Sunday, February 26, 2012

Meyer Lemon Aide

When life gives you lemons, make a cocktail!  That’s always been my motto.

To celebrate our unseasonably warm temperatures in Palm Springs, I decided it was time to make my version of lemonade, with an adult twist or two.  This drink is refreshing, light and great for entertaining or a leisurely afternoon by the pool.  The natural sweetness of the Meyer Lemon is enhanced with Rosemary Simple Syrup, and a good splash of Gin. 


Meyer Lemon Aide

1 ½ ounces freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice
1 ½ ounces Rosemary Simple Syrup (see below link)
1 ½ ounces Gin (I prefer Bombay Sapphire for this cocktail)
1 lemon slice for garnish

Place ingredients (except ice) in a cocktail shaker and lightly stir.

Fill glass with ice and pour mixture over it. 

Garnish with lemon slice.

This recipe was inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Blood Orange Sparkler.  To make the Blood Orange Sparkler, substitute Blood Orange juice for the Meyer Lemon juice.

Rosemary Simple Syrup – from Heidi Swanson 101 Cookbooks:

2 Cups Water
2 Cups Sugar
2 Fresh Rosemary Sprigs
1 Bay Leave (optional, but recommended)

Combine the sugar and water in a pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the rosemary sprigs and bay leave and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let infuse for 10 minutes. When cool, transfer to a storage container and refrigerate.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tangelo Dreams

I didn’t want a tangelo tree.  I wanted an orange tree.  But somehow my gardener mistook “tangelo” for “orange” and so I have a young, burgeoning citrus tree laden with tangelos.  Believe me, my extensive library of cook books hardly recognizes this fruit.  And my sous chef thinks tangelo is something performed on Dancing with the Stars, not something edible.

So I was overjoyed that the Los Angeles Times Food Section on February 2, 2012 had a recipe for Tangelo Pudding. Simple ingredients, easy preparation and only 123 calories – what’s not to like!  Plus, now the tangelos in the backyard are fodder for something other than local vermin.

This recipe results is a lusciously light, creamy non-dairy delight.  Well, that is if you exclude the Armagnac Whipped Cream I used as a topping.  My sous chef, who takes great pride in being a critic, exclaimed that the dessert was “Heavenly.”  Enough said.  It will brighten the winter doldrums, and if you live somewhere like me where it is already pushing 90 degrees, you will find it refreshing enough to squelch the heat.

For the recipe:

Tangelos, Cornstarch, Butter, Sugar, Honey and Orange Flower Water 

Zest the Tangelos, and juice until you have two cups

Crush zest with the sugar to bring out the oils and aromatics of the zest

Add zest/sugar mixture to cornstarch with a little tangelo juice to create a slurry

Tangelo slurry

Add remaining juice and whisk until smooth, bring to boil and add butter, honey and orange flower water

Place in glasses or champagne flutes and chill for two hours until set

Two hours later - Tangelo Pudding topped with Armagnac Whipped Cream

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mussels with Chorizo

Mussels with Chorizo and Pasta

The scene was set for a classic bistro dinner at home.  Red checkered tablecloth, bistro wine glasses, lobster napkins at the ready and Edith Pilaf singing La Vie en rose in the background.  My intrepid sous chef had even donned his beret a la Mike Grgich for the occasion.  The reason:  this week’s French Friday’s with Dorie challenge was Mussels with Chorizo (over Pasta, if you chose).  Add some crispy pommes frites, as we intended to do, and you had a quintessentially French dish.  (OK, maybe the Chorizo added a Spanish twist, and the pasta an Italian bent, but who wants to ruin the image?)

Ingredients for sauce
The start of the sauce

Add chorizo - I chose not to chunk mine and make it more of a flavor in the sauce

Mussels are an edible bivalve whose worldwide consumption is produced ninety percent by aquaculture in places like China, Spain, Italy, Thailand, France and New Zealand.  The United States and Canada produce and consume a small portion of mussels, so count us among a vocal minority who very much like this mollusk.  But we are mussel traditionalists.  We like our mussels cooked and served in a light broth or sauce so the taste of the mussel shines through.  Dorie’s challenge produced a chorizo sauce that overwhelmed and drowned out the fresh sea taste of the mussels.  However, we found the sauce was quite delicious on its own with a nice balance of fresh flavors.  Red bell pepper, garlic, onion, fresh thyme and tomato complimented the spicy chorizo and the consistency was hearty enough to envelope any pasta noodle.  When poured over fettuccine it seemed so much healthier and lighter than the traditional Alfredo sauce.  This sauce is definitely worth trying with your next batch of pasta!

A little steam from the mussels

We paired the dish with a bottle of Alto Moncayo Varaton 2009 Garnacha.  A bit of a renegade decision since this is a French dish (so to speak).  But since the dish has a Spanish influence, and the mussels were overwhelmed by the sauce anyway, the pairing of shellfish and red wine was neither ingenuous nor a faux pas. In fact, it was a great decision for the wine held up well to the spiciness of the sauce and did not get lost in its bold flavors.  At first taste the wine is supple with a hint of sweetness, but then its flavors even out in the middle and it finishes with a bit of dark fruit (cherry, blackberry, strawberry) and minerality.  Only 500 cases were made and it is a good value, averaging about $27.95 a bottle.  Perhaps a bit of a splurge for the everyday meal, but definitely worthy of a special occasion!

The finished product (if you like cooking with a glass of wine try Paco & Lola Albarino - it's light and refreshing!)
To read more French Friday with Dorie Experiences or to join the group:

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut, Sometimes You Don't

Anything short of the Hot Chocolate L’African served at Angelina’s on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris gives me a chocolate-induced migraine.  So trying this week’s French Fridays with Dorie challenge, Nutella Tartine, was out of the question.  Nutella was created in the 1940’s by Pietro Ferrero to extend the limited supply of chocolate in his wartime baking. It has become something of a beloved chocolate and hazelnut spread and a frequent peanut butter alternative.  But it contains chocolate, certainly not the Belgian kind used at Angelina’s, and it was left to my sous chef to provide comments for this article.  His review was short and sweet—like the Nutella Tartine—and can be summed up thusly:  “It tastes like a raised chocolate jelly doughnut, only I would rather have one from Winchell’s.  It is much to do about nothing.”
The ingredients for Nutella Tartine - sort of like making toast

Butter Brioche before broiling

In the broiler (I remembered to keep the door open to prevent fire - learned that one the hard way!)

Voila - Nutella Tartine in less than 6 minutes

I also wanted dessert that night, so I prepared Marie Helene’s Apple Cake as a supplementary dish.  Two spatulas up for this cake.  It has a great flavor profile and texture from the mixture of four different apples – pink lady, gala, golden delicious and granny smith.  The cake portion was light, reminiscent of a pineapple upside down cake in texture.  Quick and easy to prepare, this is now part of our dessert rota.  It has few ingredients, doesn’t cost a fortune to make and can please even the most strident food critic.  

Time to make Marie Helene's Apple Cake

Batter has great consistency

Add peeled, chopped apples

Fold apples into cake mixture

Place in spring-form pan

Finished product - Why don't I have a cake-stand or plate for display?  Can you guess what's on my Valentines list?

With all this fruit and so little cake, it has to be healthy!

To read more French Friday with Dorie experiences, or to join in on the fun:

To buy Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan and sample her fantastic cuisine visit your local bookstore or Amazon!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Wonder of White Bread - Baking with Julia

My first experience in baking bread was back in the early ’90s in a tiny kitchen apartment in Montana.  I’m not even sure if the kitchen had two workable feet of counter space.  Not sure why, but I felt compelled to know how to bake my own bread.  Flash forward twenty years and I’m back in the kitchen baking white bread reminiscing about my first loaves of bread and how proud I was to have accomplished that feat. 

Yeast mixture 

Just add flour, the KitchenAid was working overtime
With the abundance of great artisan breads available in the markets,  I have not done a lot of bread baking the past 10 or so years.  With that being said, what I have baked in the last five years has been in the Cuisinart Bread Machine.  So it was with a little fear and trepidation that I approached the White Bread recipe for the first Baking with Julia challenge.  Would baking bread be like riding a bicycle?  What about kneading, are my arms strong enough to handle it?  Would it be therapeutic and all my frustrations from the past 18 months would disappear into the dough?  Why is it every time I tell someone I’m a “Banker” they immediately respond how great it must be to be a “Baker”.  Should I be reevaluating my career choice?  So many questions and only the dough would know the answers.

Roll out to shape

Tucked away nicely and ready for a warm resting place

Ready to bake!
I’m happy to report that yes, baking bread is like riding a bicycle and gets easier with age unlike riding a bike which seems so much more complicated with age (balance, helmets, hearing, eyesight).  Within a few minutes of compiling and mixing ingredients it was all coming back to me.  The kneading was not as tough as I remembered, and though it was therapeutic it did not do away with 18 months of frustration.  When the finished product was done and the aroma of freshly baked bread filled the kitchen, I remembered why the labor of bread baking is so treasured.  A sense of complete satisfaction beamed from me when I removed the two perfectly golden, crusty white loaves from the oven.  I could not help but grin from ear-to-ear when I cut into my loaf and found that the texture was near perfect, no big holes or gaps for the toppings to fall or drip through.  It was the same feeling of victory I had from my first loaves of bread twenty years ago.

I really need a better studio for photographs, but they loaves were gorgeous
 My career is still undetermined, but who knows maybe between French Friday’s with Dorie and Baking with Julia  my career will find its own evolution and reinvention in something other than the world of finance.

Completely cooked, nice crust, and near perfect texture

To read more, or join the group  Baking with Julia (aka Tuesday’s with Dorie):

For the recipe:

Go to slush and  Someone’s in the Kitchen.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Quiche, I hardly know her!"

“Quiche, I hardly know her!” is a famous line from the “Roz and the Schnoz” episode of Frasier, the line Frasier repeats to cover his rhapsodic laughter resulting from the Garretts’ banter over who was the “nosier one.”  I can’t help it; I think of that line whenever I see quiche on the menu, and it makes me smile.  So quiche for me is a happy food, a funny food, a side-splitting humorous food.  I don’t take it too seriously and neither does it, despite the pretensions of some pseudo-French restaurants and the dreary English who take credit for creating something like it in the 14th Century. 

Two minutes to tart dough

Ready to chill

Chilled dough rolled out and ready for baking

“Gorgonzola-Apple Quiche” is this week’s French Friday’s with Dorie challenge.  After a grueling weekend of shopping and cooking for my 24x24 Food Buzz event, my sous chef and I were delighted with this week’s challenge.  The ingredients were on hand and the preparation is a snap.  One of the beautiful things about quiche is that you can dress it up or down depending on your kitchen’s resources and your tastes.  I still had some Cabrales Cheese (Cabrales is a Spanish Bleu Cheese), green apple, and pancetta left from my 24x24 Food Buzz event, and these were a perfect pairing to dress up my little quiche.   

Poke a few holes in bottom before baking to release steam

While preparation is quick, don’t forget the dough for the tart crust needs to chill in the refrigerator for at least three hours before it is rolled out and used.  Otherwise, it is just a matter of how much slicing and dicing you choose to do for the filling.

Cabrales, Pancetta, and Green Apple, perfect for quiche

A little sweet, savory, and salty 

Eggs and heavy cream are poured over mixture 

This quiche is now part of my culinary repertoire and will be making many appearances in our home in a multitude of guises.

Quiche perfection in only 35 minutes

To read more French Fridays with Dorie experiences, or to join the group:

To read more of the Food Buzz 24X24 January Dining Experiences: