It is a good time to be my friend.

When is a scone not just a scone?

I might not have mentioned this here before, but I am currently in the process of opening a crêperie (Parisian-style, not the béchamel-soaked-retro-American style) . A few months ago, while I began to contemplate leaving real estate for work that wouldn’t eat my soul from the inside out, I sat down with a friend who owned and operated my favorite coffee house.

I was hoping to get some advice about starting up a food venture, but I emerged from the conversation with a companion in an expansion venture. It turned out that he was adding square footage, and was struggling to come up with food offerings. Ever since I lived in Paris and bought my first crepe pans I’ve been unable to understand why these wonderful foodstuffs weren’t more broadly available in the U.S.. The crêperie concept also had the additional benefit of being operable out of the very limited kitchen space we would have available to us. Continue reading

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God Bless Jim Lahey and The New York Times

No Knead Bread 1

A few weeks ago, I read the article on No-Knead Bread by Mark Bittman with interest and a vague sense of disbelief. His claim, that it was possible to make artisan quality bread with a dense toothy crumb and a substantial professional crust at home, seemed like an impossibility. I was curious enough to try it out, but I lacked a 6-8 quart pot that was oven safe at the 450 degree temperature that the recipe called for. Even though I didn’t have the proper tools at the time I clipped the recipe and saved it for a day when I would have such a pot in my life.

The claims in the article were sufficiently seductive that I was thinking about the possibility of bread even as I was shopping for Betty.  As soon as the family left town and I recovered from our still-to-be discussed cookie baking marathon, I had my yeast out and ready. Part of the attraction of this recipe is its total simplicity. A few ingredient, a wet dough, a long 18 hour slow rise, a brief shaping then a two hour second rise all add up to very little active time in the kitchen. Continue reading

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Are you ready for some truffle love?

Check out the Sugar High Friday #25 Round-Up

I am constantly astounded by all of the culinary talent out there in cyberspace these days.  Looking at the beautiful, original, and artfully presented food musings of other bloggers inevitably inspires me to get back in the kitchen and back to work.

If you are ready to feel inspired, be sure to check out the round-up of the truffle event.  There are over 50 stunningly beautiful entries.  I will warn you that it is likely to induce chocolate cravings.

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My Ocean Spray Cranberry Conspiracy Theory

Am I crazy, or has ocean spray taken to hybridizing their cranberries?

Homemade cranberry sauce and fresh cranberry relish are key components of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

This year, due to an impulsive (but excellent) decision to make Orangette’s Cranberry Chutney, I found myself two bags of cranberries short on Thanksgiving morning. A quick trip to the grocery store closest to my sister’s house yielded two bags of ocean spray cranberries, which looked plump and very fresh. In fact they were about twice as large as the generic cranberries that I had used for all of my other cranberry delights this season. I initially thought that this was a good thing, and I quickly washed and sorted the berries and threw them in the food processor to begin the fresh cranberry relish.

A quick whir, and I began to worry that something must be wrong with the berries. Instead of a rich rosy mix, the chopped berries looked pale and anemic. Not to be deterred, I dumped them into the mixing bowl and chopped the oranges and apples for the relish. I combined all the ingredients, gave them a quick stir, added a sprinkling of sugar, and tasted. Continue reading

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My Life in Food

Last week, I took Sam up on a challenge to photograph everything that I ate beginning Monday, November 20th until I went to bed on Sunday, November 26th. I didn’t think about it for long before agreeing because it sounded like fun and I wanted to get more experience photographing food.

On Sunday night I made sure to put the digital camera batteries in the charger and I was ready to go on Monday morning. This was not a typical food week for me, because I had a lot of family in town visiting for Thanksgiving that would be staying through Monday morning. Our crew for much of the week included my husband, my sister and her husband and in-laws, my parents, and my little brother. That made nine of us in all.

Because we were such a large group, and almost everyone was in from out of town, we alternated between eating out and my cooking. Featured in some the photos are several of my family’s favorite restaurants in the area, because everyone has his or her own special requests when they come to town.

Looking over the week of pictures makes me realize a few interesting things about my food life. I live on tea, wine and vegetables. I never eat traditional breakfast food unless I am at a restaurant, and my obsession with food clearly comes from my family. When we get together we talk and eat, eat and talk, and most of what we talk about is what we have eaten, would like to eat, or whatever we are eating at the time.

View a slide show of my week by clicking here, or view the web album by clicking here. I forgot to weigh myself this morning, but I will do it tomorrow morning and report back on the damage.

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Sugar High Friday #25: Mexican Chocolate Truffles

Thank you Passionate Cook for hosting this event.

Truffles 1

Since Mexico is widely credited with bringing chocolate to the world, I thought I would head south of the border for the inspiration for my truffles. These are not your mama’s truffles in the sense that they are very boldly flavored. One of the characteristics I love best about chocolate is how it comes alive when paired with pungent spices. Especially when chocolate is in a form where the texture is dense and creamy, like in a truffle, it seems to marry well with a little heat.

Truffles 2

For these truffles I used El Ray extra bitter 73.5% cacao, because my husband and I are total dark chocolate fiends. When I make them to give away, I will still use the El Ray chocolate, but I will use the 60% cacao version. The reason I selected that particular brand of chocolate is that while it has a nice opening and a lingering earthy finish, it is relatively flat in the middle. I thought this would create a lot of space for the aggressive flavors I had planned for the dish. In the past, when I have used Callebaut and Valrhona for projects I have found that the taste of the chocolate is so dominant that I have a hard time introducing other flavors.

Truffles 3

When you bite into this truffle, your mouth is filled with a luscious creaminess. The dense chocolate melts over your tongue, amplified by the robust earthiness of coffee. Your nose is tickled by the faint background of cinnamon and almond. While the truffle melts away your mouth experiences a gentle heat, a tickling of your taste buds introduced by the cayenne pepper and the hints of liquor. This fades away into a delightful finish, which is full and round while the chocolate, coffee, and cayenne pepper all compete to be the last flavor you remember.

Continue reading

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Happy Thanskgiving

This year's pies, added after Thanksgiving.

I am so excited I can’t wait to get back into the kitchen today. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. What is not to love about a day that is solely devoted to food and sharing time with the people that you love?

Thanksgiving is one of the few meals that we do completely traditionally. No fancy variations, just the same recipes that my mom made and my grandmother before her. We will be eating: Turkey, butternut squash puree, green beans with a touch of lemon juice and olive oil, stuffing, mashed potatoes, fresh and cooked cranberry sauce, and gravy. Before the meal we will have a “shrub” (whatever that is) of a small scoop of pineapple sorbet in cranberry juice. I think it’s very retro, but it is part of the tradition. When we were little kids we were served it in fancy champagne flutes, and so it has an association of grown-up elegance that makes it one of my favorite parts of the meal.

For dessert there will be home-made pumpkin, pecan, and dutch apple pies. My sister and I are getting together to make the pies in an hour. We are only allowed to make the pies if we swear to absolutely make them according to my mothers recipes. Continue reading

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