Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Halloumi with Seared Peppers, Olives, and Capers

I know it seems like I make every recipe I see with halloumi. That might actually be true. But, at least I had to wait to make this one. I read about it weeks ago and bided my time until pepper season arrived. By this point in the summer, the tomatoes are struggling with the heat here, but peppers in every color and shape can be found at the farmers’ markets. This dish is from Deborah Madison’s latest, Vegetable Literacy which was a delightful read. It’s about growing vegetables and cooking vegetables, and it’s organized by botanical family. As I read the book, I found myself wanting to grow things like sorrel, from the knotweed family, and cardoons from the sunflower family. I’d never thought about growing those things before. And, maybe heirloom beans and Jerusalem artichokes deserve an attempt in my garden. I loved that she mentioned vegetable varieties that are on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste like Amish Paste tomatoes, tepary beans, and red fife wheat. It makes me want to seek out interesting plant varieties whenever I can. Following the info about each plant family and where and how its members grow, there are tips for how to use the vegetables or how to clean, peel, or prep them when appropriate. Then, there are, of course, recipes. There are so many thoughtful ideas sprinkled throughout the book like variations on recipes, gardening tips, and ways to use all the parts of plants that I look forward to going back and re-reading sections. Since Deborah Madison lives in New Mexico, she has a lot to share about peppers and chiles and many, many ways of using them. For this dish, sweet peppers and/or some hot chiles were sauteed and combined with olives, capers, tomatoes, and browned halloumi for scooping onto grilled bread. 

She mentions that she first learned of this dish when it was made with sun-dried tomatoes, but she prefers using fresh cherry tomatoes. I followed her lead. Halved cherry tomatoes, halved Kalamata olives, rinsed and drained capers, and some minced garlic were left to marinate in a few teaspoons of olive oil while proceeding. Seeded peppers cut into wide strips were sauteed over high heat in olive oil. I used a mix of colorful sweet peppers and a few jalapenos. Once the peppers collapsed from cooking, they were removed from the pan and added to the tomato mixture. Next, sliced halloumi was seared until golden on each side in the same pan. The pepper and tomato mixture was returned to the pan with the halloumi just to warm through, and then it was all topped with chopped herbs. Parsley and mint are suggested, but neither of those is growing in my garden right now. I used basil instead. I had just baked a sourdough boule, so I grilled thick slices to accompany the peppers and halloumi. 

The salty, seared cheese with the sweet and spicy peppers, tomatoes, and briny olives and capers was a delicious mix. I also would have enjoyed this tossed with pasta or maybe with crunchy croutons or pita chips like a take on panzanella. There’s another version of a sauteed pepper salad with lemon that I want to try, and the grilled pepper relish, red chile paste, and pepper sauce are on my mind as well. For any season and any vegetable, I know where to get inspired. 

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mini Chocolate-Rum Canneles

I have no aspirations of becoming a professional pastry chef, but I am fascinated with what the pros learn in their training. I received a review copy of The Elements of Dessert by Certified Master Baker Francisco Migoya and The Culinary Institute of America. This is a pastry textbook covering every technique needed for creating stunning treats. It’s also a beautiful book full of photos of show-stopping plated dessert courses. In The Basic Elements section of the book, methods are carefully explained for everything from blending ingredients, making custards, creating different types of meringue, and mixing doughs, to making your own chocolate from the point of selecting the beans. There’s even a chart showing ingredients, their flavor characteristics, and compatible flavors for them. Then, there are the recipes. Each one is a work of art. There are Pre-Desserts with things like a Goat Cheese Bavarian Cream with Beet Jelly and Date Pound Cake Crumbs which is a perfect, little cylinder of Bavarian cream that’s been wrapped in a sheet of beet jelly and placed on a plate with cake crumbs. The Plated Desserts are no less complex. There’s the Butternut Squash and Cinnamon Ice Cream with True Red Velvet Cake, Black Currant “Paper,” Indonesian Cinnamon Bubbles, and Silver Honey Sauce. That’s all one dessert with recipes for each of the components which are neatly stacked with a swirl of the sauce surrounding them on the plate. There are ideas for Dessert Buffets and Passed-Around Desserts as well as Cakes and Petits Fours. It’s so interesting to learn how these creations are built and to see the final presentation for every dessert. It’s also a bit intimidating, but there are several parts and pieces I’d love to try even if I don’t combine them into the completed masterpieces shown here. 

Something I’d wanted to attempt at home was canneles. I’ve wanted the molds for years but never bought them. When I saw the Chocolate-Rum Canneles recipe in the book, I had to try it. Since those pretty, copper molds cost about $25 each, and this recipe would make 20 little cakes, I opted for a silicon mold for my first experiment. I thought I should find out if I really enjoy baking and eating canneles before investing in the top-of-line bakeware. The mold I ordered online has even smaller cups than I expected. It made cute, little, mini canneles. Even though it is silicone, I had read that batter can stick in the cups. So, I brushed the cups well with melted butter and placed the mold in the refrigerator while making the batter. Sometimes, cannele molds are brushed with a beeswax and butter mixture to give the pastries a glossy outer surface, but beeswax wasn’t mentioned in this recipe. The recipe, included below, is, however, very precise. All ingredients are listed by weight both metric and imperial and by percentage. For instance, 3.53 ounces or 100 grams of eggs are needed. That amounted to two of the eggs I had on the day I baked these. And, the 40 grams of egg yolks was two yolks. Although it’s precise, the recipe is also very easy. It results in a very thin batter that bakes for a long time to produce canneles with crisp edges and a custardy center. 

The long baking time causes the edges of the canneles to caramelize, and that adds to the rich chocolaty, buttery flavors running through them. I know the copper molds would have given them each sharper lines and a nicer shape, but the silicon mold worked well enough. Next, I want to try the baguette ice cream or maybe the pate a choux puffs with espresso pastry cream and chocolate disks. And, I want to learn a few more secrets of the pros from these lovely desserts. 

Mini Chocolate-Rum Canneles
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from The Elements of Dessert

YIELD: 1.15 KG/2 LB 8.64 OZ 
INGREDIENT                         METRIC or  U.S. or % 
Confectioners’ sugar             225 g or 7.94 oz or 19.51% 
All-purpose flour                   85 g or 3 oz or 7.37% 
Cocoa powder                       8 g or  .28 oz or .69% 
Milk                                     500 g or  1 lb 1.64 oz or 43.37% 
Butter                                 75 g or 2.65 oz or 6.5% 
Dark chocolate coins (64%)   100 g or 3.53 oz or 8.67% 
Eggs                                   100 g or 3.53 oz or 8.67% 
Egg yolks                            40 g or 1.41 oz or 3.47% 
Dark rum                            20 g or .71 oz or 1.73% 

1. Lightly grease the cannele molds with nonstick oil spray.
2. Preheat a convection oven to 180ºC/350ºF. 
3. Sift the confectioners’ sugar, flour, and cocoa powder together. 
4. Bring the milk to a boil and then pour it on top of the butter and chocolate in a bowl. Stir until both the butter and chocolate are melted and combined. 
5. Combine the eggs and the yolks and then whisk them into the sifted sugar-flour mixture to form a paste. 
6. Combine this mixture well with the milk mixture and then stir in the rum. 
7. Fill the molds to within .5 cm/.2 in from the tops. 
8. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. The crown of the cannelés should feel firm when you press down with a fingertip. Remove the canneles from the mold before they cool. 
9. Reserve uncovered at room temperature. 

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Espresso and Chocolate-Hazelnut Swirl Ice Cream with Coffee Tuiles

I was torn between two ice cream flavors. So, rather than choose one over the other, of course, I went with both by combining them. I’d been inspired by the collection of coffee desserts in The Modern Vegetarian. I had my eye on the Cafe Latte Ice Cream and Coffee Tuiles. In the book, this is shown with long, pointy shards of espresso-flavored tuiles jutting up from the top of a scoop of ice cream. It’s dramatic and delicious-looking and was something I had to try. But, there was another ice cream on my mind as well. A Chocolate-Hazelnut Swirl number from the LA Times had taken up residence in my food thoughts, and it couldn’t be ignored. I decided: why not add the chocolate-hazelnut spread to an espresso ice cream rather than to vanilla? And, that’s how this flavor combination was born. When your ice cream is almost finished churning, you just spoon in some Nutella or homemade gianduia. It swirls its way through the ice cream and turns into cold, fudgy bites here and there. While the ice cream firms up in the freezer, the tuiles are easy to make since the batter is baked in one, big thin piece and then broken after it cools. 

To start the ice cream, I actually didn’t follow the exact recipe in The Modern Vegetarian. I have a favorite vanilla gelato that I always make that has more milk than cream and is a little lighter. I followed the usual procedure for making that vanilla base, but I steeped some instant espresso granules in the milk as it heated before straining it and proceeding with tempering eggs and making the custard. I used two tablespoons of instant espresso, but you could also use a quarter cup of roasted coffee beans. I let the milk sit and steep for 20 minutes or so, but with whole beans, you’ll want to give it an hour. While the custard chilled before churning, I made homemade gianduia with roasted hazelnuts, semi-sweet chocolate, cream, and butter. When the ice cream was churned, I added about three-quarters cup of the chocolate-hazelnut spread just before it was finished. The ice cream went into the freezer for a few hours before serving. The coffee tuiles were made from an easy batter started with three tablespoons of melted butter and two teaspoons of instant espresso granules. That was stirred until the espresso dissolved. Four and a half tablespoons of flour and a quarter cup plus one tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar were sifted together, and an egg white and the melted butter mixture were stirred into the flour with a wooden spoon. The batter should be beaten with the spoon until it forms a smooth paste. The batter was chilled in the refrigerator for ten minutes or so, and then it was spread very thinly on a silpat-lined baking sheet. It was baked at 350 degrees F for ten minutes. Check it after five minutes to see if it's set and browning at the edges yet. The baking time will depend on how thinly the batter was spread. Once cool, the big, thin cookie can be broken into shards. 

Those crunchy, coffee tuiles work perfectly as ice cream delivery devices. No spoons or gelato shovels are required when those are on hand. And, coffee and chocolate-hazelnut belong together. Why settle for one or the other when you can have both? My lack of decision-making skill worked to my advantage this time. 


Friday, July 12, 2013

Peach and Radish Salad with French Feta and Almonds

It’s not often that the first word I’d use to describe a collection of chefs’ recipes is “practical,” but that’s just what came to mind as I started reading a review copy I received of The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook. The Chefs Collaborative is a group of chefs, food professionals, and producers who have been fostering sustainable cooking through advocacy and education for 20 years. They inspire others to “embrace seasonality, preserve diversity and traditional practices, and support local economies.” The book is a collection of dishes from the member chefs that take you through the seasons with vegetables and fruits, meat and poultry, fish and seafood, and dairy and eggs. The recipes immediately seemed practical because of the many suggestions throughout for making use of what’s in season at the same time, what you may be growing yourself or finding at your farmers’ markets, or what you may have on hand to use as substitutes. There are ideas for using as much of harvested plants as possible like by saving your chard stems for a gratin, pickling watermelon rind, and adding squash leaves to a curry. I like those kinds of reminders especially when the end results look so delicious in the photos. There are also great bits of information throughout the book about reducing waste, choosing well as you shop, and cooking with different sustainably-produced ingredients. The Rainbow Chard Stem Gratin is from Chef Monica Pope; the Broccoli Hushpuppies made with broccoli stems comes from John and Julie Stehling; the beautiful Grilled Eggplant with Roasted Red Pepper and Black Olive Salad is by Nora Pouillon; Southwest Heritage Bean Soup using heirloom beans is from Kim Muller; and Chestnut Waffles with Roasted Apples and Cream is by Jennifer McCoy. It’s exciting to see a book full of such smart ideas, making use of sustainable ingredients so well, and bringing together interesting flavors. At the height of peach season, I love adding them to as many meals as I can, so I was delighted to see the Peach and Radish Salad with French Feta and Almonds by Michael Schwartz. That was my first stop in the book. 

To make the salad, red onion was thinly sliced on a Benriner mandoline and then left to soak in cold water to take off some sharpness and to make them extra crisp. I also sliced the radishes on the mandolin and soaked them in cold water. The peaches were pitted and cut into thin wedges. An easy vinaigrette was made with champagne vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper. The drained vegetables, peach wedges, and some chopped basil were tossed with the vinaigrette and placed on platter. The salad was topped with crumbled feta, more chiffonade of basil, and toasted almonds. 

It’s a crunchy, savory, tangy, and sweet kind of salad, and I loved the mix of flavors. It was a perfect match for some grilled, Gulf shrimp. I’m deciding what to make next and thinking about the Farmstead Cheese Strata with Roasted Tomato Wine Butter. There’s also a Vanilla Carrot Cream Tart that I can’t wait to taste. There’s a lot to like about this book, and I predict its pages will be food-splattered from frequent use. 

Peach and Radish Salad with French Feta and Almonds 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from The Chefs Collaborative Cookbook by Chefs Collaborative and Ellen Jackson published by The Taunton Press in 2013. 

Michael Schwartz, Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink | Miami, Florida 

French feta cheese is typically made with sheep milk and tends to be milder and creamier than Greek feta. Its understated flavor nicely complements the sweetness of the peaches and the bright, peppery notes of the basil and radishes. Cheesemakers across the country are making a wide range of sheep milk cheeses, including French-style feta. Look for your own local source. 

Serves 6 

1/2 small red onion 
3 to 4 Easter Egg or French Breakfast radishes 
4 or 5 ripe peaches (about 2 pounds) 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn 
1 cup French feta cheese, crumbled 
1/4 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted 

Thinly slice the onions on a mandoline or with a very sharp knife. You should end up with about 1⁄4 cup. Fill a small bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes and soak the onions for 5 minutes; this mellows the sharp bite typical of raw onions and makes them crisp. Drain the onions and pat dry with paper towels. Thinly slice the radishes on the mandoline. 

Halve and pit the peaches. Cut each half into quarters and slice the quarters into thin wedges. Combine the oil and vinegar in a bowl with some salt and black pepper and whisk to combine. Add the peaches, onions, radishes, and basil, tossing gently to evenly coat the ingredients. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired. 

Divide the salad equally among six plates and top with the crumbled feta and toasted almonds. 

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Watermelon Mojito

As the summer heat settles in, a book full of beautiful cocktails is a welcome sight. In the new book from David Alan, Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State, there are classics as well as cocktails with new twists, and I want to sit in the shade and sip every one of them. I recently received a review copy of the book. I knew I was going to love it when I took a first flip through the pages and spotted a recipe for homemade Orgeat. I once went on a bit of an ingredient hunt for it, and in the future, I’ll be delighted to make my own. The recipes are categorized by style of cocktail like “Light, Bright, and Refreshing,” “Big and Boozy,” and “Sweet, Creamy, and Desserty.” And, throughout the recipes, there are technique tips, ingredient information, and a little cocktail history. The homemade Orgeat is used in a tiki-style, vodka cocktail called a Showgirl that also has passion fruit syrup, lime juice, and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram. With lots of garnishes and crushed ice, it’s a pretty drink for a summer party. The Root Beer “Float” achieves its namesake look with cloudy absinthe poured on top. The Old Austin is an update on an Old Fashioned with pecan syrup, Angosturra bitters, and rye whiskey. One that I predict I’ll be enjoying frequently for the remainder of the season is the Hot Summer Night which is a mix of honey syrup, thyme sprigs, lemon juice, vodka, Paula’s Texas Lemon, which is our local limoncello, and natural lemon soda. First though, I had to mix up some Watermelon Mojitos. 

Muddling everything in a mixing glass makes this an easy cocktail to create. Watermelon chunks, mint sprigs, and some simple syrup were smashed with the muddler before rum, lime juice, and ice were added. The mixture was shaken until chilled and then poured through the strainer into an ice-filled glass. For cocktails, I like to crush ice by whacking it with a hammer after sealing it in a plastic bag and wrapping it in a towel. Last, it was topped with some carbonated water.  Mint and lime wedges were added for garnish. 

Smashed fruit with mint and rum never fails to make a refreshing cocktail, and juicy watermelon is an ideal choice. The classic Mojito is also in the book along with a story about how dreadful the drink became when bartenders turned to mixes rather than using fresh mint. I’m inspired to sort through my liquor cabinet, add some new bottles, and shake and stir my way through all of these cocktail recipes. 

Watermelon Mojito 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permissions from From Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State by David Alan/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. 

Like most classic Sour-formula cocktails, the Mojito is an easy target for market-fresh improvisation. Any number or combination of fresh fruits can be muddled with the mint and other herbs to create an easy seasonal twist. My favorite such variation is made with watermelon, which to me is synonymous with summer and always in the refrigerator during its long season. 

4 large sprigs fresh mint 
About 1/2 cup cubed and seeded watermelon 
1/2 to 3/4 ounce Simple Syrup 
1 1/2 ounces white rum 
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice 
1 to 1 1/2 ounces carbonated water 
Lime wedge, for garnish 

Gently muddle three of the mint sprigs and the watermelon with the simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add the rum and lime juice and shake vigorously with ice to chill. You may need to adjust the amount of syrup depending on how sweet your watermelon is. Strain into an icefilled Collins glass. Top with the carbonated water. Garnish with the remaining mint sprig and the lime wedge and serve with a straw. 

While a bottle of carbonated water from the grocery store will get the job done, I prefer charged water from a soda siphon. Bottled bubble water—especially in plastic bottles—tends to go flat quickly, whereas a siphon of charged water will stay perky in the fridge for a long time. More important, the water coming out of a siphon does so with force and invigorates the drink from the bottom up, as opposed to just sitting on the top of the glass. The standard soda siphon is reasonably inexpensive, and is definitely cost-effective in the long run. Simply fill the siphon with filtered water, charge with a CO2 cartridge, and refrigerate carbonated water. 

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