Thursday, April 1, 2010

I'm in heaven..... Oooh, I love this!!!!!!

I know but it bears repeating "I'm in heaven!"..... Or as I've always said: "when times get tough, the tough get cooking"..... YAY! Like a good little saver, I saved my pennies and can now say I've got enough to replace the food processor that decided to stay on in Mexico. I am glad and it shows.

Before and during the time we had the last restaurant I had this amazing food processor made by Cuisinart. It did everything except talk, I swear..... and I LOVED it so. However, gypsies, who by nature travel light must pick their baggage and later rather than sooner it became it's turn to be left behind and so became a permanent resident of Puerto Vallarta along with my Kitchenaid mixer while the Vita-Mix was inherited by the new owners of the restaurant. Don't even get me started about the mixer and the psychological harm done to my psyche as a result of my no longer having it, I' sure it will take years of therapy to recover from this loss and every time I use my little hand-held $10 mixer I suffer..... but needing to produce mass quantities of quality baked goods, working the dough by hand as I plod on..... ever resolved to "one day soon" replace my once most treasured "friends"......

Well, it's been quite some time and I'm still dreaming and as a result those dreams have undergone some "realism" hits to transform my reality into a more manageable one. I still don't have the mixer or the Vita-Mix and the food processor has become smaller, generic and economical yet a dream fulfilled. I am glad again.

I know a lot of you know of the food processor wonders but for those of you that aren't so familiar with this little "wonder".... what can I say? If you ever chop, slice, knead or mix- you need one. It needn't be a large professional model either since there are mini or medium sized ones for anyone's use that are more than affordable but I needed a good sized one so I had to save up. I'll have to save up for a long time to replace the Vita-Mix, that's for sure, they don't make small or home size ones of this incredible blender yet.... but here's hoping. I don't even consider the thought of replacing my Lussino Ice Cream Maker, talk about luxury items.....

For now I am still floating about getting a food processor which can help me chop, slice, mix, puree, incorporate and knead my little projects. I can hardly wait to get started in the morning while I plan my menu's to list all the ways I will be able to save time too. So great!

I was going to get a meat grinder with a sausage attachment but have decided that if the meat is cut into cubes, the processor can finish the final grinding and I get a good quality ground meat as a result, I can then incorporate flavorings and spices into the meat and fantastic sausages, terrine's, loafs, pate's and spreads will be the result. I am more than willing to hand-wrap the sausage until I can get a sausage stuffer (or maybe convert that caulking gun). The difference in quality is more than worth the trouble.

Anyway, pies and tarts are being whipped up in no time flat now and the crust is now a 2 minute chore. Kneading dough is a snap and I'm already on the hunt for Semolina Flour so I can make fresh pasta instead of using store bought. We can already taste how many fillings we can dream up for Ravioli's...... and pate is smooth and lovely, not to mention the time savings chopping, slicing and shredding.

Have a lovely Blueberry Cream Tart in the oven waiting which will be paired with some Tuscan Bread Salad, drizzled with olive oil and olive brine to add to the fresh Cod fillets I managed to find. I have a beer batter rising on the counter, allowing the beer to infuse it's particular flavor to the seasoned flour and give the mix the airiness needed to make the fish something special, but for now all I can think of is those ripe blueberries working like aromatherapy all over the house. It's quite intoxicating.....

It's not official blueberry season yet I know but I found these beauties at my local Whole Foods and I couldn't resist since they are Rene's and my favorites, plus they where beautiful...... I knew exactly how to prepare them and I couldn't wait to get home and show them off. If you don't find blueberries you can use any other berry too, whatever you like.

Traditional French Blueberry Tart.- All I can say is Amazing!

For the pâte brisée "crust":
1 3/4 cups flour
12 tbl chilled butter, cut into cubes and kept cold in the fridge
1 tbl sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tbl cold water

For the filling:
1 lb blueberries washed or whatever you've got
3/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar, 1 tbl or more for the top at the end too
2 large eggs
3 tbl flour
1 tbl crème de cassis, optional but adds so much

The easiest way to do a crust like this is in the food processor. Naturally you can do it old school but this time here goes: put the flour and butter into the bowl of a food processor and process for about 15 seconds, until the mixture reaches the consistency of coarse bread crumbs. Add the eggs, sugar and water, and process again, for no more than 30 seconds (this means PULSE), until the mixture starts to come together in larger chunks and forms a dough. As soon as it pulls away from the sides STOP. DO NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead only long enough to make it come together, then STOP. It should be smooth. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Let it rest for 40 minutes in the fridge.

Lightly butter a 10" tart pan with a removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, turn out the chilled dough and roll it out slightly larger than your pan. Put the dough on the pan, with dough hanging off all sides. Now use your rolling pin to trim the dough by rolling your pin over the top of the tart pan which will cut it. Refrigerate the dough for 20 minutes while you work.

Oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the cream, sugar, eggs, flour and liqueur. Whisk until there are not lumps (or use a mixer). Take the pan out of the refrigerator and put the berries on the bottom of the crust. Pour the cream mix over the fruit, then lightly sprinkle the top with the extra sugar. Bake for 35 min or until the crust is fully cooked and the cream is set. Cool before serving and enjoy!

Whenever I need some reminding of our time in Italy and our favorite dishes there I whip up one of the easiest and tastiest salads I know, Panzanella. The trick to this salad is to use really good bread that has laid around a day or two so it's firm and dry and will take a good soaking of oil and vinegar and won't fall apart. Add some wonderful fresh basil leaves and you've got a fantastic dish that everyone will fall in love with, perfect for picnics, dinner outside or just a lunch luxury. Fast, easy and nutritious, plus economical too and you won't miss the meat. Of course you could add some strips of cold beef (maybe some leftover fajitas or London broil, chicken, fish, beef tongue, cheese, tuna, etc.) if you need something heavier, but with all the taste in this dish you can save it for another day. I'd suggest you try this as is the first time and then decide if it needs anything extra, you might be surprised.

Panzanella.- Tuscan Bread Salad, a traditional dish in Tuscany and a lovely way to take advantage of crusty stale bread.....

4 large vine ripened tomatoes, cut into large cubes or wedges
1/2 pound stale country-style Italian bread, crusts removed and cubed (about 8 cups)
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced red onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup Italian extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch fresh basil, stems removed, washed and spun dry, turn into pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, bread, and onions. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar and oil. Pour the dressing over the bread salad and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Add the basil and salt and pepper, to taste, and toss to combine. Serve.

A little reminder about Beer Batter. This is one of the easiest ways to batter anything, and you can use it for fish, vegetables, fries, mock tempura, etc. The trick is to let is rest until the beer has a change to do it's thing.

1-2 beers, I like dark beer best but any type will work, your choice
2 cups flour
1-2 tsp paprika

Put the flour into a bowl, mix the paprika well and add the beer while whisking to insure it's well incorporated and you don't leave any flour unmixed at the bottom of the dish. Once it's smooth and well incorporated, stop and don't over mix.

Let rest at least 15 min or until you begin to see little bubbles on the surface indicating the beer is working. Batter will be thick.

In a fry pan, pour enough oil to cover whatever you're cooking (or you can have 1/2 the thickness of your food), and allow to get hot. Dip your fish or what you've decided to batter into the beer batter and cover well. Be sure your food is dry. You can pat down with paper towels or simply place on a colander to drain while you mix your batter.

Place the battered food into the hot oil carefully and leave it alone. You will think it's sticking to the bottom of the pan and it is, BUT if you give it a minute or two (or maybe 5) it will un-stick by itself so resist the urge to use a spatula to lift it, ok? Once it releases it will be golden brown and ready to flip. Drain excess oil and serve hot at once, otherwise it will begin to soak through and get rubbery. This must be eaten hot out of the oil to be it's best.

I'll let you go now and get on with your day, I've got one or two errands to take care of before the day gets away from me and I can get down to planning other projects..... Easter is almost here and hope everyone has a lovely Spring day..... Our best wishes to everyone and we'll talk soon....

No comments:

Post a Comment