Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Ninety-Eight: Celebrate!

by Sheila Lukins

Everywhere you turn, there seems to be some new version of a "chip". There is the old faithful potato chip, sweet potato chips, kale chips, banana chips, and this one (so I believed), the tomato chip.

I would not go as far as to call these chips. The only resemblance is maybe their shape and size - but I'm sure the term is used lightly, as with kale chips - at least they are crisp. 

I would have never thought to try and make a "chip" from tomatoes due to their high water content - and I was right. The book does states that these do not get crispy like a chip, but they have a "snap" and a chewy texture.

Out of the five tomatoes, only four slices could be considered chewy and with a "snap", and looked to be disintegrated; to be fair, they were the ones with the best flavor.

I do love anything roasted, and when these tomato "chips" were placed on a rosemary cracker, spread with some delicious goat cheese (as suggested in the book), they were pretty darn tasty.

So forget about the crisp, crackly, crunchy texture of a true chip, and enjoy these for what they are: simply roasted tomatoes.

Success meter (1-3): 2 (I rated this a two based on the "chip" factor - otherwise they did have great flavor and makes for a wonderful appetizer.)

The tomato slices drizzled with olive oil and dusted with sugar and pepper. Next time, I'll omit the sugar and sprinkle them with salt.

 This is one of the best "disintegrated" tomato slices..

I was able to scrape the disintegrated tomatoes off the pan, and I have to say they had the best flavor. Think - sun-dried tomatoes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Ninety-Seven: Michael Chiarello's Casual Cooking

by Michael Chiarello

Named after the famous restaurant Da Delfina in Italy.

I was browsing through my cookbooks looking for something to make for dinner (main course) when I came upon this recipe.

I was on a hunt for something in the healthy spectrum, and normally I cringe shy away from any recipe that is deep fried. However, I could not resist the photo in the book, and I justified making these being we had Raw Kale Coleslaw for dinner on Monday, and Grilled Portobello Burgers (normally made with pesto mayo and provolone - this evening I used pesto only and subbed goat cheese) on Tuesday. I figured we could splurge today, this a side dish after-all, along with tonight's dinner of grilled chicken and an arugula strawberry salad.

Mr. Chiarello says to serve these with a simple roasted meat, and they will steal the show; and that they did. 

Success meter (1-3):

 Pick out the smallest Yukon Gold potatoes you can find.

 It took about eight medium sized garlic cloves to attain one-quarter cup chopped garlic.

The instructions say to remove the garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon - this will not work with chopped garlic. I poured the garlic from the pan into a sieve placed over a bowl.

 Mix the sautéed garlic into the parsley and lemon mixture.

 I chose to use a glass to smash the potatoes rather than using my hands as instructed.

 You want to smash the potatoes just till the skins split.

Pour half-inch of peanut oil into a fry pan and cook on both sides till crispy - darker the better. I did not have peanut oil and subbed grapeseed and walnut oil, and only poured about a quarter inch. I may try making these again with just coating the pan with oil instead of deep frying - then again maybe not; why mess with a good thing.

 Remove potatoes from oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.

The recipe states to toss the potatoes in the parsley-lemon mixture. I felt the potatoes were to fragile to be tossed so instead I sprinkled the "gremolata" on top, which you will want to be generous with it's so good.

 These are heavenly - the potatoes are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TWD: Madeleines

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
Contributing Baker: Flo Braker

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Madeleines - probably didn't know that did you?

The cookbook mentions that this type of tea cake (or cookie, your choice) is the same that "caused Proust to remember things past". Who the hell is Proust? I had to google the name - and if you google madeleine, several entries mention the two together. I even texted my sister who is an avid reader to ask if she had read any of his work, and if I should know who he is. No she had not, and yes I should, for he is famous.

Well, after researching him on-line, I have to say I don't feel I'm missing much and therefore will not be reading any of his works anytime soon, if ever. (No offense to those who enjoy Proust.)

These little tea cakes are made with a Génoise batter, very much like the Strawberry Cake we made last year. Personally I found the strawberry cake quite boring in taste, though stunning to look at; so to amp up the flavor I added the juice and zest of a couple of lemons and a few limes.

The recipe calls for two whole eggs and four egg yolks. I was short an egg so I only used three yolks. The finished product had a nice citrus flavor, but the texture was too spongy, almost to the point of rubbery. I would have preferred a more cake-like texture. 

Reading the P&Q (pointers & questions) section on the TWD site, a few bakers mentioned their cakes were drier than other madeleine recipes they have tried. I have to say, my little cakes were moist and stayed moist a couple of days later. I'm sure the addition of the juice helped with that, and I'm not sure, but maybe one less egg helped as well?

The lemon and lime lended a bright taste to these little cakes, so I may try my hand at madeleines again, but with a different recipe. Until then, if I need a citrus fix, I'll make these delicious gems made with grapefruit and lime.

Success meter (1-3): 2

Homemade vanilla. A gift from my lovely daughter.

I added about one-half tablespoon lemon zest and one whole tablespoon lime zest. I would have used equal amounts, but I only had two lemons. I also used one tablespoon each of the juice.

As suggested by a few fellow bakers, I used only butter to coat the pan; giving it two coats of butter - chilling between coats.

Perfect looking little cakes! Don't they look like they'll just slip right out of the pan? Not the case - had to pry these puppies out. Not too much damage though.

The second batch I decided to experiment a bit. Instead of butter (too lazy to melt more) I coated the tin with olive oil and to half the pan I dusted with flour (as suggested in the recipe) and the other half I dusted with sugar; I also baked them a bit longer - hence the darker edges - hoping this would help them release from the pan easier. Nope. Still had to be pried. Maybe a non-stick pan would alleviate my sticking issue.

If I do get around to making these again, I would use the butter and flour process, for the cakes turned out the best as appearances go - and bake them less so they are not quite so dark. Using the sugar actually gave the cakes a nice little crunch which I enjoyed, but I would like to have the more noticeable ridges that were achieved with the flour method.

The cookies did not quite develop the prominent hump that madeleines are known for. Some recipes call for a teaspoon of baking powder where others such as this do not. I think the addition of baking powder would have helped with obtaining the signature hump.

Because it's fun to play with your food! (A future post.)

You can find the madeleine recipe on pages 41 and 334 of Baking with Julia, or at our host's site, Counter Dog. To see other wonderful creations of these tea cakes, check out the talented bakers of our virtual cooking group - you can find their links on the LYL: Madeleines link over on the TWD site.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Ninety-Six: Salad Days

by Marcel Desaulniers

Sliced Beets with Curly Endive, Red Bliss Potato Salad, 
Honey Mustard Roasted Walnuts and Meaux Mustard Vinaigrette

If the name Marcel Desaulniers sounds familiar, you may know him from his renowned restaurant the Trellis, located in Williamsburg, VA, which he sold in 2009 upon retirement, or if like me, you may have five or six of his other books.

Mr. Desaulniers apparently was missing the crazy culinary world, and so he came out of retirement to open a chocolate cafe, MAD About Chocolate - if only it were here in California - close to my home; it is lucky New Yorkers and visitors of NY that get to visit what looks to be a fun place to meet up with friends for a sweet treat.

Back to the savory side of Mr. Desaulniers:

I didn't have to look any farther than the first salad recipe in the book. It had me at "sliced beets" - my husband L O V E S beets, as do I.

This salad consists of sliced beets, endive, potatoes, and honey mustard walnuts. I was not sure if this would be substantial enough for a meal in itself, so I opted to go with the Walnut-Crusted Striped Bass variation of this recipe.

Well it turned out that the salad alone would have been more than enough. The fish was delicious and I'm glad I made it and would make it again, but with just a simple green salad on the side; we felt this was too much for us. The recipe states this will serve four and I cut the recipe in half, still it was enough for at least three people.

Success meter (1-3): 3

The recipe calls for you to boil the beets. I prefer to roast them. I have never understood why you are to add oil, salt, and pepper to the beets before roasting, so I did an internet search on this. I could not find any reference to this at all! Why I have done this (for several years) I have no idea. No longer!

 Walnuts tossed in melted butter, honey, and mustard, ready for roasting.

 Mustard vinaigrette for the potato salad and endive.

This component was my favorite part. The potato salad would be great for a potluck or picnic - no mayo!

 Not a good idea to use parchment when broiling - oops.

 Next time, I would use softer greens. I did not really care for the roughness of the endive - also I would dress the greens before placing them on the plate.

 Walnut-Crusted Striped Bass Variation

For a prettier presentation (you don't see the other side!) I would divide the fish in individual portion sizes and then cover with the topping and bake. The walnut topping on the fish added a really nice crunch and almost citrus(y), spicy flavor, and smelled amazing while baking. Surprisingly no burnt taste at all!