Cheese Blintzes

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With every season change, I go through recipes that I have saved since I was very young. It started when I would cut up recipes from McCall’s magazine and glue them on large index cards for my mother. Then I started doing it for myself.
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As I just turned 60 years old, you can only guess at how old many of these recipes are!

Recently I came across this old McCall’s recipe for blintzes. It gave me the idea to make blintzes for when I have overnight company soon.
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Blintzes can be made the day before and re-heated gently the next morning. Plus, the little blintz packages are so pretty – much prettier than some breakfast casserole.

You need three parts to make blintzes. You need the crêpes, filling and sauce.

Cheese Blintzes with Strawberry Coulis

Sauce:
12 ounces fresh strawberries
1/3 cup sugar or to taste
2 tablespoons orange liqueur or orange juice

Filling:
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
Few drops of orange oil or 1 teaspoon orange zest, optional
1/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Melted butter, optional
Cinnamon sugar, optional

Crêpes; make a quadruple recipe.

To make the sauce, place the three ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then blend with an immersion blender. Cover and refrigerate if not using right away.
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To make the filling, place the cottage cheese in a food processor jar and process until smooth.

Scrape down the sides, then add the remaining ingredients and process until all combined.

Taste the filling. Personally, I prefer the sauce sweeter than the filling; you don’t want a sweet filling and a sweet sauce because this is not dessert. Also, the cinnamon should be fairly strong because it pairs so nicely with the fruit. If you can’t taste it, add some more. There are different grades and potencies of cinnamon.

Cover and refrigerate the filling if you’re not using it right away.

When you are ready to prepare the blintzes, have the crêpes at your work station either just cooked and still slightly warm, or at room temperature, if you made them the day before. If they are too chilled they will break instead of fold. Also have the filling on your work station.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly butter two baking pans to hold the blintzes in one layer.

Place about one heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of a crêpe.

First fold over the front of the crêpe over the filling, then the left and right sides over the filling, then roll the whole thing over the remaining flap.

Gently pick up the blintz and place in the pan with the folded sides down. Continue with the remaining crêpes and filling.
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If you like, brush the tops of the crêpes with melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes, or just until golden. They will be puffy, but unfortunately they will unpuff within minutes. That’s ok – they’re still really good.
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Serve with the warm or room temperature strawberry coulis.

If you like, serve with a few fresh berries.

note: Some blintzes are sautéed in butter in a pan instead of baked. Those are also fabulous!
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Berry Cherry Hazelnut Galette

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When I see desserts on blog posts, I rarely check them out. First of all, I’m not a baker, and have no desire to bake any more than I do. But mostly it’s because many cakes and desserts are just too fancy for my taste. Not that I don’t appreciate the skill that goes into making them. In fact, I’m truly in awe of pastry chefs.

It’s just that I’m a pretty plain Jane, and that speaks for my lifestyle as well as the food I prepare. So I am attracted to simple, rustic desserts like this galette.

I found this recipe on Epicurious here, and what attracted me was the title – Raspberry-Hazelnut Galette. I’m a huge fan of both raspberries and hazelnuts so I was determined to bake my first galette. Yes, my first, even though I’ve coveted them forever!

When I went through the ingredient list, I realized there weren’t fresh raspberries in the darn recipe, so I used the recipe for the hazelnut crust, and did my own thing with the filling, using cherry jam and fresh raspberries. Here is what I did:
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Cherry Berry Hazelnut Galette

3.5 ounces raw hazelnuts, skins on
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 stick, 4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 ounce or so of water or juice
Orange-flavored oil
6-7 ounces cup fruit-only cherry jam
Fresh raspberries
Raw sugar or pearl sugar
Whipped cream, optional

To make the crust, first process the hazelnuts, flour and salt in a food processor until a hazelnut-flour meal is formed. Place the meal in a bowl and set aside.

Using the same food processor jar, add the butter and sugar and process until smooth. Add the egg yolks and water or juice and process just to combine.

Turn out the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Gently form the dough into a disc and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.


You might notice that my “dough” on the left looks a bit crumbly. And it was. I followed the directions, but the amount of hazelnuts on the original recipe states 3/4 cup, which I estimated at 3.5 ounces. I actually think that might have been too many hazelnuts, but to compensate for the dryness, I simply sprinkled about 1 ounce of water onto the dough until it stuck together. Thus the addition of the liquid in the above recipe.

When you’re going to make the galette, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Roll out the dough into a circle, approximately 14″ in diameter. Brush about 2″ of the outer edge of the crust with oil – I used an orange oil. I only did this because I realized I was completely out of eggs!

Spread on the jam, and top it with the raspberries. I trimmed the crust just a bit, and then gently folded it over the cherry berry filling. I brushed a little more of the orange oil on the crust.

This is when I discovered I had no turbinado or raw sugar, which was in the original recipe, so I used pearl sugar instead. With an egg wash, the sugar would have stuck better!


Transfer the galette to a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. The crust should be golden brown.
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Transfer the baked galette to a cutting board to rest. If you don’t own one of these giant spatulas, believe me. They really come in handy!
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After about 45 minutes, I cut the galette into fourths, added a little more pearl sugar, and put cream in my whipped cream gadget. Another thing you shouldn’t be without!

Serve the galette still warm, or at room temperature. Ice cream would also be fabulous instead of whipped cream!
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verdict: The hazelnut crust, which is like candy, would definitely be good with just the jam filling, but I really feel that the raspberries add to this dessert!
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Strawberry Jam and a New Gadget

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I have never made jam. Probably because I’m not a toast eater. I’ve made savory fruit-based jellies and sauces and chutneys and compotes and so forth, but never jam.

A while back I spotted an automatic jam and jelly maker, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The electric appliance is made by Ball, which is well known for its canning equipment, so I finally bought the darn thing. Like so many other gadgets in my house, it sat around and gathered dust for a while. But just a short while.

With strawberries in season, and the fact that I probably love strawberry jam more than any other kind, I decided that it was time to make strawberry jam, and test out this gadget.

It’s Ball FreshTech Model FTJM-12-01, to be specific, pictured below, priced at $99 USD or less on Amazon.
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I had purchased strawberries but about the time I got around to rinsing them off and removing the blemishes, I ended up with 1 1/2 pounds.

One interesting fact in the manual: Don’t use a food processor to crush the fruit, because a food processor can break down the fruit’s natural pectin, preventing a good set. Interesting.

There are very few photos of the jam-making process, because it went so fast. Before I knew it, I had made jam! So here’s exactly what I did.

The jam and jelly maker will allow twice as much of the volume of jam made, or 3 pounds of fruit, but using any more than that can cause the jam maker not to function optimally.
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Strawberry Vanilla Jam

1 1/2 pound cleaned strawberries, hulled, halved
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 tablespoons pectin, dried form
1/4 teaspoon butter*
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon white sugar

Have the strawberries in a large bowl. Crush the strawberries; I used my pastry cutter. I wanted my jam more like preserves, so I left the strawberries on the chunky side.


Cut the vanilla bean in half crosswise and save the half not used. With the other half, slice it lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add them to the strawberries. Stir the berries to incorporate the vanilla beans. Now you’re ready to begin.

Place the pectin in the base of the jam maker. The pectin I used is shown above. Add the strawberrrymixture to the jam maker. Top with the dab of butter.

That’s it! Turn it on and it will, by default, start at 21 minutes. It begins turning and mixing the ingredients. After 4 minutes, you’ll hear 4 faint beeps, and that is the time to lift the lid and add the sugar.

Return the lid to the jam maker, and wait till the remaining 17 minutes is up!
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Remove the lid, and carefully remove the stirrer. You can use the handles on the jam maker to hold the pot because they don’t conduct heat, which is nice.

Let the jam cool, then spoon into clean jars. It goes without saying that every piece of equipment should be clean.

My recipe made about 12 ounces. I’m going to freeze one – 8 ounce jar of jam, and save the rest for some other purpose.

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Amazingly, the jam is the perfect texture. It’s nice and thick, with strawberry chunks, and tiny vanilla beans visible.

I’m not sure the vanilla does much for this jam, but it was a fun addition.

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I can’t wait to play more with this gadget. I am very impressed, to say the least! Unless you want to can your jam or jelly, it’s pretty much a 30 minute process!

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* This is very interesting, but a little dab of butter will prevent foam from forming at the top of the jam. In fact, I had none when my jam had completed its processing.

Onion Confit

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I could live on hors d’oeuvres year round, and most of them would involve cheese. Actually, if I’m being honest, they could be only cheese platters, and I would die happy.

It doesn’t matter if the weather is warming up outside, to me there’s nothing much better than warm, melted cheese. It doesn’t have to be snowing outside for me to bake a brie. I guess the only exceptions are fondue and raclette, which I do limit to the cold months, but only because the meals end up lasting so long and being so heavy.

When when I do prepare a baked brie, or some kind of hot cheese canapes, I sometimes pair the cheese with a fig jam, a strawberry chutney, or a citus curd. Of course, that depends on the kind of cheese, but this following recipe for onion confit would go with everything from goat to cow cheeses, soft to hard cheeses, melted or not!

The onion confit is also a good condiment to serve with chicken, duck, pork, and grilled sausages. It would be really lovely served with a beautifully seared lobe of foie gras, alongside pate, or as a condiment in a sandwich of short ribs and brie. It’s really versatile.

Onion confit is sort of like a chutney, in that the onions are sweetened slightly. But because the onions are cooked in olive oil, and not caramelized, I’m calling it a confit. I hope you enjoy it!

Onion Confit

1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup red wine
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon cherry syrup or ruby port

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In a small saucepan, add the olive oil and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions, sugar, and salt and stir well. Cover the saucepan and turn the burner to the lowest setting. Cook the onions for 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, in a small bowl, place the red wine, balsamic vinegar, and the cherry syrup or port. The cherry syrup is fruity, the port adds flavor but also a subtle alcoholic component. You can play with just about any ingredient like grenadine, pomegranate juice, or maple syrup, adjusting amounts accordingly.

Pour this mixture into the onions, and cook, simmering the onions, for about 30 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. The onions will end up a nice oily, sticky mess.

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Cool the mixture completely, then place in a sterile jar. This recipe makes about 2 cups of confit. It can easily be doubled or tripled.

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I am guessing that this onion confit would freeze successfully, but that’s if there’s any left. It’s really that good.

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Onion confit topped on warm goat cheese, in the photo above, and on melted Fontina, in the photo below. It’s way better tasting than what it looks like, trust me.

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note: this post was originally published 2 years ago.

Tomato Jam

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This recipe is based on one from the beautiful blog, Fleur de Sel. Before coming across the post for tomato jam, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it before. Where have I been?!!

But it was so intriguing to me, I couldn’t quit thinking about it. What a wonderful addition to a grilled cheese sandwich or served on a cheese platter. Yum.

So, I decided it was time to make my own. I altered Lindsay’s recipe slightly, mostly by omitting the Herbes de Provence. I just wanted to find out what the tomato jam tasted like on its own.

So here’s what I did.

Tomato Jam

3-4 pounds tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 green apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 small onion, diced
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Sprinkles of cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

Place the tomatoes, apple, onion, brown sugar, salt and cayenne in a large enamel pot.
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Cover, and bring everything to a simmer.

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Then cook for about 2 1/2 hours over low heat until most all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the cider vinegar and cook for another minute, then stir in the lemon juice.

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After the jam had cooled, I blended it to smooth things out a bit, but without making a puree. Then I poured the jam into 2 – 12 ounce jars that were sterilized.
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The color of the jam is beautiful and it tasted delightful. Next time I want to add some orange zest.

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I proceeded to waterbath the two jars and I’m saving them up for the holidays!

With a little bit of the leftover jam in the blender, I whipped up a little sandwich with the jam and some buffalo mozzarella. It was delicious. I can’t wait to get more creative with it!

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verdict: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/2 cup of white sugar. I cut the total amount of sugar from 1 cup to 3/4 of a cup. It’s just hard for me psychologically to use a lot of sugar. But perhaps that’s why my jam doesn’t look as “sticky” as it does in Lindsay’s photos. Or, I perhaps didn’t allow for enough evaporation. We’ll see what happens when I go to use it….

Which I did when my kids were in town and I served the tomato jam with a giant chunk of Manchego (featured photo). Sticky or not sticky, it was a fabulous pairing.

Spiced Cranberry Jelly

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Cranberries! Just the thought of them evokes memories of Christmas time. Their deep red color and surprising tartness make everything joyous, whether they’re in cookies, in a chutney or cranberry sauce, made into a liqueur, baked in a bread, or even strung on a tree. But one thing I’ve never done before is make a cranberry jelly.

One of the reasons I’ve never made a cranberry jelly before is because I didn’t start canning until this year. 2012. That’s right. I’ve been a little slow getting on the canning bandwagon… maybe it’s the whole thing about botulism and exploding jars in the basement. But I finally did it, and now I can’t stop. Even if it’s just to can a few jars at a time. I’m addicted. And, there’s nothing hard about canning as it turns out!

I discovered this recipe in the book “Gifts from the Kitchen”, by Annie Rigg. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but I’ve discovered, thank goodness, that there’s a little leeway with canning – at least in some aspects. (Not the aspects regarding sanitized jars and water baths!) But I did keep the seasoning exact, because it just sounded perfect. And it is! And this jelly is so perfect for the holidays!!!

Of course I see, and have already experienced, this jelly on toast, but I can also see it on a cheese platter paired with some Manchego or even an English cheddar. I’m so excited….

So here’s the exact recipe as it is in the book:

Spiced Cranberry Jelly

1 1/4 pound fresh cranberries
2 oranges
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
2 star anise
Approximately 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

my favorite non-electric orange juicer made by potter Scott Carlson, who lives and works in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

Place the cranberries in a preserving pan or large saucepan. Remove the zest from the oranges using a vegetable peeler and add to the pan with the squeezed orange juice, the cinnamon stick, cloves, and star anise.

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Add 1 1/3 cups water, cover the pan, and set over medium heat to simmer gently for 20-30 minutes, until the cranberries are very tender and have burst.

Remove from the heat and pour the contents of the pan through a jelly bag suspended over a large bowl or pan. Let the cranberries drip through the bag for at least 4 hours, or overnight, but do not be tempted to stir or push them through or the resulting jelly will be cloudy.

the cranberries before straining

The next day, pour the strained cranberry juice into a measuring cup and make a note of the quantity. For every 2 cups of juice you will need 2 1/4 cups of granulated sugar. Return the juice to a clean pan, then add the sugar, and stir over low heat, until it ha dissolved. Increase the heat and boil steadily until setting point has reached.

Pour the jelly into sterilized jars and seal immediately. Label the jars once the jelly is completely cold.