Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A cheddar-goat-chese-quiche washed down with buttermilk raspberry cake

"It's not as bad as it looks? It's not as bad as pepperoni? Pepperoni's beef trim. It's pork trim. It's worse than meat! It wishes it were meat!"

And so goes the delightful food-centric play Food for Thought by playwright Rich Rubin that I had the honor of directing for the Lakeshore Players Ten-Minute Play Festival. The producer somehow thought I would be a good match for a play about a vegetarian-all organic woman and the boyfriend who "cheats" on her with pepperoni pizza and Twinkies. ("It was just a one-time thing. It didn't mean anything. I didn't even enjoy it all that much.") Food and theatre combined this month to do damage to my waistline. (And the truth is, I revelled in it all - the waistline blip, the play festival and the time spent with the play and my actors.) 

Whether I'm directing shenanigans with Hansel and Gretel and the Gingerbread House or figuring out how to create a 20 scoop ice cream cone for the grade school play or doling out Mars Bars and Milky Ways for the teen play about the moon landing, I have found my theatre life awash with food and my food life filled with temptations. And a few times when I came home late enough that I was morphing into a pumpkin, I had this "cheddar goat cheese with ramps" quiche waiting. Flirting. Beckoning. And I succumbed.  As did everyone in the family.

Inspired by Floriole's Cafe in Chicago, I didn't bother with the crust - I was just mad for the filling. But if you're a "crusty" person - have it your way! Husband-person who long ago decided he was a "real man who didn't eat quiche," gave in to the charms of the cheddar goat cheese and mellow spring ramps. I trust that you will, too.

Cheddar Goat Cheese Quiche with Spring Ramps
  • 1 cup grated or shredded cheddar goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup spring ramps - chopped into 1/4" pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1-3/4 cups of half and half, or a mixtrure of cream and milk or just milk
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch pie or quiche pan. Sautee ramps in butter until softened (about 4 minutes.) Drain ramps on a paper towel. Whisk eggs and cream until combined. Gently stir in  cheese and ramps. Salt and pepper to taste. Pout into prepared pan. Bake 35-40 minutes (until center puffs up). Cool 5-10 minutes. Carefully slide crustless quiche onto plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. It's summer - bask in the ease.

Of Muses and Meringues had a buttermilk-raspberry cake that was so light, so tender, so fluffy, I was sure it had no calories. I was wrong but let me say, it was worth it! Since toddler-hood I have been a raspberry worshiper, appreciater and lover. When husband and son were off doing the MS150 (so proud!), I was digging holes in the ground for raspberry bushes because we finally have a new sunny patch in our yard. And I will make a beeline for those berries when they come in - warding off the birds - just as I did when I was two.

Find the recipe here.It has everything you want in a summer recipe: ease, freshness, a lightness of being and the sweet without the cloying. And the bonus - you'll love Beth's blog. It's a promise.

Summer is both fertile ground for new creations and recipes that spotlight an ingredient with little fuss. Fuss in the winter.

Savor in the summer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Copper River Salmon a la Giuliano Hazan

There are things worth walking miles for through heat and gnats and the cotton that floats through the air in June from the massive cottonwood trees: Minnesota's small, impossibly-red and summer-sweet strawberries come to mind. Or a double-cream ice cream that Wisconsin produces which really tastes childhood-memory-best when the day is 90 degrees. And then there's Copper River salmon

It has a lacy-delicate flavor for salmon. If the salmon was enchanted, it would be a water sprite - of the water, the air, the earth and the sky. And if these determined gilled-beings can make their way 300 miles up the Copper River - uphill to the tune of about 1,000 feet - I can walk a few measly miles in the heat and pick them up on my journey home. My local grocer has the fish flown in fresh 5-6 days a week and when I buy the Copper River Salmon - I cook them the same day.

I've tried Molly Wizenberg's Copper River salmon with creme fraiche and grilled them in foil with some white wine and herbs and a splash of lemon. And the salmon remained the star and we ate those dishes like hearty Alaskans. But this time I used Giuliano Hazan's simple recipe of dressing the salmon with Italian parsley, thyme. lemon juice, olive oil and breadcrumbs. Let's face it, the man has a pretty good pedigree when it comes to Italian cooking. And it's easy. And if you know anything about me - I am all about ease. The combination of thyme and parsley works - even though thyme is shy and parsley - is not. And there's just enough crunch from the Panko to show off the strengths of this salmon.   

2 pounds Copper River Salmon fillets
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
a pinch of salt
8 sprigs of Italian parsley (I used more)
4 sprigs of thyme (I used more; yes, I'm an herb-nerd)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (I used 4-5 tablespoons of Panko)

  1. Prepare grill. 
  2. Put lemon juice and salt in a small bowl and stir until the salt dissolves. 
  3. Chop the herbs and have at least 2 tablespoons of the parsley and 2 teaspoons of the thyme. (Yes, I used more.) 
  4. Add the herbs to the small bowl and then whisk in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil until emulsified. 
  5. Season the salmon with a little salt and pepper (if the fillets are skinny really skimp on the salt or don't use it). 
  6. Coat the fish with the breadcrumbs or Panko. 
  7. Drizzle remaining tablespoon over the salmon and place on the grill (skin side down). 
  8. Grill for about 5-6 minutes per inch of salmon - turning the salmon halfway through the brief cooking time. (We have a fish basket that makes this a cinch.)
  9. Transfer to serving platter, pour herb sauce over it and serve. 
  10. And savor. 

The dining room was silent. And my family (arguably one of the more conversational families on earth) remained quiet as the sounds of fork to plate and swallowing filled the room. I always hope a recipe I post entices you. And once in a while, I will be very pushy and bossy with advice to try this. And so the director in me emerges and if you like salmon, make this, grill this, serve this, eat this... now. Because after June, the Copper River salmon goes away. It's a brass ring - grab it. Life doesn't had out brass rings regularly.

A special shout-out and thanks to Chris's Gourmet Fashion for thinking of me and awarding me this. Chris dishes up gourmet with no fuss and delicious results. Pay her a visit (while you're prepping the salmon). I don't "choose" bloggers as I have to "choose actors" in my daily life and so I break tradition and offer this to my followers. Now stop reading, you have a salmon dinner to prepare!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Blueberry Muffin Detour

I am not a super-highway sort of person. I take detours. All projects get finished but in a zig-zag way - never in a straight line.

And so it happened that I was prepping the blog for a post on recreating some lovelies from Floriole in Chicago's charming Lincoln Park neighborhood....

A neighborhood thats speaks of a kind, gentle time...

A neighborhood which contains a Cafe/Bakery that is a destination of flavor and taste. Where you throw away all reserve about your waistline and indulge.

That was my intention. The frittata sandwich with cream cheese and smoked trout on a bed of arugula was our first course. But you can figure out the recipe from the description. And do try it - the bursts of the cream cheese with the salty-smokey trout all gift wrapped in eggs and topped with peppery arugula made me want another. 

Even though the asparagus plumply sitting on toast which was generously spread with fresh ricotta was waiting. 

I'm cooking some asparagus now. You can see where that is leading.

While waiting for lunch, we gave in to the charms of perfectly browned canneles nurturing a pillowy custard inside. I don't have a huge sweet tooth but if I did not throw caution to the wind and succumb to the power of sugar once in a while, my sardonic side would be much too powerful.  

When I give in to the enchantment of sugar, I give it my all. I should have brought home a trunk filled with the crisp lime, cornmeal cookies. And a roomful of the peanut butter and jelly ones. I think I've kept my cynical part of my personality in check for awhile. I will need to figure these out. Not being a peanut butter and jelly eater, I was significantly wowed enough to let these cookies melt into my being and was prepared to walk another 12 miles with blistered feet to undo a touch of the damage.

My intention was to recreate those dishes. But then there was this detour. That Skinny Chick Can Bake posted a blueberry-sour cream muffin recipe. So, here I am - a person who doesn't usually bake, hardly ever makes a muffin - a person with an Italian blog and I am finding myself at the computer in a hypnotic trance - nodding and bowing to the monitor and saying, "Yes, I will make these, O Powerful One." And I did. With creme fraiche instead of sour cream. With the last of the frozen berries from last summer.  With my newly-developed sweet tooth courtesy of Chicago.

That Skinny Chick Can Bake's recipe is here. My adjustments are below.

Blueberry Creme Fraiche Muffins - makes 18 muffins
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/4 cup creme fraiche
  • 2 cups blueberries

I wasn't shy with the blueberries. Despite ingredients to the contrary, I like to think of this as a fruit serving.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. For ease, use muffin liners. In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl whisk your egg. Add sugar and whisk well. Add melted butter - and yes - whisk some more. Add creme fraiche and whisk. And berries to the dry mixture and toss. Gently fold the creme fraiche goodness into the dry. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes (until toothpick inserted in arbitrary muffin comes out clean). Cool on wire rack. With 7 over for dinner, these last 12 minutes. (I only ate 2.)

Working in a linear fashion has its advantages. You do get things done faster. But when you detour and zig- zag, you find things. Like Mama Duck and her babes leaving your yard to make the perilous one block journey to the pond and eventually the lake.

Or that azaleas must love cold and rain. Because they never have been so magical.