Kids and Crisp

IMG_4438Kids Cooking Club is a Monday afternoon staple here at Culinary Underground. From September through mid-June, our kid chefs are here weekly, learning all manner of things. Today the menu included vegetarian chili, a roasted vegetable parfait, and a fruit crisp.

Is there an easier dessert than berry crisp? The berries are so nice during late spring and into the summer; we also buy too many! This dessert is best with perfectly ripe berries, but if they’re starting to soften a little, that’s okay, too. This is one of the easiest desserts for kids to make because there’s no slicin’ or dicin’ here – unless you use strawberries that are super large. And even then, who cares? It’s rustic dessert time!

The topping here doesn’t contain nuts, but you could add some pecans or walnuts, coarsely chopped. The melted butter lets you skip that whole “cut in the butter” business that seems to trip up non-bakers. In fact, we quadruple the crump part of the recipe and store the crumb topping in a bag in the freezer, so it’s always ready when we want a quick summer dessert.

Mixed Berry Crisp
(6-8 servings)

4-5 Cups mixed fresh berries
1/4 Cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1-1/2 Cup flour
1-1/2 Cup old-fashioned or instant
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon favorite spices – like cinnamon or 5-spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees  Spray a 9” x 13” pan with cooking spray.

Arrange the berries in the pan. Add sugar and lemon juice. Toss well to combine.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, oats, sugar, salt, and spices. Pour in the melted butter and toss with a fork (or your fingertips) until the mixture is clumpy and lumpy. Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit.

Bake about 35-40 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling – that’s a sign that it’s done. The topping should be lightly brown, too.

Serve warm with whipped cream or our favorite: melted vanilla ice cream!

A Gluten-Free Recipe, Okay?

GF BananasJust because I like you, here’s a gluten-free snack recipe that’s (a) easy to make, (b) cheap, (c) made with ingredients that are usually hanging around, and (d) kid-friendly. Oh, and they’ve got that “Ooo-I-saw-these-on-Pinterest” vibe because of the popsicle sticks. (We always have popsicle sticks around, courtesy of the Job Lot which sells them in packs of, oh, 5,000.)

Naturally, these would be even better prepared with real chocolate but then we’re defeating the purpose of this “healthy snack” (a term I loathe, only because people are always asking me for healthy snack ideas. When I snarkily suggest an apple, they recoil in horror. Healthy eating is pretty easy, you know.)

So, we’re going to forgo the melted chocolate (boo-hoo!), and use non-fat yogurt instead. We use vanilla, but you could use chocolate yogurt, or any other flavor. The cereal here is Chocolate Rice Chex, a nice GF cereal that’s low in sugar. But bananas are sugary enough, so if you want to really bring it down, choose a crispy brown rice cereal, like Erehwon.

GF Banana Pops
(4 servings)

1 Cup rice cereal
4 large bananas, peeled and halved crosswise
4 popsicle sticks
5-ounce container vanilla or plain non-fat yogurt

Place the cereal in a ziploc bag and crush it to fine crumbs. Pour onto a large plate.

Insert a stick into the cut end of each banana half. Use a knife to spread yogurt on the bananas. Immediately roll in the cereal crumbs, pressing gently to make the cereal adhere to the bananas.

Arrange on a plate and refrigerate them for 15 minutes. Or eat them right away. Or put them in the freezer – they’re great frozen. In fact, why don’t you double or triple the recipes and freeze them solid before transferring to a ziploc bag and storing for quick snacks?


Roasted Berries
So many things are arriving every week in the CSA box!

And now blueberries…can you resist them? Every time I’m in grocery store or farmer’s market, I grab another box – before the last box is consumed. They usually go in smoothies, on cereal or yogurt, or in a muffin, if it’s not too hot to bake. But there are always more! Here are some ideas for using them that go beyond the ordinary (I’ll address that zucchini at another time!):

1. Freeze ’em. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until solid. Transfer to ziploc bags. Best used in their frozen state, without thawing, for pancakes and muffins, smoothies, or as a snack right out of the bag!
2. Smoke ’em: Toss a pint of blueberries with a dash of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, and 1/2 Cup brown sugar. Spread in a foil pan and place in your smoker. Smoke for about 30-35 minutes. Serve on a cheese platter or use for a BBQ sauce.
3. Roast ’em. Toss 2 Cups of berries with 1 T. lemon juice. Spread on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Into the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Excellent with ricotta or yogurt.
4. Dress ’em. Make a blueberry vinaigrette of 1 Cup berries, 2/3 Cup of oil, 1/3 Cup balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste; throw it all in a blender until smooth. Use on tossed salad.
5. Sour ’em. Whisk 1/2 Cup white wine vinegar, 1/4 Cup sugar, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Add 2 Cups of blueberries and small, sliced shallot. Cover and refrigerate overnight before using.

Pie Friday: Tarte aux Quetsches

Too hot to eat…must wait…

Okay, there was no pie last Friday for various reasons, e.g., illness. No one wants a pie that the baker has sneezed on.

But this week’s pie more than makes up for it because it’s one of my absolute favorites. I’m a huge fan of plums, especially the last-of-the-season Italian prune plums. They are small and sweet, yellow-fleshed, with a dark purple skin that looks flour-dusted. Cooked, the plums turn a deep magenta. And the taste? Well, if you love the sweet-tart flavors of things like rhubarb or cranberry, you’re going to love this fruit. Best of all, you don’t have to peel or blanch the fruit, which streamlines things. Read more

Apple Tart No. 1

Hold the fork.

My Friday Pie post is late this week for…reasons. The end of the week suddenly began to get very busy, and busy times call for shortcuts. And by shortcuts, I do not mean commercial refrigerated pie crusts – scrolls of plastique that smell like vinegar and feet. Pre-rolled piecrusts shrink and are pretty tough. I’d rather forgo the crust altogether and just make a fruit crisp.

Luckily there are other options – such as making your own puff pastry or buying frozen brand (still not great, but better than the Doughboy’s stuff). Puff pastry in the freezer is a pantry essential. This week, I had homemade puff in the freezer, just a scant half pound left over from a French cooking class. Once thawed, it was a snap to roll and top with a couple of thinly-sliced Granny Smiths that lolling around in the fruit bowl.   Read more

A Couple Concocts Kulfi

Collaborating spouses are the cornerstone of our Couple’s Night classes! Last Saturday, one happy pair got together during our Indian Balti class to whip up some watermelon kulfi. Now, kulfi is a popular Indian frozen dessert that’s usually made with mango or pistachios, or the more exotic tastes of saffron or rose water, and is frozen in conical molds. Our students opted for watermelon. It was the perfect ending to the highly-spiced meal our students prepared (the eggplant-green mango chutney was especially mind bending).

Sweetened condensed milk is a common ingredient in hot-weather cuisines since it needs no refrigeration and lasts for years on the pantry shelf. You’ll find it in desserts in India, Southeast Asia, and South America, where cooks boil it in the can for hours until the sugars caramelize. The results is is dulce de leche. Sweetened condensed milk is also popular in certain European cuisines; I knew a Russian emigre who served it with strong, black coffee — and you haven’t lived until you’ve had coffee served that way.

Between the food processor and the convenience of the sweetened condensed milk, this dessert is a breeze. And the flavor possibilities are endless! Just make sure your fruit is cut into 1″ pieces (not a necessity for most berries) and frozen completely, not thawed. The mechanical motion of the food processor and the frozen fruit stand in for an ice cream maker. You probably won’t need additional sugar, but that depends on the ripeness of the fruit.

Sweet, cold, refreshing – the perfect ending for an Indian meal, or any hot weather feast this summer.

Watermelon Kulfi
(4-6 servings)

4 Cups seedless watermelon cubes
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
Sugar to taste

Cut watermelon into 1” cubes. Spread them on a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Freeze until solid, several hours over overnight.

Transfer the cubes to bowl of the food processor fitted with the steel blade. Begin processing while pour the cream/milk through the feed tube into the processor. Puree until smooth. Taste the mixture; add some sugar, if necessary and pulse briefly to mix.

Transfer to a container and freeze for about an hour (or serve immediately for a “soft-serve” version).

American Panzanella Salad with Grilled Peaches

American Panzanella Salad with Grilled Peaches
(4 servings)

1/4 Cup white wine vinegar
1/4 Cup honey
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint or basil
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoons olive oil
4 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
4 Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 large shallot, cut into 8 wedges
8” square day-old cornbread, cut into 12 pieces
10-15 fresh basil leaves, sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet with foil.

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Arrange cornbread cubes in a single layer on one baking sheet. Toast for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer to a large bowl. Remove the foil from the baking sheet and discard.

Toss the peaches, tomatoes, and shallots with olive oil until coated. Arrange on the same baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Let cool, then slice peaches and tomatoes into quarters. Transfer to the bowl with the cornbread.

Just before serving, drizzle the cornbread mixture with vinaigrette and basil. Toss gently and serve.