Meyer Lemon Pots de Crème

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When I was little, I used to love playing with my mother’s pots de crème set. I loved the dainty handled pots with the cute knobbed lids. These were way more fun than a tea set.

I remember her pots de crème well. It was silky smooth, mild in flavor, and just seemed to hit the spot. It was such a delight lifting up the little hat and be greeted with the creamy goodness inside.

Recently when I was reorganizing, I came across this set that she passed on to me, and realized I’d only made pots de crème once since I’ve been married. It was time to make it again.

I decided on a Meyer lemon version, just because I tend to not make lemonny desserts often, and it’s springtime. So I created a recipe.

Unfortunately, this post should be titled, “Do Not Make This Recipe.” My dessert bombed. Big time.

I have no idea what went wrong. There are so many factors with baking, and fortunately I don’t claim to be a baker. But I hate the fact that my blog is supposed to get people in the kitchen cooking, and then I present a failure.

Nonetheless I’m posting this anyway, mostly to show off the beautiful set, which I had a ball photographing! Following is a recipe not to use.

Meyer Lemon Pots de Crème

2 3/4 cups heavy cream, at room temperature
Zest of 4 Meyer lemons
10 large egg yolks, at room temperature
6 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
4 ounces sour cream, at room temperature

Place cream in an saucepan and heat slowly just to a light simmer. Add the zest and stir gently.

Let the cream steep with the zest for a few minutes, then turn off the heat but leave the cream sit for one hour. Set aside

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Using an electric mixer, beat yolks, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until pale yellow, about 2 minutes.

Bring the lemonny cream to a simmer, and immediately but gradually whisk it into the yolk mixture.  Whisk in the sour cream.

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium pitcher with a pouring spout.

Divide the custard among ramekins; cover each with a lid (or foil) and place in a large roasting pan.  Add enough hot water to pan to come halfway up sides of ramekins. So far so good. Maybe.


Bake until just set in center, abour 25 minutes.

I had no idea this custard would rise like a souflé! Uncover and chill until cold, about 3 hours. At this point the custard looked a little overbaked, but not bad… yet.

My little pots are only a 4 ounce capacity.

Then, the custards fell. I tried to cover it up with flowers but the flowers weren’t big enough! You can see the shrinkage. And, the custard was mealy, although I have to say that the lemon flavor was good.

This recipe made approximately 48 ounces of custard. Since I only had the little pots’ total capacity of 32 ounces, I used two ramekins for the remaining custard. I tried to decorate with candied lemon peel, but that wasn’t pretty at all.

Because I used zest for this recipe, I had 4 whole lemons leftover. I trimmed up the pith, blended them as is, added beets and beet juice, olive oil, garlic, and salt for a lovely lemon beet dressing!

So the day wasn’t a total disaster!

 

 

A Sunday Supper

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Sunday Suppers at Lucques is a James Beard Foundation award-winning cookbook by Suzanne Goin, published in 2005. The actual name is, Sunday Suppers at Lucques – Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table.

I wanted to purchase one of her cookbooks just because she’s so highly revered as a chef, and all of her culinary endeavors have been highly acclaimed and successful.

Her first restaurant, Lucques, was opened in 1998. I’m a little behind getting to “know” this talented chef, but I don’t visit Los Angeles, so have missed out experiencing its famous dining spots. After all these years, Lucques is still a quintessential West Hollywood dining spot.

The cookbook is really fun. Although I pride myself on menu planning, Ms. Goin puts meals together for the reader. And they’re fun meals.

So the one I’m making for this post is Bistecca California with Peperonata, Baked Ricotta, and Lemon.

Doesn’t that sound incredible?

Here are the recipes for the elements of this fantastic Sunday supper!

Steak

3 pounds prime beef or steak of your choice
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thinly sliced chiles de arbol
2 lemons, zested, then juiced
2 scant tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin oil
1 bunch arugula
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Trim the beef, if necessary. Season with the rosemary, sliced chile, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

An outside charcoal grill can be used to cook the steak(s). I opted for cooking my filet mignons in a skillet on the stove. They were cooked medium-rare.

Rest the steak(s) for 8 to 10 minutes. Spoon the hot Peperonata (recipe below) onto a large warm platter and scatter the arugula over the top.

Slice the steak against the grain and arrange it over the peppers.

Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over the meat, and drizzle it with a few tablespoons of oil. Serve the gratin dish of baked ricotta (recipe below) on the side.


Baked Ricotta


3 cups fresh whole milk ricotta cheese (1 1/3 lbs.)
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon diagonally sliced chile de arbol
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the ricotta in a large bowl, and stir in 5 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon thyme, the chopped parsley, 1//2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Transfer the ricotta to an 8-inch gratin dish. Gently press the top of the cheese with your fingers to make slight indentations, and decorate the ricotta with the remaining thyme and the sliced chile.

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the top. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Peperonata

4 large sweet peppers (1 3/4 lbs.)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced red onion
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons oregano leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Cut the peppers in half lengthwise and remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Thinly slice the peppers lengthwise. Heat a very large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Swirl in 3 tablespoons olive oil and wait 1 minute. Add the onion, peppers, thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Sauté over high heat 5 to 6 minutes, tossing often, until the peppers soften. They should still have a little crunch to them but be tender.

Add the capers and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan, cook another minute, and transfer the peppers to a shallow nonreactive dish.

Turn the heat off, add the vinegar, and reduce by half. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the vinegar over the peppers. Add the oregano, and toss well to combine.

This was a really nice meal. I loved all of the aspects of it, but the lemon zest and rosemary on the steaks was a superb combination. I also added cayenne pepper flakes. And I will definitely make the baked ricotta again, even for an hors d’oeuvres platter.

Moro’s Yogurt Cake

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It’s not often when I go to the same restaurant more than once. I’m usually done, and ready to move on to the next! Like my motto – so many restaurants, so little time!

One exception was Moro, in London. I’ve been three times – once was a special celebration for my daughter’s second master’s degree, this one from Sotheby’s (please allow me a little bit of boasting).

Moro is a busy, bustling restaurant in Clerkenwell. The cuisine is North African, so you can just imagine the offerings of courses representing Morocco, Spain, Egypt, and on through the Middle East, but generally referred to as Moorish in origin.

The Moro concept was started by the husband and wife team of Samantha and Samuel Clark, who were inspired by their travels to those regions.

I have so many different food photos from my dining experiences at Moro; I will share a few. The food is vibrant, flavorful, spectacular.

A few of us on that celebratory night ordered A signature dessert to share – Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate, photographed below.

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I can’t recreate that dining experience at Moro with my daughter, but I can make the cake!
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Here it is:
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Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate
Adapted from recipe found online*

3 eggs, separated
70 g or 2 1/2 ounces white sugar
Seeds from 2 vanilla pods
350 g or 12 ounces yogurt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
20 g or approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, sifted
30 g or 1 ounce pistachios, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or 180 degrees Centigrade.

I used a deep-dish pie pan for this dessert, and brushed it with butter lightly.

Find a deep-sided baking tray that will fit the cake tin and you can use as a bain marie.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with 50 g of the sugar (I removed about 1 tablespoon for the egg whites) until thickened and pale.

Stir in the vanilla seeds, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and flour; mix well.


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In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks, then add the remaining sugar and continue to whisk for a moment until the whitesbecome glossy.
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Gently fold the egg whites into the yogurt mix, then pour into the pie pan and place it inside the baking tray.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour the water around the pie pan until it reaches halfway up the sides. Place it in the oven for 20 minutes.
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Sprinkle over the pistachios, then bake for another 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from the water immediately.

Eat warm or at room temperature. The consistency should be a light sponge with custard underneath.
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Sprinkle the cake with pomegranate seeds and serve with a drizzle of yogurt.
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Alternatively, I used a small dollop of marscapone.
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It was May when we shared this yoghurt cake at Moro. But what a perfect holiday dessert this is! All that red and green!
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The cake isn’t the prettiest desert; it looks like a pile of pudding on the plate. But you won’t care once you taste it!
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If you’ve had trouble in the past opening pomegranates, I learned my favorite technique from the blog Chica Andaluza. Her technique worked perfectly!
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* This recipe is in the original Moro cookbook.
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Food with Friends

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“It’s experiences and laughs that matter most, not the most perfectly executed food, so relax a little, embrace the imperfect…”
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When I read these words in the introduction of “Food with Friends” – the art of simple gatherings, I knew I had a new friend of sorts, author Leela Cyd.

Thanks to Blogging for Books, I was gifted this book, of my choosing, for review. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I initially was attracted to the book because of its title. Food with my friends is my favorite kind of food, after all. And with family, too, of course.

And it’s embarrassing to admit how often I use the word “party.” A daughter comes to town – we have a party. A girlfriend comes over – another party. Another couple come over – PARTY!!! I concur that food is about experiences and especially laughter. I only hang out with people who laugh.

The introduction in “Food with Friends” is quite impressive. Leela has traveled the world, living abroad for months at a time, and her passion for international cuisines are reflected in this collection of recipes.

Her love of cooking and sharing her food with friends is obvious in the inspirational photos. She claims that “The best gatherings are simple, yet somehow special.” I couldn’t agree more!

I’ve already bookmarked many recipes in this beautiful and fun cookbook. The recipe I chose to make from it is her Lemon-Poppy-Seed Dutch Baby.

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Lemon-Poppy-Seed Dutch Baby
serves 4

Dutch Baby
3 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup almond meal
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Topping
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Lemon wedges, for squeezing

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put a 10-inch pie pan (glass or metal) or cast-iron skillet on a baking sheet onto the middle rack of the oven.

In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, almond meal, nutmeg, salt, poppy seeds, and vanilla. Whizz on high speed for about 30 seconds, until everything is combined in a runny batter. (It will be looser than traditional American pancake batter, more similar to crepe batter.)

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Remove the heated pie pan or skillet from the oven and add the butter, swirling a little, until it has melted completely and the sides and bottom are completely coated.
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Pour in the batter and return the pan to the oven.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden brown.

Dust with sifted powdered sugar, then top with lemon zest and 1 teaspoon poppyseeds.

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Invite each guest to squeeze lemon juice onto their slices.

Note: I personally don’t understand squeezing lemon juice on a Dutch baby because that would make it “wet.” I chose to include the lemon zest in the batter.

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Another note: Even without any sugar added, this Dutch Baby is sweet and light. You can eat it with a fork or just grab a slice and chomp away!

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Persillade

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Parsley in French is persil, so it’s not surprising that persillade is a parsley sauce, combining the freshness of parsley, with butter, garlic, and lemon. It is also called Sauce Persil.

Personally, I love all of the green sauces, like pesto, gremolata, and chimichurri, so I knew I’d love persillade.

I was inspired to make it because of my friend Stéphane’s blog My French Heaven, specifically the post is entitled “The Power of Love, Laughter, and Persillade.” (It’s one of my favorites!)

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On that post he has a recipe for grilled scallops with persillade, but it’s a wonderful addition to not only seafood but meat and poultry as well. I’m making it for roast lamb.

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Parsley, I feel is really an underused and appreciated herb, having filled the role in fine cuisine as primarily a decoration. But I use it in just about everything – vinaigrettes, pestos, marinades, and so forth.

There are many variations for persillade, I discovered. What I’ve noticed mostly is the use of olive oil instead of butter, and either lemon zest, lemon juice, or no lemon. But the parsley and garlic are always clearly the main players.

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Here’s what I did.

Persillade

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, rinsed, patted dry
3-4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces unsalted butter
Squeeze of lemon

Place the parsley and garlic in a food processor and process. Add 3 ounces of melted butter and the salt and process, but don’t over process. You want to see the parsley and garlic bits.

Place the remaining butter in a small saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Stir in the persillade and give the mixture a good stir, and once you smell the garlic, remove the saucepan from the heat and add a squeeze of lemon.

Serve immediately so the butter stays warm and melted. It’s challenging to keep the parsley and garlic in suspension in the butter, so the persillade ends up looking like a green blob.

With scallops and shrimp, they can be tossed in the persillade. I served the persillade with lamb slices and roasted tomatoes.

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Stéphane claims that no one really loves escargots. It’s all about the persillade. He might be right!

Lemon Goat Cheese

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If you’ve followed my blog for any amount of time, you know that I’m a cheese lover. A serious cheese lover.

I like all kinds – hard to soft and everything in between. Cow’s milk washed rind cheeses are probably my favorites if you told me I could only eat one variety the rest of my life, which would be sad. But I’m also a huge goat cheese lover.

If I prepare a cheese platter, there will always be some variety of goat cheese on it. There is a goat Brie that is really fabulous. But I also like to play with creamy goat cheese, adding flavors, nuts, herbs, fresh and dried fruits.

On the blog I’ve posted my “Faux Boursin,” which is basically this recipe, shown below, with the addition of fresh and dried herbs. It’s delicious, and you can really customize it to your taste. Plus, it’s much less expensive than buying retail Boursin.

Being that it’s officially spring, I wanted to celebrate with a lemony goat cheese. This is so simple, and I’m not even a huge citrus lover. But the flavor of the goat cheese and lemon zest is fresh and lovely – perfect for Spring! Enjoy!

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Lemon Goat Cheese

8 ounces creamy goat cheese, like Chèvre
2 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Zest of 1 lemon, plus a little more for decoration

Have the first three ingredients at room temperature before you begin. This is the goat cheese I’m using.
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You don’t have to include cream cheese; I do it more if I have guests who might not like the full goat cheese flavor. I add butter I because it helps firm up the cheese and makes it more spreadable. Place the goat cheese, cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl. Add the lemon zest.

Then simply using a spatula or spoon, mix the ingredients together. Line an appropriately-sized bowl with plastic wrap and add the cheese.


Force the cheese down to avoid holes, and spread the top flat. Alternatively, you can make a log shape, just as you would a composed butter.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 4 hours or overnight.

Remove the plastic wrap, and turn over the bowl onto a serving platter. Remove the plastic liner while the cheese is still cold. Let the cheese come to room temperature before serving. It will have more flavor and spread more easily.

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Top with a little lemon zest, if desired, and serve with crackers or bread.

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Other things, like herbs, could be included in this cheese, but I like the simplicity of the lemon. No salt or pepper is required. A little fresh tarragon, chives, parsley, or toasted pine nuts would work sprinkled on top. Play around with this recipe to make it suit you!

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Welcome spring! I’ve missed you!

Lemon Pudding Cake

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Rarely have I made dessert for my family, unless it’s a special occasion. I have nothing against desserts, but to me, they’re not part of a daily meal plan. I believe everyday food should be nourishing, so I save cakes and pies for celebrations.

However, when I was a private cook for a family, I made a lot of desserts. These desserts weren’t necessarily fancy; my people just felt like a meal wasn’t complete without dessert. So that’s when I bought a lot of dessert cookbooks.

Before I owned the book Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax, I’d never heard of a pudding cake. But after I made one, I was hooked.

What is it you might ask? Well, it is a pudding-y cake. That probably doesn’t help much. You prepare a cake batter that is very thin and cook it in a bain marie. I’ve also made some pudding cakes where the recipe states that you pour boiling water into the batter before baking.

Now a pudding cake isn’t something I’d prepare for a fancy meal, because it’s essentially a softer gooeyer version of a brownie. It’s pretty enough, but more preferable for a casual get together or late night snack. Trust me. I’ve made a chocolate pudding cake….

So here’s Richard Sax’s recipe. And by the way, although this book was published in 1994, it is so full of fascinating information from the author who was definitely an authority on desserts. I just discovered that a newer version, complete with a James Beard award, was printed in 2001.

Lemon Pudding Cake
serves 4

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with a rack in the center. Butter a 1-to 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish, such as a 9-inch oval gratin dish or an 8-inch square baking dish; set aside.

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In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice; pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at high-high speed until they form soft peaks. Fold a little of the egg whites into the lemon mixture; gently fold in the remainder.
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Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish. Place the baking dish in a slightly larger roasting pan; set on the center rack of the oven. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

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Bake until the surface of the pudding is lightly golden, about 35 minutes. (The bottom layer will still be quite liquid.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

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Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

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You can tell how tender this cake is, and see the pudding-like layer on the bottom.

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I serve this pudding cake with a few blackberries and some powdered sugar. It would definitely benefit from some slightly sweetened whipped cream as well.

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