Friday, April 20, 2012

The Presbyterian and Pina Colada Friand

It could take a fortnight to debate whether a “Coconut Friand,” this week’s French Fridays with Dorie challenge, is a “French Friand,” a “Financier” or an “Australian/New Zealand Friand.”  No matter the derivation, it is a tea cake, and this makes me think of High Tea at The Empress Hotel in Victoria or Afternoon Tea at Brown’s Hotel in London.  Those occasions when we Americans try to act cultured, pinkies extended, as we sip tea and eat insipid, crustless cucumber finger sandwiches and cloyingly sweet dessert delicacies when what we really want is a strong libation after a day’s shopping and sightseeing.

Around my French Table is a staple in our kitchen
 I have become a California girl and my sous chef is a Los Angeles native.  When we hear the word “coconut” we think of crashing waves, balmy breezes and swaying palm trees, not some cute tea cake.  Give me a chair overlooking the ocean, a cocktail in hand and Jimmy Buffet on the radio and I am in heaven.  In this sunbaked part of Southern California--we have already reached 100+ degrees—it is pleasant, if not essential, to introduce the tropics into our lives whenever possible.  So I decided to create a culinary libation based on one of my favorite tropical drinks.  Ergo, the “Piña Colada Friand.”

Lightly whisk egg whites until slightly foamy

Whisk in all ingredients, being particularly gentle with flour and melted butter
The batter is super easy to prepare and can be made up to 3 days in advance.  To create this culinary libation, I took a few necessary liberties in augmenting Dorie’s recipe by adding lime zest, dark rum, and vanilla fleur de sel and using a combination of sweetened and unsweetened shredded coconut.  I put a fresh pineapple square in the bottom of each paper cup in the mini-muffin tin before pouring in the batter.  I placed the mini-muffin tins on baking pans and put them into a preheated 350 degree oven for 8 minutes, at which time I rotated the baking pans and baked for another 8 minutes.  I then removed the paper cups and let the friands cool on a baking rack.  Viola!  A “Piña Colada Friand.”

Who put the lime with the coconut????

A little pineapple for our daily fruit intake...hey, it's worth a try to make this a "health food"

24 Pina Colada Friands ready for baking

The friands looked a little naked, like the men at Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, so I decided a cover-up was needed.  I made a simple glaze from confectioner’s sugar and coconut milk and toasted some shredded coconut for color and texture.  After the friands had cooled slightly, I drizzled on the glaze and sprinkled on the toasted coconut.  The Piña Colada Friands now looked properly clothed and ready to party.

Poolside, waiting for that afternoon tea.....

Teetotalers beware!  These friands deserve more than hot tea.  An ice cold Piña Colada is a natural pairing, but I am an aspiring mixologist diva and the simple way is not my way, for better or for worse.  After many trials and a handful of Tylenols, I found the perfect cocktail accompaniment:  The Presbyterian.  This drink is not for choir boys and, despite its name, its consumption need not be limited to Sunday brunches. 

The Presbyterian
(Adapted from a demonstration by Mark Peel of Campanile at Palm Desert Food & Wine 2012)

2 Ounces Rye Whiskey
1 Ounce Simple Syrup
1 Lime freshly squeezed
Ginger Beer to top off

Place the rye whiskey, simple syrup, and lime juice in a cocktail shaker.  Fill with ice and vigorously shake.  Fill a glass (preferably a Collins glass) with ice and pour, leaving about one inch room so you can top off with Ginger Beer.

This makes a light, refreshing cocktail that goes perfectly with the Piña Colada Friands.  So make a pitcher of Presbyterians, grab a handful of Piña Colada Friands, crank-up the volume on Margaritaville and enjoy.

To read more French Friday's with Dorie or to join the group:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Luscious Lemon Loaf Cake

Lemon Loaf Cake can be described as light, lovely, luscious, lemony goodness.   Just five minutes to make the simple batter, and after 50-60 minutes of baking you have a delectable cake for dessert or afternoon tea.  Eat it by the slice or use it as the platform for a more dramatic dessert.  Want to kick your shortcake up a notch?   Merely employ the Lemon Loaf Cake as the base and add fruit, whipped cream and a drizzle of something scrumptious!

Gorgeous Eggs from the Farmers Market

Sugar, eggs and baking powder

Add sifted flour

Melted butter


Place mixture in buttered/floured loaf pan

Ready for garnish

Spring delight - Strawberry Lemon Loaf Cake

This recipe can be found in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan, or by visiting Treats or The Beauty of Life.  To read more or join the Baking with Julia group experiences with Lemon Loaf Cake on Baking With Julia visit Tuesdays with Dorie.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dr. Seuss and The Big Tuna Agree: Tuna Rillettes are a Winner

I am the Culinary Diva.
A Culinary Diva I am.

I do not like Sardines,
Culinary Diva that I am.

I do not like them in a tin,
I would not like them here (Sardine Rillettes)
Or there (Around My French Table).

I would not like them anywhere!”

-adapted from Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

Childish as it may seem, I do not like sardines!  Dress them up, disguise them, no matter:  I don’t like them.  Not even if they are a featured ingredient in my treasured cookbook Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan.

What’s a culinary diva to do?  I want to fit in; I want to follow the rules.  But at the very sight of this slimy, disgusting little bait fish I break out in hives and hot flashes.  Who knew you could have an allergic reaction just by viewing a sardine based dish on a computer screen?

In the spirit of this week’s French Fridays with Dorie challenge, I decided to make the Tuna Rillettes instead.  While the Big Tuna, Bill Parcells, won’t likely be with the Saints, this tuna dish is heavenly and amazingly simple to make within five minutes. 

Pantry staples make for a delectable treat
You will likely find the ingredients in your pantry.  And, if not, you haven’t been shopping lately.  Just take some canned or packaged tuna, add curry powder and some other spices and, voilà,
Save a step and put directly into food processor and not separate bowl like I did
 The franchise player is the curry and my star was the Japanese Curry from Williams Sonoma.  Not only is there an amazing aroma, but the subtle nuances from the curry (star anise, cayenne pepper, cumin, black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric, fennel, and coriander) played well with the tuna.  The curry did not overwhelm the palate or the tuna, but it did create a medley of flavors.  Although the recipe calls for allspice, shame on me and my grocery shopping sous chef but our pantry was bare in this regard so I decided to use a little pumpkin pie spice instead.  Happily this substitute performed like Matt Flynn, formerly of the Green Bay Packers and now with the Seattle Seahawks (at least according to my sous chef who is counting the days until football season begins).  Plus I opted for heavy cream over the crème fraiche (because of a refrigerator shortfall), and was very pleased with the texture and richness it added.  A little squeeze of lemon brightened the flavors as it always does.
Squeeze a little lemon juice

I love my Little Pro Plus - it's great for Rillettes,
So what is the perfect canvas for this delectable dip?  Raincoast Crisps!  We used the Fig and Olive and the slight sweetness of the fig complimented the curry.  Celery would also be a great vessel to enjoy the goodness of this rillettes.
Tuna Rillette with Raincoast Crisps

My sous chef thought this might be Dorie’s best recipe so far, certainly better than the Crab and Grapefruit Salad we tried before it.  He gave it two corkscrews up as a wonderful appetizer that is perfect for Spring, Summer and Fall picnics (Hollywood Bowl here we come!) and for a light meal when you don’t feel like cooking.
The unfortunate Crab & Grapefruit Salad is still a work in progress
(note, do not substitute Sambal for hot sauce with this dish)
To read more French Friday's with Dorie, or to join in on the fun:

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Bishop's Choice - Asparagus with a Wee Bit of Bacon

What does an asparagus spear resemble?  Exactly:  a bishop on a chessboard.  And like the chess piece, when used correctly it is potent but not overwhelming.  (Pardon the ecclesiastical reference, but it is Good Friday.) 

Asparagus has been cultivated for over 2500 years and is one of my favorite vegetables to grill, steam, or wrap with a little prosciutto as an appetizer.  Asparagus is approximately 4 calories a spear, provides 60% of the recommended daily folicin intake (necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease), and is a natural diuretic, making it great to consume when you are trying to lose a little bloat before big events.  For me, like the lily—of which it is or was a family member—asparagus is synonymous with Easter and Spring.  If you don’t believe me, look in this month’s issue of any food magazine and you will see lilies on the table and asparagus on the plate.
Bacon bits, onion, and olive oil may increase the calorie count of asparagus
 This week’s French Fridays with Dorie challenge is “Asparagus with Bits of Bacon” (as well as onion and lemon).  Bacon is a natural pairing with the slightly acidic flavor of asparagus, onion goes well with everything and lemon brightens the flavor of any green vegetable.  I’ve made this combination many times, although I veer slightly from Dorie’s technique.  She cooks the asparagus in water for approximately 4 minutes before adding to the bacon and onion mixture while I skip this step and place the asparagus directly into the pan with the bacon and onions.  This saves clean-up of an additional pan—a benefit for my sous chef who already thinks me a messy cook—and cooks the asparagus just fine. 
Add Asparagus & Lemon to bacon mixture
 We paired this dish with a veal rib chop and a gorgeous Anthill Farms--Peters Vineyards--2007 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  This wine is Burgundian in style, lean and earthy with subtle undercurrents of the California terroir.  It is delicious with food ( i.e., not meant for quaffing as an aperitif), and with only 13.5 percent alcohol your head will appreciate the difference in the morning.

Since this week’s recipe was not very challenging, I decided it was time to go off-reservation a bit and use the ingredients in a more interesting way.  Since grilling season in the desert is officially underway, a pizza on the grill sounded like a perfect way to use the ingredients and have a little fun doing so.
Arugula Pesto
I made an Arugula Pesto for the sauce.  The bite and peppery spice of the arugula was the perfect base for the asparagus, prosciutto (substituted for bacon), onion and lemon combination.  Note that I did not include lemon juice in my pesto for, in combination with the lemon slices, it would overwhelm the flavors of the ingredients used as toppings.    
Toppings ready for the grill

This grill basket from Williams Sonoma is essential for grilling and one of my most used items
 I just love the flavors imparted by grilling.  So into a grill basket went the asparagus, onions and lemon slices.  My sous chef thought that a little grilled chicken would be a nice addition, so while the vegetables cooked I charred some boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  In less than 20 minutes, my chicken and vegetables were ready to be used as pizza toppings. 
Pizza dough placed on hot grill - see how it starts to bubble almost immediately

After about 3 minutes of grilling - lots of bubbles

Flip the dough - now ready for toppings
 Pizza dough is simple to make at home, and only needs about 30 minutes to rise before you roll it out into the desired shape.  But if you find yourself short on time – as I was--Trader Joe’s makes a great pre-made pizza dough.  To make pizza on the grill, simply roll out the dough into the desired shape/size and lightly rub each side with olive oil so it does not stick to the grill.  Place the dough on a preheated grill (I left my grill on after making the toppings, so it was preheated to its max temperature of 600 degrees).  With the lid open, cook one side until the dough starts to bubble and easily lifts off the grill (3-5 minutes).  Flip it over and push down gently to remove the bubbles from the top and bottom surfaces.  The dough is now ready for the addition of the toppings.
Juicy, sliced grilled chicken breast

Pizza Party!  Toppings ready for take off!
 First, add the sauce of your choice and then spread your desired toppings over the sauce.  For my pizza, I used the Arugula Pesto and then added some grilled chicken, some of the grilled asparagus, onions and lemons, a little prosciutto, mushrooms and pear slices for a delightful surprise.  If you desire cheese on you pizza, find a good melting cheese.  We are trying to cut calories in our house, so I just shredded a little parmegianno reggiano on the top.  Once the toppings are on, put the lid down and cook for approximately 4-5 minutes to heat ingredients through.  When the pizza is done, you can garnish with an additional shaving of cheese and a sprinkle of fresh greens.
Begin by layering toppings

Ready for cheese shavings

Making pizza on the grill can be interactive, so it can make for a terrific dinner party activity.  Just pre-make, shape and cook the dough and let everyone customize and finish their individual pizza.  It’s kind of a DIY Party! 

Arugula Pesto:

Makes 1 Cup

20 Arugula leaves
1/3 Cup Chopped Walnuts
3 Cloves Peeled Garlic
¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you can add extra if you want thinner pesto)
Salt to taste

Place in food processor or blender and blend until desired consistency.

To read more French Friday with Dorie experiences:

The Irish Soda Bread I haven't posted about but made in between matches of Rafa & Roger

Rafa Nadal - need I say more?  Vamos Rafa!