Friday, April 30, 2010

vin d'orange

This is kind of a cruel post, because I'm about to start raving about this incredible aperitif I brewed up, telling you how delicious, refreshing and unexpected it is. And then I'm going to have to tell you that it is made from sour Seville oranges. And then the part comes where I tell you the short growing season for this unlovable stepchild of the Navel is over.

I was fortunate enough to be inspired to try my hand at vin d'orange just towards the middle of March, and the oranges are typically impossible to get before January or after March. I got on the phone and made the kind folks at WF order me some, and after a few weeks of badgering, they finally came in.

Seville oranges are ugly. Splotchy and oddly shaped, they kind of resemble navel oranges that have been kicked around on the orchard ground for a week or so. And they don't taste good, either, with a bitter and unforgiving bite.

But. Let them sit in a fruity white wine, mixed with a little sugar and vodka and you get the delightful French aperitif, vin d'orange. Some make it with rose or even red wine, but the lightness of white is perfect for summer. It sits for a month and then becomes the most strangely delicious beverage. It has this haunting and addictive quality, with a light sweetness at first sip that finishes into bitterness. It will have you and whoever you share your precious homebrew with intrigued. I quadrupled the recipe and stored it in a Playmate cooler while brewing. Now I have almost a dozen half bottles that I will be rationing out to whomever I see fit....bribes accepted.

vin d'orange

1 lemon
3 seville oranges (aka sour oranges)
2/3 c sugar
5 c white wine
1 c vodka
1 inch piece of vanilla bean

Rinse and half citrus fruits. Mix sugar, wine and vodka until dissolved. Add vanilla and citrus. Cover, let stand for one month (at least). Strain, put in clean bottles. Stores one year.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

chocolate whiskey cake

This cake is one of my absolute favorites, ever. It spent a good bit of time on the restaurant menu, despite its, err, unsightliness. This cake is downright ugly, at least for people with rather conventional notions of pastry beauty. It's like that princess and frog....gross looking, but when she finally laid her mouth on it, she could see and appreciate what was behind the facade.

This facade hides a couple of ingredients that are subtle but powerful: coffee, black pepper, and cloves. None of these suggest themselves, but they unite with the other ingredients to form a deeply flavored cake. It's so moist, so dense, so amazing.

And you probably already know this, but bourbon and scotch are both whiskey. Scotch is whiskey from Scotland, typically with a peatier flavor, and bourbon is whiskey from the US, fuller bodied and slightly sweet. Revelations.

chocolate whiskey cake

3/4 c plus 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 c strong brewed coffee
1/2 c whiskey
12 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 c ap flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cloves
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 c mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 10 inch springform pan then dust with the 3tbsp of cocoa powder, knocking out excess.

Heat the coffee, whiskey, butter, and remaining cup of cocoa powder in a medium heavy saucepan over low heat until butter is melted, whisking occasionally. Add sugars and whisk until dissolved, remove from heat. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool.

While chocoalte cools, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and cloves in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Starting with a slow drizzle, whisk the eggs into cooled chocolate mixture until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined, then fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into pan and bake until a wooden pick comes out mostly clean, about 1 hour and 5 min.

Cool cake, store in fridge after one day, wrapped in plastic.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

fava bean mash

Favas are not for the faint of heart. This little bean requires shelling, followed by a second, more difficult round of shelling, which is then followed by a boiling and a shocking, whereupon one then begins the recipe at hand. And there's no better bean to make you feel old for your years than the fava....carpal tunnel at 25? It seems a very real possibility.

So a handful of beans was all I could muster up the will for, but it was undoubtedly worth the trouble. Nothing for me is so fresh, so springlike as the fava bean. I've heard their distinct aroma/flavor described as a byproduct of gastrointestinal distress, but WHATEVER...they're so delicious. This puree comes together in about 3 minutes, if you don't count the hours it takes to derobe this glorious legume.

fava bean puree

as many favas as you can stand to shell, boiled until tender in salty water (i did about a half cup...shameful, i know)
a shallot, minced fine
a pinch of salt
a pinch of fresh ground black pepper
juice from half a lemon

Pound to a paste the above ingredients to desired smoothness. Eat!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

pork sandwich

Giving me a free piece of meat sets off a chain of events reminiscent of that childhood favorite, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. I'm not the world's number one consumer of animal flesh, and given that I am also a cook that loves to experiment, you can see how things can get a bit out of hand.
I kept it simple with the gifted pork tenderloin, because I knew its major use would be as a component of something else. And also because *honestly* I don't recall ever cooking one and I didn't feel like looking at recipes. So, a quick season and sear and it was off to the oven...when it came out about 15-20 minutes later, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. Sure, it was plain, but it was pretty delicious for not having gone through any fancy cider marinating or sweet tea brining. There's a time and a place for that, and my kitchen at Monday lunchtime was not it. In a last ditch effort to add some flavor, I threw sliced onions in the pan for the last sear and then draped them over the pork as it cooked. Not sure it worked, but it did produce beautifully caramelized onions that were awesome on my sandwich!
By the way, chutney mayonnaise almost beats creme anglaise for things you know you shouldn't keep licking but you do anyway.

pork sandwich

1 pork tenderloin
1 onion, sliced
2 pieces good-quality sandwich bread
1 tbsp mayo, preferably homemade
1 tsp Alecia's Tomato Chutney

Heat a few tbsps of olive oil over high heat. Season pork tenderloin all over, then sear on each side until brown. After the last turn, add onion slices to the pan, stirring occasionally.
Transfer contents to baking pan and place in 425 oven. Cook for about 15 minutes or until desired temp is reached (use thermometer-I went to 145).
Toast bread. Mix mayo and chutney and spread on one side of bread. Spoon on onions, and top with slices of cooled pork and lettuce.

Friday, March 19, 2010

variation: another easy warm winter salad

I've been so incredibly busy lately-hence the lack of posts. The simplicity of my recent recipes also reflects this total lack of free time. Sunday nights tend to be the only time I have to get crazy in the kitchen, and then my amazing meals of homemade mushroom ravioli and overflowing plates of finger foods don't really photograph that well. But you know what? These five or ten minute lunches of late have all been equal in terms of deliciousness to many of my more elaborate preparations.
So here's a variation on the previous warm winter salad. I feel like it's cheating, posting something this simple and for me so 'duh'. But it didn't feel anything like cheating eating it, so here goes.

another easy warm winter salad

1 eggplant, cut into small dice.
1 butternut squash
olive oil
sprigs of thyme
lemon juice
1 lb arugula
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
pecorino cheese, shaved

Peel squash, cut into small dice. Heat about a tbsp of olive oil and saute squash with thyme, salt, and pepper (to taste) until squash is tender and a bit golden. Wipe pan clean, heat more oil, and saute eggplant with salt and pepper until golden and tender. Toss arugula with lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper (to taste). Top arugula with chickpeas, vegetables and pecorino shavings. Enjoy.

See? It's criminal.

Monday, February 8, 2010

warm winter salad

I love vegetables. I'm an equal opportunity employer of them in my cooking, but if pressed I would probably say that winter vegetables are my favorite. Yeah, they typically require some coaxing from the oven or saute pan. But just because they don't have the natural grace of those easy summer vegetables ('oh, i'm such a gorgeous raw tomato, just slice me and eat me, oh') doesn't mean they're not twice as delicious when properly attended to.

Here's a delicious and healthy winter lunch. Time all the ingredients right, and you will have a plate of earthy lentils, laced with the sweet notes of caramelized onions and the savory crunch of roasted cauliflower, mixed with slightly wilted lemony arugula. Doesn't get much better. So there, tomato salad.

warm winter salad

1 c dried red lentils
3 c water
bay leaf
thyme sprigs
1 med onion, halved then sliced thinly
1 small cauliflower, chopped
tbsp sherry vinegar
10 oz arugula

Preheat oven to 400. Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until brown.
Meanwhile, heat some olive oil or butter in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring water to a boil with bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper. Add lentils, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, then toss with sherry vinegar.
Right before serving, toss arugula with a squirt of lemon juice and some olive oil. Mix together lentils, onions, and cauliflower and serve warm.

makes four salads.