Anyone not have a few abandoned silos of dried prunes sitting at the back of the cabinet shelf? Maybe some apricots like knucklebones rattling around the bottom of a bag? Good. We’re going to use up those petrified jewels in a Dried Fruit Tart. The recipe suggests figs, prunes and apricots, but if you happen …
This week: Passion Fruit Sponge Custard. Not the most elegant dessert we’ve ever made, but ignore the appearance, go for the taste, like the fruit itself. Ripe passion fruit resemble hard-boiled eggs, after the apocalypse, wrinkly red-brown ovals. But inside, oh… a pucker-sweet crazy delicious psychedelic orange pulp dotted with black seeds. (You eat that goop?! I thought nature made things in bright colors as a warning – poison! poison! poison!? Nope. Nature wants you to eat that goop, to, uh, carry the seeds away.) The flavor of passion fruit hovers somewhere between orange and mango, just as sweet, but way tarter than either. The only exotic fruit with an equal effort/pleasure ratio, IMO, is the durian, but we’ll reserve durian for another day. In the meantime, try this sponge custard, an antique English dessert that’s not really spongy or a custard, flavored with an intense sweet-sour taste of the tropics.
Ceci ce n’est pas un baklava. Or not quite. Baklava cookies or baklava biscuits is closer to the mark. Jody liked wafers, so that’s where we’ll land. Baklava Wafers with Raspberries, Lemon Curd and Greek Yogurt. This is an easily assembled dessert of the things you’re most likely to have on hand* – except for the baklava biscuits, er, wafers. Until a recent trip to Thessaloniki and Istanbul I would never have considered myself a baklavite. If a parallelogram of baklava and a double espresso found themselves within mutual reach, perhaps a few times a year, I didn’t object, but neither did I seek them out. All has changed, alas, since Istanbul, where the baklava is indeed something to write home about. And bring home, in the form of an obstinate spare tire I seem to have had no trouble smuggling through customs. Did anyone ever eat half a portion of baklava? A quarter? I think not, but these baklava wafers are a lighter indulgence. You can gussie them up into the full-boat dessert shown here, or you can just eat a couple as an afternoon snack with you espresso. Either way, this recipe will leave you with plenty of wafers even after the dinner party guests have departed.
The story of these Easy Pecan Tiles begins in a Paris museum and ends a couple of hours after Jody dances atop a bar in a Boston restaurant (a groundbreaker for both of us). First Paris, then the recipe, then the bar.
Do you remember the first time you tasted Roquefort? Heheh. Me too. Took awhile, didn’t it? Roquefort, like bottarga, scotch and uni, is one of those tastes that waits for your tongue to grow up. Ideally, you have your first Roquefort with someone who will hold your hand, steadfast as your eyes water, until sufficient sensory signals from your tongue accumulate in your brain to ignite Roquefort-appreciation synapses, and they in turn link together in a blazing neuro-culinary ah-ha moment. Which, given the components of this week’s recipe – fat, sugar, salt – they are sure to do. Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream, is a very easy dessert, but one for the big people. It is also, for those hesitant about blue cheese, an excellent introduction, since only a small amount is used, and that is mashed into vanilla ice cream.
After a week of biking through Sardinia with Ciclismo Classico, I have to say the island resists being pinned down. Rural Sardinia puts on a deceptively simple face – sleepy villages, delicious basic cuisine, agriculture based around sheep, friendly people. But once you start to look closely things don’t appear quite Italian. The ghost of one culture appears and lingers just long enough for a sense of certainty to develop – oh, Sardinia is really Spanish – when it disappears, replaced by a different revenant – oh, no, it really is Italian… or Phoenician, or Roman or Greek. Signage often appears in multiple languages–Italian, variants of Sardu, the Sardinian language, and sometimes another local language, like the Catalan dialect spoken in one part of the island. Welcome signs outside of villages typically greet visitors in French, German and English, as well as Italian and Sardu. Sometimes all you can do is take experience in, ask questions, and hope you get back. It’s unusual for Jody and me to encounter so many new culinary treats in one place. Local ingredients we thought we knew were often combined in unexpected ways. Like this dessert of Ricotta, Cinnamon, Honey and Orange, a dish we enjoyed at Trattoria da Riccardo, a Magomadas restaurant owned by the cyclist/chef Riccardo Cadoni and his family. It’s so good, so simple, that unless you roll with a much more travelled cabal of culinary sophisticates than I do, it will be a delightful surprise to whomever you serve it. You can pretty much do everything at table. Simple, delicious, and a bit surprising, a description that might sum up Sardinia itself. Enjoy. Ken
When September rolls around in New England home cooks can look a little grim at the prospect of dealing with too much. Too much zucchini, too many tomatoes, too much corn. Your CSA, your friends, or your own garden runs amok, filling your fridge and kitchen counter with ever more too much of a good thing. This year a new offender for us, prune plums. And a time crunch. Too little time + too much fruit = Plum Cookies. In more relaxed times we’ve made jam, or a plum cake. We might finally get to Sophie James’s Sautéed Plums with Dark Chocolate Pudding and Crushed Amaretti Cookies, but not today. Nope. Just these buttery little flying saucers hoving into view with sugary purple pilots.
Making Summer Berries with Sabayon is about as easy as dessert gets. The only thing easier would be to eat the berries with nothing, or just whipped cream. But then you wouldn’t get the texture of sabayon, one of the cooking world’s great miracles–cooked eggs that have been prevented from forming curds. Sabayon is foamy, yet substantive. It can stand on its own as a dessert and offers a great medium for sweet or fortified wine, which is why it’s often made with Marsala. Plus, if you’re feeling Italian, rather than French, you can say you just whipped up a batch of zabaglione (s/zaa-bal-YOH-nee), which to my ear sounds like something Willy Wonka eats for breakfast on holidays.
For your consideration: Po’s Easy Pots de Crème. Po is my mother-in-law and she is a master of complicated dinner party timing. None of the slatternly boozing it up with the help in the kitchen that characterizes entertaining chez nous. She’s all guests-in-one-place, cooks-in-another, and the brevity of a host’s absence from her guests only redounds to her reputation for efficient culinary management. Ninety-percent of this recipe is “Place all of the ingredients… in a blender.” Not that you’d know it from the taste and texture. Remember how the genie in Disney’s ALADDIN describes his life? “ALL THE POWER OF THE UNIVERSE… in a teeny little space.” That’s this dessert.
I know people who organize their restaurant meals around dessert. Pas moi. The light in my brain, my desire for dessert, flickers in fits and starts, dependent on context and the availability of something inclined to my retrograde tastes. A slice of fruit tart is never amiss at the end of a picnic: if I know that a master of crème caramel, flying in the face of fashion, resides in the house, I can be tempted. As I can be with homemade panna cotta, that exquisitely delicate Italian wobbler. When Sara Cravedi, the pastry chef at Trade, introduced a coconut panna cotta onto the dessert menu, my dessert light began flashing an SOS. Sara’s dessert includes a scoop of avocado ice cream, crumbled peanut brittle and a mango macerated with lime and habanero pepper. It come together in an interplacy of heat, fat, sweetness, delicacy and unctuousness. Jody’s Coconut Panna Cotta with Spicy Mango pares things down to just a pair of flavors–coconut and mango–just in case you don’t have an ice cream machine and pastry kitchen standing in readiness for the next dessert launch. To make it even easier, there’s no need to un-mold this panna cotta–it’s served in its glass, topped with a spoonful of spicy mango. Think of the panna cotta and mango as a couple that wandered off the terrace party to do a little dance by themselves down on the beach.