Thursday, June 30, 2011

Vanilla Bean-Pineapple Tart

Pineapple-Vanilla Bean Tart Closeup

The smells of pineapple, vanilla, and rum flooding my house when I baked this tart made me think of umbrella drinks and tropical vacations.   These ingredients are topped off by a beautiful, intricate lattice crust.  It may look complicated, but the only difficult part of this recipe was keeping the dough cold during the summer heat.  It kept getting melty and sticking to my board and tearing, and it took a few return trips to the fridge and a bunch of patience I was running out of.

Pineapple-Vanilla Bean Tart

But the smell of pineapple and rum instantly restored my mood.  And in the end the crust looked great and it's always fun to weave a lattice.  The filling tasted like the top of an upside-down pineapple cake (or the bottom, if you haven't up-ended it yet).

Lattice Top

Half your dough is used for the tart bottom, but the other half is cut into strips for your lattice top.  The lattice is woven on parchment paper (or waxed paper, in this case), frozen until ready to use, and then carefully slid on top of the tart.

Pineapple-filled tart

Fresh pineapple is simmered with rum, sugars, and vanilla bean.  The cooked and cooled chunks are added to the tart shell.  This tart is in the very sweet category, so next time I would personally halve the sugars.  If you enjoy sugar rush, follow the recipe.

The taste of rum is faint in the final product, if that's a concern of yours.  I'm not sure if this is because I used whatever rum was in the house instead of the dark rum that was called for, or if the alcohol simply cooked off.

Lattice on Tart

The tart is then chilled with the lattice, which is brushed with egg wash before going in the oven.

Mini Pineapple-Vanilla Bean Tart

And since I made this recipe in a square pan, having no rectangular tart pan, there was some filling and dough left over for a mini.  Isn't it cute?

This post was submitted to Sweets for a Saturday.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pie

Chocolate Cream Pie

This Chocolate Cream Pie has the best of all worlds: a chocolate graham cracker crumb crust is filled with a rich chocolate pudding, and topped off with a vanilla whipped cream and chocolate curls.  While this crust was easy to make, I wouldn't fault anyone for buying those premade crusts in the heat of summer to make a no-bake version.  And for the gluten-free among us, simply swap in gluten-free chocolate wafers to enjoy this dessert.

Chocolate Cream Pie Slice

The crust is nicely sandy and a bit crunchy, the pudding is one of the best I've ever had, and who doesn't like whipped cream?  You can simply spread on the cream, or pipe it in pretty stars like I did here for a fancier look.  I used Callebaut chocolate for the pudding once, and Ghirardelli another time.  You might be tempted to add more sugar if you taste the pudding when it's done and still hot, but keep in mind that puddings always taste sweeter after they chill.  But I decreased the confectioners' sugar in the whipped cream to a quarter-cup because I didn't feel it needed a half-cup.  And I was very, very pleased with all the results.

I've submitted this to Lisa's Sweets for a Saturday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Crispy Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken

You may recall my first post on Fried Chicken ages ago (three years!!), and it was a good recipe.  But I recently saw another on TV that intrigued me: the usual chicken coating of flour was blended with cornmeal and double-dredged to intensify the crunch factor, and would still be crispy later in the day if you wanted to take it to a picnic.

I skipped most of the brining instructions, and simplified it to an hour's soak of cold water with some salt.  Still came out very juicy.  I can vouch for the extra crunchy/crispy factor, but I don't know about hours later; we ate them right away, and the next day out of the fridge they were no longer crunchy but crisped up again in the toaster oven.  I think I've got a new favorite recipe, or maybe just for the next three years.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Roasted Corn Salad

Roasted Corn Salad
I could have attacked this whole dish with a spoon, it was that good.  Fresh corn and some poblano get slightly smoky under the broiler, and then mingle with the fresh flavors of tomato, scallion, and basil.  My friend Dorothy asked for the recipe, and I said, "What recipe?  I threw it together."  But it was easy enough that I roughly remembered everything.    

Roasted Corn Salad Bowl

Fans of cilantro can substitute that herb for the basil.  Feel free to use more poblano if you like it spicy, or substitute a hotter pepper.  I meant to use lime, but after sampling a little salad with some juice I felt the lime overpowered the other flavors.  Throw in other vegetables that you like, and make it your own -- just keep tasting and re-seasoning.  For my personal tastes, it was the perfect summer salad.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bittman's Bulgogi (Korean Barbeque)


One of my fondest childhood memories is my parents taking us to eat Korean barbeque.  We'd make the trek from Brooklyn to Flushing, in Queens.  I would arrive home with my jacket smelling like the grilled beef, and it was Carnivore Nirvana.  When I moved to the Boston area, my sister would eagerly make the treks with me to Koreana in Cambridge.  The waitresses would bring us nearly a dozen side dishes, and we would cook the meat on the tabletop grills.  The beef would be flavorful and juicy, but just slightly crisp and charred at the edges.

Bulgogi Background

When I saw Mark Bittman's Backyard Bulgogi article, I got excited.  Sure, he's not Korean, but the man can cook, can't he?  I liked how simple the recipe was, but it sure didn't look like the time my summer term college suitemate from South Korea made bulgogi (I remember a lot more soy sauce, and sliced white onions).  The verdict: It didn't taste quite like bulgogi, but it was still pretty damn good.  You really can't go wrong with marinating beef in a paste of soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and scallions.  The only real change I made was to broil the beef, since the last time I used my gas grill it caught on fire -- no, not the way it's supposed to.  But the broiler did the trick, and it was close to Carnivore Nirvana.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lychee Sorbet

Lychee Sorbet

I may not have been crazy about my last few frozen dessert recipes, but I love this one!  It seems like lychee has become a trendy flavor over the past few years.  I've been eating lychees since childhood, but I've never had Lychee Sorbet.  It has all the wonderful flavor of the fruit in a slushy kind of texture.

lychee closeup

The recipe calls for canned lychees and makes use of the syrup they're packed in.  The fresh fruit (in back) has a rough, thick skin you peel away with your fingers, and the juicy, white fruit has a pit inside.  I once offered a very similar fruit, the longan, to some friends in college, who found the texture too weird and said it was like an eyeball.  Which is funny, because the Mandarin long yan directly translates as "dragon's eye";  (the Mandarin for lychee is li zhi).

Lychee Sorbet 2

The sorbet is a cinch to whip up.  I'll be cooling off again with it on some hot summer days.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Strawberry Gelato

strawberry gelato
This recipe from The New York Times is actually called Winter Strawberry Gelato becauses it uses frozen strawberries when the fruits aren't in season.  I made it earlier this spring with fresh, fragrant strawberries, but I'm only getting around to posting it close to summer.  Call it the busiest May ever.  I got asked recently when I would be getting back to my blog, but I suffered from ugly photos or dishes that were eaten by guests before I got a chance to grab my camera.  This one looked all right.  And June is the month for strawberries.

Problem was, the taste wasn't that impressive.  It was OK, refreshing even, but it reminded me of diet ice cream.  The texture was more icy than creamy.  That shouldn't have surprised me since it came from the Recipes for Health column.  One rule I have in life: Eat ice cream right, or not at all.  Meaning none of that diet stuff; make it the real deal.  This version uses milk, but it could have benefited from the usual addition of some cream and/or eggs.  It wasn't awful, not by a long shot, but I wouldn't recommend it.

And because I've been so absent, I'll share an "ugly" photo.  This recipe was David Lebovitz's Coconut Ice Cream with Saffron.  This was all I had left after serving the ice cream at a dinner for four.  The recipe was interesting because of the use of saffron, and because it called for palm sugar instead of cane sugar.  I liked it OK, though it wasn't what I expected.  I thought the flavor would be light, but it was kind of warm and rich (if that makes sense).

Stay tuned, because I'm looking to discover more flavors of ice cream and sorbet this summer!