December 30, 2004
cyprus sorbet
cypressweb.jpgThis is a versatile sorbet - it's not very sweet, and the champagne lends festivity to any dinner party. I served it as a palate cleanser between courses at the L-cubed tapas dinner, and offered it for dessert at Thanksgiving this year. It's simple to make, and the alcohol content prevents it from turning into a solid sorbet-cube in the freezer. Perhaps add scoop at the bottom of your champagne at midnight on New Year's Eve?

Definitely tailor this to the size of your ice cream maker or cake pan.

1 part grapefruit juice (The fresher, more organic, and tastier, the better. I often use Odwalla's to good effect.)
1 part decent champagne (I generally use a basic Domaine Chandon - either the Brut Classic or the Blanc de Noirs.)
A shot or two of Campari

Combine grapefruit juice and champagne. Add it to your ice cream maker, and start it running. Start dropping in Campari - this will add a little depth, and turn the sorbet a brilliant pink color. You want at least a generous shot for each 3-4 cups of grapefruit-champagne mixer. Freeze according to instructions.

I have a basic Cuisinart freezer-bowl model; I use 2 cups of champagne + 2 cups of grapefruit juice, and a shot and a half of Campari.

You could also make a granita with this recipe - Put the mix of all three ingredients in a glass cake pan, and stick it in the freezer. Every half-hour or so, break up the ice crystals with a fork, and continue freezing until you have a fluffy, snowcone-like texture.

Posted by shock on December 30, 2004
December 29, 2004
Food Blog Voting

Just a quick post to remind you that voting for a variety of food blog awards is going on right now over at The Accidental Hedonist. Voting closes on the 31st of December, at midnight.

Want to jump straight to the "best group blog"? Here you go. (We're still incredibly flattered to be listed there.)

Posted by shock on December 29, 2004
December 21, 2004
Guinness-Ginger Spice Cake

I've made this cake a few times, sometimes adding in chocolate, sometimes running the recipe as printed in Claudia Fleming's The Last Course. Most recently, I served it as finger food at our tree-trimming party . Interestingly, it's so rich that even when there's no chocolate, everyone is sure there's some in there! I like to serve it with an apricot glaze; the book also recommends a ginger ice cream, which I think would also be spectacular.

In most gingerbread recipes, the molassess is cooked off with water or coffee. As Claudia Fleming points out, the most interesting thing about this recipe is that Guinness Stout replaces the water or coffee.

You can definitely play around with the spice levels in this cake - it's pretty forgiving. I definitely reccommend that you keep the fresh ginger for an extra zing. She calls for a loaf pan in her recipe; I usually bake this in a 9" round cake pan. If you want it to have a bit of chocolate, replace a half cup of the flour with dutch-process cocoa powder.

For my apricot glaze - beat equal parts powdered sugar and apricot butter in a mixer until it's the consistency of slow honey & tastes sweet and tart. (If you want to store extras, keep it in the fridge and warm gently over low heat before glazing your cake.) For a big party, it slices into bite-sized cubes nicely.

1 cup Guinness Stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 tbsp baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 c firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil (I've used peanut oil to good effect, too.)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 tbsp grated, peeled fresh gingerroot

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter your pan. Line the bottom with parchment, and grease the parchment. Flour the pan. Alternately, butter & flour a 6-cup Bundt pan.

2. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the stout and molasses and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the baking soda. Allow to sit until the foam dissipates.

3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the eggs and both sugars. Whisk in the oil.

4. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg & cardamom.

5. Combine the stout mixture with the egg mixture, then whisk this liquid into the flour mixture, half at a time. Add the fresh ginger and stir to combine.

6. Pour the batter into the laof pan and bake for 1 hour, or until the top springs back when gently pressed. Do not open the oven until the gingerbread is almost done or the center may fall slightly. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Posted by shock on December 21, 2004
December 18, 2004
Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

I have a new favorite foodie show: Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America. The premise of the show is simple. Gordon Ramsay - a chef as famous for his short temper and vocabulary that would make a longshoreman blush as his culinary prowess - takes on the challenge of turning around a different floundering restaurant every week. Gordon sweeps in, examines the restaurant from top to bottom, critiques the food, frightens the employees, picks on the owners, revamps the menus, and of course proves that all the abuse-flavored advice was worth it when by the end of the week the restaurant seems to be on the mend. A month later, Gordon returns unannounced to check up on the restaurant's progress.

I loved this show. You can hate Gordon all you want - and believe me, there are no end of reasons to dislike his cocky personality and inexcusable rudeness - but you have to admire his passion not only for good food, but his deep understanding of all the delicate balances that need to be struck in the kitchen in order to marry the art and the science of building a dish, a meal, a menu, an atmosphere, and how every piece contributes to a satisfying restaurant experience. It's a wonderful peek into the inner workings of a dysfunctional scenario, and how much or little effort it takes to right all the wrongs to make a kitchen - and by extention, a restaurant - shine. New episodes Tuesday 9pm, on BBC America.

Posted by rebecca on December 18, 2004
December 13, 2004
green-garlic orzo with roasted cauliflower

cauliweb.jpgLate Saturday night, Lisa and I were talking about the effects of our recent drastic increases in consumption of rich & yummy food. I love the decadence people allow themselves through the holidays, but I certainly can't eat that way every night. This is the sort of thing I make at the end of a long weekend of holiday eating to recover. (Sunday, in fact.) I think the simple orzo really picks up the delicate flavor of the green garlic, and the salty proscuitto is a nice contrast to the roasted cauliflower.

Serves 2.

1 small head cauliflower
6 stalks green garlic.
3/4 cup orzo pasta
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
stock (chicken, veggie, your choice.)
a bit of white wine
1/4 cup of shredded or diced hard, nutty cheese (I used capricious)
2 Tbsp pine nuts
4 slices proscuitto
salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Divide the cauliflower into florets (diameter size - something like a quarter). Toss them with the olive oil, salt & pepper, and put them in a dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Break up the teaspoon of butter, and dot the top of the cauliflower. Roast at 400F for about 25 minutes, or until the cauliflower has lost its bite and is golden brown on the tops and edges. You can toss it once in the middle if you like extra crispy edges.

Slice the green garlic into thin rounds. Put it in a small pot with a pat of butter (around a tablespoon) and a splash of water. Add a pinch of salt. Turn to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 8 minutes. You want the green garlic to stew into a melty mass, but not caramelize.

Toast the pinenuts for about 5 minutes in the oven, alongside the cauliflower.

When the garlic is soft, add the orzo. Stir to coat with butter, and then add a half a cup of wine (I used a bottle of champagne that was open) and a half a cup of stock. Add stock until the orzo is covered with about a half-inch of liquid. Raise heat, bring to a simmer, and return to medium heat. Cook until orzo is tender, adding stock and wine as necessary to keep the orzo wet. Stir occasionally, but gently. Add salt & freshly ground pepper to taste. If the cauliflower isn't ready yet, cover the orzo and reserve a bit of stock to moisten the pasta when you serve it. Just before serving, remoisten the pasta, and stir in the cheese.

To plate: place the pasta in the bottom of the bowl. Heap cauliflower on top. Tear the slices of proscuitto into ribbons; add them to the bowl. Sprinkle a few pine nuts over the top, and grind a bit of extra pepper over the whole thing.

Posted by shock on December 13, 2004
December 10, 2004
food blog awards

The Accidental Hedonist has noticed a startling lack of food blog categories in this year's Bloggies... so Kate's thrown open the doors and is running one just for us food bloggers. Neat! Nominations are open until the 19th of this month, and then voting will likely commence. You can place your nominations here.

I was startled and touched to see that Gastronome had been noticed and mentioned in the group blog and recipe categories. Thanks, Tara!

Posted by shock on December 10, 2004
December 09, 2004
turkey noodle soup

Everyone seems to have leftover-Thanksgiving-traditions - and this is the one I grew up with. Sure, there were sandwiches, and reheated stuffing - but turkey noodle soup is the leftover I dreamed about. I remember roasting a turkey my freshman year in college for fun with a few friends, and being most excited about the prospect of next-day soup. This recipe's for Robert, who helped us eat some of this year's bounty.

Much like the danger tart, this recipe is more method than precision. It's key to be flexible when you're cooking. Remember, you usually do this when you're still exhausted from The Big Meal. It should take around 45 minutes, start to finish.

First things first: When you're done carving the turkey and you're washing up dishes, make some turkey stock. Get the stuff out of the cavity of the bird, get rid of any seriously burnt-up edges, and make a basic poultry stock. Strain, defat, and store for your soup - or make the soup on the spot!

If your stock is chilled, ladle it into a pot and get it heating. A little bit of reduction will only make it richer, so go ahead and turn up the heat. If you are the sort who likes onions (or still has some sliced leeks lying around from mise-en-place, by all means start by cooking them in a little olive oil, and then add the stock when they're caramelized.)

Noodle things next: You'll be making rough-cut, rustic, hand-rolled egg noodles. I grew up using this recipe, which isn't that different than the one I use now. Sometimes I throw in freshly ground pepper or chopped herbs or dried herbs with the flour. Sometimes I just leave them plain.

Root around in the crisper or your herb garden. Any variety of fresh herbs around? Wash 'em, pluck 'em, chop 'em, and set them aside while your pasta dough is resting and your stock is boiling. If you have any celery, you can dice that into small pieces.

Pull off a raquetball-sized hunk of dough. Roll it out to around a quarter-inch thick. Slice it into diamondey shaped noodles, around 2 inches long and 3/4 of an inch wide. Brush off most of the flour, and throw them into the boiling stock. as you're done slicing them. (I like to use a pizza cutter to slice my noodles.) Irregularity of noodles is part of the charm. Keep rolling out and slicing noodles, adding them to your soup as you go. The bit of flour that comes along for the ride will thicken the soup just a tad. If you had some celery, throw it in with your first batch of noodles.

After you add the final batch of noodles, let them cook at a simmer for 5-7 minutes. Taste a noodle around minute four. Pick a thick one. If it's still white and pasty in the middle, give it a little longer. When done, your noodles will be a uniform beige when you bite through them, but still have a chewey (not pasty!) mouthfeel. When the noodles are done, toss in any fresh herbs you've preapred. If you have any roasted garlic around, stir in a spoonful.

Ladle your soup into bowls, top with a freshly grated nutty hard cheese (we like parmigian) and a generous grind of black pepper. If you must add something green, I recommend another salad.

Welcome to a Blink (and Borogove!) family tradition.

Posted by shock on December 09, 2004
December 03, 2004
pink-lady & cranberry crumble

This apple & cranberry crumble I served at Thanksgiving 2004 was intended to be Patrick Farley's crumble - but I couldn't leave well enough alone & changed it all about. This recipe is wheat-free & smelled just heavenly while it was baking. It almost didn't make it down to the dessert-holding room on Thursday; William and I were ready to devour it on the spot when we took it out of the oven.

8 medium pink lady apples (or other low-juice good-for-baking-apple)
8-12 oz frresh cranberries
1/2 cup calvados
3-6 Tbsp sugar (taste an apple and a cranberry, and sugar to taste.)
1 Tbsp corn starch

1/2 - 3/4 cup butter, cold & cut into pieces
3/4 cup oat bran
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
a bit of cinnamon

Oven at 375F.
Peel and cut the apples into chunks. Toss 'em in a mixing bowl. Add the cranberries, sugar, calvados, and cornstarch. Toss well to mix. I baked mine in a big souffle dish. The apples will sink when you cook them, so you want enough filling that the dish is a bit overfull.

Put 1/2 cup of the butter, the oat bran, sugar, walnuts and cinnamon into a food processor. Pulse to combine and grind the walnuts. The mixture should look like wet sand rising through the food processor. If it's too clumped, add more oat bran and walnuts. If it's too dry, add more butter.

Press the topping into the top of the crumble. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm, with ice cream.

Posted by shock on December 03, 2004