Monday, November 16, 2009

Maple Poached Pears

I love pears. There's something so elegant in their simple shape, beautiful color, and subtly grainy texture. No preparation showcases these characteristics better than poaching.

In the perfect celebration of autumn, my boo poached these pears in maple syrup with vanilla, cinnamon stick, and ginger. Sprinkled with some roasted pecans, the result was delicious. It is a stunner of a dessert, with minimal time and effort. Definitely worth adding to the repertoire.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soupe a L'oignon

It was date night, and his turn to entertain. I requested a candlelit dinner in formal attire. I love getting dressed up, and in rural North Carolina the occasion is few and far between.

So we dressed up and ate. First was salad with a raisin vinaigrette. This is one of our favorite ways of making dressing, and it is always delicious. It involves soaking dried fruit in vinegar, chopping it, and then blending the infused oil with some oil. It is more delicious than anything you'd buy in a bottle, and cheaper too.

The star of the show was the french onion soup. He used a blend of his mom's recipe from How to Entertain and Julia Child's soupe a l'oignon. The finished product was just like the french onion soup I had at a fancy french restaurant as a child.

The picture of my bowl speaks louder than anything I can say.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Autumnal Pizza

There's this walnut pesto recipe that I picked up somewhere along the way. It is toasted walnuts, ground with honey, thyme, olive oil, and some salt. It is earthy, sweet, and savory all at the same time, and just overall delicious. Every fall I get the urge to make it.

So this fall I decided we should try it on a pizza with sweet potatoes (we have a ton left from our CSA), pears, and a little parmigiano reggiano. In theory it was a great combination, but there just wasn't enough contrast. The walnut pesto kind of baked into the crust so it almost seemed like there was no sauce, which made it slightly dry. Texturally everything was too soft and mushy, it needed a little crunch. And the taste profile was just too sweet, it needed a little acid to cut through the sweetness.

One idea I had that I think would greatly improve it, is to cook the pears gently in white wine before putting them on the pizza. And to drizzle some of the reduced wine over the pizza. I'm not sure about the texture...I'm thinking a thinner, less bready crust could take care of that. Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Pride and Joy

This cake is my pride and joy. Possibly the most beautiful cake I have ever made. I have always loved cakes, particularly the artistry, and have recently decided to train myself in cake decorating. This particular cake I made for a baby shower for some environmentalists at work. I wanted the cake to be seasonal as well as a natural kind of aesthetic.

The cake is pumpkin, adapted from a recipe in The Sustainable Kitchen. I removed the nuts and currants so as not to detract or interrupt the layers and icing I decided to add. Instead of using vegetable oil we used melted browned butter, and we also added a little brandy.

For icing I tried my hand at marzipan from scratch. I wanted the smooth surface created by fondant, but with flavor. I felt marzipan would be the perfect autumnal accompaniment to the cake, plus the baby's mother is German, so it was perfect. The marzipan turned out a little more grainy that what you buy at the store, though that seemed to improve as it sat in the refrigerator. I let it sit for about 24 hours. If I did it again, I'd try to give it three days to moisten the granules. The taste of the homemade marzipan was definitely superior to that of the store-bought, and it kept the cake inside extremely moist.

The most exciting, and experimental, part of the cake were the chocolate leaves you see in the middle. And yes, they are edible. And also extremely easy to make. I cleaned some holly leaves from the backyard, brushed them with melted chocolate and let them harden. The leaves peeled right off leaving chocolate with all the beautiful leaf-details. And they made the cake. (At least in terms of aesthetics.