Habeas Brulee » Citrus http://habeasbrulee.com Sun, 17 Mar 2013 03:04:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.21 Clementine Sassafras Ice Cream http://habeasbrulee.com/2009/11/29/clementine-sassafras-ice-cream/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2009/11/29/clementine-sassafras-ice-cream/#comments Sun, 29 Nov 2009 17:34:24 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/?p=302

This recipe was inspired by Wildman Steve Brill, who has a foraged, vegan version in his Wild Vegetarian Cookbook. The Wildman uses cashews for their creamy texture and actual sassafras roots foraged from city parks for their vivid flavor, but our civilized ovo-lacto interpretation can be made with ingredients actually purchased in stores.

It’s clementine season again, and our apartment is never without a big wooden bowl full of clementines in the middle of the dining room table. I get my sassafras extract at New York Cake Supplies, though you can easily order it online or find it in other gourmet food stores.

This ice cream tastes like melted sunlight. (Sunlight qua frozen hot chocolate, perhaps?) It has all those wonderful bright citrus notes – though maybe I’m a bit overexcited, given what a clementine addict I become every winter. And sassafras is one of the key ingredients in root beer, and it tastes like root beer without all the distractions getting in the way.

In other news, we got some press by winning the savory category of the First Annual Brooklyn Pie Bake-Off with our muffin-sized individual saffron duck pot pies. Thank you to everyone who came out to eat and compete!

There was a big crowd with about 40 pies on the table, and we had a great time tasting as many as we could and hanging out with other food bloggers and pie enthusiasts. With such a great start, I’m awfully tempted to compete in more cook-offs from now on!

2008: Pork & Sundried Tomato Cappelletti with Pomegranate Walnut Sauce
2007: Cubed Radish Kimchi
2006: Kabocha Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon

Clementine Sassafras Ice Cream
2 C heavy cream
1 C wholemilk
Juice of 3 clementines
Zest of 6 clementines (just eat the rest!)
6 large egg yolks
3/4 C granulated sugar
1/8 tsp sassafras extract
1/4 c candied clementine rind (optional)
A bit of citric acid to taste (optional)

In a medium saucepan, stir the cream, juice, and zest together with half of the sugar, reserving the other 3/8 C sugar for later.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with the other 3/8 C sugar until thoroughly combined.

Bring the cream mixture to a simmer, then remove it from the heat and slowly pour it into egg yolks, whisking constantly.

Pour the mix back into the saucepan and bring to 180 degrees F, stirring constantly. When it hits the right temperature, remove it from the heat and strain into medium bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water.

Stir until it cools to 120 degrees F.

Stir in the sassafras extract. Add the candied clementine and citric acid to taste (optional).

Chill and freeze churn according to your cream maker’s instructions.

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Saffron Turmeric Cake with Meyer Lemon Sorbet, Argan Oil Whipped Cream, Almond Brittle, and Thyme http://habeasbrulee.com/2009/06/10/saffron-turmeric-cake-with-meyer-lemon-sorbet-argan-oil-whipped-cream-almond-brittle-and-thyme/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2009/06/10/saffron-turmeric-cake-with-meyer-lemon-sorbet-argan-oil-whipped-cream-almond-brittle-and-thyme/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2009 23:23:26 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/?p=303

I’ve been meaning to post this for months! Since a few of you requested it, I may as well start with the backlog here. This was a really fun dish to throw together. The saffron turmeric cake was an adaptation of a chocolate cake recipe, where Dave started by replacing the cocoa powder with turmeric and went on from there. It is intensely flavorful and moist and one of the most perfect cakes we’ve ever developed.

You can see from the photo how vividly red the inside of the cake is. It turns out that turmeric, a bright yellow root most commonly sold as a powder here in the U.S., turns red when it reacts with alkaline substances. In fact, the red dot traditionally worn by many Indian women in the center of the forehead is made by mixing powdered turmeric with lime (not the fruit!).

I can’t remember why we decided to pair it with the thyme brittle and the meyer lemon sorbet (I’m sure it made sense at the time, and it worked really well), but I definitely recall that we added thyme because we had read that meyer lemon contains one of the same flavor compounds as thyme.

Our few sets of our muffin pans are still stained red from making rounds of these cakes, but it was entirely worth it.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for: the winners of my CIA book giveaway! I used a random number generator to pick winners from the comments. The winners are Sandy, Kathryn, Vicki, Alison, Esme, and Red! Winners, please email me your addresses and I’ll have a book sent out to each of you pronto. Thanks to everyone for playing along!

2008: Chocolate-Whiskey Pudding Cake
2007: Rum-Drenched Cocoa-Nana Bread
2006: Saffron Dill Cappelletti Stuffed With Leeks

Saffron Turmeric Cake
1 stick (1/2 C) unsalted butter, in 1 inch cubes
1/2 C warm water
2 tbsp turmeric
1 small pinch saffron
1 C sugar
1.7 oz all-purpose flour
0.7 oz whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 c sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Prepare muffin tins with butter and flour, and set aside.

In a large saucepan, steep the saffron in the water. Whisk the flours, salt, and baking soda together, and set aside.

Add the butter and turmeric into the saffron water, then turn on the heat and simmer until the butter melts. Remove from heat.

Whisk in the sugar, but don’t panic if it doesn’t dissolve. Whisk in the flour mixture. Whisk in the egg and then the sour cream, until the color is even.

Fill the prepared muffin tins about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes. Don’t worry about it setting fully – it will finish setting as it cools.

Makes 10 muffin-sized cakes.

Meyer Lemon Sorbet
470 g meyer lemon juice
80 g glucose syrup
80 g agave nectar
80 g sugar
100 g water
1/2 tsp guar gum (or substitute pectin or a commercial sorbet stabilizer)

Blend together. Freeze in your ice cream churner as per usual.

Argan Oil Whipped Cream
Heavy cream
Argan oil

Mix to taste and beat until whipped.

Almond Brittle
Sliced almonds
Cream of tartar

Toast sliced almonds in a dry pan on the stove until they start to brown and smell delicious. Set aside.

Heat the water, sugar, and a bit of tartar in a saucepan until it is lightly golden, a bit paler than you eventually want it to be. Stir in the toasted almonds, and spread on a silpat to cool and set.

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Lemon Sage Sausage and Hungarianish Sausage http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/03/16/lemon-sage-sausage-and-hungarianish-sausage/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/03/16/lemon-sage-sausage-and-hungarianish-sausage/#comments Sun, 16 Mar 2008 19:23:57 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/03/16/lemon-sage-sausage-and-hungarianish-sausage/

I don’t have much time to write out these recipes for you today, what with planning for my occasional restaurant, Jack, taking up all of my non-lawyering time right now. We are busy making sure we have all the plates we need, picking up linens, and working out some menus for months down the line. It an incredibly exciting process for us!

So, yes, it takes up a lot of time. As Prince Humperdinck said in the movie version of the immortal S. Morgenstern’s The Princess Bride, “I’ve got my country’s 500th anniversary to plan, my wedding to arrange, my wife to murder and Guilder to frame for it; I’m swamped.”

We are having a soft opening for which no reservations are available this weekend, and I’ll try to take a few photos then. Our real opening night is April 12th, and I’ve been really, really enjoying watching the reservations start to come in.

Life sure isn’t boring.

So, rather than leave you entirely high and dry, here are a few photos and recipes for some sausages I made earlier this winter. Dave’s holiday present to me this year was a meat grinder and a sausage stuffer, and these two sausage batches were made in my first bout of playing with my presents.

If you need some advice on the mechanics of making sausage, you can check out Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman, or just google around.

The basic idea is: cut up your meat and fat into small cubes and marinate with your seasonings in the fridge over night. Put your grinder, bowl, and meat into the freezer until quite cold. Grind into a cold bowl sitting inside a larger bowl filled with ice. Again, get the meat and your stand mixer bowl very cold, then beat the ground meat with cold liquid to bind and emulsify it. Cook sample patties to taste the flavoring until you’re happy. Stuff into casings or use as patties, whichever you prefer.

The recipes below have my notes on both the seasoning proportions that we actually used, and the way we’d make them differently in the future.

Lemon Sage Sausage
2.42 lbs pork shoulder butt and fat
19 g kosher salt
3 g black pepper, coarsely ground
20 g fresh sage, minced (we used 14, it wasn’t enough)
9 g garlic, minced
17 g ginger, grated
1 lemon worth of zest (we used 2, it was a little too much)

Hungarianish Sausage
2.42 lbs pork shoulder butt and fat
10 g edes paprika
10 g csipos paprika
2 g black pepper, coarsely ground
41 g roasted garlic (roasted in lard)
19 g kosher salt
3 g allspice (we used 4, it was just a little too much)

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Kumquat Braised Oxtail with Chestnut Stracci http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/02/13/kumquat-braised-oxtail-with-chestnut-stracci/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/02/13/kumquat-braised-oxtail-with-chestnut-stracci/#comments Wed, 13 Feb 2008 18:48:34 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/02/13/kumquat-braised-oxtail-with-chestnut-stracci/

This is one of our great successes this winter.

Oxtail braised with sweet spices, tons of kumquats, low and slow until the sauce is richly fragrant, smooth and thick. The meat is shredded off the bone into the strained sauce with balsamic vinegar stirred in for added complexity, and served with homemade chestnut flour pasta, which adds some toothsome sweetness to balance the intense meatiness of the oxtail.

The almost floral fragrance of the kumquats elevates this dish into something extraordinary. It reminds me of the way preserved lemon adds a sublime quality to Moroccan tagines, though it was actually thrown together from what we happened to notice while shopping at the food co-op, not inspired by any particular recipe or cuisine.

The chestnut stracci recipe is more traditionally based, adapted from an Italian recipe for irregular scraps of pasta made with chestnut flour and eggs. I’m told that “stracci” means “rags,” which is what those pasta scraps are meant to look like. I threw them together after reading through a few recipes and finding the proportions that ultimately worked best for me.

Go on, give this a try before kumquats are gone for the year!

Kumquat Braised Oxtail
3 lbs oxtail, in 2″ (or so) thick slices
Oil for browning
1/2 lb kumquats, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds and deseeded (don’t stress too much, since they’ll be strained out and discarded in the end)
6 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 C water

Brown the oxtail in little oil. Stir in all other ingredients except for the balsamic vinegar. Pressure cook at high pressure for 50 minutes (or braise over low heat for probably about 4 hours or so, or until tender).

Remove the oxtail and let cool a bit.

In the meantime, strain the sauce and stir in the balsamic. You can reduce it at this point if necessary, but it really should be thick and lusciously flavorful enough already with no need for reduction.

Pull the meat off the bones, saving the fat, bone, and connective tissue in the freezer for the next time you make beef stock.

Shred the meat and stir it into the sauce.

Refrigerate overnight, and skim off the solidified fat the next day before serving.

Chestnut Stracci
3 C all-purpose flour
1 C chestnut flour
6 eggs
1-2 tbsp olive oil
A big pinch of salt

Knead the ingredients together until they form a dough, then continue kneading for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Let it rest at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap for 15-30 minutes.

Roll it out as thin as you can – at least as thin as a dime! It will double in thickness when it cooks.

Let it rest another 15 minutes before cutting it into irregular shapes with a fluted pastry wheel.

Cook in salted boiling water for just a few minutes, then strain and serve with the sauce.

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Kumquat Cake http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/02/08/kumquat-cake/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/02/08/kumquat-cake/#comments Fri, 08 Feb 2008 21:00:55 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/02/08/kumquat-cake/

This cake is obscenely rich; it is more of a custard or pudding than a cake, almost. It is so moist that it may seem undercooked until you remember just how many eggs and pureed kumquats you poured into that wet batter to make it.

It started out as a recipe for orange cake, but I prefer kumquats, and I suspect it would work just fine with whatever citrus you happen to prefer.

Dave thinks it’s a bit too sweet, but that’s why I suggest pairing it with sour cream (or perhaps sour cream ice cream) – the tartness balances everything out perfectly.

I would serve small squares of this as part of the mignardise at the end of a decadent meal.

Kumquat Cake
(adapted from a recipe that started with Claudia Roden, adapted further by Stephanie Alexander, and adapted still further by Kuidaore, before being adapted yet again by me)
1 lb kumquats
6 large eggs
250 g almond meal
250 g granulated or superfine sugar
1 tsp baking powder

Barely cover the kumquats with water in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Drain and allow the kumquats to cool to where you can handle them. Open them up and discard the seeds. They will be so soft you will easily be able to do this by hand.

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Prepare a 9″ square cake pan by buttering and flouring it.

In a blender, puree the kumquats with the eggs.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Gradually add the kumquat/egg puree, whisking to combine.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is golden and springs back when touched and the cake has pulled away from the sides of the pan a bit.

Cool completely in the cake pan before inverting to remove and inverting again to set right side up. Store, tightly wrapped, in the fridge.

Cut into smaller squares (because it is very rich) and serve with sour cream and candied kumquats or kumquat marmalade to garnish.

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Clementine Sunchoke Puree http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/05/clementine-sunchoke-puree/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/05/clementine-sunchoke-puree/#comments Wed, 05 Dec 2007 14:08:19 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/12/05/clementine-sunchoke-puree/

This puree was inspired by a dish we had at Alinea, during the most impressive meal I have ever been served. The dish that inspired us was lobster (butter-poached, I believe), served with lobster mousse, sunchoke puree, and sweet orange, all surrounded by the hyacinth aroma released by boiling water being poured over hyacinths in the bowl holding the smaller bowl of edible food. It was one of the most luxurious experiences I have ever had, and it entirely justified my weekend jaunt to Chicago for the sake of one meal at Alinea.

How can we bring the faintest suggestion of this wonderment back to our fundamentally time-pressed readers back home, we wondered. Well, not many people are going to cook lobster at home. That’s just uncommon, for some reason. (I suspect most people are reluctant to experiment on spendy foods, and also squeamish about killing their own meats.) Likewise, putting together a dish of hyacinth aroma isn’t very likely for most home cooks, intoxicating as it was. So, citrus and sunchokes remained.

Here is a pared down, but still completely delicious, ultra-simple side dish, pairing the lush simplicity of creamy sunchoke puree with the brightness of clementines, which I vastly prefer to oranges, anyways.

As for the garnish, well, all things are improved by homemade bacon.

Clementine Sunchoke Puree
1 1/2 lbs sunchokes (a/k/a jerusalem artichokes)
3 tbsp heavy cream
Juice of 1 clementine (approximately 1/4 C)
A pinch of clementine zest, plus more for garnish
1 tsp argan oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Bacon to taste

Peel the sunchokes, chop them into 1 inch chunks, and simmer 10 minutes in salted water. Drain, then puree with all ingredients except argan oil and bacon.

Cut your bacon into little strips and fry it up. Remove it to drain on a paper towel covered plate.

Reheat the puree, and stir in the argan oil. Serve garnished with bacon and a pinch of zest.

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Pink Grapefruit Ginger Cream Cookies http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/02/20/pink-grapefruit-ginger-cream-cookies/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/02/20/pink-grapefruit-ginger-cream-cookies/#comments Tue, 20 Feb 2007 13:16:38 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/02/20/pink-grapefruit-ginger-cream-cookies/

It has been a week since I last posted, which is longer than I like. I am sorry about that. Still, as I mentioned before, things have been busy around here lately. I’ll have some exciting news for you in a few weeks. While it’s very hard for me to keep my mouth shut about this one, I can’t make the announcement quite yet.

This is my slightly belated entry to Sugar High Friday #28: Sweet Seduction.

I asked my partner if he would consider himself seduced by these cookies, which I actually made just because I had a spare grapefruit in the fridge that I didn’t want to let go to waste. He doesn’t much like sugar cookies or grapefruit in general, but he declared these cookies “surprisingly inoffensive”. That counts as a seduction by the cookies, under the circumstances!

Me, I’m seduced by pink grapefruit juice every morning. It’s the only thing that really gets me up and ready to start my day.

Pink Grapefruit Ginger Cream Cookies
(adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe)
For the dough
Grated zest of 1 pink grapefruit
1/4 C freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1 C sugar
2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp teaspoon salt
1/2 C unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
For the cream filling
1/2 C unsalted butter
2 C confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
3 tbsp freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice

Preheat your oven to 350°.

In a small bowl, combine zest with 1 tbsp sugar, and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set that aside.

Beat butter and remaining sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, and beat until combined. Beat in the zest-sugar mixture. Beat in the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the juice.

Separate the dough into two equal parts, and shape each into a 1″ thick disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate them until firm, at least 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out each disk in turn to 1/8″ thick. Cut out cookies of whatever shape you like, and place them 1/2″ apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake, rotating sheet (from top to bottom and from front to back) halfway through, until edges are golden, about 14 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack, and allow them to cool completely.

Make the filling by beating the butter and sugar together until, again, light and fluffy. Beat in the grated ginger and honey. Add the juice 1 tbsp at a time, only so much as you need for the filling to become properly creamy.

Spread about 1 tbsp filling onto the bottoms of half the cookies. Gently sandwich with remaining cookies, since the filling can be pretty oozy. Store in the fridge.

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Cardamom Meyer Lemon Créme Brûlée Bubbles http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/29/cardamom-meyer-lemon-creme-brulee-bubbles/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/29/cardamom-meyer-lemon-creme-brulee-bubbles/#comments Fri, 29 Dec 2006 12:46:25 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/29/cardamom-meyer-lemon-creme-brulee-bubbles/

This is my entry for Sugar High Friday #26: Sugar Art. Today is the last day to post entries, so please get them up and email me about them soon! I’m really excited about all the entries I’ve seen so far, and would love to see what the rest of you can come up with, too.

These are blown bubbles of caramelized sugar, filled with a standard créme brûlée custard flavored with cardamom and meyer lemon zest. Edible art, they are probably the prettiest and most elegant dessert I know how to make, and among the most delicious as well.

We taught ourselves to do this after seeing photos of Alinea‘s take on créme brûlée. (Yes, their custard is powdered. Ours is not. As you can see, if you blow the bubbles too thin, the custard starts to melt through eventually – so blow thick bubbles, or serve them quickly. I prefer the latter.)

Although we later learned that they shape their bubbles by coating balloons with caramel and then popping and removing the balloons once the sugar hardens, we decided to blow ours, because the photo reminded me of glass-blowing and I thought it might work. It did.

If you can imagine the two of us dancing around the kitchen for a couple of hours, whirling like mad, burning our fingers, wrecking tubes that were too narrow, and ending up with every available surface covered in ragged bubbles and strands of unintentionally pulled sugar, well, then, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what the learning process was like.

Cardamom Meyer Lemon Créme Brûlée Bubbles

Make the custard (recipe below). Let it chill. Make the bubbles (recipe below). Pipe custard into bubbles. Don’t bother with piping tips; just cut a very small hole in the corner of a ziplock bag, or something like that. Very, very small.

If your bubbles are so perfectly blown that they do not have any holes in them, heat up the tip of a knife with a kitchen torch or gas stove and use that to carefully melt a hole in each bubble through which you can pipe the custard.

Cardamom Meyer Lemon Custard
2 C heavy cream
1 C milk
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
Zest from 2 meyer lemons
6 green cardamom pods
6 large egg yolks
1/2 C granulated sugar

Heat the heavy cream, milk, and spices in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and steep until strongly flavored.

Beat the yolks and sugar together until pale yellow. Pour about 1/2 C of the cream mixture into the egg mixture and beat to incorporate, then slowly pour the rest in while you keep on beating.

Preheat the oven to 350º.

Strain the custard base into a set of small ramekins, and place the ramekins in a high-walled baking or roasting pan lined with a small dish towel that covers the bottom (but not the sides). Pour enough hot water into the pan to come up half way on the sides of the ramekins. Loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake on the middle rack for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

The custards are done when they are slightly jiggly in the middle, but not very. Remove them from the pan and cool on a wire rack to room temperature before covering and refrigerating for at least a few hours.

Caramelized Sugar Bubbles
3 C sugar
1 1/2 C water
2 tsp cream of tartar

You’ll need a few special tools for this – some aluminum (or any other metal, really) tubes, maybe 12-18″ or so long, about 1/4-1/2″ in diameter. These are easy to find at Pearl Paint, or whatever your nearest arts & crafts supply store may be. Also, a kitchen torch and a knife.

Mix all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Have an ice water bath (in a bowl large enough to contain the bottom of the pot) ready nearby. Heat the pot slowly until the caramel reaches a nice gold color, not too dark, then remove the pot from the heat and dip the bottom into the ice water bath to stop it from cooking further.

Wait until the caramel cools a bit. You want it thick enough so that you can gather up a ball of it at the end of your metal tube, and touch it a bit with your fingers when necessary, but not so thick that you will be unable to blow it out. I end up reheating it as it cools too much, and waiting when it is too hot, trying to catch moments where it is at the perfect consistency.

The idea is to gently blow bubbles of sugar through the tube, patching holes with your fingers as they form, or just cradling the bubble until it cools and hardens. Blow softly. Be patient. It takes a while to get the knack of it. When things are going particularly well, I shape them best by dancing, whirling with tube and sugar kept buoyant by my breath around the kitchen letting gravity do the work for me, letting the sugar flow into the shape I wanted without ever touching it at all.

The kitchen torch and the knife come in handy when trying to clean out any sugar hardened in the tube in between bubbles.

If you won’t be serving them right away, store them in a covered container lined with parchment paper, with a small dish or pile of salt in there to absorb the moisture.


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Lemon Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Granite Countertops http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/12/lemon-chocolate-chunk-cookies-and-granite-countertops/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/12/lemon-chocolate-chunk-cookies-and-granite-countertops/#comments Tue, 12 Dec 2006 16:35:42 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/12/12/lemon-chocolate-chunk-cookies-and-granite-countertops/

I was walking in to work the other day when I passed a large piece of gorgeous granite countertop leaning against the side of someone’s stoop. It had a sign taped to it that read, “Do Not Touch.” As I was staring longingly at it, a man came out of the building and told me that it was scrap, and the person who had asked for it had never shown up, and it was mine if I wanted it.

I was on my way to work, though, and couldn’t take it. I probably couldn’t even lift it. And of course, since I live in the city, I don’t have a car.

On the other hand, I’ve been dying for a nice piece of granite countertop. I miss my parents’ counters terribly. My apartment has wood and formica counters, and they are terrible for making pastry. You need a good, cold stone surface on which to roll out pastry. It keeps the butter cold and so the pastry turns out flakier, lighter, and much tastier.

I had no idea where we’d put it. But stone can be expensive, and this was a huge piece, and the man said it was scrap and would just get thrown away if I didn’t take it.

I said I’d come back to get it during lunch. He told me to just ring the bell and they’d come help me lift it into the car. I asked if I could pay him to cut it in half for me, but he said that sadly, they did not have the appropriate machine on site.

I went back during lunch, and called up car service as the guys started to lift the granite towards the gate. It took two of them to lift it; there was no way I would be able to get it out of the car and into my apartment on my own. Still, I had to try. I asked if they’d come with me, and promised them cookies if they did. They apologized, and said that they wished that they could, but they could not.

The car service guy refused to put the granite in his car, and drove away. $50 would have convinced him otherwise, actually, but that’s more than I wanted to pay for a street find.

The construction guys asked me to give them my phone number. They said they would try to get a guy over with a van to help me out, and they’d call if he showed up.

The next morning, Dave stopped by the Park Slope Food Co-op and somehow talked them into loaning him a dolly. He took it on the bus to the building with the granite, and rang the bell.

The guys hadn’t managed to get a van, but they had managed to get the machine they needed to cut the stone down for us. They cut it in half, and helped Dave load both halves onto the dolly. Each of them separately reminded him that I had promised them cookies.

Dave is the true hero of this story, because he actually carted these incredibly heavy pieces of granite countertop almost 2 miles and got them off the dolly and into our apartment. He returned the dolly to the Food Co-op, and called me up to let me know that I had to spend that evening making cookies.

I owed these men cookies, big-time. For that matter, if you need any apartment renovation done in NYC, let me know, and I will give you their contact information.

I made them two big batches of cookies, using up all the lemon zest that had been sitting in our fridge from the day before in the process. These are basically Mrs. Wakefield’s original recipe for Toll House Cookies, with a ton of lemon zest thrown in. They are lovely. Soft and chewy and very chocolatey with that floral citrus buzz bringing them to life.

I also made some salty oat cookies for the guys, and will post the recipe for those soon.

When I showed up the next morning with my big bag of cookies in hand and rang the bell, one of the guys bounded down the stairs at top speed, clapping his hands excitedly.

“Cookies!” he exclaimed as he opened the door. “We were really hoping you’d come!”

Lemon Chocolate Chunk Cookies
1/2 C unsalted butter
Zest of 4 lemons
3/8 C granulated sugar
3/8 C packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/8 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 375º.

You can use store-bought chocolate chips for this if you like, but I prefer to take a hunk of good chocolate and cut it into large chunks myself.

Cream the butter, lemon zest, and sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. At low speed, beat in the flour, salt, and baking soda just until blended. Add the chocolate chunks and mix in until evenly distributed.

Prepare baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Place heaping tablespoons of dough on the baking sheets about 2″ apart.

Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden and done.

Cool on a wire rack before gobbling them up.

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Kabocha Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/29/kabocha-beef-tagine-with-chickpeas-and-preserved-lemon/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/29/kabocha-beef-tagine-with-chickpeas-and-preserved-lemon/#comments Wed, 29 Nov 2006 16:12:36 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/29/kabocha-beef-tagine-with-chickpeas-and-preserved-lemon/

The preparation for this dish must begin a month in advance, unless you already have a jar of preserved lemons lying around. The lemons are preserved in water and salt with a layer of oil on top, and for the first week you must shake the jar daily to redistribute the salt. After that, the lemons sit and cure. They must cure for at least a month before you can use them.

Under the cut, I have included instructions for preserving lemons and steaming couscous.

This is slow food. The long wait for the lemons to cure, and all the anticipation as you check in on them and tilt the jar to watch the increasingly viscous fluid flow. The soaking of the chickpeas overnight. The time taken to cut the meat and kabocha squash into chunks of equal size, and to grate the onions. The long, low simmering of the tagine. The rinsing of the couscous and the time for it to soak, followed by two or three steamings with additions of cold water and oil as you rub the lumps between your fingers to break them up. This is not the thing to make if you are in a rush, or not in a position to plan in advance.


All right, I confess: The kabocha squash was a last-minute thought, because we happened to have one lying around. You can use canned chickpeas instead of soaking dried ones overnight, and it will be fine. You should set up a jar of preserved lemons right now in any case, because you will think of something to do with them once they’re ready to be used. (For example, they’re brilliant when finely chopped and slipped under the skin of a chicken along with some garlic and parsley before you put it in to roast.) The tagine does take a few hours to simmer, but if you’re willing to eat late, you can get it started when you get home from work without a problem. A good vegetable cleaver makes the chopping go quickly, and costs less than $10 in Chinatown. Steaming couscous is a meditative, enjoyable task, and only requires a few minutes of attention in between steamings, with plenty of down-time where you needn’t worry about it at all.

It’s nice to think that we take the time to do things right, the slow way, the old way. It is also nice to think that we have time for activities other than work and cooking.

It can be frustrating to think about slow cooking when we lead such busy lives. My friends here and I are all typical overscheduled New Yorkers. Getting together requires taking out our calendars and planning weeks, if not months (and often, yes, it has to be months) in advance. Many of us work long hours, and when I get home from work, I’ve started to take on pro bono cases that fill my evenings. We take classes, go to events, spend time with our families and friends, and there is very little left for us.

It is strange to realize that my time is so much more valuable than it used to be. (This thought occurred to me as I was taking my time to sort cocoa nibs out from among bits of husk the other day, and realizing that I would rather spend a little more for pre-sorted, pre-roasted nibs in the future.) In school, I grew used to thinking of myself as having a lot of time, and very little money. Now, I have very little time, and a little more money, if not much. I have learned that sometimes I am willing to spend money in order to save time. A few years ago, I would never have considered that a reasonable exchange.

Still, we make it work. While tagines simmer, we work on other projects. When we go out, we make quick meals, and I can admit to having a penchant for frozen pelmeni. Dave and I try to set aside a weekend to ourselves once a month or so, where we slowly simmer stock for hours to freeze for later use, and cherish the time we have together without any other obligations as the stock cooks. We have to be fairly vigilant, or those weekends slip away too easily; there is always a last-minute invitation to an event we’d love to attend that weekend, and it is hard to turn those things down. But it is important to us to have that time together, so we do.

We want to make it work without having to sacrifice anything. We want to work hard at our jobs, spend time with our friends, work on many and varied projects, learn all there is to learn about the things that interest us, have time alone and time alone together, read constantly, and cook the sort of food that can’t come together in half an hour.

How do you make it work?

Kabocha Beef Tagine with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon
(Adapted from Paula Wolfert’s basic beef tagine recipe.)
2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/4″ chunks
1 small Kabocha squash (the smallest you can find), peeled and cut into 1 1/4″ chunks
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp csípős (hot) paprika
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne
2 onions, grated
1/8 C chopped cilantro
1/8 C chopped parsley
2 1/2 C soaked and peeled chickpeas (a/k/a garbanzo beans)
1 preserved lemon
salt and black pepper to taste

One month in advance.

Set up a jar of preserved lemons.

Get a jar, a carton of kosher salt, and a lot of lemons. Organic, thin-skinned lemons are better than regular lemons, and Meyer lemons are better still.

Pour about a tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar. Quarter each lemon the long way, making sure the cuts stop about 1/2″ from the stem end of the lemon, leaving the quarters still attached. Pack the cuts with plenty kosher salt, at least a tablespoon per lemon. Press the lemons firmly into the jar, pushing them down as much as you can. You only use the skin when cooking anyway, and you want to squeeze the juice out so that it will cover the lemons. If you like, you can still more salt in between layers of lemons. Fill the jar as tightly as you can. Add another tablespoon salt on top. Pour some olive oil on top to keep out the air.

If some lemons are still sticking out at this point, it is okay. Over the next few days the lemons will release more of their juice and settle down further. Shake the jar once a day for the first week to help distribute the salt. If after a few days all the lemons are not actually covered with juice, add more freshly squeezed lemon juice and/or weigh down the lemons with a non-reactive object such as a clay or glass weight or a ziplock bag full of water.

It is important that you not stick your fingers into the jar after you’ve finished filling it up. That may introduce bacteria to make it go bad. Paula Wolfert says that if the lemons go bad, they will smell like furniture polish, and otherwise they are fine.

Let the lemons cure for at least a month. You’ll notice that the liquid gets thicker and the lemons more translucent as the lactic acid fermentation takes place and the pith begins to dissolve in the brine.

Once you open it up again, keep the jar in the fridge from then on. They probably don’t do that in Morocco, but I do, just in case.

When you use the lemons, you peel out the pith and flesh and throw them away. It is astonishing how easily they part from the skin. Then you rinse the skin well to remove the oil and brine, and you can use it in many dishes.

One day in advance.

Soak dried chickpeas overnight. If you are using canned chickpeas, skip this step.

Starting the tagine.

Remember, a tagine must be heated slowly and cooled slowly. Never add anything cold to a hot tagine or hot to a cold tagine.

Put the oil, spices, grated onion, and herbs into the tagine and stir them into a homogenous paste. Add the chunks of kabocha and coat them in the paste, then remove them. Add the chunks of beef and coat them, then pile the beef in the center and bottom, and pile the kabocha chunks on top.Add very little water; when you check in on it, you want to always make sure it has just enough water to keep from burning, and no more.

Turn the heat on low under the tagine. Bring it up to a slow simmer. Simmer it for several hours, or until the beef is tender. Check in on it from to time, adding water if need be (which is very unlikely).

Prepare the chickpeas (if you are using dried ones)

If you are using dried chickpeas, boil them in lightly salted water until they are tender.

If you are using canned chickpeas, just drain and rinse them.

Rub the chickpeas to remove their skins, and set them aside until later on.

An hour (for two steamings) or hour and a half (for three steamings) before the tagine is done.

Rinse the couscous in a lot of water. Drain the water, and leave the damp couscous to absorb what remains for about ten minutes. Spend the next ten minutes raking through the couscous as it continues to dry, breaking up any lumps with your fingers.

Steam the couscous over broth or water for twenty minutes. I covered the steaming rack of my rice cooker with a paper towel and poured the couscous onto it. Leave the couscous uncovered as it steams.

Pour the couscous out into a deep baking pan or large bowl. I like to wear nitrile or latex gloves for this step to protect my hands from the heat. Cover your hands in olive oil and add cold water slowly, raking the couscous and breaking up any lumps with your fingers as you do so. The couscous expands more from the cold water it absorbs during the raking than it does from the steaming. The oil you are rubbing into the couscous helps keep the grains separated. Add enough cold water for the couscous to stay damp and absorb, but not so much that you soak it. For two cups of couscous, I probably added about a cup, cup and half cold water.

After about ten minutes of raking, return the couscous to the steamer. Steam twenty minutes, uncovered. Remove from the steamer and repeat the process above with the cold water and oil and raking. At this point, you can either serve the couscous or return it to the steamer for yet another twenty minutes of steaming followed by another addition of cold water. For store-bought couscous, two steamings is certainly adequate.

This process makes couscous that is fluffy, silky, and tender. It is entirely unlike couscous cooked in water according to the instructions on the package. Yes, this method takes some time, but most of it is spent ignoring the couscous as it steams, and it is worth the effort, at least for me, and at least once in a while.

Half an hour before the tagine is done.

Pull the pith and flesh from one preserved lemon and discard. Rinse the peel well. Chop the peel finely, leaving some long slices for garnish.

Note: The preserved lemon flavor becomes very strong after the leftovers spend a night in the fridge. If this worries you, use the peel from only half a preserved lemon instead, or invite enough people over to avoid having leftovers.

Stir the chickpeas and preserved lemon into the tagine, and let it continue to simmer until done.

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