Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Grilled Peaches with Pecans and Maple Meringue

I have to admit, I’d never thought about how versatile meringues are. When I received a review copy of the book Meringue Girls, I wondered: how many different recipes could there really be? It turns out, there are several. And, all of them are irresistibly pretty. The Meringue Girls, Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman, created a London-based shop that supplies these lovely treats for special events. Their meringues come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. It’s such a fun book with bright, cheery, pillowy meringues shown on page after page. The photos make you want to jump in and try several options. There’s a base recipe for meringue followed by suggestions for flavors and instructions for adding color and piping shapes. That recipe, in any flavor, can be used for all the various desserts shown in the book. There are filling and flavor options that can be mixed and matched for sandwiched, little meringue kisses like Lemon Curd mixed with poppy seeds and cream cheese placed between kisses that might be tinted yellow or Nutella Buttercream could sandwich chocolate kisses or maybe Green Tea kisses could be filled with chocolate ganache. Among the desserts and puddings, there’s Raspberry Ripple and Meringue Gelato made with broken kisses; a Pistachio and Rose Water Pavlova with Greek Yogurt, Honey, and Figs; and a Pretzel and Chocolate Marshmallow Meringue Tart to name a few. Since our Texas peaches are at the peak of their season, I had to try the Grilled Peaches with Maple Meringues. In the book, the halved, grilled peaches are sprinkled with crushed amaretti cookies before being topped with swirls of maple meringue that are browned. I opted for chopped toasted pecans instead of the cookies. For garnish, the peaches are drizzled with maple syrup. 

The maple meringue is made like an Italian meringue but heated maple syrup is used instead of sugar syrup. Maple syrup was heated to 235 degrees F before it was slowly poured into egg whites that had already been whisked to stiff peaks in a mixer bowl. The mixer was turned up to high, and the eggs and syrup whisked until the mixture was thick and shiny. Next, halved peaches were grilled, and I used a grill pan on the stovetop for these. I scooped the meringue into a piping bag to squeeze dollops onto each peach. I used a kitchen torch to brown the meringue, and I’ve realized the torch is the funnest tool there is in the kitchen. The peaches were transferred to a serving platter, I scattered chopped pecans all around and on top of them, and a little maple syrup was added to finish. 

The browned maple meringue dressed up the peach halves, and the maple flavor was a great match for the sweet fruit and crunchy pecans. This meringue doesn’t have to be baked, or torched, and another use for it is to fill doughnuts which I’d love to try. With all of these delicious ideas I’d never thought of before, I think I’ll be making meringues more often. 

Grilled Peaches With Crushed Amaretti Cookies and Maple Meringue 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from Meringue Girls

Our maple meringue has a lovely golden color and is absolutely delicious. Here, we use it dolloped on top of grilled peaches filled with crunchy amaretti cookies. For a super-summery dessert, try cooking the peaches on an outdoor grill. 

Serves 4 

4 peaches, halved and pitted 
8 to 12 amaretti cookies, crushed 
Maple Meringue (see separate recipe) 
Maple syrup for drizzling 

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Heat a large ovenproof grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Place the peach halves cut-side down in the pan and cook without moving them until dark grill lines have formed, about 4 minutes. Turn the peach halves over, slide the pan into the oven, and cook until the peaches are just softened (but not falling apart), about 10 minutes. If you’ll be browning the meringue under the broiler, preheat the broiler. 

Fill the center of each peach half with crushed amaretti cookies and dollop maple meringue on top. Brown the meringue under the broiler or with a kitchen torch until golden. 

Carefully transfer the peaches to a serving platter or individual plates. Drizzle with maple syrup and serve right away. 

Maple Meringue 
This maple meringue uses natural maple syrup instead of refined sugar. It's made like an Italian meringue—you heat the syrup to a high temperature and add it to the stiff egg whites. The earthy and rich maple flavor really comes through. The meringue doesn’t need to be baked, so it's perfect for our Maple Meringue Doughnuts. It also works really well in recipes for baked meringues (you can make kisses with it) or as a topping for waffles. You will need a candy thermometer for cooking the syrup. 

Makes 3 cups 

1⁄2 cup maple syrup 
60 g egg whites (from about 2 eggs) 

Put the maple syrup in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Place over medium heat. 

When the syrup approaches 220°F, begin whisking the egg whites on low speed in a stand mixer. When they’re frothy, increase the speed to high and beat until the whites hold stiff peaks. 

When the syrup has come up to 235°F, turn the mixer speed to medium and slowly stream in the hot maple syrup. Once you’ve added all the syrup, whisk on high speed until the meringue is thick and a little shiny; this will take 5 to 7 minutes. The meringue is now ready to use. 

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Black Pain d'Epi

Sometimes recipe ideas get stuck in my head. I see something that I know I want to try, and I carry the idea around in my thoughts for weeks or months until it happens. So it was with this bread. This idea came from the very first recipe in the book The Elements of Dessert that I read last year. It’s a book about desserts, but there’s also a section about bread baking at the beginning. Here, mini loaves were shaped into pain d’epi resembling stalks of wheat. And, not only were they made into pretty epi shapes, they were also made a lovely black color. This was a unique type of bread that I wasn’t going to forget anytime soon. The bread dough was tinted with squid ink which doesn’t impart any noticeable squid flavor, but it does lend a deep, dark color. My plan was to steal the ideas for the loaf shape and the squid ink for color and use them with my favorite recipe for sourdough baguette dough from Nancy Silverton's Breads from the La Brea Bakery. This is where part II of the story begins. I’ve been reading a review copy of Dan Barber’s new book The Third Plate. There are so many things I want to share from this book that this blog post could end up scrolling indefinitely. I’ll try to limit my thoughts on it, but I highly recommend reading the whole book. Barber begins the book with a discussion about farmers who “grow nature” by maintaining a complete system rather than growing one thing. This speaks to an understanding of how everything in nature is connected, and that theme is repeated throughout the book in stories about very different parts of the food system. In particular, I want to share some of the story about wheat. Wheat doesn’t receive much attention in the realm of the sustainable food movement in comparison to fruits and vegetables, but it’s a significant crop. In the book, farmer Klaas Martens is quoted: “I see people go to all the trouble to visit the farmers’ market and really take the time to pick out the best peach, or stand in line for a grass-fed steak that’s treated the way a cow ought to be treated. And, then on the way home they buy packaged bread in the store.” We no longer seem to consider the flavor of grains or how they’re grown and processed. For instance, the process for making packaged whole wheat flour from the grocery store is a lot like that of making brown sugar. Brown sugar is refined white sugar to which some molasses has been added. Due to high-volume processing, it’s easier to make it that way than to change the process for a less-refined, true brown sugar. Likewise, whole wheat flour is refined white flour to which a little wheat germ has been added. I’m now inspired to seek out real, whole wheat flour made from the entire wheat kernel, and luckily, it’s available in Austin from Richardson Farms

That’s the whole wheat flour I used in this bread. I converted my sourdough starter to whole wheat by feeding it the whole wheat flour a few times before using it for this dough. The starter was combined with more of that whole wheat flour, some white bread flour, some added wheat germ, and water. After the initial mixing and autolyse, a little less salt than usual was added. Since I was adding squid ink which has a saline taste, I cut back a little on the salt. I started with three little packets of squid ink which tinted the dough dark grey. I really wanted a good, black color, so I added a fourth squid ink packet. While kneading, the color will rub off on your hands, but it washes off easily. The dough was left to ferment for about four hours. Then, I divided the dough into six smallish pieces and formed boules that were left to rest for 15 minutes. Each little boule was then formed into a small baguette, and they were left, covered in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, I cut each baguette into the pain d’epi shape before baking. It seems counterintuitive, but the cuts in the long, slender loaves should all be on the same side, spaced a few inches apart. That way, you can lift every other section between cuts and twist it to the opposite side to form the stalk of wheat shape. The loaves were baked in the usual manner with steam for the first 12 minutes and came out of the oven crispy on the surface and tender inside. 

I often eat with my eyes, and I was delighted with the look of this bread. But, the flavor was really the best part. I promise it doesn’t taste like squid bread. The squid ink really only lends some salinity. And, the whole wheat flavor was front and center. I’ll probably be mentioning more from the book The Third Plate because I can’t seem to stop talking about it lately. It offers great insight into areas of our food system that usually get overlooked or are often discussed in oversimplified terms. 


I’m submitting this to Yeastspotting where you’ll find some seriously well-made bread.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Honeyed Buttermilk Ice Cream in Kataifi Nests

It’s gotten to be that time of year. It’s the season during which all I want to eat is ice cream. Ice cream or sorbet or granita for every meal would be fine with me. Luckily, I received a review copy of Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Desserts so now I have some new options to keep my all-ice cream meals more varied. Here, you’ll find the same fabulous style of ice cream-making as that in Jeni Britton Bauer’s first book. There are unique flavor combinations, there’s some cream cheese in the ice cream base to give the texture more body, and there are also gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan recipes. In this book, there are also cakes, tarts, biscuits, cookies, cream puffs, waffles, and empanadas. There are suggestions for sundaes and parfaits, ice cream bars, layered ice cream cakes, and even cocktails made complete with frozen treats. Last, you’ll find recipes for sauces and crunchy gravels, and of course, you can mix and match to create your own desserts. Let’s start with some of the ice cream flavors. The Cream Biscuits with Peach Jam Ice Cream has crumbled biscuits along with the jam mixed right into the ice cream. The Double-Toasted Coconut-Cajeta Ice Cream is suggested as a good option to make into a chocolate-dipped ice cream bar, and I’d love to try that. The sorbets have some lovely additions like sprigs of tarragon for the Grapefruit Sorbet and Jonesy old tawny port for the Melon Jonesy Sorbet. The desserts with multiple components include delicious-looking dishes like The Salty Grahama with Salty Vanilla Frozen Custard, Sliced banana, Whiskey Caramel Sauce, Salty Graham Gravel, and Whipped Cream; The Key Lime Parfait with Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Lime Curd, Chocolate Gravel, Whipped Cream, and a fresh cherry for garnish; and The Little Havana Cake with layers of Lady Cake, Guava Jam, Cajeta, Double-Toasted Coconut Ice Cream, Whipped Cream, and Meringues on top. Of all the tempting desserts, the first one I had to try was the Honeyed Buttermilk Ice Cream and the Kataifi Nests. 

The Kataifi Nests are delicate, little serving containers just the right size for one nice scoop of any ice cream or sorbet. I thought they’d pair nicely with a honey-sweetened ice cream. To make the nests, a package of kataifi, which is shredded phyllo dough, was thawed. Then, you just take a handful of strands of dough, and wrap them around one hand forming a circle. Set the circle on a baking sheet setting the loose ends into the circle. There will be stray strands of dough here and there, and that’s just what you want. Once you’ve formed as many nests as you need, they’re baked at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until golden. When they come out of the oven, they’re brushed with melted butter mixed with honey and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. They can be stored at room temperature in an air-tight container for a few days. For the ice cream, honey and cream were heated and stirred until the honey melted. Buttermilk was added, and the mixture was brought to a boil. A cornstarch slurry was made with a little buttermilk, and that was added to the boiling buttermilk mixture. It was cooked while stirring until thickened. In a heat-proof bowl, some cream cheese had been combined with salt, turmeric, and a pinch of cayenne powder. The hot buttermilk was slowly whisked into the cream cheese mixture, and then it was left to cool. I chilled it in the refrigerator overnight before churning the ice cream.

The sweet, salty, crunchy, honey-coated kataifi nests were ideal ice cream holders. And, the Honeyed-Buttermilk Ice Cream was just sweet enough and not too sweet with tanginess from the buttermilk. It was a lovely yellow color from the turmeric too. I topped the ice cream with some fresh, local mulberries. With all the other flavor options in this book and all the possibilities for embellishing them, I’ll have countless ways to satisfy my ice cream cravings. 

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sardine Keftedes

As soon as our weather warms up, I start thinking more and more about Greek food. Grilled souvlaki with tzatziki is a favorite; cucumber, tomato, olive, and feta salad with basil is a must, and so is watermelon with seared halloumi. Just in time for summer, I received a review copy of Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined by Maria Elia. I’m a big fan of her book The Modern Vegetarian, so I suspected there would be a lot to like about this new book. This time, the recipes aren’t entirely vegetarian, but many are and many others are adaptable to exclude meat. Elia set out to take Greek ingredients “on a new culinary journey.” The dishes in this book are familiar but with a new perspective. For instance, figs appear often in Greek cuisine, but the leaves aren’t used. Elia was inspired to incorporate fig leaves in different ways. There’s a recipe for fresh pasta made with dried fig leaves, and the pasta is served with Lemon and Oregano Roasted Tomatoes, fresh figs, and almonds. Also, there’s a Fig-Leaf Wrapped Feta dish that’s baked until the feta is softened. Another recipe that caught my eye was the Scallops, Soutzouki, and Watermelon dish that looks perfect for summer. I’d skip the sausage component, but the Raisin Oregano Dressing served with it sounds so intriguing. Then, I saw the Sardine Keftedes and headed straight to the kitchen. I still had a tin of sardines that I brought home from Spain, and this was a great use for it. To make the keftedes, it’s actually about a half and half mix of chickpeas and sardines that are combined with bread crumbs and lots of great flavorings. The result is not too sardine-forward, and sardines are a great choice of sustainable seafood with healthy omega-3s. 

Rinsed and drained chickpeas from a can were added to the food processor with tahini and broken up a bit by pulsing. That was transferred to a mixing bowl. Depending on what kind of canned sardines you choose, you might need to remove the backbones. Once boneless, the sardines were broken into pieces and added to the chickpea mixture. Kefalotyri cheese was to be used, but I wasn’t able to find it the day I needed it, so I used Myzithra. Parmesan or pecorino could also be substituted. The finely shredded cheese was added to the mix with a pinch of cinnamon, a little cumin, some paprika, an egg, and bread crumbs. I also used some parsley, oregano, and basil from my herb garden. Mint was suggested in the ingredient list, but I tend to skip mint and opt for basil. The mixture was divided into 12 portions and rolled into balls that were flattened, dusted with flour, and seared in olive oil until golden on each side. 

The keftedes were served with a sprinkling of sumac and lemon wedges for squeezing. I topped them with yogurt mixed with fresh dill and added a cucumber, tomato, and feta salad on the side. The sprinkling of sumac added a bright, citrusy note. Elia suggests serving them in a sandwich with skordalia, tomatoes, and basil. I’ll try that next time. And, then I need to try several other dishes and spend some time with the sweets chapter. The Almond, Rose Water, and Chocolate Mallomar Chimneys might be next.  

Sardine Keftedes 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined by Maria Elia is published by Kyle Books, priced $27.95. Photography by Jenny Zarins.

These are great served cold in a sandwich with skordalia, vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil—it adds a whole new meaning to a fish finger sandwich! I like to serve mine with Lemon Parsley Salad (page 147) and a little Skordalia (page 130), Taramasalata (page 129), or dill yogurt. Variations: Omit the Kefalotyri and add 1⁄3 cup of crumbled feta and 2 tablespoons of grated onion. 

Makes 12 

1 x 14oz can of chickpeas, drained 
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped 
3 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons tahini 
2 x 3 1/2oz cans of sardines, drained, backbones removed 
a pinch of ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 teaspoon paprika 
1⁄3 cup Kefalotyri, Parmesan, or Pecorino 
1 free-range egg sea 
salt and freshly ground black pepper 
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs 
all-purpose flour, for dusting 
olive oil, for frying 
sumac, to sprinkle 
lemon wedges, to serve (optional) 

Put the chickpeas, herbs, and tahini in a food processor and pulse until the chickpeas have broken up a little. Transfer to a bowl. Add the sardines, flaking them into pieces by hand, then the spices, cheese, egg, and some salt and pepper. Mix well, adding the bread crumbs to combine. 

Divide the mixture into 12 and roll into balls, dusting in the flour. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate, uncovered, for a couple of hours to firm up. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, slightly flatten the keftedes so they’ll cook evenly, and pan-fry until golden on each side (about 3 minutes per side). You could deep-fry if you prefer, at 325°F for 2–3 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and sumac, and serve immediately or at room temperature, with lemon wedges on the side, if you wish.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Gunkan-maki with Avocado and Charred Jalapeno

I did attempt to make sushi once several years ago. I was no Jiro, and after making a mess of it, I never tried again. I was perfectly happy to just go out for sushi or to bring it home already made by people who know what they’re doing. But now, I’ve changed my mind about sushi-making. Thanks to A Visual Guide to Sushi-Making at Home, I have all the instructions I need to get it right. This is a new book from Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani, and I received a review copy. The book takes you by the hand and walks you through every step for making Nigiri-zushi, Maki-zushi, Sushi Bowls, and even the process of breaking down and slicing fish. There are helpful photos all along the way too. I followed the steps for making sushi rice, adding the sushi vinegar, and fanning the rice to cool it to room temperature and remove some moisture. Next came making Sushi Rice Balls after using water to slightly moisten my hands to prevent the rice from sticking. The photos show exactly how to hold the rice, cup it in your fingers, and press and shape it into an oblong piece. The finished sushi that’s shown in the book is beautiful. Delicate-looking, shimmering halibut Nigiri, a slice of olive-oil marinated sardine draped over a rice ball, and vegetarian options like Nigiri with Grilled Shitake Mushrooms or Dashi-marinated Roasted Bell Pepper are all works of art. I took a stab at making California Rolls, and I was happily surprised at how easy it was to follow the recipe. Flipping the sheet of nori with rice and sesame seeds on it did not result in disaster as I feared. The cucumber- and crab-filled roll came together just as it was described in the book. Up next, I set out to create Gunkan-maki or Warship Rolls. You start with formed rice balls as they’re used for nigiri. Then, you slice nori into strips just taller than the rice balls, and wrap a piece of nori around each. By placing the wrapped pieces of rice right together and touching, the nori is held in place. Then, each can be topped as you choose. Some options include Uni, Poached Oysters, and Salmon Roe, and I went with the charred jalapeno and avocado topping. 

I charred the jalapenos under the broiler, but they could have been grilled. After they cooled, the char was removed, and the chiles were stemmed and seeded. They were cut into long pieces, and one piece was set on each waiting Gunkan-maki. I think the most difficult part of making the Gunkan-maki might have been slicing the nori into strips to wrap around the rice balls. The brittle edges of toasted nori wanted to break and crumble a bit. So, getting a good, clean line at the edge was a challenge. Once the jalapeno slices were in place, avocado was cut into thin slices to fit on the rolls and arranged on top. The jalapeno pieces ended up tucked in and hidden beneath the avocado. For garnish, small lime wedges were placed on top of the avocado. These rolls were served with just soy sauce and no wasabi since the jalapeno added enough zing. 

The roasted flavor of the charred jalapeno was delicious in contrast to the mild, cool avocado. I’m glad to have tried again at sushi-making. The recipes I tried from this book were so easy to follow, and any lacking in the presentation or beauty of the finished pieces is entirely my own fault. But, the good news is that since this is sushi-making at home, it definitely doesn’t have to be perfect. 

Gunkan-maki with Avocado and Charred Jalapeno 
Recipes reprinted with publisher's permission from A Visual Guide to Sushi-Making at Home.

If you think of the flavors of guacamole, you will get a feeling for this sushi. It is surprising how the texture of the rice combined with the creamy richness of the avocado makes the avocado seem even richer. The addition of the charred jalapeno wakes you up the moment you smell it. Because the chile is under the avocado, it is a surprise burst of flavor and heat, so be prepared! 

Makes 4 Gunkan-Maki 

1 small jalapeno chile, about 2 in/5 cm long 
1⁄2 Hass avocado, peeled 
4 pieces gunkan-maki 
1⁄2 slice lime, 1⁄16 in/2 mm thick 
Soy sauce for serving 

Heat a charcoal or gas grill or a stove-top grill pan to medium-high; you should be able to hold your palm 4 in/10 cm above the heat for no more than 5 seconds. Place the chile on the grill rack or pan and grill, turning as needed, until charred and blistered on all sides. Remove from the grill, and when cool enough to handle, remove the charred skin with a small knife. Any areas where the skin is not charred, the skin will not come off easily, and it is fine to leave it on. Cut the stem off of the chile, quarter the chile lengthwise, and remove and discard the seeds. If you prefer less heat, cut away the white membrane that held the seeds, as well. Cut the avocado half in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into slices 1⁄4 in/6 mm thick. Place a jalapeno quarter on the top of the rice in each gunkan-maki. Divide the avocado slices evenly among the gunkan-maki, arranging them attractively on the jalapeno. Cut the lime slice into quarters, and place a lime wedge on the center of the avocado slices on each sushi. Serve with soy sauce. 

How to Make Gunkan-maki (Warship Rolls)
Gunkan-maki, which were invented in Tokyo in the early 1940s, are a relative newcomer to the sushi menu. Gunkan means “warship,” and the oval-shaped rice balls wrapped with strips of nori and served on a geta, the classic wooden sushi serving tray, are thought to look like a fleet of warships. This is a great way to make individual sushi you want to top with a diced ingredient, like chopped tuna, or a slippery ingredient, like salmon roe, that won’t stay on top of a traditional nigiri. 

FOR 4 GUNKAN-MAKI 
1⁄2 cup/80 g sushi rice at body temperature, covered with a damp kitchen towel 
1 sheet nori, toasted, cut into 4 strips each 6 by 1 in/15 by 2.5 cm 
Wasabi, as specified in individual recipes 
Topping(s), as specified in individual recipes 

Following the directions for How to Make Sushi Rice Balls, make 4 rice balls (1). With the rough side of the nori facing inward, wrap a nori strip around the perimeter of the rice ball, starting at the middle of a long side (2). Continue wrapping until it overlaps the other end of the nori (3,4). Wrap the next rice ball and place it right next to the first one, with the overlapped side against the overlapped side of the first roll. This will hold the end of the nori strip attached to the roll. Repeat the process for the remaining two rolls, always keeping the overlapped side against the side of the previous ball (5). Top as directed in individual recipes (6) before serving. Note: Do not make gunkan-maki too far in advance. The moisture in the rice will wilt the nori and make it tough. If you are assembling a selection of sushi, make the gunkan-maki last. 

How to Make Sushi Rice Balls 

MAKES 4 BALLS 

Hand water 
1⁄2 cup/80 g sushi rice at body temperature, covered with a damp kitchen towel 

Moisten the palm side of one hand lightly with hand water, then rub your hands together to moisten them. (Remoisten your hands as necessary to keep the rice from sticking to your hands.) Be careful, however, as too much water will cause the rice to lose its stickiness. These directions are written for a right-handed person. If you are left-handed, reverse the references. Using your right hand, pick up one-fourth of the rice (about 3⁄4 oz/20 g) and make an egg-shaped ball within your palm (1) compressing gently but not crushing the rice, and using your fingers to turn the ball in your palm a couple of times. Cup your left hand and place the ball between the second and third joints of the fingers on your left hand. With your left thumb, gently press the center of the rice a bit to introduce some air into it (2). Still holding your thumb on the rice, turn your left hand over so your thumb is supporting the rice ball and the ball is now upside down (3). Now, with the thumb and index finger of your right hand, hold the ball along its length and remove the ball from your left hand (4). Turn your left hand palm-up and quickly place the rice ball back in your left hand along the second and third joints of your fingers, with the center that you pressed facedown (5). To finish forming the rice ball you need to perform three actions together (6): 1. Allow your left hand to relax naturally and your wrist to bend down, so that the rice ball rests in your cupped fingers. 2. Use the thumb of your left hand to hold and press the end of the rice ball. 3. With the index finger of your right hand, press down gently on the top of the rice ball. All three actions are done simultaneously in a quick, gentle pressing motion. Then, with your right hand, use your index and middle fingers on one side and your thumb on the other to pick up the rice ball by its sides and turn it in your left hand 180 degrees (7,8). Repeat the previous three actions with the rice ball in this position. You should have a well-shaped sushi rice ball. Repeat the steps to make three more rice balls. When you have finished the balls (9), go to the recipe in which you will be using the rice ball to complete the sushi. 

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Monday, June 16, 2014

Saffron Pavlovas with Mango Curd and Mascarpone Whipped Cream + Giveaway

UPDATE: A winner was selected via a random number generator. Congratulations to Grace from A Southern Grace who won the cookbook!

When I was asked to submit a mango recipe for a cookbook being created by the National Mango Board, I was delighted to do so. Now, you could win a copy of that cookbook! Just leave a comment on this post, and I’ll randomly pick a winner at noon Austin time on Monday June 23rd. (You must provide a US mailing address where the book will be shipped.) In case you don’t win, the recipes from the book are also available online. As I started thinking about what type of recipe to submit for the cookbook, I realized I use mangoes in a lot of different kinds of dishes. I make a Mango Dressing for salad with grilled chicken, there was a Peach and Mango Chutney that was so good with chevre, and I’ve made Flax Coconut Pancakes topped with chunks of mango. But, this time, I wanted to make a dessert. I had visions of a pretty, crunchy meringue filled with sunny, yellow mango curd with slices of mango on top. As usual, I turned to my cookbook collection for inspiration. I remembered a Saffron Pavolova from Demolition Desserts by Elizabeth Falkner, and there’s a Fig Pavlova with Lemon Mascarpone Whipped Cream in Malouf by Greg and Lucy Malouf. I mixed and matched ideas, added my own spin here and there, and the result is what you see here. The saffron turns the egg whites for the meringues a barely golden color. Although, after baking, they look brighter-white. The mango curd looks like lemon curd, but the flavor is softer with less acidity. And, adding mascarpone to whipped cream just makes it even richer tasting. All of those parts were given a fresh pop of fruitiness with the added sliced mango. 

The meringues and mango curd can be made a day in advance, the whipped cream can be made a few hours early, and the dessert can be assembled when ready. For meringues, when I’m using organic granulated sugar, I’ve learned that it needs to be pulverized in a blender or food processor to make the grains finer. Otherwise, the meringues will have a grainy look. So, step one for me is to process the sugar to give it a finer texture. For these meringues, saffron threads were placed in some Champagne vinegar while the rest of the ingredients were assembled. Egg whites were whisked in a stand mixer, sugars were sifted and added slowly, cornstarch was sprinkled over the mixture and mixed in, and last, the saffron-vinegar was carefully folded into the meringue. I transferred the mixture to a piping bag to make circles, but the meringues could also be spooned into pillow shapes. The meringues were baked and left to cool. Next, the mango curd was an easy puree of peeled and chopped mango, sugar, salt, and lemon juice. Egg yolks were added and pureed, and the mixture was strained into a heat-proof bowl. The bowl was set over a saucepan of simmering water, and the puree was whisked while cooking for about 12 to 15 minutes until thickened. Off the heat, butter was added one piece at a time while whisking. The curd was chilled overnight. For the whipped cream, some mascarpone and lemon zest were added to heavy cream before whipping. And, last but not least, more mango was sliced for the topping. 

The saffron adds a lovely layer of flavor that to me is like wildflower honey only slightly different, and it’s a nice pairing with the mango curd nestled in the meringue circles. But, this is just dessert, and there are so many other great uses for mangoes too. Leave a comment for a chance to win the book that’s full of mango dishes for every meal of the day. 

Saffron Pavlovas with Mango Curd and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Serves 6 

For Meringues: 
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads 
1 teaspoon Champagne vinegar 
1/4 cup granulated sugar *see note if using organic sugar 
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar 
4 large egg whites 
Pinch of salt 
1 tablespoon cornstarch 

For Mango Curd: 
1 large mango, peeled and cut from pit into cubes 
1/4 cup sugar 
Pinch of salt 
3 tablespoons lemon juice 
4 egg yolks 
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces 

For Mascarpone Whipped Cream: 
1 cup cream 
1/4 cup mascarpone 
Zest of one lemon 
2 tablespoons granulated sugar or to taste
Extra sliced mango for garnish 

TO MAKE MERINGUES Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and draw six four-inch circles on the parchment. Turn the parchment over so the pencil marks are on the back. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees F. 

Place the saffron threads in a small bowl or ramekin, and add the vinegar. Press the threads with a spoon and swirl them into the vinegar, and then set aside. Sift together the granulated sugar and powdered sugar in a separate bowl. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add egg whites and salt. Beat egg whites on medium speed with a whisk attachment for about three minutes. Soft peaks should just begin to form. Slowly sprinkle the combined sugars over the egg whites while continuing to mix. Turn the mixing speed to high and whip for three to five minutes. The egg whites will form stiff peaks and become glossy. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the egg whites and mix just to combine. Using a large rubber or silicone spatula, fold in the saffron-vinegar mixture. 

Transfer the meringue mixture to a large piping bag fitted with a wide tip or place meringue mixture in a large plastic storage bag and snip off one corner. Pipe circular meringue shapes in the circles drawn on the parchment paper. If you’d rather not use a piping bag, the meringue can be spooned into pillow shapes on the parchment-lined baking sheet. If using a spoon, make an indentation in each meringue pillow. 

Bake the meringues for two hours. Then, turn off the oven without opening it, and leave the meringues in the oven for an additional four hours or overnight. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and leave meringues until completely dry. Meringues can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days, but humidity can cause them to become sticky. 

*Organic, granulated sugar tends to be of a larger grain than conventional granulated sugar, and this produces meringues with a grainy texture. You can reduce the grain size of the sugar by processing it in a blender or food processor. The sugar doesn’t need to be processed to the point of becoming powdered sugar, it just needs to be processed until the grain feels more fine in texture. 

TO MAKE MANGO CURD: Place mango chunks, sugar, salt, and lemon juice in a blender and process until smooth, scraping down sides of blender pitcher as needed. Add egg yolks to blender and puree for another 15 seconds. Pour puree through a sieve to strain. Place strained puree in a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisk constantly until thickened, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the bowl from the saucepan, and add butter one piece at a time while continuing to whisk. Incorporate each piece of butter before adding the next piece. Cover bowl with plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface of the mango curd, and chill the curd before using. The mango curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

TO MAKE MASCARPONE WHIPPED CREAM: Place all ingredients for the mascarpone whipped cream in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with a whisk or whisk attachment until thickened. 

TO ASSEMBLE: Place meringues on dessert plates. Spoon mango curd into center of each meringue and top with mascarpone whipped cream. Garnish each plate with sliced mango. 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Buckwheat Crepes with Gruyere, Sage, and Sunny-Side-Up Egg

I’ve never been to Buvette, but I’ve decided I want to live there or at least right upstairs. It’s a dreamy thought to imagine waking up to breakfast there every morning. And, I'm not picky. I would live at either the New York City or Paris location. After reading a review copy I received of the new book, Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, by Jody Williams, it’s clear that there’s more to this restaurant than just the lovely food. There’s a sense of hospitality that runs through the uncomplicated but perfectly prepared things chosen for the menu, the way they’re served on antique silver trays and pedestals, and the care in all those details. Just reading about the coffees and teas convinced me I would be quite comfortable here. From classic cappuccinos, lattes, and the Bicerin which is espresso with shaved bittersweet chocolate melted into it with barely whipped cream on top to the Russian samovar used to keep hot water at the ready for teas and tisanes, every aspect of the service has been considered to set the right mood. That mood seems to be unfussy but with a sense that things have been made special. For breakfast, I’d want the custardy Oeufs Brouilles served with smoked salmon and creme fraiche or the Asparagus Milanese with eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The menu is equally influenced by French and Italian cuisine. For lunch, the Pan Bagnat with diced bell pepper, cucumber, and fennel would be my choice or maybe the Carciofi alla Romana. The list of Aperitifs and Cocktails is classic and edited including Lillet, a perfect Martini, Pimm’s Cup, and a Manhattan. And, there are snacks to go with the drinks like freshly made Rosemary Potato Chips, Marinated Olives with Orange Zest and Red Chili, and Tartinettes and Crostini with various toppings. For dinner, there’s Scallops with Brown Butter and Capers, simply perfect Poulet Roti, and a few options for Risotto. Dessert might be Tarte Tatin or Espresso Granita topped with whipped cream. Yes, I would be quite happy living here. 

Every page in the book has something I want to try, but first, I had to face my ongoing fear of crepes. There’s something about thin crepe batter and its refusal to spread itself into a nice circle in my pan that puts the fear in me every time. I’ve realized while making crepes that my stove isn’t perfectly level. The batter always runs more to the back of the pan. So, that’s one problem. And, I don’t seem to have the skill to swirl the pan in a way that makes pretty crepes. I still need more practice. Some actually from circles, and others look more like state shapes like Michigan or New York. I made the Buckwheat Crepe variation and left the batter to rest in the refrigerator overnight. Using the crepes I managed to make into proper circles, I filled them with grated Gruyere, sage leaves from my garden, and sunny-side-up eggs. Each crepe was folded around the fillings and placed on a baking sheet. The filled crepes were baked for about ten minutes until the edges were crisp and the cheese had melted. It was a rich and delicious dish for brunch. 

Some other suggestions for serving crepes were: to spread them with butter, sprinkle with sugar, squeeze on some lemon juice, and roll them and top with powdered sugar; or to julienne an apple and saute in butter with walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar and then add crepes cut into ribbons and cook until crisp. Until I get a chance to see about moving into Buvette, I’ll keep trying to create the experience at home. 

Crepes 
Excerpted from the book Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams. © 2014 by Jody Williams. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved. 

[Makes a generous pint of batter; about a dozen 8-inch crêpes] 

Ingredients: 
3⁄4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
Pinch coarse salt 
2 large eggs 
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for cooking the crepes 
1 1⁄4 cups whole milk 

Directions: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and eggs to make a paste. Whisk in the butter. Slowly whisk in the milk, being sure to take your time so that you avoid lumps. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or transfer the batter to an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before cooking. 

Once the batter has rested, heat up a slick of butter in a small skillet, preferably nonstick (if not, just use more butter!) over medium heat. Pour in just a little less than 1⁄4 cup of batter. Tilt the pan in a circular motion so that the batter finds itself in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Cook the crepe until the bottom is just golden brown, about 1 1⁄2 minutes, loosen the edges with a spatula, and turn the crepe. Cook until it’s nicely browned on the opposite side, about 1 minute more. Transfer the crepe to a warm plate and fill it or garnish it however you’d like. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all of the batter. 

Buckwheat Crepes: 
Prepare the Crepes as directed, but substitute 1/4 cup buckwheat flour for 1/4 cup of the unbleached all-purpose flour. Fill each crepe with a slice of good ham (prosciutto cotto if you can find it), a small handful of grated Gruyere, or a slice of Brie or other soft cheese (Epoisses is really lovely here), and a sage leaf and fold the crepe into quarters. Transfer the filled crepes to a buttered baking dish and bake in a 400 degree F oven until crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. These can also happily get a sunny-side-up egg tucked inside as well. 

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