Monthly Archives: July 2007

Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité!

Bastille Day is this weekend, (July 14, to be
specific) and besides attending the San Francisco
Chocolate Salon at Fort Mason on Sunday, I will
celebrate on Saturday by eating cheese and
charcuterie.  The cherries and red onions I pickled
last year will make a nice foil as well as cornichons
I will pick up from the store.  Oh, and beaucoup du
vin is required.  My cheese plate is not entirely
assembled yet (so far, only a Langres).  Although I
have yet to test out my Kitchen Aid meat grinder and
sausage stuffer, I am not confident in my curing
skills to produce my own saucisson.  However, I have
decided to make my own paté.  (I was also going to
make brandade, but a miscommunication resulted in 2
pounds of fresh rock cod/snapper in fridge instead of
1 pound of salt cod.)   I’ve been curious about making
a foie gras torchon, but my friends are not foie gras
eaters.  But no fear!  The paté recipe I have is
plenty rich and smooth.   Marina, my Lyonnaise expat
friend, gave me her recipe (passed on by her
godfather).  I tried to seek out fresh duck liver with
my local butcher contacts, but it was too late.
Marina usually uses chicken liver, so that’s what I
went with.  Her recipe is amazingly simple:

Take one pound of liver and marinate it overnight in
white wine, bay leaf, onion and thyme.   Drain the
liver and sauté it until pink inside, then puree with
2 sticks of butter in a food processor until smooth
like cake batter.  Pour into a container and cover
with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

This recipe is obviously open to variation, so I
cross-referenced Julia Child’s MTAFC, and it’s pretty
similar.  I decided to incorporate a little of Julia
by soaking the livers (after rinsing with water) in
milk for two hours to flush out the blood, then
rinsing and draining again.  I used about half a
bottle of dry white wine, half a sliced yellow onion,
8 branches of thyme and 2 bay leaves.  I also added 5
or 6 crushed green peppercorns.  Since I wanted to
ensure that my pate was extra smooth, I removed the
onion and the herbs after I drained the marinade.  I
used duck fat to sauté the liver, though butter is
fine.  I also added a dash of cognac (no more than a
teaspoon) and flambéed it towards the end of the
sauté.  I drained the livers again, seasoned with
kosher salt and pepper and pulsed the livers, adding
the butter a few pieces at a time.  Once the butter
was incorporated and the mixture smooth, I pressed it
through a sieve to remove any particles.

Trés simple, non?  So if you go to the store tonight,
you might be able to make a batch in time for your own
fête this Saturday.  Bon appetit!

Back to basics–campstove burritos

Saturday night dinner

A good friend of mine described a recent kayak/backpacking excursion, which entailed a beautiful afternoon out on the water, and then a jovial afternoon and evening on the beach with friends, one a true gourmand. “He made pad thai for us on a campstove!” she erupted with excitement, eyes glittering.

Pad thai. I love backpacking, but her description of his campstove pad thai thoroughly intrigued me. “Did he use peanut butter?” I asked, wondering about what shortcuts he may have used. No, she said. He forgot the peanuts. “Was it good?” Oh, she said, it was very very very tasty.

“You should–” she started, “write posts on your food blog about campstove cooking!”

And thus, a new tradition begins…campstove cooking posts.

Taking food on the trail requires some forethought, but you don’t have to make a ton of compromises if you plan ahead. There are people who bring extensive cookware on the trail, though that is not me. I want to travel as light as possible, keeping the heaviest food for the first night of camp.

My husband and I are known to take frozen steaks with us on the trail, grilling them the very first night. Ground beef can also be frozen and used the first night to fortify any meal, whether it be a stew or our backpacking favorite, burritos.

But in general–we like to go very light. That means light camping pots and pans (more like: light camping pot and pan, singular)…and the lightest (weight-wise) ingredients possible.

I’ll go over my various recipes, but for now I’d like to share our perennial favorite in the backcountry: Burritos!

Burritos are a staple meal of ours for its simplicity, its protein content, and for its fun factor. It’s easy to make, and everyone can assemble their own burrito!

Apologies, but I have no photos–lots of pictures of mountains and rivers and creeks and streams and wildlife, but sadly I took no pictures of our meals!

Recipe follows after the jump…

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got basil? make pesto.

campanelle with basil pesto

I dislike pesto in general–too often, it drips with olive oil and tastes overwhelmingly like garlic. Now, I love garlic, but not when I’m supposed to be eating a pesto that should taste more like basil and pine nuts. These two sensations turn me off to pesto. Plus, storebought pesto often contains basil that is just…flavorless. Ick.

But homemade pesto? The kind that allows basil to take center stage, the kind that is edged with the savory undertone of roasted pine nuts? I LOVE it. The only caveat–this is such a simple food that you want to use high quality ingredients. That means, the freshest basil you can find, and the best olive oil you can find.

It’s not often that I indulge in making homemade pesto–delicate fresh basil is not a staple in my fridge…but this year, I’m lucky enough to have a good crop of basil in my vegetable garden! I’ve watched my basil plants grow, with homemade pesto securely in mind. And this week, they grew to a requisite height, with the requisite amount of bunches.

Now there is nothing that spells summer so much as fresh, homemade pesto tossed with pasta (preferably a very ridged or ruffled shape like campanelle that can hold the pesto in its nooks and crannies). To top it all off, there’s minimal cooking involved (you only boil the pasta), helping the cook to avoid slaving over a hot stove or oven for hours on a hot summer day.

So why not indulge?

basil, olive oil, garlic, and toasted pine nuts

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Cherry Clafouti

Cherry Clafouti

Everywhere I turn, there are cherries, brilliant dimpled burgundy globes bedecking grocery produce shelves. And tomorrow is the 4th of July–which makes the call of cherries even louder. I mean, wild cherries, indigenous to North America, are truly an American fruit.

How wonderful it would be, to sit under a shady tree, barefoot, eating a bowl of cherries on the 4th of July!

But–I am allergic to stone fruit (a sad recent development)…which limits me to only cooked versions of this magical fruit. This has had me on quests for excellent ways to cook stone fruit, such as the almond plum buckle, a heavenly and delightful cake, last year.

ready to make cherry clafouti

But back to cherries!

Aside from the beautiful assortment of pies (oh, I do love a good peach pie, or cherry pie)…how to cook stone fruit? One of the classic recipes for cherries is a cherry clafouti (and I found Julia Child’s iconic recipe), a dish that is a simple and wonderful showcase for the fruit.

And so I began on the clafouti–and was amazed at its simplicity and incredible result. The most labor intensive part of making this dessert was pitting the cherries (which I did by hand, splitting each cherry open and extracting the pit), a happy and juicy task.

cherry clafouti in progress

The end result? Delicious. The cherries were still juicy and insulated in a custardy, eggy cake. I can’t wait to eat this under the fireworks tomorrow.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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