Dine Out Milford: Through July 23, prix fixe dinners $ 20.95 or $ 27.95, prix fixe lunch $ 17.95, dineoutmilford.com.
Flights of Fancy: July 20, 4:30-9 p.m., registration at The Study at Yale, 1157 Chapel St., New Haven, infonewhaven.com/flightsoffancy, $ 20 ($ 25 at the door) includes tasting glass, reusable shopping bag, parking at York Street Garage (150 York St.). Downtown New Haven’s premier wine, food and shopping crawl returns and features in-store wine and food tastings, a closing reception and special discounts at more than 25 downtown merchants.
Consiglio’s Murder Mystery Dinner — “Silver Death”: July 21, 6 p.m., dinner and show at 7, Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489, bit.ly/2cyB02Y, $ 55 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on as you enjoy a three-course dinner. The cast mingles from table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve.
Worth Tasting: July 22, 10:45 a.m., downtown New Haven, reservations required, 203-415-3519, 203-777-8550, bit.ly/1UUyyA4, $ 64. Enjoy tasty samplings from several of New Haven’s favorites. You won’t be hungry after this tour. I will lead this one.
New Orleans Storytelling Night: July 22, 6 p.m., Chef’s Emporium, 449 Boston Post Road, Orange, 203-799-2665, bit.ly/2tkZoec, $ 100. A special evening featuring the tastes and sounds of New Orleans. Entertainment will be provided by New Orleans’ own Renard Boissiere, former Neville Brothers guitarist and current front man of Nardy Boy. Much more than a cooking class, this will be a night of New Orleans-style revelry. Menu: Cajun-baked catfish, Creole jambalaya, spicy collard greens, shrimp and okra hush puppies, beignets. Note: This will be a demonstration cooking class, not a hands-on class.
Connecticut Wine Festival: July 22-23, noon-6 p.m., Goshen Fairgrounds, 116 Old Middle St., Route 63, Goshen, 860-201-4654, bit.ly/2sp017A, $ 27 ($ 35 after July 15), $ 10 for designated drivers/under 21. Fifteen of Connecticut’s top wineries showcase some of their best wines. Sample up to four of each winery’s offerings. Purchase glasses to enjoy at the festival or bottles and cases to bring home. Food vendors, crafters, live music, with a free wine seminar held Saturday and Sunday. New England’s Largest Grape Stomp will be held Sunday.
Dinners at the Farm: July 26-30, Barberry Hill Farm, Madison, Aug. 9-13, White Gate Farm, East Lyme, all events begin at 6 p.m., bit.ly/2tupkmg, $ 125-$ 150. Guests are greeted with an orchard-fruit cocktail and passed hors d’oeuvre and then proceed onto a tour of the farm.. Following the tour, guests are seated beneath a tent at long, candlelit tables with white porcelain settings where they will savor course after course of freshly cooked food with ingredients just picked from the fields outside the tent. Guests will break bread and raise a glass with the farmers, fishermen and others who make up Connecticut’s vibrant agricultural community.
Consiglio’s Cooking Demonstration and Dinner: July 27, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $ 65 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). Preparation of a four-course meal is demonstrated. Each course is shown, step by step, and then served. Learn how to make some of Consiglio’s trademark dishes: Grilled flatbread pizza, Wooster salad, shrimp parmigiana with fresh capellini, creme brulee.
Powder Ridge Beer Fest: July 29, 3:30-9 p.m., Powder Ridge Park, 99 Powder Hill Road, Middlefield, 866-860-0208, bit.ly/2utUb29, $ 24 ($ 29 day of), $ 15 for designated drivers. Beer sampling from more than 20 breweries, home-brew contest, lift rides, keg toss, live music, craft and vendor village and food for purchase.
If it seems as if I have been focusing on fresh produce these past few weeks, you are right. I have been trying to eat a more wholesome, plant-based diet as many of us are today.
Those of us who like to garden and shop the farmers markets are often looking for new ways to use and celebrate fresh produce in our kitchens.
When the word “baking” is mentioned, most think about something sweet and gooey. They are not thinking about using nature’s bounty as an ingredient in both savory and sweet baking recipes. The title of the book “The Harvest Baker: 150 Sweet & Savory Recipes Celebrating the Fresh-Picked Flavors of Fruits, Herbs & Vegetables,” by noted cookbook author Ken Haedrich (© 2017, Storey Publishing, $ 19.95), caught my attention. He talks a little bit about his book at bit.ly/2tmMauf.
If you think about it, many of us are already harvest bakers; think carrot cake, zucchini bread or using unsweetened homemade applesauce or pumpkin puree to replace oil and other fats in recipes. Perhaps not as mainstream is the use of crushed black beans in brownies, beets in red velvet cake, or mashed potatoes in biscuits and bread.
From a summer squash loaf with olives and cheese and spiced sweet potato and chocolate chip bread, to peach pecan shortcake and bolognese slab pie with broccoli rabe, there is something for every taste in the book. Ken hopes this book will awaken the artist in every home baker.
I was delighted to interview Ken, whose ingenuity, gained over three decades of baking, shines through his collection of recipes. I asked why would we want to turn on the oven this time of year? He responded, hard-core bakers don’t go by the season on turning on the oven. Quick breads and muffins bake in 20 minutes to a half hour.
Take advantage of baking with the freshest local summer produce, he said. What kind of peaches will you get in December to make a peach pie? Ken is drawn to rustic pastry rather than fancy decorated cakes. He said produce items are the “paints” to a baker.
One of the things he loves most about harvest baking is serving familiar produce in unfamiliar ways that surprise and delight people. The cabbage pie recipe and the recipe below for chocolate sour cream zucchini cake with chocolate glaze are two examples of using vegetables in a creative way.
Once the local corn crop is ready, I will be making the recipe below for crème fraîche corn quiche. For the recipe for grilled flatbread with hummus and veggies visit bit.ly/2uWUFhP.
I was curious to know why so many people are afraid of making pie crusts and what is the remedy to this fear? Haedrich said not to expect to be an instant expert, but you can become proficient in a short time. People see the perfect-looking pies in food magazines, and when their creation doesn’t look similar they become intimidated and give up.
What they don’t realize is that those picture-perfect pies took perhaps three days to make with food stylists, photographers and lighting specialists doing their magic. Ken suggests lowering your expectations, take your time, have a relaxed attitude about your results, follow the instructions, and make 10 crusts; each one will come out better.
Those who take his online “no more tears pie pastry” course, he said, have perfected their craft, doing it for the pure joy and being on the journey. Check it out at thepieacademy.com. For those who really want to immerse themselves in pie-baking alongside of Ken and other passionate bakers, check out the Lowcountry Pie Getaway at bit.ly/2umlWfq.
After reading “The Harvest Baker,” I know I have gained a deeper appreciation for the colors, flavors and textures that the harvest provides. Now, it’s time to get out your baking gear!
The headnote says: “This is one heck of a cake on so many levels. For starters, nobody is ever going to guess there’s zucchini in here, because it virtually disappears in the baking — there’s not even a hint of vegetable flavor or nubbiness that you might expect from grated zucchini. What you will notice is what a moist cake this is, maybe the moistest chocolate cake you’ve ever had.”
Chocolate Sour Cream Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Glaze
Butter for the pan
3 cups grated zucchini (about 2 smallish ones)
¾ teaspoon salt, plus more for salting the zucchini
2½ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 2/3 cups sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup vegetable oil or light olive oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream, at room temperature
Chocolate glaze (recipe below)
Put the grated zucchini in a colander placed over a large bowl. Salt it lightly, tossing gently to mix. Set aside for 30 minutes to drain.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-by-9-inch cake pan. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and ¾ teaspoon salt into a bowl. Combine the sugar, butter, oil, eggs and vanilla in another large bowl. Using an electric mixer (handheld is fine), beat the ingredients on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until well blended.
Add one-third of the dry mixture to the liquid and blend it in on low speed. Beat in half of the sour cream, followed by another third of the dry mixture, the rest of the sour cream, and the remaining dry mixture. The batter will start to get heavier late in the mixing, and you may want to do the last bit of mixing with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Lift the zucchini out of the colander and give it a gentle squeeze, but don’t squeeze out all the moisture. Add the zucchini to the batter and fold it in with a rubber spatula until evenly mixed. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth with a spoon. Bake the cake on the middle oven rack for 60 to 70 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and cool thoroughly. When the cake has cooled, prepare the glaze, rewarming it if it has firmed up. When it has thickened slightly but is still thin enough to pour easily, slowly pour it over the cake, tilting the cake to spread it around. Cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Makes 16 servings.
¾ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon powdered instant espresso or coffee
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips
Bring cream to a near boil in a small saucepan. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla or espresso powder. Immediately add the chocolate chips. Tilt pan this way and that so the hot cream runs over them. Set pan aside for 5 minutes, then stir the mixture briefly to start smoothing it out. Let mixture rest for another 2-3 minutes, then whisk briefly, until smooth. The glaze will be a little runny at first. If you want thicker coverage, let glaze cool some more.
Ken writes: “Here’s an impressive showcase for fresh summer corn that deserves a place on your summer recipe bucket list. Part Southern-style spoonbread, part savory corn pudding, it’s got a soft, tangy French accent courtesy of the crème fraîche. To help bring out the sweet flavor of the corn, I haven’t included any sautéed onions or other veggies, but feel free to do so if you like.”
Crème Fraîche Corn Quiche
Good basic pie dough (recipe below)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, in ¼-inch slices
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2½ cups corn kernels, preferably freshly cut
1 cup (8 ounces) crème fraîche, store-bought or homemade
1 tablespoon flour
4 large eggs
2½ cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Prepare the pie dough, and refrigerate it for at least 1½ to 2 hours before rolling.
On a sheet of lightly floured waxed paper, roll the dough into a 13-inch circle. Invert the pastry over a 9- or 9½-inch deep-dish pie pan, center it, and peel off the paper. Gently tuck the pastry into the pan without stretching it. Sculpt the overhanging dough into an upstanding ridge; flute the edges, if desired. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prick the bottom of the pie shell six or seven times with a fork. Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil about 16 inches long. Gently line the pie shell with the foil, pressing it into the creases so it fits like a glove. Add a thick layer of dried beans, banking them up the sides.
Bake the pie shell for 25 minutes. Slide it out and carefully remove the foil and beans. Repoke the holes if they’ve filled in. Slide the shell back in and bake for another 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the pie shell to a cooling rack. (Once it’s cooled, dab a little cream cheese or sour cream into the fork holes to plug them.)
Combine the milk and cornmeal in a small saucepan. Heat gently, whisking almost nonstop, for 5 to 8 minutes, until the milk thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Pour the liquid into a bowl. Add the butter, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
Put the corn in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover; salt lightly. Bring to a boil and cook at a low boil for 5 minutes. Drain and cool briefly. Transfer the corn to a food processor and pulse repeatedly, until the corn is roughly chopped.
Combine the crème fraîche and flour in a large bowl. Whisk well. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the thickened milk mixture and chopped corn. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese and the chives. Carefully pour or ladle the filling into the quiche shell. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup cheese on top.
Bake the quiche on the center oven rack for 40 to 45 minutes at 375 degrees, until it rises up noticeably and the top is golden brown. When you give the quiche a little nudge, it should jiggle as a whole and not seem soupy in the center. Transfer to a cooling rack. Slice and serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers.
Reheat individual slices for 12 to 15 minutes on a baking sheet, loosely covered with foil, in a 300-degree oven. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Good Basic Pie Dough
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1/3 cup ice-cold water
Combine flour, cornstarch and salt in a food processor. Remove lid and scatter butter over dry ingredients. Pulse machine 8-10 times, until all of the butter is broken into small pieces, none larger than the size of a pea.
Add the water through the feed tube in a 5-10 second stream, pulsing the machine as you add it. Stop pulsing when mixture is still fairly crumbly but starting to form larger clumps. Turn mixture out onto your work surface and shape it into a ¾- to 1-inch-thick disk. The best way to do this and keep your hands off the dough (the warmth of your hands will make the dough sticky) is to place two long pieces of plastic wrap on your work surface, overlapping them by several inches.
Dump the dough mixture in the middle, grasp and scrunch up the edges of the plastic, lift the plastic, and pull the mixture towards the center. When your hands meet in the middle, press down on the dough with your fists, to flatten it out somewhat, then move your hands around the plastic and repeat several times to make a round disk. If this sounds confusing, just remember that all you are trying to do is form a dough disk without touching the dough.
Wrap the dough in a fresh sheet of plastic, and refrigerate for 1½ to 2 hours before rolling. Makes one 9- to 9-½-inch regular or deep-dish pie shell.
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Which restaurant recipes or other recipes would you like to have? Which food products are you having difficulty finding? Do you have cooking questions? Send them to me.
Contact Stephen Fries, professor and coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College, at email@example.com or Dept. FC, Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven 06510. Include your full name, address and phone number. Due to volume, I might not be able to publish every request. For more, go to stephenfries.com.