Inspired by a blurb in the Evening Standard’s Wednesday food section, I’ve decided to bring you weekly kitchen inspiration. The Standard’s critic lists the five things she ate….I’ll tell you what I cooked, the good, the bad and the ugly!
1. CUMIN CHEDDAR GLUTEN-FREE GOUGERES – Yeah, they were pretty much as bad as they sound. I love making a traditional pate a choux recipe (this is the cooked dough recipe that makes eclairs, cream puffs, cheese puffs and a delicious herbed gnocchi recipe courtesy of Thomas Keller). It involves adding flour to warmed milk and butter, stirring vigorously, then adding eggs one by one. You can add herbs and cheese at this point and then pipe them onto your baking tray in the shape you desire. The steam from the eggs causes the pastry to puff up in the oven and create an almost hollow, crunchy exterior, soft interior ready for filling with with custard or ice cream. I make large amounts of these and freeze them – you can just pull them out and pop them in the oven for 5-7 minutes and you have an instant, chic accompaniment to your evening glass of wine. Ina Garten’s recipe from her Barefoot in Paris book is easy: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/cheese-puffs-recipe/index.html This gluten-free version, whose creator shall remain nameless, (it uses a mixture of quinoa flour and cornstarch instead of regular flour) never puffed up in the oven. They were depressing little frisbees of cheese and cumin chewiness. Bleh.
2. DUARTE’S ARTICHOKE SOUP – I don’t know if you remember, but I very smugly bought 9 artichokes for £3 on my newly discovered Goldborne Road last weekend. Why so many? Let me tell you….Duarte’s is a little ramshackle restaurant in Pescadero, California, on the coast about 2 hours south of San Francisco. http://www.duartestavern.com/ It started back in 1894 and I think today looks much like it did then. I imagine cowboys and gold prospectors and ladies of ill-repute stopping in for refreshment as they travelled in their stage coaches in search of their next big find. Anyway, it’s quite the foodie destination nowdays and their artichoke soup and olallieberry pie make my eyes misty with nostalgia. I can’t get my hands on olallieberries here in London but artichokes, yes indeed! In the latest Saveur Magazine you can find this recipe to make yourself, but I have to admit that there’s something about the ocean air and bright blue skies that somehow make this dish taste better at Duarte’s. http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Duartes-Cream-Artichoke
3. SESAME CRUSTED TUNA – Fishmongers seem to be the bane of my existence here in London. The quality of supermarket bought fish is hard to predict and their selection is very limited. Having a good quality fishmonger in the neighborhood automatically makes the value of your property go up in my eyes. Living in Maida Vale, I’ve had a hard time finding a nearby shop to satisfy my fish cravings.When I discovered Goldborne Road last weekend I thoroughly investigated the fish shop and have determined it will most certainly do! My dear husband and I returned this week and picked up some lovely red tuna. I love preparing this quite simply, rubbing the flesh with toasted sesame oil, salt and pepper and then coating it in sesame seeds (if you have some black ones to mix with the conventional it makes a lovely dish!). Add a bit of sesame oil to a hot skillet and sear the tuna on all sides for about 3 minutes each. Cooking time really depends on how thick your steaks are and how raw you like it. For me just the slightest bit of cooking with a cool center is perfection. I served this up with a buckwheat noodle, mango and eggplant dish out of Ottolenghi’s Plenty cookbook and all was right with the world.
4. SWEET POTATO WEDGES WITH LIME MAYO – I will start by saying that I really don’t like sweet potatoes. Potatoes are supposed to be purely salty and satisfyingly starchy. Sweet potatoes throw me off and frankly, just remind me of baby food. However, I’m making an effort to revamp my diet and in this attempt sweet potatoes must be on the menu. This week I discovered a method for cooking and eating these vitamin-packed powerhouses that was actually delicious. Peel and cut the potatoes into wedges. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Throw them on to a foil lined baking sheet and then into a 425 degree oven. Bake them for about 20-25 minutes. While they’re baking pull out your jar of mayo (I used low fat) and zest one lime and then add its juice. Really, really good. These will be on my dinner table indefinitely!
5. CAVALO NERO SALAD WITH PECANS & CHERRIES – Otherwise known as black kale, cavalo nero is another one of those vegetables that I know is really good for me but I can barely get down. The only time I’ve really enjoyed it was when I prepared it with lots of bacon and really that sort of negates the health benefits that I’m going for. My parents gave me the Smitten Kitchen cookbook for my birthday in December and I’ve been quickly working my way through it and paused at her recipe for this salad. Now she adds radishes and goat cheese to her recipe, but I prefer it without as I like to let this salad sit in my fridge and pull it out for a few days. The more it sits the better it gets, but if you add radishes and goat cheese they ruin it! Simply cut your kale into ribbons, add toasted chopped pecans and chopped dried cherries. The dressing is 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoons honey and salt and pepper. Simple and delicious! Another chance to get your 5 a day.