Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Over my head?

After perusing some food blogs this evening (I'd site them here if I could remember how to link them, but I can't be bothered to read the instructions again right now after my first day back at university), I have come to the realization that there are many people who are not only adept in the kitchen but also quite skilled at food styling and photography. So, I offer in advance my admission, if you could not already tell, that as much as I love pretty things, I'm not the most gifted at creating them. Of course my angelheart, Eric (he who has a B.F.A.), and my darling friend Suzanne (former interior design student, poet, and food lover par excellence) offer presentation advice, I want to use my own eye and tastes to please their eyes and tempt them to eat, but I don't always deliver - you can see how very simply my Dapple Dandy Pluot tart was presented.

And now there is this Weekend Cookbook Challenge (WCC) # 8 coming up very soon (September the 4th). I'm afraid you will all have to kindly accept the photos as being the best I can produce at the time. I guess, then, saying this ensures that I do submit an entry - the theme of which is a "foreign dish". I am currently seriously reading Claudia Roden's detailed and mouth-watering The New Book of Middle Eastern Food. There are too many dishes to choose from, and I want to make a meal from the book (well, not a feast in the Italian sense, but perhaps a simple offering of an appetizer, a main, and a dessert). But how to choose? Perhaps I should just pick one country in the Middle East, or perhaps one country should be chosen for each component of the meal? What do you think?


Maybe this little blog with its humble beginnings will fly under the radar until I submit my WCC offerings...

Monday, August 28, 2006


Review: The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater

I write this review almost two months before Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries is released in the United States in an effort to create any possible buzz, for this cookery book is not to be missed. It is a one year reflection of seasonal produce and how it can be augmented with Slater's no-fuss approach to tasty, good food.

In an orderly fashion, Slater details a year in his kitchen month to month, starting from January (my favourite month of the year because it is usually the coldest - well, in the Northern hemisphere anyway). His new year's resolution is to buy organic food and to patronize artisanal food producers, so we know right from the outset that this is not going to cover any silly "semi-homemade" meals. This is also a clear message to the reader that supermarket substitutions may apply, especially if one is unable to go to a certified farmers' market. The seasonal produce is enhanced with fresh fish and meat, rice, pasta, herbs, and seasonings. Though Slater does not detail everything he eats every day, there is no shortage of revamped classic British (e.g. dishes with red mullet, lemon trifle, ham and butter beans - delightfully autumnal) and international (Thai fishcakes, chicken tarragon, Indian-style roast quail) meals.

Written in a diary-entry format, Slater chatters effusively about the weather, what is in his garden, and the ups and downs of dinners for, one, two, or more, amongst many food-related digressions. His descriptions are mouth-watering, as are the many accompanying photographs taken in "real time" (that is to say, immediately after the actual time of cooking).

In this great cookery book Slater imparts a lot of insight, insofar as ripeness of produce and basic food preparation. The variety of main courses and desserts ensure that the reader is never under-stimulated. Though the actual ripening dates will be different depending on where on lives, Slater is full of advice on how to make the most of the natural flavours in fresh produce.

My favourite entries are those in January, during which Slater sells the reader on the joys of cold-weather cooking - dal and pumpkin soup, a good British stew, double ginger cake, pot-roast pheasant, and sausages with salami and lentils.

Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries inspires me to have an exciting year - any year - in the kitchen. It is a "must have" for every foodie.


Sunday, August 27, 2006


Dapple Dandy Pluot Tart

I have a great love of tarts, especially plum tarts. I have made Ina Garten's version of a plum tart several times now, but I decided, for the sake of not being repetitive, to amend her recipe. Last time I made it I accidentally forgot to add the egg yolk, and it did not make a marked difference to the outcome. I suppose, then, the the yolk either acts to ensure the tart base is bound and perhaps to add depth of color. I decided this time, too, to consciously omit the yolk - this is good news for those particularly concerned about their cholesterol intake.

So, yesterday, while at the Long Beach Farmers' Market, I came across Dapple Dandy pluots (pluots are a hybrid of plums and apricots). They have greenish-yellow skin with red blushes, and their flesh is white and red. Taste wise, they have the sweetness of plums with the well-rounded depth of apricots.

In the final analysis, for this tart, the Dapple Dandy pluots were no different to the plums I usually purchase (with red skin and flesh the color of a saffron stain). I think the walnuts really come through on the palate, and the pluots add a lower note in taste and a succulence in texture. It must be said that in terms of sheer end result, the pluots add a gorgeous blush, a light pink, under the buttery topping (which is really the same stuff as the base, but it hasn't been pressed into the mold).

Eric and I enjoyed it with Ina's fabulous Vanilla Bean and Armagnac ice cream - the most expensive ice cream you will ever make, but it is indeed heavenly.

Dapple Dandy Pluot Tart
(This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
3/4 brown sugar (Ina suggests light brown, but I use dark)
1 1/2 sticks (169.5 g) cold unsalted butter (diced)
2 pounds (5 medium sized) pluots (or plums), pitted and quartered

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (200 deg. c.).
2) Combine flour, walnuts, and sugar before adding butter. Once butter added, mix until crumbly (it is easier to do by hand than with a mixer). This is the tart base mixture.
3) Press 4/5 of the tart base mixture into a 10" tart pan; it is easier if you press into the fluted sides first and work your way to the center.
4) Arrange the pluots on top of the tart mixture, skin side down, and in a concentric pattern.
5) Toss the remaining 1/5 of the tart base mixture evenly on top of the pluots.
6) Bake tart in the oven for 40-50 minutes (until tart mixture is lightly browned and the pluot juices are bubbling).


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