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April 2005 Archives

April 2, 2005

Four Year Cycle

Paris thoughts are strong in my mind today. Perhaps it's no accident that first thing this morning I put beets in the oven to roast and prepared some creamed spinach. Tonight we'll dine on bistro food: spinach-stuffed crepes and grated beet salad with sweet/sour mustard dressing. Then maybe we'll watch a slide show of our Paris photos. I'm looking for my beret now.

April 8, 2005

Asparagus in April

As a kid I was happier than ever when the grownups ate all the fresh asparagus, just picked by Grandma Pete from back by the garage and cooked up for asparagus on toast. With maturity, I realize those grownups knew what they were doing. Now I'd be first in the asparagus line, and hope that will be the case next time I get to Orange.

Until then, there is plenty of supermarket asparagus to be had, but of course it's not the same. It can be mightily improved however, when used for Asparagus Bread Pudding from Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. I made it for the first time two nights ago, though I must have clipped the recipe from the SF Examiner back when we were still living in California. It was certainly delicious, but last night, I decided to pair the leftover bread pudding with some semiboneless quail I bought in a mini-gourmet moment. I must say, that certainly raised the bar for our week night dining at home.

Should you wish to try it, the Asparagus Bread Pudding recipe follows. The quail preparation, which turned out to be surprisingly less complicated than I thought, is from Bouchon, the Thomas Keller cookbook Meg gave me for Christmas. Beware of making both things on the same night however, as that might be too time consuming for week night cooking.

Asparagus Bread Pudding (serves 6)

1 pound rustic bread, crusts removed (or not, I left them on and liked the way they got crunchy)
1-1/2 cups milk
1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
1 cup heavy cream (I used half-and-half)
6 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley)

1. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch thick slices. In a bowl combine with the milk. Set aside for 30 minutes or until the bread has absorbed the milk.
2. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 2-quart souffle dish or other high-sided dish of the same size.
3. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and salt it lightly. Cut the asparagus into 2-inch lengths.
4. In a bowl combine the cream, eggs, salt, and pepper. Whisk thoroughly; set this custard aside.
5. Drop the asparagus into the boiling water and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until the asparagus is tender but still has some bite. Drain and rinse under cold water.
6. In a bowl combine the Fontina and Parmesan cheeses. Place one-third of the soaked bread in the prepared dish. Add half the asparagus, then one-third of the cheese mixture, then half the herbs.
7. Make another layer, then top with the last third of bread and cheese. Pour the custard into the dish.
8. Bake the pudding for 1 hour or until it is golden brown.

April 11, 2005

Village Verse

I started off my NYC visit, latte in hand, with a walk past the neighborhood garden at Jefferson Square. The garden itself doesn't open until April 16 but there was a wonderful verse posted on the fence bulletin board.

  Believe it or not
  I hung on all winter
  Outfacing wind and snow.

Now that spring
comes and the birds sing
I am letting go.

- Derek Mahon
Rogue Leaf

April 15, 2005

Urban Parents

All week here at Meg's I've been watching a pair of Mourning Doves, with identification verified by a little web research. I first spotted one on the railing of the fire escape and he, I suspect, has joined me there every morning while I look out the window as I do my exercises. Later when he flew by the side window with a twig in his mouth, and landed on top of the neighbor's air conditioner in the window opposite, I was intrigued. The air conditioning unit is protected by spikes, meant to keep pigeons away, so he hopped carefully down onto the granite ledge. Then even more carefully, he squeezed in between the spikes to deposit his twig on a growing pile making a small, but well-protected nest nearly hidden by the air conditioner. Now as I write this I can just see the bright eyes of the mom, I presume, sitting on the nest and wish I'd still be here to see some new baby Mourning Doves. I've noticed that parenthood in New York City, though not easy, is quite common.

April 22, 2005

Galette: A Quick and Easy Free Form Tart

pear and blackberry galette

I made a pear and blackberry galette last weekend to take to a Boston Marathon party and got several requests for the recipe. When I found myself making it again today, I remembered my promise and decided that, rather than emailing everybody, I would post the recipe here. As it says, who can resist an easy-to-make galette--a crust of buttery pastry folded around whatever berries look most perfectly ripe at the market.

Fresh Berry Galette

1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 tsp. sugar

3/4 tsp. salt

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled, cut in small pieces

6 tbsp. solid vegetable shortening, chilled, cut in small pieces

3 tbsp. ice water

2 large nectarines, peaches, pears - you choose - cut in 1/4 inch wedges

1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste

1/2 pint raspberries, blueberries, blackberries - again your choice

1 egg yolk

2 tsp. heavy cream

1. To make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt to blend. Add butter and pulse just until it's coated with flour. Repeat this process with the shortening; there will still be pieces of shortening the size of large peas. Transfer to a bowl. Add ice water gradually, tossing with a fork to moisten. Knead dough gently and briefly to make a ball.

2. Toss nectarines with 2 tbsp. of sugar. Toss raspberries in a separate bowl with 1 tbsp. of sugar.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick; transfer to rimless baking sheet. Starting 1-1/2 inches from the edge of the dough, arrange nectarines into two circles. Fill center with a few raspberries and scatter remaining raspberries over the nectarines. Fold over the edge of the dough, overlapping the fruit lightly. Patch any breaks in the dough so juices won't run out. Whisk together egg yolk and cream; brush rim with mixture. Sprinkle rim and fruit with remaining tsp. sugar, or more if fruit is not very sweet.

4. Bake at 425 degrees F until browned, about 30 minutes. Cool the galette slightly on baking sheet, loosen with a spatula and slide off onto a serving platter. (The cracks that show the plate beneath when you enlarge the picture are because my blue plate wasn't quite large enough.) Serve warm. Serves 8.

About April 2005

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