Thursday, December 17, 2015

Homemade Chai Tea for Winter !

Winter is coming ! That means cold weather with warm hearty soups and stews, along with hot, comforting drinks, aromatic teas, and soothing coffees. The past couple of years, I have been buying  affordable Trader Joe's Chai teabags in boxes.  On my last visit there, they were out of this delicious tea. I also bought some luscious handmade loose chai tea that a man had made, and his wife was selling at the Hanukkah Bazaar at Temple Beth Israel in Fresno. Wow, the flavor was so intense, and I couldn't believe that it only took 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture to make one cup of tea ! Well, I took that little canister of tea to New York, when I visited my daughter Brittany and her new husband Jeff, recently,  and I left it there for them. Soooo,  not having any Chai tea and having been wanting to make my own chai tea, I decided now was my chance to give it a shot !
   I gathered the ingredients that I found in my kitchen,such as cinnamon sticks, black pepper corns, star anise, fresh ginger, cardamon, a small piece of a vanilla bean, a whole nutmeg, and ground them up in my little coffee grinder, then steeped 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of  the tea in a mug filled with hot water. I was amazed how EASY the whole process was ! It probably took about 5 minutes from start to finish ! I noticed at our local  Lassens Market that there are different flavors of Chai tea, so basically you can put whatever blend of spices in the grinder that you want , to make the particular tea that suits your fancy ! You can also add whole cloves, coriander seeds, and  fennel seeds to your mix. Oh, by the way....Did you know that Chai means tea ? So if you're making Chai tea, you're really making tea tea !

When I went out to buy the spices to make the tea, I looked in a couple of grocery stores. There, I was able to find what I needed, but at expensive prices. Then I went to a Mediterranean market in Fresno and was able to find most of these spices in bags and plastic containers. (Entering that market was like going to the other side of the world ! One  Persian customer was buying freeze-dried limes for I know not what , and roasted watermelon seeds covered in a pink powder ??  I bought pomegranate molasses for the first time to drizzle on roasted acorn squash !)  The quantities of the spices were larger and cheaper ! It may take a few trips around town to find what you need. Some recipes add black tea as well. I prefer not to add the extra caffeine, so I leave it out. You can add loose tea or a tea bag when you are steeping your tea, if you want.

My Version of Chai Tea

1/2  teaspoon whole pepper corns
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon cardamom pods
1/2 inch fresh ginger
2 star anise or
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/4 vanilla seed

Grind all the ingredients  in your coffee bean grinder. Leave them in the covered grinder or put them in an air tight container. (A pinch of these spices might taste good in your coffee another day, or in a citrus salad dressing, or in applesauce ! ) Put 1/2  teaspoon of the mixture in a teacup. Add 6-8 ounces of boiling water. Cover your cup and let it steep for 3-5 minutes. I heat about 1/4-1/3 cup of milk or 1/2 and 1/2 in a metal measuring cup on the stove. Watch it carefully ! Add the hot milk to the tea, plus a teaspoon of honey, or a little more ,if desired. If the tea isn't strong enough for you, add a little more of the tea mixture to your cup.
                                   Then I take my tea outside ,if it's warm enough, watch my cats enjoying the sun rays, gaze around the tranquility of my flowers and trees in my garden, watching a new morning  unfolding, and thank G-d for another day of life !
   P.S....This tea, placed in small zip-lock bags,  then put in decorative bags, and tied with ribbon or raffia, would make nice gifts !
   P.P.S....Freeze-dried limes add authentic lime flavor to cuisines including Middle Eastern, Mexican, Thai, and Indian foods. The watermelon seeds are dried, salted, and offered to guests in Persian homes. There are such new, exciting, things to learn when entering into a different cultures' market and going up and down the isles, studying all the foods one has never seen before ! Ask questions about certain foods are used ! Your world will expand and grow !!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Heaven on Earth...Chateau du Sureau !

I have a secret retreat that I call my place of Ahhhh, or my  little Heaven on Earth, which is located in the California Sierra Mountains, in a petite town called Oakhurst. Shhhhh, don't tell anyone where I go or what I do there ! This would be Chateau du Sureau, a ten room castle, and also on the property is Erna's Elderberry House, a fine dining restaurant, owned by Erna Kubin-Clanin and her husband Rene. A beautiful ochre colored villa and a luxurious spa can also be found amongst the pine trees and elderberry bushes. Sureau means elderberries in French.
   Do you ever find that perhaps once a year or more, you long for a haven of peace and quiet, somewhere where you can unruffle your feathers, where stress is a forgotten state of being ? Well, I have those times too, and those are the moments when I dream of staying at Chateau du Sureau and dining at the Elderberry House...Trust me, this inviting, homey, elegant, little castle is well worth  putting on your bucket list and saving your pennies for....a taste of European elegance in California !
   When I arrive at the green iron gate, I am greeted by a sweet, friendly voice saying,"Welcome home !" A darling chambermaid and a charming bellman escort me to my favorite room called the Safran, which means saffron in French. All of the rooms have herbal names. As I enter, I see my oh, so soft bed with the fluffy down comforter, a warm fire burning in the fireplace (if it's chilly), a little gateau (cake) wrapped prettily, on an antique plate with a pearl handle knife. I see the beautiful antique armoire in which to hang my clothes, a tall tapestry of the lady and the unicorn on the wall, fresh flowers, some sweet surprises in a cookie tin, lovely toiletries by the sink,  a cuddly soft white robe, and on it goes ! Soft classical music is playing. My darling chambermaid even brings me a  beautiful plate of refreshment, such as a salad, or fruit and some tartines (open-faced sandwiches),with a glass of their special spiced tea or wine. Like I said, ahhhhhh......
   One of my favorite pleasures for unwinding is to take a good book or two, go down to the pool, lay on one of the terry covered chaises, and just bask there, reading for hours !  I like to read  books like "God on a Harley" by Joan Brady and "French Women Don't get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano. Usually no one is swimming in the pool, because I go up there in less touristy times, Spring or Fall. A wonderful young lady or gentleman always comes down the steps to check on me, to offer tea or a delicious snack, which I never refuse ! Por quois pas ! When the sun starts setting and I am feeling the fresh mountain air start to chill, I reluctantly pack up my books and go into the Chateau to get ready for dinner. I am consoled with the fact that I have one more day to lie out by the pool and that I  will have a fabulous meal in the gorgeous restaurant  tonight !
   It's fun to dress up and walk down the lane, past the beautifully lit fountain, to the candles flickering and the fire blazing in the restaurant.You may receive a special greeting by the Sommalier or one of the excellent waiters. Dinner is always divine, around six courses, with wine pairing if you would like. Even if you are dining solo, the experience is so lovely. When I am alone, I really am not, because I believe that my Lord Yeshua is with me on a special date ! I usually invite friends to join me on one of the other nights. After a beautiful dessert, you may be given some special, sweet bon bons to top off your perfect evening !
   After dinner, knowing that your warm,inviting chambre is only a short walk away gives one a sense of delight. There are logs to burn in the fireplace, soft classical music to play, candles to light  and place around the spa tub, that you can luxuriate in under clouds of bubbles ! Then dry off with a fluffy, cotton towel, slip into one of the ultra-soft robes, and melt into the silky sheets and  down-filled pillows on your antique bed. Ahhhhh.....again ! There may also be a sweet little edible surprise left on the bed for you, in case you haven't indulged enough !

      Waking up in the morning is another sensory delight (They just keep coming !), when I smell the aroma of freshly baked croissants wafting under my door, and a charming miss or gent knocks, carrying a darling tray with just brewed coffee, cream, a tiny honey pot, and a little vase holding fresh flowers. Ohhhhh.....Can I stay here forever !!!?  I have time to sip my coffee, gazing at the fire, listening to soft music, and reading my Bible, before going down to the Provencal patio and herb garden for breakfast !
   I eagerly anticipate what breakfast delights await me, as they are always a welcome surprise. Fresh squeezed orange juice, flakey croissants with homemade strawberry and apricot jam, a chicken vegetable quiche, ginger apple cake, fresh fruit,  homemade granola, and on and on it goes. Speaking of granola, I'm following this story with a homemade granola recipe !
   Then I'm off to my quiet place by the pool to read my second book. Others may choose to walk around Oakhurst or take a day trip to Yosemite National Park, to see the grandeur and beauty of God's creation.
   On my last wistful day, I like to walk down a winding path through the graceful  pine trees, to the koi fish pond. Large, gorgeous koi fish slowly swish themselves around, peeking their lips out of the water, hoping you've brought them a treat to nibble on.  There are graceful statues of two cranes nearby, as well as a giant chess game, and a delightful wooden swing which I love to sail high on ! One time one of the gentlemen working there gave me a big push !
   Lastly, after packing up my things, the sweet hostess discreetly gives me my bill (Tipping is included for the Chateau.), a gift of roasted California almonds, and a bottle of water for the  winding drive  down the mountains towards home. Ahhhh.....Erna, and Rene, you think of everything, you and your wonderful, kind staff , having given me a calm, restful, rejuvenating little secret place of heaven on earth !
   Merci, merci beaucoup !!! Que Dieu vous benise !!

                                                    My Toasted and Raw Granola

   In my college days, I was a super health nut and a vegetarian. I loved making my own granola often, after a friend gave me her recipe that I went berserk over !! Well, I lost the recipe, but this recipe is pretty yummy. I decided to combine raw and baked granola to make the recipe healthier and I use organic ingredients !

4-6 cups oats, old fashioned
1 cup shredded coconut (I like to use the large flakes.)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts,pecans,or almonds)
1-2 freshly ground cinnamon sticks
1-2 freshly ground whole nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup molasses,organic,unsulfured
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried cherries (if desired)

 Pre- heat the oven to 300 degrees. In a coffee grinder, grind 1-2 cinnamon sticks and 1-2 whole nutmegs. (If you don't  have a coffee grinder, you can use powdered cinnamon and nutmeg, but freshly ground spices are so much more flavorful and aromatic !) In a large bowl, put in all of the ingredients, except the dried fruit. Mix these ingredients together. I use my hands, as this helps me feel when all is thoroughly blended together.  Taste the ooey-gooey granola on you sticky hands to see if it needs more salt, spices, honey, molasses, or oil. Divide the mixture onto two baking sheets. Bake one baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Half way through baking, you can stir the granola with a spatula. Then remove from the oven to cool. Break the mixture up with your hands and then toss with half of the fruit.
   Add the rest of the  fruit to the mixture on the other baking sheet, and let it air dry in a sunny spot in your kitchen, or outside, covered with a tea towel or a few layers of cheesecloth, until it is  dry and somewhat crunchy. Then combine the two mixtures together and store in a covered container, or fill cellophane bags and tie with raffia or ribbon to give as gifts. (The granola comes out a bit soft. If you don't want your granola on the softer side, bake ALL of the grain mixture, before adding the dried fruit.) You can even find sticker companies online where you can create your own cute granola labels !
   Soooo.....Remember to take time during the year to go on a relaxing vacation, and rest one day a week as God tells us to in the Bible.....That's the healthy way to live !

Monday, October 12, 2015

Autumn Apple Tart !


   Autumn has arrived in Fresno California ! Halleluia !!! The air is so perfect and refreshing after a hot summer, and the smoke that we have been periodically breathing from forest fires in our local mountains ! As sad as I am, when our bounty of summer fruits and vegetables goes away, it's nice to see the variety of apples,grapes,squash,and pumpkins,pomegranates,etc.,filling the wooden boxes at our farmer's markets.
   Recently for the joyful Rosh Hashanah (New Year) celebration with my Messianic Congregation, people brought apples,honey,and apple cakes to eat, to symbolize a sweet new year. I made and brought a French apple tart. I found a delicious Apricot Honey Almond Tart recipe in Patricia Wells ' cookbook called "Patricia Wells at Home in Provence", in which I substituted apples for the apricots and brushed warmed apricot-lavender jam on top. (I purchased this jam at a beautiful French shop in Carmel,California called Jean de Luz...a place that I looove to visit !!)  This tart is so easy and fairly quick to make. You don't have to roll out the crust ! Just press the dough into the pan ! Make it for your guests the day before your gathering. They will be AMAZED at your beautiful French creation, hardly believing that YOU actually made it !!

                                         Apricot (Or Apple) Honey Almond Tart

                         Equipment: One 9-inch (23-cm) fluted tart pan with removable bottom

The Crust

   Unsalted butter for preparing the tart pan
   8 tablespoons (4 ounces; 120 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
   1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
   1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
   1/8 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla,which is so delicious, that you can purchase online !)
   A pinch of sea salt
   1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon (180 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

   2 tablespoons finely ground unblanched almonds

The Cream

   1/2 cup (12.5 cl) heavy cream
   1 large egg, lightly beaten
   1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
   1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
   2 tablespoons raw full-flavored honey, such as lavender
   1 tablespoon superfine or all-purpose flour
   About 1 1/2 pounds (750 g) fresh apricots, pitted and halved (do not peel) (or apples,cored and sliced thin)
   Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
   Apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C; gas mark 5).
2. Butter the the bottom and sides of the tart pan and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and,with a wooden spoon, stir to form a soft,cookie like dough.Do not it let it form into a ball. Transfer the dough to the center of the buttered pan. Using the tips of your fingers, evenly press the pastry onto the bottom of the buttered pan. The dough will be quite thin.
4. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffy and set, about 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle the almond flour flour on the crust. (This will prevent the crust from becoming soggy.)
5.  Meanwhile, prepare the cream: In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream, egg, almond and vanilla extracts, and honey and whisk to blend. Whisk in the flour.
6.  Starting just inside the edge of the prebaked pastry pan, neatly overlap the halved apricots, (or sliced apples), cut side up, at a slight angle. Make 2 or 3 concentric circles, working toward the center. Fill the center with the remaining apricots (or apples).
7.  Pour the cream evenly over the fruit. Place in the center of the oven and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes.The apricots will shrivel slightly. Remove to a rack to cool. (I brushed warmed apricot/lavender jam on top of the apples. I heated about 1/3 cup jam in a small pan on low heat.) Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

Eight Servings

Variation: When apricots are out of season,you can use figs,plums,or a combination of fruits such as peaches,apricots,and nectarines. To prepare this tart with fresh raspberries, prebake the dough as directed. Add the cream and bake until the filling is firm and the pastry is a deep golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. At serving time, arrange a single layer of raspberries (about 12 ounces; 375 g) on top of the filling. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar just before serving.

    P.S.  I always pray to Yeshua before I cook meals for friends and family, asking Him to help me prepare a delicious creation......Soooo.....Go for it Frenchie....Make this tart SOON ! Love ya !!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jeff and Brittany's Rustic Goat Cheese Wedding Cake !

   Guess what !!?? As my daughter Brittany and her fiancé Jeff were planning their beautiful mountain ,meadow wedding,Brittany casually asked if I would like to make their wedding goat cheese cake.Whaaattt I thought !!??? Although I love to cook,I've never made a WEDDING CAKE !!! I told her that that was a tempting idea and that I would think about it. I prayed and mulled over the idea for a few days. Can I do this ? Well, one of my favorite Bible verses is Phillipians 4:13  which says "I can do all things through Him who gives me power." It sounded artistic,fun and a challenge...something out of the box for me !! Since Brittany and Jeff are organized and creative people, there wasn't much for me to do for the wedding....soooo I thought, well this is how I can contribute a gift for them on their special day ! I said,"Yes !'' And then I got nervous and thought,what have I done !!??
   Praise the Lord,my Rabbi's wife and good friend Lynette Shor,who owns Challaday Bread Company sent me texts and youtube videos with instructions on how to make a wedding cake ! Whew,that  helped to ease my nerves  !! I didn't know that you have to put about 5 -6 wooden or plastic pillars inside the bottom and the center layers for support, and that all the layers should be frozen for transportation.I decided that I'd better make a practice cake first,which took me a few days.I'm soooo glad I did because this cake ended up cracking and it gave me a little more confidence when I made the real wedding cake ! This second photo is my practice cake. The top and second layers were placed on top of cake boards,but you don't have to use them.The bottom layer needs a cake board or cake plate to sit on.

   I used thick buttercream icing on the backside of the fruit to help make them stick to the cake. (Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with a teaspoon of softened butter,about 1 tablespoon of water or milk,until it is thick like paste.) Leave room on top for the cake topper on top. (Oops, I didn't, so I placed the elephants in front on the cake round !)  I brought up some flowers in an ice chest,and their florist provided me a beautiful bouquet in water, that matched the wedding flowers to use as well. Thank God she did because half of the flowers that I brought had died in transport and with the summer heat ! Keep the cake refrigerated until you are ready to display it. The finished cake can be placed on a cake board made of foil covered cardboard, a tree round,or on top of a cake stand. Place it on a table decorated to go with the theme and style of the wedding.
   Here are Brittany, Jeff and myself with the finished goat cheesecake...with flowers,figs,cherries,blueberries,and some red currants that my daughter Courtney's boyfriend Andy collected near the meadow! I used a cheesecake recipe,using half cream cheese and half goat cheese. When I made the practice cake,one of the layers was a lemon cheesecake and here is a recipe from, by Phillis Grant. I omitted the cookies on the side that this recipe calls for.

                           Lemon Goat Cheese Cheesecake

1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon (for greasing the pan)
8 ounces cookies (graham cracker,lemon,shortbread,vanilla wafers,or your favorite cookie)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

10 ounces cream cheese,room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
2 teaspoons firmly packed lemon zest (not strips,make sure it's very finely zested)
If desired-8 ounces cookies,enough to circle the cake-preferably the same kind you used for the crust
If desired-2 tablespoons of your favorite jam or honey (for gluing on cookies)

   Heat oven to 350 degrees.Butter the interior of your springform pan. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan and the sides. Press the parchment inside the pan. Place the butter for the crust in a medium-sized pan over medium heat.The butter will melt,sizzle,and foam up.Once it smells nutty and the noise stops,watch closely.Turn off the heat once the brown bits drop down to the bottom of the pan.Set aside. Pulverize your cookies in the food processor. Pulse in the brown butter and a 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.Press into the bottom and up 1 inch of the of the pan.Bake until just starting to brown (about 10 minutes).Remove from the oven to cool.Turn oven down to 300 degrees.
   Place cream cheese and goat cheese in a bowl and beat until light and smooth (about 3 minutes).Scrape down the sides.Add the sugar and beat for another minute.Add the eggs one at a time ,scraping down between each addition.Add the remaining salt,creme fraiche,and lemon juice,and zest. Beat for 30 seconds. If you see any lumps,beat for another 30 seconds or so.
   Pour into the crust in the prepared springform pan. (Some recipes tell you to wrap the bottom of the pan with foil, and to place it in a roasting pan with about 1 inch of water,to prevent the cake from cracking.) Bake for 40 minutes. Don't peek. Not even once. After 40 minutes,turn off the oven and open the door. Leave the the cake to cool for an hour, remove from the oven to cool completely. (Otherwise,the cake will sweat in the fridge.) Cover and place in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.
   Try to slide the cake off the bottom of the pan. If it won't budge,put it over a medium flame  on the stove for a few seconds and /or use a spatula to loosen things up.
   If desired,  encircle the sides with the same cookies you used for the crust.You can use any kind of jam or honey to help them stick.
   Eat immediately, or store in the fridge until serving--though be warned,the cookies might get a big stale the longer it sits.

   P.S. When I decorated the wedding cake,I circled some layers with lavender sprigs.To hold them in place, I cut inch and a half pieces of rosemary and pushed them down in front of the sprig, about 3 inches apart. It is good to read online about which flowers are safe to use and which are toxic.There are youtube videos that show how to how to place flowers safely on a cake,such as wrapping the stem with floral tape. Soooo...If you are asked to do something that is outside of your comfort zone, give it some thought and maybe do it !! The Lord can help us do things that we didn't know or believe  were possible !!

P.P.S. Brittany and her sister Ashley design and sell beautiful bohemian wedding dresses ! See their dresses and accessories on ! You can also see and read the creation story of Brittany and Jeff's wedding. Their sister Courtney,creates and directs cool children's adventure camps in the Santa Cruz-Monterey,Calif. areas ! Her web-site is I believe these photos were taken by friends and family.There may or may not be photos here by the wedding photographer



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Broccoli,Kale,Apple Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing !

I love beautiful,delicious salads now in the hot summertime, and all year round !! From leafy green, to colorful fruit, to whole grain, to legumes, to potato, to grilled vegetable, to combinations of assorted ingredients....I am a salad fanatic ! Satisfaction for me is to create a beautiful and delicious salad for myself,my family,or Oneg (family dinner) for Bet Shalom Messianic Congregation in Fresno,where I worship.It sometimes is a challenge to think of a new recipe.

   Once I was sitting with a family during Oneg,and I overhead a young girl tell her mother that she liked a particular kale salad that that someone had brought that night.Having been in the church kitchen,I had seen the bag that the salad came in,and I knew that I had seen this pre-made salad at  Costco.I thought it was pretty tasty myself,so I decided to find this salad online.I discovered Andrea Walford's blog called Creating a Fierce,Fabulous,Business &and Life. Her family loves this salad,so she makes it from scratch,putting in the same ingredients for the salad,only not roasting the nuts,adding more toppings,and creating a Lemon Poppyseed Dressing with less fat,and no refined sugar.
   Andrea's healthy thinking is similar to mine, (me having struggled with sugar addiction !) so I decided to make this salad with a few extra additions of my own,and to try her lemon poppyseed dressing. Oh my goodness !! This salad is fantastic,healthy,and the dressing is out of this world !!! I have been making this salad for about 2 weeks now for myself,and I made it twice for Oneg on Shabbat ! Pick and choose the salad ingredients from the list that sound good to you. A mandoline works wonderfully for slicing the vegetables thin,or use a knife. So here we go.... let's eat something nutritious that tastes good !!

                                                        Salad                                                                                                10 kale leaves,torn off stalk and torn into pieces
6-8 brussel sprouts,sliced thin
1 broccoli ,sliced thin (peeled stalk and florets)
2 cups red cabbage,sliced thin
2 cups green cabbage,sliced thin
2 carrots,sliced thin
1-2 apples,sliced thin
1 English cucumber,sliced thin
5 radishes,any color,sliced thin


4 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons mayonaise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons chia seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds


1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons dried cranberries or raisins


   Wash the vegetables,slice them thin and mix them all together in a salad bowl.For the dressing,place all the ingredients except the poppy seeds in a bowl or a blender and blend thoroughly.Pour into a jar,then mix in the poppy seeds.You can let the dressing sit for about 15 minutes,if you want,in order to thicken it a little.The chia seeds will thicken the dressing.(I like to double or quadruple the dressing recipe because it is so delicious,and I will need more if making a large salad for a crowd.) Add the amount of dressing that you feel will cover the vegetables and sprinkle on the toppings. Mangia mangia !





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Meyer Lemon Tart !

Hello Friends !
   Are you a lemon lover like me ? When my brother Chris and I were little,we would go behind the couch and eat lemons.I would eat mine with salt and he would eat his with sugar ! Have you had the wonderful delight of tasting Meyer lemons ?!! Now this is a lemon that I would do cartwheels over, if I still did cartwheels ! This lemon is sweeter than regular lemons and the skin smells divine ! According to Wikipedia, it is a citrus fruit native to China,and is thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange.It was introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicolas Meyer, an employee of the US Dept. of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China.
    My daughter has a home nearby me that just happens to have many Meyer Lemon branches hanging over their fence from the neighbor's yard, that was loaded with lemons this Spring !! And the neighbors said that we could have ALL we wanted ! Well,needless to say, I was in lemon Heaven making lemon vinaigrette, honey lemonade, and this delectable Lemon Cream Tart from the cookbook "Tartine",which was written by Elizabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson. They are a husband and wife team having trained in France to bake, who own the very popular Tartine bakery in a neighborhood,in the Mission District, San Francisco,Calif..I used to visit my daughter's Brittany,Courtney,and Ashley who lived there for awhile,and there was always a line out the door of this sweet-filled place !
   This tart is so creamy and lemony,that I would advise you only to make it for a crowd or immediately taking some to the neighbors,thus preventing you from eating the whole thing yourself !
If you can't find Meyer lemons now,you can use regular lemons or wait until next winter/spring when they are in season...if you can stand to wait that long !! I like to eat healthy food most of the time,having fresh fruit for dessert,but a little something sweet is nice to have once a week, or for a special occasion !

                                          Sweet Tart Dough for Lemon Cream Tart
                                                         (Pate Sablee)

Fully baked and cooled 9-inch Sweet Tart Dough tart shell
1 cup + 2 tbsp Unsalted butter, at room temperature  (9 oz./255 g)
1 cup Sugar  (7 oz./200 g)
1/4 tsp Salt (1 ml)
2 Large eggs, at room temperature
3 1/2 cups All-purpose flour  (17 1/2 oz/500 g)
                                                Egg Wash (optional)

1 Large egg
1 Pinch salt

   Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,combine the butter,sugar,and salt and mix on medium speed until smooth.Mix in 1 egg.Add the remaining egg and mix until smooth.Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour all at once and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
   On a lightly floured work surface,divide the dough into 4 equal balls and shape each ball into a disk 1/2 inch thick.Wrap well in plastic wrap and chili for at least 2 hours or overnight.
   To line a tart pan,place a dough disk on a lightly floured surface and roll out 1/8 inch thick,rolling from the center toward the edge in all directions.Lift and rotate the dough a quarter turn after every few strokes, dusting underneath as necessary to discourage sticking,and work quickly to prevent the dough from becoming warm.Cut out a circle 2 inches larger than the pan. If the dough is still cool,carefully transfer the circle to the pan,easing it into the bottom and sides and then pressing gently into place.Do not stretch the dough,or the sides will shrink during baking.If the dough has become too soft to work with,put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before transferring it to the pan.If the dough developed any tears,just patch with a little extra dough,pressing firmly to adhere. Trim the dough level with the top of the pan with a sharp knife.Place the pastry shell in the refrigerator or freezer until it is firm,about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
   Dock (make small holes) in the bottom of the tart shell with a fork or the tip of a knife,making tiny holes 2 inches apart.Place in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes for a partially baked large shell or 5-7 minutes for tartelette shells.The pastry should be lightly colored and look dry and opaque.Check the shell(s) during baking and rotate the pans if necessary for even color.If you want to brush the shells with a glaze,beat the egg with the salt in a small bowl.A minute or two before the desired color is reached,remove the shell(s) from the oven and lightly brush the bottom and sides with the glaze. Return the shell(s) to the oven and bake until the desired color is reached and the glaze is set.Then bake 5 minutes longer to make this a fully baked golden brown shell.
   Let cool completely on wire racks.

                                                       Lemon Cream

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp Lemon juice  (5 oz/155 ml)
3 Whole large eggs
1 Large egg yolk
3/4 cup Sugar  (6 oz/170 g)
Salt- 1 pinch
1 cup Unsalted butter,cool  (8 oz/225 g)

1 cup Heavy cream,very cold
2 tsp Sugar

   Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, (Do not use  an unlined aluminum pan,as this creates a metallic flavor when mixed with the acidity in the juice.) and bring to a simmer.Combine the lemon juice,whole eggs,egg yolk,and salt in a stainless-steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of the saucepan over,not touching,the water.Whisk the ingredients together.(Never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring;the sugar will "cook" the egg yolks and turn them granular.) Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180 degrees F on a thermometer.This will take 10-12 minutes. Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140 degrees F, stirring from time to time to release the heat.
   Meanwhile,cut the butter into 1-tablespoon (15-ml) pieces.When the cream is ready,leave it in the bowl if using an immersion blender,or pour it into a countertop blender,With the blender running,add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time,blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece.The cream will be pale yellow and opaque and quite thick.
   Measure out 2 1/4 cups and pour them directly into the cooled tart shell.Shake the tart pan gently to smooth out the top of the filling.Chill the tart until firm,about 2 hours,(if you can stand to wait that long !) before serving.It will keep up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
   If desired,whip the cream in a mixing bowl with a whisk until thickened.Add the sugar and whisk until the cream holds soft peaks.Top the tart with the whipped cream and decorate with edible flowers like roses,Johnny jump ups,violets,etc..
   Take this tart to church, to a party,or just eat a slice at home and dream of traveling one day to Santa Barbara,California,where the lemons,oranges,and avocados are plenteous  in the warm sunshine !!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Moroccan Chicken Rice Soup !

   Although out in California,we are experiencing balmy Spring weather,I would imagine that in other parts of our country,there are still chilly days and nights,when a hot bowl of soup still warms the tummy ! This recipe for Moroccan Chicken Rice Soup has been a favorite in my family since my three daughters were wee little ones,especially when one of them was laid up with a cold and I carried a warm bowl up the stairs to her in bed.We fell in love with the variety of herbs and spices that are called for, which makes it so different from the more subdued versions of chicken noodle soup found in America.I found the recipe called Chicken Soup with Vermicelli in a fabulous cookbook called "Mediterranean,Over 300 Sun-Drenched Recipes."I changed the original recipe,omitting the parsnip,sometimes the chicken,adding celery,potato,and substituting brown or wild rice instead of the noodles,although I love linguini noodles in it ! In Morocco,usually the most senior female of the house,uses a whole chicken for this soup. It is a good recipe to double and freeze half, for a future dinner,or to take to a loved one who is sick.
                              Moroccan Chicken Rice Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion,chopped
2 chicken legs or breast pieces,
   halved or quartered (optional)
seasoned flour for dusting
2 carrots,cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 parsnip,cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (optional)
2 stalks celery,cut into 1 inch pieces
2-4 small potatoes,cut into 1 inch pieces
6 cups chicken stock
1 stick cinnamon stick
a good pinch of paprika
a pinch of saffron strands
2 egg yolks
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
5 ounces vermicelli,or linguini,or 1/2 cup brown or wild rice
salt and ground black pepper
   rustic bread,to serve

   Heat the oil and butter in a large cast-iron enamel or steel pan. Fry the onion 3-4 minutes until softened.(If you don't wish to add the chicken,you can leave the next step out.) Dust the chicken pieces in seasoned flour and fry gently until evenly browned.Put the chicken on a plate. Add the vegetables to the pan.Cook over low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes,stirring frequently until the vegetables are 1/2 cooked. Remove the vegetables to the plate.Add the stock,cinnamon stick,paprika,salt,pepper,and the rice.
   Bring the soup to a boil with the rice,cover,and simmer for about 40 minutes,until the rice is cooked. Add the vegetables to the pot and cook until they are tender.While the soup is cooking,mix the saffron with 2 tablespoons of boiling water or the broth.
   Beat the egg yolks with the lemon juice in a separate small bowl.Add the chopped parsley and cilantro.When the saffron water has cooled,stir it into the egg and lemon mixture.
   Skin,bone,and chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.You can also skin the chicken and leave the pieces whole.
   Reduce the heat and stir 2 tablespoons of the broth into the egg,lemon and saffron mixture.Then stir this mixture and the chicken into the soup. Cook over very low heat for 1-2 minutes.Taste to see if the soup needs more lemon juice,paprika,saffron,salt,or pepper. Adjust the seasonings and serve with a green salad and rustic bread !
  ( If using noodles,they can be added at the same time as the vegetables and cooked as long as the package says.)
   Eat this Heavenly soup by candlelight with a loved one,your family,or by yourself along with a good French movie like La Gloire de Mon Pere !
             Que Dieu Vous Benise et Bon Apetit.....God Bless You and Happy Eating !

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Semi-Light Spring Fish Dish !

   Hurrah ! Spring is here ! It's time to put those heavier recipes like chili beans and stews on the back burner,for those colder days next winter ! I am so so happy when I see delicate,crisp,sweet peas,tender asparagas, beautiful watermelon radishes,
and luscious,plump,red strawberries at the farmer's market.I have also spied fresh Dover and Petrale Sole at Whole Foods Market,and a large packet of fresh Dover Sole at Costco ! I love the delicate and sweet textures and flavors of both of these fish,although Dover Sole is much softer and more easily can fall apart when moved too much with a spatula. It is found off the Eastern North Atlantic in Europe. Petrale sole is exclusively found in the Pacific Ocean and it is our speciality on the West Coast. It is actually a Pacific Flounder. Sole have both eyes on ones side of their body.
     The first dish that Julia Child had when she landed in France with her husband Paul was Sole Menuiere (sole cooked in butter).She just about died and went to Heaven when she tasted her first bite ! Well, I simply had to taste what all the fuss was about,so I tried the recipe,and now I know why Julia's tastebuds were dancing a little jig !!
   I found this recipe for Sole Meuniere (sole cooked in butter) in a Williams Sonoma cookbook,called "Savoring France". Always read your recipe twice,to make sure you have the ingredients,you understand the procedure,and that you have the time to prepare the dish !! Before making this quick fish dish,I would advise preparing a simple salad,and a vegetable,like boiled potatoes.

                          Sole Meuniere

1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz / 75 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
4 whole Dover sole or 2 Petrale sole, cleaned and skin removed,or sole filets,1 1/2-2 lb (750g-1 kg) total weight,skin removed
5 tablespoons (2 1/2 oz / 75 g) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf (Italian)parsley
2 tablespoons capers

   Spread the flour on a plate and dust the fish on both sides,tapping off the excess. In a large frying pan over medium heat,melt 3 tablespoons of the butter.When it foams,add 2 of the whole sole,sprinkle them with 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper,and cook until the underside of the fish is lightly golden and the meat can be lifted with a bone with a fork,about 4 minutes.Turn and cook the other side until golden,about 4 minutes longer.Transfer to a warm platter,and cover loosely with foil.Cook the remaining 2 sole the same way,adding an additional tablespoon of butter to the pan.If using sole filets, as I did,proceed as directed,but reduce the cooking time to 1 1/2 -2 minutes on each side.
   Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the butter in the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter , the lemon juice,and the capers.When the butter melts,pour it and the capers over the fish and sprinkle with the parsley.
   Serve immediately,piping hot !

P.S. To add a little Italian twist to this fish,one could sauté some red bell pepper strips and some marinated artichoke heart quarters with the marinade, in a sauté pan first before cooking the fish,and then pouring these vegetables over the cooked fish. However, Sole Meuniere is perfect as is too !
   Now dream that  you are Julia or Paul in France, and indulge  yourselves in this divine dish !! Oooooh la la !