Cherry-Lemon Clafoutis

We spotted black cherries and Meyer lemons in the market the other day, things that aren't consistently available where we shop. We usually eat the cherries right out of the bag, plucking them off the woody stems with our teeth and spitting out the pits. And the lemons? Perfect for tart, creamy, velvety lemon curd. But Amy has been slightly obsessed with French cuisine lately and wanted to try her hand at baking something customarily French: cherry clafoutis.

Clafoutis can be made with any fruits or berries, but black cherries are the most traditional. The simple, rustic baked dessert has basic ingredients otherwise: eggs, sugar, milk and flour. It puffs up a bit while it's baking, then slowly but surely deflates, much like the other French classic, souffle. It can be served warm or cold, and is usually garnished with a touch of powdered sugar, although we didn't bother.

Thus it was that Amy found herself pitting cherries (no, not murdering someone, although that's kind of what it looks like...) with a chopstick and baking Cherry-Lemon Clafoutis during this July heatwave. Which is also why we chose to eat it at room temperature.

Cherry-Lemon Clafoutis


ghee (or regular butter), for greasing baking dish
1 pound pitted fresh black cherries
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk (we used 2%)
juice and zest of one Meyer lemon
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a casserole-type baking dish with ghee. Place cherries in the bottom of the baking dish. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add sugar and continue to whisk until the mixture become pale yellow in color, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, lemon juice and lemon zest until combined. Whisk in the flour and salt until combined. Pour the egg mixture into the baking dish over the cherries. Bake for 45 minutes, until the edges are puffed and the center is springy. Allow to cool slightly, then serve warm or at room temperature.


Glamping with Foodies

The Scenery

A few weeks ago, on a perfect early-summer weekend, we went camping. Well, we went glamping, which, in case you don't know, is "glamorous camping." Why was it glamorous, exactly? It wasn't the space, because yes, we were in the middle of the woods with all that entails - bugs, wildlife, heat, bugs. It wasn't the bathroom arrangements, which we won't talk much about here other than giving a huge shout-out to the 3-minutes-for-a-quarter-hot-water-shower that could be considered glamorous to some, we suppose. It wasn't the activities, for while we did a little hiking and kayaking, mostly we hung around the campsite. One of us did manage to look perfect almost the entire weekend (make up, hair, shaved legs and all) (and no, it wasn't either of us). 

Our site

No, what made it glamping was that everyone on the trip is a foodie. The two of us, A Couple in the Kitchen, as you know us. Foodies. Chef L and her boyfriend D. Foodies. And the guy T,  who once worked at Williams-Sonoma and quite possibly has the most fancy camp-cooking equipment anyone could own, and his girlfriend J. Foodies. All of us foodies.

If we must...

Our tablescape

Now we are going to show you photos of some the food we created and devoured that weekend. In the woods. At the campsite. Pinkie swear. 

Please forgive the quality of the photos (#camping) but feel free to drool (#glamping).

Thursday Night Dinner by T and J
Sausage, Peppers, Tomatoes and Onions over grilled polenta cakes

Friday Morning Breakfast by C and A
Shakshuka with grilled pita bread

Friday Night Dinner by Chef L and D
Bouillabaisse over grilled bread

Friday Night Dessert by C and A
Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Kebobs with Basil-Infused Whipped Cream


Oops We Made Them Again - Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Hey, New Englanders. Now is the time to stop the zucchini madness. We know you don't want to be snacking on zucchini bread all fall, and neither do your neighbors and co-workers. Before those vibrant yellow blossoms can become full-fledged green squash, pick them. Stuff them with cheese. Dip them in egg wash and seasoned flour and fry them up. Yes, they are edible. And they're delicious, an Italian delicacy, even. If you like a more tempura-type batter, follow Sara Moulton's recently published recipe. Ours (below) has a lighter, crisper touch that we believe allows the flower, not the batter, to be the star. Make them both and see which you prefer. And just say no to zucchini bread!

8 squash blossoms, rinsed well
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin strips about as long as the flowers
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne pepper
oil for frying

Fill a frying pan up to about 1/2 inch with oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, stuff the blossoms with the strips of mozzarella. Make an egg wash by beating the egg and water together. Then mix together the flour, salt, paprika, black and red pepper in a shallow dish. When the oil is hot enough for frying, dip each blossom first in the egg wash, then in the flour mixture, and gently place it in the oil. Avoid crowding the blossoms - if the pan isn't large enough, do this is two batches of four. Cook each blossom approximately two minutes on each side, then let rest on a paper towel. Eat the entire thing while it's hot!


3 Times Thursday - Summer Salads

For this week's 3 Times Thursday, grab some fresh summer produce from your own garden or buy from your local farmer. July in New England has some of the year's best pickings. Get creative with your ingredients and have a satisfying summer salad for lunch. Here are three of our favorite salad recipes to inspire you. 

3. Watermelon Salad with Bleu Cheese, Pancetta and Basil - Nothing says summer quite like watermelon. In this recipe, we use local yellow watermelon, sharp bleu cheese, crispy pancetta and fresh ribbons of basil to make a unique summer salad.

8 ounces pancetta, diced
1 1/2 cups cubed watermelon
2 tablespoons crumbled bleu cheese
1/8 cup basil, chiffonade
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Cook pancetta until crisp; drain on paper towels. Arrange watermelon on a chilled plate. Top with pancetta, bleu cheese and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic, season to taste with pepper.

2. Roasted Tomato, Fennel and White Bean Salad - Fresh cherry tomatoes burst with sweetness when paired with savory fennel, spicy oregano and starchy beans in this easy salad that is perfect served at room temperature. 

1 large bulb of fennel (also called anise)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups grape and/or cherry tomatoes 
2 large fresh oregano sprigs
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 15-ounce can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Chop the fennel into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet, then add the fennel pieces; sprinkle with salt. Cook over medium heat until the fennel browns and softens, turning occasionally, about ten minutes. Add tomatoes, oregano, garlic slices, red pepper, and black pepper. Toss together gently and transfer skillet to heated oven. Bake for 25 minutes, then mix in the beans. Bake five minutes longer to heat through. Serve at room temperature.

1. Burrata Salad with Strawberries, Basil and Marcona Almonds - Burrata is a fresh cheese with an outer layer of mozzarella that envelops an interior of beautiful cream. Try it with any in-season berries and herbs.

2 balls burrata cheese
4 strawberries, hulled and slices
4 basil leaves, chiffonade
6 Marcona almonds, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Arrange cheese and strawberries in a dish. Sprinkle with basil and almonds, then drizzle with olive oil and balsamic glaze. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Taste of Hartford at ON20

There may be no such thing as a free lunch. But there is such a thing as a discounted lunch. And that is an incredible thing when it's the prix fixe lunch offered at ON20 during this week's 2016 Taste of Hartford. It consists of three courses (starter, entree, dessert) for $30.16 at what we think is the single best restaurant in the Greater Hartford Area, located on the 20th floor of the Hartford Steam Boiler building. Even with a limited menu, Chef Jeffrey Lizotte has continued exactly where his predecessor/mentor left off - serving dishes that are as delicious as they are gorgeously plated, cooking seasonal ingredients with modern techniques and, always, taking our breath away. Every single time.

The newly renovated space exudes intimate elegance, from the slate blue and gold carpet to the dark grey ceiling tiles. Crystal sconces and chandeliers provide understated lighting which is barely needed as the wall of windows gives plenty of sunlight and a gorgeous view of the Connecticut river, city of Hartford, and the hills beyond. A platinum Greek key design and iridescent blue drapes play up the two-toned blue-gray chairs which possess a quirky detail on the back - a silver handle. Perfect for Michael, the restaurant's maitre d', a consummate gentleman whose bonhomie is part of what brings us back time and time again, to pull out the chair for a lady.

Today we started with the duck confit which was served with a black cherry tomato gastrique and tagaiassca olive shortbread. The confit was well-seasoned and tender, but one can't help but wonder how Chef got so much flavor into that gastrique, which was delightfully dark and rich. The other starter we chose was the agnolotti, perfect pasta pillows served with buttermilk braised sweet corn that seemed to have been roasted first, and a milky garden herb nage (stock). 

For entrees, we chose the broiled porgy, one of the better-eating local fish found in the Sound. This was served with lobster confit, avocado, snap peas and marinated tomato panzanella - or what we thought were perfectly cooked bread-pudding croutons. We could have eaten a whole plate of just those. Our second choice was the honey lavender glazed duck breast with a black mission fig and pickled onion tartine, with a sauce soubise, or bechamel sauce flavored with onion puree. Here was the one misstep in the entire meal, as the fat on the duck was not as fully rendered as it should have been, which made for a few chewy bites. However, the flavor was outstanding.

For dessert, the banana "split" - three scoops of ice cream (Neapolitan, naturally), with caramel, hot fudge, roasted cherry and candied walnuts topped with a dollop of freshly whipped cream - truly hit the summer spot. The chocolate araguani (Valrhona's 72% bittersweet chocolate made from rare Venezuelan cocoa beans) tart was deep and velvety smooth, as well as luxuriously garnished with flakes of gold leaf. That was served in perfect balance with a refreshing lemon verbena sorbet that we are intent upon trying to recreate at home, since we have lemon verbena in the garden. (Chef Lizotte, if you are reading this, feel free to send me that recipe).

The Taste of Hartford offers a lot of choices. In the past we've experienced some ups (incredible steaks at The Capital Grille), and some downs (churned-out chicken at the well-known upscale small local chain that we won't name here). While a typical meal at ON20 can be beyond the reach of many pockets, there is no reason not to splurge this week, when, for the experience as a whole, it must be the best deal in town. 


Go Local Magazine - July 2016 Issue

Go Local Magazine is a local lifestyle magazine promoting life around the Massachusetts/Connecticut line. The magazine features nearby businesses where you can play, shop and eat, and showcases the citizens who make the region a great place to live. The July issue is filled with people and places that are invigorating the Go Local area. Consider it required summer reading!

On page 30 you can find our recipe for Dry-Rubbed Ribs, perfect for when the forecast includes a sure chance of barbecue. Amy wrote the article on area resident Nick Glomb and his dream to open "The Family and Friends Roadside Cart" (page 27). There's a list of community concerts and another with seven great ice cream spots. So read the current issue online here, or pick up your FREE copy today and Go Local!