Archive for the ‘sweet’ Category

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Reason #3419. (FRUIT CRUMBLE)

August 18, 2013

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I don’t even peel the fruit, I don’t add more than a tablespoon of sugar to it. A squeeze of lemon and a badass crisp topping (as healthy or as buttery sweet as you want it to be) and not only do you have an impressive seasonal dessert but you have a crazy quick (outstanding) breakfast when you drop a scoop of crumble into a bowl of yogurt. Sweet summertime!

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What’s delicious. (FROM COSTA RICA)

March 21, 2013

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In a country where you can buy the above items (pictured: lemongrass, kale/lettuces, avocado, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, strawberries, freshly baked bread, oranges, honey, carrots, zucchini, mangos, beets and caimito (or star apples) on a sunny morning at the organic farmers market, the local cuisine cannot possibly be bad. It was my observation in Costa Rica that the more simply a food was prepared, the more impressive it was.

Items just grilled or lightly dressed with lemon or blended into a smoothie/juice were by far the best things we experienced. The produce is so fresh and beautiful, it needs very little assistance to be outstanding. And eating food that is so so simple and clean really makes for an energetic and healthful travel, despite the few sniffles passed around among the babes.

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Perfect fish plucked from the sea at arms distance was the second best thing around. It was all one needed to eat in addition to that amazing produce. There were places for unique ceviches and fish grilled over hot coals. There were crispy deep-fried seafood platters and even some raw offerings. All outstanding. The local beverage, young coconut water, could be found everywhere. Sold in the shell under the name agua de pipa (or pipa fria if served cold), the big, green coconuts were hacked open, dressed with nothing but a straw and ready to drink on the side of every road, in every market, on the beach, etc. There was even  a tiny ‘easy open’ variety for convenient transporting.

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But what good is a foreign food experience without some splurging? I had never before heard of this cake and have since learned it is a Tico specialty even though it bears another country’s name. The Torta Chilena is a sugar bomb that alternates dulce de leche with a crumbly cake in thin layers of sin. It was so good and terribly decadent. If you see one, run! …about four or five miles per slice eaten.

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Happy Birthday Little G! Pura Vida! xoxo

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YOU GOT VERJUICE NOW, MAN. (VERJUS)

April 13, 2012
Used Grapes. Gouache and pencil on paper bag
(This is a reprinted article I wrote a while back (6/16/08) for a site called cookingdistrict.com, formerly gigachef.com. I edited a bit of the blahblah but it’s still good stuff.)
    Verjuice is the slightly sweet, slightly tart juice of unripened wine grapes. It is bottled like vinegar or wine but it is neither fermented nor does it have an alcoholic content. The word verjuice or verjus is derived from the French word pairing ‘vert jus’ translated ‘green juice’ meaning the liquid pressed from unripened wine grapes. It will last for several years unopened, deepening in fruitiness and color while it ages. Once uncorked, it has only a few months to last in the refrigerator since it is an unfermented product and does not have the same stability as a fermented one. Its applications are wide and open to creativity.
    When used to deglaze the pan after roasting or sauteing meat or vegetables, the natural sugars in the young grapes help caramelize the leftover bits beautifully. In salad dressings, verjuice will not compete with wine being served, unlike vinegar or lemon which infamously sour the palate. The touch of acidity brightens soups, sauces and in my recipe-tweaking opinion,  goes swimmingly well with seafood. Dishes that normally call for white wine benefit from verjuice’s fruity, roundness without having to ‘cook out’ any of the alcoholic essence. Seemingly it shines in pared down recipes where the goal is to use just a few ingredients that are unique and/or possess some special quality that takes a simple dish to the next level.
    I like to splash some into the pan when wilting greens or as a part of a marinade. Not only a real winner* for savory courses, it can be used to poach or macerate fresh fruit or make a mean glaze when buddied up with some sugar.
    Verjuice is not a new ingredient. Its appearance in cooking dates back to the 1300’s. Now it is making a comeback for its merits of playing nicely with wine as well as the many above-mentioned uses. Though historically it appears in European and Middle Eastern cooking, an Australian chef, Maggie Beer, is credited with bringing it back to modern kitchens. She bottles and sells verjuice from her country’s Barossa Valley but most wine producing regions have their versions too: California, France, Italy (where it is called agresto), South Africa and locally here in New York on Long Island (Wolffer Estate), my personal favorite. Like everything, verjuice can be purchased online but also look out for it in wine shops and gourmet groceries.
Oh, and sometimes it is used for drinking straight up… or maybe on the rocks.
* I vaguely remember enjoying heavy use of the phrase ‘a real winner’ back in ’08.

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Everything azul. (BLUEBERRY + BLUE CHEESE TARTINE)

July 19, 2011

Tartines are a fun thing. A hefty piece of bread with some sort of substantial topping, it takes buttered toast to the next level. I am not sure what defines a tartine exactly. Savory or sweet, any combination of ingredients seems to fit the bill, as long as one is spreadable. Also, it is always ‘openfaced’ or else you’d have what we in the biz call a sandwich. Just kidding… everybody calls it a sandwich. Anyway let’s not ruin a damn good snack with labels.

While living in France I put together this not-timid tartine often. The secret was the perfectly correct blue cheese (the name of which has been long forgotten) and a good and bumpy blueberry preserves. Sweet and salty melding with tart and tangy, the jam and the unctuous bite of cheese make magic. Since then I chase the dragon, trying out blue cheeses with this naughty little brekkie in mind though I had never really hit it until recently.

MG picked up a few cheeses at our favorite neighborhood place and wound up with Azul Penacorada among others. A Spanish cow’s milk cheese, the Penacorada is creamy and rich and not too crumbly. It snaps you back from its deep blue haze with a touch of the crystalized texture that some cheeses have, otherwise known as lactic acid, which develops as the cheese ages. Though it’s not French, as soon as I tasted Azul Pencorada I left the house to run out for some blueberry preserves.

The next morning, on the fattest pieces of Amy’s whole wheat pullman toast, I put a good layer of the jam, a serious crumble of the blue (you want them to fight for space in your mouth) and that’s it. Tartine for kings and queens.

“Breakfast, then, can be toast. It can be piles of toast, generously buttered, and a bowl of honey or jam, and milk for Mortimer and coffee for you. You can be lavish because the meal is so inexpensive. You can have fun, because there is no trotting around with fried eggs and mussy dishes and grease in the pan and a lingeringly unpleasant smell in the air.”

M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf

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A second impression. (RICOTTA + FIG EMPANADAS)

April 16, 2011

Here’s the thing about empanadas, you can stuff just about anything you can imagine in there. Traditional fillings include beef, chicken, cheese, tuna, guava, spinach, etc. Though empanadas seem like a big project to undertake, if you cheat a little and buy the dough circles  pre-made*, they are quick and easy to the point where I actually made them for breakfast and believe me, I am not good for much in the morning. Truth be told, I made the fig jam the night before. Even better.

If you happen upon a set of flavors that sounds especially good, with a little engineering, it can usually serve as perfectly great filling. In the first run of this sweet, slightly savory combo of homemade ‘fig jam’ with rosemary and ricotta, my oversight was that I didn’t mix the fruit and the cheese together. It was as if they were divorced. The empanada was filled on one side was straight fig puree and the other was rather bland and plain soft cheese. There was potential but no real pow.

On the second try I reconciled the two sides, stirring them together in a bowl, adding some lemon rind and salt to brighten up the day. Not only did it save a step in assembly, it worked out great. Inside the crisp empanada lived a creamy, tart-sweet epicenter, a way better result than the first. We couldn’t keep our hands off of them, the true test of an empanada’s success.

After including the new tweaks, I added  an extra step to the recipe. A direction I would like to use in all of my recipes at various points; ‘Taste it!’ It is unbelievable how often people fail to taste something as they are making it. By tasting often, the cook remains in complete control of where a dish is going…. and, most importantly, how it arrives.

FIG and ROSEMARY EMPANADA with RICOTTA CHEESE

(makes 20 empanadas)

for Fig and Rosemary Quick Jam:

10 ounces dried black mission figs (about 2 cups), stems removed

3 tablespoons sugar

3 sprigs rosemary

1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • Place figs, sugar,  rosemary sprigs and 1.5 cups of water in saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer until most of liquid is evaporated and figs are easily pierced with/ a knife, 20-30 minutes. Remove rosemary stems.
  • Transfer mixture to a food processor, add lemon juice and puree until smooth, adding up to 1/4 cup additional water to thin if needed. The final product should be like a thick spread. Store in the fridge up to one month.

for Empanadas:

20 empanada dough discs or 1 package (2 sheets) of puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten

1 pound fresh ricotta cheese

1 recipe Fig Rosemary Quick Jam

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 pinch salt

1/4 cup flour

  • Preheat the oven to 350F.
  • In a bowl, combine the cooled fig jam with the ricotta, lemon zest and a pinch of salt. Taste it! Adjust.
  • Lay a dough disc on a lightly floured surface. (If using puff pastry, roll out the dough a little and punch 10 four inch circles from each sheet). 
  • Brush half of a disc with beaten egg.
  • On the other half of the disc, spoon two heaping tablespoons of fig/ricotta mixture.
  • Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the dough to make a scalloped edge. Alternatively, seal the edge with the tines of a fork. 
  • Place the empanada on a baking sheet and brush with egg wash. Repeat with the rest of the dough/filling.
  • Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

* Discos are found in the freezer section.

They didn’t last until lunch… that’s what I’m talking about.