Summer Orzo Salad with Grilled Sweet Corn and Brussels Sprouts

Whew! Grad school can take a lot of out a girl! I am happy to report that I have completed my last final, submitted my last paper, and given my last presentation. And this means...on with the making from scratch! 

With a glass of homemade white peach wine in hand, I fired up the charcoal grill in our urban oasis of a backyard. I can hear the unmistakable rhythms of Cumbia music softly murmuring from one of my neighbor's open windows. As I hear little mews coming from my own window above my head, I look up and see my sweet kitten, Lyla, inquisitively watching me as I prepare the grill. Smoldering charcoal is one of my most favorite smells - it smells like summer.

This little gem of a salad is wonderful for this time of year. The flavors are bright, but the balsamic reduction adds a little gusto for when the evening chill kicks in. Personally, I prefer this salad served cold. Also, this dish gets better after a day, so if you are planning on serving it for company, I recommend making it a day ahead of time. If you do not have a grill, you can use your broiler in the oven.

What You'll Need:
  • 15 to 20 large brussels sprouts
  • 1 ear of sweet corn
  • 1/4 purple onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup orzo
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh curly parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh greens
  • parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Prepare your grill. Shuck the corn and cut each sprout in half lengthwise. Place the corn and sprouts over medium high heat and cook until corn is done and sprouts are softened (about 5 minutes for the corn and 15 for the sprouts). Be sure to turn the corn every couple of minutes to ensure even cooking. Remove the corn and sprouts from the grill and let cool. Once the corn has cooled, using a serrated knife, cut the corn from the cob. It's okay if kernels stick together - it adds to the charm of the presentation! Combine the corn, sprouts, and thinly sliced onion in a large bowl. 
  2. Next, boil 5 cups of water. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the orzo. Cook for about 8 minutes until al dente. When the orzo is done, drain thoroughly and pour on top of the vegetables. Cover the bowl with a lid. The heat from the orzo will slightly wilt the raw onion and bring out it's sweetness while still maintaining the lovely crispness of texture. 
  3. While the pasta is cooking, make the balsamic reduction. In a small sauce pot, cook the vinegar for 5 minutes over medium high heat. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. The reduction will thicken as it cools, so do not be alarmed if it does not look thick enough after the 5 minutes. Also, this is part of the dressing for the salad, so we do not want a super thick reduction anyway. 
  4. Once the orzo is added to the vegetables, add the oil, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir thoroughly to make sure everything is well incorporated. Serve on top of a bed of fresh greens and drizzle the reduction over the salad. Garnish with parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast Stuffed With Spiced Apples

Well, we are inundated with about seven feet of snow here in Boston so I figured, it's time to eat a delicious, comforting, doesn't-matter-if-there's-snow-on-the-ground-until-July breakfast. I've posted a recipe for stuffed French toast before (Spiced Challah French Toast Stuffed with Wild Huckleberries and Cream) and I find that no matter how crummy it is outside, the cinnamony goodness always makes me feel warm and toasty. Here, we used preserved apples that we made in the fall, but if you don't have any on hand, you can use a fresh apple (even though it's not 100% seasonal). So put on some good tunes, pull out the skillet and get to cookin', cause it's going to be awhile util any of us can go anywhere!

What You'll Need:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 4 pieces of cinnamon raisin bread*
  • 1/2 cup preserved spiced apples OR 1 fresh apple, 1/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1 tablespoon maple syrup**
  • 4 oz. whipped cream cheese

*If you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can make your cinnamon raison bread from scratch using my recipe for Whole Wheat and Roasted Oat Bread. Just before baking, flatten the dough out and spread 1 cup of raisins evenly on the dough. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar (the more the better) and roll the dough into a log. Bake as directed.

**If you need to make your apples, peel and chop your applies into 1/2" cubes. Combine the apples, water, cinnamon, and maple syrup in a pot and bring to a boil. Cook until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

  1. Combine the eggs, water, and cinnamon in a large bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth and the yolks and whites are completely combined. 
  2. Place a skillet over medium heat. Melt a pat of butter in the skillet to prevent sticking.
  3. Dip each bread slice in the egg mixture and make sure it is fully coated. Place coated bread on the skillet and cook until golden brown on the side, about 3 minutes. Flip the bread and cook on the other side until golden brown, about another 3 minutes. 
  4. Remove the toast from the skillet. Spread 2 ounces of cream cheese on 2 pieces of the bread. Pile the apples on top of the cheese and place another piece of bread on top. 

Yield: Serves 2

A Maker's Home

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the "maker movement". I've never really thought of myself as a maker, really I'm just someone who likes to cook and make things. Not quite sure what a maker is? Watch the video and if you like Seasons From Scratch, then I'm sure you're probably a maker yourself!

Whole Wheat and Roasted Oat Bread

I love the ritual of baking bread: the blooming of the yeast, the kneading, the rise, the punching down, the second rise, the baking, and finally, the eating. I also love the warm, sweet scents that accompany this ritual. Baking bread can be challenging, and many view it as a chore, but instead, let yourself get lost in the ritual. Be patient. 

This hearty bread has a beautiful crust and soft crumb. The roasted oats give this bread a nutty caramel flavor. Try adding fresh herbs, such as sage or tarragon, when kneading for a more complex flavor.

What You'll Need:
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast*
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup walnut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cup white, all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup quick rolled oats
*A word about yeast. When I first began baking bread, I always bought yeast in packages. I often found that my yeast often did not bloom correctly, resulting in flat, stiff bread. I recommend using Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast from the bottle. It's a little more of an investment to buy it in bottle form, but it's actually a better deal and seems to work much better than the packages. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the oats on a cookie sheet and spread evenly. Toast the oats in the oven for 5-7 minutes until fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. This allows the yeast to bloom - it should look foamy, if not, throw it away and start again.
  3. Once the yeast has bloomed, add the walnut oil, flours and salt and gently stir with a fork to combine. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Knead for an additional 2 minutes, working in the oats as you knead. 
  4. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft free spot until the dough doubles in bulk, about 90 minutes.
  5. When the dough has doubled, gently punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead gently for 30 more seconds and form into a loaf. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
  6. While the dough is resting, place a sheet of parchment on a cookie sheet. After the dough has rested, place the loaf on the prepared cookie sheet and cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm, draft free spot until it doubles again, about 40-60 minutes (I find the best spot is on top of my preheating oven).
  7. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Once the dough has rested, remove the towel and dust the loaf with flour. Using a serrated knife, slash a long line from tip to tip about 1 inch deep. 
  8. Place the loaf in the oven and reduce the heat down to 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy while still warm with freshly churned butter. 

Yield: 1 loaf

Almond Butterscotch Drop Cookies

Firstly, let me apologize for taking a bit of a break from the posting - getting a masters degree really gobbles up your time!

On with the cookies...

For me, drop cookies evoke so many memories. I remember sitting on the bright red countertop, watching my mother make her famous chocolate-chip cookies, eagerly waiting for her to turn around so I could snatch a secret "taste-test". Despite my attempt to stealthily run my finger along the edge of the bowl and quickly pop the dough into my mouth, she always knew what I was up to. And yet she would always pretend to take a little extra time gathering her ingredients or getting the spatula so I could try to sneak one more delicious dollop. 

Drop cookies are homey and rustic, and they also make a wonderful holiday treat. These cookies are extremely easy to make and don't require a lot of time or effort - perfect for holiday parties, a tasty little treat with hot cocoa, or a secret midnight snack. 

What You'll Need:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butterscotch sauce*
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

*Click the link for a delicious bourbon butterscotch recipe. If you're pressed for time, you can use store-bought butterscotch. 

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, and butterscotch together in a large bowl until fluffy. 
  3. Add the salt, vanilla, and egg and continue to beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Slowly add the flour and beat until just incorporated, do not over-mix.
  5. Add the almonds and with a wooden spoon or spatula, mix until the almonds are evenly incorporated. 
  6. Using two spoons (one to scoop the dough and the other to easy it off the spoon onto the sheet), drop about a tablespoon of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, leaving about 2" of space between each cookie. 
  7. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and enjoy while still warm!

Yield: about 20 cookies

Grilled Peach, Prosciutto, and Rosemary Flatbread with Bleu Cheese and Balsamic Reduction

Peach season is right around the corner and this flatbread is a delicious appetizer for any evening dinner party in the dog days of summer. The sweetness of the peaches with the earthiness of the spinach and rosemary pair beautifully with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the tang of the balsamic reduction. Serve with a bottle of homemade white peach wine.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 12 oz. prosciutto
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • Olive oil for brushing the dough

  1. To prepare the crust, combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a large bowl. Let the yeast bloom for 5 minutes. Next, add the olive oil, flour, and salt to the yeast mixture. Stir with a fork until ingredients are thoroughly combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Gently kneed until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place the bowl over the dough and let rest for 5 minutes. 
  2. While the dough is resting, prepare the peaches and balsamic reduction. Peel and pit the peaches. Cut the peaches into rounds about 1/4" thick. Grill over medium-heat grill on both sides for 2 minutes each or until grill marks appear. Remove from grill and set aside. For the reduction, pour the balsamic into a small sauce pot and simmer over medium-high heat until it has reduced by half, about 5 to 7 minutes. 
  3. Once the dough has rested, it is time to make the flatbread. The flatbread itself is grilled and the process needs to go fairly quickly to avoid burning. I have found it is best to use a grill set to low heat, or if using charcoal (like me), let the coals cool a bit before attempting to grill the pizza. Fresh coals burn too hot and will burn your pizza in a matter of seconds.
  4. Cut the dough in half (since this recipe is for 2 eight-inch pizzas) and leave the other half under the bowl. Roll out the dough into an 8" round. Using a pastry brush, brush olive oil on one side of the dough. Place the dough on the grill, oil side down and cover with grill lid. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes until grill makes appear on the bottom of the dough. Brush oil on the top of the dough and flip. Next, quickly add the toppings in the following order: peaches, prosciutto, spinach, rosemary, bleu cheese. Cover the pizza and cook until the cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  5. Remove the pizza from the grill and repeat the process to make the second pizza. 
  6. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction and enjoy!

Yield: 2 eight-inch pizzas

Spiced Challah French Toast Stuffed with Wild Huckleberries and Cream

Believe it or not, this recipe is actually perfect for a morning campfire breakfast (assuming you have a cooler while camping). Whodathunk you could make such a decadent breakfast while camping? You can mix the eggs ahead of time and cook the toast on a skillet right over an open flame. On your morning trek, pick a few wild huckleberries, bring them back to the campsite and prepare this delicious breakfast.

What You’ll Need:

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 4 slices of day-old challah bread, 1” thick
  • ½ cup fresh huckleberries
  • ¼ cup cream cheese at room temperature
  • 2 pomegranate pluots, plums, or plumcots for garnish, cut into wedges
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting
  • Maple syrup (optional, but highly recommended)

  1. Combine the eggs, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl and whisk until the egg yolks and whites are thoroughly combined.
  2. Next, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, gently coat the challah slices in the egg mixture and lay flat on the skillet. You should hear a slight fizz when the challah touches the hot skillet. If you don’t, your skillet is not hot enough. Cook the toast until golden brown on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes each side.
  3. Remove the toast from the skillet and gently spread the cream cheese on 1 side of 2 of the toasts. It is VERY important that the cheese is at room temperature - if it isn’t it will be too hard to spread and it will glob. Next, spread the huckleberries on top of the cream cheese. Place the undressed toasts on top of the cream cheese and huckleberries (you’re essentially making a sandwich).
  4. Finally, garnish with pomegranate pluots (my personal favorite), plums, or plumcots. Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar over top and drizzle with maple syrup.

Serves: 2