Colors

One of the many (manymany) benefits of the farmers’ market is the Technicolor burst of summer meals. The colors are brilliant, bright and arresting, drawing you in as they lie there.

Egg Salad
The substitute sunlight of nasturtium blossoms in a morning’s egg salad, accompanied by a midnight dark bowl of blackberries and blueberries.

Dill Salmon
The subtle greens of fresh dill contrasting with the pastel pink of grilled salmon and the earthy depths of cremini mushrooms (not to mention the inevitable nasturtiums on my salad).

Peaches and Cream
Honey-yellow peaches with burnished pink highlights half-hiding a billowing cloud of rich, white cream, freckled with cinnamon.

Blueberry Coconut Crisp
A big white bowl of blueberries, stewed until juicy and glistening, topped with crisp, toasted coconut.

My descriptions are no less purple than the fruit, but it’s hard not to let fly with superlatives when faced with such bounty.

Published in: on August 21, 2008 at 7:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Breakfast of Blossoms

The best thing about buying food at farmers’ markets is that one is much more likely to pick up something that you’ve never tried before. This isn’t an original statement, I know, but it continues to be true, even for people like me, who are a bit too interested in all the different ways of filling their stomachs.

Who needs to stop at regular cucumbers, when one can try lemon cucumbers, Italian cucumbers, Japanese cucumbers, and Korean cucumbers? Why eat nothing but baby greens when the next bag over contains arugula, perilla, shiso or amaranth? Turnips are great, but what about burdock? Strawberries are delicious, but what look: ground cherries! Saskatoons! Black currants! Not everything ends up being to my taste (the Saskatoons were not a hit) but some become new favorites (I don’t think I’ve ever met a root I didn’t like). Sometimes the untried foods aren’t even exotic or unknown, just things I’ve never gotten around to trying.

Enter zucchini blossoms.

Everybody knows about zucchini blossoms—they’ve almost become a cliché of pretentious poseur cuisine. Stuffed with cheese and braised, fried as tempura, poached, the recipes are everywhere. The blossoms are very pretty, but often expensive (after all, each blossom is a squash that will never grow). As intriguing and delicious as the recipes sounded, I had never tried them for one reason: I am cheap.

One recent market day, though, I was under the weather and needed a pick-me-up. In spite of the rather exorbitant price, I splurged on a big bunch of the zucchini blossoms and took them home for lunch. I stuffed them with a spiced goat cheese, simmered them for a few moments in a good broth, and gobbled them up. The combination of the hot, homemade chicken broth and the creamy cheese was perfect for a summer cold, but the strength of their flavors overwhelmed that of the zucchini blossoms themselves. Still—what I could taste was appealing and intriguing, and I resolved to try the blossoms again, but in a more delicate preparation.

The following Saturday, then, I bought another bunch of zucchini blossoms at the market. I didn’t want to eat them until the next morning, so I carefully wrapped the big, healthy bunch in a paper towel, then put it into an open plastic bag and into the lettuce drawer in my refrigerator. (Technically, this crisper drawer has a picture of an apple on it, whereas the other drawer has a picture of a turnip, but I use the apple drawer almost exclusively for lettuce and other greens, and the turnip drawer for everything else).

On Sunday morning, I checked to see if the blossoms needed any washing (in fact, they were pristinely clean), then removed the pistils and chopped the petals from their stems.

Zucchini Blossoms

I roughly tore the blossoms into strips, lightly sautéed them for a few minutes in a flavorless oil, then added three eggs, beaten with nothing more than salt, pepper and a tiny drop of water.
Blossoms in the pan
I let the eggs set on the bottom, then lifted up the edges to let the raw portion flow underneath, creating layers upon layers. In less than five minutes I had a moist, fluffy and perfectly set golden omelet, shot through with the fresh green and deeper orange tones of the blossoms.

Zucchini Blossom Omelet
Indeed, the omelet was a much better way of showing off the flavor of the zucchini blossoms. Unsurprisingly, the blossoms have a flavor strongly reminiscent of zucchini itself, but more elusive, and without the often squishy texture that puts so many people off. The texture of the blossoms, of course, is almost nil, especially after cooking, allowing the flavor to permeate the eggs. The calyx of the flowers has an even stronger flavor of the squash, but with a more toothiness than the blossoms. It’s crisp without being crispy, if that makes any sense; almost like biting into a perfectly fresh slice of ripe zucchini, but brighter, juicier, colder, (the actual temperature notwithstanding) and almost refreshing.

It was a rather austere omelet, given that it contained no butter, milk, or cheese, but the zucchini blossoms gave it a deep and satisfying flavor. The cost may be difficult to absorb, but the benefits are worth it.

Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Spring’s Last Breakfast

Rhubarb Maple Fool

Rhubarb-maple fool with cinnamon and vanilla.

Published in: on June 20, 2008 at 6:26 am  Leave a Comment  

Long and Scattered

Behold, I am alive.  Ambulatory, even.  (Kind of.  I’m walking perfectly easily, just not for very long periods of time). 

What’s more, I have been cooking.  AND going to the newly-opened farmer’s market. 

Given that it’s still so early in the spring, I’ve been able to do very little at the farmer’s market aside from make a considerable dent in the supply of pea shoots and rhubarb every week, but still.  The pea shoots have graced innumerable salads and sautes and stir-fries, and the rhubarb has been part of soup (poached in red wine and cassis), sorbet (cooked with the juice and zest of blood oranges) and smoothies:

Rhubarb Smoothie

(Greek yogurt, fresh ginger: need I say more?)

Unfortunately, aside from dishes containing the just-picked farmer’s market produce, my main meals have been somewhat lackluster.  Nothing has been actually bad, but nothing has excited me or made me want to write about it.  I haven’t saved a recipe I’ve prepared in almost a month. 

I am not entirely discouraged, however.  Even when living on hum-drum lunches and mediocre dinners, breakfast is always there to save me. 

Like probably 50% of the rest of the population of the U.S., when I was growing up, my parents would occasionally fix ‘breakfast for dinner’ as a special treat.  Whole wheat pancakes with scrambled eggs and bacon was the standard meal when the whole family sat down, and enormous potato pancakes–really thinly shredded hash browns bound with beaten egg and served with (forgive me) ketchup–when the food was meant for just my sister and me. 

Unlike most of the population of the U.S., however, my family also ate breakfast for breakfast.  I know that many people are unable to stomach heavy food–or food of any kind–early in the morning, but my family has never been been part of that group.  Toast (with peanut butter and honey) and fried eggs was my default meal through childhood, while my sister took her toast neat and her eggs scrambled.  My parents both consumed large quantities of yogurt and granola, and chili-covered cheese-filled omelets were rampant.  All of this on ordinary weekday mornings, no less. 

I don’t eat quite the same way anymore.  I have to eat my breakfast at 6:30 am to be able to get to work on time, and I cannot allow myself unlimited time to prepare a meal.  I must, however, eat just as heartily as I always have.  My usual lunch break isn’t until 1 pm, with no break for a snack, meaning that my breakfast has to last me more than six hours (and a 1.5 mile walk, when I’m up to par).

On weekdays I stick to my strict schedule: I eat a hardboiled egg, some homemade sausage (variety subject to change at a moment’s notice) and a large serving of whatever fruit is in season. 

Weekends, however, are a different story.  I have much more time to prepare my meal, and, given that I’m an early riser even without an alarm, the kitchen to myself to prepare it in. 

Farmer's market eggs

My weekend meals usually center around eggs.  Sometimes savory–two weeks ago I poached three eggs in the leftover sauce from a curry-roasted chicken.  It was tangy, spicy and absolutely divine.

Curried Eggs

More often, though, I use my eggs for sweet dishes.  Souffleed omelets and jam-filled crepes are my fall-back meals for weekends.  Both are usually topped with fruit, and both benefit from the eggs I get from the farmer’s market.  The yolks are bright yellow and melt into a custard with almost no need for additional flavoring; the whites are stronger than I am and whip up to stratospheric heights. 

Last week I made a very simple souffleed omelet–I whisked three egg yolks with two tablespoons of simple syrup and a teaspoon of vanilla, then folded in three egg whites, whipped to stiff peaks.  I poured the mixture into a hot cast-iron skillet, the bottom filmed with flavorless oil.  After a second on the heat to set the bottom, I slid the pan into the 400 degree oven, for 15 minutes, until it was cooked through–golden on the outsides, but still soft on the inside, like a meringue. 

I topped the whole thing with fresh strawberries tossed with slivered mint.  It looks enormous and sounds decadent, but it was so light on the tongue that the entire omelet disappeared without a second thought.

Strawberry souffleed omelet

Yesterday morning I made crepes.  Three more of those lovely eggs whisked up into the batter, along with a little Amaretto.  I filled each one with apricot jam, dusted the plate with cinnamon and topped it with raspberries.  It was, believe it or not, a clean-out-the-refrigerator meal. 

Breakfast is my favorite meal, and I’ve been having some great ones, but here’s hoping that the other two meals are soon up to snuff.

Published in: on June 2, 2008 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

This is Not a Recipe

It is, however, a moment of astonishing clarity. It was sublime. Also a little ridiculous.

So. I made oatmeal.

Wait! Wait! There’s more to it than that! (But that is the ridiculous part).

This morning I was making breakfast, and I decided that I wanted oatmeal, so I started in on my usual routine: put a measure of oats in a saucepan with twice that amount of liquid, some spices, some sweetener, bring the whole thing to a boil, stir it once, turn it off and let it sit for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the oats are tender, and then eat it. For some reason, this morning I got stuck on the choice of liquid.

Even though it’s in the low 30s again (snow! fie!), I didn’t really want the wintertime richness associated with cream or milk, or even coconut or nut milks. I also didn’t want to be so ascetic as to go for plain water, though–I love oats, and I love Scotland, but I’m not such a purist that I take my oats neat.

I stared into the fridge for a considerable amount of time, wasting shameful amounts of electricity. Eggs. Olives. Green Beans. Leftover soup. This was not helpful. Umeboshi plums. Vodka. Solitary muffin.

Wait. Muffin?

Yesterday I made a batch of muffins for a get-together with some friends. I used a recipe for applesauce-almond muffins, but instead of using applesauce, I used my last jar of quince butter, made in the heady days of last fall when fresh fruit was still a reality. (Don’t talk to me about those strawberries in the store right now. They are not real).

During quince season, I made quince butter and quince jam and poached quinces in wine and syrup and quinces ad nauseum. I stored some of everything in freezer, meaning to spread it out over the entire twelve months until quinces were ripe again, but what with one thing and another, I obliterated my quince reserves in just seven months. I used the last of the poached quinces a few weeks ago (baked and stuffed with lamb, lemon zest and pine nuts: phenomenal), but saved the poaching syrup. The muffins (which were also delicious) used all but a few tablespoons of the quince butter.

When I saw the muffin, I remembered the nearly-empty jar of quince butter hidden behind the mayonnaise, and when I saw the quince butter I remembered the quince poaching syrup in the freezer. Oatmeal. Cooked in quince syrup? With quince butter stirred in? Yes.

So that’s what I did. I microwaved the quince syrup for a few seconds, until it was liquid again, poured it over my oats, added a little cinnamon and ginger, then followed my usual method. I scraped the finished oatmeal into a bowl, then added the last scrapings of quince butter and stirred it all together, leaving the quince butter in big whorls throughout the oats.

It was truly lovely. The rich nuttiness of the oats went perfectly with most apparent apple-pear flavor of the quinces, and the floral/vegetal/lemony backnotes of the quinces lightened the dish enough that it didn’t seem heavy.

It’s a dish that, sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever make again–the confluence of ingredients is unlikely to recur–but it’s one that I am extremely happy to have eaten.

Published in: on April 13, 2008 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Priznel 2.0

The first dish that my husband (then my brand-new boyfriend) cooked for me was a long-standing family recipe called Priznel. Priznel is a kind of a quiche, made with cottage cheese, grated hard cheese (usually jack, or something else white), eggs and lots and lots of cooked spinach.

What Teacherman didn’t know was that I despised cooked spinach. I’d tried to eat it innumerable times–I’ve mentioned my struggles here before–but no matter what I did, I still hated it. (Why, you ask, did I keep on trying to eat something I loathed? It annoyed me that I couldn’t conquer the dislike, so I tried with all my might to get past the raw-metal flavors and the the slimy texture. And yes, I made sure to have spinach cooked by capable cooks, even surpassingly brilliant ones, but nothing worked. I still hated it–cooked, at least).

In any case, Teacherman made me Priznel. After many hours of cooking (we ate ate 9 pm that night, I believe), he proudly presented me with a dish of the only food that I absolutely hated. And I had to eat it.

I did manage to, and I didn’t mention that I was revolted by every spoonful I consumed (it didn’t help that the Priznel never did get fully cooked through). I smiled my way through the meal, but firmly sent all the leftovers home with him. Unfortunately, this politeness meant that I had to eat Priznel at every family function I attended for the next year or two, as Teacherman and I became more and more involved as a couple.

It wasn’t until we were engaged that my mother off-handedly mentioned my wretched feelings about cooked spinach. A look of horror appeared on Teacherman’s face. “Why didn’t you TELL me!” he said, “I would have completely understood!” This is probably true. But my inner politeness switch had refused to budge, and, as I mentioned, I had been trying to learn to like the stuff.

In fact, I’m still trying to learn to like it. I’ve almost succeeded–at this point I can handle wilted spinach, especially if there are lots of spices involved, but not the fully-cooked type. (I should point out, here, that I enjoy fully cooked greens of every other variety, just not spinach. This, of course, is because no other cooked greens taste like rust).

This year, we spent Easter with Teacherman’s sister and her family–my in-laws had driven in from Detroit, and we all contributed to what turned out to be a brunch of epic proportions. My entries? A raspberry-ginger cheesecake for dessert, and, for the main meal, a recipe so similar to Priznel–but, in my opinion, so much better–that I actually may have converted the family.

Last month, while doing some research on ancient Roman cuisine, I read a lot of cookbooks about food from the modern Mediterranean, in order to become aware of the evolution of various dishes over the centuries. As might be expected, I ended up copying down a lot of recipes, as well as the information I was looking for. In an encyclopedic book on modern Greek cuisine, I found several recipes for egg-cheese-and-greens pies and casseroles. One in particular caught my eye–it seemed almost identical to Priznel, but with a very important exception. Instead of spinach, it used curly endive and romaine lettuce.

Otherwise, the ingredients were incredibly similar. A grateable cheese (kasseri), a soft, creamy cheese (feta), and eggs. The Greek casserole also included herbs–leeks, scallions and parsley, and one extra flavoring: chopped Kalamata olives. I knew immediately that I wanted to make the casserole, and I also knew that I wanted to make it for Teacherman’s family. Luckily, the Easter potluck presented itself, and I set to work.

Saturday night I washed two small heads of curly endive and two romaine hearts, then wilted them in a large pan until they were thoroughly cooked. I drained the greens in a colander, then squeezed them completely dry, and put them into a large bowl. Next, I chopped and washed two leeks and a whole bunch of scallions, then sauteed them in a little oil until lightly browned. I added the aliums to the greens, along with the chopped leaves from an entire bunch of parsley and half a cup of olives, also chopped.

Once the mixture was cool, I crumbled up 10 oz of feta and 7 oz of kasseri cheese (the recipe called for slightly different amounts, but those were the sizes of the cheeses I bought) and mixed the crumbles into the greens, along with a tiny pinch of salt, and several grinds of black pepper.

At that point, I covered the bowl and put it into the fridge. I left it there overnight, but this was for the sake of convenience, rather than any necessary ripening step. I wanted to make the casserole right before we left for brunch, the meal was due to take place at 10 am, an hour’s drive away, and the casserole needed an hour in the oven. I didn’t want to get up at 5 am to cook the greens, so I did everything ahead.

The next morning, I let the contents of the bowl come to room temperature while I preheated the oven to 350, then I mixed in four beaten eggs. I poured the mixture into an olive-oil slicked 9*13 inch pan, then let it bake while I readied myself for the family gathering.

After one hour, the casserole was finished cooking, and I packed it–covered in foil and wrapped in many layers of dish towel–in a conveniently sized cardboard box. Away we went!

I was a little nervous about presenting Teacherman’s family with a bastardized version of their Priznel–understandably, comforting traditions often matter far more than taste–but I needn’t have. The group dove into the pan, taking generous portions, and, in many cases, going back for seconds.

“This is definitely the new Priznel,” Teacherman whispered to me.

“Man, I love anything with cooked spinach in it!” said one relative.

Teacherman and I looked at each other. We didn’t say a word.

Published in: on March 23, 2008 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Schmendrick was Right

No, really: he was.

About three years ago I was having a conversation with my friend Schmendrick, and it happened to come up that I had never eaten a kumquat.  I don’t remember what on earth we were talking about, but kumquats naturally followed from the topic of conversation.

Schmendrick was extremely surprised, but, given his laid-back nature, didn’t react with shock and horror.  In spite of such caution, his monosyllabic replies managed to indicate that the houris had barred me from the celestial gardens and that I was doomed to spend eternity wandering the shadows without even Virgil to guide me.  (To squash about 70 works of literature into one sentence, that is).

Somehow, even with the threat of unending and tedious torment sans a member of the blessed heathen to break up the monotony, I didn’t get around to trying kumquats for three more years.  And I didn’t pick them up with Schmendrick’s endorsement ringing in my ears–I picked them up because of a recipe. 

For the past month, my grocery store has been shelving little clamshells of kumquats next to enormous bags of local cranberries.  I had already begun associating the two in my mind, and when I saw a recipe for a kumquat-cranberry compote, everything snapped into focus.

Naturally, the day that I went to the market intending to buy kumquats, they had none on display.  I had to beg the produce clerk to go check in the back, and even though his acquiescence was reluctant, he brought back an entire flat of the things.  (Is there some flunky in the back scooping kumquats into clamshells?  What’s up with that?)

The clerk left me alone with the kumquats, which meant that I was able to individually select each one by hand.  (I don’t actually know what the characteristics of a ripe kumquat are, but I assume that they’re the same as for any other citrus fruit–skin with no traces of green, feels heavy for its size, isn’t dried out, etc). 

I took 12 oz of the kumquats home, along with a bag of cranberries.  The compote was simple enough to make: I put the kumquats, quartered lengthwise, an equal weight of cranberries and 3/4 cup of simple syrup in a saucepan, brought it to a boil, then simmered it until the berries popped, the kumquats were slightly soft and the whole mixture had thickened.

It was when I was quartering the kumquats that I had my revelation.  It was near lunchtime and I was hungry, so I threw a big one into my mouth, while I quartered the remainder. 

<SPROING!> 

I have heard kumquats described in many appetizing ways, but no one has ever described them in the way that lept to mind when I first tasted them:  they taste like already-candied orange peel.  Without the sand-sugar coating, I admit, but still–candied orange peel!  It was all I could do not to eat the rest of the fruits whole, leaving none for the compote.

I did manage to hold back, and put the rest of the kumquats into the saucepan.  Twenty minutes later I had a ruby-red compote of whole pieces of fruit suspended in thick, clear, jewel-toned juices.  The sweet, almost spicy citrus flavor of the kumquats was an even better match for the tart cranberries than the usual orange, and the kumquat skins added a fabulous chunky texture.  I ate the compote for breakfast every day this week and never once got tired of the sparky, invigorating flavors.

As much as I liked the combination of kumquats and cranberries, I’ve had another kumquat idea in my head for the entirety of the week.  If thinly slivered and made into a compote on their own, would the result not resemble a kind of marmalade?  This I must try. 

Published in: on December 22, 2007 at 9:25 am  Comments (1)  

Sweet Fennel

Fennel desserts are taking over the world.

More and more often, lately, I’ve been seeing recipes for cakes with chopped fennel, fruit salad with fennel fronds, or plain (if you can call it that) candied fennel. Cakes flavored with fennel seeds are quite traditional in some parts of the world, but using fennel bulb in desserts seems to be a relatively new phenomenon. (At least, it is within my relatively circumscribed reading experience. I don’t actually know what I’m talking about). Already feeling dangerously uninspired by the fruits of winter (supermarket apples! They only taste of sweet or sour! Nothing in between! And certainly not in combination!), I decided to take a cue from a recipe I’d seen in a forgotten cookbook, and add fennel to an apple-rhubarb crisp.

As mentioned, it was a forgotten cookbook, meaning that had I no recipe, just the title: “Rhubarb-Apple-Fennel Crisp, with Nutmeg and Star Anise.” But it turned out that I had no star anise. Also, I had no ingredients for the top layer–the part that makes a crisp actually crisp. I was bereft of staples.

I suppose it would have made sense to stop there, at the discovery that I lacked most of the ingredients necessary for the creation of this dish that I didn’t know the formulation for anyway. I had, however, become rather set on the idea of the combination of fruits/vegetables (rhubarb is a vegetable, after all), so I decided to throw everything I had together and see what happened.

I salvaged two lumpy, bruised and ugly Winesap seconds left from Saturday’s farmer’s marke trip, and chopped them into 1-inch pieces, unpeeled. I did the same to a bulb of fennel equal in size to a single apple. I dug out one of my bags of frozen rhubarb (indecently pink, and about a pound in total weight), and dumped it into the big bowl where the apples and fennel already lay. I sweetened them slightly (I don’t like my rhubarb too sweet), then sweetened them a bit more (help! fennel! how much do I sweeten it?!), and grated over an absolutely ungodly amount of fresh nutmeg. I tipped the whole mixture into a greased 9*13 pan, covered it with foil, and put it into the oven.

Unfortunately, I forgot about it. I’d meant to leave it in for 30 minutes, but somehow left it in for 60. When I pulled it out, the ingredients were definitely cooked–they were all the way to mushy, and had released copious amounts of liquid. The rhubarb, in particular, had disintegrated into (delicious) pink threads. I threw up my hands, but I didn’t give up.

Instead of leaving the mixture in the pan, as I’d planned to, I ladled it out into small ramekins, giving each section a gentle stir as I did so. The agitation of stirring and transfer merged all of the ingredients into a kind of chunky rhubarb-fennel-applesauce, with a rough texture and pale pinkish color. I covered the ramekins and put them into the fridge to cool down.

And how did it taste? Surprisingly excellent. The apples and the rhubarb went together very well, as was expected, but the fennel wasn’t just a strange addition–it made the dish better. The fennel had become sweet, as braised fennel–and this was essentially braised–usually does, and it made both the tangy Winesaps and the sour rhubarb taste sweeter. Additionally, it added an unsurprising whiff of anise flavor in the background, just enough to be tantalizing, but not enough to be unpalatable to the licorice-haters of the world.

It was different, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Published in: on December 5, 2007 at 10:29 am  Comments (1)  

Crepe-tastic

I have been on a bit of a crepe kick recently.  At least one morning of every recent weekend has found me whipping up a batter, forming myriad paper-thin rounds of sweetness and filling them with whatever my latest passion is. 

First, I made pear crepes.

I flavored the crepes themselves with vanilla, filling the tender circles with cardamom-caramelized pears.

Next, it was apple-black currant crepes, made with the last of the farmer’s market apples and a handful of the black currants from the freezer.  The currants turned the filling a deep purple and brough an almost woodsy, piney flavor to the meal.

I got a little crazy with the cinnamon.  Both the filling and the crepes were flavored with it, and it was, as you can see, dusted liberally over the top. 

My last crepe experiment, though, was defintely the most elaborate.  A few weeks ago I was reading a novel that mentioned a particular Austrian dessert–crepes layered with apricot jam, toasted ground pecans, and grated chocolate.  This idea wedged itself firmly into my mind and would NOT dislodge.  After weeks of dealing with apricot-pecan-chocolate daydreams, I gave up and made the thing.  And, given that I’ve never seen a recipe for anything like it, made it up, as well.  (That is, I certainly don’t believe that I made up the recipe or the idea, but I made up what I was doing as I went along).  Also, I made it for breakfast. 

I arrayed my ingredients next to the stove: 1. a food processor bowl full of my thinnest crepe batter.  2. a jar of my apricot jam, lightly sweetened (my jam is essentially just concentrated apricot puree, so it needs a little additional sweetener sometimes).  3. a bowl of toasted pulverized pecans (which I could not keep from eating with a spoon as I progressed).  4. a small bag of cacao nibs.  Yes, I could have used grated chocolate, but the idea of the nubbly, bitter cacao nibs lodged itself in my mind right next to the original recipe, and they merged almost without my knowing it.  To make up for the extremely dark flavor of the nibs (and the intensity of the apricot puree), I sweetened the crepe batter much more than I usually do. 

The assembly began.  A crepe.  A smear of jam.  A sprinkling of nuts, then nibs.  Repeat.  Repeat ten times.  Repeat until there is a cake-sized edifice of lacy crepes and gooey filling, waiting to be eaten. 

Eaten it was.  I took the picture after I cut the whole cake in half, the better to see the innards.

It was delicious.  The light sweetness of the crepes was a perfect foil for the tartness of the jam, the toastiness of the pecans and the bitterness of the cacao nibs.  Every bite tasted buttery, even though I’d used no butter in its making.

We ate it all, instantly and eagerly, in spite of the fact that it was so rich and intense that we almost couldn’t stand it.  It was truly a confluence of disparate factors creating a harmonious whole. 

Published in: on November 7, 2007 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  

Breakfast of Champignons

I love mushrooms.  I’d say that I always have, but I’m sure tha there was a forgotten and/or repressed period of my youth when I despised them as much as almost every other child (and, indeed, adult) seems to.

At this stage in my development, though, I can put away more than a pound of mushrooms in a sitting, and I’ve never found a variety that I didn’t like.  My current favorites are chantarelles (due to the astonishing flavor of the ones I ate in Germany), but creminis, portabellos, procinis, shiitakis–I love them all.  Well, I’m not the biggest fan of wood-ear mushrooms, but I really think that that’s just because of their name.  I need to get over it. 

I don’t know if mushrooms are more particularly in season in fall than at any other time, but since the weather turned chilly, I’ve been eating more and more of them.  Last week I warmed up a solitary luncheon with a salad of sauteed mushrooms, ham and parsley (1.5 lbs) and the week before I sauced some slithery linguini with a porcini-bacon duxelle (3/4 lb).  The best mushroom dish I have made this fall, though, was the simplest: mushroom frittata. 

September’s Bon Appetit had a recipe for a mushroom-caper frittata, and the idea of earthy mushrooms and briny capers combined was very appealling.   Hardly looking at the recipe (and thus, doing things in very much a different order than instructed), I set to work.  Portabello mushrooms?  Sauteed.  Basil?  Oregano?  Capers?  Chopped and mixed with the mushrooms.  Eggs? Salt? Pepper? Dijon mustard?  Beaten to a froth.  I spread the mushroom mixture into a buttered pie plate, then poured the eggs over the top and baked it until it was firm, but not dried out. 

Yes, it was a wonderful combination.  The portabello mushrooms were, as always, meaty and toothsome, and the capers, mustard, basil and oregano added complexity to the background without stealing the show.  Somehow, the mustard managed to deepend the flavors, while the herbs lightened it, at the same time.  I might have wished for a bit more caper flavor, but on the whole, the result was delicious.  It was perfect for a post-hike breakfast picnic in the woods. 

Published in: on November 2, 2007 at 1:42 pm  Comments (1)