June 28, 2010

Cherry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream

I'm ending my Father's Day menu installment with the recipe for the cherry cobbler I made especially for my Dad. See, he loves cherry pie, but then again who doesn't? It is about as quintessential Americana as the timeless apple pie. Every Thanksgiving, when putting together our menu of sides and desserts to go along with the turkey of choice that year, a cherry pie is always included. My dad doesn't care for pecan, the aforementioned apple, or even pumpkin. Since the cherry pie usually belongs to him and him alone, a canned cherry pie filling and store bought crust usually suffices. However, that is not how I prefer to assemble my desserts. Especially during the peak of cherry season. I bought a large bag of dark, sweet cherries and they certainly tasted as advertised. They were plump and juicy- the flesh the color of a mature merlot. Thankfully I bought more than I needed for the cobbler, because I just couldn't resist eating a handful or two while meticulously pitting each cherry. And though the cherries were the real star of this dessert, the crust was a fierce competitor. It was impossibly fluffy, thanks to the addition of buttermilk and heavy cream. The cobbler didn't need anything else at this point- it was already quite tasty, but I decided to make a batch of homemade vanilla ice cream. Partly because cobbler and vanilla ice cream go together like peas and carrots, but also partly because I had just bought a new ice cream recipe book by David Lebovitz and I was dying to try one of them out. Vanilla ice cream, though standard, is sinfully delicious and rich when made the traditional French way with egg yolks heated with cream, but when paired with a fresh-from-the-oven cherry cobbler, it's out of this world. 

Cherry Cobbler


For cherry filling-
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
12 cups fresh or frozen pitted tart cherries (about 4 pounds fresh, picked over)
2 tablespoons Frangelico or Di Saronno Amaretto
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 tsp almond extract
¼ tsp allspice
2 tbsp lemon juice

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup chilled buttermilk
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream


1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. To make filling, whisk together sugar and cornstarch in a large heavy saucepan. Add fresh cherries, liqueur, vanilla, almond extract, allspice and lemon juice and bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally. Simmer mixture, stirring, 4-5 minutes and transfer to a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Set aside.

3. For topping, whisk flour, 1/2 cup sugar and next 3 ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Add butter; rub in with fingertips or use a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Slowly add buttermilk and cream, tossing with fork until dough comes together.

4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls over hot filling to cover. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake cobbler until topping is golden and tester inserted into center of topping comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Serve cobbler warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves 12

Vanilla Ice Cream


1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream, divided use
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Be careful to not let the mixture boil. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, add the vanilla extract, and stir until cool over an ice bath.

4. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving for another use, and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Makes about 1 quart

June 26, 2010

Stuffed and Grilled Jalapeño Peppers

I have had my eye on the jalapeño grill rack from Sur La Table for quite awhile now, but never had a real reason to buy it- that is until last weekend. Making stuffed and grilled jalapeños part of my Father's Day Menu gave me the perfect excuse to go out and make the purchase. I love jalapeños. Fried, stuffed, sliced, pickled, on top of a taco, wrapped in bacon, puréed in salsa, you name it. I even have several jalapeño plants growing in my new garden in my backyard. I scoured online for different recipes, but never came across one that appealed to my liking. I knew exactly what I wanted from these particular jalapeños. I wanted a creamy cheese filling and plenty of smoke flavor. The grill would take part of the latter. All I had to do was come up with the perfect cheese filling, which I think I managed to come pretty close to. The beauty of cheese stuffed jalapeños though, however, is that any combination of cheeses can be substituted in this recipe to fit your own personal tastes. Give it a Spanish flair by adding Manchego or perhaps try goat cheese. The possibilities are endless really, just remember to pace yourself. 

Stuffed and Grilled Jalapeño Peppers


18 large jalapeño peppers
6 oz cream cheese, softened
¾ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup minced green onions
1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste

Optional Add-ins:
cooked ground spicy sausage
chopped and sautéed bacon
1/2 cup corn kernels


1. Cut ¼- inch off the top of each jalapeño; reserve the tops. Using a thin knife, small melon baller, or pepper corer, hollow out the centers of the peppers, removing the seeds and ribs; do not cut through the flesh.

2. Prepare a grill for indirect grilling over medium-high heat.

3. In a bowl, stir together the cream cheese, Monterey jack, cheddar, green onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the center of each pepper with 1-2 tbsp of the cheese mixture, filling to within 1/8-inch from the top. Place the filled peppers upright in a jalapeño pepper roaster and set the tops back on the peppers.

4. Place the pepper roaster on the grill over indirect heat and cover the grill. Roast the peppers until they are tender and the cheese in melted, about 25-30 minutes.

5. Transfer the peppers to a platter and serve immediately.

June 24, 2010

Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad

I made this particular salad for the first time last summer, when my mom came to visit me in New York. I took her to Central Park for a gourmet picnic with a menu that included grilled vegetable panzanella, spicy apricot glazed shrimp, and the now famous (around my inner circle at least) chocolate-caramel-espresso bars (too bad I can't really take credit for them...). I haven't made the watermelon salad since, but I've been itching to for quite some time. While watermelon isn't my favorite fruit, there isn't much else that tastes quite as good on a sweltering hot summer day. The list of ingredients might sound odd at first, but the flavors mix and mingle so well. The sweet and juicy watermelon contrasts perfectly with salty feta, peppery arugula and acidic balsamic- a perfect balancing act. The flavor combination was exactly what I was looking to add to my Father's Day menu of grilled quail, stuffed jalapeno peppers, grilled corn, and cherry cobbler. There is nothing better than using summer's bounty to your advantage to create a memorable and delicious meal. 

Watermelon, Feta and Arugula Salad with Balsamic Glaze
Recipe Courtesy of Bon Appétit


1 5-ounce package baby arugula
8 cups 3/4-inch cubes seedless watermelon
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, crumbled
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar glaze (see note)


1. Arrange arugula over a large platter. Scatter watermelon, then feta on top. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper.

Note: Balsamic vinegar glaze can be found in the vinegar section at many supermarkets. If unavailable, boil 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 6-7 minutes.

June 22, 2010

Father's Day on the Grill: Quail with Pomegranate Glaze

I've never been particularly good at picking out gifts for friends or relatives belonging to the male gender. However, shopping for my dad takes the stress of gift giving to a whole new level. He's a simple man with few interests beyond sports and wine (as well as my cat- He really loves my little Oscar) and there are only so many necessary items you can give a person associated with these said interests. Sentimental and handmade items have always had their place, like the hand painted mug or "family portrait" I so meticulously crafted out of crayons and watercolors during my earlier years, but I guess you could say I'm a little old to pass off a gift like this. I can, however, make a homemade meal, something that is just as personal and straight from the heart as the popsicle stick frames spattered with glitter and glue that I used to be so proud of.

Firing up the grill is, with out a doubt, my favorite way to prepare a meal during the hot summer months. I love the smell of the smoke and sitting outside with a cold beverage while waiting for the food to cook. Any special meal made at my house during June or July is guaranteed to come hot off the grill, and Sunday night's Father's Day feast was no exception. My original plan was to make hamburgers and class them up a bit with a smoky bacon pimento cheese spread, however, considering we had just had bison burgers only days before, I decided to go a different direction. I had been telling my mom earlier that week about one of my new favorite restaurants in Dallas, Victor Tango's, and the delicious quail they serve there, so quail managed to stay on my mind throughout the week. I've never attempted to make a dish with the tiny little bird, but how hard could it really be?

As it turns out, not that hard at all. The most difficult part about the whole process was finding the actual quail, but I managed to find some frozen ones at Central Market. But at this time of year, that may have been my only option considering quail (hunting) season is around November, or so my manly, pro-hunting buddies tell me. In my efforts to spruce up the quail and add a little extra flavor, I came up with a pomegranate glaze to brush on top of the quail as they were grilling. It was quite successful if I don't say so myself. I served the quail alongside some grilled corn, which was accompanied by cilantro lime butter, a watermelon, arugula and feta salad with balsamic glaze, and stuffed jalapeno peppers that I roasted on the grill as well. But my real gift to my dad this Father's Day was the cherry cobbler I served for dessert. My dad absolutely loves cherry pie, but I thought a cobbler sounded a little more celebratory of summer. My dad loved it. He loved the whole meal actually. I think it's safe to say that my gift was an all around hit. Who say's you need money to buy a great gift? 

Stay tuned to see the recipes for the watermelon salad, jalapeno poppers, and cherry cobbler later this week!

Grilled Quail with Pomegranate Glaze

1 cup pomegranate juice (I used Pom pomegranate-cherry juice, use any variety you like)
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses or mild-flavored molasses
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ancho chile powder
juice from 1/2 large lemon
salt and pepper to taste
12 quail, fresh or frozen and thawed, butterflied


1. Pre-heat the grill to medium-high heat.

2. Mix the first 7 ingredients together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Pour once cup of the glaze into a small saucepan and set aside. If using fresh quail, season with salt and pepper as well. (The frozen quail I used was pre-seasoned).

3. Place the quail, breast side down, and grill for 3-4 minutes until the skin is browned. Turn, baste, and continue to grill for 3-4 minutes longer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and turn the quail again back to breast side down, baste, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn once more, baste and cook for 1 final minute.

4. Meanwhile, bring the reserved glaze in the saucepan to a boil and reduce by half. Serve alongside the quail.

Serves 4-6 (2-3 quail per person)