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Archive for the ‘fruit’ Category

Look what I found.

They’re jars.

From Italy!

No, I didn’t bring them back from Italy, though that would have been the type of story I like to tell.

I could tell you about how I visited Rimini with my friend Lau for a beach holiday. How I ran to dip my feet in the Adriatic before we had even started to unpack. How as I walked back to the room, flip-flops in hand, I stopped by a little gelato place, drawn by the scruffy man behind the counter wielding a shallow scoop, caught by the indecision over gianduia versus espresso, satisfied by a double cone, and enchanted by the large jars holding nuts and tiny chocolate chips. How I inquired about those jars and was told that they had been made for the past 150 years by a company only three hours away in Fidenza that began its business making bottles for pharmaceuticals. How I rushed back to my room to find Lau resting on her bed, arm flug across her eyes to block out the ray of sunlight, and how I woke her up to taste that gelato and tell her my plan of renting a car to drive those three hours to the glass manufacturer to see a little history. How I said, “it’s only a three hour drive” with such conviction that she forewent a day on the beach to accompany me.

But, that didn’t happen.

I could tell you about how I visited Venice with my college boyfriend and how after a morning of navigating the canals and pigeons, we took a speed boat out to Murano to see their famous glass. How when ringing up a small decorative plate, the store owner stuffed her copy of the receipt into a glass jar. How I was so enamored by the jar that she emptied it, as she said she did every night, and arranged all the receipts in a neat pile, and handed the jar to me.

But, that didn’t happen.

I could tell you how I was just south of Naples on the island of Capri in the cold of November with a friend who was a serious shopper. How she introduced me to Prada and Gucci. How our little hotel in the cliffs welcomed us to our room with a glass jar filled with biscotti in lieu of a TV. How we took that jar of biscotti with us as we hiked out to the blue grotto (“La Grotta Azzurra”) and snacked on them along the way, holding on to the empty jar as we scooched down in our tiny rowboat to enter the water-filled cave. And how I carefully wrapped that jar in t-shirts to secure its safe flight home.

But that didn’t happen.

Here’s what did happen.

I found the jars in a store not too far from my apartment and I picked up one from the shelf. I went back to the shelf. I brought home five.

The other stories are better, no?

Regardless of how I got them, now I get to fill them. Let’s start with the biscotti that my Capri hotel make-believe baked for us.

Let’s bake them with cocoa and stud them with almonds.

Now let’s tinge them with orange – a little zest, a little blossom water, the smell of citrus.

Perfect for a hike (with espresso in a thermos).

Next, let’s fill another jar with some chocolate and nuts reminiscent of the toppings in the gelato shop with the cute scoop-wielding Italian man who served me two flavors. Let’s make a nutty crunchy sweet concoction that’s less trail-worthy and more I-need-an-afternoon-snack-worthy. Let’s bring in a jar to the office and leave it on the corner of a desk for everyone to snack from.

Finally, let’s fill a jar with receipts.

OK, that doesn’t make sense. But let’s say that I open my own restaurant (the one with the long communal table). And let’s say I keep each day’s receipts in a glass jar at the front of the house and keep a stock of glass jars in the back. And let’s say that if someone comments on the receipt jar, I’ll pull one out from that back room and send him away with a smile.

Let’s just say.

Chocolate almond orange biscotti

I based this recipe off of David Lebovitz‘s chocolate biscotti - he makes one hell of a biscotti. I think these are my favorite biscotti I’ve ever made, and I’ve made a lot. I did make a few changes to give them an orange flavor – I replaced the almond extract with orange blossom water, omitted the chocolate chips, increased the amount of salt, and added orange zest. It’s actually easier to make these by hand than using a stand mixer.

- 1 C raw almonds

- 4 eggs (room temperature) – divided 3 for the dough, 1 for brushing on top

- 1 C sugar

- 1 t vanilla extract

- 1 t orange blossom water

- zest of 1 orange

- 2 C flour

- 3/4 C cocoa powder

- 1 t baking soda

- 1/2 t kosher salt

- turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw)

Toast. While pre-heating the oven to 350°F, toast the almonds on a cookie sheet. This should take about 10 minutes. Stay close to the oven – when the scent of almond fills the kitchen, take them out. Let them cool and then roughly chop them.

Beat. In a bowl, beat together the first 3 eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange blossom water, and orange zest.

Stir. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and gradually stir into the wet ingredients until the dough comes together. Mix in the chopped toasted almonds. The dough will be thick and sticky.

Shape. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Flour your hands a tiny bit and shape the dough into two logs. Lightly brush them with beaten egg white (freeze the yolk for the next time you want to make pâte sucrée) and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake. Bake for 25 minutes until the dough feels firm to the touch.

Cool. Remove the logs and cool on a rack for about 15 minutes.

Slice. Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the cooled logs diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.

Bake again. Lay the cookies, cut side down, back on the cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes, flipping them over after 10 minutes to toast both sides.

Eat (or store). In case you don’t finish these all in one sitting, store them in an airtight container for up to two weeks. As if!

I-need-an-afternoon-snack mix

It’s a bit embarrassing to call this a recipe. But I do believe that I have, though extensive testing and customer surveys, developed the best afternoon pick-me-up. Here’s how you do it:

Start with a few handfuls of lightly salted roasted almonds. Bonus points if you then toast them again in your oven until your kitchen smells like almonds. Put them in a big bag. Add in a few handfuls of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Add in one big handful of dried blueberries. Add in one big handful of dried tart cherries. Shake it all around. Pour into an Italian jar. Leave on the corner of your desk.

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our handiwork

For the past two Tuesdays, I’ve left the office early, made a mad dash through  Harvard Square and up Mass Ave, searched for a parking spot, and stood at a long table in a hot room with a bunch of strangers. It’s an exhausting end to a full day at work, but after the first week, I was ready. I brought a pair of ballet flats to change into. I wore a short sleeve dress. I mentally prepared myself to be patient.

Week two was tarts and pies. We skipped the food processor in favor of our hands.

There was squishing cold butter and flour between fingers and crumbling it into little pieces. There was scooping and tossing sandy dough with fingertips to mix it with water. There was pushing dough with heels of hands and smearing it across the counter.

I let my mind wander. I let my hands feel. I let my day slip away.

There was banter as my neighbors and I got to know each other while working the dough and making sure not to overwork it. We checked out each other’s progress, comparing doughs as they just  barely came together. We wrapped up dough and piled parcels into the refrigerator.

There was slicing and stirring and whipping and melting and tasting while doughs chilled and we made fillings.

There was pushing and pulling of French rolling pins, sliding of palms over tapered ends as dough flattened and thinned across the floured counter.

There was divvying up of tart pans and cutting up of dough. There was light pressing of dough into the slides of pans. There was rolling of pins across edges of pans and trimming of excess dough.

There were rogue pie weights to chase as they spun out of reach.

There were tart crusts to check in the hot oven. There were fillings to fill and filled tarts to bake.

We admired our handiwork.

Then I got a parking ticket.

Pâte brisée (short pastry) by hand

The key to makng a flaky crust is to start with very cold ingredients, to not overwork the dough, and to not add too much liquid. I love all the French terminology, so you may find a few quick French lessons thrown into the recipe.

This recipe makes one tart/pie crust. If you are making a double crust pie, you’ll need to double this recipe.

- 1 1/2 C flour

- 1/8 t salt

- 4 ounces (8 T) unsalted butter

- 3-4 T ice water

Combine. Combine the flour and salt on the countertop.

Cut. Weigh or measure the very cold butter. Cut it into 1-inch cubes.

Pinch. Place the butter on the counter and cover it with the flour-salt mix. Pinch and gently smush the butter into the flour until you get pea-sized pieces. 

Sabler. Sabler means to reduce into sand. (Sable is sand and French sables are crumbly cookies such as pecan sandies.) Cut into the butter flour mixture with a bench scraper until it resembles sand.

Papillon. A papillon is a butterfly. Spread the sandy mixture into a long rectangle and form a trough down the center. Drip a tablespoon of water all along the trough, and then with your fingers spread, fluff and flutter the sand into the center to gently incorporate it into the water. Using a bench scraper, gather the forming dough and repeat the papillon step a tablespoon of water at a time. The dough will start to come together in shaggy pieces. The dough is ready when you squeeze it and it sticks together. Don’t add too much water, or when you bake the dough, it will shrink down and away from the tart pan sides and your tart will be too shallow. Weather will affect the dough – if it’s humid, add less water.

Fraisage. Gather the dough together into a pile, and then with the palm of your hand, push it away from you against the counter a few times. The etymology of  fraisage is a little complicated, but here’s my best attempt. The non-cooking definition of fraisage is the act of drilling. The verb fraiser means to sheer. Though it’s spelled differently, I’m convinced that fraiser (and therefore fraisage)) s related to the shear forces of physics. Remember your physics? I remembered just  barely enough to look up the phrase. Essentially shearing is the deformation of a material in which parallel surfaces slide past each other. So, you push the pâte with the heel of your hand, and the flour and butter slide past each other. When I did this, I could imagine the layers of  flakiness starting to form. Check out the second picture – you can see distinct flaky layers on the front left edge of the tart.

Chill. Gather the dough together and press it into a disc (about an inch thick). Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Roll. Lightly flour the counter. Place the disc of cold dough on the counter and using a large rolling-pin, push the dough away from you, pull it towards you, and then turn the dough 90 degrees. Repeat the push-pull-turn combo until you’ve rolled the dough out into a circle 1/8-inch thick.

Cut. Place a tart or pie pan on the rolled-out dough and use a sharp knife to cut out a circle (or whatever shape your pan is) an inch from the pan edge for a tart or two inches for a deep-dish pie. You want to make sure that the dough will be large enough to go up the sides of the pan.

Press. Lift the dough and place it on top of the pan. Gently press it into the corners and up the edges. Roll a rolling-pin across the top of the pan to trim off the excess dough.

Chill. Chill the pan in the refrigerator for 1 hour or the freezer for 15 minutes.

Blind bake. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Prick the chilled dough all over with a fork, cover it with parchment paper and then fill the pan with pie weights. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove the hot pie weights and parchment, and continue to bake for another 5 minutes until the crust is light golden.

Reduce heat. Lower the oven to 350ºF.

Fill. Fill the crust with whatever filling you’re using.

Bake. Bake for 30-45 minutes (will vary from filling to filling).

 Pear and dried cherry tart

After blind-baking a pâte brisée crust, fill it with this pear and dried tart cherry combination. This tart is not particularly sweet and the addition of rosemary provides a savory note. A friend of mine called it a  sophisticated, subtle, and grown-up  tart.

- 6 firm ripe Bosc pears

- 1 1/2 C dried tart cherries

- 1/2 C light brown sugar

- 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary (1 t chopped)

- 2 T lemon juice

- 1 T cornstarch

Preheat. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Cut. Peel and core the pears and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Chop the rosemary leaves very finely.

Cook. Cook the pears, cherries, brown sugar, and rosemary in a pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently. It should take about 20 minutes until the pears are tender.

Thicken. Whisk together the lemon juice and cornstarch in a small cup. Then stir into the cooked pear mixture and bring to a boil for about 1 minute until the mix thickens.

Cool. Let the fruit cool before adding to the tart crust.

Prepare tart crust. Make, roll, and blind bake a tart at 425ºF for 15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and bake for another 5 minutes.

Fill. Fill the tart crust with the cooled fruit.

Bake. Lower the oven to 350ºF. Bake the tart for 30-40 minutes.

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grill? yes I will!

In the months before Christmas, I started a class
of chopping and stirring and cooking with gas.

I dragged myself up every Sunday at eight.
Luck’ly they set out strong coffee to wait.

Knife skills and techniques were taught on week one,
but at home were dull knives that weren’t much fun.

Week two was eggs that we poached, whipped, and scrambled.
We made a soufflé even I could have handled.

On week three, we learned that a good stock should jiggle,
but without salt and acid, soup surely will fizzle.

The fourth week was braising, keep temperatures low,
to make cabbage and short ribs and osso bucco.

When week six was sauces, I made béchamel;
I took home a pear so the recipe I could tell.

But wait! You’ve just noticed — where’s the fifth week?
Oh you smart readers, nothing past you can I sneak!

Week five as you know, was on hot hot hot heat.
For my part, I set forth with grilling some meat.

Other types of dry heat, we also did try,
from broiling to roasting to deep deep fat fry.

You may not have realized, but until that day,
I’d never tried frying or grilling, no way!

I faced deep fat frying just earlier this week,
with sufganiyot – fancy doughnuts, so to speak.

But I think grill cooking and taking out trash
are jobs for a man, and I’ll flutter my lash.

Though I’m planning to try – only grilling, of course -
with a grill pan I own, or another resource.

I’ll start this “man’s task” with a feminine flair,
with fruit and with teacake and other sweet fare.

And, in case you are wondering, although I will grill,
the trash taking out will remain my worst skill.

 

Grilled fruit

A lot of different fruits can apparently be grilled. While my cooking partner and I were waiting for our meat to marinate, we scrounged around the kitchen for other things to grill. We found pears and grapefruits and set to work. We cut the fruit into good sized chunks that wouldn’t fall down the grill grates. For the pears, we made 4 cuts around the core. For the grapefruit, we made about 4 slices perpendicular to the fruit segments. We then brushed all surfaces with a little olive oil (I’m sure melted butter would be great too), a nice sprinkle or two of sugar, and a small pinch of salt (if you want). Fire up the grill. Or, if you are like me and only have indoor cookery, put your grill pan on medium heat. When your grill (pan) is hot, place the fruit on the grill. Let it cook for about 5 minutes on each side for harder fruit (apples, pears) or 2-3 mintues per side for citrus. Just like with meat, the fruit is ready when it releases itself from the grill (pan) – if you have to tug at it, leave it be for a minute more.

Grilled cranberry-orange zinfadel bread with orange mascarpone cream

We made these “breads” as tea cakes in mini loaf pans. They would obviously work just as well in 2 large loaf pans. I think the cake is great as is, but excellent with the extra texture and flavor from the grill. When you make the dough – think of it  like pancake batter – you don’t want to over mix. Instead you want the ingredients to just barely come together.

For the cranberry-orange zinfandel bread:

- 1/4 C oil

- 2 eggs, slightly beaten

- 4 C flour

- 1 1/2 C sugar

- 1 t salt

- 1 T baking powder

- 1 t baking soda

- 1 C walnuts or pecans

- 3 C whole raw cranberries

- 2/3 C fresh orange juice

- 1/2 C white zinfancel

- 2 oz melted butter

For the orange mascarpone cream:

- 1 C (8 oz) mascarpone

- 1 t orange zest

- 3 T fresh orange juice

- 1 T orange liqueur (Cointreau, triple sec, Grand Marnier)

- 1 T confectioner’s sugar

Prep. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter/oil and flour 2 loaf pans, 6 mini loaf pans, or 2 dozen muffin tins. Toast nuts in the heated oven for 10-15 minutes – the second you start smelling the nuts, grab them from the oven. Check them at about 7 minutes. When the cool a bit, chop them up into medium sized chunks.

Mix. In a large bowl, mix oil and eggs well. Then add the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir this all together until it just barely combines — the mix will be a bit crumbly. Fold in nuts and cranberries. Then add juice and zinfancel and stir until just blended.

Bake. Pour batter into the greased and floured pans. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Grill. Turn on  your grill (or get your grill pan ready). When the bread is cool, slice it into 3/4-inch slices. Brush with melted butter and grill slices 3-4 minutes on each side.

Make mascarpone cream. In a bowl, whisk mascarpone until smooth. Add zest, orange juice, orange liqueur, and sugar and whisk until well blended.

Eat. Top a grilled cake slice (or two) with a big blob of mascarpone cream.

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belle of the ball

Today was the sixth and final class of my cooking techniques course.

But wait, you might be asking yourself, isn’t it a six-week course? And then you’ll calculate, haven’t you only posted four classes? Finally you’ll wonder, what happened to class number five?

I can’t put anything past you guys.

Turns out that one of the recipes that we made today in sauces class was just too good to not share immediately.

I hope you don’t mind that I’ve gone out of order. I’m almost done writing up recipes from our fifth class on dry heat – grilling, broiling, roasting, frying. And eventually I’ll share more about the sauces that we made today — the five “mother” (base) sauces and several “small” (derived) sauces). But for now, let’s just get on with it.

But wait, you might be asking yourself as you scroll past all this text, where are the pictures? Why is there only one?

Turns out, I left my camera at home today. Ironically, as I struggled this morning to wake up, snoozing for 4 minutes and 59 seconds at a time, I dreamt  (nightmared?) about driving to class, left hand on the wheel, right rifling through my purse. Two phones. Two sets of keys. One pair of sunglasses. One wallet. One lip balm. One lipstick. One eyeliner. Zero camera.

Seven snoozes later, I jumped in the shower, threw on some semblance of an outfit, and swung my purse onto the passenger seat of my car. Halfway to class, I glanced over at my purse. No rifling necessary, I knew my camera was sitting alone on my desk. Both hands on the wheel, I sighed.

In class, my partner and I worked on a béchamel sauce that served as the base for potato and zucchini noodle-less “lasagna.”

As the class drew to a close, we filled the center of the table a with a parade of platters. Fashionably late to the table came the belle of the ball: red-tinged pears floating on a lake of vanilla-flecked crème anglaise and drizzled with caramel.

I had been watching this dish come together all morning. Peeking under the parchment at the pears. Sliding a spoon into the crème anglaise. Scraping up the last bits of caramel coating the nearly-empty pan. You know how much I love pears with red wine and caramel.

The table finally set, everyone turned to me. This would make a great picture. Can you photograph my dish? Oh, how about catching it at this angle.

Empty-handed, I shrugged. I forgot my camera at home, I said. I shrugged again. But maybe I can take one or two things home to photograph. If there’s anything left.

I counted as one-by-one my classmates moved towards the pears. One, two, three pears onto plates. Another split between a couple. Four into little bowls. Five more onto plates. Three more swimming on the platter.

Does anyone mind if I take the last few pears home? I just want to take a few pictures. Because I left my camera at home.

What a good excuse.

No one minded.

~~~~~

Before I keep you from the recipe any longer, I did want to thank all of you who have voted for Kosher Camembert as the 2011 Best Kosher Food Blog.I was nominated alongside some of my favorite kosher blogs and websites and you should definitely check out the competition. Of course, if you do like my blog, please do vote, share my blog, and spread the word.

~~~~~

Pears poached in red wine with crème anglaise and caramel

This recipe can be as simple or as complex as you want it.  In a healthy mood? Make only the poached pears. Red wine give you a headache? Use white wine or tea or even water instead of the red wine and adding some cinnamon (or your favorite spice) to the poaching liquid for extra flavor. Want to add a little more sweetness? Freeze the poaching liquid and make sorbet. Love vanilla? Make the crème anglaise. Love ice cream? Double the crème anglaise recipe and freeze it. Hosting a fancy dinner? Make the caramel and crème anglaise.

And then invite me to dinner.

A quick note on making all three recipes in parallel. I’d start by preparing the pears and while they’re poaching, start the crème anglaise. While the vanilla is steeping in the milk for the crème anglaise, finish up the pears. I wouldn’t do anything while making the caramel.

For poached pears: These are generally served chilled and can actually be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

- 1 2-inch vanilla bean

- 2 C light red wine

- 1 C sugar

- 1 C water

- 2 strips orange zest

- 1 strip lemon zest

- 4 small Bosc pears (~1 1/4 lbs.)

Simmer. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into a saucepan (large enough to fit all the pears). Add vanilla pod, wine, sugar, water, and zests and  bring to a simmer.

Peel. Peel, halve, and core the pears (or keep them whole). We used a melon baller to core the pears.

Keep simmering. Add the pears to the simmering liquid (they should be mostly submerged in the poaching liquid), cover with parchment paper, and cook over medium-high heat until just tender - this can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes, depending on the type, ripeness, and thickness of the pears. Our Boscs were pretty firm and cut in half, and they took about 30 minutes.

Chill. Chill the pears for up to a day or two in their poaching liquid.

Optional: Freeze. Taste the poaching liquid – you want it to be really sweet, almost too sweet, for sorbet. Add some sugar if you want. Strain out the citrus and vanilla bean, and throw it in an ice cream maker. Or, freeze the liquid on a flat pan and then use an immersion blender to aerate. Or, do the same with crème anglaise and you’ve got vanilla ice cream.

Optional: Reduce. If you want, reduce the liquid down to a syrup and strain out the citrus and vanilla bean.

For caramel sauce: You do have to watch caramel very closely because it can burn. More importantly, it can burn you. When you add the butter and cream, it will bubble up violently and can splatter. So use a long whisk. Very long. Also, you can use different liquids; for example, you can replace the water with red wine or lavender water. To make lavender water, heat water with dried lavender buds and let infuse for a few hours (or longer) and strain before using.

- 1 C sugar

- 1/2 C water

- a few sprinkles of lemon juice

- 6 T butter, cut into chunks

- 1/2 C heavy cream

- salt

Heat and stir. In a large (2-3 quart, with high sides) heavy bottomed saucepan, heat sugar, water and a few drops of lemon juice over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved (a “simple syrup“).

Stop stirring. Once sugar mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring.

Boil. Boil mixture, swirling pan as needed until a caramel forms – should be a dark golden brown. Remember, don’t stir.

Be careful.  Immediately add the butter to the pan and whisk until melted. The mix will foam up. Once the butter is melted, take the pan off the heat, pause for a few seconds, and then add cream, whisking until smooth. The mix will foam up now too. Once everything is whisked together, you’re done. Add a few pinches of salt. Keep warm over very low heat until you’re ready to serve.

For crème anglaise: Crème anglaise is a cold sauce that’s the base for ice cream. It’s also called English or stirred custard.

- 1 vanilla bean

- 1 C milk

- 4 egg yolks

- 1/3 C sugar

- pinch of salt

- ice

Scald. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a saucepan with milk, and add vanilla bean pod as well. Scald the milk. The milk is scalded when you put your finger in it and it’s hot (not burning).

Steep. Take the milk off the heat and let the vanilla bean steep for 30-60 hours.

Whisk.  Lightly whisk the egg yolks. Gradually add the sugar and a pinch of salt, and keep whisking until you get a pale yellow sauce that forms ribbons when dropped from a spoon.

Pour and stir. Remove vanilla pod from the cooled milk and slowly pour it in a steady stream into the egg yolks and sugar, while stirring.

Heat and stir. Place the mixture over medium  heat and keep stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth and coats the back of the wooden spoon. DO NOT BOIL – temperature should not exceed 180ºF.

Strain. Strain through a fine mesh seive into a bowl set over an ice water bath.

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the chase

This recipe.

This recipe.

I’ve been chasing it for a long time.

It started with a birthday (Alyson‘s) and a pan that I had bought over Thanksgiving last year. Last year, folks.

It continued with a pâte sucrée that took months to perfect.

There were few false starts. The caramel burned. The pâte fell apart. The caramel burned again. And then.

And then one tarte had the potential for greatness. The wine and sugar caramelized. The pears softened. The pâte rolled out and tucked in beautifully.

But then.   

But then it fell short.

Note to self, peel and cut more pears to fill the center.

And finally, finally last week, perfection. Or pretty damn close.

Or course, when the tarte cooperates, the sun does not.

I actually placed the tarte on a rolling cart and chased the sun around my apartment. I finally got one good shot of the whole tarte in all its glory. Scroll back up to the top if you want to relive this shining moment.

Ilana came over to “taste” this year’s version of the tarte.

There wasn’t very much left over.

Tarte Tatin aux Poires et Vin

Serves 6-8. (Or 1 hungry Ilana.)

This tarte was inspired by a recipe in Food & Wine but unfortunately I found the proportions, use of puff pastry, and cooking time to be off target, resulting in a burnt mess on my first attempt. Instead, I adapted the tarte tatin recipe included with my tarte pan to incorporate red wine into the caramel and replace traditional apples with pears. This is a recipe that is not for the faint of heart. There’s a crust to make from scratch. Caramel to try not to burn. A breath-stopping flip of a juicy tarte. This is a special occasion dessert.

- 2 C red wine (I’ve made it with house red, Bordeaux, and Cabernet)

- 2 cinnamon sticks

- 1/4 C butter (or margarine)

- 1/2 C sugar

- 3-4 Bartlett or d’Anjou pears

- 1 batch pâte brisée or sucrée (see below) or prepared pie crust

Preheat. Preheat oven to 400°F

Reduce. Bring wine and cinnamon sticks to a boil, reducing down to about 1/4 C of syrup. This takes about 10 minutes. The kitchen will start to smell like cinnamon.

Caramelize. In the tarte tatin pan, melt butter/margarine with the sugar and stir frequently over low-medium heat (I use #3 – 4 on my induction stove) until it starts to turn a golden brown. Watch carefully. Really carefully. The second it starts to turn brown, take it off the heat. Turn down the heat and return the pan to the burner and let it get a little more golden. Watch it like a hawk. Add the wine syrup and simmer on low.

Cut. While the wine is boiling and then the sugar is caramelizing, peel and core the pears. I used a mini melon baller to help core them. I have made this with halves and quarters and find that while halves may look prettier, quarters are easier to slice and eat.

Cook. Arrange the halves (cut side up) or quarters (on their sides or belly side up if they’ll balance) in a circle around the pan (still on low heat) with thin ends pointed in. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat. The caramel will bubble up as the pears soften and pear juices seep out.

Roll. Take cold pâte sucrée out of freezer/fridge and roll between two sheets of wax paper into a circle about 1-2 inches larger than your tatin pan. Remove the top sheet, flip the crust over the fruit, and peel away the wax paper, tucking the dough in around the edges. Cut a few slits into the crust so steam can escape.

Bake. Bake 30 minutes until crust turns a nice brown.

Unveil. After cooling the tarte for a few minutes, place a plate (slightly larger than the tatin pan) over the pan, hold your  breath for a second, and carefully flip the tatin on to the plate. Excellent warm or at room temperature. Try it with vanilla ice cream or gelato.

For  pâte sucrée crust:

- 1 1/4 C flour

- 2 T confectioner’s sugar

- 1/4 t salt

- 6 T butter/margarine, partially frozen

- 1 egg yolk

- 3T cold water

Pulse. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor and mix. Add frozen butter/margarine and pulse ~ 10 times until the consistency of corn meal.

Pulse again.  Add egg yolk and 1T cold water, and pulse ~ 5 times.

Pulse again. Add 1T cold water, and pulse ~5 times.

Get the picture? Add the last 1T cold water, a little at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough starts to come together, but is still a bit crumbly.

Wrap. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten out, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Freeze. Freeze for 20 minutes before using. Or freeze until the next time you want to make a galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin – and then defrost at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using.

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say it out loud

It’s apple picking time!Would you believe that I’ve never been? Yup, it’s true. I am an apple picking novice. But no longer.

With a group of friends, some old, some new, I drove about hour outside the city to the North Shore, passing farm stands along the way. It was actually so beautifully sunny that I got a sunburn. These days, I welcome any sunshine and color I can attract.

At the orchard, we forewent the hay ride and took the 15 minute walk (hike?) up to the orchards. On the way, we got in trouble for picking  bosc pears. After I snacked on one and stuck two in my bag.

Ten pounds of apples in a bag, I rushed home to make strudel.

Correction – apfelstrudel. And you have to call it apfelstrudel with a German accent. Roll the Rs in back of your throat. Ap-fel-shtroooodel. Say it out loud.  A few times. It’s fun.

Apfelstrudel with cinnamon caramel

I asked my German friend, Melanie, how she makes apfelstrudel. She laughed. She said she loves it, but have never made it. Even so, she had some important guidelines, er, taste preferences. Luckily our taste buds match up pretty well. Her main recommendation was not to add raisins. Another friend of mine seconded those instructions and, as a frequent strudel maker, gave me a few more tips. Add a little flour to the apples to help thicken the liquids. Cut the apples into larger chunks so they don’t get mushy when they bake. Make sure to stretch the pastry taut over the apple chunks so you can see their shapes through the dough. And use an egg wash over the top before baking. Try adding some toasted pecans or walnuts to the apples. 

This recipe makes 2 apfelstrudels. It’s a great last-minute Rosh Hashanah dessert, but you might have to double this recipe  (you can always have leftovers for breakfast). I held off on the pecans until the next batch.

- 1 box / 2 sheets puff pastry (I generally use Pepperidge Farm)

- 5 large apples – I often use a mix of firm sweet and tart apples – this time I used Jonagold and Granny Smith

- 3 T lemon juice

- 1 C sugar

- 1 T  flour

- 2 T cinnamon

- 1 egg

- confectioners sugar

Thaw. Thaw the puff pastry - don’t unfold it (I find that the pastry can crack at the 2 folds). Thawing takes about 20 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat. Preheat oven to 425º F.

Peel and chop. Peel the apples. Cut them into ~1/2 – 3/4 inch chunks. Not too small.

Mix. Add the apples to a big bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Sprinkle with flour, sugar, and cinnamon and mix.

Roll. Keep the puff pastry folded and place on a floured sheet of parchment paper (the same size as your cookie sheet.  Roll out the puff pastry pretty thin into a rectangle nearly as long as your cookie sheet.

Stretch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the apple mixture to the puff pastry in a line a few inches from the long edge. Spread the apples evenly end to end. Try not to get too much liquid onto the pastry – save this liquid in the bowl for later. Take the edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples. Take the opposite edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples (this is a little easier than rolling the apples). If you have extra pastry, keep stretching and rolling a until the seam side is down. Tuck the ends under.

Brush. Transfer the parchment with the strudel to a baking sheet. Whisk together the egg and some cold water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the strudel. Using a sharp knife, make a few diagonal slices in the dough. This mostly looks pretty.

Bake. Bake the strudel for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and shiny. Cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

Boil. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice – sugar – cinnamon mixture to a  boil. It will thicken into a loose  caramel.

Serve. Once the strudel has cooled, serve slices dusted with confectioners sugar and a side of cinnamon caramel sauce.

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he grabbed my hand

For the past 3 years, I have walked by my neighbor’s house nearly every day, staring at their carport. No, they don’t have a car that I covet. They have grapes that I covet. Big fat juicy concord grapes. I covet concords.

As I walked by their carport this morning I stared up at the vines normally heavy with grapes, and I saw … stems.

A father-son pair stood beneath those naked vines, hosing down the carport. “Good morning,” I said. “What happened to the grapes?”

“We just harvested them,” replied the father.

“Wanna see?” asked the son.

He grabbed my hand and scampered up the stairs. “We just picked boxes and boxes of them. I’m Noah.”

“I’m Gayle. You must really like grapes.”

Noah nodded.

“Are you gonna eat all of them?”

“No. Grampa makes jelly.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of jelly.”

Noah nodded.

“Do you know what I would do with all these grapes?”

Noah shrugged.

“I would make sorbet – it’s kinda like ice cream.”

Noah licked his lips. “Yum!”

“Would you like me to make some ice cream for you?”

Guess who brought  home a big bag of grapes!

The bunches climbed into a colander and took a few cold showers. The grapes said goodbye to their stems and assorted brethren – the travel weary, the old and wrinkly, the young and green.

The best of the crop took a dunk in the hot tub. A long dunk.

When they started to shed their skins, they knew they were done.

They left their skins and seeds behind, and, without a single glance back, dove right in to join their skinny dipping friends.

They then cozied up to a bar for a few cocktails, picked up some sweeties, and puckered up. (I added to the juice vodka, sugar, and lemon juice.)

Now, now, boys. It’s time to cool off. You’re gonna spend the night in the cooler.

These hooligans clean up nice, don’t they?

There was only one casualty.

I’m not sure there’s gonna be much left for Noah. But don’t feel bad for him. He has jelly.

Concord grape sorbet

I found inspiration for this sorbet in a few places. It seems that Gourmet, New York Magazine, and David Lebovitz all discovered and shared this gorgeous concoction in Autumn 2008 and 2009. I’m two to three years late here, folks. I guess that’s better than four years late. I always add some alcohol to sorbet so it keeps a smooth consistency and doesn’t get icy. I liked the NY Magazine version’s addition of a little lemon juice as well. I suspect you could make this with good pure grape juice (but what’s the fun in that?).

To get a smooth, silky texture that’s not icy, I use alcohol and an immersion blender. The alcohol (vodka here) prevents the sorbet from fully freezing. The immersion blender aerates the sorbet and this incorporated air helps with the texture. I happen to have the canister left over from an old Donvier ice cream maker — I keep it in the freezer to quick chill white wine — so that accelerated the process a bit. If you want the sorbet firmer, use less or no vodka. You can also adjust the suger based on the sweetness of the grape juice – as a general rule, sorbet should be a little bit sweeter than the juice (this is the case of all sorbets).

This recipe made approximately a quart (4 cups) of sorbet.

- 3.5 lbs grapes, straight from the vine, or 2.5 lbs grapes only (rinsed, de-stemmed, and yucky ones removed)

- 1/4 C water

- 1/4 C sugar

- 1/4 C vodka

- 2 T lemon juice

Clean. Rinse grapes in cold water, and then sort through, removing stems and any grapes that are dried, split, or green.

Simmer. In a non-reactive pot (I used hard-anonized), simmer, covered, the cleaned grapes with water until the grapes get soft. By this point, the smell of grape juice will entice you back to the kitchen. Give the grapes a stir a few times to loosen the skins. This whole process took about 20 minutes.

Strain. Pour the grape concoction into a fine-mesh sieve in batches, and push juice out into a bowl beneath, leaving the stems and seeds behind. I used a wooden spoon to press out as much juice as I could. I ended up with about 2.5 cups of pure grape juice.

Mix. Add sugar, vodka, and lemon juice to the grape juice and whir a few times with an immersion blender to dissolve the sugar. You’ll use the immersion blender again later.

Freeze and aerate. Pour the grape mix into a bowl, cake pan, or whatever you want and pop it into the freezer. The flatter the container, the quicker the sorbet will freeze. The more alcohol, the slower the sorbet will freeze. After about 2 hours, check on the sorbet. It should be about half frozen. Use the immersion blender to break up any icy bits. Return the sorbet to the freezer and repeat this every hour or so. If you forget and throw the sorbet in the freezer overnight, no problem – it will just take a few extra whirs with the blender to break up the solid mass the next morning.

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Do you know what these are?

They’re pibá.

Since it’s 6 am and I’m wide awake (did  you hear that? awake!) a full hour before my alarm goes off, I figure I’ll tell you a little about pibá while baking a cake (bread?) to pass the time. Since I can’t fall back asleep. Yeah…I’m wierd that way.

So, here’s the deal. Pibá is a fruit. In fact it’s the fruit of the palm tree. And it started our trip out to Santa Clara.

In case you don’t remember, two years ago, my friend Elvera and I went to Panama and stayed with our friends Joe and Victoria and baby Jack. We ate very very very well. We arrived on the day that a long awaited new road was opened in Panama City, and were some of its first passengers. Midway through our trip was a national holiday as President Martinelli was sworn in. Everyone was off work, so Vic, Elvera, and I prepared a picnic lunch (including some pibá), Joe packed up the car, and we all drove out to Santa Clara beach about an hour southwest of Panama City on the Pacific Ocean.

We stop along the Pan-American Highway at Quesos Chela – arguably the best cheese maker in the country …

… and kosher to boot.

After stocking up on a lot of dairy to supplement the cooked pibá and salads we packed, I settle down with a coconut. And a straw.

(Hold on, the oven is beeping. The cake is done.)

Twenty more minutes in the car, barely enough time for the cheese to reach perfect-for-eating room temperature, we drive up to a house.

We pull up alongside this bicycle.


We walk down a path.

We find our own private beach.

Look what’s waiting for us.

The weather quickly turns from sunny to overcast to downright stormy.

We pack up our bags and bid our oasis adieu.

(There goes my alarm. Time to get ready for work. Do you think my new colleagues will like the cake?)

Pibá

Rinse pibá.

Drop into salted boiling water.

Boil for about 20 minutes until tender.

Rinse with cold water.

Let cool.

With a salt shaker nearby and a sharp knife, peel the orange skin and eat the white, starchy fruit. It tastes a bit like a dense potato.

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he said she said

He walked through the door, bearing gifts. A bag of groceries – cheese, chicken, lemons, nectarines, and wine. Foraging through the pantry and fridge, he gathered the meal.

Bread with cheese to start things off, with a little care in the kosher kitchen where milk and meat are kept separate. Cheese stayed at one end of the dining room table.

On the kitchen counter, an assembly line was set up. A bottle of wine was opened and poured.

He said, every Jewish mother knows how to make schnitzel. No, she said, every Israeli mother knows how to make schnitzel. She was neither. She watched him carefully.

The pans heated and the schnitzel stacked up. Avoiding the splattering oil, she moved to the dining room and gathered linens, continuing to observe at a distance.

The table was set. The limonana was poured.

The smoke detector blared. Its battery was removed and all the windows and doors were opened. The breeze chased out the smoke. They sat down to dinner.

There were leftovers.

Limonana

I had fresh lemonade at Joanne‘s this past winter. She uses Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa Cookbook) ratio of 4:1:0.5 water-lemon-sugar, and who can argue with the recommendations of a woman with a lemon tree in her backyard? You can obviously adjust to your own preferences and I sometimes use less sugar. When you add mint, called nana in Hebrew, lemonade (limonada in Hebrew) becomes limonana.

- 4C cold water

- 1C fresh lemon juice (or, in a pinch, you can cheat and use bottled 100% lemon juice)

- 1/2C sugar (superfine is best, but I have great results with regular granulated sugar)

- handful of mint

- ice cubes

Throw the first 3 ingredients in a blender. That’s it.

Either add mint to the blender as well for a green-tinted drink, or add a branch-worth of leaves to lemonade right before serving to turn the lemonade into limonana.

Schnitzel

Schnitzel is breaded, fried chicken cutlets that are incredibly moist beneath the crispy crust. I don’t have exact quantities for this recipe, but more of a formula.

Slice boneless, skinless chicken breast cutlets into thin strips, cover with wax paper or plastic wrap, and pound flat with a mallet. If yours has a tenderizing side, don’t use it. We made about one and three-quarters of a pound of chicken (3 large breasts) which we sliced into 12 strips.

Prepare four plates. Sprinkle flour on the first plate. On the second, break and beat a few eggs (we used 4). Dump a big pile of fine bread crumbs onto the third (you can also use panko, but I find the coating to be too thick and bready). Coat the chicken in flour, dredge through the egg, and coat with bread crumbs. Stack onto the fourth plate.

It’s best to use two pans to make quick work of the frying so you can serve all the chicken hot. Coat two pans with vegetable oil and turn heat to medium-high/high. Cover a fifth plate in paper towels and have the rest of the roll nearby. Once the oil is heated, add chicken to the pans in a single layer. Step away from the pan as you add the chicken (or if you’re cooking in a pair, the better dressed one should just step out of the kitchen and set the table) – this will splatter and make a mess. I think that’s part of the charm.  After a few minutes when one side has browned, flip the chicken and cook for another few minutes until brown on both sides. Remove the schnitzel and lay over paper towels in a single layer. Add more paper towels between each layer to absorb the oil.

Serve hot, sprinkled with salt, and plan for 2-3 schnitzel per person.

If you have any left over, slice and throw on a salad the next day.

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I was struggling to tell this story for weeks on end. Until a good friend reminded me of the beauty of intense brevity with what some may call Hemingway’s best short story: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

I’m going to let that sink in for a moment…

.

.

.

.

… and then share my second day in Panama with you. You can fill in the details.

Fruit never before seen. Not tasted.

Chef rescue. Try fruit. Make friend.



New Year. Re-taste fruit. Shehecheyanu. Blessed.

Hemingway I am not.

But, as the (Jewish) holiday season draws to a close, I wanted to share with you my wish for a year of new experience, fabulous adventure, and friends to share it with.

On that note, in just a few days, I am heading to Tokyo (and Paris) for work for two weeks. And a few days of adventure.

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