Crazed Chef Craves Squash (really!)

Things have been a little hectic here in the Meadballs kitchen. Big news is that I am finally certified. This seemed liked the hugest hurdle back in the spring. But when the day finally came on Friday, Aug. 4, it really was just he beginning. Because of three things:

  • Most of my pots and pans didn’t work with induction. So I had to buy new ones.
  • I have to wash dishes now. (Dishwasher not in the budget).
  • The ventilation project wasn’t totally finished.

The last is probably the biggest issue because it is August. And while it has been pretty chill so far, it isn’t all that cool in my basement digs with three fridges, two freezers, two ovens, and three induction cooktops going. Sometimes all at once. So the electrician returned to install a big fan, some vents in the ductwork and a cooler for the wine room. As a result, my shiny new kitchen is a mess of dust, dirt, power saws, and electrical things. It is loud and dirty. So I haven’t been in the kitchen much since I picked up my lovely certificate.

But, never fear, it should all be done by tomorrow morning and I’ll be cooking away. If you have signed up for my newsletter – there is a sign-up on this website – you will find the specials for next week. They will also be posted on the Meadballs Meals facebook page. Order by e-mailing marnie@meadballs.com, messaging me on Facebook, or by texting 814.470.8688. Orders need to be received by Sunday at noon for Monday delivery.

In the meantime, I’ve been in my home kitchen working with what to do with a truckload of yellow squash. I love this bread with blueberries. Don’t skip the glaze, it makes the cake and helps keep it fresh.

Print Recipe
Lemonade Blueberry Squash Bread
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
loaves
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 2 regular loaf pans.
  2. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.
  3. In another large or medium bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Whisk in eggs.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Add squash and stir just to blend. Toss blueberries with the remaining flour. Add to mixture.
  6. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes.
  7. Allow the pan to cool; remove the bread and place top down on a serving plate.
  8. In the meantime, make the glaze by combining all the ingredients and mixing until smooth. Pour over top of bread.
  9. Serve.
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Counting Days to Meadballs Delivery

Just as the agricultural season is getting into full swing, so is construction on the new Meadballs kitchen. Indeed, just a week until the Erie County Department of Health inspection, and Meadballs will be open for business.

This week has been a flurry … but – and I find this hard to imagine – the most exciting thing is the concrete floor. Yes, I am excited about a concrete floor.

The kitchen space is a former playroom, which had Berber carpeting to keep the tiny knees from getting skinned. The the small noggins from bouncing off concrete. The carpeting added a bit of cushion.

The carpet has been gone for a couple of weeks, but today Advanced Concrete Floor put the design/paint/finish on. It looks spectacular. You may have seen the company’s work at Twig in the Colony Plaza.

Let me tell you, I had no idea concrete could be so beautiful. The final polyurethane finish comes tomorrow, but this is what it looks like now. It’s like Lake Erie met my basement in a good way.

There are bubbles, and waves, and sand … and it’s really cool.

On Monday, the equipment will be delivered. And then it is all about the plumbing and electrical. And I get to go shopping for things like spatulas, immersion blenders, and mixers. I expect to be moving in on Wednesday and Thursday in order to be ready on Friday.

That’s not all that’s going on. I’m still sampling in the market. Thank you to this week’s volunteers Karen Ducato and Jill Starr. Their input is appreciated. The logo bags should be arriving early next week to finish my look. Then, it’s time to start cooking for real.

This week at Post Apples CSA, the bags contained bok choy, collard greens, kale, zucchini, corn, Chinese cabbage, green beans, peppers, cucumber, and kohlrabi. I will be making more stuffed collard greens this week, along with some zoodles and meatballs, and some salads that I am still pondering. Nothing like a deadline to figure things out.

Speaking of which, my goal will be to post the week’s upcoming meals on Friday mornings. My goal is to have you contact me if you want in that week or be a subscriber. I’m working on a contact form that generates a notification to me – but the fastest and easiest way is to message me at 814.470.8688, e-mail marnie@meadballs.com, or contact me on the Meadballs Facebook page.

One of the highlights this week – other than the floor – was picking blueberries in North East at Conn’s Blueberry Farm. Took me about 90 minutes to pick 10 quarts. And 10 quarts of blueberries means pies, pies, and more pies.

 

I like this recipe because it isn’t all flour as a thickener. I am partial to tapioca starch or minute mini tapioca instead of all flour as a thickener. I also am a fan of the lattice top, so here’s an easy YouTube video that shows a hack on how to do it by making the lattice on parchment and then putting on the pie. Don’t forget to brush with egg and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar for a lovely finish.

My blueberries this year were a tad tart, which was fine with me. I don’t like an overly sweet pie. If you like your pies a little sweeter, I would suggest adding another tablespoon or 2 of sugar. But if you are going to serve your pie with ice cream, which is what I adore, then don’t add too much sugar or the combination with be more sweet than blueberry.

Happy eating

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Blueberry Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees (400 if you have a convection oven). Take one crust out of the fridge. Give it about 10 minutes before you try to roll it out, or unroll it if it is a premade rolled crust.
  2. Place the crust into bottom of 9-inch pan. Trim any excess hanging over the edge. Place in the refrigerator while you complete the rest of the steps. If you have a premade crust, then take the second one out of the fridge to get the chill off so you can easily place it over the blueberries to top the pie, or cut into a lattice if you desire.
  3. In a large bowl, mix blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, thickener, sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gently mix to combine. Pour into pie panand evenly distribute.
  4. In a small bowl, mix egg and water.
  5. Place second crust on top (or follow the YouTube instructions above to make a lattice crust). Crimp edges. Cut 2-4 slits in the top if crust covers the entire top. Brush all exposed pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Place on a baking sheet covered with foil.
  7. Bake at 425 or 400 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes (or longer) until the blueberries are bubbling. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil part way through baking.
  8. Sometimes I start with the pie covered - very loosely with foil - and then take the foil off for the last 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven. Allow to cool before serving.
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Breakfast in Paris

J’adore Paris. It’s as simple as that. After my first trip, 27 years ago, not so much. But we’ve both mellowed a bit, Paris and I. She is more accepting of visitors, especially if you make an attempt at being polite in her language – bon jour madame or monsieur goes a long way. As does s’il vous plait, or please. I am more tolerant of her idiosyncratic bureaucracy – things open and close according to forces that are not in my control; if someone can’t help you, wait 10 minutes or 24 hours, and, often, they can or will. I don’t know why. C’est la vie.

Terrorism has changed a lot of life. There are now threat alerts posted at major locations. There are armed – as in machine gun armed, military personnel in the subway checking ID and at attractions patrolling. The Eiffel Tower base is now barricaded do prevent explosive vans from blowing the whole thing, along with the people visiting, up.

But a lot hasn’t changed. Parisians get up. Get on the subway. Stop at cafés. And have croissants – some much better than others. But nearly all better than what we can buy here.  Our guide noted, however, that doctors recommend eating no more than 3 per week.

We weren’t there to listen to doctors. We were there to eat and drink in all things Paris – from the croissants, to the metro, to the churches, to the museums, to the shops, restaurants, cafés, and, to even have a picnic dinner in the park watching the Eiffel Tower put on its nightly light show while men with green plastic bags hawked Champagne, wine, and beer to fellow visitors. It was heavenly. Where else could you buy a salted caramel and chocolate Pot de Crème in a supermarket.

This visit, in addition to buying the Seine River cruise and the Catacombs tickets (if you buy in advance the line is only about 30 minutes instead of the normal 90 minutes to 2 hours or more), I booked a 3-hour croissant class at La Cuisine Paris. The cooking school, which offers classes in English and was highly recommended in a New York Times review of cooking classes.

It certainly lived up to its reputation. La Cuisine Paris offers many classes, including a market shopping class that includes making lunch or dinner, macaroons, baguette, etc. But, for my daughter and I, learning to make the basic French pastry was the ultimate experience.

Our teacher, Guillaume, was from Marseilles and trained in Lyon – the epicenter of French cooking. His English was perfect, as was his ability to teach to all levels in our class, which included a Canadian student who had spent the year in Paris and whose mother told him to come home having learned how to cook something. There were several amateur pastry makers – American and Canadian, two novices (including my daughter, 14), and a Paris dweller.

We learned the three keys to the perfect pastry – butter (must be at least 82 percent butterfat which is typically found in European butters but not American, which requires 80 percent), technique, and time.

About the butter – this is really crucial. Guillaume recommended we buy President in the United States. Or basically any French butter. I didn’t really understand until I read Dorie Greenspan’s article on the difference in how the French make their butter.  Here is an article on the various types of butter you can usually find in American grocery stores and how they stack up. They aren’t cheap – you are going to pay about 150 percent more for half the butter. If you are going to make pastry, this is not the time to go cheap. I’ve done it. You will regret it. Because you will have about 24 hours invested in the process of rising, rolling, laminating, baking, etc. If you are going to do all of this, don’t try to save $2.

This goes back to the basics of cooking. When you have one star ingredient – in this case butter – make sure it shines.

I’m giving it a shot here in my U.S. kitchen. I bought butter yesterday – and I’m being daring using a U.S. butter cultured in the European fashion (the ratings are recommended, but not as high as Plugra, which is the best and I couldn’t find). The dough is rising as I write.

Right now, though, the best ingredient you can find in our area is strawberries. I went out on Sunday – complete with jet lag and 84 degrees – and picked 8 quarts. I will be back this afternoon because all of those berries are turning into fancy little shortcake cakes. Not the biscuit kind, but the ones made with a sponge cake, a lemon simple syrup, lots of whipped cream, and berries. Lots and lots of berries.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. And I’ll keep you posted on the croissants.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Strawberry Shortcake Cake
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course breakfast, dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray. Line with parchment and grease parchment. Or use mini paper cake pans that you have coated in cooking spray.
  2. Cut off tops of strawberries and thinly slice half of them, leaving remaining berries whole. Mix sliced strawberries with superfine sugar and half the lemon zest and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs and egg white on high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds. Gradually pour in 1 1/4 cups sugar. Whip on high speed until mixture is a pale yellow and thick, 1 to 3 minutes.
  4. Fold flour mixture into egg mixture. Fold in milk, vanilla and butter until completely combined. (I melt the butter in the milk when warming in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds).
  5. Gently pour batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in pan. Invert cake onto a cooling rack and peel off baking paper. Let cool completely. If you are using mini cake pans, bake for 15 minutes, then check, and turn to evenly distribute heat. Check again after 5 minutes.
  6. To make syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/2 cup) sugar, 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and optional pepper. Simmer on medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture has reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in remaining lemon zest.
  7. Whip heavy cream and vanilla until soft peaks form.
  8. Using a serrated knife, horizontally slice cake in half. Generously brush each cut side with lemon syrup. Place the bottom half, cut side up, on a cake plate. Spoon sliced strawberries and any juices over it. Spread half the whipped cream over strawberries. Place the other cake half on top. Spread remaining whipped cream on top. Garnish with whole strawberries and drizzle with more lemon syrup for serving.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Cooking at New York Times. Recipe by Melissa Clark with some modifications by Marnie Mead.

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Binging on British TV for Baking Inspiration

The progress of creating a food business have many odd twists and turns. As I gear up for a July launch of Meadballs – my farm to your table dinner service – I have different avenues to pursue for both inspiration and boredom.

Sometimes the two are intertwined.

Starting  a business, even a simple one with a sole proprietorship, requires some tedious work. It’s not all shopping, chopping, and Bakewell Tarts (more on that in a minute). It started in the fall when I took the Erie County Department of Health food safety course, and subsequent exam, to become certified. The point is not to learn the basics of the restaurant business, but to learn the basics of not harming your customers. Quite rightly, there is a lot of focus on hand washing, cooking foods to proper temperatures, and the proper heating, cooling, and refrigeration techniques.

Kudos to the Health Department because this could all have been deadly dull. But the instructor was most engaging. And you’ll be happy to hear that I passed with the high school equivalent of an A.

In the months since then, there have been papers to file with the Pennsylvania Department of State to register the business, kitchens to check out because you can’t cook food to sell in your home kitchen (some states you can get a cottage kitchen license), suppliers to check out, etc.

Some of this happens while I sit on the computer scrolling through rules, regs, and pricing of product. It’s rather dull work, so the television is often on in the background. Lately the BBC series priest-detective “Father Brown,” based on the short stories of G.K. Chesterton, has been my Netflix pick of choice. It’s set in a rural English parish in the late 1950s. Aside from the mystery in each episode, there is also a fair amount about English country life during that period, especially the church fetes, flower shows, bake sales, and the like. I’m fascinated by tea – I think it’s a right proper thing to do. I’m not into the beans-on-toast sort, but the ones with cakes.

In the summers, there are strawberry scones, fruit crisps, and the like. But during the late spring, before anything starts to produce, there are cakes make with preserves. One episode included something called a Bakewell Tart, which the “Great British Bake Off” featured on several episodes. I only know this because I had never heard of a Bakewell Tart, so I Googled it. And found several recipes on BBC.

Essentially, it is a shortbread crust, topped with a bit of jam (raspberry is the preferred, but some have gone so far as to use – gasp – cherry), and then a frangipane, which is not marzipan. Similar, in that it is almond and sugar based, but it also has butter and eggs.

So, while filling out the latest form from the state (Department of Revenue, for sales tax collection), I popped a Bakewell Tart into the oven.

And here, dear readers, is the recipe. In a couple of months, I hope to give you an actual sample instead of just this virtual one. I do have to tell you – it is divine. And I might just have to tart it up when cherry season comes!

Until then – toodle pip!

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bakewell Tart
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter (and salt, if needed) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
  2. Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  4. Bake pastry for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Spread with jam.
  5. Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add (salt, if using) ground almonds, egg, and almond extract. Pour over crust. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil to prevent them burning. Remove tart from oven to cool.
  7. Put powdered sugar into a bowl. Stir in extract. If the mixture is too thick to drizzle over tart, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  8. Drizzle icing over top. Or place icing into a zip-top baggie with one corner snipped off, and pipe the icing over the top.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from several recipes on http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes

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