Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Simple Tomato Tart

Greetings, friends!
There has been a great many items made in the past week, and I would love to share them with you. Some are projects that take 1-2 hours…some are simple tasks that produce a delicious and sumptuous treat in mere minutes. THINK of the time that you waste, slaving over lamb lollipops, when you could be making a rustic and seasonal bite that inspires a summers eve in Tuscany.
Please introduce (or, reacquaint) yourself to frozen puff pastry.

Obviously, there is a multitude of things you could be doing with this product; the most difficult would be making the actual puff pastry itself. The easiest application would be to simply open a box and adorn with delicacies, bake, and serve…which is what I did, errrr.

The reality is this: You could throw a fantastic cocktail party with a couple of these tarts, mixed olives, fine cheesery, and charcuterie. I'm not going to lie, I am pretty fun at parties and if you ever have one, please invite me?

Begin with the following items;
  • One sheet frozen puff pastry (thaw out for 30 min on the counter) Do not try to unfold the puff pastry when it's frozen, or it will crack. Unfold when defrosted only
  • Assortment of heirloom tomatoes or farmers market/homegrown. Try to get an assortment of colors and shapes from large to cherry tomatoes. Whatever you do..please don't use watery/tasteless/grainy fruits. This tart only has ONE LIFE. Please do not waste it on a dull sad sack of a tomato
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt and Pepper
  • Herbs (I used a basil olive oil to drizzle upon the tart: Basil+ Olive oil mixed in the mini food processor) you may sprinkle on fresh thyme, oregano, or marjoram leaves or chop some basil finely and toss with tomatoes.
  • Do not add salt at this point, season only with black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicon mat, and lay the puff pastry down.
Score a 1/2 inch border along the pastry to create a ledge and then use the tines of a fork to prick the inside of the border. Pricking the pastry with a fork will prevent it from puffing up too much.
Lay your tomatoes in a decorative pattern on the pastry, careful not to overlap the fruit, otherwise sogginess will ensue. Some of the larger tomatoes I had were a little hollow, so I layered with another slice. This did not effect the crisp end product.

Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil, herbs, and black pepper. If you are making the basil oil, dollop some on the tomatoes right when you take it out of the oven so the basil stays bright.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. Finish the dish with a generous dashing of fine sea salt.

I had to make a mini one all for myself.
Party Size!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Muscovy Duck Salad at DeLaurenti's Specialty Food and Wine

I love this store.
If I could change my name to Nelle "DeLaurenti's Specialty Food and Wine" Bruce, I would.
Instead I will settle for perusing their aisles, munching on my favorite panino (mortadella on grissini with olive oil), and looking forward to my Christmas stocking (NO, I am not 6 years old but I did swallow a cherry pit today..) which is always filled with specialty food items goodies.

Ah. The cheeses, the meats. The CHEESES AND THE MEATS. Then there is fantastical array of vinegars, mustards, oil packed tuna!, olive oils, cookies, spices, pastas fresh (a la Ethan Stowell) and dried. I could go on, but perhaps you would like to know why I babble on?
I frequently visit the store's website in hopes that they will call for my employment one day. On other days, I view up to date information on the latest shipment of white truffles or, on occasion I view recipes.
Since last week was a special event, I decided to opt for a new and exciting meal, one of which I have no experience whatsoever cooking.

(click link for recipe)
As DeLaurenti's is your friend. It does yield some extra fat, but said fat can be used in many dish after your consumption of the initial salad. I recommend roasted potatoes in duck fat. Or scrambled eggs (in a bit of DF) finished with truffle salt. Then go ahead and pop some champagne.
I duck-gress...

A brief word about these breasteses;
Muscovy duck originated in Brazil and is more lean and flavorful than its more commercialized counterpart, the Pekin duck. Do pay attention to what type you are buying, because finding Muscovy or Moulard is a fancy fowl treat!

Muscovy Duck, prepped for searing

I would like to add, that I really could of used one of those fat splatter shield things while searing this duck, because though it's a leaner duck, there is still a lot of fat rendered in the pan as well as rendered into my face *Oh the hot oil* as I peered upon the progress.

Achieve a crust by searing each breast, fat side down to start. Then, finish in the oven for 3 min per side @400 degrees

(Take a moment to open some wine prematurely)

While the breasts sear (should take less than 10 minutes) you may choose to drink wine or assemble the dressing.
I chose both.
Literally, the best dressing for simple greens are a combination of the following foundation items;
  • A FINE olive oil
  • Acid (vinegar or lemon, I often use both)
  • Generous S&P (please only use fine, course sea salt and coursely ground pepper. Anxiety will occur if table salt/bottled pepper is let near a vinaigrette)
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Shallot (and or garlic, though none was used in this recipe)
This formula comes together in a matter of moments with a mini food processor, blender, or cave man age bowl and whisk. In general, try to have the salad err on the more acid-idy side. No one likes to eat an oily salad, it has been documented:

Gather salad accouterment. Be sure to choose a fine goat cheese for this salad, since there are not many other ingredients. The marinated beets are deliciously spiced with rosemary, ginger and lemon, but also evoke some holiday spices as well. Cinnamon? Cloves? They reminded me a lot of Pickle Me Nelle Onions

Assemble your fine creation and thank the DeLaurenti's Gods!

Enjoy with a Provençal rose. A favorite pastime of mine in the summer months, is to end each sentence with;
"enjoy with a Provençal rose"

and so I shall.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dark and Stormy?

Hardly dark...and not yet stormy in July.

Hello friends!
Happy hour time is upon us. Before I head out to dine on sushis, I thought I would share a recent cocktail that has come across my way... The Dark and Stormy!
Though the suns shine and the birds chirp here in the 'natchee, we get a little hot when we occasionally step out of our air conditioned box.
So, on a recent trip to DeLaurenti's, I came across some ginger beer that made me think of this classic beverage.

Please engage in cocktail mode, and make one for yourself!
  • Garner some ice cubes and throw them into a glass. Use reckless abandon.
  • Pour 2oz of dark rum ( I experimented with a rum from Barbados, which is a bit lighter than the traditional, perhaps, Jamaican rum used) into a cocktail shaker. Use a water bottle from a local european cycling touring company if you should lack a shaker.
  • Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon wedge and 1 lime wedge, leave citrus carcass in the glass for good measure
  • Top off with a ginger beer. (commercially available bevies come in 6.8 FL oz.)
  • Garnish with a lime wheel
  • Dont be afraid to top yourself off with a rum floater. Heh!
  • Serve in Provençal Bee Tumblers

Todd likes it...
'nuff said.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Cherries Galore!

hi! i'm a cherry
and I want to be baked.
Happy Day!
This post reflects on the lush properties of cherries, one of my favorite things to wear, and eat in the summer time. When one makes a cherry dish or wears a cherry outfit, there is something that is very american and brooks brothers-ish about it. This is why I only wear my cherries to certain events where the spirit of americana is classy and cheerful.
Continuing on with this theme, baking a cherry dessert can be very rewarding and does lead to a heightened sense of patriotic do-goodery.
Once upon a summer night, I was invited to a dinner party in the very cherry worthy area of Madison Park. My two friends Sara and Kari had prepared delicious dishes and I was to bring a dessert.

I thought to myself... non other than a cherry clafoutis will do, sir!

So I began my cherry quest, which started at Prey's Fruit Barn in Leavenworth, WA. They have a HUGE flag flying out front in the summer time, signifying that cherries are, in fact, a most American fruit.
Traditionally, the clafoutis is made with a super simple batter and UN-pitted cherries. I was kicking myself, friends, because though I do respect the nature of this dish (rustic, originated in southern france, peasant food) I did not want my guests to have to fumble with their tongues to produce a cherry pit each time they took a bite. THUS, the cherry pitter enters the picture.
Long story short, I saw the pitter at Prey's, thought it was a great idea, and decided to (not buy one there on the spot) buy one in Seattle.
I have yet to find a cherry pitter in Seattle. #CHERRYFAIL
Perhaps the blog gods will purchase one for me?

I move on to the brutal reality of pitting each cherry by hand with a pairing knife. This laborious process goes better than I had imagined, since all 10 of my digits are still attached and I am still able to type and open string cheese wrappers.

Fun Cherry Facts:
  • Rainier Cherries can sell for up to $1 EACH in Japan? (source: the internet. But I kind of believe it).
  • Rainier Cherries are known as the "white cherry" in the cherry world, due to their light colored flesh
  • The Rainier Cherry was created by a COUGAR
  • Crows love cherries and they will do anything to eat them. Even kill a bald eagle.

Cherry Clafoutis
Adapted from
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
6 eggs
6 tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 c milk
2 tbsp. kirsch (cherry brandy)
Pinch of fine salt
3/4 c flour
3 c black and Rainier cherries, pitted any way you know how
Powdered sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Generously butter a 9" cast-iron skillet or baking dish. Combine vanilla extract, eggs, sugar, milk, kirsch, and salt in a blender. Blend for a few seconds to mix ingredients, then add flour and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Literally the easiest thing to make ever!
until frothy!

add a flavoring; I used cherry brandy but almond flavoring (extract or Amaretto works well too).

2. Pour batter into buttered skillet, then distribute cherries evenly over top. Bake until a skewer inserted into batter comes out clean and a golden brown crust has formed on top and bottom of clafoutis, about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners' sugar and delight in the flavor!

This cherry dessert is so very easy to make and impressive to present at the table. Serve with a high end ice cream or alone, dusted with powdered sugar. A clafoutis may also be made with a variety of other fruits such as plums, pluots, apricots, pears, berries, peaches, and apples! Mmmmm, a pear clafoutis with cardamon. This is a dish that will warm my table in the fall.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Arancini di Riso

Hello Blorg (blog world)!
Today is a celebration of some really tasty bits, which is a result of a fabulous (and simple) dinner last night.
The dinner was risotto, one of the sister's Bruce favorite things to make in a pinch. There was a time when a white wine was omni-present in my hand whenever I was cooking, so Al and I naturally gravitated towards the risotto…only a 1/2c of wine needed, the rest is for the cooks!
For those of you who don't get what I am gearing at already….leftover risotto can be made into a fried friend, stuffed with whatever your heart desires.

Since the "summer" months have come upon us, and me being the ever popular party goer that I am, I have been on the hunt for delicious cocktail sized items that are ever so lush to munch upon while drinking bubbles and the like. Thus far, I have determined that the following are acceptable to eat (while getting your nails done at Julep, for example);
Strawberries bathed in dark chocolate ganache
Green Goddess Dip with blanched veggies
Mini Crab Cakes (baked in a mini muffin tin, tee hee how cute)
Mini Frittata bites
Wow, I happen to have a picture of all 4…

All made for Sam and Lauren's wedding weekend!
Berry Special occasion...
AND….now for the actual blogista section
May I present to you…the "little orange rice ball!"
Arancini di Riso is named such for the resemblance to an orange and the traditional filling of risotto Milanese (made with saffron, so a yellowish/orange tint reveals itself).
These arancini can be made small or large (as you can see I chose an actual size of an orange) to be popped in the mouth or cut with a knife and fork like a sophisticate, respectively.

Believe it or not, I spent at LEAST 20 minutes scouring the Italian wing of my cookbook library, only to find the guidelines for these balls in my trusty 'ol Everyday Italian. WTF Mario?

Here we go:
  • Make Risotto
  • Wait one day. Or if you are a hog, wait at least a couple of hours for the rice to cool, which makes it easier to form into a ball
  • Set up breading station (2 eggs, beaten and Japanese (panko) breadcrumbs)
  • Determine how big or small your arancini will be, then fill a pot with oil so that they will be submerged
  • Heat oil to 350 degrees. You will want to maintain a temperature of 350-375 throughout the process. Use a candy thermometer to determine this. You are not a wizard.
  • Prepare fillings! I chose pancetta with fresh mozzarella and feta with fresh mint. You could literally hide a rusty nail inside of of these things and I would still probably eat it.
  • Begin standard ball formation/stuffing mechanism
  • Assemble the dipped and breaded balls onto a nonstick surface, and await the plunge
  • Plunge (with a spider skimmer to avoid splashing of molten oil) for 3-4 minutes. Resist the urge to look directly over the bubbling pot of oil.
  • Examine your crispy browned specimen with splendor and awe!
  • Immediately sprinkle artistically with the finest of salts

These arancini would be perfectly paired with a slender glass of bubbles to cut the crispy outside… revealing the creamy, cheesy inside.
Now get out there, spend the $3.75 for a gallon of vegetable oil and BE SOMEBODY. Somebody with arancini.
Lastly, if you have any other interesting ideas for arancini fillings, please leave a comment. Comments are how I know i'm still alive and not having some Vanilla Sky freak out moment.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Warming Meal II: The Almond Cake


I return to the blog so soon.
so soon.
But that is because Warming Meal I is not complete without its counterpart, Warming Meal II:

The Almond Cake

Now, I was in such a hurry to bake this cake and taste it, I didnt really take as many pictures as I usually do.
This is pretty much all I have, save for the finished product…

This cake………………………………………………………sogood.
SURE, its not going to win any beauty prizes, but neither is a bowl of mixed race cauli/brooc soup.
I digress.
I first read of this cake on one of my favorite local (seattle) blogs: The Amateur Gourmet
When the phrases…."crack cake" "a cake that will save your soul" and "sheer perfection" are uttered, I just have to try it.

Almond Cake
Amanda Hesser, Cooking For Mr. Latte

2 sticks butter, softened, more for buttering pan
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (measured after sifting)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
7-oz tube almond paste, cut into small pieces
4 egg yolks room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
Confectioners' sugar, for sifting over cake

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter sides and bottoms of one 9-inch springform pan; line sides and bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper. (You may forego the parchment paper as long as you are generous with the butter on the pan itself.) Mix together the sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Sift the flour and salt into another bowl.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond paste, a little at a time, at medium speed, and beat for 8 minutes.

Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, and mix until incorporated. It will look curdled; don't worry. Blend in the almond extract and sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture, just until blended.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly.

Bake about 40-60 min. It is done when you press the top and it returns to its shape, and also shrinks from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place on a baking rack to cool in the pan. When ready to serve, sift confectioners' sugar on top and slice like a pie.

It is natural for the cake to fall a bit in the middle….when something is this good, it can be itself in front of you.

I don't have time to write anything else because I am too BUSY thinking about this cake and how I can simultaneously stay away from it AND eat it at the same time.
For the record, I did have to send the remainder of the cake to Todd's office for fear of eating it all in some sort of ambien induced food binge.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Warming Meal I

Greetings Friends!
It's come to my attention that the weather lately has been so uncertain, I don't know if it's going to rain or instantly become BBQ weather AKA drinking Rosé during the daytime AKA bikini season.
That last one puts me into a cold sweat.
I become paranoid.
I start thinking my cat is reading my diary.

Ok, that last one was a reference to Glee.

On to the warming meal!
For those of you who don't know, my sister and I are famous for creating "warming meals" and we even have our own thriving business.*

*if by business, you mean one day we got bored and created a google account, then, yes, we do have a legitimate business.

Warming Meals can be defined as: any homemade meal that makes one feel that they are getting a hug. Said meal does NOT have to be warm in temperature, but it should warm your heart and you should share it with someone you care about. Do not serve a warming meal to someone you secretly hate. Every time you do that, the WM stock takes a major hit.

Past Warming Meals have included:
Risotto, shroom
Turkey Meatballs
Bucatini Cacio e Pepe
Rigatonis (a satellite Rigatoni WM can be had at Palominos as well)
Chicken Caesar Salad with homemade croutons
Summer Corn Salad
Beef Stew
Whole Wheat Pasta

As this indecisive spring weather continues, (is the phrase "indecisive spring weather" a double negative?) I decided to make a combination spring meal and cozy (fall?) desert.

Roasted Cauliflower/Broccoflower Soup and Almond Cake (see WM II post)

Start with a bunch of veggies! I have shallots, leeks and yellow potatoes in as a base for my soup. I chose cauliflower and broccoflower as my main components. Look at this guy below guy!! That crazy 'ol broccoflower. I have been wanting to cook one of these for a while... A broccoflower is a type of cauliflower, also called a "green cauliflower" but actually, the name "broccoflower" is trade marked. bahaha. It should not be confused with Romanesco Broccoli, which is more horned and WAY COOL looking.. You can see if you look close, the broccoflower has a tiny horn.

As a general rule for starting any soup, start by softening your base ingredients with olive oil and perhaps a knob of butter. The knob can be as big as a doorknob…or it can be a a more reasonable 2 tablespoons. I can't believe you were considering putting a doorknob sized portion of butter in this soup!

It roasts the cauliflower and the broccoflower, or it gets the hose again.

Now, combine the goodness into your pot!

For this recipe, I used the following:
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly
3 shallots, sliced thinly
2 yellow potatoes, cut into small chunkers
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and roasted
1 head broccoflower, ditto
6-7 cups chicken stock
dash of sherry vinegar
S&P to taste
'lil butter and a 'lil olive oil

I used a fancy immersion blender, but you can use a regular blender or a food processor to make as smooth or as rustic chunky as you would like. I opted for the rustic chunky, and I left a few whole pieces of cauliflower in for mouthfeel. Plus, it was really hard not to gobble all the roasted flowers…with their salt-pepper-olive oil crunchy bits.

A note about the color….if you want a pure pedigree soup of a more vibrant color (green or white) use broccoflower or cauliflower respectively. I, however, was confident in the flavors so I did not mind that it was an indecisive color of spring.
You like how I tied that phrase again in, don't you. hehehe.

Sprinkle with a rare salt, a turn of pepper, and drizzle with your finest oil. I used a coveted bottle of olive oil that I received as a gift last summer in Tuscany: oil made from the olive trees at Tenuta la Bandita. Some krispy fried shallots might be good on top or ideally, a drizzy of white truffle oil. Word.