Tuesday, August 31, 2010
There is something so satisfying about growing and eating your own food. And tomatoes like all berries are absolutely spectacular when they are in season and horrifying when they are out. I have been working on a tomato recipe with my good friend Maggie, that has a tomato water gelee, tomato paper, tomato consume and while all that is wonderful. I feared a great injustice would be done if I didn't take the time pay homage to a simply prepared exquisite dish. A friend of mine was in Italy and asked what was in the tomato salad. The Italian waiter replied, "Tomatoes." It is good enough for the Italians and it is more than good enough for me.
Tomatoes ripened in the August sun need nothing to be delicious, but they become sublime when kissed with sea salt, gently anointed with Sicilian olive oil, and blanketed with basil and mozzarella. When making such a simple dish, with so few ingredients the quality becomes paramount. Now, I could just say the best you can find, but allow me a small tangent about a few things.
A good homegrown or farmers market tomato, sliced gently is key. Some flake sea salt, I like Maldon the best. Their product is consistent and perfect. It melts beautifully when hot or it provides just a little extra crunch with perfect clean sea-like flavor. Good mozzarella, freshly procured, still in it bathing liquor. I like the bocconchinis, possibly because of the name (it means little mouthful) and partially because that was my nickname once upon a time. But choose any you like as long as it is good and fresh. There is a place in Arthur Avenue called Casa Mozzarella in the Bronx, NYC. It is my true confession that I have waited in line in freezing cold two days before Christmas to get a few pounds of super fresh still warm mozzarella. Basil freshly picked, just buy the little plant, leave it in your kitchen, you won't regret it. If you feel adventurous, few grinds of pepper and a couple of drops of balsamic vinegar add more depth of flavor.
Soft Mozzarella Cheese
Pepper and Balsamico (optional)
1. Slice the tomato and cheese
2. Create a beautiful display either overlapping neatly or jumbling the ingredients in a wonderful delicious pile
3. Sprinkle with sea salt and lightly pour around some oil
4. Enjoy greedily or share with someone you truly, truly, truly, love, or simply enjoy greedily, alone giggling with pleasure
As always, much love, many blessings, and happy summer!
Friday, August 27, 2010
In Virginia in August peach is king. And here again I publish a recipe for a darling little cupcake that incorporates cousins and delicious seasonal fruit. Peaches and almonds are actually relatives both from the same genus Prunus. Peaches full name Prunus persica and almonds are properly addressed as Prunus dulcis. In this small little family re-union I took to basic recipes one for a vanilla cupcake and one for vanilla frostings and gussed them up a bit with a peach and ½ a teaspoon of almond extract. Be careful, almond extract is so desperately strong, a little go a very, very long way.
1 stick of butter melted
¾ cups of self rising flour
7 tablespoons of sugar
2 large eggs
A splash of vanilla
A splash of milk
A super ripe peach, sliced and pitted
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2. Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave or any way you find it easiest.
3. In a food processor add all the ingredients.
4. Fill a muffin tin with liners and half full with the batter
5. Bake for 20 minutes
6. Let cool on a wire rack
1 stick of softened butter
2 cups of icing sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
A splash of cream or milk
1. Add all the ingredients into the bowl of your mixer, whip the icing until it is creamy and spreadable.
2. Ice your cupcakes as desired. Here I used a pastry bag and a star tip.
As always, many blessings, much love, and happy baking!
Monday, August 23, 2010
The farmers markets in Virginia are brimming with peaches, white, yellow, free-stone, cling- stone. All delicious, filling the air with their sweet perfume, juicy, a lovely shade of coral pink with the slightest blush of red. If you go to the farmers market and you know you are going to bake with them, ask the seller if they have “ugly peaches.” These are the peaches that misshapen or slightly over ripe. They taste just as delicious sometimes more so, and you can purchase them for a fraction of the price as you would in the grocery store.
Now during peak season there is no need to cook these delicious fruits. This morning I had a white peach, with prosciutto, olive oil, salt and pepper for breakfast. But for those of you who prefer a pastry breakfast, I decided whip up this easy little number. With a little bit of ice cream or whipped cream it would be a lovely dessert. But it is delicious with coffee. I prefer home-made turnovers because the dough is moister, more buttery. The hands on time are about 10 minutes, it bakes for 20 minutes and it makes 12 of them. You can use either flour or cornstarch as a thickner for the filling. Using fresh peaches will make a very wet filling if you do not use a thickner. I have a relative that is allergic to corn so for her I would use flour. But do as you like, it is your kitchen.
1 large ripe peach
1 tablespoon of vanilla sugar
1 tablespoon of flour or corn starch
1 egg for egg wash
1 package of puff pastry or two 12X8 sections of homemade pate brisee
1. Preheat the oven 400 degrees
2. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper
3. Rinse and dice your peach
4. Stir together the diced peach, sugar, and flour/cornstarch
5. Un-roll or roll out your dough so that it is about a ¼ of an inch in thickness
6. Cut into twelve even squares. Don’t get out your ruler, but they should be about the same size so that they will cook evenly
7. Dollop about a 2 teaspoons of the filling into each square
8. Brush each edge with egg wash and fold over. Seal the edges with a fork so that you can greedly ensure that all the delicious filling stays in the pastry. Poke a few holes in the top to let the steam escape
9. Bake for 20 minutes
10. Enjoy hot and fresh from the oven
10 steps, 10 minutes, delicious dozen of peach turnovers, perfect for company or a brunch. Who am I kidding, I made these for breakfast for no reason. But if I did have company over, I am sure they would really enjoy them.
As always, much love, many blessings, and happy baking… and going to the market!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Everyone loves the creamy heart-warming taste of risotto, and normally I love staring into a pot of steam slowly mixing in hot broth, mindlessly stirring for 20 minutes. I find it a sort of culinary meditation, and in this Zen state I forget about the day and the stresses that came with it. I can instead focus on the simple things in life that bring joy. However, sometimes, you don’t have the time, patience, or inclination to make risotto. For those days I offer my mock-risotto trick.
I use a rice cooker to cook regular plain old rice, then I make a low-fat big-taste cream sauce, add the flavors, voila creamy risotto in no time.
2 cups of rice
3 cups of water
2 Tablespoons of butter
2 Tablespoons of flour
1 cup of milk any kind (I had skim, so I used skim)
About a cup of leftover chicken chunks
About ½ a cup of parmesan cheese
A pinch of cayenne (about a 1/8 of a teaspoon)
A grating of nutmeg (about a ¼ of a teaspoon)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup of white truffle oil or another flavored oil
Chives, parsley, or basil to garnish.
1. In your rice cooker or pot of choice cook rice as you normally would adding the rice and the water, pressing the on button. It cooks it to perfection everytime.
2. In a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and then add the
flour to become a heavy paste. Cook for a minute or two until the raw flour taste cooks off but it is not burned.
3. Add the milk and whisk for about a minute and allow the mixture to happily bubble and become thicker over the stove. Stir occasionally, when the mixture is thick about 3 minutes, add the rest of the ingredients and turn the burner off. Allow the sauce and ingredients to stay warm by covering with the pot lid or some foil. It is ok if it cools off a bit you will be adding hot rice at the end.
4. When the rice is cooked add the rice to the sauce and chicken mixture.
5. Plate by mounding the creamy delicious base on to each plate. Generously dust with more parmesan, any fresh herbs you have on hand creating a beautiful white mountain. Anoint the mont blanc with a small amount of white truffle oil, about 2 Tablespoons per person.
Enjoy with a happy heart and warm tummy.
As always, much love, many blessings, and happy cooking.
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