Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Carrot Pickles

Aren't these carrots gorgeous?

Maybe one day I will grow beautiful carrots like that. But not today.

Sad, no? And that's a lot better than last year's crop.

I have carrot envy! That's why there are six pounds of organic, multi-colored carrots in my fridge right now.

I could make some delicious carrot juice and do a cleanse. Or not! Let me know when there's a cake cleanse, because I could totally get on board with that.

Anyway, it's entirely too hot to roast carrots in July. So today's veggie miracle is refrigerator pickles.

At least my tomatoes turned out pretty.

This recipe is loosely adapted from the one by David Lebowitz. Except his people must be from a part of Eastern Europe where they ate sweet pickles (and probably sweet gefilte fish). If you didn't grow up with sweet pickles (or Galitzianer gefilte fish), then they will always taste wrong to you.

I am a salty lass, and my pickles taste like garlicky seawater. Latvia and Lithuania, for the record.

If you use red carrots, the color will leach out and turn the water bright pink. I think this is a feature, but you may consider it a bug. In that case, use only orange and white carrots.

These pickles taste great after four hours, and they are perfect the next day. After a couple of weeks, they'll be a little sad and limp. But surely you can finish them before then!

Carrot Pickles
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons dill seed
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
8 peppercorns 
2 bay leaves

5-cup glass jar with lid

Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to the boil and blanche the carrots for three minutes. Remove with tongs and stand in jar. Make sure to alternate white and orange carrots around the outside of the jar to make a perfect pattern. (Okay, just kidding.)

In the same pot, or a smaller saucepan, boil remaining ingredients except for bay leaves. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pour over the carrots and fill remaining space in jar with more water as needed.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Walnut Coriander Sauce

My people do not stand on ceremony. If you serve them something they don't like, they'll let you know. My 90-year-old grandfather insists he's just doing me a favor when he tells me he "doesn't care for the flavor of this chicken." I should be "grateful for the guidance."

Yes, I am a lucky girl.

My sainted husband eats what I serve, because he was raised right. However, two of my children refuse any vegetables that aren't "plain." Because they were raised ... Moving on.

As I am blessed with so much expert advice, I tend to serve vegetables steamed, roasted, or blanched. This is the presentation least likely to elicit comment. Sauce is on the side, because apparently I am running a restaurant.

This one is dead easy and goes well with beans, asparagus or chicken. If your guests ask whether the sauce is for the asparagus or the chicken, the answer is yes.

Run everything through the food processor for a couple of minutes, then chill the sauce for an hour to meld the flavors.

Walnut Coriander Sauce
1 cup walnuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup oil
juice of one lemon
one bunch of cilantro, including stems
two tablespoons water

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cherry Macaroon Tart

Yes, another cherry tart recipe. You gotta make hay while the sun shines, right? Unlike strawberries, cherries are only good and cheap for a few weeks. Now's the time, so get pitting. And quit your whining about stained cuticles - the grocery store sells latex gloves, ya big baby.

I'm really not much for cherry pie, Billy Boy. (Did I just give you an ear worm? You're welcome!) Fruit pies seem so wet when compared with cake, the world's most perfect food. But I saw a similar recipe to this one on 101 Cookbooks, and I knew I had to tinker with it. I wound up with something chewy and crunchy, which I love. I'll probably give it another look around Passover, since macaroons are an essential ingredient in our weeklong anti-cleanse. But I digress...

Cherry Macaroon Tart
3/4 pound red cherries (340g)
1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
5 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut, divided (14oz bag, 395g)
1/4 cup brown sugar (45g)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter (105g), melted
2 large egg whites (70g)

9" tart pan with removable bottom

Preheat oven to 350° (325° convection), and spray the tart pan. Stir together the butter, flour, brown sugar, salt and 1 cup (80g) of coconut. Knead it into a ball, then press into tart pan and up sides. The crust won't be perfect, but what in this life is? Bake for 15 minutes while you get on with slicing the cherries in half and removing the pits.

If you are the cautious type, you may want to bake your tart on a tray in case heavenforbid it should leak onto the oven floor and fill your kitchen with smoke. Last week, I was the uncautious type, and I dropped a pie crust on the floor as I was taking it out of the oven without a tray to bolster it. That was bad.

Mix the coconut and egg whites together, then blob them on the crust with the cherries. I know that blob is an inelegant way to phrase it, but don't mash the coconut down into a flat mass. It should have lots of bumps with cherries peaking through. Like this.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, depending on how brown you like it. Cool completely on rack, then slide onto serving platter.

Serves 6-8, depending on how much your guests like coconut.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

White Cherry Almond Tart

I know a food blogger is supposed to treat the local farmer's market like a temple, making weekly obeisance and great sacrifices of cash. And I kinda do feel that way. My mother did push my stroller to the very first weekend of the Waverly Market in Baltimore. There are lots of other markets in this city, but that one is my market.

But, also, too ...

Ranier Cherries are here! And by here, I mean in my supermarket. They came all the way across the country on a refrigerated truck. If I were actually Listening to the Food, these cherries would be saying, "We don't belong here. Eat Maryland and Pennsylvania Cherries. You stink."

But I can't help it - they're just the best!

Of course I bought ten pounds. Nine of them survived the car ride home from the store. (Does spitting the pits out the window count as littering? Just asking for a friend.)

The untouched red cherries from last week are also giving me a guilt trip every time I open the fridge. Yeah, I got a lot of issues with fruit. But, while the Ranier Cherries are here, I will eat them at every meal.

I don't care! I love it!

These cherries are too perfect to bake, so I used them raw in a tart. Don't pit them more than a couple of hours in advance, or they'll brown.

Almond Crust
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (180g)
1/2 cup almond meal (50g)
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar (65g)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter
1 large egg

10-12" tart pan with removable bottom

In a food processor, pulse the flour, almond meal, sugar and salt several times to combine. Add the butter in a dozen chunks, then blitz the mixture to crumbs. Throw in the egg, then run the machine for about 20 seconds until the dough comes together into a ball. Press into a flat disk between two sheets of wax paper, and place in the freezer for ten minutes to firm up.

Spray tart pan with cooking spray, then press the dough into it to form a crust. I dip the bottom of my measuring cup in flour and use it to ease the dough up the sides of the pan. Use a fork to "dock" the crust, that is poke it several times to prevent it swelling with air bubbles. Freeze solid for at least two hours.

When crust is cool, spray a piece of foil with oil, then press the greased side against the crust. Take extreme care to make a tight fit in the corners and up the sides, which will prevent your crust shrinking. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes to brown slightly. The almonds make the crust very crunchy, so you can fill the tart several hours before serving and not worry about it getting soggy.

Pretty pie crust, no? This is the one I dropped on the floor taking it out of the oven. I made another one, but it wasn't quite as pretty. I was a little distracted inventing new swear words. Bake this on a rimmed cookie sheet, even if it's marginally more difficult to wash than a flat one.

Pastry Cream
1 1/4 cup milk (300ml)
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar (50g)
2 tablespoons cornstarch (20g)
1 tablespoon flour (10g)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 lbs cherries, preferably Ranier

Heat milk in medium saucepan until steaming.Whisk yolks and sugar together, then add cornstarch and flour and beat smooth. Temper eggs by adding a few teaspoons of hot milk at a time, then repeating until the eggs and milk can be combined without producing lumps of scrambled eggs. Return mixture to saucepan and whisk constantly over low heat until cream simmers and thickens substantially, about two minutes.

Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and almond extract . If you have lumps that don't want to whisk out, strain the cream before chilling. (I always tell myself that these are just air bubbles. This is always a lie.) Decant to glass dish, cover with plastic wrap to prevent skin, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pit cherries just before assembling tart, to minimize browning. Fill tart with cream and smooth with a spatula. Pile cherries on top and refrigerate for at least twenty minutes to firm up.

This one was saying, "Eat me now."

So, I did.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Preserved Lemons

When my husband and I were dating, before we created people who require restaurants where The Game is on, we used to go to a little Indian place downtown. It was practically underground, and I guess they were aiming for mood lighting. As we waited for our pupils to dilate, they brought us poppadoms and an amazing red condiment. It was briny chunks of red something which the waitress just called "lemon pickle." I'm sure that stuff came out of an industrial-sized jar along with the coriander and tamarind sauces, but we devoured it. Since then, I've bought a lot of jars labeled Lemon Pickle, but they all tasted like kerosene.

Weirdly enough, it was a recipe in an Israeli cookbook that got me the closest. If you love salty, sour, spicy foods, Balaboosta by Einat Admony is the book for you. I played around with her recipe a bit, taking out some salt, adding more pepper. Now I use these lemons to perk up a sandwich, dress a chicken, or in salsas. And if you add chopped onions, it tastes just like the "Lemon Pickle" in the dark restaurants of my youth. Yes, this recipe does take three months to complete. But I've been waiting 15 years to find it.

Namaste and L'Chayim!

Preserved Lemons
1/3 cup kosher salt (90g)
2 tablespoons sugar (30g)
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (5g)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns (5g)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
7-8 medium lemons
2 bay leaves

1 liter jar, wide mouth

In a bowl, stir together the salt, sugar, coriander, pepper, turmeric and paprika. Scrub the lemons and slice into wedges, removing the stems and seeds. Pour half the salt mixture in the bottom of the jar, then pack the lemons in tightly all the way to the top. As you go, squeeze each wedge slightly to begin releasing the juice. Slide the bay leaves in, then top with the rest of the salt mixture. Add water just to fill in the air pockets, then seal the jar and write the date on top. (You really think you'll remember without marking it? Girl, please!)

At first, the salt will collect at the bottom of the jar, but don't worry. Within a month, the liquid will thicken as the pectin breaks down. I think the jar is pretty, so I store it on a shelf in my kitchen. Wherever you put it (not the fridge), give it a shake every day or two. In 90 days, you'll have preserved lemons. Enjoy them as a briny condiment, peels and all.

Or make Pistachio Lemon Salsa.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Strawberry Lavender Cake

I'm not really a Lavender Lover.

Okay, that sounds like a float in the Pride Parade. But the taste of lavender has always reminded me of my granddad's aftershave. Mmmmmm, Old Spice.

On the other hand, how many chocolate cakes can a girl make? No mas!


So, inspired by this gorgeous Strawberry Lavender Buttermilk Cake from the Sweetapolita blog, I designed my own version. One day I'll actually follow a recipe.

But not today.

This cake isn't difficult, but it does have a few extra steps that can't be skipped. Making the concentrated strawberry puree is tedious, but if you just use pureed berries, your frosting will be thin and flavorless. And you can hardly complain about the extra thirty seconds it takes to infuse the lavender into cream, ya whiner.

Strawberry Puree
12 oz bag frozen strawberries
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
infinite patience

Buttermilk Cake
4 whole eggs, room temperature
2 egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups (345g) cake flour, sifted
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon (20g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5g) baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, cold

Lavender Frosting and Filling
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon dried culinary lavander
2 fresh egg whites
1 teaspoon dried egg white powder (optional)
1/3 cup light corn syrup (100g)
3 tablespoons strawberry puree
pinch of table salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar (260g)
purple gel coloring (optional)
1 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced 1/4" thick

Strawberry Puree
(adapted from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)
  1. Defrost the strawberries completely, then rough chop them. Take care not to puree them, since you want to strain out the juice without allowing chunks of strawberry through. 
  2. Place the berry bits in a fine-mesh strainer over a small saucepan, and use the flat bottom of a spoon or gravy ladle to push out the juice. This is a major pain in the neck, which will take about ten minutes. Sorry about that.
  3. When you've extracted as much juice as possible, put the mashed berries aside and heat the saucepan over a medium flame. Reduce the juice by 3/4, until it is a bright-red syrup. If you feel inclined to skim the foam, knock yourself out. (I never feel so inclined.)
  4. Add the fruit and lemon juice back to the reduced syrup, then puree with a stick or upright blender. Makes about 2/3 cup.

Buttermilk Cake
(adapted from the Sweetapolita Blog)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (325° convection). In a measuring cup with a spout, lightly whisk the eggs, yolks, 1/4 cup of the buttermilk, and the vanilla.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer set to low speed, add the cold butter half a tablespoon at a time, mixing for a few seconds after each addition. Continue mixing on low speed until all of the butter has been blended and the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.
  3. Add the remaining buttermilk to the dry ingredients, and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the egg mixture, then increase speed to medium and beat for 1 minute. Gently scrape the sides again and fold in any stray un-mixed ingredients.
  4. Spray-flour three 8" or 9" cake pans, then divide the batter evenly between them. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, rotating the pans occasionally to ensure even cooking. Try to pull the cakes out at that magical moment when they are set in the middle, but haven't pulled away from the sides of the pan yet. If you miss, don't sweat it.
  5. Rest cakes for five minutes before inverting to cool on a rack.

Lavender Frosting and Filling
  1. In a glass bowl, microwave the cream with the lavender for 20 seconds on high. Set aside to steep while preparing the frosting.
  2. Using the mixer's whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, egg white powder, and salt on medium speed until frothy. Add two tablespoons of the sugar and kick the mixer up to high, beating until soft peaks form.
  3. Meanwhile, stir the remaining sugar and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil for a full minute, then remove from the stove. In several additions, pour the hot sugar syrup into the meringue, beating after every addition. 
  4. When all the syrup is in, turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for several minutes until the bowl cools to room temperature. One tablespoon at a time, add the soft butter to the meringue, beating well after each addition. 
  5. Beat in one cup of powdered sugar to stiffen the mixture. Strain the lavender cream to remove the herbs, then add it to the frosting with the vanilla, salt, and strawberry puree. Beat in the wet ingredients, then finish with the remaining cup of powdered sugar. 
  6. If using gel coloring, beat in a few drops now to achieve your desired hue.

Assembling Cake
  1. Trim cakes to make the tops level.
  2. Cover the bottom cake with a layer of strawberries, then spread approximately 1/2 cup of frosting over. Repeat with middle cake, then cover with top cake.
  3. Apply a thin crumb coat of frosting over cakes, filling in the space between layers and poking in any escaping berries. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow the frosting to set up.
  4. When cake is slightly hardened, apply a smooth coat of frosting and any decorations. Store in the fridge and eat within two days.