i bought regan daley's "in the sweet kitchen" after i saw it mentioned on
i picked daley's sticky spiked double-apple cake with a brown sugar brandy sauce, because i've always loved spicy, apple-y cakes and have always been disappointed by them, so i wanted to see if this cake, which uses nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and both dried and fresh tart apples, would pass muster. it did. it uses so much fruit that the batter barely clings to it, and the brandy-soaked raisins adds that extra touch that keeps the cake from seeming like the saddest thing in your lunchbox, or the "creative" bit o' fiber on your hospital bedtray. it is both tender and chewy, which seems improbable, but there you go. i also absolutely love that she recommends this boozy, sugary cake as a breakfast item and that it serves 10 to 12 people--or two, if you give them a couple of days. judging from how very little of it is left, she's right on the money.
the island keikis, reid and kirk, have been firing up the imu and cooking up a whole lotta kalua pig lately. not that there's anything like a little kalua pig. in fact, whenever i make this hawaiian pork dish, i always end up with heaps of the smoky, salty, sweet shredded meat left over; there's only so much pig and rice i can handle after awhile.
i don't know what the boys do with their leftovers, but i make sandwiches and a lot of pasta dishes with mine; lately, potato gnocchi in a little shoyu butter has been rockin' the block as a nice base for the pork. however, i decided to do two lighter dishes that could clean up the leftovers, in case anybody's been tempted to dig out an imu and try reid or kirk's recipe. or dig out the crock pot, more like.
dish one: this salad is based on a recipe i found on the guam food guy's site, from an executive chef on island: kalua pork salad with pineapple salsa. i just made mine with what i had on hand and piled some of the shredded pork onto a bed of romaine lettuce, and made a crude salsa of pineapple, tomato, green onions, and shiso leaves. the sweet, acidic juice from the tomatoes and pineapple was the only bit of dressing, but the pork and salsa packed enough flavour without having to add anything else.
dish two: i chopped up some of the pork and stuffed some wonton wrappers into nice, plump dumplings. i wasn't sure how to close up the wrappers, so i just used barbara's recent gyoza lesson as a visual guide, and i think i did okay. all of them held together, no matter how i cooked 'em--boiled, steamed, or as pictured above, pan-fried on a bed of cabbage dressed with a toasted sesame vinaigrette. in deference to mister ono kine picky's (just kidding, reid) preferences, i used the thinnest wonton wrappers i could find, although i think the meaty meat-meat could hold up to a thicker wrapper if you wanted something almost pierogi-like. i'd sautée the cabbage in butter with a little caraway or thyme and cream à la foodnerd, though. yes. a polish-hawaiian dish. i like that. if anyone tries it, let me know.
i have a rather...perplexed history with the persimmon, from my first mistake of eating an unripe hachiya variety (astrigent and nasty), to my second mistake of eating a ripe hachiya (globular and blobular), to finally finding the relatively agreeable fuyu (pictured above), whose bold outward appearance belies its rather delicate taste and pervasive sweetness. i admit, i once found that one-note and boring, but now i find pleasing and possessing of hidden depths [insert conclusions about my changing taste in men, shoes and dishes here].
i love the way the persimmon looks. it's one of the most beautiful fruit i've seen, complex in its apparent simplicity, both stately and understated. its smooth curves and barely contained tumescence are offset by an almost severe oriental ornamentation of withering sepal. there is the colour: that burnished hue of orange that recalls warning signals and antiquity, yet is also safe and alive. there is nothing perfect about it--it's too fat, too squat, mottled, uneven, either far too hard or bruisingly soft if not caught at the right moment. its exterior practically taunts you to admire it, but once open you are faced with a dense expanse of flesh with no real core that only confounds you more. you expect fire and heat, but get a gentle sweetness that reminds me of thin nectar sipped from wildflowers, and, a surprising touch of exotic spice, like a waft of indian incense clinging to a shimmer of cool silk. elise tells tale that the best persimmons are picked under a full moon; the spiciness of which i speak is found in the freckled flesh finessed by such literal lunacy. if a persimmon was a person, it would be pre-mick jagger violated sophie dahl: all curves, bombast, and bragadoccia, but lush and decadent, and inside as sweet and innocent as the BFG's captive she was purported to be.
the question, time and again: what do you do with a persimmon? eat it, of course. but how is it prepared? elise's solution: slice it, stab it, devour it. this is the purest way, really, to take in the flavour, but it decimates its outward beauty, takes it out of its skin. truly, there are no recipes that can preserve that. however, i wanted to explore the changing nature of the persimmon (specifically the fuyu, as it is typical for this region), through various cooking techniques, to find the beauty within.
not surprisingly, the japanese seem to understand persimmons. aesthetics seem to have a higher priority in japanese cuisine than most others, and one of the ideas is that of shibui, or beauty that is inherent in something that occurs naturally--not only in appearance, but also the taste, and presentation. whilst this idea has austere connotations, i think it also denotes a respect for the natural state of an object, or as natural as it can be within a circumstance. the japanese recipes i have seen do not try to treat the persimmon as a substitute for another fruit, nor do they mask its properties. it is for this reason that i turned to my two latest cookbooks, eric gower's "the breakaway japanese kitchen" and "shunju" by takashi sugimoto, for recipes that might best respect the quixotic nature of this fruit.
the first recipe i tried was an adaptation of gower's persimmon balsamic chicken: poached chicken breast, with a sauce made from ripe persimmon, balsamic vinegar, and a little olive oil. the fruit is thoroughly cooked; as the pulp and balsamic reduce, the fruit becomes completely unrecognizable as what it is, both in form and taste. it becomes a viscous, unctuous, pungent spiced jam that gains a sort of meatiness, extra body. ask anyone, and it won't be identified; however, take it away, and you no longer have a remarkable sauce. surprisingly, the chicken (poached in a gingery broth) stands up well to the strong reduction, mellowing it out considerably, and benefitting from the sweet and sour blend.
the next recipe is a faithful reproduction of gower's persimmon yogurt salad with ginger, red onion, and mint. the persimmon isn't cooked here, but peeled and sliced thinly, and combined with the other ingredients. here the persimmon is somewhat recognizable, but its flavour is enhanced by the tart yogurt, the pungent onion, and refreshing mint. all the ingredients meld together, yet remain wholly distinct.
the final recipe is an interpretation of shunju's persimmons and brown-sugar meringue: discs of brown sugar meringue layered with whipped cream and slices of persimmon soaked in a simple sugar syrup. you would think that all the sugar combined with the natural sweetness of the fruit would make this an aching proposition, but no, it is simply a revelation. the sugar syrup makes the fruit softer in texture and brings out the natural spiciness; the brown sugar gives the meringues a mocha-like nuttiness; the cream lends just the right amount of rich silkiness. when you slide a forkful into your mouth, the whole thing collapses into a whisper of sweetness and light, of lush and longing for more.
have i come to any conclusions? no. but if i did, this dessert could be the perfect one....
**thanks to the girl who ate everything and man that cooks for their help in this post.**
i first learned about eric gower's "the breakaway japanese kitchen" cookbook from the fandabidozy she who eats, and, although so many recipes were intriguing, i didn't get around to buying it until last week (honestly, i could never remember the name of it--takeaway kitchen? breakdown kitchen? brokedown palace?). now that i have it, i'm probably going to go all 2004 on you, and do a lot of the recipes that chika's already posted; however, we both have a tendency to stray from printed recipes, so hopefully it won't be stale for you.
i haven't been eating much pasta these days, but i've always had a fondness for chewy, springy udon noodles, and i wanted a sauce that was just as chewy and springy as they are, so i modified gower's recipe for edamame (soy bean) mint pesto for the ingredients i had on hand and made a rough pesto of boiled edamame, smoked almonds, garlic, olive oil, and a generous fistful of mint, cilantro, and flat leafed parsley. i just chucked everything into a blender, and the sauce was done by the time the udon had heated through.
as i was eating this, i was marvelling over the recipe and wondering about the inspiration for it. was it the beautiful greeny tones of the soybeans, herbs, and olive oil? was it the smoky richness of the nuts against the fruity richness of the olive oil? personally, i'd like to think mr. gower was inspired by a round of upscale beer snacks: smoked almonds and edamame--hey, they're good with saketinis, they might be good with something else.
now if he could only come up with something with peanuts and pickled onions....
last cupcake for the time being: a classic sponge cake with a bit of fresh strawberry and raspberry on a whipped white chocolate ganache cloud. adapted from a recipe in annie bell's gorgeous cakes (they are!), into cupcake-sized morsels.
the ganache was easy--just make a white chocolate ganache, cool in the refrigerator, then whip until soft peaks just begin to form. it's like a more sumptuous, richer whipped cream.
bonus: i had a bit of leftover ganache, so i folded in some of the crushed berries, added a touch of redcurrant jam for a lovely red fruits and white chocolate mousse. even if it's not summer where you are, you can pretend it is for as long as this lasts....
'twas miss saffron's 26th birthday last week, and i promised her a cupcake for the occasion. she specifically requested something with saffron syrup, but having never worked with a syrupy cupcake before, i've decided to spend a little more time to think about it, and in the meantime i give you this: sponge cake squares dipped in a saffron-cardamom syrup, then coated with a saffron-infused white chocolate ganache. just a petite bite to whet your appetite.
yellow cake cupcakes with espresso buttercream, with un chicchi di café, and spongebar squarecakes of the same nature, only with less buttercream for the sugar overloaded. okay, not truly a sponge, but very light and fluffy, yet nicely moist and sweet. for those of you who are tired of the cupcakes, have no fear, i've finally found a yellow cake recipe i like (footnote explains how to make it a yellow cake). for those of you who are aren't saturated in buttercream yet, there's always chocolate, carrot, pumpkin, coconut, etcetera, etcetera, wheeee!
the buttercream was inspired by oslo foodie's recent foray into baking, only i used a non-french buttercream recipe (which is egg based), as frighteningly enough, a tray of eighteen eggs doesn't last very long in the cupcake kitchen....come to think of it, neither do the cupcakes.
simple and tasty: asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, dipped in an egg wash, then covered in sesame seeds and baked until toasty brown. is paraphrasing a recipe i found in a cookbook i can't remember whilst browsing at the bookstore copyright infringement? probably. but here you go: wrap thinly sliced pork or ham around stalks of asparagus, dredge in flour, dip in an egg wash, roll in sesame seeds, and bake on high heat or broil for 5-10 minutes. serve with japanese mustard (with soy sauce if you don't use ham).
the deep-fried cheeseburger. when i saw it on the menu, i thought that it would be a sandwich with a single breaded hamburger patty, japanese-style, but no--it is a fully formed double pattied cheeseburger, with all the standard condiments on a sesame seeded bun, dipped in an egg wash, breaded, and deep-fried. yike.
i thought that this was one of those "only on guam" food items, but a little research on the internets proved otherwise. i was a little surprised to find that it's not from scotland, that its origins are from the arizona state fair (where they've also pioneered the art of deep-frying cheesecake on a stick). nevertheless, i had to try it. i've travelled to and through some interesting places, and one of my basic food rules is "when in doubt, go deep-fried"--i mean, deep-fried is deep-fried the world over, right? how bad could it be? as many a deep-fried mars bars fan will tell you, often times the process can be a revelation.
not in this case. unfortunately, to make a successful doorstop, the burger itself must be pre-cooked and refrigerated ahead of time, and has to be drier than a normal to keep it intact. the double cooking doesn't help anything in the actual sandwich, and the crust reminds me of that old commercial for puritan oil where florence henderson plunges a pullman loaf into a vat o' oil. just nasty. and wrong. it's a sad day when deep-frying does not equal excess tastiness, just excess calories.
poppy seed stars, adapted from "dough" by richard bertinet. whimsical, and oh so easy to make, using your favourite dough recipe.
coat the top of a roll-sized ball of dough with water then dip in poppyseeds. cut a star pattern through the dough with a sharp edge of a pastry scraper.
push through the star cut, and flip the points out. lay on the baking sheet poppyseed side up, leave to rise and bake as directed.