Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Very Easy Puff Pastry Fruit Pastries

Very Easy Puff Pastry Fruit Pastries
As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate

Makes 6 pastries

These little individual pastries make a wonderful breakfast or brunch treat. They are also delicious served warm as a dessert. I always make a mix of fruit, one fruit per tart ~ I like the variety, but you can make them all using the same kind of fruit of course.

Note: Thaw the frozen shells in the refrigerator the night before; they take an hour to thaw at room temperature. These are best when served fresh and crisp from the oven.

1 package (about 10 ounces) frozen puff pastry shells, thawed
2 cups pitted fresh cherries, or about 36 fresh apricot halves (or the same amount of canned fruit, well drained)
2 tablespoons sugar
About 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, ground cinnamon, or ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons fruit jam (cherry, raspberry or apricot, etc.)

On a lightly floured board, roll out each pastry shell to make a 6-inch circle. Place on ungreased rimmed baking sheets.

Top each with about 2/3 cup cherries, or apricot halves; sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon sugar and a light dusting of spice.

Bake, uncovered, in a 400* (F) oven for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

Spread 2 teaspoons jam over top of each to glaze. Serve warm, plain or with sour cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, if desired.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rustic Italian Soup ~ From the Pantry

Rustic Italian Soup ~ From the Pantry
As Shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate
Serves 4 to 6

This delicious soup recipe is one I came up with when I wanted a hot, filling meal using ingredients on hand. It's also a good one to keep in mind when time is short, as it can be ready in less than half an hour, and tastes even better the next day. I always make extra!

Omit the bacon and use vegetable stock if you prefer a vegetarian version.

1 Tablespoon olive oil for sauteing
2 slices bacon, cut cross-way into 1/4 to 1/2-inch strips
1 medium onion, cut into smallish dice
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano (any or all)
OR 2 teaspoons dry Italian Seasoning (or more to taste)
16 to 32 ounces chicken broth (depending upon how 'soupy' or thick you like your soup
1 or 2 cans diced tomatoes, including juice
1 or 2 cans canned beans (your choice; cannellini, kidney, garbanzo, butter beans, etc.) Drained and rinsed.
salt, freshly ground pepper

Method: Heat oil in soup pot, add cut-up bacon; fry until just crisp. Remove bacon and reserve. Drain all but 1 Tablespoon oil from pan, add onion and saute until translucent but not browned, add garlic and stir for a minute to cook slightly.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes with juice, bay leaf and herbs. Allow to simmer over medium low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, add canned beans, reserved bacon (and any optional ingredients, suggested below) and continue simmering 10 to 12 additional minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Can be simmered longer, add more broth or water if desired as some liquid will evaporate as the soup simmers.

Optional: Add a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a few drops of red wine vinegar just before serving if you like a sharper flavor, this little touch truly piques the flavors.

To serve, garnish with grated Parmesan cheese or toasted baguette slices with melted cheese and a bit of crisp bacon.

This soup reheats exceptionally well, and seems to gain flavor when served a day or two later.

*Optional additions to add when beans are added:
Cooked, cubed chicken
Cooked Mini-meatballs
Cut-up raw spinach, chard, or other greens
Small pasta shapes, or rice ~ allow to simmer until tender
Diced carrots or celery ~ allow to simmer until tender

I hope you and your family enjoy this soup as much as my family does.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

French Lemon Cake with Strawberry Glaze

French Lemon Cake with optional Strawberry Glaze
As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate
Makes one 8-inch, single layer cake
I don't know why this cake is called "French", perhaps because it is a single layer and doesn't rise much ~ but it I do know that it is one of the easiest cakes to make because the batter is mixed together in the bowl of a food processor.
My mother used to make this recipe and I believe it was from "Bon Appetit" magazine from the 1970's when home food processors were introduced to home cooks here in the U.S. As with many food processor cakes, it's a little sturdier (not quite as delicate) as traditionally made cakes.

The original recipe is delicious with just the sweeten lemon juice finish and maybe a dollop of whipped sweetened cream or ice cream. But to make it a little more special you can add a fruit glaze or fresh fruit.
Method:Position oven rack to center position
Preheat oven to 350*
Grease and flour an 8-inch square or round cake pan (or pan of equivalent capacity.)

Ingredients:1 lemon (peel zest from lemon using a vegetable peeler), and juice the lemon, reserve juice for finish
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick butter (4 ounces), cut into 4 pieces
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour, less 2 Tablespoons
Mix 1 teaspoon baking powder into the flour

Lemon juice glaze:
Reserved juice from the lemon mixed with
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)

In the bowl of food processor process lemon zest strips with granulated sugar, process a few seconds until zest is "grated".

Add butter pieces to bowl and process until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, until each is blended in. Scrape bowl with spatula. Mix 1/2 of the flour/baking powder mixture to the bowl and pulse (turn the machine on & off) 2 or 3 times, scrape bowl with spatula. Add remaining flour and pulse until combined.

Scrape batter from bowl into prepared pan and bake into prepared pan. Bake on center rack of oven for 18 to 25 minutes. (Oven and the shape/size of pan will affect the time it takes cake to be done.) I begin checking at 12 minutes. Bake until edges are lightly golden and a pick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, with no wet batter.

While cake is still warm, mix lemon juice with confectioner's sugar and spoon mixture over cake, then repeat with any remaining mixture ~allowing lemon juice to seep into the cake slowly.
Optional Fruit Glaze:
1 to 1 1/2 cups fruit jam (I like either Strawberry, Raspberry or Apricot for this cake)

If you want a very thin glaze, melt the jam and a tablespoon or two of water ~or substitute a liqueur of your choice (such as Grand Marnier) in a pot over medium heat. Stir and cook until mixture completely melted and fairly smooth, cool just slightly then spread on top of cake while mixture is still warm (it will thicken further upon cooling.)
For a thicker glaze (as shown in picture) Make a slurry from 2 teaspoons corn starch mixed into 2 Tablespoons of water and mix into melted jam in the pot, cook and stir until mixture thickens, cool slightly then spread evenly on top of cake. Topping will thicken upon cooling.)

Serve with sweetened whipped cream, or ice cream if desired.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Savory Egg Fritters ~ Mini Size

Savory Egg Fritters
From the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate

Good as an appetizer with cold drinks, or as a side with fried fish.
(Double this recipe to serve about 6 as an appetizer)

2 eggs
1 T freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs
Freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil for frying, 1-inch deep in pan


In a medium-size bowl, beat eggs lightly. Add all other ingredients to the bowl (except oil) and mix thoroughly.

In a frying pan heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot (about 375*(F) Test by dropping a driblet of batter into hot oil. Batter should seize and instantly float to the surface.

Without crowding the pan, one at a time, place 1-teaspoonfuls of batter into the pan.*

When the fritters have puffed, turn them so they cook evenly, and have formed a golden crust all over. As they are done transfer to paper towels to drain (or a cooling rack set upon a platter or brown paper bag.)

Serve at once, as soon as the entire batch is done.

* To make these mini-size: I use a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop the batter, level it off then roll it out of the spoon into the hot oil with a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon.

Marcella Hazan suggests serving them as an appetizer with a glass of white wine, or along with fried fish.

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