Monday, July 30, 2007

Cream Puffs, July 29

Sunday, July 29, 2007

With Tuk back from Thailand and about to be profiled on the PBS affiliate in Springfield, we collaborated to enhance her first experience on US television. (She is well-experienced on Japanese TV.) A feature of the afternoon was the practice of her three TV dishes on video.

This was also the day Sharon's offer on a new house was accepted and was a first welcome to Hal and Brian for dinner. Photos by Hal Close except as marked.

Dinner is served
From left, Pad See-Eew, Herbed Tuna Salad, Pad See-Eew, Baby Bok Choy
Photo by Brian Long

How it began:

Eggplant with cilantro and lemon on rice crackers
Prosecco (Veneto)

Tomato gaspacho
Additions of cilantro dressing and
cilantro leaves, diced avocados, and vegetables.

Herbed tuna salad
with raisins, scallions, parsley on mixed greens,
decorated with beets and carrots carved into roses

Pad See-Eew (Thai stir-fried noodles)
with chicken, shrimp, cabbage, carrot, collard greens, egg, garlic
Baby bok choy roasted with soy sauce, ginger, garlic (not shown)
Chardonnay (New York)

Tapioca pudding
with black beans in coconut sauce
Chocolate cookies

Guests included Hal Close, Brian Long, John Calvi, Michael Krasner.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Golden Gaspacho with Cilantro Dressing

An Algarvan take on the chilled summer soup, this one is without the almonds and with orange. Gaspacho (Portuguese spelling) was probably developed throughout the northwest Mediterranean during the era of the Moors (711 - 1250) and wouldn't have begun to include tomatoes until after the 16th century. Before tomatoes, gaspacho was made with stale bread, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, almonds, water, and salt.

The Algarve, and its eastern counterpart, Andalusia -- both derivations of Arab terms -- are rich in almonds, oranges, garlic (and, more recently, tomatoes), thanks to the Moors' introduction of irrigation in the 8th century. This area, al-Gharb ("the west") and al-Andalus (etymology debated), referred to its western position in the Moors' world. The soup was part of this world. The international border and spelling distinctions were added later.

A pretty soup and lightly sweet, this version comes in four parts: the soup base, a dressing, vegetable accompaniments, and various garnishes.

For the soup
Yields 8 servings, about 4 ounces each

5 oz white bread, without crust, torn into chunks
40 oz yellow tomatoes, cored and halved pole-to-pole
2 oz champagne vinegar
4 oz Navel orange juice, freshly squeezed
16 oz cucumber, peeled and seeded
16 oz yellow bell pepper, seeded
3 oz sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon orange zest
3 oz peppery olive oil
1/2 teaspoon flor de sal

1. Tear bread into chunks and place in medium bowl.

2. Seed tomatoes over sieve set over 16-oz measuring cup. Press seeds to extract juice. To tomato juice, add orange juice and vinegar. Add water to bring total to 16 ounces. Mix and pour over bread and set aside for 10 minutes or until evenly wet throughout.

3. Cut enough tomatoes into 1/4-inch dice to equal about 2 cups. Place in refrigerator bowl and set aside. Chop remaining tomatoes coarsely and place in bowl of food processor. Cut cucumber into 1/4-inch dice to equal 1 cup. Place in small refrigerator bowl. Coarsely chop remainder of cucumber and add to food processor. Cut bell pepper into 1/4 inch dice to equal 1 cup. Place in small refrigerator bowl. Coarsely chop remainder of pepper and add to food processor. Cover diced vegetables and chill.

4. Meanwhile, add onion, garlic, orange zest to vegetables in food processor. With processor running, slowly add olive oil and blend until smooth. Strain into clean, medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Rinse food processor blade and bowl and return vegetable juices to processor. Pour soaked bread with juices into food processor. Blend until smooth. Place bread-vegetable mixture in one quart glass storage container and chill.

5. The gaspacho needs to rest for at least 6 hours. Can be made 24 hours before serving.

For the dressing
Yields 12 ounces

5 oz cilantro leaves (stems discarded), chopped (about 5 bunches)
1.5 oz scallions, chopped
1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon flor de sal
6 oz olive oil, green and peppery
1 oz ice water

1. Find 8 or more perfect whole cilantro leaves and set aside for garnish. Place in a folded sheet of paper towel and store in sealed plastic bag. Chill until serving.

2. Combine produce and salt in food processor and blend. When nearly smooth and with processor running, slowly add oil.

3. Pour dressing into sieve set over bowl. Press solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Whisk water into juice.

4. Cover and chill. Keeps 3 days. Before using, whisk again and taste for seasoning.

Garnishes, passed individually at table
Diced vegetables in separate bowls
12 oz avocado, diced
1.5 oz scallion, sliced very thinly
Whole cilantro leaves
Flor de sal

To serve, ladle soup into chilled bowls. Add dollop of cilantro dressing. As is traditional, bowls of individual, diced vegetables and garnishes are passed separately.

This posting and recipe is copyrighted by Marshall Brewer, 2007.

Monday, July 23, 2007

China Dinner

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Held to celebrate the guests' impending departures for China. Not previously known to each other, introductions to local others with China in common seems a logical and fun way to have dinner.

Chèvre in ashes
Assorted crackers
Fresh, hand-picked blueberries

Boiled dumplings with ground pork and cabbage
Dipping sauce of rice vinegar, soy sauce, scallion

Turkish green beans (cooked very slowly with garlic, chili, and peppery olive oil)
Whole salmon, cooked in salt
Romaine salad with creamy garlic-tarragon dressing
Thickly sliced, local tomatoes seasoned with Algarvan flor de sal, black pepper, and a sweet oil of late-harvest Leccino and Pendolino olives from Tuscany
Local corn on the cob
Sparkling pear juice

Spiced Hungarian sour cherry pie (allspice, brandy; lattice-style, all-butter crust) with crème Chantilly (kirsch, cinnamon) and an assertively cinnamoned sour cherry syrup

Cynthia and Jon Nordmeyer (dumplings), Shanghai
Gustavus and Atticus Nordmeyer, Shanghai
Lanping Liu, Ningbo
Ethan Birchard and Lacey ___ (cheese platter), Beijing / Qingdao
John Calvi, host
Marshall Brewer, host

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Golden Boy Shower Cake

A cake for Minhee Kang and Sehoon Ahn's baby shower, Friday, July 20, 2007. Their first child, known prenatally as Golden Boy, in recognition that he will be born in the Year of the Golden Pig, is due at the end of September.

The presented cake

How did it all come together? The sequence of cake assembly follows.

Cake components

Materials at the ready. Clockwise, from lower left, lemon-scented buttercream, cake (both layers still in foil), white cardboard cake round with brown waxed paper to keep the serving platter clean, lemon imbibing syrup (small jar), cake knife (long), icing spatula, fresh raspberries. In the center are fresh lemons, lemon curd, and raspberry conserve.

Filling first layer with buttercream

Each layer of cake is imbibed with lemon-scented syrup, then covered with the buttercream. A layer of lemon curd tops the buttercream. There are four layers.

Imbibing the top layer

"Imbibing" involves drizzling syrup into the cake, permitting the cake to absorb additional flavor and moisture. Not only does it taste more strongly, it feels better in the mouth. Toothpicks and ruler (on the dishtowel) at lower right are used to ensure the 3/4-inch layers are cut evenly and are level.

Sealing the assembled cake with raspberry conserve

Heating the raspberry conserve thins it and allows application by brush. Here, the exterior is coated. This keeps the three layers of soft filling from leaking out and adds color and flavor to each slice on the plate. The top receives a coat of raspberry, too.

Adding buttercream

Room temperature buttercream is easiest to spread. Disregarding rules followed by painters, a light-colored coat is applied to a darker one. There is a reason for this rule.

Using buttercream to adhere lemon slices

The waxed paper is removed after chilling the assembled cake overnight. The wall of the cake shows bits of red raspberry, the reason for the painter's rule. This impure white coat is camouflaged with slices of fresh lemon, de-seeded and dried. A circle of buttercream is applied to the lemon allowing it to stick to the cake better. The revolving cake stand is partially visible.

The finished cake

The finished cake is topped with a pool of raspberry sauce made by reducing the juice of raspberries into a syrup, taking the seeds out of the pulp and blending the syrup with the uncooked, fresh pulp. Fresh, whole raspberries give a clearer clue about the flavor of the sauce. The lemons do the same for the cake itself. The dark frame for the the more light-colored whole are leaves of climbing hydrangea.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Le Quatorze Juillet 2007

A combo under a tent. Picnic tables. Cool drinks on a warm evening. Yesterday was the birthday of the French Republic and of me. As a guest of Suzanne Kingsbury, it was a evening to be savored.

Franco-American Reflection

The difficult selection from which to choose included Vichysoisse Cressonaire, Salade Lyonnaise (frisée, lardon, poached egg), Salade Niçoise (house cured sardines, olives, green beans, potatoes, hard boiled egg).

Our selection:

--Escargot gratinée: garlicky, herbal, buttery

--Pâté selection: (from left) pickled ramps, grained mustard, rabbit rillette (with duck fat, tarragon), chicken gallatine, cornichon, capers, crostini

Chicken Gallatine and friends

With ham and black truffles

Main course
Similarly, the special dinners were intriguing. They included Olive Oil Poached Salmon, Bouillabaisse Marseilles, Hanger Steak Frites, Half Chicken in Cream, Duckling Breast.

Our selections:

--Trout souffle with baby greens and black pepper cracker
--Lamb sweetbreads with lavender and honey in a port wine reduction, braised romaine radishes, tied greens

The recommended wine, a spicy and deep cabernet sauvingon, was a perfect match for the sweetbreads.

For dessert, we chose these treasures:
--Mille-Feuille. This interpretation consisted of layers of crisp dark chocolate, sliced fresh plums dressed with port wine reduction, and a pastry cream of vanilla, lavender, and honey.
--Steamed milk seasoned with local honey
--Dark chocolate truffles infused with cassis

A feature of the meal was the Rabbit Rillette. Deeply flavored and soft in the mouth to the point of disappearing, it was simultaneously rich and light. The sweetbreads and perfectly-paired wine were the stand-out food features of the evening.

Another winning dinner at Burdick's, this one on a theme of strong flavors. Lavender and port wine reduction in their several dishes were prominent and used with restraint and wisdom.

Happy Birthday Boy

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Raspberry Conserve

Thanks to Rose Levy Berenbaum, I know what to do with 3 pounds of raspberries.

My flat of local raspberries

This conserve is very strongly flavored and very versatile in the kitchen. Thanks to the pickers for these today.

sugar, 15 ounces
water, 9.25 ounces
raspberries, 3 pounds

1. In large diameter saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil one minute. Add 3 or 4 cups raspberries (keep in single layer) and boil 1 minute. Remove berries with slotted skimmer to a sieve set over a bowl. Reduce syrup in pan to 2 cups. Repeat with more berries. Periodically, return juice in bowl to pan and reduce to 2 cups. Skim the foam.

Syrup coming to the boil. Note waiting sieve.

First batch of berries goes into boiling syrup. The sieve's still waiting.

2. When last batch of berries is completed boil syrup to 2 cups and reserve off heat. Sieve berries to remove most seeds. There should be about 2 cups of pulp. Add sieved berries to reserved syrup and simmer 10 minutes or until reduced to 4 cups.

Near final addition of berries. Note sieve in use.

3. Fill sterilized jars. Cool. Thickens for 2 days. Keeps in refrigerator 2 weeks.

Raspberry Conserve
With génoise riche and lemon curd

Lemon Curd

Based on Rose Levy Berenbaum's version, this is less sweet and more lemony than most. Alternative versions include Marion Cunningham's. Use neither if curd is to be baked.

Yields 2 cups.

egg yolks, 5 ounces (about 8)
sugar, 9 ounces
lemon juice, freshly squeezed, 6.5 ounces (about 5 lemons)
unsalted butter, 4 ounces, softened
salt, 2 pinches
lemon zest, 4 teaspoons, finely shredded
heavy cream, 2 Tablespoons chilled

1. In saucepan, beat yolks and sugar until well blended. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. It will thickly coat the back of a wooden spoon, but still be liquid enough to pour. Do not boil. If steam appears, immediately remove from heat and keep stirring.

2. Pour through strainer. Discard residue. Pour into sterile container and cool. Chill.

Keeps 3 weeks refrigerated.

Twelve-Inch Génoise Riche

Génoise riche
Yields one 12-inch cake. Serves 20.

All ingredients at room temperature.
Recipe has two parts: cake and imbibing syrup.

For the cake:
Beurre noisette, 5 ounces
vanilla, 2 teaspoons
eggs, 8
sugar, 7 ounces
cake flour, 3.5 ounces, sifted
cornstarch, 3.5 ounces, sifted

Grease the bottom of a 12-inch baking pan with butter. Line with parchment. Grease again and flour. Soak MagiCake strip in warm water.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1. In medium bowl over simmering water, warm beurre noisette to 110 F. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and keep warm.

2. In large mixing bowl over simmering water, heat eggs and sugar until lukewarm, stirring constantly (prevents curdling). Scrape egg mixture into bowl of standing mixer and beat at high speed until tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. While eggs are beating, sift together flour and cornstarch. Set aside in sifter.

3. Remove 1 cup of beaten eggs and thoroughly whisk into beurre noisette.

4. Sift half flour mixture onto remaining eggs and rapidly fold until nearly all flour has been incorporated. Repeat with remaining flour mixture until it has disappeared completely. Fold in butter mixture.

5. Immediately pour batter into prepared pan. Fasten MagiCake strip around pan. Bake about 45 minutes. Finished cake is golden brown and begins to pull away from pan edge.

6. Loosen cake from pan with thin metal spatula. Unmold at once onto greased wire rack. Remove parchment from bottom and reinvert until cool.

To store, wrap in plastic, then in foil. Unimbibed, cake keeps 2 days at room temperature, 5 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.

For the imbibing syrup
sugar, 4 ounces
water, 8 ounces
flavoring of choice, 2 ounces

In small saucepan with tight-fitting lid, bring sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Cover immediately, remove from heat, and cool completely. Add flavoring. Add water to bring to 1 1/2 cups. Keeps 1 month refrigerated in airtight container.

Imbibe thawed cake 24 hours before serving.

With thanks to Rose Levy Berenbaum.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

July Cream Puffs

From July 8, 2007
Missing Tukta Long in Thailand
Thanks to Sharon Myers for text below

Peach Bellini with Fresh Mint

Chilled Vegetarian Asparagus Soup
with Lemon Cream and Fresh Garden Chives

Appetizer Medley Plate

1. Vegetable Terrine with carrots, green beans, sweet peppers, leeks, savory custard
2. Lemon Tabouli
3. Sliced Radishes with French bread, sweet butter, salt and pepper

Homemade Pasta
, three kinds: plain, fresh thyme, fresh sage. Served with a porcini - shiitake sauce
Green Salad with Deborah's famous dressing
Pinot noir

Sicilian Chocolate Gelato
and Coconut Jumbles (coconut and chocolate chip macaroons)

For Bellini, we recommend white peaches, sugar, lemon juice with crushed ice in a blender before adding the champagne. Serve with a sprig of fresh garden mint.
The vegetable terrine was good enough to try again, but needs attention.

Guests included Cecile Shapiro, Michael Krasner, John Calvi

Alici's Bistro

(Turkish pronunciation, by the way, is "ah-LEE-jee.")

Run by Musa Alici, "the mad Turk," this bistro and bar has been open two weeks. The design of the dining room, bar, both decks, even the outfits of the staff are harmonious, tasteful, and thoughtfully conceived. Cutlery and crockery are solid in the hand, on the large side, and interesting to look at. Highlights and criticisms below.

While one does not go (often) to a restaurant solely for its design -- I wish more restaurant owners understood the relationship between decor and dish -- these guys get it.

Bread and accompaniments to begin
Rosemary focaccio (properly made with potato) and baguette slices are fresh and warm. From left, lightly-garlicked hummus with black pepper, excellent fruity and fragrant olive oil with grated parmesan cheese, and tabouli with sun-dried tomato and cumin-spiced raisins.

Beef Carpaccio starter
Served with excellent olive oil, ground black pepper, shaved Parmesan cheese accompanied by lightly dressed and spicy arugula

Goat Cheese Custard starter
Lightly seasoned with herbs and baked slowly, the texture is reminiscent of cheesecake. Soft, pungent, pleasantly thick in the mouth, the flavors honor the goat. Accompanied by lightly-dressed arugula, diced tomato, lightly pickled onion and well-spiced, toasted pita wedges.

Duck Confit starter
With beans, peas, and corn and sauced with a balsamic reduction.
Both meat and skin are tender and fall off the bone. Beans are perfectly cooked, but under seasoned. The reduction was sweet and deeply flavored and very prettily presented. The rather bland vegetables wanted more sauce.

"Handmade" Pasta Special
With basil, mozzarella, tomato.

Pork Roulade Special
With a tamarind sauce, accompanied by green beans and potato dauphine. Exquisite presentation. Very large and meaty pork stuffed with gently seasoned spinach, apricots, raisins, and bleu cheese, the whole roasted to a crisp exterior.

Best restaurant men's room in Brattleboro
Innovative, full-flavored food
Fun and beautiful -- food, setting, design
Sauces -- tamarind, balsamic reduction
Good choices with olive oil
Wisely dressed arugula
Very large wine cellar

Food is slow to come to the table
Attention of servers is slow (taking orders, checking dinner, bringing bill)
Dry pork
Oddly flavored tabouli
Chewy, sticky pasta with clumps of partially melted cheese, the whole lacking cohesion and flavor

Dinners with John Calvi and Suzanne Kingsbury (separately)

$35 - 48 per person with wine

Alici's Bistro
51 Harris Place
Brattleboro, Vermont 05301
Tel: 802-254-5600

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Toasting Butter

What a marvelous perfume for everything (cake, vegetables, pasta): the luscious, deeply satisfying scent of buttered toast. Known as beurre noisette by the French because of its nutty flavor.

Melt 3 pounds of unsalted butter over low heat in a 12-inch, light-colored saucepan.

--Multiple pounds of butter because it's cheaper to buy that way and it's good enough to save
--Unsalted because you want to control the quantity of salt that goes in whatever you're making
--Low heat keeps the milk solids from scorching
--12-inch pan because the greater the surface area, the more milk solids can toast
--light-colored saucepan because the coloring of the toasting milk solids is easier to monitor

Watching carefully, notice when the milk solids begin to rise and create foam.

Boiling begins. Notice where the foam in the pan is and isn't? It's related to where the heat in the pan is. Remember this when you're cooking other things later.

The mixture is boiling and sputtering. Keep heat low to prevent eruptions. The foam is fine-grained and persistent in trying to cover the surface of the pan.

Keep watching carefully. The water has evaporated. The milk solids have settled to the pan bottom. The foam is loose and open. Carefully skim the white foam off the surface, leaving as much yellow butterfat as possible.

When the sound of boiling stops, the butter will have the smell of hot, buttered toast. Carefully and gently, pour the boiling butter through a sieve lined with immaculately clean, lint-free, bone-dry cheesecloth. Don't let the toasted milk solids on the bottom into the strained butter. Notice the toasted solids are nut-brown, neither tan nor burned.

The strained butter at right, 5 cups of pure, toast-scented, clarified butter from 6 cups of fresh butter (This is Cabot brand. Percentage of butterfat varies by season, types of cows, location, and brand). The skimmed foam is at left.

Refrigerate covered and use within 4 weeks. To store, cut slices or bricks in frequently-used sizes. Cover with foil and smooth out air bubbles. Wrap tightly and store away from strongly fragrant foods in coldest part of separate refrigerator spaces (covered dairy sections on door, perhaps). Or, freeze and use within one year.