7.31.2010

Thomas Keller's Tomato Sorbet, good and bad breaks and a giveaway preview!


Breaks come in several forms. In my case, there are two; a broken wrist and a vacation. What is unfortunate is these two breaks are happening simultaneously. The broken wrist is going to prevent me from doing a lot of commenting for a while...you'll have to hang in there with me. I'm reading you though!

And the other break? We are taking a vacation in August ( I wish I could tell you I will be diving and snorkeling in the beautiful Caribbean but it looks as though I will be watching, not doing). So next week I will be posting a short recipe and a lovely giveaway from American Spoon Foods and then we're off.

Please be patient with me for a month or so...I'll be back the end of August with a giveaway winner, but will still be typing with one hand!

On to a lovely Thomas Keller recipe!

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Let's be honest: you're probably not going to make this entire dish. It takes too long. (And even then, I skipped a couple elements.) But if I tell you the tomato sorbet has one of those roll your eyes flavors, will you at least try the sorbet part? It's worth the time.


The composed dishes that comprise most of The French Laundry Cookbook recipes are time consuming to make. I think that's why I like Ad Hoc...geared more for the home cook. But I couldn't resist making the sorbet and when I licked the spoon before I put it in the fridge to chill, I DID roll my eyes and say Mmmmmmm. Will it be as good frozen? Yes, it was! I discovered it's best to use the same day because this sorbet freezes really hard if you keep it overnight. But if you're not able to, just let it soften and all will be well.

And do you have to skin all those little grape tomatoes? No. (Although that was the easy part and aren't those little veins in the tomatoes neat looking?) Just slice some heirloom tomatoes, dress them and top them with a small scoop of this sorbet. It does look nice on the bread, so do what I did. I took a left-over croissant half, cut a circle out of the bottom and toasted it. You could, however, serve it on a lettuce leaf.

That little cracker on top? It's adorable (and delicious), but you don't have to make it. I did omit the basil oil which, when I serve this again, I will definitely make if only for the sake of presentation and I also skipped the tomato tartare. I liked mine just the way it was. I'll give you recipes for the components I used, OK? Up to you which ones you use.

Thomas Keller's Tomato Sorbet on a Tomato Pyramid


Ingredients for sorbet:
6-7 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1 inch pieces (I didn't peel)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
pinch chopped tarragon
pinch cayenne
3/4 cup simple syrup
julienned zest of 1/2 orange (about 1 teaspoon) brought to a boil in cold water, drained and repeated 2 more times
salt and pepper

Method for sorbet:
Bring the tomatoes to a boil in a saucepan, reduce heat and cook, stirring often about 45 minutes or until the tomatoes are reduced by half. There will still be some liquid remaining

Heat the oil, add the onions and cook for 7-8 minutes until tender.

I ran the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins. Then put both the tomatoes and onion in a blender until smooth.


Press the mixture through a tamis (I don't own one so I used a sieve) and then blend again. There should be about 1 cup. Add the remaining sorbet ingredients and blend again. Refrigerate until cold. Freeze in an ice cream maker. Best to use the same day.

Ingredients for garlic tuilles:
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons garlic paste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian parsley, minced

Method for garlic tuilles:
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in one bowl. Beat the butter in another bowl by hand until creamy. With a spatula or spoon, beat the egg white into the dry ingredients until smooth. Add the butter by thirds. Whisk until smooth. Preheat oven to 325°.

On a silpat, spread about 3/4 of a teaspoon of the batter with the back of a spoon. The batter does not have to be even, the silpat can show through; it actually looks more interesting. Make it the size of a small cookie. Sprinkle the tops with the rosemary and parsley. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

Ingredients for cherry tomatoes:
A variety of cherry tomatoes, try to choose the same size
EVOO
salt and pepper


Method for cherry tomatoes:

Blanch the tomatoes in salted boiling water for a few seconds to loosen the skin. Peel the skin with a paring knife. Toss the tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.


To complete:

Soften the sorbet if needed.
Arrange a layer of the tomatoes on a crouton and top with another layer. You may need to trim the bottoms to get them to sit evenly. Try to make them the same size. Top with sorbet quenelle.
Keller adds basil oil around the base.

Here's a smaller version with just one layer of tomatoes:

7.28.2010

Another savory Galette...


My favorite dinner in the summer has always been a tossed salad, grilled steak or chicken and a baked potato. Of course, the potato part varies and often we serve a veggie dish of some kind. So I was overjoyed to run across this recipe in Donna Hay's 50th Birthday Issue. I love this magazine! I took a subscription, finally, and it was the nicest gift I've given myself in ages!

Is this the perfect recipe to serve with steak or what? Kind of a potato/onion upside down cake tart! And with my favorite Gruyère too. I love the way the onions cook at the bottom so when you turn it out, they are all caramelized and sit on top like pieces of fruit. And those crunchy potatoes. Don't you want to just pick them right out of the photo? This was such a fabulous side dish, I can't wait to make it again. Do I really need to say any more?  Look at that photo! You gotta love it.

Potato, Onion and Gruyère Galette
Donna Hay's 50th Anniversary Issue


 
Ingredients:

2 1/2 tablespoons butter
12 sprigs thyme
1 large onion, sliced somewhat thickly ( a tad more than 1/4 inch thick)
3/4 t0 1 lb. waxy potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (I used a mandolin)
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup grated gruyère
1 cup grated mozzarella
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°. Melt the butter in a 9-10 inch ovenproof frying pan over medium heat. Add the thyme and onion and cook for 5 minutes. Place the potato, oil, Gruyère, mozzarella, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to combine.
Top the onion with the potato mixture and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Turn upside down to serve.

7.25.2010

A Mid-Summer Salad


All the tomatoes are beautiful right now but I'm eating the heirloom tomatoes almost every day. They've got so much flavor. And there were some lovely ones in our Fresh Market last week, I couldn't resist.



I had Thomas Keller's tomato sorbet in mind when I bought them, (which I ended up making as well and will post soon) but then I remembered a recipe I had seen on Top Chef made by Miami Chef Jeff McInnis. I had copied and saved it. (Jeff is the Chef de Cuisine of The DiLido Beach Club at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach.) He made a Heirloom Tomato Salad, Asparagus and Cucumber Ribbons with a Goat Cheese Sorbet for one of the challenges.

                                                                                               Jeff McInnis

Lest we forget, tomatoes are a fruit. So I thought, hmmmm. Goat cheese sorbet? Well, I do love goat cheese in my salads, so this sounded good to me. And I really wanted to see how McInnis's flavors went together.

The sorbet couldn't be easier to make, although you do need an ice cream maker. I love that it's mainly Greek yogurt with honey as a sweetener. The goat cheese is melted into some cream and then mixed with the yogurt mixture. I stuck my spoon in it before I stuck it in the fridge to chill, it's a bit sweet (even though I cut way back on the honey) and I could barely taste the goat cheese (I thought it would be stronger), but I went ahead and froze it. I taste-tested again right out of the ice cream maker; it's tart, slightly sweet and yes, I could taste both the goat cheese and the yogurt. And it was ever so slightly grainy. I really was surprised I liked it so much with the tomatoes and think it would also be great with some caramelized fresh fruit over it for dessert. But I went ahead and made the salad....there's plenty left to use for an interesting dessert experiment later. (With port-infused figs maybe? Or a scoop of this would be marvelous on an apple tart!)

The heirloom tomato part is easy enough to throw together. McInnis suggests Verjus vinegar for this recipe and I was pleasantly surprised.  Deana from Long Past Remembered did a post on Verjus a while back and I was intrigued and ordered some. (Thank you Deana!). This vinegar does make a difference, but if you don't have any, don't let that stop y0u from making this salad, just use white wine vinegar.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese Sorbet

Courtesy Jeff McInnis


Ingredients:

Tomato Salad:
6 heirloom tomatoes (each a different type)

1/8 ounces micro basil
pinch sea salt
pinch sumac
asparagus and cucumber for garnish

Verjus Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons Verjus vinegar
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Goat Cheese Sorbet:
2 cups Greek yogurt (I use Fage)
juice of 2 lemons
1-1/2 cups honey (this seemed like a lot, so I cut this down to 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup cream
4 ounces goat cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Method:


For the Tomato Salad:

Slice the tomatoes any way you like. Cut bottom hard area from jumbo asparagus and discard. Using a thin vegetable peeler or electric slicer peel strips of jumbo asparagus like little ribbons and plunge in cold ice water. If you cut the asparagus thin enough it will curl up after sitting in ice water for a short period of time. Slice the cucumber in the same manner.


For the Vinaigrette:
Mix all ingredients well and splash over tomatoes.


For the Sorbet:
Heat cream over medium heat in small sauce pot with goat cheese until melted, whisk. Place in bowl with remaining ingredients and whisk quickly. Refrigerate until cold and then freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Note: the chef suggests using the sorbet the same day. Also in a machine this sorbet can break if over spun. If using a machine, spin until just frozen (still like soft serve ice cream).


For Plating:
Remove asparagus and cucumber from ice water and toss with tomatoes and vinaigrette. While plating these vegetables, season the tomatoes with a generous pinch of sea salt and sumac. Place a scoop of the sorbet on the tomato salad. Garnish with micro herbs.

7.21.2010

Waffles!

I have been meaning to try this recipe for ages (you are all proabably way ahead of me on this), but because my kids are grown, I don't make waffles very often. I had the chance a while back and jumped all over it.

When I used to make waffles, I always depended on my mother's waffle recipe. It was excellent, everyone was happy, so why look further? But when I started blogging, I kept running across a recipe for raised waffles by Marion Cunningham. Cunningham is an award-winning food writer and prolific cookbook author. I read about her waffles first on David Lebovitz's blog, then on Orangette  (Who, by the way, didn't like them!). I think you'll enjoy reading David's article if you have time.

The idea sounded great to me for two reasons: 1) I love yeast-based pancakes so why wouldn't I love raised waffles? and 2) you do all the work the night before so it's perfect when you have guests.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, these were delicious! I'm throwing Mother's recipe away; that's how good these were. Marion's are light as a feather with a very slight yeasty taste which I love. And if I hadn't told my guests they were raised waffles, they would never have known. (Well, they put butter and maple syrup on them before tasting and I tasted them plain before garnishing!) Such a morning time-saver to throw them together the night before and let them do their magic while you sleep! And it IS magic.


Marion Cunningham's Raised Waffles


Ingredients:

1/2 cup warm water
1 package dried yeast
2 cups warm milk
1/2 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Method:

Use a  large bowl; the batter will rise to double its original volume.
Put the water in the mixing bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand to dissolve for 5 minutes. Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour to the yeast mixture and beat until smooth and blended.

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature. 

Just before cooking the waffles, beat in the eggs, add the baking soda , and stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. 

Pour about 1/2-3/4  cup batter into a very hot waffle iron. Bake until golden and crisp. This batter will keep for several days in the refrigerator.




7.19.2010

A Stilton and Wild Mushroom Galette

There are lots of lovely stone fruit galettes this time of year, so I have a little surprise for you: a savory galette. I had seen it quite a while ago on Smitten Kitchen and just recently made it for some guests. Deb's recipe was made with a pastry crust, but I just happened to have one sheet of puff pastry left in my freezer and I thought, why not? And I also had a package of dried morels. The only thing left to buy was some cheese and some extra mushrooms.

I hope you like the strong and tangy flavor of stilton because it really shines in this galette.  My family happens to love it and one of my guests was originally from Great Britain...he was in 7th heaven. (I made some of Ina Garten's stilton crackers for he and his wife last year and they loved those too. Must remember to post about them.)

Stilton has been made since the 1700s, and has earned a protected origin designation, which means that only Stilton meeting a set of exacting standards can be labeled and sold as Stilton. It is produced in two varieties: the well-known blue and the lesser-known white.



•There are just 6 dairies in the world licensed to make Blue Stilton cheese
•It takes 136 pints milk (78 litres) to make one 17 lb (8kg) Stilton cheese
•Over 1 million Stilton cheeses are made each year
•More than 10% of output is exported to some 40 countries world-wide

And here's an odd fact I ran across: a 2005 study carried out by the British Cheese Board claimed that when it came to dream types, Stilton cheese seemed to cause odd dreams, with 75% of men and 85% of women experiencing bizarre and vivid dreams after eating a 20-gram serving of the cheese half an hour before going to sleep. That's less than 3/4 of an ounce, not much at all. On the other hand, most of us aren't eating this right before we go to bed either.

I used three kinds of mushrooms in my galette: my reconstituted morels, some shiitakes and some baby bellas. You'll find this galette is enough for 8-10 people as it goes a long way and it packs quite a punch. A small slice is enough for each person. Besides, the smaller the piece, the easier to hold so you don't have to supply plates!



Wild Mushroom and Stilton Galette
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen,  October 19, 2006

Ingredients:
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed in the fridge overnight and rolled out to a 10 to 12" circle. Prick a fork all over the bottom, leaving a 1/2 inch around the edge.

For the filling
:

1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms, such as morels, porcini or shiitakes

1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sliced green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 lb. assorted fresh wild mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcini and shiitakes, brushed
clean and large mushrooms thinly sliced (If these are unavailable, fill in with some button mushrooms)
5 ounces Stilton or other good-quality blue cheese

Method:
Make the filling: Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and add the boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes until softened. Drain the mushrooms and mince finely.

Preheat an oven to 400°F.


In a large fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the green onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and continue to cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Increase the heat to high, add the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms, and saute until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid they released has completely evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.


On a floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 10 to 12 inch round. Transfer to an parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Crumble the blue cheese into a bowl, add the cooled mushrooms and stir well. Spread the mixture over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border.


Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 8-10 as an appetizer or first course, depending on the size of the slices.


7.15.2010

The devil made me do it!

For those of you too young to remember, Flip Wilson* was a fabulous comic back in the 70's. And one of his funniest characters was Geraldine Jones.  If you have never seen him do Geraldine, you are really in for a treat because Geraldine introduced "the devil made me do it" to an entire generation and it became a national expression. Here he is on the Ed Sullivan show in 1970. Unfortunately, not in Geraldine's costume, but use your wildest imagination and enjoy the video anyway.



And yes, the devil DID make me do this. There's no saving grace here. None. But listen you guys, it has Milky Way bars! I used to love them. I have much better control these days, barely, but if I'm going to splurge on a candy bar, it's gonna be this one. Dark chocolate version, please.


There was no resisting after I saw the photo of this recipe in the cookbook. So, if you haven't seen it, let me introduce it to you. Lisa Yockelson is a baking journalist, food stylist and prolific cookbook author. Every page in this book has a gem of a recipe and every photo will make you drool. It's such a beautiful book, I actually have it on a coffee table and not in the kitchen. It draws people like a magnet.  The title says it all: Chocolate Chocolate. (And Amazon has it used for $3!)


No doubt the devil will be pushing me to make some of the other recipes (I have post-its all over the book) but let's start with this little gem!

Chocolate Nougat Squares

Adapted from Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson


Ingredients:
4 (1.76 ounces each) Milky Way midnight bars
1-1/4 cups unsifted cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Method:
Preheat oven to 325°.
Grease and flour a 9 by 9 by 2 inch baking pan.
Refrigerate the candy bars for 20 minutes. Dice the candy bars into 1/2 inch squares. (I cut them lengthwise and then crosswise into 1/2 in pieces.

(Note: I suggest you change this to: refrigerate for 20 minutes, cut into 1/2 inch square chunks, then put in the freezer until you're ready to add to the batter. They will hold up better and not melt completely like mine nearly did and might look more like the photo in the book.)

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.

Mix the melted butter and chocolate together.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for about 15 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk for a minute. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture and stir until combined. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the batter and mix until incorporated.  Add the cold candy pieces.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until set.

Remove from oven and cool on a baking rack for 2 hours. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Cut into quarters and then each quarter into 4 pieces. Remove from baking pan and store in an airtight pan.

*Whatever happened to Flip Wilson? At the end of the 70's he got custody of his children and, wanting to spend time with his family, performed infrequently after that. He passed away from liver cancer in 1998.

7.11.2010

Whole Hominy: trendy??


In the past few weeks, I've found hominy on my plate at two local restaurants. Hominy you ask? Yes, but not the way you'd expect.
The first was at Michael's Genuine in Miami. (Michael was just awarded the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef of the Year, South. If you're ever down this way, don't miss his amazing food.) A group of us went for lunch and on the appetizer menu was a dish called "Crispy Hominy with Chile and Lime". Intriguing. Well, we were a table of southerners, so we ordered it along with some others goodies to share. When the dish arrived, we expected some form of grits, probably panfried patties. But no, this starter arrived in a small bowl and was whole hominy, deep dried. You just popped them in your mouth like popcorn. Deelish. Completely addicting!

Less than a week later, my son and I went to
Cut 432 in Delray Beach, one of his favorite places to eat. I ordered salmon and it arrived served over....you guessed it....whole hominy!  It had been browned with something like scallions and perhaps finely chopped celery and red pepper. Simple, unusual and quite tasty. I am so accustomed to hominy in grits form, or as posole in Southwest-flavored soups that I was completely surprised by these two dishes using whole hominy, one as an appetizer (for which I have since found a Mark Bittman recipe and will attempt soon) and then as a side dish. Have you had it served to you anyplace? What do you think...a new fad?  

Hominy is hulled corn kernels that have been stripped of their bran and germ. It's served both whole or ground. And even ground, there are degrees of texture. Finely ground, it can be used to make tamale and tortilla dough. And slightly less finely ground, you have grits, that lovely old southern dish that most northerners don't understand. Everyone in the south has a great family recipe for grits...my personal favorite being cheese grits.



Coarsely ground hominy was called samp. Samp is of Native American origin, coming from the Narragansett word "nasàump." New Englanders since early colonial times have referred to cornmeal mush or cereal as "samp." Like hominy, samp is prepared from dehulled kernels of maize, but the two are produced by different processes. If the word "samp" dropped out of modern English, "hominy" hung in there,  eventually joined with the word "grits" in the American South.

In the Southwest, big (or whole) hominy is called posole (or pozole) and is used to make hearty stews of hominy, chile peppers, and pork. (Heidi at 101 Cookbooks has a lovely recipe made with
posole.)  And it was "big hominy" that I was served in both restaurants.
Of course it comes canned, but don't go that route, please. Hominy seems to be gaining in popularity primarily due to the intensity of the flavor that is not available from canned hominy. So start with the dried.



I discovered you treat whole hominy like dried beans: soak them overnight and simmer with a chopped onion for about about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until it is puffed and tender, but not broken down. You will have to keep checking on the water content throughout this process as more water may need to be added. Plan on 1/3 cup uncooked hominy for each serving. After the initial soaking and cooking, the kernels should be drained well, then cooled. They can also be refrigerated until ready for use.
And how should you use them? Aside from Heidi's recipe above, try making a hominy stir fry flavored with sesame oil and fresh crisp vegetables; or fry hominy in brown butter and herbs as a side dish; or how about The Pioneer Woman's Hominy Casserole? And here's a change of pace: hominy and coconut pudding.  

And lastly, here's what I came up with:

Grilled Salmon over Fried Hominy

 

 
Ingredients:

1 cup white corn hominy
1/2 onion
water
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter

Notes:

*The hominy would be heavenly fried with some bacon too. (Naughty me!)
*Because this post is all about hominy, there's no recipe for the salmon here; use your favorite fish and your favorite way to prepare it.

Method:

Bring a pot of water to boil, add some salt, the 1/2 onion and the hominy. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. I found two hours was too long; the hominy starts to break down. Take a piece to test; it should be similar to the texture of a lima bean. Drain and remove the onion. You can cool at this point and refrigerate.
Add some olive oil and a little butter to a frying pan. Add the hominy, the green onions, the garlic and red pepper. Lower the heat and fry until everything is golden brown. Serve under fish or meat.

7.08.2010

Almond Praline Semifreddo with Roasted Apricots


Have you ever made a semifreddo? This was my first. Why, I can't imagine since I like ice cream so much. The name is Italian for "half cold" and refers to any of various chilled or partially frozen desserts. While this may be considered a frozen dessert, because of the egg whites or whipped cream folded into a semifreddo, it doesn't freeze as hard as ice cream. And I bet you'll be pleased to read you don't need an ice cream maker either. When you take a spoonful, you'll find the semifreddo melts quickly in your mouth and has an airy, mousse-like texture. Really lovely.


Just because I'm crazy for almond anything, I made an almond praline semifreddo. We loved it, but there simply wasn't anywhere near enough praline :D, so next time I'm going to double the praline part of the recipe. Not only would I have loved more in the semifreddo itself, but I ran out while sprinkling it on top as a garnish.

There are lots of different ways a semifreddo can be plated: you can freeze the entire batch in a large container and scoop it out to serve just like ice cream or freeze it in individual paper cupcake liners. Just peel them away to serve.  I really prefer the presentation of a slice of semifreddo, so I made mine in a loaf pan. Apricots are wonderful right now so I roasted some lovely fresh ones. Of course, you can use any fruit you like. There is a wonderful recipe at Pastry Studio (one of my favorite blogs), using cherries with an almond semifreddo. I included her recipe after the at the end because cherries are lovely right now too! But if you want to make a really simple topping for your semifreddo, just mash your favorite fresh berries and add some sugar to taste.

Almond Praline Semifreddo

Gourmet, July, 1990


Ingredients:

(
Please note that I have doubled the praline part of this recipe)

2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2/3 cup sliced almonds with skin (1 ounce), toasted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups chilled heavy cream

Method:
Line a lightly oiled 8 1/2-by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with wax paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.

Cook 2/3 cup sugar in a dry small heavy skillet over medium heat, undisturbed, until it begins to melt. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until a deep golden caramel. Stir in almonds to coat and scrape onto baking sheet. Cool, then break into pieces. Pulse in a food processor until praline is finely ground (do not grind to a paste).

Beat eggs and remaining 1/4 cup sugar with a pinch of salt in a 2-quart metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water using a handheld electric mixer at high speed until tripled in volume and very thick, about 8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat until mixture is cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Stir in extract.

With cleaned beaters, beat cream until it just holds stiff peaks. Fold about one third of whipped cream into egg mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining cream and about 3/4 of the praline gently but thoroughly (reserve remaining praline for garnish). Spoon into loaf pan and freeze, covered, until firm, at least 6 hours.

Uncover semifreddo and invert onto a chilled platter, using plastic wrap to help pull it from mold. Sprinkle reserved praline on top. Slice semifreddo crosswise and serve with the apricots.



Honey-cardamom Roasted Apricots
From Bon Appetit Test Kitchen, June 2010.

Ingredients:

1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 large or 12 small apricots (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved, pitted
3 1/2 tablespoons honey, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

Method:

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix brown sugar and cardamom in 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Add apricots. Pour 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons honey over fruit; dot with butter. Roast until apricots are tender, occasionally basting with syrup in dish, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes.


Balsamic Cherries

From Pastry Studio

Ingredients:

3 cups (about 1 lb, 2 oz) fresh cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup sugar, to taste
pinch salt
zest of half of a large orange
1 -2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste

Method:

To make the cherry compote, place the pitted cherries with the water and sugar in a saucepan. Add the orange zest and simmer until the juices are rendered and the cherries are fairly tender, tasting for the right amount of sugar. Remove from heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Cool completely.


Notes: Semifreddo can be made 3 days ahead and kept frozen, well wrapped.
            
Apricots with syrup can be made 2 days ahead and chilled.

7.04.2010

A Very Ugly Pasta Sauce


I kid you not. It's made with eggplant and it's gray, soggy and really boring looking.

But remember that old adage: don't let appearances fool you. You cook this eggplant in olive oil with some garlic and a little stock and then mash it into a sauce. And OMG, the flavor! Silky, garlicky, eggplanty and luscious with oil. You add a bit of fresh basil, salt, pepper and dried tomatoes at the end just to brighten things up. I gobbled it down before even thinking of grating some Parmigiano-Reggiano on top, but you can if you insist.

I'm ahead of the game because I really LIKE eggplant. But a lot of people don't. This particular recipe came from food writer Francis Lam who wasn't an eggplant fan either and, in his own inimitable way, had this to say about eggplant:

"It’s not always easy to deal with eggplant. It’s a fussy creature, finicky and unpredictable. It can be horrifyingly bitter if you get it when it’s overmature and seedy. It can soak up grease with the gusto of a ShamWow. But the oily, gray, lifeless, and utterly delicious eggplant I had at a neighborhood place in Rome inspired me to rethink my treatment and relationship with the stuff. Why fight the eggplant and try to get neat, seared cubes? Let it be what it wants to be! Let it turn to mush!"

So he's a convert...and you will be too after you make this very simple Italian peasant dish.

Pasta with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Sauce
Recipe from
HERE and HERE
.


Ingredients:
1 pound eggplant, cut into ½ inch slices, leave the skin on
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
2 springs thyme, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes*, minced
6 leaves basil, sliced thinly
Salt and pepper
1 pound spaghetti

Method:
Lightly salt the slices of eggplant, stack them back together and let sit for 20 minutes.



Put the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat. Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks.


When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat it all with oil. Turn up the heat a little bit to medium high and add the thyme and stir. When the eggplant is turning translucent and softening, add the liquid, let it come to a boil, and turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while so that the bottom doesn’t stick.

After about 20 minutes or so, the liquid in the eggplant pan should be mostly evaporated and the eggplant should be soft and melting. Mash it with a fork or spoon, and adjust the seasoning to taste.



Toss the eggplant purée with the spaghetti that you cooked al dente. Stir in the minced tomatoes and basil.  Serve immediately.
Serves 3 or 4.

*I used some left over roasted tomatoes I'd had for lunch. Never made oven roasted tomatoes? Here's how. Easy peasy.

Take 12 plum tomatoes, cut them in half and remove most of the seeds. Place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper, some minced garlic, some balsalmic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Bake in a 275° oven for about 2 hours. Cool.

And the salad I had for lunch? I made it with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil  and these delicious roasted tomatoes with a bit more balsamic and EVOO on top. Yum.

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