Monday, February 15, 2010

Judith Jones Inspired

Recently, a dear friend gave me a copy of Judith Jones' new book "Cooking for One". At first, I admit I was somewhat off put by the book. After all, my love of cooking stems mainly from being able to share what I have created with friends, family and random strangers. Cooking for people is how I tell them I love them, that they mean something to me. Judith Jones takes this love and shows you that its just as good to show yourself a little love. Sometimes, there's no reason to have leftovers for the entire week. Sometimes, a little bit of something really good is all you need.

Tonight I tried Judith's recipe for a single cheese souffle. Having never made a souffle of any kind before, I approached the situation with a certain trepidation. I read and reread the recipe about 5 times and made sure all my ingredients were prepped and ready to go. My cheese grated, my single serving souffle dish at the ready and all of my ingredients measured out. When I set the souffle in the oven to bake, I waited with baited breath. Would it rise and brown? Or would it fall and fail?

While the souffle baked in the oven, I put together a simple green salad of baby spinach and cucumber with a mustard vinaigrette and kept my fingers crossed. After 18 minutes we had the rise but not the browning so I reset the timer for another 5 minutes. When I heard that final beep I was shocked at what I saw. It looked JUST LIKE THE PHOTO!!!! I knew I had to capture a picture and wanted to set one up just like the cover of Jones' book. Unfortunately I should have had it ready to go a bit sooner b/c by the time I managed to get the photo just the way I wanted the souffle had already started to fall a bit. But overall, it kept its light and airy texture with just the right amount of gruyere to make it rich but not overwhelm it. For my first attempt at a souffle, I'd say we had a great success. I can't wait to comb through the book for my next attempt!

Other successes in recent weeks include some pretty damn amazing blueberry muffins that use a little homemade blueberry jam to increase the punch of blueberry flavor:

Greek butter cookies: Light crescent shaped cookies flavored with brandy, vanilla and almond with finely chopped almonds and covered in a heavy dusting of powdered sugar:

A hearty minnestrone soup made with a few slices of Niman Ranch bacon and a rind of parmesan for a burst of flavor. A simple meal to warm the soul on a cold snowy winter day:

In the upper right hand corner of the soup picture you'll see what was perhaps my most exciting discovery to date. Fresh homemade bread. For years, bread was something that others did - proofing and yeast was something I thought beyond my pay grade. But after trying this recipe for honey whole wheat bread I am unequivocally hooked. There is no greater pleasure than kneading dough and lifting up the towel to see it rise gloriously.

Next up will be Judith Jones recipes for classic french baugettes. Stay tuned for photos and updates!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tira My What?

Oh, Tiramisu! Your origins are a mystery. It is well accepted that the current version with its coffee soaked ladyfingers and thick marscarpone custard was developed Trevisio by the Goddaughter of a local pastry chef but the actual circumstances of it's creation are shrouded in mystery.

Some say that the dessert was a created in the 16th century as a tribute to Grand Duke Cosimo de' Medici III upon his visit to Sienna. Others attribute it to the famous "Zuppa Inglese" or English Trifle that combines cubes of sponge cake, zabalgione and fresh fruit. It was rumored to be popular with the English scholars living in Florence in the 19th century.

The name of the dessert, tirami su, literally means pick me up - and is thought to be in reference to the sugar and espresso as a boost to pick up ones lagging energy as sweets of this nature are generally consumed by Italilans mid afternoon with a strong espresso and not at the end of a large meal as we do here in America.

But whatever the origins, tiramisu has quickly taken over the hearts (and stomachs) of many of my friends and family. It is a favorite here in the office and has been made for showers, birthdays, going-away and welcoming parties. My own recipe for the confection is one that I have perfected over time. Having found many too cloyingly sweet or having custards too soupy, I developed a recipe that could satisfy the most raging sweet tooth without hiding the flavor of the mascarpone. Also, having a fear of serving raw eggs (at least the ones I buy in my local supermarket...last time I checked Washington Heights was not farm fresh) I find the recipes that make a cooked custard to be much more appealing.

So here it is kids. My secret weapon to make you all love me more than you already do. My pick me up - my tiramisu!

Combine 2 cups boiling water, 3 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 2 tablespoons Frangelico liquer. Set aside to cool.

Over a double boiler with barely simmering water, whisk together 4 egg yolks 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. Whisk for 7-8 minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume and forms a ribbon when you pour it back into the bowl.

Remove from the heat and gently mix in 16 oz. mascarpone cheese. In a separate bowl, whip one cup of heavy cream until it forms peaks (not too stiff - we're making whipped cream - not butter) and fold it gently into the custard.

Dip saviorardi (lady fingers - not the soft ones as they absorb too much liquid and become mushy) in the coffee mixture very briefly (don't let them soak up too much) and line a casserole dish (or tupperware - or bowl of your choice). Pour about 1/2 of the cream over the cookies and repeat ending with a layer of the cream. Dust the top liberally with good quality cocoa and allow to set in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.

Serves one Development Department, one Communications Department and one Executive team.