Tuesday, June 29, 2010

red, white and bleu

Sweet Summertime in the South:
Full of inevitable shoulder freckle sprinklings; homemade frozen treats: fruit bars, popsicles & granitas galore; rainbows of produce plucked straight from the backyard garden; sumptuous grilled platters served with glazed meats & charred vegetables; ripe berries bursting in seasonal clafoutis, tarts and cobblers.

Especially during summer months, I love to concoct and keep simple, frozen treats on hand to keep cool in a flash:

Chic Cubes:
Freeze ice cubes with fresh raspberries, blackberries and thyme for entertaining at your fingertips.

Slushy-Soaked Melon:
Scrape together an easy watermelon vodka granita for an upscale alternative to the ole' vodka-soaked-melon pool fare.

Tropical-Spiced Sip:
Combine frozen tropical fruit with a teaspoon of peanut butter and a dash of cinnamon for a vitamin-rich breakfast to sip with a protein boost.

I fell into a self-inflicted sugar sludge after visiting the newest self-serve fro-yo mecca in Fort Worth: Yogurtland.
As soon as my foot was in the door, I was greeted with cheery gals eagerly waving sample spoons at me to taste.

I darted amongst flavors such as:

Lemonade Passionfruit
Chocolate Coconut Truffle
Madagascar Vanilla Bean
Matcha Green Tea

I was almost tempted by the Chocolate Twilight (no sugar) but settled on Nilla Wafer Vanilla. Next came the toppings-- fresh fruit, candy and other unusual treats to frivolously sprinkle!
My final concoction:

Nilla Wafer Yogurt + Fresh Kiwi + Chewy Japanese Mochi + Cinnamon Toast Crunch + Navy Blueberries + Frosted Animal Cookies

Quite a combination, indeed.

After a swift packing session, I toted my beloved burnt orange & baby blue Bric's Trolley off to DFW International for a swift ride ending just outside of Atlanta, Georgia for a Southern wedding at its' finest.

The gorgeous wedding was an impeccable whirlwind of:

White calla lilies with flecks of blue
just in time for an outdoor "I do."

Sparkling sweetheart dresses all around; paired with an antique, romantic bridal gown.

Gorgeous coiffed Southern do's;
A rustic, sun-drenched BBQ.

Easter egg blue hydrangeas, orchids and crystal-clear hurricanes;
Sleek vodka waters with an ole' classic: Jim Beam.
Crab bisque spooned atop sparkling plates--
Not a more perfect reason to celebrate.

On our final day we armed ourselves with plenty of painkillers, yogurt pretzels and flavored water for a plane ride nap-time blanketing us closer to home sweet home.

After a celebration of marriage, we celebrated our independence with backyard BBQ fare perfect for the 4th! I settled on making a classic, creamy side and retro dessert to contribute with a poolside spread, fireworks and mosquito-rampant camaraderie.

Red Potato Salad with Fresh Tarragon, Cornichons & Gorgonzola
The cornichons (French for gherkins) in this salad provide a perfect brininess to complement the anise-laced tarragon, pungent gorgonzola and creamy mayonnaise. Celery provides a crisp texture and emerald Italian parsley gives a burst of freshness.
Serves 8+

4 pounds red potatoes, scrubbed to remove dirt
4 stalks celery, minced
1/2 c cornichons, minced
2 T reserved cornichon liquid
1/2 c Italian parsley, minced
1/4 c fresh tarragon, minced
3 T Dijon
3 T coarse ground mustard
1 c fine mayonnaise
1/4 c gorgonzola
zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
kosher salt, fresh-cracked pepper & rice wine vinegar to taste

Simmer potatoes approximately 45 minutes until fork-tender. Meanwhile, combine celery, cornichons, herbs, lemon, mustards and mayonnaise. Set aside to chill.

Drain and slice potatoes in fourths when cool enough to handle. Begin laying sliced potatoes in a large bowl, layering with liberal salt, fresh-cracked pepper and several splashes of rice wine vinegar for a total of 4 layers (this will evenly distribute and adhere seasoning to salt-thirsty potatoes).
Add mayonnaise mixture. Toss to combine and fold in gorgonzola. Refrigerate to chill and serve cold.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Candied Ginger

This recipe is a wonderful combination lightened with whipped egg whites. I added a spicy addition with candied ginger and Madagascar vanilla bean paste.

1/2 c unsalted butter, melted
1 c dark brown sugar
8 rings of canned pineapple
8 maraschino cherries
5 T reserved pineapple juice
1 c cake flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
3 eggs, separated
1 c granulated sugar
1 t vanilla bean paste
1 T candied ginger, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In 9 inch cake pan, swirl butter to coat the bottom and sides of pan and sprinkle brown sugar atop melted butter.

Drain and assemble pineapple slices in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the pan. Add cherries in the pineapple holes and sprinkle edges between pineapple rings with candied ginger. (shown in picture)

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks just to break them up and add sugar, vanilla and 5 Tablespoons of reserved pineapple juice. Mix well and stir in flour mixture until combined. Set aside.
Place egg whites in bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into mixed batter until fully combined. Pour batter into cake pan and bake approximately 35 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool pan on rack 2-3 minutes then very carefully invert onto another cooling rack-- caramelized sugar mixture will be stifling hot. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This cake is perfect for a backyard affair! Sweet, gooey and airy all wrapped into one confection! My cake was served with homemade vanilla ice cream but I would recommend fresh whipped cream with only a touch of sugar to balance the intense sweetness.

Friday, June 18, 2010

orange soufflé and a burger stray

I remember it like yesterday--
my favorite annual shopping trips to Houston.


I was 13.
Packed with pink braces,
Frizzy, curled bangs,
Too-skinny arms and insecurities galore...

But the trips to visit my fabulous aunt and uncle in their gorgeous West U house were ones to savor.

The weekend always began with:
homemade jarred apple sauce
atop All Bran
(Uncle Kim's Favorite)
followed by a gals lunch at the Houston Galleria Neiman Marcus.
The smells and tastes of these classic recipes continue to resonate with me in fellow Fort Worth and Dallas NM eateries:

Houston NM Cafe-- best-known for their moist and insanely buttery monkey bread, strawberry butter, spiced tea and chocolate-drenched after-lunch mints to bid patrons adieu.

Fort Worthians are spoiled with an airy alternative to the buttery monkey bread delights: dark brown popovers complete with strawberry butter, demitasse glasses of chicken broth to sip, not-too-sweet coconut cake and the perfect lemon bar after a tea sandwich sampler with orange soufflé.

After our shopping binges, the luxury continued with my favorite banana pudding tucked away to chill in a gorgeous trifle dish-- made famous by my aunt.

I became so nostalgic of this comforting dessert--
I had to make it myself.

Aunt Bettie's Banana Pudding
(Shhh...from the back of the Nilla Wafer box)

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 Nilla Wafers, divided

5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional Nilla Wafers and banana slices, for garnish

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to lay
er wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.

Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate to fully chill. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving.

In anticipation for a night on the town this past Father's Day weekend, I crafted a sweet cocktail made to tickle my palate before a heavy Southern dinner.

Nectarine Cardamom Syrup with Sparkling Cava

This cocktail is gorgeous-- the blood orange hue of the syrup topped with sparkling wine creates a play on a "Tequila Sunrise" to the eyes.

Makes four cocktails.

Simple syrup:

2 c water
1 c sugar
1 nectarine (pit and all), sliced
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/2 t lemon zest

Combine ingredients and simmer on medium heat until reduced by half (about one hour). Strain and chill*.

To assemble cocktail:

Add 1 part chilled syrup to a champagne flute. Top with 2 parts sparkling Spanish Cava. Garnish with sliced nectarine.
*Morning after tip:
Warmed fruit remnants from syrup would be divine atop morning oatmeal.

After some luscious sips to cool me down, my boyfriend and his sweet family headed to Brownstone, the newest eatery voyage from Top Chef's Casey Thompson, for some made-from-scratch Southern fare, artisan cocktails, and to pay homage to his dear ole' Dad.

Amongst dirty martinis (a Serrano Celery Caipirinha for me) and cold beer we happily anticipated the arrival of our appetizers:

Smoked Beet Hummus with Local Vegetables & Pumpernickel
Chicken Pot Pies in an empanada form
Homemade Biscuits with Venison Sausage & Apricot Preserves

Our appetizers were tasty but our fast-moving group became antsy at the slow-paced vibe of the brand-new restaurant.

Our ingenious solution?
Off to Fred's Texas Cafe for my favorite burgers in Fort Worth to round off the meal.

I paid penace for my deep-fried sins the next noon and prepared a protein-packed meal perfect for a hangover. The nutty brown rice, earthy mushrooms and just-broken yolk are the perfect canvas for the light, herbaceous finishes.

Lunch for One:
Fried Egg atop Roast Creminis & Brown Rice with Grapeseed Oil, Scallions and Fresh Tarragon

1 serving brown rice, warm
1 egg (I use large, organic & cage free)
1 t unsalted butter
1/2 c cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
a sprinkling of :
fresh scallions, fresh tarragon, kosher salt & grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange sliced mushrooms on pan with a sprinkling of olive oil and kosher salt.

Roast approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, fry egg in melted butter until white is just cooked through and yolk is runny.

Slide egg atop a bowl with brown rice. Add mushrooms and finish with scallions, tarragon, kosher salt, grapeseed oil and fresh-cracked pepper.

Break yolk, mix bowl and enjoy! If engaged in clean-out-the-fridge mode, sliced avocado would also be a nice addition.
Speaking of avocados...
The Summer Issue of Fort Worth Foodie, All in the Family, is now available at local Fort Worth stores and eateries!

My current article is the second of my Easy Entertaining column--
Summer Spread: Dips, Spreads and Pestos for All Occasions
featuring my tangy Orange Peel Guacamole recipe.

Orange Peel Gucamole
(photo courtesy of the hip Josie Singleton)

Yields 2 cups.

This recipe is the perfect party dip-- elegant enough for hors d'oeuvres but relaxed enough for a laid-back affair. The orange zest adds a citrus-like flavor dimension and olive oil adds richness.

Pulp of three ripe Hass avocados
1 jalapeno, ribbed, seeded and minced
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of two limes
1 T orange zest

Juice of 1/2 orange
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c red onion, minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel to taste

Mash all ingredients together until chunky. Garnish with cilantro leaves, thin-sliced orange peel and fleur de sel.
After noshing this lovely dip (sure to be a hit),

up an issue of Fort Worth Foodie,

with your favorite summer cocktail &

of your local eateries!