Tuesday, April 27, 2010

cantaloupe sorbet and my birthday

Glancing over my past posts, I have noticed a slight tendency towards decadence. I love writing about food, making and serving it to others, and I want every recipe posted here to be delicious. I want you to squeal with pleasure at the first bite. And to do that, I have given you creamy cheesy enchiladas, opulent pies, and comforting pastas.
This past week I turned 20. With my birthday, I completely let go of the pretence of healthy hedonism and totally bask in guilt free gluttony. So much good food. I wish I could bottle the chocolate filling on my birthday cake and smear it on toast for breakfast every morning. Although then I would have to give up the week's habit of brie and baguettes for breakfast...
Alas, I can not live on crusty bread and fatty cheeses alone. At least not with summer approaching. So I set out on a healthier path, a healthy dish in mind. Something I would still eagerly rush to post about, but something more spring-like: light, fresh, devoid of cheese. I was leaning towards something with quinoa, filled with veggies until I bought the most adorable trio of ripe cantaloupes, just begging to be made into sorbet. I know, I know, dessert isn't the lofty healthy ideal I was reaching for, but this is almost totally fruit! Baby steps. 
Well. Maybe there is a reason decadence is my go-to option. This sorbet isn't amazing. It is pretty good though, and very refreshing. I do think that in summer, with a more gutsy seasonal cantaloupe it could be superb. Or combined with some champagne for a slushie. Or as a granita with mint... For now, I will settle for healthy. 

Cantaloupe sorbet

-one ripe cantaloupe, seeded with rind trimmed off, cut into chunks
-3 Tbs lemon juice
-2 Tbs water
-1/4 cup sugar

In a blender or food processor, blend cantaloupe until totally smooth. In a small saucepan, or by briefly microwaving in a glass, combine the lemon juice, water, and sugar. Add to the cantaloupe mixture and blend in. Refrigerate for about an hour, or until very cold. Freeze in an ice cream maker. 

Or, for all of ya'll without ice cream makers (poor you.) here is the granita version.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

warm weather and a heavenly key lime pie

Is it warm and magnificent where you are? Is it picnic weather? Is it the first time where you feel like wearing anything less than your most summery, light weight, gloriously scant outfit would be a crime? Chicago is fantastic right now. It is bursting with flower buds, fragrant with plants, demanding that I fill my days with sunshine and too-short shorts.

For me these spring-time miraculous spurts of warmth are demanding of spring food. Food that begs to be eaten after a day of blister forming active discovering of your city, or getting the years first sunburn. Tasty eats like prosciutto wrapped melon and cold sesame noodles. The perfect strawberry ice cream, bought from a man with a cart, on a perfect day. Thank God winter has passed.

If your weather is as celebratory as ours in Chicago you simply must make this frozen key lime pie. Brightly acidic and luxuriously decadent, you deserve this after all the sweaters and scarves and numb toes and never ending waits for the bus in the snow. It is the antithesis of winter: a really amazingly citrus-y frozen pie, I couldn't tell if I was shoving it in my mouth to prevent it from melting or just because it was so sublime. Just like Spring however, this pie requires an insufferable wait. The actual pie took me and my saccharine partner in crime Cecile about 20 minutes to make. And four hours of agony waiting for it to freeze. But it was worth it. Totally. 

Frozen Key Lime Pie
exactly as the brilliant Ina Garten intended it

serves 8

-1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 crackers)
-1/4 cup sugar
-6 Tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

-6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
-2 tablespoons grated lime zest
-3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 limes

For Decoration
-1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy whipping cream
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 tsp. vanilla extract
-sliced lime wedges for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze about an hour. 

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Freeze for several hours or overnight. Try to wait as long as you can, I know the temptation is unbearable. Congratulations for surviving winter, Spring is here!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

easter and the best goat cheese and leek tart

Easter has a soft spot in my heart. With Easter comes many of my favorite things: discounted candy, deviled eggs, spring, baby animals. Unfortunately Easter has also often meant uncomfortable dresses, awkward brunches, and an extra long mass. But, ah the beauty of growing up and creating one's own Easter, free of puffy dresses and religious obligations. My first Easter sans the family, was magnificent (although I would have love to try my mother's curried deviled eggs with mango chutney.....). Eggs galore, mimosas flowing, my Chicago "family" of friends, the most perfect sunny Chicago afternoon, and a really good leek tart. 
This might sound heretical to some, but I think leeks might be the new Easter ham.  The proudly display many of Spring's best qualities: freshly sprung with the ground, bursting with flavor, providing hope to the winter-weary. OK, maybe not hope, but deep eggy satisfaction for sure. 
This tart is really good. A light crust, rich egg center, delicate leek flavor, and  decadent goat cheese. Just the kind of dish you want to serve to your impromptu family on Easter. Say a prayer first and all of your church truancy shall be absolved. 
So for your next brunch or family gathering, make this. It is best eaten on a porch while you get the first sunburn of the year. 

Goat Cheese and Leek Tart
simplified from Bon Appetit and Molly Wizenburg

-4 Tbs ice water (or more)
-3/4 tsp vinegar
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

-1/2 cup whole milk
-1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
-1 large egg
-1 large egg yolk
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
-1 1/2 cups leek confit*

Combine ice water and vinegar in a bowl. Blend flour and salt in a bowl (use a food processor for this is you have one, I used my hands). Add butter and combine until mixture resembles course meal. Add water in small increments, until mixture forms moist clumps. Add more water by the teaspoon if dough seems dry. Roll into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate two hours or up to 3 days. 

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Roll dough out and place in a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown and slightly puffy. 

While pie crust cools, prepare filling. Whisk milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Sprinkle half of goat cheese on bottom of pie crust, top with leek confit, and spread remaining goat cheese on top. Pour milk mixture over. Bake until center looks set, filling is slightly puffy, and the top is lightly golden, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, and serve. Enjoy!

*Leek Confit: sounds hard, super easy

Trim 3 large leeks to only the white and pale green parts. Chop into 1/4 inch slices. Saute on low with half a stick of butter (1/4 cup) and a 1/2 tsp of salt until very tender.