an onion. That's it! Really! Okay, you also have to slice open a lemon for a little bit of juice, but, who's keeping track?

You start by putting the lentils on to simmer and caramelizing the onions. These two tasks take about the same amount of time, about half an hour. When the onions are starting to develop some really nice color, throw in a small stick of cinnamon. If you don't have a stick, you can also add just a dash of ground, but the stick adds more of an aromatic component to the dish rather than a flavor you taste with your tongue.

Once the lentils are tender and the onions are caramelized, you add the Batsmati rice to the onions to toast slightly. Then you add the drained lentils, boiling water, and cumin; cover it; and cook for twenty more minutes. After twenty minutes, you open the pot and fluff the rice. Spritz a couple teaspoons of fresh lemon juice over and add salt to taste (I think I added between 1/2 and 1 teaspoons).

Yield: 6-8 servings

1 large onion, halved and sliced thinly
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup green lentils
water to cover lentils by 1-2 inches
1  2" cinnamon stick
1 1/4 cup Batsmati rice
2 cups hot water
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt to taste

Heat a large pot and the oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very golden, about 30 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to keep them from burning. At the same time, put the lentils in a sauce pan and cover with water so that it is one to two inches above the top of the lentils. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer to cook for 25-30 minutes. The lentils should be tender about the time the onions are done. If the lentils are done before the onions, simply turn off the heat and let them sit. Drain the lentils once the onions are done.

When the onions are about 5 minutes away from being done, add the cinnamon stick and stir. Once the onions are nicely golden, add the rice and toast, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. Add the lentils, the cumin, and the water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. After twenty minutes, turn off the heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Remove the cover, add the lemon juice and salt and fluff gently with a fork.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chicken and Herb Cheese Panini

 We eat a lot of sandwiches in our house, but this has to be my very favorite of all time. I wish I could say that the idea for this sandwich was my own, but - alas - it is not. I have to thank Panera for this one. Unfortunately, they've already "retired" this sandwich; how dare they!?! Last winter, they had this great hot panini with turkey, herbed cheese spread, and a cranberry moutarde. To be honest, it didn't taste much like a mustard based spread, which suits me fine; it seemed more like a cranberry relish. I make a mean cranberry-orange marmalade that I thought might taste divine in this application. So, after I realized my favorite sandwich was not going to make it to their regular menu, I decided to start making my own version at home.

The first step was to realize that it had my favorite cheese spread on it. Boursin cheese is one of those products that I dream about. I look for reasons to have company over so that I might justify having the stuff in my refrigerator. It's not figure friendly, and, when it's in my refrigerator, I feel compelled to eat half a baguette at a time slathered in the stuff. The good news? For a sandwich application, the Boursin Light tastes great! Hallelujah!

The next step is to choose the correct bread. This requires a high quality ciabatta bread. I often make my own, but certain little babies have been keeping from spending much time in the kitchen lately. I've recently found a brand of ciabatta that I really like called New French Bakery "Take and Bake." It's only in limited stores, but if it's in yours, grab it!

Cut yourself a nice sized sandwich and then slice the bread in half to open it up. Slather one side with the Boursin cheese. On the other side, I spread my cranberry-orange marmalade. You could probably approximate the flavor by mixing cranberry sauce and orange marmalade. Then pile on a nice bit of fresh spinach. The last item is the chicken or turkey. There are a number of ways you can fulfill the meat quota on this sandwich. You can use some leftover meat from a roast chicken or turkey dinner. You could slice chicken from a grocery store rotisserie bird. You could also pan saute a chicken breast (or tenderloin) with a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika and then slice it to put on the sandwich. That's the route I took the last two times I made this sandwich.

 After putting the sandwich together, get your panini "press" set up. I don't have a real one, so I just used a saute pan with a cast iron skillet pressing it down. Pre-heat the pan and lightly brush the outside of the sandwich with olive oil before toasting over medium heat. Grill until lightly golden on each side.

The combination of flavors in this sandwich is divine! It's such a nice change of pace from your standard grilled cheese sandwich. Who needs Panera, anyway?

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