World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Food and Drink

Lobster Chowder.

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Farmers markets at this time of year can be overwhelming, in the best kind of way. Corn is in super abundance and at a very good value. I easily over bought. So what does one do with corn for many and you dine as one? Time to turn out a summer favorite of mine–corn chowder.

After steaming and removing the kernels I decided to simmer the corn ears by just covering with water and adding a few sprigs of fresh basil, garlic, and dried chili peppers for about 50-60 minutes. I portioned off enough to replace the water called for in the recipe.

Recipe is a variation from a lobster fisherman as published in Yankee Magazine. In advance, I steamed the lobster versus a par-boil and could not see using all that butter as I have plans next week! Find the master version over here. And no, I do not know why his is red and mine is not. Hmmm.

Overall a win in taste as the lobster was sweet; the broth possessed a slight heat. I froze the remaining corn.

Note: The corn stock method is from the August issue of Bon Appetit. Photo is mine and taken with the one that is never far, the i-device.

Apricot-Almond Cake

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1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
13 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 apricots, cut in half and pitted, then cut the halves again
1/4 cup slivered almonds mixed together with 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and lightly flour with cornmeal an 8″ round cake pan or an 8″ springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula adding the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and blend by hand until just combined. Don’t use mixer as that’s will probably cause the batter to toughen. Gentle fold the dry ingredients into the batter.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan. It’ll be thick so use the back of a soon to spread it out to the edges. Place the apricot halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter. Sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top of the cake followed by the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter. I placed them just enough apart that when cut into 8 pieces everyone had a piece of apricot. You could leave use more fruit. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

Notes

Original recipe calls for plums, you could also use peaches with the skins on.

Although I haven’t tried this I am pretty confident that replacing the AP flour with almond meal flour would taste quite good–and gluten free.

 

Gastronomic Tour de France: Stage 5 | Épernay > Montargis

Regions: Start of Race in Champagne > Finish in Loire
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Here we are again! Barbara over at Winos & Foodies has wrapped up everything that's great about wine, food and cycling and France into one big Gastronomic Tour de France. Here's the full list of participants, their blogs and links to keep your own pace by.

Every year the course for the Tour de France changes some stages ever so slightly.  In 2005, Stage 6 began in Troyes.  Fast forward 5 years and today's stage begins in the commercial capital of the Champagne region, Épernay just 88 miles east-northeast of Paris.  Stage 5 is made for sprinters and for champagne drinkers.


Cork_small_2007  Built on a chalk foundation the town is the key commercial center for the production of champagne.   Most visitors will find themselves on the L'Avenue de  Champagne where many well-known champagne producers including Moet Chandon, Perrier-Jouet and Champagne Mercier can be found. Most tourist information you will come across will say that this avenue is the most valuable–more so than Fifth Avenue or Champs Elysees due to the many bottles of champagne stored in the chalk cellar caves below.
 (I’m happy to house sit!)

Specialties of this region include andouillette de Troyes, a savory tripe sausage  made from  pork chitterlings and tripe, seasoned with fresh onion, salt, pepper and stuffed by hand into natural casings it is highly sought out. Another regional specialty is potee champenoise–a pot-au-feu consisting of jambon des Ardennes (smoked ham), cabbage and sausage.  

And if you are looking for something new and different for your everyday salad dressings keep an eye out for Vinaigre de Reims or the more commonly named, champagne vinegar. It is an elegant way to mix things up as it is  milder than most vinegars, you can use it with just a bit of oil and a pinch of sugar to create a tasty vinaigrette.

The boys of the Tour will dash across the plains and end up in Montargis, the second largest town in the Loire region. Medieval in looks with several canals and bridges it is sought out for it’s charm, honey, saffron and pralines.  There is also a rubber factory where, as a young boy, the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping made shoes–but that is an entirely another story.  


TDF_image_B Most will want to locate the the shop from where these pralines were originally sold, Maison de la Praline, that visitors seeking to taste the original crunch confectionery made from almonds, and dissolved in sugar back during the rule of Louis XIII.  The story goes they were created at the chateau the French soldier, diplomat, and sugar baron, Marshal du Plessis-Praslin.   Pralines from New Orleans are made from the more readily-found pecan.  

There is a piece of folklore found on the Southern CandyMakers site that, if not entirely factual is slightly plausible:

A more playful account paints du Plessis-Praslin as a notorious ladies man, who asked his chef to come up with an irresistible treat he could present to the women he would court. He would put the sweet sugary nuts into little parcels marked with his name, so people began to call the sweets after him.”


The two recipes that follow make for a perfect Saturday lunch in the garden with a  friend. You may want to pair with a glass or two of bubbles.


Recipes

Salad au Lard (Potato, Bacon & Greens) (commonly found salad in Épernay)

Almond Praline (this is great broken up into bits and served over vanilla ice cream)


Because you may want to know more:


History of Pralines | Southern CandyMakers

Splurge on the original from the source! Praslines of Montargis "Amandas"


And you want to move along to Stage 6 with Amanda over at EyeCandy Carousel


My Year in Food 2006

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As 2007 gently creeps in most of us take some time to reflect on the past year’s highs and lows.  Last year I compiled a round-up regarding food trends in 2006.  This year I think I’ll begin the effort in a more personal way via an idea from Jen.

Best Foodie Hob Nob Experience:  Attending this year’s Gourmet Institute in New York as a prize winner for the December 2005 Gourmet Cook-the-Cover competition.  I got to circulate with the editors and world-class chefs.  At times exhilarating, other times competitive…what? you haven’t eaten there? he’s redefining that cuisine? exactly where have you been?  But for the most part a whirlwind. I did however, develop a mad fancy on Michel Richard and Daniel Barber.  They each reflect a part of my own philosophy toward food that a.) cooking for people comes from the heart and that you need a certain amount of play to create new ideas and b.) by caring about food and eating and growing organically and/or locally not only reflects place but is also sustainable for the environment.  I also had the most elegantly tasty Bouley treat made from Cocoa Krispies hand made by the Pastry God himself.  There’s a lot more to tell here but I will need my notes and most likely wine. 

Favorite New Cooking Tool:  Mid-year I moved to a small in-law cottage with an IBK  in Marin. Over the last six months I’ve had to seriously evaluate every tool for functionality and form.  The bottom line is that everything should have two if not three functions. Up until Christmas the fave was the Mario Batali 5-piece prep bowl set ranging in size from 1/8 cup to 2 cups. Each has full and half-way marks on the interior and exterior for easy measuring.  Mise-en-place is a must now that I am confined to a galley kitchen with a 30"x28" counter space.  I can also if pressed eat from them and a fun lively color.   Then at Christmas my sister gifted me with a Blomus Teastick.  It’s just dandy.  Enough tea leaves to steep a cuppa and it functions as a spoon.

Best Ultimate Dining Sensation There is no contest here.  Per Se. I dined with ultimate foodies The Carters. I’m unsure how they will define their best dining experience of ’06 given that they ate at many top places including Cyrus. I opted for the Vegetable Tasting. Yes, yes I did–not only is it a true test of a chef’s abilities but alas I’m a failure at the hardcore foodie stuffs–sweetbreads, foie gras etc.  The evening was followed up with a waddle through the kitchen.  I vaguely remember it.  I have huge taste memories of the parsnip-vanilla soup, the hen-of-woods mushrooms and the black truffle mac & cheese.  Really one of the most delicious evenings.

Best Glass of Bubbles East of Napa was found at the wedding reception of R&K this July at the Westport Rivers Winery.  Clearly this was also a moment of realization that I wasn’t the snob that I thought I had become.  Madeline Kamman is a fan of their sparklers, ""They can’t do this in California; many in France are not this good."  Where have I been?  If my legs were any indication I’m certain the mosquitoes must have been drunk by the close of the night.

Best Literary Feast on the Politics of Food goes to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  As anyone within earshot has heard me declare this year, ‘if you care about the environment and food you must must read this book.  After the spinach scare this year this book should be required reading in all high school science classes. The runner up in this category would be the dialog between Pollan and  Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.

Best Wild Food Taste has got to be the catching stripers off Cape Cod with the family.  "Fish, I love you and respect you very much. But I will…" Wait, wait at the expense of a revisionist approach to the Old WoMan & the Sea let’s just say that catching fish is not easy.  I went the distance and help the captain gut the fish. Now that felt all very Tony Bourdain and all but eesh what a mess.  Dinner that night was braised striper with  local tomatoes, on the grill with the smell of  sea salt mxing with the heavy air of an incoming thunderstorm. Sometimes I ache for the Cape so much it startles me.

Best Tribute to a Signature Ingredient was rolled out in the form of the 2006 Oliveto’s Truffle Dinner.  The meal an extra special birthday gift for a friend who is well-deserving of a little special TLC. After being presented a small platter of many biancos we lingered and sniffed so heady, elusive and enigmatic. Stand outs from the menu (pdf) included poached salted farm egg with cardoons, celery, black trumpet mushrooms and fonduta valdostana and polenta farinata with Wild Boar ragu.

The Best Taco Al Pastor between Marin and Los Angeles was uncovered on Loop #2 last week at La Portranca in King City. After spending the holiday with family in LA I drove back North on 101 (vs. Loop #1 South on 1) stopping at over a dozen tacquerias. This place was fresh, bright and full of flavor just perfect on a rather gray, windy and cold day. Perfect for the chumparrado I ordered for dessert. A full report on the Christmas Coastal Taco Crawl is forthcoming.

There were many other highlights like those McIntosh apples from the Union Square farmers market; dinner at West in Vancouver; chocolate zuke cupcakes at Hollyhock and a lively at newly opened Cheese School of San Francisco. Also a big thanks to all of you who visit, leave comments and offer words of support…it’s very much appreciated.

Akimashite Omedetto Gozaimasu…Felice anno nuovo…L’Shannah Tovah…Chuc Mung Tan Nien…Godt Nyttår…Happy New Year!

What kind of Donut are You?

You Are a Boston Creme Donut

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You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you’re a total pushover and completely soft.
You’re a traditionalist, and you don’t change easily.
You’re likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it’s sold out.

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Some fun before the hot hot weekend–90s in Marin, 100+ inland!  My results shouldn’t be much of a surprise as Dunkin’ Donuts is what I was weaned on!

via Blogthings- Take the test

Gourmet Institute – Program

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Gourmet has announced the program for the 2006 Gourmet Institute.  As many of you know, because you voted I won the December ‘Cook the Cover’ challenge with my Black & Tan cookie recipe, I am all geared to attend this all paid foodie extravaganza.

The program, as you can see, is a smorgasbord of culinary bites.  The editors contacted me and encouraged, nay insisted I make my selections immediately. Here’s what I’ve selected.

Saturday – I’ve created an around the world cooking lesson program.  I hope my taste buds are up to the challenge.

Mastering Moles with Roberto Santibañez of New York’s popular Rosa Mexicano. Chef Santibañez has won many awards and writes for Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart Living. Trained in Paris via his hometown of Mexico City he is well-known for his application of French technique to sophisticated and contemporary Mexican dishes. I certainly hope he’s going to let us in on the secrets behind his white mole, a blend of almonds, capers and olives.

Africa on My Mind taught by the incomparable Marcus Samuelsson. Aquavit, the restaurant which he owns and serves as executive chef was one of my first serious dining experiences. It’s one of those outstandingly remarkable meals that is crystal clear in my mind. He’s long spoken of opening an Ethiopian restaurant, perhaps this is where I’ll get my first exposure and taste of what he’s planning.

New Indian Cooking with Floyd Cardoz of Tabla and Bread Bar whom New York Magazine defines as "the jolly executive chef at Tabla known for merging Indian spices with Western dishes." Tabla was one of the magazines 100 Best in 2006.

Modern Interpretation of Authentic Thai Cuisine instruction by the former chef at the Bangkok Four Seasons Ian Chalermkittichai who is  now firmly at Kittichai.  He began his food career early–selling from a street pushcart in Bangkok then over to Darley Street in Sydney then over to the Four Seasons.

Sunday – is a bit vague and the decisions were made more by my curiosity than anything else.

Behind the Lens with food editor and stylist Paul Grimes and Gourmet photographer Romulo Yanes (no description or tease provided…no expectations but curious!)

Purveyor and Chef Relations with Thomas Keller (we all know who he is, right?) and Keith Martin of Elysian Fields Farm

Latest Cravings of Jean-Georges Vongerichten has me expecting we’ll sit around on Sunday afternoon drinking wine and snacking on new kitchen creations of this creative being.

Ingredients with Dan Barber and Alfred Portale chef of one of my favorite dining spots in NYC, Gotham Bar and Grill. So really how could I not be tempted with a discussion on the importance of high-quality ingredients.

And finally Saturday night we had to choose from three places for dinner, Craft, Eleven Madison Park and Alto.  I opted for the just about a year-old Italian high cuisine of Alto. Now, I wonder how many lunches can I squeeze in?

Six Course Lunch on the Bay

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On Monday I participated in one of my first industry activities, a tour of a cruise ship and a passenger dining experience…that is a gourmet six-course lunch in the main dining room. As I have never sailed on a cruise this was a bit of an adventure. I’m not here to give my personal preferences on this type of travel but merely to give a peek into lunch.

Cruise ship cuisine, due to market competition, been upgraded in the past few years. Norwegian Cruise Lines first embarked on this effort when it introduced specialty restaurants on its ships.  While the desire and ability may exist in the galley the challenge is the ingredients. According to a recent New York Times article, chefs need to know that they will have access to ingredients worldwide and that the quality of those ingredients will be consistent. Remember some of these ships can accommodate up to 1,800 people–it’s a small floating city.

Many celebrity chefs are at the helm, ok in the kitchen consulting–Jacques Pepin for Oceania; Charlie Palmer for Seabourn; Todd English is over at Cunard; Jacques Thorel for SilverSea and Nobu Matsuhisa for Crystal and the big coup was Carnival hiring 3-star Michelin chef Georges Blanc who is going to overhaul the whole dining experience from menus to training.  Celebrity, the line I was touring, has 2-star Michelin chef and noted cookbook author Michel Roux,  who designs the menu and wine lists, while also assisting with training the executive restaurant staff. He also frequently “mystery cruises” various ships to ensure that there is consistency in quality and performance. Menus are revised every six months. In addition there is a growing trend in cruising featuring a well-know chef who will teach or event’s such as Seabourn’s Great American Food & Wine Festival on the open sea.
Here is the lunch menu. Overall the man was pretty good. Standouts were the artfully-plated and perfectly cooked duck and a well prepared plum sauce; a thyme-infused sherbet and the iced chocolate terrine which although I couldn’t figure out was iced nor terrine about it (more of a mousse, really) I had absolutely no shame in finishing. But seriously who could eat this way for 11 days?

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Appetizer

Oriental Duck in Ginger Spiced Pancake with Plum Sauce and Pickled Cucumber

Soup

Double Beef Oxtail Consomme with a Pot au Feu Garnish

Salad

Meli-Melo of Mesculun Mulberry Oak Balsamic Vinaigrette

Intermezzo

Thyme and Lime Sherbet

Entree

Mille-Feuliles of Halibut and Crisp Potatoes Mousseline of Green Asparagus

Dessert

Iced Chocolate Terrine, Orange Caramel Sauce

Mocha

Mignardises

San Francisco in Jello

Playing with your food just got more interesting!

Summery Fast Food

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Summertime makes us all busier than usual. Grabbing a piece of fruit or a container of yogurt often stems the hunger pains for a bit. With just a few minutes time and a blender there are a range of tasty, quick and portable drinks that are healthy, if made with low-fat ingredients such as tofu and fat-free yogurt. These drinks are an excellent way to get extra fruit into your diet and fulfill or even exceed the five-a-day recommendation for fruits and veggies. Refreshing and tasting good is just an added bonus.

Licuados
With a lighter consistency and texture than the American milkshake licuados, pronounced lee-kwa-dos, can be found throughout Mexico and Central America. A combination of cold milk and fruit juices such as mango, apple or plantains these drinks can be a snack or a light meal. Okay, this one is not entirely low in calories but isn’t chocolate suppose to be good for you?

Read the rest of this entry »

Stage 19 – Legume-y Legs

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REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Are we there yet?  Only 199km/123.5mi remain in the TdF.   The Seattle Times reports that Lance was talking to George (in photo above) and said, "Why don’t we just not stop? Let’s just keep riding, get it over with." Another good quote from Lance was something along the lines of "the faster I pedal the faster I retire."  He looks so great this year. Anyway tomorrow is one of my favorite events the Individual Time Trial.  This is a tough event at this point as riders are tired having clocked 2,000 miles. I hope some of you have enjoy this virtual food tour. It was a personal challenge; I think I did OK, right?! But mostly thanks for the ride boys!

Issoire to Le Puy-en-Velay / Distance 153.5km; 95mi

Tdf_lien If it’s Friday it’s the Loire Valley. there are numerous chateaux up and down the valley. The start of today’s stage begins in Puy-de-Dôme, which is named after the famous dormant volcano by the same name, makes for rich soil.  So much so that the excellence of produce has earned the area the sorbiquet of the "garden of France."  It is three hours from Paris and an hour from Lyon. 

The green or French lentil, or more exacting, lentille Verte du Puy (Le Puy Green Lentil) was the first dry vegetable to be awarded the highly coveted A.O.C. designation (Appellation d’origine Contrôlée). This well favored and most delicate of lentils has a peppery taste.  It is a good choice for salads as it holds its shape and firmness after cooking. This legume has been grown in the Haute Loire without fertilizers, since Roman Gaul times. Although originally grown in the rich volcanic soils of Puy, they are now also grown in North America and Italy.  Domestic lentils, from Washington and Idaho, are larger than their French cousins.

Another specialty is an after-dinner liqueur of the Auvergne region called Verveine du Velay. Tdf_19b Produced since 1859 with a family recipe for five generations, it contains Cognac, honey, 32 different plants, plus vervain which is grown only in this area.  According to ecocktail "The herbs stay in the alcohol for more than 20 days to pass on their natural aroma to the alcohol. Distillation takes place in cooper distilling stills. After 24 hours, a 90 % – alcohol is produced, the "Soul" of the liqueur. Yellow or green Verveine de Velay is mixed out of it with the help of sugar or honey. Both liqueurs ripen afterwards in barrels for at least ten months. The yellow liqueur is mild, sweet and contains 43 % of alcohol, the green one is strong and contains more alcohol (55 %)."

And of course there’s wine.  The area is the third largest wine region in France; second in sparkling wine.  There are four large viticultural regions, Muscadet, Anjou, Touraine and Sancerre. The main grapes are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Muscadet, Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc.

Green Lentils with Warm Goat Cheese (Auberge des Sept Soeurs in Touchay, France)

Salade De Lentilles Vertes Aux Lardons (Green Lentil & Bacon Salad)