August 31st, 2012 § § permalink
This week has been filled with orgiastic feasts from which I might not properly recover. Ever. The boyfriend has a friend in town and there’s a wedding, so my stomach has been dealing with bilious blows of an epicurean and libatious nature. Is there such a thing as food fatigue? I managed to put together a decent brunch in my pajamas before sending the boys off on their own tiresome adventures so I can bake an apple pie and sip some much needed caffeinated tonic. Meanwhile, I got this list of delicious links (also some cute ones because I cannot help myself) together for your internet browsing pleasure.
+ Is it just me or did the internet just harvest all of its corn this week? Literally, everybody is talking about corn.
+ This capellini and corn recipe is very inspiring… but I think it needs some chickpeas to make it more proteinaceous.
+ If I had too much corn, I’d totally do this: Pickled Corn! Genius!
+ I made this gnocchi the other day. As usual, that book is amazing. The original recipe calls for chanterelles but they will not be in season till October. Shiitakes make a great substitute.
+ I’m in love with shelled beans this season so we are making and eating things like this all the time. It’s a lovely comfort food if you live in fog. I’m going to share a similar simple, vegan recipe with you next week…
+ Gravensteins are now in season so I’m making one pie a week it seems - This looks incredible don’t you think? Next time…
+ I have an influx of heirloom tomatoes right now so this tart is going on my list. Her watercolors are so inspiring. I need to get to work.
+ I eat eggs all the time, but I have never seen any as colorful as this. Egg envy + chicken envy.
+ These cute animals need to belong to me. Really, if you want to be my friend, this gift is a requirement.
+ I can’t keep up with my butter so this whale butter dish looks just fine. Whale butter sounds amazing.
+ These cute drawings are perfect. Cute. Overload. Plus plenty of vegetables.
August 29th, 2012 § § permalink
Consider yourself lucky if you ever get a chance to eat a French Charentais melon because they are absolute perfection. Charentais are unabashedly sweet – the kind of sweetness that puts other fruits to shame, because we all know fruits have egos the size of Texas. Circa 1920 from the Poitou-Charentes region of France, these highly refined cantaloupes were developed to be free of warts and blemishes typical of European orange melons. They are rarely cultivated in the US and do not ship well due to their delicate nature and short shelf life. It’s worth growing if you have a green thumb and a bit of dirt. The famous French poet, Antoine Girarde de Saint-Amant, had these words to say about the Charentais:
It is better than the beloved apricot, better than strawberries and cream, better than the Holy pear of Tours or the sweet green fig. Even the muscat grape I love is bitterness and muck compared to this divine melon.
O sweet grassy snake, crawling on a green bed. It is Apollo’s masterpiece. The brothels of Rouen will be free of the pox… tobacco smokers will have white teeth… I will forget my love’s favours before I forget you-
O fleur de tous les fruits! O ravisant MELON!
Doesn’t this guy look like a sea creature? The seeds remind me of Nemo…
How was I lucky enough to get a Charentais?
My melon came from the kiwi farmer at the Civic Center Farmer’s Market. Get this, the kiwi vendor disappears for months, then shows up last week with the best peaches of the season: Cling peaches with the texture and flavor of mangoes (that’s only a slight exaggeration). As I was standing there eyeing the cling peaches and begging for kiwis, a couple walked up and said… “Hey you are our kiwi guy!!!” - we all welcome the return of the kiwi farmer because everything he sells is spectacular, hence this Charentais. This farm stand is also where I got those amazing French Sugarplums… have you roasted some yet?
Most people (that eat meat) pair cantaloupes with prosciutto but I find the combination too overpowering for this particular specimen of exquisite melon. I choose to serve it chilled and shaved with a bit of fresh ricotta, a drizzle of honey, and pistachios. Then, I melt onto the floor from happiness.
Option number two would be Charentais melon with fresh Burrata cheese, a sorrel infused oil, and julienne mint. I usually get my burrata from AG Ferrari, who recently told us that the FDA has been “cracking down” on products… I don’t even know what that means, but I think I need another burrata retailer. For now though, I like the balance of ricotta and honey.
This would be perfect for a quick refreshing breakfast or a delightful end to a heavy meal (like the pizza I had today)… I used my ceramic vegetable peeler for these.
August 27th, 2012 § § permalink
Shall I invoke yet another ode to the humble peach – that fuzzy southern institution that heralds the serum of interminable summer heat; a metaphor for scrumptious, petite things; a term of endearment for lecherous love…
There was only one peach tree in my youth and we did vile things to its graceful limbs – we trimmed, chopped, and tended them until the extremities of bulbous growths sprouted obscene spindles, unable to hold their heavy, luscious burdens. In retrospect, this did not seem judicious for when the peaches came in a sudden gluttonous orgy, there followed a cascade of fallen fruit that painted the ground in its orange hues of sugary overload. I recall with clarity traversing the yard towards our miniature orchard amidst a reverse-rain of departing birds, a sudden interruption to foul-filled picnics, a veritable feather and fruit haven. The birds and I feasted but their appetites never waned, while I gradually grew tired of the orange stone fruit in all of its weary transmutations. Perhaps if that tree was not as generous in its fruiting, I might be constantly pining for orange stone fruits.
These days an acquired polite indifference yields to bargain bins and dollar bags filled with thrifty fruity odors that confer a longer life to peaches in the forms of preserves and jams, a celebration of summer’s fecundity that fits tidily into tiny jars. I made a ginger peach butter for the thrill of it – a cheap memento of a bargain shopper’s Sunday forage and ravenous hoarding. I really like this butter. The subtle ginger peach combination is growing on my palate like a second skin, akin to San Francisco scarves in cool, foggy summers. Wrapped in these chilly sea mists, it’s no wonder that I yearn for the comforts of warm fruity delights. That, and the coziness of a cup of tea.
The ginger peach butter has proved itself versatile. I dilute it with hot water to dress French toasts. I eat it on cheeses. I’m giving some of it away for gifts. I’m also enlisting it in my quest for more hand pies. It’s a slow journey, but I’ve already made this and this with delicious consequences.
This pie has a more cake-like texture than others, reminiscent of Fig Newtons, or rather what Fig Newtons aspire to be: declared the boyfriend. I found these hand pies delightfully straddling cake and pie territory… comfortable in their non-declaration of genre, while playfully enticing in their righteous Lilliputian style. Moreover, the dough is made using a hand mixer. Strange, right? This recipe yields a fortuitous abundance – an easy, casual gift with many more to spare.
Sweet Hand Cake-Pie Dough
Dough Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts
3 c. pastry flour or all purpose flour
1/4 ts. baking soda
1 ts. baking powder
1/2 ts. salt
2 ts. lemon zest, finely grated
1/2 sweet cream butter, @room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
3 oz cream cheese, @room temperature
2 TB buttermilk
1 ts. vanilla extract
Fillings for Peach Hand Pies: Martha’s recipe was for an apple butter filling, so I adapted it for a summer treat with my ginger peach butter.
1/2 c. Ginger Peach Butter*
1 Peach, finely diced
dusting: 1/4 c. granulated sugar & 1/8 ts. ginger powder. Mix well.
+ Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, zest.
+ In separate bowl, use a hand mixer to beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs and mix, followed by cream cheese, milk and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
+ Form dough into a ball and flatten into a disk 1″ thick disk. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour or until firm to the touch. This can be kept frozen up to 1 month.
+ Once dough is chilled, roll dough out to a thickness of 1/8 “. Cut out 2″ *** rounds and refrigerate until firm (1 hour).
+ Have a glass of ice water and a pastry brush. Fill half the rounds with a small bit of peach butter and diced peaches, leaving a half inch radius around the edges to press the dough together. Brush the edges with ice water and press the two firmly together. Brush the pie tops with ice water and sprinkle a bit of ginger sugar on top.
+ Refrigerate the pies for 1 hour or until the dough feels firm again.
+ Preheat the oven to 375°F and bake until golden. Mine took 20 minutes. The bottoms tend to cook really fast so I placed them on the oven’s top shelf.
* I think you could potentially replace this with a puree of peach, ginger, and sugar that’s slow cooked to a thick gravy-like consistency.
*** I find that the pieces fit better if you shape and stretch the top into a small cap. Or, just cut the tops a bit bigger. Also, you could make regularly sized 4″ hand pies, which would be faster.
August 23rd, 2012 § § permalink
There’s something heretical about the oralgasmic nature of honey roasted sugar plums; its decadent, syrupy warmth prompting a sweet parting from the purity of raw fruits. It is certainly unnecessary but absolutely irresistible.
The Bible should be revised to say:
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did roast it with melted butter and honey, with a touch of vanilla, and gave none unto her husband with her; for it was too delicious.
You see, this makes Eve a terrible sinner, evil and selfish, but it would make her an excellent gourmandize, capable of transforming the beauty of crisp summer sweetness into the opening hints of autumn’s comfort. Here, a creamy concoction of milky Irish cut oats provides a soothing canvas from which the honey flavored fruits float and sing that siren song of sugary sins. Did I mention that melted butter, honey, and vanilla tastes like chocolate?
To Roast Sugar Plums:I’d be hesitant to replace other stone fruits for this recipe unless they are ripe and super firm.
for 4 fresh French sugar plums (also called fresh French prunes)
1 TB honey
1 TB unsalted sweet cream butter
dash of vanilla extract
+ Preheat oven to 400°F
+ Halve the plums and remove pits.
+ Place honey, butter, and vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until butter is melted. Mix well and toss plums in this mixture. Place plums cut side down and roast for 15 minutes. Save remainder of honey/butter sauce for topping roasted fruits.
+ Serve over creamy oatmeal or creamy barley or creamy wheat berries…
August 20th, 2012 § § permalink
There’s hardly a more rewarding form of exercise than kneading dough in the dark of evening, for all that hard work is the prelude to a morning of fresh bread. After the first three minutes, my arms begin to tire but that’s when the shaping becomes rhythmic meditation: thoughts saturated with the scent of fermenting yeast and binding strands of elastic gluten. My short stature makes kneading much more difficult as I have to stand on my tippy toes. I use a timer so there’s no cheating – adding a few extra minutes to ensure that the dough gets worked extra hard. It is much easier to use a bread machine, but where’s the fun in that? Hand kneading is an imperfect art, like Wabi-Sabi.
Undertaking bread baking was the first step to absorbing the vast quantities of preserves I’ve accumulated, a residue of the season’s work – not to mention clearing out last year’s preserves to make room for new ones. The ratio of bread to preserves requires a lot of carb consumption. I can’t complain…
Then, there’s the dogged pursuit of artisanal bread on mornings when you wake up feeling famished from a night of heavy dreaming, the kind of soul-seeping hunger that devours a silo’s worth of grain if only that silo was bedside. It is the promise of bread that coaxes my sleep-heavy body out of bed towards the expectant loaf that ballooned in volume while I slept: I heat the oven and bake the bread as I shower, and by the time I’m dressed there’s a hot loaf coming from the oven, warming the kitchen with its comforting aromas of whole grain goodness. The first few slices are always euphoric, but for days I take intermittent pleasures in private Eleusinian celebrations, feasts of bread and butter accompanied by fresh berries and creature cups.
Suggested Literary Accompaniment: Six Thousand Years of Bread by H.E. Jacob. I’ve been slowly savoring this volume, and it’s nothing short of amazing. Then again, I’m a book fiend when it comes to culinary history.
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking
Beer adds a light sweetness and a beautiful brewery aroma to this loaf. It’s a sandwich bread but I like the flavor so much i’ve been eating it with my latest fruit butter.
3/4 c. amber ale/mild beer
1/4 c. orange juice
3 TB honey
4 TB butter, cut into small chunks
1 3/4 c. whole wheat bread flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 ts. salt
2 1/4 ts. instant yeast*
+Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for at least 10-12 minutes or until dough feels smooth, elastic, and holds its shape. This is a sticky dough, so if you don’t like to knead by hand, by all means, use a bread machine.
+ Placed kneaded dough into an oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in size (typically 2.5 hours). Gently, squeeze dough and deflate with oiled hands… there’s no punching needed. Shape dough into a bread pan and cover until doubled in size (another 2.5 hours).
+ Bake bread in a 350 °F oven until internal temperature reaches 190°F (about 30 -35 minutes, tent your bread halfway through to prevent overcooking the top).
*If you have active dry yeast, it must be proofed prior to mixing. Just heat up the OJ and honey until it’s warm to the touch (110-115 °F ) and pour the yeast into the liquid while you measure and mix together the dry ingredients. The yeast should start to bubble after 5 minutes. If it is not visibly bubbly, dump the liquids and use different yeast – old yeast will not proof and therefore should not be used.
Recipe for Ginger Peach Butter: http://bklynfoodie.com/?p=3120
I didn’t think this recipe was solid enough for a butter, but the flavor is beautiful. The boyfriend approves. I plan on making it into teeny bite-size hand pies with some fresh peaches.
August 18th, 2012 § § permalink
In a parallel universe, this blueberry crumble would have been perfectly topped with fresh juicy berries, but alas, I misread the directions and dumped the entirety of the blueberries into the batter and baked it all to a golden hue. I ate that crumble, but each bite taunted me with defectiveness – the tops were excessively sweet. The crumbles yearned for their berry counterparts only to melt into the batter’s sweet oblivion.
I ate more of the crumble, examining the bottom of my failed cake lined with defunct berries: They must have drowned in the heat of the batter like lifeless corpses, unable to float.
I dispensed my shameful cake to others and spoke endlessly about the defeat of executing recipes in haste though no one else shared my disappointment; free confections are always accepted with graciousness. I began to regard my kitchen blunder more graciously, with warmth. I thought, There’s a special place in dessert heaven for failed cakes.
The photo, too, was a failure, but I love it. It seem to speak about the parallel universe of failed ambitions. I’d rather have a flawless blueberry crumble, but this instance of corresponding images will suffice.
I wish I could write a recipe for failed blueberry crumbles, but most will do – just dump all of the berries into the batter and bake away. Failure tastes better when shared.
August 17th, 2012 § § permalink
The blog Ideas in Food is really extraordinary in its scientific approach to the culinary arts. There was an entire week where I read nothing but musings on watermelon rind manipulation. Last week, I was ogling at parsnip tootsie rolls. Most of the ideas are actually not feasible for most domestic kitchens, but make an interesting read nonetheless. I am trying to convince some friends to make the liquid nitrogen popcorn gelato for movie night. I’m sure it will take at least eight hours.
Their self-titled book, Ideas in Food, was where I found this “recipe” for infusing sea salt with fresh vanilla. I love how it brings a delicate sweet tone to foods without actually adding sugar. Honestly, I tend to under-salt most of my food, so this is a godsend for the dining table. After having this aromatic condiment around for a week, we’ve managed to rim margaritas, top lavender shortbreads, and sprinkle a bit on salads. The salt-rimmed margaritas were my favorite thus far because the vanilla coats your tongue and nose in velvet before the sweet citrus coolness of the margarita becomes engulfed in the ambrosial undertones of vanilla. It’s so genius and simple, I can’t wait to try a truffle infusion.
To Infuse Salt:
2 c. Fleur de Sel (I bought a beautiful coral speckled sea salt)
1 vanilla bean
+ Remove beans from vanilla pod and mix thoroughly with sea salt. Place in an airtight container for two days. At this point, you can separate them into gift containers…They will continue to infuse the salt.
I made gift bottles out of old spice jars and used old yarn and a stamp kit to label them.
August 16th, 2012 § § permalink
I love the flavor of grilled foods, but it is difficult to create a satisfying meal of grilled vegetables. I grew up grilling a lot of meat while using the stovetop for sides and vegetables. As I matured in vegetarianism, I missed eating grilled foods and had to adapt a lot of recipes with soy substitutes. It seemed all too simple to exchange tofu for chicken or buy some of those frozen vegan patties and put them on hamburger buns. None of it was satisfying enough, but eventually I just started to experiment by putting whatever was in season on the grill. I grilled pizzas, cakes, brussel sprouts, cabbages, okras, lettuces… it was endless.
I’ve since discovered that the easiest genre of food to grill would have to be Mexican. My two months in Mexico eating street tacos and grilled quesadillas seasoned my Mexican palate with BBQ and smoke. Besides, I once watched Bobby Flay grill some quesadillas filled with apples and cheese. I think this was the episode where I fell in love with Bobby.
I live in a warehouse that hosts two grilled turkeys at Thanksgiving, but for the remainder of the year, the grills lie fallow. This makes me kind of sad. So… I finally invited some friends over for fiery fun. We started with some grilled okra and squash in a spice rub followed by grilled watermelon salad and mushroom quesadillas with corn and peach salsa. I think I nearly converted some meat eaters to vegetarianism. Or perhaps they were just being nice.
Grilled Watermelon Salad:
1 watermelon cut into a large slabs
1/2 c. finely cubed feta
2 grilled jalapenos, chopped
julienned shiso leaves (japanese mint, you can also use regular mint)
lime olive oil (1part lime juice, 1 part olive oil)
+ Grill watermelon slabs on both sides until slightly charred. Remove from grill and cut into cubes while maintaining slab shapes. Top with lime oil combo and evenly distribute feta, shiso, jalapenos on top.
Mexican-esque Spice Rub:
1 part coriander powder
1 part garlic powder
1 part salt (you should taste the rub and salt accordingly)
1 part chili powder (cayenne if you are feeling eager)
2 parts cumin powder
Lime Sour Cream (mix well and serve):
1/2 c. sour cream
+ Coat squash and okras in oil and liberally sprinkle spice rub onto mixture. Grill and serve with Lime Sour Cream.
August 13th, 2012 § § permalink
My sentimental palate was born from warm memories of modest cafes; but one in particular will get repeated throughout the life of this blog: The Dynamic Dish. It has since been closed so it might be a disservice to those wishing to visit, but their twitter page is a record of worthy reading: http://twitter.com/dynamicdish.
My very first CSA was from a farm whose pick-up location was The Dish, so it became a Sunday affair to get fresh packages of rare vegetables followed by a simple, organic meal. Brie & pear sandwiches with almond butter? Yes please. My only regret was not having eaten there more often. My heart was broken when I first heard the terrible news of their closing, but David is currently at Cakes and Ale in Decatur, GA so I am intent on eating my first lunch there if I ever return South. For those who have frequented the “The Dish“, I offer up my version of this picturesque pie I ate one beautiful Wednesday evening.
There’s no real recipe here, just make (here & here*) or buy your favorite pizza dough and top away:
+ Bring a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprig of rosemary to a boil. Turn off heat and allow to cool. When dough is ready brush rosemary olive oil on dough – go lightly.
+ Place slices of manchego on top of oil and follow with fig and pink peppercorns. I also sprinkle a pinch of sea salt on the pie before baking it on the highest heat available.
* I used to own this book but someone borrowed it and it has not since been returned. . . there is a bounty on that person’s head, and a flawless pizza dough recipe in there.
This pizza gets a yearly reprisal so look for it again here next year when figs are abundant. I must thank my friends Nathan and Dean for resurrecting this year’s pizza obsession. Their recent pizza soiree had me testing my culinary faculty in a four hour whirlwind of pizza inventions. It feels great to be so pleasantly exhausted.
August 11th, 2012 § § permalink
Everything turns violently ensanguined when you add beets to them, but in the midst of their bloody bliss is the promise of chilled summer borscht, red velvet cakes, or roseate risottos. And then there’s beet pancakes…
I fell for these crimson colored pancakes in Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain… though the trouble in cooking pancakes has to do with self-control, a virtue I am constantly in want of. I eat them as soon as each one is done so I never get a lovely stack to share. The brilliant solution was to get someone else to cook them (aka, the boyfriend). I roasted some beets the previous night while baking focaccia and pureed them in advance so they could be quickly prepared for breakfast.
This recipe made so many pancakes we had to find a 4th person to finish the whole stack. This is probably because they are made with quinoa and whole wheat flours. Is it just me or do they triple in size upon consumption? The mascarpone adds a creamy honeyed texture that elevates this pancake to a extraordinary brunch. Also, fresh berries are a must. I’m already glum thinking about these dwindling days of summer.
Recipe Modified from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. all purpose flour
3 TB brown sugar
1 TB baking powder
3/4 ts. salt
1/2 c. cooked and pureed beets (roast covered in a 400 °F for about 1 hour, puree in food processor until smooth)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 c. plain yogurt
3 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Fresh berries (I heat mine in a small sauce pan with some sugar to help them release their juices)
+ Sift together dry ingredients.
+ In a separate bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Gently fold wet into dry mix with a rubber spatula.
+ Cook pancakes 1/4 c. at a time.
* This batter should be used the day it is made though Kim suggests thinning it out with 1 TB of milk at a time if storing overnight.