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Happy reading, and thank you all for joining me on this edible journey.
Sorry for the delay in posting. I have been on holiday in Cuba and promise to write a few posts of my good memories there.
Lemon Blackberry Trifle
This recipe comes to me by way of the priestess, nay, the goddess of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson. I’ve been a fan and fanatical advocate of the raven-haired Brit since her show Nigella Bites, with her impeccable style, spot on palate, and slightly subversive humour. And no one can make love to a spoon the way she can. I did meet her once and we had a little chat. To be perfectly accurate, I met her along with maybe 3000 other fans at a book signing. Despite the mob, she remained regal and warm in her chartreuse twin set, offering a genuine smile to all.
I must admit her cookbook prose have had a profound inspiration on my own desire to write. I’ve savoured each and every one of her publications, reading them more like novels rather than as a resource. I enjoy her informative preambles mixed with the regional vernacular (splodge, nubbled, blitzed) and simple recipes with inspired flavours. She blends cultures and style with no apology. One region she loves to explore is Italy, from crostini to dolce. …Hence, this recipe, slightly modified, from her publication Forever Summer…
This is everything a trifle should be: rich, oozing, cool, and creamy. It’s also easy to make (please forgive the ready-made ingredients) and best if made well ahead of serving, rendering it perfect for easy entertaining. The Italian inspiration comes from the ingredients: crunchy amaretti biscuits, sweet and puckering limoncello, and standing in for custard is a silky mascarpone mousse with blackberries providing a blistering contrast.
The measurements are offered more as a guideline, with the size of your trifle bowl influencing the proportions. For these photos, I used my oval porcelain casserole dish that I usually employ for mac and cheese, although it is most presentable in a glass trifle bowl (my own having disappeared after attending a potluck and not to be seen since).
Recipe on following page… Continue reading
I picked up this handy little tool at Bowery Kitchen Supplies Inc., located in the Chelsea Market (appropriately, also home to the Food Network studios). This store is a kitchen connoisseur’s dream offering great value on a multitude of products. I can’t visit NYC without popping in to supplement my burgeoning stable of gadgets. The now-defunct Bodum store (an oasis of shiny white and glass) was around the corner, so trips to this neighbourhood left me burdened with heavy bags and a packing nightmare.
Fortunately, this compact ginger grater is easy to pack, made of white porcelain (did I mention my obsession with white china), and reasonable prices, satisfying all requirments when shopping abroad. Williams-Sonoma has a similar model for about $15, but you can find the model pictured above for one-third the price at Chinese markets and other kitchen supply stores.
Cooks Illustrated promoted this tool in their September, 2007 edition and I highly concur. Metal graters, including my beloved Microplane Grater, tend to cut the fibrous root as part of the grating process, potentially leaving your dish a bit hairy. The nubs on this ceramic board, however, tease the pulp out into a fluffy, glorious cloud and leave the fibres behind. Any juices can be tipped, along with the pulp, into your preparation; simply discard the mass of fibres into your organics bin.
Always one for multi-tasking, you’ll be relieved to know that this grater can be used for chocolate, hard cheeses and even cinnamon. Just rinse the board under running water and it will wait patiently in your drawer or hanging from its hole, taking up no space at all thanks to its slim profile, until called into action. This, dear reader, is my tool of the week.
- Lemon Artichoke Hummus
This Mediterranean dip born of chickpeas and sesame is also known by its other iterations such as houmous, humus, hoummos, humous, or most accurately, حُمُّص بطحينة. While no one knows its historical origins, folklore often insists hummus is one of the oldest-known prepared foods. Many cookbooks and recipes have survived since antiquity, but hummus was not mentioned until the 18th-century in Damascus sources. Many scholars have dismissed its more modern routes by arguing that hummus has been such an everyday staple, writing down a recipe for it would be akin to a recipe for boiling water.
Middle Eastern debates aside, the puree has always been popular with the granola set in the West and really hit its stride with the cocktail crowd and suburban families alike in the past decade or so. One may find the dip upon every party table, garnished with cilantro, drizzled with olive oil, or sprinkled with cumin and always always always served with pita (and sometimes sturdy vegetables for scooping).
Presently, humus is accessible in any of its mutations at virtually all grocery stores in flavours like roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, jalapeno, carmelized onion, sundried tomato and on and on. And while it’s easy and convenient to buy, the taste and texture leaves a lot to be desired. Fortunately, it’s also easy to make at home; the ingredients are simple and you’ll have fun coming up with your very own signature hummus once you’ve mastered the basics. The recipe I have on offer is a lemon artichoke version but simply eliminate artichoke and lemon zest to create the basic gold standard. It’s inspired by a Cooks Illustrated recipe but with such simple ingredients, one hardly needs a recipe at all. Lemony, garlicky, salty, silky, substantial perfection.
Finally, a word about chickpeas: if you’re going the homemade route, go all the way and use dried chickpeas (see note following recipe). They’re cheaper than canned and you’ll have the pleasure of creating something right from scratch. Take this with a grain of salt, though, because I have been known once upon a time to bake a loaf of bread to make my own croutons for a caesar salad. I know. Crazy. But you can make all kinds of other fun things with the extra legumes, including my vegetarian butter chicken (no butter and no chicken…recipe to come). Anyway, happy dipping…
Honey Crackle Granola
I love granola. It connects perfectly with my preference for crunchy things. I fondly look back at one of my favourite childhood breakfasts and remember a bowl of Quaker Harvest Crunch with some cold milk poured over the top. Not being one for mushy foods (don’t get me started on over-ripe bananas), I especially enjoyed how the cereal retained its special crunchiness, truly living up to its name, right to the last bite. For any non-Canadians who might be reading this, the cereal is essentially crunchy nuggets of rolled wheat and oats with brown sugar, coconut, almonds and honey.
As an adult with an expanding waistline, however, one pays slightly more attention to the nutritional value and calorie count on boxed cereals. I was interested in making my own crunchy granola with a dream-list of ingredients, throwing in some heart-healthy additions to boot. After much consulting and many attempts, I am pleased to present a recipe that has grown to be much-requested.
Of course one can use any ingredients available in the pantry, and indeed every time I make granola, it’s different in subtle ways from the previous batch. So feel free to experiment with different ingredients like hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, pistachios, wheat flakes, bran flakes, or anything else that catches your eye at the health food store. And while you’re mixing things up, play with the ratio of sweetness to your own liking, or swap out the honey with an amber maple syrup for a deeper sweetness.
But if you can, please use the Maldon salt. It counters the sweetness and brings out the flavour of the nuts and seeds while the white flakes almost burst on the tongue in the most satisfying way.
Filed under baking, recipes
Always trust Martha to bring the culinary world of New York to my living room. Not that long ago, she presented a segment on 10th Avenue noshes and ChikaLicious Dessert Bar was included on her two-part tour. Chef owners Don and Chika Tillman present a starkly intimate dessert eatery built around an open kitchen where the chefs and sommelier work and serve the customers directly. Their reasonably priced three-course tasting menu has been described as being American desserts with French presentation and Japanese tasting portions and includes a palate-cleansing amuse, a choice from the varying dessert selection, and a plate of assorted petit fours. Wine matchings are offered, along with organic coffees and teas.
For our visit, we started with a sweetly puckering duo of lemonade sorbet with lemon panna cotta. For our “mains,” we each tried one of their classic desserts: Fromage Blanc Island “Cheese Cake” (pictured above) artfully nestled into a mound of shaved ice; and a Warm Chocolate Tart with Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream and Red Wine Sauce. Both were divinely delicious and proof of the chefs’ skills in presentation, taste and texture. We couldn’t ask for anything more after an exhausting day supporting the local retail economy. And indeed, the petit fours were the proverbial cherry on an otherwise perfect sensory experience: a cube of quivering coconut marshmallow, a mini-wedge of carmelized lemon peel pound cake and a kiss of ganache atop a crisp chocolate wafer took us over the edge and we sailed home on a satisfactory sugar high.
They don’t take reservations, but any wait is worth the experience. And while you’re there, check out the Dessert Club ChikaLicious, their companion bakery directly across the street, for arguably the best cupcake you will find in Manhattan.
ChikaLicious Dessert Bar
203 E. 10th St., between 2nd Ave and 1st Ave.
New York, NY
3pm to 10:45pm.