Archive for September, 2011

Plum jam with candied ginger

26 September 2011

I bought dodgy plums at the market on Wednesday; they looked good but were suspiciously soft to the touch. And although at Union Square market, even questionable plums are rarely at a discount, I got them anyway hoping it would force me to make jam. It protects the plums from rapacious children, and me from making tarte. It worked.

The plums sat undisturbed on the kitchen counter for a couple of days as I pondered how I might jazz up the plum jam. With a dash of alcohol perhaps, or some spice.

Then I read Oui Chef Steve’s Plum and Ginger jam and my attention wandered over to a permanent squatter of the second right hand shelf in my kitchen – candied ginger. The decision seemed to make itself.

I am told I will have to keep the jars for at least a few weeks before opening, since jam benefits from a little aging, but just from licking the spoon I think I can say – it tastes pretty great.

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2 lbs (900 g) plums

2 3/4 cups (550g) sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

About 15 pieces of candied ginger

***

Wash plums, cut them in half and again into quarters. Take out the pits but reserve and count them, as they will be cooked with the jam then removed. (The French like to leave pits in jams and cakes as they believe it enhances the flavor – we can’t help it).

In a heavy saucepan, mix the plums as well as the pits, sugar, and lemon juice and slowly bring to a boil.

Cook over medium heat.

Add the candied ginger cut into small slices after 15 minutes.

After about 20-30 minutes, check whether the juice has “gelled.” To do this take out a small spoonful and let it cool. Once cold, the juice should have thickened in the spoon, and when you try to pour it the drip is not liquid but heavy, as though it was sticking to the spoon. Cook longer if necessary and check again.

Meanwhile, sterilize jars in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.

As soon as the jam has “gelled,” remove from the heat and scoop out the pits (if you have counted them you will know exactly how many need to be fished out). Then pour into sterilized jars and close tightly.

Resist opening the jars immediately, wait at least a few weeks.

The jam keeps well; once opened it should be stored in the refrigerator.

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Plum cake

 

Avocado, cherry tomato, and cucumber salad with red pepper and parsley

21 September 2011

Last week, fall swept over the city with a single large gust. The temperature dropped about 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) in one afternoon and everyone rushed home – or wished they had – to change into coats and boots for the evening.

But, unlike New York summers that don’t give spring a chance and usually arrive overnight, in New York fall flirts with summer for weeks before finally settling in sometime before Thanksgiving.

So, on this rather grey morning but with full confidence in many more beautiful Indian summer days, here is a great salad that’s crunchy and fresh but also lush with avocado. It takes five minutes to prepare and goes well with a quick lunch – grilled fish, seared steak – or any-way eggs for brunch.

***

2 small seedless cucumbers

1 red pepper

About 12 cherry tomatoes

A small handful flat-leaved parsley

1 avocado

Juice from 1/2 lemon

2 Tbsps very good olive oil

Flaky sea salt

Pinch cayenne pepper

***

Wash the cucumbers, cut them in half lengthways then into 1/2 inch (1 cm) slices and place in salad bowl.

Wash and cut the red pepper in half. Remove the seeds, then cut into 1 inch (2 cm) strips and again into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces and place into the salad bowl.

Wash and cut the tomatoes in half, add them to the bowl.

Wash the parsley, pick the leaves from the stems, and coarsely chop the leaves into the bowl.

Slice the avocado in half lengthwise; open it up and remove the stone. With a small sharp knife, cut the flesh of the avocado into 1/2 inch (1 cm) dice, stopping before the skin, then, with a large spoon, scoop out the flesh into the salad.

Dress the salad with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and cayenne pepper. Toss, check seasoning, adjust, and serve.

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Lentil and fennel salad with lemon and parsley

In Brittany | Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine bakery in Morlaix

15 September 2011

It looks fairly harmless; it’s hiding it’s game. After a few summers in Brittany we’ve discovered what has to be the best Kouign Amann. Period.

Kouign Amann is a traditional Breton… cake? bread? voluptuous addiction? The most common version is a bread batter folded many times over with butter and sugar to create a dense, caramelized, buttery puff pastry of sorts. According to renowned Breton chef Jacques Thorel, original Kouign Amann was made with leftover bread dough simply mixed with butter and sugar. The technique of folding the dough repeatedly came later, invented by a baker who knew about puff pastry.

I haven’t attempted to make Kouign Amann – yet. Currently our summers in Brittany are occupied more by heavy construction work than creative cooking. But we look for every excuse to drive the 25-odd minutes to Morlaix, to a small boulangerie hidden on a steep side street, framed by the towering viaduct that contributes to the town’s unique character.

The Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine doesn’t look as good as it tastes. It’s no shining, copper disk oozing with butter and sugar. It looks somewhat staid. But, once heated (for about 10 minutes, in a medium oven), it caramelizes on the surface while loosening up inside and becomes a seriously dangerous temptation.

You’ll see. If ever you are in Morlaix.

UPDATE SUMMER 2012: Au Four St Melaine has closed. Tragic. We have not yet found an adequate replacement.

Au Four St Melaine

1 Venelle Four Saint Melaine
29600 Morlaix
France

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Mussels with shallots and white wine

At the market in Brittany | Artichokes


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