Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blueberry and almond baked yogurt tart

Baked blueberry yogurt tart. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
When the summertime blueberries are plump and sweet, I try to save a pint from grabby little hands and make this lovely fruit, almond and yogurt tart. It has a standard flaky pie crust, and the yogurt gives it dense, cheesecake-y feel to it. The blueberries and almond are, as the French say, classique.

I first made this tart nearly 20 years ago, after seeing Julia Child and guest chef Leslie Mackie make it on PBS' "Baking with Julia." Back in those pre-Google days, I needed the cookbook in order to get the recipe. The book was well worth the investment and the wait for delivery ~ written with Dorie Greenspan, it's lively, accessible and great fun to cook out of. And this yogurt tart is a perennial favorite.

Baked blueberry yogurt tart. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Unlike many recipes that I get from cookbooks, I haven't tinkered with this one much over the years. I tend to sub out the flaky pie crust for another method that has produced more reliable results, but this tart has proven to be reliably delicious every time. Coincidentally, it is the July selection for the Tuesdays with Dorie blogalong, and the blog posts that I read pretty much agree. 

Because the recipe is unchanged, I'm providing the official link to the recipe. It's a keeper, be sure to bookmark it. And if you want a keeper of a baking book, "Baking with Julia" is a good one. Here's the link to the recipe:


Baked blueberry yogurt tart. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Roasted okra chips, #LetsLunch

Okra. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
It doesn't seem like summer in the South until a friend gives you a bag full of fuzzy, prickly okra pods.  Like squash and zucchini, okra comes into season and home gardeners go from craving the funky vegetable to wondering what on earth they're going to do with it all. And that's where I come in, because I never turn down homegrown produce, especially okra. Stewed gumbo style with bacon and tomatoes and served over rice, it's classic mid-summer comfort food. It also takes well to roasting, a method that's perfect for a handful or a pound of pods, whatever you can get your hands on.

I first picked up the method for cooking okra from Southern cooking legend Nathalie Dupree, formerly of Atlanta, now living and writing in Charleston, South Carolina. Nathalie slices the pods, coats them with olive oil and roasts them in a hot oven. The result, depending on how thick you slice it, is a crispy okra chunk or chip that's a perfect summer side dish.

Roasted okra chips. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 Roasted Okra
1 pound okra pods
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, preferably fine-grained "popcorn salt"

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice okra in chunks or more thinly for a chip, place in a bowl. Pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil over the okra, toss and season lightly with salt. Spread on baking sheet and roast for up to 10 minutes, checking often to make sure they don't burn. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, season carefully - it's so easy to over-salt these! - and serve.

This post is part of #LetsLunch, a monthly Twitter party on a given food subject. This month's theme is vegetables to celebrate Washington Post Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan's newest cookbook, "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook"  (Ten Speed Press, $24.99).

Annabelle‘s Farmer’s Market Gazpacho at Glass of Fancy
Cheryl's Egg-Drop Broccoli in Ginger-Miso Gravy at Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Eleanor‘s Green Beans Two Ways at Wok Star
Grace‘s Vegetable Tempura at HapaMama
Jill‘s Fusilli with Corn Sauce at Eating My Words 
Joe‘s Guaca-Chi at Joe Yonan
Linda‘s Chocolate-Zucchini Twinkies at Free Range Cookies
Linda‘s Gateway Brussels Sprouts at Spicebox Travels
Lisa‘s Totally “Free” Veggie Soup at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Pat‘s Umami-Laden Green Beans at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook
Vivian‘s Kangkong (Water Spinach) with Fermented Beancurd, Chili and Garlic at Vivian Pei

Text and images copyright 2013, Lucy Mercer.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
It's so easy to use up summertime blueberries ~ eaten out of hand, or in granola parfaits or salads, any time they can be enjoyed for their own tart and sweet selves. But save a few of the tart and sweet treats for this blueberry coffee cake.

This buttermilk coffee cake is delicious on its own, and downright delightful with the addition of blueberries. It's really just a loose scone dough, spread into a square pan and baked. The recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, "Treasured Recipes of the Charleston Cake Lady" by Teresa Pregnall (Hearst Books, 1996). Mrs. Pregnall was a retired secretary in Charleston when she decided to turn her hobby of baking cakes into a business. Through the Charleston Cake Lady business, she shipped more than 20,000 cakes all over the country. Her cookbook is a winner, too, with recipes just right for home bakers.

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried

1. Heat oven to 375. Grease an 8-inch square pan.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, and the salt into a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to remaining crumb mixture. Dissolve the baking soda in the buttermilk and add to the crumb mixture, stirring until the dry ingredients are well moistened. Add the vanilla extract.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. scatter blueberries across the batter and press in. Sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned on top.

4. Cool the cake in the pan. Cut it into squares when the cake is completely cool.

Adapted from Treasured Recipes from the Charleston Cake Lady by Teresa Pregnall 
(Hearst Books, 1996)