Comfort Foods and Indulgences
If I had to make a shopping list based on what I tried at the Winter 2015 Fancy Food Show, here is what I would recommend buying.
I thought I knew something about maple syrup, but now after talking to Dori Ross of Tonewood Maple I know so much more. Tonewood Maple has gotten some serious attention for their solid maple cube that you can shave to create maple sugar, but it was their single estate varietals of maple syrup that blew my mind. When processed separately (something that doesn’t happen everywhere) you get amazing differences in the flavor. Each bottle is labeled with the actual sugarbush it came from. Some are sweeter, others earthier or even a little spicy. They also make a maple cream, which is something I discovered in Canada. On the East Coast it’s fairly common, but I’ve never seen it out here. It’s a creamy spread made only from maple that you would swear has butter in it. It’s great on toast, pancakes or waffles. They also have a maple tree adoption program that gives you an opportunity to support small maple producers and sustainable farming practices, and bottles of four grades of syrup.
Some years I see a lot of fancy ketchup, this year I didn’t, but a few unusual ones stood out nonetheless. Traina Foods makes ketchup with sun dried tomatoes. They are richer, less sweet, more intense and fresher to me than conventional brands, but can definitely be used the same way you’d use any other ketchup. This year they released a sun dried tomato and sriracha ketchup. Their ketchup has higher concentrations of lycopene and less sugar and salt than other varieties, and is gluten free. I tried it on a spoon but can’t wait to experiment cooking with it.
Blackberry Patch is now offering fruit ketchups. I tried the raspberry chipotle, blackberry and blueberry. These can also be used just like regular ketchup, but have a much more sophisticated flavor. They are tangy and you really taste the fruit. I would use them as a glaze on lamb, pork or even chicken. The company is owned and operated by two farmers and everything is made in small batches.
I'm a cheater, in the kitchen anyway. While I may not be a fan of mac and cheese from a box, I positively love using gourmet specialty products. What kinds of products? Jams, mustards, chutney, tapenade, Chinese sauces, so many things! Two of my favorite secret weapons are in the freezer--phyllo dough and puff pastry.
You could easily write a book on all the things you can make out of phyllo dough and puff pastry. I suggest the title "How to Succeed in Baking Without Really Trying". Once you learn how to handle them, the possibilities are endless. They even turn something mundane into something special.
For example you could make a stew into an elegant pot pie. You could turn a fruit compote into pastries. You could make fancy little appetizers to serve hot from the oven. How fancy? I suggest little napoleons or tartlets. It's really easy.
The first time I tasted roasted chickpeas was at a friend’s house. She was so excited about them and quite frankly so was I….until I took a bite. The chickpea was all mealy and soft in the center. It was a total let down and I can’t think of any word to describe it except for….bleh.
I tried not to make a face, but when I didn’t eat anymore of them, well I guess that sent its own message. Is that not the worst when someone is really excited about something they made and it’s just bad?
Here’s the thing, with every recipe there’s a trick. When it comes to roasting chickpeas, it’s all about making sure they are hard like a nut before removing them from the oven. Sure a couple of them won’t be perfect but most of them should. This will require turning the pan and/or moving the chickpeas around on the baking sheet. You’ll also want to taste them before you pull them out just to make sure.
The final texture will be crunchy like a peanut. You’ll know when you bite into the right one. And they are such a great alternative for people who have nut allergies.
I love putting these in trail mix for my boys (I have one with a nut allergy) and even serving them at a cocktail party as a little munchie. Everyone loves them.
I bake and make desserts all winter. It might be something to do with cocooning or comfort or simply loving desserts, but this winter especially I have been baking up a storm. To change it up a bit, I made a pillowy-soft cloud of star anise scented espresso custard and piled it on top of crisp Italian lady fingers. A spoonful alone transported me to Italy…….to a little cafe where I stood at the bar and spooned anise froth into my mouth from an espresso cappuccino.
So simple. So wonderful.
It starts with steeping anise seeds and star anise in milk. You add egg yolks and sugar to begin making the custard. Whip cream till stiff, fold it in, and there you have it.
It was luscious. Light. Frothy. And less expensive than a plane ticket to Milan, a car drive to Turin, and a memory to remember where that wonderful little cafe actually was.
Waking up is hard to do. Really hard. For some, a strong cup of coffee or tea helps. Not for me. I wake up slowly and after being up for at least an hour or two I tackle breakfast. Left to my own devices, I would probably just eat brunch and save the real breakfast food for dinner, but Lee prefers something a bit more traditional.
The big problem with breakfast for me is always--what to have? Savory or sweet? Both are appealing but if I eat something sweet I may not get enough protein and as a result I'm ravenous barely an hour or two later. Nutritionists recommend a "balanced" breakfast meaning both carbohydrates and protein. Easy to do with eggs or cheese but harder to do with sweets like pancakes. Having sausage or bacon on the side is another way to go but probably not the best choice everyday. French toast or crepes are both sweet and have protein but I'm always looking for more protein-rich sweet options.
Ricotta pancakes are a perfect way to go. The ricotta gives you plenty of protein, they only have a couple of tablespoons of flour so you're not filling up on carbohydrates and best of all they are really delicious and cook up in a flash. Of course, serving them with bacon is up to you...
Day 31 of 31 Days of Pie is Gaby’s S’more Pudding Pie, via Joy.
Well here we are at the last day of our 31 Days Of Pie. I won’t bother with a count, but I’m sure there were dozens of eggs, pounds and pounds of butter, endless calories, and tons of wonderfully sweet moments throughout the month. I don’t know about you, but I’m beyond excited to ring in 2015 and see all the wonderful things it will bring. I saved this pie for last because I think it’s one of the most beautiful pies I’ve ever seen thanks to Adam, and it comes from the world’s-best-friend-anyone-could-ever-hope-to-have Gaby by way of Joy, another fantastic friend of mine. It has a little bit of everyone in it, and it sums things up about how I feel about pie: they bring people together. And thank you for reading and commenting about this pie thang, it’s been so much fun!
Gaby’s S’more Pudding Pie
So Gaby says she took a few recipes from Joy’s latest book and crafted her own creation. This pie is the result. And it is FANTASTIC. Thank you, Gaby! Thank you, Joy!
This dish is so good that I had to hold my self back from eating the entire dish. A new Sunday morning favorite has just arrived. I inevitably always have left over Challah.
We start our weekend, each Friday night by celebrating Shabbat dinner. Inevitably, we always have left over challah. Eli usually gets egg in the hole on Saturday mornings, Isaac and Levi like it toasted with a little cinnamon butter smeared on top and sometimes I make croutons or bread crumbs with the left overs.
Last night, I was watching an episode of Nigella Lawson. She was making a caramel croissant bread pudding. Bingo. I was inspired to use up our challah and make something similar for breakfast. I changed it a bit yet I am sure the results are just as good as the original!
Day 29 of 31 Days Of Pie is Lemon Meringue Pie from Kate McDermott, Art Of The Pie
Our 31 Days Of Pie is drawing to a close, and yes, I am sad to see it go! Will we stop making pies? Never. Will we take a quick break from them? Most likely, but I’m sure it won’t be long. Today’s pie comes from America’s Test Kitchen, and happened rather last minute as we looked at the calendar and realized we made 30 pies, not 31, over the course of the month. We were at home enjoying down time and not at the studio, so this pie was whipped up quickly at home and photographed in the backyard. A quick sidenote: I’m always trying to keep myself busy creatively and realized “hey! I have the afternoon off! hey! it’s sunny! hey! I want to photograph a little backyard vignette!” I’ve included that photo and it also explains why this luscious key lime pie doesn’t match the series all that much. But no biggie, right? As with all things America’s Test Kitchen, it works and is delicious. Whenever you crave that zippy zing of citrus I hope you’ll think of this.
Day 29 of 31 Days Of Pie is Lemon Meringue Pie from Kate McDermott, Art Of The Pie
I refused to let our 31 Days Of Pie go by without one Lemon Meringue. Of course, it’s not just any Lemon Meringue, but a Lemon Meringue from Kate McDermott’s grandmother Geeg. It’s a perfectly balanced pie which earned her the title The Queen Of Lemon Meringue. It’s certainly majestic and for me I’ll never need any other recipe for a lemon meringue. Thank you so much Kate for being you! And to Geeg, too!
Lemon Meringue Pie from Kate McDermott, Art Of The Pie
1 pre-baked single pie crust
For the Filling
The refrigerator is suffering from in-between celebration emptiness. A lonely cabbage sits there with a nice head of garlic, a elderly chunk of fontina and some grated parm. And yet it’s enough to create a world of comfort because I have a package of Pizzoccheri purchased several weeks ago.
Prounounced Peets-OH-keri, they are short tagliatelle shaped noodles made of 80% buckwheat and 20% wheat flours. I bought my bag of Pizzoccheri from Roan Mills at the Farmers Market so they are a bit more rustic (more buck and whole-wheaty) than the traditional pasta. The dish comes from the Valtellina, one of the most northern regions in Italy, a place where they understand the comforting combo of greens and cheese during cold weather.
Think of Pizzoccheri as a super northern version of a pasta al forno or baked pasta, but instead of the ziti with red sauce and mozzarella you have the aforementioned buck-wheaty pasta with cabbage and or green chard , diced potato, (I add caramelized onion) and sage all enriched with fontina and parmesan. It’s a big old cheesy mess of goodness.