Sunday, August 29, 2010
Day 5 of food-blogging through Katy Perry's Teenage Dream: "Peacock."
It's not that I'm averse to baking things into the shape of genitalia (right, Monique?), but I wanted to do something a little less obvious. I love peacocks anyway, so I was willing to invest in perhaps a cute cake pan in the shape of a peacock. However, upon Googling, I came across something that my 12-year-old self couldn't resist, and so I give you Scott Peacock's Banana Pudding. Get it, get it?
"Come on baby let me see / What you hiding underneath":
That would be 2 ladlefuls of custard, topped with my new favorite thing in the whole world, a box of Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles, and 2 sliced bananas. Repeat once more, pile on the rest of the custard, and then swirl on the meringue. I thought an 8-egg meringue was a little excessive - I'd say I only used 4 whites worth, if that.
It is, hands-down, the most wonderfully decadent banana pudding I have ever had, and I get my fill of them in making banana cream pies every year for my buddy Jay's birthday. The snickerdoodles are fluffy little dreams, and their cinnamon flavor add the perfect extra oomph to an already delicious custard.
My dad, not known for being the most forthcoming with compliments and praise, gave the ultimate sign of approval. Mom, ever the health-conscious one, packed my carrier back with the leftovers, so it wouldn't be in front of her face to tempt her all week. Dad leaned over and suggested she split the leftovers in half. It made me smile.
Scott Peacock's Banana Pudding
adapted from Bon Appetit
2 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
12 egg yolks
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
3 t. vanilla extract
4 cups Trader Joe's Soft-Baked Snickerdoodles or vanilla wafers
4 large ripe bananas, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 5 cups)
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. plus 2 T. granulated sugar
1. Put the milk, 1 c. of the heavy cream, and the vanilla bean into a nonreactive saucepan. (Do not split the vanilla bean, just twist and bend it a bit to bruise and release its oils). Heat slowly until the milk and cream are just below a simmer, then cover and remove from the heat and allow to steep 20 minutes. Meanwhile, put the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk in the sugar, following by the flour and the salt, mixing until there are no lumps and everything is completely smooth. Remove the vanilla bean from the steeped milk and cream, and slowly whisk into the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and cook, whisking constantly, over moderately high heat until the custard thickens and begins to bubble. Be sure to whisk all over the bottom of the pan as well as along the bottom edges. Cook for 1 minute after the custard begins to boil, then remove from the heat. At this point, it should be very thick. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a mixing bowl, and immediately whisk in the remaining 1 c. of heavy cream and vanilla extract.
2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
3. To assemble: Spoon a thin layer of the custard onto the bottom of an 8-cup ovenproof baking dish. Top with a layer of cookies and sliced banana. Spoon more custard over and continue layering, ending with custard spooned over the top.
4. Make the meringue: Put the egg whites into a spotlessly clean bowl. Beat the whites slowly until they become frothy. Add the vanilla, and continue beating until the egg whites just begin to form soft mounds. While still beating, begin sprinkling in the sugar 1/4 cup at a time, beating only until each addition is incorporated before proceeding to the next. When all of the sugar is incorporated, beat the egg whites until they're moist and very glossy and hold peaks that are firm but still bend when lifted on the end of a whisk.
5. Immediately spoon the beaten egg whites over the surface of the assembled custard and, using a spoon or spatula, spread the whites to the edge to make sure you get a good seal between the meringue and the sides of the baking dish. Work quickly to make decorative swirls and patterns in the meringue, and put the dish immediately into the preheated oven to bake for about 5 minutes, until golden brown. (Se sure to check after 2 minutes to see how the meringue is browning, and turn the dish from time to time, if needed, to ensure even browning.) Serve the banana pudding warm or at room temperature.
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Day 4 of food-blogging through Katy Perry's Teenage Dream: "Firework."
A nod to Jack Kerouac and the notion that everyone has a spark inside of them that can be turned into a firework. It's got a beautiful life-affirming message, and a chorus so monstrous that you can't help but belt it as loud as you can. When I hear this song, I envision a stadium full of people with arms raised, marking each "Make 'em go, 'Aah, aah, aah' / You're gonna them all in awe, awe, awe."
I chose to make Julia Child's Crepes Suzette from Mastering the Art of French Cooking to pick up on the lyrics of feeling "paper-thin", but knowing that to turn into something spectacular, "You just gotta / Ignite the light / And let it shine."
The crepe batter is just an easy blender concoction. I didn't have time to let it sit for 2 hours, so I just refrigerated it while I made the orange butter, about 30 minutes. I lost the first crepe because I didn't let it cook enough on the bottom before attempting to flip it, but the following 8 turned out okay. I think I would have gotten more like 10-12 crepes had I not been so heavy-handed as it neared time to eat - I got rushed and ended up making a couple that were probably more related to pancakes than crepes.
This recipe yielded a TON of orange butter. Not that I'm complaining, but I barely made a dent in it. I'm going to have to buy bread and make orange toast (a la cinnamon toast). My life is so hard.
And then once you have crepes cooked and orange butter mixed, you put massive spoonfuls of butter in a cast iron pan (or if you do what Julia says, a chafing dish), melt it, swirl your crepes all up in it (just use your hands), fold it in quarters, sprinkle on a little sugar, and then, only because you don't have cognac or any more Grand Marnier...
...you pour in a couple Tablespoons of 151 (I know, I cringed a little, too - but what good is 151 if not to create fire), get your butane torch out, and light the stuff on fire.
Make absolutely sure you let the fire burn off every last bit of the 151. Otherwise, you'll feel like you're eating a big slice of college if you get a piece that's still soaked in the stuff. Just toss that out, and enjoy the rest of the crepes - chances are most of it is fine. Well, more than fine. Absolutely delicious. And just think of all the orange toast you'll get over the next week.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Day 3 of food-blogging through Katy Perry's Teenage Dream: "California Gurls."
I remember hearing this song for the first time and thinking to myself that there was no way this was not going to be the song of the summer. I remember hearing it the first day it hit radio, and rolling down my windows and singing it at the top of my lungs. I wanted to yell out at my fellow road warriors, "Hey, guys! You're going to be hearing this song all summer! Isn't it awesome?!?"
I knew what I wanted to make immediately for this song - it was definitely the easiest one to come up with it. So without further ado, in honor of California gurls with Sun-kissed skin so hot / We'll melt your popsicle, and that one guy Snoop singing about martinis, I give you Martini Popsicles.
Yes. Really. I didn't think gin would freeze either, but apparently, if you get the ratio of water to alcohol right, the alcohol gets suspended within the water molecules and freezes enough to make popsicles work. That's too much for my overworked brain to process, but I think that means, no don't try to freeze your actual martini, but totally okay to make a tiny martini and add it to a ton of simple syrup.
I made myself Vesper martini popsicles - I kept the water, sugar and lemon the same, but the liquor proportions were 3 T. gin, 1 T. vodka, 1/2 T. Lillet. I am now kicking myself that I did not add Curacao per the recipe in homage to Katy's blue hair, but a) not thinking, and b) I would have hell to pay with Matty and Greg if I messed with Vesp.
Upon first taste, I was startled by how much gin flavor hit my tongue, but slowly, your tastebud acclimates to it and you start tasting all the nuances - it's subtle sweetness and lemony refreshment. Definitely not a lemon popsicle, but the flavor is certainly there. The recipe made enough for six shot glass popsicles and an entire ice cube tray of stuff, which, if they last long enough, I'll use to shake my next actual martini.
adapted from Epicurious
1 1/2 c.water
1/4 c. sugar
6 strips fresh lemon zest (1/2 lemon)
3 T. gin
1 T. vodka
1/2 T. Lillet
1. Simmer water, sugar, and zest in a small saucepan, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Cool syrup, then stir in gin, vodka and Lillet. Discard zest. Pour into molds and freeze at least 24 hours. Add sticks when mixture is slushy, about 1 hour.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Day 2 of food-blogging through Katy Perry's Teenage Dream: "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)."
Is it a sign that you're getting old when party anthems stop making you want to go out, but instead, make you reminisce about how you used to want to go out?
Once upon a time (between 2000 and 2004), in a faraway kingdom (USC), there lived a princess (Princess Leadfoot, I was called - I think that nickname came from a drive to Vegas) who, along with her roommate, threw some of the more epic parties in life. I mean, they were pretty much contained within our 500-sq.-ft.-ish apartment, but people are still talking about them. And when we tired of throwing our own parties, we put on our pleather pants (okay, my pleather pants), sparkly tops, checked the mirror convinced we were the hottest things we know (although photos now prove otherwise), and went to a club that's now called something else.
Let's review what life was like back then:
- There's a pounding in my head - I mean, of course.
- Glitter all over the room - And also, sequins.
- I smell like a mini-bar - I've always wondered if I smell as much like last night's cocktail of choice on the treadmill the next morning as I think I do.
- This a hickey or a bruise - I don't think I've ever had to ask this question, but I included it because it's hilarious.
- Pictures of last night / Ended up online - "Remove Tag." Thanks, Facebook.
- Yeah, we danced on tabletops - See above.
- And took too many shots - I think there was a time that I didn't know drinks came in any other size.
- Think we kissed but I forgot - So I've been told.
- Always say we're gonna stop / But this Friday night / Do it all again - Well, it was usually Saturdays, but yeah. Oh, and also the Tuesday Night Parties.
I wonder how anyone's liver makes it through college. I mean, it's not even so much the volume of consumption - it's the quality. Ralph's Prestige-brand vodka, anyone?
Well, since graduation, I myself have graduated on to finer (and darker) liquors. While Maker's on the rocks is now my drink of choice, the Summer of 2008 was the summer of Maker's + Ginger. I still prefer the straight stuff, but occasionally, I'll go back to it, and if nothing else, it's definitely given me a new appreciation for the various bubbly ginger beverages out there.
And it's made me want to experiment with homemade Ginger Ale. I didn't get to start this until the late of night, by which point I had developed a headache too big to allow for the use of my food processor. I simply diced the ginger and lemongrass until I got bored and carried on with the rest of the recipe sans chilies. I love a spicy beverage, but just wasn't in the mood tonight.
It was really difficult to wait for it all to cool because it just smelled so awesome, but all the steeping it was able to do while cooling made a delightfully kicky ginger syrup. Cut with an adjust-to-taste amount of sparkling water (I liked 4:3 water:syrup), and it was the perfect way to cool down before going to bed early. *sigh* What's happened to my youth? Now that's an epic fail.
adapted from The Amateur Gourmet
1 lb. fresh ginger, unpeeled and cut into small dice
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 1/2 c. sugar
1. Combine the ginger and lemongrass in food processor and process until minced, stopping the machine periodically and scraping down the sides. Alternatively, you can just leave everything in small dice.
2. Place the puree in a saucepan with the sugar and 4 c. water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cool, then strain and chill.
3. To serve, place 1/4 cup of the syrup in a glass full of ice. Fill with soda water, taste and add more syrup if you like. Garnish with a lime wedge, then serve.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
So if you're here at this blog, you probably know that I work with Katy Perry. And if you know I work with Katy, you know today is the big, cotton candy-scented release of her second record, Teenage Dream! I know I'm drinking the Kool-Aid here, but I love this album so much. It's been in my car since the promo copies came in. As soon as I could buy it on iTunes last night, I loaded it onto my iPhone, and ran 3 miles to it this morning.
To further celebrate, I'm going to spend the next 12 posts food-blogging through the record. That's right:
Day 1: Teenage Dream
Day 2: Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)
Day 3: California Gurls
Day 4: Firework
Day 5: Peacock
Day 6: Circle the Drain
Day 7: The One That Got Away
Day 8: E.T.
Day 9: Who Am I Living For?
Day 10: Pearl
Day 11: Hummingbird Heartbeat
Day 12: Not Like the Movies
I will disclaim right now that I still have no idea what I'm doing for a few of these. Some of them are going to be obvious and hilarious (to me, anyway), and some of these are going to be a major reach, but I'll always promise a story. If you want to play along, grab yourself a record, and let's "take a journey."
This first one is one of those reaches. Which is unfortunate because it, the title track, "Teenage Dream," is probably my favorite song on the record (although I can tell you now I'll probably be saying that several times in the next 12 days).
The first verse really struck a chord with me:
You think I'm pretty without any make-up on
You think I'm funny when I tell the punchline wrong
I know you get me
So I let my walls come down, down
I'll never forget as long as I live - when our good friend Gabe found out Matty and I had started dating, he made a comment to Matty like, "So you got through to the Ice Princess, huh?" I was shocked and a little horrified at that. I mean, I was fucking warm, people. Maybe not anymore, but I definitely was then. I didn't know I had walls, but I guess there they went when Matty came around.
What's that got to do with Soy Sauce Chicken, you ask? Honestly, I forget. That line meant so much to me - the idea of being simple and bare and out there and not having any of it matter is so gorgeous, and I wanted to represent it in a culinary fashion, but was having a really hard time of it. I initially thought about baking a simple tea bread or bundt cake - something lovely that didn't need frosting (make-up). I quickly grew disenchanted with that idea because a) it's hot as balls so I didn't want to turn on the oven, and b) I fear murder by colleague if I bring any more baked goods to the office.
So my focus shifted to something savory (and something that didn't require oven time). I suppose if I was fully going for the "bare" theme, I would have done Hainanese chicken rice (and now that I'm thinking of it, I'm kicking myself for not doing it), but I think this soy sauce chicken served over bok choy and rice comes pretty close. But more than the theme of being bare, it feeds more into my now twentysomething dream. Of being in a warm, loving relationship (represented by the cinnamon and star anise in this recipe); of sharing time and meals despite what life and work throws at us (represented by the fact that Matty was at work until 10p, and I only made this so there'd be food over the next few days while we both have rehearsals and meetings and gigs); of pure domesticated bliss. I'm so glad I'm NOT living my teenage dream (of AP classes and med school and emotionally unavailable football players), but I'm so glad that I feel that first love feeling Katy sings about every day of my life.
Soy Sauce Chicken
adapted from Rasa Malaysia
3 chicken leg quarters (about 2 lbs.)
2" ginger (skin peeled and lightly pounded)
4 cloves garlic (lightly pounded)
2 stalks scallions (cut into 2" lengths)
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick (about 2" length)
1 dried honey dates (optional)
1 1/2 c. soy sauce
1 T. white wine
3 dashes powder
4 oz. rock sugar
4 c. water
1. Put all ingredients except the chicken into a deep pot and bring it to boil on high heat for 15 minutes. Add the chicken quarters into the pot and boil over high heat for about 10 minutes. Lower the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let the chicken steeped in the soy sauce mixture for a few hours to soak in the flavor. Dish out the chicken quarters, chop into pieces and serve immediately.
11 tracks to go!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I've made my fair share of quiches. I mean, they're eggs in pie crust. What's not to love? Endless customizable options, to suit the seasons as well as the picky eaters in your life. Unless, of course, they don't like eggs or pie crust, in which case, I can't help you (although there are some lovely vegan quiches I've yet to try).
But for all the variations I've tried, I haven't made the Queen Mother of them all, Quiche Lorraine from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1. It sort of looks like this, but with 3 eggs instead of 2, 1 1/2 cups whole milk instead of cream, and no crust.
That's right, no crust. I didn't have time to make one, chill it, and then parbake it before I even got to baking the filling. A 10a brunch in Riverside awaited, and I had hit snooze one too many times, forgetting that I had set my alarm so early so that I could make a grocery store run. That meant no time to properly caramelize onions, or cook down mushrooms (besides, I am now thinking that was for the best because one of the girls may be a mushroom hater), or any of my other fallback quiche fillings. What I did have time to do was buy a pack of bacon, snip half of it into lardons about 1/4 inch wide and fry them until brown, put them in a pie plate, add the custard and bake for a mere half hour. I thought about greasing the pie pan with bacon drippings, but was afraid of overwhelming the delicate custard, so I just used butter.
And while the quiche could have benefited from the textural contrast of a pie crust, it was still quite exemplary. It baked up to a slinky silkiness that was pleasantly punctuated by bits of still-crisp bacon. Matty and I both agreed we could have each eaten a whole one on our own, but thankfully, we have a few social graces left and managed to share nicely. Plus, we had to save room for the lovely French toast Mo and Jeremy made, the bacon (yes, more bacon) Natalie supervised, the yummy fruit Christina and Julie cut up, and of course, the mimosas. Thanks for hosting, Mo!
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Apricot Tart, I will never doubt you again. In fact, once apricots are back in season, you'll be the very first thing I make. I cannot wait.
I'll be honest - I was extremely worried about this tart. Molly urges not to use less-than-perfect apricots, as any imperfections will show in such a naked preparation. When the Gelson's produce guy advised that they were done with apricots for the season, my heart sank. Instead of the lusciousness I had purchased for this Apricot-Cherry Cobbler, I was going to have to go across the street to Trader Joe's and sift through apricots that I've already been avoiding all summer. I picked up two 1-lb. packages, knowing full well that I'd have to continue sifting once home.
I sadly did end up tossing half of what I did take home. And maybe only a third of the ones that were passable were actually any good. They were a little bland, and somewhat mealy. Definitely not anything I would have wanted to eat out of hand. But I tossed the slices with sugar and threw them into the super-easy pie crust (no time to refrigerate the dough, so I just pressed it into the pie pan straight from the food processor and put it in the freezer while I prepped the fruit), and hoped for the best. I was super nervous because I was going to an event entitled "Fancy Pants Picnic" and was going to be baking for people I haven't seen in a while/people I don't know, and didn't want a crappy pie to be my legacy.
About an hour later, yummy jammy smells were coming out of the oven. I was heartened. I hurriedly packed the still-warm pie into my cake carrier, and we rushed to the Arboretum to secure our lawn seats. I knew it was going to sweat a little, but I neglected to think that bouncing it around in my back seat would cause it to lose all of its jammy glaze. By the time the concert had started, the pie had been sitting out for a few hours, and was looking just a little wretched. I was disheartened again.
But then, intermission started, I finished sawing off five slices with a plastic knife, and when I took the first bite, it was like the heavens opened. Sweet, gooey, concentrated apricot tastiness for days. The crisp, cookie-like pie crust was the perfect and only necessary accoutrement. In fact, I'm tempted to cut rounds out of this pie dough and just bake with one slice of apricot for a nice, individual pizookie. I don't know if I would have been able to handle myself if the apricots had actually started out in a good place. Moral of the story: never underestimate the power of sugar and a 375-degree oven.
4 T. ice water, plus more as needed
3/4 t. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. sugar
3/4 t. salt
9 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
About 1 lb. small, fragrant, firm-ripe apricots
Heaping 1/3 c. sugar
3 pinches of salt
1. To prepare the crust: combine 4 Tbsp. ice water and the cider vinegar in a small bowl.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to blend. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal; there should be no pieces of butter bigger than a large pea. With the motor running, slowly add the water-vinegar mixture, processing just until moist clumps form. If you pick up a handful of the dough and squeeze it in your fist, it should hold together. If the dough seems a bit dry, add more ice water by the teaspoon, pulsing to incorporate.
3. Turn the dough out onto a wooden board or clean countertop, and gather it, massaging and pressing, until it just holds together. Shape it into a ball, and press it into a disk about 1 1/2 inches thick. If the disk cracks a bit at the edges, don’t worry; just pinch the cracks together as well as you can. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and then press it a bit more, massaging away any cracks around the edges, allowing the constraint of the plastic wrap to help you form it into a smooth disk. Refrigerate the wrapped dough for at least 2 hours. (Dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 1 month. Thaw it in refrigerator overnight before using.) Before rolling it out, allow the dough to soften slightly at room temperature.
4. Set an oven rack to the middle position, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
5. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a circle wide enough to fit a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Transfer the dough gently into pan, and ease it into the corners and up the sides. Trim the edges to extend about 1/2 inch beyond the pan; then fold the overhang inward and press it against the side of the pan to reinforce the edge. Put the tart shell into the freezer while you prepare the fruit.
6. Pit and quarter the apricots. Put them in a wide bowl, and toss them gently with the sugar and salt. It might look like a lot of sugar, but don’t worry; it is balanced nicely by the salt and the acidity of the fruit. Remove the tart shell from the freezer and quickly arrange the fruit inside it, cut side up, in concentric circles. Scrape any sugar remaining in the bowl over the fruit.
7. Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown and the fruit is soft and relaxed, about 45 minutes or longer. The sugar and juices from the fruit should form a loose glaze of sorts in the bottom of the shell and around the fruit, and as the tart cools, the glaze should thicken slightly.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I loved everything about tonight's dinner. Impromptu dinner guest, easy and delicious food served family-style without worrying about plating, spilled martinis (well, thankfully, just the one) and tons of laughs.
I was really hoping to find the striped bass that's called for in the original recipe, but after two grocery store runs turned up fruitless, I settled for true cod, and hence, dinner was Sauteed Cod with Mint Pesto over couscous with buttered/salted/peppered sugar snap peas. The cod was a fine substitution, though - delicately flaky, gently mild and the perfect vehicle for the mint-thyme marinade and the mint pesto. (By the way, I didn't have the time to marinate the fish for 3 hours in the fridge, so it was marinated at room temperature for about 30 minutes, and was still delightful).
Sad story about the pesto, though. I could have sworn I had some pistachios in the pantry, but when that search also proved fruitless, I initially substituted hazelnuts, mostly because Greg loves them. Turns out that if you process mint and hazelnuts together, you get something remarkably similar to ass. It was horrific. Into the trash that batch went, and I used the milder almond in the next one. Much better, but I think pistachios are still the ticket. Oh well. All's well that ends well.
Sauteed Cod with Mint Pesto
adapted from Epicurious
1/4 c. packed fresh mint leaves
1/4 c. lightly toasted shelled unsalted natural pistachios
1/4 c.extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled
Coarse kosher salt
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. chopped fresh mint
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
4 (6- to 8-oz) striped bass fillets (with or without skin)
1. For pesto, blend mint leaves, pistachios, olive oil, and garlic in processor until coarse puree forms. Season with coarse salt. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring pesto to room temperature and stir before using.
2. For fish, combine olive oil, mint, and thyme in small bowl. Spread herb mixture all over both sides of fish fillets. Cover and refrigerate fish at least 3 hours and up to 5 hours.
3. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T. oil in each of 2 large nonstick skillets over medium-high heat. Add fish and cook until browned on both sides and just opaque in center, about 5 minutes total.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I'm not generally one to hold back on recipes and blog posts - because I like to incorporate a lot of my daily life into this blog (read: talk about myself so much), I more or less post about these meals as they happen. However, I really wanted to participate in this week's Apricot-Cherry Almond Cobbler in my drafts folder for the week and a half it's been since I brought it to our friends Carson + Nicole's housewarming party.
It is by far the greatest cobbler I've ever made. It helps that it includes my very favorite stone fruits - Rainier instead of Bing cherries, and the plumpest apricots I've seen all season (thanks, Gelson's!). I've been on a huge Rainier cherry kick ever since I took over the craft service table at Mêlée's "On the Movie Screen" video shoot and had so many cherries that I very nearly went into withdrawal the next day.
Sadly, it won't convert any cherry-haters (Greg's face had a why-do-you-hate-me look on it after I convinced him that Rainiers don't taste like regular cherries - he disagreed). But for all the rest of us, there's nothing not to love. I subbed in brown sugar where it called for white because I thought its warmth better suited the fruit and the almond flavoring. I didn't have Amaretto so I used almond extract.
I had to take the photo pre-cobble because the luscious fruit was practically winking at me from the pie plate. It's definitely less cute with the topping on, but that's not to say the taste of it wasn't worth the hidden gems. I would still like to explore the idea of encasing the fruit in a lattice crust to show off all the colors, but it'll be a hard sell to replace that wonderfully light and fluffy cake, perfumed with just the faintest hint of almond.
My only regret is that I didn't double the recipe and bake it in a 13x9 pan, but there will be plenty of time for that as the markets are still flush with both cherries and apricots. That is, if I don't just eat them all out of hand first.
Apricot-Cherry Almond Crumble
adapted from Sur La Table Desserts
For the filling:
1 lb. firm-ripe tart apricots, halved, pitted, and each half cut into 4 or 5 slices
1 lb. sweet, firm-ripe cherries, pitted
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. amaretto or almond extract
For the topping:
1/4 c. sugar
2 1/2 oz. almond paste at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. whole milk, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position an oven rack in the center.
2. Make the filling: In the large bowl, toss together the apricot slices, cherries, sugar, and amaretto until all the fruit is coated evenly. Use the spatula to scrape into the baking dish and spread in an even layer.
3. Make the topping: Place the sugar and almond paste in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat on medium speed until the almond paste is broken into tiny pieces. Add the softened butter and beat on medium-high until the mixture is very light in color, almost white, 4 to 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and blend well. Scrape down the bowl. In the medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on lowest speed, add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the butter. Scrape down the bowl, and finish blending by hand with the spatula. Cover the fruit by letting the batter fall off the spatula in long bands over the fruit (don’t try to spread it or it will sink into the fruit). Use the spatula to gently blend the bands of batter together until it covers the fruit in a single layer.
4. You may want to place a baking sheet or a piece of foil under the cobbler to catch any juices that may bubble over. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the topping is nicely browned and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the topping comes out clean. The fruit should be bubbling and soft.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I've been eating terribly lately. Mostly because of how the last few weeks have gone, I've been mainlining comfort food - I've had one form of mac + cheese or another in the fridge for the last two weeks. I would normally feel more guilty than I do, but for a while, I kept justifying it by telling myself that I am training very hard for a half-marathon, and I need the carbs (and obviously, the cheese) to sustain myself. It wasn't until my co-worker Leah told me that the Grilled Cheese Truck was down the street from our office today, and I had not an ounce of interest, that I realized I had been overdoing it. If I'm going to shave off that 2 minutes per mile that I need to in order to run this race in my goal time, I'm going to have to have a lot less cheese coursing through my veins.
Today was going to be the day to get my act together. I considered a fully vegetarian meal, or at least one accompanied by mounds of virtuous vegetables. My first thought was portobello mushrooms. I had seen these Portobello-Prosciutto Burgers yesterday, and they reminded me of these Portobello + Herbed Ricotta Sandwiches that I loved earlier this year. However, they both include meat, and went against my plan to not include cheese in this meal. By that point, though, the idea of delicious portobello mushrooms had made an indelible mark on my mind, and I wasn't going to be able to have anything else. A Google search led me to more ideas: Avocado Spinach Spread and Cheese-Stuffed Portobello Burgers, and thus was born tonight's dinner. I couldn't keep away from the cheese (or the meat), but this is way less of each than I've been having (per serving, that's 2 oz. pancetta, 2 T. shredded cheese), so I'm going to allow myself to say that it's a start.
Stuffed Mushroom Sandwich with Avocado Spinach Spread
3 portobello mushrooms
4 oz. pancetta
1 onion, diced
1/4 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. shredded cheese, preferably smoked
6 oz. spinach
3 cloves garic
2 rustic French rolls
Remove the stem and gills from all 3 mushrooms. Douse the 2 best-looking ones in olive oil and cook gill-side up on a grill pan or cast-iron skillet for about 15 minutes, turning halfway through. Dice the remaining mushroom.
In a saute pan, cook the pancetta until it starts releasing some fat. Add the diced onion and saute until the onion is translucent. Add the diced mushroom and cook until the mushroom has released its juices. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in bread crumbs.
Meanwhile, the whole portobellos should be done cooking. Fill the caps with the bread crumb mixture and divide the cheese evenly between them. Either leave them over a low flame or pop them briefly in a hot oven to melt the cheese.
In the same saute pan from earlier, wilt the spinach. After it's been wilted, transfer to a food processor. Add avocado and garlic and puree. Add olive oil as you see fit to help the process along and to get it to your preferred consistency.
Halve the rolls, toast if you like, slather with the avocado-spinach spread and slap the stuffed mushroom on top.
This sandwich is an absolute flavor bomb. Umami for days. It takes a second for your tastebuds to register everything - crisp bread, rich and creamy spread, tender and juicy mushrooms, bursts of salty pancetta and smoked cheese that makes the whole thing taste meatier than it is, velvety onions - and after your brain has all but exploded from pure joy, you're left to just stupidly grin and revel in the fact that there are oh-so-many bites still to come.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
You know, I'm not one for taking photos of prep work, but these naked (zested) lemons, halved and ready for juicing, made me smile. That's probably the last time I smiled at those lemons - juicing 13 of them puts you in less of a happy place.
Totally worth it, though, after filling 150 (store-bought) phyllo shells and seeing the smiles on the faces of the guests at the Girls Drawin Girls wrap party I catered last night. The cream was from this tried-and-true Lemon Cream Tart, but the wild card was how to scale it up. I went ahead and quintupled the recipe - no real science, just thought I'd do it. Turns. Out. Doubling the recipe would probably have sufficed. No harm, though - I was able to make a full-sized tart for my co-worker Dana, and could probably still make one more.
Lurking in the back there is some of the best fudge I've ever had - Chocolate Cinnamon Fudge, found on my friend Caroline's blog. So good that Matty decreed them holiday-worthy and is voting for me to bring the recipe back for Christmas sharing. I'm a huge fan of cinnamon so I'm not arguing, but I think the real genius of this fudge is that it still remains about the chocolate - just chocolate that's been made a million times more interesting without getting too weird.
More chocolate was had in the form of cubed Brown Sugar and Chocolate Chip Pound Cake and Raspberry Skewers. Here was another lesson in scaling - I tripled this recipe and made it in three 13x9-inch pans thinking I'd get about 117 (13x9) one-inch pieces of cake. Turns. Out. The cake rises so high that I got twice that amount. Another problem it rising so high was that it didn't have the tight crumb I expected from a pound cake, and therefore a few of the cubes fell apart while I was threading them on the skewer. Luckily, there was plenty of cake, and while the texture wasn't quite what I had in mind, it was still a delicious cake, rich but well-balanced by the tart raspberries.
And no, I didn't just overload the guests on sweets - I actually made one fairly awesome (if I do say so myself) savory appetizer, but it somehow escaped my attention to photograph it. Must have been distracted by those lemons. Anyway, it was so awesome that it would be completely unfair to not represent it fully with photos and maybe an epic poem, so I'll have to figure out another occasion to document them. Trust me - so worth the wait.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Yesterday afternoon's Facebook status: what's your favorite i'm-in-a-bad-mood-so-i'm-going-to-binge-eat meal? Yes, it was another one of those dreaded Mondays.
I don't think I've ever gotten more feedback on a status update than I did to this one. The answers ran the gamut from carbs to dairy to meat to running (from, apparently, the one healthy friend I have), but the answer was overwhelmingly (although not surprisingly), mac and cheese. I had initially wanted to start the conversation because I wanted to shy away from mac and cheese (you'll know why this weekend), but I can't disappoint the voting public, so Truffled Mac + Cheese for dinner it was.
I went to Trader Joe's because I like their cheese selection best. Since I knew my truffle oil was a little low, I subbed their Italian truffle cheese for the Swiss and kept in the Fontina and Cheddar. And since I wanted an elbow macaroni shape, and for some strange reason, Trader Joe's doesn't carry it, I decided to kick it up a notch and use some pesto-filled tortellini instead of just plain pasta. And I don't bother with fresh bread crumbs when I can top mac and cheese with panko, so that rounds out my substitutions.
Holy crap. This is an instant mood-lifter, over-the-top decadent. I ended up using the entire pound of tortellini, and while it would have been more luscious with just 8 oz., I couldn't resist the thought of leftovers. I would have liked a little more truffle stank so I'll have to eventually cave and buy more truffle oil, but I wouldn't change another thing.
About a half hour after we finished dinner, and while Matty was still neck-deep in work, I decided I was bored, so I brought the laptop into the kitchen and made a Raspberry Buckle. Like you do. It wasn't anything to really write home about, but considering how little effort is involved (maybe 5-ish minutes in the Kitchen-Aid, pour into baking dish, sprinkle with raspberries, bake), it was still a delightful treat. I did rather enjoy the crispy, buttery edges, and am open to keeping this in the repertoire for last-minute dessert requirements.
Both, however, are even better the next day. Because, you know, sometimes I think Tuesday is the new Monday.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I feel super guilty. No, not because these Meatballs with Ricotta in Milk are stuffed to the gills with ricotta, browned in 2 T. of butter, and THEN cooked in milk. Not because I took another 2 T. of butter to pan-fry the store-bought gnocchi.
Nope, I feel guilty because this delicious calorie-bomb was supposed to be the centerpiece of a dinner party with our friends Brandon and Greg before going to see Silversun Pickups at the Greek last Friday night (BTW, total girl crush on Nikki Monninger). Unfortunately, none of us had really thought about how we were going to start a dinner party at 7:30p and then walk up to the Greek by the time the box office closed at 9:00p. So, after browning the meatballs in aforementioned butter, I put them away for dinner another night, and we had burgers and chicken strips from the concession stand.
After an incredibly busy weekend which mostly meant I was away from Matty for two days, I promised I'd make it up to him by following through on this dish. And after a full day of literally running around the Gibson Amphitheatre in sequined flats (i.e. non-supportive shoes that flared up my shin splints), this bowl of comfort was the exact right thing to come home to.
The meatballs (previously browned in butter) came straight out of the fridge, so I poured in the broth and milk, covered the pan and let it simmer away until everything was heated through. There was light stirring involved, but they're very delicate, so be gentle (same goes for the browning process). Meanwhile, in a large pan, I melted down some butter and browned the gnocchi. Towards the end, I tossed in some broccoli that I had roasted Friday evening as well, just to warm them through. To serve, I filled a bowl halfway with the gnocchi-broccoli mixture, and then topped it with a ladle-ful of meatballs and broth.
It's not a sauce, by any means. It is an uber-rich, to-die-for broth. It took the chill out of the night air and restored the feeling to my feet. The pillowy-soft gnocchi interiors amped up that richness, while the crisped-up exterior added textural contrast. And that roasted broccoli proved once again that it can do no wrong - even good in soup.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
I don't know if it was because we've both been so busy that we haven't had time to cook and have dinner together all week, or if everything took just a little longer to assemble than I thought so we didn't eat until about 9p, but this was one of the best dinners we've had in a long time. Or, it could just have been that the flavor combination in all three dishes were so unexpected but inspired, that we couldn't help but fall in love with it all.
This Scallop and Plum Ceviche was so refreshing as our first course, especially when served in a lovely iceberg lettuce cup. Equally good in a crisp taco shell, and I imagine with tortilla chips, or even just a spoon. The scallop meat is incredibly mild and not fishy at all, the plums lend a nice sweetness, while the salt and cayenne (totally necessary - even if you're not good with spice, shake just a little in) completely round out the dish. It's hard to describe, but without it, it might be too refreshing.
I've had this Honey Balsamic Bean Salad in the Matty's-out-of-town-so-let's-try-to-eat-vegetarian-while-he's-gone list, but circumstances have prevented me from making it until now. I added some iceberg lettuce as the vegetation, only because I didn't want the head I bought to go to waste, but it wasn't the most inspired pairing. First of all, it's ugly - the lettuce doesn't curl around the beans in any sort of aesthetically-pleasing way, and the contrast between the texture of the lettuce and the texture of the beans is a little off-putting. The dressing was just lovely, though - sweet, but not too sweet. Next time, I'll make it with just dressing and beans. Although, apparently I also won't be making it with chickpeas because Matty doesn't like them. You think you know a person...
Anyway, the true highlight of the meal was the Cuban Picadillo we used to stuff pedestrian, but satisfying, hard-shell tacos. I seriously was just going to get a packet of taco seasoning to go with the ground meat (just one of those days), but I came across this recipe, love cumin and any excuse to use our Mel's Olives, so went ahead with the 2 minutes of extra effort to slice up those olives and toss them in. Loved them so much I had to take a separate photo (or rather, Matty did) because you can't see them in the tacos:
So much more sophisticated than plain ol' taco seasoning, but not so pretentious that the fun of taco night was compromised. This one's going on the thanks-for-being-crappy-week-but-I-got-your-number-with-this-meal list.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
I loved everything about this Olive Oil Poached Shrimp + Soba Salad except the shrimp, which I guess was the entire point. Now it's possible that my shrimp weren't the super freshest, but I found that poaching the shrimp in the oven made for a mealy texture. I prefer my shrimp a little snappier, and while I definitely don't think it overcooked (it was mealy, not chewy), I think the method of cooking in so much fat really broke down the proteins in a strange way.
The rest of it was pretty delicious, though. I left the dressing amount the same even though I doubled everything else. The mustard brought a really interesting dimension to the dish, without straying too much from the Asian flavors, which I really thought it would do.
I'm also a huge fan of our side. I was originally going to make Kale-llaloo, but I was at an Asian grocery store and didn't feel like making an extra trip, so I substituted yu choy for kale and lap xuong (or sweet Chinese sausage) for the bacon. Then when I was taste-testing for seasoning towards the end, I thought the freshness of it all was too good to drown in coconut milk, so I just kept it at a clean saute. The sausage doesn't impart as much of its flavor to the greens as bacon would have, but it was still a nice treat to sink teeth into it. Instantly transported me to my childhood, when I would use every excuse possible to sneak bites while my great-aunts were cooking.
I served the noodles warm because Matty doesn't do cold pasta salad, but I'm looking forward to cold leftovers for lunch tomorrow, especially with the remaining bit of greens tossed in.