Monday, February 16, 2015

Upside Down Apple Cake

This cake is a prefect dessert for today's weather as it tastes best when it is warm. And it is also very easy to make. It is neither a typical tart Tatin nor a true upside down cake. It is rather a combination of both. The crust of this cake is soft like in upside down cakes but it is much thinner, more like in tart Tatin, and a little bit similar to muffins in texture.

My son, who is a lover of all simple apple cakes, praised it very much and had half of it before it cooled down. You can serve it with a dollop of crême fraîche, sour cream , or whipped cream, which will melt slightly on the warm soft apples and taste great.

Upside Down Apple Cake

3 Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, and sliced in thin half moons,
3 tbsp unsalted butter,
1/2 cup light brown sugar,
1 cup all purpose flour,
1/4 cup granulated sugar,
1 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp baking soda,
1/2 tsp salt,
5 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut in cubes,
1/2 cup butter milk.

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Heat the butter on a heavy duty frying pan until foam forms. Add sugar, mix, and spread the mixture on the bottom of a 10-inch baking pan.
3. Arrange the apples on top of the mixture.

4. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and soda in a food processor. Add butter and pulse until it turns into crumbles. Add buttermilk and pulse until the dough is all moist.
5. Drop the dough on top of the apples and spread, leaving an inch-wide space around it.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes until top is dark gold. Cool the cake slightly and turn upside down on a serving plate.

Serve warm.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Lemon Grass and Chicken Thai Soup

In the past couple of months I have been exploring the secrets of Thai cuisine. One of my friends from our yoga class is Thai. Sometimes we talk about food before classes so I asked her if she was willing to teach me a couple of Thai dishes. She said she was not a pro or chef but would be happy to teach me home made Thai food that she learned from her mother and grandmother. That was exactly what I dreamed of.

My friend turned out to be a great, very meticulous teacher. During our three meetings she taught me several basic Thai dishes that became already my family's favorites. I have learned that Thai cuisine is easy, simple, and very fresh. Even coconut milk curries are light, and the vegetables used in them still crispy. And you can have the most delicious dish with just three ingredients.

Last Thursday, she showed me how to make one of classic Thai soups--lemon grass and chicken soup. In no more than ten minutes a bowl of light and fragrant soup was on the table.

Lemon Grass and Chicken Soup
(Serves four)

1 organic, chicken breast fillet, thinly sliced,
2-3 heaping tbsp. of Tom Yum paste (available at Asian food stores),
8 white mushrooms, washed and sliced,
4 sweet lime leaves,
1 stalk lemon grass,
3 branches of fresh coriander (leaves only),

1. In a medium pot bring to boil 6 cups of water.
2. Cut out green parts from lemon grass and cut the white parts into diagonal slices. Add them to the boiling water.
3. Add tom yum paste and teared lime leaves. Let it all cook for about 3 minutes to release the flavors.
4. Add sliced chicken breast and cook for about 2 minutes (if you cook it for too long the breasts become hard)
5. Finally, add sliced mushrooms. Let them cook for one more minute and turn off the the heat.
6. Add cilantro leaves and serve the soup hot.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jerusalem Artichoke Tart with Truffle Cream

It looks like the season for Jerusalem artichokes, which are among my favorite winter vegetables, has started. I saw them in several places, so last week I got a pound of them for the first time this year.

I had a vague idea of but not a concrete recipe for what I would do with them. I wanted to make a tart, something that always works and that I like very much. I imagined that a tart similar to a sweet apple tart, French style but with Jerusalem artichokes could taste great.

I made a pie crust but this time I rolled it out very thin, to the size of a large pizza dish. First, I baked it until set, then I placed a layer of paper-thin artichoke slices. Those familiar with Jerusalem artichokes know that they have a nice earthy and slightly sweet taste. So to contrast their sweetness I added a tbsp of truffle purée to the cream.

These days, truffle purée, or a more affordable truffle-porcini purée, is available in cans or jars in many stores. For example, in our area, Balducci carries it. And although some consider truffles the most overrated gourmet food, I often use truffle aroma to make a bland dish more interesting.

At the end, I covered the tart with grated cheese. I used Gruyère as it has a stronger flavor than most other cheeses and also melts nicely. I think the whole concept worked. The tart came out very well: very thin and slightly crispy from thanks to the artichokes and very aromatic thanks to the truffles.

Jerusalem Artichoke Tart with Truffle Cream
(Serves six)

For the crust
2 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour,
10 tbsp cold unsalted butter,
1/3 cup vegetable shortening,
3 tbsp sour cream,
3 tbsp ice water,
1 tsp salt.

For the topping
1 lb Jerusalem artichokes peeled,
1 cup table cream,
2 eggs,
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese,
1 tbsp truffle purée,
salt and pepper.

1. The dough can be made in a food processor or by hand. Place flour and salt in a large bowl. Add butter (cut into pieces) and shortening and blend with flour until coarse crumbles form.
2. Stir together water and sour cream and add to the flour and make quickly a dough.
3. Place a dough on a working surface dusted with flour and roll into a large rectangle. Fold the rectangle three ways, like a letter page.

4. Roll again the dough into a rectangle and fold again. Repeat it one more time, then wrap it in plastic foil and chill the dough for at least one hour or even over night.
5. Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll out the dough to the size of a large pizza tin, (about 15 inches). Transfer the dough to the tin, pierce with fork and bake for about 20 minutes, until firm but not gold.
6. To make a top slice peeled artichokes on a mandolin slicer and spread them on the pre-baked crust.

7. Mix cream, eggs, truffle purée, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. Pour gently and evenly over the artichokes. Cover with grated cheese.

8. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is set and cheese becomes gold. Serve warm with green salad of your choice.