Friday, December 30, 2011

Pastry Frames

I've had a set of 1" aluminum pastry frame bars for quite some time thanks to the Chocolate Doctor - Kerry Beal, but recently I had our local glass shop make me these:

I can't remember the material but its not plexiglass. I think the material was like polycarb. They weren't cheap. The set of three (notice two different thicknesses) ran just about $175.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Recent Dishes

This was my 2011 signature Christmas dessert. Back in June I made a cacao based mincemeat that was macerated in three boozes until last week. The mincemeat was served with a fresh ginger ginger cake, passionfruit coulis and orange creme anglais.

The week before I served this: chocolate sablé, almond dacquoise, passionfruit bavaroise, dark chocolate mousse, coconut gelée

I've also been playing around with colored chocolate. Here is an attempt at a frog with red and yellow speckles and gold luster. I'm really wanting my airbrush now.

A savory dish for my friends at Bauscher - Moroccan spiced fermented cashew cheese, spiced beets, piñones and pumpkin seed streusel

Last week's dinner special - leek ash ravioli filled with local goat cheese and my own preserved lemons.

Curious Kumquat

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Eating Cookbook

Recipes that are timeless. Recipes that have endured. Recipes that hold enough cultural significance that they’ve adorned the pages of Art of Eating magazine. The Art of Eating Cookbook is a no fuss, no frills anthology of recipes that work, taste great, and are doable by any level of cook.

You can read the full review HERE.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Review: Momofuku Milk Bar

What has become my most attention grabbing review to date, below is my lukewarm coverage of a cult following cookbook.

Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook is the American reader’s chance to jump back to his or her youth with memories of being raised on Cap’n Crunch and Corn Flakes. In a follow-up to David Chang’s best-selling Momofuku Cookbook, his pastry chef, Christina Tosi, presents her most popular recipes including the famed Compost Cookies and Crack Pie. But beware of her overly sweet recipes if you prefer your desserts a bit more subtle and understated.

Read the rest of the review HERE.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Thanksgiving Gift to You - Passionfruit with Spiced Pumpkin

For Thanksgiving week I've prepared this special dessert and am sharing the recipe here for you to make at home. Its not as complicated as it may look so give it a try.

For gluten-free-ers, this should be on your menu because the base is a dacquoise - a meringue based nut cake. Start by deciding how you want to present the dessert. You might want to try a 9x13 for your final shape, or you could do this in a wine glass - or a highball glass would make a fun presentation. If you are going to put it in a glass, then simply bake the dacquoise as suggested and cut the final shape needed to be fitted into your glass.

70 g Hazelnuts, ground
100 g Powdered sugar
90 g (3) Egg whites
3 T Sugar
1 C Hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Sift ground hazelnuts & powdered sugar together & set aside. In a bowl whisk egg whites until foamy then gradually add in sugar and whisk until stiff peaks. Fold hazelnut mixture into the whites then spread mixture evenly onto a 9x13 baking pan lined with parchment paper. Scatter hazelnut halves on top then press down slightly. Bake in a preheated oven of 330ºF for 25-30 mins or until browned. leave to cool. If you are going to make the final dessert in the 9x13, then remove the dacquoise so you can slip off the parchment and return to the pan. If you're going to use glasses, then remove the dacquoise and cut into shape placing in the bottom of the glasses.

75 g Cream
100 g Chocolate (I used 65%)

Heat cream in glass measuring cup in microwave until just boiling, set on counter and add chocolate, letting rest about one minute. Stir until glossy and smooth. Spread the ganache on the dacqoise.

Passionfruit Curd
250 ml Passionfruit juice or purée
112 g Butter
3 Eggs
150 g Sugar
2 Sheets gelatin (silver) (or 1 T powdered gelatin softened in 4 T warm water)

Combine juice and butter in saucepan and heat until simmer. In mixing bowl, combine yolks, eggs and sugar and whisk until just combined. Temper egg mixture with hot juice and return all to stove cooking until thickened. Remove from heat and add softened gelatin and strain. Pour onto ganache.

Spiced Pumpkin Mousse
1 Large can of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
30 ml Lemon juice
90 ml Root liqueur or spiced rum
7 Sheets gelatin (or 4 T powdered in 16 T water)
180 g (6) Egg whites
198 g Sugar
103 ml Corn syrup or glucose
517 ml Cream whipped to stiff peaks

In saucepan warm pumpkin and then add lemon juice and liqueur. Soften gelatin and add to purée stirring to combine thoroughly. Let rest to cool.

In mixer, whisk egg whites until frothy. While whisking bring sugar and syrup to boil cooking to 248º F (120ºC). Slowly pour the boiled sugar into the whites and beat until stiff peaks are formed and mixture has cooled.

Fold pumpkin into whipped cream and then egg whites into the final mixture. Spread into 9x13 or glasses.

Passionfruit Gelée
150 g Passionfruit juice or purée
350 g Mango juice or purée
25 g Glucose or corn syrup
1 T Vanilla (I like to use vanilla paste for this recipe)
25 g Sugar
5 Sheets gelatin

Warm the two purées and corn syrup. Add vanilla, sugar and softened gelatin, gently stirring until the gelatin in melted. Remove from heat and bring to room temp. Pour over the top of the dessert, chill until you're ready to serve.

I hope all of you have a nice Thanksgiving (for my US readers) and a nice holiday season for all!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Late Summer Foraging Workshop - Part 4 (Final)

And now our final installment of the foraging workshop with Doug Simon. Right near his home we found a jujube plant. Doug assumed this was planted since it shouldn't be found wild in our area but he wasn't sure how many generations ago it would have found its way here. Super nutritious and meaty. Harvestable through September and with a juicy date-like flavor. Left on the plant they'll dry out but retain their sweet flavor.

A big surprise to me was that we had wild currant in the area. Doug says that we have red and black but today we found black alongside the river. They were coming to an end so early September is the time to look. The red is available in June and July.

Another of my favorites from this workshop is wild prickly poppy.

As of today the seed pods are still closed in our area, but once they open I'm going to gather as many as I can. Great potential for texture in chocolates, but of course you could go with the old standbys of poppyseed dressing or muffins. Bring gloves to harvest.

And lastly is Lambs Quarters. An edible green that is best cooked and best picked young in Spring to early Summer. Its nutritious with a nice flavor and is comparable to purslane except that its available earlier in the year.

A couple of closing thoughts. This is our last workshop with Doug although we'll happily facilitate anyone who wants to get in touch with Doug. My next step is to start documenting my use of these plants since I'm doing modernist recipes which I haven't seen around too much in restaurants and I think it would be fun to share those recipes.

Doug recommended that anyone in our area get Edible Native Plants of the Rocky Mountains by Harrington for further reading. I hope you enjoyed and found these write-ups useful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Late Summer Foraging Workshop - Part 3

In our next installment...let's start with Devil's Claw.

Not normally thought of as food, Devil's Claw had a texture and flavor similar to okra. The key is getting the pods when they are very young otherwise they turn woody very quickly. Just steam the pods for a few minutes until they become tender.

Alongside many of our streams and rivers you'll find Comphrey.

Comphrey is a nice, if not fairly neutral, edible green. Raw is best, but cooked is okay.

Mallow has become one of my favorite hiking snacks because of its capacity to moisten my mouth and its unmistakeable shape.

Better known as Scarlet Globe Mallow, the leaves really should be steamed for best results. The plant grows year round and has tasty little flowers.

The seed pods are also edible but used more for nutrition than flavor.

On the other end of the spectrum is our abundance of flavor-packed wild grapes.

These are the hardest for me to find since I'm always looking down for plants. Every now and then I think to look up and sure enough is the tangled mess of grapes. After the first frost these will turn to raisins. Doug recommends stripping the whole vine versus plucking individual grapes.

Another prolific plant in our area is Sumac.

Locals call it lemonade plant - the sour flavor is a great infusion for a number of applications.

The final installment will come shortly.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Late Summer Foraging Workshop - Part 2

Continuing on with our recent foraging workshop. Doug took us to an area that had acres of wild sunflowers. Not as large as what we're used to seeing but still a good food source. I didn't find them ideal for the restaurant setting except maybe grinding them into a praliné or possibly the old pickled mustard seed trick.

You can see they're very small but full of flavor and oils. Harvesting time is early September through early October. Simply pull the heads and set them to dry in the sun until you can crush the seeds out with your hands.

Here's one that might be new to you - bullrush.

Found in marshy areas and they look like lemongrass stalks with Johnsongrass heads. Pull the stalks straight out and eat raw. I found the flavors underwhelming but filling.

Next Doug covered cattails. We had seen these in our previous workshop but this time Doug pulled one for us to enjoy the corm and root. So he waded in...

...and rinsed his harvest in the river...

...trimmed it up a bit for us by removing the small hairlike roots...

...and cleaned it a bit more by trimming any rot, rough root, dirt...

...and finally cutting about 2" above the root system. There are a few components of this section of the cattail. First is the corm - the tubar section, next is the roots which are the smaller hairlike threads, and finally are the starter shoots. The tubar is best enjoyed raw and is almost cucumber in taste, and in fact, is how I use it - to simulate or replace a cucumber component. They make great martini twizzlers. The long tubar roots are where you get cattail "flour" for breads. This is an old-time technique. Doug explained the process as crushing the roots on a rock then putting them in cold water. Using your hands squish and coax the roots and watch as "flour" comes out which will eventually settle on the bottom of your pot. Simply strain and dry and then you can use it in breads. The starter shoots are great for a quick snack or on salads - trim, clean and serve.

Evening Primrose was coming into full seed during the workshop. It has ample essential fatty acids but has to be fresh.

The flowers are delicious but don't eat the callick - the green that holds the flower as its very bitter. The plant is a biannual.

The seed pods have four chambers and are full of tasty seeds. The flavor actually starts off astringent but then switches over to a buttery or eggy flavor - interesting potential!

The primrose leaves are good but need to be prepared properly. Pull out the whole plant cleaning off the dead leaves. Clean the roots and then cook for two hours in lots of water, changing the water once. The leaves will boil down into a sludge which I recommend for quiche, omelets and such.

On the walk we stumbled upon Poor Man's Mustard.

Not much to say except it tastes like mustard and would be nice in salads. Its really too small and not prolific enough for me to look at doing much more than that with it.

My favorite plant of this workshop was purlsane.

Amazing crunch and abundant through our monsoon season. That said, I have only seen it on the day of the workshop. Doug also called this plant porthulaga but I can't find any references for that name - probably the Spanish colloquial word for it.

Another of my favorites - Fourwing Salt Bush.

Some day I'll write more about this since I've been using it as a salt source for my food for the past year. I don't know that its any healthier than table salt but the more subtle flavor is great with almost everything. I like wrapping fish is salt bush branches and steaming them.

Part 3 coming soon...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two Reviews of Foraging Books

At a certain point many foragers grow hungry for bounty beyond mushrooms and cattails. They seek meat – raw and wild – yet making the leap from acorn gatherer to elk killer is a daunting one that seems beyond grasp. Hank Shaw’s Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast narrows that gap with an entertaining, informative and approachable perspective on all forms of wild dining.

Read more at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf

Curious Kumquat

Late Summer Foraging Workshop - Part 1

Winter Foraging Workshop Report - Part 1
Winter Foraging Workshop Report - Part 2
Foraging Ethic

This past weekend Doug Simon conducted his late summer/early fall workshop. He started with the trendiest of the wild foods - Chia (Salvia Hispanica). This is one of the main foods noted by indigenous Mexican endurance athletes as a strength giver, and is incredibly high in Omegas.

Chia falls into the Labacia family of plants which includes mint. A distinctive feature is a 4-sided/square stem and paired or opposite leaves. The seed is what you're looking for which will be more abundant by the end of October through the end of the year. The seed has a mucous texture and taste similar to fish oil. The leaves are also edible but have a lower level of fatty acids and are not quite as tasty but still valuable for a nutritional perspective. The flowers are small and blue.

Next we moved on to mallow. Mallow is commonly found near farmlands but is also prolific in the wild even in drier areas.

I found the leaves a bit too similar to other plants but the seed pod and flower are very distinctive.

The leaves actually moisten your mouth and have a squishy texture, and are best eaten raw. The seed pod itself is good to eat, but if you wait til it dries then the seeds are quite good as well. The flower is a pink and white. The seed pods are shaped like a 5-point star, and the seeds are shaped like little marshmallows.

We covered the amaranth plant in our winter workshop, but now we got to see it green and preparing to go to seed.

Amaranth leaves are best enjoyed in July and August and are noted by their red stalk. The seeds are the most enjoyable part of the plant (collected in October through February). Simply cook the seeds like pasta with plenty of water and no lid and they will expand up to ten times their size.

Johnson grass has been one of my harder sells. It lies in the Sorghum family but its not a lot of bang for the buck. Seeds should be gathered in September and allowed to full dry.

Doug recommends placing the top of the stalks in a heavy canvas bag and the dropping a fiery hot stone in the bag. The stone will burn off the chaff and toast the seeds. You can then blow the chaff debris away and enjoy the seeds. The tubar roots are also enjoyable in the spring.

Next we looked at yellow dock (aka lemon dock). Leaves can be steamed or boiled and are extremely high in iron. Bring your water to a full boil, then add the greens and leave the lid off to allow the unpleasant flavors to escape.

Typically dock is found near water sources. The seed is edible but is a bit too astringent for most palates.

There will be at least one if not two more installments on this report in the upcoming days.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Enjoying right now: 2008 La Sauvageonne Les Ruffes Coteaux du Languedoc

91 pts Wine Spectator
Tastes like a quality Châteauneuf du Pape, which is not surprising when you consider it's made from the same grapes, on similar soils and under the same southern French sun.
This rich, refined red is very pure-tasting, showing mineral, smoke, dried cherry and sandalwood flavors, with powerful undercurrents of currant and French roast. The long finish echoes spice and roasted meat.
Something of an undiscovered gem here. Containing all the elements that make a superb French red, this wine has the makings to become a true star. Definitely one of those wines that should be a stable in everyone's wine rack. You would be mad not to buy it now before everyone else finds out and the price goes through the ceiling. Expect tons of dense berry fruit and enjoy.
*from various websites
Curious Kumquat

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book Review: Odd Bits - top book of 2011?

While I am sure many will pick up Odd Bits as an “Iron Chef meets teenage boy dare meets Fear Factor episode”, the reader will be swiftly and joyfully swooped up into one of the top books of 2011. Jennifer McLagan’s final stage of her trilogy, including the much lauded Bones (2005) and Fat (2007), is a comprehensive exploration of those animal parts that are ignored or tossed in the bin, and the word fascinating would be the ultimate understatement in describing this book.

Read the rest of the review at The Gastronomers Bookshelf.

Curious Kumquat

Friday, September 23, 2011

My latest Bauscher submissions

This is a tough dish to work with but has plenty of potential.

Bread Course: Brown butter hazelnut financier, black sesame tuiles, smoked butter, piñon panna cotta, foraged wood sorrel.

BBQ in the Park: Mustard kulfi, deviled quail eggs, baked bean shards, acorn dust.

Curious Kumquat