June 30th, 2011 § § permalink
The past few Saturdays my morning ritual has been to throw on some clothes and hustle over to our neighborhood farmers’ market. My mission? To get there before someone else buys all of St. Peter’s Bakery’s brioche sticky buns. Thanks to their rich yet light dough, these brioche-based buns are the most divine that I’ve ever eaten.
Rumored to have originated in Normandy, France in the Middle Ages, brioche is a light yeast bread or cake made from flour, butter, eggs and, of course, yeast. Its name comes from the verb broyer, meaning to break up. The breaking up refers to the dough’s need for repeated and prolonged kneading.
In addition to increased kneading, brioche usually requires three, rather than just two, rising periods. In France this extra time and effort has prompted most to buy, rather than bake their own, brioche. Shops devoted to brioche, known as viennoiseries, have sprung up to serve this need.
In the 19th century it became the custom to bake this dough in a deep, fluted pan. The resulting bread possessed a narrow base and a wide, pillowy top. While this form still exists, I more often encounter the Parisian version. Instead of using special pans, Parisian bakers place small balls of dough atop larger ones, creating what is known as brioche à tête or ‘brioche with a head.’ Along with brioche à tête I also have seen brioche loaves, plaits and buns.
As it’s a versatile dough, I’ve come across brioches filled with fruit, cheese, nuts, meats or whipped cream. In any case, it’s traditionally consumed at breakfast or as a snack with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
BRIOCHES À TÊTE
From Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America (Wiley, 2004)
Makes 24 individual brioches
NOTE: Brioche dough will keep for up to 1 week in the refrigerator and 2 months in the freezer.
5 cups flour, plus extra as needed
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 large eggs, plus 1 beaten egg for brushing
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
cooking spray for greasing
Combine the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the eggs, milk, sugar and salt and mix on low until evenly blended, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4 minutes.
Gradually add the butter with the mixer running on low speed, scraping down as needed, about 2 minutes. After the butter has veen fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and is quite elastic, about 15 minutes.
Remove the dough, shape into a brick, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Coat individual brioche tins or muffin pans with cooking spray.
To shape the brioche, remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into 24 equal pieces, about 2 ounces each. Preshape each piece by rolling it into a 3-inch long cylinder. Coat the edge of your palm with flour and then roll the dough back and forth about 1 inch from the end of the cylinder to create a head (tête) that’s still attached to the dough; it should look like a bowling pin. Transfer the brioche, head up, to the mold. Hold the head with fingertips of one hand and push it down against the larger portion of the dough so that the head sits on the surface of the brioche. Brush lightly with egg wash. Repeat until all the brioches are made. (If the dough becomes too sticky, return to the fridge until chilled.)
Cover the brioches with a clean, damp towel and allow to rise until nearly double in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Brush the brioches with beaten egg once more before baking. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool in tins or muffin pans for 10 minutes. Unmold and finish cooling on wire rack before serving.
June 27th, 2011 § § permalink
Come over for dinner more than a few times and you’re bound to re-experience my white chocolate-almond cake, strawberry yogurt pie and warm chocolate puddings. The reason for the repetition is pretty straightforward — I have about a dozen good desserts in my repertoire. If you’re in a similar position, I would suggest taking a glance at Bill Yosses’s and Melissa Clark’s The Perfect Finish (W.W. Norton and Co., 2010).
You may recognize Yosses as the White House’s executive pastry chef and Clark as a food columnist for the New York Times. In The Perfect Finish the two culinary pros come together to share 80 exquisite, easy-to-make sweets. These are desserts that anyone would be happy to add to her collection.
Organized according to occasion, the book begins with a section on muffins, scones, breads and pastries, foods that work perfectly for breakfast or brunch. Hence the chapter’s title, “Come for Brunch.” Cookies feature prominently in the next chapter, “Pick-Me-Ups.” Along with familiar favorites such as chocolate chip cookies and brownies, I found such uncommon treats as chocolate peanut crinkles, chocolate chunk cookies with Nutella and blood orange squares.
For more formal events I’ve turned to the chapters “I’ll Bring Dessert” and “Restaurant Desserts That You Can Make at Home.” Here I’ve gotten recipes for such memorable meal endings as lemon tart brulee and blueberry jelly roll.
Because I own several Bundt pans, I’m always on the lookout for interesting and successful Bundt cakes. Much to my delight, The Perfect Finish provides two reliable recipes. For the warmer months I have the lovely blackberry buttermilk Bundt with orange glaze. During colder months I have the redolent gingerbread Bundt with freshly ground spices.
Although it provides a smattering of treats — everything from cakes, pies, tarts and waffles to puddings, trifles and sundaes is covered in the book — each recipe is unique and works as written. Thanks to The Perfect Finish, I can introduce a range of divine, new desserts to my dinner guests.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Since writing this, I made another dessert, red eye devil’s food cake, that was grossly inaccurate. The cake portion of the recipe calls for 2 cups (8 ounces) of strongly brewed coffee. Two cups equals 16, not 8, ounces. I went with the 8-ounce weight measurement for the coffee. Likewise, the ganache recipe for the cake calls for 3 cups of heavy cream and 14 ounces of chopped chocolate. With 3 cups of cream I ended up with a chocolate soup, not a chocolate frosting. I used all the semi-sweet chocolate that I had on hand (26 ounces total) as well as 3/4 cup of ground sweet chocolate; only then did the concoction resemble a ganache. As this same measurement is used in the recipe for chestnut cake with milk chocolate ganache, I would have the identical issue there. Needless to say, I retract what I said about the recipes working as written.
June 24th, 2011 § § permalink
The name sounds almost too cute to be legit but peekytoe is, in fact, a type of crab found on the East Coast. Also known as rock or spider crab, this spindly legged crustacean originally was discarded by fishermen who found it in their lobster pots. They stopped pitching it out in the late 1990’s after the owner of Portland, Maine’s Browne Trading Company, Rod Mitchell, dubbed the unloved crab “peekytoe.” This new, perky moniker won over chefs and consumers, who started buying up and eating the bycatch.
Peekytoe lives among rocks and in waters up to 40-feet deep. An eco-friendly seafood, it’s caught live in traps with no bycatch. After removing the crab from the trap, the fisherman will snap off one large claw. He then returns the crab to the ocean where it regenerates its missing appendage.
When on land, a peekytoe crab will cover itself with algae, grass and other natural debris. This tendency has given the crustacean yet another name, the decorator crab.
Adorable nom de plumes aside, peekytoe is prized for its sweet, moist and firm meat. Fortunately for me, it’s sold picked so I never have to fiddle with cracking the claws and picking out the meat. Someone has already done all the work for me.
Peekytoe goes well with a wealth of foods and flavors. Its affinities include such items as asparagus, avocados, cayenne, chives, garlic, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mustard, onions, flat-leaf parsley, shrimp, tarragon, tomatoes and watercress.
I’ve found peekytoe to be the ideal ingredient for pasta dishes as well as crab cakes. It also works well in salads, seafood cocktails and sauces. If you haven’t already, take a peek at peekytoe. You won’t be disappointed.
KITCHEN KAT CRAB CAKES
Makes 6 large cakes
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 pound lump crab meat
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup good quality mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, washed, dried and minced
2 to 4 tablespoons bread crumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
flour, for dredging the cakes
lemon wedges, optional
Heat the 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil in a small frying or sauté pan. Add the minced shallots and sauté until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
In a medium-sized bowl mix together the shallots, crab meat, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt, black pepper, parsley and bread crumbs, adding just enough bread crumbs so that the mixture binds together. Depending on how firm you prefer your cakes, this could be anywhere from 2 to 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs.
On a plate or other flat, clean work surface, spoon out enough flour to coat 6 large crab cakes. Heat the butter and olive oil over medium in a large, non-stick frying pan.
While the butter and oil are heating, form the crab cakes by taking three to four heaping tablespoons of the crab mixture and, using your hands, shaping it into a 6-inch round patty. Dredge both sides of the cakes in the flour and set aside. Repeat with the remaining mix.
After the cakes are formed and the oil and butter are hot, pan-fry the cakes for 10 minutes, gently flipping them over after 5 minutes so that both sides turn golden brown. Serve with wedges of lemon.
June 22nd, 2011 § § permalink
Since I tend to be a fan of ‘all-things-British,’ I’m not surprised that I’ve fallen for an English-style gastropub. That I’d travel to Philadelphia again and again just for crab and cheese toasties and Pimm’s Cup at The Dandelion, now that is bloody amazing.
Situated in a series of connected townhouses near Rittenhouse Square, The Dandelion is one of the latest offerings from restaurateur Stephen Starr. Similar to another beloved Starr restaurant, Buddakhan, The Dandelion serves well-crafted, cuisine-specific classics alongside a few seasonally focused dishes. Think crunchy yet tender beer-battered fish and chips preceded by spicy gazpacho soup. Top the meal off with sweetly tart steamed lemon pudding and you get some sense of – and stars from – the menu.
British comfort food reigns at The Dandelion. Zesty deviled eggs, traditional English cheeses, rich stout bread, velvety macaroni and cheese, melt-in-your-mouth bangers and mash and lamb shepherd’s pie all rank high with my dining companions.
On evenings where richness is not what I crave, I opt for the delicate butter lettuce salad, baked trout with purple and yellow cauliflower or Prince Edward Island mussels. I always manage to save a bit of room for warm sticky toffee pudding with date ice cream and toffee rum sauce. Outside of one late night meal consumed in Scotland, it’s the best sticky toffee pudding that I’ve ever had. And, yes, it’s rich but it’s also utterly delicious.
As you might expect from a gastropub, The Dandelion provides extensive beer, cider and wine lists. You can imbibe imports from the UK, such as Boddington’s, Young’s and Twisted Thistle, as well as local brews from Victory, Sly Fox and Brooklyn breweries. Likewise, you can enjoy traditional British cocktails, such as Pimm’s Cup, and an array of scotches. All are consumed in cozy rooms and snug bars decked out with British antiques and wood furnishings. Like everything about The Dandelion, the decor is evocative of jolly old England without ever being cutesy or twee.
June 17th, 2011 § § permalink
At dinner with friends last night the subject of easy chicken meals arose. Although I don’t cook chicken very often, I do have a surplus of good poultry recipes. While these dishes do require more than three ingredients and take longer than 30 minutes to prepare, they’re definitely worth the extra effort to make.
As for cooking tips, I would advise using local, humanely raised, truly free-range chicken. Chances are that, if you buy locally, you can see how your chicken lived, what it ate and, ultimately, what you’re eating. Plus, you’ll find that chickens allowed to roam about freely in grass pastures taste better and are more healthful for you. Needless to say, it’s more healthful for them, too.
Jumping off my soapbox, I’ll add that you should always cook chicken to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Insert a digital meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken to determine if it’s done.
Note: If you don’t have white wine on hand, substitute 1/3 cup water and 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar for it.
1 1/2 white onions, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
handful of fresh basil, washed and minced
handful of fresh parsley, washed and minced
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine (See headnote for substitutions)
3 large, ripe tomatoes, washed and diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
ground white pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a Dutch Oven or large saute pan. Add the onion, sprinkle the salt over it and saute until soft and slightly translucent, about 5 minutes. Arrange the chicken breasts over the onion and sprinkle salt, pepper, minced basil and minced parsley over the chicken.
Mix together the chicken stock, wine, vinegars and lemon then pour into the pan. Bring liquids to a boil then cover and simmer gently for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, seed and chop the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in a bowl, add the olive oil and white pepper and mix together.
Remove the lid from the pan and check the chicken. If it’s finished cooking, remove the breasts and place them in a shallow serving bowl. If not, leave them in the pan and allow all the ingredients to simmer for another 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. If you haven’t already, place the chicken breasts in a large, shallow bowl. Pour in the onions and sauce. Ladle the tomatoes over the chicken and serve immediately with a side of couscous.
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons oregano
tzatziki, for serving
4 individual pitas, optional
2 tomatoes, sliced, optional
For the tzatziki
8 ounces plain yogurt, excess water drained
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon dried mint
dash of salt
Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and oregano in a small bowl. Place the chicken cubes in a medium-sized bowl and pour the marinade over top. Cover the bowl, place it in the refrigerator and allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dried mint and salt and refrigerate the tzatziki.
Preheat the grill.
Using metal skewers, insert the cubes of chicken lengthwise on each skewer, leaving a little room between each chunk of meat. Place the skewers on the hot grill and cook for approximately 5 to 10 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. Remove the skewers from the grill and place on a platter. Serve immediately with a side of tzatziki sauce and optional pita and tomato.
CHICKEN AND MUSHROOM PUFF PIE
1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups chicken stock
¾ cup low fat milk
¼ cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons flour
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
½ cup pearl onions, peeled and halved
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 sheet puff pastry
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If using frozen puff pastry, unfold and defrost one sheet of pastry.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, poach the chicken in 2 cups of stock. Strain the poaching liquid, add the milk, extra ¼ cup stock and flour. Whisk together and then set aside. Allow the chicken to cool before cutting it into small cubes or pieces.
In a large frying pan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, onions and mushrooms and cook until softened. Pour in the liquid and the cubed chicken and stir the ingredients together. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper, stir and allow the filling to cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
Place the puff pastry on a cutting board. Using a pie pan as your guide, trim the pastry so that it fits over the pan. Once the pastry is trimmed, butter the bottom and sides of pan. Spoon the heated chicken and mushroom filling into the pan. Lay the pastry over the top of the filling. Bake at 350 degrees for roughly 20 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and turned a golden brown. Serve immediately.
TARRAGON CHICKEN SALAD
From Gourmet Magazine June 2003
4 cups cubed (½ inch) cooked chicken (about 1¾ lb)
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 celery rib, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices (1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 cups halved seedless green grapes
¾ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
12 slices of whole grain bread
Toss together all ingredients in a large bowl until combined well. Serve between slices of whole grain bread.
June 16th, 2011 § § permalink
I’ve had the amazing fortune of getting good grub around the globe. Anywhere my travels have taken me, I’ve found extraordinary places to eat. Some have been casual and inexpensive. Others have been upscale and costly. Yet, they all have served creative, flavorful, good quality food.
Since I do encounter so many great dining spots, l feel as though I should pass along some favorites. To kick off these periodic, brief reviews, I’ll share a bit about a restaurant at which I recently ate, Fish in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Located in the home of Asbury Park’s first post office and outfitted in wood and earth tones, Fish possesses a clean, contemporary atmosphere and an inspired but pricey menu.
As the name would suggest, Fish specializes in seafood. Clams, cockles, mussels, black cod, octopus, fluke and bronzini all make their way to the tables. Likewise, more familiar names such as shrimp, scallops, salmon, tuna, halibut, lobster and crab turn up in appetizers, pastas and entrees.
Among the delicious seafood dishes tried by my friends and me were mahi with mashed potatoes, asparagus and tomatoes (pictured above) and peekytoe crab tagliatelle with peas, shallots, mascerpone cream and a sunny-side up egg. Not to be left out, the meat-lover in the group enjoyed a mixed grill of chicken, chorizo and flat iron steak with a piquant chimicurri sauce.
Surprisingly, the only miss of the night was my usual standby — lobster mac ‘n’ cheese. Perhaps it was the heatwave. Perhaps it was the gouda and jack cheese sauce. Perhaps it was having it so many times in the past. Whatever the cause, we all agreed that this entree lacked pizazz. Nonetheless, Fish still provided a noteworthy dining experience, one that I would happily repeat again.
June 13th, 2011 § § permalink
Ask me to bake a cake and I can whip up something in a snap. Ask me to decorate that cake, to make it cute and whimsical, and I start to panic. As much as I love a bit of kitsch in the kitchen, I’m a disaster at making food fun. My smiley face pancakes will make you cry. Swan napkins? Complete ugly ducklings. Yet, somehow I’ve managed to recreate many of the adorable cupcakes featured in Karen Tack’s and Alan Richardson’s Hello Cupcake (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008) and What’s New, Cupcake? (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010).
Similar to its predecessor, What’s New, Cupcake? offers an assortment of clever but easy cupcake designs. Along with the ducks pictured on its cover, it provides steps for constructing dogs, squirrels, skunks, moose, flamingos, crocodiles, hippos, polar bears and walruses. Animals not your favorite? How about chrysanthemums, roses, apples, golf greens, badminton shuttlecocks, karaoke microphones and ants on a picnic? Follow Tack’s and Richardson’s concise instructions and you can craft any of these.
Since I’m a sucker for Halloween, I first tried jack-o-lanterns. Smart move as these proved to be among the easiest cupcakes in the book. Simply tint store-bought vanilla frosting with orange food coloring and cocoa powder and pipe the colored frosting in rows on top of the cupcakes. Soften Tootsie Rolls and yellow Starbursts in the microwave, roll them out and cut them into eyes, noses and mouths. Place the cut outs on each frosted cupcake. Shove a pretzel twist into space above the eyes and you’ve got a stem and a finished jack-o-lantern.
Elaborate items, such as stuffed turkeys and blow-up lawn santas, are unquestionably time consuming. However, thanks to clear steps, illustrations and photographs in What’s New, Cupcake?, they aren’t all that difficult. As the cover of the first book states, these are “irresistibly playful creations that anyone can make.” Believe me, if I can turn a plain cupcake into an angry rat or plump, playful ghost, you can, too.
While I adore the creativity of these cupcakes, I don’t love the reliance upon store-bought frostings. In the case of “hound dogs” I ended up substituting homemade chocolate ganache for the required canned chocolate icing. The resulting hound dog looked the same but tasted fresher and more chocolaty than the ones slathered in commercially-produced frosting. Nonetheless, store-bought is much simpler and can be more consistent than homemade so, unless you have the extra time and a fool-proof recipe, stick with the requirements in What’s New, Cupcake?. You’re bound to create cute and clever cupcakes and have some fun in the kitchen, too.
June 10th, 2011 § § permalink
They sat glistening in the sun like a display of amethysts at Tiffany’s. One look and I knew that I had to have them. No, they weren’t sparkly earrings, strappy sandals or the latest handbags from Elaine Arsenault. They were one of nature’s gems, purple asparagus.
Unlike white asparagus, which is merely green asparagus that hasn’t seen the light of day, purple asparagus hails from the Albenga region of Italy. There farmers propagated seeds from hardy, opened female plants, producing a variety known as Violetto d’ Albenga. With this variety the stalks grow larger but there are fewer of them. Although its stems appear purple in color, its feathery leaves remain green. Similar to other asparagus, Its flesh ranges from pale green to white.
Twenty percent higher in sugar than its green counterpart, purple asparagus possesses a mildly sweet taste. Due to its low fiber content it’s also tenderer than green and white asparagus. These differences in taste and texture make purple asparagus perfect for raw salads. When blanched alongside its green and white relations, it then can be chopped, tossed and dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
As with all asparagus, look for firm, plump, straight spears that snap when bent. The tips should be compact. Skip those with loose or slimy tips or shriveled, rubbery stalks.
To store, I snap off about an inch from the bottom of the stalks. I then pour an inch of water into a small bowl and, standing the asparagus upright in the water, refrigerate the vegetables. You can also wrap the bottoms of the asparagus in a wet paper towel and slide the bundle into your crisper. Wrapped and refrigerated, they’ll keep for three days. Resting in water, they’ll keep for up to a week.
Although asparagus is available year-round, its natural growing season is spring. In the case of purple asparagus you probably have missed the chance to buy it locally this year. However, many grocery stores now import this variety from Peru and elsewhere.
SIMPLE PURPLE ASPARAGUS
1½ lb purple asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon ground white pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Steam the asparagus on a steamer rack set over boiling water, covered, until just tender, 2 to 5 minutes (depending on thickness), then transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels. Place on an oval serving platter.
Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil in a small bowl. Drizzle the dressing over the asparagus spears and serve.
June 6th, 2011 § § permalink
With grilling season in full swing I’m sharing another quality cookbook devoted to the barbecue. Back in April I had raved about Francis Mallman’s Seven Fires Grilling the Argentinian Way (Artisan, 2009). Today Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue Planet! (Workman, 2010) has captured my attention and my trusty Coleman. Covering six continents and 60 countries, Planet Barbecue! is aimed not only at globetrotting but also at curious cooks. Filled with color photos and over 300 global recipes, it provides a fascinating glimpse at how people around the world grill food.
If you like to grill, you’ve probably encountered Steven Raichlen in one form or another. He hosts the PBS cooking series “Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen,” possesses a line of grill tools and seasonings, blogs about grilling and writes award-winning cookbooks on – what else – grilling. He’s been called ‘America’s grill expert.’ After reading and cooking from Planet Barbecue! I understand why. This is a highly comprehensive yet user-friendly book.
Planet Barbecue! starts with a brief discourse on the discovery of fire and beginnings of barbecuing. After providing a time line as well suggestions for eco-conscious grilling, it moves into techniques and recipes. Here barbecued starters, salads, breads, meats, poultry, seafood, vegetables and desserts all get their due.
What I’ve found particularly appealing are the sections on grilled salads and breads. Too often I just grill peppers, eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes and serve them with a splash of lemon juice and olive oil. I overlook the fact that, by chopping my veg and adding a few herbs, spices and uncooked vegetables to them, I can create a vibrant salad. A perfect example is Raichlen’s grilled eggplant salad with Jerusalem flavors, which features grilled tomato and eggplant as well as garlic, walnuts, parsley, Greek yogurt and tahini. It’s quick, easy and much more intriguing than my usual barbecued vegetable offerings.
The chapter on grilled breads has equally piqued my interest. As Raichlen points out, baking bread over fire is not a new technique; archeological evidence indicates that as far back as 2600 B.C. people cooked bread over charcoal. Even today South American arepas, Indian papadoms, Turkish pide and South African rooster brood are made this way. Thanks to the inclusion of basic dough recipes and bread grilling tips, I can create these special breads on my own grill.
As one might expect, the cookbook does address such barbecue standards as ribs, steaks, burgers and kebabs. However, the burgers are as likely to be Balkan grilled veal and pork burgers as they are to be classic American hamburgers. The kebabs? They could come in the form of chicken or shrimp or the more exotic lamb, goat or mashed potatoes, the last of which is also known as “knish on a stick.” That’s one of the many aspects that I love about Raichlen’s book — I receive ample portions of both the familiar and the exotic, all for my grill.
June 3rd, 2011 § § permalink
Thanks to a recent and premature East Coast heatwave, I’ve already started thinking of ways to beat the summer heat. While I could always spend the day in a frigid Starbucks or hovering over our struggling window air conditioner, I do have a few other, less radical tricks for staying cool this summer. As you might expect, they involve food and plenty of it.
You may have heard how in Morocco, India and other steamy or arid lands folks cool off with hot and spicy foods. Steaming hot teas are especially popular for they hydrate and make the consumers sweat. Keep on drinking and hydrating. Keep on sweating and cooling off. Truthfully, I’m not a fan of the ‘hot drinks and food in summer’ practice. Give me a icy glass of water, a little cold soup and I’m chillin’.
That brings me to the first food trick, chilled soups. Sometimes referred to as “liquid salads,” cold vegetable soups do wonders for heat sufferers around the globe. In Spain and Portugal the overheated reach for red gazpacho and ajo blanco, a garlic-almond soup sometimes referred to as ‘white gazpacho.’ In Eastern Europe it’s purplish, beet-laden borscht and chlodnik that soothes the masses. Chlodnik features grated beets, cucumbers, onions, radishes, dill and yogurt, which turns the soup an eye-popping pink. In the Mediterranean diners refresh themselves with several variations of an iced, yogurt-cucumber-garlic-mint soup. Turks call it cacik. Greeks call it tzatziki. I call it good.
Trick number two? Frozen desserts. Often it’s sorbet, that energizing and non-fat, iced fruit puree that has been dished out in France since the 17th century. Other days it’s the Italian relative, granita. Consisting of one part sugar to four parts water and/or fruit juice, coffee or wine, granita possesses a coarse, crystalline texture that sets it apart from the velvety sorbet. Crunchy or smooth, these are two indulgences that always satisfy.
While I usually skip the thirst-inducing gelatos, custards and ice creams, I do have a weakness for another childhood summer sweet — strawberry yogurt pie. A bit kitschy but always a favorite, this frozen treat never fails to beat the heat.
Until the next heatwave . . .
PAT HUNT’S STRAWBERRY YOGURT PIE
2 1/2 (6-ounce) containers of strawberry yogurt
1 (8-ounce) container of Lite Cool Whip
1 store-bought graham cracker pie crust
1 handful of fresh strawberries, washed, trimmed and halved
In a medium-sized bowl mix together the strawberry yogurt and Cool Whip until well-combined. Pour the filling into the graham cracker pie crust, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until lightly set. Remove the pie and place the halved strawberries around the edge of the crust. Cover again and return to the freezer where the pie should remain until frozen. Remove 30 minutes before serving so that the pie thaws slightly and is easier to cut and consume.
KITCHEN KAT’S STRAWBERRY YOGURT PIE
If you have a little extra time, try this version, too.
For the graham cracker crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1/2 cup organic strawberry puree (1/2 pint of organic strawberries blitzed in a blender or food processor)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup organic, vanilla yogurt
1 (8-ounce container) Cool Whip
handful of fresh, organic strawberries, washed, trimmed and halved
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and butter until well-blended. Spread over and press into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven.
Mix together the puree, sugar, yogurt and Cool Whip. Pour the filling into the graham cracker pie crust, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or until lightly set. Remove the pie and place the halved strawberries around the edge of the crust. Cover again and return to the freezer where the pie should remain until frozen. Remove 30 minutes before serving so that the pie thaws slightly and is easier to cut and consume.