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« July 2006 | Main | September 2006 »

Hot Hot Hot (and Freezing Cold)

Aug 03, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

can you believe this! with temperatures reaching the low 100's this week, as a good citizen i'm turning off the bedroom airconditioner the moment i wake up and drawing the drapes to keep out the morning sun rather than turning on the second airconditioner in the large living/work room

i haven't turned on the big oven to bake all week opting for recipes that fit into my counter top oven that generates far less heat.

but when i call people who work in corporations in midtown and across the river in nj they are shivering with too much airconditioning.

one is wearing a heavy sweater and another is actually using an electric heater by her desk.

something is wrong with this oximoronic picture.

Bennett Bread with Chilies Cheddar and Corn

Aug 03, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

permission to offer this fabulous recipe has been given so i'm working on adapting it for those who don't have a starter. i'll be posting it with the starter but with an easy way to mix up some flour, water, and a little yeast (this is called a biga but don't let that bother you!) 8 hours to 3 days ahead of mixing the dough for extra flavor and great texture.

it should be posted by next weekend. don't worry, the tomato and corn season is just getting into swing and it's a delicious bread all year 'round--you can use frozen or even canned corn when the corn season is over.

The Best Thing to Happen to Blairstown in 30 Years!

Aug 03, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Announcements

this year’s students at blair academy are about to get an education beyond the usual prerequisite college requirements. they are about to find out what real food tastes like. there is a new game in town and it’s called the gourmet gallery. located at 31 main street, a few doors down from the post office, a quick drive by would reveal a rather unassuming little place but oh the food!

word travels fast in small towns and the lovely lady at silverlake farms down the road (where i get my produce) told me the sandwiches are so good there are lines outside. but in truth, i first discovered the existence of the place, a mere 15 minutes drive from our weekend home in hope, at the fancy food show in new york beginning of july. i noticed a few ladies at my booth with badges that identified them as coming from blairstown. of course i had to tell them that i am a neighbor.

mother and daughter, anita and lori siegel, run the gourmet gallery and do much of the cooking and baking. lori had tried out restaurant work when the café in hope opened about 9 years ago, starting as a cook and baker. i remember noticing how suddenly the desserts were exceptionally good.

anita moved to blairstown with the plan to paint full time. but when daughter lori decided to open the take-out restaurant it became a joint effort immediately, putting their heads together with many ideas.

the menu offers a wide selection of fresh sandwiches, paninis, and wraps, baked goods, and superb gelato in many flavors. the mango had little pieces of fresh ripe mango and the vanilla version tasted amazingly of my favorite eurovanille and tahitian combined. the menu is constantly changing and it is immediately apparent that only the finest and freshest quality ingredients are used in everything. the coffee of the day was from guatamala and i was astonished to discover that it was the best coffee i’ve experienced outside of my own home perhaps ever.

for lunch i ordered one of the daily specials—the “pulled pork with tangy sauce and special cole slaw.” special indeed—i’ve had pit master’s pulled pork and this was the best i’ve ever tasted complete with crunchy bits from the outside of the barbequed pork. the sauce was perfectly tangy-sweet. it was more than enough to share with my husband. the little side dish i chose, the red bhutanese rice with dried cherries and scallions was inspired. i felt as though i had landed in paradise. cup of gelato in hand, i walked further down the street in the drizzle (what else is new this summer) to introduce myself to herman shoemaker, the owner of the local bookstore “booknest.” i was hoping he’d carry at least one of my books to give me an excuse to come back to sign them and for more tastes at the gourmet gallery!

i hesitated to write about them as they’re crowded enough already! after all, i don’t come from new york for the weekend in the country to wait in lines. but i want to do everything in my power to support local excellence. and the siegels tell me that one day they hope to expand into the store next to them. for now they have a nice outdoor space on the other side with tables and umbrellas.

gourmet gallery is open tuesdays through saturdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for lunch and afternoon coffee, specialy teas, and ice cream . if you come, you’re likely to see me standing in line!

No Barista Can Do It Better!

Aug 07, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in New Products

i promised last posting to reveal the favorite use of air in the “food world” and here it is: cappuccino! (yes it’s a beverage but as you may remember from one of my first postings, coffee is the most important thing to “pass the portals of my lips.” and for me, it’s more than a beverage—it’s my daily breakfast.

as i reflect on my restaurant and home cooking experiences over the past 40 years i am struck by the fact that in the beginning most if not all of the best dishes had to be made by a chef. gradually this changed as the best ingredients became available to the home cook and more recently the best equipment as well. it’s a sad irony that people seem to be cooking less at home now that they could make the most delicious and nutritious dishes to their own taste. i honestly think my husband is torn between envying the control i have over what we eat and enjoying almost all of it!

coffee has been the last bastion of “better consumed out.” it was never as good at home because cafés have a faster turnover and for coffee, freshly roasted and ground is an imperative. then along cake illy and nespresso with stunning and efficient hi-tech machines and equally if not more important, high quality coffee vacuum sealed in individual packages. but i still had to go OUT for a good cappuccino. two guys from the UK came up with aerolatte—a terrific battery operated foaming device so effective it was immediately knocked off with lower quality by another major company. the original model was far better and easier to use than the foaming devices on even the most expensive cappuccino machines because, for one thing, the aerolatte did not introduce any steam into the coffee during the foaming process.

my one problem with this hand-held device was that it necessitated my running back and forth between the microwave to heat the milk, the coffee maker, and back to the microwave to retrieve the milk and foam it before the coffee cooled. not enough calories burned to counteract the teaspoon of sugar i added but still….agitation was not the way i wanted to start the morning (foaming is another thing.)

finally nespresso introduced the foamer of my dreams: the aeorccino. it makes foaming the milk so perfect and so easy that it has served to increase my coffee consumption by double. it is a stunning stainless steel little ‘pot’ with non-stick lining and a two magnetic little devices—one a coil which fits on the bottom to foam milk for cappuccino and the other that fits onto the top for making latte. the pot sits on a small plastic base that plugs into an electric outlet. (my base was a little wobbly so i stuck a few small layers of masking tape under it on one side to steady it and it has stayed securely in place for months.)

to become the barrister barista of your dreams, you simply pour milk (i use whole milk but 2% is fine too) up to the mark, cover it, press the button, and in seconds have perfectly foamed milk—the thickest finest foam ever.

caffeine has little to no effect on me but i’m happy to report that both illy and nespresso produce decaf pods that are as delicious as the caffeinated variety.

yes, the aeroccino may seem expensive at $80, but it pays for itself in a matter of weeks when you consider the price of ordering cappuccino out!

to view the aeroccino go to www.nespresso.com and select all accessories.

The Most Important Ingredient for Optimal Flavor in All Food

Aug 08, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Recipes

we baker’s know that the most important and least expensive ingredient in baking is air. but it’s taken me years to put together the importance of air in all aspects of food, especially the consumption of it. the idea has so intrigued me i am prompted to share it on this blog. i think it could well change our way of experiencing more fully the dining experience. oh let me not formalize my favorite activity—let’s call it what it is--just plain EATING.

one night a few weeks ago, on the back porch in hope, nj, where it had just rained all afternoon unearthing the usual woodsy aromas from the forest around us, i noticed that dinner had the flavor of mushrooms. the odd thing is that i hadn’t added mushrooms to any of the dishes. that’s when i remembered all the incidents over the years when i noticed how what i smelled was affecting what i was tasting. a little bulb went off in my head: great way to diet: smell more, eat less! good luck!

but the idea of smell and taste intrigued me and remembrances of times when i noticed the phenomenon kept popping up. the first was when i decorated a chocolate cake with freesias and happened to smell them as i was tasting the cake. suddenly i was eating freesias! (but without putting them in my mouth of course—i think they’re poisonous—but not to the nose—ah ha!)

then my mind leapt back 40 summers, eating al fresco (italian translated as in fresh air) on a hill top at my uncle nat’s farm. actually it was just off bean hill road in the berkshires. my father was in the midst of building a log cabin nearby so i went up for the weekend to help him strip logs. he made an outdoor fire and we grilled a steak, accompanying it with freshly cooked vegetables from my uncle’s large garden. the panorama was unforgettable: the hilltop surrounded by the berkshire mountains in the distance with only the stockbridge bowl and one large white house belonging to leopold stokowky in sight. watching the fireflies dancing in the twilight, breathing in the country air, the simple meal tasted better than any i had ever had before (no i didn’t breath in any of the fireflies!)

years later i ate an unusual dish at the river café in brooklyn. it was my first introduction to a chef’s using the concept of aroma’s influence on taste and to great dramatic effect. chef david burke served steamed scallops, sitting on their shells, and placed on a substantial bed of toasted black peppercorns. with each bite of scallop, one tasted the heady perfume of black pepper without the accompanying irritation had one actually consumed enough black pepper to have the same flavor impact. then, for dessert, talk about drama: he served it on a miniature cast iron stove with little cinnamon logs burning in its oven. there’s a chef who knows how to maximize flavor and presentation.

i mentioned this concept to my friend michael batterberry, publisher of food arts magazine, and he immediately delighted me with the image of a rosemary branch twined around a fork (it somehow had to have been antique silver—perhaps even vermeil) so that with every bite one tasted the aroma of the herb without the overpowering flavor had it been in the dish itself. The possibilities here are endless.

just one thing i’d like to see take place immediately: a stringent ban the wearing of perfume or scented cosmetics in eating establishments (it certainly is and needs to be so at wine tastings). well, at least cigarette smoke is no longer a taste distorting presence. maybe eventually perfume will bite the dust as well but in the meantime i think i’ll either design a nose blinder or eat at home, most happily on the back porch of hope. (not, however, if a skunk should happen by!)

Continue reading "The Most Important Ingredient for Optimal Flavor in All Food" »

Bennett Chili Bread as Promised

Aug 09, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Bread

i've been promising this recipe on the blog for a while, and here it finally is.

the photo is the dough at the point where the corn, cheese, and chilies are being mixed in, which is the point at which you can really start to smell how everything is going to turn out.

Continue reading "Bennett Chili Bread as Promised" »

"Cakewalk" An Extraordinary Cake Book

Aug 11, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Cookbooks

Adventures in Sugar with Margaret Braun
New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc, 2001

(Review I wrote for Gastronomica)

I’ve always thought it a pity that exquisitely crafted cakes, which are in fact works of art, should be consigned to a medium of flour, water, sugar, and butter, that self destructs like sandcastles at high tide. I’ve questioned whether they didn’t deserve to be made in a more durable medium instead that could last for years in a museum for many more to enjoy. In fact, in Canada, Japan, and no doubt elsewhere, there is a highly practical tradition of making elaborate but reusable wedding cakes with durable decorations on Styrofoam layers with just one small section removed to hold an edible piece of cake that the bride can feed the groom, while the actual cake to serve the guests is only a backstage sheet cake.
But I have to admit, that if ever there were a time and a place, or justification for the real thing, devoid of such deceit, it would have to be for a wedding celebration. Perhaps some atavistic pagan fantasy entices us to see this exquisite virginal symbol invaded and cut into to reveal it’s tender and flavorful interior. But whether real or illusionary most would agree: A dream occasion deserves a dream cake. Margaret Braun, in her book “Cakewalk,” presents a collection of breath-taking tiered celebration cakes unlike any I have ever seen. They are such exquisite works of art I’m sure people will wince in pain to see one cut. Just looking at them in print makes me want to sob with delight. Even the publisher (Rizzoli) has risen to the occasion, providing the setting this book deserves. Not only is this a gorgeous four color production with stitched plinth (binding), but the proverbial icing on the cake, and unprecedented for a cookbook, it has guilt edged pages. Even most bibles don’t get this treatment! And the photographs by Quentin Bacon do these edible dream works of art full justice.
Yes, this makes a fabulous coffee table book, but it is much more than that. Braun’s designs are uniquely original and she shares many of the detailed techniques to recreate their appearance. This book will provide inspiration to countless cake bakers and caterers ever in search of a “new look.” If you want to reproduce most of the actual cakes in this book, however, you will need a more detailed baking book that contains cake recipes both larger and smaller than the 10-inch ones offered here. Also, the actual instructions for shaping the layers are vague to non-existent. One interesting though labor intensive suggestion is to cut the layers 1/2-inch thick to increase the proportion of filling to cake. Of course this is a matter of personal preference. Cake lovers who appreciate their cake layer lofty and uninterrupted (and there are many) will not be pleased.
By the way, don’t be surprised if your caterer cringes in horror at being asked to reproduce any of these elaborate edifices. These cakes are labors of love and require the skill of a devoted and meticulous craftsperson. But even borrowing a few of the beautiful motifs or techniques such as painting a cake with food color, or finishing it with gold dust, pearl dust, or gold leaf, will do wonders to transform a more humble design. And of course for a price you can have Margaret Braun herself recreate them.
Sprinkled throughout “Cakewalk” are refreshingly unfamiliar and thought provoking quotations such as this one on symmetry: “The underlying belief was that locating the centre of symmetry meant locating the way, the truth, and the light. Aesthetic custom and theological doctrine went hand in hand. The aesthetics of proportion was the medieval aesthetic par excellence….The principle and criterion of symmetry, even in the most elementary forms, was rooted in the very instinct of the medieval soul” --Umberto Ecco Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages (1986) (p.176). There is not a lot of story telling in “Cakewalk” but what there is reveals great sensibility of style, philosophical conviction, history and poetry—a person well beyond the realm of her cakes, that one would love to know better. I suspect that she richly deserves to have been published in such a regal manner.

Now Why Didn't I Think of That???!!!

Aug 11, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Savory Cooking

i really don’t care—i’m just grateful someone, namely my wonderful colleague of “cooking one two three” fame: rosanne gold did. but doesn’t it seem that the most brilliant ideas elicit the above response?

in roseanne’s one two three concept, salt, pepper, and water don’t count (this is reasonable as they are basic staples/necessities). so here are the three star ingredients:

salmon fillets, wasabi powder (japanese horseradish) and mayonnaise.

i spread most of the lovely sea-foam green creamy wasabi mayo over the salmon before cooking but the recipe makes enough to serve some alongside as well. actually, i make sure to make enough salmon to have left-over to enjoy the next day cold with some of the wasabi mayo (elliott and i prefer the flavor of all fish cold).

this recipe is miraculously quick and phenomenally pleasing. the recipe was forwarded to me by my beloved protégé david shammah—after close to 30 years he knows what i love and is an absolute genius at unearthing wonderful things. this recipe will be part of my permanent repertoire and it could also change forever the way i enjoy egg salad sandwiches!

the original recipe was for 4 but of course it can be scaled up and down with ease. here’s my adaptation for two:

2 thick salmon fillets, skin on--8 ounces each
1 1/2 tablespoons wasabi powder
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons mayo (full fat for best flavor)

season the fish with salt and pepper.
mix wasabi with just enough water to form a smooth thick paste. whisk into mayo, add a small pinch of salt and pepper, and spread on top of the fillets to cover completely.

the original recipe says to bake it in a foil or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet for about 15 minutes (i assume at 350˚F) until the top is lightly golden, but i find the great rule of 10 min. an inch usually works. in any case i cook salmon only to about 108˚F so it’s still a little moist in the thickest parts which is just how rozanne recommended.

i oiled the salmon skin side lightly, set it atop a sheet of heavy duty foil with holes all over (make your own if they are no longer marketing this—i’ve had it for a few years now) and cooked it on the grill so that the skin got crisp, but you could remove the skin after cooking and crisp it in a sautée pan. (if using the foil and grill, use high direct heat but after about 5 minutes move the fish on the foil away from the heat—turn off the burner under the fish if using a gas grill to keep the skin from burning.) my grill was over 500˚F and the fish cooked perfectly in 8 minutes—still a little moist and rosy in the thickest part but succulent even in the thinner parts thanks to the mayo. and thank YOU rozanne!!!

A Recipe for Peace

Aug 12, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Savory Cooking

When I listen to the news these days and hear reports of rockets from Lebanon bombarding Israel, I worry for my Israeli cousins and friends but my heart also aches for the Lebanese people. My first association with Lebanon was Kahlil Gibran and his treasured book of wisdom “the Prophet.”(“Your children are not your children, they are life’s longing for itself…”) My best friend from India named her first daughter Kahlila after him. Her second daughter was named Yael. She confided in me that she didn’t dare tell her parents that it was an Israeli name so she told them it was an Arabic name. When my liberal-minded Indian friend had her hair done in an Afro and discovered that New York taxi cabs wouldn’t stop for her, horrified, she lost no time in retreating to hair straightened back to its original Caucasian texture. Ironically, I am also reminded of an old Russian friend of my mother’s who told her father when introducing him to an East Indian man with dark skin she was dating that he didn’t speak English because he was an orthodox Israeli Jew.

So sad and so scary are the prejudices that infect our beautiful world. But getting back to Lebanon and my second association is the love affair I had when I was a young woman with a man I called “The Fifth Cellist.” It was love at first sight when I saw him in the “orchestra pit” in the fifth chair of the cello section. I had a vision of him playing the cello in Boston, in a wood-paneled library, with a ray of a late afternoon winter sun illuminating his dark golden curls. Not being able to stop myself, but heart pounding with daring, with great assumed authority I asked the chorus master to put a note on the fifth cello stand during intermission. He obliged without questioning.

On the fifth cellist’s return from intermission, I watched as he saw the note, as his surprised and intrigued eyes searched the audience like beacons, and in sheer terror I instantly dropped mine. All I had dared put into the note was my phone number. (He later told me that had it been a business card of any sort he would not have responded.) That night, studying the huge Janssen book of art history, I fell asleep until midnight when the phone rang and I heard the amazing words “This is the Fifth Cellist.”

We met the following week and it was magic for both of us. I learned that he was in the middle of a relationship with another woman but couldn’t resist satisfying his curiosity as to who would write such a note. I also learned that he was indeed from Boston. That he was half Lebanese and that his father and Kahlil Gibran were best friends. And eventually, months down the road, when we talked about the possibilities of a permanent relationship, and I speculated about how my Jewish relatives would react to my marrying an Arab, Richard told me how gentle and peace-loving the Lebanese were. The image he painted was of his uncles preferring to lie under an olive tree to any other activity—so different from what I as an American was led to imagine.

I’m sure I would have married my fifth cellist but he could not/would not leave the relationship to which he felt committed. Until some years later when I discovered from a baking student of mine who coincidentally turned out to be the best friend of “the other woman” that she was the one to run off with the husband of their best friend!

Here’s the story I finally wrote 16 years ago for my column in the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, in which I nestled in the romance and the recipe that, along with my lasting love of Lebanon, was my souvenir of those magical moments in time.

Continue reading "A Recipe for Peace" »

"Rose's Vanilla Bible" for Food Arts Magazine

Aug 13, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Publications

To my view, the pastry world is divided between two different personality types: chocolate and vanilla, chocolate reflecting the heavy hitters and vanilla the more subtle and complex. I love both flavors but if I had to chose only one it would be simple: vanilla wins hands down, not only because I love its flavor but because it is one of those rare synergistic ingredients that enhances others. If chocolate is king, then vanilla is queen. And it is indeed the power behind the throne. Where, after all, would chocolate be without vanilla to round out its harsher, coarser characteristics. And in the domain of ice cream, vanilla reigns supreme as our number one flavor.

The term plain vanilla is an absurdity. There is nothing plain about magic. Perhaps the concept came about because vanilla sauces and creams are often used as a base for other more intense flavors; but there is nothing plain about it at all. In fact, when it stands on its own as vanilla ice cream or vanilla pound cake, it is the very essence of purity and haunting floral flavor notes that make one yearn for the impossible while feeling utterly fulfilled in the moment.

Continue reading ""Rose's Vanilla Bible" for Food Arts Magazine" »

The Chirls' Children's Baking Clinic in Hope

Aug 29, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Travel Adventures

This is a photo I will always cherish of my new editor Pam Chirls's family's first visit to my house in Hope. They asked for a cake baking lesson and here are the proud results of their just having unmolded a chocolate cake baked in Lékué silicone molds designed with children in mind (though I adore the cute shapes as well).

Since cakes baked in silicone need to cool completely before unmolding, it makes it ideal for kids as it eliminates the danger of burns from hot pans!

Allix and twin Julia are in the back and Isabelle is the one holding the little loaf cake. We also had a cake tasting of Gateau Breton and they were all amazingly helpful comparing the salt version with the no salt.

The best part is that after taking the cakes home, they cherished every crumb making the little cakes last several days and now want to bake their own. This is what every lesson hopes to inspire!

But I suspect that what they'll remember best of all is the big black bear we encountered on a drive through the back roads. Happily we were all in the car at the time. We wanted to take a photo but he moved far too quickly and all we saw was as Allix remarked "his butt," to which I added: "yes—his bear butt."

The Re-Evolution of a Classic Dish: Ratatouille

Aug 30, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose in Savory Cooking

My dear friend and culinary colleague Marguerite Thomas and I have been exchanging recipes since the outset of our friendship nearly a decade ago. She came up with a really cute idea for a joint cookbook entitled "e-mail eats"! but she's very busy with projects including travels for her column in "wine news" and www.winereviewonline.com where she and her husband Paul Lukas offer up inspired food and wine pairings. and I'm busy with my upcoming cake book. so I'm going to share one of the best of our "e-mail eats" collection right now while all the summer vegetables necessary for this timeless recipe are at their peak. and I'm going to include the original e-mail because the uniquely casual and friendly charm of Marguerite's writing is not something one finds very often if at all in recipe books!

Marguerite's ratatouille has become a summer tradition. it is superb with grilled leg of lamb or lamb chops and I always freeze little packages to enjoy with pasta during the winter. This is an idea borrowed from my beloved Sicilian friend and colleague Angelica Pulvirenti. She makes this dish for me every summer by sautéeing the vegetables in an ample amount of olive oil and then tossing it with pasta.

This summer, I tried something a little different for the ratatouille. i grilled the egg plant (cut in rounds), zuchinni (cut in half the long way), and peppers—uncut, all brushed well with olive oil. I used high heat, making sure to turn the vegetables and check for doneness to prevent blackening. The slight touch of smoky char was a fantastic addition.

Marguerite's original e-mailed recipe:

Continue reading "The Re-Evolution of a Classic Dish: Ratatouille" »

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