Wednesday, April 14, 2010

a candy shoppe & springtime crops

ramps & fiddleheads
have been on my mind.

Spring has sprung-- and what a gorgeous, season, indeed!

I've broken out the sunless tanner, juicer, oversized sunglasses & bamboo steamer and cast away my cashmere scarves, Dutch oven, knee-length boots & pressure cooker 'til a few seasons come...

On a recent Twitter post, I mentioned by "grease and alcohol" cleanse after a fried food and sugary cocktail-ridden weekend.

On my radar:

...smoky vegetables
a hit of spice,
creamy, herbed polenta
and a tangy goat cheese finish...

Thyme Polenta
with Roasted Vegetables, Radish & Goat Cheese

Roasted vegetables:

1/4 c whole garlic cloves
1/2 c cherry tomatoes
2 jalapenos, ribbed, seeded and sliced thinly
1 c fresh corn off the cob (frozen can be substituted)
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast approximately 20 minutes until vegetables are charred. Keep warm.


6 c water
2 c polenta
4 T butter
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 c whole milk

salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil then slowly add polenta, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Cook for approximately 3-5 minutes while stirring until mixture thickens. Add milk, butter, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.


1/4 c radishes, sliced
crumbled goat cheese to garnish

In a large bowl, spoon warm polenta. Top with roasted vegetables, sliced radish and goat cheese. Serve immediately.

This past Sunday was soaked with April showers and a cry for sunshine. Determined to bring an outdoor feel to a quaint dinner party for 6, I fired up the grill for these springtime delights:

Turkey Sliders

with a Serrano Mint Pesto, Grilled Watermelon and Butter Lettuce
Yields 12 sliders.

1 lb lean ground turkey (85/15)
1/2 c saltine crackers, crushed
1 serrano, ribbed, seeded and minced
2 T fresh mint, minced
2 T olive oil
1 T honey
liberal kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste

Combine ingredients with hands. Form into 3 inch patties. On a charcoal grill, cook burgers approximately 4 minutes on each side until just cooked through. Keep warm.

1 c mayonnaise
1 T olive oil
1 serrano, ribbed, seeded and minced
1 T fresh mint, minced
1/2 t honey
salt to taste

Combine ingredients. Chill until ready to use.
12, 1" x 1" slices of fresh watermelon
12 slider buns, toasted
butter lettuce leaves

Assemble sliders with a shmear of aioli, fresh grilled turkey patty, leaf butter lettuce and watermelon square. Secure sliders with toothpicks-- perhaps a frill pick for whimsy!

Gazing at the
sparkling, rain-drenched lawn,
we munched away on these whimsical sliders,
slurped margaritas,
and sipped luscious, beer cheese soup
with crumbled saltine crackers.

We've all spent numerous hours, time and money experimenting with muffin recipes and ended with dry, tough results. For your next venture, don't bother with other recipes.

These muffins are the best I have ever had.

The trick is thoroughly creaming together the cream cheese, butter and sugar-- at least 5 minutes. Patience is indeed a virtue in this instance. The thoughtful "creaming" process is what makes these muffins so unbelievably moist, creamy and light.

For an upcoming tea party I'm catering, I tested this recipe and decided to add ripe bananas, pure almond extract and toasted almonds for garnish. The beauty of this recipe is the versatility-- any seasonal fruit can be substituted for the bananas and the almond extract can be omitted.

Banana Almond Muffins

Adapted "Seasonal Fruit Muffin" recipe from Artisan Baking Company.

Makes 24 muffins or 48 mini muffins.

3½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 pound cream cheese, softened
½ pound unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
½ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 c ripe bananas
1/2 c toasted almond slivers for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat muffin pans with nonstick baking spray or place paper liners in cup and lightly coat papers with nonstick baking spray, so that the paper liners slip off muffins easily.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Combine crushed bananas, milk, almond extract and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl.

Beat cream cheese, butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after egg addition. Add dry ingredients in two parts, alternating with wet banana mixture. Batter will be thick.

Portion into prepared muffin pans with an ice cream scoop. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Rotate pan in oven for even baking), and continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes*, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of a muffin has only a few or no crumbs clinging to it.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Remove muffins from tin and let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve warm and enjoy!

*Mini muffins take approximately 17 total minutes.

Finally, I wanted to end with a
whimsical gift idea
perfect for children or the young at heart-- a retro candy & soda basket!

After a recent peruse at the World Market "Candy Shoppe" section, I fell in love with vintage confections, theater-style candy boxes, cane sugar sodas, funky, local beers by the bottle and oversized salty snacks.
I put together a sugar-laced arrangement for my boyfriend as well as:

imported chocolates,
saturated spices
and water crackers
for myself.

What a perfect entertaining destination!


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