“LIFE IS A MATTER OF TASTE…”

That was David Rosengarten’s closing line in his wonderful show “Taste,” years ago on FoodTV. Each episode centered around one dish, prepared by David while he talked about its origins, variations, and ultimately, his method to flawlessly reproduce it in your own kitchen. It was a simple format, but it delivered everything I expected from a cooking show. He almost always remained true to the classics. For instance, his shows on quiche Lorraine, cheese souffle and croissants were all based on recipes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But sometimes he would wander off in new directions: his interesting show on “Compromise Clam Chowder” was an example of his gastronomic rebellion. After explaining the differences between the New England and Manhattan methods for chowder, he offered his own version, borrowing a little bit from each. Similarly, his macaroni and cheese included a few “extras” to make the dish less monotonous, and it was absolutely delicious.

Through his show I learned about many exotic dishes such as laarb, before I even had a chance to try it in a restaurant. And, I stopped twisting my nose at offal, because David Rosengarten’s recipes were perfect for any palate. From him I learned how to cook pork ribs in a stove-top smoker, mimicking as closely as possible the best ribs of Memphis, one of the homes of barbecue. I loved watching him prepare Brazilian moqueca, even if his pronunciation of the state of its origin (Bahia) was a little off ;-). His show was classy, informative and fun, and I was sad to see it end.

So, I guess you can imagine how I felt when I received an email from Daniel Boneville, who just produced a video with David, and sent me the link. If you’ve also been suffering from Rosengarten-withdrawal syndrome, allow me to ease your pain, and I cross my fingers that this is just the first of a very long series!

Click here for the one and only David Rosengarten, on a quest to re-create his favorite tomato sauce…

With many thanks to Daniel Boneville….

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MELLOW BAKERS: CORN BREAD

Have you ever had to run from one side of the airport to another to catch a flight, and managed to enter the plane just before they shut the doors?    That’s how I’m feeling about this bread – the last one to complete the May series of Mellow Bakers!   With only one day to spare,  here I am, bringing you corn bread…

When thinking about corn bread my mind floats towards iron skillets and bacon.    However, Hamelman’s corn bread has nothing to do with that American classic. It is in fact a “regular”, yeast-leavened bread, with corn meal in the dough.   The dough is also leavened with a poolish, a mixture of flour, water, and yeast that pre-ferments for 12 hours.   In typical Hamelman’s fashion, the dough is mixed very briefly, then folded once before the final shaping.    The corn meal imparts a nice yellow tone to the dough, but also makes it feel a little rough.

This is a very nice bread, open crumb, delicate flavor… Two thumbs up!

If you want to see all other bakers’ take on Hamelman’s corn bread, click on this link

For those following the Mellow Bakers adventures,  the month of June brings Vermont Sourdough (my default bread),  pizza (I definitely look forward to comparing Hamelman’s dough with my favorite),  and a bread made with beer and roasted sprouted barley (no idea where I’m going to find that :-(). Stay tuned, or… join the fun and bake with us!

ICE CREAM MELTS FOR MANGO

I grew up watching my family members eating mangos and making a huge mess in the process.  Some varieties of Brazilian mango are so fibrous that the “correct” way to eat them is to cut a small hole in the top and suck out the juices while compressing the fruit, which leaves your mouth, face, hands, and possibly even your clothes covered with juice and sticky mango bits.  Some people view this process as part of the fun, but both me and my Dad had nothing to do with it, and only enjoyed a mango if it was laying on a pristine plate, dissected by a knife and fork, with a napkin alongside.

This simple dessert would certainly receive the seal of  approval from my Dad.

MANGOS FLAMBE  (MANGAS FLAMBADAS)
(inspired by my friend Vanda)

4 ripe mangos
1 Tbs butter
2 Tbs granulated sugar (or more)
pinch of salt
1/4 cup rum (or Cointreau or a mix of both)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Cut the mango in medium-sized pieces.  Go take a quick shower (optional).  Come back and melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.   Add the diced mango, sprinkle sugar all over it, add the salt, and cook gently until the mango starts to get soft.   Taste a piece and decide if you need more sugar.

Carefully add the rum, heat it for a few seconds, and ignite with a match.  Wait until the flames die down, sprinkle a little lemon juice, taste again.   Serve over vanilla ice cream.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You can change this basic recipe in many ways.  For example, you may first caramelize the sugar, and then add the fruit on top.  But, I prefer this preparation I’m posting because it’s simpler and the taste of the fruit is more pronounced.  You may also skip the alcohol with no major harm, but I like the extra flavor it imparts.   If you have leftovers (highly unlikely), they are delicious in the morning with yogurt and a little granola sprinkled on top.   You can prepare bananas in almost exactly the same way, or even along with the mango, but when making bananas flambe, I like to caramelize the sugar first.     My friend Vanda,  who makes risottos and souffles with her eyes closed and one hand tied behind her back, loves to prepare mangos this way.  After dicing the fruit, she usually grabs the pit and takes great pleasure in sucking all the mango-goodness clinging to it, standing next to the sink.   Unfortunately, I never seem to have my camera ready when that happens.  😉

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GRILLED LETTUCE SALAD

The slightly unusual food preparations continue to take place in our kitchen… After frying a boiled egg and roasting greens, I grilled some lettuce . This  3-minute preparation delivers a punch of flavor, leading the humble butter lettuce to its best performance. From the latest Fine Cooking magazine  which, by the way, is an awesome issue, I’d love to make almost every recipe from it!

GRILLED BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD WITH BUTTERMILK-CHIVE DRESSING
(adapted from Fine Cooking #105)

1 butter lettuce, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/8 cup creme fraiche (I substituted sour cream)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs thinly sliced chives
1/2 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil for the grill

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill at medium-high heat.

Whisk the buttermilk, creme fraiche, olive oil in a bowl. Add the chives, lemon juice and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve.

Brush the grill with a light coating of vegetable oil, place the lettuce, cut side down, and grill for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the grilled lettuce to a serving plate, cut side up, and drizzle the dressing over it. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: Sometimes the idea of washing, drying, slicing…  the whole “prep work” associated with making a good salad makes me a bit tired.   However, this recipe delivers a delicious, and quite elegant salad in – literally – 6 minutes.  All you need is the most gorgeous, preferably organic butter lettuce available, and a few ingredients for the dressing. My beloved suggested adding a little blue cheese  – “it will make it perfect”! – so, keep this in mind if you make it.

Grilling the lettuce intensifies its flavor, and changes the texture ever so slightly, making each bite have its own character: closer to the edge a bit smokey, a crisper and brighter taste as you indulge deeper. The buttermilk dressing is very flavorful – it will certainly go well over other roasted or steamed veggies. I can see myself grilling lettuce during the whole Summer!

FARFALLE, FARFALLE

“Fahr-fah-lee.”  I love this word! So uplifting, it makes me smile… In my next life I want to be Italian. 😉

This recipe comes from The Splendid Table, from which I recently posted another recipe .  I don’t know about you, but even though I own a big collection of cookbooks, when I pick a recipe from one of them the chances are that I’ll make two or three in a row.

SWEET ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND GREENS OVER BOW-TIE PASTA
(from The Splendid Table)

5 qt salted water

For the roasted veggies
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
2 big handfuls of escarole or spring mix of your choice
1/3 cup basil leaves, torn
16 large sage leaves, torn
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs brown sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For pasta finish
1 pound bow-tie (farfalle) pasta
1/2 cup half and half
6 ounces asiago cheese

Turn the oven to 450F and bring water to boil.  Toss all the ingredients for the roasted veggies in a big bowl, place them in a shallow roasting pan (preferably in a single layer), and place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the squash is tender.  Toss the veggies around a couple of times during roasting.

Cook the pasta until al dente, drain in a colander.  Once the squash is tender, turn the broiler on for a few minutes if you want to brown it slightly. The greens will be fully wilted, and almost crisp.

Scrape everything into a serving bowl, add the half and half, hot pasta and 1 cup of the cheese.  Toss to blend, adjust seasoning, and serve, adding more cheese on top if you want.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

receita em portugues ao final da segunda pagina

Comments: This preparation perked my interest for two reasons. First, anything that joins pasta and butternut squash turns me on, gastronomically speaking. 😉 Secondly, I was curious about roasting greens together with the squash, something I’d never done before.  Since the same book had me frying a boiled egg with a happy ending, why not roast a few pieces of frisee?

We both loved this pasta – even leftovers next day were still tasty.  To speed things up, I peeled and cut the squash early in the morning, so when we arrived from work all I had to do was put the pasta water to boil, turn on the oven and dinner was ready in 35 minutes. I gave myself a pat on the back!

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Jump to the next page for a little story about butternut squash and the North Shore of Oahu….

Continue reading

HOISIN EXPLOSION

Last week I finished my third year of Mandarin, a challenging but rewarding journey!   To celebrate, I prepared a Chinese recipe for our dinner.   Cookbooks and websites sometimes mistreat ethnic cuisines: too often it’s  enough to finish a stir-fry with some soy sauce, cornstarch and then label it Chinese.   For the alternate, informed approach I reached for  Barbara Tropp, who was to Chinese cooking what Julia Child was to French cuisine: she studied it to the point of becoming an expert, and shared her knowledge through excellent writing.    Barbara Tropp’s “Modern Art of Chinese Cooking”  is a culinary masterpiece like no other on the subject, and if you have genuine interest in learning to prepare authentic Chinese dishes, you’ll need this book.

Here is what Tropp said about the recipe I chose:

Subtly sweet and rich, with a classic contrast of velvety chicken, slippery-crisp vegetables and crunchy nuts, it combines every technique you need to know to produce elegant, restaurant-style stir-frys. The taste explosion that makes this dish so appealing is a multi-regional affair.  Hoisin is a predominantly north Chinese condiment, chili is a Szechwanese touch, while wine used as it is here is an Eastern taste.”

I love it when a cookbook writer goes beyond providing recipes.  I am still saddened by her unfortunate death  when she was only 53 years old.

HOISIN-EXPLOSION CHICKEN
(adapted from Barbara Tropp)

1 pound chicken breast, cut in bite size pieces
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine
1 tsp Kosher salt
4 cups water + 2 tsp peanut oil

1/2 cup whole blanched almonds or cashews
1 medium red bell pepper
6 ounces bamboo shoots, sliced
fresh cilantro leaves

Aromatics
2 tsp garlic, finely minced
1 Tablespoon minced ginger
1 Tablespoon finely minced green onions
1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes

Liquid seasoning
3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 + 1/2 Tbs Chinese rice wine
2 tsp soy sauce

Mix the egg white, wine and salt and process until smooth and thick (30 to 60 seconds) in a food processor or blender.  Place the chicken in a bowl and add the egg white marinade over it, tossing well to completely coat the pieces. Refrigerate from 8 to 36 hours, the longer the better.

Toast the nuts in a 350F oven, or by gently frying them with a little bit of peanut oil on a non-stick skillet.  Do not allow them to burn. Reserve.

Cut the seeded red bell pepper into squares.  If using canned bamboo shoots, rinse them well and blanch for 10 seconds in boiling water – this will refresh their taste.  Cut in thin slices. The veggies and nuts can be prepared one day in advance. Mince the cilantro right before finishing the dish.

Combine all aromatics and mix well in a small bowl.  Mix all the liquid seasonings in another small bowl.  Reserve both.

Velveting the chicken:
Bring the water/oil to a simmer, do not allow it to go into full boil.  You want to see small bubbles forming around the rim of the water.  Stir the chicken to loosen the pieces slightly, and drop them in the water, stirring to separate them.   Simmer until they are about 80% cooked  – this should take about 20 seconds.  It’s important not to over cook the meat.  When in doubt, cook less.   Remove the pieces  to a plate with a slotted spoon.   Once velveted, the meat must be stir-fried right away.

Finishing the dish…
Heat a wok over high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact.  Add 2 tablespoons of oil and swirl it to glaze the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot enough to sizzle one piece of bell pepper, add the peppers and the bamboo shoots to the pan, stir frying them briskly until they are evenly glossed with oil and heated through, about 1 minute.  Remove the vegetables to a dish.  Return the wok to the stove, add the remaining tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add the aromatics, stir until fragrant, 15-20 seconds, add the liquid seasonings, and stir to combine.  Add the velveted chicken pieces and the vegetables, toss quickly to cook through, about 30 seconds.   Turn off the heat, add the nuts and the cilantro.   Adjust the seasoning and serve over white rice.

ENJOY!

(receita em portugues na proxima pagina)

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This recipe calls for an important step in the meat preparation for stir-frying: “velveting.”   Tempting as it might be to skip it, don’t do it: the improvement in the texture will shock you! You’ll use an extra pan and spend a few more minutes in the overall preparation, but it is a small price to pay for textural perfection.  Barbara Tropp’s recipes are quite detailed, often extending over several pages, which some people may find a bit excessive.   I have a small dry-erase board on which I write down a condensed version of the recipe to take to the kitchen.  Interestingly enough, I originally got the board to practice writing Chinese characters, so using it for Chinese cooking seems like a natural move… 😉

I’ve made this recipe with water chestnuts instead of bamboo shoots, snow peas in addition to bell peppers, and peanuts instead of cashews. You can adapt it to what you have available, as long as you preserve the basic techniques. Like all stir fry recipes, once the ingredients are prepared, the cooking happens at lightening speed,  which is music to my ears on busy weekdays…

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para portugues, siga o link

MELLOW BAKERS: MICHE POINT-A-CALLIERE

One more small step in the very long journey of the Mellow Bakers, working their way through Hamelman’s book Bread. I was looking forward to this one, a classic European-type bread, leavened exclusively by a whole-wheat sourdough starter.   The term “miche” means a very large, round loaf, and Point-a-Calliere  is its place of origin, the initial settlement that later would turn into Montreal.   To preserve the dimension of my waistline, I made mental apologies to Hamelman, and cut the recipe in half, turning it into a “demi-miche“…

Once a very stiff sourdough starter is prepared, the recipe is quite straightforward: mix high extraction whole-wheat flour with water, starter and salt, fold it two or three times over a 2.5 hour period, shape as a round loaf, let it rise for another 2.5 hours. It is a tricky dough to handle, very moist, it did not gain body until the last folding cycle.  The bread is then baked in a very hot oven, with steam during the initial stage of baking.

The recipe doesn’t mention anything about slashing the surface before baking, but I followed the footsteps of  my fellow bakers, and cut a few slashes on mine. However, they were barely noticeable when the loaf came out of the oven. This is a flattish bread, with reasonably open crumb – in fact, the crumb was a lot more airy than I expected from a bread with such a high proportion of whole wheat flour.

Great flavor, that should get better and better as the days go by. We shall put this statement to test in the next few days…. if my demi-miche can make it, that is… 😉

Check other Mellow Bakers’ take on this bread by following these links to Lien’s blog, Joanna’s, and our host Paul.

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