Tag Archives: Gastronomia

Summertime means Peach Cobbler

There’s nothing like spending a hot day in a hot kitchen to get you in touch with your Southern roots–and today was hot.  But this journey started yesterday–a much milder morning.

Peach season is at its peak, and if you don’t seize the moment it will pass you by.  I had a glorious morning yesterday at the Grand Lake farmers market.  I bought tons of peaches at different levels of ripeness, with the intention of making a series of cobblers over the next few days.  Blossom Bluff Orchard had great, perfectly ripe peaches.  I couldn’t decide between O’Henry (slightly tarter) and Summer Lady (slightly sweeter) so I decided to get four of each for the first cobbler.  And since I was using Lee Bailey’s recipe, which calls for seven large ripe peaches for a 7″x9″ deep dish, and I only have an 8″x10″ deep dish, I figured eight medium-to-large ripe peaches would serve me well.

I got home and started preparing the dough.

flour

I always love the neat cone-shaped mountains of flour sifting produces.

While I was doing that, I decided to heat up a snack in the microwave.  Being at the end of a long line of Southern ladies who typically distrust such kitchen technology as a matter of principal, I made a mistake that only a microwave novice would–I stuck my finger in my food to check if it was hot yet–due to my utter disbelief that it *could* be hot after one minute in this strange contraption.

Well, apparently that specious technology has come a long way.  My food was hot.  So hot that I burned my finger badly.  It hurt so badly I had to keep it on ice for a full two hours.

I feebly refrigerated the dough with my nine remaining digits with the intention of returning to the project the next day.

***

Today went much better.  The burn had settled down, and I had nothing to distract me from my baking other than myself.  So I took my time.

soldiers


peaches

——


peaches2

peaches3

pit

assembled

After some deliberation, I decided to leave the skins on my peaches.  Maybe Bailey would turn in his grave–but I totally missed the line in the ingredients section of the recipe about skinning the peaches.  Anyway I like the skin–the flesh of any stone fruit attached to the skin is always my favorite part because it’s usually where the tart-ness lies, which balances all the sweet.

The hardest part of this truly simple recipe was rolling out the dough.  I just don’t do enough baking to know how to roll out dough very well.  Luckily, the recipe didn’t call for a perfect circle, but the rolling still made me anxious.  After I reverse-rolled (“window-shade style”) and released the dough over the dish, I knew right away I didn’t have enough.  The dough is supposed to spill over the sides while you fill the dish with the fruit, to later be flopped back over on top to cover it.

I didn’t panic, I just decided to make more dough.  This time a double amount (since I’m planning to make more cobbler soon anyway).

doughontop

But before I covered everything with dough, I made a few adjustments.  Bailey’s recipe calls for a full cup of sugar.  It seemed like a lot of sugar.  So instead of a full cup I did two-thirds.  And my oven, purchased in 2007, has never been calibrated.  Bailey recommends forty-five minutes (or until crust is golden brown) at 450.  I set my oven to 450 and checked the cobbler after thirty-five.  It looked good, but could be slightly more golden, so I gave it another five minutes.  Here it is cooling on the porch:

golden

I decided I had to eat it for dinner.  I hadn’t picked up the vanilla ice cream but I just couldn’t wait.

final

The final verdict:

I utterly enjoyed eating this cobbler.  Spooning the first portion was incredibly gratifying–largely because the color that these peaches produced in this recipe is phenomenal.  The deep orange and red is perfect, and the liquid produced by the cooking is this gorgeous pink-wine.  And the crust–the crust is it.  I couldn’t hope for a better one.

Now it’s my first cobbler of the season and I don’t want to speak too soon, but it was a bit on the sweet side for me.  The peaches were perfectly cooked–great balance of firm and soft (and I didn’t think the attached peels detracted), but to be truly critical, the bites with that bit of tart punch which I crave were too few and far between.  The peaches I used were very sweet to begin with, so if I were using similar fruit I might try to reduce the sugar to a minimum–just enough to create a good syrupy interior–without adding too much sweetness.  Perhaps a third of a cup.

I’m sure I’ll continue to enjoy eating this one–and in the mean time I’m ready to try another.

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Mother’s Eggplant

Everyone’s talking about eggplant these days.  It’s eggplant season!  Chef Canales has them all over the menu at Oliveto from antipasti to secondi (watch Chef Canales shop the Berkeley Farmers Market for tomatoes and eggplant here).  Meanwhile in Pasadena, mother’s eggplant is nearing maturity.  Isn’t she a beaut?

eggplant1

those leaves!

flower

those flowers!

eggplant3

that color!

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Monday Morning Links

  • Vena Cava has amassed a comprehensive to-do list for LA.  I’m homesick. (Viva Vena Cava)
  • P.S.: Vena Cava’s Fall 2009 collection just hit stores, see the collection (Style.com) and shop (Barneys)
  • UPDATE: how did I miss this?  Am I the last to know about this or what?  Please advise.  (Amazon)
  • Dylan Fareed makes a video of Santa Monica beach, I’m still homesick. (Dylan Fareed)
  • On a separate note: Thankfully, I’m not the only one who is tortured by the issue of pruning lavender. (Gardenweb)
  • It’s peach season, and this looks really good.  (The Kitchen Sink)
  • But it just makes crave a real old-fashioned cobbler, and there’s no one I can think of I trust more on the subject of peach cobbler than Lee Bailey (NPR)

peach4Image from thekitchensinkrecipes.com

I think I’ll just have to make both.

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Perhaps My Favorite Souvenir

I’m not entirely over my vacation.  I miss it–a little.  I bought very little, but I did manage to get myself a few little souvenirs.  This book is one of my favorite things.  It combines flowers and food–what else could be more perfect for me?

gourmandises

Behold, the introduction of Gourmandises en Fleurs (Delicacies in Flowers) (translated by yours truly with help from a few free translation websites)…

If the times have changes, people’s love of beautiful things remains the same.  As cuisine gets lighter, dishes have more moderate flavors, and often when we are surrounded by concrete gardens, we try to cultivate the illusion of nature…

Thus the idea was born to present a collection of complimentary recipes and bouquets.

From small lunches to large galas, create an occasion to host friends.  Give a theme to your receptions.  Taste and imagination alone can bring the heart joy.  In summer, think of refined simplicity and soft colors, or use a bit of eccentricity to accent the fragrances that emit from your kitchen.

By using the charm of flowers, your garden will grace your table with its colors, and accent your menu choices.  Some original and unexpected ideas will give your tables a personal touch–and even provide amusement.  Whether it be the Beaujolais nouveau or basket of apples from your orchard, the beginning of the fishing season or a welcome home, a red dinner, a white dinner, a dinner on the grass… the fanciful possibilities created with flowers, color, and food will make you the envy of all your guests!

The arrangements range from the somewhat ridiculous…

fish

Title of Arrangement: Poisson d’avril (April Fish)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Terrine de saumon au coulis de tomates (Salmon terrine with tomato coulis) (note the goldfish)

to pretty…

voulez2

Title of Arrangement: Voulez-vous goûter, grand-mère? (Would you like a taste grandmother?)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Mousse aux fruits de la passion (Passion fruit mousse)

to “fanciful”

eggplant

Title of Arrangement: Symphonie aubergine (Eggplant symphony)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Petits flans d’aubergines (Eggplant flan)

to perhaps a bit out-dated

wine

Title of Arrangement: Joyeux enfants de la Bourgogne! (Happy children of Burgundy)

Recipe that the Arrangement is Designed to Compliment:

Poirs au vin (Pears in wine)

It’s taking a lot of restraint to not scan the entire book.  Maybe I’ll have to start publishing one arrangement/recipe pairing per day.  I found a website where the book is available for purchase, for about the same price I paid in the used book store in Biarritz.  I’m dying to try the Magret de canard au miel et au vinaigre de cidre in my kitchen (yes, duck figurines are featured in the accompanying arrangment in Gourmandise en fleurs)!

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Begonia’s Gazpacho

I have been dying for some gazpacho ever since I left Spain (even when I was eating it in Spain I was dying for it).  But I’ve never been able to find a recipe I’m really satisfied with.  After tasting Spain’s glorious gazpachos (Sebastian’s in particular) my doubts were confirmed–none of the gazpacho I was having State-side was cutting it.  First of all, there are no chunks in Spanish gazpacho, it’s always completely smooth-silky even, and very cold.  What was I to do?

It’s silly that I sat in a quandary longer than thirty seconds–ARL has a resident (Basque) Spanish cuisine advisor–Begonia Colomar*!

Begonia was quick to respond to my query about gazpacho.  Over in her adopted home–Brooklyn–she’s making it constantly.  Begonia immediately agreed with my concerns about this American “gazpacho” I’ve been eating–real Spanish gazpacho must be smooth–and it must be cold (Lord knows I love the Pasta Shop but you should have SEEN the stuff they were trying to pass off as gazpacho at their counter today.  It was super chunky and by the color of it, it either had a lot of beets or red food coloring, and they were advertising a dollop of sour cream on top.  Did they get it confused with Borsht?).  Begonia says that in southern Spain she’s often seen people go so far as to put an ice cube in their gazpacho to ensure they coldness.

Below is Begonia’s recipe for gazpacho.  I doubled it and followed it exactly.

Begonia’s Gazpacho (serves two)

2 Anaheim peppers (do not substitute with bell peppers, Anaheims are sweeter, softer and more aromatic)
2-3 large very ripe tomatoes (add them to boiling water for 10 seconds to peel them)
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
1-2 tbs red wine or sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove
2-3 tbs best quality extra virgin olive oil
salt [Begonia and I both swear by Maldon]

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Mix at high speed until very smooth.  Taste for point of vinegar and salt.  I like my gazpacho very, very smooth, not chunky at all so after blending I pass it through a chinois to achieve that silky, very liquefied texture.  Put it back in the fridge for an hour or freezer for 15 minutes.  Serve very cold.  I like to garnish it with a couple of drops of olive oil, chives, and little pinch of paprika…experiment with the garnishing…parsley, bacon, croutons, tarragon…endless variations.

After receiving the initial instructions, I wrote back with a few questions.  What about bread crumbs?  What about fresh herbs?  Only one clove garlic?

Begonia says:

I don’t use fresh herbs in the puree, but that is my purist soul.  I don’t use bread because it makes it thicker and I personally don’t like it so much.  There are millions of ways to make it.  If you want it a bit more red add one peeled canned tomato.  Also using balsamic vinegar gives a nice taste but I’m not so in to the color that results from it, maybe white balsamic.  Add 1 tbs of vinegar to the initial mix, taste it and add the second one if needed.  Experiment and choose the one you like best.

Also, previous recipes have instructed me to seed the tomatoes and peppers.  Begonia avoids this laborious step by using the chinois.  Also, Begonia told me, and I can confirm this, that the one garlic clove is surely sufficient.

ingredients

I used heirloom tomatoes (very ripe as Begonia advised).  The flavor they produced is incredible, but the peeling process was a bit harder given the deep nooks and crannies.

blender

I don’t own a food processor per se.  I have so little storage space honestly–my toaster is in the closet.  But I bought this Kitchen Aid blender at Williams Sonoma, which has food processing functions.  I pureed, then liquified the ingredients in batches, combined the results in a bowl, and repeated the process.

That produced a fairly smooth texture, but I wanted the silkiness that the gazpacho of Spain has.  I didn’t have a chinois on hand, so I reached for a sieve.  Bad call.  Too fine.  Didn’t work.  So I went out and splurged on a Rosle chinois.  Given my love of gazpacho–if gazpacho is all I use it for it will have been a worthwhile purchase.

The chinois step takes another 5-10 minutes.  The mixture won’t go straight through (those holes are small), so I poured my gazpacho into the chinois and then scraped the sides of it with a rubber spatula to keep the liquid moving.

In the end it was all worth it.

IMG_2603

The final product

I garnished it with olive oil and parsley from the garden.  The texture is super smooth and the taste is fantastic.  Every ingredient is well-represented in each sip.  The color is burnt orange–perhaps a bit on the greener side since some of my tomatoes were green heirlooms.  I love that Begonia takes the color of gazpacho into account in her recipe.

Finally, a serving note.  While I photographed my gazpacho in this pretty beaded glass bowl, since I was having it by myself as a snack I quickly transferred it to a lowball glass and simply drank it down.  I have no patience for a spoon with gazpacho.  Don’t judge–haven’t you ever seen the women drinking gazpacho in Almodovar films?  I rest my case.

*more on Begonia, her art, and her food here, here, here, here, and here.

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Bonnieux: Le Fornil

I know it’s a lot on Bonnieux, but I really think Bonnieux is worth it.

Le Fournil is one of the restaurants featured in Gilles Pudlowski’s guide to Provence and the Cote d’Azur.  This place is an absolute pleasure.  It fits in perfectly with the relaxed atmosphere and beauty of Bonnieux.  The food is refined yet unpretentious.  The service is friendly and on the lively side, which gives the place a bit of a younger vibe–totally welcome after a week at Mas de Guille (“Relais du Silence”) where we were the youngest people by twenty years.  And judging by the stares I got when I was taking pictures, this place is equally appreciated by tourist and locals alike, which lends credence to the chef’s work.

fournil sign

fournil1

Le Fournil at 7:30pm

We’re early eaters at home, it’s no secret.  But I swear we were eating at 9 and later in Guethary!  But during that first week away in Provence, we were still adjusting.  Add to that the heat and our minimum of five miles of walking per day (assessed by pedometer no less) and we ended up really needing that first reservation of the night.  Plus it made for good pictures right?

fournil menu

Le Fournil’s menu

fournil amuse

Fish paté amuse bouche

I’m a little bit of a wuss when it comes to something like fish paté (and I. even more so) but this was absolutely delectable.  I never expected such a texture to work–but Le Fournil made it so.

fournil salad 1

Petits farcis provençaux servis tíèdes

I have no translation for “petits…” but based on the little I know about Provençal cuisine, stuffed crudité appears to be somewhat of a tradition.  We had several incarnations of this dish at different restaurants and this was indubitably the best.  The stuffing is bread crumbs, herbs, and other fabulous Provencal things.  Sorry I can’t be more specific, but aren’t the colors great?

fournil salad2

Bouquet de haricots vert et cocos frais, ris d’agneau poêlés vinaigrette d’herbes

If only this could be recreated.  I’m not sure what the cut of lamb was, but it was so tender.  Perfect with vegetables and some aged balsalmico.

fournil beouf

Contrefilet de beouf poêlé, chutney de cerises, blettes au jus

The pièce de résistance: contrefilet.  Although my favorite steak of the trip was at Le Madrid (Cote de Beouf with Bearnaise) due to its total simplicity and melt-in-your-mouth qualities, this contrefilet is a very, very close second.  The cherry confit had the perfect balance of sweet and tart to the meat.  Every bite was a pleasure.

As we left everyone was still enjoying.

fournil scene

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A Different Alameda

For our last night in Spain we went to a restaurant in the old quarter of town called Alameda (not to be confused with the small island city off the East Bay of San Francisco, nor the county in which I reside), which boasts one Michelin star.  On a previous evening we had returned to Sebastian, also in the old quarter of Hondarribia and had the chef’s tasting menu.  I thought to myself, “this is as good a meal as I’ve ever had.  If I lived here I would eat at here all the time.”  While the second sentence holds true, Alameda blew the former sentiment for lovely little Sebastian.

While I managed to take a few pictures, they relate nothing of the scale of this meal.  Alameda is run by two brothers, Gorka and Kepa Txapartegui.  The cuisine has Basque roots, but is classified by Michelin as “Inventive.”  We had two lovely, attentive, and friendly servers, but it was one of the matriarchs of the Txapartegui family who came to ensure our meal met our expectations after our entrees arrived.  Although I consider description of this meal to be a futile pursuit, I will attempt to depict some of it here.

alameda table cloth better

Often, when my dad comes to visit and I am trying to convince him of the legitimacy of my choice of restaurant on any given evening, he’ll say quite seriously, “does it have a tablecloth?  I need a white tablecloth.”  In honor of dad we’ve taken to documenting the tablecloths at various restaurants.  Alameda’s are high-quality starched linen.

amuse bouche

The amuse-bouche was a delicate, super-fine gazpacho, topped with cheese foam, parsley-infused oil, and a parmasan crisp.

spider crab

I began with the spider crab salad arranged atop a tomato reduction and topped with green apples and micro greens.  The crab was absolutely beautiful in texture.

tuna

My entree–the tuna.  This picture hardly does it justice, but eating last night was much more important to me than picture-taking, which I take as a good sign.  It’s funny I just realized that from the blog it appears that I’ve been eating a lot of tuna.  I have I suppose.  The seafood is really what to eat in the Basque country.  I have no words to describe the preparation of this dish; I can’t even remember how it was described on the menu.  All I know is what appears to be a simple tuna fillet transformed into the most unbelievable tasting thing in my mouth.  The flavors of the tomatoes, salt, fish, oil, and potato were beyond this world.  Each bite I took made me crave one more.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that way before.  It was if nothing would be enough, and each time I took a bite I wished I could continue tasting what I was tasting forever.  Quite an experience.  Sort of Veruca Salt-esque I guess.

mint and melon

Dessert was fruit and cheese.  The fruit is above–a medley of melons and apples in a mint-melon sauce.  Amazing.

new cheese

Finally, the cheese plate.  From top right: a semi-soft cows milk, Roquefort topped with a dried apple slice, brie, quince paste, and the last two are two different dry manchego.  The Roquefort was especially beautiful.  There is no better way to end a meal than with Roquefort I believe.

Well, like I said, a futile pursuit.  But, perhaps if you’re ever in the area you’ll have a chance to experience it all for yourself.

At the Biarritz airport, embarking on many hours on various planes.  Ciao!

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