24 April 2014

Sweet & Vicious

As you know from this blog, we love confiture, eggs, and French cuisine.  If you write a book about French eggs and jam, we are so there.  Baking, not so much.  Basically we are the one-trick-pony's of baking. For layer cake we like Red Velvet and Chocolate.  We like chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies.  And chocolate chunk cookies, and peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies, and peanut butter blossoms...you follow us.  So baking, we are a bit less enthusiastic.

It is true that we follow Salted and Styled, Libbie Summers' blog, but we were still not convinced we wanted a baking book by her, even though she was a Southerner. Then one day we saw this youtube video of Summers demonstrating 20 pie crimping techniques in 120 seconds.  

We figured bake/smake we would buy any cookbook she wanted to write.  

AN ASIDE: Baking has always kinda been a girl thing.  But when guys start getting involved they tended to take things too seriously.  Now that "food" is such a big, macho guy thing, and chefs are traveling the world to kill live chickens, and get written up in TIME Magazine, cookbooks are becoming painfully serious and often as technical as nuclear launch codes and about that interesting. Just saying...

First, Sweet & Vicious has lovely pink edged paper.  Again, any cookbook with pink paper edges would be on our "must get" list.  Most importantly, if you never cook a single thing from the book you will have a blast just reading it and looking at the pictures, by Salted and Styled accomplice, Chia Chong.  (There is a Red Velvet Cake recipe, so we are in luck.)  

We have a baking drawer where we store the chocolate in various stages of chip and chunk for our peanut butter cookies.  We also keep all those little mini candy bars that are prevalent during Halloween and Easter.  We keep them there and use them as decoration and add-ins to recipes, just in case we run out of chips and chunks.  Well, Summers just loves to add candy bars and other sweet treats to her recipes.  Did we mention she is a Southerner?

She even has a section for dog treats.  There is even a Red Velvet doggie snack. (Alas, there are never cat treats and that is just not right.) So who wouldn't love this book.  Here is a nifty tart recipe for the tart in you.

 Stoned Tart

(rum, stone fruits, + pistachio cream)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

1/4  cup plus 2 teaspoons vanilla sugar

4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed

2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

3/4 cup shelled pistachios

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon S & V House Blend Almond Extract

5 stone fruits (any mixture of apricots, peaches, nectarines or plums) pitted and sliced, skins on

2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon Gosling’s Black Seal rum

1/2 teaspoon S & V House Blend Citrus Extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

Ice cream or whipped cream, for serving (optional)

1) In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, and 1/4 cup vanilla sugar.  Cut in the butter using your fingers or two knives.  Add 2 tablespoons ice water to the dough and stir to combine.  Continue to add ice water by the tablespoon until the dough comes together (this should take no more than 4 tablespoons).  Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, wrap well, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2) In a food processor with the blade attachment, pulse the pistachios until roughly chopped.  Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar, heavy cream, and almond extract.  Pulse until a thick paste forms.  Set aside.

3) In a large mixing bowl, stir the fruit slices together with the brown sugar, lemon juice, rum, citrus extract, cinnamon, and salt.
4) Spray 9 1/2 -inch round, 9-inch square, or 13 3/4-inch rectangular tart pan with removable bottom wit nonstick baking spray.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it.  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick.  Drape and press the dough into the prepared pan, covering the bottom and sides, with some overhang.
5) Roll a rolling pin over the edges of the tart pan to clearly cut off the excess dough.  Spread the pistachio mixture over the bottom of the dough and arrange the fruit slices on top.  Refrigerate to firm up the dough while the oven is preheating.
6) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil.
7) Transfer the tart from the refrigerator to the baking sheet and bake in the lower third of the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, until the fruit begins to bubble.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

 We are so glad that we branched out for some sweet and vicious baking.  You should do the same.  Now get into that kitchen and trow some frosting.

22 April 2014


Greg Marchand earned the nickname "Frenchie" from Jamie Olivier.  Marchand was the only Frenchman in the kitchen at Oliver's restaurant, Fifteen.  Then he took off for New York.  Then his wife got pregnant and they made the mature decision to leave New York and go to Paris with no job and a dream.

He found a little spot on a back alley, no bank would lend him a dime, his friends thought he was crazy to pick this little out of the way place, and there was a baby!  But Marchand persevered and it didn't take long for the most jaded of Parisian eaters to find Frenchie
A few years later he took over another spot on the street and added a wine bar.  Then he expanded the wine bar.  Then he talked some of his favorite purveyors to move onto the street.  Then he got asked to write a cookbook.  As goes the old movie adage goes, "If you build it, they will come." 

Frenchie is the epitome of the food that made France famous.  It is simply done, beautifully executed, and good to eat.  This simple, easy to put together salad is a fine example of the food at Frenchie.  Marchand says he would eat this every day.  We would, too.

Roasted Carrot, Orange, and Avocado Salad

For The Roasted Carrots

2 bunches (about 1 pound) baby carrots
1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 thyme sprig
1 garlic clove, crushed
Olive oil

For the Salad

2 -3 navel oranges
2 avocados
3 cilantro sprigs
Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
Olive oil
Fleur de sel
Piment d'Espelette

The roasted carrots:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. 

Trim the carrots and put them in a bowl. 

Toast the coriander and fennel seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes; take care not to burn them. Let cool, then coarsely crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle or under a heavy skillet. 

Add the toasted spices to the carrots, along with the thyme, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt, and toss well with your hands. Transfer the carrots to a baking dish and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until tender and lightly browned. Set aside.

The salad:

With a sharp knife, peel the oranges down to the flesh, removing all the bitter white pith, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. You need 16 slices.Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, peel, and cut lengthwise into thick slices. Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems.

To serve:

Combine the carrots, oranges, and avocados in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with the cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, fleur de sel, and a pinch of piment d’Espelette and toss gently. Arrange on salad plates and serve.
 Nothing would make us happier than to live around the corner from Frenchie.  Since we don't, this lovely cookbook will have to do.

14 April 2014

Pick A Pickle

You know we love us some preserving books.  We foresee a day when we will have more books ABOUT canning that we will have food that we have canned.  Fine! We exaggerate, but you know what we mean. 

People have been pickling vegetables since the invention of a salt and vinegar.  Grab some veggies, pour a hot brine of vinegar over them -- pickles.  It is not really brain surgery, but way more fun, and if you screw up, no one dies or ends up in a vegetative state.  But it is hard to screw up. 

So why another book?  Well, Pick A Pickle is one of those cookbooks that is not merely a cookbook but a kind of art. It is designed like a Pantone swatchbook. The recipes fan out of their carrying case to reveal a wide variety of recipes.  You have seen designers huddled over their swatchbooks finding just the right color, well we like to think of cooks sitting around pouring over exactly which pickle they will be making. 

Those cooks are in good hands as the chef behind Pick A Pickle is Hugh Acheson, who wrote one of our fave cookbooks of 2011 (and still), A Turn In The South.  Yes, there are recipes in the book that you have seen a billion times: Pickled Jalapeños, Pickled Okra, Pickled Watermelon Rind, and Pickled Beets and so on. But the true test of a good pickle book is this:  Does the author pickle something you never thought of pickling before?  So, alongside those old familiars, Acheson gives us his usual unusual turn in the South.

Are you one of those cooks who cuts out the nice bits of veggies and tosses the rest into the compost?  You will never do that again after this recipe

Pickled Turnip Stems

4 cups small turnip stems
2 garlic cloves
1 sprig fresh thyme
3⁄4 tablespoon pickling salt
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
3⁄4 cup cider vinegar
3⁄4 cup water

Cut the turnip stems into 1⁄4-inch lengths. Pack the stems, garlic, and thyme into the jars, leaving 1⁄2 inch of headspace at the top, and set aside.

Combine the salt, sugar, mustard seeds, vinegar, and water in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Carefully ladle the hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1⁄2 inch of headspace in each. Cap with lids and bands, cool for 2 hours, and then either refrigerate or process according to the jar manufacturer’s directions.

The pickles can be refrigerated for 7 to 10 days; if processed, they will keep for up to 10 months.

Yes, Pick A Pickle it is a Hugh Acheson book, but we would like to give a big shout out to Rinne Allen who photographed it and Danielle Deschenes who designed this culinary swatchbook.  Now get out there and get yourself in a pickle.

08 April 2014

Not A Cookbook -- A Web Site

As you know, because you know food, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History acquired Julia Child's kitchen and it was a  good thing. After several years, they removed the exhibit and included it a large one; it was literally moved into a larger context -- Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000.  

 Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000 is a must pilgrimage for food lovers, but if you can't make it to D.C., here is the next best thing. The Food exhibit has gone on-line with a great new web site.  Check out Food here.

04 April 2014

Victor Borge's Game Bird Cook Book

Yes, Virginia, we love a good celebrity cookbook.  We especially love those cookbooks written by the obscure celebrity.  Actually, in his prime, Victor Borge was quite the celebrity and his fame continued with a centennial celebration on PBS.  Borge was an accomplish classical pianist, but he gained fame by poking fun of his talent.  His ability to blend high culture and slapstick made him a natural for music hall variety shows of 40's and 50's radio and television.  He would go on to be a popular performer even sharing the stage with the Muppets. It would seem that encouraging listeners to use Chopin's "Minute Waltz" as an egg timer was quite lucrative.

He invested his money in a farm in Connecticut.  Victor Borge is known in the culinary world as the man who introduced Rock Cornish Game Hens to the American housewife.  The "game" in Rock Cornish Game Hens is a misnomer.  It is a particular breed or rather cross breed of chicken that is killed very young.  The breed occurred when the stocky Cornish game rooster was bread with a Barreled Plymouth Rock hen.  The resulting offspring were had short legs and big breasts and when killed young, they made attractive little single-serve chickens.

Housewives in the 1950's were enamored of the little birds that were quick to cook and made a far more exotic a main dish than "chicken."  While Borge was the "King of Game Hens," his farm also raised pheasants and guinea hens.

Since his birds were "exotic" and shipped from his ViBo Farm, he put together a small pamphlet of a cookbook to provide the harried housewife with ways to cook the Rock Cornish Game Hen.  Here is his favorite recipe:

Victor Borge's Favorite Recipe

Rub the inside of six ViBo Rock Cornish Game Hens with salt and pepper.  Sear in 1/4 lb. butter in Dutch Oven until golden brown -- 10 to 12 minutes.  Add 1 1/4 cups water and let simmer, covered, until tender -- approximately 35 minutes.  Remove birds.  Stir into drippings a paste of cold water and three teaspoons flour.  Add 1/2 cup light cream, salt, tasteless sauce coloring, 1/2 teaspoon sugar.  Serves six.

Ask yourself,  "Which isle is the 'tasteless sauce coloring' in?

01 April 2014

Books and My Food

Books and My Food.  Is there a title that more accurately describes my life?  This little gem from 1906 was compiled by Elisabeth Luther Cary and Annie M. Jones.  The premise is simple: every day of the year is marked with a quotation from a book and a recipe.  The Misses Cary and Jones were greatly enamored of the English novel and drew most of their quotes from them.  There is Shakespeare and Thackeray.  Some Charles'  Lamb and Dickens.  And they are especially fond of Charlotte Bronté. 

As with most very early cookbooks from the 20th century, there is little direction for cooking, so you are kind of on your own.  Still, it is a cute mix of the culinary and the literary in one place.  Not to mention you have food and literature for every day of the year.

If you were following the cookbook who you be reading today?  A selection from William Makepeace Thackeray's "The Ballad of Bouillabaisse."   Today's meal, it would follow, will be a fine bouillabaisse.  Well, it would be a fine fish stew.  The author's feel that there is really no reason to put all that extraneous stuff Thackeray mentions in the poem. 

April 1st

This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is --
  A sort of soup or broth, or brew,
Or hotch-potch of all sorts of fishes,
  That Greenwich never could outdo:
Green herbs, red peppers, mussels, saffron,
  Soles, onions, garlic, roach and dace:
All these you'll eat at Terré's tavern
  In that one dish of bouillabaisse.

The famous bouillabaisse is indeed as Thackeray describes it, a sort of fish chowder, but it is seldom contains all the ingredients he mentions.  It may be made with four pounds of fresh cod, two onions, a clove of garlic, one peppercorn, two stalks of celery, a quart of white potatoes cut in small pieces, salt, pepper, and a quarter of a pound of salt pork, cut in slices. Put all the ingredients together in a granite kettle and stew slowly in water enough to cover them for three to four hours. Just before serving add 1 quart of hot milk.

I wonder what cod would look like after being cooked for four hours?  After four hours that cod and potatoes would probably be cooked down to a soup, more of a broth or slurry than a stew one might imagine.  It might be more productive to read the entire Thackeray poem and seek out a different bouillabaisse recipe.  Or simply cook the salt pork for and hour or two and add the veggies and fish during the last half hour of cooking.  You are more inclined to have a fish stew that way.
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