Archive for the ‘At the Market’ Category

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Candy Canes in Julyh

August 10, 2011

Recipe development for national magazines and large companies can be tricky. You have the obvious challenge to make something new and delicious, but the harder part can be getting ingredients out of season. The lead time is up to six months, from creating the recipe to print and the Internet.

Scoring rhubarb in early February I thought was a no-go, but I miraculously found a few overpriced forlorn stalks in a local grocery store. The check out woman gave me a weird look as I spent $20 for pretty sad looking fruit, but I didn’t care. I bought it all.

Berries can be easier to locate as South American fruit is available in winter. Frozen peaches work as long as they aren’t packed in sugar, and you have to dry them off to get rid of excess moisture. Neither of these fruits tastes the same as the local in season counterparts so you have to channel the summer fruit and adjust accordingly.

Recipes for winter publication pose problems even though they don’t rely on delicate summer fruit. Need cranberries in July? You won’t find them at Safeway. Luckily I found a half a bag in the back of my freezer. Here’s a tip I learned later on: Whole Foods has them in their freezer section all year.

Candy canes and fruit cake were last week’s search. I looked all over and asked a couple of stores if they had any stashed in the back leftover from last year. Thank goodness for Amazon. In a day they were on my door step.

Now that I am provisioned I have to get my head wrapped around the idea that even though I am cooking in shorts and flip flops I have to think Christmas. The good news is gingerbread men and women are as good in August as they are in December.

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Got Pie?

June 10, 2011

We all know late spring and summer to be baseball season, allergy season and fog season but for me it’s also pie season. I make an endless variety of desserts using fruits but pie has a special place. When I make desserts at home for the next few months it’s almost always pie. It starts with strawberry-rhubarb and quickly expands to cherry as soon as they are at the market. Apricot, raspberry, and blueberry follow as soon as possible.

Nothing beats pie from the making to the eating.

It’s kind of an art to make one but it isn’t difficult. Take your time and focus. Make the same pie recipe several times. Once you get the hang of it you will find it relaxing. I promise.

I use all butter in my crusts, no shortening. While many believe the latter gives a flakier crust you can get a wonderful texture with butter and you get the butter flavor.  Shortening crusts taste bland. They also don’t get that beautiful golden brown color you get from butter.

Pulling a pie hot from the oven with its brown crust and bubbling fruit is a sight to behold. You wait until it cools just enough so the fruit settles and you don’t burn your mouth when you take a bite.

Unless a pie has a cream or custard filling never refrigerate it. Like a tomato, its flavor and texture decrease once you do. If you want to warm it don’t put it in the microwave. Eat a piece warm from the oven or reheat in a preheated 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.

Pie doesn’t need fancy garnishes or presentation. The only thing you have to do after putting a slice on a plate is decide if you are going to eat it with whipped cream or ice cream.

Email me at emily@emilyluchetti.com if you want a recipe for strawberry-rhubarb or blueberry pie.

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The Fancy Food Show through the Eyes of a Pastry Chef

January 19, 2011

The other day I went to the Fancy Food Show at Moscone Center. Held every January in California, they also have a summer show on the east coast. It’s the place to find specialty food producers.

Individuals are there promoting their secret family recipes as well as large corporations. Countries even have booths to promote the foods they import. Not surprisingly The Italian booth had lots of pasta and olive oil and The French cheese, jams and terrines. South Africa was even represented by a family owned company, Fry Group Foods, which makes vegetarian meat alternatives.

It’s a bit crazy to see row after row of booths representing about 1,300 food companies. They are set up in a grid and you can easily get lost as you walk around. After 10 aisles, they all look the same. It’s best to do a quick walking tour of the entire show and stop at the places that look interesting.

Sweet things are everywhere. There were at least 175 companies that sold chocolates of one kind or another. This doesn’t even count the companies like Guittard, TCHO and Ghirardelli who sell baking chocolate. If they are all making money it’s no wonder there is a cacao shortage. There were also over 90 cookie companies. Who knew that many high end packaged cookie companies could exist in one country.

Biscoff, the delicious spiced biscuits known by most people as the cookies served along with peanuts on Delta Airlines, was there. They have recently come out with a spread, kind of like Nutella, based on the cookie. It does taste like the cookie without the crunch. That being said, I’m not sure what I would do with it.

It’s interesting to see the trends at the show. A couple of years ago pomegranate products were everywhere. Before that it was salsa and mustards. This year biscuits for cheese and sweet potato products had a strong showing. One company makes a water that is to be used as a palate cleanser between courses. It will be interesting to see what reappears or disappears for the 2012 show.

All conventions are good for San Francisco and local restaurants appreciate their business. But it’s especially fun when food people come to town.

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Persimmons

November 23, 2010

With winter almost upon us there aren’t many local seasonal fruits you can use on your Thanksgiving  menu, or for that matter the days after. Fortunately persimmons are now at their peak and the markets are full of them.

Although they are not quite as popular as Meyer lemons you occasionally see trees in backyards around the Bay Area.  A persimmon tree with full grown persimmons is a strange site. A big storm can remove all the leaves and the orange fruit hang like ornaments among the bare branches. It looks as if someone hung each individual fruit by hand to make the tree look less barren.

The name persimmon comes from the Algonquin Indians who lived on the East Coast of the United States and Canada.  California has a good growing climate for persimmons but top world producers are China, Korea, and Japan.

The two most common varieties you see at farmers markets and in grocery stores are Fuyus and Hachiyas. Fuyus are squat and look like a slightly flattened tomato. The acorn shaped ones are Hachiyas.

Fuyus can be eaten firm or soft. On menus you often see them thinly sliced in salads.  I like to combine them with Little Gems, pecans and either a hard cheese like Manchego or a soft blue cheese. This combination is delicious.

Persimmons are eaten dried too. The Japanese have a traditional method for drying persimmons that dates back hundreds of years. For an interesting article about a family in the Gold Country who makes hoshigaki, Japanese for dried persimmons, go to: http://californiacountry.org/features/article.aspx?arID=282.

You have to ripen Hachiya persimmons before you can use them, which can take several days on the counter top. My trick is to put them in the freezer overnight and then defrost them on the counter. Freezing them helps break down the fruit and you have almost instant ripe persimmons. Once they come to room temperature they are soft and ready to use.

Some people like to eat ripe Hachiyas like an apple. Narsai David once told me they were one of his favorite fruits. Since they are full of Vitamin A and C, I tried to eat them straight but just couldn’t do it. Even when soft the tannins make them too astringent and bitter for my taste buds.

But for baking Hachiyas are great. My favorite dessert with persimmons is persimmon pudding. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some caramel sauce it’s a crowd pleaser.

Here’s my recipe.

Persimmon Pudding

Serves 8

About 5 ripe Hachiya persimmons

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

4 ounces (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to warm

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups of half and half (or 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of heavy cream)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.

Remove the stems from the persimmons and cut the flesh into pieces. Purée the persimmon flesh in a food processor until smooth. Strain the purée through a medium-mesh sieve to eliminate any bits of skin and seed. You should have 2 cups purée.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until blended. Whisk in the melted butter.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves onto a piece of parchment paper or into a bowl. Add the salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture. Slowly pour in the milk and cream, stirring until combined. Stir in the persimmon purée.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving. The pudding will sink as it cools.

Serve the pudding warm, scooped into bowls with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

It can be reheat it in a 325°F oven for about 15 minutes.

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In Praise of Blue Chair Fruit

June 11, 2010

 

Last weekend my nephew picked up a case of apricots from a roadside stand on his way home from college near Sacramento. I turned them into two cases of apricot jam, that now join the case of strawberry jam I made from small Seascape strawberries.

I am proud of all my jars lined up on the counter, but that’s nothing compared to how much jam Rachel Saunders makes at Blue Chair Fruit.  Rachel worked in restaurants (mostly front of the house) for 10 years as she perfected her jam making skills. In 2008 she launched Blue Chair Fruit. Five minutes after you meet her who realize how serious and passionate she is about jam. When you talk to Rachel you want to make jam and eat jam.  You can’t get it out of your head.

Rachel and I both believe that jam making shouldn’t be a lost art. It really isn’t difficult and tastes so much better than what you buy in the grocery store. You need to start with good quality fruit, make it in small batches so the flavor stays fresh, and cook it just until it sets.

To make her incredible treats she shares kitchen space with Grace Street Catering in Oakland. (This is also the location of the pop up store mentioned in The SF Chronicle a couple of weeks ago.) Rachel, her 6 copper jam kettles, and several assistants transform cases of organic fruit into jars of jams and marmalades. Her suppliers include Blossom Bluff Orchards and Dirty Girl Produce. Last year she made more than 15,000 jars and 90 different kinds of jams and marmalades. This year she hopes to make at least 30,000. If you are impressed with the amount wait until you taste it. It’s amazing.

Her flavors vary from year to year depending on fruit availability. In my refrigerator right now I have Concord Grape and Damson Plum Jam, Spiced Bourbon-Tomato Conserve and Black Fig Jam with Almond, Citron and Clove. This year the late rains destroyed a lot of the apricots and cherries so you won’t be seeing as much of these.

Jam isn’t just a summertime thing for Rachel.  Her favorite jamming season is actually September when the Damson plums arrive but she keeps herself busy in winter too with citrus marmalades.

I met Rachel through our mutual book agent. She asked me to write a quote for the back of the book and after reading the galleys I was in jam heaven and had to meet her. When her book comes out in September you can discover her world of jam making. In the meantime you can purchase her jams at various Farmer’s Markets. Better yet, sign up for one of the classes she is offering this summer. You learn not only jam recipes but also the principles behind her craft. And she includes dinner.

Go to http://www.bluechairfruit.com/ to find out more details.

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Strawberry Fields-Almost

April 15, 2010

The winter rains have just about stopped and the sun has allowed us to shed a layer of outerware. This change in weather puts me in the mood for fruit and fruit desserts. Customers at Waterbar and Farallon want them too as there is a definite swing away from chocolate desserts ordered to those with fruit.  I am chomping at the bit to put something colorful and seasonal on the menu besides citrus and pineapple. Strawberries have started to appear in both farmers’ markets and grocery stores and while it is tempting to quickly put some in your cart-pay close attention. Their quality is hit or miss. Some are sweet and juicy (everything you want in a strawberry) while others are bland and mostly white inside with big woody hulls. Strawberries need a little more attention from mother nature before they are at their best. (Beware of long stemmed strawberries seen in quantity around Mother’s Day. They seem to be grown for their stem rather than the flavor of the berry. Ironic when you consider you don’t even eat the stem. Also the price of these goes up around that weekend.)

To get the berry flavor I want and to satisfy my strawberry cravings early in the season I either cook the berries in a crumble or roast the berries. Here’s a recipe for roasting strawberries. You can serve them with anything you would serve fresh sliced strawberries. They come out jam like but are whole so you can use them in desserts. There is quite a bit of sauce left over after you finish making the berries. Reduce it as the recipe states or you can use it to make another batch of roasted berries (I mix it 50-50 with fresh sauce ingredients). It is delicious served over ice cream without any berries. Hopefully this will tide you over until the really beautiful berries are in the market. As an added bonus the kitchen smells wonderful when they are in the oven.

Roasted Strawberries

3 pints (6 cups) fresh strawberries, hulled

3/4 cup Pinot Noir or other dry red wine

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Put the strawberries in a single layer in an ovenproof baking dish. In a bowl, whisk together the wine, balsamic vinegar, and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the corn syrup. Pour the liquid over the berries. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the strawberries shrink and are jammy in texture, about 5 hours.

Strain the strawberry liquid into a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook to reduce the liquid slightly. Let cool to room temperature and stir it back into the berries. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Winter Citrus

January 19, 2010

Thank goodness for citrus in the winter. My dessert menus at the restaurants need some color and bright flavors. It even brightens up the pastry department and our moods. You can only handle so much rain and this week it’s not supposed to stop. I am not complaining about brown desserts as chocolate, caramel and nuts are all shades of brown but I need something to break it up. Ordinary oranges, limes and lemons are available as always but January also brings Meyer Lemons, Cara Caras, blood oranges, mandarins and kumquats. These varieties are only around now for a few months so take advantage of them while you can.

Cara Caras are very juicy pink fleshed navel oranges. They segment nicely for a plated dessert or served on top of cheesecake. Blood oranges (also known as Moro Oranges) with their deep red color are originally from Sicily and common all over Italy.  They make great sorbet. Both of these oranges are grown by Sunkist so are available across the United States. Meyer Lemons can be harder to find as they are not grown on a large commercial scale. In California they are called the backyard lemon as you can see the bright yellow fruit on trees in yards all over the Bay Area. I have nine small trees in the front of my house where the rhododendrons used to be. The lemons are a much better use of space. Only probably is I when I come up my driveway I love to see the trees full of lemons so I put off picking them. Cookbooks by California chefs call frequently for Meyer Lemons. This can be frustrating for people from other parts of the country as they can’t get them. (Last year I gave an East coast friend fifty Meyer Lemons for her 50th birthday.) Meyers are a thin skinned lemon thought to be a cross between an orange and a lemon. They are sweeter and less acidic than regular lemons. They work wonderfully in desserts. Sometimes I will add a little regular lemon juice to give Meyer lemon curd a little lemon kick.

Here is my favorite recipe using Blood Oranges.

Blood Orange – Vanilla Creamsicle

Emily Luchetti

Serves 6

Blood Orange Sorbet

2 3/4 cups blood orange juice, strained (about 12 blood oranges)

1 cup sugar

2 3/4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Large pinch of kosher salt

Vanilla Custard

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise with seeds scraped out

2 1/2 cups heavy (whipping) cream

1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons plain gelatin

2 tablespoons water

 3 blood oranges, peeled and segmented

To make the sorbet: In a large bowl, combine the blood orange juice, sugar, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze until scoopable, about 2 hours, depending on your freezer.

To make the vanilla custard: Combine the vanilla bean, seeds, cream, milk, and sugar in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until almost simmering. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let the vanilla bean steep in the liquid for 10 minutes.

Stir together the gelatin and the water in a small bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Strain the cream mixture into a bowl, discarding the vanilla bean. Stir the gelatin mixture into the cream with a heat-resistant plastic or wooden spatula. Let the liquid cool to warm, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. (Stirring prevents the gelatin from sinking to the bottom of the hot liquid.) Pour the vanilla custard into 6 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours.

To serve: Unmold by dipping the bottom of the ramekins in a bowl of very hot water. Run a knife around the inside edge of each cream and invert onto a plate. Arrange the orange segments around the creams. Place a scoop of sorbet on top of the vanilla custard. (You can also serve it in the dish if you don’t want to unmold it. Put the segments and sorbet on top.) Serve immediately.

In Advance: The creams may be made a day ahead. Once firm, cover with plastic wrap. Teh sorbet can be made a day ahead too.