Sunday, July 18, 2010

lemon curd cakes & vanilla bean paste

Picnics. Ahh...lovely picnics.

I adore the prestige of these glamour-soaked outings full of chic wide-brimmed hats, tanned gams and wooden-laced picnic baskets with modern, funky plastic silverware.

Stylish sporks? Yes, please!

Time to divulge...

I haven't actually been on a traditional red gingham-draped affair but the idea of hip picnic cuisine sets me on a marching ant-friendly frenzy!

Whether an event involves a beach house balcony, fireside stools or a cashmere throw on the living room carpet, these picnic treats are lovely bites perfect for transport.
Fab No-Bake Granola Bars

This recipe was compiled for a teambuilding event with children. After kid-approved recipe attempts (sans freezer), the bars didn't harden completely. Despite our minor roadblock, the bars were painstakingly simple, addictive, and the children inhaled them.

Although the mixture was mildly sweet, crunchy and chewy, I added a salt enhancement and dried pineapple for spice and flavor balance.

1 c puffed cereal
3/4 c rolled oats
1/2 c coconut flakes
1/2 c dried pineapple
2 T pumpkin seeds
2 T sesame seeds
1/4 c vegetable oil
1/4 c light agave nectar
1/3 c cashew butter
10 medjool dates, pitted and minced
1/4 t kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly with hands. Transfer mixture to a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Freeze to harden. Cut into desired shapes and enjoy!

Watermelon Cucumber Skewers

No formal recipe needed for this healthy, bright & cheery-skewered treat.

Simply rotate sliding cubes of seedless watermelon, chunks of English cucumber, fresh mint leaves and halved yellow plum tomatoes with chunks of feta on wooden skewers. Drizzle with fine olive oil, a sprinkling of salt & pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.

Other favorite watermelon combinations compiled by hungry friends & family:

watermelon + vodka/everclear (take yo pick!)
watermelon + salt
tostada + tuna + watermelon salsa
jicama + ancho chile powder + watermelon
watermelon + cucumber + feta
smoked sea salt + seared scallops + basil + watermelon
kalamatas + purple onions + feta + watermelon + lime + mint

Finally, a picnic is never complete without a bottle of red, crusty baguette, fine cheeses and fresh fruit. Why not roll them all into one? Wine on the side, please.

Grilled Chicken Melt with Figs, Havarti, Charred Corn & a Smoked Paprika Aioli

These sandwiches combine sweet, smoky, creamy and chewy. Can you say delicious?

Although these are melted sandwiches, they are perfectly delightful served room temperature for a road trip or picnic. I chose over-sized, rustic sourdough rolls to prevent the horrible soggy bread plague. If figs aren't available or in season, sliced apples or pears would be quite lovely.

Serves 2.

2 organic, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c California figs, sliced thin
4 slices havarti cheese
2 ears of corn, kernels sliced off
1 t olive oil
2 T fine mayonnaise
1/4 t Spanish sweet smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
handful of arugula
2 homemade sourdough rolls
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Toss corn with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, season chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of smoked paprika. Sear in a hot grill pan (over medium high heat) to develop grill marks (about 3 minutes per side). Finish breasts in the oven until just cooked through, approximately 5 more minutes. Set chicken on a cutting board to rest.

Slice sourdough rolls horizontally and toast in the oven to warm approximately 3 minutes. Meanwhile, combine smoked paprika with mayonnaise and a pinch of salt to form aioli. Spread on all toasted roll halves.

Assemble sandwiches starting on the bottom with a slice of havarti, sliced chicken, figs, another slice of cheese and a sprinkling of roasted corn. Melt bottom half of sandwich in the oven set on broil approximately 3 minutes. Top with arugula and second half of the toasted sourdough bun.

After savoring these luscious melts, wash them down with some ginger sodas then get cracking on dessert. These fruit-filled sweet loaves would be equally delicious warmed for breakfast with a shot of espresso or sliced at room temperature for afternoon tea time.
Fresh Strawberry Bread with Creme Fraiche & an Orange Glaze
Moist, sweet, tangy and luscious with a smoky cinnamon aroma.

Yields 2 large metal loaf pans (9x5x3 inch)or 4 mini-loaves.

3 and 1/4 c AP flour
2 t baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t kosher salt
4 eggs, room temperature
2 and 1/3 c granulated sugar
1 c vegetable oil
2.5 c ripe strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 c crème fraîche
1 T vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter loaf pans then dust with flour.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Beat together eggs and sugar in an electric mixture on medium high speed until very thick, pale and ribbon-like (about 10 minutes). Reduce speed to slow and stream in oil, crème fraîche and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer. Toss together strawberries with flour mixture then fold into wet mixture until just combined.

Divide batter between pans and bake on middle rack until a toothpick comes out clean, approximately 1 hour for large pans and 45 minutes for mini-pans. Cool loaves in pans on rack 10 minutes then invert onto rack. Cool completely before glazing.
Orange glaze:

1 T orange zest
juice of 1 orange
1.25 c powdered sugar
Combine juice and zest. Slowly whisk in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.
With a spoon, smooth or drizzle glaze atop cooled strawberry bread letting glaze fall down the sides. Let glaze harden, approximately 5 minutes then package loaves in parchment or slice and serve.

Recently, I was able to peruse a new-to-me Farmers Market just minutes from my downtown abode: Beach Street Local Market. The modest market was lined with diverse stands including all natural, dry-aged beef from Texas Heritage Beef Company and gorgeous homemade soaps and luxe body scrubs from Soap Addict.

After gathering fresh from-the-oven, warm Challah rolls and a modestly-priced container of luscious local honey from Weatherford, my sweet tooth led me to Le Chat Noir for ganache, meringue and buttercream-laced confections.

I settled on the Toasty Tart cupcake with buttermilk cake, lemon curd and just-right toasted Swiss Meringue while the still-sleepy Ms. Fort Worth Foodie opted for the Morning Gal with buttermilk cake, maple buttercream and what else? Bacon.



Unknown said...

Ok, Callie. I'm going to attempt to make your fresh strawberry bread tomorrow. I'm planning on taking it to the river for Mitch's family reunion. I'll let you know how it goes...the recipe looks fantastic! Also, Mitch and I went to the Cowtown Farmer's market on Saturday and LOVED it!

Callie Salls said...

Sonya, I really enjoyed them! I made the mini loaves and I took them out right at 45 minutes. Large loaf pans will be at least an hour. Make sure to follow the step of tossing your fresh strawberries with the flour mixture before incorporating into wet mixture so they don't sink! Enjoy!

Francis Shivone said...

I like the sound of jicama and watermelon. Good idea. I wish we had more jicama options in restaurants. I love it.