Monday, August 31, 2009

Croustillant aux pêches et aux mûres

J’ai pris cette recette dans le Coup de Pouce du mois d’août et j’ai décidé de la faire même si l’Ingénieur n’aime pas les mûres (moi, j’aime ça, bon!). Finalement, il a trouvé ça bon quand même. On peut aussi remplacer les mûres par des framboises. J’ai utilisé du beurre sans souffrir du lactose, mais vous pouvez le remplacer par de la margarine congelée.

Garniture aux fruits
7 pêches mûres mais fermes, pelées et coupées en tranches
1 t de mûres
1 c. à table de jus de citron
1/3 t de sucre
2 c. à table de fécule de maïs

Pâte à la semoule de maïs
1 t de farine
½ t de semoule de maïs
¼ t de sucre
1 c. à thé de zeste de citron râpé
1 c. à thé de poudre à pâte
¼ c. à thé de bicarbonate de sodium
¼ c. à thé de sel
1/3 t de beurre non salé froid, coupé en cubes
2/3 t de lait

Préchauffer le four à 375 °F.

Pour la garniture
Dans un petit bol, mélanger le sucre et la fécule de maïs. (Je rajoute cette étape parce que dans mon cas, la fécule de maïs a fait des grumeaux dans le mélange quand elle est tombée directement sur les fruits humides.) Dans un grand bol, mélanger délicatement tous les ingrédients.

Verser la garniture dans un moule en verre ou en céramique carré de 8 po. Réserver.

Pour la pâte à la semoule de maïs
Dans un autre bol, mélanger la farine, la semoule de maïs, le sucre, le zeste de citron, la poudre à pâte, le bicarbonate de sodium et le sel. Ajouter le beurre et, à l'aide d'un coupe-pâte ou de deux couteaux, travailler la préparation jusqu'à ce qu'elle ait la texture d'une chapelure grossière. Arroser du lait et mélanger jusqu'à ce que la pâte soit molle et collante.

Laisser tomber la pâte, 1 c. à tab à la fois, sur la garniture aux fruits réservée.

Cuire au four pendant environ 50 minutes ou jusqu'à ce que la garniture soit bouillonnante et que le dessus du croustillant soit doré.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tomato Tart

Years ago, I had copied a recipe for a tomato tart in Martha Stewart Living, purely because the dish looked simple, yet beautiful: red, yellow and green tomatoes in a huge tart shell. It looked delicious, even though I wasn’t really eating tomatoes yet. Unfortunately, the only recipe I can find on the official website does not quite correspond to the one I have, so I can’t show you the pictures.

My mother-in-law offered us tomatoes from her patio, and I had just bought a tart pan with removable bottom, so it seemed like perfect timing. (I also caved in and bought a set of metal bowls, even though I had said I wouldn’t. I was at Nino on 3667 Saint-Laurent and just couldn’t resist. My inner Peter Walsh is appalled that they still haven’t found a place to live, but I’ll figure it out – after all, I did find a place for the ice-cream maker.) So, the red tomatoes on the picture are hers, and the little yellow ones were from the market.

I also decided to *gasp* tweak Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée recipe, because I recently heard that a bit of vinegar helps make a flakier dough. So I added 1 Tbsp of vinegar along with the water. I ended up having a lot of trouble rolling the dough out into a circle – it seemed to want to make an hourglass shape, for some reason. But I’m not convinced that had anything to do with the vinegar (maybe I chilled the dough too much?). The dough was quite flaky, though. I’ll give you the dough ingredients as they were printed.

I’m using the lactose-free tag here because fontina is a low-lactose cheese, but you can always replace it with lactose-free cheese.

Pâte brisée
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or other herbs)
½ cup ice water

1 garlic bulb
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 oz fontina cheese, grated (about 1 cup) – though I would use more
3 lbs firm, ripe tomatoes (about 6 medium), cut into ¼-inch thick slices
fresh basil leaves, for garnish

For the pâte brisée
Pulse flour, salt and thyme in a food processor until just combined. Add butter and process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds.

Add 1/3 cup ice water and process just until dough comes together, no more than 30 seconds (dough should not be sticky). Add a little more water if necessary.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap; flatten into a disc. Wrap in the plastic and refrigerate 30 min.

For the tart
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Put garlic on a piece of foil. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Fold foil over to seal. Bake until garlic is very soft and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Squeeze cloves from skins into a small plate and discard skin. (You wouldn’t believe how good it smelled at this point!) Mash garlic with a fork and set aside.

Raise oven temperature to 450 °F. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 16-inch circle, 1/8-inch thick. Fold dough in half and lift it over a 14-inch tart pan with a removable bottom (mine is a bit smaller). Unfold dough over pan, pressing it into corners. Trim edges of dough and place pan on a baking sheet.

Spread roasted garlic evenly over crust.

Sprinkle with ½ cup of the cheese. Arrange tomatoes on top of the cheese in a circular pattern, overlapping them slightly. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp oil.

Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Reduce temperature to 425 °F. Bake until crust turns golden and tomatoes soften, 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack about 20 minutes. Garnish with basil and serve.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Egg-White Crêpes

If you’re making the white chocolate and fresh ginger ice cream, you’ll be left over with 5 egg whites. Let me tell you how I used mine.

I adapted this recipe and made crêpes for breakfast. They turned out a little thicker than crêpes, really, I couldn’t roll them up like I normally do. They’re close to pancakes, but not quite. And the main ingredients are egg whites and whole wheat flour, so that’s pretty healthy. I topped them with fruits (mixed with a splash of lemon juice and a little honey). Delicious!

1 cup whole wheat flour
5 egg whites
1 cup skim milk
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbsp canola oil

In a large bowl, whisk all ingredients until smooth.

Put a little oil in a skillet and heat on medium heat. Pour a bit of the mixture in the pan and swirl it around to spread it evenly. Cook until the edges start to turn brown and there are some bubbles on top, about 2 minutes. Flip the crêpe and cook another minute or two.

Serve hot, with fruits and maple syrup.

White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream

This recipe is from David Lebovitz. When I read it, I just couldn’t resist those flavors! While it may be impossible to make this lactose-free (even if you add lactase to the cream, chances are the white chocolate still has lactose), it was still worth it. The Engineer found it a little too rich, though, so it’s better to have it in small doses. And I’m not using the “chocolate” tag here, because to me, white chocolate isn’t really chocolate.

3-inch piece (2 to 2 ½ oz) fresh ginger, unpeeled
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 cup plus 1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces (230 g) white chocolate, finely chopped
5 large egg yolks

Slice the ginger thinly, cover it with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Drain away the water but return the blanched ginger to the pan. Add the sugar, the milk and 1 cup of heavy cream to the saucepan and re-warm the mixture.
Cover and steep for at least an hour, or until you are satisfied with the ginger flavor.

Put the chopped white chocolate in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the ginger-infused cream mixture, whisking constantly as you pour in the warm cream. Pour the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Strain the custard into the white chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is completely melted. Discard the ginger. Add the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and chill thoroughly. You can set the bowl over an ice bath to speed it up.

Chill mixture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Put it in a plastic container in the freezer to finish.

Chewy Cocoa Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Sorry for the recent lack of updates, I’ve just been very busy with work. I’ve still been baking and cooking, as has the Engineer. As a matter of fact, he just made his first deep dish pizza from Baking Illustrated, and it was excellent.

I also made chana masala from A Homemade Life - I think I was drawn to it because, for the first time, I could make an Indian recipe with exotic spices without first having to make a special trip to find them; I already had all of them on hand. Also, I love chick peas. I still need to perfect the recipe, though, because it didn’t quite look like I expected (or like the pictures on Orangette).

I’ll try to post some of the recipes I’ve accumulated. I might be a bit slow today, though, because it’s the Engineer’s birthday, so I’m making him a red velvet cake (I’ll see if I can post pictures, because I think this one will turn out like it was supposed to!).

Without further ado: Chewy Cocoa Cookies with Chocolate Chips, again from Orangette. This makes two dozen cookies (I am no longer making any more at a given time, unless they’re to be shared, because we shouldn’t have that many around the house ourselves.)

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp (½ stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
7 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave briefly, until just melted. Add the sugars, and sift in the cocoa.

Stir to blend well. The mixture will be somewhat thick and pasty, like wet sand.

Add the yogurt and vanilla and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the dry flour mixture, and stir to just combine. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

Drop the dough by generous tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. Molly Wizenberg recommends that you use the tablespoon-size measuring spoon to scoop and shape the dough into little domes and rinse the spoon regularly to keep the dough from sticking, which worked wonders.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crackled slightly and look set. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the rack to cool completely.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

I couldn’t see this movie on opening weekend, because I ended up seeing District 9. I really didn’t like that one. I mean, the special effects were great, sure, and I understood the message the director meant to convey. However, I had understood it by watching the preview, and I really didn’t need to have it hammered into my head with two hours of torture to get it.

Anyway, my fear about The Time Traveler’s Wife, originally, was that based on the preview, it looked like they had taken an awesome book and turned it into a chick flick. You see, even though there was romance in the book, there was much more to it than that; it certainly was not geared toward women exclusively. So the preview made it look a bit like the story had been butchered. BUT, it turns out I needn’t have been worried. I think that the preview was cut in such a way as to lure in a female audience, who could have been scared off by a sci-fi premise. It turns out that the movie was actually quite faithful to the book (with the few inevitable changes inherent to any adaptation). The only downside to this is that it might be a bit harder to follow for those who have not read the book, but I felt that there were enough explanations in the opening scenes to get the premise across to the audience.

For those of you who are not familiar with the book: The story is about Henry and Clare. Henry is a Chicago librarian with a genetic disorder that causes him to spontaneously, uncontrollably, time travel. So one minute he’s there, the next minute his clothes are in a pile on the floor and he’s stuck naked in some other place and time. He ends up travelling back in time and meeting his wife, Clare, when she is just a little girl, thereby creating a situation where she has known him for years already when he meets her for the first time. They pursue a relationship, with all that a time-travelling husband entails. It is truly a beautiful story, which you should see for yourselves (I don’t want to spoil it with too many details).

This was a fantastic movie, and I look forward to buying this on DVD (which is a big deal, because I can’t remember the last time I bought a DVD for myself).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Organic Food Controversies

In the perfect world, the media would be objective, and journalists would know what the heck they are talking about. Evidence that we are not in the perfect world, as far as organic food is concerned, was apparent a few weeks ago, when everyone suddenly became aware of a study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Readers came away from most articles about this study thinking that organic food was just the same as non-organic food. But what the study actually said is this: “Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”

Just to clear things up: people who eat organic food do so not because they believe it has nutritional benefits over ordinary food, but because they want to eliminate/minimise their exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides in their food. It is not a “nutritional” issue, it is a “not eating poisonous crap” issue. So this study, as far as I’m concerned, is completely pointless. Stop making a big deal about it!

I’m personally much more concerned by the lack of oversight regarding what gets labelled as organic.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Braised Onion Pasta

Another recipe I got from Orangette (I’m completely obsessed, I know). As I think about it, it seems more like a winter recipe than a summer one. While it’s true that we’ve just had a pretty impressive heat wave, the weather forecast for next Sunday looks downright cold in Montreal, so you might want to try this dish. I used real butter for the onions, and did not suffer from the lactose. I used 6 Tbsp instead of 8 Tbsp; it did seem like a lot, but I had just watched Julie & Julia and I was channelling my inner Julia Child (who I hadn’t known existed until then). And of course, if you’re making this gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta. I had gemelli myself; I think any short “forkable” pasta would do.

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 ½ lb. yellow onions, halved and sliced about ¼-inch thick
1 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup Madeira (I used white wine)
¾ lb. hot cooked pasta
salt, for serving
grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large (12-inch) skillet, warm the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent.

Stir in the sugar, reduce the heat to low or medium-low – keep an eye on your stove and see what seems best – and cook the onions very gently for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. (Do not cook them too quickly or over too high heat, or they will get dry and papery.) As they cook, they will become meltingly soft and juicy, and they should caramelize to a deep shade of amber. Stir in the Madeira, cook for a couple of minutes to combine, and then add the pasta to the pan. Using two large spoons, toss the pasta well with the sauce.

Serve with a generous sprinkling of salt and some grated cheese.

Don’t mind the mess on the table. I’ll get it under control eventually!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Molly Wizenberg's Gooey Brownies

I’d told you before that I would periodically give you brownie recipes, so here is the second one. I’m calling it Molly Wizenberg’s Gooey Brownies – they may be her archetypal brownies, but they are more decadent than mine. Of course, you could always let them bake longer, but that would defeat the purpose of this recipe.

I used some of the chocolate I bought in Vermont. I had bittersweet and semisweet, but the recipe called for bittersweet and unsweetened. Undeterred, I took a quick look at a useful substitution list and realized I could just use the semisweet chocolate while cutting back about 3 Tbsp of sugar from the recipe. I’ll give it to you as it first appeared in Orangette, though. Note that I used parchment paper to line the baking pan, because I was afraid of the results otherwise (I didn’t have a problem, but that’s not to say the paper is a must).

You should also know that at this point, I still don’t have a double-boiler, and not even a metal bowl that I could set over a pan of water. I am planning on eventually getting a set of metal bowls (what we refer to as culs de poule in French), but I just don’t have the space for that in my kitchen right now. The Engineer and I keep dreamingly talking about the magical time “When we have a house”, which is when it is all supposed to fall into place. More space for all those things we want, decorating the way we want, growing things in the yard, getting a dog... I realize a house won’t solve all our problems, of course, but until then, we’ll just use it as an excuse. So, until I get a house, I’ll cheat and melt chocolate in short bursts in the microwave, and no one will complain.

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; set aside.

Melt the butter and the chocolate together in the top of a double boiler over—but not touching—simmering water (or in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water), stirring frequently. When the chocolate and butter are both melted and smooth, add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture, and stir it for 30 seconds; then remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into a medium bowl, and whisk by hand to combine. Little by little, pour half of the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don’t scramble from the heat. Beat the remaining sugar and eggs on medium speed until they are thick, pale, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped eggs and sugar into the chocolate mixture.

When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients.

Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 8-inch square pan.

Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes, during which time they will rise a bit and the top will turn dry and a bit crackly. After 23 minutes, stick a knife or toothpick into the center to see how they are progressing. They should be just barely set—not too raw, but still fairly gooey. Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack. When they’re completely cool, cut them into rectangular bars to serve.

On the picture, I served it with almond sorbet, which complemented it quite nicely, though it would also be very good with Tofutti or ice cream.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Roasted Green Beans

I’ve bought quite a few books recently, in part thanks to a gift card from my Fairy Godmother. My two favourite so far were Gluten-Free Girl and A Homemade Life. They were written by two of my favourite bloggers, Shauna James Ahern and Molly Wizenberg respectively. I had both books on my nightstand and I read them before going to bed. There were narratives and stories in there with the recipes, much like Hallelujah! The Welcome Table (another excellent book). I really recommend them to everyone, in case that was not obvious. Not only do the recipes look delicious, but the authors have a relaxed approach to cooking that I really enjoy. I’m very much looking forward to trying out some of those recipes – though a few will require trips to special grocery stores for ingredients like pomegranate molasses, which I’ve tasted before and loved. But while I was reading them, I feel like I was cooking less than usual. Maybe I was afraid of a food overdose? I was mostly going with simple meals (ones that I know by heart or ones that are really easy), like the one I’ll talk about here. I’m now back to reading fiction, though the book does have the words “potato peel pie” in the title.

Though I made the roasted pork tenderloin and the roasted green beans on the same night, I don’t necessarily recommend making them together, because both required the oven, but at different temperatures. This might be remedied by using the temperature for the pork and leaving the beans in longer, but I ended up making the beans first, then the pork, and I threw the beans back in a few minutes to warm them up. We served it with mashed potatoes. I got the pork recipe from my mom (who probably got it in an Anne Lindsay cookbook), and I love it both for its taste and its simplicity. I got the green bean recipe here in a desperate attempt to cook them in such a way that I would enjoy them – and it worked. They came out almost like green been fries really, so I’ll try cooking them a bit less next time, even though that was the intent of the original recipe as far as I can tell.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

1 lb pork tenderloin
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1-2 big pinches of herbes de Provence
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Put the pork in a roasting pan. Spread the mustard on top and sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.

Cook for about 35 to 45 minutes, or until the pork is just barely pink inside. To serve, cut into thin slices (this makes 3 or 4 servings). It’s the easiest thing, really, and you’ll love it.

Roasted Green Beans

1-2 lbs green beans (I’m not even sure how much I used, but it was less)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (just enough to coat the green beans; eyeball it)
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Wash, dry and trim the green beans.

Put them in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mix well to coat the beans (I used my hands). Spread the beans out in a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning over after 15 minutes, or until the beans are shrivelled and brown in a few spots.

Serve hot or at room temperature. I couldn’t resist topping them with French Fried Onions I bought in Vermont (even though I never had them growing up, I know enough about American eating habits to know they are the quintessential topping for a green bean casserole, and this had the same main ingredient).

Julie & Julia

I saw Julie & Julia earlier this week, and I figured I should talk about it a bit. It is based on Julie Powell’s first blog, The Julie/Julia Project (surprisingly hard to navigate, by the way), as well as on Julia Child’s My Life in France.

To her credit, Julie Powell was one of the first food bloggers, and also one of the first to publicly use a gimmick: “I will spend one year of my life doing this” (in her case, one year making the recipes from Julia Child’s first book). I usually like reading such stories (like certain books by A.J. Jacobs), and the Engineer is having his own project with Baking Illustrated (though his timeline is longer than a year and he is not documenting it). Julie Powell said she was doing it because she “was looking for a challenge”. Very well.

It certainly must have been a challenge, because she usually got home late from work (around 8 pm, if I’m not mistaken), and it usually took several hours to make dinner. She occasionally said that it gave her comfort to have control over that part of her life, because even when other things were not going her way (dead-end job, apartment she hates), she could at least rely on good food. But the problem is that she messed up the recipes relatively often, in the beginning at least, usually because she was disorganized. And reading her blog, I’m not 100% certain I would even call it a food blog – sure, its reason for being is food, but the food itself is rarely discussed, and there are no recipes. She mangles the names of the dishes, and it seems like she is writing in her blog out of duty, without much pleasure. I still haven’t read an entry where I get the sense that she is actually enjoying any of this; it seems like more of an interference than anything. Also, based on what I’ve read so far, it seems that Amy Adams portrayed her as a much more bubbly and – dare I say – lovable person than she really is. I believe she is supposed to be relatable to the average reader, but I admit I sometimes had trouble relating my life to hers (even though the gratuitous cursing did not bother me).

My favourite parts of the movie were actually the ones about Julia Child. Now there’s someone who had an interesting life, not really because of her circumstances, but because of her personality. Meryl Streep does an admirable job here, as always, and she is truly a pleasure to watch.

All this to say that while I understand people’s criticism that Julie Powell didn’t really do anything that would justify putting her on a pedestal next to Julia Child (who, incidentally, didn’t like the blog, precisely because she felt it lacked substance), I still found the topic interesting, and I enjoyed the movie.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Almond Sorbet

I’ll say it right now: I adapted this recipe from Dessert First, but I haven’t quite gotten it the way I want it yet. It was originally an almond granite, but I wanted a more sorbet-like texture. What I got instead was something that was both crumbly and watery. It is refreshing, though, and certainly different than anything I’d had before. Let me know if you tinker with this recipe, I’ll take suggestions (maybe I should make it into an ice cream?). The Engineer really likes it as it is, though.

6 oz almond paste
6 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp lemon juice
2 cups almond milk

Combine the almond paste, sugar and lemon juice in a blender and process until smooth.

Add the almond milk and process again until smooth.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions, and store in the freezer for a few hours before eating.

*Note: Commercial almond paste can contain egg whites, so it is neither egg-free nor vegan. However, if you make your own almond paste with a food processor, it is easy to avoid that ingredient, so I’ve kept the “vegan/végétalien” and “egg-free/sans œufs” labels on this post.*