Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lazy Day Strawberry-Tomato Soup Shooters

For most Americans, the 4th of July means friends and family milling about the sweltering backyard while the BBQ chef stands weepy-eyed, beer in one hand and tongs in the other, peering through the smoke at a grill full of charring animal parts and by-products.  Here is a quick and easy way to add some interest and zest to this most iconic holiday.   

I love recipes where no cooking is involved, preparation can be done the day before, presentation is simple, and clean-up is quick and easy.  A Strawberry-Tomato Soup Shooter meets all these conditions.  There is no cooking involved;  it is served chilled and benefits from an additional day’s maceration; ; it is properly served in shot glasses, but bistro wine glasses or soup bowls are acceptable; and clean-up is a breeze.  Serve this and watch your guests’ smile with pleasure at your culinary ingenuity. 

Strawberry-Tomato Soup Shooters

Prep time 10 minutes
Serves 15 shooters/or six first course starters

1 cup diced canned tomatoes, including liquid
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
½ pint fresh strawberries hulled (stems removed)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves, firmly packed
1 cup diced watermelon
¼ inch wedge of peeled, sweet onion (can omit if you don’t like onion)
1 small peeled garlic clove
1 Tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon white balsamic vinegar (can get at Cost Plus very reasonably)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup chilled white wine (use a wine you would drink)

 Place tomatoes, tomato paste, strawberries, basil leaves, watermelon,  onion, garlic, brown sugar, white balsamic vinegar, and salt into blender or Vitamix and secure lid.

Start at lower speed and gradually increase speed to medium or 5 on the Vitamix, blend for approximately 10 seconds until smooth.  Turn machine off.

 Add wine and start at low speed (two on the Vitamix) and blend for approximately 3 seconds.

Can be served immediately or chilled up to one day for maximum refreshment in hot summer months.

To serve – 15 2-oz glasses
To garnish – small basil leaves and/or wedges of small strawberries or grape tomatoes if desired

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Cherry Amour

The Fourth of July is fast approaching, so what better way to celebrate France’s vital contribution to our independence from England than by consuming copious quantities of Cherry Clafoutis. While I am not certain George Washington ever enjoyed this dessert concoction, my sous chef and I do so regularly, particularly during summer.

 This dessert is lusciously light, can be prepared ahead of time, and is sure to be a crowd pleaser. The cherries have wonderful notes of tangy sweet--sourness and hints of tobacco and tannic tea that match well with the sweet, buttery flavor and whiffs of cocoa found in the hazelnut. Cherry pits and bitter almonds form a compound that is second only to vanilla as the most popular flavor molecule in the United States’ flavor and fragrance industry. So feel free to substitute almonds as an alternative. In France, Cherry Clafoutis is served with the pits in the cherries so the cherries do not stain the batter. This could make for some dangerous eating, so I recommend removing the pits from the cherries unless you are an expert at the Heimlich maneuver or a dentist in need of patients. And if you insist on going French, don’t forget a bowl for the pits! Your guests will appreciate your thoughtfulness when they are trying to figure out where to discreetly dispose of the pits.

 This dessert has become one of our house favorites, and is sous chef-approved to serve to guests.

Cherry Clafoutis

 4 eggs
¾ cup of sugar
Pinch of salt
Scant ½ cup ground hazelnuts (can substitute almonds or pistachios)
2 Tbs all-purpose flour
3 ½ Tbs mascarpone cheese*
3 ½ Tbs sour cream*
 7 Tbs Buttermilk (or regular milk)
12 oz. pitted fresh cherries

 *can use crème fraiche as a substitute
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 

Butter and flour 6-8 ramekins or one 7 ½ by 4 inch baking dish or pan.

Place cherries evenly across bottom of the prepared ramekins or dish.

Whisk the eggs with sugar and salt until pale yellow and thick. Sift and fold in the ground nuts and flour, then stir in the mascarpone cheese and sour cream (or crème fraiche). Make sure the ingredients are well mixed. 

Pour or ladle the batter over the cherries, place the ramekins or dish on a baking tray, and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Served warm or cold, this dessert goes well with a dollop of cream, crème fraiche, or ice cream and a garnish of chopped fresh cherries.