Friday, October 27, 2006
Except I didn't know what a shortcrust pastry was. Tamasin Day-Lewis' instructions were simply to make one with 4oz (113g) organic flour and 2oz (57g) unsalted butter. And then what? Well, I really didn't know. I got the impression that one just combined these two ingredients together until they created a crumble, and then they were to be pressed into the tart pan, but I was not sure. I did a quick search online and found a simple recipe in which water and salt were included, as well as twice the amount of flour and butter. I decided to follow that recipe, but a couple of days later, while reading Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's The River Cottage Year, I realised that my initial thoughts were right - he refers to a shortcrust recipe suggested by Elizabeth David - except that I had not considered a drop or two of water to bring the mixture together. Tamasin Day-Lewis seems to admire Elizabeth David, so she probably did mean for me to think about this method. Now I know. But today I give you the recipe I ended up following, which was fine, except I should have added some sugar because the pastry ended up being too savoury for this dessert.
As for the quince themselves, a kind of mousse is made, which I think masks the gorgeous tropical scent of the fruit. It was a nice and fluffy tasting tart, but it did not bring out of the quince their quince-ness.
(Adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Simply The Best: The Art of Seasonal Cooking)
For the shortcrust pastry:
9oz (255g) flour
4oz (113g) butter
1 egg, chilled
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon water, chilled
1) Process flour, butter, and salt in a food processor until the mixture looks crumbly.
2) Whisk the egg and water in a bowl until combined, then add to the flour mixture while food processor is running. Process until dough forms large clumps.
3) Turn dough out on to work surface and knead gently to bring together.
4) Form into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate overnight or for at least two hours.
For the filling:
5 quince, peeled, cored, and cubed
2 tablespoons water
2 tablspoons vanilla superfine sugar (vanilla caster sugar)
2 egg yolks
3 egg whites
2oz (50g) butter
1) Preheat oven to 375 deg. f. (190 deg. c.).
2) Line a 10" (25cm) tart with the shortcrust pastry.
3) Stew quince gently in a covered pan in the water and sugar until tender.
4) Liquidise quince in a food processor, test for sweetness before adding egg yolks, butter, and cream, then give it a quick whirl in the processor. Scrape mixture into a bowl.
5) Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks in a separate bowl, then fold them into the quince mixture lightly and quickly.
6) Pour the quince mixture over the pastry base.
7) Cook for approximately 35 minutes, until well risen and "airily set". Serve warm.
Next time I make this, and there probably will be another time as quince are still in season, I will poach the quince with their cores in because this is what creates that gorgeous pink hue quince are known for as well as a "jelly"). I will then scoop them out, slice them, and then arrange them in the tart pan to bake. This way, I think I will get that quince-ness I'm after.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Sick As A Dog
I will be back to update the above mentioned dishes with pics and recipes very soon. After all, the desire for food is only just beginning to come back; I can now look at cookery books with interest.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Polenta e fagioli al veneto
Dried beans plump up by slowly absorbing liquid, and this allows them to release complex sugars that are difficult to digest (and which cause flatulence!). For some beans, particularly kidney beans, soaking is necessary to draw out a particular lectin that is toxic. So, never skimp on soaking your dried beans!
The recipe with which to embark on my maiden voyage into the world of pulses was chosen for the ostensible fact that each step is relatively easy. It comes by way of Judith Barrett's Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy. Barrett is an American cookery book writer who is largely influenced by the cooking of Italy - she also co-authored Risotto. This particular recipe apparently comes from the Veneto, a region in north-eastern Italy, the capital of which is Venice.
I replaced sage with tarragon. Of course this changed the end result: instead of piques of mind-clearing sharpness, I got a deep and complex sweetness. This is truly what I wanted after a hectic day. I also replaced pancetta with "Canadian Bacon", which is really just middle bacon instead of back bacon (higher in fat). I think the only thing really missing was some parmesan or other variety of nutty cheese. If you have never had polenta before, my experience of it cooked in this fashion is that it tastes like mushy couscous...and I love it :-)
The recipe is plenty for four, and you can adjust accordingly, as I did, for two, although the beans do refrigerate well and can be warmed through after another day that leaves too little time to cook.
Polenta e fagioli al veneto
(from Judith Barrett's Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy)
1 1/2 cups borlotti, fagioli di lamon, pinto, or cranberry beans
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups chopped tomatoes (approximately seven good-sized tomatoes)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
10 leaves basil, finely chopped
4 leaves fresh sage (or 10 leaves tarragon), finely chopped
salt and black pepper
2 cups yellow polenta
6 oz pancetta (or thick cut of bacon), cut into 1/4" (1 cm) dice
1) Soak the beans in cold water for 8 hours or longer. Drain and discard the water. Rinse beans under cold water and drain again.
2) Combine the beans with 6 cups of cold water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the water begins to boil, lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about on1 hour (or when the beans are tender). When beans are tender, turn off the heat and set aside.
3) Heat olive oil in a casserole or Dutch oven over medium heat, then add onion and garlic.
4) When onion is soft (approximately 3 minutes), stir in the chopped tomatoes and vinegar.
5) Dissolve the tomato paste in the broth, then add broth to the onion and tomato party in the casserole along with the finely chopped herbs.
6) Season with salt and pepper to taste, then let simmer until the sauce is thick (about 15 to 20 minutes).
7) Drain the beans and add to the tomato sauce. Combine well. Cook for 15 minutes longer.
8) Boil 9 cups of water in a 6-quart pot, then add yellow polenta and tablespoon salt. Whisk together to ensure clumps do not form. When the polenta comes to a boil, turn down to a simmer and stir with a wooden spoon frequently. The polenta is done when it starts pulling away from the sides of the pot and is nice and thick. In total, this should take 20-25 minutes.
9) During the last 10 minutes of the polenta coming together, chuck the cubed pancetta into a small saucepan and heat until crispy. I actually just prefer my bacon lightly browned; if you want yours really crispy, you may have to start heating it a few more minutes earlier. Drain excess fat by putting the pancetta on a paper towel after desired crispiness is achieved.
10) To serve: Spoon the polenta onto your dish first, ladle the beans over the top of the polenta, and then sprinkle the pancetta on top of the beans.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Posh Guy Food
This time, we took our cue for the marinade and salad dressing from Kate Fay and Jeremy Turner's Cibo: Food with Attitude, in which the recipes are taken from their repertoire of predominantly fusion dishes (New Zealand fare interlacing sauces and rubs from Asia and the Middle East) served at Cibo in Auckland, New Zealand.
We marinated the steak overnight in Fay and Turner's Sumac Crust, to which we added soy sauce and honey. Because sumac is distinctively smoky and citrusy (augmented by the herbs used), we wanted to round it out so as not to compete with the dressing for our salad. Do not get me wrong, the sumac crust is outstanding, and it is only because we were concerned with pairing flavours that we turned it into a marinade.
Speaking of the dressing, we had neither sunflower oil nor mirin, so we focused on highlighting the simultanous sweetness and tartness of the pomegranate molasses. We also substituted the call for white wine vinegar with dry vermouth, mostly because we find it slightly less acidic and, consequently, less overpowering. This dressing works superbly as a counterbalance to the arugula's pepperiness, which is mellowed out by the nuttiness of bean sprouts. A more-than-fabulous combination.
Before getting on to the ingredients and methods of preparation, I have to meantion the ease of pressing out the juice of a pomegranate and of picking out the seeds. I have often heard that it is difficult to do both, but I find it to be reasonably easy. To exact the pomegranate's juice, lightly squeeze all around the pomegrante before simply inserting the blade of a paring knife 1"/2.5cm into the pomegranate. Hold the pomegranate such that the incision mark is held over a bowl, and then squeeze the fruit. The juice should be fairly free-flowing with tight squeezes. To extract the seeds, insert the blade of a paring knife into the top of the pomegranate and abruptly crank it. The pomegranate should gently open, and you can then tear across its naturally occurring segements (designated by the pith). Once deconstructed, you can then pick out or gently flick the seeds into the vessel of your choice.
The following quantites are enough for two, or at least for us :-p
New York Steak with Sumac Marinade
(Adapted from Kate Fay and Jeremy Turner's Cibo: Food with Attitude)
4 tablespoons sumac
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic puree
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon honey (we use Pohutakawa honey from New Zealand)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1) Combine above ingredients together, using the olive oil last as a binding agent.
2) Coat New York steaks and marinade for at least 4 hours.
3) Pat steaks dry before pan-frying in a heavy-bottomed skillet to your satisfaction (we prefer our beef rare).
Arugula and Bean Sprout Salad with Pomegranate and Honey Dressing
(Adapted from Kate Fay and Jeremy Turner's Cibo: Food with Attitude)
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vermouth or white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sumac
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
seeds of 1/2 fresh pomegranate
arugula, enough for two
bean sprouts, enough for two
1) Combine above ingredients bar the pomegranate seeds, arugula, and bean sprouts.
2) When combined well, toss in the arugula and gently fold in most of the pomegranate seeds, leaving some to sprinkle once the salad has been constructed.
3) To construct salad: Make a bed of arugula, then add bean sprouts, and top this off with the reserved pomegranate seeds.
Monday, October 02, 2006
In retrospect, I should have taken photos of the gorgeous sumac-crusted New York steak that Eric made for dinner on Friday night, served alongside green beans that were steamed in bacon-infused oil and garlic. I really do not know why it didn't cross my mind to take photos, especially since it was the first time we had enough time to make proper use of the kitchen since the plumbers invaded us for a week and a bit.
I did, however, take photos of the quince and pomegranates that we picked up at the Long Beach farmers' market on Friday morning. Truthfully, the quince aren't all golden yet, so I should not have bought them (hopefully Suzanne Goin, LA chef par excellence of Lucques and AOC fame, will not have a hissy-fit at me - I know how impeccable her eye is when selecting produce). I was so excited when I saw that Joe at Culinary in the Desert had come across some for a gorgeous breakfast-for-dinner meal of Orange-Yoghurt Pancakes with Quince topping that I just could not walk away from the stand without at least picking the closest to ripe ones. I am going to consult one of the (too?) many British cookery books I have to see what I might want to try my hand at - my experience is that those in the United Kingdom and in the Middle East know best what to do with these gorgeous tropical-scented fruit.
My angelheart Eric made a lovely, soul-warming lunch today. (I know, I know...I've been whining about not getting into the kitchen, and when I can, it is Eric that cooks. In my defense, last night I experimented slightly with the Hamam Mahshi bul Burghul that I made for Weekend Cookbook Challenege # 8 - you can drool over the round-up of it here - by using just one 1.5 pound young chicken instead of two cornish hens, and we are now considering this for Thanksgiving.) This Basil Chicken recipe is one from his mother's kitchen, a dish that has survived the long trek from the Taipei kitchen of Eric's childhood to our Long Beach home.
1 strip bacon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3-4 gloves garlic, finely chopped
1 serrano chili, thinly chopped
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken legs, cut into 2"x2" (5cm squared) pieces
1 cup dry white wine or rice wine
1 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey (we use Pohutakawa honey from New Zealand, which adds a nice salty tang...yes, salty - the Pohutakawa is a tree that typically grows on cliffs, thereby absorbing the sea spray with its concomitant salt)
3/4 cup basil leaves, left whole
1) Brown the bacon in the oil until the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon.
2) Sautee the onion, garlic, and chili in the oil until the onion is translucent.
3) Add the chicken pieces and brown them.
4) Add the wine, soy sauce, honey, and water.
5) Braise the chicken pieces over medium heat until the liquid has reduced by one cup or so (approximately half-an-hour) or until the chicken has a beautiful darkish brown hue.
6) Feel free to dispose of any fat that is collecting on the surface of the broth.
7) Add the basil leaves, then cover and let steam for 5 minutes, allowing for the basil to infuse with the liquid and chicken.
For a nutty variation, feel free to add 1/2 cup roasted walnuts or chestnuts as the chicken is braising. Also, if you are at all intolerant of salt for whatever reason, cut down on the soy sauce a bit - perhaps by as much as 1/3 of a cup. Also, for those with weak bowels or with a preference for mild heat, try to remove the membranes from the serrano chili before slicing it thinly.
As to the service of the dish, it was done so simply in bowls with scallion pancakes on the side to soak up the broth. Nothing could be more earthy and satisfying on a day that looks like it is ushering in the fall.