olive oil and vanilla pots de crème

olive oil and lemon pots de creme

I was going to call this post Little Vanilla Custards, but due to a frisson brought on by the food media I’ve been indulging in lately, I had to change course a bit. It started with the food-celebrity crush I have on Rachel Khoo. Have you seen her show Little Paris Kitchen?

My almost-sixteen year old daughter and I were having some girl time; lazing around on a Sunday afternoon and finally getting caught up on episodes of the show I’d recorded a while back on The Cooking Channel.

“Oh! Look how cute she is, mom! Can I have bangs like that, and red lipstick, and pouty lips, and that little apartment in Paris? And can I draw those fun pictures with watercolors and talk with her accent?” I won’t lie; part of me knew exactly how she felt.

The word “darling” makes rare appearances in my vocabulary, but that’s the one that describes Rachel Khoo and her adventures cooking on two gas rings, in a charming old Paris kitchen hardly bigger than a pack of Gauloises.

olive oil and vanilla pots de creme

I just got The Little Paris Kitchen cookbook in the mail. There’s no recipe for little vanilla custards - pots de creme en Francais – in there, but that’s what came to mind while I flipped through it. The book is as appealing as the show, and I’m sure it will inspire more little French food for me to cook. Rachel trained in patisserie so there’s lots of sweet, simple recipes in the dessert chapter.

The other twist in today’s recipe story comes from Nigella. I’ve also managed to acquire her new book Nigelissima, and I really like it. I believe Nigella when she says “It was when I was sixteen or seventeen that I decided to be Italian.”

I was browsing through it, hearing her dusky Nigella voice as I read through the recipe introductions. I’d already planned to make my vanilla custards, but got caught up in the photo and description of a drop-dead gorgeous, mascarpone whipped-cream layered, pomegranate and pistachio-strewn Italian Christmas Pudding Cake on page 250. Nigella soaks panettone slices for the cake in Tuaca, the Italian vanilla liqueur which she says seems “panettone in alcohol form.”

tuaca Italian vanilla liqueur vanilla  bean

Hmmmmm. Okay. I think the last time I sampled Tuaca was back in the 1980′s, while on a date with a guy who drank amaretto sours. But I could see how that brandied-buttery-vanilla-citrus flavor sensation that is Tuaca would work in a rich custard just as well as in the creamy filling of Nigella’s spectacular cake.

I had to go on an extended journey to find Tuaca, which turns out is not available in just any old grocery store, or even three (booze is sold in food stores where I live), but required, finally, a visit to the liquor mega-mart in the suburb one over from mine.

Good thing, too. Because damn if that liquid panettone doesn’t taste like a beautiful thing in these little vanilla custards.

olive oil and vanilla pots de creme

My choice to drizzle olive oil over this smooth-as-silk custard concoction came about because I heard someone whisper “olive oil gelato” in my ear as I was falling asleep one night. No, not really.

I am enticed by the idea of olive oil gelato and will get around to making it soon. I just wanted to add a tiny bit more luscious mouthfeel.

I was sent some olive oil to sample from The Village Press, a New Zealand boutique producer. They have an innovative way of packaging their cold-pressed oil; it’s date-stamped and sealed both in a bag and a black box to protect it from light and oxidation. The oil is golden and tastes buttery and peppery, like an estate oil from Tuscany. It’s pretty special and I will be using this as a finishing oil while it lasts.

If you’re interested in trying Village Press estate oil it’s available at their Amazon store.

olive oil and vanilla pots de crème

You can use 8 espresso cups (3 - ounce capacity) if you have them. Otherwise bake the pots de creme in 6 (4-ounce) ramekins.

Ingredients

  1. 6 egg yolks
  2. 1/3 cup sugar
  3. 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  4. 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  5. ½ cup milk
  6. 1 tablespoon Tuaca liqueur or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  7. 1 vanilla bean
  8. Extra-virgin olive oil, the best you have

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place custard or espresso cups in a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold them so they don't touch . Bring a kettle full of water to a boil.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt together in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Combine the cream and milk in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.
  4. Very gradually, dribble the hot cream mixture into the eggs, whisking at the same time. Stir in the Tuaca or vanilla extract. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a small, sharp knife; slide the dull edge of the knife along the bean to scrape out the seeds and add them to the bowl. Pour through a mesh strainer into a 3 or 4 cup measuring cup.
  5. Divide the custard among the cups and put the pan on middle oven rack; pour enough boiling water around the cups to come 2/3 of the way up the sides. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake 35 – 40 minutes, until the edges are set and centers are a little quivery when you jiggle the cups.
  6. Carefully remove the cups from the water bath and cool on a rack 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
  7. Just before serving, drizzle a teaspoon or so of olive oil over each pots de crème.

Notes

Based on a recipe in the Joy of Cooking.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/olive-oil-and-vanilla-pots-de-creme/

chocolate semifreddo

chocolate semifreddo

Semifreddo – literally “half-cold” in Italian – is a dessert with varied interpretations. Basically it’s a creamy frozen mousse, sometimes layered with sponge cake or cookies and sometimes flavored with nuts or fresh fruit.

Making semifreddo forges a lazy path to homemade ice cream; all the benefits of a gelato or frozen custard without hauling out the old ice cream maker.

chocolate-semifreddo-recipe

Well… not so much lazy as it is a savvy shortcut. Because while there is no churning involved in the making of this recipe, there is some melting (chocolate), whipping (cream) and folding (together) that needs to be done.

chocolate semifreddo familystyle food

Typically, a semifreddo is set in a loaf pan or deep dish and sliced or scooped family-style for serving.

In honor of the Valentine’s Day tradition of shared desserts (how sweet), I molded this semifreddo in mini springform pans, which makes a nice serving portion for two. Using a springform pan makes it simple to unmold, but a regular 8-inch pan works perfectly, too.

chocolate-semifreddo-dessert-recipe

chocolate semifreddo

Serving Size: makes 8 servings

Each 4-inch dessert is the perfect size for sharing with another. If you have some warm chocolate sauce on hand, feel free to gild the lily.

Ingredients

    For crust:
  1. 30 chocolate wafer cookies
  2. ¾ cup sugar
  3. ¼ teaspoon salt
  4. 6 tablespoons melted butter
  5. For filling:
  6. 2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup sugar
  7. 4 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  8. 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  9. 4 egg yolks *
  10. 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  11. ¾ cup mascarpone cheese
  12. Chocolate shavings and freshly whipped cream to garnish

Instructions

  1. Make crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the cookies, sugar and salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is moistened and holds together when you pinch it. Press about 2 tablespoons crumbs onto the bottoms of each of four 4 x 1 ¾-inch mini springform pans (or use one 8 – inch springform pan). Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake 5 minutes.
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of the sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat until the water simmers and sugar is dissolved; add the chocolate and cocoa off the heat and stir until completely smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and cool 10 minutes.
  3. Beat the egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar with an electric mixer and the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until light colored and thickened enough to form a ribbon, about 5 minutes. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate until evenly blended.
  4. Wash the mixer bowl; add the cream and mascarpone and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Gently fold the cream into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Divide the mixture among the 4 pans (or, if using one 8 – inch pan, scrape it all in).
  6. Cover pans with plastic wrap and freeze at least 6 hours or overnight
  7. Remove semifreddo from the freezer 15 – 30 minutes before serving, depending on how firm it is. Unmold and serve with some whipped cream and chocolate shavings over the top, if you like.

Notes

Inspired by a recipe in Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma

* The egg yolks in the recipe are not cooked; you can use pasteurized eggs if you have concerns about using raw eggs.

http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/chocolate-semifreddo/

fresh ginger-lemon cake

Ginger-lemon cake
January seems to be the month people flip their internal switches from out-of-control, wild bingers of rich food and drink to wholesome souls sucking down juice meals, promising to spend each and every day at the gym sweating out their toxins.

Or so that’s what some major retailers want us to think, according to the huge display I saw at Whole Foods on January 2. It was a tower more than 15 feet high, precariously constructed out of crates of lemons, bottles of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and jugs of maple syrup; all the ingredients necessary for the Master of Cleanses.

lemon ginger sugar fresh ginger

Post-holiday detox probably isn’t a bad idea, considering the amount of wine corks that pile up around me, but I’ve never submitted to a juice fast, for 2 reasons:

1. I’m afraid I might perish from hunger and then get very, very cranky; which is what tends to happen when I don’t eat in regular 3 hour intervals.

2. I associate the word “cleanse” with “not clean”.  As in dirty. You can take it from there.

My approach is a little gentler and keeps the tremors at bay. I just stick to eating all the real, fresh food I usually do and drink lots of water. The sugars and alcohol get pushed back into careful moderation.

I believe moderation includes a slice of cake, and my very favorite kind of cake is plain and simple, one that I can toast for a snack with some really good apricot or raspberry jam.

This is the most basic of pound cakes,  hit with enough ginger and lemon to freshen your inner being. Way better than drinking juice, I think.

fresh ginger lemon cake

Fresh ginger-lemon cake

Serving Size: 10 - 12 servings

Ingredients

  1. 1 tablespoon plus 2 sticks butter at room temperature
  2. 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  3. 2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon zest
  4. 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  5. 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  6. ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  7. 2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 325; butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 –inch loaf pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. Put ¼ cup sugar in a pie dish or shallow bowl; add the lemon zest and ginger and massage the two together with your fingers. You can also use a small wooden spoon or a fork, but you will miss the aromatic therapy.
  3. Beat the 2 sticks butter in a heavy-duty standing mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the ginger-lemon sugar and beat for a few seconds before adding the remaining 1 cup sugar; beat 2 minutes, until lightened and fluffy.
  4. Lower the mixer speed and drizzle in the eggs and salt; beat on medium-high speed for 2 more minutes – the mixture might look curdled but don’t worry. Slow the mixer to stir, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half the flour; mix 15 seconds before adding the remaining flour. Mix just until there’s no more flour visible.
  5. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake 1 hour; insert a toothpick or skewer into the middle of the cake. If wet crumbs cling to the skewer, bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack 15 minutes before carefully loosening the sides with a knife. Turn the cake out onto the rack to cool completely.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/01/fresh-ginger-lemon-cake/