The popularity of the food networks and all the cooking shows, demos and competitions that are out there might lead one to believe that we Americans really like to cook. Why is it then, that so many people say that they don’t know how, or never learned? And why, oh why, is so much of what’s in our grocery stores pre-packaged “convenience” food? It’s actually a complicated question. My guess is that people would cook or bake at home more often if they just had a few basic recipes that they were comfortable with and that they could alter to their own tastes easily.
Here are a two really simple recipes, one using only 3 ingredients, that we actually use here at the inn, and that would be a boon to anyone’s kitchen repertoire!
These are those little puff pastry desserts, also called elephant ears, palm trees, or pigs ears, that look complicated but in fact are one of the easiest things in the world to make. Best trick of all? Make a bunch at a time, freeze before baking and keep on hand in the freezer. They only take 20 minutes or so to bake and you’ll have a delicious treat for those unexpected guests.
Ingredients: (all three of them!)
1 sheet puffed pastry, 1.5 cups granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix the sugar and the salt together. Pour out half of it on a clean work surface and spread it around to about the size of the pastry sheet. Place the sheet directly on top of the sugar. Pour the other half on top of the pastry sheet. Spread this second half evenly over the surface of the pastry. Using a rolling pin, roll the sheet out to an even square (the sheets are generally rectangular), pressing the sugar into the pastry. Now, fold the sides of the sheet inward to a little less than halfway to the center point. Then, fold each side in toward the center again, leaving a tiny space down the mid-line of the sheet. Now fold one side over the other like a book.
Seeing a picture of an unbaked palmier always helps figuring out the folding process:
Place the log on a cookie sheet and refrigerate (or freeze) until firm. Slice the log into 1/4 inch wide slices, and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. You should get about 3 dozen from each log , depending on the size of the sheet. Freeze until very firm. Then store in a freezer bag until ready to bake.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the palmiers ( do NOT thaw them out!) on a parchment lined cookie sheet with plenty of space in between them. Bake for about 10 minutes. The bottom side should be getting golden brown. Flip palmiers over to caramelize the other side, bake for another 10 minutes.
The finished product looks like this:
The great thing about these is, besides being super easy, they are flexible: you can have them sweet or savory. You can add cinnamon to the sugar, or ground up nuts; spread a thin layer of jam on the top layer before covering with sugar. Anything you like really. For a savory snack, skip the sugar obviously, and spread the top with either pesto, tapanade, sun dried tomato paste, cheese; again, whatever flavors you like. Here’s where a simple Google search will yield tons of usable ideas for you.
AVOCADO TOAST RECIPE
By Maryjeanne.li via Wikimedia Commons
Another “recipe” that you might go to again and again is avocado toast. Recipe is in quotes here because this is not a recipe as much as a technique perhaps. But whatever you call it, it’s quite delicious.
You will need:
1 ripe avocado, bread of your liking (really, any kind will do), salt, a lemon, cilantro if you like it
First, slice your bread if it’s a baguette or an Italian loaf; whatever thickness you like. You can also use pre-sliced whole grain bread. Whatever. Toast it. Or stick it in a pan of hot olive oil. It doesn’t really matter. Meanwhile, open your avocado and scoop it out into a bowl. Mash it up with a fork, roughly and leaving chunks in it. Or make it smooth. Whatever. Put a little salt on it and squeeze some fresh lemon juice on it. Mix it up a bit. Add cilantro if you’re using it. (Add whatever you like, maybe some chili powder or hot sauce; maybe lime instead of lemon, the choice is yours).
Take your toast and slather it with the avocado mix. Try not to eat it standing there in your kitchen. We have served this as a side to an omelet filled with salsa and cheddar. Yummy! You can make it a nice main course by making two toasts and setting them on top of a big salad tossed with all kinds of things that you like. Or, you can just eat it over the sink. Whatever. Are you sensing a pattern yet? And. . bonus: avocados are good for you (yes, they are fatty, but it’s the good kind!), so you can make this as often as you want guilt free!
Please, DO try this at home! We will share more in the coming weeks.
Guests can try these wonderful recipes at our Maryland bed and breakfast.