Friday, August 31, 2007

Slow week Friday tagging

I am devoting my Saturday and Sunday to the beach. The weather looks to be gorgeous and I know there will be precious few more days to bronze myself for the pale months to come. However, in order to avoid the crushing traffic I anticipate on Monday, I will stay closer to home, and closer to my kitchen (though my mother and I were promised a personal shopping experience at the greenmarket were we to show up on Monday).

I'm definitely going to make my belated attempt at daring bakitude, I need to jam my sugarplums, and I a friend's birthday is on Tuesday, so I think I'll be whipping something up (and just now as I wrote that the final idea presented itself - yippee!). But there are some things from this week's tagging that might also find their way into the agenda (I'm looking at you plum crumble).

Caramelized Tomatoes on Gnocchi - this looks like a great dinner I could even whip up on Sunday night or something. It will necessitate another trip to the market this afternoon to supplement my tomato stocks, but I like a good gnocchi as much as the next girl.

Grilled Merguez with Prune Chutney - I do have a lot of plums hanging around - I just wish the chutney would last longer. Do you think it would freeze? The merguez is a little more difficult to source as I've only ever found it at the market on Saturday, and I hate going to the market on Saturdays (especially when it interferes with waning beach time), so maybe I'll make the chutney, experiment with freezing it, and pick a rainy Saturday to find the sausage.

Plum Crumble - The man of the house is a big defender of crumble. It is the primary bargaining tool I have when looking up at him with my puppy dog eyes and suggesting a full day of apple picking. He's not the biggest of plum fans, but perhaps the crumble will sway him.

Apricot Chestnut Tart Tatin - I have halved and frozen the last of the Red Jacket apricots. I don't see how this recipe would suffer by using the frozen fruit and I'm always looking for something to do with my chestnut flour (when I'm not being overly ambitious and making chestnut fettuccine or something like that). If I do decide to use the frozen apricots, I can hold off on this recipe for a bit.

Strawberry Dessert Quartet - No recipes here, but it's gorgeous. I don't have a lot of interest in eating dinner at Jean Georges (I've heard from trusted sources that it could be better), but now I want to go for dessert and have this (it will somehow make all the times his people have beaten me to the market for strawberries seem, if not ok, then barely tolerable).

Can This - Part 2 (photos to come)

Phillips Farm has been offloading their raspberries recently for truly remarkable prices (5 1/2 pints for 10 dollars?!?), and I knew something had to be done with this bounty. Raspberries are reliable freezers and both of my freezers at home now have containers full of them (for those lonely January nights when even the apples are now mealy), but 5 of the half-pints recently acquired have done their duty and become jam. Specifically, seeded red raspberry jam infused with fresh rosemary.

After pulping the raspberries slightly I heated them to just below boiling at which point I dropped about three stems of tied up rosemary, covered the pot and let the steeping commence. In retrospect I should have steeped longer, but I'm impatient like that. The final product has more of a hint of rosemary as opposed to an undercurrent.

I've never made jams before, so I'm still working out the right amount of pectin. My batch of strawberry had the right consistency, but I used granulated sugar which clumped in places. For the raspberry I used too much pectin, causing the jam to be a little more like Jello, than jam, but superfine sugar, so no clumps.

I also olive oil packed my delicious maroon peppers, duly roasted. If I can keep a certain someone's hands from these savory creations, our winter might not be so potato and turnip heavy!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sweet Sweet Corn

It took me until the last possible day, and now I'm hoping they continue it into September, but the sweet corn custard from the Shake Shack was everything I wanted it to be.

When I ordered for two, one for me and one for a friend, the Shake Shacker asked if we'd ever had it before and then suggested we try before we buy. In my estimation this did not bode well. However, when offered the two test spoons, we bravely ate, and were astounded that there might be people out there who didn't really adore it.

It was, for lack of a better word, corny. It tasted like corn but without an aftertaste (unless you burped a half hour later in which case, well, it was a burp that tasted of corn). The consistency was great, much better than any I have achieved at home where, even after pushing the corn liquid through the chinois 3-4 times, there's still, well, that vague corn consistency. I detected none of that in this ice cream.

It tasted of late summer, and yesterday was, admittedly a great late summer day. I never managed to get down to the Shack on a Sunday to try apricot, but I was pretty pleased with my homemade apricot ice cream. We'll have to see what September brings!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I Want to be a Daring Baker

I am a lurker. A shameless, shameless lurker. But one who is full of wonder.

Every month I patiently await the Daring Bakers Challenge, finding it so fascinating and wonderful that a group of bakers around the world have found a forum within which to experiment. The results are so different and each so lovely (yes, even the mistakes are wonderful) that it becomes my favorite day of the month when the posts are revealed.

Today, however, I wonder if I might cease my ceaseless lurking. I have a small home on the internet now. A poorly trafficked, mostly self-indulgent home, but a home nonetheless. Perhaps this coterie would accept my humble application to join their ranks and perhaps next month I could dare a little. In the meantime, these were the tarts that appealed most to me this month (and yes, my tastes skew to the modern):

- Alpineberry's tart is simple and unadorned and the mousse and caramel layers look really well defined and seem to be the perfect consistency.

- Foodbeam's individual tarts with spun sugar have a beautiful lip caused by the protrusion of the crust (I must find out how everyone else in the world removes tarts from mini tart pans without breakage, because I can never manage it).

- vanille & chocolat's look just about ready for a pastry case (again, my knife skills must be utterly lacking as I either smush or rip when I try to cut in straight lines - perhaps it's a continuation of being unable to paint within the lines).

- the barmy baker found the perfect piece of broken caramel with which to adorn this slice of tart. I also found her step by step photos gorgeous and I liked that she too makes fingerprints in her tart shells when filling them.

- but Dessert First is my favorite because I, too, am a sucker for the long rectangular tart pans. I don't have one, but I'm getting one as soon as I finish this post.

So thank you, Daring Bakers, for inspiring me to make this tart over the weekend. Know you'll be receiving a letter from me soon asking if there's room for one more.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bed Picnic

I love 'em, he hates 'em. I know why I love picnics in bed, though. I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment on the upper east side and my parents' bedroom was in the living room. They ate in bed all the time, really complex meals like hot dogs, french fries, and baked beans, while watching Miss America, the Yankees, or dad's favorite Entertainment Tonight. When my brother and I got to eat dinner in their bed it was the kind of fun that only emerges from something you know you're not supposed to be doing - eating in bed. My mother would lay out towels so we wouldn't spill on their sheets and I don't remember what we did with our glasses, but I do remember fighting with my brother over the fries and the feeling that while our living situation might have been less than ideal, we were a family that loved each other and managed not to kill one another even though we shared one bathroom and gave little thought to modesty.

So now I live in a much bigger apartment in a much worse neighborhood and we still manage to eat all our meals in bed. The living room is both uncomfortable and un-airconditioned, and there's no real table to speak of suitable for plates - also that table is more of a storage piece than a dining piece. We're getting a new couch in a couple of weeks and, its comfort pending, I might be convinced to eat more meals out of bed, but sitting cross-legged across from the man I love seems more intimate than sitting side by side on a couch hunched over a coffee table.

Friday afternoon I was craving something luxurious, I almost wanted to go out to dinner save for the fact that Friday at 3 is no time to go searching for Friday at 8 reservations and I hadn't taken a shower and I was wearing jeans, an Old Navy T, and flip flops. So instead I decided we'd have the Catalan tomato sandwiches from Figs Olives Wine. Whole Foods, for those keeping score, does not carry Serrano ham. After a couple of phone calls, however, it was determined that Citarella did and so I took the subway two stops during a late lunch break to pick up provisions including, the ham, the bread (a pugliese), and some unthought of delicacies. I thought there should be some variety so I bought a St. Marcellin cheese and a small hunk of foie gras.

So that evening, we spread out on our bed and started slicing bread. I had a box of unusual dark red, almost purple, larger than cherry, smaller than plum tomatoes leftover from Wednesday's market, and we destroyed those utterly as we ground them into our bread. The taste was perfect, and the foie and cheese were nice alternates as well - not as good as the oozing-with-unctuous-yellow-fat foie I had in France when last I visited (it was the only time I think I have ever played the "guest" card with my friends and took them up on their offer to finish up the last of the foie grsa).

We drank an absolutely fantastic rose which, obviously, I can now not find. A 2006 vin gris from producer Robert Sinskey which was so light in color as to be an almost yellow/peach color, and which was a perfect accompaniment to our sandwiches.

We were relaxed, we were looking forward to a weekend of few responsibilities, it was a good picnic.

And I didn't have two bratty kids trying to steal all the good food. Sorry mom and dad!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another week, another assortment of tags

While I await more of can this this weekend, here's what I looked at this week:

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake with Caramelized Figs - Notwithstanding the fig ordering debacle, I think there are still enough salvageable figs to make this this weekend. If only the man of the house loved figs as I do...

Madeleines - One can really never have too many recipes, especially if one, say, is a new eponymous shop that has opened in New York whose madeleines tasted quite similar to sponge or rubber.

Fig Almond Tartelettes - But do I have enough usable figs to make this as well? I fear not as I really am crazing fig ice cream, seconded by chocolate fig cake. Perhaps I'll take a chance at the figs from the corner or Whole Foods.

Catalan Tomato Bread
- Dear god, this is tonight's dinner. I must find Serrano ham asap! Holy crap it looks good.

Tomato Confiture - Damn - I didn't make it to the market this morning, maybe I'll sneak out now.

Pistachio Cherry Financiers - Mmmmm, sour cherry season is pretty much over. Next year?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Tale of Two Fruit Deliveries

From October through March, I have the good fortune of spending my money on beautiful California citrus (and a couple of pomegranates as well). The farm, Rising C. Ranches, provides me with awesome Meyer lemons, pink lemons, various limes, and the amazing Moro blood oranges. I may well buy 150 pounds of citrus per season. The stuff shows up when I schedule it too, they make arrangements to ship on specific days so that it can arrive on specific days, occasionally they throw in a sample of something I haven't ordered before (Bergamot anyone?), and are generally really attentive and customer driven. And not really all that expensive when you remember that Meyer lemons can top 5 bucks a pound at various fancy markets.

This summer I wanted figs. We really aren't in the proper climate for local figs, so I looked westward again. I only found two places shipping fresh black mission figs, and I chose the less expensive of the two. And less expensive is a highly relative term. The price range for a single box of figs was 8-20 dollars - per pint sized box, so I was pretty hopeful that the money would be well spent. I called the company before I placed my order to determine what shipping company they used so that I could prepare for the delivery on my side (I know the driver for one of the shipping companies and he arranges to personally schedule delivery times with me to ensure I am there to receive packages - I love you Terrence, man!). After being assured that all was copacetic, I placed my order while trying to inwardly justify the price.

Then I plotted the wonderful things I was going to do with my bounty: would I make a chocolate fig cake like the one the pastry chef at Grocery was once known for? Would I make fig ice cream, fig tart, fig cheesecake? I was psyched for whatever would get made and also pretty jacked for merely sinking my teeth into the first fig savoring the texture and the taste.

The first thing that went wrong was that my shipping confirmation arrived with tracking information for the other shipping company, the one I didn't have a personal relationship, the one that was under no obligation to wait until I was home from work before delivering. The farm was closed so I called the shipping company and mercifully was allowed to waive the signature requirement over the phone and authorize the leaving of the package on my doorstep unattended.

So I got home yesterday evening to find that my nice next door neighbor had taken the box from my unattended doorstep into her apartment and now gave it back to me, demurring when I offered her some figs of her own. I eagerly opened the box.

The first thing I noticed was that the pound of pluots I had thrown onto the order on a whim were packed in a plastic bag wrapped in paper and tossed next to a large box full of figs. So, basically, completely vulnerable to the movement that is national shipping. As a result, each was severely bruised and battered and susceptible to bacteria. In other words, I wasn't eating them. I opened the box within the box to find my figs which were packed very well atop several cool packs. Unfortunately, the cool packs weren't insulated and condensation was everywhere. Moisture content is the enemy.

The figs, upon first glance, looked fine. I started unpacking them to remove any that were moisture damaged and to make the others were toweled off to prevent spoilage. What greeted me was truly disheartening. In each of the seven boxes I bought, 1/3-1/2 of the figs were unusable. Some had holes that looked astonishingly similar to animal teeth marks; some were so overripe they had burst, and yes, some were already molding. Of those that were salvageable, more than half were way riper than I thought they should have been given the mandatory next day shipping requirement which, for me, implied that they were picked and packed on the same day.

I angrily called the company and to its credit I was refunded for about half of the figs, but they sounded both suspicious and uncaring. Much as they were when I mentioned the shipping company issue and was asked, "well what do you want me to do?" Uh, lady, an apology might be a good start. I tasted my first fig and it was ordinary. I'm still going to use the salvageable ones and be happy for fresh figs of any stripe, but I'm looking at the guy on the corner with the 2 dollar boxes of figs with more friendliness in my gaze.

I haven't named names here because I'm not out to ruin someone's business. Perhaps got a bum crop and a bum customer service representative, and I certainly don't need to prejudice anyone based on my experience (an experience that will not be repeated, mind you, and the idea of repeating it filled me with suppressed mirth as the representative asked me if I wanted the credit back on my credit card or applied to a future order - as if), but you'll be able to figure it out based on the limited number of people selling figs, if you are so inclined. I was just really pissed and really disappointed.

But do check out Rising C. Ranches - they're amazing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can This - Day 1

An out of the ordinary Monday morning market trip (made in order to get greengage plums which were nowhere to be found, despite insider information to the contrary) convinced me that the time had come to do something with the sixteen tons of produce already taking up space in my fridge.

Completely unsuitable salad tongs in hand, I commenced an afternoon/evening of canning.

Step 1: Strawberry Preserves

Using the pectin that has been sitting on my shelf for quite some time and the two overflowing pints of strawberries that can be classed as past their prime yet edible. I made my first ever jam. Obviously, if, in several months' time, you hear one of those cautionary reports on CNN "New Yorkers found dead of freak home canning botulism incident," you'll know I was unsuccessful. In the meantime, I'm keeping the dream alive.

Step 2: Roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes

Using nothing more than a brownie pan, olive oil, and sea salt, I transformed these perfectly edible tomatoes into a swirling mass of future bread topping.

Step 3: Find inner Martha

Some time ago Martha Stewart reminded us of how much fun it could be to make things at home and put labels on them. I scoffed at the time, and then found myself this evening, futzing with Photoshop to create something kicky to affix to my ball jars.

Step 4: Plan ahead

One may be stopping at the Container Store tomorrow to pick up additional glassware so that one might preserve ones really cool peppers, create apricot and peach preserves, and generally feel like a person for whom the thought of scalding hot water and food toxins is exhilarating.

Friday, August 17, 2007

For someone who's iffy on tagging

I surely seem to do it a lot.

Nectarine Upside-Down Cake: So much stone fruit, so little time. I might wait until I have yellow nectarines. The white ones I bought this week are a little too sweet without enough tang to sustain a good cake.

Mirabelle Plum and Pistachio Tart: I haven't seen Mirabelles at the market, but I think greengage plums would work just as well.

Spicy Corn Fritters: Mmm...with grilled flank steak and a tall glass of lemonade. How I do love summer.

Prickly Pear Sorbet: Does anyone know where I can buy a prickly pear? I tried the Prickly Pear puree from Perfect Purees but thought they added way too much sugar. Also, they are so much more expensive than the Boiron purees that I'm sort of boycotting on principle - their purees aren't organic, just expensive.

Plum Galette: Making this this afternoon with Wednesday's elephant plums.

Apricot and Olive Oil Crust Tart: I needed this recipe three weeks ago at the height of apricot season. Ah well, filed away for next year.

Some Wines: I am especially interested to try the Saumur-Champigny as I really love the Roches-Neuves version.

Yellow Gazpacho
: Because I too am a sucker for the grilled cheese and tomato soup at Bouchon Bakery.

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes in Oil: I buy way too many tomatoes for this not to be useful. Now I just need more mason jars.

Five Minute Tomato Sauce: So useful. I hate the idea that if I read a recipe that calls for tomato sauce I'm generally shit out of luck.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Market Wednesday

The folks at the office think I might be a little crazy. Every Wednesday morning, I show up groaning beneath the weight of my bag (and sometimes some other bags) because I have just spent the past hour shuffling around the Union Square Greenmarket. This is a weekly date I have with my mother (ok sometimes it's twice weekly) and both of us have severe difficulty in keeping to any sort of plan.

Case in point, this morning I had two items I had to buy: potatoes and blackberries. Now, while it is true that I bought both of those things, it would be an appalling understatement to claim that this was all I bought. Enter

1 box tiny red cherry tomatoes
1 box sungold tomatoes
2 boxes tristar strawberries
1 raisin walnut bread
1 dozen large brown eggs
2 pounds elephant plums
1.5 pounds white nectarines

My fridge is a fruit fly's wet dream. I am still eating fruit from last week, but I simply can't resist - it's all just too beautiful and all just too fleeting. Behold a small sampling of the market's bounty.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Drowned and the Saved

I may have made the best chocolate ice cream ever.

When it came out of the ice cream maker and I took a bite, I was sort of astounded. When the man of the house ate it he said he thought it was the best chocolate ice cream he had ever eaten. And we eat far too much ice cream for our own good around these parts.

It's mostly David Lebovitz with some adjustments which I include below:

Chocolate Ice Cream
adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
500ml heavy cream
21 g unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
90 g semi-sweet chocolate (I used Callebaut)
50 g very bittersweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 70%)
250 ml whole milk
150 g vanilla sugar
5 large egg yolks
dash of vanilla extract

I had attempted chocolate ice cream recipes before with all bittersweet chocolate but had found that it became too rich and, for some of its tasters (though not for me), not sweet enough. The above combination was perfect.

After gobbling a fair bit of it down au naturel, I thought I might make one of my favorite beverages. Since I must, at every opportunity, justify the cost of the prettiest toy in my arsenal,

I decided to make an affogato with my ice cream. Simply put, pour espresso over ice cream, stir, drink. I used Illy espresso pods, though if anyone knows where I can get a hold of the Lavazza ones, I would be appreciative as I like them as well. Here is how a bill becomes a law:

P.S. Please notice how perfectly the glass matches the espresso maker. I found a set in a shop in Dijon and knew it was destined to be mine.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Winging It

I saw short ribs at the market this morning and I wanted them. I have never made short ribs before, but have greatly enjoyed eating them. I just got it into my head that what I really wanted to make for Sunday's dinner was short rib ravioli. It would allow me to use my pasta roller for something other than a paperweight and it would be something new - something I was sure the man of the house would enjoy eating.

And since I couldn't find a recipe that was exactly what I wanted, I decided to give it a go on my own. for posterity's sake, and the sakes of anyone else who finds him or herself beset by this selfsame hankering, I give you the recipe.

Braised Short Ribs

200 grams mirepoix
2 cloves garlic
4 short ribs of beef (each weighing approximately 300 grams/10 oz)
500 grams (1 lb.) assorted heirloom tomatoes (black cherry, green grape, and some cool red one)
75 ml olive oil
375 ml (half a bottle) decent red wine (leftover from overbuying at Passover)
400 ml beef stock
spoonful of veal demiglace
bunches of rosemary, oregano, and thyme
hit of cognac
s&p to taste

Season ribs with s&p. Heat oil in a pan that can go in your oven (used my cast iron dutch oven, but theoretically one could use a cast iron pan and aluminum foil or pretty much anything by Le Creuset). When oil is really quite hot, brown the ribs on all sides - really truly brown them. I did mine for about 17 minutes. Take out ribs.

Put in mirepoix and garlic and cook until onions (or shallots, or leeks) are browned. Add some more s&p and then add stock, wine, and splash of cognac; take your beautiful tomatoes and mercilessly crush them into pan, skin, juice, seeds, and all, and add herbs (in cheesecloth or simply tied with kitchen twine). Make sure browned meaty bits get off the bottom of the pan and into your mixture. Cook this until it boils and toss your ribs back in.

Cover your pot/pan and stick in oven (350 - it is a strange day full of unusual delights that sees me set my oven to anything else - also I'm convinced that even though I have two oven thermometers strategically placed at different points in the oven that it still registers 25 degrees below actual temperature). I cooked mine for 5 hours because I really didn't want to ass around with meat still on the bone. I just abandoned my creation to its inevitable deformation and thought about dessert for a while, or more accurately, pasta dough.

Pasta Dough
4 large eggs
250 grams flour (the normal kind)

You know the drill: make flour well add eggs slowly incorporating until what you have looks like pasta dough (not flaky, not slimy - the perfect in between). Refrigerate until it doesn't immediately fall apart in your hands, and until your filling has been made and sufficiently chilled, and then put through pasta roller until desired thickness is achieved (I used the setting 5).

I made square ravioli because I don't have one of those kickass fluted dough cutters like my mom. Take thin dough - cut into strips. Put braised short rib yumminess into center of strips for as many ravioli as you think you can get out of your strip (remembering that if you want your ravioli to shut you will need some room around the edges). Affix second strip to first strip and cut out your squares, sealing with fingers.

Reduce meaty/tomato-ey/boozy/herby yumminess meat was cooked in until it tastes like something you'd want to pour over your ravioli.

Heat much heavily salted water until boiling, drop in ravioli, cook to desired tenderness, remove, heap reduced yumminess on top, fresh pepper, cheese, eat.

There were tons of leftovers, as we're only two, and I froze the remaining short rib mush which I think will work great as leftovers over mashed potatoes. The extra dough went into the freezer for the next time I feel like rolling out my own pasta.

Oh, and I made the Apricot Brulee Tart for dessert.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Tag-Tacular

I may have gone a little overboard at the market this morning, but it was the last day for apricots and possibly sour cherries too (though I was promised greengage plums next week). I bought short ribs for a braised short rib ravioli. But while I defrost my ribs and wonder what the rest of the produce will be used for, enjoy the week I tagged.

Apricot Tart Brulee: Since I went overboard (again) on apricots, they will have to go somewhere. This will also enable me to finally unpack my butane torch and frighten the man of the house.

Summer Berry Pudding: I'll admit, there's something slightly odd about summer puddings to me that isn't odd about bread pudding. Perhaps it's that so many summer puddings call for wonder bread, which is gross. I might try this recipe if I baked a brioche to use as the bread. But it was beautiful.

Cream Cheese Brownies: Again, this is not something I would usually make (or like). I have never gotten really into cream cheese brownies, but I believe in trying things again.

Chocolate Pistachio Cake: Chocolate and pistachios, on the other hand, are never far from my mind. This preparation might take a back seat to an Herme recipe I've been drooling over - one that would certainly necessitate some new pistachios. Details to come...

Dulce de Leche Brioche Buns: Hmmmm... perhaps these would go with the summer berry pudding.

Lemon Bars: No, not yet, not citrus already! I banish this recipe to the recesses of my mind until California citrus arrives in four months.

Good value red wine: I love this site; I hate that his favorite wine store is really really inconvenient. Perhaps on the way back from the beach, we'll take the Holland Tunnel instead and stop by.

More Yummy Paris: Stupid waiting till February to go back to Paris. I've been to several of these places before, and I must admit, I was disappointed by L'Etoile D'Or on my last visit (though I did try a hemp flavored chocolate - a little ick). But I need to start fantasizing about my return in 2008, and this is a good place to start.

Chickpea Ragout: Ok. This looks amazing. The man of the house is a staunch supporter of meals involving meat, but he did like Morocco, and this has that North African vibe going on, and everyone loves fried eggs.

Pappa al Pomodoro: I buy too many tomatoes in addition to too many apricots (oh god, I just remembered the 3 pounds of peaches I purchased), so this will become Sunday dinner.

Chocolate Torte: Simple, elegant, delicious looking. I have a favorite flourless chocolate cake, but this early flourless one looks eminently worthy of duplication.

Lavender Jam: Don't know if I'll like it, but I know I'll try it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

More carnage in the kitchen

I often lament that certain delicious things look like chunder when photographed, which is why there will be no picture of the apricot and strawberry clafoutis I threw together last night. Suffice it to say, it would be difficult for such a simple recipe, using such ripe sweet fruit, to produce an untasty result. The apricots overpowered the strawberries a little, but the bites in which both fruits were included were stupendous. I served it to myself with a scoop of the aforementioned apricot ice cream (which could be creamier actually - more fat next time to combat the liquidity of the pulped apricots) and to my more conservative partner in crime with a scoop of his preferred Philadelphia-style vanilla.

Please forgive the imprecision in the following recipe adapted from Julia Child's Cherry Clafoutis recipe (adaptation also responsible for non-metric measurements):

1/3 c. + 1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. whole milk
3 large eggs
1 tsp. (or so) pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
12ish apricots
1 pint strawberries
butter for greasing the pan

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter your oven-safe pan (I used a loaf pan which is a mistake as the cooking time is greatly extended due to the depth of the pan, use something a little shallower). In a blender, or bowl, using a handheld blender, combine the flour, 1/3 c. sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla and salt until smooth and without lumps. Pour enough of the batter into the pan to have an even 1/4 inch on the bottom. Cook until a skin has formed.

Remove pan from oven and add the fruit (chopped into whatever you consider a bite-sized piece) sprinkling the 1/4 c. of sugar over it. Add the rest of the battr and return to the oven. In a shallow pan, check after 40 minutes, though expect to wait up to an hour. If using a loaf pan like me because you like leaving your oven running, expect to wait two hours and then pull it out before it's done anyway. The clafoutis is done when a knife comes out without dripping hot raw batter.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Death of 18 Apricots

I could not keep you all. As plump and juicy and ambrosial as you were, I bought far too many of you. And my weekly Wednesday foray to 14th street fast approaches. I hope you know that I do you great honor, though as you were mashed and cooked and churned you may not have felt it.

Your freshness carried over and your final resting place (or penultimate resting place as soon you will descend into my stomach) is nothing short of evocative. My only regret is that I couldn't scoop you as beautifully as you deserved, even though I ran the scoop under hot water.

Thank you as well to David Lebovitz and the Perfect Scoop for reminding me of the importance of that soupcon of almond extract.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Weekly Wrap-up: What I Tagged This Week

I haven't been sold on the idea of tagging yet. I know people swear by it, but after being an early adopter in my teens and twenties, I'm starting to find myself tired by all the next big things. But, several months ago, at the tail end of the tagging revolution (does anyone know if it has jumped the shark yet?), I dutifully signed up for and started tagging.

Here's the thing, I don't like that my Ice Cream tag is Icecream and that there is no real taxonomy built in (though those in the know have explained that taxonomy and tagging are enemies in a steel cage matchup reminiscent of Spartacus vs. Mothra), but it lets me look back on the things I want to make and the wines I want to try, and for that I'm grateful (though I will be more grateful when next generation tagging emerges with greater functionality).

So here is the week that was:

Guacamole Deviled Eggs: My mouth is having a little difficulty imagining this, but it does like eggs and it does like guacamole. Now I just need an excuse to feed these to others as I'm not quite sure I'd like them halfway through my day on the beach.

Walnut Cakes: I find that my food processor, wonderful though it is, is not quite up to the task of thoroughly pulverizing nuts. This gives my macarons a bit of a speckly look and mouthfeel and I'm going to have to throw in the towel and buy things like pistachio flour and simply look away as the bill is calculated. This recipe seems not to mind the coarse nature of my chopping abilities. I'm thinking it would be lovely to serve it with the Walnut Ice Cream and perhaps a sour cherry compote.

Pear and Hazelnut Bread Pudding: I like pears as much as the next person, perhaps even more, but I am saddened by their recent appearance in recipes. My cup runneth over with every kind of fleeting summer fruit imaginable, and I just can't bring myself to think about apples and pears and the autumn they bring - an autumn bereft of peaches and plums and berries. Still, this looked really good so I'll spirit it away until October beckons.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
: Since Clothilde mentioned the vanilla beans available directly from Mayotte, I must confess I've been using very little vanilla extract and instead heaping vanilla beans into my confections - they're too cheap not to use. Still, I have tons of empty pods in ziploc bags. Yes, I've already chopped many up and infused granulated, superfine, and confectioner's sugar with them, as well as some sea salt, but there are so many more pods to dispose of. I'm thinking that if I use a ton of pods in this preparation, it won't matter if the beans themselves have already found their way, by myriad paths, to my belly.

Homemade Flavored Salts
: Did I just mention the vanilla sea salt? It must have been on my mind when I perused this. I'm trying to decide what flavor I'd like to make first. I'm thinking cardamom or star anise.

Duck Egg al Tegamino: I almost never go to the Union Square market on Saturdays. It is a madhouse. It is also a time when tons more meat purveyors set up shop and when one can get fun eggs (which someone left out at room temperature a little too long and found herself with something very nearing a true abomination). So another Saturday trip is in order.

Chocolate and Cinnamon Ice Cream: I have made chocolate ice cream a hundred different ways, and am sure I could merely add cinnamon to one of my favorites, but I think ice cream benefits from as many different preparations as possible - this one uses many fewer eggs than I would ordinarily - so I'll give it a whirl this weekend (oh crap, and the apricot ice cream, and the blueberry, and the nectarine sorbet - crap crap crap).

Truffle Sandwich Cookies: I won't be using white chocolate ganache because, well, there are things I love more. I'm thinking a dark chocolate and fig ganache, mostly because when I just went outside I saw the street fruit hawkers had figs, and now I'm looking for places to get good ones.

Tomato Confiture: This site is in French, but considering I am 230 pages through Les Bienveillantes and have been working my way through ph10, I'm less intimidated by it than I might have been a year ago. I know tomato season, though just truly getting underway, will end, but before it does, I will swipe bags of the juicy things and preserve them as many ways as I can imagine.

Apricot Granita: Someone else has my problem: "Food waste is inevitable in my fridge. My seasonal affairs with cherries, peaches, tomatoes, anything juicy and ripe, begins with lustful savoring. Best when they're naked and ungussied. Then, it ends with forgetfulness and the shame of neglect until they rot and get chucked into the garbage can when the next weekly, more appealing batch arrives." Ugh - I know exactly what you mean. I have Nicole's strawberries from this week and last week and Red Jacket apricots from this week and last week - I smell clafoutis, ice cream, and free form tart (or juice - sweet, freezable juice).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

SS Thursdays in August

Say what you will about the quality of the burgers and the length of the line, the Shake Shack does do good custard. If you approach the Shack after the lunch rush, say between 3:30 and 4:45 (before people leave work and try to get dinner), you will rarely be waiting more than 5 minutes.

When I checked out the Custard Calendar for August, I was delighted by the choices: Sweet Corn, Summer Peach, Blackberry, Apricot... I commenced my August tasting today and stopped off for a very late lunch: burger - adequate; fries: didn't finish; blackberry custard...


Just not enough blackberry-ness. It was cold and not too sweet, which is good, but it was only vaguely berry flavored. In previous months, I have been very pleased by the Salted Caramel, Pistachio, and Chocolate Peanut Butter, and it occurred to me this might be my first fruit flavor of the year and I had therefore been evaluating the custardliciousness based on the non-fruit offerings.

I, myself, will be crafting some apricot ice cream over the next few days (the Red Jacket apricots are starting to get a little soft at the market), and I'll post my results, but I'm now concerned about the remainder of the August Shake Shack lineup. Did anyone get to try the Sweet Corn yesterday?

Some opening thoughts

I thought there was an idea behind people who didn't know each other going out for good dinners in Manhattan. Not a blind date, not an excuse to get quickly liquored up and quickly paired up, but something for people like me: a person who loves food living with someone who would sooner get a roast beef from the corner bodega than sit beneath a cloth napkin awaiting foie gras torchon with gooseberry compote. My friends told me it was a horrible idea. In retrospect, I imagine they were correct, but the blogger account lingered.

Fast-forward several months. I'm sitting in my dreaded office, surrounded by a leaning tower of greenmarket goodies wishing the office would experience a massive gas leak so I could go home and cook. I spend the useless days reading about food, thinking about food, and planning the food I will make, only to arrive home at 8:00pm, demoralized and exhausted, and calling a handful of tomatoes and leftover cherry clafoutis dinner.

But if I were to write about food throughout the day, perhaps get those dinner ideas out into the ether, it would be almost like cooking them when I got home. Or maybe it would focus me for the weekends when I do cook. Maybe it would motivate me to upgrade my damn digital camera and remember to bring it with me when I go out to eat (because the garganelli at del posto's was arranged in the cutest little windmill pattern). It also, I imagine, will make the day go by a little more quickly, and allow me to put my daydreaming to good use.