Watermelon & Tomato Salad

This is a very quick, refreshing and colorful salad. With 4th of July around the corner and casual summer get togethers, it is a quick fix and makes a beautiful presentation. Often, in late summer, the ingredients come straight from the garden, but they can be found in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets easily.

Ingredients

3- 4 cups Watermelon Cubes
1 Pint Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
1 Large Cucumber sliced 
1/2 Cup Fresh Basil, chiffonade
1/4 - 1/2 Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
Balsamic Vinegar, to taste

Instructions

Combine watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber and basil in a large shallow bowl. Toss with crumbled feta and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar to taste.

All quanities for this recipe are suggestions and can be adjusted to your preference for taste and appearance.

Using multiple colors and shapes of the tomatoes will bring interest. Garnish with whole basil leaves for a pretty presentation.

Mussels with Basque Chorizo

Yeild: 4 Servings

This is actually a quick meal, but tastes amazing. Served in big bowls with lots of the stock and a crusty sour dough for dipping, this can actually be whipped up on a weeknight. For this adventure, I substituted some clams for the mussels because I had them on hand. They have different cooking times and I don’t really recommend this as the best approach to this dish, but it is an option. They are complementary bivalve mollusks, but the clams take longer to cook and must be added 5-10 minutes before the mussels to insure they open.

The Basque Chorizo brings the flavors of sweet red pepper, paprika, and garlic to the game. We are lucky to live in an area that celebrates Basque tradition and these sausages are readily available at a Basque deli in the local area. If Basque Chorizo can’t be found, Spanish Chorizo can be substituted. Mexican Chorizo is made with entirely different spice blend and I have not tried it in this dish. If you are up for experimenting that direction, let me know how that works out.

Measurements in this recipe are a suggestion, and you can easily modify it to your tastes and the number of people you want to serve. We like a lot of soupy broth for soaking up the flavor and bread. You can reduce the liquid volume if you don’t want as much broth. If you don’t keep clam stock on hand, chicken stock can be substituted, it just doesn’t have that briny, ocean flavor. You can eliminate the wine and use all stock. This is up to you.

Ingredients

4 lbs Mussels, live or a mix of Mussels and Clams, cleaned and de-bearded
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 oz. Basque Chorizo,casing removed and diced
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
16 oz. tomatoes, diced (a pint of Cherry tomatoes works well)
8 Oz. Clam Stock (can substitute chicken stock)
8 oz. Dry White Wine
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons, Italian Parsley, minced

Instructions

  1. Rinse and scrub mussels, removing any beard (fuzzy clingy stuff sticking out of the mussel shell). If any mussels are open, discard them – they are not alive. You can tap them to see if they will close, but it they don’t, throw them out.
  2. Heat oil in a dutch oven or large lidded skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add diced Chorizo cook until it begins to brown.
  4. Stir in minced garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes begin to soften.
  6. Stir in stock and white wine. Cook to reduce by 1/4 and release alcohol.
  7. Add mussels and cover with lid, steam for 10 minutes until the mussels open. If chosing to mix with clams, remember to cook clams first for at least 5-10 minutes until they start to open, and then add the mussels to insure clams cook completely.
  8. Discard any mussels (or clams) that do not open.
  9. To finish: Stir in butter and 1/2 the parsley. Divide into serving bowls and sprinkle with remaining parsley.
  10. Serve with toasted Italian or Sourdough bread.

Margarita Cupcakes

Yield: 24 Cupcakes

A party in a paper baking cup! These cupcakes suitable for adult birthdays, Cinco de Mayo, office parties, and summer get togethers. They are as much fun to make as they are to eat.

This recipe starts with a simple white cake mix and then layers in margarita flavor to the cake and glaze. We finish with a little salt and lime cream cheese frosting. The salt will compliment the sweet tart of the lime cream cheese frosting.

If you wish to make a non-alcoholic version of these cupcakes, eliminate the alcohols from the glaze and replace with orange juice in combination with the margarita mix step as all other alcohol in the cake will cook out during baking, but leave behind the bright flavor of the spirits.

While it looks like a few steps, they are all pretty simple. It takes about two hours to make these cupcakes with baking and cooling times.

With a little salt and lime….

Ingredients

Cake
8 ounces Margarita Mix (no alcohol)
3 ounces Tequila
1 ounce Grand Marnier
1 box White Cake Mix
3 large Egg Whites
2 Tablespoons Avocado or Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Lime Zest

Glaze
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Butter
1/4 Cup Margarita Mix (no alcohol)
1/4 Cup Tequila
1/8 Cup Grand Marnier

Frosting
1 Stick Unsalted Butter, softened 
8 Ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2 Teaspoons Lime Zest
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
4 to 4 1/2 Cups Confectioners Sugar
5 Tablespoons Lime Juice
4 Drops Lime Extract
 
Finishing Touches
Salt Flakes (suggest Maldon or Fleur de Sel)
Lime, sliced thin then cut slices in half 
Paper straws, cut to desired length

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with baking cups for 24 cupcakes.
  2. Whisk together the margarita mix, Tequila and Grand Marnier in a small bowl or measuring cup. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of liquid (or whatever quantity of water is called for on the cake mix box); reserve any remaining for the glaze.
  3. In a bowl of a stand mixer or mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat egg whites on high until foamy. Add oil and beat a few more seconds until combined with egg whites. Add cake mix and lime zest and the 1 1/4 cups of margarita mix from step 2. Beat on low for 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium for 2-3 minutes. Batter will be smooth but have lumps from the lime zest.
  4. Spoon batter into cupcake liners about 2/3 -3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Know your oven. If it runs hot, check after 15 minutes, increasing time by 5 minute increments until toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cook in pan for about 10 minutes and then move to a rack to completely cool.
  5. While cupcakes are cooling make glaze by combining sugar and margarita mix and butter in a small sauce pan.
  6. Heat over low heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and melt butter. When sugarr is dissolved and butter is fully melted, remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients, plus any liquid left from step 2.
  7. When cupcakes are completely cool, use a pastry brush to brush the glaze over the tops of the cupcakes in a thin layer. Do all cupcakes and then repeat the glazing until each cupcake has at least 3 coats of glaze.
  8. Prepare the icing:
    1. In a stand mixer with paddle blade, or large bowl with electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy and combined.
    2. Add in 4 cups of powdered sugar and the remaining ingredients. Beat until creamy.
    3. Add more powdered sugar until the frosting is of the consistency for spreading or piping.
  9. Ice the cupcakes using the method you prefer, spreading or piping it over the glazed cupcakes.
  10. To finish cupcakes, twist the thinly sliced lime halves and place on top of the cupcakes. Add a straw if desired and sprinkle with flake salt very, very lightly. Just a few flakes per cupcake. You want the hint of salt, but not too much.

Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Yeild: 6 – 7 Cups

This sauce is a bit sweet and sour, but still retains the basic elements of a traditional BBQ Sauce. It’s very versatile and creates good carmelization and glazing when added on the grill. Pork and chicken work very well with this sauce.

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
6 Cloves Garlic, whole
4 Cups Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 Cup Ketchup
2 Tablespoons Molasses
4 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worchestershire Sauce
1/8 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup Beer
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce or other Sweet/Tart Jelly
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1/2 Teaspoon Tabasco (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gather all ingredients.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchement paper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss onion, garlic, and rhubarb with avocado oil. Spread mixture evenly on prepared baking sheet. Cook in oven for 18-20 minutes until rhubarb is soft. Transfer to a large sauce pan.
  4. Add all other ingredients except salt, pepper and tabasco to the sauce pan. Heat over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the rhubarb is falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Using an immersion blender, blender or food processor, puree sauce until very smooth.
  6. Return sauce to pan if not using an immersion blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, optionally, add Tabasco sauce to taste. Adjust level of sweetness by adding additional brown sugar or molasses if desired, or make more tart/acidic by adding additional apple cider vinegar. This is where you can adjust the sauce to your personal taste.
  7. Insure all ingredients are well combined.
  8. Will store refrigerated for up to a week. For longer storage, you can freeze BBQ sauce in a freezer container for up to six months, or use a canning method for storage up to a year. I chose to process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes to can the BBQ sauce for longer storage.
Ribs cooked on the Pellet smoker glazed with the Smokey Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

Notes

If you don’t have Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce on hand, you could substitute Red Pepper, Tart Cherry, Currant, or a combination of these Jellies to get the sweet/tart flavor needed. Optionally, you could add fresh strawberries or raspberries during the phase when you cook down the roasted rhubarb with the other liquid ingredients.

This is a forgiving sauce, and you can play with it to make it your own by changing up ingredients, just checking the flavors and insuring balance. When I first started the sauce it just didn’t seem quite right until I added a very small amount of liquid smoke and that made all the difference.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Ice Cream

Yield: 2 Quarts

I love homemade ice cream. It doesn’t have any added thickeners or stablizers and the taste of fresh ingredients shine through. Many of my homemade ice-cream recipes start with a basic vanilla ice cream and then mix in flavors. Rhubarb-Strawberry sauce as an add-in gives this ice-cream a sweet and tart taste.

I use whole milk and real heavy cream to keep the butter fat high. A combination of vanilla extract and vanilla bean add a boost of flavor and make this ice cream subtley complex. Then I add in some Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce. It’s that simple

I use an ice cream maker to churn the ice-cream. Any ice-cream maker will work, or there are a number of videos on YouTube to follow if you don’t have an ice-cream maker.

Ingredients

Base:
1 Cup Whole Milk
2 Cups Heavy Cream
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/8 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Bean Paste*

Add In:
1 Cup Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce, refrigerated

*If not available, you can either scrape the seeds from the inside of a vanilla bean, or double the vanilla extract in place of the vanilla bean paste.

Instructions

  1. Combine milk, cream, sugar, salt and both types of vanilla into a large mixing bowl; preferrably one with a lid. Whisk until sugar and salt combines into the liquids.
  2. Chili for 2-6 hours or overnight. Just before placing in ice-cream maker, stir in the Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce.
  3. Place ingredients into an ice-cream maker and follow manufacturers directions, or use alternate churning method.
  4. Can serve immediately, or freeze for firmer ice-cream.
  5. To store: Place ice-cream in a freezer-safe container and keep in the freeezer.

Notes:

  1. In a hurry? Place the mixture in the freezer for 1/2 hour and then move to the refrigerator for 1/2 hour.
  2. Other fruit sauces or mashed fruits in simple syrups can be used in place of the Rhubarb Strawberry Sauce.

Mushroom, Pancetta & Italian Sausage Stromboli

Stromboli is spiral of Italian goodness. Traditionally, it is made with pizza dough or bread dough. The dough is shaped into a rectangle for rolling with meats, vegetables and cheeses. Unlike pizza or calzone, sauce is not used when forming the Stromboli as it it brings too much moisture. Some people do choose to do this, but if so, it must be done with a light hand.

Departing from tradition, this Stromboli is made using puff pastry instead of bread or pizza dough which take time to rise. It is quick and easy to thaw, and makes an amazing flakey brown crust.

Sliced Stromboli with Marinara

Ingredients

8 oz Pancetta, chopped fine
6 oz. Sweet Italian Sausage
1 large Shallot
16 oz. White Mushrooms
4 oz. Oyster Mushrooms
6 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Cup Flat-Leaf Italian Parsley, chopped fine
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 Sheets Puff Pastry (1 box)
1 Egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon Water

Instructions

  1. In a large deep dish skillet or dutch oven over medium heat, cook Italian Sausage until no longer pink and beginning to brown, crumbling the sausage as it cooks. Remove sausage from pan and place in a bowl lined with paper towels to drain. Wipe all residual fat that has rendered from the pan away with a paper towel (drain the pain if sausage is very fatty)
  2. Add Pancetta to pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the fat renders, 10-12 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking pancetta until it is crisp.
  3. While the Pancetta cooks, finely chop shallots with a knife or foood processor and place in a bowl. Do the same with the mushrooms, placing in a separate bowl once finely chopped.
  4. When the Pancetta is finished cooking, add the shallots to the pan with the pancetta and rendered fats. Cook until the shallots are tender about 5 minutes.
  5. Add mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and begin to brown. It is important that the mushrooms are dry. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  6. While mushrooms cool, roll out the two puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface into 12″ X 10″ rectangles.
  7. Add Parmesan and Italian parsley to the cooled mushrooms. The residual heat from the cooking will melt the cheese and wilt the parsley. Taste before seasoning as the Italian Sausage and Pancetta and Parmesan carry salts and seasonings. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
  8. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. Divide mushroom mixture in half and spread half on each rolled pastry sheet, leaving a 1/2-inch border on the long sides, and a 1-inch border on the top and bottom of the pastry sheet.
  10. Make an egg wash by beating the egg with the water in a small bowl.
  11. Using a pastry brush, place a strip of egg wash along the top border of each pastry sheet.
  12. Roll first pastry, starting at the short edge closest to you towards the top border with egg wash. Roll tightly and uniformly to make a log. Seal the roll using the moisture from the egg wash. Place seam side down on the pastry sheet. Repeat with second pastry.
  13. Brush each Stromboli roll with egg wash. Fold ends under sealing the filling inside.
  14. Bake Strombolifor 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and rest on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.
  15. Serve immediately with a dipping sauce of your choice. Try the basic marinara sauce here.

Notes:

  1. It is very important that the filling is dry to prevent a soggy crust. Allow yourself at least an hour of cooking time and do not rush the process of cooking the mushrooms until dry.
  2. Keeping fats from the sausage and pancetta to be just enough to prevent sticking of the shallots and mushrooms during cooking will help keep the dish dry.
  3. Using a large skillet helps keep mushrooms in a thinner layer, increasing cooking surface and allowing liquids to evaporate.
  4. Use your favorite combination of mushrooms…just keep the weight to 20 oz. total mushrooms before cooking.
  5. A garlicky white sauce would be a good alternate for dipping.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Sauce

Yield: 8 – 12

I remember first eating rhubarb out of my Great-Grandma Lamb’s garden. Esther Lovina Heaton Lamb was the first person to introduce me to the marvels of rhubarb (and gardening in general). As a skinny six year old, I would raid the garden in late spring for gooseberries and tart rhubarb stalks. My face would pucker, but I loved a fresh stalk of rhubarb. Sometimes I even added salt to it. It was years before I could get my mind around cooking the stuff and adding sugar to it. My mother did not encourage eating sugar, and I didn’t know what I was missing, so we were both happy.

I use this sauce over ice-cream, with butter for rolls and bread, in grilled cheese and charcuterie sandwiches, as a base for BBQ sauce, and as the start to a family favorite: Strawberry – Rhubarb ice-cream. The quanities here are for a large batch recipe, but it can be cut down by 1/2 or 1/4 easily to make a smaller batches. It freezes well, or can be canned for longer shelf-life.

Ingredients

8 Cups Rhubarb, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
8 Cups Strawberries, washed and quartered
1 to 1 1/2 Cup Sugar, to taste
1 Lemon, juiced and seeds discarded
1/2 Cup Water

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Use only one cup of sugar initially. Additional sugar can be added later in the process if desired.
  2. Place on stove top and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer (medium to medium-low) and cook for 45 minutes, or longer, depending on how thick you want the sauce. Stir frequently to prevent sugars from sticking to bottom of pan and scorching. Near the end of cooking, taste and adjust sugar in 1/4 cup increments until desired sweetness is achieved.
  3. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate to store for up to one week. Freeze for up to six months, or utilize a sterile canning process to preserve for up to one year.

About Rhubarb

I have two beautiful rhubarb plants just off the border of the back lawn. Rhubarb is one of the things I can grow in the open yard vs. the fenced off garden area because the deer, rabbits, squirrels and birds will leave it alone. My rhubarb plants were established from rhizome starts provided by a neighbor reducing his rapidly expanding crop. I felt fortunate and grateful to recieve a well-acclimated, edible variety. Today, it is well established and produces up to 5 pounds of rhubarb per plant per year. Eventually, I will need to divide it and share it with another rhubarb enthusiast.

Rhubarb is grown from divided rhizome roots, or seed, does best in Northern climates, and begins to emerge from dormancy in the late winter and early spring. The leaves are actually poisonous and should be avoided. Wild animals know this instinctively and will not bother Rhubarb mixed in with your ornamental beds. Do not try to feed it to domestic pets and livestock.

Rhubarb does not have to be relegated to a formal fruit and vegetable garden setting. There are ornamental, medicinal, and culinary varieties. I accidentally bought an ornamental cultivare as an early vegetable gardener, quickly recognizing my mistake when it bloomed beautifully, and rained seeds from very hollow stalks that were not at all edible. I’ve transferred this lovely specimen to a place where it provides cover for baby Quail each year, and now grow the edible varieties separately.

Ornamental Rhubarb

Edible Rhubarb

Rhubarb is a vegetable and not a fruit as some would suspect as it is often paired with sweeter fruits and berries. While the leaves are poisonous, the stalks are edible. Rhubarb has high fiber, and is a great source of calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and manganese. It does carry oxalates (as do almonds, spinach, kale and nut butters) which inhibit the uptake of calcium. Yes, it ironic that it has high levels of calcium and oxalates that bind that calcium and prevent absorption all at the same time. Cooking helps break down oxalates and combining with fruit further reduces the concentration even further allowing more of the available calcium to be absorbed.

Rhubarb is originally from Asia, where it was primarily used for medicinal purposes. It was highly valued for its healing property and was traded with other countries by Asian emperors as a commodity along with tea. It made its way to Europe, via the Silk Road, but was not really introduced into culinary arts until the 1700’s where it first emerged as a filling for pies and tarts.

Homemade Meatballs

This recipe is for a big batch of meatballs, intended to be prepped ahead and frozen for use in dishes such as traditional spaghetti and meatballs, meatball soups, meatball sandwiches, appetizer meatballs, etc.

Yield: 80 meatballs if formed into balls using approximately 2 tablespoons of meatball mixture. I typically use a cookie scoop to measure so I get uniform meatballs. Meatballs can be made larger or smaller to your preference. I like mine to be 2 tablespoon size as they reduce slightly when cooked and make the perfect 1-2 bite meatball. This recipe can also be reduced to 1/4 the amounts listed to make approximately 20 meatballs for a single meal and used immediately.

This recipe has very basic seasoning and is neutral so that flavors so the meatballs can marry with a variety of sauces and soup bases. This allows for versatile use of these meatballs in a variety of dishes.

Ingredients

20 oz. Ground Pork
32 oz. Ground Beef
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
15 oz. Ricotta Cheese
1 Cup Dry Bread Crumbs
4 Eggs, beaten
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Tablespoon Onion Powder
2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley

Instructions

  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine and evenly distribute seasonings.
  3. Using a measuring spoon or scoop, measure meat mixture into the preferred size meatball.
  4. Place meatballs in uniform rows on the parchment paper until you fill baking sheets. Keep going until you run out of meat mixture. You can place the meatballs very close to each other, but do not let them touch.
  5. Cover meatballs lightly with plastic wrap and place baking sheets in freezer for 2 hours until meatballs are frozen.
  6. Remove meatballs from freezer and package using zip-top freezer bags.
  7. Return bags to the freezer until ready to use.
  8. For use in other dishes, thaw meatballs and then cook according to the recipe direction by oven baking, pan frying or dropping into soup broth. I typically put 2 dozen into a 1 gallon bag. They lay flat in the freezer and stack nicely.

Notes

  • Place 24 to 30 meatballs into a 1 gallon zip-top freezer bag and store them in the freezer flat. By freezing before putting in bags, the meatballs will not stick together when added to the freezer bags. The desired amount of meatballs can be removed individually. The remainder can be left in the resealed bag in the freezer.
  • Other herbs and seasonings can be added as desired.
  • If using a seasoned bread crumb, you may need to reduce the salt in the recipe.

Asparagus Gratin

About 10 years ago I established an asparagus bed in my garden. Each year in late April through June I get a handful of asparagus out of the garden everyday. By the end of each week, I have 2-3 pounds in the refrigerator. Since the harvest time is so short, I freeze some for later, but we eat a lot of it while in season. Our standby is to drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with our favorite seasoning blends and carmelize it on the grill or in the oven.

This weekend, I decided I needed something with a bit more substance as the weather was unseasonably cold and my original plan of grilling was rained out. Having cream on hand, and dibs and dabs of cheese left from making homemade pizza few nights before, I pulled together this quick gratin at the last minute.

This is a great side with any roasted meat, or as a vegetarian main dish. Although it assembles in under 10 minutes, It can easily be made earlier in the day and stored covered and refrigerated until time to bake.

Ingredients

2 pounds Asparagus, trimmed
1/2 Lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
6 cloves of Garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1 cup blended Italian cheeses, such as Pecorino, Fontina, Mozzarella, Provolone, etc. (your preference)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Pour melted butter in the bottom of a 2.5 quart oval baking dish.
  3. Toss asparagus with lemon juice, and then add asparagus to baking dish. Add garlic slices, salt and pepper. Gently toss the ingredients together so garlic and seasoning is evenly distributed. the butter will help these ingredients cling to the asparagus..
  4. Drizzle with heavy cream and sprinkle cheeses over the top.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until asparagus is tender and the cheese is melted.
  6. Set oven to broil and place dish under broiler. Broil 1-2 minutes, watching closely, until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Remove from oven when desired browning is achieved.
  7. Serve immediately.

Notes

  1. Pop the flavor: add favorite herbs to this recipe, adding with the garlic, salt and pepper. Thyme, rosemary, sage, or parsely would all be good additions, individually or as blends.
  2. Turn up the heat: add red pepper flakes to taste.
  3. Explore cheese variations: Gruyere, Emmentaler, Gouda, or white Cheddar would work well in this recipe.
  4. Lower the calories and saturated fat: Use half and half in place of cream, choose low-fat versions of the cheeses, use avocado oil instead of butter.
  5. Keep warm: After broiling, remove gratin from oven and reduce heat to 250 degrees F. Gratin can be kept warm in a low-temp oven for up to 30 minutes, but some cooking of the asparagus will continue.

Lemon Bars

This is one of my son’s favorites. This recipe is quick to prepare, and can be doubled. I usually have the 7 simple ingredients on hand. For the best taste, use fresh lemon juice.

Best served chilled, this makes a wonderful summer time dessert. Easy to make in small or double batches for potlucks, picnics and BBQs, or just to have around the house for a sweet treat.

Ingredients

Crust:
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour

Lemon Filling:
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temperature
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice, room temperature

Optional Topping:
1/4 Cup Confectioner's Sugar 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with parchment paper. Leave enough paper to hang over the sides to make lifting the finished bars out of the pan. Set aside.
  2. Make the crust by mixing the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together in a small bowl. Add the flour and stir to completely combine and form a thick dough. Press the dough evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the crust for 16-18 minutes until the edges are very lightly browned.
  4. Make the lemon filling by sifting the flour and sugar together into a medium bowl. Stir the flour and sugar until they are completely combined. This will allow the flour to fully incorporate into the remaining ingredients for the lemon filling. Add the eggs and lemon juice and whisk until completely combined.
  5. Pour the filling over the hot crust. Bake the bars for another 20-24 minutes until the center is set and no longer jiggles.
  6. Remove bars from oven and let cool in pan until room temperature.
  7. Using the parchment paper, lift the bars from the baking dish. Cut into squares.
  8. For optional topping, sift confectioner’s sugar over the bars.
  9. Cover and place bars in the refrigerator. Chill before serving about 2 hours. Bars will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • Use a glass baking dish for best flavor. Metal dishes react with the acid in the lemon and leave a metalic taste.
  • Doubling the recipe will require the use of a 9 X 13 pan. Bake crust for 18-20 minutes and the filling for 22-26 minutes.