As you probably have noticed, I’m kind of obsessed with peaches. How many desserts can you really come up with that contain them, you might ask? Well, if you’re me, a lot. Most of the time, I buy a dozen and eat them plain, but every now and then I like to do a little something special with them. This cake, from the inimitable Barefoot Contessa, combines two of my favorite dessert ideas — a “tatin”, which involves cooking the fruit in a rich caramel sauce until they are juicy and golden and delicious, and a lemony cake recipe which nicely offsets the fruit. Though I love traditional Tarte Tatin and will probably be making it sometime in the next few months, it takes a bit more work and fiddling to make a more complicated caramel and roll out tart dough. This cake, on the other hand, comes together in half an hour and is the perfect way to use up those end-of-season stone fruits — you could also try it with plums, nectarines, apples, or pears if you are embracing fall produce.
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In lieu of a new recipe post, I thought it might be fun to take an old post from my former blog (the Intrepid Cook) to show why I started writing about food in the first place, as well as to reflect on how far I have come since then. This was the very first blog post I ever wrote, and I think that it says a lot about why I love cooking and blogging.
“When I was little, I never dreamed of being a cook. A ballerina, sure, or an actress on Broadway, but the kitchen had never been part of my plans for the future. I can remember making oatmeal cookies with my mom and helping my dad make chili or chicken and rice (a perennial favorite), but the first time I remember food making a profound impression was when my family traveled to France when I was 16. This epiphany came in the form of a tiny restaurant in Arles, in the south of France, run by a husband and wife team. She cooked, he did everything else. There were about twenty seats in the whole restaurant, which had stone walls, old wood floors, and worn wooden tables and chairs. We went to dinner around 7:30, early for the French, and closed the place down.
At that point, I was still hesitant about many foods, so I decided to play it safe and order a salad. I don’t even remember exactly what was in it, but I remember being astonished by the freshness of all of the ingredients and how each one accentuated and yet blended perfectly with the rest of the flavors. My mother ordered salmon, to this day the most perfect salmon I have ever tasted. Bright pink and flaky, it melted in your mouth. My dad ordered a steak, cooked wonderfully medium. For dessert we had profiteroles, small pastry balls filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce, topped with a cage of sugar strands. It was the first time I have ever eaten it, and remains to this day the most memorable.
That trip opened my eyes to the possibilities of food. Since then, I have tried to cook whenever possible and learn as much as I can. Last year I was lucky enough to study for a semester in Bologna, Italy, the birthplace of Parmiggiano Reggiano, balsamic vinagar, prosciutto, and tortelloni. This helped further my education in food, and also sparked an interest in wine, which continued this summer when I worked in a vineyard in Minnesota. Yes, there are vineyards in Minnesota. Most are small, and all have difficulty with the cold, but there are some surprisingly good wines that are being produced there.
Cooking, at its base, is about sharing. So that is what I would like to do with this blog — share my experiences and adventures in cooking (and drinking) with you. As a senior in college on a small and somewhat isolated campus, it can be hard to think of cooking ideas that taste good and are also inexpensive. Additionally, I think that many people, especially college students, don’t know a lot about wine and are intimidated to learn. So, I will also try to bring you along on my own education in viniculture and viticulture, concentrating mostly on bottles under $15. For my friends and I, a fancy bottle generally means spending over $10, but there are some surprisingly good wines out there for not very much money if you are willing to look. Of course, every person has their own tastes, but a sense of adventure is essential. If you are willing to venture beyond boxed wine, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
For now, I will be posting recipes, reviewing restaurants, and tasting wine. Of course, it always helps to have roommates who appreciate good food and who aren’t afraid to try new things. Pairing food and wine is tricky, and takes a lot of expirimentation — but I’m willing to try.”
Obviously, I’m not a college student anymore and no longer live in a small town, but I don’t think my principles have changed much. I still love trying new things, both new kinds of food and (always) new wines. I still find joy in being able to make a great meal out of inexpensive ingredients, a skill my parents taught me long ago. And I love being part of an online community and sharing these things with all of you.
Celery root is not a vegetable you would pick up immediately. Its gnarled and knotty surface doesn’t look like much, but when you cut off the ugly exterior, inside lies a crisp, parsnip-like root, with just a hint of celery’s strong taste. I found this recipe in the New York Times Dining Section, and it is a perfect antidote to a chilly November evening. It’s a little more interesting than plain old potato soup, and the curry adds warmth and flavor to the celery root’s mellow creaminess.
Creamy Curried Celery Root & Apple Soup (Adapted from the New York Times)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
1 pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
3 apples peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
1/2 to 1 cup cream, half-and-half, or milk, or to taste
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. After a couple of minutes, add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft, about five minutes. Add the curry powder and cumin and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the celery root and apples, and coat with the spices, then add the water or stock and bring to a boil.Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until celery root is tender and soft, about 20 minutes.
Cool slightly and pour into a blender. Purée in batches. When it has all been puréed, return soup to the pan and mix in the cream or milk, and adjust the seasoning to taste.
I am a little embarrassed to say this. I’m not a very patient person, so I don’t particularly like waiting in lines, whether it’s at the bank or to get into a bar. However, I waited in line, in the cold, for 20 minutes to buy macarons. Yes, those little French cookies that seem to be made of air and butter and goodness.
I first heard about Ladurée when I was visiting friends in Paris during my semester abroad during college. We couldn’t afford many dinners out, but all of us could afford a cappuccino and an exquisite little cake at Ladurée, one of the oldest pâtisseries in Paris and the inventor of the macaron as we know it. They now have several locations, but the one we went to felt like stepping back into a 19th century salon. You almost expected women in bustled gowns and men with top hats to step through the doors at any moment. I don’t remember what I ordered, but I know it was some combination of hazelnut and chocolate deliciousness. We left feeling incredibly elegant and sophisticated, proud that even we, on college student’s budgets, could afford some of the luxuries of Paris.
Imagine my excitement when I heard that Ladurée was opening its first American outpost right here in New York over the summer. Being that the Upper East Side is a very long ways from Brooklyn, and the lines were around the block, I stayed away for months. However, on Friday I gave into my longings and ventured up to Madison Avenue and waited in line. It was cold, but everyone who was waiting was so excited just to get inside the pastel-colored shop. The macarons were artfully arranged by flavor, and you have the option to buy exquisite boxes by the dozen. I decided on six flavors — cinnamon-raisin, sea-salt caramel, vanilla, lemon, coconut, and raspberry. To be honest, I was still a little hesitant since the macarons are flown in from Paris every day, which seems slightly excessive.
However, after the first bite of sea-salt and caramel, all of my doubts melted away. I have had macarons before, but this was entriely different. The cookie was soft but with a lovely crunch to the outside, and the filling was pure caramel — spiked with a hint of salt to keep it from being overly sweet. The following flavors were just as wonderful. It’s not something I could spring for every day, but it’s nice to know that there is a little slice of Paris in New York.
Hello all! in light of some recent changes in my life (new-ish job, new apartment), I have decided to change things up a little and start my bog anew on the lovely wordpress site. I will continue to write about food, restaurants, and wine (and hopefully I will be a little more consistent about it this time). You can still check out my old posts at intrepidcook.blogspot.com, but from now on this is where I will be posting.
Looking forward to sharing my culinary adventures with you!