Archive for the 'Recipes – Savory' Category

Morel-Feta Pizza and Peach Crisp with Noyaux Ice Cream – Another Market Day

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

I came home from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market today with two kinds of amazingly juicy and flavorful peaches (Spring Crest and an unspecified yellow, 2# each), a bulb of fennel, a bag of three red onions, pickling cucumbers, and a little paper bag with about eight morel mushrooms. I’ve been coveting the morels for a while, but have been deterred by, oh, the extravagance — $12/half #. Turns out that mine were about $3, and the kind mushroom man even threw in a few extra.

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For the peaches, all were dipped in boiling water for a minute before being plunged in an ice bath, cut with an x, and slipped out of their skins. They were both clingstone (as opposed to freestone), so I did my best to extricate as much flesh as possible with my knife. The Spring Crest peaches were mixed with half their weight in sugar and the juice of a lemon; they’ll be boiled into peach preserves tomorrow. For a peach crisp, the other half were mixed with just a couple teaspoons of flour in my beloved Emile Henry pie dish to thicken up the juices (recipe, such as it is in its simple genius, from Chez Panisse Desserts; no added sugar necessary if you’ve got sweet fruit), and baked with a crisp topping — flour, dark brown sugar, oats (ALL crisps need oats, as far as I’m concerned, and no nuts), salt, butter (I have the luxury of having some Echire in my fridge that I’m just dying to get rid of before it goes bad; I’m happy with Challenge butter, too), and cinnamon; I also added a bit of cardamom, black pepper, and dried thyme for intrigue. Baked it until it bubbly, and let it cool down a little. I knew once my serving spoon effortlessly glided through it that it would be just what I wanted.

I pulled some noyaux ice cream that I had out of the freezer to accompany it, because cold ice cream melting into a warm crisp is one of my favorite things in the world. I made it when I had apricot pits to spare from an apricot preserves project. Noyaux are the almond-like kernels found in the middle of stone fruits’ pits. They look like this…

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They impart a slightly bitter almond flavor, much like Amaretto liqueur, which is, in fact, made mainly with noyaux (not almonds). It may seem like a tedious endeavor to get them out, but it’s fun if you’re in the mood. The key is cushioning, because it involves wielding a hammer. Fold a plush dish towel under a cutting board, and fold some paper towels into layers. Scatter a few apricot pits (or peach or cherry) amongst the paper towels on the cutting board, and tap-TAP with a hammer until each cracks open and extricate the nuggets inside. I infused 20 of them in 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk, and 1/3 cup sugar for about half an hour and added a pinch of salt and touch of vodka before chilling and spinning it into ice cream (I’m often leaving the yolks out of my ice cream now for a cleaner flavor; it’s also nice that it’s easier this way). I still have about 25 noyaux leftover from that; they’re in my freezer, but I’m not sure if that will preserve them.

To make candied fennel, the fennel bulb was sliced, poached until tender in water, salt, and lemon juice, and then poached in a weak simple syrup until translucent; method from The French Laundry Cookbook. I’ll have it with the crisp or ice cream/sorbet or yogurt or something over the next month. I was inspired to make this by Carol’s recent post.

The pickling cucumbers will turn into refrigerator pickles in the next couple days, and the red onions will also be pickled.

And now… morel pizza talk. I was craving pizza last night, but in a moment of lucidity, $15 for a delivered pizza seemed a little outrageous. I had instant dry yeast, flour, salt, and water, so there was no excuse for me not to make it myself. I used a drop-dead easy recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. You just mix the ingredients together (I subbed 10% of the flour with whole wheat flour; and he suggests chilling the flour before mixing), divide the dough into pieces, shape them into balls, and chill (or put in oiled bags in your freezer and defrost a day in advance of baking). Then, you take out however much you want over a three day period, and put it on the counter 2 hrs before you want to eat (so that it can fully proof). Fire up your oven as high as it will go, shape the dough using your best impression of a pizzeria worker, and bake for about 8 minutes. Since the chill in the fridge slows the growth of the yeast, the flavor is deeper/smoother and the texture creamier than a shorter, more laborious method.

I admit, though, that sometimes drop-dead easy isn’t enough for me. I kind of messed it up… before saving it. The recipe calls for 20 oz flour and much less water, but in a fog of carefree ease, I added 20 oz of water, too. I discovered that after the dough was supposed to be done mixing. Sure, it had looked suspiciously wet, but I’ve seen many wet doughs pull themselves together eventually. This one was still wet… and pretty tough with gluten when I pulled an ear to check it. So, I did some quick math, and added the appropriate amounts of flour, salt, and yeast to fix it. I mixed it in a stand mixer to integrate it, but I was concerned that that the gluten already formed was getting too strong, so I kneaded it by hand to even it. It’s pretty hard to over-knead a batch of dough by hand, so I hope that I closed the gap some between the high and low gluten levels.

When I came home with my morels this morning, I was determined to have morel pizza for lunch, but I wasn’t sure how the morels would like being baked in a scorching oven. Reinhart talks about how the mastery of pizza involves mastering the moment when the crust and the topping are done at the same time, without sogginess or burning. Since I don’t really like mushrooms and tomatoes together, my pizza was only going to be cheese and vegetable, so I decided not to tempt fate trying to conjure up perfect topping-crust timing wizardry. I would simply heat the crust and the topping separately.

I followed Suzanne Goin‘s advice to soak the morels gently in warm water to clean, because they did look a touch dirty, and dried them as best I could. Then I adapted a recipe from the Mustard’s cookbook for Morel Mushroom and Goat Cheese Toasts, subbing what I had on hand — red onions for shallots, feta for goat cheese, dried thyme for fresh, and pizza crust for toast. The morels were sauteed with red onions, thyme, black pepper, oil, butter, and cognac, eyeballing all of the amounts.

I shaved some parmesan cheese onto the shaped dough, baked it for about 8 minutes at 500F, crumbled on some feta, topped it with the morel mixture, and garnished with parsley. It was pretty amazing. And yes, the only thing better than morels on pizza is morels with cognac. The crust was nicely webbed, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside — and didn’t seem damaged. Not bad for a roughly $4 pizza, hastily photographed so that I could eat.

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This was all done by 2:00pm, which is great, because I have a new candy bar to (hopefully) finish up…

You Should Still Make This Quiche

Sunday, March 25th, 2007
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I can’t believe that it’s been almost a year since I made Thomas Keller’s 2-inch quiche (recipe and article here). When I think back to making it that day in culinary school last April and how the concept of making a quiche was so utterly new and weird to me… I’m really amazed by how far I’ve come since then. I get it now… and can play around with it.

Last time, I agonized over getting the process and ingredients just right — Point Reyes Blue Cheese (instead of Roquefort) and leeks — but this time, the whole idea to make the quiche came about while I was driving home from the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market so the whole process was much more improv-style.

I decided to use the red chard and dandelion greens that I’d purchased to make a sort of faux quiche florentine. To be honest, my biggest problem with quiches is that there can be so much rich, monotonous custard, but I also didn’t want it to be too dense w/ greens. So when I got home, I raided my fridge to see what else I could use to fill in my quiche and discovered a leftover 3/4 of an onion, some feta, some thyme, and some slices of bacon in my freezer.

I then looked in the Bouchon cookbook and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison for ideas for how to go about preparing the ingredients.

Except for the custard base and crust, I didn’t really measure anything. I just estimated and adjusted based on the amount of ingredients I had and how they were acting.

Dandelion Greens: 1 bunch, stems removed.  Boiled in water for 8 minutes, drained, boiled in change of water for 8 mins. Squeezed very dry. Next time I’ll probably just wilt them in butter; they shrunk so much when boiled and I don’t mind a bit of bitterness.

Red Chard: 1 bunch, stems removed.  Wilted in melted butter, salt, and pepper. Squeezed very dry. Their red color was sorted of wasted in this; I didn’t really want a pink quiche, though, so I’m happy they didn’t bleed into the custard. Btw, these took forever to clean. No matter how many times I changed the water in the sink that I was cleaning them in, little bugs kept turning up. It probably took at least 5 changes of water until I was satisfied that they were clean.

Onion: 3/4 of an onion. Based on the Onion Confit recipe in the Bouchon cookbook. You basically cook slices of onion in a pan very slowly – with water, butter, and a bouquet garni (I just used some sprigs of thyme). They’re soft, but don’t fall apart, and have a natural onion-y sweetness. It’s supposed to take about 2 hours, so I started this first, and let it go while I did other things. I stopped it when it seemed soft and cooked and sweet… I don’t really know how long it took.

Bacon: Baked lardons until fat rendered. Sauteed briefly with onions before assembling quiche. I just used 1.75 slices for the whole thing. I love bacon, but I don’t like when it dominates.

Also, I saw that the quiches in the cookbook are assembled by laying half of the vegetables on the bottom of the crust, pouring over half of the custard base, laying the other half of the vegetables on top and then pouring over the rmg custard base. So, instead of mixing all of the filling ingredients together, I made a lorraine-like layer topped by a florentine-like layer…

So, not only is it a 2-inch quiche — it’s a 2-in-1 quiche!

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And technically, this is probably a little more than 2 inches. Since I don’t have the specified 9×2″ ring mold, I used the outside of a 9″ spring form pan, that was about 2.5 inches tall. Even though the crust originally was originally folded over the top, it slipped down during parbaking. That was fine.

And as I wrote before, this quiche is something of a long, slow project. It’s not hard and it’s certainly flexible and even forgiving, but it just needs time, esp b/c it’s so big. The crust — from mixing ingredients to resting to rolling out to shaping in pan to chilling again to baking to cooling — takes a while; several hours, at least. The prep for the inside fillings can be as quick or slow as you want, at least, and the custard is a snap to make (although it does need a 15 min rest at one point). But then it takes about 1.75 hrs to bake (mine took 2 hr 10 mins; probably b/c of all the stuff in it), and a long time to cool. In the book, it’s recommend that you chill it and serve it the next day, reheating it slice by slice. You’re best bet is probably to make it over the course of a weekend day, and then eat it over the course of the week.

Oh, and how did it taste? Awesome. It was just as breathtakingly silky as last time, and the fillings were good alone and together.

I wanted to serve it with a mustard greens/fennel/celery/scallion/feta/thyme salad last night, but the quiche didn’t make it in time, so instead, I went with glazed multi-colored carrots from the farmer’s market for today.

Maybe I was just really hungry…

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

But I just had the most amazing puff pastry tart for lunch — baked with layers of crumbled soft feta, balsamic/thyme/oregano caramelized onions, kalamata olives, figs and tomatoes tossed in olive oil, and then topped off with Marcona almonds. It made me wish I had some plums to toss in…

A Burger and a Chili

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

A lot of people like burgers made with high fat meat, but when I make my own, I usually favor lean meat with lots of stuff in it. This recipe for Beef, Mint, and Pepperoncini Burgers with Lemon-Feta Sauce and Tomato Relish introduced me to the concept last year — once you add a cup of chopped mint and pepperoncinis to a pound of ground meat, you realize you can do anything. I’ve experimented with combinations of roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes, cheeses, herbs of all sort, and whatever else I find in my fridge, but I think that mint burger holds up best. I don’t really like many things on burgers with buns, though, because it’s so unwieldy, so I generally eat it with a knife and fork.

When I saw a recipe for Grilled Pork Burgers in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, I was excited, but a bit uneasy — they have lots of stuff in them, but they turned out to be one of the fattiest things I’ve ever made. And they’re so gloriously good.

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They’re actually triple pork burgers, made up of pork, chorizo, and bacon, plus seasonings like cumin, thyme, garlic, shallots, and sliced chile de arbol. And fyi, the linked recipe is different from the recipe in the book, where those seasonings are first cooked and cooled before being added to the meat; I even toasted and ground my own cumin seeds, too. The linked recipe says this version, including a hamburger bun, has 53 grams of fat.

But the book takes it further, recommending a brioche bun, manchego cheese, aioli, romesco, and arugula. I got around to all of them but the arugula. Thankfully, the book does not give nutritional info.

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So, this was the final thing, complete with that hulking beast of a patty and, um, perky brioche bun from Bouchon Bakery. I was concerned that all of the flavors and textures would become jumbled, but they worked together very well, with an emphasis on spice and smoke and pork and unctuousness. If anything, the manchego gets a bit lost if sliced too thin, which is often the case with cheese in burgers like this, so be sure to put a lot if you really to taste it; we put ours on too late, too, and it didn’t melt all the way.

The romesco was very strong and spicy on its own, but it settled right into the burger. You can find the recipe within this Romesco Potatoes recipe, following steps 1, 3, and 4, or go ahead and make the whole recipe, doubling the amount of romesco so there’s enough for the burgers; btw, I had leftover romesco and just put it on virtually everything I eat now and the potatoes get a rave review here.

For the aioli, I just made mayonnaise in my food processor and added garlic I’d made into a paste.

After two meals of these burgers that used up all 4 buns that I bought, we happened to watch a show about a chili cook off, and I began to get a craving for chili. I thought about all the leftover pork burger meat that I still had to get through before I could even think about making chili until I realized that the burger meat would be a perfect base for chili — being already loaded with cumin, peppers, garlic, etc; the thyme was a slight wildcard, but I figured it could add depth. I’d only made chili once before years ago, but after looking at some recipes, I got a general idea of what to do and winged it from there. I just had to brown the meat, saute onions and garlic, add more spices (like ancho chili powder, cumin, pepper flakes, and a touch of cocoa powder for depth of color and flavor), cook it down with some canned tomatoes and liquid, and add beans at the end. I also drained the meat after browning it, because, seriously, if I only gained one pound in France that’s now gone, I’d feel a bit silly bulking up here because of triple pork meals and ice cream sandwiches.

So, the amazing burgers turned into amazing chili that’s even further enhanced by a dollop of romesco (and a little aioli, if you’re in a very certain mood and maybe think of it like rouille in bouillabaisse) and the manchego finally gets its due, grated generously on top.

Mongolian Pork Chops

Monday, June 19th, 2006
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Out of Cindy Pawlcyn’s restaurants in the Napa Valley, I have to admit that I like the mellow Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen more than the bustling Mustards Grill, but both have excellent food. So, until maybe a CBK cookbook comes out, I’m exploring her Mustards Grill cookbook.

Mongolian Pork Chops is a signature dish at Mustards, and although I really liked my incarnation, I’m curious about what it would taste like their heritage breed pork, as opposed to my Ralph’s (where I couldn’t find a single non-boneless pork chop).  Anyway, I think that the Mongolian aspect has to do with the bit of spicy bite they have, which is so well rounded out by the cilantro.  Like many recipes for a marinade, the experience can either be as easy as pulling these relatively common components out of your cupboard/fridge and augmenting them with some fresh seasonings, or as difficult as an all out jar and seasoning buying binge at the market — or in my case, binging at the market, assembling the marinade in an empty water bottle and flying it on down to LA, where my boyfriend and his grill reside.  At least many ingredients will keep for next time, and it’s a reliable marinade that can be used for other meats, like ribs or chicken, if you want.  And definitely baste while grilling — why not have as much flavor as possible?

Speaking of that, Mustards serves them with Chinese-Style Mustard Sauce and Braised Red Cabbage.  We just had grilled artichokes. They were steamed for about 30 mins first (until soft), and then grilled until they were a little charred on each side.  Something about grilling them makes them extra meaty and deep in flavor — no sauce necessary.
Here is a link to the Mongolian Pork Chops recipe with an article about it.