Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Goat Cheese Souffles

Goat Cheese Souffle with Herb Garden Salad
I am intrigued by travel and food, and not necessarily in that order.  So I was immediately drawn to a book titled "A Pig in Provence" by Georgeanne Brennan.  I enjoyed the book so much I researched Georgeanne and found she is a proponent of “Slow Food” (seasonal dishes using local products) and the author of numerous Williams-Sonoma cookbooks, as well as her own series of cookbooks.  When I learned she conducts cooking classes from her home in Davis, California I was interested.  When my companion explained where Davis is located and that it is less than an hour from the Sacramento Airport to Napa Valley, a plan for a wine/cooking travel adventure was formed.  With girlfriend Ellen in tow, off I went to experience firsthand Georgeanne’s Slow Food culinary approach.
Georgeanne giving the class a tour of the garden we would be cooking from

Over the course of two days, we prepared and sampled numerous dishes.  Working in tandem with Ellen, we prepared a Goat Cheese Soufflé.  It was a class favorite and a really practical (as in you can do it in advance) way to wow guests at your next dinner party.  The soufflé can be made up to six hours prior to serving, or even the day before if refrigerated.  We served the soufflé with a salad with fresh herbs which really added a complementary element of flavor and texture. 

(Note:  Please read entire recipe before starting as the order of steps is very important.)

Prepping ingredients for the Souffle

Goat Cheese Soufflé with Garden Salad

Kitchen Equipment:

Electric Beater
8-5 ounce ramekins
Mixing bowl
Baking pan


3 tablespoons butter plus extra for coating ramekins
1 cup of breadcrumbs (make from day old bread in blender)
3 tablespoons cake flour (preferred because is lighter than all-purpose flour)
1 cup milk
10 ounces soft goat cheese
3 large egg yolks
1 cup egg whites (about 7 large eggs)
kosher or sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
hot water for water bath

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425.  Butter 8-5 ounce ramekins, making sure to coat them well.  Coat ramekins with bread crumbs then turn over and tap out any excess crumbs.  Keep remaining crumbs for later use in recipe.

Ellen prepping ramekins

Crumble 8 ounces of the goat cheese into a large mixing bowl. 

Using an electric mixer with clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites in a large clean, dry bowl until stiff peaks form.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a stainless steel skillet over medium high heat.  Whisk in the cake flour and cook for 20 seconds, whisking constantly.  Add the milk and cook for about 1 minute, whisking constantly, until the mixture has thickened to the consistency of a thin, pourable pudding.
Pudding like consistency of mixture

Pour the hot milk mixture over the goat cheese and mix well.  Add the egg yolks and mix again.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Fold half of the whites into the goat cheese mixture to lighten mixture, and then gently fold in the remaining whites.
Folding in egg whites to lighten mixture

Divide half of the soufflé mixture among the prepared ramekins.  Crumble the remaining 2 ounces of goat cheese and divide among the ramekins, and then top with the remaining half of the soufflé mixture, dividing equally among the ramekins.  Sprinkle the remaining bread crumbs over the top.
Ramekins filled half full with Souffle mixture and piece of goat cheese

Place the ramekins in a large baking pan and pour in boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the soufflés are golden.  Remove from the oven and let stand in their water bath for another 15 minutes.
Souffles after first baking

Remove the ramekins from the baking pan and, using a towel to hold the ramekin in place, run a knife around the inside of the rim to loosen, turn upside down and gently release the soufflé onto a baking sheet.  The soufflés may be held at room temperature for up to 6 hours before the final baking, or cover well and refrigerate overnight.
Turned out on to baking sheet for second baking to brown

When ready to serve, bake the soufflés in a 425 degree oven for 5-7 minutes until light golden brown.

For the Salad:

Chives, flat leaf parsley and heirloom tomatoes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large head of butter leaf lettuce (aka Boston), red leaf, or a mixture, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup fresh chives, about 1/2 inch long
10-15 cherry tomatoes halved (or if in a bind, use 1 medium tomato)

In the bottom of a salad bowl, combine the olive oil, shallots, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Mix well with a fork or whisk.  Add the lettuce, parsley, and chives.  Just before serving, toss.
Dressing mixture

To serve, divide the tossed greens evenly among the plates, and either top or place alongside the hot goat cheese soufflés.
Individual salads waiting for their Souffle
Finished product - mouth watering indeed!

Light, fluffy and perfectly delicious!

Voila!  Goat Cheese Souffle to tempt your palate!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gazpacho - Summer's Delight

Gazpacho from Jose Andres' Jaleo Restaurant in Las Vegas
Gazpacho season is here, and not just for those living in the Palm Springs area and suffering annually through more than 120 days of 100º+ weather.  Every year we pour through cookbooks, magazines, newspapers, and websites looking for the perfect gazpacho recipe.  While many exotic (watermelon) and not so exotic (cucumber) varieties are offered, for me nothing beats a traditional  Spanish gazpacho.  By this, I do not mean salsa in a bowl with tomato juice.  That is not gazpacho.  And do not even attempt to pass off a jar of Pace Picante with Campbell’s Tomato Soup or V-8 Juice with Mirepoix as gazpacho.  I am talking about the real stuff

In doing serious research about gazpacho, I went to two authoritative sources:  my hairdresser, who is from Spain, and my Jose Andres cookbook.  I would love to say I spoke directly with Jose; however, I've not yet reached that status as a Culinary Diva.  My hairdresser, Miguel, said vinegar is the problem with most gazpachos.  Either it is left out or the correct vinegar, Spanish sherry vinegar, is not used.  Miguel’s opinion was confirmed by Jose, so I bravely decided to make “Tichi's Gazpacho” recipe from the Jose Andres cookbook. 

Is bravery needed to make gazpacho?  Yes, when the recipe is from Jose Andres, one of my very favorite chefs.  Jose is into molecular gastronomy, having worked with Ferran Adria at El Bulli, and simple is not necessarily his mantra.  So this is not a “throw into the food processor, blend all ingredients and chill” gazpacho recipe.  It is slightly more labor intensive, but once you try it you will find it is definitely worth the extra couple minutes in the kitchen.

According to Jose, this recipe hails from his wife, Tichi, hence “Tichi's Gazpacho,” and is one of the reasons he married her.  That should be enough to sell anyone on trying this recipe.

Other facts useful in impressing your dinner guests:   This recipe is from the Andalucia region of Spain, which is known for sherry (which is why Spanish sherry vinegar is essential) and ham (and no matter how tempted you are to add ham to gazpacho, resist the temptation).  Also, Andalucía is the cold-soup capital of the world.  Who knew there was such a capital!

Make this recipe a day ahead if you can so its ingredients can properly meld and chill.  Also, enlist the aid of a trusty sous chef, mate or companion so the chopping and dicing goes a lot faster!

Quartered Plum Tomatoes

Mise En Place is always the best way to start
Tichi's Gazpacho
Serves 4

For the Gazpacho

2 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 10 plum tomatoes)
1/2 large English cucumber
3 ounces green bell pepper (about 1/2 bell pepper)
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons Spanish sherry vinegar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons salt

For the Garnish

3 tablespoons Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
1 slice rustic white bread (or equivalent)
8 plum tomatoes with the seeds prepared as "fillets" (this means slice into small strips so the seeds remain attached—if you don’t have a really sharp knife or the patience, just dice the tomatoes)
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 large English cucumber, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch segments
4 pearl onions, quartered and pulled apart into segments
1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar
Sea salt to taste
4 chives, cut into long strips

Cut out and discard the core at the top of the tomatoes, chop the tomatoes roughly into quarters, and place  in a blender or food processor.  Peel the cucumber, cut into chunks, and add  to the blender/food processor.  Cut the bell pepper in half,  remove and discard the core and seeds, chop roughly, and add to the blender/food processor.  Add the garlic, Spanish sherry vinegar, and 1/2 cup water and blend until the mixture becomes a thick liquid.  (The red tomatoes will have turned a wonderful pink color.)  Taste for acidity (this will vary with the sweetness of the tomatoes.)  If it's not balanced enough, add a little more vinegar.  Add the olive oil and salt to the mixture and re-blend.  Check the balance, add salt or vinegar if necessary, and then pour the gazpacho through a strainer (or a food mill) into a pitcher.  Refrigerate to cool for at least 30 minutes (overnight is even better).
Ready to mix

Drizzle oil into gazpacho mixture a little at a time

Mixture going through food mill

Gazpacho mixture after going through food mill - notice the silky texture - no lumps or bumps

While the gazpacho is chilling, prepare the croutons by heating a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pan over medium-high flame and fry the bread until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes.  Break the bread into small pieces to form 16 croutons, and set aside.
Garnishments ready to be plated

Wisk chilled gazpacho to make sure oil has been blended, oil can separate in the chilling process

When you are ready to serve the gazpacho, place 4 croutons, 2 "fillets" of tomato seeds, 6 cherry tomato halves, 3 cucumber cubes, and 3 onion segments in each bowl.  Add a few drops of the remaining olive oil to each onion segment, and drizzle a little more olive oil around the bowl.  Add a few drops of vinegar to each cucumber cube, and drizzle a little more around the bowl.  Sprinkle sea salt on the tomatoes and sprinkle chives over all.  Pour the chilled gazpacho over the garnish.  For the neat and/or flamboyant, do the pouring at the table.  For a much more casual presentation, no need to count the garnishments, just put what your heart desires into the bowl and pour gazpacho over it!

This recipe is guaranteed to elicit shouts of “Ole” and “Uno Mas” from your guests.
A More Rustic Version of Garnishment for the Gazpacho