Monday, February 27, 2012

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is strong coffee made from very finely ground coffee boiled in water. Frequently it's boiled with sugar and cardamom.

Cardamom and coffee, mmmmmm.

I know there's something to be said for authenticity, but I'm neither Turkish, nor do I drink (or make) this often enough to warrant the purchase of the appropriate accoutrements.

However, I think it can be fabricated well enough at home with what's available to me. Besides, I was able to grind the coffee to the appropriately lovely, powdery fineness when I bought beans. Finer than FINE, more than ESPRESSO, it's... TURKISH.

Well, the grinder at home wouldn't grind finely enough.

When the finished coffee is poured into cups, there should be creamy layer foam on top of each serving (but if there's not, it's certainly still drinkable). This is the reason why stirring should not occur while the coffee brews- so that the foam remains intact. Slow pouring (as well as pouring high above the cup- which constitutes a little coffee theatrics) will help to ensure foam. Carefully removing foam after the first boil and spooning it into cups will also ensure foam for each cup of coffee...

But foam isn't as easy to come by as it may seem (and to be perfectly honest, it's not really one of my strong points).

Turkish Coffee
serves 4

6 t very finely ground coffee (Turkish)
2 whole cardamom pods, crushed, seeds removed and crushed finely in a mortar and pestle
4 t sugar
1 1/3 c cold water

Stir coffee, water, and sugar together in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Place the pan over medium low heat, and cook without stirring.
When the coffee boils and froths, carefully remove the pan from the heat so as not to disturb the foam, and let it settle a bit (do not stir). After about 30 seconds, return the pan to the heat and re-boil over medium low heat. 
Once again, remove from the heat and let the coffee settle (do not stir). Boil a third time in the same manner, remove from heat without stirring the mixture and let it settle. 
Boil the coffee a fourth and final time, remove from heat, and let the coffee settle. Pour the finished Turkish coffee a little at a time into each of four demitasse cups, alternating several times to distribute the coffee and foam evenly. Let the cups sit a minute for the grounds to settle before serving.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Tart

Caramel and salt are a great combination. 
Things tend to go in trends, and this is no different. The combination wasn't always popular here, and it's rise has been fairly recent.  Still, it's a great combination.
The salt tempers the sweetness of the caramel, adds a little change in flavor that sort of helps to amplify the caramel (I am aware of the temper vs. amplify contradiction here). 
Salt also adds a little interesting crunch to the smooth caramel. 

It's even better with dark chocolate. The bitterness of the chocolate tends to round things out.
Milk chocolate and caramel, to me, don't taste that great together. The combination is TOO sweet- a barrage of sugar that doesn't have enough complexity. So, it's something I can safely steer clear of, and that's just fine by me.

However, there are some people who WILL NOT touch dark chocolate. There are also people who hate caramel with salt- they say it just seems wrong, and sometimes it seems that they say it in such a way to convey that it goes against their moral fibers. 
It's sad, really. They should stand up against something more... relevant.

This is not a recipe for those who shun dark chocolate, or abhor salt with their caramel. So sorry.

There are so many types of salt out there, and they're all good for different things. Many are best as finishers because of their color or texture. 
Grey salt is fairly coarse and crunchy (good choice), while another option, fleur de sel, is very delicate both in texture and flavor. I guess it all depends on what type of contrast you feel like and what's available to you. 

I recently came across this little NY Times article from 2008. It might make for an interesting little foodie read

Chocolate Caramel Tart
serves 10-12
Slightly adapted from Saveur, Issue #119, from Marlow & Sons

1 1/2 c flour
1/4 c plus 1 T dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 t kosher salt
10 T unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into pieces
1/2 c plus 2 T confectioners' sugar
2 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 t vanilla extract

1 1/2 c sugar
3 T light corn syrup
1/4 t kosher salt
6 T unsalted butter
6 T heavy cream
2 t vanilla extract
1 T crème fraîche or sour cream

1/2 c heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate 

Gray sea salt or fleur de sel for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
Combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients until combined. Transfer the dough to a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom and press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Place the crust in the freezer 20 minutes. 
Prick the crust all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer the finished crust to a rack and let cool completely. 
In a 1 qt. saucepan, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, salt and 6 T water and bring to a boil. Have a pastry brush and water on hand for brushing down the sides of the pan if necessary. Cook without stirring until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340 degrees F. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, cream, crème fraîche (or sour cream), and vanilla. The mixture will bubble up, but continue stirring until the caramel is smooth. Pour the caramel into the cooled tart shell, let cool, and refrigerate until firm (at least 3 hours). 
To make the ganache, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the hot cream over it. Let the chocolate and cream sit about one minute and then stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour the ganache evenly over the caramel and smooth the top as necessary.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour more until set. 
Sprinkle the tart with grey salt or fleur de sel, slice, and serve chilled. 

Tip: If you run the knife under hot water, then wipe dry between cuts, the tart will cut more easily.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Passion Fruit Verrines

Passion fruit isn't prevalent in Middle America. 
It's more familiar with South Pacific/South America/generally more tropical climes than the temperate region we happen to have here.
Seasonally, it could probably be found around here for the rest of this month and maybe into the March. Of course, that all depends on my friendly local produce guys... can and will they order some for me if I find that the little area I have become accustomed to seeing passion fruits in has disappeared and is replaced with the overflow of avocados?

Then again, if they can't get them for me, they can't get them for me. They can't be forced to get fruit that's unavailable. That's just silly. I tried to get some in August or September, but was told they couldn't get them until later in the year...
Passion fruit has to be "imported" from somewhere more tropical than Missouri, and most people in this general area have probably never eaten it. Sure, it might be part of a blended tropical fruit juice. But the actual fresh fruit? What do you do with it?

It's a small purplish globe, with a surprise inside. After cutting into one, you'll find there's a mess of juicy orange-gold pulp tangled up with millions of crunchy black seeds- similar to what you would find inside of a pumpkin. The very good news is that the seeds are completely edible.

Passion fruit is tart and it smells and tastes like Australia. It's true.

This dessert came about because I planned to make a beautiful pavlova like this:

Only, I planned to use passion fruit and cream instead of berries and lemon curd. Sadly, my meringue misbehaved and I had to chop it up. Well, it was falling apart anyway. Parts were soft and marshmallowy, other parts by contrast were shatteringly crisp... and falling apart.   
Frequently, when something like this happens, you're running too late to be able to do much about it. And so, dessert was salvaged by massacring the meringue.

In the end, dessert is simple and layered in a glass like a small trifle, parfait, or Eton Mess, and looks beautiful that way.

The astringent fruit pairs quite well with crispy-sugary meringue and lush cream, and you can probably manage to get all three things in each spoonful. 

When choosing passion fruit, you want to find fruit that seems heavy for it's size (it's easier to get an idea of this once you compare a few fruits). They're generally about the size of a large egg. And another thing... you want to make sure they're ripe when you use them. They should be purple, perhaps quite wrinkly, and they'll probably have a tropical scent. When they're NOT ripe they're smooth, shiny, almost a blue-grey color (a very interesting color for fruit), and may smell more green and grassy. If they're not ripe, they will ripen- but it may take a little while. If you've got any left over, the pulp is fantastic with some good Greek yogurt or on vanilla ice cream.

Passion Fruit Verrines
serves 6

4 large egg whites, room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 c vanilla sugar (or 3/4 c sugar and add 1 t vanilla extract after the sugar has been added)
1 t white vinegar
8 fresh, ripe passion fruits
1 1/2 c heavy whipping cream
2 T granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. 
Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper. 
Beat egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until broken down and quite frothy. Continue mixing and slowly add the sugar, whisking until glossy and meringue holds soft peaks. Add the vinegar and again whisk until meringue holds stiff peaks. 
Spoon 6 large mounds of meringue onto the parchment paper, flatten slightly into roughly 6 inch discs. Bake for 1 1/2-2 hours or until the outside is crisp and dry. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringues sit undisturbed for 1 hour.
Remove pan from the oven and let cool completely.
By hand or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it becomes thick. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the sugar and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Cut the passion fruits in half and scoop the yellow pulp and juice with black seeds into a bowl. Set aside.
To assemble the desserts, crumble one half of a meringue into each of 6 glasses. Top meringue with a couple spoons of passion fruit pulp, and cover with a layer of whipped cream. Repeat with meringue, more passion fruit, and end with whipped cream. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Leeks Vinaigrette

As far as salads go, many people might not consider this falling under the salad definition.
Some may believe that "salad" only refers to green leaves. Not so.

I tried to get a good, official and potentially interesting definition for you, but my food dictionary goes from sake to salad bowl lettuce, salad burnet, salad dressing, salade composé, and salad spinner- all completely unhelpful in getting my point across. 

But we all know that many things other than a bowl of various lettuces can be referred to as salads. There are fruit salads, pasta salads, salads with grains like quinoa or rice, potato salad, chicken salad... gelatin salads...
"Salad" comes from "sal" (salt), and referred to vegetables being being brined or salted.  We can safely say that gelatin salads do not fit in this instance.

Leeks vinaigrette is, of course, a vegetable salad. 

Perhaps it'snot what Americans would always think of when they think "salad," but it's a salad nonetheless. It's a French salad. And it's a great salad, too. 

Leeks are something that we might use on occasion as an addition to something else, but it doesn't normally have a starring role. Like onions, leeks are there for flavor (and maybe color), but they're not generally the main event.  And I really think they're kind of a pretty vegetable. 

This gives leeks a little time to shine. They're first gently cooked by steaming, then they become silky after marinating in a vinaigrette. The steam-induced bright green fades to something much more dull because of the vinegar, but not to worry, it's going to happen anyway.

This is adapted from one of Thomas Keller's recipes. I've never eaten at the French Laundry, it's certainly on my list, but certainly not within my price range or within an accessible distance at the moment. Bouchon is less prohibitive, but really no closer in proximity and I've not been there either. 

I'm not assuming I can improve upon Thomas Keller's cooking, but I did make some changes to his Leeks Vinaigrette recipe...

Leeks Vinaigrette
serves 6-8
Based on a recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Cookbook

12 leeks, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter

Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

2 T Dijon mustard
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1 c canola oil

3 T minced shallot
3 T red wine vinegar
2 large t Dijon mustard
3/4 c olive oil

3-4 eggs, hard boiled*, whites and yolks separated, whites chopped and yolks pressed through a
strainer, parsley or chives (optional garnishes)

Place a few inches of water in a large pot with a steamer insert. Cover and heat the water to a simmer over medium heat. 
Trim the dark green leaves from the leeks (the leek will be roughly 6 inches long) and peel away the tough outer leaves. Trim the root end, and split the leek from the top to the root end, but leave about 1 inch of the leek uncut so that it remains intact. Rinse the leeks well under cool running water, separating the layers a bit as you do so. Tie the leeks together in a bundle with kitchen twine, and stand the leeks up in the steamer basket, cover, and steam about 10 minutes or until tender. 
While the leeks steam, make the marinade. Whisk together 2 T Dijon mustard and 1/4 c red wine vinegar. Slowly whisk in 1 c canola oil until emulsified. Add 1 c water and whisk to combine. Set aside. 
Remove the leeks from the steamer, place on a pan, and cut the twine so that they leeks separate and cool. When cool enough to handle, cut each leek completely through so that you have two halves. 
Place the leeks cut side up in a 9x13 inch pan with sides and salt and pepper lightly.  Pour the reserved marinade over the leeks, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 3 hours. 
Prior to serving, make the vinaigrette. Place 3 T minced shallot, 1/2 t kosher salt, and 3 T red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in 2 large t Dijon mustard, then slowly whisk in 3/4 c olive oil. Taste and season with pepper and salt if necessary. 
When ready to serve, remove the leeks from the pan and discard any extra marinade. 
Salt and pepper the leeks and place 3-4 halves cut side down on each plate. Spoon the vinaigrette over the leeks and garnish as desired.

*To hard boil eggs: 
Place eggs in a small pot, covered with about an inch of cool water. Bring the water to a full
rolling boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 5 minutes. 
Remove the eggs from the water, cool, and peel.