Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Blood Orange - Lavender Shrub

On Saturdays in San Francisco there’s a booth at the Ferry Building farmer’s market that, among other things, sells "shrubs"- which are pretty much fruit vinegars or "drinking vinegars". I always like to stop by and at least peruse. The different liquids in the bottles have bright jewel-like tones, and the little sips they give as samples upon request are fruity and bracing.

The Bojon Gourmet has a lavender kumquat shrub recipe in the archives that looked so nice to me... I always have lavender available to make tea (love, love, love lavender, lavender as tea of course, lavender in caramels/syrup/shortbread/ganache/whatever sweets, lavender kombucha is my go-to for that beverage ...).  All I really needed was more kumquats. I’ve been buying them and snacking on them- slightly sour and bitter little citrus eaten whole. So, I  took my Saturday morning walk to the market, hoping one of the organic farmers might have some, but there were NO kumquats to be found at any of the booths.
At all.

Lots of other citrus was piled high though: many mandarins, navel oranges, tangelos, grapefruit, Eureka lemons, Meyer lemons, sweet limes... So I decided to go with blood oranges instead, with their deep red interiors, blush of red on the orange skin, and fruit punchy-orange flavor.
With a few changes, this would be my adaptation.
I’ve kept the Meyer lemon juice (sweeter, fruity and less acidic than regular lemons), and upped the vinegar and lavender.
(By the way, recently I read an interesting article on some of the Meyer lemon history- more specifically  about Meyer... Dutch transplant and Marco Polo/Indiana Jones of the USDA.)

When it's finished, shrub is great for mixing into a drink (ice cold sparkling water or maybe some vodka... or a bit of both... maybe champagne or sparkling wine...) though sipping a shot of just the fruit infused vinegar is also kind of nice (honestly, at the very least for this particular version, I think sipping it neat is my preference).
And why wouldn’t that citrus, honey, and apple cider vinegar combination also be good for you- especially end of winter or beginning of spring?
Citrus, with its vitamin C, local honey for allergy-fighting purposes (due to the inclusion of small amounts of the regional agricultural allergens, it kind of inoculates you), cider vinegar with many reputed benefits- though right now we’ll go with probiotics via fermentation from the raw and unpasturized organic version.
(And this would be my reason for opting for a marinating method instead of one involving heat- my hopes of keeping any good stuff going.)


The taste is tart and sweet, fruity... there's a slight spiciness from the vinegar, with a bit of a perfumed finish that you may not be able to quite identify.

Citrus is best organic or pesticide free here (and always, actually) as you use the whole fruit, but at the very least make sure you wash it before cutting, please.

And as a little side note, Mom used to make blackberry and elderberry shrub many years ago and we thought it wasn’t that great- mostly it was just plain weird. She’d say something like, “Come on guys, THIS is what they drank before soda!”
Not that we were soda drinkers at our house, we didn’t really have it around, but maybe that was supposed to lend some draw and mystique. Needless to say, we weren't all that impressed.
But yes, it was a Colonial form of fruit preservation. "Shrub" even sounds Colonial.
(Though I'd bet sparkling water, if it even existed in Colonial America, if it was "manufactured" or imported somehow, likely wasn't available to everyone.  It was invented/discovered in 1767 by an English chemist named Joseph Priestly- who also invented the eraser. It's better with sparkling water than still- I think we only had it with still water those many years ago.)
Anyway, sorry Mom, I like it now.
And I'll likely be experimenting with more.

Blood Orange-Lavender Shrub
makes about 3 cups (750 ml)

1 slightly generous lb (1/2 kilo) blood oranges (better, likely juicer, if they feel heavy for their size)
1 1/4 c (300 ml) apple cider vinegar
1 cup (240 ml) mild local honey
1/2 c (120 ml) Meyer lemon juice
1/4 c (8 g) dried lavender buds (food grade)

Remove a thin slice from the top and bottom of each orange, to get rid of that extra bit of pith. Cut the blood oranges in half, pole to pole, then slice thinly and add to a clean, large glass jar (at least a quart, though more space would make things easier). Add the vinegar, honey, Meyer lemon juice, and lavender. Muddle everything together well with a very clean wooden spoon to dissolve the honey and extract juice and oils from the pieces of blood orange. Cover tightly and let the mixture sit 2-3 days (perhaps tasting it after the second day), shaking it at least once daily, giving it a good jostle to redistribute everything. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, moderately pressing on the orange peels to extract as more of the liquid, and pour the mixture into a clean jar and refrigerate. Use as desired.
The finished shrub should last several weeks refrigerated.

*Shrub can also be used as a marinade for meats, as part of a sauce for finishing, or in a vinaigrette.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Lavender Hot Chocolate

A riff on ganache hot chocolate from four or so years ago (just because ganache hot chocolate is the best and I needed some today).
AND it's so cold here right now. I might as well make this and have it for a few days. 
The hot chocolate "mix" can be made vegan/dairy free if you use coconut milk instead of cream. Coconut milk is so-so-so good as a cream replacement, adding that thick and creamy need that would be otherwise sadly missing.  I don't generally think you can detect the coconut either, as chocolate is a pretty strong flavor. Then when you make yourself a cup of chocolate, use you favorite nut/seed/grain milk.
Use another type of sugar if you choose: maple syrup, for instance... or don't use extra sugar at all (really, it's NOT required).

Making another type of ganache is another option. You could forego the lavender and add a touch of peppermint oil. Orange oil might be nice, too... or zest an orange directly into your cup of chocolate. 

My preference for hot chocolate is (usually) thicker, richer, and in smaller portions.  It seems like more of a treat that way, too. An afternoon pick-me-up, or a small evening dessert.

To me, the amount of lavender called for here lends a very mild lavender flavor. Add more lavender if you'd like the flavor more pronounced.

Lavender Hot Chocolate
serves 5-8 (recipe makes about 18 T ganache)

1/2 c plus 2 tsp (130 ml) heavy cream (*coconut milk if vegan)
1 T (3 g) dried lavender buds (food grade)
5 oz (140 g) good dark chocolate (50-60% or so)
2 T (30 g) granulated sugar (optional)
fine sea salt (a pinch)

Hot milk, preferably whole (if you're going all-out... *or your nut/seed/grain milk of choice)

In a small saucepan over medium low heat, bring the cream and lavender flowers to a gentle simmer. Turn off the heat, cover, and let steep 7 minutes. Strain the lavender from the cream and return the cream to the pan along with the chocolate, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir over low heat, until the chocolate and sugar are melted and the mixture is blended.

Place 3-4 T (45-60 ml or 60-80 g) chocolate ganache in a cup along with a splash of hot milk. Stir until smooth and add milk to taste (maybe 6-8 oz. or 180-240 ml). 
Alternatively, whisk ganache to taste into a pan of hot milk.

A dollop of whipped cream on top is optional.

Refrigerate any extra ganache in a covered container. Try to use within a week.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lemon Posset

Lemon posset is a simple dessert, no frills but still perfect- especially for summer. You don't have to turn on an oven, just a bit of time on the stove, it's to made ahead, and it's served cold.
It contains no egg and no gelatin (yay), but it's still beautifully set.

The posset is incredibly smooth and creamy, and wonderfully lemony without the inclusion of zest, but that zest certainly adds a bit of zing- it's your call, and depends whether you're really a lemon lover. 
Down the line I think I'd like to try it with the addition of rosemary or lavender infused sugar...

Serve the posset as is, with berries, or make the smaller portion size and serve with shortbread or as part of a café gourmand (with tiny demitasse spoons, of course).

So simple, but so perfect.

(*As a side note, it's Tuesday evening, I'll be driving to California on Thursday morning. Job change. I'll be taking the Missouri-Kansas-Colorado-Utah-Nevada-California route. It's a long drive, over 30 hours, but there should be plenty to see. And I just made some pecan and rosemary granola bars for the road- mmmmm!  My plan is to keep this up, blogging recipes every now and then, so I hope that won't change!)

Lemon Posset
Serves 4-6

2 c (473 ml) heavy cream
1/2 c plus 2 T (140 g) granulated sugar
5 T (75 ml) lemon juice
2 t (4 g) finely grated lemon zest (optional)

Optional for serving: fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or strawberries)

Whisk cream and sugar together in a 3 qt saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully incorporated. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue boiling 5 minutes while stirring.  Keep an eye on it- especially closer to the end as it can boil over or scorch- just be careful. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in lemon juice and zest if using. Let cool 10 minutes, then pour into jars or ramekins. Let cool and chill at least a couple hours until set.
Serve as desired. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Strawberry Truffle Tart

I began working on this recipe in February, I think.
Long story short, I didn't think it would take me quite so long to post it.
(Time seems to be going fast this year though.)
BUT, among other things, I seemed to have a problem with consistency- each time I made it, it tasted just fine, but the texture was a little off (i.e the strawberry filling wasn't stiff enough to hold up to slicing and cooperate in staying in that form), or I ended up with too much of this or that aspect for a single tart...
You know, stuff...

So, keep trying.

The pastry needed to be crisp and cookie-like, the strawberry filling somewhere between jam and a pâte de fruits, the chocolate ganache top slice-able and solid but still a bit soft.
A little more of this here and maybe less of that there.
(And actually, most of the photos come from a "testing" day, not the final recipe day.
"Sliced" view? Soft filling. But good visual effect!)

I'm hoping this is it for good, for ever time.
But I suppose nothing can ever be totally black and white.
I don't control strawberries and their moisture content, for instance. Sad fact, I know.
And I guess that would be one reason why recipes always have variable times for cooking things- there ARE a lot of variables (humidity, elevation, product availability, etc.).
So that's when the cook's experience and perhaps intuition come into play- you need to have an idea of what you're doing or looking for sometimes to make as best as you can.

However, if nothing else, if not absolutely drop-dead gorgeous on the plate, it will taste good!

I think this is a nice nibble for the afternoon, with tea or coffee...

The pan used is a 13 3/4 x 4 1/2 inch (about 35 cm by 11 1/2 cm) rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom

Strawberry Truffle Tart
serves 9

60 g (1/2 c + 2T) hazelnut flour
50 g (1/3 c + 1T) sweet (glutinous) rice flour
40 g (1/3 c + 1T+ 1t) oat flour
45 g (3 T) sugar
3 g (1/4 t) salt
85 g (6 T) butter, cold and cubed
5 ml (1 t) vanilla
30 ml (2 T) cold water

45 g (1/4 c) semi-sweet chocolate chips

8 oz (225 g) strawberries, trimmed and sliced before weighing
45 g (3 T) sugar
30 ml (2 T) water
120 ml (1/2 c) good strawberry jam
3 ml (1/2 t) lemon juice, plus more to taste

95ml (1/3 c plus 1 T) heavy cream
110 g (about 2/3 c) dark chocolate
10 ml (2 t) corn syrup (optional)

Optional for stripes:

30 g (1/4 c) confectioner's sugar
15 ml (1T) cream or milk

Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C.
In the bowl of a food processor, blend the hazelnut, rice, and oat flours along with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse several times until the mixture is fairly uniform and crumbly or sandy, without visible bits of butter. Sprinkle the vanilla and 2/3 of the water over the flour mixture and pulse several times to incorporate. Pinch a bit of the pastry dough to see if it comes together, if not, add the rest of the water and pulse a few times more to blend.
Tip the dough out into the tart pan and press along the bottom and up the sides of the tin, as uniformly as possible. 

Refrigerate the dough 10-15 minutes until cold and stiff.

Place the prepared tart pan in the oven and reduce the temperature to 350 F/175 C. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the tart dough is completely set and pale golden.
Sprinkle chocolate chips over the finished pastry shell and let them melt a few minutes. Very gently, with the bowl of a spoon or an offset spatula, spread the melted chocolate over the bottom surface of the tart. Cool the tart and then refrigerate.

While the tart shell rests in the fridge  (or while it bakes), begin working on the strawberry filling. Bring the strawberries, sugar and water to a strong simmer over medium heat. Simmer 7-10 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally, at which time you should see thick and glossy bubbles and the liquid is somewhat reduced. Add the strawberry jam and puree the mixture in a food processor to break down the strawberries. Place the mixture back in the pan and simmer the mixture a further 7 minutes or so, stirring more frequently closer to the end so the jam doesn't scorch.
Pull the pan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
Let the mixture cool in the pan.

When ready to assemble the tart, make the ganache.
Place the chocolate and cream together in a bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water, set over medium-low heat. Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture smooth and homogeneous. Stir in the corn syrup, if using.

While the chocolate is melting for ganache, remove the tart crust from the refrigerator and spoon the strawberry filling over the bottom of the crust. Spread it evenly along the base and set aside.

Make the white stripe icing by mixing the confectioner's sugar and cream in a small bowl. Place the icing in a small plastic bag (or pastry bag fitted with a very small tip) and set aside until ready to use.)

When the ganache is ready, spoon it carefully over the jam. Spread it gently, smoothly and evenly with an offset spatula, covering all of the jam filling and sealing it off all the way to the edge of the pastry. Cut a small corner off the bag with the icing- if using, and with a steady hand draw stripes across the tart about every inch or so. Using a toothpick, pull a toothpick perpendicularly through the icing stripes, every 1/2 to 1 inch, alternating directions. (After you're finished it should look like the toothpick has been pulled though top to bottom, then bottom to top, top to bottom, etc.) Ganache and icing will both settle a bit and lose some sheen after resting and chilling.

Refrigerate the tart at least a couple hours before slicing and serving.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Broccoli Soup

The original purpose of this soup was to use up broccoli stems. MANY people don't like broccoli stems (thus you can find crowns only in the store for purchase- stems removed). And besides, if they're not prepared correctly, peeled namely, they can be tough and woody. This could potentially lead to people not liking them...

The tops of the whole broccoli stalks are cut off when people use them, and the stems sometimes just sit there, sad and neglected in the fridge. And maybe many people don't even bother with that, just throwing them away. If that happens, it's a shame.

But lots of people like broccoli soup: cream of broccoli with tons of cream and topped with cheddar. That's all fine and dandy, but not exactly what this is here.
It's pretty much all vegetables, puréed into a smooth and velvety blend.
Adding the cream and cheese would be up to you in the end, more a finishing note than the base.

It started off as a very eyeballed thing, each time it would be a bit different as measurements were never exact. I've written things down so it's more tangible and there's an actual jumping off point.  Fix it as necessary.

You may not believe there's no cream in here, and if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken,  replace the butter with extra olive oil if you so choose, the soup easily becomes vegan.

The recipe is large. I mean, 4 lb. broccoli? 12 cups broth? Yes.
It can easily be halved.

Serve as is or with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche, plain yogurt, grated cheese, sliced green onion.

Broccoli Soup
Serves 8 (generously) or more

4 lb. (1.8 kg) broccoli (I like a combination of crowns and stems, but whatever you have works)
2 T (30 ml) olive oil
2 T  (30 g) butter
1 large onion, large dice
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium potato (Russet or maybe Yukon Gold), peeled, quartered and cut into pieces
12 c (2.8 L) vegetable or chicken broth, plus more as necessary
A good pinch cayenne pepper, more as you require
Freshly ground nutmeg (I like about 1/2 a whole nutmeg grated directly into the pot)
Baby spinach (optional, but it will add iron and give a boost to the shade of your soup)
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt

Cut the crowns from the broccoli stems. Separate the florets and place them in a large bowl. Cut the dry end from the stem and peel the outer layer from the stems using a paring knife (it comes off nicely in strips). Cut the stems into 1 inch slices and set aside.

Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion and sauté until it begins to caramelize. Add the carrot and onion, and continue to sauté the vegetables several more minutes. Add the sliced broccoli stems, potato, and garlic, and stir to coat everything in the oil and begin to warm the garlic.

Pour in the broth, a dash of cayenne (I maybe use 1/8 t or so total, but you may want to start with less), several grinds of fresh black pepper, and a good pinch of salt. Bring the soup to a boil, stir, reduce to a simmer, cover with a cocked lid, and cook about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the broccoli stems are easily pierced with a knife, add the florets, stir them through, and continue simmering the soup 10-15 minutes longer, until the broccoli florets are easily pierced with a knife.

Carefully purée the soup in batches in a blender (only filling the blender about 2/3 full, holding the top on with a folded kitchen towel as you blend), adding a small handful of spinach to each batch before blending if you choose. Pour the soup into another pot and continue blending the rest of the soup.
If extra liquid is required for the consistency, you can use water or extra hot broth (or, of course, cream if you like).

Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary: salt, pepper, cayenne, and nutmeg.
Serve warm with garnishes as desired. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Hazelnut Babycakes

Technically, I suppose these little nibbles would be classified as a version of financiers or friands.

Hazelnut babycakes come together fairly quickly- charming little bites that are as nice to eat as they are simple to make.
They make a sweet little nibble with tea or coffee in the afternoon, crispy on the top and edges, and chewy within.

A treat to be sure, perhaps a little more rare these days if you're trying to be more careful- but they're meant to be shared.
Of course, you could use a different pan if you don't have this particular style. Just keep in mind that you'll be dealing with a different bake time and will likely have to be a bit more attentive at some point.
(Although I think these particular cakes are best in a small size because of their density.)

Hazelnut Babycakes
makes 24

1 c (100 g) hazelnut meal
1/4 c plus 1T (50 g) arrowroot powder
1/4 t (2 g) salt
1/2 t (2 g) baking powder
2 large eggs, plus one egg white- room temperature
10 T butter (about 140 g), melted and slightly cooled
1/2 c (100g) granulated sugar

raspberries or blackberries (or blackberry or raspberry jam)
chocolate (solid pieces to tuck in the center, or as a ganache to dip the tops)
a bit of espresso powder in the batter (especially if you add chocolate)

Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C with a rack set in the center.

Butter the holes of a 24-hole mini muffin tin.
Blend the hazelnut meal, arrowroot, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and extra white together with the sugar a few minutes so the eggs are broken down and the sugar is well incorporated. Add espresso powder here if you choose to use it.
Add the melted butter and mix well.
Pour the hazelnut mixture you've previously set aside into the eggs, sugar, and butter. Mix with a rubber spatula, until just homogeneous.
Divide the batter among the spaces in the muffin tin, they should be about 3/4 full.
Now it's time to dress them up a bit if you wish. Tuck a berry into the top of each, pressing it down slightly to sink it in (but try not to hit the bottom of the pan). Or, add some chopped chocolate, or a tiny dollop of jam to the center of each cake.

Bake the cakes 15-20 minutes, or until they are golden and puffed. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool only a couple minutes before turning the cakes out onto a cooling rack (they may need a little assistance- just don't make the mistake of waiting until completely cool because by then they've glued themselves to the pan).
Let cool completely, dust with powdered sugar (or dip the tops in ganache if you choose), and serve. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Seafood Laksa

Spicy and creamy, with tons of sweet-salty-sour flavor, and a bit funky, Southeast Asian laksa is pretty much a curry soup.
Think Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia on this one.
So nice for a warming dinner on a cold or rainy day, just get yourself a big bowl and you're on your way.
(And I think a tad addictive. Better than takeout?)

The recipe can be halved fairly easily, though I'd encourage anyone to go ahead and make the full recipe for the laksa paste. The half not immediately used can be stored in the freezer in a labeled and zippered bag, all the air removed. It makes for a quicker meal the next time you want it, and you don't have to worry about buying a little of this and a bit of that.

Curry paste, laksa paste (and we could say the same for the likes of pesto)... it's always good to have extra made and on hand. So much amazing flavor packed in there!

Leftovers of the soup are great, but remember that shrimp are much nicer texture-wise immediately after they're cooked. Those day-after, reheated shrimp can be a bit rubbery, so if that's a big problem, make what you need- not an excess.

Rice noodles would be the much more traditional addition to the finished soup, but if you've got rice to use up... plus sometimes noodles in soup can make for messy eating...

And while accompaniments would generally be added at one's discretion, to taste, I think lime and fresh cilantro are requirements. The soup isn't quite the same without the two of them sprinkled over the top just before eating. They add that last layer of fresh, crisp, and sour.

Seafood Laksa
serves 8 or more

3 large shallots, roughly chopped
3 serrano chilis, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
4 fresno chilis, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
3 inches of ginger (about 30 g) peeled and grated
6 cloves of garlic, roughly minced
3 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves and top dry part removed, tender inner white part chopped
1/4 c (about 24 g) cilantro stems
1 T (7 g) ground turmeric
1 T (15 ml) tamarind paste
1 1/2 t (5 g) ground cumin
1 t (4 g) paprika
6 T (90 ml) olive or vegetable oil

2 cans (400 ml each) coconut milk
8 oz (240 ml) clam juice
2 c (480 ml) vegetable stock
3 T (51 g) packed brown sugar
1/4 c (60 ml) fish sauce
4 fresh cod fillets, skinned
40 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 1/2 c packed (290 g) bean sprouts
To serve: softened rice noodles or jasmine or basmati rice (cooked), chopped cilantro leaves, lime wedges

To make the laksa paste, combine the shallots, chilis, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro stems, turmeric, tamarind, cumin and paprika in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times, then process everything to begin breaking it down. Add the oil and continue processing, scrape down the sides as necessary, until the mixture forms a relatively homogeneous paste. 

Heat a large, heavy pot over medium and add the laksa paste. Stir the paste in the hot pot a few minutes until it begins to steam and become fragrant.  To the hot soup base,  add the coconut milk, clam juice, and vegetable stock, along with the brown sugar and fish sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and let simmer about 10 minutes.

To the simmering broth, add the whole cod fillets, and cook 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cod is cooked through. As it cooks and while you stir, break up the cod fillets into bite-sized pieces that will fit onto a spoon.  Next, add the raw shrimp to the soup, and cook 2-3 minutes, until pink. Lastly, add the bean sprouts to the pot and cook a couple minutes.

Ladle the hot laksa into bowls along with rice noodles (or rice),  add cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime.