Harvest + Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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Strawberry Lemonade with Basil + Mint

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RECIPE

3 cups lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 8 lemons, give or take)

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups strawberries, trimmed and halved

10 mint leaves

8 basil leaves

6 cups cold water

 

Combine the lemon juice with the sugar in a large pitcher and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Puree the strawberries, mint, and basil in a blender or food processor until smooth, and then add to the lemon juice and sugar in the pitcher. Add the water, stir to combine and either refrigerate until needed or serve over ice right away.

Popping some edible flowers (in this case, pansies) into ice cube trays and creating floral ice cubes is a really easy and pretty way to take drinks and coctails to another level. Perfect for entertaining, you can usually find edible flowers at your local florist, at specialty grocery stores, or via online purchase.. 

 

 


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Praline Strawberry Shortcakes

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Strawberry shortcake has never been my favorite dessert. I’ve always seen it as something that is sort of lacking in the flavor department and I’ve never really given much thought to making it. But my Mom loves it. My husband loves it. The rest of the known world loves it. What’s more, the abundance of strawberries that seem to have made their way into my kitchen over the past week or so has left me no choice but to go ahead and give it some thought. After delving into the worlds of strawberry lemonade, strawberry salad, wildflower salad with berries, strawberry buttermilk cake, and strawberry barbecue sauce, I guess I figured it was time to go the shortcake route for once. “But how,” I asked myself, “how can I twist the classic version into something that is just a little bit more exciting??” The question daunted and haunted me for days …

Kidding. But I did pause for a second or two to ponder the solution, and given that strawberry shortcake is something you see often in the South, I thought I’d just up the Southern ante a little and throw in some pralines to sweeten the deal. There are plenty of shortcake recipes that swap out some of the traditional white flour for almond meal (reduces gluten). So I thought I’d see what would happen if I ground up a bunch of sweet, glazed, gooey, buttery, praline pecans into what I am loosely terming “praline flour” and used those in the shortcake dough.

What ended up happening was something that has altogether morphed my opinion of strawberry shortcake into one that is very positive and much more open-minded. Just by throwing one extra flavor element into the shortcake dough, the entire dessert seemed to come together for me and I no longer found myself “wanting more” from it. These shortcakes sort of taste like a combination of pancakes, cake doughnuts, and a nutty, caramelized shortcake – they taste really good. Shortcakes really take no time to make, are always a crowd pleasing dish, and they’re really pretty in a rustic, messy sort of way. All the boxes for the perfect summer dessert are checked! With that being said, I’m off to have a little shortcake date of my own with my daughter. There’s one left and it has our names written all over it …

 

RECIPE

Makes 4 servings

 

1.5 cups flour

1.5 cups ground praline/glazed pecans (the glazed pecans that you find in the nuts section at your grocery store work great here)

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2/3 cups milk

1 egg

1/3 cup vegetable, canola or coconut oil

Sweetened whipped cream

1 pint strawberries, trimmed and sliced

Sugar (to sweeten the berries and to sprinkle on the shortcakes)

 

Place the berries in a bowl. Mash 1/3 of the strawberries with a fork or potato masher and add back to the rest of the berries. Sweeten with about 1 tablespoon of sugar (or to taste) and set aside.

Whisk, ground pecans, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, 1 egg and oil, then stir in the flour mixture. You’re looking for the texture of drop biscuits here.

Drop scoops of the dough on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with sugar and bake at 475 degrees F until they are golden brown and done in the middle, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly.

Split the shortcakes and fill with sweetened whipped cream and the strawberries.


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Wildflower Salad with Orange Blossom Vinaigrette

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RECIPE

For the dressing:

2 oranges, zested

The juice of one large orange

2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette

2 tablespoons orange blossom honey

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

¾ – 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

¾ – 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (to taste)

 

For the salad: 

As is the case with most salads, the amount of each component/ingredient that you choose to use is up to your discretion and personal taste preference. If you don’t like cilantro, which many do not, just leave it out! The list below is what I opted to fill my salad bowl with and it’s full of flavor and herb-a-licious freshness. Perfect for summer and for a nice change of pace. Not to mention the fact that it’s oh so very attractive to look at …

 

Arugula

Mesculin mix

Spinach

Scallions

Italian parsley

Cilantro

Alfalfa sprouts

Blueberries

Strawberries

Edible flowers

 


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Homemade Oreos

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Before I ramble and rave ad nauseam about the amazingness of these cookies, I should exercise some patience and begin with more of a first-things-first approach. Even though a big part of me wants to just go crazy with my caps lock and exclamation point buttons due to my sheer excitement over these dark little confections, I will refrain (for now). I will begin, instead, with a little story. Not just any story, mind you. This post and its subsequent recipe would not make sense if I didn’t begin by telling The Tale of The Mysterious Black Onyx Cocoa Powder. Dun dun dunnn ….

The genesis of this recipe stems from a random, yet highly fortuitous, stumble I had onto a website that sells unique and more difficult-to-get-your-hands-on food products (spices, rare seasonings, salts, peppers from around the world, etc.). I spent an embarassingly long amount of time perusing their wares, with no real intention of actually buying anything. No intention, that is, until I glimpsed the black onyx cocoa powder. BLACK ONYX COCOA POWDER. Does this stuff not just BEG for its own sound effect? The name alone was enough to make me stop in my web-surfing tracks and ponder its very awesomeness, without really even knowing anything about it. Some foods however, by no fault of their own, have the opposite effect on people. Thanks to some really pitiful exercises in nomenclature, perfectly delicious foods such as meatloaf, bologna and oh I don’t know, fish balls, have really got some chips stacked against them. No appealing, self-respecting food name should ever begin or end with the word, “loaf.” But I digress …

Back to chocolate. Turns out, black onyx cocoa powder is just cocoa powder that has been alkalized to the extreme, producing a dark, purplish black cocoa that makes for an impressive black-as-coal baked good. This extreme alkalization neutralizes the natural bitterness, removing some of its chocolate flavor and a lot of its butter fat (10-12%) (www.savoryspiceshop.com). So, upon learning about this magical ingredient, I began to consider various applications for which I could justify its purchase. The first thing that came to mind was not the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man ( <– Ghostbusters reference), but was in fact, the Oreo. They are deeply dark and chocolatey, beloved by my cookie monster of a husband, and something I’ve never really given much thought to making. Done and done. Within seconds of this eureeka moment, I had made my purchase and commenced awaiting its arrival.

After much recipe reading, researching, and dough testing, I think I’ve got a recipe for homemade Oreos that is a dead ringer for the real thing, only better. They are satisfyingly crunchy in that familiar Oreo way but richer, as they are homemade and fresh, therefore avoiding the need for pesky preservatives and unfortunate unnatural ingredients. The extra black cocoa powder offers an almost salty or savory note to the cookies, which is also true to form. The fresh vanilla creme filling is the last touch that makes these cookies a deliciously nostalgic treat that I would dare anyone to turn down ;)

When served piled up high on a plate with an ice cold glass of milk, they really are practically perfect in every way ( <– Julie Andrews reference).

RECIPE

Adapted from The Food Network Kitchens recipe

Note: if you don’t feel like getting black onyx cocoa powder, simply substitute Dutch process cocoa in its place. No harm, no foul.

 

1 1/3 cups Black Onyx cocoa powder (also known as black cocoa powder)

1 1/2 – 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

For the filling:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

 

To make the dough, sift the cocoa powder, flour and salt together in a large bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla, adding each ingredient before the next. Now add the dry ingredients and mix just until everything is incorporated (make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula).

Divide the dough in half and place one half between sheets of parchment paper and roll out to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Repeat with the other half. Refrigerate the dough halves until firm, at least 1 hour or up to a few days.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Using a round cutter, cut the dough into circles (you choose the size here, I opted for a 2-inch cutter and wound up with about 30 cookies). You can re-roll the extra dough, if needed (I froze my extras). Place the cookies about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake until they are set, about 18 – 20 minutes for 2-inch cookies and longer if you want them the size of your head.

Cool completely.

For the filling: Cream the butter and shortening until nice and fluffy. Beat in the powdered sugar and vanilla.

Turn half of the cookies upside down and top each with about a tablespoon of filling, spreading to the edges. Press the remaining cookies on top to form sandwiches.


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Homemade Croissants

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 “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” – James Beard

I wholeheartedly agree, Mr. Beard. But just to gild the lily a bit, what about bread that is MADE with tons of butter? Even more satisfying, one must think. These croissants fall comfortably into the category of food that makes you mute with satisfaction, totally content to just “be” for a second while you enjoy them in all of their flaky, buttery glory. Sound a little dramatic? Probably. But as far as homemade baked goods go, croissants are a fairly dramatic endeavor and do therefore warrant some degree of pomp and circumstance. After all, why go to all the trouble to make them (we’re talking several hours of work here), if you’re not going to revel a bit in the fact that you did?

So, here I am … r e v e l i n g. Ahhh …. feels good. It’s not that making croissants is very hard. In fact, they were surprisingly easy to pull off. It really is more about the time it takes and the patience you must employ if you want to make these yourself. “But WHY Lauren?” You might be thinking to yourself at this point. “Why would you ever go to the trouble of making croissants when you can just buy them at the store?” Well, to that I say, why not? For starters, it’s fun. At least for me it is. I am the type of person, I guess, who gets a real thrill out of making food from scratch and figuring out the best way to make my favorite things myself, in my own kitchen.

But perhaps more poignantly, and to piggyback yet again on James Beard’s quote above, there are few greater culinary pleasures in life than freshly baked bread with butter, but if it is bread that you made yourself – highly coveted bread that you managed to elevate from a few very meager ingredients to something that is truly fit for kings – the particular brand of satisfaction that you wind up with is one of the best types around. THAT is something you just can’t buy at the store.

In other croissanty news, upon seeing the chocolate version I made, and taking a second to survey them, my 20-month-old daughter so very sweetly declared, “Poop in bread!”

I guess you can’t win them all … However I am happy to note that, after a quick explanation, she now refers to chocolate croissants as, “Not poop in bread Mama, chocolate in bread!”

Phew! That’ll have to do for now, I guess ;)

 

RECIPE

Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest

TOTAL TIME: 14 HOURS

YIELD: 26-32 CROISSANTS

 

4 1/2 teaspoons yeast

1/4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons warm water

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoon butter, melted

2 cups cold milk

5 cups flour, plus quite a bit more for your work surface

2 cups (4 sticks) cold, unsalted butter

1 large egg, beaten

 

Optional Fillings & Flavorings

Chopped chocolate (milk, dark, white, etc.)

Cinnamon-sugar, cinnamon-cardamom-sugar mix

Chocolate hazelnut spread, almond butter, peanut butter, speculoos spread, etc.

 

In a small bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water. Let this stand until it looks a little foamy, about 5 minutes.

To mix the dough by hand: In a large bowl, combine the remaining sugar, salt, melted butter, milk, the yeast mixture, and 1/2 cup of the flour, and mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Gradually add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a sticky ball – try not to over mix!

To mix the dough by stand mixer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining sugar, salt, melted butter, milk and the yeast mixture and mix on medium speed until combined. Gradually add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until the dough comes together in a sticky ball.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer to a large baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator until chilled, about 45 minutes.

While the dough is chilling, go ahead and prep your “butter package.” Place all four sticks of butter in a gallon plastic storage bag. Then, using a rolling pin, beat the butter on a work surface to flatten it. Continue to gently work the butter with the rolling pin to shape it into a solid 6-by-8-inch rectangle (or pseudo-rectangle). Stick with it, you’ll get it! Place the finished package back in the fridge to harden.

Now it is time to laminate the dough. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, place the butter in the middle of the dough. Fold the ends up like a letter. Fold the upper half over to cover the butter and press the edges together to seal. Then fold the remaining lower half over and press the edges together to seal. Turn the dough again so the short side is facing you, and use the rolling pin to press down equally on the dough to help flatten it. Roll dough into a 15 x 10 inch rectangle. Then fold the dough like a letter again, with a short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down. Use your hands to pull the dough into a rectangular shape. You should now have a roughly 11 x 6 inch rectangle. You’ve just completed the first turn! Cover the buttery dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill for 45 minutes.

Return the chilled dough to a floured work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns, rolling, folding and chilling the dough each time, for a total of 4 turns. After the last turn, refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To shape the croissants, cut the dough in half and place one half in the refrigerator while you work with the other half. Roll out one half of the pastry on a lightly floured surface into a 9-by-18-inch rectangle. Cut the dough in half lengthwise, and then cut the dough into triangles. Cut a small vertical slit right into the middle of the straight end, and using both hands, roll croissant up pushing the sides out to either side. Place on a baking sheet about 2-3 inches apart, cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour. After one hour, position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.

Lightly brush the tops of the pastries with beaten egg. Bake the pastries, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown, 13-18 minutes (this really depends on your oven). Keep an eye on them and if they’re cooking too fast, reduce the temp to 375 and move the rack to the bottom of the oven. Transfer to a wire rack and cool on the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. Makes 25-32 croissants.

If you want to make flavored croissants, just add a small amount of your filling (chocolate bits, peanut butter, etc.) to the croissants just before you roll them up. About 2 teaspoons of filling is enough to fill but not burst the croissants.

 

 


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Farmstand Cobb Salad with Honey + Goat Cheese Vinaigrette

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This is more of an idea than a real recipe, and one of my favorite ways to use up fresh veggies and farmer’s market finds in a way that really lets them shine. By arranging the ingredients in tidy little rows on a big platter and keeping a big bowl of fresh greens at the ready, this salad is a great serve-yourself, crowd pleaser that allows everyone to create the salads of their dreams. Because people obviously dream about salad. I know I do …

 

Honey + Goat Cheese Vinaigrette

1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons honey

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne

 

Whisk together the cheese, vinegar, mustard, and honey. In a slow steady stream, whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste, and a little cayenne if you like :) 

 

Classic Cobb Salad Ingredients:

Avocado, sliced

Tomatoes (I like cherry or grape)

Hardboiled eggs

Sliced red onions

Bacon, chopped

Cheese (usually blue, but I opted for goat this time seeing as how I’m pregnant and all)

 

Totally unnecessary but delicious extras:

Roasted sweet peppers

Roasted potatoes

 

 


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Indian Chicken Taco with Fry Bread and Black Raspberry + Chipotle BBQ Sauce

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“Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart.” ~ An old Native American saying

My post this week was inspired by a recent trip to the wonderful Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and more specifically, the amazing meal I ate in the Mitsitam Cafe, located inside the museum. My recent move to the D.C. area brought with it a whole new and exciting bucket list of culinary must-dos, and one of the eateries at the tippy top of the list was Mitsitam. After having read about it in several publications and seeing it featured on an occasional T.V. show, I was so intrigued by Mitsitam’s uniquely Native American menu offerings. From braised rabbit with fava beans to mashed purple potatoes with white walnut sauce, the menu is extensive and was designed to showcase foods from Native American tribes and communities across the Americas. We chose a particularly busy day to venture out to the National Mall, seeing as it is summer vacation and all. As such, the restaurant was bustling with tons of eager patrons lining up to sample its fare, and admittedly, I was momentarily overwhelmed by the cafeteria-style arrangement of things. Set up very similarly to my collegiate dining halls, Mitsitam consists of several stations, each of which highlights a different style of Native American cuisine. From Mesoamerica to the Northern Woodlands, the choices are definitely plentiful and once you get your bearings, it gets really fun.

I set my sights on the Great Plains line, deciding I would give the Chipotle Chicken Indian Taco a try. Never having tasted fry bread before, I was perfectly content to stand and wait as they shut the line down to cook up a fresh batch. Others moseyed on, opting for faster-moving lines, but I stayed put and am so glad I did. The Indian taco from Mitsitam was fantastic – IS fantastic – and I enjoyed every single bite. Nothing fussy about it, the taco consisted of the freshly fried bread, super tender pulled chicken in a tasty chipotle sauce, and your choice of more typical taco toppings (tomato, cheese, lettuce, etc.). Pleased with myself for being patient and waiting for the fry bread, I left Mitsitam feeling full and completely inspired to recreate the experience all over again in my own kitchen.

One of the other items on the menu in the Great Plains section of Mitsitam was a blueberry barbecue sauce, and I’ve riffed on that here with my black raspberry and chipotle sauce. I wanted to find a savory application for the leftover berries I had after making my semifreddo last week, and this sauce was just the thing. A little sweet and a little spicy, it goes great with simply shredded chicken and from there, just about anything else with which you care to top it. From bread to barbecue sauce, this entire recipe filled my house with the most amazing aromas and I received (more like achieved) an official request from my husband to keep it in our regular mealtime rotation. Mission accomplished! Thanks, Mitsitam …

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RECIPE

For the Black Raspberry + Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.5 cups black raspberries (or blackberries)

1/4 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 chipotle pepper in adobo, plus 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1.5 cups tomato sauce (canned)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste)

1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the berries to the pan and mash with a fork or potato masher to break them up. Add the chipotle and adobo sauce and the remaining 5 ingredients and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. If you want a less spicy sauce, you can remove the chipotle at this point. Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Let cool to room temperature and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

For the chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs

Black Raspberry + Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

Place the chicken in a slow cooker and cover with the BBQ sauce. Cook on low for 5 – 6 hours or until the chicken easily shreds with a fork. Shred all of the chicken and toss to coat evenly in the juices and sauce. Keep warm until service. That’s it!

For the fry bread (makes 4 – 5 servings)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1.5 teaspoons salt

1 cup whole milk

Canola or vegetable oil for frying

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk and mix everything until the dough comes together, adding more flour as needed (if it gets too sticky). Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth. Set aside to rest for about 10 minutes.

Pour oil to a depth of about 1/2 inch in a large skillet and heat to 350 degrees F. Divide the dough into 4 – 5 pieces (depending on how large you want them) and roll or stretch each piece out into a thin round disk (like you would pizza dough). Try to make a thinner area in the center, to ensure even cooking.

Fry the dough in batches in the hot oil for about 3 – 4 minutes per side. Just keep an eye on them, and turn them when they’re golden brown. They go quickly. Drain on paper towels and hold in a warm oven of needed.

To make the tacos

Top each piece of fry bread with your desired amount of chicken. From here, continue building your tacos as you like them. I opted for grilled bell peppers and onions, a little grilled corn, chopped cherry tomatoes, and some of the crema verde that I use for almost any taco I make. But the possibilities are endless here. Lettuce, salsa, cheese, sour cream – whatever keeps your taco boat afloat!

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