Sunday, June 26, 2011

Death to the 30-Minute Meal

I marinate steak longer than that. You come home worn out, everyone’s hungry, what to do next!

In Italy, where life is no different from here, their habits are tuned by centuries of traditions to their advantage. We move to the patio where the table looks out on the garden. Unceremoniously, the chef brings to the table a half of bottle of wine, a cutting board, half a loaf of bread, a knife, some salami, some cheese, a tin of olive oil and a handful of basil leaves freshly pinched from the garden. Grandma yells at the kids to go wash their hands. Soon a clanging of glass, silverware and small plates is heard as elbows bend and heads bob munching the savory offerings. A big pot of water with a pinch of salt goes on the stove. Grandpa is opening another bottle of wine. The sound of laughter echoes from the patio. Grandma sends one of the kids around back to pick a small bowl of ripe tomatoes from the garden for a sauce while she crushes fresh garlic and slices some pancetta on a cutting board for a sauce. There is no sense or urgency; after all, the city traffic has been horrendous- but now we are home- “siamo a casa” where life is good.  We have the family.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Old Bath House Restaurant Basic Souffle

The Old Bath House, which closed in 2005, was a landmark romantic location in Monterey, California with great food, service and great wines. The Old Bath House  looked out over Lovers Point over the Monterey Bay. You order this dessert at the start of the meal and saved room in anticipation.

7 Ounces butter (14 Tablespoons or 1 stick plus 6 Tablespoons)
1 Cup flour
1 Cup milk
½ Teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ Cup cream
1 1/3 Cups sugar
12 Egg yolks
            12 Egg whites

 Photo by Bob Aronson
Butter and sugar a soufflé mold and pre-heat oven to 375 F.
Combine butter and flour in a sauce pan and heat on very low heat to make a roux1. Over medium heat, add milk and cream, stir until thickened. Add sugar and allow to thicken again. Remove from heat and whisk in egg yolks. Beat the egg whites with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff peaks form and are they are shiny. Mix a spoonful of the egg white into the batter to lighten it. Next, fold in the remaining egg whites in the batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 12 minutes.
For a chocolate soufflé add 14 ounces melted chocolate and 1/3 cup of dark rum when the mixture is off the heat, before adding the egg yolks.
For strawberry soufflé, add ½ cup of strawberry puree and 1/3 cup of Johannes­burg Riesling when mixture is off heat, before adding the egg yolks.
Note:
      1.  roux is a mixture of flour and butter

Friday, June 10, 2011

Waking the Palate - Appetizers Pave the Way



The appetizer is akin to a symphonic overture setting the stage for what’s to follow. Olives, capers, lemon, olive oil, crunchy bread, garlic, cheese, wine, salty, tart, spicy, sour can help start ringing the dinner bell. Appetizers have become a very important part of social life and facilitate our coming together.

When the weather turns unbearable, “grazing on appetizers” is highly appealing and can be completely extemporaneous. The diversity of savory dishes and a simple salad can be imminently attractive to your guest. It is more informal that a sit down dinner and easier on the chef. It has no set start or stop time and does not carry the more formal obligation to reciprocate. No rules, no place settings, no correct salad fork, just fun with friends.

As a chef, it is your chance to show your creativity not necessarily preparing all, or for that matter, any on the offerings but assembling a culinary collection of foods and wines that you find interesting and fun. Glorious summer is upon us.

Try a soft Chèvre (goat) cheese, which has a more pungent flavor than a cream cheese but a similar mouth feel.  It pairs exceptional well with herbs, toasted nuts, cracked black pepper, onion and garlic or may be topped with a fruit like grilled mango on a bruschetta.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cream of Tomato Soup to the Rescue

This is a quick and easy tomato soup to rescue a sick friend when you need "first-aid soup" straight away. It is made with fresh tomatoes but, if not available, use organic low-sodium San Marzano tomatoes (30 oz can.) The best of these are imported from Naples Italy and the can will bear the DOP mark.

4 Large fresh sweet tomatoes from your garden
1 Carrot, chopped fine
1 Small onion, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Cup chicken stock
1 Teaspoon of triple concentrated tomato paste
¼ Teaspoon white pepper
1/8th Teaspoon garlic powder
1/8th Teaspoon of red pepper (more if you like soup spicy)
1 Tablespoon gravy flour
1/3 to ½ Cup heavy cream
Juice from one half a lemon, if soup tastes too flat
Sea Salt to taste

Sauté the carrot and onion in 2 tablespoons butter on medium in a tall sauté pan until the onion is translucent. Add can San Marzano tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes, chicken stock, tomato paste, garlic powder, white pepper, red pepper. Blend soup with a post blender until smooth. Cook for twenty minutes. Add 1 tablespoon gravy flour. Boil a few minutes to thicken. Taste. Correct seasoning by adding sea salt, additional pepper in needed and taste again. If too flat tasting, add lemon juice as required. Taste again. Add 1/3 to ½ cup heavy cream.

Stir and serve with a few wedges of toasted buttered whole grain bread.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pizza Dough and Baking Pizza on your Grill

In my book, Generations of Passionate Home Cooking, I explain in detail the process of producing a good sourdough starter/sponge.  On the leeners web site they go over the process in some detail using their Goldrush Sourdough Starter. Superior pizza dough is like Nirvana – it is a trifecta of taste, chew, and smell. Like all things exceedingly worthwhile, it requires the best ingredients.
Pizza Dough
1 1/2 Cup of sourdough yeast sponge
1 Tablespoons SAF Red Instant yeast
Optionally, 2 tablespoons King Arthur Pizza Dough Flavor
1 Cup of King Arthur’s Italian-Style Flour (“00” milled) (8.5% protein level) more as required
3 Cup of King Arthur Artisan Organic All Purpose Flour
1 + 1 Teaspoons salt added at two times
Bottled drinking water
Great flavor olive oil

Combine flours and mix well. Early in the morning, pour the sponge (1 ½ cups of it) into your work bowl. Add yeast, half the salt, 1 cup of flour and bottled drink­ing water until the mix is loose. Let this stand covered with a wet cloth for an hour.

Now stir in 3 cups of flour with the other half of the salt with a paddle or by hand until the dough is still a little sticky. This is moisture dependent. Adding more liquid allows more flour. The flour should be added a little at a time. Add a little more "00" flour if needed

Now hand-knead the dough or mix it with a dough hook setting the speed to low for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is somewhat smooth and elastic. If doing this with a mixer, do not add too much flour. The dough should be somewhat sticky else, it will be too dry. If necessary, add back gradually a little water until the consis­tency is just right.

Coat the insides of a clean stainless steel or glass bowl with a film of great olive oil. Now turn the dough in it to coat it all over. Now cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet towel and set it in a warm place to rise for an hour, or until it doubles in volume. You may place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. The cold retards the whole operation but an extra day develops further character and nutrition. You pickup where you left off the previous day, once the dough has come back to room temperature.

When double in volume, punch down and knead until the dough is glossy and fully elastic. Cover and let rise again to twice volume. Punch down the dough and divide it with a knife or scissors into four or six equal balls, depending on the size pizzas you are making. Dust dough ball in flour, shake of excess. Roll out dough ball very thin trying to keep the thickness uniform on parchment paper larger than the pizza. You may stack the “blanks” on their parchment paper, one of top of another until ready to make pizza. Assemble pizza per recipe and trim parchment paper to just larger than the pizza. Place pizza and its parchment paper on cooking stone using a batten. Don’t have a bat­ten you say? A double walled cookie sheet is very stiff and will work fine as a batten. You also use the batten to retrieve the cooked pizza by sliding the parch­ment paper onto it.

Watch video for more information.

Making Homemade Pizza on the Grill