Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Early Spring Pastimes

Spring is here.

There are buds and blossoms. And we've had lots of crisp, clear, unshaded sun to green things up.

But our backdrop still has entirely too much brown and gray. Perhaps that's why I've been so pre-occupied with fresh, colorful things lately (or, maybe I'm just a colorful person).

Anyway, this list of recent obsessions is a good one. So, I thought I'd share some of these early spring pastimes.

What does color taste like?

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Table by Anna Bronnes with charming illustrations by the Johanna Kindvall

Jewelry made from fresh succulents by Twig Floral

Hellebore and Gooseberry blossoms (see above photo), the very first blossoms in my garden

Rhubarb and Cardamom

This Pickled Shrimp recipe from Gabrielle Hamilton that I found here and in her latest book, Prune

Writing that's full of beauty and color like the bittersweet, folkloric tale of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

And these boots, which I may need to buy very soon...

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Rhubarb-Cardamom Compote for Spring

It's that time of year when it seems like spring has arrived everywhere but here in Northeast Ohio. We've been enduring months of glossy magazine covers, Instagrams, pins, and posts featuring spring's fresh blossoms and bounty while we've patiently watched the snow melt, longing for  warmer, sunnier days and the greening of our local landscape.

The calendar says it's spring, but only last week did my rhubarb decide to poke it's curly pink leaves out of the ground and it will be at least a few more weeks before I can harvest any.

So, I did it. I cheated on my rhubarb. I broke down and bought a few bright pink stalks at the supermarket. I just couldn't resist or wait any longer.

Lately, I've been whipping up simple fruit compotes to pair with the locally-made cheeses I sell. To my supermarket rhubarb, I added a few freshly-crushed cardamom seeds and made one of the tastiest yet. I served it last week as an accompaniment to Lake Erie Creamery's fresh lemon chèvre and, wow! The rhubarb offers a tangy, sour compliment to the sweet, dense creaminess of the cheese. I served it with my FarmCrisp cocoa crackers and it was delicious.

Several folks asked me to post the compote recipe (if you can call it that). It's terrifically simple and can be adapted a million ways. Don't care for cardamom? Try adding cinnamon or ginger instead. Depending on my mood or the season, I've also spiked rhubarb compotes with orange zest, coconut, vanilla, rosemary, and anise. Have fun experimenting with your favorite flavors. Or, add nothing at all and just enjoy that first, refreshing flavor of spring.

Rhubarb-Cardamom Compote

4 large stalks of rhubarb, chopped into half-inch pieces
1/3 cup sugar, honey or maple syrup (slightly more if you prefer a sweeter compote)
5-10 cardamom green cardamom pods, crushed and seeds removed*
2-3 tbsp water

Add the rhubarb, sugar (honey or maple syrup), cardamom and water to a small sauce pan.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently until the rhubarb has fallen apart and reaches a thick, sauce-like consistency.

Simmer 10-15 minutes longer allowing the cardamom to infuse the sauce. Adjust the sweetness by adding a little more sugar if you prefer.

Serve the compote as-is if you like the texture of the rhubarb or puree if you prefer a smoother consistency.

Enjoy rhubarb compote with your favorite cheese, alongside a slice of pound cake, atop your morning yogurt, or layered with whipped cream for a delightful dessert called Rhubarb Fool.

*Green cardamom pods can be found in the spice section of most supermarkets. I also purchase them locally from Spicehound. Pre-ground cardamom is fine too but doesn't pack nearly as much flavor as freshly crushed pods. So, take a few extra minutes to crush your own. I use the back side of a chef's knife to smash the pod and then carefully pick out the seeds, discarding the tough shells.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Creative Workshop with Borrow Rentals April 9!

Join us on April 9 for a Creative Workshop hosted by Borrow Rentals!

It will be an inspiring evening of jewelry designing with fresh succulents by Twig Floral.  The talented ladies of Luna Bakery Cafe will be sharing their cake decorating skills. I'll be providing cheesy, local snacks and showing you how to build your own local, artisan cheese board. I'll have a variety of local cheeses, crackers, and locally-crafted cheese boards for sale as well.

Hope you can join us! Visit Borrow Rentals for more info and tickets by clicking here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Planting the Seed Pop-Up Dinner

People make Cleveland Heights their home for many reasons. The trees, the wealth of history and beautiful homes, the dynamic neighborhoods, the east side location within minutes of world class art and music. We were seduced by all of these things but most of all it was because within a five minute walk from our home, we could enjoy a beer, shop for groceries, browse for antiques or books (in a real bookstore), and buy a fresh-baked loaf of bread. Then on top of all that, we discovered what an amazing community we were part of, one that shares an amazing passion for this place.

About a year ago, my friend Douglas Katz brought together a group of like-minded Heights folks -- business owners, residents, and friends who share this commitment to community. Our group is collectively now known as We Are Cle Heights. We are a loosely organized and evolving group that is bursting at the seems with love for where we live, work and play. And we've decided to get creative in how we tell our stories and promote this wonderful place.

While we mull over the hundreds of brilliant ideas for what's next, we decided what we really need right away is a party. So, we're throwing a little pop-up dinner on March 12 in order to have some fun and celebrate one of our favorite Heights spaces, a true hidden gem, the Alcazar Hotel. Our little collaboration has produced a mouthwatering menu featuring food from some of the the Heights finest chefs. Of course, I'll be sharing fine local cheeses. And there will be excellent company. I hope you'll consider joining us on March 12.

Tickets are going fast and available here.

Below are a few shots of the Alcazar ballroom where we'll be partying on March 11...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cardamom-Scented Apple Tart with Buckwheat Crust

Winter arrived in Cleveland a little early and abruptly with last week's cold snap. So, instead of the normal weekend chores of gardening and raking leaves, this past Saturday was spent gazing out the window at a surprisingly snowy yard. While sipping coffee and surfing the web, I stumbled upon a newly edited version of Norah Ephron's wonderful film Julie & Julia. In this clever little "half of a movie" entitled simply & Julia, all the Julie parts have been neatly edited out. What remains is the uninterrupted, hour-long story of Julia Child, her adoring husband Paul, and their adventures in 1950's Paris when Julia was discovering her palate, learning to cook and laying the culinary foundations that would launch her infamous career. Watching this charming little version of the movie reminded me of just how inspiring Julia Child's story is. And of course, it made me hungry for French food.

After perusing both volumes of Julia's "masterpiece", Mastering the Art of French Cooking, my husband and I headed to the West Side Market. The beautiful scallops we found there settled it -- dinner would be Seared Scallops with Beurre Blanc. And with a fridge full of apples, I knew dessert would have to be this simple apple tart inspired by another favorite French cook and author, Patricia Wells.

For years, I've been relying on Wells' recipe for Lionel Poilane's Apple Tart from her book, Bistro Cooking. I'm always tweeking and modifying recipes to suit my mood, the season, or the ingredients I have on hand and my experiments don't always work out. But this one was a success. I substituted locally grown buckwheat flour for half of the all-purpose flour in the crust which resulted in a nutty flavor and a pleasantly sandy, crumbly texture that paired with the buttery, caramelized apples perfectly as did the addition of cardamom.

The crust for this tart is a basic pâte sucrée made from butter. I make it in a food processor which I find to be quick and foolproof when I've been sure to chill all the ingredients ahead of time. You can also make it using a pastry cutter, a couple of butter knives, or working quickly with just your fingers, in the traditional manner that Julia Child would prefer.

Cardamom-Scented Apple Tart with Buckwheat Crust

For the Buckwheat Pâte Sucrée:

1/2 cup buckwheat flour*
1/2 to 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
7 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into pieces
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp ice water

Place the buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour, the butter, sugar and salt, in a food processor.  Process until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, about 10-15 seconds. Add the ice water and pulse 6-8 times until the pastry just begins to hold together. Do not let it form a ball. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper and flatten into a disk. If the dough seems to sticky, sprinkle it with additional flour, incorporating 1 tablespoon at a time. Wrap in parchment and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

For the Cardamom-Scented Apple Filling:

4-6 good sized baking apples (about 1 1/2 lbs, I used Melrose)
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425F.

Remove pastry from the refrigerator. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out dough into a 12" circle. Place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and return to the refrigerator until ready to bake.

Peel and core the apples. Cut each apple into 12 even wedges. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. When it's hot but not smoking, add the apples, sprinkle on the granulated sugar, and cardamom and sauté until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Place the apples in the center. Fold the edges of the dough over the apples to form a 1-inch border. Brush the border with beaten egg. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake the tart for 30 minutes until the apples are tender and the crust is golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream if you or a scoop of salty caramel ice cream.

*Locally grown buckwheat flour is available from Stutzman Farms. They can be found on Saturday mornings at the North Union Farmer's Market at Shaker Square.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

FarmShare Pop-Up @Evie Lou this Friday!


I'll be at Evie Lou this Friday, November 14 with tasty, locally made cheeses.

Stop in and sample fall selections from some of our favorite Ohio cheesemakers including Lake Erie Creamery, Kokoborrego Cheese Company, Mayfield Road Creamery, and more!

This is a great opportunity to stock up on some locally made cheeses for your upcoming holiday celebrations. And while your sampling, you can browse Evie Lou's beautiful fall and winter collection to find that perfect holiday outfit or maybe a little something to keep you warm on the cold days ahead.

Hope to see you! 

FarmShare Pop Up at Evie Lou
Friday, November 14, 2014, 5-9pm
2509 Professor Avenue
Cleveland, Ohio 44113