mini strawberry-rhubarb crumbles

mini crumbles ready to eatWith May just around the corner, Seattle is tiptoeing into the early stages of local rhubarb season. And even though it’s too early for the local sweet strawberries, we compromised with organic strawberries from California (still west coast so it’s sort-of local…) so that we could make a strawberry-rhubarb crumbly crumble. After much discussion, we thought… sure it will taste sweet but let’s make it ascetically sweet by making mini crumbles. And then, as if that wasn’t enough, we decided to bake the mini crumbles in mini mason jars. Yes, we know – mason jars are everywhere. So maybe we are a bit late to the party but better late than never, no?

Humble crumbles these are not. They are adorable, picnic portable and perfectly portioned. With a hint of orange zest and a toasty pecan crunch, these little gems will be a spring-time staple, guaranteed!

berries and rhubarb1

Mini strawberry-rhubarb crumbles

Yields 4 X 8 oz darling little mason jars

For the crumble topping

  • ½ cup flour
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup filled with brown sugar packed halfway, fill remaining with white sugar
  • zest from 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, cold and diced
  • handful of toasted pecans, cooled and coarsely chopped

For strawberry-rhubarb filling

  • 7 oz rhubarb, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 12 oz strawberries, stems removed and quartered
  • zest from 1/2 orange
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons juice from orange
  • 1/2 cup extra fine baking sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheating oven to 350°F.

In a medium-large mixing bowl combine rhubarb, strawberries, orange juice and zest, and sugar. Mix ingredients by hand, tossing to ensure rhubarb and strawberries are thoroughly coated. Add the cornstarch and mix by hand again.

Spoon the mixture into mason jars, leaving room for the crumble topping. Try to spoon in only the coated fruit. Then, add a little bit of the liquid mixture on top. Place the 4 jars onto a baking sheet and place in oven for 30 minutes.

pots on the ready 2

To make the crumble, combine the following in a medium mixing bowl: flour, salt, baking powder, brown sugar and white sugar, and orange zest. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Use a pastry cutter to cut in the pieces of butter until the mixture is pea sized crumbles. Gently mix in pecans and then transfer mixture onto baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes at 350° F. Check on the crumble periodically, using a spatula to flip mixture once it starts to brown. You’ll know it’s done when it’s toasty.

crumbly crumbles

Evenly spoon toasted crumble mixture on top of the strawberry-rhubarb. Let cool 1-2 hours before lightly covering or enjoy on the spot!

 

strawberry rhubarb mini crumbles

Have a wonderful week! XOXO, Bee & Em

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currently crushing on… swan lake

Carla Körbes and Casey Herd in Swan Lake. Photo © Angela Sterling

As far as stereotypical girly-girls go, I’m pretty sure I’ve got it locked down. As a little girl I wore frilly pink dresses, ribbons on pigtails and dreamed of being a prima ballerina. I remember being fitted for my first pair of pointe shoes. I recall stuffing lambswool into the toe box but my toes bleeding anyways, and I loved it. This love affair with ballet has never ended. I don’t dance classical ballet anymore, but I still enjoy the art of it.

Swan Lake, by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Op. 20, 1875-1876), is one of the most classic and recognizable ballet scores. Even if you’ve never seen the ballet, you’ve likely heard the music. Something that I find so interesting about the history of Swan Lake is that the ballet was originally choreographed by Julius Reisinger in 1877 for the Imperial Ballet, Moscow and flopped. It wasn’t until 1895, when Swan Lake was restaged for the Imperial Ballet, St. Petersburg, choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, that the ballet was well received.

The story of Swan Lake is magical, romantic and tragic. Something for everyone, no?

Act 1 opens to a grand bustling stage. Our “hero,” Siegfried is celebrating his 21st birthday but he quickly spirals into a depressed state after his mother, the Queen announces that he must choose a bride at the grand ball to be held in his honor the following evening. To console his heavy heart, Siegfried gathers his friends to accompany him on a hunting adventure in the forest beyond the castle. Honestly, this is my least favorite scene simply because so much is happening at once and I don’t want to miss any of it!

Ominous fog rolls in for the beginning of Act 2 as Siegfried wanders through the forest. He separates from his friends and finds himself beside the lake of swans. He is about to shoot a swan with his bow but to Siegfried’s shock, the swan transforms into a lovely woman, Odette, the Swan Queen. Odette tells Siegfried that she and her ladies are cursed by the evil sorcerer, von Rothbart, living as swans by day and transforming to human form after dark. I absolutely love Act 2. The swan ladies dance with grace, elongated elegance and true to a flock, in V-formation. They are breathtaking even during rehearsal!

In this short period of time, Odette and Siegfried fall deeply in love and Siegfried vows that he will defeat the evil von Rothbart and break the spell by remaining faithful to her forever.

The following evening at the grand ball (Act 3), Siegfried only has eyes for Odette. He cares not for any of the princesses that his mother has invited. Suddenly, Odette appears – or so Siegfried thinks. We, the audience, are aware that the party crashing guests are actually, the evil von Rathbart and his daughter, Odile, who looks identical to Odette. Siegfried is spell bound and dances the evening away with Odile. And even though we are rooting against Odile, she has the most awesome solo.

The captivated Siegfried declares his love for Odile but soon realizes he has been tricked.

The grand finale, Act 4, starts with a melancholy tune from the orchestra as we return to the lake of the swans. Once serene, the lake is now filled with chaos and flashes of lightening. The swan ladies are fluttering about as von Rathbart appears to gloat over his evil triumph. Siegfried is distraught as he seeks out Odette and begs for her forgiveness. Of course Odette forgives Siegfried but their fate has been sealed. She belongs to von Rathbart and Siegfried will never see her again. They dance a final pas de deux and sadly, Odette slowly fades into the fog while Siegfried collapses from a broken heart.

If you haven’t seen Swan Lake (or you just need a good cry), there are still 4 more performances at the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Two performances today (Saturday) and two more tomorrow. I’ve seen Swan Lake a handful of times and the Pacific Northwest Ballet never disappoints.

Have a lovely weekend! XOXO, Em

spread a little summer with sardine rillettes

sardines rillettes

The sun is back in Seattle, and it makes me crave summery food. And there’s nothing that says summer, beach and vacation quite like… sardines. You might think that’s weird, and I will agree that it does not come as instinctively as, say, ice cream, but sardines are the real taste of summer — at least for me and for the rest of the French population. Just ask any of my folks.

Growing up I spent all of my summer vacations (les grandes vacances) on the French west coast, not far from Île d’Oléron, and you could be sure that every single day someone in my neighborhood would be grilling sardines on the barbecue. If you’ve never grilled sardines before, you should know that they have a very pungent and smoky smell — a smell that would permeate all the houses around (windows were left wide open during the summer). I may have been young, but I learned an important lesson — one that might still come in handy today: If you’re seeking revenge on your noisy neighbors, grill some sardines.

Once grilled, however, there is nothing more satisfying. Lay them on a slice of fresh bread (to soak up the oil and salt) and eat the whole thing with your fingers. And if you’re anything like my father, you might want that slice of bread to be buttered or drizzled with olive oil (as if the fish weren’t oily enough).

rillettes

Anyway, no smelly grilled fish today — the weather has been nice but not nice enough to fire up the barbecue. Instead, let’s try a super easy appetizer: sardine rillettes. Rillettes, a spread like pâté, are commonly made with slowly-cooked meat, but fish rillettes, which generally require no cooking, are perfect for an impromptu apéritif or a picnic on the go. It will take barely 10 minutes to prepare. It is so easy that, even if you could find them in an American grocery store, you’d never think of buying them.

The ingredients are basic: soft cheese, canned sardines and whatever herbs and spices you happen to have — within reason. Did you notice there is no butter? It might sound surprising for a French recipe (but hey! there is cheese!). On this side of the Atlantic, many recipes seem to include butter — and some, in fact, call this dish “sardine butter”. While I don’t dislike the butter, I prefer the freshness that a good soft cheese such as Neufchâtel imparts. I also prefer using sardines packed in spring water instead of oil. If you really miss the olive oil, add a drizzle of it at the end of the recipe.

sardine rillettes

Why Neufchâtel and not cream cheese? Don’t tell anybody, but I have mixed feelings about cream cheese, which I find, well, too creamy. This doesn’t really make sense, because if you gave me some brie or triple cream, I’d take it and probably lick the spoon or knife. Cream cheese, on the other hand, lacks flavor to justify its creaminess. It has not been completely banned from my fridge yet as nothing can really replace it in cheesecake. But when was the last time I made a cheesecake? You get the point… And maybe I’m biased, but Neufchâtel is French, at least originally; and even though the one I bought was from Vermont, I feel naturally more inclined to buy a French-named product. Neufchâtel is also easier to spread and whip, and contains less fat than cream cheese while giving a lighter and fluffier texture. But if you ask me, the best would be to use a creamy goat cheese with a very subtle flavor.

I like to add shallots and fennel for texture. Plus, fennel imparts a slight anise taste that cuts through the fattiness of the sardines. I wonder how it would be to add few drops of Pernod. Let me know if you give it a try.

Do you have 5 minutes, a bowl and a fork? It’s as easy as that, so let’s get started.

bread and rillettes

Sardine rillettes

Ingredients

yields about 2 cups of rillettes

  • 2 cans sardines packed in spring water
  • 3 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1.5 oz. fennel bulb (white part), finely diced
  • 1/2 shallot, finely diced
  • juice of 1 lemon, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a pinch of piment d’Espelette (or cayenne pepper)
  • between 2.5 and 3 oz. Neufchâtel (or any other mild soft cheese: goat cheese, ricotta, cream cheese)

ingredients rillettes

Drain the sardines and put them in a bowl. If they haven’t been boned, separate them into two fillets and remove the central bone. Using a fork, coarsely mash the sardines. Then, add the chives, fennel and shallot. Add some lemon juice, salt, pepper and a pinch of piment d’Espelette (or cayenne pepper). Mix well.

In another bowl, whip your cheese until it’s smooth and stir it into the sardine mixture. Mix until you have the desired consistency — I like it coarsely mixed, but some may prefer a smoother texture. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice, salt, pepper or some olive oil if you feel it’s missing. Transfer into a bowl or jar. It’s ready!

Alternative preparation: Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard instead of piment d’Espelette or cayenne pepper. This recipe also works with canned tuna, mackerel and salmon.

It can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days .

The morning after I made these, I was literally craving them… for breakfast. Yes, that’s how good these rillettes are!

cooking with pomegranate molasses: muhammara

bell pepper

I recently found myself with more pomegranate molasses than I will need for the rest of my life. When my husband discovered this great cocktail calling for it, he ordered not 1 but 6 bottles of the precious ingredient. Just in case, you know… It’s up to me to find ways to use it. I knew it would take more than giving vinegar a break in my salad dressings (try to replace the vinegar with pomegranate molasses; it gives a nice sweet-tart flavor.)

muhammara

Pomegranate is used all over the Mediterranean. I remember drinking pomegranate juice in the streets of Istanbul, freshly pressed to order, and thinking it was the best thing I have ever had.

Pomegranate molasses is a thick syrup made of concentrated juice and sugar. Its sweet and tangy taste makes it a versatile condiment, whether it’s used in cocktails, vinaigrettes, marinades or glazes. It also pairs well with eggplant and tomatoes. And for a quick and easy treat, add a little bit to your yogurt along with some crushed unsalted pistachios and dried rose petals.

muhammara

At a dinner at Mamnoon, a great new Middle Eastern restaurant in Seattle, I recently discovered that one of my apéritif staples, a red bell pepper and walnut dip, is pretty close to what is known in the Middle East as Muhammara, a red bell pepper caviar with walnut and pomegranate molasses. I immediately felt the urge to reproduce its complex flavor at home. This sweet and spicy dip of Syrian origin deserves a good place on your mezze tray, next to the more well-known hummus and baba ganoush. But be careful with the pomegranate molasses: It does not take much for its tangy taste to trigger the sweetness of the red bell peppers and the slight bitterness of the walnuts.

roasted bell peppers

Don’t make the same mistake we did. Don’t order your molasses online. Instead, buy it at a Middle Eastern grocery store. It will be cheaper and you won’t have to stock 6 bottles of it (not that I won’t use them, but space is rather precious in our apartment). You can also easily make it by boiling down a cup of pomegranate juice on low heat until it is reduced and thick enough to coat a spoon.

Considering the quantity of pomegranate molasses we have, I can see a lot of Lebanese inspired recipes in my future, and possibly in yours. Expect this ingredient to return often on deuxdilettantes.

walnuts

There are as many recipes as cooks in the Middle East. I found mine in The New York Times and I barely changed it. You can easily make it gluten-free by removing the bread crumbs. In that case, make sure to blot the roasted bell peppers dry with paper towels, because you won’t have the bread crumbs to absorb their excess liquid. 

Muhammara 

Adapted from The New York Times

Ingredients

Yields about 2 1/2 cups

  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/2 jalapeño seeded
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the broiler of your oven and roast your red bell peppers for 15 to 20 minutes, turning them 2 to 3 times while cooking, until they are almost completely blackened. Let cool.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until they are fragrant and lightly browned, shaking frequently. Roasting the walnuts will enhance their nutty notes while bringing out a hint of bitterness.

When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel their skin off. Remove membranes and seeds and blot dry with paper towels.

Transfer to a food processor, along with the walnuts, bread crumbs, jalapeño pepper, onion, garlic, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary.

With the machine running, slowly pour in olive oil and process until combined. Taste, and adjust seasoning if necessary.

If you want to be traditional, serve your muhammara with pita bread, but it’s also good spread on fresh bread or for dipping raw vegetables.

Bee

currently crushing on… preserving lemons

preserved lemons

Can you guess? We’re crazy for Meyer lemons. A bag of Meyer lemons from Costco can do that. After making jars of lemon curd and sunny tartelettes, we thought we would wrap up our lemon week with a quick solution for left over lemons that are too darn good to waste. Because you know that if you let these lovely lemons over ripen – you’ll be kicking yourself for weeks. “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” We firmly believe in that.

lemon wedges

We can’t help but smile when we look at our cute little jars of lemons. They look like sunshine in jam jars. We are looking forward to using them all summer long… in couscous, tajine or chopped up with rosemary and thyme topped on grilled fish. Yum.

spices

Preserved Lemons

Yields 2 small jars of preserved lemon wedges

Ingredients

  • 6 unwaxed, organic lemons (if you have Meyer lemons, even better)
  • sea salt
  • peppercorns
  • cardamom
  • bay leaves
  • cloves
  • cinnamon sticks
  • any other spices…

1. First wash and dry two small jam jars. Take care to look over the jar and lids, checking for rust on the lids or chips on the glass rim of the jars (if present do not use for jamming/preserving.)

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Use tongs to place jars and lids into the hot water bath. Allow jars and lids to sterilize in the boiling water for about 15 minutes. Use the tongs to remove the jars from the water and let cool on a clean towel.

3. Cut 4 lemons into quarters and remove seeds.

4. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt into a sterilized jar and then add a generous layer of lemon wedges. Press wedges down and allow wedges to release juices. Add a teaspoon of salt, a few cardamom pods, a few peppercorns and a dried bay leaf (or a few cloves, peppercorns and a cinnamon stick) or any combination of spices that strike your fancy.

5. Add another layer of lemon wedges and press the wedges down. Add another teaspoon of salt. Continue adding lemon wedges, salt and spices/herbs until you reach the top of the jar but leave a bit of room. Repeat this process with the second jar. If you used a bay leaf in the first jar, why not try a cinnamon stick in the second? Or maybe a jar with just sea salt and pepper? Keep it tame or go wild!

6. Juice the remaining lemons and pour the juice over the lemon wedges, covering the lemon wedges completely.

7. Seal the jars, gently shake and put in the refrigerator. For the next week, gently shake the jars every day and admire your happy little lemons. Let them sit for another 3 weeks in the refrigerator while they preserve.

8. After a month they will be ready to use. We recommend using within 6 months of creation.

preserved lemons

We hope you have a lovely weekend! Even if it’s not sunny in Seattle, it’s sunny in our jars!

XOXO, Bee and Em

sunny meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

Pure assumption, but let’s say you made some lemon curd (should I dare thinking you were inspired by our previous post?). Maybe you even made too much of it, and, again — pure assumption — you really don’t know what do with this big jar sitting in your fridge. (I would definitely know what to do with it; just give me a spoon!) Well, we have a solution for you: Make lemon tarts, but not just any kind of lemon tarts. For one thing, don’t expect any meringue.

Beneath their low-key profile, these tartelettes hide a little surprise: an intense layer of chocolate ganache. It’s not an easy combination to pull off, as lemon and chocolate are an unusual pair, but the result is sublime.

As Em and I were trying to picture the outcome, we could already imagine ourselves diving into layers of zingy lemon curd and robust chocolate ganache. But we wanted to make it even more special and decided to add some ginger to the ganache. With its zesty taste, ginger is a harmonious match for the lemon.

I have to be honest with you: I bought unsweetened chocolate and forgot to taste the ganache before spreading it over the tartelettes. When I finally tried it, I was surprised by how bitter it was. Good, rich and velvety but bitter. Em was surprised too, but very politely did not make any comment. I worried. Would it ruin our tartelettes? Should we try to remove the chocolate ganache from the shells? We decided to keep the chocolate, and it turned out amazingly. The lemon curd and the shortbread crust being so sweet, the bitter ganache creates a delicious contrast, enhancing all the other flavors. I would not change it now. I would actually advise you to use unsweetened chocolate as well.

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

The uncrystallized candied ginger we bought (from Trader Joe’s) was not as strong as we were expecting. As it turns out, the package calls this ginger “sweet and smooth”. Next time we’ll try their other sort (“sweet and spicey”), or just buy some at an Asian supermarket.

Finally, we decided to use candied lemon slices to decorate the tartelettes. Citrus fruits can be candied whole (apart from their seeds), and the candied slices make beautiful garnish for desserts and cocktails. Besides, they’re very easy to make. But they do take about 12 hours to dry completely, so I would recommend making them ahead of time.

One thing is sure: These tartelettes were a hit! The flavors melted together wonderfully. And what better way to brighten your day than by having a bite of this sunny treat?

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

Meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

Ingredients

Yields 6 4-3/4 inch tartelettes

For the shortbread crust

  • ½ lb (225 g) pre-sifted flour
  • 5 oz (140 g) icing sugar
  • 1 oz (30 g) ground almonds
  • 4 oz (110 g) unsalted butter, softened and diced
  • 1 medium sized egg

For the chocolate ganache

  • 4 oz (115 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (15 cl) heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 30 g candied ginger finely chopped
  • 8 oz lemon curd
  • Candied lemon slices

For the crust

In a bowl, mix together the flour, icing sugar and ground almonds. Add the diced butter to the bowl and, using your fingertips, rub it into the flour mixture until it looks like sand. Add the egg and knead until the ingredients come together to form a soft, moist dough. Be careful not to overdo it. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can make the dough a day ahead of time and keep it covered and chilled.

Remove the dough from the fridge and divide it into 6 equal parts. Take one part and roll it on a slightly floured work surface. Work quickly so that the dough stays manageable and does not soften too much. Roll and wrap the dough around the rolling pin and unroll over the tartelette pan, being careful not to stretch it. Gently press the dough into the pan. Run rolling pin over the top the of pan to remove the excess dough, and pierce the shell with a fork in several places. Repeat with the other pieces of dough and place all the pans in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

shortbread crust

When ready to proceed, preheat oven to 380°F. Line the chilled shells with a piece of parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the shells are lightly colored. Let the tartelette pans cool for 15 minutes and unmold. You can make the shells up to two days ahead of time and store them covered and chilled.

shells

For the ganache

While the tartelette crusts are cooking, make the ganache. Place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of cream and reserve.

Pour the rest of the cream into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Pour it over the chopped chocolate, let sit for 30 seconds and, using a whisk, gently stir to blend the preparation. Let cool for another minute and add the egg mixture, the butter and the candied ginger. Mix well until the mixture is smooth.

Assembling

Spread the ganache into a thin layer over the pie crust and let sit for about 30 minutes.

ganache

Spoon the lemon curd on top of the chocolate, filling each shell to the top. Smooth with a rubber spatula and refrigerate for at least an hour (a good couple of hours allows for a firmer consistency).

ganache and lemon curd

Before serving, garnish with slices of candied lemon or (and!) some whipped cream.

meyer lemon chocolate tartelettes

And because I’m feeling generous, here is the recipe for those candied lemon slices.

Candied lemon slices

  • 1 Meyer or regular lemon, finely sliced (use a mandoline if you have one)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and, separately, prepare a bath of water with ice cubes in a large baking dish.

Blanch the lemon slices in the boiling water for a couple of minutes, to soften the skin. Gently drain them and plunge into the ice bath.

Mix the 2 cups of sugar and the cup of water in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a simmer and add the lemon slices, making sure they don’t overlap.

Let the lemon slices simmer for 1 hour.

simmering

Remove the slices from the syrup and let them dry on a cooling rack over a pile of paper towels for about 12 hours. Keep in an airtight container. You can keep the syrup for further candying or for use in dressings.

candied lemon