Caprese Fruit Salad

Caprese Fruit Salad

This is a delicious summer fruit salad masquerading as a caprese salad.

I got the idea when I visited the SF Giants Baseball Stadium (AT &T Park) Organic Garden with our CHEFS students. After the garden tour, they gave each of us a delicious strawberry wrapped in a basil leaf.

Cut summer fruit: Strawberries, stone fruit such as plums, apricots and /or peaches. Mix in ciliegine, little balls of fresh mozzarella. Tear basil leaves and sprinkle over the fruit and mozzarella. Drizzle a little olive oil over the fruit and cheese.

caprese fruit appetizers

Make caprese salad appetizers by threading a piece of fruit, basil and half a ciliegine on a toothpick. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. I mixed in a bit of blood orange infused olive oil with the regular oil.

 

Strawberry-Bacon Salad for a Cheating Vegetarian

salad with dressing

“I am a vegetarian. But I also love bacon. And the only thing more satisfying than being a vegetarian is being a cheating vegetarian!” Sonia Mena, 2011.

Strawberries and bacon are the perfect complement to each other, sweet and salty, juicy and crunchy. I throw in some raw pecans and sprinkle everything over a bowlful of salad greens. Then I toss them with a strawberry-balsamic dressing flavored with black pepper and rosemary. A cheating vegetarian couldn’t ask for more!

For healthiest results, use organic or non-pesticide strawberries and greens and nitrate-free bacon (I found some at Trader Joe’s)

This makes 2 dinner salads or one large salad for lunch.

strawberries, bacon and pecans

Ingredients:

Salad:
1 slice bacon
3 ripe strawberries
¼ cup (or one handful) whole raw pecans
2 heaping cups of salad greens

Salad dressing:
2 small soft very ripe strawberries
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp water

a few few grinds of black pepper

a few needles rosemary, minced
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
salad without dressing

Salad:Fry bacon over medium heat until well done. Drain on paper towels. Crumble when cool enough to handle.
Rinse greens and strawberries. Put greens in bowls; either one large or two smaller bowls. Sprinkle pecans and crumbled bacon over greens. Slice strawberries over salad.

Dressing: Slice over-ripe strawberries into a blender bowl and add rosemary, black pepper, and balsamic vinegar and water. Run on liquefy until strawberries are mostly liquefied. Add olive oil and run on liquefy until oil emulsifies. Pour over salad and toss so that it coats the greens.

Valentine Tart

photo

I made this fresh berry tart for Valentine’s Day. I used lemon-rosemary tart pastry, then filled it with pastry cream. I topped it with fresh organic strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, then glazed it with apricot preserves.

1/4 cup plus 1 tsp sugar

2 Tb all-purpose flour

2 Tb cornstarch

4 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cup milk (I used 1% )

2 tsp vanilla

Separate eggs and remove the thick white chalazae from the yolks. Whip egg yolks on high speed. Add sugar and sift in flour and cornstarch, then whip again until light colored.

Heat milk in a medium saucepan until it just begins to simmer. With mixer on medium-low, slowly pour 1/2 cup  milk into the egg mixture until it is well combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and whisk in well. Then pour it slowly back into the pot with rest of the milk, whisking constantly. Cook over low-medium heat and continue whisking while the mixture thickens, then whisk for another minute. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.

Strain the pastry cream into a clean container,

Place parchment paper directly on the hot pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Let it cool on the counter. Pour the pastry cream into the cooled lemon-rosemary tart pastry  and spread it evenly.

Wash berries, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut the green tops off the strawberries and slice them lengthwise

Form a heart shape in the center with raspberries. Fill in the heart with sliced strawberries. Fill in the area outside the heart with blueberries.

Heat about 1/4 cup apricot preserves and 1 Tb water in a microwave. Strain into a bowl. Gently brush jam over the fruit for a shiny glaze. You can glaze the strawberries, then layer them to stick them together, then glaze again.

Champagne-Shallot Vinaigrette

saladThis light vinaigrette is perfect to toss into salad greens and arugula. I sprinkle a few strawberries, blueberries, feta cheese and sliced almonds over the coated greens.

Champagne vinegar is a light golden, mild vinegar made from Chardonnay grapes aged in oak barrels. It can be expensive, but the Berkeley Bowl brand is a good deal. I’ve generally avoided salad vinegars because of their strong acidity. But  just ½ tsp honey is needed to balance the acidity of the champagne vinegar in this dressing. Since I don’t like the sharpness of fresh raw garlic, I prefer to get the garlic flavor from garlic olive oil. I used a shallot, which is milder than an onion.

Makes ¾ cup, which is enough to sprinkle on about 6 large or 10 small salads. Refrigerate leftovers and use within a week.

vinaigrette ingredientsIngredients:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tb minced shallot
3 Tb champagne vinegar
½ tsp honey
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt (to taste)
a few grinds of black pepper
1 Tb garlic oil
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

champagne vinaigretteIn a small bowl or blender, whisk together all ingredients except oils. While blending or whisking, slowly add the olive oil in a stream until the vinaigrette is emulsified.

French Toast with Fresh Fruit

This family favorite is a weekend morning treat after a week of eating muesli. Although French toast made with half-and-half is rich and sublime, this lower fat version, made with 1% milk is really good. Spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and piled high with fresh peaches and strawberries with a hint of maple syrup, it makes a satisfying breakfast.

Serves 3:

3 large eggs
¼ cup 1% milk
1 tsp cinnamon
Several shakes of nutmeg
8 slices of raisin bread
About 1 tsp butter
1 large peach
6 large strawberries
3 Tb maple syrup

 

Whip eggs with milk, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat a nonstick frying pan and move butter stick across it until it is coated with butter (about 1 tsp). Dip slices of raisin bread into the egg mixture so it begins to saturate the bread but not make it soggy. Place bread in the pan and fry over medium heat a few minutes until it turns light brown, then flip and fry again.

Serve with fresh cut peaches, strawberries or what’s in season. You can heat frozen fruit and serve as well. I like to spread the fruit on a plate and pour about 3 Tb of maple syrup over the fruit, then microwave for a minute. No need to add extra syrup to the French toast.

Vatrushka

These cheese-filled, sour cream dough pastries were one of my favorite treats as a child. I can eat these for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or as an appetizer. My mom, Sarah, baked hundreds of these as hors d’œuvre for our wedding. Now my kids and husband gobble them up as fast as I can make them.

We use the same filling as for Blintzes.  I changed mom’s recipe by substituting whole wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose flour she used, and mixing nonfat ricotta cheese with the farmer’s cheese to cut down on the fat. But I still top them with a bit of sour cream. The fresh strawberries I placed on top add just the right amount of sweet juiciness to balance the filling.

I got a  kick out of the comments or rather criticisms I got on this blog entry. Russians have got to be the most opinionated people on the planet! (I should know, being half-Russian myself).

makes several dozen, depending on the size

Dough for Vatrushka
1 cube butter, softened to room temperature
5 Tb sour cream
1 large egg
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp salt

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and egg and beat well. Add flour and salt and mix until dough is formed. Knead on a floured board about 12 times, until it is no longer sticky. Roll into a ball and cover in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for ½ an hour. Prepare the filling while the dough is chilling.

Cheese filling
1 1/2  cups farmer’s cheese
1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese
2 eggs
¼ tsp salt
1/2  tsp sugar

Mix ingredients together in an electric mixer until smooth.

Preheat oven to 350◦

Roll out the dough on a floured board until thin, and cut with a round biscuit cutter. For larger pastries, I made little balls and roll them out into circle shapes. The circles don’t have to be perfect as long as they can fold into a half-moon shape. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle, and fold it over into a half-moon shape.

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. If you don’t have any parchment paper, spray the pan with canola oil. Bake for 20 minutes at 350◦

Serve topped with sour cream and fresh strawberries.


Pretty in Pink Pomelo Fruit Salad

The pomelo is the grapefruit’s grandma, originating in Malaysia. It looks like a giant grapefruit, but is not as sour.

The pomelo half looks like a big pink flower. The peel is very thick compared to the grapefruit and the sections are more uneven, so it takes a bit more time to section it.

A pink pomelo is more sour than the white. But the pink grapefruit is sweeter than the white. Well I got two pink ones, to make a pink fruit salad with strawberries.

1 pink pomelo

1 pink grapefruit

10 strawberries

Halve pomelo and grapefruit, and section fruit, removing fruit. Halve strawberries and mix together.

Blintzes and crepes

When I was growing up, our family always ate unsweetened blintzes with sour cream, no sugar or strawberries. To this day, I only like them this way. My mom used to make these for my birthday since they were my favorite food. Since today is my birthday, I made these for lunch. I altered the ingredients to make the blintzes lower in fat. I combined nonfat ricotta cheese with the better-tasting, rich farmer’s cheese, which has 12% fat. I’ve also made this with full-fat ricotta cheese only.

But the low-fat sour cream didn’t taste right; a small spoonful of the real deal is much better. Or you can try nonfat plain Greek yogurt.

Serves 3 (makes 8 blintzes)

Crepe batter:

1 cup 1% milk

¼ cup water

2/3 cup finely ground whole wheat flour (also sold as white whole wheat flour)

3/4 cup white unbleached flour

3 Tb melted butter

3 eggs

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp sugar for sweet crepes

Blintze Filling:

1 cup farmer’s cheese

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp sugar

Combine crêpe ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth, scrape sides and blend again. Let sit ½ hour to let the gluten develop.

filling

Whip filling ingredients together with electric mixer.

Rub a butter cube over a nonstick skillet. Pour crêpe batter into pan until it covers it, moving the pan around so that it is evenly covered.. Let sit a few seconds until the bottom begins to cook, then pour off excess into the blender container. This way the crêpe will be thin. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a dinner plate. After a minute or too, the bottom of the crêpe will become golden brown. Loosen the crêpe, using a spatula, then slide it on the parchment paper. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper, and repeat.

When all the crepes are cooked, you are ready to fill them. (You can fill as you go if you have a partner to make the crepes.)

???????????????????????????????Place the crêpe so the cooked side is up. Place a few tablespoons of filling in the middle of the crêpe. Fold one side (such as the side furthest from you), then fold two left and  right sides. Then fold the side nearest to you, opposite the first side.

Rub the butter over the pan again. Gently place the  blintzes on the skillet, fold side down, and cook both sides over medium low heat so the filling will cook and the crêpe will be a nice brown.  Eat with a teaspoonful of sour cream spread over them.

If you have leftover crepes, you can do as my daughter does, and flip them over to cook on both sides. When they cool, spread Nutella on them, slice some strawberries and a banana over that, then roll them up and have them for dessert.

Pecan Waffles

One of the great delights of my childhood Sunday mornings was homemade waffles for breakfast. Light and delicious, we love them with the crunch of  pecans in the batter.  I cover these golden waffles with fresh raspberries, chopped strawberries and peaches, and pour Strawberry Sauce or a light glaze of pure maple syrup over them.

1 1/2  cups all purpose white  flour

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry (finely ground) flour

1 Tb ground flax seed

1 Tb Baking powder

3  Tb Sugar

a couple of shakes  salt

3 eggs separated

¼ tsp cream of tartar

6  Tb. Butter

3 cups milk (I use 1%)

1 ½ tsp vanilla

3/4 cup chopped pecans if desired

1/4 cup grated unsweetened coconut if desired

Separate eggs. I place each of whites in a cup before adding it to the bowl, just in case a bit of yolk gets in one of them.

Beat whites and cream of tartar until whites are stiff. Set aside.

Beat yolks with milk and vanilla.

Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

Add flour mixture alternately to milk/yolk mixture, beating after each addition.

Melt butter. I put it in a small bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Beat in butter and pecans.

Fold ½ cup egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold the batter into the rest of egg whites. I reserve some whites for the last batches, when it is mostly gone from the batter.

Heat waffle iron until the light goes out. Spray with a bit of coconut oil spray. Pour batter in the center of the iron, until it spreads out about 2/3 full.

Cook until the light goes out again and waffle is golden brown.

Make extra waffles for those sleepy weekday mornings. Make them a bit lighter so you can toast them. Put them between paper towels so they won’t be so soggy. Freeze them between sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper, then wrap in foil or place in a freezer bag.

Cake Decorating with Flowers and Fruit

I decorated this cake with nasturtiums and strawberries from my garden, which made a nice contrast to the cream cheese frosting. Nasturtiums are edible, with a slight spiciness to them.

Baby shower cake with strawberry flowers with apricot centers

I decorated this baby shower cake with flowers made from strawberry slices for petals and apricot slices for centers on a cream cheese frosting.