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)
I love curds: lemon, lime, grapefruit and passion fruit all make great curds because they are sour fruits. 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.
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
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 variety), halved and pitted (24 halves)
Pinch of salt (1/8 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon Ceylon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground star anise
3 tablespoons of sanding sugar or granulated for sprinkling on top.
The first time I ate Artichoke a La Barigoule I was in Chartres visiting a friend and it was she who made it for me.
Sandra was a wonderful cook but definitely ” a pinch of this” and “a handful of that” kind of femme. I have acquired many recipes from her, for example, courgettes stuffed with cheese and Neapolitan style tomato sauce but it always entails watching her cook and rapidly writing everything down because Sandra has everything in her head and she moves fast.
Sadly, I didn’t watch Sandra prepare this dish. How was I to know that I should have been taking notes instead of chatting over a glass of wine? So, after my usual perusal of recipes on the internet and my memories of Sandra’s dish, I came up with a recipe I can share with you. It’s equally good the next day at room temperature. Please picture yourself in a house built of round stones, mortared into a two story cottage. You are seated at a rustic oak table, with your feet on a cool flagstone floor and an oak fire throwing heat into the room. It is September and the fields outside the window are golden. A subtle perfume enters the dining area from bouquets of lavender and thyme that Sandra has bundled and hung from the ceiling. Your plate of Artichoke Barigoule sits in a shallow bowl in front of you with some crusty bread and a glass of the wine you used to braise the artichokes.
Marie-Paule is a minimalist. She uses high quality ingredients and just a few at a time. This recipe is a classic example. It is comprised of zucchini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I threw in the tomatoes for color and a bit of parsley for something fresh but neither are necessary. You could use mint as well. I love mint and zucchini.
The quality of the zucchini you use is important. It should be as fresh as possible and firm. I prefer smaller ones as they cook more evenly. The salt and pepper is also important. I like Tellicherry pepper from India. I find it extremely aromatic and a bit spiced. You can play with the sea salt. I like sea salt from the Camargue but you could use another sea salt or perhaps a volcanic salt from Hawaii. You can play with the kind of olive oil but I would recommend extra virgin.
1 lb Zucchini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I like Badia a Coltibuono)
Ruth is a longtime family friend and contemporary of my mother. Ruth contends that she can’t cook. In fact, the things I’ve eaten at her house have always been wonderful. Her mushroom/barley soup is rich and hearty, almost like a stew. Ruth will tell you it’s Minna’s recipe (her ancient housekeeper) and perhaps it was at some point but I had Minnas soup and she never used wild mushrooms, which I think are key to the recipe. Ruth uses dried mushrooms but I like to use fresh ones. I make vats of the soup around Thanksgiving when the grocery stores bring in loads of fresh Chanterelle, Royal Trumpet, Enoki and other mushrooms that are hard to find during the year. Once cooked I package it up and put it in my freezer to nourish us during the desolate winter months.
3 lb piece of chuck roast, trimmed
1 pound short cut carrot or carrots peeled and trimmed to 2″pieces
2 pints of white mushrooms and two pints of exotics: Chanterelle, Royal Trumpet, Baby Bella, Crimini, enoki etc
2 cups sliced yellow onions
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons of beef base ( I like Better than Bouillon) diluted in 4 cups of water or two beef bouillon cubes or 4 cups beef stock
My Sicilian grandmother didn’t know from Thanksgiving, but she was a great cook and her cranberry relish is the best I’ve ever tasted. It is sweet, sour, crunchy and fresh. It’s a welcome counterpoint to all the heavy Thanksgiving foods: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes etc.
There were no food processors back in the day so she used her cast iron, hand cranked meat grinder and sausage maker to grind the cranberries. Now that my grandmother has passed away, I am asked to bring the relish to every Thanksgiving dinner and it is my pleasure and my honor.
My husband and I love to travel and one of our favorite places is Italy. One year we had the good fortune to stay with a friend of my mother in law in Volterra, famous for its alabaster. Ido graciously lent us his home and moved in with his daughter for the week.
Ido’s home was set in the Tuscan hill side amid peach and olive trees, grape vines and an assortment of vegetables. The house was rustic with terra-cotta colored plaster walls and tile floors. I distinctly remember chasing spiders out of the shower. All the beds in the house were cast iron with metal springs. The dining room table was composed of several planks of wood pegged and doweled together and it was surrounded by tippy little chairs with rush seats. However, we rarely ate in the dining room. There was a little patio on the East side of the house where we took our breakfast and in the evening we went to the patio on the West side of the house and had dinner, watching the sun set and eating Edo’s fresh peaches, soaked in his home made Chianti with a little sugar and lemon juice.
Every day Ido would drop buy bearing a small gift: some potatoes he’d just dug up, those amazing peaches with skin so thin and crisp and flesh so sweet and juicy that it was like biting into a Creme Brûlée with the crack of the sugar and then the unctuous silky cream. Ido made his own wine, olive oil and peach preserves. The peach preserves were lovely and had a distinctive flavor I had not tasted before. I sat him down one day and asked him to reveal the secret of the preserves. “Well”, he said. “I macerate the peaches in sugar and lemon juice overnight. Then I put everything in a big pot and boil it until it thickens. Unfortunately, I’m usually doing several things at the same time and it usually burns. But, I just scrape it up and put it in jars”. So, what was the secret of Ido’s peach preserves? He burnt it and what I was tasting was caramelized sugar.
Ido spoke a bit of French but often mixed it with Italian, creating new words and phrases. For example, he would often say” Va bien” in response to our query, “ How are you”. In Italian one would respond “ Va bene ” and in French one would respond “ Ca va bien”, thus Ido created the new phrase “ Va bien” which we still use with great affection when we speak of him and the enchanted week we spent in his home.
The recipe I’m going to give you is not from Ido, but it is from Lucca, not to far from Volterra and certainly in the style of Ido: excellent ingredients prepared simply. Dinner was served in the garden of a farmhouse which was up a winding rode in the hills of Tuscany. I remember two items from the meal. One was an appetizer of thinly sliced pieces of Lardo. The other a lovely carpaccio of beef. I had never seen carpaccio of beef done with anything other than raw meat so I was happy to see that this was cooked, rare but not mooing.
1 lb Eye of round roasted rare and sliced paper thin
This is my go to candied fruit recipe for pieces of fruit. For whole fruits, like small tangerines or small Forelle pears, I use a longer process that does not entail simmering the fruit. The spices in this recipe can be changed or omitted.
Caramelized nuts are a staple, in my opinion. They can be used in pastry applications and also in salads. They’re easy to make either with a dry caramelization method or a syrup. I love the ease of just throwing a bunch of sugar in a pan and caramelizing it but for the nuts, I’ve had more success with using the method below. For some reason, I seem to get a smoother coating over the nuts. The ones in the picture I did with the dry pan method. As you can see they’re a bit gloppy although still delicious.