Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Reporting from sunny Santa Monica today!  Had some amazing food at Tavern in Bretnwood last night.  It is Suzanne Goin's most recent project-the room is just stunning and the standout dish?  A poached egg dredged in buttered bread crumbs and fried, perched atop huge spears of grilled asparagus and soft polenta.  The dish was topped with shaves of fresh Parm and when we broke into the egg and ate a bite of everything together it was heaven.  Even my son said "we better order another one of these!"

Speaking of L.A. and asparagus, Russ Parsons, in today's LA Times explores the ease of this vegetable, at its peak right now.  When you go to the market to pick some up, be sure to look for spears with tight flowers on top-as they get old the flower begins to open and sprout, not a good sign.  I used to be a fan of the pencil thin spears but have realized over the years that the big ol' thick ones are packed with a lot more flavor.  Be sure to cut off the bottom inch of two of the stem and if the spear looks to be much thicker on the bottom than the top, use a vegetable peeler to shave it down so it's all even.  For a new, and very easy, way to cook your spears, try Russ' version of Steamed Asparagus with Brown Butter Sauce.  Simple on its own, he also mentions the variation he tried by topping it with a poached (or fried) egg.  Break that yolk and it'll combine with the brown butter sauce to taste as rich as hollandaise.  Add a big salad and you've got dinner (although some bread to drag through that sauce might be necessary too).  Remember, asparagus has about one month of high season and this is it-head to your farmers' market and get some soon.

I love Melissa Clark's "Good Appetite" column in the NY Times. She knows how real people cook and her Carrot and Tahini Soup with Pita Crisps is no exception.  Her inspiration for creating the recipe?  It was her daughter's love of hummus and her sneaking suspicion that she could get those flavors into other, more nutritional dishes.  Kids love soup-I am a huge fan of packing them full of veggies and grains.  Melissa's soup combines fresh carrots with tahini, the sesame paste used to turn chickpeas into hummus.  It's easy to find at any market these days-look for it by the peanut butters, and is full of nutrients much like other nuts and seeds.   This soup uses loads of garlic plus coriander and a dash of turmeric to bring out that vibrant carrot-orange.  The verdict?  Melissa was a huge fan but her toddler still wanted her hummus.  If I know Melissa, she'll keep trying on this one but in the meantime, she'll enjoy the soup herself.  And you should too.

When I was in culinary school we had to make so much pate au choux I swore I'd never make, or eat, the stuff again.  This is the dough that transforms from butter/water/flour/eggs into gougeres, profiteroles, or cream puffs.  The problem is, the dough is so simple and bakes up so beautifully, it's hard to avoid.  I've had the amazing version at Delfina, filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and toasted almonds-it's well worth an exception to my rule.  I've also made many a gougere, a savory version full of Gruyere cheese and perfect with a glass of champagne.  The San Francisco Chronicle looks at how Bay Area chefs bake up their pate au choux.  Tons of recipes to motivate even me to make it again: Gnocchi a la Parisienne (poached pate au choux served with a rich cheese sauce), Gougeres (those savory cheese puffs, which you can freeze unbaked and pop in the oven when you need them), Profiteroles a la Delfina (make that chocolate sauce and fill 'em with coffee ice cream), and even Beignets from Gerald Hirigoyen (a fried version dusted with sugar and flavored with orange blossom).  Time to bring back the pate au choux!

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

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