Friday, July 6, 2007

Food for the Fourth

I was lucky enough to be invited to two parties celebrating Independence Day, good food and friends. The first was a pre-fourth barbeque at some friends of a friend. Neil and Nancy take their barbeque seriously, and served the most delicious ribs that had been slathered in dry rub and then smoked. A beautiful, chunky red sauce was served in bowls at the table. The rest of the spread was just as tasty. Sweet corn, just in season; deviled eggs; curried cauliflower with peas; and a classic potato salad rounded out the sides. And for dessert we indulged in an apple cream cheese tart, tres leche cake, honey brownies and the blueberry crostata that I brought. Using the Oscar Wilde motto, "Moderation in all things, including moderation," I tried everything!

I spent the fourth on a boat on Lake Union. We arrived early to share a meal with more friends. While we munched on fresh veggies and watermelon, Randy grilled gorgeous organic steaks on a small deck hibachi. He had gotten these from Better Meat Co. in Ballard. Wowee! Although mine was as big as my head, it was super tender and better for being simply dusted with salt and pepper before grilling. My pal Deborah made a spectacular heirloom tomato salad (with little fresh mozzarella balls and fresh basil), and we also enjoyed steamed asparagus dressed with an Asian vinaigrette and sesame seeds. Just before the fireworks, we served the angel food cake that I brought, topped with raspberries and blueberries and whipped cream. I am not ashamed to tell you that I ate two pieces of cake. It's angel food--that's almost health food, right?

Now for the recipes:

Blueberry Crostata (Adapted)
The blueberry crostata is based on a sour cherry crostata from the newish Gourmet cookbook. Another time I'll tell you just how much I love this cookbook! For now, here's the adapted recipe.

For pastry
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. lemon zest

For filling
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
5 1/4 c. blueberries (fresh or frozen (unthawed) )
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. cold water
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. rosewater
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. coarse sugar for dusting
Equipment: 9" tart pan with removable bottom


Make the pastry:

  • Using an electric mixer beat together butter and 1/3 c. sugar until pale and fluffy. Reserve about 1 Tbsp. of beaten egg in the refrigerator for egg wash, then beat remaining egg into butter mixture. Add vanilla. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour, salt and lemon zest. Mix until batter just forms a rough dough.
  • Divide dough into two parts and form each part into a 5-6" disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
Make the filling:

  • Heat butter in 12" skillet until foam subsides. Add blueberries, any juices, sugar and bring to a simmer. Simmer, while stirring until sugar is dissolved and blueberries release their juices and are tender (about 6-7 minutes). Stir together water and cornstarch into a smooth paste, then stir into simmering filling. Be sure to continue stirring gently, while you add the paste or it will clump. Continue stirring and simmer the filling another 2 minutes to thicken.
  • Remove the filling from the heat and stir in the rosewater and cinnamon.
  • Cool filling by spreading it in a shallow pan and refrigerating

Assemble and bake:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Place in the center of the middle rack of the pre-heating oven.
  • Roll out one disc of pastry (while keeping the other chilled) between two sheets of wax paper. Remove one piece of wax paper and flip the pastry side down into the 9" tart pan. Remove other piece of wax paper. Trim excess pastry, leaving a 1/2" overhang. Fold overhang into pan and press into sides (to reinforce the sides). Roll your rolling pin over the top of the pan to remove excess pastry and give it a uniform top. Chill.
  • Using the same method, roll out remaining disc of pastry. Remove top piece of wax paper and cut pastry into ten 1" strips. Slide marked pastry onto baking sheet and chill.
  • Spread filling in tart shell. Arrange 5 strips of pastry spaced evenly across top of filling. Arrange the other 5 strips at a slight diagonal to form a diamond lattice pattern. Press the strips into the sides and trim strips flush with the sides of the pan. Brush the lattice work with your reserved egg wash, and sprinkle with 1Tbsp. coarse sugar.
  • Bake crostata on hot baking sheet until pastry is golden and filling bubbles through lattice (about 50 minutes). If pastry browns too quickly, use a pie shield or cover loosely with foil.
  • Cool the crostata completely before serving. It is delicious with ice cream or whipped cream.

Basic Angel Food Cake (Adapted)
The angel food cake is adapted from another of my favorite cookbooks, The Joy of Cooking. This is a great, all-purpse cookbook to have on hand. As I do in a lot of recipes, I've substituted some whole wheat pastry flour for some of the all purpose white flour. Some say you shouldn't try this with foam cakes (chiffon and angel food) but I still find the cake tender and light.


1/2 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

12 large egg whites (reserve yolks for brioche or custard--yum!)
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. sugar
Equipment: 9 or 10" tube pan
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flours, sugar and salt three times. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, gently mix the wet ingredients for about 1 minute. Increase the speed of the mixer to medium (not high) and beat until the mixture increases in volume 4-5 times, and looks like soft foam with tiny bubbles. The foam will hold a soft shape when you lift beaters.
  • Gradually beat in the remaining 3/4 c. sugar, adding it 1 Tbsp. at a time. This should take 2-3 minutes. When all of the sugar is added, the foam will be creamy white and will hold a soft, glossy peak that bends slightly at the top. Do not beat until the whites are dry!
  • Transfer the foam to a large, deep mixing bowl (4-6 quarts is about right) and sift about 1/8th of the reserved dry mixture over the top. Gently fold in the flour until it is almost incorporated into the foam. Repeat the sifting 7 more times, always gently folding the dry into the foam. Don't stir or mix. In fact, use about half the strength you think you should. When the last of the dry has been incorporated, there should be no visible trace of the flour.

Pour this batter into the tube pan and gently spread to level the top. Just look at how luscious this batter is!

  • Bake about 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 1 1/2 hours. It's easiest to do this by balancing the pan on 4 glasses.

When it's time to serve, slide a knife or icing spatula around the edge of the cake, pressing it into the pan so you don't cut the cake. Repeat around the edge of the center tube. Place a plate over the top of the cake and pan. Turn the whole shebang upside down and gently tap on the counter. The cake should release from the pan onto the plate.

  • I served this with mixed berries that I macerated in a little brown sugar and vanilla. When the berries are this fresh and in season, be sure and start with less sugar than you might think, and add to taste.

the perfect balance