I’ve had pudding cakes on my mind for quite a while now, so when I was leafing through old issues of Gourmet Magazine recently and saw the fabulous Blueberry Pudding Cake on the cover of the July 2005 issue, I knew the time had come. I had fresh blueberries and the other ingredients are kitchen staples. Of course I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding a good hit of lime and a caramel note to the sauce. And then my blueberry sauce didn’t sink through the batter as the original recipe said it should, so I tweaked the procedure for the sauce as well. The result was a hit with all four tasters. The only grumbling I heard was over the lack of ice cream accompaniment. Next time, I’ll make sure to have that on hand.
True confession. This is my first real encounter with romanesco. Tempted by it many times over the years at the Portland Farmers Market, this past weekend, I succumbed. I bought two heads without a clue what to do with them. A member of the brassica oleracea family, romanesco has an exotic, almost alien beauty and can be a little formidable to the uninitiated.
Can you say NYOK-ee? Luckily, gnocchi are more difficult to pronounce than to actually make. And unlike the pronunciation, you have lots of latitude on how to make, shape, and sauce these delectable little dumplings. Beyond the standard ingredients of ricotta, eggs, flour, and cheese, you can go wild with additional flavors. It’s almost Halloween, so of course I added pumpkin to my time-tested gnocchi recipe. And I’m glad I did. These may be my favorite gnocchi of all time.
I knew these rolls were going to be a hit, but I didn’t anticipate the mania that ensued as I took them from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, pulled them apart, and piled them on a platter to serve. I mean, should you stop someone from eating six rolls, back-to-back, without coming up for air? Or just pass them more butter?
Never heard of sweet corn ice cream? Well then, you’re in for an ice cream flavor revelation. As my collection of American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks grew over the years, I occasionally encountered this “oddity” in one or another of the dessert chapters. Finally, I searched the web and lo and behold, the word is out.
You know the flavor contrast you get when you bite into a perfect caramel apple—first rich, creamy, sweet caramel, and then bracingly tart, juicy apple? Add half a dozen spices and that’s what this caramel sauce tastes like. At first, you think, “Oh yeah, luxuriously rich, wonderfully spiced caramel,” and then POW, the acidity of the reduced apple cider kicks in and your mouth goes, “Hey, whoa, what’s happening here?” I love this double-punch effect.
Like most of the baby boom generation, I grew up on the ubiquitous American iceberg lettuce salad with the usual assortment of dreary bottled dressings. It was only in adulthood that I discovered that fruit could be used to good effect in a salad—beyond those ghastly sweet coconut and marshmallow concoctions that sat high and proud on every family buffet of my youth.
Every fall, I look forward to the arrival of a huge variety of chile peppers at Northwest farmers markets—Poblano, Anaheim, Hatch, Cubanelle, Mesilla, Padron, New Mex Joe, Jalapeno, Crimson Lee, Serrano, Sweet Banana, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Hot Mexican to name a few–along with the gas-fired drum roaster that makes quick work of roasting them.
After last week’s post, I had a fridge full of Perfect Homemade Mayonnaise, and the super-delicious variation, Chipotle & Roasted Red Pepper Rouille, demanded attention.
Of course, I could have just slathered it on a heap of grilled vegetables or corn on the cob, but there was also a ½ pound of cold-smoked salmon staring at me every time I opened the fridge door. I imagined the two would taste great together but nothing came immediately to mind.
Mostarda has been showing up with some frequency on restaurant menus of late and after tasting it for the first time with a succulent grilled pork chop at Nel Centro a couple of years ago, I was smitten. It was LOVE at first bite.
Imagine fresh or dried fruit glazed in a sweet, spicy syrup with a subtle or not so subtle mustard kick. As good as that pork chop was, I could have eaten an entire plate of the mostarda.
Over the years, I have eaten this much-lauded soup in every restaurant and café I could find it. I love the concept—toasted chiles, tomatoes, garlic, corn tortillas, and cumin soup base with fried tortillas, avocado, and sour cream embellishments—but not always the execution. Restaurant renditions vary considerably, as do recipes in American Southwest and Mexican cookbooks.
I was walking through the Portland Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago and did a double take on a stack of orange cauliflower. I adore cauliflower (the earthy flavor, the crunchy or creamy texture), and the only nit I can pick with this lovely vegetable is its color. It gets lost on a white plate and looks pallid and unimaginative next to other basic ingredients I love, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and poultry.
This concept should have been a cinch. After all, I developed White Chocolate, Cardamom & Coconut Beignet and they’re wonderful—ethereally light, tender, moist, and beautifully flavored.
But I made a classic mistake at the onset. I tried to pattern the new beignets after the earlier success. And that, my friends, was a disaster. I threw batch after batch of beignets in the trash after just one taste.
Something different went wrong with each batch: too dry, too wet, not sweet enough, not pumpkin enough, not spicy enough, and finally, just okay but nothing special. I almost gave up. Where was I going wrong?
Northwest pumpkin season is in full swing, and I have new recipes ready to roll out in the weeks ahead. Get ready for Spiced Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Butter Gingerbread Beignet, Pumpkin Chocolate Torte, and Caribbean Shrimp & Pumpkin Chowder. And while I get those ready for you, here are my pumpkin FAVORITES from past seasons.
There is something magically transforming about this particular combination of flavors. Wow is the only word I can think of to describe it. The buttery richness of flaky pastry, sweet tartness of apple, mellow bite of onion, deep savoriness of cheddar, and intense sharpness of blue cheese create a wondrous effect on the palate.
Every year about this time, I start craving salads. And by craving, I mean intense, must have it, primal longing. It’s as if my body, as well as my mind, knows that fresh local produce will soon be a fading memory. I find myself at the farmers markets overloading my trusty, ever ready Metro Kart with bell peppers, celery, sweet onions, corn, lettuce, fennel, chiles, and tomatoes. Plus whatever else looks amazing that day.
I read about this method of cooking fresh corn some time ago, but the idea really took hold when one of my personal culinary goddesses, Cindy Pawlcyn, of Mustard’s Grill and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen fame (both in Napa, California), described the process in her truly wonderful book, Big Small Plates.
Cindy’s version of this dish is called Grilled Street Corn. She brushes the hot grilled corn (the husk pulled back and corn silk removed) with a garlic mayonnaise, dusts with cayenne, rolls in parmesan cheese, and serves with lime wedges. Wow!
Did you have a chance to read the recent post: Eat. Boston. Winter Squash Soup.? I was so inspired by the winter squash soup creations we encountered in Boston in October that I couldn’t wait to get back to the OtherWorldly Kitchen to create my own offering to the seasonal gods.
I chose to work with Red Kuri squash because, of all the winter squash, it is the one with which I am least familiar. It’s also beautiful au natural and holds its gorgeous orange color when cooked.
Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the exotic condiments section of an upscale grocery store pondering whether to shell out $8 for a tiny jar of glistening something-or-other? The jars have names such as Sriracha, Chimichurri, and Harissa. You covet them ALL.
That’s exactly what happened to me recently at City Market in Northwest Portland. I walked out of the store with a tiny, expensive jar of Mustapha’s Moroccan Harissa and although it turned out to be quite delicious, barely an hour had gone by before I began to make my own. I had visions of Red Kuri Squash & Orange Soup with Cinnamon Harissa, and in order to follow that vision, I needed Harissa with more body and warmer spicing than the store-bought version.
Have you ever set out to eat your way across a city, focusing on a single seasonal dish?
Well, I didn’t intend to go on a winter squash soup kick while in Boston in October, but one thing led to another, as the saying goes, and there I was at Sorellina on our last night in Boston eating my 5th winter squash soup.
And here’s the thing. I could have continued this lovely madness for another week at least. It is highly instructive to see how top notch culinary artists across a major culinary mecca treat the same basic core ingredients and menu item, in this case, winter squash and a handful of flavor complements crafted into a smooth and silky soup.
How many times have you been at a local farmers market and walked smack dab into a mountain of baby shiitake mushrooms? I mean there they are, incredible in their tininess and then you realize that you can’t think of a thing to do with them. So you walk away and then kick yourself when you get home.
Well, that’s been me too many times to admit. But not last week at the Portland Farmers Market. My mind went blank, as it loves to do at just such moments, but I steeled myself and bought a pound and a half of the little jewels anyway. And all the while MauiJim is hissing at me, “But what are you going to do with them?”
We were at the Portland Saturday Market yesterday, and I couldn’t resist buying a bag of what may be the last of the season’s heirloom tomatoes. They come in such a variety of beautiful colors, shapes and sizes, and their flavor is incomparable. Nothing like the grocery store tomatoes that we grudgingly subsist on over the long winter.
Over the past year, restaurant menus everywhere were featuring heirloom tomato salads, and I sampled my fair share.
I ran into an interesting clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee) formula in an old magazine in a box in the garage recently and almost dismissed it because there can be no better clafouti than Fresh Apricot Ginger Peasant Cake.
As you may recall from that post, clafouti, an earthy cake from the region of Limousin in France, is comprised of a layer of cake-custard, topped with a layer of juicy fruit. The result can be rather more like cake or rather more like custard, depending on the proportions in the batter.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting variations on the corn bread theme, especially when leaves turn glorious shades of russet and crimson and nights turn cool. I LOVE corn bread–especially Aunt Elfred’s Corn Bread, which is high, light, and tender, with the requisite depth of cornmeal flavor and aroma.
Whenever I see an interesting corn bread recipe, I don’t bother with the basic formula, as I’m confident that no corn bread formula (and I’ve tested a gazillion) is better than Aunt Elfred’s.
What I love most about this chowder is its golden yellow hue and full sweet taste of fresh corn just of the cob. Over many summers of fresh corn bounty, I have explored every way imaginable to obtain a more pronounced corn taste in my corn soups, and the method presented here is “numero uno” thus far.
It is also perhaps the easiest method, as it involves pureeing the corn kernels with stock before the cooking begins. Thus, there is no scalding, dripping soup to ladle into a processor. In addition, this method allows for both a puree of corn, corn kernels, and a variety of colorful, perfectly cooked diced vegetables, which really enliven the whole effect.
We are in love with full-meal salads in the OtherWorldly Kitchen, and I scramble every week to come up with a couple of new and memorable offerings. However, it’s challenging to make a salad an entire meal if seafood, poultry, or meat is not included.
Enter the indispensible log of mild goat cheese. It’s always on hand in my kitchen, because it lends itself to so many dishes. I wouldn’t want to be without it.