Friday, August 27, 2021

Raspberry & Almond Tea Cake

Way back in June one of my dinner clients gave me some beautiful raspberries from their garden.  They were just perfect for eating with my yogurt for breakfast.  But I also couldn’t resist the idea of adding them to a cake to enjoy with that bowl of breakfast fruit and yogurt.  So I made a simple raspberry almond streusel cake (a slightly tweaked version of my yogurt coffee cake).  The cake was delicious…made even better by the spectacular raspberries.  But as I was enjoying it I got to thinking about how much I really like the combination of raspberries and almond…and how I would really like to have even more almond flavor in my cake.  I decided I needed to make more cake.

A second reason I wanted to make another cake was that the streusel cake I had made didn’t really have enough structure to stand up to the damp addition of berries in the long term.  It was fine the day I made it…but the streusel (and even the cake) got a bit soggy as it aged.  This would not have been a big deal if I had been making it and serving it all right away to a crowd (for a brunch, for example).  But since I keep my cakes on hand for a while…and always freeze most of the slices…this wasn’t really ideal.

I thought that the best way to strengthen the structure might be to add some more egg.  I tend to make cakes that have what some bakers might consider an insufficient quantity of egg.  Classic pound cake is the poster child for “balanced formula” cakes—balanced in that the ingredients that give strength/structure (eggs and flour) are balanced by ingredients that add tenderness (sugar and fat).  I find the classic formula for pound cake to be a bit rubbery—even tough—because of the volume of egg.  (Some recipes add more sugar…or butter…or replace some of the egg with another liquid to work around the rubbery/toughness factor).

ven considering my usual preference for softer textured cakes, I had a couple of reasons to think more egg was the direction I needed to go with my raspberry cake.  First, when I began thinking I wanted to increase the almond flavor in my cake, Danish almond cake (probably my all time favorite cake) immediately came to mind.  Danish almond cake has an intense almond flavor because it is made with almond paste.  It also has a high proportion of eggs. This higher volume of eggs doesn’t make the cake tough because the eggs are well balanced by the tenderizing effects of the almonds and sugar. 

Then, in my quest to find ways to incorporate raspberries in my cake, I ran across some delicious looking raspberry cupcakes in
Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi & Helen Goh. I noticed that they had used a higher proportion of eggs in their recipe. Helen Goh appears to be a precise baker (thoroughly testing all of her recipes)…I thought I wouldn’t go wrong by following her lead.  The cake I ended up making was essentially a cross between the cupcake recipe and the Danish almond cake recipe. 

When I finally got around to making my second version of the raspberry and almond cake, I decided that I was tired of always make streusel cakes for my breakfast cakes.
 There is of course nothing wrong with streusel.  (I will continue to enjoy streusel cakes!)  But somehow for this particular cake a topping of toasted almonds—glued in place with a buttery, powdered sugar drizzle—seemed particularly appealing.  If you don’t want to go to the trouble of adding icing and almonds, I discovered the cake is also very nice—and kind of elegant—with a simple dusting of powdered sugar.

I love this simple little cake.  It has enough structure to slice beautifully and stand up to the moisture in the raspberries…yet it is still very tender and moist.  Best of all, it has a delightful almond flavor—a perfect backdrop for the tart raspberries.  If you like raspberries in combination with almonds, I think you will find it to be delicious—and just the thing…whether you like to enjoy your cake for breakfast...or a little later in the day.  

Raspberry & Almond Tea Cake

150 g. (1 1/3 c.) all-purpose flour
1/4 t. fine salt
1 t. baking powder
1/8 t. baking soda
175 g. (1 c. less 2 T.) granulated sugar
85 g./3 oz. almond paste, (not marzipan)
5 oz./10 T. unsalted butter, divided—5 T. at room temperature and 5 T. kept cold and cut into 5 chunks
1/2 t. almond extract
3 large eggs (150 g.), at room temperature
80 g./1/3 c. plain yogurt
7 to 8 oz. fresh raspberries, divided
Powdered sugar for dusting
1 recipe powdered sugar glaze (optional)
2/3 c. sliced almonds, lightly toasted (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Butter a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.  Line the pan with a round of parchment, butter the parchment.  Flour the pan, knocking out the excess flour. 

Place the first four ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to aerate and combine.
  Set aside. 

Place the sugar and almond paste in the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, mix on medium low to begin breaking up the almond paste.  Add the cold butter and increase the speed to medium high (you may need to put some plastic wrap around the mixer to prevent the almond paste, sugar and butter from being flung out of the bowl).  Beat until the mixture is smooth.  When no lumps of almond paste or butter remain, increase the speed to high and add the soft butter.  Cream until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the bowl add the almond extract and mix in.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly on medium-high speed after each addition to return the batter to fluffiness and scraping down the sides before each next addition.  Fold in half of the dry ingredients, followed by the yogurt.  Add the remaining dry ingredients followed by 4 to 5 oz. of the raspberries on top of the dry.  

By hand fold in this remaining flour with the berries.  It is not necessary to be too gentle….the cake is actually kind of nice if some of the berries break up.  Don’t overdo it though…you don’t want pink batter.  

Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
  Smooth the surface and scatter 3 oz. of berries evenly over the top.  

Transfer the cake to the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  The cake is done when it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.
  Run a small palate knife around the edge and invert the cake onto a rack or plate.  Place a rack on the bottom and reinvert so that the cake cools right side up.  Cool completely. 

The cake may be served simply—dusted with powdered sugar and accompanied by whipped cream.
  Or, serve as a brunch/breakfast cake by drizzling with a powdered sugar glaze and sprinkling with toasted almonds (see below).  Serves 10. 

Powdered sugar glaze:
  In a small heat-proof/microwave safe bowl combine 1 c. (120 g.) powdered sugar with 2 T. melted butter, 1 1/2 T. heavy cream, 1/2 t. vanilla extract and 1/2 t. almond extract.   Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.  This frosting “sets” as the melted butter cools.  If it is too stiff for drizzling right after mixing (from cold cream straight out of the fridge…or a chilly room…for example), gently warm until the consistency is right.  If you overdo it, just let it sit for a few minutes and it will start to thicken/firm up again. 

To decorate the cake, generously drizzle some of the glaze over the surface of the cake.  Sprinkle the toasted almonds over to cover (the glaze will act as a tasty kind of glue).  If you like, drizzle more glaze over the almonds in a uniform, back and forth (across the cake) motion.  (Or, dredge the almonds with powdered sugar.)  If you want to insure perfectly clean cuts, portion the cake and then apply the glaze and almonds as for the whole cake (the sliced almonds might cause the tender and soft cake to tear when you cut it).

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Monday, July 12, 2021

Cooking from the Summer Pantry: Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Corn & Pesto

I have been a bit bummed about my lack of attention to my blog…for some time now if I’m honest…but especially in recent months.  Over the past few years I have reduced the number of posts simply because I just don’t have the time to invest in it like I once did.  But during the pandemic I haven’t really had much in the way of new cooking/recipes to post.  The cooking I do for private dinners and new classes has been radically reduced (for a while it disappeared entirely).  The cooking I do for myself has been mostly cooking tried and true items (many of which I have already posted!).  My pandemic year (going on two, now…) has been spent cooking a lot of never-to-be-duplicated meals which are made up of leftovers from online classes (since I don’t serve tastings for those classes) and cooking from my pantry in an effort to minimize time spent out and about.  So the meals have been what some might consider boring (not blog-worthy?).  

Despite this feeling that the things I have made might not be interesting enough for my blog, I have never felt deprived by these meals:  they have been delicious!  And I have realized that in many respects the kind of cooking I have done for myself during this time is exactly the kind of skill I have always wanted to impart in my classes and on my blog.  It is, in fact, really cooking.  It is a cuisine of daily inspiration from what you have on hand—made possible from a lifetime of cooking that has produced an abundance of taste memory and a set of well-honed kitchen skills.  

Unfortunately this kind of skill can’t be acquired through a class, food TV, or a blog… unless you are engaging in the activity itself after you watch or read.  But—in the hope that people are cooking—I will continue (when I can!) to do on my blog what I have always done:  teach skills (see my catalog of basic techniques…as well as the incidental skills included in almost every single post) and describe as best as I am able how I arrived at a certain result (which I try to do in most of my posts and recipes). 

Today’s post is in the spirit of this kind of daily cooking.  It is not new…or exciting.  It is just my predictable favorite: pasta.  But it made a satisfying summer meal.  And it came together quickly and easily because it was just a matter of pulling together a bunch of stuff I had in my pantry… and applying techniques I use in the kitchen all the time.   

As I scanned my pantry Saturday there was a lot to choose from.  (The truth is that if you cook regularly, you will almost always have the means at your disposal to make some kind of a meal.)  Much of what I had required more cooking than I was in the mood for.  But my eyes fell on the last of some pesto that I had made for a quick meal for a client (it was carrot top pesto…but any green “herb” pestobasil, arugula, kalewould have been good) and some corn that I had “roasted” while I had the grill on to make a pizza a few days ago.  

Early in my career I started keeping a spiral bound notebook to jot down things I cooked or baked at home (I had other notebooks for the professional kitchens in which I worked).  This is a great practice when you are learning to cook.  Record your successes and your failures…along with a note or two about why it was a success or failure. (Make notes in your cookbooks too.)  All of this knowledge will come in handy and help hone your skills.  I have referred back to mine many times over the years.  It has been a while since I made an entry.  I probably should have been keeping notes in it during this past year.  (I actually have kept notes…knowing that many of the meals will be turned into recipes for my classes and clients.  Unfortunately they are on random pieces of paper that I will have to hunt for when I want them.)  Anyway, the pesto and roasted corn reminded me of a pasta that I was pretty sure I had jotted down in that notebook.  

When I looked, I found that I had. What I made wasn’t an exact duplicate of the original (I think I sautéed the corn in the original…and I’m certain I didn’t use carrot top pesto)…but having my notes filled out the rest of the flavors of the dish:  cherry tomatoes (always on my counter in the summer)…as well as standard pantry items (garlic, olive oil, vinegar, herbs and Parmesan/Pecorino). 

The method I used to prepare/warm the cherry tomatoes is from a long ago favorite from the book Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza & Calzone by Alice Waters.  Cherry tomatoes are halved and warmed gently (they should hold their shape) in a generous quantity of olive oil, finished with vinegar, tossed with long thin pasta and topped with a shower of toasted breadcrumbs.  If you have an abundance of beautiful, tiny cherry tomatoes, Waters’ pasta is a great dish to make. 

For my pasta I started with Waters’ method for the tomatoes...then added a tiny clove of chopped garlic and my roasted corn...and warmed everything through.  I let it sit off the heat while I cooked the pasta so that the ingredients would have a chance to get to know one another.  When the pasta was done I combined this “sauce” with the pasta, pesto, pasta water, and a handful of arugula (chopped).  I topped it all with a finely grated mix of Parmesan and Pecorino. 

I will make it again.  I hope others will give it a try too.  But mostly, I hope people will be inspired to get into the kitchen and cook—even if it’s just something simple and “boring.” 

Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Corn & Pesto 

For 1 portion (multiplies easily for more):

1 1/2 to 2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. (75 to 85 g.) small cherry tomatoes, halved
A very small clove of garlic, minced
1 t. sherry vinegar (red or white wine vinegar will work, too)
1/2 c. (75 g.) cooked (roasted…grilled….) corn kernels
90 g. gemelli, gigli, fusilli (long or short cut), or strozzapreti—any noodle with some nice nooks and crannies will work
2 T. pesto
2 to 3 T. chopped arugula (or basil)
Parmesan and/or Pecorino, finely grated

Place the oil, tomatoes, garlic and a generous sprinkling of salt in a sauté pan large enough to hold the pasta and vegetables.
  Gently warm until the tomatoes have begun to soften slightly (but aren’t losing their shape.  Add the corn along with several grindings of pepper and heat through.  Add the vinegar and toss to combine.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Remove from the heat and let sit while the pasta cooks. 

Cook the pasta in a large pot of well salted water until al dente.
  When the pasta is cooked, scoop out some of the pasta water and set aside.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan of vegetables along with the pesto, a tablespoon or two of the pasta water and the chopped arugula.  Toss until the pasta and vegetables are coated in a light, fluid, pesto-y sauce. Transfer to a serving plate and top with Parmesan and/or Pecorino.

  If you don’t have a sauté pan large enough to hold the vegetables and pasta, you can toss the pasta with the sauce/vegetables in the pot in which you cooked the pasta.  Just drain the pasta (not forgetting to save some of the water) and return it with the sauce to the pot.

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Sunday, May 23, 2021

Spring Empanadas...Ricotta with Spinach, Peas & Spring Onions

The empanada recipe I’m sharing today is technically season-less.  All of the ingredients are not only available year round…but they can almost always be found of good quality.  Baby spinach (in little 5 oz. “clamshells”) is ubiquitous….as are frozen peas and scallions/green onions.  But nothing is truly season-less.  Everything has a moment during the natural growing seasons when it is at its happiest and most abundant.  For these three ingredients, that moment is mid to late spring.

Spinach is always one of the first greens to show up at the farmers markets. Like most leafy greens, it disappears from the market stalls as the temperatures begin to go up.
  But I always look forward to that first local crop and enjoy it in tarts, pastas, pilafs, etc. before it vanishes until autumn.

Spring onions too are one of the first things to appear.
  I’ve always called scallions “spring onion wannabes” … because once you’ve tasted them and cooked with them, you know that scallions are nice (and like the clamshells of spinach, I’m grateful to be able to get them year round), but they lack the vibrancy and flavor of the local, in-season specimens. 

nd fresh peas….  They are so fleeting…and so special.  Sadly, unless you grow them yourself, the fresh ones can be starchy.  They are worth buying a bunch to freeze yourself if you come across some young and particularly sweet ones.  I may have mentioned before that one of the few things that I like from Trader Joe’s is their fresh peas.  They have them from about March through June.  They are delicious…sweet…and keep for quite a while (I’m mystified as to why).

This spring when I was trying to round out a multi-course menu for a family who wanted to eat mostly vegetarian food, an appetizer course featuring spinach and ricotta empanadillas came to mind.
  Peas and spring onions seemed like natural additions.  As it turns out, the peas are what really make these turnovers special—adding texture and giving an overall lighter result.

When I was testing the recipe I made some large (entrée sized) along with the appetizer sized ones.
  Both are good, but I loved the larger size.  One made a perfect spring dinner…along with a few crunchy radishes and an asparagus salad.  (I think any crunchy vegetable—as opposed to leafy—salad would be good.  Grated carrot salad comes to mind….)

The smaller ones are good too...but they tend to open up and ooze a bit in the oven.
  Not to worry though, it’s pretty easy to use a small spoon to push the filling back inside the turnover through the fissure from which it escaped.  No one to whom they are served will ever know.

The large and small ones both can be served with a sauce—labneh, plain or herbed sour cream, or green goddess dip/sauce are all good options.
  I tend to like sauces with savory turnovers, but as I was enjoying these, I discovered they were pretty tasty all on their own…so the sauce is definitely optional.

Spinach, Pea & Ricotta Empanadas

1 recipe Short Crust Pastry, divided into 4 equal
5 oz. stemmed spinach, washed
1 T. unsalted butter
2/3 c. sliced spring onions or scallions (white portions, plus a few inches of the green)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. picked thyme, minced
1/2 c. (130 g.) whole milk ricotta
1/2 oz. finely grated pecorino
3 oz. coarsely grated whole milk, low-moisture Mozzarella
2/3 c. frozen peas, thawed (or fresh, blanched)
Salt & pepper
1 egg beaten with 1 T. water to make egg wash

Roll each chunk of dough into a thin round and trim to make a 7-inch round.  

Place the finished rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.

Cook the spinach in the water clinging to the leaves in a covered pan.  When the leaves are wilted and tender, remove from the heat and cool.  Squeeze out the excess liquid and chop.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized sauté pan with a lid (you may use the same pan in which the spinach was cooked).
  Add the spring onions and garlic and a generous pinch of salt.  Stir to coat the spring onions in the butter.  Cover and reduce the heat and cook until the onions are tender—8 to 10 minutes.  Stir in the thyme. Let cool.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the cooled spring onions, the spinach and the ricotta and mix until smooth.
  Work in the pecorino, mozzarella and peas (it’s ok if some of the peas get crushed).  Season the mixture with a quarter teaspoon of kosher salt and several grindings of pepper.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  

Spread the rounds of dough on the work surface.  Place a fourth of the filling (about 100g) on one side of each round of dough in an even thickness, leaving a one inch border.

Brush the edges with egg wash, fold the dough over and seal—you may do this with a fork, or fold the edges over and crimp.  

Spread the empanadas on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  If time, chill.  When ready to bake, brush them with the egg wash.  With a sharp knife, cut 2 or 3 vents in the top of each empanada.

Transfer to a 400° oven and bake until golden brown and crisp and a few bubbles are visible at the steam vents—about 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool briefly before serving.  Serve with sour cream, Labneh or Green Goddess dip.

Miniature, hors d'oeuvres-sized empanadas (empanadillas)

Make 1 1/2 times the short crust pastry recipe (225g/8oz flour, 1/2 t. salt, 170g/6oz butter, 85g/5 to 6 T. ice water) and form into one large disc for chilling.  When ready to make the empanadas, roll out 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.  Cut dough into generous 3-inch rounds.  Place a scant tablespoon of filling (12 g.) in the center of each round.  

Paint edges with egg, fold dough over filling and pinch to seal.

Gather the scraps and combine them with the next piece of fresh dough, rolling out and cutting as before.

Continue to roll out and cut in this manner, always incorporating some of the scraps into the fresh dough.  When done, spread the empanadas on parchment lined baking sheets and brush with more egg wash.  If time, chill.  Transfer to room temperature, parchment lined sheet pans before baking.  

Bake at 450° until golden brown—about 12 to 15 minutes.  Makes 32. (For a few pointers on rolling out small appetizer-sized empanadas, check out this post.)

Short Crust Pastry:
150 g. (about 1 1/3 c.) all-purpose flour
3/8 t. salt
114 g. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, sliced a scant 1/4-inch thick
3 to 4 T. ice water

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 3 T.. ice water over the flour/butter mixture.  Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary.  Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound.  Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps.  Continue until all of the dough is flat.  Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do.  Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. 

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Golden Beet & Pear Soup

Whenever someone hires me to prepare a meal, the first thing I do is ask them about their food preferences.  Of course I want to make sure that I know about allergies and food dislikes…but mostly I’m interested in finding out what they really love to eat…or what they are in the mood for right now—basically what will make the meal special for them.  Most of the time people request a certain protein for the entrée…or a seasonal ingredient that they would love to have somewhere in the menu.  Occasionally someone will request a particular classic dish.  But most of the time the requests are general in nature.  Whether general or specific, I use their preferences to design a few menus (that sound delicious to me) that they can then choose from.

Recently as I was getting ready to prepare a special lunch for two women who have been coming to my classes since the very first class I taught (almost 20 years ago!), I was surprised to get a very specific request in response to my query:  Golden Beet & Pear Soup.  I had never thought of making a golden beet soup (a great idea because you get the delicious beet flavor without the shocking color of a magenta soup)…much less combining it with pear.  But beet and pear are a classic salad combination…and I knew the flavors would work well together.  So I included a golden beet and pear soup in my proposal.  I was not surprised when they chose it for their first course.

Almost all of my puréed soups follow the same formula:
  cook some aromatic vegetables (always some onion/leek/shallot…often garlic, carrot and/or celery…occasionally fennel or peppers) in a fat of some kind (butter, olive oil…sometimes bacon fat) in order to infuse the fat with the flavor of these vegetables.  This step gives depth and roundness of flavor to the finished soup.  (You should never skip it.)  You can add spices and herbs with the aromatic vegetables if you like.  Then, add the main vegetable(s)—either in their raw form or already cooked (roasted, for example)—along with some stock or water.  All of this is then simmered together to soften the vegetables (if they were raw) and blend the flavors.  You can also add herbs and other flavors towards the end of cooking if you would like their flavor to be more prominent (rather than the background flavor of those added at the beginning).  Finally, purée and pass the soup through a sieve (to give the most velvety texture) and finish with cream if you like. That’s all there is to it.

Most of the time the main vegetable will provide all the thickening that you need for a puréed soup (they don’t need to be super thick).
  Although occasionally you will find recipes that incorporate potato with the main vegetable since the potato will add thickness and body.  Frequently I will add a little rice to cook with the vegetables.  This provides a small amount of starch for thickening, but mostly I like it because it seems to help emulsify the liquids and solids together (adding to that aforementioned velvety texture).

Because I thought the beet and pear would make a subtle soup, I was careful not to get carried away with my additions.
  I didn’t add any carrot or celery, which could easily have overwhelmed.  To the onion-shallot-garlic base, I added a little coriander (to accentuate the sweetness of the beets and pear) and thyme (which I love with pear and apples in savory preparations).  I also added some ginger, which I thought would light up both main flavors (it did!).  I could have added it at the beginning with the aromatic vegetables, but in this case I felt this would soften the flavor too much.  Instead I opted to add it towards the end.

It is always a good idea to finish a puréed soup with a nice garnish of some kind.
  This will provide complimentary flavor…or a great textural contrast.  It also adds to the beauty of the final dish.  Something as simple as a drizzle of olive oil…or lightly frothed cream…or crème fraiche…and a sprinkling of herbs (maybe parsley or chives) is sufficient.  But all kinds of things are possible:  seasoned oils, bits of cheese, seeds, nuts, a complimentary or contrasting vegetable purée, pesto, croutons or garlic/cheese toasts.

For this soup I added a drizzle of olive oil and some crumbled blue cheese and minced toasted walnuts—which complimented both the beets and the pears…as well as each other.
  It seemed like an obvious finish to me.

I was astonished by this soup.  It is subtle…and suave…tasting of beets, with a fragrant, slightly sweet finish from the pear.  A truly special and elegant soup.  I wouldn't have thought of if it hadn't been suggested to me.  It will now have a permanent place in my repertoire.  I hope that you will give it a try.  I know that I will remember my friends…and their special lunch…every time I make it.

Golden Beet & Pear Soup

1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 large onion (about 1/2 lb.), thinly sliced
1 shallot (1 oz.), thinly sliced
1 fat clove of garlic, sliced
1/2 t. coriander seed
1/2 T. picked thyme
1 T. unsalted butter
1 lb. gold beets, peeled, halved if small, quartered if large, and sliced a scant 1/4-inch thick
1/2 T. Arborio rice
1 large firm, but ripe, pear (about 1/2 lb.)
3 c. Chicken stock, plus more as needed for consistency
1 T. minced fresh ginger (or more to taste)
1/4 c. heavy cream
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, if needed
Salt & Pepper
Garnish of your choice:  drizzle of olive oil, spoonful of crème fraiche, crumbled blue cheese (something like a Danish Blue or an aged Gorgonzola), minced toasted walnuts, etc.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, shallot, garlic, coriander and thyme, along with a generous pinch of salt.  Cover and gently sweat until the onions are soft—about 15 minutes.  Add the butter and melt.  Add the beets and cook for 5 to 10 minutes—until they are beginning to soften.  Add the rice and cook another 2 or 3 minutes.  Add the pear and cook for a minute or two.  Add the stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the beets are beginning to be tender—about 40 minutes, add the ginger and continue to cook until the beets are tender—about 20 minutes more. (It will seem like the beets are taking forever to cook.  But don’t worry…at right about the one hour mark the will go from being a bit crisp to tender.)  Purée the soup and pass through a fine meshed strainer.

Return the soup to the pot and add the cream.
  Add water or more stock if the soup is too thick for your liking.  Heat through.  Remove from the heat.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt & pepper.  If the soup tastes flat or out of balance, add a small squeeze of lemon. The effect of the lemon should be to make the sweet flavors in the soup pop.  You won’t need much…maybe a teaspoon.  If you add too much, the soup will become tangy (which is not the goal).  You may also add more freshly grated ginger if you like—but be careful, the flavors of the soup are subtle and too much ginger will overwhelm the beet and pear.  Serve with a spoonful of crème fraiche, or a drizzle of olive oil, blue cheese crumbles and minced toasted walnuts.

Makes 5 cups or four servings (recipe is easily multiplied for more)

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Sunday, March 14, 2021

Winter into Spring Salad

Recently while scrolling Instagram a beautiful salad from AOC in Los Angeles caught my eye.   It isn’t really surprising that this happened…I love Suzanne Goin’s salads.  They are always beautiful.  But more importantly, they taste even better than they look.  She has a gift for combining not only colors and shapes, but textures and flavors.  I don’t think I have made all the salads in her book Sunday Suppers at Lucques…but I have made a lot of them (some I have shared on my blog).  I have never been disappointed.

Of course I didn’t have a recipe for the salad pictured on Instagram, but that didn’t stop me from making it.  The combination of arugula (a long time favorite lettuce) and radicchio (my current favorite winter “green”) with oranges, dates, pistachios and goat cheese rang all my bells.  And because I have been keeping radicchio as part of my “lettuce pantry” this winter, I had all the ingredients on hand.

I did make a couple of changes to the salad.
  First, I added some roasted beets. I don’t always have roasted beets in my fridge, but for some reason that escapes me now, I had some.  When I began pulling the ingredients for the salad out on the day I intended to make it for lunch, I pulled out the beets because my memory of the picture included beets.  When I checked the IG post before I made my salad to make sure I had everything, I realized there were no beets in the image.  All I can say is that they clearly belonged in my version of the salad. 

The other change I made was the kind of cheese. I had goat cheese out and was going to use it, but decided at the last minute while I was making the salad that I wanted a salty element.  So I used Feta instead of goat cheese. It was delicious—not only did I really like the salt with the sweet beets and dates, I liked the crumblier, firmer texture of the Feta.

I mentioned in my last post that I like to keep a versatile mustard and shallot based vinaigrette on hand.
  The one I had in my fridge was a simple champagne vinaigrette that is good with bitter winter greens (like radicchio) and winter fruits… so that’s the one I used.  It worked very well. 

The salad was just excellent.
  I’m sharing it here as I made it: for one.  But it would be an easy thing to multiply the ingredients to make a big platter for a crowd…or several individual plated salads.

The day I made the salad, I posted a picture of the salad on Instagram.
  When my sister-in-law saw it she commented that the plate just screamed springtime.  I was struck by her comment because the ingredients (citrus…winter lettuces….beets…) seemed very wintery to me.  But she was right about the brilliant colors.  So I’m calling this my “Winter into Spring Salad.” 


Winter into Spring Salad
(Arugula with Radicchio, Citrus & Dates)

1/2 a large or 1 small, Cara cara orange
1/2 oz. Arugula
1/2 oz. Radicchio (about 2 leaves), torn into large bite-sized pieces
1 T. (or to taste) Champagne Vinaigrette (see below)
1 medium beet (about 3 oz.), roasted and cut into 8 to 10 wedges or halved and sliced crosswise (dressed with lemon or vinegar of your choice, if you like)
2 Medjool dates, pitted and each cut into 6 to 7 lengthwise strips
A mounded tablespoon of pistachios, lightly toasted (or not—as you prefer) and very coarsely chopped
1 oz. Feta in brine, broken/crumbled

Prepare the orange:  Slice off the stem and blossom ends. 
Set the fruit so that it is resting on one of the flat, cut surfaces.  Using a thin, sharp knife, cut away the rind in strips.  As you cut, follow the contour of the fruit with your knife and use the previous cut to guide where you make the next cut so that you remove all of the peel, pith and membrane...but as little of the flesh as possible. Slice from top to bottom and rotate the fruit as you make each cut.  You should end up with a smooth, sphere of citrus that is free of membrane, pith and peel.  Cut the orange in half from top to bottom (direction of the segments).  If the orange is large, I only use one half.  If small, I’ll use the whole thing.  Cut the halves into quarters, lay them on their side and cut cross-wise in quarter inch or so slices.

Place the arugula and radicchio in a small bowl. Season with salt and drizzle with enough vinaigrette to barely coat—don’t weigh the greens down with the dressing…you can drizzle more over the salad after you build it.
  Toss to thoroughly coat the lettuces.  Give the beets a drizzle of the vinaigrette and season with salt & pepper if you didn’t dress them with vinegar and season them when you roasted them.

Scatter half of the greens over the plate.
  Arrange half of all the other elements over the greens.  Repeat these two layers.  Drizzle with more vinaigrette and serve.  Serves 1…but multiplies easily to serve as many as you like.

Champagne vinaigrette:
2 T. Champagne vinegar
1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced (1 1/2 to 2 T.)
1/4 t. salt, or to taste
1 t. Dijon mustard
6 T. extra-virgin olive oil

Make the vinaigrette:  Place the vinegar in a small bowl with the shallots and salt.  Set aside for five minutes or so to let the shallots soften a bit. Add the mustard and whisk until smooth. While whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a thin stream to form a slightly thickened, emulsified dressing.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt.  Set aside.

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