Rhubarb Fool

It is officially spring when I walk outside my door and there are stalks of rhubarb standing tall in my garden. To date, rhubarb and strawberries are the only edible things I’ve managed to grow. Every year the rabbits and squirrels wait until the strawberries are perfectly formed and just about to turn red, then they systematically eat them all. So, in the end, all I am left with is my huge patch of rhubarb. It may be why I love it so much, because I feel a sense of accomplishment.

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Strawberries in Red Wine

Today is Earth Day and in an attempt to keep my “cookprint” to a minimum, I decided to make a simple, but crazy delicious dessert. Once again Lynne Rossetto Kasper is my inspiration. You see, my husband and I are planning a trip to Italy this summer with our boys. In an attempt to get ready for the journey we’ve been eating a lot of Italian food. I figure it is more important to understand the food than, let’s say, learn the language! 😉 So I whipped up a batch of Lynne’s lasagna and then followed it with this incredibly easy and yet divine bowl of strawberries in red wine.

I’ve been reading on other food blogs about the perfect spring crop of fresh strawberries. Well, here in Minneapolis we finally have buds on the trees, but we’re a good while off before we are plucking fruits from the vine. In fact today is the day that the Backyard Harvest folks deliver the dirt for my Urban Farm. By June I’ll have my own organic garden, but until then…to the market I go. The strawberries I bought at the store were decent, but not yet at their full potential. To maximize their flavor I macerated them in red wine and a touch of sugar. A little chiffonade of mint and they were bright and summery.

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Apple Blossom Blackberry Tart with Homemade Puff Pastry (two Le Creuset winners!)

Apple Blossom Berry Tart Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I admit I enjoy the detailed work of an elaborate dessert or cake on occasion. I was a fine arts major who couldn’t paint or draw particularly well, but loved being in the midst of all that creativity in the art department. It wasn’t until I found myself in a pastry kitchen that I realized food was the medium that allowed me to express myself. Fussing over gum paste and fondant is relaxing to me. But, there are times I want to create something that is just pure and simple. When flavors are the end all and their natural beauty unadorned.

I’ve been reading A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes by David Tanis. The executive chef from Chez Panisse who has the most enviable career I’ve ever heard of. He spends 6 months of the year cooking at Alice Water’s acclaimed restaurant and the remainder of his time in France. Just one chapter in and you can’t help but hate him for having figured out the perfect life. He eloquently describes shopping in the morning at the outdoor produce market and then cooking with his friends while drinking local wines and nibbling on aged cheeses. His entire philosophy is simplicity. In fact, the book’s one downfall for me is that there is no challenge in any of his desserts, they are all simple to a fault. Gorgeous and as delicious as a fresh fig, but where is all of the fussy detail that I often crave. 😉

I want to be David Tanis when I grow up! Read More

Springtime Flower Cake for Kathy (Le Creuset Giveaway)

A closeup of the springtime flower cake | Photo by Zoë François

This weekend was my neighbor’s birthday. Her husband asked me to bake her a decadent chocolate cake and decorate it with “Spring Flowers.” Here in MN it isn’t exactly bursting with flora yet. In fact, as I was working on this flower cake it started to snow. But Easter is right around the corner and the tulips and rhubarb are promising to come out of the ground soon. We hold our breath and hope for a greener time, soon. Her cake, like Kathy herself, had to be over the top and fantastic! I wanted it to be bright and full of life to compensate for the snow!

The chocolate layers were made up of Devil’s Food, Chocolate Pastry Cream, Bittersweet Ganache, White Chocolate Buttercream and the flowers were made from gum paste.

Happy Birthday Kathy!

Last week I was in such a rush to get my Daring Baker Challenge done in time that I forgot to give away another Le Creuset Stoneware Heart Ramekin with Cover, Red. This week I will give away 2 to make up for it. Just leave me a note below and tell me what you are making for Passover*, Easter** or whatever you are craving now that it is spring. I will pick 2 random winners next week.

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Homemade Spinach Pasta Lasagna

Spinach Pasta Lasagna Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

I’m a few days late in posting this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge. Better late than never, especially if it tastes this freakin’ good. The very first meal I made for my husband, on our first date 23 years ago, was four cheese manicotti. It took me a day for each cheese to create it! He told me years later that he knew he’d marry me when he took a bite. We’ve made each other many meals since, but nothing as memorable. When I presented this spinach pasta lasagna to my family they all said it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked for them, including my husband (and my 8 year old who claims to hate spinach)!

This week’s Le Creuset winner is announced below.

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