We took a day trip to Healdsburg this weekend, made our way through Napa and Sonoma valleys exploring a couple of neighborhoods we hadn't visited before. Right now with our warm springlike spell the land is painted with a beautiful bright yellow shade of wild mustard blooms and even the vineyards that still haven't sprung back from winter are looking quite magnificent against this backdrop of gold. Some of the trees are still covered with soot and black char from the recent fires and this was a nice visual respite from that terrible moment.Read More
For the past month or so, I've been going back and pouring over older books to understand what "California" cuisine really means. Not just recipes, though they do provide one part of a practical component of understanding the culture behind a regional cuisine but at the same time, also try to learn the history and influences that drive the thinking behind the process. Some influences are obvious, the weather and geography that make this state such an agricultural diamond mine which in turn also led to the migration of people from different parts of the nation and the world to come in search of brighter futures. Subsequently, these factors shaped and transformed the way in which food is expressed in a rather unique way in this region.
And so, part of my research has involved, immersing myself completely, daily cooking my way through some of these books and adding my own touch as I go along. Here is one of the recipes for a blood orange ice cream that I came across in the Chez Panisse Desserts cookbook by Lindsey Remolif Shere, who worked as the pastry chef at the iconic restaurant. It's a simple recipe and the only special tools you'll need is an ice cream maker and a freezer. I've infused the egg custard with rosemary and star anise at different stages of preparation, the flavors are subtle and don't overwhelm the citrus notes of the orange.
rosemary and star anise infused blood orange ice cream (adapted from the Chez Panisse Desserts book by Lindsey Remolif Shere)
makes : approximately 1 1/3 quarts
1 lb (453.59g) blood oranges (around 3 to 4 oranges)
2 star anise pods
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks (obtained from large eggs)
2 1/2 cups whipping cream
two 3 inch rosemary sprigs (it should be relatively young and not woody)
1. Wash the oranges and gently wipe them dry with a kitchen towel. Cut very thin strips of orange peel from 2 out of the fruit (avoid the bitter white pith under the peel). Put the peel in a non-corroding saucepan with star anise, half-and-half and the sugar and heat on medium-low heat until it just starts to boil. Remove from heat, cover with a lid and let steep 15 minutes, then reheat. Remove the peel and discard but leave the star anise pods behind.
2. Whisk the egg yolks and pour the hot mixture into them slowly, beating constantly so the eggs don't scramble. Pour back into the pan, bruise the rosemary with a knife and add it to the mixture, set over low heat to cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Using a zester, grate the zest of the remaining oranges and add to the custard. Fold with a silicone spatula and allow to stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Fold in the cream. Juice the oranges and strain the liquid. Add 3/4 cup of the juice to the custard. Fold with a silicone spatular to combine and then freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions of your ice cream maker. Freeze the ice cream in an airtight container for at least 4 hours before serving.
I think potlucks were one of the kindest things invented by man. There are times when I love to cook large batches and several different things for people but I also have moments when I want to cook one thing for everyone. Santa Claus and potlucks have a lot in common except for one little thing, one works year round while the other is on call in December but they both bring us lot of gifts of different kinds to taste and eat. Choices, choices and more!
This week, I'm really happy and excited to share this recipe from Kristin Donnelly's new cookbook Modern Potluck Kristin's book gives a breath of fresh air to the traditional potluck and she has recipes that will leave your group of family and friends very happy. There are a lot of fun recipes for everyone and she even has a lot of suggestions on how to plan ahead of time for a potluck.
Also, my lovely friend Yossy of Apt.2B Baking Co. shot all the pretty photos in the book!!!
Kristin is also giving away 5 copies of her lovely book and in addition, one lucky winner will also get a set of baking tools from Baker's Secret. All you need to do is leave a comment below and tell me what's your favorite potluck dish! The giveaway is open to legal US residents only due to shipping reasons and I will pick the 5 winners after 48 hours. Good luck!!!
Update: This giveaway has ended, the winners chosen at random are Diane Salfi (who also wins the bakeware set), Geetha R, Ellen, Tiffani Colson and P.G. Rabon . Please send me an email so I can have your gifts sent to you. Congratulations!
Here are some of my tips that you might find useful when preparing this pie;
- I use fresh rosemary in the pie filling. Thyme and lemon thyme are also great herbs to add to this instead of rosemary.
- If you take this to a potluck, Kristin suggests making the pastry ahead of time and even rolling it out the night before. The baked pie will keep at room temperature for 2 days and refrigerated for 3 days.
- Another great tip from Kristin, leftovers can be cut and easily frozen and wrapped with clingfilm and then thawed on the counter. I personally, like this warm, so I reheated the pie in the microwave for a few seconds.
peach, blueberry and rose slab pie with sweet almond crust (from Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly)
yields: one 10 X 15 inch pie
for the crust
1 cup ice water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 cups (500gm) all-purpose flour
1 cup (96gm) almond meal flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cups (4 sticks/453.6gm) unsalted butter cut into small pieces
for the pie
6 small to medium peaches, pitted and chopped (about 6 cups)
2 cups blueberries
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary leaves (I used fresh)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 tablespoon kosher salt
all-purpose flour for dusting
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar or granulated sugar
1. Prepare the dough: In a liquid measuring cup, combine the water with the vinegar. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour with the almond meal, sugar and salt. Add the butter and use a pastry blender or your fingers to work it into the flour until most of it is the size of peas, with a few larger chunks remaining. Mix in the vinegar mixture, by tablespoon, until the dough just starts to hold together with a few dry spots remaining (this will happen at about 12 to 16 tablespoons of water). Transfer half of the dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and gently knead to bring in any ragged edges. Pat the dough into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days. Repeat with remaining dough.
2. Assemble and bake the pie: Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll it out between 2 floured sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper until you have an 18X13 inch rectangle. If the dough starts to feel too soft as you're rolling, refrigerate it for 15 to 20 minutes until it forms up again. Fit the dough into a 15X10 inch baking sheet (also known as a jelly roll pan), leaving any excess intact, and refrigerate.
In a bowl, toss the peaches with the blueberries, rosemary, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt.
Roll out the second piece of dough into 16X11 inch rectangle. Spread the filling out in the crust-lined pan. Drape the second piece of dough on top of the filling. Roll and pinch the excess crust inward to create an edge around the pan. Use a sharp knife to cut vents all over the top crust. Refrigerate the assembled pie for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the bottom of the oven and another in the center. Preheat the oven to 425F. Brush the top pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake the pie on the bottom rack of the oven for about 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375F and move the pie to the center rack. Bake for 30 to 35 more minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Let the pie cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before serving.
I love my dutch oven, it was the first gift M gave me for Christmas. I have a few pieces now for different purposes and I treat them like they were my kids. And though they're heavy (my mom's biggest complaint when she visits me), they're resilient and a great piece to own. Heat transfers evenly, food cooks great, the heavy lids allow condensation of the steam from the food which helps to cook the food well. From braising meat, to stews to desserts, a lot can be done with this beast. This new 6.5 oval dutch oven from Williams-Sonoma's new signature collection is not only goregous but also did an excellent job of cooking the cobbler. The cherries cook in their own liquid and hold their texture without falling apart and getting mushy.
One of the recipes, I've picked up from M's mom is her berry cobbler. It's a no fuss dessert, minimal effort and it bursts with flavors from fresh fruits. It's one of those dishes that does fruits justice when cooked (I have mixed feelings about cooked fruit desserts, my relationship status with this one is Complicated!).
Two weekends ago, we went cherry picking at a farm in Stockton, CA. After semi-climbing a tree and picking fruit, we ended up with some 17 or 20lbs of cherries (not to mention the stuff we ate while picking). So I needed to use up all that fruit, some we pitted and froze, others were puréed and stored. Basically, we have a whole lot of cherry stuff going on in this house. It's a short season, so I plan to eat as much and do as much as I can with it.
The crust is pretty easy, I add grated butter to the flours and a little bit of rosemary (optional). Some people like the flavor and texture of rosemary in desserts while other's don't, use your judgement here.
Here are some of my kitchen tips that you might find useful when preparing this cobbler,
- I use a large amount of fresh pitted cherries. If cherries are hard to find, you can try frozen.
- The rosemary in the crust is optional. I like the flavor it gives to the crust and it also goes well with the cherry flavor.
- I use dried elderberries here which have a very different flavor than elderflowers. A little bit goes a long way here.
- If you can't find honey powder use sugar. Taste the filling and adjust sweetness if necessary. Remember the flavors will concentrate and thicken in the oven as the cobbler cooks.
cherry and elderberry cobbler with buckwheat and quinoa crust
yields : 4 to 8 servings
1.2 kg/2.5lbs pitted cherries (I used bing cherries)
2 cups tart cherry juice
2 tablespoons honey powder
2 tablespoons kirsch (optional)
1 tablespoon dried elderberries, ground
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon tap water
226gm buckwheat flour
90 gm quinoa flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon rosemary leaves (fresh/dried) - chopped or whole
4 tablespoons grated butter
3/4 cup whole milk
1. Place a wire rack at midlevel in the oven. Preheat to 350F.
2. Take a medium sized dutch oven (I used a 6.5 quart dutch oven). Place all the ingredients from the cherries to the ground elderberries. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and tap water and fold this into the cherry mixture in the dutch oven. Keep aside.
3. To prepare the crust topping, sift the buckwheat flour, quinoa flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt over a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the rosemary, butter, and milk and stir with a large fork to mix completely. The dough will resemble a sticky mass. Level the cherries in the dutch oven with a large wooden spoon, then place scoops of the dough over the cherries and distribute across the surface evenly. Place in the oven and bake with lid for about 40 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Carefully, remove the hot lid from the dutch oven and return the uncovered dutch oven back to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the crust is a light golden brown. Remove from oven allow to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before serving. To serve, scoop the cobbler with the filling and some crust and sprinkle a little sparkling sugar or serve with creme fraîche.
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Williams-Sonoma however, all opinions expressed are solely my own.