Sunday, August 29, 2010

Crumb Bars

I have been a slacker in the kitchen this summer. Over the past month I can count the number of meals I have made for my family on two fingers. That's two fingers people. Not hands. Blame it on the heat, the travel or just the lazy days of summer. I'll take lazy. We have been existing on a handful of menu staples from local restaurants, cereal and boxed mac & cheese. All I can say is I am sure my boys are looking forward to fall, cooler weather and less excuses.

I have not, however, completely neglected my oven for the month of August. The oven has been turned to 350 degrees and my counters have seen their fair share of flour. My baking has consisted of breads, cakes, muffins, bars, and cookies. This has been a necessity, seeing that I have been on many a fruit picking spree this summer. If we grow it here in Glastonbury ( and the farms in this town grow just about everything you can think of) then I have picked it. One of the biggest crops here in town are berries and we have picked pounds and pounds of them. Right now we have enough frozen blueberries to get us through until the 2011 crop arrives.

What I love about this recipe is that you can use any kind of fruit. Berries are the easiest, but you could also use apples, peaches or plum (I would cook them down with the sugar and cornstarch before layering onto the bars). With the start of school coming (and already started in the South) who doesn't need a good snack recipe?

Blackberry Crumb Bars

1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blackberrries (or blueberries, raspberries, etc)
1/2 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees P. Butter a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or your hands (I find they work the best!) to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the berries. Sprinkle the berry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 5 to 10 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Friday, August 6, 2010

BLTs (with or without Salmon)

Okay, so I'll admit I needed to change things up around here. I have fallen into a zucchini rut. I have so much of it growing that I have felt the need to eat it everyday. Since I have found some great recipes that made good use of them, I have been eating the same things pretty much each week, hence not having anything new and exciting to write about.

Luckily that changed this week (both for you and me!) I had a lovely package of Vermont Smoke and Cure bacon sitting in the fridge and my first heirloom tomato ready in the garden. Add in some center cut salmon filets (love that Whole Foods has precut 5oz portioned pieces), garden lettuce, avocado, and a slather of mayo and you have a fantastic SBLT.

Bacon makes everything better in my opinion (I know you vegetarians don't agree... though I know some who would concur.) I love a good BLT... thick artisanal white bread, juicy backyard tomato, silky bibb lettuce, and crisp thick oven baked bacon. Are you drooling yet, because I am. The additional of salmon turns this summer lunch staple into a hearty dinner and gives you a good dose of Omega 3s (to counteract the artery clogging bacon). Adding avocado might be overkill, but these days I am putting it on every sandwich I make, and I love salmon and avocado together.

Because this is such a simple sandwich I must stress the importance of using really good ingredients. They will make all the difference in the flavor and texture. Get good bread, best if you get an uncut loaf and can hand slice your pieces nice and thick. Go to the farmer's market and get a really great tomato. Make sure you are using quality, thick bacon. All of these things will elevate this simple sandwich to star status and make it something you daydream about (okay maybe you won't, but I do!)

SBLT (or BLT if you omit the S)
makes 1 sandwich

2 slices good artisanal bread ( I used Pain Au Levain from Whole Foods)
2 or 3 slices tomato
2 slices thick cut bacon ( I love VERMONT smoke and cure)
4 lettuce leaves (bibb or whatever you have in your garden or in your fridge)
Mayo (as much or as little as you like!)
5oz center cut salmon filet (optional)
Avocado (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

For Bacon:

Preheat oven to 425 - I like to cook my bacon in the oven on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet for 12-15. This makes the bacon really crisp and maybe a little healthier. I save the bacon fat in a jar for cooking!

Drizzle bread on both sides with a little olive oil and grill (or you can throw them in the toaster if that's easier and you aren't making the salmon) until lightly browned or to your liking.

Assemble sandwich: Spread mayo on both pieces of bread. If you are using avocado, I like to mash is up and use it as a spread in lieu of or in addition to the mayo. Layer lettuce, then tomato slices, and finally the lovely bacon.

If you are using the salmon:

Heat grill to med/high (about 425 on a regular oven). Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a piece on aluminum foil (for grill) or a baking sheet for oven. Cook on grill, with lid closed, or in oven for 10 minutes. Salmon should be moist.

Add salmon between the tomato and bacon (my preference). Be warned that this is a very messy sandwich. Salmon will be falling out the sides, tomato juices will be dripping down your hand. Don't hold back.... you'll be licking your fingers when this sandwich is gone!