Lemon Buttermilk Popsicles

What does one do with leftover buttermilk? I mean, other than make biscuits, which is a delicious but extremely risky course of action, because if you put a tray of freshly-baked biscuits in front of me I may just devour them before I remember that I’m supposed to be eating healthier…

Anyway, when I found myself with half a carton of buttermilk in the refrigerator and nothing to use it for, I decided that the hot weather warranted a batch of popsicles. Tangy, lemony popsicles that I put together in minutes with nothing more than sugar, water, a lemon, and the aforementioned buttermilk. And they were fantastic.

Seriously, these popsicles had the perfect texture– icy but not too hard to bite into– and were mouth-puckeringly tart in the best possible way. It’s almost enough to make me want to buy another quart of buttermilk, but since my freezer can only hold so many popsicles at a time, perhaps I’ll wait for more leftovers.

In any event, if you’re a fan of lemon you should definitely make these this summer. I know I will!

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Peach Melba Popsicles

You need to make these– they’re so easy, so delicious, and honestly so pretty, that they’re easily worth the 10 minutes of time out of your day. I actually started making these last summer, and was shocked to realize that I’d never blogged about them!

Peach Melba is a classic dessert made of a poached peach half with vanilla ice cream, topped with raspberry purée. Being so simple and so focused on fruit, the combination translates beautifully to popsicles. I’m sure these would be delicious with fresh raspberries and peaches, but honestly I find it easier (and often cheaper) to use frozen fruit instead. Swirl in a few scoops of grocery store vanilla ice cream, and you’re basically set! The taste, combined with the beautiful marbled effect, will make everyone think you’re a culinary genius!

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Garden Focaccia

Okay, I admit it, I got suckered in to the trend of vegetable-decorated focaccia– it’s just so pretty that I had to try it! I dipped my toe into the technique with my parsley-topped cheese biscuits, and they were adorable, so since I was already planning on making focaccia for a barbecue, it was the perfect time to give it a shot.

This particular attempt at the focaccia from Smitten Kitchen (which she got from Alexandra Stafford) is actually my second attempt– the first one failed miserably, refusing to rise at all and forcing me to make a last-minute trip to the grocery store for ciabatta to make the sandwiches I’d planned– so I had my fingers crossed that it would work this time. Happily, it rose beautifully and tasted fantastic– this will definitely be my standard focaccia recipe from now on.

I will note that the vegetables definitely look prettier before baking than after– especially the shallots, which lost pretty much all their color in the oven. Perhaps next time I’ll slice them thicker or use a really small red onion to see if the color shows up better that way. Halved cherry tomatoes still look great, though, as do the bell peppers. Next time I’ll really pile on the herbs– they shrank down a lot in the oven, so I could definitely use more. But overall I’m very pleased with the effect– so pretty and really delicious!

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Creme Brulée Tart

After making pavlova for the first time, I found myself with four extra egg yolks. If it were winter I’d happily mix them into a batch of pasta a la carbonara, but it’s just too hot out to eat something so heavy for dinner– I decided to go with dessert instead. And since I was mysteriously short on ramekins, creme brulée was out… or was it?

I found a recipe for creme brulée tart that looked interesting– shortcrust pastry, layer of custard, and of course the caramelized top– and decided to give it a shot. I’ll say right now that there was a problem with this tart, but I think it was more in my execution than an issue with the recipe– while my crust looked fine (a little shrinkage, but mostly fine) during my blind-bake, for some reason it bubbled up in one spot during the custard-baking session, which made for a very odd-looking surface. It looked fine once I sugared and torched the top, but I had to be careful not to serve the slice with the giant crust-bubble in it, since it was dangerously short on custard!

Aside from that, the tart came together pretty easily. The crust is pulsed up in the food processor, and the custard filling doesn’t need any pre-cooking or thickening before being poured into the baked crust for a last session in the oven. The original recipe called for me to steep my dairy with a vanilla bean for half an hour, but since I used extract I got to skip that step and just warm the cream before mixing.

The tart itself is delicious– rich and creamy, with a nice buttery crust. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the egg tarts you get at dim sum restaurants, but a little less eggy and with the welcome addition of caramelized sugar. I still like regular creme brulée best, but this is a nice variation!

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Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

I remember the first time I had pavlova. I was on a tour of Europe after college graduation, and it was one of the desserts on offer at a restaurant we’d stopped at. I didn’t know what it was, but it looked neat– all billowy cream and luscious fruit– and I assumed it would have cake or something in the middle to balance it out. It did not. Honestly, I thought it was overly sweet, the meringue was hollow and dry, and I didn’t really care for it. But something must have stuck with me, because here I am trying to make my own version, and hoping I get it right.

According to my binge-watching of The Great British Baking Show, pavlova is supposed to have a soft, marshmallowy interior and a crisp exterior. It’s also generally served with something tart to counterbalance all the sweetness of the meringue– I decided on lemon curd. I feel like ordinarily I’d use the extra egg yolks leftover from the meringue to make my curd, but as you recall I prefer the lighter texture of whole-egg lemon curd, so I’ll have to use the extra yolks in something else. I piled on the berries, using a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and just barely sweetened my whipped cream.

The pavlova turned out fantastic– the meringue was sweet and pillowy (though I couldn’t get it off the parchment without risking it breaking, it was very delicate) and the lemon curd added just enough tanginess to cut through the sugar and whipped cream. Really the perfect summer dessert, and it feels light and almost healthy, despite all the cream and the lemon curd. Plus, it’s a real showstopper in the looks department– so indulgent-looking with the mounds of berries and cream! I’m already trying to come up with other flavor combinations, but I suspect that I’ll be coming back to this one time and time again…

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Cacio e Pepe Panzanella

Lately in all this hot weather, I’ve been craving salads for dinner– anything else feels too heavy– but even salads have to have some heft to them in order to feel satisfying. Enter the panzanella: a salad that’s a good 30-40% homemade crouton, which (let’s face it) is often the very best part.

This salad from Food52 has it all– freshly-toasted croutons tossed in a cheesy, peppery dressing (hence the “cacio e pepe” moniker), sweet corn, tangy tomatoes, and a nice big ball of burrata to bring it all together and make it feel indulgent. I’ve made it twice already and foresee eating this a lot this summer, even if it does involve turning on my oven in this weather!

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1880s Squirrel Dress, Part II: Underskirt

First, I sewed up the underskirt, which is Truly Victorian 261. I did the plain back rather than the bouffant back, since I’ll be putting an overskirt on it anyway.

Like the petticoat, I lengthened the pattern for this one a bit– the finished skirt length was originally supposed to be 40″, and my actual finished length was 43″ including the height of the 1″ waistband. Also like the petticoat, this one came together really easily– it’s just rectangles and slightly shaped trapezoids, and the notches match up to make everything easy.

Because I had extra length from my patterning I ended up making the hem just a little bit deeper than called for– more like 1.5″ instead of 1″ (after the initial 1/2″ turnover). The curved hem of the back panel made the hem a little difficult, but I managed with judicious pinning. For some reason I decided to hand-stitch the hem, even though it’s going to be completely hidden by ruffles later on… I guess this will make it easier to re-hem if it gets dirty or ends up being too short or too long.

No ruffles yet– I want to finish up the main ensemble pieces so I know how much extra fabric I have to make my pleated trim, plus I need to make a pleater board.

Anyway, I’m very happy with it, and I can tell this pattern will make a great base for future bustle dresses. I’m tempted to add a bustle pad on top of the phantom bustle for a little extra oomph, but I’ll have to see how it looks with the overskirt on top before I make any decisions on that.

Next up, the overskirt!

1880s Squirrel Dress, Part I- Fabric and Patterns

So this is my sketch for my new bustle gown project.

Looks pretty normal, right? But yes, you read the title right– it’s an 1880s Squirrel Dress. A bustle gown made of the most fabulous cotton print I’ve ever seen– at first glance it’s just an abstract floral-ish stripe, but take a closer look, and:

Blend - Garden of Delights - Squirrel Stripe - Green - Brooklyn Fabric  Company

Squirrels!!!!

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Creamy Pappardelle with Chicken with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Make this. It’s amazing.

Okay, now that I’ve got that out in the open, here’s the backstory: I picked this recipe from Food52.com because I needed something to use up some extra anchovy fillets I had leftover from something else (and I can never just throw stuff like that away). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but by the time the sauce was simmering on the stove I could tell from the aroma that I had a winner. The anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes combine to make a complex sauce that doesn’t taste particularly fishy or tomato-y, but still tastes incredible– it’s all that natural monosodium glutamate, which makes for some amazing umami flavor. A generous pinch of chili flakes and a squeeze of lemon brighten things up for a nicely balanced sauce. In case you can’t tell, I highly recommend it.

Try it and see!

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Bustle Petticoat

I have a new project in the works– a bustle dress! Or more accurately, I’ve realized that I have at least three bustle dresses planned for the hypothetical future, and it’s about time I finally get off my butt and start making the appropriate underpinnings! Anyway, I already have a “phantom bustle,” which I made at Costume College a few years back, accompanied by many giggles and jokes about my “spring-loaded butt”.

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