Archive for April, 2008

Tried and True!

April 26, 2008
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I love my cookbooks but, more often than not, it is to *teh innernets* that I turn to for inspiration and ideas. The cooking sites and blogs I read are all listed in my sidebar, and I have to admit are visited daily. (Or at least they were up until this week, where I finally started work again after a year on maternity leave.).

Anyway my ‘system’ for marking and remembering internet recipes leaves a lot to be desired: I try to bookmark them into a ‘recipe’ folder never look back. Not such a great technique however, since I end up spending hours trying to remember something I saw. Not so with this recipe, from a highly recommendable blog, which I have been meaning to try for a year now. Everytime I saw lemons, I had to think of this recipe and I have finally made it. And I can tell you: tried and true, it’s absolutely awesome. Because you use an entire lemon, you get a little bit of the bitterness of the peel and the zest which makes it taste somewhat like a gin and tonic with sugar. And no booze.

By the way, my biggest fan and harshest critic (all rolled into one) did yet again, not believe me that a whole lemon was a good idea for a tarte au citron. That’s probably because legend has it her husband makes the most perfect, delicous tarte au citron meringuée. But I have never had the privilege to taste it (HINT!). Anyway, if you hear me sistah, go make it!

Oh, and I am also using this post to make a little special smartypants insert about tarte dough (which my husband INSISTS on calling pie dough–a tarte is NOT a pie my friends!). As a disclaimer, though, I will tell you that my mother (what’s with me and my family in this post, huh?) makes the absolute most perfect tartes and subsequently, tarte doughs. Hers are buttery, flaky and most of all thin. I have somehow never managed to achieve my mother’s tartes’ degree of thinness, but I actually also like tarte dough so much, that i absolutely don’t mind if there is a lot of it! Ok, enough digressing, let’s move this along!

Whole Lemon Tarte

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Basic Tarte Dough

2 cups of flour (about 240 g)
1/2 tsp salt
100 g sugar
145 g cold cold butter
3 tbsp icecold water

prep time: 5min, cooling time: 30 min, parbaking time 25 min*

metal mixing bowl and knife or food processor ( I beleive it’s called a ‘cuisineart’ in the english speaking world)

Make sure all your ingredients are very cold. Cut the butter in cubes and using a knife, cut it into the flour, salt and sugar, or mix it together in your foodprocessor until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add the cold water bit by bit until the dough starts to come together. Roll it together in a ball, wrap it in clingfoil and put it in the fridge to rest for 30 min.

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Butter and flour the tin(s), to be extrasure, line the bottom with baking paper. Roll out the dough to the desired size, fold it and unfold it into your tarte or cake tin.

Now you have two possibilities: 1) prebake the dough and fill it with chocolate, or strawberries and cream or I don’t know what, and 2) dust some almond meal or couscous in the bottom, fill it with uncooked fruits (apples, apricots you name it) and bake it as a whole.
We are going to go with number 1), and I wil give you a better and detailed description for number 2) whenever I think of it.

To make the whole lemon tarte, prick little holes in the pie dough with a fork, line it with baking paper and fill it with beans or rice or actual baking weights if you are truly fancy. Bake at 180° for about 20 min. The crust should be semi-baked and still somewhat soft, but shouldn’t break if you attempt to remove it from the tin (if it did, and your crust is ruined, I am truly sorry…). Remove the baking weigts and baking paper and put it back in the oven for another 5 min. Let it cool. Take it out of the tin and put it onto a baking rack or sheet

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Lemon Filling

adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan, via smitten kitchen
prep time: 10min, baking time: 45 min, cooling time: 20 min

1 medium sized lemon (about 130 g)
300 g sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp corn or potato starch
115 g of butter, melted and cooled

23 cm round cake or tarte tin

Preheat the oven to 160°C. In your foodprocessor combine the sugar and the lemon and whizz it until it becomes a homogenous and delicious smelling puree. Resist the urge to eat it all on the spot.
With a whisk, add in the whole egg and the yolk. Sift over the cornstarch and slowly add the melted butter, making sure all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Pour the lemon mixture into the parbaked tarte crust and slide it into the oven. Bake for about 20 min. Increase the heat to 180° and keep baking for another 15-20 min, or until the filling is bubbly and golden. take it out of the oven and let it cool for a while before serving.

* This recipe makes enough for a thickish crust in a 27 cm tarte tin, or two medium crusts in a 23 cm tin, or a covered ‘pie’, or one 23 cm tarte tin and 10 muffin sized mini tartelettes. phew, thorough, eh?

A Guilty Pleasure

April 19, 2008
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The last time I was in New York, I was pregnant with our first child. It was one of the most wondefful and harrowing experiences. We were there, because my husband was shooting additional material for his film, which meant, that we were effectively mixing business with pleasure, or in my case, business with pregnancy. I was permanently exhausted, elated, hungry, nauseated and also mad at the american public space for being host to numerous anti-french ads (this was the time when ‘french fries’ were to be renamed ‘freedom fries’ and everyone was pouring french wine down the gutter).

Anyway our host during that trip was and is one of the most wonderful cooks known to me (that is excepting my family) and had hosted me a number of times in his place in Brooklyn. I had stayed with him during a summerlong internship I did at the very beginning of my studies, nearly 10 years ago, during which he introduced me to asian cooking (mainly thai, my peanut sauce and I are forever indebted!) and to Ben & Jerry’s icecream.

During this visit with my husband, I was going crazy (and I mean a pint-a-day-crazy) for their chubby hubby flavor, and more specifically, with the sweet/salty combination. I was immediatly introduced to chocolate covered pretzels and remember tasting them somehwere in SoHo, as we were looking for the Prada store. It took us a while to find it BTW, I blame my blindsight to hormones, and those pretzels. In the end I was equally smitten with the pretzels as I was with store; but the pretzels were kind of easier to budget for!

Since I haven’t been able to find them since –either in Canada or in Germany– I have thought for some time that I should find a way to do them myself. So today, about 3 1/2 years later, I did it. In anxious expectation I tasted the first one, and lo, those pretzels, they rocked. Go make them, they are done as quickly as they are eaten!

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Chocolate Covered Pretzels

prep time: 5 min cooling time about 1 h

100 g dark chocolate*
about 75 g pretzels (or salt sticks)
pat of butter

saucepan, silicon mat or parchment paper

Melt the chocolate with a pat of butter over low heat (You can do it in a double boiler or in the microwave, today, I was particularly lazy and just melted it straight in the saucepan). Drop the pretzels in there, and toss to coat them**. With whatever instrument you have (I used a knife and fork) pull them out and lay them on your silicon mat to harden. Store in a cool, dry place. If you can resist eating them all at once, I imagine they would taste fabulous crushed and sprinkled over ice cream…

* I used an organic dark chocolate, but suspect that milk chocolate would have tasted more fun
** At first, I gently dredged each pretzel through the melted chocolate and pulled it out, but then the lazy hit me again, and i just dumped the rest of the pack in there!

Dip It!

April 15, 2008
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The weather being the best conversation starter there is, let me just tell you that I have nothing but complaints on it. It’s been a continuation of winter for about as long as spring has officially started.

As much as we WANT to buy spring fare, what I really want to EAT are stews and roasts and real mac’n’cheese.

The produce vendors however, are plowing on and trying to convince us of the season by offering asparagus, rhubarb and (globe) artichokes. And because I am a sucker for marketing, i fell into their terrible ploy (for the third time, might I add!), caved and bought artichokes.

As a child I have never been incredibly fond of artichokes, and a bout of stomach flu a few years back left a truly terrible memory involving the lovely thistle hearts(variation, a pseudo-writers best friend!) paired with spaghetti, and I will leave the rest to your imagination. I mainly got them at the markthalle because my toddler boy is absolutely in love with dipping. Dipping for him, is food at it’s funnest (as opposed to funnIEST). i figured therefore, that artichokes (how many times will I type artichokes in this post, hmm? well, better read on and count!) were a nice change and a bit of fun for the rainy dinners.

The artichokes were steamed and I served them with two dips: a variation on the classic italian salsa verde – a green sauce (my linguistics skills are unparalleled) made with fresh herbs, capers and anchovies – for the husband and me, and a surefire winner for all of us, which is a tahini-yoghurt sauce spiced with ras-el-hanout (a very fragrant north african spice/herb mix including cumin, fenugreek, coriander and mild chili, to name a few).

Artichokes with Double Dip

prep time: 5 min/dip and 40 min total for the artichokes

For the Artichokes

count one artichoke per person

pot with a steamer inlay or a pressure cooker fitted with a steamer inside.

Cut of the long Stem of the artichokes to about 1/2 cm of the globe. Chop pf the tips of leaves with scissors or simply cut a couple of cms of the top. Place in a bowl of cold water with a splash of lemon to prevent them from turning black.

When you are ready to cook, place the artichokes ionside the steamer basket and steam them for about 15-20 min or until tender. Reduce the cooking time appropriately if you are steaming them in a pressure cooker ( my guess would be about 10 min after the cooker is starting to vent steam)

Serve the artichokes hot or cold. to eat, pull out the leaves and dip them into a classic vinaigrette, or even just olive oil and lemon or this, or whatever else you like. To eat the artichoke heart, pull or cut out the hairy fuzzy part, the heart is what lies underneath.

For the Salsa Verde

4 tbsp olive oil or more
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp mint
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp cilantro (optional)
1 tbsp capers (either salted or brined, be sure to rinse the salted ones well!)
3-4 anchovies, packed in oil or salt (again, if salted, make sure to rinse them well)
splash of lemon juice, or more to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz together until it all comes together. Alternately, you can chopp up the herbs, capers and anchovies finely and blend with the lemon juice and the olive oil. Your sauce needs to look green, and solid, between a vinaigrette and a pesto.

For the Yoghurt-Tahini Sauce

1 tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
1/2 cup of yoghurt
juice of one lime/lemon
1 tsp mint
1 tsp ras-el-hanout

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients and let stand for a little while. The tahini will cause the sauce to thicken slightly. If you find it a little to runny, add some more of the sesame butter.

Both sauces/dips will keep covered in the fridge for a few days, but make sure to check because mint can sometimes cause dishes to go bad quickly.