Friday, August 21, 2009

Bumbleberry Cobbler

It's really hard being a dessert writer on a diet!!! Especially in the summer, when the produce beckons... and so another lowered fat recipe gets born! And when you're dieting, you sure don't want to spend hours in the kitchen working on that lowfat recipe, when you should be out jogging or playing golf - to work off the calories you are about to put into your mouth. It's back to the farmer's market to see what they have that would work well in my mixed berry (mostly) cobbler. I've loved the peaches and nectarines from Fruit Bat Produce. You can see Elaine's lovely peaches with the fruit pandowdy recipe ( or the Magic Cobbler recipe (, but today I'm just going to buy some of her beautiful, green, mountain apples. I think they'll work nicely to provide some texture to this berry dessert.
farmersmarket 001 Here you can see Elaine, from Fruit Bat Produce, with her wonderful apples, apple butter, figs and barely visible, her peaches. She's at the Meeting Street Farmer's Market near Ballantyne, Charlotte, NC.

One of the problems with cooking berries (especially acidic strawberries and raspberries) is that cornstarch doesn't work that well to thicken it. Flour can get gummy, and tapioca isn't widely used or available. To help combat this, I've added more cornstarch, but also a little hot water which will dissolve the cornstarch and get it cooking faster. The cobbler needs to come to a boil so that the cornstarch can thicken. The pectin in the apple will also help a little to thicken the cobbler. But this is a runny cobbler - no doubt about that!! Because the cobbler has so little fat in it, I've used cake flour, which will help keep it tender, and I'm also making a very soft dough, which will rise higher, make it lighter and also more tender. Although light on fat, it's still got a lot of calories, so if dieting is your aim, eat less of the sauce and have only as a special treat!

1 pound strawberries -- washed, hulled and sliced
6 ounces raspberries – washed
1 pint blueberries – washed
1 apple -- peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
5 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup sugar

1/4 cup hot water

Cobbler Batter
1-1/2 cups (150 grams) sifted cake flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon transfat-free shortening (Crisco not butter-flavored), cold or frozen
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold

3/4 cup buttermilk, cold
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup (32 grams) bleached flour, measured by fluffing, scooping and leveling
1 tablespoon skim milk
1 teaspoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 425°F., with an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Have ready a decorative 2-quart casserole dish.
Combine all of the fruit, cornstarch and sugar in the casserole dish, and stir to combine. Let macerate while you make the cobbler topping. Just before placing the biscuits onto the fruit. stir in the hot water.
To make the cobbler batter, mix the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knifes, cut the butter and shortening into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Use your fingers to break up any lingering lumps.
In another bowl, mix together the buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk, while stirring with a fork and to make a mixture that looks like cottage cheese.
Place a thick sprinkling of the bleached flour on a plate. Using an ice cream scoop, scoop up a ball of dough and place it on the floured plate. Sprinkle the top liberally with some of the flour.
Flour your hands, pick up a dough ball, and rock it side to side in your hands to both coat it with flour, and knock off any excess. Gently transfer it to the top of the fruit. Flatten it slightly. Continue shaping and placing the biscuits until the whole top is covered.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the cobbler from the oven and lightly brush the top of the biscuits with some of the skim milk, using just enough to moisten the tops and brush away any residual flour. Sprinkle lightly with the sugar. Return the cobbler to the oven and cook another 5-10 minutes until the biscuits are crisp and dry and the juices are bubbling up. The juices must be bubbling or the cornstarch will not thicken the berries and the filling will be too runny. Remove it from the oven and cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Eat the cobbler while still warm. The cobbler can be made 1 day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Cover with foil and bake at 350°F. for about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook another 5-10 minutes until the filling is warm and the top is firm.
Per Serving: 319 Calories; 4g Fat (10.9% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 69g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 5mg Cholesterol; 298mg Sodium.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Zucchini Stuffed with Corn, Mushrooms, Roasted Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs


We have a great farmer’s market, The Meeting Place (at Cedar Walk near Ballantyne) that’s open on Tuesday afternoons. It’s 5 minutes from our house – so much more convenient than the Saturday morning markets scattered around town. Here’s my favorite farmer, Bill, the owner of The Specialty Farmer, from Waxhaw, NC

farmersmarket 005

I always buy tomatoes, corn, zucchini and potatoes from him (sometimes watermelon, too) . The last time I was there, he had these globe zucchini that I’ve never seen before, and which I thought would be great for stuffing.


Usually, I might choose a stuffing with rice or another grain, but because I’m on a diet, I thought corn might be a better choice. His corn is not very starchy, and it just pops off the cob with a very crunchy sweetness. Paired with his tomatoes, it’s really delicious.

1 medium zucchini or 1 medium globe zucchini
2 teaspoons oil
6 medium mushrooms – sliced
2 medium ears of corn, husked and cut off off of the cob
4 medium roasted tomato (see recipe) or sundried tomato slices –diced
fresh herbs to taste(1-2 tablespoons basil, thyme, lavender, etc)
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons parmesan cheese

stuffed zucchini3

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. with a rack in the upper middle position. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the lower rack.

Halve the zucchini tip to stem. With a small spoon, scoop out most of the flesh so that the walls of the zucchini are 1/4- inch thick. Dice the flesh and set aside.


Season the cut sides of zucchini with salt and pepper, and brush with oil. Set the zucchini halves cut-side down on the hot baking sheet on lower rack. Roast the zucchini until tender, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, flip the zucchini halves over leaving them on the baking pan.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high; stir in the zucchini flesh and corn and cook until almost tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, herbs and salt and pepper to taste.


Divide the filling evenly among the zucchini halves. Sprinkle on cheese and breadcrumbs. Place the baking pan with zucchini on the upper rack, and bake until heated through and the topping is spotty brown, about 6 minutes. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Slow Roasted Tomato Slices

I’ve finally found a vendor at my local farmer’s market that has tomatoes that taste like old-fashioned tomatoes. You remember – tomatoes that smell great, are juicy and flavorful without being too acidic. These were the kind of tomatoes that we had in Italy, and I bemoaned the fact that they were no longer available in this country. They’re delicious on their own or paired with fruity olive oil and mozzarella. My husband, however, doesn’t really like tomatoes – especially juicy ones with lots of seeds. Slow roasting tomatoes, especially really good tomatoes, might seem like a waste, but roasting them brings out even more of the sweetness and is especially nice for those who like the flavor, but not the texture of regular tomatoes. They’re like sundried tomatoes, but more fleshy and not oily. You can use oven roasted tomatoes in salads, sandwiches, with couscous and other grains, and any time you might use sundried tomatoes. My next post will be a stuffed zucchini using these oven roasted tomatoes.

3-4 ripe tomatoes, washed
1 tablespoon olive oil (you’ll use much less, but the pastry brush will soak up the oil)
fresh herbs of choice (basil, thyme, lavender, etc)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking pan with non-stick foil (sometimes called grilling foil)

Cut the tomatoes into 1-inch wedges – maybe 8 for large tomatoes and less for smaller ones. Using a small paring knife, cut out the seeds and flesh so that you are left with a tomato wedge that is a scant 1/8-inch thick. If there is a lot of flesh once the seeds are discarded, you can roast this flesh, as well (it depends on the variety and size of tomato).


Set the wedges on the foil, fleshy side up.


Brush the fleshy side lightly with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and herbs. Bake for about 2 hours until the slices are browning, but are not completely dried out.



You can see whether you like them less done, as in the top picture, or more done, as in the second.

Let the slices cool and then place them in a storage container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ma’amoul or Klaicha

Recently, a friend of mine had an exchange student from Iraq staying with her, and she thought it would be nice to make some familiar food for him. She really didn’t have much time to cook that week, and I remembered that I had a Middle Eastern cookie in my cookbook, Light Jewish Holiday Desserts. My recipe was adapted from a Lebanese Jewish recipe, and not wanting to be an American lout, I thought it would be a good idea to do some Internet research to see if these cookies were also eaten by Iraqis (of any faith). Sure enough, a very similar cookie came up under the name Klaicha or Kleicha. The student was touched that I went to the trouble for him, and all of the guests enjoyed these sweet treats. Like many other recipes, there are regional and familial versions of this cookie, some being so remotely alike that it’s hard to believe it’s called the same thing. In any case, to be most authentic, you’ll probably want to follow the higher fat version (below) using orange flower water instead of orange juice. Since I don’t like orange flower water, I always make them with orange juice. My lower-fat version follows at the end of the recipe.

Makes 25 cookies

2 cups (260 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour, fluffed, scooped and leveled into measuring cups
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 tablespoons orange juice (or 2 teaspoons orange flower water and the remainder water)

Date Filling
8 ounces whole, pitted, dates (about 1/2 cup, packed)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons melted unsalted butter

For the Pastry
Place the flour in a processor bowl. Add the cardamom, if using it. Scatter the butter on top of the flour. Pulse-process until the butter is cut into the flour to resemble coarse meal, about five 3-second bursts.

Sprinkle the orange juice over the flour. Process until the dough forms a ball. It should be very soft and moist.

Remove it from the processor, wrap in plastic wrap, and set aside, at room temperature, for 1 hour.

While the dough is resting, make the date filling. If the dates are very soft, they can be processed without cooking them. Place them in the processor, add the cinnamon, and process until finely chopped. Add the butter, and pulse-process to incorporate (if you continually process instead of pulse-process, the paste gets very soft, and changes to an unpleasant color). If you have miscalculated the moistness of your dates, and feel they need to be softer, remove the metal blade and set the processor bowl in a microwave. Heat on medium-high for up to 2 minutes. Pulse-process again to smooth out the paste. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F., with the shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the dough into 30 balls. Press your thumb into the center of each ball to form a cavity. Form the dough into a little “pot” with the sides being about 1/16th inch thick. If the dough flattens while you are trying to make the pot, knead in a little bit of flour. If the dough is a little too sticky, sprinkle the work table and your hands with a little flour and then work the dough. Fill each pot about three-quarters full with a rounded half-teaspoonful of filling. Press the dough to seal in the filling and then roll the dough between your hands to form a flattened ball.


To make the characteristic design in the cookies, you will need a special mold. An alternative is to score the balls with fork, or to use some sort of makeshift mold. I used an egg separator that had a very similar design to the traditional mold. This was floured, and then the dough ball was set in and pressed down lightly.


Flip the ball out of the mold, set on the parchment lined sheets and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until lightly browned.

Slide the parchment onto cooling racks and let the cookies cool before storing.

To make lower-fat ma-amoul, use the following ingredients and the instructions listed above:

1 -1/8 cups (120 grams) sifted cake flour, lightly sprinkled into a measuring cup
1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour, lightly sprinkled into a measuring cup 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, optional
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 tablespoons corn syrup
3 tablespoons orange juice (or 2 teaspoons orange flower water and the remainder water)

Date Filling
8 ounces whole, pitted, dates (about 1/2 cup, packed)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons orange juice

Magic Peach Cobbler

This very homey and easy dessert has more biscuit than fruit and not much juice. In fact it’s almost more like a mix between biscuit, custard and warm cake. Some of the batter stays “uncooked” and contributes to the pleasing custardy texture. You’ve probably seen recipes like this on the Internet. It’s the one where the biscuit batter starts out on the bottom and then rises to the top. I made 4or 5 versions of it until I found one that worked – in most of them the center didn’t cook, leaving a soupy, doughy interior that wasn’t very pleasant. And if you try to make it with more fruit and more juice, it doesn’t cook well at all. The best recipe was from Paula Deen, but I found hers too sweet and too fatty for my taste (although the Southerners who ate it, loved it). My variation on her recipe is what you’ll find here. It’s still firm and cakey, but it has a little less sugar and butter.

Serves 8

4-6 peaches, to make 4 cups of sliced peaches (see instructions below)
1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
Fruitfresh®, or 2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour (or use bleached flour + 3/4 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons baking powder)
1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the middle of the oven.

To peel the peaches, heat water in a pot to simmering. Have a bowl of ice water next to the stove, and a large bowl to put the sliced peaches in. Add the Fruitfresh or lemon juice into the ice water. Slide a few of the whole peaches into the simmering water and cook for 30 seconds.


Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to the ice water. While you peel these, add the next batch of peaches to the simmering water. They’ll be done by the time you finish peeling the peaches.


It’s easier and safer to cut the peaches into slices while the skin is still attached (witness my bandaged finger!). Afterwards, you’ll easily be able to slide the skin off of the slices. Once the peaches are sliced and skinned, slide them back into the ice water.


Empty out the simmering water, place the drained peaches into the pot along with 1 cup sugar, and the water. Stir, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Put the butter in a 3-quart baking dish and microwave, covered for 1 minute.
Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the flour. Make a well in the center, and add the buttermilk, gradually drawing the flour mixture into the buttermilk as you mix it. It will be slightly lumpy. Pour the batter over the melted butter. Do not stir. Using a slotted spoon, spoon the peaches on top of the batter. Pour the syrup over the peaches.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the cobbler is nicely browned and if you poke it a bit, you don’t see any uncooked batter rising up from below.

Let the cobber cool for 45 minutes, and then serve (ice cream is nice!). If making ahead, reheat the cobbler at 300 degrees F. for 15-25 minutes, or until just warm.


This peach cobbler will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator. Reheat it before eating.