Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Which Fruit And Pork Make Beautiful Music Together

Let me begin this entry by apologizing to my parents for the fortune they spent on parochial school. But, quite frankly, if we're not meant to eat pigs, they ought not to be such a readily available source of lean and delicious protein.

I love pork tenderloins. The problem with them, however, is twofold. For one, they are incredibly lean and therefore prone to becoming dried out lumps of jerky. Secondly, many people believe that if pork isn't a solid gray throughout, it will cause you to develop intestinal worms and liver flukes and experience unpleasant side effects such as vomiting and death. But with a little know-how and attention, this cut can be tender, flavorful, and juicy. Properly cooked, pork tenderloin should be rosy in the center rather than looking like putty.

I like light, simple food in the summer and had purchased a pork tenderloin for grilling. I think pork pairs wonderfully with fruits (roast pork and applesauce being a classic combination) and considered dressing the loin with fresh apples and allspice. But that felt rather heavy for the weather. On Monday AlmondBoy and I had gone to the farm stand and selected some beautiful summer produce, including some enormous peaches and a variety of squashes. I thought the peaches would do nicely, and then I recalled that I had some sliced mangoes (thanks, Trader Joe!) in the freezer as well. Peaches and mangoes together are scrumptious, ergo I decided that all three would be a tasty trio.

To begin, trim the fat and remove the silver skin from the meat. Then soak it in a saltwater brine for roughly 12 hours.

After the meat had finished soaking, I patted it dry with paper towels. I took out a large piece of tin foil and spritzed it with olive oil spray. I placed the loin on the tin foil, then topped it with the mango slices. I arranged the sliced peaches (it took two, sliced into eighths) all around the perimeter like a fort of deliciousness, topped it with some fresh herbs (tarragon, sage, and rosemary from the garden) and sprinkled on some good sea salt.

Finally, I just folded it up into a packet, taking care to seal the seams. Make sure you crimp it pretty tightly because you don't want all of the juices to come pouring out when you flip your packet. I placed the packet on a hot grill and cooked each side for approximately 8 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 135 degrees.

After that point, I placed the pork directly on the grill to brown the outside and let the internal temperature come to between 145-150 degrees. I left the fruits in the foil over the heat.

Once the internal temperature was high enough, I moved the pork to a large platter and smothered it with the fruits, juices, and herbs.

Then I tented it loosely with foil and let the whole dish rest for about 5 minutes to let the interior finish cooking. Because the grill gets the meat so hot, it continues cooking after being taken off the grill. Therefore it's essential to have it come off a touch early if you want the middle to stay moist and juicy and delicately pink.. Which you really, really do.

As I had hoped, the flavors were wonderful together. I served the dish with a steamed squash medley (pattypan, crookneck, and zucchini) which I flavored with oregano and sea salt. We also had corn muffins with homemade strawberry jam.

Monday, July 12, 2010

In Which There Is Blueberry Onion Marmalade

I love this recipe. It's very fresh and summery, and blueberries and lemons are a perfect flavor combination. It's a little sexy, this marmalade, with the luscious melting texture of the onions and the unusual - yet regal - hue from the blueberries. The chicken itself was juicy, flavorful, and perfectly cooked. I served it atop a spinach/romaine salad topped with jicama, pigeon peas, cucumbers, and crumbled Pepper Jack. The marmalade is a beautiful violet color, and it contrasted marvelously with the green salad leaves, the caramelized exterior of the chicken, and the creamy white cheese.

Unfortunately, my USB port is acting up and my dad has my memory card adapter thingy so I can't show you the pictures I took.

Blueberry Onion Marmalade Over Grilled Lemon Chicken

Recipe courtesy of Jerry Edwards of Chef's Expressions Catering

4 whole chicken breasts
2 lemons
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
White pepper
1 pound chopped sweet onions
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1 cup chicken stock
1/8 pound butter
Sea salt
White pepper

Zest one lemon and squeeze the juice from both. Cover chicken with the olive oil and lemon juice. Marinate for two to three hours. Toss together sea salt and zest. Remove chicken from marinade and sprinkle with lemon salt and white pepper. Grill on each side until browned, but still rare in center. Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350-degree oven until they reach 150 degrees in center. Let stand for 5-8 minutes before slicing. (The chicken should reach 160 degrees while resting.) Slice in 1/4-inch slices.

In melted butter, simmer the onions slowly for about an hour. Continuously add chicken stock during the cooking process to keep moist. When onions are soft, add blueberries and cook slowly for 20 minutes. When the onions are almost a jam, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve over sliced lemon grilled chicken.


I cut the butter and olive oil in half, and the dish still had a wonderful, silky texture with a rich flavor. As you can see, that change eliminated a significant amount of fat and calories from the dish:


Calories 500.0
Total Fat 22.4 g
Dietary Fiber 3.1 g
Protein 56.4 g


Calories 414.9
Total Fat 12.7 g
Dietary Fiber 3.1 g
Protein 56.4 g

I recommend unsalted sweet cream butter. I used thawed frozen berries (Trader Joe's sells some very nice organic wild blueberries at a good price) in place of fresh, and for the stock I went with Trader Joe's Free Range Organic.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Which I Make Things Out Of Bananas And Chocolate

Okay, first of all, I need to kill one of my neighbors. Someone keeps putting trash in one of my recycling bins and the recycling people won't take it. It is driving me crazy. The recycling bins are in the house and I take them to the curb on Thursday night for the Friday morning pickup. This morning one of my bins was left because there was a chicken tray covered with maggots perched on top of my recyclables because there isn't a lid. So I had to take that off and then pick about a dozen maggots off of my recycling so that I didn't have to trash it all. Thanks, asshole.

In more delicious news, I have done quite a bit of baking due to numerous parties in June. The titles link you to the recipes and my notes are underneath.

Banana Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This is the most delicious banana cake I have ever eaten. It practically begs for some dark rum and possibly some coconut, so I think I'll play around with that next time I make it.

* I made this cake in two 9-inch pans instead of three 8-inch.

* I used four bananas instead of two to make the cake more moist and banana-y. And I let my mixer mash them because I am lazy.

* I used nonfat plain yogurt in place of buttermilk

* I found that the frosting needed more than the recommended amount of powdered sugar. I probably used closer to 2 1/2 - 3 cups, but your mileage may vary.

* To fill the cake required about two bananas. I did a layer of cake, a layer of frosting, a layer of sliced bananas, another layer of frosting, cale, and then covered the whole think thickly with frosting. I put it in the fridge before stacking on the second layer of cake in order to let the filling firm up.

*I kept it in the refrigerator overnight and it was still extremely moist the next day.


Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

This is a cake for people who love good dark chocolate. I don't think it would do well with milky stuff at all.

* I used 60% cacao chocolate for this cake. For eating chocolate, I like 85%, but I think that the subtle, complex sweetness of such a dark chocolate would be lost in this confection and therefore I went with something much sweeter.

* With only three ingredients, the flavors need to shine. Buy the best ingredients you can for this one, folks. Use good, vegetarian-fed eggs with lovely orange yolks and a dense, high-fat butter with a fresh, creamy taste. You'll be so glad you did.

* I cooked it for the recommended 20 minutes and found it ever so slightly dry. I think 17 or 18 would have been better.

* I served this confection with a tart raspberry coulis and lightly sweetened rum whipped cream. The flavors and textures came together quite nicely.

* If you've never made raspberry coulis, it is quite simple. Thaw a bag of frozen raspberries, stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar (or to taste), about a 1/4 cup of water, and a teaspoon or so of fresh lemon juice (if you like), allow to sit together for about an hour, puree, then press the whole mixture through a mesh strainer to remove the seeds. It's a lovely fresh sauce and, mixed with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, an excellent salad dressing. Fresh mint perks up the coulis nicely as well. Note: If you use frozen raspberries in syrup rather than just regular frozen berries, omit the water and reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons.

AlmondBoy approved:


White Chip Chocolate Cookies

These were pretty to look at and had a scrumptious, fudgey crumb. I made them using a cookie scoop, which made for perfectly round, thick cookies. Mine baked in the center of the oven for exactly ten minutes.

* My only note is to keep the dough cold at all times. Chill before scooping, and keep in the fridge between batches. Other than that, no changes. These are wonderful.


Chernowitzer Challah

This is my standard challah recipe and my absolute favorite. I get 16 rolls per batch. No changes because Maggie Glezer is a genius.


No-Knead Bread

I love this bread. It's easy, it's delicious, and almost foolproof. It lends itself wonderfully to add-ins like rosemary, dates, walnuts, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes...the possibilities are endless.

* Don't skip the autolyse (that 15 minute rise under plastic) step. It really develops the flavor.

* I bake mine in a cast iron Dutch oven.

* For the final rise, I put the cotton towel/dough/wheat bran bundle on my pizza peel. I also usually need closer to 3 hours than 2 for a good rise.


Banana Split Trifle

I invented this dessert for my dad for some occasion or another, and it has become a family favorite. In fact, to encourage more frequent production, my dad purchased me a cherry pitter as a gift. I do not know how I lived without it.

Let me begin by saying that this is a fussy dessert in that it has lots of prep, but it can all be done well in advance. The ganache will keep in the fridge for a week; you'll just have to rewarm it. The cake will keep in the freezer for a couple of months if properly wrapped.

The structure of the dessert is a trifle dish with a layer of banana walnut cake, a layer of ganache, a layer of cherries, a layer of bananas, a layer of whipped cream, repeat.

You will need:

1 layer banana walnut cake
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
1 lb pitted cherries, halved (Trader Joe's has a good price on organic Raniers right now)
3-4 ripe bananas (depending on size), sliced

For the cake, I use this recipe with a few modifications. You will not need to make the frosting, so only pull out 1 stick of butter.

* I double the amount of banana
* I use 2 9-inch pans
* I add in about 3/4 cup or so of chopped walnuts

Ganache is extremely simple to make. It is a 1:1 ration of heavy cream and chocolate, melted together. You'll need heavy whipping cream for the whipped cream layer, so buy one quart. Measure out a half cup of it and bring to a simmer in a small saucepan. Once the cream is simmering, remove it from the heat and stir in an equal amount of chocolate, either chips or chopped. I recommend bittersweet or semi sweet for this. Stir the chocolate until it is all melted in and the ganache is smooth. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the whipped cream, I like to flavor mine with brown sugar and kirshwasser, but it's up to you. Just beat the rest of the quart of heavy whipping cream with your desired flavorings until stiff peaks form, taking care not to overbeat. (You'll get butter if you overbeat.)

Now, for the assembly:

Once your cakes are baked, turned from the pans, and completely cooled, wrap up one layer and freeze it for next time/snacking.

Divide the remaining layer in half and break each half into chunks, roughly 1 inch square. Put the cake into the trifle dish, pressing slightly to fill in the spaces. It's not an exact science, just somewhere between crumbs and chunks. Then drizzle the cake with room-temperature ganache.

Add a layer of cherry halves, then a layer of sliced bananas. Top with half of the whipped cream, then repeat the whole sequence. I like to decorate the top of mine with cake crumbs, chocolate drizzle, and a whole cherry. It keeps nicely in the fridge until you're ready to serve it.

I have considered involving fresh pineapple in this recipe because I am fond of pineapple on my banana splits, but it's so good as-is. Maybe one day…

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In Which I Am Back From Hiatus

I hadn't planned on taking so long a break, but it's been a busy couple of months. We went to Florida in mid-May for the purpose of attending my sister's law school graduation. We figured that we might as well take the kids to Disney while we were there, and we had a very nice time doing so. Because we are control freaks/obsessive planners, we used the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World to plan our trip. You would have thought we were waging war on the Magic Kingdom with the way we had the schedule down . (Actually, after being overwhelmed by too much whimsy when the denizens of Frontierland spontaneously burst into a song and dance routine without provocation, a little light artillery didn't seem like such a bad idea.)

But anyway, the book was fabulous. We pored over it together, two geeks in love.

Mr. Marzipan: And see! See how it uses linear programming to map out the optimal itinerary? Behold the Fastpass recommendations! IT TELLS US WHEN TO GET IN LINE FOR WHICH THING.

Me: (Gazing at him in starry-eyed adoration) Cooooool...

My closet is organized by color. I live for this sort of thing.

AlmondGirl was taken to Castle Couture by my mother, and two Japanese tourists found the results irresistible:

My son and my husband favored the Buzz Lightyear ride. Mr. Marzipan ended up scoring like a trillion points and was so pleased with himself that it depressed me.

Two weeks later we made our annual memorial Day trip to LBI in New Jersey with my aunt, uncle, cousins, and their children. I'm so glad to be part of a big family, even though it can be exhausting on occasion. But I love that my kids are growing up with so many cousins.

My daughter turned 6 on June 4th and we had a girls-only tea party to celebrate on the 6th. I went for a Shabby Chic look, picking up mismatched china from the Goodwill.

The cake was teapot shaped and decorated with marshmallow fondant. It didn't turn out quite how I hoped, but I was fairly pleased overall:

Also! My daughter lost her first tooth that day, which was very exciting. I have been cooking and baking quite a bit and will share some recipes in my next update. Just wanted to check in and say hey for the moment.