Tag Archives: Lynda Balslev

Cranberry Pear Galette

cranberry galette tastefood

I am not a patient baker. My desserts tend to be “rustic” which, in my case, is a polite way of saying messy and imprecise. Fortunately for me there is a place in the dessert world for my rustic desserts. I call it my sweet spot (pun intended) which includes crisps, crumbles, cobblers, galettes, and crostatas. These desserts show off the season’s best fruit, in the company of some sort of pastry dough or streusel and are assembled in a delightfully unfussy way. This Cranberry Pear Galette is a perfect example – it’s a free form tart, which is also known as a crostata. Unlike a traditional tart or pie, a baking dish is not required. The spiced fruit filling is simply mounded into the center of the pastry dough, then the pastry edges are gathered up to around the filling leaving the top exposed. The result is a golden free-form crust cocooning a bubbling center of oozing fresh fruit. Now, that’s my kind of dessert. Try this one on for your Thanksgiving holiday.

Cranberry Pear Galette

Serves 6

Pastry dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled, but into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup ice water

4 ripe but not too soft pears (bosc or anjou), peeled and cored, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons almond meal, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly whisked

1. Make the pastry dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse once or twice to blend. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the butter is pea-sized. Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together. Transfer the dough to a work surface and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before rolling out.
2. Roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper into a circle approximately 12-inches in diameter. (It does not have to be perfect!) Slide the dough onto a baking sheet and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine the pears, cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons almond meal, the lemon juice, orange zest, cardamom, and cinnamon in a bowl. Stir to combine.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon almond flour over dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the fruit over the almond flour. Fold the borders up and around the fruit. Lightly brush the dough with the egg and sprinkle the galette with the 1 tablespoon sugar.
5. Transfer the galette to the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender and bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla a ice cream.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

raspberry almond bars tastefood

Whole wheat flour, almonds, and oats confer in a dense and spiced streusel, sandwiching an intense raspberry filling, while debatably nudging these bars into the kind-of-sort-of healthy department…oh, who am I kidding. Whether you call these raspberry bars indulgent or healthy(ish), they should be a must-have on your holiday cookie to-do list.

Raspberry Almond Streusel Bars

Since the crust and topping are the same dough, the topping will be more dough-like rather than crumbly.

Makes 16 small bars.

Crust and Topping:
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup almond flour (meal)
½ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

1 cup high quality raspberry preserves, such as Bon Maman
6 ounces fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord (optional)

1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, coarsely chopped

Heat the oven to 375°F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides. Butter the parchment.

Combine the flours, almond meal, sugars, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and extracts. Pulse until mixture is coarsely blended, 10 to 12 times. Transfer 1/2 cup  of the mixture to a bowl to reserve for the topping. Press the remaining mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Place the preserves, raspberries and liqueur in a bowl. Mix with a fork to combine, lightly mashing the whole raspberries but leaving large pieces intact. Spread the raspberries over the crust. Add the almonds to the reserved topping, then sprinkle the topping over the filling.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan and cut in 2-inch squares. Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

chipotle short ribs tastefood

I won’t lie: These ribs take two days to make. Now, before you click away from this page, just hear me out. I promise that if you make these ribs, you will be a very happy cook. Your family will be eternally grateful. Your guests will be impressed. And you will be rewarded with a deeply flavorful, warmly spiced, tender and rich braise. The only people who might not be pleased will be your neighbors, because they will have to live through a day of incredible aromas wafting from your kitchen window, knowing full well they are not coming to dinner.

Now if that is not enticing enough, here is some more good news: While it takes two days to make these ribs, most of the time you will have little to do in the food prep department, because the ribs will take care of themselves, braising in the oven or sitting in the refrigerator. You will  be actively involved in the beginning, when you brown the meat (a very important step which will make you feel useful), then when you reduce the sauce (which technically your stove will do for you), and then finishing the braise for serving. Your most difficult task will be…waiting. All of the time invested is for good reason: to tenderize the beef to a supple version of itself, and to infuse the meat and sauce with knock-your-socks off flavor. So go ahead and give it a try. Start on a Friday and eat it over the weekend. And feel free to double the amount so you can freeze extras for another day or have a party – it might be a good time to invite the neighbors.

Red Wine and Chipotle Braised Short Ribs

If you have the time (and patience) rub the short ribs with the spices the  night before browning to develop the flavor. The chipotles in adobo will add a nice kick of heat to the braise. Serves 4 to 6.

Dry rub:
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 pounds short ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (750 ml) bottle heavy-bodied red wine
1/2 cup chipotles in adobo, chopped with juices
1 bay leaf
2 cups beef stock (or chicken stock)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rub the meat:
Combine the dry rub spices in a small bowl. Arrange the ribs on a rimmed baking tray. Rub the spices all over the ribs. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour (or cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.) Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before browning.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In batches without crowding the pan, brown the ribs on all sides, about 8 minutes. (This step is very important, so take the time to do it well). Transfer to a plate or bowl and repeat with the remaining ribs.

Drain off the fat from the pot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, carrot, and garlic. Saute the vegetables over medium heat, stirring up any brown bits in the pan, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the cumin, paprika, and coriander and cook, stirring, just until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomato paste and stir to create a nice slurry. Add the wine, chipotles, and bay leaf and return the ribs and any collected juices to the pot. Pour in the beef stock. If the ribs are not completely covered with the liquid, add more stock or wine to top off the ribs. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven and slow cook until the ribs are very tender, about 3 hours, stirring every hour or so.

Remove the pot from the oven. Uncover and let the braise cool slightly. At this point you can remove the bones and cut away any gristle from the ribs or proceed with the bones intact – it’s up to you and how you like to serve the ribs. Cover the pot and refrigerate overnight. (This step is helpful because it will allow the fat to congeal on the top of the stew, which will be easily removed before proceeding. It also allows the flavors to develop overnight.)

At least 1 hour before serving, remove the pot from the refrigerator and lift off the layer of fat on the surface of the stew. Gently reheat the braise over medium-low heat until the stock is liquid enough to remove the ribs. Carefully remove the ribs from the sauce and arrange in a baking dish.

Strain the sauce through a strainer, pressing down on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible, and transfer the sauce to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce is reduced by about half and has a thickened to a rich sauce consistency, about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over and around the beef. The beef should not be entirely submerged; if you have extra sauce, reserve for serving. Cover the dish with foil. (The beef may be prepared up to 3 hours in advance of serving to this point. Keep refrigerated until finishing.)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the short ribs in the oven and cook until thoroughly heated through, about 30 minutes. Serve with mashed root vegetables or mashed potatoes.


Smashing Roots

smashed roots tastefoodMashed Sweet Potato, Rutabaga, Celery Root

Root vegetables are sadly underrated. The lowly unsung root is, in fact, a storehouse of nutrients, natural sugars, and starch, and a very healthy and flavorful substitute for the ubiquitous russet potato. It’s also a delicious and simple way to get your daily dose of vitamins during the cold weather season. A peel of the skin reveals a rainbow of anti-oxidant-rich colors ranging from magenta to ochre to buttery yellow, guaranteed to brighten a gray day – and your holiday table. I used sweet potato, celery root and rutabaga for this mash. You can add other roots, such as parsnip, carrot, and the handy russet potato to the mix as well. Be sure to choose a variety for a balance of  sweetness and nutty creamy flavor.

Smashed Roots

I use a combo of sour cream and Greek yogurt in this mash, which creates a little naughty richness and a little tangy lightness. So long as you use a combined amount of 1 cup, you can opt for all of one or the other.

3 pounds mixed roots (such as 1 pound each of sweet potato, celery root, and rutabaga)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel the root vegetables and cut into 1-inch chunks. Place the vegetables in a large pot with 2 teaspoons salt and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender. Drain the vegetables and return them to the pot; cool 5 minutes. Add the garlic, butter, sour cream, and yogurt. Smash with a potato masher until the ingredients are blended and the the mash is your desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky). Add salt to your taste and a generous amount of pepper. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve warm.

Prepare ahead:
The mash may be prepared up to 1 day in advance of serving. Cool completely and transfer to a buttered, deep gratin dish. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Remove from them refrigerator 1 hour before serving. To reheat, heat the oven to 325°F. Dot the top of the mash with about 1 tablespoon of diced butter and cover with foil. Bake in the oven until heated through, 30 to 40 minutes.

Caramelized Onion Tart with Gruyere

onion tart tastefood

This tart is a vehicle for two of my favorite things – caramelized onions and Gruyere cheese. Caramelized onions are super sweet, thanks to the cooking process which takes the time to allow the natural juices and sugars to release and reduce, resulting in a squidgy caramelized heap of onion. Gruyere cheese is a wonderful Swiss melting cheese (and a key ingredient in fondue) which is nutty and piquant and tames the sweetness of the onions. Serve this tart as a light meal, or cut into thin slivers and pass around as an appetizer.

Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart
Serves 8

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter,  cut in 1/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons ice water

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Calvados
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces finely grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, plus extra for garnish
1 egg, slightly beaten

1. Prepare the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse once or twice to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse meal, with some pieces of the butter visible. Add the water and pulse once or twice – just until the dough comes together, adding another tablespoon of water if necessary. Dump the dough onto a work surface and form it into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep skillet or pot. Add the onions and salt. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown, soft and squidgy, about 30 minutes. Add the Calvados and black pepper and cook until the liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
4. Roll out the dough to fit in the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch round tart tin. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the bottom of the tart. Spread the onions in the shell and sprinkle the thyme over the onions. Brush the exposed crust rim with the egg wash. Sprinkle the tart and crust with the remaining cheese.
5. Bake the tart until the crust is firm and golden and the onions are deeply colored. without blackening, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature garnished with additional thyme.

Smoky Chipotle Glazed Ribs

Chipotle Ribs TasteFoodThe summer season has ended but grilling season certainly has not. In fact, once autumn rolls around, rich grilled meats are a perfect complement to the cool crisp weather – especially when we’re talking about ribs slathered with a spicy smoky barbecue sauce. For deep flavor, these pork ribs are coated with a robust spice rub and left to marinate before roasting. Then they roast, low and slow, on the grill until the meat is tender and juicy, before getting a good glaze on iwht a chipotle BBQ sauce.

Smoky Chipotle Glazed Ribs
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground chipotle pepper

2 racks baby back pork ribs

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 chipotles in adobo, minced, with juices
1/2 cup heavy bodied red wine
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the rub ingredients in a small bowl. Spread the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet and coat on all sides with the rub. You can either grill the ribs immediately, or – better yet – cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. The longer the ribs marinate, the better the flavor.
2. Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over low heat (about 275°F). Grill the ribs until the meat is tender, about 2 1/2 hours, turning occasionally.
3. While the ribs are roasting, prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced by about half, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove from the grill and cut into individual ribs. Adjust the grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Baste the ribs with some of the sauce and grill until crispy and slightly charred, 6 to 8 minutes, turning as needed. Serve with the remaining sauce. And pass the napkins.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese and Rosemary

Certain food combinations are not meant to be messed with – and this is a classic example: Plump seductive figs, salty supple prosciutto, and fresh creamy goat cheese are a holy triumvirate. Teamed up with rosemary (does that make it a quadrumvirate?) and roasted in the oven until crispy, bubbling, and luscious, you have a sensational appetizer – period; forget the Latin lesson.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese (and Rosemary)

The rosemary sprigs do double duty as a toothpick and aromatic, infusing the cheese and figs with woodsy aroma while they bake in the oven. The trick is to discard the roasted sprigs and replace them with fresh leaves as a decorative garnish for serving.

Makes 16

8 ripe figs
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise
16 (3/4-inch) rosemary sprigs with stem
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh rosemary leaves
Runny honey
Finely grated lemon zest for garnish

Heat the oven to 375°F. Cut each fig in half lengthwise and place on a work surface, skin side down. Gently make a small indentation in each center with a teaspoon. Mix the goat cheese and pepper in a small bowl until smooth. Fill the indentation with goat cheese. Wrap a prosciutto slice, cross-wise, around the fig, like a belt. Spear a rosemary sprig through the center to hold the prosciutto in place. Repeat with remaining fig halves.

Place the figs in a baking dish and lightly brush the prosciutto strips with olive oil. Bake in the oven until the prosciutto begins to crisp, about 15 minutes. Remove and transfer the figs to a platter. Gently remove and discard the baked rosemary sprigs; fill the incision with a few fresh rosemary leaves. Lightly drizzle the figs with honey and garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

In Praise of Lentils and a recipe for Soup

Lentil Soup tastefood

Why do I overlook lentils? These humble legumes resembling tiny pancaked pebbles are often bypassed in my pantry, as I reach for rice, farro, couscous. When I finally do cook with lentils, I remember how good they taste, how satisfying they are to eat, and how easy they are to prepare. Imminently flexible, they can stand in for a grain, starch, even a protein. They are healthy too – rich in nutrients, high in protein, iron, and fiber, arguably placing them neck and neck with other lauded superstar foods in the nutrition department. They cook quickly and without any fuss, gamely absorbing the flavors and seasoning from their fellow ingredients and braising liquids, adding a hearty, earthy, and rich base to soups, stews, side dishes, even salads. Really, I must eat more lentils – and you should too.

Lentil Soups tastefood

Lentil Soup

This soup is simple, to the point, and deservedly all about the lentil.

Serves 4.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and sorted through
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Madeira or Port wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and sauté until the carrots begin to soften and brighten in color, about 2 minutes. Add the stock, lentils, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, 30 to 40 minutes. (The soup should be somewhat thick. If desired, thin the soup to your preferred consistency by adding additional chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time.) Stir in the sugar, wine, vinegar, salt, and pepper and taste for seasoning. Simmer the soup, partially covered, over low heat to thoroughly heat through and meld the flavors, 8 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with the parsley.  Serve hot.

Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs

Tomato Pasta Plate x

Are you looking for an easy and healthy weeknight meal? Here is a light and fresh pasta dinner that is guaranteed to please everyone. I make this recipe when I have gads of cherry tomatoes on hand. Slow roasting coaxes out their natural juices and sugars and intensifies the tomato flavor. Fresh arugula is tossed into the mix, slightly wilting from the heat of the cooked pasta. The final touch is a shower of toasted olive oil breadcrumbs, which adds comfort and a rich crunchy texture to the dish.

Gemelli Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Arugula, and Olive Oil Breadcrumbs
Serves 4

Roasted Tomatoes:
1 pound grape or cherry tomatoes
3 unpeeled garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 thyme sprigs

Olive Oil Breadcrumbs:
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs (or panko)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese

1 pound gemelli or fusilli pasta
2 large handfuls of arugula, about 3 cups
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

Roast the tomatoes:
Heat the oven to 400°F. Scatter the tomatoes and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Scatter the thyme sprigs over the tomatoes and transfer to the oven. Roast until the tomatoes are softened and begin to release their juices, about 25 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and discard the thyme sprigs. Peel the skin away from the garlic and finely chop the cloves. Transfer the tomatoes, garlic, and any pan juices to a large serving bowl.

Toast the breadcrumbs:
Reduce the oven heat to 350°F. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on the same baking sheet. Add the oil and stir to coat. Return the baking sheet to the oven and toast the breadcrumbs until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. (They will brown quickly so watch them carefully.) Remove and immediately transfer the breadcrumbs to a small bowl to prevent further cooking. Cool 5 minutes, then stir in the cheese.

Make the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Add the pasta to the tomatoes. Add the arugula, cheese, and oil. Toss to combine and slightly wilt the arugula. Add half of the breadcrumbs and stir once or twice to blend. Divide the pasta between serving plates. Garnish with the remaining breadcrumbs and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Back to School Basics: Easy Granola

Basic Granola TasteFood

Everyone needs a good granola recipe up their sleeve. Homemade granola is a healthy pantry staple, great for quick breakfasts and wholesome snacks. It’s also very easy to make, requiring only 30 minutes. I follow a basic ratio of 2 cups oats to 1 cup coconut to 1 cup nuts to 1 cup dried fruit. To that I embellish, adding different grains and seeds such as flax, sunflower, or even wheat germ, depending on what I have on hand.  Use this recipe as a template and mix and match your favorite nuts, fruit, and seeds to your taste – and consider doubling the batch, because it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up.

Easy Granola:

Be sure to add any of the fruit after the granola has cooked to prevent the fruit from burning. Makes about 5 cups.

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds
1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins, or more to your taste

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, pepitas, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk the syrup, sugar, oil, vanilla, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over the oats and stir to thoroughly coat.

Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Bake until light golden, about 25 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from the oven and add the raisins, stirring to blend. Cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

This recipe also appears in my Food and Drink column at Marin Magazine.