Posts tagged ‘dessert’

Apple Crisp

Classic Apple Crisp

I visited the farmers market this weekend, walking the block between my home and the market at top speed, trying unsuccessfully to stay warm in the whipping winter winds.  I love that so many of the farmers markets here in Philadelphia have decided to hold winter markets, most every other week instead of weekly and for just an hour or two so the farmers don’t turn completely into icicles.  Being able to still buy local sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, kale, and apples directly from their growers is such a treat and a sure cure for the winter blues. 

Classic Apple Crisp Diptych

I purchased eight large russet-hued ‘Winesap” and a few bicolor ‘Honeycrisp’  apples, having a hard time counting out my bills with my numb fingers.  I didn’t really have a plan for them at that moment, but given apples keep for quite some time, I thought I’d just store them until I had a grand idea.  Once I got home though, I realized I didn’t want to dream up a wild creative dish for them.  Instead, all I really wanted was a simple delicious traditional Apple Crisp. 

Apple Crisp

Surprisingly, I don’t make fruit crisps very often so I didn’t have a go-to recipe already.   So, after a quick online search, I came across the one below.  It seemed ridiculously easy, I already had all the ingredients in the pantry, and the recipe got great reviews.  Away I went, peeling apples and crumbling the topping.  Indeed it was easy and delicious.  This is a keeper, though this particular crisp is likely to be gone real soon…


December 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm 27 comments

Contest Entry: French Fig Clafouti

French Fig Clafouti

Entry #2 :: “Project Food Blog” Contest

Challenge Prompt from Foodbuzz: Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.


Even though I don’t speak the language and I’ve only traveled there once, I have an undying love {obsession} with the French lifestyle.  How can you not appreciate rich food, beautiful art, bright scooters, intrinsic romance, classic but flirty style, and an abundance of al fresco cafes?  When I visited the manageably sized city of Lyon for a dear ex-pat friend’s “hen night” weekend {the equivalent of a bachelorette party in the States} , I didn’t have any idea I was in for a fast and furious love affair with the city and French life.  I immediately gravitated to the eclectic street artists, the open-air produce market that lined the river bank, the lusciously verdant flower stands at nearly every turn, the delicious coffee and flavored sodas, the decadent brunch dishes, the pockets of parks and tiny enclaves, and the flirty but classic styles displayed in shop windows.  I sat on park benches and bistro chairs, letting the rush of energetic French conversation wash over me.  I couldn’t get enough. 

Fresh Figs

I have since determined that I am so in love with Lyon that I will someday retire there, at least in part, to live in a little walk-up flat with sun-filled tall windows and a cheerful mix of flea market finds for furniture.  I’ll go to the river’s edge market to buy baguettes and cheese and spend countless hours people watching at cafes.   I’ll take advantage of living on the Continent to travel to any of the remaining European countries I haven’t made it to by then.  It’ll be one long enjoyable holiday! 

Eggs and Fig Halves

In the meantime, I need to work on a few things to prepare for my Franco freedom.  Learning to speak French would seem like a wise step.  But, alas, I’m utterly pathetic at learning languages.  Really, I spent 10 years of school learning Spanish and can barely get past “como se yama?” any more.  I figure I’ll just learn by immersion when the time comes. 

Fig Calfouti

I can, however, start to learn more about French cooking.  It is a cuisine that intimidates me, to be perfectly honest.  It seems so full of sauces and soufflés, all of which require a precise technique.  I decided to start with something more rustic and simple, a dish that embraced seasonal ingredients that would likely show up in that riverside market in autumn.  Figs are heavenly fall fruit and this “clafouti” couldn’t be easier.  I made mine with beautiful farm eggs from Red Haven Farm {isn’t their hand-decorated carton just too cute?}, which created a faultless custard base to amplify the figs’ natural sweetness.   The clafouti did puff up in the oven like a soufflé — so dramatic! — but it’s not meant to stay that way so I didn’t have to deal with the dread of watching it fall and feelings of failure.  This was the perfect introduction to classic French cooking! 

Now, perhaps the remaining nine eggs can be put towards a soufflé…  I think I’ll skip the frogs and snails however. 



September 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm 22 comments

From the Archives: Summer Berry Pavolova

Summer Berry Pavlova

Years after this post was originally put up on the blog, I’m still as smitten with this pillowy dessert as ever!  My own blueberry bush, growing in a five-gallon pot on my deck, produced a bumper crop this year.  I knew I needed to pull up this recipe from the archives and show it to you again.  In addition to the blueberries, a neighboring gardener gifted me with beautiful and sweet raspberries and blackberries. And of course the eggs are farm fresh from free range chickens.   Delicious!  

Eggs and Berries  

From the Archives  

There’s something magical about summer twilights.   And something even more magical about fresh blueberries on 4th of July celebration desserts.  I have many a fond memory of eating homemade ice cream topped with fresh blueberries and then running through dewy grass in the twilight with sparklers or chasing lightning bugs.    

Berries in a teacup  

I first came across fresh fruit pavlova while living in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  I can remember everything about the scene of my first bite – it was that delightful.  A crisp shell of a meringue with a melt-y middle topped with ever-so-slightly sweet fresh whipped cream and (for that first encounter) kiwis and blueberries spilling off the plate.   If ever the heavens should point a sunbeam directly on my head and issue forth an angelic chorus, it should have been at the moment of my first bite in that roadside Irish inn.     

Blueberries and Pavolova   

Since then, I’ve learned this dessert really hails from New Zealand and was named after a Russian ballerina so I think it classifies as an international dish even though there’s nothing regionally distinctive in its flavors.  Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe directions.  It really is just a lot of mixing and that’s all.  These little puffs of marshmallow-y delight are well worth the 20 minutes of shouting required to be heard over the mixer.   


August 1, 2010 at 10:32 am 18 comments

Roasted Rhubarb & Cream


It’s much too hot to cook right now.  Philadelphia is in the midst of yet another heat wave, this one the worst yet for the summer.   So, I thought I’d delve into my aging drafts pile and pull out something I made about a month ago when I could still look at the stove without cringing.   Sadly, rhubarb is out of season for most of us now, but you might still find a few stray stalks at the farmers market, or you can just bookmark this preparation to try next spring. 

Chopped rhubarb

Roasted Rhubarb & Cream is really rather divine.  I made it a few times while my rhubarb plants were pumping out the tender red stalks.  Each time I tweaked the recipe until I came up with this final version.  And it’s not just the taste that had me smitten.  Something about pouring that heavy cool cream over the steaming garnet rhubarb with flecks of vanilla bean is, well, very sensual.

Cream over roasted rhubarb

Tasty in its own right, eaten with a spoon while it’s still warm, this concoction can also be blended to create a creamy sweet sauce or filling, thinned to the desired consistency with more or less cream.  I’ll show you next time how I used it to fill fluffy homemade cream puffs…. oh, what a tantalizing tease!

Rhubarb Cream Puffs


July 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm 11 comments

Rhubarb Napoleons

Rhubarb and Dicentra Diptych

I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but here in my neighborhood, it has been the most glorious spring.  After the dreary cold days of last spring, it feels like the heavens have finally decided we deserve a month of picture perfect warm sunny (with just a few showers once a week) days that have made even just a short walk down the street to the market or post office magical.  The sidewalks of Philadelphia are lined with the blooms of cherries, apples, dogwoods, red buds, tulips, bleeding hearts, brunnera, hellebores, lilacs, lilies of the valley, and much more.  On my deck, the blueberry bush and the alpine strawberries have been blooming their little hearts out, getting ready to give us a fine feast in the months to come.   I’m nearly giddy with the return of fresh fodder at the dinner table. 

Puff pastry being cut

Activity in the garden has been at a near manic pace (my continued excuse for neglecting you fine folks; forgive me?) and the young tender leaves of arugula, beets, kale, lettuces, carrots, cilantro, and peas are all making steady strides towards the sun’s rays.  I have also been busy preparing the beds for and planting the seedlings of myriad cut flowers for my business, including lisianthus, dianthus, calendula, queen anne’s lace, english daisies, flowering oregano, fragrant stock, poppies, larkspur, nigella, sunflowers, sweet peas and more.   Expect to see plenty of flowers here on SFTF this summer as they are my new muse when it comes to thinking up recipes.  Colors seem to inspire me just as much as flavors these days. 

Ingredients Diptych

For instance, the cheery pink of delicate and exotic bleeding hearts reminded me instantly of rhubarb and prompted me to conjure up a recipe for something equally beautiful, delicate, and just a tad exotic.  The rhubarb is from the three seedlings I started myself in the summer of 2008.  They have grown into near monsters, offering up more crispy pink stalks than I could ever know what to do with, even though all the nay-sayers told me that growing rhubarb from seed was silly since it would take years to get a plant that produced much.  

Puffed Pastry

This recipe for Rhubarb Strawberry Napoleon with Rhubarb Coulis is ridiculously easy, though it might look complicated at first glance.  Just buy the frozen puff pastry and throw it in the oven.  Then chop up a bunch of rhubarb and slice a few strawberries.  Put two saucepans on the stove and beat the heck out of the whipped cream and waa-laa!  You’re done!   Then sit back and soak up the verbal declarations of your marvelous culinary skills as your dinner guests ooh and ahh. 

Before and after diptych

The strawberries, by the way, aren’t quite in season here in Philadelphia yet.  I fortunately had just a few of my petite alpine strawberries from last season still in the freezer that were perfect for this dish.  If you don’t have frozen local berries, but you did put up some chunky strawberry jam last season, you could easily stir in a couple spoonfuls to the filling and would be just as well off.  Or, if you have no strawberries, this dish would be just as delicious with just rhubarb if you added another teaspoon of sugar to the filling to offset the tartness of the rhubarb flying solo. 

Rhubarb Strawberry Napoleons with Rhubarb Coulis

What local yumminess are you eating
now that warm weather is back in town?


April 20, 2010 at 9:45 am 24 comments

Grandma’s Pumpkin Pie

Grandmas Pumpkin Pie

I write a lot about my grandmother on this blog and for good reason.  She’s an amazing cook who, next to my mother, influenced my culinary sensibilities the most.  This is a woman who, for better or for worse*, defines herself almost entirely by her ability to make and serve delicious food for her family and community. My grandfather was the best fed man from the moment he met my grandmother until the day he died.  When my grandmother lost her eyesight several years ago, she initially was dejected by her worries that she wouldn’t be able to  cook and bake anymore.  Wouldn’t you know, her desire to be in the kitchen was so great that she somehow taught herself how to cook by touch alone.  She hasn’t used a recipe or a precise measuring device since but you wouldn’t know it because everything she makes is still perfect. 

Puree and pie slice

*I mention worse because she recently nearly put herself in the hospital because she, at 90 years of age, was bending over and peeling bushels upon bushels of granny smith apples to make jars of her famous apple pie filling that she puts up every autumn to use for pies at the church’s fundraiser turkey supper and  pie stand at the town’s 4th of July celebration.  Her poor old back just couldn’t handle it, and she was in a great deal of pain and experiencing a lot of nasty problems from all the bending and had to be forced to give up her paring knife. 

Getting a slice

I grew up with my grandmother’s delicious pumpkin pie and was doomed to despise all other pumpkin pies in the world once I left home.  You see, my grandmother’s pumpkin pie does not have a crust.  It is simply the most moist and delicious custard you can possibly imagine, baked to perfection directly in the pie plate.  No, it’s not fair to judge all other pumpkin pies by this one, but it can’t be helped once you’ve tasted the unadulterated pumpkin-y-ness of this version. 

Slice and succulents

Every visit home, since the day I left for college, has been an opportunity for my grandmother to bake me a batch (nearly always at least two and sometimes three!) of pumpkin pies to take back with me.  I can’t say I’ve ever protested (at least not with any real sincerity), though really I probably should have when asked to eat three pies all by myself!  Hmmm, yes, well…

Slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream

Nowadays I have D to help me eat them, and he loves them just as much as me.   This led to a serious depletion in my annual pumpkin pie consumption, one that could not be tolerated any longer.  So, I asked for my grandmother’s coveted pumpkin pie recipe and, just like my mother’s mac and cheese, I undertook making it my own with equal parts uncertainty and determination.   Wouldn’t you know, this has turned out to be probably the easiest recipe on this entire blog and I didn’t bother to do a thing with it as it actually tastes just like my grandmother’s when I make it myself.  

Pumpkin Pie Slice

This pie is absolutely best when served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.  But don’t be ashamed if you find yourself grabbing a fork and the entire pie to sit in front of the TV and eat it straight from the pan.  Yes, I have done that.  Don’t laugh or raise your collective eyebrows at me until you’ve made this pie.  Then you’ll understand. 


December 19, 2009 at 10:09 am 15 comments

Rustic Pear Tart

Slice of tart

Let the pear parade continue!   Having two bushels of homegrown pears in the basement inspires both gratitude and creativity… and even a little panic that you won’t get them all used up before they pass their prime.  It would break my heart to throw any into the compost bin; they’re just too delicious for such a sad fate.


So, instead, I’ve been beefing up the pear recipe selection here on SFTF substantially.  Today’s offering is a ridiculously (almost shameful , really) easy recipe for a straightforward and juicy Rustic Pear Tart.  It’s not a terribly novel use for the pears, but it is a fast one that let me whip up a warm dessert to share with a neighbor who had  just brewed a pot of coffee.  It was perfection.  And did I mention easy? 

Pears and filling

Now, of course, you can certainly make this recipe harder if you’d like.  I used a store-bought pie dough.  Gasp!  Oh, yes, even I take shortcuts sometimes.  And, honestly, this tart isn’t worth fussing over homemade dough.  It’s meant to just be a vehicle for the warm and flavorful pears, the real stars of the show.  That being said, had I had a ball of frozen leftover pie dough in the freezer at the time, I would have most certainly pulled it out and used that instead.  But, as it was, I had the stuff from the store and it fit the bill precisely. 


November 8, 2009 at 8:01 pm 26 comments

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