Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rhubarb Custard Bars

These are SO good. Every year my neighbor's mother always asks for rhubarb from my garden. She always brings over a few bars of heavenly goodness after she transforms my sad old green rhubarb into pure pleasure. She gave me the recipe recently and I've made them myself. Not for the diet conscious, that's for sure, but these are so worth it, it doesn't matter.

Rhubarb Custard Bars
(Thanks to Arliss Thomas)

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup margarine (I use butter)

2 cups sugar
7 tbps flour
1 cup whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten
5 cups chopped rhubarb

1 8-oz pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

In a bowl combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the margarine (or butter) until it is coarse. Press into a greased 9x13 baking pan. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. While the crust is baking prepare the filling by combining the sugar and flour in a bowl. Whisk in the cream and eggs. Stir in the chopped rhubarb. Pour the filling over the crust and bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes or until the custard is set. Cool completely. For the topping beat together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Spread over the cooled bars. Cover and refrigerate.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Savory Rhubarb and Lentil Soup

I like savory rhubarb dishes and my rhubarb corner in the garden is overflowing with bounty right now. I was thinking about soup since I just bought a nice new Le Crueset soup pot on sale from amazon. A quick google search pointed me to just the inspiration I was looking for. I found a recipe for Rhubarb-Lentil Soup with Crème Fraîche. My proportions were slightly different and I made it from what I had on hand. The soup turned out really wonderful. The rhubarb completely disintegrates in the soup. If you didn't know it was there you probably wouldn't be able to identify it as rhubarb but it does add a foundation of tartness that is so important for this recipe.

Here is the ingredient list for my savory rhubarb lentil soup:

1 cup green lentils
1.5 cups chopped onions
1.5 cups chopped carrots
2.5 cups chopped rhubarb
6 cloves garlic
3/4 cup white wine
3.5 cups chicken stock
2 pinches dried thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp fresh dill

First the lentils. I used dried green lentils and presoaked them with boiling water for 15 minutes to soften them and speed up their cooking.

The rhubarb, carrots, onions and garlic were all finely diced or chopped.

I started with a hot soup pot (I really love this Le Crueset!). A tbsp of olive oil and the onions and carrots went in first. These were seasoned with salt and pepper and sautéed for about 5 minutes until the onions were starting to soften nicely.

Next the rhubarb and garlic were added. These were cooked for 3-4 minutes until the rhubarb started to soften and disintegrate.

Here's what it looked like after the rhubarb was broken down.

I deglazed the pot with the white wine (2004 Santa Rita sauvignon blanc from Chile). The chicken stock and lentils were then added. I threw in a couple of bay leaves and a pinch of thyme. The soup was brought up to a boil, covered and allowed to simmer.

After about 40 minutes the lentis were nicely cooked through. I took about 1/3 of the soup mixture and puréed it in a blender until smooth. This was added back to the rest of the soup.

Instead of crème fraîche I used plain yogurt. This was mixed with fresh dill and dollopped on top of the soup. I also served a side salad with stawberries and walnuts. The greens were dressed with a bit of the yogurt/dill and some balsamic vinegar.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pretty darn good pizza dough

I like my sourdough pizza's that I've made in the past, but I have to say I am pretty impressed with the pizza dough recipe my wife recently found. She found it looking for a breadstick recipe for our son. First, let me give credit where credit's due. The recipe came from the blog of Amy Clark at The recipe is a take on a Pizza Hut dough copycat. Now, just like Amy, I don't really care for Pizza Hut crust. It is way too greasy for me and seems to be too airy. I liken it to a sponge that has been dipped in the deep fryer. So, I was a little bit skeptical when my wife said she was making a dough similar to Pizza Hut. I was quite surprised, however, that it came out GREAT. The recipe is unique in that it uses both yeast as well as baking powder. This gives it a bit more lift in the oven and makes for a great texture. Not too airy like Pizza Hut and definitly not greasy. It still had a nice chewy texture but was easier to bite than my typical pizza dough. I have to say it is a winner. The pizza you see above was made with this recipe but a little more than half of the flour was whole wheat. Often I find whole wheat crust tends to be tough but this one turned out great. It was still easy to bite with a great flavor. The first time we tried this recipe it made a dough that was way too wet. This time we added a bit more flour and it was perfect. Of course flour hydration varies a lot depending on the climate. You may want to play around with it. I like my pizza dough a little bit on the wet side anyway.

Pizza Hut Style Pizza Dough

1 1/3 cups water
2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp cornmeal
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Japanese Green Tea

I received a wonderful gift recently. One of my loves; fresh Japanese green tea. For me there is no better green tea than the first spring cutting from Japan. I do like Chinese teas as well but they just aren't the same as this. I was so pleased to receive this gift of tea and more. In the can is a high grade new crop 2008 tea. This shin-cha, new tea, was picked in April from just the new growing tips of the tea plants. It is a special taste. In the bag is a green kukicha which is a blend of green tea made from the stems and stalks. Kukicha means twig tea. It has a nutty creamy flavor that is a little bit different than the tea leaves.

With the tea I also received a Japanese tea pot and set of five tea cups. What better way to enjoy the flavors of Japan than with true Japanese utensils. By the way, you always see Asian dishes in sets of five. Even numbers are bad luck.

I brewed up some of the kukicha. You can see it has a nice golden yellow/green color. It has a nice grassy flavor and aroma with a creaminess that coated the mouth.

Along with the tea I also received some special sakes. Two are shown in the "Aladin" bottles below. One is a clear sake and the other is unfiltered. Both are meant to be drunk cold. The large bottle is a Wakatake Onikoroshi Junmai Daiginjo sake. It is made from rice that has been polished 60%. The only other ingredients are water and koji, the mold that converts the starch in the rice to fermentable sugars. I can't wait to try these.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another pizza

I've talked about making pizza before so I won't go into details about the dough and stuff. I just wanted to post a quick post to share my latest one. This one has an all white flour crust that was softened by the addition of some olive oil to the dough. I did use my sourdough starter along with some yeast to help boost it as I only had a day to raise this dough. Topped with a basic commercial pizza sauce and mozarella cheese. Underneath the cheese are pieces of a really nice hard salami that I picked up at Trader Joe's. It added just the right hint of flavor.

Monday, June 9, 2008


I don't make a lot of desserts but when I do I like them to be tasty. I am partial to anything creamy and custardy. Crème brûlée tops my list but I also love flan.

My recipe for this flan consisted of . . .

~1/2 cup sugar for the caramel
3 cups skim milk
2 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar

The caramel is simply made by placing the sugar in a pan and heating it until it has melted and browned. Careful not to scorch it. You can cook flan in one large container or in smaller single serving cups. I chose the latter and divided the caramel among six baking cups.

The eggs where mixed but not beaten too much as you don't want to incorporate air into them. Meanwhile the vanilla, sugar and milk was heated to scalding temperature in the microwave. This was then added to the eggs very slowly at first while whisking to temper the eggs. You don't want to cook them at this point. Once all the milk was incorporated it was divided among the baking cups. These were placed in a pan and hot water was added to surround the cups coming up a little over half way.

The custard was placed in a 350 °F oven for about 30 minutes until the custard was set. It should jiggle a little but a knife inserted in the center should come out clean. The flan was removed from the pan and cooled. Eventually it was placed in the fridge to chill. The longer it sits the more the caramel will dissolve to make a sauce for the flan.

To serve run a knife around the edges of the flan to loosen it from the sides. Place a serving plate upside down onto the cup and quickly invert it. Tap it on the counter if necessary to loosen the flan from the cup and carefully lift it up. Here's my caramelly goodness.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Wedge Salad

I must admit that iceberg lettuce is not my favorite. I hardly ever eat it. It just has no flavor and no nutritional value. The only thing it has going for it is its wonderful crispness. This is my favorite way to eat iceberg lettuce. With lots of blue cheese dressing, fresh tomatoes and crispy bacon. The lettuce is just a carrier for the rest of this goodness. This quintessential American salad sure is good. I even managed to lighten the dressing by using fat free yogurt instead of sour cream and mayonnaise. The lettuce must be served as an intact wedge to take advantage of the full crunch when you bite into all the layers.

Light and almost healthy blue cheese dressing

1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
3/4 cup nonfat yogurt
20 good grinds of black pepper
3 tbsp rice vinegar