I went through a phase a few years ago where I was obsessed with caramelized onions. I made them everyday to eat on thick toasted slices of bread I was testing, tossed with pasta and goat cheese, or with my morning eggs. They were sweet, charred, and with a dash of salt, perfect on just about anything. Due to some comments from friends and my sister, I am pretty sure that my house, as well as my person, were pretty pungent, but I didn’t care. I love the smell. It was comforting to come home and have the scent of onion perfuming the air.
Finished, caramelized onions.
Working as a pastry chef can be challenging at times, to keep your creativity fresh. I read everything I can get my hands on, taste the work of other chefs, travel to new towns to see what is happening in their food scene, scour the internet for new techniques and back myself against a wall, to force myself to come up with new ideas and methods.
Some days, I go back to my favorites. Hunting for new scone flavor variations the other day, I wandered around the kitchen. I scoured the walk-in, the freezer, dry storage. That is when I saw the onions. As freshly baked bacon wafted through the air, I started to piece together a new scone flavor. It is simple, but caramelized onions, bacon and cheese scones are one of my biggest sellers, so apparently others feel the familiar tug of comforting flavors too.
I hadn’t made caramelized onions in a long time and once I started at work, I couldn’t seem to stop. Zipping to the market after work, I filled my basket with onions and headed home to continue my caramelized project.
Pale onions, on their way to being caramelized.
One of my favorite ways to eat caramelized onions is in quiche. Silky custard of eggs and milk, flaky pie crust and all the little bits and pieces you have left over in the fridge, tossed into the mix. I keep a pie crust rolled out in a pie plate in the freezer at all times. It is my quickie dinner when I just don’t feel like assembling a full meal. I mix up the egg and milk (or cream if you are feeling dangerous), toss in the bits and bobbles I can find. Pop it in the oven for about 45 min-1 hour. While it bakes, I toss together a small salad, and pour glasses of wine. It’s simple, like the caramelized onions, but it’s comfortable.
As Mr. Paul Child walked in the door, mid-caramelized onion sautéing on the stove, the first words out of his mouth were “Ohhhh! What smells so good in here?” I knew I was marrying the right man.
Caramelized Onions and Quiche
For the Caramelized Onions:
2 large onions (any variety that you like)
A couple tbsp good olive oil
A pinch of salt
For the Quiche:
Pie crust in a 9.5" or 10" pie plate; chill very well (or keep in the freezer like I do)
1/2 cup milk (you can also use all cream or half milk, half cream)
Various odds and ends (I used zucchini, red pepper, teleme cheese, caramelized onions and bacon)
Salt and Pepper
For the caramelized onions:
Heat a sautee pan over medium heat. Pour in a couple tablespoons of good olive oil. You want to keep the onions from sticking to the pan, you do not want your onions drowning in oil. Toss in your onions. This process will take a bit, so be patient. Allow the onions to sweat, stir occasionally. The onions will start to color. When they do, try not to move them around too much. You do want to move the onions, to allow the color to cover all the onions, but you also want them to color, and moving them around a lot will not allow them to get nice and caramelized. If you like a paler caramelization, take them off at your preference.
Whisk egg and milk together. Toss all your odds and ends in the frozen pie crust. Pour your egg mixture over.Pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 45minutes to an hour. Basically, it should not be jiggly in the middle and golden brown on top. I always end up covering the top with aluminum foil near the end, to keep the top from over browning.
Serve with side salad and a glass of Arizona Sand Reckoner white for a perfect summer evening.
The past few months have been busy. The past few weeks have been insane! My latest and greatest news is that Pistol Whipped Pastry, my pastry business, is up and running!
We are generating interest and picking up some great clients, plus placing PWP products on the shelves at some fabulous local stores. PWP is looking at getting into some of the farmers markets soon. I will keep you updated on where you can grab some tasty PWP treats, and we hope to see you there.
Mr. P.C. and I are in full wedding swing. That means eating better, which isn’t hard to do with all the gorgeous veg and fruit coming up at the farmers markets. I sat by the open window this weekend, and ate a pound of strawberries. The ruby strawberries were intended for a tart (err, eating better means fruit on your tart, right?), but once I bit into one, I knew they wouldn’t make it to my pastry.
I have more strawberries coming this week, but this time, I will attempt to resist, so that PWP strawberry jam doesn’t suffer.
Are you enjoying the strawberries coming in? How are you eating them?
1. Owl Cake Tin – I am obsessed with owls. Probably because my grandma used to collect them, and having them around reminds me of her. These were too cute to pass up. World Market for $8.99. I can’t wait to bake up some little owl cakes.
2. Rush Creek Reserve, from Uplands Cheese Company – This cheese is amazing! You purchase a round, and then cut the top off, because the cheese inside is so liquid, gooey. The ripeness of the cheese communicates the change in the cow’s diet, from grass-fed during the summer, to dry hay of the winter season. The small wheels are wrapped in spruce bark, which infuses a woodsy flavor to the rounds. Mr. Paul Child bought me a round of their latest and last release of the season, for my birthday. It only lasted two days with a box of Trader Joe’s crackers. Contact Wedge & Bottle to see when Uplands Cheese Company will begin to ship again later in the year.
3. Packaging for my pastry – Honestly, there are so many choices out there. It is complicated, to want to present your product in a beautiful way, and yet at the same time, to not spend a fortune to do so. I’ve been getting samples and trying to make wise decisions. What is your favorite kind of packaging, and what do you dislike in packaging?
4. Garden & Gun Magazine – If you have never picked up this homage to the south, you need to! Beautiful photos, well-written stories, and delicious recipes from incredible southern chefs, it is the accumulation of everything I want in a magazine. For sale at Barnes & Noble or subscribe on their website.
Moving to a small town again, wasn’t exactly in my plans. I guess when I pictured life in a small town in my future, I assumed it would be Cornville, AZ or Jerome, AZ where I would be surrounded by amazing wine, and easily be able to get down to Phoenix to see my friends and family, for dinners and drinks in my favorite restaurants. Enter, love of my life, Mr. Paul Child, and off I go packing up my cookbooks and knives, into my FJ, and accept a job as an executive chef for a farm bakery in Yuma, AZ.
I grew up on 60 acres of land and went to college at a school that was built by farmers and known for a long time, for it’s agriculture. Apparently, living in a city has become ingrained in me, because the moment I see a combine driving down the road, on my commute to work, I started laughing. The third day it happened, I started to get pissed, trying to get around it. Now, it’s a common day annoyance.
This is a massive change in my life and exciting development in my career, all rolled into one. It thrills me that my job includes being able to order seeds for the fields and watch the guys lay the irrigation lines for the pumpkin patch (see photo above), knowing that soon I will pull them from the fields and turn them into delicious edibles. It’s a dream gig for a chef to have a field of produce at their fingertips, and now it has happened to me!
Mr. Paul Child no longer has to listen to me proclaim my love for chickens and how convenient it would be for me to be able to retrieve eggs for cooking from a coop, if I had one. The shabby chic coop will house 50 hens and is made from all up-cycled materials from the farm and the vintage shop. It’s going to have a chandelier and a guest book for kids to leave the chickens messages.
Part of what we are trying to do at the farm is to feed people good food. In a world where store bought bread doesn’t mold for a month or longer, we are going to be offering breads to our customers. I’m in love with breads, and the simplicity of the ingredients, that must be manipulated by a skilled hand, to create a rustic, beautiful product. This is how they made breads for centuries before we got the cockamamie idea to commercialize the process. Our breads will be made by hand, specifically, my hands.
I am missing Phoenix and all my friends and family there. I’ve been trying to create really healthy habits for myself and just be kind to myself. While I’m working every day getting everything in line for the opening of the farm bakery, a couple weekends ago, I zipped over to San Diego for the Color Me Rad, color run. If you haven’t done one of these 5K’s, it’s amazing. A sea of people in white arrive, a sea of people colored by pink, purple, blue, green, and yellow cornstarch leave. It’s renewed my desire to get my butt into shape so that I can run a half marathon at some point.
I made my first solo pot of my mom’s (passed down to her from my grandma) sauce. Waking up to the smell of onions and garlic being sautéed, is home for me. Letting the scent permeate the house, so that leaving and coming back, it smells like my parents house…happiness. I think I needed the reminder, since I’m missing my family.
And now, a new recipe for you. I’m sure I’ve seen a recipe like it somewhere before. Have you ever craved a recipe you’ve never had? That’s how this was for me. I was hungry for it, and I had to create the recipe from the taste I dreamed of in my head. I just knew I wanted veggies, herbs de provence and some crunch.
Mr. Paul Child likes veggies, but doesn’t love them like I do. I could eat roasted veg for dinner every night, but I’m pretty sure he would view that as torture. I have to come up with different ways to get him to eat veg, hence this recipe. Yeah, there’s some parm and breadcrumbs (panko) on there, but it’s a light sprinkle, and in the end, he’s eating veggies.
The farm I work at has a U-Pick, and I can’t wait till we get the delicious fall veg coming off the fields that I can use with this recipe.
Roasted Veggies with Panko
2 small zucchini
1 small-medium eggplant
3-4 small potatoes, purple or red
1/2 cup panko (can be found in the asian section of most grocery stores)
1/4 cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. herbs de provence (I use about 1 1/2 tsp. but herbs de provence is not for everyone, so start will a little less if you have never tasted it.)
freshly ground pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Rub a baking dish with olive oil. I use a Le Creuset baking dish that's 10" X 6 3/4" x 1 1/2", and it works perfectly.
Mix together panko, parm, herbs de provence, salt and pepper. If you want more cheese, add more cheese. I usually do this by eye.
Thinly slice the veggies, making each slice close to the same thickness. I cut the eggplant in half length-wise and then slice them from each half.
Toss the veggies with olive oil. Start with one veggie type and line them standing up down the shorter side of the pan. Sprinkle with panko mixture. Line with the second veggie type. Sprinkle with panko mixture. I think you get the point. Once layered, I sprinkle any remaining panko mixture on the top and drizzle the little drizzle of olive oil that's left in the veggie bowls, over the top. Pop in the oven for 30 minutes to bake. After 30 minutes, my oven doesn't get it nice and browned, so I turn on the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the cheese and panko topping.
I turned 30 this month. When I confessed my hesitance for this birthday, most of my friends rolled their eyes and told me how much better my 30′s would be. “But I thought I’d have done more at this point in my life,” I whined. They’d shake their heads and sip their drinks.
I couldn’t ask for better friends, who have shown me love all month long, and helped me celebrate a big moment in my life. Dinners and drinks, laughs and putting all the big dreams I have for this year out to others, letting them help boost them up with positivity.
For my actual birthday dinner, I wanted to do all family dishes, that meant something to me. There was genuine love and multiple helpings. At the end of the day, comfort food, comforts all. My friends appreciated the love and the generational hands that passed the knowledge down.
It was simple entertaining: mason jars filled with candles, rustic rounds of sourdough kneaded by my hands, family recipe for saccarine pickles, a small pot of my clementine marmalade, overflowing bowls of cinnamon bourbon pecans, a multitude of cheese, the family sauce with bison meatballs, spicy salmon, roasted veg, our now 4th generation family cake called ‘mush cake,’ and cake plates overflowing with my cupcakes.
Wine filled glasses, cupcake wrappers and crumbs litter plates and napkins, while conversation filled the empty spaces. An obscene number of wine bottles start to line the counter.
This month, I’ve been working on a few new projects complete with new recipes, and in doing so, feeding myself some delicious food (think about the 3 rounds of sourdough now sitting on my counter, goodbye waistline!). One of the recipes I’ve been tweaking and falling in love with are these apple tarts. The crumble sprinkled on top is hearty, and after a day of pinches each time I passed the prep table, I was in need of another batch. Whoops!
The apples are Arkansas Blacks from the farmers market and they are perfect for these tarts. The texture reminds me a bit of a McIntosh, and the skin is a deep purple, that is almost black. Topped off with crumble and some creme fraiche swirled with maple syrup. A last taste of fall here in the desert as we slip into spring. I eat the test tarts warm from the oven, straight off the sheet pan.
All-in-all, a great birthday month. Happy Birthday to my fellow, Aquarians! I hope you enjoy these tarts as much as I do.
**Update: I just got the okay to release some good news, right before I was about to hit send on this post. I will be a Season 6 Blogger on Molly Mahar’s fabulous site Stratejoy, with 6 other amazing women!
Please check us out soon, over on Stratejoy.
Apple Tarts with Crumble and Maple Creme Fraiche
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Sugar, Light Brown
4 oz. Butter, Unsalted, Cold and Cut into Cubes
1/2 tsp Sea Salt, Fine
1/2 tsp. Fall Spice
1 Tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1/4 cup Whole Flax Seeds
For the pie dough:
2 1/4 cups AP Flour
1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/4 cup Sugar, Granulated
1 tsp. Sea Salt, Fine
1 cup Butter, Unsalted, Cold and Cut into Cubes
3/4 cup - 1 cup Water, Ice Cold
1/2 each Zest of Citrus
For the assembly of Apple Tarts:
3-4 Apples (Your choice!)
3-4 oz Butter, Unsalted, Browned
Fall spice mixed with Sugar, Granulated
Good Maple Syrup
Place flour, sugar, butter, salt, fall spice and ginger into a food processor. Pulse till combined. Dump onto a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan. Mix in the whole flax seeds. Bake at 375 degrees, flipping with a spatula, every 5-6 minutes till golden brown (roughly around 15-20 minutes).
Place the AP and whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, citrus zest and butter into the food processor. Pulse till butter is incorporated and about pea-sized. Slowly add the water till the dough comes together. Don't over process, you don't want to build too much gluten. Place in a ziploc bag or plastic wrap and allow to rest/chill in the fridge for at least a few hours.
Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece out and using a larger bowl or plate as a stencil, cut a circle out. If the dough gets too soft, place it in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes.
Place first dough round on a parchment lined sheet pan. Paint a little brown butter onto the round (not too much, you don't want it pooling). Sprinkle some of the fall spice-sugar mixture on the round.
Slice the apples. I like to cut in half and remove the core, then slice each half. I do thin slices so that they will bend as I arrange them in the tart.
I layer a few apples on the bottom, in the center of the dough round, then fold the edges of the dough around/up to create a shell.
To create my apple layers: I place down apples, a brushing of brown butter, and then sprinkle fall spice-sugar. After I have folded the edges of the dough up, I brush them with some brown butter and sprinkle with fall spice-sugar. I then try to almost create a flower with the apple halves, off-setting the overlapping halves. I still continue to do the layering with the apple slices, brown butter, and fall spice-sugar.
Continue assembling the rest of the tarts, and make sure to do the assembly on the parchment lined sheet pan, so that you don't have to move your tarts after they are assembled.
Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is golden brown.
Sprinkle warm apple tarts with crumble, and drizzle with maple swirled creme fraiche. Stuff yourself with apple goodness.
What kind of soup did you eat as a kid? I can remember the red and white Campbell’s Soup cans of tomato, chicken noodle and bean & bacon. My brother and I would roll in from some hard playtime in a foot of freshly fallen snow, and a good amount of icicle eating, to hot bowls of soup and Saltine crackers.
I gave up icicle eating long ago (eww, rain gutter water!), plus there’s no snow here in Arizona, but when I do come in from a cold, strenuous hike, I need some soup to sooth my achy muscles.
My custards class in culinary school, I gained 10 pounds. Those plunky pounds slipped on my body as I inhaled spoonfuls of pastry cream, downed little disposable metal cups of crème brûlée with crunchy shards of burnt caramel, freshly spun ice cream sucked from the churning machine, and precious pots de crème lapped up with broken bits of cookie chunks. There is nothing more satisfying than a custard. My go to dessert is usually a pint of ice cream, but my heart will always belong to a perfectly baked custard.
This was my first New Year in a long time not working! It was a fabulous night with family and friends. I’m so excited for all my projects coming to fruition in this new year. Happy New Year, dolls!
When I was 6 years old, my grandparents got divorced. My grandma moved away and cut off communication with my dad (her son) and in turn, the grandkids. Four years later, my grandpa started dating a woman named, Marilyn. A widower and French teacher, originally from Vermont, she brought peanut butter popcorn, scavenger hunts and a vivacious laugh to our lives.
For the past 20 years, my siblings and I have had a grandpa and a Marilyn. While Christmas presents don’t matter as much the older you get, I always find myself waiting eagerly for the box that Marilyn sends. What’s inside the wrapping paper and boxes are not mere objects, but a representation that she cares about us, thinks about us, and knows who we are.
A few years ago at Thanksgiving, I briefly mentioned that I was interested in learning how to make Springerle cookies, because my great-grandfather used to make them every year. Come Christmas, a package arrived, and Marilyn had found me a Springerle rolling pin.
Last night, a package arrived on the doorstep. I opened the box from Marilyn to find a stunning vintage metal cake stand she found in an antique shop. It’s not about the perfect present, but the fact that someone knows you well enough to see something and think of you.
If you don’t have a grandma, I highly suggested getting yourself a Marilyn.
There is chaos in my wine fridge. I am susceptible to wine shops and in turn, new bottles that I feel I must taste. Add on top of that the few wine clubs I belong to plus holiday gifts, and the problem then arises in a jumble of bottles. Where did I get this one? How long did the wine shopkeeper or winemaker tell me to store before drinking? Was I saving this one or that one, for a special occasion?
Thus, my fabulous new method of keeping notes on my bottles. A $5 box of shipping tags. They are perfect for attaching notes to your bottles, like where you got the wine, when you got it, how long to hold it, and if you want to make sure no one touches a particular bottle. Then once you drink a bottle, jot a note on the other side of the tag, to be entered later into your wine app or wine notes.
The tags I use are Avery Shipping Tags (11004) with reinforced hole, 2 ¾” x 1 3/8” and there are 100 tags in a box. May your wine fridge be as organized as mine is now.