Friday, May 28, 2010

An All Too Summery Spring Night

Preparing the Hors d'Oeuvres

We had a hot, hot night on our hands, for this dinner party!  It was that week – there’s one ever year – when the temperature suddenly goes strait from being a bit too cold to way too hot, with no sort of perfect in between.  We’d been looking forward all spring to having our first outdoor Scrumptious Company dinner, out on our back deck.  And for a while there, we were sure this would be our night.  But the temperature kept rising, all Sunday long.  And now, instead of rain or cold or crazy Chicago wind, it was the sun, still all too fierce at seven in the evening, that kept us indoors for dinner. 

Undeniably summer in every sense, save for its place on the calendar, this too-hot day begged for summertime food.  Nothing too heavy, nothing to hot.  In weather like this, eating can seem like a chore!  The last thing I wanted to do was make our dinner guests feel like I was putting them to work.  After all, these were pretty special guests.  Tonight I was cooking for two of my new catering clients, Eileen and Gerard.  They hosted the big party I catered a while back, and this night’s dinner was a ‘thank you’ for the great opportunity and generous support they’d given to my fledgling company. 

So, light and cool was the name of the game.  A bright, crunchy slaw of fresh fennel, and a creamy, goat-cheese studded salad of tender lentils (conveniently cooked the day before and served at room temp) were cool counterpoints to juicy grilled pork chops and some quick-roasted green beans.  And a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream atop the strawberry-rhubarb crisp chilled things down for dessert. 

Mini Gougère Sandwiches with Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Pickled Onions & Arugula
Grilled Pork Chops with Orange-Tarragon Butter, Lentils-Goat Cheese Salad,
Fennel-Red Onion Slaw, and Roasted Green Beans
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

We started the night off with a summery hors d’oeuvre, a miniaturized spin on BLT’s.  A recipe I’d been eyeing in one of my favorite cooking tomes, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, I’d been wanting to give these a try for a while.  Thick-cut, apple wood-smoked bacon, sweet and tangy quick-pickled yellow onions, peppery green arugula.  These three inner elements certainly made for a good start.  And yes, normally when it come to sandwiches, just like with people, it’s what’s inside that counts.  But in this instance, it wasn’t just the filling that made these little bites extraordinary.  It was the bread itself.  Well not bread, per se, but gougères.  Lovely French cheese puffs, full of nutty gruyere flavor, with tender, airy insides and crispy outsides of golden brown.  Sliced in half like mini buns, these sublime little pastries made for some fabulously delicious tops and bottoms to these fancied-up bacon sandwiches.

Grilled Pork Chop with Orange-Tarragon Butter, Fennel-Red Onion Slaw and Roasted Green Beans

Now, onto the main course.  And forgive me as I skip the all too ordinary (albeit awfully tasty) pork chop and go straight to the sides.  Because I was pretty thrilled with how these side dishes turned out.  Plus, what’s there to say really about grilled pork chops?  That they’re delicious?  Sure, but you know that already.  Plus, these side dishes had deliciousness going for them too, and in a major way. 

Especially the lentil-goat cheese salad.  This was a big hit with all of of us.  French green lentils, gently simmered until tender and creamy, combined with an aromatic heaping of freshly chopped green herbs, sweetly pungent specks of minced shallots, and a crumbling of creamy white goat cheese.  Folded together, these various ingredients join forces seamlessly, forming a velvety blend of earthy and vivid flavors, a delicious mixing of coolness and comfort. 

So often it seems, the lentils we encounter come in warm, steaming bowls, served hot off the stove, all mushy and stew-like, the epitome of cold weather coziness.  But this lentil dish is all together different.  These lentils are more akin to a summery side dish, like a potato or pasta salad,  than a wintery stew of hearty legumes.  It’s a refreshingly refreshing twist for an ingredient that’s just too delicious to only be eaten in cold weather. 

Fennel-Red Onion Slaw

This crisp, cool fennel-red onion slaw seemed a naturally fitting cohort to the creamy lentil salad.  Thinly sliced ribbons of licoricy, pale green fennel and sweetly spicy, pink-edged onion, delicately dressed in a light and citrusy vinaigrette.  Each bite of this simple, rustic slaw yielded a punch of vibrant flavor, and a telltale crunch of undeniable freshness.

Sliced Fennel & Red Onions

Like grilled pork chops, green beans seem like none too astonishing a dish.  But roasted green beans, well that’s a dish worth dwelling on, at least for a little while.  Quick-roasted in a searing hot oven, the green beans sizzle away, getting all blistery and browned, turning a shocking shade of vibrant green, and becoming both tender and crunchy, full of rich, caramelized flavor. Try them like this once, and you’ll never even think of merely boiling green beans again.  

One last element of dinner I should mention – the orange-tarragon compound butter.  If you’ve been following along with this blog, you’ll know I’m very fond of these flavored butter sauces, and that I’ve written about them a time or two before.  I just can’t help but adore their convenience.  Melting over anything hot, they create an instant sauce, and make for no last minute work whatsoever.  And what more could you ask for, when throwing a dinner party!? 


You’ll let me know when you get tired of strawberries or rhubarb, right?  But I do hope your not tired of them yet, because I have a feeling I’m just getting warmed up when it comes to these pretty-in-pink springtime fruits.  I just can’t seem to get enough.  And this simple-as-can-be strawberry-rhubarb crisp was a natural outlet for this seasonal obsession of mine.  Juicy, sweet strawberries and tart, tender rhubarb, slowly baked until syrupy and bubbling.  On top of this, a golden, crunchy crust of oats and butter and brown sugar, so humble yet so rich, and so undeniably delicious.  Combined with a melty scoop of vanilla ice cream, I can’t believe there could be a better way to eat either rhubarb or strawberries. 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Mini Gougère Sandwiches with Bacon, Pickled Onions & Arugula
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers
Makes about 24 bite-sized sandwiches, enough for 4 to 6 people
Mini Gougere Sandwiches with Bacon, Pickled Onions & Arugula   
24 gougères (see recipe below)
12 slices thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon, cooked, cut in quarters
pickled yellow onions (see recipe below)
about 2 oz baby arugula
Slice each gougère in half, cross-wise through the center.  Arrange two pieces of bacon (half a slice total) on the bottom half of the gougère.  Top with a few slices of pickled onions.  (Make sure to drain the pickling juice from the onions, then dry them slightly by blotting them with paper towels.)  Over the onions, arrange a few leaves of baby arugula, then top with the top half of the slice gougère.  Serve immediately.  
Pickled Yellow Onions
Pickled Yellow Onions
1 large yellow onion
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
1 Tbl sugar
1 tsp salt
Slice the top end (not the root end) off of the onion, then slice it in half from top to bottom.  Peel off the skin, then slice cross-wise, from the top towards the bottom, forming half-rings of about 1/8-inch thickness. 

Combine the vinegar, water, bay leaf, thyme, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.  Over medium heat, bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Add the sliced onions, and continue to simmer for 1 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Turn off the heat, and rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then refrigerate in an air-tight container until needed.  Will keep about 2 weeks. 

Gougères (Cheese Puffs)
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer
Makes about 30 gougères
Gougères make wonderful little buns for mini sandwiches.  But they make for an incredible appetizer all on their own, too.  They taste like goldfish crackers for grownups.  Serve them with a great beer for a simple, delicious & sophisticated snack. 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese, divided
Preheat the oven to 400ᵒF, and position a rack in the lower third of the oven.
Combine the water, milk, butter and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a full rolling boil over medium heat.  Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute. 
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, and setting the mixer to medium speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Make sure that the mixture is smooth and that the egg is fully incorporated before adding each next egg.  Once all the eggs are incorporated into the dough, add 1 cup Gruyère cheese, and beat the dough until is it smooth and shiny, about 1 minute more.  (If you don’t have an electric stand mixer, you can do the mixing by hand, with a wooden spoon.)
Fill a pastry bag with the dough.  Slice off the tip of the bag, to create an opening of about 1-inch diameter.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper.  Holding the bag at a 90ᵒ angle to the baking sheet, and with the tip of the bag just above the pan, gently squeeze the bag (squeeze from the top of the bag with your right hand while guiding the tip with your left) to form a shape no wider than about 1 1/2-inches.  Push the dough out slowly and gently, until the height reaches about 1-inch.  To stop piping, stop applying pressure to the bag before lifting the tip, then push the tip down, and quickly jerk it upward.  Leave about 2-inches of space between each shape.  Once all the shapes are piped, dip your fingers into cool water and smooth out each shape into smooth, rounded domes.  Top evenly with the remaining half cup of grated cheese.  (These can be refrigerated, uncovered, for up to about six hours before baking – Then just pop them in the oven, right before your guests arrive.) 
Bake at 400ᵒF for 15 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 350ᵒF.  Continue to bake until the gougères are golden brown, firm, and cooked in the center, about 15 to 20 minutes.  (Taste one to make sure they’re cooked through.  If it tastes a bit eggy, they need a little more time.)  Cool a bit on a wire rack, and serve either warm or at room temperature.   (These are best baked at more or less the last minute.  But if you make them ahead of time, just reheat them a bit, say for five minutes or so, in a 350ᵒF oven.) 
Fresh-Baked Gougeres

Grilled Pork Chops
Serves 4
Brining is an easy step that really gives these chops some extra moisture, which goes a long way towards making them a real hit.  That and cooking them to the right temperature. You do not want to overcook these guys. In fact, if I can convince you to try it, err on the side of undercooking.  I always pull them out at about 138-14o°F, and let them come up to temp as they rest on the countertop for a few minutes. This way they’re juicy and a lovely blushing shade of pink.
It’s never fun being stuck at the grill, away from the guests.  So what I usually do is this:  Just before the guests arrive, I give the chops a quick grill, just a few minutes on each side, just long enough to give them some good grill marks and a nice smoky aroma, but not long enough to cook them through.  Then I transfer the chops to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet.  About fifteen minutes before we’re ready to eat, I pop them in a hot oven to finish cooking.  It’s a little trick that frees me up a lot and lets me be a more sociable hostess.   
Grilled Pork Chops with Orange-Tarragon Butter
For the brine :
2 quarts water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp black peppercorns
4 pork chops (about 8 oz each)
vegetable oil, for grilling

Combine 2 cups water with the rest of the brine ingredients in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil, stirring, in order to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat, add the remaining 6 cups cold water and cool completely.  Add pork chops, cover and refrigerate at least six hours and up to 1 day.

About an hour before your guests arrive, pre-heat the grill.  Here’s a way to tell if your grill is at the right temperature.  Hold your hand right over it.  If you you can keep it there for five seconds, it’s not hot enough.  If you can’t hold it there for even a second, it's too hot.  Lightly oil the grill rack.

When the grill is hot, pat the pork chops dry with paper towels.  Place the chops presentation-side down on the grill.  Grill until well-browned on the first side, about 2-3 minutes.  Flip the chops over and grill 2 minutes longer.  Remove the chops from the grill and place on a wire rack arranged over a baking sheet.  Reserve until needed.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.  (Start preheating the oven right about when the guests arrive.  It will come to temperature as you eat hors d’oeuvres.)  About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, place the pan of pre-grilled pork chops in the oven.  Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 138-140°F, about 10 minutes or so.  The internal temperature is a really important indicator of how tender and juicy the meat will be.  So really try not to overcook the pork!  Here’s another trick that I highly recommend…  Get yourself a ‘leave-in’ thermometer.  (I know you can find them here.)  Here’s how they work – You insert a metal thermometer probe into the meat, then put it in the oven.  The probe is connected by an oven-safe wire to a digital temperature monitor that you keep outside of the oven.  You can program the temperature you’re after, and the thermometer will beep when your meat hits that mark.  It’s all too easy, and a bit of a cheat, but oh well, it ensures perfectly cooked meat every time!

Transfer the pork chops to a platter, cover them with a loose tent of tin foil, and allow them to rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving.   (The temperature of the meat will rise a few degrees even once it’s out of the oven, bringing the pork chops to the perfect doneness.  If you don’t rest them for a few minutes, they may be a little undercooked.  So don’t forget about this important step!)

Orange-Tarragon Butter
Makes about 1/2 cup
Orange-Tarragon Compound Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 Tbl finely grated orange zest
2 Tbl finely chopped tarragon leaves
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, including a good pinch of salt and a generous grind of pepper.  Mix with a rubber spatula to thoroughly combine. 

Transfer the butter mixture onto a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Roll into a log of about 1 inch. Refrigerate until ready to use. Can be refrigerated 4 days and frozen a month.

When serving, slice into portions of about 1-2 tablespoons.  Place over hot servings of meat or fish, which will cause it to melt into a lovely sauce.

Lentil-Goat Cheese Salad
Serves 6
Lentil-Goat Cheese Salad
1 1/2 cup French lentils
1 small onion, peeled and sliced in half
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbl finely chopped shallots
2 Tbl chopped parsley
2 Tbl chopped chives
2 Tbl chopped basil
6 oz goat cheese, crumbled
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Cook the lentils: Sort through the lentils and discard any wayward pebbles.  Rinse in cool water then drain.  In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the lentils, onion, bay leaf and garlic clove.  Cover generously with about 2 quarts of water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer the lentils very gently until they are tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain off the water, then spread the lentil out over a parchment paper-lined sheet tray.  Cool to room temperature. 
Make a vinaigrette: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and vinegar.  Season with a good pinch of salt and a good few grinds of pepper.  Whisk together, then slowly add the olive oil, pouring in a thin stream and whisking as you pour.
Pour the vinaigrette over the lentils.  Add the chopped shallots, the chopped herbs and the crumbled goat cheese.  Stir to combine with a rubber spatula.  Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper.  The salad can be made ahead of time, and stored refrigerated in an air-tight container.  Bring to room temperature about an hour before serving. 

Fennel-Red Onion Slaw
Serves 6
Fennel & Red Onion Slaw
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbl sherry vinegar
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped tarragon
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbl vegetable oil
2 large heads fennel
1 medium-sized red onion
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Make a vinaigrette:  In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, orange zest, thyme, tarragon, and minced garlic.  Whisk to combine, then slowly pour in the olive oil, then the vegetable oil, both in a thin stream and whisking as you pour.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. The dressing can be made ahead and stored refrigerated in an airtight container.
Slice off the stems of the fennel, just above the heads.  Remove any discolored outer layers, and slice away any bruised areas.  Using a mandolin, thinly slice the fennel, slicing cross-wise, starting at the top end, and working your way down until you reach the core at the bottom.  Aim for a slicing thickness of just under 1 mm.  You want it very thin, but not so thin that you take away all the crunchiness.  If you slice the fennel ahead of time, make sure to store it submerged under cool water and in the refrigerator. (Otherwise it will discolor.)  Drain and dry it before assembling the salad. 
Slice the top end off the onion.  Slice it in half length-wise, then peel off the skin.  Using the mandolin, thinly slice the onion halves into half-rings, cutting directly across the onion.  Aim for a thickness slightly thicker than paper-thin and slightly thinner than the fennel.  Soak in cool water, at least half an hour (to take away some of the pungent onionyness), then drain and dry before assembling the salad.
To assemble the salad: Combine the sliced fennel and onions with the vinaigrette in a large mixing bowl.  Toss to coat.  Taste a bite, and season as needed with a good pinch of salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.  (The vinaigrette and the vegetables can all be prepared ahead of time.  But don’t combine them until your ready to serve, or the salad will loose its crunch.)

Roasted Green Beans
Serves 4
Roasted Green Beans
12 oz green beans, stems trimmed
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat an oven to 450°F. 
In a large mixing bowl, toss to coat the green beans with the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss again to coat evenly.  Transfer the green beans to a baking pan and roast in the oven until browned and tender, about 10-12 minutes.  Once or twice during the cooking process, quickly mix the green beans with a metal spatula, moving them around the pan a bit.  This will ensure even browning. 

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp
Serves 8
Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
For the topping:
1 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats *
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
Combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed to just combine the ingredients.  Add the butter and mix on medium speed until the mixture begins to resemble coarse wet crumbs.  (At this point, the mixture should hold together loosely if you squeeze it in your hand, but should still easily crumble apart.  If you mix it for too long, the ingredients will become too thoroughly incorporated, and the mixture will turn dense like cookie dough, so don’t get carried away.)  Add the almonds and mix by hand to incorporate.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.  This topping can be stored for 2 days.
For the filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbl flour
3 cups sliced strawberries
3 cups rhubarb, sliced in roughly 1/2-inch cubes
Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Butter a 9x13 inch glass baking dish.
In a large mixing bowl, stir to combine the sugar with the flour.  Add the sliced fruit and mix with a rubber spatula to evenly coat.  Transfer the fruit to the prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle the topping over the filling.  There’s a trick to doing this:  Grab a handful of the topping and gently squeeze to make it somewhat stick together, then crumble this mass into coarse pieces, spreading the crumbs evenly over the filling.  Bake until the fruit is tender and the crisp topping is golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes.  Cool about 20 minutes, then serve topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
* By ‘old fashioned oats’ I mean oats that aren’t instant oats.  I also don’t mean stone-cut oats.  Definitely not those.  Old fashion oats will look a lot like the flat, flaky instant oats, but are a little more substantial.  I like the brand Bob’s Red Mill, which is pretty easy to find in most good grocery stores.  But I don’t think the regular old Quaker Oats brand could be too bad either. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Brunch, Fabulous Brunch

Crystallized Gingercrystallized ginger
There’s something special about brunch.  Something inherently fabulous.  Don’t you think so too?  No matter how small the occasion, brunch always feels like a bit of a celebration.  And no matter how simple the menu, it can’t help but be at least a little bit elegant.  It always seems like any day I eat brunch… well, those days always end up being pretty great all around.  I think it’s because brunch-days always get off to such an incredible start.  For is there any better way to begin the day, then being with good friends and eating wonderful food?  No - There really isn’t. 
Last Sunday we shared one of these fabulous starts to the day with my cousin Joe and his girlfriend Thy.  It was beginning to feel again like way too much time had gone by since the last time we saw these two, and so a Sunday brunch seemed like the perfect reason to get together.
Crab Quiche
Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Breadcrumbs and Herbs
Spring Green Salad
Zucchini-Ginger Cupcakes

Thinking up a brunch menu, my mind was stubbornly set along one track, a track leading straight to quiche.  I just love quiche.  The flaky, golden brown crust.  The wonderfully rich custard filling of eggs and cream.  And oh, all the delicious stuff tucked inside!  What lovely ingredients to choose for folding into our quiche - this was really the only question in my mind.  More often than not, I go with the classic choice of bacon and cheese.  Simple yes, but always unbelievably tasty.  And hard to improve upon, for sure.  Still, I was in the mood this week for a bit of a twist.  And wanting to spoil my husband and our special guests, I was in the mood for an extra little bit of extravagance too.  And so, it was some beautiful jumbo lump crab that I ended up folding into my mixture of eggs and cream. 

Crab Quiche with Stuffed Tomato and Spring Green Salad  
This was definitely a special occasion quiche!   Already decadent with buttery crust and velvety custard, and now loaded with huge, tender pieces of sweet crab meat and flavorful specks of fresh green herbs, and topped with a bubbling layer of golden brown gruyere cheese, this quiche was beyond extraordinary.  It was out of this world.

Plum Tomatoes Stuffed with Breadcrumbs & Herbs  
Like I was saying before, my love of quiche makes it hard for me to think of anything else to serve for brunch.  But what I find even harder, is thinking of anything other than a simple green salad and these stuffed tomatoes to serve with the quiche.  I pride myself on my culinary creativity, but I let go of this pride every single time I make quiche.  Because in my mind there can be no improvement upon this perfect combination.  And so, whenever I make quiche, I always make these stuffed tomatoes too. 

Brunch Fixin's  
And it wasn’t even my idea in the first place.  There’s a wonderful little French restaurant in Syracuse (where we always try to fit in a brunch, any time we go home to visit Ben’s parents) that serves a delicious quiche, and in just this way - with a simple salad and baked tomatoes stuffed with breadcrumbs and herbs.  The ripe tomatoes, whose savory sweetness intensifies as they slowly caramelize in the oven, are filled with crispy, golden, olive oil-soaked bread crumbs, and a generous amount of aromatic basil, parsley and thyme.  From my first bite, I was enamored with this lovely side dish.  And I was overjoyed to find within the pages of Julia Child’s cookbook, what has to be the exact same recipe used in the restaurant.  Below you’ll find my own adaptation to this delicious, quiche-worthy recipe.  Next time you make quiche, be certain you make these too.  You won’t regret it!

With such a sumptuous start to brunch, I was after a bit of simplicity for dessert.  And these zucchini-ginger cupcakes turned out to be just the thing!  Now I’d never made these before.  But I fell in love, just reading the recipe from an old copy of Gourmet.  The cake itself is just loaded with goodness – honey, cinnamon, crystallized ginger, extra-virgin olive oil, orange zest.  It sounded extraordinary!  And I could tell that the icing, with cinnamon and ginger and orange zest too, was not your ordinary cream cheese frosting.  Without even taking a bite, I just knew exactly how these cupcakes would taste.  That is, I knew they’d be incredible!

Cupcake Heaven  
And I was right.  These were so amazing!  And I am just so excited about this recipe.  It’s a rare day when I add a brand new recipe to my ‘favorites’ file, but that’s just where this one went.  I can’t wait to make these again.  And I can’t wait for you to make them either!

Fresh from the Oven 

Crab Quiche
Serves 6-8
Crab Quiche 
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 # jumbo lump crab *
2 Tbl good quality whiskey
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbl chopped chives
2 Tbl chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup plus 1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese, divided
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 partially-cooked tart shell (see recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 375ᵒF, and arrange a rack in the center of the oven. 
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan.  Add the shallots and sauté until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and being careful not to let them brown.  Add the crab meat (Make sure to first drain the crab of any excess liquid from the can.), season with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the whiskey and stir to combine.  Sauté about 1 minute more, until the whisky is evaporated.  Allow to cool slightly. 
Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl, then add the tomato paste and whisk to combine.  Add the cream, chives, parsley and half a cup of grated gruyere, along with a good pinch of salt and a good few grinds of pepper.  Whisk to combine.  Add the cooled crab mixture and gently stir to combine with a rubber spatula.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry shell.  Evenly sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of gruyere over the top.  Bake in the upper third of the oven until the top of the quiche is golden brown, and the center is set, about 45 minutes.  Allow the quiche to cool about 5 minutes before slicing.  Serve hot.
* Use a great quality canned, refrigerated crab meat.  Make sure it’s jumbo lump crab. And do make sure it tastes good all on its own.  If the crab itself is not delicious, this quiche won’t be delicious either.  But if it’s awesome crab, the end result will be beyond awesome!  I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of this brand, and I’d highly suggest it.  (I found it at Costco.)

Pre-Cooked Pastry Shell
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
This recipe makes a tall and very impressive looking quiche shell.  It’s height allows for plenty of room for extra filling, which of course makes for an extra-delicious quiche!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) butter, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes, cold
4 Tbl shortening, sliced into 1/2-inch cubes, cold
about 1/2 cup ice-cold water
Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl of a food processor, and flick the machine on and off a few times to combine.  Add the cold cubes of butter and shortening.  Flick the machine on and off again about 4-5 times, until the ingredients are just combined.  Turn the machine on, and with it running, add a little less than half a cup of the ice-cold water (Do not add any ice cubes!) and turn off the food processor.  The dough should pull together into a rough mass.  If not, sprinkle a little water over the ingredients, and repeat.  Repeat again, if necessary.  The dough is ready when it just begins to mass together.  Be careful - Make sure not to over-mix the dough, or add too much water. 
Transfer to dough onto a clean, dry counter top.  Gather the dough and kneed very briefly into a fairly smooth round ball.  Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours to over-night.  (The dough will keep refrigerated for 3 days, or can be frozen for several weeks, and thawed overnight in the refrigerator.)
Preheat the oven to 400ᵒF.  Butter the insides of a 9-inch spring-form cake pan (with 2 1/2-inch tall sides and a removable bottom).
Working quickly (because it’s best to keep the dough as cold as possible), roll out the dough:  Place the dough on a clean, dry, lightly floured countertop.  Lightly press the dough into a fairly flat circle of about 1-2 inch thickness.  It should be just malleable enough to roll out without cracking.  If the dough is too hard, lightly beat it with the rolling pin.  Lightly flour the top of the dough.  Roll the pin with firm but gently pressure back and forth over the circle of dough.  Lift and turn the dough about 45 degrees.  Roll the pin across the dough again.  Continue rolling, lifting and turning the dough, sprinkling the counter and top or the dough as necessary with a bit of flour to prevent sticking.  Roll the dough into an even, large circle of about 15 inches, about 1/8 inch thick. 
Lift the dough with the rolling pin and drape it over the prepared pan.  Gently press the dough along the bottoms and up the sides of the pan. Using kitchen shears, trim off excess dough around the circumference of the pan.  Use your fingers to press the top edge of the dough into a smooth rim.  Prick the bottom of the pastry with a fork, about 15 times.  Chill in the refrigerator, about 20 minutes.
To keep the sides of the pastry shell from collapsing, line the chilled pie shell with parchment paper, or tin foil, leaving a 1-inch overhang over the edges.  Fill to nearly full with dried beans or pie weights.  Refrigerate if not baking immediately. 
Bake until the pastry is just set, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper/foil and beans/pie weights.  Prick the bottom of the pastry crust again with the fork.  Return to the oven and cook until the shell just starts to color, and begins to shrink from the sides of the pan, about 5-10 minutes more.  (You only want to partially cook the pastry shell.)
Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  The cool pastry shell can be covered with plastic wrap and held at room temperature, over night.   

Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Breadcrumbs and Herbs
Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
Serves 6
Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Breadcrumbs & Herbs   
6 large plum tomatoes (ripe but firm)
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 cup minced shallots
4 Tbl finely chopped parsley
2 Tbl finely chopped basil
1/4 tsp finely chopped thyme
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs, from white bread *
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375ᵒF. 
Prepare the tomatoes: Slice a very thin layer straight across the bottom end of each tomato (in order to create a flat base).  Again slicing straight across the tomatoes, slice off about one inch from the tops.  Using a paring knife, carefully cut out the central parts of the core from the inside of the tomatoes.  Gently press out the juice and seeds.  Lightly sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper. 
Prepare the filling: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir to combine the garlic, shallots, parsley, basil and thyme, along with about 1/2 tsp salt and a big pinch of pepper.  Add the olive oil and stir to combine.  Add the bread crumbs and stir to combine. 
Fill each tomato with the breadcrumb-herb mixture, adding enough filling to just rise above the top of the tomato.  Arrange the tomatoes in an oiled baking pan, making sure not to crowd them.  (The recipe can be made ahead to this point, and kept refrigerated in an air-tight container for about 6 hours.)
Bake for 20-3o minutes, until the tomatoes are tender but still hold their shape, and the breadcrumb topping is golden brown. 
* To make fresh breadcrumbs, remove the crusts from about 6-8 slices of white bread.  Slice the bread into 1-inch cubes.  Then add to the bowl of a food processor, and flick the machine on and off a few times, until coarse crumbs are formed.

Spring Green Salad
Serves 4
Spring Green Salad   
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbl vinegar (sherry vinegar, red wine vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, etc…) 
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 small clove garlic, peeled & finely minced
2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
about 6 oz baby spring green mix
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Combine the mustard, vinegar, thyme, garlic, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Whisk together, and slowly pour in the olive oil, then the vegetable oil, both in a thin stream and whisking as you pour.  The dressing can be made ahead and stored about five days, refrigerated in an airtight container.

Place the greens in a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the top, enough to evenly coat the greens. (You definitely won’t not need to use it all – Save the rest for another salad.)  Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.

Zucchini-Ginger Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes (or about 16, if you like them a bit on the small side) 
Zucchini-Ginger Cupcakes  
For the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 rounded tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp finely grated orange zest
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped (about 2 oz)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
2 cups coarsely grated zucchini
Preheat the oven to 350ᵒF, with the rack arranged in the middle position.  Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
Combine the flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.  Add the orange zest and whisk to combine.  Add the chopped crystallized ginger and whisk to combine.
In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs.  Add the vanilla and whisk to combine.  Add the olive oil and vegetable oil and whisk to combine.  Add the honey (Measure out the honey in the same measuring cups you used for the oil, after you measure out the oil – This will keep it from sticking to the sides of the cups.) and whisk to combine.  Add the grated zucchini and mix to combine, using a rubber spatula. 
Add the flour mixture to the zucchini mixture and mix with the rubber spatula until just combined.  Add about 1/4 cup of batter to each muffin cup.  (If you stick with a scant quarter cup, you can stretch the recipe to give you about sixteen petite cupcakes, which is what I like to do – Both because it looks nice, and because it means more cupcakes!)
Bake until the cupcakes are golden on top, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 25 minutes.  Cool in the pan, about 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.  Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored for 1 day at room temp, in an air-tight container. 
For the frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
8 oz cream cheese, softened
4 Tbl (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
Add the powdered sugar, ginger and cinnamon to a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.  Set aside.
Add the softened cream cheese and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using a paddle attachment, beat on high until fluffy, about three minutes.  (Once or twice, turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape the frosting down the sides of the bowl.   Add the vanilla and orange zest and beat for about 30 seconds more. 
Add the sugar mixture to the cream cheese mixture in the bowl of the stand mixer.  Beat on high speed until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (Again, frequently use a spatula to scrape the frosting down the sides of the bowl and back into the center.)
Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a medium star tip, with the frosting.  Frost the tops of the cooled cupcakes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring Flavors

Artichoke Heartsartichoke hearts

In the last couple weeks, farmers markets have begun opening up all across town, their stalls packed with spring’s earliest ingredients – rhubarb, peas, pea shoots, asparagus, wild mushrooms, young herbs.  All of it so beautiful, so fresh and so delicious.  And such a joy to cook with.  We’ve been eating as much of this beautiful produce as we can now, because we know it won’t be here for long.  Just like spring itself, which always seems to evaporate so quickly in a flash of summer sun, spring ingredients come and go so swiftly.  So indulge!  Eat all the asparagus you can.  Stuff yourself with rhubarb pie.  Let’s celebrate this delicious season!

Artichokes & Lemons

Our guests last week were our new friends, Jenn (Ben’s newest co-worker) and her boyfriend Sam.  Just as you’re certain to see some of my favorite springtime ingredients up on this site again and again, you can be sure you’ll be hearing about Jenn and Sam at least a time or two in the next few months.  Already, we can’t wait to have them over again.  I have a good feeling this way-too-fun couple is going to become a regular installment of Scrumptious Company. 
The menu highlighted some of my favorite spring ingredients – artichokes, veal, fennel, lemons, fresh herbs and peas…

Roasted Shrimp with Capers & Feta in Artichoke Leaves
Grilled Veal Chops with Parmesan-Polenta, Caramelized Fennel
and Tarragon-Three Pea Salad
Meringue Pavlovas with Lemon Curd, Blueberries & Blackberries

The hors d’oeuvres were maybe my favorite part of the entire meal.  Tender artichoke leaves acted as small spoons, each holding a sweet pink shrimp, quickly roasted under a hot broiler, then topped with a zesty marinade of lemon, oregano and extra-virgin olive oil.  Additional layers of bright flavor came with a sprinkling of diced artichoke hearts, tangy capers, sweet and pungent speckles of onions, and a salty crumble of fete cheese.  

First Bites

Each artichoke leaf holds one perfect little bite.  Along with the curled shrimp and its confetti of toppings, the tender artichoke flesh at the base of the leaf is part of the whole bite too.  Your teeth scoop out this sweet pulp, and all that’s left behind is the fibrous outer layer of the leaf.  There’s something intrinsically fun about scooping up your bites with these spoon-shaped leaves, these nature-made utensils.  And along with this bit of fun comes a huge, marvelous flavor.  Each bite is a singular parcel of deliciousness, a small package of fabulous taste.  Afterall, as I believe the saying goes, the most delicious things do come in small packages.

Boiling the Artichokes

For the main course, a few simple components came together into a really great dish.  The parmesan polenta -  a velvety puddle of slowly simmered cornmeal, so soft and warm and smooth.  The buttery yellow color is a fitting echo of its rich, creamy texture.  And its flavor is reminiscent of pure, down-to-earth goodness.  Corn, cream, butter and parmesan.  So simple.  And simply, so good.

And the caramelized fennel.  This on the other hand, tastes like pure decadence.  Again only a few simple ingredients – fennel, butter, salt and pepper.  But when it comes to flavor, there’s nothing simple about this fennel at all.  The slow – and I mean ever so slow – caramelization of the fennel builds layer upon layer of complex flavors, deepening the licorice essence into a dozen subtle tones of sweet, delicious charm. 

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Chop with Parmesan-Polenta, Caramelized Fennel & Tarragon-Three Pea Salad
As far as peas were concerned, I couldn’t make up my mind.  At the market that morning, I encountered some beautifully snappy snow peas, some freshly shucked English peas, and some wispy curls of pea shoots.  I was tempted by all three, so decided to use them all.  I quickly boiled the English peas, turning them sweet, tender and vibrant green, and sliced the flat snow peas into thin, crunchy ribbons.  A pat of butter, a dash of cream and small handful of fresh tarragon made a quick and simple sauce, into which I folded the peas and their tender shoots.  So fresh and bright and green, this gorgeous side dish was filled with spring!   

Shelling Peas
The pavlova desserts, cups of crisp meringue filled with lemon custard and topped with pile of fresh berries, were a big hit.  I adore baked meringue – brittle and crackly and the outside, dense and chewy on the insides.  The texture alone is heaven to me.  And lemon custard too – it’s one of my most favorite sweets in the world.  So tart and refreshing, I just love it.  Crispy-chewy clouds of meringue, silky smooth lemon custard, and to top it all, fresh juicy blueberries and blackberries.  These pavlovas were as pretty as can be.  And they tasted even better. 


Roasted Shrimp with Capers & Feta in Artichoke Leaves
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook by Martha Stewart
Serves 4
Shrimp-Artichoke-Feta Hors D'oeuvres
For the artichoke leaves:
2 large artichokes (One will probably be enough, but just to be on the safe side, use two)
1 lemon, halved
kosher salt
Rinse the artichokes in cool water.  Pull away any discolored outer leaves.  Trim the stem to about 1 inch in length.  Over high heat, bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Slice the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into the water.  Add about 1 Tbl salt to the water, along with the artichokes and the halved lemon.  Decrease the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.  Simmer until the artichokes are tender, about 20-30 minutes.  (The leaves should pull off easily, and a knife should easily pierce the bottom end of the artichoke.)  Drain the artichokes and allow them to cool.
Peel away the leaves, reserving all the firm and pretty ones for serving.  Store refrigerated in an air-tight container.  Discard all the leaves that are too small or thin to serve as cups.  Carefully trim away the hairy choke and tough outer edges, until the artichoke heart is neat and clean.  Reserve the heart for the shrimp filling.
Prepping the Artichokes    
For the shrimp filling:
16 large shrimp (31-40 per pound)
1 Tbl vegetable oil
1 Tbl finely grated lemon zest
3 Tbl fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
3 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbl finely diced red onion, soaked in cool water for about 15 minutes, then drained *
2 Tbl finely diced sweet yellow onion
1 artichoke heart, finely diced
1 Tbl chopped fresh oregano, plus 16 large, pretty leaves for garnish
1 Tbl capers, drained
16 firm, pretty artichoke leaves
2 Tbl feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Peel the shells and tails off of the shrimp.  Be careful not to rip off the entire tail while you’re removing the shell – An intact tail makes for a much prettier shrimp.  De-vein the shrimp (i.e. remove the intestinal tract).  Use a paring knife to make a shallow slice along the center of the outer edge of the shrimp.  This will expose the dark grey ‘vein’, running along the length of the shrimp.  Scrape it out with the knife.  (You may not even have to do this.  Many times shrimp is already de-veined when you buy it.  If it hasn’t been de-veined, the outer edge of the shrimp will be intact, and you’ll see the vein just below the surface.) 
Preheat the oven to 500°F.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the prepped shrimp with the vegetable oil, and toss to coat.  Season with a good pinch of salt and a good few grinds of pepper and toss again.  Arrange the shrimp, with plenty of space in between, over a wire rack placed on top of a foil-lined baking sheet.  Roast the shrimp until pink, and just cooked through, about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
To make the marinade: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and lemon juice with a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of pepper.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined.  Add the diced red and sweet onion, the diced artichoke heart, the chopped oregano and the capers.  Stir to combine. 
Arrange the artichoke leaves on a serving platter.  Top each with a single roasted shrimp.  Spoon about 1/2 tsp of the marinade over each shrimp.  Sprinkle crumbled feta over each, then top with a single leaf of oregano. 
These can be kept for about 1 hour in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap.  Return to room temperature before serving.  Serve with a small bowl or cup on the side, to place discarded artichoke leaves.
* Soaking the onions in water takes the pungent edge off, and keeps them from over-powering the rest of the dish.
Parmesan Polenta
Makes about 4 cups
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
2 Tbl butter
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Bring the chicken stock to a boil over high heat in a medium-sized sauce pot.  Reduce the heat to medium and gradually pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly as you pour.  Simmer gently until the cornmeal is soft and the mixture is thick and creamy, whisking frequently, about 20 minutes.  Turn off the heat, and whisk in the cream, parmesan and butter.  Season to taste with a good amount of salt and pepper.  Serve hot.

Caramelized Fennel
Serves 4
Caramelized Fennel
2 large heads of fennel
2 Tbl butter
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Prepare the fennel: Slice off the stems, just above the heads of the fennel.  Remove any discolored outer layers, or slice away any bruised areas.  Slice each fennel head in half, length-wise (from top to bottom).  Then slice each of these halves in half again, cutting length-wise to from 8 wedges total.  Trim off the bottom discolored area from each of these quarter wedges.  Then slice each quarter in half again, length-wise, to form 16 wedges total.  With each wedge, slice off the inner part of each core, leaving just enough core behind to keep all the layers of fennel held together.  (Check out the picture below.)
Raw Sliced Fennel
Place a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the butter to the pan and melt.  Arrange the fennel snugly in the pan in a single layer.  Reduce the heat to a low setting.  Try to keep the heat at a low enough temperature so that you hear a very faint but constant sizzle.  Slowly cook the fennel until the bottoms are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Flip the fennel wedges over and cook in the same way until the other sides are golden brown too, about another 20 minutes.  Either serve immediately, or set aside until you’re ready to serve, and reheat in a 350°F oven for about 3-5 minutes.  Serve hot. 

Three Peas with Tarragon & Cream
Serves 4
Three Peas with Tarragon & Cream
1/2 cup snow peas, stems trimmed
1/2 cup freshly shelled English peas
1 cup pea shoot, tough stems trimmed
1 Tbl butter
1 Tbl heavy cream
1 Tbl chopped tarragon
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil.  (Add enough salt so that the water tastes like the ocean.)  Add the trimmed snow peas and boil until they turn vibrant green, about 1 minute. Drain with a slotted spoon, then plunge the peas into ice water.  Allow the peas to cool in the ice water, about 1 minute, then thoroughly drain.  Slice cross-wise into thin (1/4-inch) ribbons.  Set aside.
Return the salted water to a vigorous boil and add the English peas.  Boil until tender, about 2-3 minutes.  Drain with a slotted spoon, then plunge the peas into ice water.  Allow the peas to cool in the ice water, about 1 minute, then thoroughly drain.  Set aside.
Over medium heat, melt the butter in a medium-sized sauté pan.  Add the cream and simmer until the cream thickens and reduces to about half its original volume.  Add the prepped snow pea slices and English peas, along with the tarragon.  Season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Toss to coat the peas with the cream sauce.  Turn off the heat and add the pea shoots.  Toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

Meringue Pavlovas with Lemon Curd, Blueberries & Blackberries
Serves 6
Meringue Pavlovas with Lemon Curd, Blueberries & Blackberries
For the meringue:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbl cornstarch
3 large egg whites (kept at room temperature for 30 minutes)
a pinch of salt
3 Tbl cold water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
Preheat the oven to 300°F.  Arrange the rack in the middle position. Draw six 3 1/4-inch circles onto a sheet of parchment paper, leaving at least 1 inch between each circle.  Flip the parchment paper over and place on a baking sheet.   
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. 
Add the egg whites and a pinch of salt to the bowl of an electric stand mixer, and using the whisk attachment, mix at medium-high speed until the egg whites become fluffy and hold soft peaks (When you stick a spoon into the cream and lift it out, a point will form then droop down after a second or two), about 2-3 minutes.  Add the water and beat until the whites again hold soft peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time.  Once all the sugar is added, beat for 1 minute more.  Add the vinegar and beat at high speed, until the mixture is glossy and holds stiff peaks (The point formed in the whipped cream will stand straight up and not fall over).
Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a 3/8-inch round tip, with the meringue.  Using the circles drawn on the parchment paper as a guide, pipe a single layer of meringue in a circular motion, working from the outside in, to form a circular base.   Create a border of meringue around the edge of the circle, rising about a half inch higher than the center. 
Bake until the meringue is pale golden and has formed an outside crust, but is still a bit gooey on the inside, about 45 minutes.  Turn the oven off and open the door slightly.  Cool in the oven for 1 hour, then remove.  The meringues can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container for one day. 
Pre-Baked Meringues
For the filling:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbl cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 stick butter
3 large egg yolks
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
Combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium-sized sauce pot.  Stir to combine.  Add the lemon juice and butter and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally.  Continue to simmer, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. 
Lightly beat the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk in about 1/4-cup of the lemon mixture.  Then whisk the yolk mixture into the remaining lemon mixture in the saucepan.  Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until the curd is slightly thickened.  Do not let it boil.  Transfer the curd to a mixing bowl and stir in the lemon zest.  Chill in the refrigerator, stirring occasionally, until cool, about 2 hours.
Beat the cream until it holds stiff peaks.  Fold the whipped cream into the lemon curd. 
Fill each meringue cup with the lemon curd mixture.  Arrange a mound of blueberries and blackberries on top.  Serve immediately.