5.29.2010

Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherry Clafoutis

Oh my. You're gonna love this. And it's an amazingly quick and easy dessert too. Especially when those heavenly dark cherries appear in the market or, if you're lucky enough to be in Michigan, at one of those delightful roadside stands. My daughter and I would drive along Michigan's M31 on the way to Petoskey, stop and buy cherries and spit the seeds out the window. (Now we'd probably be arrested for littering.) Anyway, I wasn't sure I'd have enough left to make this I was so busy snacking on them.




Deb at Smitten Kitchen came up with this recipe in July of 2007. She used the Ceres & Bacchus’s Plum Clafoutis recipe which, oddly enough, had question marks for some of the ingredient amounts. I had to scroll down and read all the comments before I found the numbers. Basically, it's a Yorkshire Pudding recipe. With fruit. Sort of. It puffs up and ends up looking like a cross between a custard and a cake.

Smitten Kitchen says: "Larousse Gastronomique and other traditionalists insist that the pits impart an almond flavor when baked within the custard, something no authentic clafoutis should be deprived of." 
So I did. I left the pits in (oh so much easier on the chef) and just warned everyone so there weren't any unexpected trips to the dentist.

Calfoutis are considered one of the glories of the French peasant table. It's best served warm and eaten the day it's made, but Deb also suggested trying it for breakfast the next morning with yogurt, something I couldn't do 'cause there wasn't a speck left. If you're thinking it would be too sweet, you're wrong. It's really not an overly sweet dessert at all.
 

And here's a surprise: clafoutis are always made with cherries. If you use other fruit (and please do.... use any fruit you like) it's called a Flognarde. (pronounced flow  nyard)

I'll try not to post too many cherry recipes ( I also found some Rainier cherries in the same market) in the next few weeks, but will space them out here and there. Rather like my rhubarb recipes. I do apologize for getting on these obsessive fruit kicks. But I did make something really healthy last post, right?

Cherry Clafoutis
From Smitten Kitchen, July 2007




Ingredients:
2 cups black cherries
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons rum (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a glass pie pan, round baking dish, large cake pan or oven proof skillet. Scatter the cherries (with or without pits) evenly over the bottom.

Beat the eggs and sugar with a whisk until lighter in color. Gradually add the melted butter, beating to incorporate. Add the flour all at once and whisk until the batter is well mixed. Slowly add the milk a little at a time. Then the vanilla and the rum, if using. The batter should be smooth and very shiny.

Pour the batter slowly over the cherries and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until slightly browned and almost set in the middle. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes before serving.







           Happy Memorial Day to everyone!

5.26.2010

A Quinoa Salad

Before we talk recipes, let's get down to some quinoa basics. It's pronounced keen-wa and I've been seeing it all over the food blog world. But this is the first time I've ever made anything with it.  It's referred to as a grain, but technically it's not. It's actually a seed of the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant. It's used as a grain and substituted for grains because it cooks like a grain. The plant grows from 4 to 6 feet high and the flower heads are branched and when in seed have large clusters of seeds at the end of a stalk.


Beets, spinach and Swiss chard are all relatives of quinoa. I was surprised to see how small the seeds are, not much bigger than the head of a pin.


I like to know a little history about anything new, don't you? If you'd rather not, skip the next few paragraphs.......

Quinoa has been cultivated in in the lush Andes mountains of South America since at least 3,000 B.C. and has been a staple food of millions of native inhabitants. It was known by the ancient Incas as the mother grain and was revered as sacred. Quinoa was so sacred for the Incans they broke the ground with a golden tipped shovel at its first planting to show respect. This grain was also part of their religious ceremonies.

In 1532, Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish explorer, reached the Andes with a small army and in one year's time destroyed the quinoa fields, killed the god-king Atahualpa, and forced the Inca culture into submission.


                                                                                                        Francisco Pizarro

Under Pizarro's rule they were forbidden to practice any ceremonial rituals that centered on quinoa. Fortunately, quinoa still grew wild in the higher altitudes where it could be hidden from the Spaniards. Small amounts were consumed in secret. Still, the culture of the Incas had been changed forever. For centuries quinoa fell into obscurity until the revival of interest in the 1980's.

At this point quinoa made its way north of the Equator to the United States and Canada and has grown in popularity since then. T
wo entrepreneurs from Colorado learned of this seed/grain from a Bolivian. They developed test plots in the central Rockies and began test marketing in 1985. However, most quinoa sold in the United States is imported from South America and it can be found in most natural food stores in the U.S. Many countries have now begun to recognize the importance quinoa could play in providing a healthy and sustainable food source for centuries to come. It's been referred to as the "Supergrain of the Future."


The quinoa seed contains an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans, contains more protein than any other grain, some varities more than 20%! The seeds are also gluten-free, light, tasty, easy to digest and a rich and balanced source of other nutrients. It's still not a common item in our pantries, but if the food blogs are any indication, it soon will be. You can also use quinoa flour to make pasta and a variety of baked goods like pancakes, bread, muffins, and crackers.

When I'm looking for information about healthy eating and grains, I always turn to Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. Don't we all? So I searched her site for quinoa recipes and look what I found:  Big Delicious Bowl; Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad; Warm and Nutty Cinnamon Quinoa; and Quinoa and Grilled Zucchini. She's obviously sold on quinoa! 

When you're ready to start cooking with quinoa, be sure to rinse the seeds to remove their bitter resin-like coating, which is called saponin. Quinoa is rinsed before it is packaged and sold, but it's best to rinse again before using. I just put quinoa in a strainer and rinsed it well with cold water, swishing it around. The seeds cook in only 15 minutes. I found quinoa to have a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked.



Due to the relatively high oil and fat content of quinoa, the grains and flour should be stored in glass jars in the refrigerator. Use the grains within a year and flour within 3 months.

Now, on to my recipe. It's a quinoa salad, which looked so pretty in the photo (and had bacon on top...while not exactly healthy, certainly pushed me over the edge.  LOL. Don't worry, it's optional.) that I just had to try it. It's quite similar to a pasta salad I make which is what attracted me I suppose. I found this gem of a recipe in Florida Table Magazine, which I love and have blogged about before. BTW: this particular issue features Florida's Top Chefs, one of which, Michael Schwartz, chef/owner of Michael's Genuine in Miami, is a favorite of mine and has just won the James Beard award for Best Chef, South!  Well deserved I might add.  And his pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith, was a semi-finalist! It's a "don't miss" restaurant if you're ever down Miami way. And you really should subscribe to this quarterly magazine, people. It's a gem.


Anyway, if you've been debating about trying quinoa, this is a great way to start.


Quinoa with Black Beans, Corn, Tomatoes and Basil

Adapted from Florida Table Magazine, Summer 2010 Isssue


Ingredients for salad:
1 cup quinoa
4 ears fresh corn, roasted and kernels cut from cob
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3 scallions, finely sliced (my addition)

Ingredients for dressing:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup washed and dried basil leaves (I made a chiffonade with them)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper to taste
Bacon crumbles (optional)
Fresh basil for garnish

Method:

Soak quinoa in water, covered, for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Put into a stockpot with 1-1/3 cups water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and allow to cool.

Roast corn and cut the kernels off. (I drizzled some olive oil on the corn and roasted it, turning once in a while, in a 400° oven for about 20 minutes or until it turned golden. It would be delicious done on a grill.)
 


Toss the quinoa with the corn, black beans and tomatoes. Make the dressing by blending the olive oil, vinegar, basil and cumin together. Season to taste.Dress the salad with about half the dressing (more if you like) and garnish with basil leaves and crumbled bacon. Keep chilled, but remove from fridge about 30 minutes before serving.
Serves 4.


5.23.2010

Coco au Miel and the Father's Day giveaway winner!

Another cookbook for you to peruse! My daughter gave me this gem years ago and I'm embarrassed to admit this is the first time I have tried a recipe out of it. I read it, then set it aside. (Sorry, Tracy) A big mistake because it's not only filled with recipes for  fabulous pastries, breads and desserts, but there are lots of luncheon and light dinner recipes as well. I rediscovered it last week ( I really, really need to organize my cookbook shelves!) and bookmarked several recipes in it.


So last week I made Coco au Miel (Coconut Honey Cakes). After reading the recipe I couldn't imagine how these would turn out. Hardly any flour, not too much sugar, lots of coconut and eggs. Sounds very sweet and quiche-like doesn't it? This was another of those third time's the charm recipes. Aren't you glad you have me testing these for you first?

I can't fault the directions, they are really simple and the batter takes less than 5 minutes to make. But they did say to fill the paper muffin liners nearly to the top. Don't. They overflow. Then it said to use paper liners. The muffin stuck to it and when you tried to take it out, the top came off. Well, just in case the recipe was a flop as well, I tasted it. Delicious! So OK, worth trying to fix.

I had a club luncheon to go to the other day and I was supposed to bring a dessert so decided to make my second attempt with Coco au Miel in a miniature muffin tin. I used the paper liners again, but sprayed them lightly with Pam.  They looked great, tasted divine and released from their little liners with no problem. Dainty little tea cakes, a perfect mouthful.


But I wanted regular sized muffins as pictured in the cookbook. So I got out the recipe again, used regular paper liners and sprayed them with Pam. When they came out of the oven most of them released nicely, but you had to be really careful. Even then, mine did not look at all like the ones in the cookbook's photo which were much higher.


I suppose our humidity, oven temps, ingredients all may create slightly different results than Parisian pâstisseries. The next time I make this size I am going to forget the paper liners, lightly butter the pan and sprinkle fine bread crumbs all over. (That's what Maida Heatter does.) But honestly? This size is almost too much of a good thing. Know what I mean? Too much sweet.

So of the two versions, I had more success with the mini muffins. They are quite light  but dense with coconut. When I cut one of the larger ones in half you can see how moist they are inside, although it kind of scrunched up and flattened out, you get the idea.


Crunchy on the outside, soft and divine inside. The minis retain that moistness and would make a lovely bite with a cup of tea.

Coco au Miel
(Coconut Honey Cakes)

From Paris Boulangerie Pâtisserie by Linda Dannenberg


Ingredients:
1- 1/4 cups whole milk
1- 1/4 teaspoons honey
2- 1/4 cups shredded coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1- 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs, room temperature, well beaten


Method:
Preheat oven to 400°. Line 10 muffin cups with paper liners, spray lightly with Pam and set aside.


In a saucepan, bring the milk and honey just to a boil, remove from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, mix the coconut, sugar, flour and baking powder. Add the milk slowly and stir until well mixed.

Stir in the beaten eggs. The mixture will be quite liquid. Spoon into the paper cups, about 3/4 full or a bit more. Each time you fill a cup, stir the mixture to redistribute the coconut.

Bake until the cakes are golden and a cake tester comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

           ************************************************

Last but not least, The Father's Day Giveaway Winner: The lucky winner is: Peter at Kalofagas.  Congratulations! Please email mailing information to bsmithw@gmail.com so I can get your BBQ set in the mail ASAP!

5.16.2010

Rhubarb Fool and a Father’s Day Giveaway!

"The English love a good fool, and a fruity old fool is even better. No, not the human kind — though they do delight in those as well — it's a fool for dessert."
Isn't that a great quote?  Sorry I can't remember where I found it, but I can sure tell you about fools...

A fool is a traditional English dessert involving a puree of tangy, tart fruits mixed with sugar and whipped cream and chilled before serving. Supposedly the name of this dessert comes from the French verb fouler meaning pressed or crushed, and refers to the combination of crushed fruits and thick cream. It's a dish that's simple yet elegant. Fools, which date to the 1500s, share their British ancestry with syllabubs and trifles and may have laid the foundation for ice cream. They were custards originally, swirled with cooked and pureed fruit.

The British countryside is a paradise for berry lovers. It offers gooseberries, red currants, strawberries, raspberries."Blackberry fool was quite common; blackberries would have been in the hedgerows in August. Gooseberry also was common because they grew everywhere and they were easy to cultivate in your backyard." Of course nowadays, any fruit can be used: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango and kiwi, as well as other seasonal fruit. Like rhubarb!

When making fruit fools please keep in mind that anytime you use fresh fruit there is no way to know, without tasting, the exact amount of sugar needed. So tasting is very important here. Make sure you taste the sweetened puree and adjust the sugar as needed. The same is true when you mix the puree with the whipped cream.

I think you'll really like Nigella's recipe...after all, who would know better about making a fruit fool than a British chef?

Nigella Lawson's Rhubarb Fool



To quote Nigella: "Make sure you use the rosiest, reddest rhubarb you can; that monster stuff, dredged up almost khaki at the very end of August, will not quite do here. And it's hardly seasonal to mention it, but of course the pinkest, purest, pucest stalks are the forced kind. No matter, you will want to eat this whenever you can. If you haven't got any vanilla sugar to hand (though you can have, just by leaving a vanilla pod or two in a jar of caster sugar for a few days, even less if you cut the pod up), use ordinary caster sugar and add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to the cream when you whip it."

Ingredients:

1 kg ( a little over 2 pounds) rhubarb, trimmed and coarsely chopped
300g  (1 1/3 cups) vanilla sugar
500ml ( I used 2 1/4 cups) double (heavy) cream

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Mix the rhubarb and vanilla sugar together in an ovenproof dish. Do not add water. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the fruit is completely soft. Drain in a colander, or sieve, and pour the juice (you should have about 2 1/4 cups or so) into a saucepan, then heat and let bubble away until reduced by about half. Pour into a dish and leave to cool; do not, however, refrigerate as the syrup might crystallize and lose its fabulous bright clarity.

Puree the fruit until totally smooth, then cool and chill this as well.


Whip the cream in a large chilled bowl until lusciously thick but not stiff.


Carefully fold in the rhubarb puree, then some of the reduced juice, so the mixture is streaked, rather like raspberry ripple ice cream. Pour some of the reduced syrup on top and then put the rest in a glass jug so that people can add more, if they want, as they eat.
Serves 8.


A Father's Day Giveaway!

Here's a way to give your dad, your hubby or even yourself  a super yet practical gift for Father's Day. Does he love to grill? Do YOU love to grill? Then this grill set will be perfect for you both! The set includes 4 in 1 spatula, fork, tongs, basting brush,  8 corn holders,  4 skewers and case and a 5 year warranty.


To enter just leave a comment and tell me what your family loves to grill. If you want a second chance to win, become a follower. The contest will be open until midnight Saturday, May 22 and I'll use the random number generator to choose the winner.
Sorry guys, but this giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. (No P.O. boxes please.) Good luck!

5.13.2010

Gyōza

And what is gyōza you ask? Japanese potstickers, my dears. Something I adore and order every chance I get when I'm dining out. But make them from scratch at home? Never even considered it. And if it weren't for blogger buddies Amy and Lisa, I would still be eating these only at restaurants, never realizing how amazing these can be if you make them yourself.....oh my, what a difference. Night and day.  

Gyōza originated in China, and it's said to have been introduced to Japan in late 17th century. You can cook them in various ways: deep-fried, boiled, steamed, or pan-fried. And they can be filled with only vegetables or in combination with meat. The most common filling combination would be shrimp, pork and cabbage. And just so you know, gyōza is pronounced hard "g" Gee--yo--zah.

First, let me tell you how I discovered this wonderful cookbook. I was introduced to Andrea Nguyen on Amy's blog in February. And then again on Lisa's blog in April. Those two posts convinced me I had to try my hand at these so I ordered the book. And I thought: I can do these! I think.

 
So the book arrived and has been staring me in the face ever since I received it. I've been procrastinating; no question the book was intimidating me. The photos, the talent this chef has. Amazing. It was starting to draw dust on the kitchen counter; my thinking was that sooner or later I would either force myself to make something or put it away. Have you ever done that? The problem is I don't cook a lot of Asian food (basic fried rice, shrimp with lobster sauce and sweet and sour pork are the only recipes I've ever made. How Chinese and simple can it get?) and I certainly had never made dumplings. A couple weeks ago I opened the book, read it cover to cover, reread Amy and Lisa's postings and then spent Saturday afternoon making these. Man, were they good. And not as difficult as I thought it would be. But the best thing is this: you can make them when you have time and freeze them!

My pleating/crimping is certainly not professional, but passable. Andrea ( and the rest of you talented Asian cooks) would probably cringe. The filling was wonderful and the only hesitation I have is the dipping sauce suggested for this particular recipe. I really didn't care for it. I fiddled with a couple others and finally came up with one that I liked, but I can see it's going to be an ongoing project to find a perfect sauce. Perhaps you already have your own favorite dipping sauces, so by all means, use them.


I am going to try to give you directions the way Andrea did in the book, so while this may sound a little long and involved, I'll try to simplify it as best I can. These really are not difficult to make, I promise! And so worth the time (there are periods of dough resting, so it took me a good part of an afternoon) it takes. Make them on a rainy day and freeze them. And I bet your kids can make the pleats better than I did!
 
Gyōza
(Japanese pork and shrimp pot stickers)
From Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen


 Ingredients for the filling:
2 cups lightly packed, finely chopped napa cabbage
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus another 1/4 teaspoon
2 cloves garlic, minced and crushed into a paste
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chopped Chinese chives or scallions (white and green parts)
6 ounces ground pork, coarsely chopped to loosen
1/3 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined and chopped
Scant 1/4 teaspoon sugar
Generous 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce or light (regular) soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Canola oil or sesame oil or a combination of both, for frying

Ingredients for the dumplings:
10 ounces (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup just-boiled water

Ingredients for the dipping sauce:
(Mix together well so the sugar dissolves)

1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
slivers of scallions
2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chile oil (optional)

Method for filling:
In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside for about 15 minutes to draw excess moisture from the cabbage. Drain in a fine mesh strainer, rinse with water and drain again. Place in a tea towel and wring out any excess moisture. You should end up with about 1/2 cup firmly packed cabbage.

Place the cabbage in a bowl and add the garlic, ginger, chives, pork and shrimp. Stir and ligihtly mash the ingredients so they start coming together.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the sugar, pepper, soy sauce, sake and sesame oil. Pour over the cabbage mixture and stir, breaking up the larger chunks of pork until everything comes together in a cohesive, thick mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to develop the flavors. You should have about 2 cups of filling. You may prepare this a day ahead and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before assembling the dumplings.

Method for the dumpling dough:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly dust with flour.
Have your filling ready to go because you will want to fill the dumplings right away.

Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat. Let stand about a minute.
Put the flour in the work bowl of a processor. (You can also make these by hand.) With the machine running, add the 3/4 cup of water in a steady stream through the feed tube. When all the water has been added, stop the machine and check the dough. It should look rough and feel soft but firm enough to hold its shape when pinched. Add water by the teaspoon or flour by the tablespoon if needed. (I didn't) Then run the machine for another 10 seconds to further knead and form a ball around the blade. Do not overwork the dough.

Flour a work surface and knead the dough for about 30 seconds for machine-made dough, 2 minutes for hand made dough. The resulting dough should be smooth and somewhat elastic.

Press on the dough; it should bounce back slightly, but leave a slight impression of your finger. Place the dough in a zip lock bag and seal tightly, expelling all the air. Allow to rest at room temperature for a minimum of 15 minutes to a maximum of 2 hours. The dough will steam up the bag and make it ear-lobe soft.

Method for shaping the dumplings:
Remove the dough from the bag, turn it out on a floured work surface and cut the dough in half. Return the other half to the bag, squeeze out the air and reseal.
Roll out the dough to a 1 inch thick log. Cut the log into about 16 pieces. (See below)



Dip all the sides of each piece in flour and form it into a scallop shape. Flatten the dough with a rolling pin and roll out to a perfect circle about 3 1/4 inches in diameter. (I covered the remaining pieces with a cloth and filled each one as I finished rolling it out.)

Hold the wrapper in a slightly cupped hand and place about 1 tablespoon of the filling slightly off center on the dough. (At this point I dipped my finger in water and damped the edge half way around.) Fold the dumpling in half and press lightly to seal. Pleat and press into a half moon shape and place on the floured parchment paper. Keep the dumplings covered with a dry kitchen towel while you finish working. Proceed with the remaining pieces and then remove the rest of the dough from the zip lock bag and repeat the procedure. At this point you can cover and refrigerate or freeze the dumplings. They will keep in the freezer for up to a month. Partially thaw and smooth over any cracks with your fingers before cooking.

Method for cooking the dumplings:
In  large non-stick skillet, place 2 parts canola oil to 1 part sesame oil. Add the dumplings (it's OK if they touch each other) sealed side up. Fry for a few minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Carefully, add about 1/3 cup water. It will boil and bubble. Cover the skillet with a lid or aluminum foil and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the water is nearly gone, about 8 to 10 minutes. After 8-10 minutes, remove the top slightly to allow the steam to escape. When you hear a frying sound, remove the lid entirely and allow to fry another 2 minutes or so until the dumplings are brown and crisp on the bottoms. Remove from pan and serve with the bottoms up so they remain crisp. Serve with dipping sauce.


5.09.2010

I scream, you scream..... for Blueberry Ice Cream!

My downfall. Ice cream. That's it in a nutshell. But let's not dwell on that right now; instead, scroll down and take a gander at that ice cream color! And where else would you find this color? On my pink shirt, on my rubber spatula and on the white colander I used. Yes, blueberry ice cream reminders are everywhere. Permanently, probably. And I was was warned too.

I know everyone adores David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, but my kitchen dessert guru Maida Heatter has some marvelous ice cream and sorbet recipes in several of her cookbooks as well. I've made nearly all of them over the years and to date my favorite is Palm Beach Orange Ice Cream, with a close second going to Pumpkin Ice Cream. Maida also has a recipe for Gin Ice Cream which is quite mild and tastes divine with fruit. But it doesn't take an interesting photo; we can rave on and on about a recipe, but if the photo does not look enticing or at least interesting, nobody's going to give it a chance.  Right?

Lately, Daring Bakers have been making Burnt Sugar ice cream. It looks marvelous, but Nancy at The Dogs Eat the Crumbs says that Thomas Keller's recipe in Ad Hoc is lots better (and, from what I read, his chocolate chip cookies are THE BEST) so that recipe is next on my to-make list, once I work off the calories as a result of this posting.  Sigh.


One ice cream I'd never made was Maida's Blueberry ice cream and because she raves about how wonderful it is, (smooth/creamy/rich/deluxe/delicious are her exact words) I made it last weekend. We've had a couple weeks of 90° + weather, so summer is upon us in Florida and that spells ice cream to me.
Maida Heatter's instructions say: "the blueberries will stain both rubber and wooden spatulas; don't use anything you will feel sad about if this happens." So I have nobody to blame but myself. I didn't mind the spatula and colander, but I could kick myself for not wearing an apron, preferably the oldest one I own. Popping those hot blueberries on the side of the pan caused all sorts of trouble with my pink shirt, so be careful if you try this recipe. (I'm presoaking as I write this; I live in hope.)

The results? The blueberry ice cream was perfect. Every description Maida used was spot on. The flavor was  ambrosial. This recipe is really a keeper and the red/purple color makes such a beautiful presentation. It doesn't freeze too hard and isn't excessively sweet either. I loved it plain, but happened to have some pomegrante arils and they gave it an interesting kick. And perhaps made the photo more enticing?


Blueberry Ice Cream
From Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts


Ingredients:

2 one pint boxes fresh blueberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons kirsch, crème de cassis or brandy (I used crème de cassis)

Method:


Wash and drain the berries. Place them in a wide and heavy saucepan or frying pan. Add the sugar and stir to mix. Cover, place over low heat and cook for 5 minutes to soften the berries a little and partially melt the sugar. Then raise the heat to moderate, uncover the pan, stir until the mixture comes to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes, stirring and pressing the berries against the sides of the pan to mash them.

Set aside to cool for a few minutes, then strain through a  large-mesh stainer. Do not use a strainer that has fine openings because even with a coarse strainer some of the the fruit will not go through. ( I used a colander, unfortunately a white colander, but it worked perfectly.) However, press through as much as you can.

Place the puréed berry mixture in the freezer or refrigerator until very cold. Stir in the salt, cream, lemon juice, and kirsch, crème de cassis or brandy. If the mixture is less than extremely cold, chill it some more in the freezer or refrigerator. This is important.


Freeze in a churn, following manufacturer's directions. Because of the alcohol, this does not freeze too hard to serve directly from the freezer.

                                                  *****************************

P.S. I have a really exciting giveaway coming up for Father's Day! Stay tuned.

5.05.2010


Happy Mother's Day!

My mother is no longer with us, but this is still her day as far as I'm concerned. Imagine I'll always feel like that...it's a day of remembering for my sister and me. We often celebrated Mother's birthday at the same time as it was also in May, on the 16th. And you'll love this: her first name was May! And she had a sister named June. And another sister named Fannie. Well OK, so maybe that one didn't work out so well....Fannie was also born in May. Anyway, my family always had a double remembrance in May. This is one of my favorite photos of my mother. As you can see, she was a really good sport about wearing those ridiculous paper hats that come in the Christmas poppers. We liked this photo so much we even put it in her funeral program. It really pleased my dad, who had never seen it before.


In honor of Mother's Day, I thought it might be fun to give you Mother's (really old) recipe for her very favorite lunch/brunch: Eggs Benedict. The two of us went out to lunch a lot and if Eggs Benedict was on the menu, she'd order it. Her eyes would light up when the plate was put in front of her. She was fussy about it too. It had to be perfect hollandaise or her nose would crinkle just a little. As she grew older, she no longer made it at home for herself, but I still have her recipe to share with you. Nothing fancy, only plain and simple Eggs Benedict. Just the way she liked it. Perhaps you could add a little fresh fruit or a lovely fruit salsa to add another element on the plate.

The dish begins with an English Muffin. Now every layer of this dish is important and Mother introduced me years ago to
Wolferman's English muffins. Have you heard of them? They are hands down the best, unless you make them yourself and even then, maybe not. So I started my dish with those. (I loved having an excuse for a new order... their flavors are wonderful and I was completely out of them.)

And then, of course, you brown some lovely Canadian bacon to put on top of your buttered muffin (Nobody said Eggs Benedict was a health food.) Next, poach two eggs. Perfectly. You know, the way Julia Child says to do them. Put those on top of the Canadian bacon and top with Mother's Hollandaise Sauce, which is perfection itself and so light it almost floats away. I've never made hollandaise any other way. After you taste this, you won't either. Some things just don't need improving.



Mother's Hollandaise Sauce




Ingredients:


2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon cold water
Pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Dash of hot sauce
Dash of Worcestershire sauce


Method:


In a medium heatproof bowl set over (but not in) a large saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks with the cold water and salt until warm to the touch. Slowly drizzle in half of the melted butter in a thin stream, whisking constantly until incorporated. Continue whisking in the melted butter until the sauce is thick and emulsified. Whisk in the lemon juice, hot sauce and Worcestershire and serve warm. Serves 2.


Make ahead: The sauce can be kept warm over the hot water bath off the heat for 30 minutes. Whisk occasionally and reheat over hot water.

5.01.2010

Peachy Keen

Sometimes I spend an inordinate amount of time in the Whole Foods market,  particularly their produce section. And because I do, I am frequently rewarded with a gem of a discovery. I usually only go in for one or two little things (no, really I do) and end up spending an hour or more. The other day I actually found some fresh peaches; it's way too early to find them and no doubt I paid through the nose for them, but I've been dying for peaches so I could try a simple yet heavenly dessert I saw in Sophie Dahl's cookbook. I've been drooling over it since I saw the photo. And it was well worth the buy! How many times have you taken a mouthful of something and rolled your eyes and actually said out loud: OMG? This is one of those times. Trust me: make the first batch for yourself and don't tell anyone. Do you know how Nigella sneaks to her fridge for a late night snack? That's what you're going to do with these peaches.

As I recall, the peaches were from Chile and at this time of year they would be classified as early-season peaches; in the U.S. our early season peaches are picked in June and July. And why is this important? Because early peaches cling to their pits tenaciously. Which is not a good thing for this particular dessert. The cut-and-twist method, which works well with late-season (August) peaches, is the easiest way to pit a peach. But that trick doesn't work with early peaches. You'll end up with a handful of peach pulp, juice running down your arm and the pit will stay right where it is, stubbornly stuck to the other half, with yet more pulp hanging off. I know. I tried.

I really wanted my halves to look reasonably neat, so in the end I took a sharp paring knife and cut the peach from top to bottom and then worked the knife carefully around the pit. This was NOT an easy job, but I ended up not mangling them too badly. This dish will look much prettier in August, but I wanted, no needed, to make this dessert right now! I know you've all had the identical feeling when you've seen a photo of a mouth-watering new recipe. Anyway, Sophie leaves the skin on and I did too. My guess is without the skin they'd turn to mush, but it's your decision.

I wasn't kidding about how simple this recipe is. Healthy too. Perfect summer dessert. Perfect for company. The only catch about making it this time of year is the pit problem. But don't let that stop you if you happen to see some. They get all caramelized and gooey.  And the yogurt topping? Divine. I promise not to rave on about this cookbook again, but it really is a lovely one.

Cinnamon Roast Peaches with Vanilla Yogurt

From Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights by Sophie Dahl





 
Ingredients:
4 peaches, ripe but firm
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or sunflower oil
2 cups Greek yogurt (you can use lo-fat if you want)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 450°. Wash and halve the peaches, removing the pit. Place them in a small roasting pan. Sprinkle each half with cinnamon and brown sugar and dot with butter or oil.

Roast for 10 minutes (It took me 15 minutes and then I stuck them under a broiler for a bit to get them as brown as Sophie's were. All ovens are different. But this is pretty much what hers looked like, as well as her pan.)






While the peaches are roasting, stir the agave or honey and vanilla extract into the yogurt and set aside.

Serve the peaches warm or room temperature with a spoonful of the yogurt mixture and add some mint if you want to be fancy for company.

Serves 4, or  2 if you're really into these as much as I was.

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