Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Cultural Day in Paris

No day in Paris is complete without just a little culture. Being a Wednesday, with free entrance to the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, we headed to see the Annie Leibovitz exhibit, A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005. Nothing compares to being able to see the real thing up close and personal. The museum was a little crowded and warm, as we all cozied in to see the portraits of inner selves exposed in black and white. After about an hour or so of looking and stair climbing, our appetites started calling our name. A favorite restaurant l'Epouvantail, was next on the agenda. Fortunately it was close by in the Marais area of Paris, as visions of four course meals danced in our heads. The new owner, Dominick, couldn't be more gracious as he explains the menu. An Amuse Bouche of squash soup arrived immediately as we pondered the wine list and reflected on the powerful photography of Annie Leibovitz. My appetizer salad of haricots verte and snow peas crowned by fresh goat cheese quickly arrived. Next I chose the duck breast resting in a perfectly sweetened sauce accompanied by Potato Dauphinois and salad greens. As conversation flowed we looked out the window and saw the fire breather performing on the square. At that time, I knew I must have the molten chocolate cake. It was served with crème anglaise and French (what else?) vanilla ice cream. It had it's own kind of fire. We must have made the dishwasher happy that evening as all of our plates were returned clean and empty.
The following recipes of Potato Dauphinois and Molten Chocolate cake come from sources used when one needs "just a little bit of Paris" in life back on the other side of the pond.

Joel Robuchon's Gratin Daphinois
adapted from Patricia Wells At Home In Provence, by Patricia Wells

2 cups (50cl) whole milk
1 cup (25cl) heavy cream
4 oz. (125 g) freshly grated Swiss Gruyere cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 large garlic clove , peeled and halved
2 lbs. (1kg) firm fleshed potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
3 TBSP (1 1/2 oz or 45 g) butter
Prepare a shallow 2 quart (2-liter) gratin dish, by thoroughly rubbing with the garlic halves. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (190 c).
In a large saucepan, bring the milk to boil over medium heat. Add the cream and 3/4 of the cheese, stirring to blend. Season with salt, pepper and a grating of the nutmeg. Add the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat, stirring often until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Transfer the potatoes and their liquid to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and butter.
Place in the center of the oven and bake until the potatoes are cooked through and the top is crisp and golden, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
Four to six servings

Chocolate Molten Baby Cakes
adapted from How to Be A Domestic Goddess, by Nigella Lawson

1/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for buttering cups
12 ounces best quality bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour
8 4 ounce (or 6, 6 ounce) custard cups, buttered
baking parchment paper
You can make these a few hours in advance. Be sure to refrigerate them until you are ready to bake and serve. Bake them only when you are ready to eat them. Don't overcook as you will lose the pudding in the center.
1. Put a baking sheet in the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Fold a piece of parchment paper 4 times. Set a custard cup on it and trace the bottom. Cut out the 8 circles and butter them. Place them in the bottom of the cups.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter and let cool a bit. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to combine and add the flour. Blend ino a smooth batter.
4. Divide batter evenly between the cups and quickly place on the hot baking sheet in the oven.. Bake for 10 minutes (12 minutes if the batter is cold). After baking take out of oven, and if needed, run a knife around the edge to loosen. Tip them out onto individual serving plates. Top with lightly whipped cream and berries.
The traditional French way of serving is surrounded by creme anglaise.

Creme Anglaise
adapted from The French Chef Cookbook, by Julia Child

3 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups hot milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Optional: 1 TBSP rum
1 TBSP butter
In a 1 1/2 quart stainless steel saucepan, whisk egg yolks until thick, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the sugar, then beat in the milk by droplets. Stir over moderately low heat with a wooden spoon until sauce thickens enough to coat the spoon. Do not let sauce come near the simmer or the egg yolks will curdle. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and then the optional rum and butter, if desired. Serve warm or cool.
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Written and photographed by Diane

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Turkish Delight

When we have children we naively think we will be the teachers. Of course, most of the time we are. If we pay enough attention, we become the students. My most recent lesson has been on the confection, Turkish Delight. My son, a history buff who is partial to sweets, became intrigued by the treats. On my trips abroad I soon became the currier for these sweet and starchy cubes. They have a jelly consistency, and come in several flavors. Lemon, orange and pistachio are the more common flavors for the American palate. The traditional yet more exotic flavor is rosewater. It takes some acclimating since the floral essence is mainly used in scents. Originally called Lokum, it was introduced to the west in the 19th century. A Briton became very fond of the delicacy during his travels to Istanbul, and purchased cases of it, to be shipped back to Britain under the name Turkish Delight. It became a major delicacy not only in Britain, but throughout continental Europe. If you have read C. S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", you may be familiar with this sweet. My son researched to find that the Mosquee de Paris, in Paris, France presumably had the best. Guess what my next mission was. In the meantime, he undertook making his own version from a recipe found online. With his laptop propped on the kitchen counter, he measured and stirred and boiled until he came up with a delicious rosewater Turkish Delight. His sister commented that the kitchen smelled like Grandma's house and his dad thought they tasted like aftershave, but remember, the palate has to acclimate to this exotic taste. If you care to try making your own, follow this recipe with help from the online video while humming a few lines from the song "Istanbul, (Not Constantinople)".
After my trek to the Mosquee de Paris, my son had already left for college. A special surprise package was shipped off to him so he could have a little bit of Istanbul in Rochester, New York. I felt his smile all the way back home.

Turkish Delight

recipe adapted from Natasha Levitan for food
For this recipe, you will need:
  • 4 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 tbsp rose water
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • vegetable oil for greasing
  • candy thermometer

Make the Turkish Delight Sugar Syrup

In a medium saucepan, combine lemon juice, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups of water. Turn the heat on medium. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. When the mixture boils, turn the heat to low.

Insert the candy thermometer into your sauce pan. Allow the mixture to simmer until the temperature reaches 240 degrees on thermometer. Turn the heat off and set aside.

Make the Jelly Base

In a small saucepan, combine cream of tartar, 1 cup of cornstarch, and water. Turn the heat on medium. Continuously stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the lumps are dissolved and the mixture begins to boil. When the mixture achieves a glue-like consistency, stop stirring.

Add in the rose water, water and sugar mixture from the medium pan and stir for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 1 hour. Stir the mixture frequently so it doesn't burn the bottom of the pan. When the mixture becomes a golden color, add in rosewater and stir until everything is combined.

Pour the Turkish Delight Into a Loaf Size Mold

Oil the sides and the bottom of your container. Pour your mixture into the container and spread it evenly. Place it into refrigerator and allow to cool overnight.

Serve or Store the Turkish Delight

Take out the mold out of the refrigerator and free it from the mold. Cut it into 1 inch pieces. Place them into a bowl of confectioners sugar, remaining 1/4 cup of corn starch and thoroughly coat them.

You can store your Turkish Delight in an airtight container, separated in layers by wax or parchment paper. Turkish Delight makes a sweet addition to your tea or coffee time.
To follow Natasha Levitan's video click on:

Written and photographed by Diane

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bountiful Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

For that extra bounty of summers tomatoes, try slow roasting them in the oven. These are delicious with pasta or risotto, as a pizza topping or with fresh mozzarella and basil.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

4 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP fresh thyme, chopped
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp sugar (to promote caramelizing)
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Toss halved tomatoes in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and spread in an even layer on the baking sheet.

3. Roast 30 minutes at 325 degrees and then raise the temperature to 375 degrees and roast 10 more minutes. They should caramelize without charring, so adjust time accordingly. To finish, turn off oven and leave in for 10 minutes. Take out of oven, salt to taste and cool to room temperature. They may be used immediately or refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Written and photographed by Diane

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