Friday, December 29, 2006
Quince in Syrup (and ramblings on quince not being a "nana fruit")
My father all but cracked up laughing when I told him that I wanted to make this recipe. Why is it that people think quince is a nana's fruit? I suspect it has something to do with the Victorians leaving quince to scent linen cupboards, but this is originally, as far as I know, a Central Asian/Middle Eastern fruit, and the uses for it in jellies and as a sweet accent in savoury dishes are astounding (Central Asian and Middle Eastern dishes often act as harmonious offerings of the tart and sweet, the savoury and spicy - a dramatic study of balance). A nana fruit this is not. One does not or should not eat a quince directly off the tree, for it is incredibly hard and astringent. However, of the family of pears and apples it is, so like these fruit, it is best (in my opinion) cooked in any manner. It is once warmed through that the gorgeous tropical and floral aroma of the quince is released and casts spellbound gazes on all those whose olfactory organs are even minimally functioning.
Quince in Syrup
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible)
juice of 1/2 lemon
8oz (225g) unrefined sugar
2lb (900g) quince (either 4 small or two really large ones) that have had the down scrubbed off them, halved (do not remove pips or stone) and sitting in acidulated water
1) Fill a pan with 1 3/4 pints (1 litre) boiling water and add lemon juice and sugar.
2) Add quince cut side down and simmer until tender (add more water as you go to keep them covered), anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes. Do not, however, let the fruit fall apart.
3) When tender, remove quince, and once cool enough to handle, cut out the cores and put them back in the pan.
4) Reduce the syrup by simmering.
5) Return quince to simmering liquid and cool until syrup becomes thick and reddish, approximately 75 minutes.
6) Arrange quice halves cut side up on a serving plate and pour syrup on top (it will turn into a jelly as it cools).
I do not dispute that this dessert takes a while before you can eat it, but it is worth it. Besides, you get to inhale that gorgeous aroma the entire time, and that cannot be bettered. Alas, the quince season seems to have ended here, so this will be my last quince entry for a while.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Theme for Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 12: Stew
So, this month's theme is stew. The wonderful thing about stews is that they are mostly one-pot-meals. The main differences between stews and braises, for which I have been asked, is that stews consist of lots of pieces of meat that have been submerged in cooking liquid, whereas braises are of one big piece of meat that has cooking liquid reaching but 3/4 or so of the way up it (never submerged). Both techniques yield moist meat, and stews in particular are an appetizing way to use inexpensive cuts of meat (usually of the tendinous and sinewy variety).
Because stews are the pillar of most cultures' winter meals, it should come as no surprise to anyone that stew is the theme of Weekend Cookbook Challenge #12. There are plenty of exciting recipes out there; I'm presently up to my knees in cookery books, deciding on which to make and submit to the Weekend Cookbook Challenge.
Sara and I are aware that it is indeed the holiday season and that most people may not feel like participating. We purposely made the "deadline" early in 2007 to allow people who may want to participate a chance to do so after the delightful though stressful madness of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and celebrations for the New Year.
Please e-mail your submission to me at kitchenaglow AT yahoo DOT com on or by 5 January 2007.
Labels: Weekend Cookbook Challenge
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Not only did my angelheart Eric and I manage an afternoon tea and gift exchange with his family, but we also prepared a Christmas dinner for our transient and special guests - one visiting (sassy Sauciere Queen Lily), a couple moving away (stylish and effervescent Ailene and her hubby, espresso-loving and ruminating Mirko), and another embarking on a trip overseas (divine poetess Suzanne). Because it would be a long time before we could all sit around the same table again, my angelheart Eric and I set about creating a rich Christmas meal of intense yet comforting flavors.
Suzanne brought her now famous onion bread, and Ailene and Mirko brought spinach and artichoke dip. This was accompanied with bagna cauda, a recipe from Andrea Froncilla and Jennifer Jeffrey's The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook, which I also made for Weekend Cookbook Challenge #11. For the main, we had osso buco, which was followed by molten chocolate babycakes.
For the main, we decided on one of our Winter mainstays and one of Mirko's favorite meals, osso buco. This Piemontese specialty is traditionally made with veal shanks, but we went with beef shanks that were trimmed and cut perfectly by the wonderful butchers at Wild Oats (they can do no wrong in our eyes). Osso buco is a braised meal, so it is perfectly tender every time and well infused with the trinity (celery, onions, and carrots) and bouquet garni. My favorite part, as is typical of most osso buco lovers, is the bone marrow, which is hearty and succulent, rich with the essence of meat. Atop a bed of the vegetables with which it has braised, osso buco is a robust meal that perfectly matches the convivial setting of a Christmas dinner with the dearest of friends. This recipe is enough to serve eight, but my angelheart Eric and the espresso-loving and ruminating Mirko got two shanks each - after all, it is Christmas.
The dessert, molten chocolate babycakes, comes by way of Nigella Lawson's gift to those lovingly and willingly chained to the kitchen, How To Be A Domestic Goddess. The cakes are always a hit, for they are laden with gorgeous bittersweet chocolate, the darker and richer the better (I try to go for that which is either from Cote d'Ivoire or Switzerland, but I have yet to try Green and Blacks). No one forgets this rich dessert whether it's highlighting a cozy meal for two (as my angelheart Eric and I have done on occasion) or underscoring an evening of merry-wishing.
Bouquet garni, a few sprigs of fresh: parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, and 1 dry bay leaf
8 beef shanks
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
All Purpose flour for dredging
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 small onions, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 small carrots, diced into 1/2 inch cubes (or use a handful of baby carrots)
2 fennels, cut into eighths
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 pinch saffron, rested in hot water
1) Make two bouquet garnis and secure with kitchen twine.
2) For the beef shanks, pat dry to remove excess moisture, then secure meat to the bone with kitchen twine.
3) Season each shank with salt and pepper.
4) Dredge the shanks in seasoned flour, then shake off the excess.
5) In a dutch oven, heat vegetable oil until smoking before adding the shanks. Brown on all sides, approximately 3 minutes per side, then reserve.
6) In the same pot, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Season with salt to draw out the moisture from the vegetables and saute until soft and translucent, approximately 8 minutes.
7) Add the tomato paste and saffron with its liquid. Mix well.
8) Return browned shanks to the dutch oven and add the white wine and reduce the liquid by half, about 5 minutes.
9) Add bouqet garnis and 2 cups of chicken stock.
10) Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. Check every 15 or so minutes, turning the shanks and adding more chicken stock as necessary, for the cooking liquid should come up 3/4 of the way up the shank.
11) Once cooked, carefully remove the shanks from the pot and serve over the vegetables. Cut off the twine and discard.
12) Remove and discard the bouquet garnis and pour juices and sauce from pot over the shanks.
Molten Chocolate Babycakes
(from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess)
1/4 cup soft unslated butter, plus more for greasing
12 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1) Preheat oven to 400 deg. f. (200 deg. c.), putting in a baking sheet at the same time.
2) Put parchment paper in the base of each ramekin, for it helps ease out the babycakes once baked.
3) Melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly.
4) Cream together the butter and sugar, and slowly beat in the eggs, followed by the vanilla.
5) Add the flour and combine until smooth.
6) Scrape in the cooled chocolate and blend again until a smooth batter is achieved.
7) Divide batter amongst buttered ramekins (Nigella uses 6 custard cups; I use 7 ramekins) that have been fitted with parchment paper.
8) Put ramekins on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes (or for 12 minutes if you have made the batter in advance and pulled it from the fridge).
9) Once baked, turn babycakes onto small plates or shallow bowls and, for contrast, serve with something cold (we served the babycakes with homemade coffee ice cream).
Merry Christmas everyone!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Tamasin Tart Bake Off: Bakewell Tart
I was intrigued by the sound of the Bakewell Tart from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible (a fabulous book that Freya recommended to me, by the way) on account of the jam (I chose an organic raspberry jam that I picked up from the farmers' market), bitter almond extract and ground almonds, which I absolutely adore in anything sweet or savoury. I was hesitant to make the shortcrust pastry because I had made it before for my first Quince Tart, but I didn't think much of it because it was too savoury for the quinces. I had intended to make the tart last night, but I had a few too many problems with the pastry. It was pretty hot in the kitchen, and this is not good for shortcrust pastry because it tears easily enough as it is. I think I tried three times to roll out the pastry and it either stuck (no matter how much flour I had on the counter, the rolling pin, and myself) or tore at every pass of the rolling pin. I threw the pastry out and started again tonight. I was miffed because the first time I tried it was successful (and rather breezy at that). Tonight, I made sure the kitchen was nice and cool - the pastry still tore a little bit, but it was easy enough to patch and then pass the rolling pin over again. After that though, the tart was a breeze to make.
(from Tamasin Day-Lewis' Tamasin's Kitchen Bible)
Shortcrust pastry (for a 10" pan)
6.6 oz plain white four
pinch of sea salt
3.3 oz unsalted butter, directly from the fridge
1 teaspoon water, ice cold
6.6 oz your favourite jam
4.4 oz unsalted butter
4.4 oz sugar
4.4 oz ground almonds
4 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1 teaspoon bitter almond extract
a handful of flaked almonds
For the pastry:
1) Pulse flour, butter and sugar in the blender until combined.
2) Add water.
3) Pulse until pastry comes together in a ball.
4) Refrigerate pastry for at least thirty minutes
5) Roll pastry out on a well floured surface (and on the rolling pin and your hands, too).
6) Line pastry in a pastry shell.
7) Put back in the fridge for at least thirty more minutes.
8) Prick surface with tines of a fork, cover with parchment paper and baking beans.
9) Cook in oven at 375 deg. f. for 15 minutes.
For the filling:
1) Preheat oven to 400 deg. f.
2) Spread a generous layer of jam on pastry base.
3) Melt butter until it smells nutty.
4) Whisk together egg yolks, egg whites, ground almonds, bitter almond extract, and sugar.
5) Pour butter into whisked mixture and combine.
6) Pour mixture over jam and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
7) Strew over flaked almonds, then bake for a further 5 minutes.
Eat while still warm.
Everyone liked this very simple tasting tart. It is perfect on a cold night as it would be at afternoon tea in the Summer. It reminded me of Louise cake, which my mum used to bake regularly when I was growing up. One barely notices the pastry because it is very thin and is really only meant to be there as a vessel of sorts for the glorious almond filling. I might try it with a more adventurous jam next time, say rhubarb and ginger.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Herbs
Usually in the week leading up to and the week of final exams, I eat eggs in the morning. Protein is not only good for energy levels but so is vitamin-D, both of which are contained in eggs.
Scrambled eggs were never my favourite way of cooking eggs until I came across Ina Garten's recipes for slow-cooked scrambled eggs (with fresh herbs, with caviar, and with goat cheese) in her cookery book, Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I know it seems silly to give someone credit for a scrambled eggs recipe, but if I had not come across Ina's version with herbs, then I would be making poached eggs every morning, and that gets a little boring.
My angelheart Eric and I often include scrambled eggs as part of our brunch menu; they are hearty, warming, and nutritious. No morning could get off to a better start.
The recipe below serves two. I have swapped out the half-and-half for whole milk, the parsley for thyme (only because we didn't have parsley on hand...what is it with us lately?!), and the fresh dill for oregano (I really am not that keen on the mustiness of dill, especially when it is likely to feature in a dish...I will test my dill threshold as I prepare to make some Scandinavian meals throughout Winter). Of course, if you want a herbier start to your morning, increase the amount of herbs used to get a gorgeous canary-hued dish flecked with gorgeous greenery.
Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Herbs
(adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Family Style)
5 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
1 1/3 tablespoon (19 grams) butter
1/3 tablespoon thyme (or parsley, finely chopped)
1/3 tablespoon scallions (green onions), finely chopped
1/3 tablespoon oregano (or the same amount of fresh dill, finely chopped)
1) Whisk eggs in a bowl with the milk, salt, and pepper.
2) Heat half the butter in a saute pan.
3) Add eggs to butter and cook over medium-low heat until desired consistency reached by stirring continuously and slowly.
4) Take saute pan off the heat.
5) Throw in the remaining butter, thyme, scallions, and oregano. Stir until the butter is melted. 6) Check for seasoning and serve hot.
All set now...Final exams here I come :-)
Labels: Ina Garten
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Weekend Cookbook Challenge # 11 - Party Food
This is actually my second attempt to type this post because as I was doing it last night, in an effort to meet the deadline as we ate the "Party Food", my angelheart Eric knocked a stack of cookbooks off a chair ledge and they landed on the power strip! So, everything went down, and, of course, the server does not "emergency save" documents as does Windows. It was well after 10pm then, and I just decided I'd try again as soon as I got up this morning.
So, I've given away the theme to WCC #11 already: Party Food. Isn't every meal an invitation to party for us foodies? My angelheart Eric and I often host little dinner parties, wine tasting parties, and big events parties (mostly New Year's Eve), so I really wasn't sure how to tackle this month's theme. I just decided on something simple, for most of us are still full from feasting at Thanksgiving meals. The small party number went from five to three (including the hosts!). It was to be seen as a catch up over finger food, and it ended up being quite a lot to eat for 3, and we ate quite a bit of it over the course of a couple of hours. I made two types of dip, Bagna Cauda (from The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook) and Muhamarra (from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food), Zucchini Frittata (it was meant to be zucchini fritters, but the batter kept sticking to the frying pan; the recipe is mostly modeled after one from Claudia Roden's fabulous Arabesque), and Brandy Creme Brulee (there is almost no need to cite a reference as I could have done this with my eyes closed, but the inspiration to add brandy came from Debbie Puente's Elegantly Easy Creme Brulee that my darling friend Lily gave to me almost two years ago). My angelheart Eric made Chicken Pieces Marinated in a Light Satay - his own recipe.
When I first moved to the U.S., my angelheart and I often had dinners with friends in Beverly Hills at The Stinking Rose, a garlic-themed restaurant. It is a high energy restaurant (on account of its lively staff and individually-themed rooms) with great food that is made consistently well (usually if I like something a lot the first time, I order it time and again). I always made sure there was bagna cauda (hot bath) on the table. I could have used Tamasin Day-Lewis' recipe from Tamasin's Weekend Food, but I wanted to recapture something from my early days in the U.S., and it has been a really long time since my angelheart and I were last at The Stinking Rose.
(from Andrea Froncilla and Jennifer Jeffrey's The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook)
2 1/2 cups garlic cloves, skins intact (about 3 heads of garlic)
2 cups olive oil
1/4 cup unsalted butter (56.5g), cut into bits
6 anchovy fillets in olive oil (the recipe calls for a whole 2oz can)
1) Preheat oven to 275 deg. f. (135 deg. c.).
2) Put garlic cloves into a baking dish (either cermaic or heavy glass is suggested, but it worked well in our pink(!) stoneware LeCreuset baking dish).
3) Pour olive oil over garlic.
4) Sprinkle butter over garlic.
5) Lay anchovy fillets in a single layer on top.
6) Cover with aluminium foil and bake until clovers are easily squishable (preferably dense and limp - approximately 1 1/2 hours).
7) To serve: Use a spoon to slot out one clove and use the back of the spoon to press out the garlic onto a slice of baguette or focaccia.
Muhammara is a walnut and pomegranate relish that is made in Turkey and Syria. Each component adds incredible depth to an all-too-simple accompaniment: the walnuts provide the nubbly texture, the pomegranate syrup gives the tart-yet-sweet high notes, while the cumin adds the smokey low-note. Served with cripsy pita bread, which we toasted in the oven after cutting into chips and sprinkling over a combination of kosher salt and flaky smoked Manuka honey sea salt.
(From Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food)
1 1/4 cups shelled walnuts (or walnut pieces, if you can get them)
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 slice whole-wheat bread, crusts removed, lightly toasted
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate syrup
1 teaspoon coarsley ground red-pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I love that hit of smokiness that wafts up when milling cumin seeds with the pestle)
2 teaspoons sugar
salt, to taste
1) Blend all ingredients to a rough paste in a food processor.
That could not get any easier, and it is worth trying because it is an unusually sweet "dip" that had my angelheart Eric and the divine poetess Suzanne guessing the ingredients.
The Turkish Zucchini Fritters (kabak mucveri) a la Claudia Roden did not work out because I didn't know what a finely chopped zucchini should look like (not the same as an onion, surely) and because we do not have a non-stick pan. So, we made a frittata-like dish out of it, and it worked out fine. It was an innocuous creamy background filler for the rest of the goodies.
(Inspired by Claudia Roden's Kabak Mucveri from Arabesque)
1 large onion, coarsley chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or sunflower oil)
1 pound zucchini, finely chopped (2 medium sized zucchini)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
black pepper, to taste
3 sprigs mint, chopped
2 sprigs dill (or 3, if you prefer, but I don't), chopped
7oz feta cheese, mashed with a fork (I used a Bulgarian feta because I had Silvena Rowe's Feasts on my mind when shopping...)
1) Fry onion in the oil over medium heat until soft and lightly colored.
2) Add zucchini and saute until soft.
3) Preheat oven to 325 deg. f. (about 165 deg. c.).
4) In a bowl, beat eggs with flour until well blended.
5) Add pepper and chopped herbs to egg mixture and mix well.
6) Fold mashed feta into egg and herb mixture with the onions and zucchini.
7) This is where I divurge from Claudia's path: Film bottom of frying pan with oil, pour in mixture and cook for 7 minutes.
8) Cook in oven until cooked on top and golden brown at the sides.
The chicken pieces not only provided us with something quite substantial but a different flavor note. I think the success behind good finger food is a range of textures and flavours. Eric liked putting Muhammara on the chicken fingers for a multi-dimensional flavour sensation :-)
Chicken Pieces in a Light Satay
(My angelheart Eric's own recipe)
2/3 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons satay paste
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
juice of one lime
2 tablespoons dry vermouth
1 medium serrano chilis, chopped (ribs removed if you don't want the heat)
1 handful basil, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
2 pounds chicken pieces (about 24 drumettes)
1) Combine all but water in a food procssor.
2) Pour mixture out into a big bowl and stir in the water.
3) Add chicken to marinade and leave in refrigerator for four hours but preferably overnight.
4) Preheat oven to 300 deg. f. (about 150 deg. c.).
5) Bring chicken pieces to room temperature before laying them out on a baking sheet.
6) Cook in oven until chicken cooked through, about 40 minutes.
Creme Brulee is one of the first desserts I ever tried to make because of its simple yet elegant composition. When I finally (i.e. slowly) realized that what was beneath the burnt sugar was basically a custard, I turned to making creme brulee myself. The "Party Food" version, keeping with the theme of small and easy to eat, includes 1/4 cup brandy (for 6 creme brulees, mind you). My angelheart Eric and the divine poetess Suzanne loved it; I thought it was a little heavy-handed. Too much alcohol, in my view, overpowers the elegance of this dessert. Next time I will use less booze (not something you will hear me say too often), and maybe amaretto instead.
Brandy Creme Brulee
(inspired by Debbie Puente's Elegantly Easy Creme Crulee, and she suggests cognac instead of brandy, but we didn't have any on hand)
7 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup brandy or cognac
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sugar per ramekin, for the brulee
1) Preheat oven to 300 deg. f. (150 deg. c.).
2) In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until mixture is thick and pale yellow.
3) Combine cream and brandy, then add to egg mixture with vanilla and whisk until well blended.
4) Strain into a bowl, skimming off foam.
5) Divide mixture among six ramekins or custard cups.
6) Put ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, and fill vessel up with hot water until it comes halfway up the ramekins (this is a bain marie and what it does it to moderate the temperature of the yolks so they do not harden...no one ones a scambled egg brulee for dessert).
7) Bake until set around the edges but still loose in the center - 40 to 50 mintues.
8) Take ramekins out of bain marie and chill for at least two hours or up to two days.
9) When ready to serve, sprinkle approximately one tablespoon of sugar over the surface of the custard and blast with a kitchen torch. If you do not have a kitchen torch, put under a broiler until the sugar has melted.
Everything was easy to make and is enough to feed six...