Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Summer cooking at its best-enjoy!

Straciatella is a Roman style egg drop soup.  Usually made by beating eggs and adding them to hot chicken broth, it is both light and satisfying at the same time.  In today's New York Times I found this recipe for Tomato Straciatella.  I adore tomato soup and combining it with this Roman staple makes it even more appealing.  This dish is perfect for those of us who often look in the pantry at 6pm and wonder what we can throw together for dinner.  Well, pull out those canned tomatoes and chicken broth, your hunk of Parm, and whatever herbs are hanging around and this lovely soup comes together in about a half hour.  This is last minute cooking at its finest!

When it comes to the BBQ I usually go simple and easy.  That said, I saw this recipe on the LA Times food page today and couldn't resist it:  Stuffed Pork Chops with Roasted Cherry BBQ Sauce.  Totally indulgent and definitely a bit time consuming, you should make the BBQ sauce a day in advance and stuff your pork chops several hours before grilling.  The stuffing is a combination of bacon, goat cheese, fennel, and almonds...the entire combination sounds absolutely incredible.

If you haven't yet read Life on the Line by Grant Achatz, it is a book you should go out and buy right now.  I just finished it and found it incredibly inspiring.  Grant, of Alinea fame in Chicago, was raised in a restaurant family.  His dad has long owned the Achatz Riverview Restaurant in St. Clair, Michigan and in today's Chicago Tribune they pay him his own respects.  Grant Achatz Sr. bakes a rotation of 32 different pies at his restaurant and his experience has given him the right to stand on his own soap box.  Check out the article for his tips and recipes for Coconut Cream and Mixed Berry Pie.  Both look diner-worth delicious.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pie Crazy

Summer has been busy and posts have been sporadic.  I'm still out here, working hard on some new exciting things I'll talk about soon.

In the meantime, we've been entertaining...a lot.  I love summer dinner parties for many reasons-lots of chilled rosé, no fussy food, and plenty of fresh produce to inspire me.  The grill helps too and mine has seen its fair share of burgers and skirt steak this summer.  But, truth be told, it's the summer desserts that I love the most. 

In July's Bon Appétit there is a recipe for Blueberry Crumble Pie. I made it once, substituting fresh peaches and raspberries for the blueberries because I'd picked up tons at a farm and they were obscenely sweet.   The dough turned out so fantastic it's become my favorite recipe.  It's really just a very basic pâte brisée, an all butter crust that needs no embellishment.  Don't overwork it is my best advice. You can absolutely mix it in your food processor but pulse it together just until it gets crumbly-if it forms a ball you've gone too far.  And, don't skip the step of gently smearing the dough across your work surface.  This distributes the butter in a way no food processor can (the French call it 'fraisage' but 'smearing' is just fine with me).

Here are a few pics of some of the things I've created with this dough.  Give it a shot.  The recipe makes enough for one crust so if you want a double crust pie be sure to make two batches.

This is my version of the crumble pie with raspberries and peaches.  I used a deep dish tart pan so I could pack it with extra fruit.

Same dough, blind-baked then filled with fangipane (creamy almond filling) and sliced farm fresh nectarines.

Finally, my death-row dessert is blackberry pie. I found some gigantic and sweet blackberries at the market and turned the dough into hand-pies.  I cut it into circles about 6 inches in diameter and filled it with a par-cooked filling I made (berries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice).  I vented these babies way too much and they leaked all over their baking sheets but, thankfully they were packed full and still turned out great when done.  Who doesn't love a pie you can take on the run?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

I'm feeling a brunch coming on...

Who wouldn't want to wake up to Morning Oatmeal with Cherries and Pistachios?  In today's NY Times, Martha Rose Shulman explores some new ways to use the peak of the season cherries you are seeing right now in the market.  Here she suggests finding quick cooking steel cut oats but I've started substituting quinoa in my morning cereal bowl and really love it.  While Martha opts to make her oatmeal in the microwave, I don't have one and find it just as simple to do it old school, that is on the stove.  If you're using quinoa instead, just rinse it well and put it in a small pot with 2x the amount of water to quinoa (you can throw in a small pat of butter if you like too).  Bring it to a boil then let it simmer until the quinoa is tender w/just a bit of a bite,  10 minutes should do it.  Fresh cherries, crunchy pistachios, and a little brown that sounds like a perfect breakfast.

Since we're on the subject of breakfasts, after all those whole grain mornings you'll undoubtedly need to indulge.  I think these Orange Breakfast Scones from Sweetie Pie's in Napa Valley should do the trick.  The LA Times managed to get the recipe at a reader's request and I can tell these will be flaky and tender (to me the sign of a great scone).  When you see both AP flour and cake flour you know you're working with a tender dough.  Remember, anytime you mix a dough like this (biscuits, scones, muffins, etc.), be gentle!  This is not bread dough.  It needs a loving hand to combine the ingredients just enough to bring them together.  Tough kneading or mixing will result in rocks, not scones, and who needs that?

While we're "indulging" in breakfast, how does a Butterscotch Peach Split sound?  OK, so maybe it's not the healthiest of options but there is fruit, and I suppose yogurt could stand in for ice cream too.  The SF Chronicle published this recipe from  "The Fearless Baker" by Emily Luchetti and Lisa Weis, a book I own and highly recommend.  This is the perfect summer sweet treat, and I love the crunch from the macadamia nuts.  Lately I've been a big fan of Three Twins vanilla ice cream so when you're out looking for a pint to use here, try to find it.  It's pure vanilla taste is the next best thing to homemade.
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

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