I’m Not Stalking David Lebovitz…

29 08 2008

…But I did have the pleasure of meeting him last Friday at Grom, an awesome Italian gelateria which has just opened its doors in Paris.  He was very kind and let me jump into his conversation with Guido, the guy running the show.  Guido was extremely enthusiastic about his ingredients and products, which is great to see and even better to experience.  (It doesn’t hurt that he’s an attractive Italian man.)  He gave us tastes of several different gelati, including his amazing gianduja made with dark chocolate and crunchy bits of hazelnut – fresh out of the ice cream machine!  Just about everything I tried there was fantastic, from the cornmeal cookies that go into their very unique “cookies and cream” gelato, to the nearly sorbet-like coffee gelato made with Italian roast coffee (sorry, France, sometimes your coffee isn’t up to snuff).  If there’s a Grom in your town, I highly recommend it.

Rhubarb and Reine Claude plums

Anyway, the reason I feel compelled to insist that I’m not a stalker is because I’ve been making a lot of David Lebovitz’ recipes lately.  First there was the individual chocolate cakes.  Then, on his recommendation, I bought some Reine Claude plums.  Following that, on a weekend trip to Orléans, I had a delicious jam made from rhubarb and Reine Claudes.  I wanted to try to recreate it at home, but I have no idea how to make jam.  So who do I turn to?  David Lebovitz, of course!  Following his guidelines, I produced a ridiculous amount of jam.  (I think I mentioned the jam when I was making it, and busy writing about Bulgaria.)

Future Jam

Leaving me with the challenge of finding something to do with all that tasty homemade jam.  Luckily, I had been eyeing a recipe for a jam tart with a cornmeal crust, written by you-know-who.

The finished jam tart

Mine didn’t come out as pretty as his did, but the flavor was excellent.  The slight crunch of the cornmeal in the crust makes for a nice contrast with the gooey jam.  Thanks, David!  I must also admit that his recent posts on hamburgers have given me the craving, too.  So today I made brioche buns, Nick’s making potato salad, and we’re having good, old-fashioned burgers.  And onion dip.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

Originally published on Croque-Camille.


26 08 2008

So here is my other contender for entry into the Royal Foodie Joust at The Leftover Queen.

Coulebiac with Quinoa and Ginger

Coulibiac is the French name for the Russian dish Kulebiaka.  Traditionally, it consists of fish (usually salmon), baked in a brioche crust with rice, egg, and mushrooms, seasoned with lemon and dill.  It’s one of those seriously old-school recipes that would be right at home on a table laid by Carême.  Or it would be if you made it with an entire fish, and then shaped the brioche crust to look like a fish complete with glistening egg-washed scales and maybe an olive for the eye.

By comparison, my recipe is simple, though it looks like a monster undertaking.  (Writing it all down was no walk in the park, I’ll tell you that.)  But if you’re organized, you really can do all the prep while you’re waiting for the brioche to rise.  I made a few changes to the traditional dish, swapping out the rice in favor of quinoa and adding a hint of ginger.  I replaced the dill with fresh chives, because I thought they would be a better complement to the ginger.  I also omitted the egg, as it seemed extraneous.  And I threw some whole wheat flour into the brioche dough to increase the whole-grain factor.

Mushrooms sautéed with ginger and chives

After setting the brioche dough aside to rest, I started with the mushrooms.  Sautéed in butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and fresh ginger, then finished with white wine and fresh chives, I could have eaten these on their own.  But they were destined for bigger things, so I set them aside to keep the brioche company.  While they were cooking, I simmered the quinoa in water seasoned with salt and ginger.  I undercooked it slightly in hopes that it would come out of the final dish perfectly cooked.  Lemon zest and more chives brightened up the flavor and then that, too, had to wait.

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Weekend Bonus Post: The Mosaic Meme

24 08 2008

My mosaic of answers

1. Camille Pissarro 2. Quick Dinner Preparation 3. Posing for a Portrait 4. Secret #30 The End 5. More Johnny Depp… 6. Cascade Hops 7. Early Dusk 8. S’mores from Doughmonkey 9. Tools of the Trade 10. spreading the love 11. Call of the Raven 12. From above

The Rules:

  • Type your answer to the questions into flickr search
  • Using only the first page, pick an image
  • Copy and paste each of the urls in the Mosaic Maker

The Questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your favorite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to do when you grow up?
10. Who/ what do you love most in life?
11. Choose one word that describes you?
12. What is your Flickr name?

Thanks, K, for the fun project!

Granola: an Illustrated Recipe

22 08 2008

Or, It’s Not Just For Hippies Anymore! 

For the monthly Foodie Joust over at Leftover Queen’s, I came up with two very different ideas.  I haven’t decided which one to submit yet, so maybe my most excellent readers will help me decide?  (This means you!)  Last month’s winner chose ginger, citrus, and whole grains for this month’s challenge.  And here we go with my first shot (well, to tell the truth, I made this second, but the recipe was much easier to commit to the page):
With milk and peaches the next morning

Recipe and photos after the jump.
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Baked Chocolate Mousse

21 08 2008

Or, as the rest of the world calls it, warm flourless chocolate soufflé cake (using some, but not all, of those adjectives).  David Lebovitz wrote a post a short while back about what do do with some of the god-awful Xocopili balls from Valrhona.  He ended up using them in some little chocolate cakesthat looked mighty tasty.  I decided to make my own, without the disgusting pre-spiced chocolate.  I am generally opposed to the combination of chocolate and cinnamon – one too many bad experiences with oversweetened artificially flavored Mexican chocolates perhaps.  So for my cakes I used a combination of regular bittersweet 64% and the ends of a couple of Valrhona plantation bars.  Following Lebovitz’ recipe, I melted the chocolates with some butter, then whisked in sugar and egg yolks, followed by vanilla, but no spices.  Then I made a meringue with the egg whites and a bit more sugar.  By hand.

This is one of my favorite food pictures on this blog.

I folded the meringue by thirds into the chocolate mixture and stopped folding as soon as the streaks had disappeared.  Just like making mousse, without the whipped cream.

Lightening the batter

Then I portioned the batter into buttered and sugared ramekins.  Halfway through, I remembered that I’m a sucker for the melting center, so I put a couple of squares of Bonnat Hacienda El Rosario Venezuela in the center of each one, like this.  The little mousses puffed up beautifully in the oven, like the soufflés they were trying so hard to become.

Baked mousse = soufflé

I gave them a few minutes to cool, then inverted them onto plates and introduced them to some macerated strawberries.  They were fast friends.

Warm Chocolate Cake with Strawberries

Which is good, because they weren’t long for this world after that.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

Meatballs! (and spaghetti)

20 08 2008

Upon our return from Bulgaria, we had meatballs on the brain.  (I wonder why…)  Luckily, Paris has everything I need to make some killer meatballs: fresh ground meat, breadcrumbs, etc.  A trip to the butcher was in order.  Once there, I immediately ordered a half-kilo of the fresh ground beef.  While I was waiting, I noticed a bowl full of ground pork (or was it veal?  or a mixture?) for stuffing tomatoes and the like.  Clearly, my meatballs were going to need some of that, too.  And all of a sudden I had a whole kilo of ground meat that needed to be turned into meatballs.  Oops.

But when has an overabundance of savory meatballs ever been a problem?

I set to work on a modified version of my world-famous meatloaf.  I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but here’s the gist of it.  Start your flavor base by sautéeing onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs (oregano and thyme) in olive oil.  Throw in some tomato paste and cook until it gets nice and roasty.  Splash in a little red wine, rosemary vinegar, and/or balsamic vinegar.  Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and let it cool a bit.  Dump the ground meat or meats into a large bowl.  Season pretty liberally with salt and pepper.  A couple dashes each of worcestershire and tabasco are almost always welcome.  Then scrape in the flavor base and crack an egg on top of it all.  Get in there with your hands and start mixing.

Who doesn't love the feel of ground beef between their fingers?

At this point, it’s really nice if you have someone in the house with you who has clean hands, so they can sprinkle in the bread crumbs while you keep mixing.  Be careful not to overmix the meat, just make sure everything is evenly incorporated.  And then start forming the meatballs.  Mine were probably an ounce or so – I didn’t measure them, it was just what fit easily in my palm so I could make two at once.  (A kilo makes a lot of meatballs.)  As they are formed, you can drop them right into a hot pan to begin browning.

Just getting started...

This was at the beginning of the process.  The last batch looked like this:

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One Last Bulgaria Post

19 08 2008

On our last night in Sofia, Nick and I had two restaurants picked out, in case of summer closures or difficulty with reservations.  One was a traditional Bulgarian place, the other was what I would call “New Bulgarian,” (like New American, but with a different set of traditions to build on and different local foodstuffs to choose from).  To be honest, I was leaning toward the latter.  Since we weren’t about to attempt a phone call in Bulgarian (a phrasebook only gets you so far), we brought our list down to the lobby of our hotel and asked the woman at the desk if she could make reservations for us, which she was more than happy to do.  When she saw the first place on the list (Pod Lipite – the traditional Bulgarian one), her face lit up.  “This is a Bulgarian place!” She exclaimed, excited and a little surprised.  We took that as a good sign, so when she was able to get us reservations, we eagerly accepted.

Pod Lipite, it turns out, is something of an institution in Sofia.  Founded in the 1920’s, it used to be a haunt for the city’s journalists and writers.  These days it plays host to Bulgarians young and old, usually when they have something to celebrate.

(A short aside – as I write this, I’ve got a batch of rhubarb-Reine Claude jam going, so I’ve been getting up every couple of minutes to stir it and check the temperature.  Now it’s done, but I find those jars of jam cooling on the counter very distracting.  My mouth is watering just imagining how good it’s going to be on buttered pain de céréales in the morning, baked into a jam tart, stirred into yogurt, or, hell, spooned over ice cream.  Of course we don’t have any ice cream at the moment, and there’s no room in the freezer anyway, or you know what I’d be eating right now.  But back to Bulgaria…)

Bulgarian Rosé at Pod Lipite

That helps.  We started out by ordering a bottle of Bulgarian rosé, which we definitely preferred to the red.  The table was set with an array of spices, we assumed for both bread-dipping and seasoning purposes.

Salt and pepper are for wimps.

But unlike Manastirska Magernitsa, the bread wasn’t brought out immediately.  We ordered two servings of bread, and out this came:

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