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pear, ricotta + honey tart

Andrea

I have been a little obsessed with ricotta cheesecake lately.  I've made it several times, trying out a few different recipes, tweaking as I go.  I've landed on one that I love but cannot seem to get a decent picture of it to save my life. And, quite frankly, I can't continue to eat ricotta cheesecake every other week. That doesn't work with the ol' 'stay in my jeans' plan. While browsing the produce section last week I came upon these lovely red pears and knew that a Thanksgiving dessert recipe must be developed to showcase their beauty. And then I thought, why not combine that idea with what I've learned about the perfect ricotta cheesecake? Voila, a new dessert star is born.

This recipe combines three of my favorite things: seasonal fruit, tender crust, and ricotta cheesecake. Shared with loved ones it makes the perfect end to an Autumn meal. Enjoy, my friends!

Pear, Ricotta + Honey Tart
serves 8

for the crust
  • 1-¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 4-5 tbsp water
for the tart
  • 16 oz whole milk ricotta
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp honey, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 pears, sliced and pressed between paper towels to remove some moisture
method
  1. First, make the tart dough.  Blend the flour and sugar in a food processor.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles small peas, about 10 times.  Add 4 tbsp of the water and process until the dough comes together, adding the last tbsp of water if needed.  Gently gather the dough into a ball and press to a disk.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 2 days.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. After the dough has been refrigerated, remove it from the plastic and roll flat to a circle approximately 12-inches in diameter.  Lay the dough across a 9-inch tart pan and press the dough to the bottom and sides of the pan.  Roll a rolling pin over the top of the pan to cut the excess dough.  Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork in several places.  Bake the tart crust for 10 minutes and remove from oven.
  4. Blend together the ricotta, cream cheese, 3 tbsp of the honey, the egg, and the vanilla extract until well combined. Pour the mixture into the tart pan and smooth the top.  Lay the pear slices across the top of the ricotta mixture, and drizzle with the final tbsp of honey.
  5. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the tart only jiggles slightly and is starting to brown at the edges.
  6. Let sit for 1 hour before slicing and serving.

swiss chard + shitake mushroom casserole

Andrea

Amidst the turkey, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, stuffing, and rolls, the color green is often lost on the Thanksgiving table.  I love this casserole as a hearty alternative to turkey for vegetarian guests, cut into small squares to serve as an appetizer, or simply served alongside a nice slice of savory bird. The fried shitake mushrooms are a wonderful touch, lending a nice kick of flavor to the mild greens.  I appreciate that this dish comes together very quickly, and could even be made the day before and reheated in the oven as the turkey is finishing.  Or it would be really easy to transport to another house if you've been tasked with bringing a side dish to a family gathering.  Quick, simple, easily transported, filling, and delicious...what more could you ask for out of one recipe?

I have mixed feelings about swiss chard.  Its fine, really, but that's about it.  However, in this recipe it provides a nice earthy base from which the shitake mushrooms really shine.  I think this casserole would also be lovely with lacinato kale, my favorite hearty green.

Swiss Chard + Shitake Mushroom Casserole
serves 8, from Food & Wine
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ pound shitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
  • kosher salt
  • ½ cup panko
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese
  • 10 large eggs
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2-½ pounds swiss chard, stems discarded and leaves thinly sliced (I like to stack the leaves and roll them tightly, then slice the roll crosswise to make quick work of this task)
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉ and butter a shallow 9x13 ceramic baking dish. (I altered quantities some and used a 9x9 square dish…it is very easy to divide or double). 
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil until shimmering.  Add the mushrooms and cook over high heat, turning once, until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and transfer the mushrooms to a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. In a small bowl, toss the panko with ¼ cup of the cheese.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the cayenne, 1 tsp of salt, and ½ cup of cheese.  Stir in the swiss chard and mushrooms.  Scrape the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for about 20 minutes, until the eggs are just set around the edges.  
  5. Sprinkle the panko on top of the casserole and bake for about 10-15 more minutes, until the casserole is fully set and the topping is lightly browned.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

sweet potato bread pudding

Andrea

And here it is friends: recipe number 2 of 5 in 5 days...my very favorite sweet potato recipe yet.  Oh. Yes.

Its no secret around here that I like bread pudding.  There are already two variations here on Bella Eats, and I have no doubt that there will be more in the coming years.  When trying to come up with a new sweet potato dish this year (the marshmallow-topped, super-sweet casserole just doesn't do it for me) bread pudding popped into my head and nagged and nagged until I did a quick internet search to see if anybody else had tried it yet.  Of course, I found a great recipe at The Kitchn (they've done everything already, haven't they?!?) and decided to try it out and tweak it if needed.  Not surprising, it was perfect. Even after I cut the recipe to 2/3s (who does that?!?).  If you don't have an 8x4 round soufflé pan and want to use a 9x13 instead, pop on over to The Kitchn for their proportions.

Seriously, I hope you all try this recipe for a holiday meal this season.  It would be great served right alongside the turkey, or drizzled with the caramel sauce for dessert.  So delicious.

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Caramel Pecan Sauce
serves 8

based on this recipe from The Kitchn
For the Bread Pudding:
  • 1 large garnet sweet potato (about 1 pound)
  • butter (for your baking dish)
  • (1) loaf day old Challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1-⅓ cups heavy cream
  • 1-⅓ cups milk
For the Sauce:
  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup pecan halves
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • ⅔ cups heavy cream
Method
  1. Peel and cut the sweet potato into 2-inch chunks.  Steam until tender (about 15 minutes). Set aside to cool.
  2. While the potatoes steam, generously butter a 8" round by 4" tall soufflé dish.  Or, a 9x9x2 baking dish would work, too, but your baking time may be a little less.  Place the bread cubes in the dish.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, maple syrup, molasses, vanilla, spices, salt, milk, and heavy cream.
  4. Once the sweet potatoes are cool, mash or puree them until smooth.  Add them to the egg mixture and blend thoroughly.  Pour the mixture over the bread and press down the bread with the back of a wooden spoon to ensure all the bread cubes are soaked in the custard mixture.  Let sit for about 20 minutes or up to 4 hours (refrigerate if it will sit for that long) while you preheat the oven to 350℉.
  5. Place the bread pudding in the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, until the edges are browned and the custard is set.
  6. To make the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Add the pecans and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Add the sugar and stir continuously until smooth.  Add the cream and stir to combine.  Simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture is reduced to a thick sauce.
  7. Serve pudding warm with the sauce drizzled over top.

butternut squash risotto

Andrea

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Thanksgiving is just one week away. One week! So shocking. I have a list of recipes queued up and ready for you all, all dishes that would accompany a roasted turkey beautifully. In order to get them out to you in time for your big trip to the grocery store, I am going to march them out day after day through Monday. 5 recipes in 5 days. I do believe that will be a new record here at Bella Eats!

I am starting with a Fall staple in our house. Butternut squash is the very first Autumn ingredient that I buy each September, always in anticipation of this recipe. If we were hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house again this year I would absolutely put this creamy dish on our menu, and can't quite figure out why it has never made it there before. I think it would make a great substitute for the sweet potato casserole that typically winds up on the table. Especially because I just discovered my favorite sweet potato dish ever, and its a dessert, and I don't think I could take two sweet potato courses in one meal. Don't worry, I'll be sharing that one too.

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I tried something new this time, adding mushroom broth to the risotto instead of standard vegetable. We loved the earthy depth it added, and have permanently altered our recipe. If you don't have mushroom base, vegetable or chicken broth is good too.

Butternut Squash Risotto
serves 4 for main course, 6-8 as a side
Ingredients
  • 1 small butternut squash, about 1.5 pounds
  • 2-3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 medium onion, diced, about 1 cup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-½ cups arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
  • 6-7 cups broth made with better than bouillon mushroom base (vegetable if you don't have it)
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt + pepper
Method
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Cut the butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Lay the halves cut-side up on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Place a thin sliver of butter inside the bowl of each half, and another on the flat part of the squash.  Place a small sage leaf over top of each sliver of butter.  Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh pepper.  Roast the squash for 20-30 minutes, until a fork can pierce the flesh with only a bit of resistance.
  2. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool until you can handle it comfortably.  Use a small paring knife to peel the skin from the squash, and dice it into ½-inch chunks.  Set aside.
  3. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and let sauté for about 3 minutes, until it is starting to soften.  Add the garlic and the rest of the sage leaves and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.  Add the arborio rice and stir to combine for 1 minute, until the rice starts to crackle.  De-glaze the pan with the white wine, stirring to get any brown bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Add the squash and stir so that it is evenly distributed with the rice.
  4. Add broth one ladle at a time, stirring constantly so that the rice doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan, and only adding the next ladle when the previous has been absorbed.  Continue until all broth is gone and rice is creamy, about 25 minutes.
  5. Add the remaining butter (about 1 tbsp) to the pan, along with the parmesan cheese, and stir until distributed evenly.  Salt and pepper to taste.
butternut squash risotto-5.jpg

Charlottesville and Richmond folks...Relay Foods beat me again! Richmond, your one-click recipe is here, and Charlottesville yours is here.

sweet potato biscuits

Andrea

I have had this post queued up and ready to go for the last two weeks. Two. Weeks. The problem is, two weeks these days feels more like two hours. Time is flying faster than Harry Potter chasing the golden snitch. (Can you tell that my Thanksgiving plans include a trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? That's pretty much all I can think about in between shooting and editing and shooting some more.) These biscuits were meant to welcome November and the sweet potato madness that comes with it but, instead, they're being offered up as a potential Thanksgiving morning breakfast. That works too, right? I think it is a brilliant idea.

Imagine Thanksgiving morning: the too-early wake-up call, the hours of cooking laid out in front of you, the stress of making sure the turkey is cooked just right. Now, picture the container of freshly (as in the night before) baked biscuits waiting for you as you start the coffee. The thin slices of salt-cured ham in the refrigerator. The pairing of that salty ham with those barely-sweet biscuits, which are easy to hold in one hand as you pull out celery and carrots and onions for chopping. Not bad, right? Make it come true, friends. Take a bit of time Wednesday night to whip up these beauties so they'll be ready to fuel you Thursday morning. You'll be oh-so-glad you did.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

from gourmet

makes 8 mid-size biscuits

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes (1 large or 2 small)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 425℉ with the rack in the middle.
  2. Prick the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork, then bake on a baking sheet until very tender, 1 to 1-1/4 hours.  Cool slightly, then halve lengthwise and discard skin. Purée sweet potato in a food processor.  Transfer 1 cup purée to a bowl (reserve any remainder for another use) and stir in milk.  Chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat oven to 425℉ again.  Grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  4. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add sweet potato mixture and stir just until a dough forms.
  5. Drop dough in 10 equal mounds onto greased baking sheet, spacing them 1-1/2 inches apart.
  6. Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, 18 to 22 minutes.  Transfer biscuits to a rack to cool.

three years! and pumpkin cupcakes

Andrea

Three years ago today I started Bella Eats. This little site was much different then, dedicated to a healthy diet and my progress in training for a 10-mile race. Today I bring you cupcakes. My, how things have changed. :)

Thank you to all of you still here from that first year, and all of you who have found me along the way. I can't wait to see what year four has in store!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting

cupcakes from Ina Garten, frosting my own

makes 10 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée, not pie filling
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Frosting Ingredients (you may want to doule this if you like a lot of frosting. this recipe makes enough for a decent dollop on each cupcake)

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350℉. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a medium bowl.  In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugars, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
  3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Set aside to cool completely.
  4. Cream the butter in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and beat on medium high until fluffy. Scrape the bowl again. Add the maple syrup and beat until well combined.
  5. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.

caramel apples

Andrea

Caramel apples. The perfect Fall treat, bringing to mind images of carnivals and festivals and Halloween parties. I've made a few variations of candied apples in the past but this version is by far my favorite. This caramel is heavy and dark, laced with mollasses and dark corn syrup for an earthy undertone and not-overly-sweet flavor. If you're not a fan of molasses I'd avoid this recipe as, while not overpowering, the molasses does play a significant supporting role in the dance across the tastebuds. I loved this subtle difference from regular carnival candied apples that can sometimes make your teeth ache with sweetness.  That's not to say that this particular caramel isn't sweet, because it is, it is just balanced nicely by that molasses addition.

I'm not feeling too wordy today, friends, but felt the need to get this recipe out to you while there are still some orange and yellow leaves clinging to the trees.  Especially to all of you northeasterners who are facing the first nor'easter of the year.  What the heck?!?  I assume there will be some time spent indoors this weekend, lamenting the loss of Autumn so early.  Why not spend that time making the perfect Fall treat?

Hello, Winter? Could you back off please?

Happy weekend, friends!

Caramel Apples

from simply recipes

makes 12

note that you will need an accurate candy thermometer for this recipe

Ingredients

  • (1) 1-pound box dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • (1) 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp dark mollasses
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 sturdy lollipop sticks, chopsticks, or twigs (these aren't great for holding, better for apples you plan to cut into slices)
  • 12 medium apples

Method

  1. Combine sugar, butter, condensed milk, corn syrup, maple syrup, vanilla, molasses and salt in a thick-bottomed 2-1/2 or 3-quart saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon on medium-low heat until all of the sugar dissolves. You can test this by rubbing a little bit of the caramel between your fingers (let it cool on a spoon a bit first!!!). There should be no grittiness.  Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve any sugar crystals that might form on the pan sides.
  2. Attach a clip-on candy thermometer to the pan and cook the caramel at a rolling boil until the thermometer reaches 236℉, stirring constantly and slowly with a wooden spatula.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir, so that the caramel doesn't stick.  Once it sticks it will burn, and you'll have to start over.  Continue to occasionally brush the sides of the pan down with a pastry brush.  Carefully pour the caramel into a metal bowl and allow it to cool until the temperature lowers to 200℉, at which point you are ready to dip the apples.
  3. While the caramel is cooling, prepare a large baking sheet, covering it with parchment paper, butter aluminum foil, or a silpat. Insert your sticks into each apple core (I used a chopstick to poke the holes for the twigs).
  4. When the caramel has cooled enough for dipping, dip the apples in, one by one, by holding on to the stick, and vertically lowering the apple into the caramel, submerging all but the very top of the apple. Pull the apple up from the caramel and let the excess caramel drip off from the bottom back into the pan, then place the apple on the prepared baking sheet. The caramel will pool a little at the bottom of each apple. Place the sheet in the refrigerator to chill for at least 15 minutes.  At this point, if you'd like to add toppings, do so.  Otherwise, allow the apples to chill for at least one hour.
  5. I recommend, after chilling, storing the apples at room temperature.  Otherwise the caramel is hard as a rock.

torta di mele | apple tart

Andrea

My goodness...I should not have underestimated the powers of a beautiful salad! Thank you all for your sweet comments and enthusiasm. I won't lie, I fully expected to receive a whopping 2 comments on yesterday's post, so I appreciate all 10 of you proving me wrong. :)

As promised, here is an apple tart to kick off your weekend. It is your reward for yesterday's salad love, friends. This here tart is one of those pesky editorial assignments that I was telling you about, the completely fun and delicious and right-up-my-ally projects that cause me to eat more sweets/sushi/potato chips/wedding cake than maybe I should. This particular recipe was made and photographed for C-Ville Weekly and published in last week's issue. I'm just a little behind in getting it up here on Bella Eats. But, for all of you Charlottesville folks, Relay Foods has all of the ingredients ready to add to your cart in one click should you choose to make this apple tart this Fall. And you really should, as it is simple and lovely and delicious...three qualities I strive for in most food coming out of my kitchen.

Your tart will most likely look just a little bit different than mine because, well, I messed with the recipe a little bit. And wrongly, I might add. Your apples probably won't sit so high on the base, and the base itself won't be quite as dense. Even though I added a tad too much flour we still loved this treat.  I can't wait to make it again, sticking to the recipe below.

The pattern cut into the apples is, other than pretty, very helpful to slicing the tart in any way you might wish.

Torta di Mele (Apple Tart)

serves 8

from Meredith Barnes, C-Ville Weekly October 4-10, 2011

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp milk
  • 4 tart apples, peeled, cored, and halved
  • 2 tbsp apricot preserves
  • 2 tbsp water
Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°.  Butter and flour a 9" or 10" cake pan, tapping to remove excess flour.
  2. Place the egg, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in the large bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until mixture is starting to combine and then add the melted butter, continuing to pulse until smooth.
  3. Combine the flour and yeast, and add to the mixture in the processor. Pulse until evenly distributed, add the milk and vanilla, and then process until a soft batter forms.  
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread across the pan until it is level.
  5. Deeply score the 8 apple halves in a grid pattern.  Place one half in the center of the cake pan and arrange the remaining halves in a circular pattern. Bake for 10 minutes, the reduce the oven temperature to 350° and bake for 35-40 minutes more, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile, combine the 2 tbsp apricot preserves with the 2 tbsp water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until melted.  When the tart comes out of the oven, brush it with the preserves and bake for an additional 3 minutes.  Serve warm.

autumn salad with apples, blue cheese, + candied walnuts

Andrea

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And this, friends, would be an example of an AHubb meal. Or, an AHubb meal following a couple of weeks of BHubb meals, multiple food-centered editorial assignments, and a day-long photoshoot involving roughly 800oz of potato chips. Which, yes, we kept and distributed [mostly] to friends and family. With the fast approach of the holiday season and even heavier meals for impending Winter days, I've decided to challenge myself to create an interesting salad each week. To keep me on track, grounded, and hopefully in my current jeans. Not that I'll share each of them here. I know...you all really enjoy recipes more closely aligned with orecchiette carbonara and peach cakes. Who doesn't? But I thought, maybe, some of you might appreciate a few healthier options sprinkled here and there.

We all have those days when our jeans fit just a little tighter than the last, when we are craving something complex and hearty and cheesy for lunch but know we should choose the green salad instead. This recipe is my compromise. With a healthy dose of greens and apples, and a modest sprinkling of blue cheese and candied walnuts, it satisfies without the guilt. Make it lighter by omitting the candied walnuts and just sprinkling them on raw...but gosh, they sure are tasty.

Never fear...I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe for apple torte. :)

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The combination of apples, blue cheese, and candied walnuts is well-loved and known for salads. Sometimes you just need a little reminder about an old favorite.

Autumn Salad with Apples, Blue Cheese, + Candied Walnuts

serves 4

Salad Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 1 tart apple, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Candied Walnut Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1-1/2 cups halved walnuts

Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp grain mustard
  • 4 tbsp golden balsamic vinegar (or champagne vinegar if you can't find golden balsamic)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. First, candy the walnuts. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a heavy skillet. Bring to a boil, whisking, and allow to boil for 1 minute. Add the walnuts and stir to coat. Continue tossing until the syrup forms a glaze on the nuts, about 3 minutes. Transfer nuts to sheet of foil and quickly separate them with forks.
  2. Second, make the vinaigrette. Combine the mustard, vinegar, and honey in the small bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. With the processor running, slowly add the olive oil to emulsify, processing for about 1 minute.
  3. Toss together the spinach and arugula. Place in a shallow serving dish. Add the apples and walnuts evenly across the top of the greens, then the crumbled blue cheese. Dress the salad on individual plates.
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orecchiette carbonara

Andrea

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We have a special category for certain types of meals in our house: BHubb meals. As in, 'that's a BHubb dinner', which tranlates to 'that's the kind of dish that makes Brian, aka BHubb, a happy man'. Typically a BHubb meal is rich and heavy, and most often has some sort of pork product involved. Examples of BHubb meals from the past include Slow-Cooked Carnitas, Pappardelle with Spicy Pork Ragu, and Bacon Garlic Marinara with Homemade Meatballs. You see, sometimes I get on a salad kick, or a soup kick, and there will be weeks where most of our meals are one or the other. Those are most definitely NOT BHubb meals, because once Brian leaves the table he is rummaging for more sustenance in the pantry within half an hour. I am trying to be better about the balance between AHubb and BHubb meals in our house, and I must admit that I get a lot of satisfaction out of Brian's vigorous nod of approval after his first bite of a dinner made specially with him in mind. 

I knew going in that this Orecchiette Carbonara would get such a nod. Brian already expected something delicious when he got home last night, as I'd asked him before he left for work to slice 6 long strips of bacon from the cured pork belly we had waiting in our fridge. His eyebrows went up as he said 'bacon, huh?!?', and happily got to work carefully releasing slice after slice from the slab. And once at the dinner table, true to form, with his mouth still full Brian looked to me, pointed at the bowl in front of him, and gave me that content bob of his head letting me know that this, for sure, was a Bhubb meal.

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This is a dish that I feel certain will make a frequent appearance at our table. We almost always have each of these ingredients on hand, aside from perhaps the leeks which, in a pinch, could be substituted with sweet onion.  Orecchiette can occasionally be difficult to find, but is worth the effort if you do. The tiny ear-shaped pasta is perfect for catching the peas and bits of bacon. If you have trouble, substitute shells or bowties.

Orecchiette Carbonara

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6 slices high-quality, thick-cut bacon
  • 2 medium leeks, white + pale green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 10 oz orecchiette pasta or small shells
  • 2 large, high-quality egg yolks, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley

Method

  1. Cook bacon until crisp. We like to cook our bacon in the oven at 400° for about 15 minutes on a rimmed baking sheet, but cooking it in a skillet on the stove top is fine, too. Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel to drain, and set aside. Reserve 2 tbsp of the bacon fat, keeping it in the skillet or pouring it from the baking pan into a skillet.  Once the bacon is cool, break it into small pieces.
  2. Add the leeks and garlic to the skillet with the bacon fat, and saute' over medium heat until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the peas and stir to heat evenly. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks, parmesan, and cream together in a medium bowl. Gradually add 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. 
  5. Add the pasta to the leeks and stir to mix over medium heat, just until all is heated through and the leeks are just starting to sizzle again. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour egg mixture over pasta. Stir until the sauce is just creamy and eggs are no longer raw, about 2 minutes. You can return the skillet to very low heat if the egg mixture is still runny, but be careful not to overcook. If the pasta needs to be moistened, you can add some of the reserved pasta cooking water back to the pan.
  6. Stir in the bacon and parsley, blending well.
  7. Serve with additional cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
carbonara-5.jpg

apple dapple cake, and some food photography tips

Andrea

I mentioned last week that I'd be giving a little chat about food photography underneath the Relay Foods tent at the Heritage Harvest Festival last Saturday. Since so many of my readers are not local and would not have had the opportunity to stop by, I thought I'd post a summary of that presentation here on Bella Eats. And, for those of you who just want the recipe for the apple dapple cakes pictured throughout, it's at the end. :)

I get questions quite often about my photography and how I capture the images that I present here. The most important piece of advice that I ever give inquiring minds is this: PRACTICE. If you reach waaayyy back in the Bella Eats archives you'll see that my photography has changed immensely in the nearly 3 years since I've been sharing recipes from my kitchen. In fact, I give this little weblog 100% credit for renewing my passion for photography after architecture stole it away for 10 years. When I began Bella Eats I relied mostly on my little Canon Powershot point-n-shoot camera, and quickly switched over to my DSLR once the focus of the site moved from a daily food diary to a more focused recipe + photography portfolio. With that change, the amount of time I spent capturing images for each recipe increased. With each post my eye strengthened and developed until I'd created a style all my own, certainly influenced by but never outright imitating other food photographers that I admire. The reason that my photography looks and feels as it does today is because I keep picking up my camera, keep following the blogs and magazines and artists that inspire me, keep challenging myself in new ways with each project I tackle. And I promise you, 3 years from now my photography will be different than it is today because of the life I will live during that time. Everything experienced in life is an influence on one's art. So...PRACTICE. It is the ONLY way to become the photographer you wish to be. Everything else is just details.

And now, on to those details. This is by no means a comprehensive guide or the 'right/only' way to photograph food. I mostly hope to give some insight into how I work, and the decisions I make while capturing images for Bella Eats. I don't go into the technical aspects of working your camera, but simply challenge you to look at your photography from another point of view. If you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section!

I first want to show you that I don't have a big fancy studio with a beautiful gourmet kitchen directly adjacent to it. Boy, do I wish I did! Someday... Right now Brian and I share a 10'x10' home office space, one side dedicated to our desks and computers and the other dedicated to my work table, some prop storage, and camera equipment. The end of that table is where most of my photography happens, unless I'm feeling like a different sort of lighting or need a bit more space, and then I'll move out to our dining room. (I'll show you the difference in light quality between those spaces a little later.) It is very helpful to have this dedicated space for photos, so that our dining room isn't constantly taken over with my equipment as it was for the first 2 years of writing Bella Eats. If you can manage to clear off a 2'x3' space to keep set up, I highly recommend it.

LIGHT

All recipes on Bella Eats are photographed using natural light. I did dabble with artificial lighting momentarily, and occasionally break out my Lowel Egos if I will be shooting on location in a restaurant, but 95% of the time the images captured are lit using indirect or diffused sunlight. So, the first thing that I do when I am planning to photograph a recipe is I think about the quality of light that I am looking for in my images. The pair of shots below demonstrates the difference in lighting in my dining room (left) versus my studio (right). Both images are perfectly fine, but there are subtle differences that I'd like to point out:

1. Temperature. My dining room windows face west and north, and these images were captured in the late afternoon, so the color cast in that space was much warmer than the cast in my office/studio, which faces east and north. 

2. Direction of light. In the image on the left, the windows are to the left and in front of the camera, which highlights the cake stand nicely but casts more shadow on the right side of the cut piece. In the image on the right, the windows are to the left and behind the camera, which provides nice, even lighting on the cut piece but leaves the depth of the image more flat. The difference is especially apparent if you look at the folded end of the gray towel.

Again, neither of these images represents the 'right' way to light a subject, just two different perspectives. And there are many, many more options!

CLEAN + STAGE

This is pretty self explanatory. Do as much set-up as you can before you step foot in the kitchen. Analyze the recipe, pick your backdrops, linens, dishes, and extra props. Set up the camera and stage the first shot while thinking about how you plan to capture the others. For something like these mini cakes, this step isn't as big of a deal. But if you have a cast iron pan of fajitas coming off the stovetop and you want to photograph the steam rising from those sizzling veggies, you better have your studio space ready to go!

RECIPE ANALYSIS

Just because a recipe for cake says that it should be baked in an 8-inch round cake pan, doesn't mean it has to be! Read through the recipe thoroughly and think about how you'd like to present the food. Individual cakes are fun to photograph, but a whole cake provides a slew of cutting/serving options. Will the food be photographed in the dish that it is prepared in? Or can you ignore the cooking dish because the food will be removed and plated? Do you want to capture multiple stages of the cooking process and, if yes, which of those stages should be documented and where? 

PROPS

Analyzing the recipe will give clues as to what vessels should be used to present the food. Most often you can't go wrong with a white dish, but sometimes a colorful serving piece can really help to set off the colors in a recipe, such as these strawberry tarts on the teal plates shown below.

BACKDROPS

Once I've analyzed the recipe and chosen the dishes I'll use, I pick the backdrop for the photographs. The backdrop has a huge influence on the overall feel of the images, taking it from rustic to refined with a switch from the pallet to the ebony floor sample. As you can see, Lowe's and Home Depot can be a great place to pick up photo backdrops.

TEXTURES + COLOR

Once I've chosen the dishes and the backdrop, I move on to the styling of the images. Again, colors + textures can have a huge influence on the overall feel of the scene. Below I've shown examples of those little apple cakes styled in three simple ways, from neutral to pastel to festive. This recipe was pretty much a blank slate, given its neutral tone and white ramekin. But, imagine this beet risotto in that orange scene...blech!

I have a slew of colored and patterned papers and linens that I sort through all the time. The key is to have a good variety so you never get bored. Sometimes, though, I will realize that I've really had a thing for the pallet paired with natural linen and antique silverware (who doesn't?) and have to force myself to think outside of the neutral box, which is typically my preference. Again, challenge yourself! Find a fun linen or paper and work to style your entire scene around it.

VIEWPOINT

There are three viewpoints typically used in food photography: front, angled, top. I use them all, typically in each post. If you find yourself always shooting from one direction be sure to switch things up and challenge yourself to a new point of view. 

DEPTH OF FIELD

The depth of field in an image refers to the depth of the image that is in focus, and is controlled by the camera's aperture. This is a subtle nudge to explore the settings on your camera beyond 'auto'. Again, none of these is the 'right' aperture to set your camera to, but is simply a demonstration of how the story you tell with your art can be influenced by the depth of field.

FOCAL POINT

Similar to the depth of field, the point of focus in the image can alter the story told. Below I've focused on the first, the middle, and then the last cake. In the image below that I've focused first on the forks and then on the cake. Quite literally, the focal point will draw attention to the point of the image that you wish to be the focus, and it doesn't always fall right in the middle of the frame.

CROP

Does the whole dish need to be present in the frame for you to convey its qualities?

CLUTTER

I often find that less is more. In the case of the two images below, I really wanted to show the sauce I made to accompany the cake. However, the image on the left felt a bit too cluttered, and I was much happier with the shot once I removed the little bowl.

Instead, I found two different ways to set up and style additional images with the sauce as the focus. I would probably pair one of these with the image on the right, above, in a blog post.

SHOW MORE OF THE STORY

Don't lose sight of the fact that food is meant to be eaten, and showing only the final, pristine cake is not the whole story. Slice it, dish it, eat some of it, and photograph each of those stages. Some of my favorite images show a half-eaten piece of cake or an empty plate, typically found at the end of a post.

POST-PROCESSING

It is my goal to do as little post-processing as possible, always. My love for photography falls in the styling and capturing of images, not in sitting behind my computer tweaking settings until the image looks nothing like what I caught in-camera. I adore Adobe Lightroom 3, and do most of my editing there. It is a powerful editing program and fantastic for organizing my images, of which I take a lot. For an average Bella Eats post I'll take between 60-100 images, and typically whittle them down to 10 that actually go in the post. Lightroom is great for that process. I rarely take images into Photoshop, and when I do it is usually only to remove a stain from a backdrop paper I've used one too many times, or to collage multiple images together (I am still not happy with doing this in Lightroom, for some reason). I even add my watermark as I export images at web-resolution from Lightroom.

The image on the left is straight from the camera, and on the right after a little brightening, a little warming, and a little clarity.....and that's about it.

Same for the images below, except I also removed that little paint spot from the homosote, also in Lightroom. I can be picky.

And...that's it! My process for capturing photographs of food. Again, if there are any specific questions, please ask in the comments section below! I'll go ahead and answer one right now, because I know I'll get it:

Q: What camera equipment do you use for food photography?

A: Canon 5D MkII, Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 100mm f2.8, Canon 35mm f1.4L

On to cake. Seriously, this recipe is one of our new favorites. I seem to say that a lot, but I really, really mean it with this one. So simple, so delicious, easy to travel with (I lugged the full cake and the mini cakes to the festival for my demonstration last night, and they fared perfectly). It has a consistency similar to coffee cake - soft and spongey and laced with fruit and nuts. Meaning...it is great for breakfast. And you know I LOVE a cake that I can eat for breakfast. :)

Apple-Dapple Cake

from Mollie Cox Bryan's Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies (the original recipe is for pie)

makes (8) 4-inch cakes, or (2) 8-inch cakes

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups light vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups diced apples
  • 1 cup chopped raw or toasted nuts (I used sliced almonds)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter (8) 4-inch ramekins or (2) 8-inch cake pans.
  2. Beat the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and mix thoroughly. Stir in the apples and nuts until evenly distributed, then spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dishes.
  3. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean, then transfer cakes to wire racks to cool. (The small cakes took about 40 minutes, the larger the full 50 minutes.)

We enjoyed ours served with this rum caramel sauce.

a meal for summer's end

Andrea

The final days of summer are upon us.  Already I've worn a scarf, contemplated tights, and polished my boots. The weather this Sunday past was Perfect (yes, with a capital 'P')...temperature in the upper sixties, sunny skies, a crisp breeze. Our windows have been flung wide open, the air conditioner *hopefully* retired until next June.  Brian happily gave our lawn what he wishes to be its last cut, and I've planted the garden beds full with beets, carrots, collards, and lettuce.  We're ready...for Fall festivals, warm jackets, rosy cheeks, mulled cider, creamy soups, firey leaves, golden light, and crisp air.

As a send-off to Summer we're embracing her end-of-season bounty.  There are still local peppers and corn to be had and I, ever the fan of fresh, local corn, am consuming as much as I possibly can until it is gone.  We've had corn chowder, corn pancakes, cornmeal cake.  And now, perhaps my favorite thus far, corn bread stuffing laced with green chilies. And alongside that, a roast chicken stuffed with local plums and nectarines.  The perfect meal for these last Summer days, when cooler temperatures have us craving warm and comforting fare at their end.

I expected the stuffing to be very, very spicy, but was pleasantly surprised by the mild heat the chilies provide. Still, if you have an aversion to spice, consider substituting anaheim peppers for the jalapenos.

Roast Chicken with Summer or Fall Fruit

serves 2-4, depending on the size of the bird

Ingredients

  • one fresh, organic, whole chicken (this bird was about 2.5 lbs)
  • a few tablespoons of canola oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 12 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2-4 nectarines, peachs, or plums (or a mix of all three) cut into wedges (and, when Fall hits full-force, this would be delicious with apples, too)

Method

  1. The morning you are planning to cook the bird for dinner, rub him down with oil. Work your fingers between the skin and meat of the bird's thighs and breast, separating the two to form pockets for the herbs. Stuff the thyme underneath the skin in as many places as you can, reserving a few sprigs. Finally, rub the bird thoroughly with salt and pepper, over top and underneath the skin. Refrigerate the bird until you're ready to cook him.
  2. Preheat your oven to 325° and place a rack in the middle. Lay the remaining thyme sprigs in the center of a medium cast iron pan. Place the bird, breast-side up, on top of the thyme. Stuff as many fruit wedges as you can inside of the cavity, and lay the rest in the pan around the bird.
  3. Cook the chicken for 45 minutes, then remove from oven and turn him over. Cook for another 45 minutes, remove from oven, and turn him again. Make a small incision in the breast to see if the meat is cooked through, white and not pink. For a small bird, 90 minutes is about all you need. If you're cooking a larger bird, he will take longer. Just keep turning him every 45 minutes until the meat is white and the interior juices run clear.
  4. When the chicken is done, turn the oven to broil. Place the chicken, breast side up, back in the oven on the middle rack.  Broil until the skin browns and crisps, about 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken from the pan, retaining the juices and fruit in the pan. Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes before carving him.
  6. Bring the juices and fruit to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, until the juice is reduced to a thicker glaze. Spoon the glaze and fruit over top of the carved chicken, on individual plates.

Corn Bread Stuffing with Green Chilies

adapted from bon appétit

serves 10

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh poblano chilies, seeded, chopped
  • 6 small jalapeño chilies, seeded, chopped
  • 6 ears corn, kernels removed from cobs
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped green onions
  • Buttermilk Corn Bread, 1 day old (recipe below)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add all of the chilies and saute until they begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in half of the corn and all of the green onions. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Coarsely crumble the day-old cornbread into the bowl and mix together.
  2. Blend the rest of the corn, the eggs, sugar, salt, and pepper in a food processor until you have a course puree. Stir the puree into the stuffing mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°. Generously butter a 13x9x2 or a 10x10x2 baking dish. Transfer the stuffing mixture to the baking dish and pat down into dish. Butter a piece of aluminum foil and place the foil, butter side down, over the stuffing. Bake until heated through, about 40 minutes.  Uncover the dish and bake until the stuffing is slightly crisp and golden, about 15 minutes.

Buttermilk Corn Bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a 13x9x2 inch baking pan. 
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the buttermilk, and then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Mix all of the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in the buttermilk mixture.  Transfer batter to the buttered baking pan.
  4. Bake corn bread until edges are lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Cover the pan tightly and store at room temperature for at least one day, and up to two days.

Those of you local to Charlottesville or Richmond: I've been providing Relay Foods with recipes and photography for some time now.  I typically try to post recipes here, on Bella Eats, prior to their appearance on Relay, but have been a little swamped lately.  So, this means that if you're interested in adding the ingredients for the Corn Bread Stuffing with Green Chilies to your Relay order with just one click, you can do so here.

food photography workshop at the heritage harvest festival [tomorrow!]

Andrea

Tomorrow is the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, the first of Charlottesville's fall celebrations that add to my love for the season. This year I will be giving a little workshop/demonstration/chat about food photography and styling under the Relay Foods tent at 10:15am. I hope you can join us! It will be a very informal affair, and my presentation is pretty short so I'm guessing I will give it a few times over the hour allotted to me. If you're at the festival (and you should be, for so many reasons!!!) I'd love for you to stop by and say hi! 

cornmeal pancake breakfast

Andrea

Last weekend, Brian and I may have discovered our new favorite breakfast.  In fact, had there been bacon crumbled across the short stacks occupying our plates I feel certain that I could have written, with 100% truth, that this was the Best [Homemade] Breakfast Ever.  And yes, those words deserve to be capitalized.  It is no surprise that the inspiration and recipe for said breakfast came from Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life, a book that I thought was still loaned out to a friend and so had not cracked open in quite some time.  Imagine my delight when I noticed its friendly seafoam spine peeking out from between Ad Hoc at Home and NOMA...a lovely surprise, indeed.

This recipe for cornmeal pancakes is actually meant to be an appetizer; the cakes 1/4 the size pictured here, topped with a confetti of fabulous flavors. We made them their intended way, just a week ago, to bring as an hors d'oeuvres to a dinner party.  They were delicious, for sure, but I kept thinking as I popped them one-by-one into my mouth that there was a whole lot of effort invested in those bite-size cakes and that really, made bigger and topped with a fried egg, they would make for quite the weekend breakfast without all of the fuss. I was right. The combination of slightly-sweet corn cakes with fried egg, fresh tomatoes, and a hint of green onion was the perfect start to our Sunday, a morning I would like to repeat very soon.

The batter for these cakes comes together easily and cooks up into the most perfect pancake shape, texture, and color. They would be lovely to serve to guests for weekend brunch, or to whip up and freeze for weekday breakfasts.

Cornmeal Pancakes

from a homemade life, by molly wizenberg

serves 3

Ingredients

  • 1 medium ear of corn
  • 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (don't skimp here...)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp canola oil, plus more for brushing the pan
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1-1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar

For Serving

  • really good eggs, however you like them cooked
  • really ripe tomatoes
  • chopped green onions
  • coarse salt and ground pepper

Method

  1. Remove the kernels from the cob using a sharp knife (this method works very well). Put a small, heavy skillet (cast iron if you have it) over medium-high heat on the stove top. When hot, add the kernels and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the corn is browned in spots and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and scrape the kernels into the bowl of a food processor.  Allow to cool.
  2. Next, prepare the batter.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another small bowl, combine the milk, water, canola oil, and maple syrup (leave out the vinegar for now). 
  3. When the corn is cool, process it briefly in the food processor, until it is finely chopped.  Add the corn to the dry ingredients, along with the wet ingredients and the vinegar, and whisk just to combine.  The batter will be foamy and will thicken.  Allow it to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan or griddle over medium heat. When the pan is hot, brush it lightly with oil.  Scoop the batter by the 1/4 cup onto the griddle, forming round cakes about 5 inches in diameter. Cook until the edges of the cakes look dry and the underside is golden, about 3 minutes, then carefully flip to brown the other side. You should have 6-8 cakes when finished.
  5. Serve topped with egg, tomatoes, and green onions.

pasta with bacon garlic marinara and homemade meatballs

Andrea

Tomato season is coming to an end, a time which, for me, is bittersweet. I am at the same time sad that I'll have to wait another ten months for full-flavored, raw tomatoes to grace my plate, and pleased that this sign brings Autumn (and the cooler weather that comes with her) just a little bit closer. To remedy these mixed feelings, I've been making and canning lots and lots of sauce. The ritual of washing dozens and dozens (and dozens x10) of tomatoes, passing them through the Sauce Master (best. tool. ever. thanks Joe!), and cooking the resulting puree down to half its original volume with onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs has been a weekly routine since mid-July. It brings me great pleasure to know that soon, when the air is brisk and the leaves have fallen, we'll be able to tap into a bit of Summer with one of the 30+ pints of marinara we've got stored away.

And, what better accompaniment to homemade tomato marinara than homemade meatballs? It had been awhile since the last time we made meatballs at home, but I'm thinking (and know that Brian agrees) that they should make a more regular appearance on our menu.  They are so easy, and for us the epitome of comfort food when paired with fresh pasta and rich sauce. It may seem odd to have made a dish so warm and hearty during the heat of mid-August, but to me seemed an appropriate invitation for Autumn to hurry herself along.

Even if you're not set up to can tomato sauce, I still recommend doubling or tripling the sauce recipe and freezing the leftovers. And, while you're at it, go ahead and double the meatball recipe, too. They freeze well, and will be so delicious with the extra sauce come October...

Pasta with Bacon Garlic Marinara and Homemade Meatballs

sauce by Bella Eats, meatball recipe from Bon Appetit, October 2010

serves 4

Marinara Ingredients

  • 2 strips thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 6 large heirloom tomatoes (about 3 pounds), blanched, peeled, and cored (keep the seeds) 
  • salt + pepper

Meatball Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless French or country-style bread
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 8 ounces ground beef (15% fat)
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 1 cup finely ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed

To serve

  • 1 pound of fresh pasta (we love linguini)
  • parmesan cheese

Method

  1. First, get the sauce going (it will take about 2 hours). Saute the bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over high heat until starting to brown.  Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper and saute for an additional 2 minutes, stirring pretty constantly. Add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you put them into the pot, and scrape the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer.  Let simmer for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Immediately start the meatballs once sauce is simmering. Combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a small bowl, stirring until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand for 10 minutes. 
  3. Place beef and pork in a large bowl and break into small clumps. Add the parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper. 
  4. Whisk together the eggs and the garlic cloves in another small bowl. Pour over meat mixture. 
  5. Using your hands, squeeze the excess milk from the breadcrumbs, reserving the milk. Add the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture. Using your hands, quickly and gently mix all ingredients together until everything is evenly distributed, taking care to not overmix. Chill at least 15 minutes and up to one hour.
  6. Moisten your hands with the excess milk, then roll the meat into golfball-size balls. You should have about 16 meatballs.
  7. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the sauce to the desired consistency. Return to a wide, shallow saucepan and bring back to a simmer. Add the meatballs in a single layer, and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through. You'll want to turn them about halfway through, but be careful not to break them apart before they are ready to move.
  8. Cook pasta and drain. Remove meatballs from sauce. Add pasta to sauce pan and toss to coat. Serve with meatballs and shredded parmesan cheese.

blueberry scones with lime glaze

Andrea

I hold a firm belief that berries + citrus are one of the best combinations ever. Right up there with caramel + sea salt, peanut butter + banana, tomatoes + pasta. It's a shame that their seasons are opposite each other, with citrus at its height mid-winter and berries abundant mid-summer. That won't stop me, though. Be it berry jam, cobbler, tart, or muffin...it will involve lemons, limes, or oranges.

Also, I am a big fan of scones. If they are the right scones, that is. No dry, crumbly, lumps that turn to paste in the mouth for me. I like them softer; closer to the product of a marriage between scone and muffin. Easy to grab and eat in the car on the way to work, without the spray of crumbs across the lap when you arrive. 

These particular scones, made moist with buttermilk and bright bursts of blueberry, still hold a hearty texture thanks to the white whole wheat flour. I like to think that makes them a healthy breakfast treat, even if all that whole grain goodness does is cancel out the sugary glaze drizzled over top (shhh...just let me have that...please?). If you'd like an even fluffier texture, substitute all-purpose flour for the white whole wheat. And be careful not to overmix your dough, keeping in mind the same principles applied in biscuit-making...work fast and keep your ingredients cold. 

Happy Monday, friends! Have a lovely week.

Although they are best day-of, these scones can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days.

Blueberry Scones with Lime Glaze

makes 8 scones

Scone Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour, or all-purpose flour for a fluffier texture
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp lime zest
  • 8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used turbinado), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2-3 tsp lime juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375*.  Spray a baking sheet with oil or cover with parchment paper.
  2. Mix buttermilk with egg and extract in a large bowl.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, lime zest and salt to a large food processor. Pulse until blended.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles course bread crumbs.  Add sugar and pulse again until blended.
  4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Do not overmix. Add blueberries and carefully fold them into dough.
  5. Turn out dough on a floured board and give 5-6 careful kneads, just until well mixed and cohesive, trying not to crush too many of the berries.  Divide dough into 8 equal pieces and roll into balls before flattening into disks about 4 inches wide.
  6. Bake on prepared baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until medium brown.  Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes before moving to wire rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the glaze, mix the confectioner's sugar with 2 tsp of lime juice. Use a spoon to blend together into a paste, adding more lime juice a bit at a time until the glaze is spreadable.

cornmeal cake with peaches + rosemary

Andrea

I find it appropriate that I am following up a post about summer tomatoes with a post about summer peaches. Brian and I have long had the argument over which is our favorite summer fruit, with him typically landing on the tomato side of the line and me on the peach. It is a close race, for sure. Both are delicious only during their season, each overlapping the other during July and August in Virginia. We rarely eat tomatoes outside of summer, and never peaches, unless we've put some away in jars and freezer bags. The limited window of availability makes peaches and tomatoes all the more special, precious even, and we indulge ourselves in both when they are available. Right now, as I write this, there are roughly 20 pounds of peaches and 30 pounds of tomatoes spread across my dining room. 50 pounds of fruit, friends. I think we have a problem...

After venturing out to Chiles Peach Orchard with a girlfriend a few days ago, I found the first thought swirling through my head involved a dense, peach-topped, breakfast-y cake. A cake with some heft; a good base to start the morning off just right. After some searching I came across Emeril's Cornmeal Olive Oil Cake with Poached Peaches...(the name goes on...), and modified it to suit my own desire for a simple, one-component breakfast cake. I am so very, very pleased with the result. The rosemary-scented cornmeal crumb is dense and savory with moments of crunch and highlights of salt. It sounds strange, I know, but there really are occasional bites that taste salty, while the majority offer a mild sweetness courtesy of the honey and fruit. It is a cake full of wonderful contrasts; sweet paired with salty, the crunch of cornmeal with the softness of peaches.

I wouldn't pigeonhole this cake into the dessert category; it really could pass as a cornbread side dish at a backyard barbecue. But I think the perfect place for it would be brunch...where savory sweets are wanted and expected. It is a new favorite in our house, for sure, and even further muddies the race between the tomato and the peach...

Cornmeal Cake with Peaches + Rosemary

adapted from Emeril Lagasse via Food Network

serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp minced, fresh rosemary
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 ripe peach, sliced thinly (1/8-inch thick)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease and flour a 9 by 2-inch round cake pan. (next time I will use a springform pan so that I can remove the cake whole)
  2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir in the cornmeal and the rosemary. 
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, egg yolk, milk, olive oil, and lemon zest with an electric mixer until frothy. Add the sugar and honey, and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients and beat until the batter is smooth. Pour into the prepared pan and top with the peach slices.
  4. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few crumbs attached. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack. If using a springform pan you can remove the cake whole, otherwise you can slice it in the pan and remove individual slices to serve.

tomato + goat cheese tart with rosemary crust

Andrea

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Summer.

Tomatoes.

Summer. Tomatoes. Summer tomatoes. Summer tomatoes summer tomatoes summer tomatoes. The two words belong together, do they not?

With a high of 101° in Charlottesville today (real feel 115° to 120°...um, when did we move to the equator?!?), I am not finding a whole lot to be happy with Summer about at the moment. Except for tomatoes. We are overrun with summer's favorite fruit right now...big ones, little ones, red ones, orange ones. All picture frames and candles have been removed from my dining room sideboard to make way for our bounty from the farm. It is the official tomato storage and ripening spot in our house, a constantly revolving inventory of heirloom varieties. I've made pints of marinara to store away for winter, and have plans to can soups and salsas in the coming weeks. But still, my very favorite way to consume a perfectly ripe tomato is thickly sliced, with sea salt. It just doesn't get much better than that. Unless you sandwich one of those slices between two hunks of bread with some bacon...that's pretty darn good too.

Most of our meals this week involved, you guessed it, tomatoes. In sauce over pasta, in salsa on fish tacos, sliced with fresh mozzarella on pizza, the 'T' in our BLTs. And this lovely, simple, rustic tart. It breaks my 'don't turn on the oven' rule, but at least it isn't the stove top. 

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First, I have to say again how much I love Jack Bishop's book, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. I have shared several recipes from there, here, and cannot praise it enough. We have been thrilled with every single dish we've made between its covers, and love how simple and quick they always are. This tart is no exception. The crust dough comes together beautifully and is so easy to work. The filling ingredients are simple. The whole tart is finished with just 15 minutes of prep time, which I love. If the crust weren't so butter-full we'd have this meal multiple days each week.

Be sure to only make this tart when tomatoes are at their peak...a pink and grainy 'mater just wouldn't do...

Tomato + Goat Cheese Tart with Rosemary Crust

from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, by Jack Bishop

Crust Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 4-5 tbsp ice water

Tart Filling

  • 6 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1-1/3 cups)
  • 3 medium, delicious tomatoes, cored, sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick, and blotted dry between paper towels*
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt + freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. First, make the crust dough (about 1 hour before you're ready to assemble the tart). Place the flour, salt, and rosemary in a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses. Add the water, 1 tbsp at a time, and pulse briefly after each addition. After 4 tbsp of water have been added, process the dough for several seconds to see if it will come together. If not, add the remaining 1 tbsp water. Process just until the dough comes together in a rough ball. Do not overprocess or the dough will not be flakey. Transfer the dough to a lightly-floured work surface and knead briefly to for a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a 5-inch disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.  Note: My dough was very sticky with just 4 tbsp of water, so I wound up adding some flour to help it to come together. The final dough should be smooth and supple before refrigerating. Also, if you don't have a food processor, you can still make the dough by using forks or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour mixture, then add your water.
  2. Move an oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 375°. 
  3. Unwrap the chilled dough and roll it into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Lay the dough over a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, fitting the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Run the rolling pin over the top of the tart pan to trim the excess dough. Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with a fork.
  4. Finally, fill and bake the tart. Scatter the goat cheese evenly across the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in two rings, one around the outside edge of the tart pan and another in the center, overlapping them slightly. Drizzle the tomatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Bake until the edges of the crust pull away from the sides of the pan and are golden brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool the tart on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Cut the tart into wedges and serve.  Also, it is really good at room temperature so feel free to make this ahead and let it cool for several hours.

* To dry tomatoes, lay 3 layers of paper towels on a flat surface. Place your tomato slices on the paper towels, and then cover with 3 more layers of towels. Gently press your hands over the tomatoes to extract as much liquid as you can without crushing the tomatoes. When you lift the slices from the towels, many of the seeds should stay behind. This will keep your tart crust from becoming soggy.

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slow-cooked carnitas tacos

Andrea

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There is something about summertime that leaves me craving tacos.  I have no idea where this comes from, but the combination of fresh tortillas, pulled meat, avocado, and salsa does not leave my brain from mid-May through early September.  Sure, I'd consume tacos any time of the year, but during these summer months I could eat them every single week. Also, we have a thing for pork in this household. Whether it be bacon, or pulled bbq, or thick bone-in chops...I dare say that pork is our favorite meat. So combine tacos with pork and you'll find a very happy Andrea chowing down, claiming 'this is the best meal, ever'. Not only because I love that particular combination of flavors, but because slow-cooked carnitas tacos are easy, and don't heat up my kitchen, and make enough quantity to have leftovers for a couple of days. On these brutally hot Virginia summer evenings that is EXACTLY the kind of recipe to do a little food dance for.

We made these tacos for Tommy + Kristin's baby party a couple of months ago (and, btw, Olive has arrived!). Ever since I've been craving them, talking about making carnitas tacos each week following.  We finally picked up a beautiful pork shoulder (or butt...boston butt that is...I know, its confusing) from Belmont Butchery last week, and there was no way that carnitas weren't happening after 3 months of thinking about them. And oh, were they good. SO good, that I think they'll have to happen again soon. Maybe next week, even...

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These tortillas came from La Michoacana.  C-villians...if you haven't been there yet, GO. Right NOW. Everybody else, see if you can find fresh tortillas for your carnitas tacos, they will make all the difference.

Slow-Cooked Carnitas
serves 8 (about 32 small tacos)
Ingredients:
  • (1) 6 pound bone-in pork butt (also called pork shoulder)
  • 2 tbsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 8 whole cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 chipotle peppers (canned, in adobo sauce)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup orange juice
Method:
  1. Trim the excess fat from the meat and discard.  Place all ingredients in your slow-cooker and set to LOW.  Cook for 8 hours.  Meat is done when it literally falls off of the bone. When it is cool enough to handle, lift the meat from the juices and place on a large platter or cutting board. Remove the bone and shred the meat to bite-size pieces.
  2. Skim the fat from the juices and keep as a medium for re-heating the meat.  To reheat, place carnitas in a baking dish and pour juices over top. Cover with foil and re-heat in oven.  The juices are also really delicious as a sauce over the carnitas.  It will be spicier than the meat itself, so be careful to taste-test.
  3. For tacos, serve with small corn tortillas, sour cream, lime, avocado, fresh salsa, and queso fresco.
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