Thursday, August 28, 2014

Alice Medrich's Plum and Almond Tart


Oven and Camera Ready! 
Vanilla Ice Cream on the side
is highly recommended
When you have a blog to write, you tend not to repeat recipes once you have made them.  You’re pretty well under the gun to cook something you’ve never tried before simply to create content for your readers.  Most of the time, this isn’t all that difficult to do, especially when you have literally thousands of recipes at your disposal.  But then once in a while you come across something that rings all the bells.  It not only tastes phenomenal, it uses the season’s best ingredients and, if they’re locally grown so much the better.  And then there are those gems that not only meet those criteria but they’re incredibly easy to make.  At that precise moment, you have to assert great discipline in not running out and making the dish on an everyday basis.  With this tart, the invention of one of California’s greatest bakers, all that discipline went out the window.  The tart appeared three times in a week, breaking all previous records for recipe repeating in the shortest amount of time.  But one bite of Alice Medrich’s superb invention, I can almost guarantee you’ll put this on your repeat list too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Zucchini Corn and Parmesan Fritters

         I’ve always gotten a kick out of stories of massive Zucchini crops suddenly emerging in August and causing their growers to wonder what on earth to do with all of them.  When I was in Elementary School, I distinctly remember a classmate whose mother’s solution was to send her son armed with enormous bags of Zucchini to school each day.  He was quite systematic in his giving.  He would go to a different teacher’s classroom every day and deposit a bag on her desk, beaming.  The first teacher was overwhelmed with his mother’s largesse.  But by the end of the week the last teacher was simply overwhelmed, likely because Teachers #1, 2, 3 and 4 had already shared the bounty of Gordon’s mother’s garden with all their fellow teachers.  Did she go home and make Zucchini bread? Or Zucchini pickles? I can’t help but hope that she made Zucchini Fritters because undoubtedly Gordon and his well-intentioned mother would have been forgiven.   These wonderful cakes, fried to a crisp, are an American classic.  Did you know that Crab Cakes are actually fritters?   And while you can make them with everything from apples to pineapples to peas, the season’s bumper crop of Zucchini and Corn make an irresistible fritter.  Especially when freshly grated Parmesan cheese is added to the batter.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Roasted Shrimp Salad with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Avocado

        Last Sunday, we gave a pool party for our god-daughter.  It’s an annual event to celebrate her birthday for the four of us who are called “The Uncles”.  Andrew and I and Terry and Shawn have watched Olivia grow up and we’ve been there for every birthday.  It’s the perfect time to break out the Rosé and the pool toys—this year a gigantic swan Olivia named “Gloria Swanson”.  It’s also the perfect occasion for this salad.   I was drawn to a recipe from Ann Burrell, the Food Network’s wild-haired woman who, it turns out, is a summer visitor to the Hamptons.  In her original recipe which appeared in Hamptons magazine, Ann used our perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes as the basis for a shrimp salad.  I took off from there.  First, I have to thank Ina Garten, who, as almost everybody knows, lives in the next town over full time.  From Ina, I learned that roasting shrimp is the best way to capture all their flavor.  Far superior to boiling shrimp, roasting them seems to bake all the flavor into the shrimp.  The tomatoes were a no-brainer. 

The Comfort family farm down the road has baskets of heirloom cherry tomatoes and plenty of beefsteak tomatoes too which I put into action. Since Olivia loves avocado, Andrew and I peeled and sliced 3 ripe avocados into the salad.  The final touch in Ann Burrell’s recipe called for Black Volcanic Salt.  Fortunately, Williams Sonoma sells this rare salt in a finishing salt selection.  If you can get your hands on it, please do.  Otherwise you can be forgiven for using any large grained salt like Fleur de Sel.  This salad is so simple to make, so satisfying to eat and so beautiful to look at that I’d recommend putting that bag of Costco shrimp you’ve got in the freezer to work this weekend.  Here’s the recipe:

Recipe for Roasted Shrimp Salad with Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes and Avocado. Takes 30 minutes to make.  Serves 8.

1-2 lb bag of 31-35 count Shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on *
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. Crushed Red or Alleppo Pepper
2 pints of heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
2 lbs. of ripe, red soil grown tomatoes
3 ripe Haas Avocados, peeled, pit removed and sliced into ½ inch wedges.
½ white or Maui onion, peeled and sliced very thin
12 large fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade**
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Black Volcanic Sea Salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, chopped garlic and red or Aleppo pepper flakes.  

3. Place shrimp in a large bowl and pour olive oil and garlic mixture over them, making sure to coat all the shrimp with the mixture.

4. Put the shrimp on a single layer on a sheet pan.  Salt and pepper the shrimp and put them in the oven.  The smaller sized shrimp (31-35 count) will cook in 5 minutes.  Larger shrimp will take only slightly longer.  Do not overcook. Shrimp are done when they turn pink and are opaque all the way through.

5. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion and avocado and half of the basil chiffonade.

6. Remove the shrimp from the sheet pan and pour all the juices and garlic bits into the bowl with the tomatoes, onion and avocado. Add the vinegar and toss gently.
7. Arrange the salad on individual plates, top with shrimp and sprinkled with the remaining basil chiffonade and black volcanic salt over all.  Serve.

*You can use the larger sizes too 21-25 or 11-15 count.  Just adjust the roasting time upwards in 3 minute intervals.
** To make a chiffonade of basil leaves, stack 6 leaves on top of each other, gently roll them into a cigar shape and then use a sharp knife to slice them into thin ribbons. Repeat.  Stack, roll, slice and you’ve made a chiffonade.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Two Recipes that have Summer in the Hamptons written all over them! Lobster and Corn Chowder and Peach Blueberry Crisp

         “As the days dwindle to a precious few”….I have to wonder why it is that from August 1st on, everyone out East starts talking about the end of summer!  There are another 7 weeks left but inevitably these get whittled down.  Freshmen are leaving for college the 19th.  New York private school kids sports programs gear up the same week.  Egads! They may be right!  This spectacular summer, with weather that’s kept the air conditioning off almost continuously and with Camelot-like rain that nevers falls till after sundown, is winding down. So it’s time to celebrate with food that has summer written all over it.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

John Barricelli's Lemon Meringue Tart from his SoNo Baking Company Cookbook


As you can see, this is one gorgeous dessert.  And it gave Andrew an opportunity to use a 13 ¼ inch rectangular tart pan.  But don’t put off it you lack one of this size and dimension.  John Barricelli’s original recipe gives the green light to a 9 inch round tart pan with a removable bottom.   You may remember Chef Barricelli’s most recent appearance here as the author the Coconuttiest Cake of all time.   Here he has re-invented traditional lemon meringue pie.  Instead of using lemon-flavored pastry cream, he has created a filling that’s richer and even tangier—it’s lemon curd.  This means a much more intense lemon experience.  And John gives the credit for the curd to none other than Martha Stewart with whom he worked for several years, appearing as her pastry maven on TV.  Martha’s curd is distinguished by its use of fresh-squeezed lemon juice to which butter is added at the very end of the cooking process.   This is another instance where you need to bake in some time, pardon the pun, for chilling the Pâte Brisée for an hour.  Then, once the crust is in the tart pan, it needs another half hour firming up in the refrigerator. Finally, the glorious meringue was browned using our in-kitchen blowtorch. The original recipe said to run it under the broiler for a minute or two which I how I transcribed the recipe here.   Here’s the recipe:
John Barricelli’s Lemon Meringue Tart from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2010)

First make the Pâte Brisée:
The pastry for this recipe needs to rest in the refrigerator a minimum of an hour.  So add that timing to this recipe. Once that’s been done, the Tart comes together quickly. First make the pastry, a pâte brisée.  This recipe makes enough for one double crust pie of two single crust pies. Make the whole recipe and  you can freeze the second crust for up to a month.  And this crust can be used in both sweet and savory incarnations.  The trick here is make sure all your ingredients—wet and dry—are cold.  And not just the ingredients…you should chill the bowl and blade of your food processor or the bowl and attachment of your standing mixer. 

2 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1⁄4 cup ice water
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds.

2. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream until the dough just comes together. The dough should not be wet or sticky. If the dough is too dry and doesn’t hold together, add a little more water.

3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Divide in two and wrap each half in plastic wrap, shaping them into flattened disks. Chill at least 1 hour before using.

Now make the Lemon Curd:

2 tbsp. cold water
1 tsp. powdered unflavored gelatin
6 large egg yolks
Grated zest of 4 lemons
½ cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
1/8 tsp. coarse salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes.

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites
½ cup sugar
Pinch of coarse salt
1. In a small bowl, sprinkle the cold water over the gelatin. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and salt and whisk to combine.  Set over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes.  Do not boil. Whisk in the gelatin.

2. Strain the curd through a fine sieve into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until cool about 5 minutes. Beat in the butter a little at a time, until smooth.  Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. 

3. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 7 by 17 inch rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. 

5. Fit the dough into a 4 x 13 ¼ inch fluted rectangular tart pan with a removable bottom, and trim the dough so that it comes slightly above the rim of the tart pan. The press the excess dough against the sharp edge of the rim of the pan with the heel of your hand to cut it level with the pan.  Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

6. Set the over rack in the bottom third of the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat. Set aside. Place the chilled tart shell on the prepared baking sheet and line it with parchment paper, leaving a 1 inch overhang.  Fill with pie weights. 

7. Bake until the edges of the tart shell are firm and are just beginning to turn golden, 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper and the pie weights.  Return the tart shell to the oven and continue to bake until the surface is golden all over, about 10 more minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

8. Whisk (or beat in a standing mixer) the lemon curd to loosen.  Spread the curd over the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Refrigerate.

9. Bring about 1 inch of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine the egg whites, sugar and alt in the top of the double boiler, set it over, (not in) the simmering water and whish to dissolve the sugar just until it melts, 1 to 2 minutes.  (The mixture should feel just warm to the touch and not gritty.) 

10. Transfer to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium high speed until the meringue is glossy an stiff peaks form when you lift the whisk.

11. Preheat the broiler and arrange an oven rack 5 to 6 inches from the broiler element.  Spread the meringue over the lemon curd. 

12. Place the tart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and broil until the meringue is nicely browed, 1 to two minutes.  Serves 8.