I just returned from a two week trip to Sicily with Daniel. It was great to get away, just the two of us. We walked, we ate, we walked some more. We looked at a lot of Greek and Roman ruins, absorbed the incredible history of Sicily, a country who welcomed many different cultures and managed to keep bits and pieces of all of them. Then we ate some more.
The seafood in Sicily is incredible if you stick with the local fish. There is an endless supply of swordfish, sea bass, scorpion fish and crustaceans. One of my favorite dishes is Spaghetti Alle vongole Veraci. Vongole Veraci are small Manila clams. They meat is more delicate and sweeter than other types of clams and the shells are small and beautifully colored with purple.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did, sitting at a table by the sea.
Three generous servings
- 2 lb Manila clams
- 3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 3T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 tsp dried red pepper
- 1 T butter
- 9oz dried spaghetti
- 1/4 cup minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
- Inspect clams and throw out any with broken shells. If they are open, tap on the shell. If it closes its alive and healthy, otherwise throw it out. Place clams in a bowl of cold, salty water to cover and let them sit 30 minutes in the refrigerator. After 30 minutes, remove the clams from the water and inspect to see if there’s any grit. If there is, rinse the bowl, put in the clams With fresh water and refrigerate another 30 minutes. Keep doing this until you don’t see any more grit.
- Sauté garlic in olive oil over a medium low heat until just turning gold. Add red pepper and wine and take off the flame.
- We Boil water for pasta and salt the water lightly since the clams are already salty
- Once the water starts to boil, add the pasta and cook about two minutes less than the instructions on the box suggest for al dente. It will cook more in the clam broth
- Bring the olive oil and wine to a boil over high heat. Drain the clams and put in the pot. I like to use a straight sided sauté pan with a lid, large enough so I have a single layer of clams. Cover and cook 30 seconds. Lift the cover and remove any clams that have opened. Place them in a bowl and recover for another 15 seconds. Lift out the clams that have opened. Continue like this until all the clams have opened. I do this so I don’t overcook the clams. Discard any shells that didn’t open.
- Set aside about 15 shells with, the meat attached. They’ll be used to garnish each plate. Remove the rest of the meat from the shells and place back in the sauté pan with the broth.
- Drain the pasta when it’s finished cooking and place in the pan with the clams and the broth. Add the butter and cook about a minute until the sauce has reduced a bit and everything is hot. Stir in parsley.
- Place pasta in plates, with any broth and garnish with the clam shells you set aside.
I’m really not a gadget person. I don’t have a lot of pots and pans or electronics. I’m not very technical. That being said, I do have a sous vide and I love it for steaks, chops that need to be tenderized, shrimp and lobster tails.
And now, curds. The texture of a curd made in a sous vide has a silky quality that is difficult if not impossible to achieve on a stove top. You do have to wait. It takes an hour to cook as opposed to 15-20 minutes in a heavy pot or a Bain Marie. I think the texture is worth the wait. The original recipe was on the Chef Steps website and was for a lemon curd which is just as amazing. I substituted Yuzu and I altered the way the ingredients are processed before being cooked. In my eyes, that gives me bragging rights.
You can fill little tarts with this curd, layer it between sponge cake, serve it with fresh fruit, make a pavlova or stand at the kitchen counter and eat it with a spoon.
The following recipe makes about six 3″ tarts or one 9″ tart
- 175 grams sugar
- 75 grams of first press Yuzu juice
- 75 grams Yakimi Orchard Yuzu puree
- 200 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled but still liquid
- 129 grams egg yolk (about 8)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon asorbic acid (you can usually get this wherever they sell preserving supplies)
- Set your sous vide circulator to 167 degrees
- Mix sugar, butter, salt, and asorbic acid together. Wisk into egg yolks
- Place mixture in a plastic zip lock bag and slowly lower the bag into the water with the top open until the water reaches the bottom of the ziplock mechanism. Be careful not to get water in the bag. Slowly zip up the bag and let it drop into the water.
- Cook for 60 minutes
- Empty contents of bag into a high sided bowl and use an immersion blender to mix the mixture for 1 minute. It will lighten in co,or and become homogeneous.
- Place curd in a container. Rap it on the counter a few times to get rid of any air bubbles or you can pulse a blow torch briefly across the top and that will do the same thing.
- Lay some plastic wrap right on top of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Chill a few hours until it’s cold and firm.
Use your favorite or try the one I have posted on this blog
2 mangos, preferably Champaigne Mangos, cubed small ( they should yield to slight pressure and the skin should be tight and smooth and yellow for the Champagne mangos)
tart glaze ( use the one I have on the blog or your favorite.
- Fill your tart/tartlettes with the curd leaving yourself 1/8″ rim. This allows the glaze somewhere to go other than down the sides of your crust. I like using a piping bag with an 808 tip or just cut the end off the bag.
- Place a perimeter of raspberries around the outer edge
- Fill the center of the raspberries with the cubes of mango
- Glaze lightly, making sure you cover the fruit as well as the cream. You can test the glaze by heating it u til it’s a liquid consistency and painting a spare raspberry with a brush dipped in glaze. If it pearls up or dries gloppy, thin your glaze with water. You want the glaze to just stick to the fruit.
for the 9″ tart, I used one pint of Strawberries and about three Champagne mangos. Cut the mango off the center seed, lengthwise in two cheek. Then, peel off the skin with a very sharp paring knife. Next, cut each half lengthwise in very thin slices. The thinner the slices, the more flexible they will be and the more rose like. The rest you can infer from the picture.
Cauliflower purée can work as a lovely backdrop for other flavors, in this case grilled shrimp. It’s low in carbs and won’t get sticky like potatoes.
- 1.5 lb shelled, deveined raw shrimp
- 1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons dried currants soaked in lemon juice
- 1/2 cup Italian flat leaf Parsley
- 2 tablespoons of tarragon leaves
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Sea Salt and pepper
- 8 oz cauliflower rice (this is simply raw cauliflower that has been cut into rice sized pieces for convenience. You could certainly chop up a whole cauliflower)
- Marinate Shrimp: Mince 6 cloves garlic. Toss shrimp with the minced garlic and 1/4 cup olive oil, ground black pepper and a few pinches of salt. Marinate for at least an hour.
- Make Herb Dressing: place the two remaining cloves of garlic, parsley leaves, tarragon and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a food processor and blend until you have a bright green purée. Season with salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste. Remove purée to a bowl.
- Make Cauliflower Purée: microwave cauliflower rice about 5 minutes until tender. Place cooked cauliflower in a clean food processor bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Purée until smooth. Season with salt, white pepper and lemon juice. You’ll have to reheat this when you’re ready to plate. I like to use the microwave to reheat the purée
- Grill Shrimp: heat grill to high and place shrimp on grill. Almost as soon as you’ve laid out your shrimp, it’s time to start turning over the first ones to brown on the other side. Warm the dressing in the microwave and toss the shrimp in the dressing until lightly coated.
- Plate Shrimp: place about 1/3 cup of warm cauliflower purée in the center of each plate. Pile about 5 shrimp in the center of the purée. Scatter each plate with pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and currants.
This dish could easily be done with puréed fennel instead of cauliflower. In that event, I’d slice the fennel really thin and cook it gently in a covered sauté pan with a few tablespoons of water until tender. Purée it and add olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice and a little Pastis to taste. Omit the tarragon in the herb dressing.
One lovely rainy day I found myself quite alone with nothing to do. I decided to drive downtown to see how Restoration Hardware had renovated the Three Arts Club where they are currently residing. It’s a beautiful old building and RH had managed to turn it into a retail space while respecting the buildings grace and age.
After wandering around for a while I took myself to lunch on the main floor where RH had created a restaurant housed in a beautiful courtyard with a fountain. I had this very nice salad, which combined things that I love in a creamy, crunchy, sweet and salty combination. I didn’t bother asking for the recipe. It’s elegant in its simplicity.
- 1lb multi colored baby carrots (purple, white, orange)
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered coriander
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 6 oz container whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint
- One lemon
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Mash salt, garlic, black pepper, ground coriander and cumin seeds into a paste. Add olive oil to the paste
- Coat carrots with paste and cook until tender. Cooking time varies depending of the thickness of the carrots, between 20-30 minutes.
- Mix cardamom, honey and about a teaspoon of lemon juice into the yogurt. Adjust seasonings to your preference.
- Place yogurt on a platter and place the carrots on top.
- Scatter pistachios, chopped mint and sliced dates over the carrots and around the platter.
I love curds: lemon, lime, grapefruit and passion fruit all make great curds because they are sour. I recently came across cranberry curd tart recipes in The New York Times and the magazine ” Bake”. There are some differences in both those recipes and I also made some changes. the biggest difference is that I add the butter last, after the curd has cooled down a bit. This improves the texture of the cream.
This is a nice curd to do around the holidays. Both pomegranates and cranberries are in the stores fresh, from November-December which makes it a nice seasonal dessert.
CRANBERRY AND POMEGRANATE TARTS
- 8 fully baked Pate Sucree 4″ tart shells or one 9″ tart shell ( see recipe on another page of my blog
- 340 grams (12 oz ) fresh cranberries
- 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
- Zest of one large naval orange
- Juice of one large naval orange and enough lemon juice to make up a 124 grams (1/2 cup) of liquid.
- 114 grams (2 large) eggs
- 36 grams (2) large egg yolks
- 113 grams (1/2 cup ) unsalted butter cut in to 16 pieces
- Rub the sugar and orange zest between your fingers to release the orange oil.
- Combine sugar, zest, orange juice, and cranberries in a 1 quart sauce pan and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer cranberries for between 5 and 8 minutes u til most of the cranberries have popped and released their liquid. Be careful not to overcook.
- Run cranberries through a food mill with the finest disc. Discard the skins that won’t push through.
- Crack eggs and combine the whole eggs and yolks, wisking until homogenous.
- Temper eggs with some of the hot cranberry mixture and combine the rest of the cranberries and eggs.
- Place cranberry/egg mixture in a clean 1 quart sauce pan and cook over low to medium heat depending on your comfort level, wisking constantly. I like to use medium heat because I’m impatient but I always have a an immersion blender and a cold, wet towel folded on the counter near the stove. If it looks like it’s going to curdle I remove the pan from the heat and place it on the cold towel and whisk like crazy or use the immersion blender to smooth out the mixture.
- Wisk until thickened. The mixture should reach about 170 degrees and your wisk should leave tracks in the curd.
- Run curd through a fine meshed sieve and let cool to about 140 F.
- Using an immersion blender, blend butter in to curd, 4 pieces at a time. Once butter is incorporated blend another 3 minutes. This aerates the cream and makes it light and smooth. It also lightens the color so if you want a deeper color, just wisk the butter in gently.
- Pour curd into pre baked tart shell and smooth it with an offset spatula.
- Now, you have the option of popping the filled tart into a 350 F degree oven for about 8 minutes to set the curd and make it easier to slice. I wouldn’t bother doing this with the small tarts but for a large tart that you have to cut into individual pieces, there’s an argument for baking. It does change the texture of the curd a bit, losing some of that unctuous creaminess. This curd is fairly stiff so you will be able to slice it without baking it, but if you need super clean edges, setting the curd in the oven is the way to go. If you bake it, let it cool before you put the pomegranate seeds on it.
- Decoratively place some pomegranate seeds around the perimeter of the tart and chill until service.
- To plate this, you could serve it with a dollop of whipped cream on the side, or you could buy extra cranberries, make a coulis and use the coulis do some decorative smears on the plate. For the coulis, I would buy extra cranberries and repeat the first three steps of this recipe, however, instead of running the mixture through a food mill and pushing it through a sieve, I would place the mixture in a medium sieve and let the juices drip through, pushing gently on the cranberries. The goal is to get a pretty clear juice, not a purée.
I am revisiting this recipe having just done a lemon curd and then a Yuzu curd sous vide. I’ll be trying this curd as well, or, if anyone tries it before me let me know how it works. I would make the following changes: once you’ve extracted the cranberry juice, let it cool to room temp and mix it with the egg yolks and whole eggs and butter that has been melted and cooled to room temp. Place all in a ziplock bag and proceed as per the instructions for the Yuzu curd on my blog.
If this doesn’t work, I’d replace the whole eggs with 4 yolks in addition to the two yolks already called for in this recipe.
This is quite a lovely recipe a version, of which was originally printed in The NY Times with the title “Plum Torte” and is deserving of all its devoted followers. It’s very like a cake my Sicilian grandmother used to make with apples. I made it last week and again this week. I’m obsessed! Fortunately, the season for Stanley plums, commonly known as Italian prune plums is coming to an end.
The NY Times recipe has a few versions, published at varying times. Depending on the publication, the cinnamon varies between 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon. The sugar varies between 1cup and 3/4 cup. I think 3/4 cup of sugar is plenty sweet and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon is likewise enough. The recipe doesn’t call for any flavoring in the cake, just cinnamon sugar on top. I love a combination of cinnamon, star anise and vanilla for plums and often make plum preserves with these flavors. So I added a bit of vanilla to the batter and added some star anise to the cinnamon and sugar that’s sprinkled on top. I also changed the granulated sugar to sanding sugar for the top as I like a bigger crunch.
The original recipe also gives you a choice of baking in an 8″, 9″ or 9″ springform pan. I think 10″ would be too big because the resulting cake would be very flat and 8″ too small because there wouldn’t be enough of the crusty top or enough plums. 9″ is just right. The original recipe calls for unbleached AP flour but I prefer bleached for cakes. It gives a more tender crumb. Finally, the NYT recipe doesn’t call for any salt. I salt everything so I added a pinch.
- 150 grams (3/4 cup) superfine granulated white sugar
- 114 grams, 4 oz unsalted butter, softened
- 125 grams (1 cup)bleached AP flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 12 italian plums (Stanley), halved and pitted (24 halves)
- Pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground star anise
- 3 tablespoons of sanding sugar or granulated for sprinkling on top.
- 1/2 a small lemon (this yields roughly 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Wisk together the 3 tablespoons of sugar and the spices
- Line the bottom of a 9″ Springform pan with a round of parchment. If it’s nonstick, you needn’t grease the sides otherwise grease and flour the sides of the pan.
- Cream the sugar and butter until light and silky
- Add in eggs, one at a time, reading until light and fluffy
- Wisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Sift over top of batter and beat gently to combine.
- Spoon batter into your greased springform pan, leveling the top with an off set spatula.
- Place plum halves on top of the batter with the skin-side up.
- Squeeze some lemon juice over the top
- Sprinkle with the spiced sugar.Bake for about an hour, until the top is brown and a toothpick come out clean. I have some more ideas for this cake and for me this is the most interesting part of cooking and baking: using a tried and true recipe as a jumping off point for more exploration. Let me know if you try them:
- Put the spices and vanilla in the cake and sprinkle the top with lemon sugar ( rub grated lemon rind in the sugar) It will be prettier than using cinnamon in the sugar you sprinkle.
- Use some almond extract in the batter instead of vanilla. Substitute almond flour for some of the AP flour. This would be good with plums, peaches and apricots. You’d have to play with this. Almond flour will give the cake less structure and is less absorbent than AP flour. It might result in a denser, more buttery cake.
- Walnuts are also great with plums. Use some ground walnuts in the batter and substitute some walnut oil for the butter. It won’t be a 1-1 ratio. Butter has some water and oil does not. I would suggest using about 2 tablespoons of oil and cutting back the butter to 5 tablespoons. Same caveats as above with substituting almond flour.
- This cake might work well with apricots as well although apricots are dryer than plums. I’d try poaching them in a soaking syrup with lemon rind and juice just until they soften a bit, then drain them and use the partially cooked apricots. I’d put ginger or almond oil or both in the batter.
- Sour cherries might be good but you would probably need a bit more sugar on top. Also, cherries are very juicy and for opposite reasons than the apricot, one might need to roast them in the oven for about five minutes and drain them so as to eliminate some of the juice.