Friday, June 1, 2012

Reinvention of a post about my favorite dessert

For almost a year I’ve been dreaming about my favorite dessert—a steamy raspberry soufflé oozing pools of molten bittersweet chocolate. I’ve only tasted it once, and have never made it myself, but today’s the day because perfect fresh raspberries are on display at Costco for an irresistible price—6 boxes for $8.99. These little heart-shaped beauties are some of the best berries I’ve ever tasted. Ted, my chocoholic husband and official taste tester, feels a little glum from five days in a row of no sun—our annual June Gloom. He will love it, so here I go!
Sherry Yard (left), the dessert chef at Spago Beverly Hills, prepared this dessert one evening last year for an event for forty members of Les Dames D'EscoffierFew women could appreciate it more than members of this worldwide philanthropic society who have spent their careers in the fields of food and hospitality.These women love food and are generous in sharing all their resources, experience and their recipes.
That evening Sherry wowed us by adding something new to her already published recipe--chunks of bittersweet chocolate that melted within the steaming soufflés as they rose in the oven, elevating this dessert to the top of my crave list.
Sherry begins by making a quick, not-too-sweet raspberry jam that she uses in two ways. She spoons it as a ruby-colored sauce into the bottom of each sugar coated soufflé dish with a few fresh berries, and then she folds beaten egg whites into it to make the bright pink soufflé itself. I’m finding I love this jam so much I will double the recipe next time (cooking it longer to the right thickness, of course) and spread the extra on our morning English muffins.
Such a beautiful dessert! Cooking is clearly the most elegant art, and the quickest to be appreciated.
I'd been wondering why took so long to try a recipe I’ve been dreaming about. Today, when just the right raspberries showed up at the right price, and just the right gloomy June weather has turned my kitchen into the coziest room in the house, I realize this is the right time.
Some things simply can't be rushed.


For 4 servings
This is my version of the soufflé from Sherry Yard’s inspiring book, Desserts by the YardYou will need 8-ounce soufflé dishes (ramekins) to make this. Because there are no yolks or flour in this souffle it is surprisingly light and low in calories. It is also gluten free!

An electric mixer with a whisk attachment is ideal for beating egg whites, but you can use a hand mixer.
Soufflés demand immediate consumption, so make sure your guests are waiting at the table for the soufflé and not the other way around.

1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar (divided), plus 1 tablespoon for dusting the soufflé dishes
1 tablespoon Chambord (French black raspberry liqueur)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soft butter, for the soufflé dishes
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar or ½ teaspoon lemon juice, to lend acidity and volume to the whites
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, in about 12 chunks
In a medium saucepan combine 1-3/4 cups of raspberries, 1/4 cup sugar, Chambord, lemon juice and balsamic. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until thickened. Set aside to cool to room temperature. This will yield about 1-1/3 cups of raspberry sauce.
Place 1/2 cup of the sauce in a large mixing bowl in which you will fold beaten egg whites. Reserve the rest.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and place the rack in the lowest position. Butter the insides of your 4 soufflé dishes and coat them evenly with the tablespoon of sugar and position them on a baking sheet for easy handling. Place 3 or 4 of the remaining raspberries in each dish and divide the remaining 1/4 cup or so of jam between the dishes—this will turn into the most delicious tangy sauce imaginable.
Make sure the bowl of your electric mixer and its whisk attachment is squeaky clean—any oil will prevent egg whites from whipping up properly. Beat the whites slowly with the cream of tartar or lemon juice until they are foamy. Then beat the whites at high speed, pouring in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a steady stream. Continue beating until the whites show very stiff peaks when you stop the machine and lift the beater.
Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, fold a third of the whites thoroughly into the 1/2 cup raspberry sauce. Fold in the remaining whites lightly. Spoon the mixture high, "like cotton candy," as Sherry says, in the prepared dishes.
Bake for 15 minutes or so until puffed and slightly browned, taking care to carefully open and close the oven door when you check on them. (Glass oven doors must have been invented for soufflés!)
Serve immediately, inviting your guests to dig all the way down to the sauce on the bottom to enjoy with each bite.
TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE: An added beauty of this surprisingly easy dessert is that you can serve it all year long if you freeze the easy raspberry sauce used as the base. Then all you need do is thaw the base and fold in beaten egg whites.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Loving Heart Redux

My wonderful readers:
You've noticed I'm behind in posting.  To be honest, things have been a bit wild around here with Ted retiring from his long career in the law and now reinventing himself through a new book.  I'd forgotten how challenging change can be.  
So while I am busy writing you a colorful post on Barcelona, I have decided not to delay another moment in reaching out to you.  Here is a timely re-post of some advice I need to take for myself.

How did your five-year-old love to play? Did you make up games? What were they? What did you truly love?

Recently, speaking on the subject of Life as a Work of Heart, I asked this question of my audience. Gradual smiles softened their faces as they remembered.

In mid-life, this very self-inquiry changed my life. I realized it wasn’t food preparation that had led me into my long career in cooking and entertaining; it was the result—the gathering of people around the table in celebration, in sharing ideas, in connection! And so I then reinvented what I was doing and my career turned into something infinitely more satisfying.

Will you take a moment to recapture what gave you joy? Where did your inborn love lead you?

(Above is a Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake for your five-year-old. You can keep them in the freezer--they thaw in only a few minutes for an afternoon treat for yourself or when a friend drops in.)

It is so important to pay attention to what our hearts tell us. These words from the poem Love After Love by Derek Wolcott (click on the title for the whole poem), remind us of the deep meaning of our lives.

. . .Love again the stranger who was your self. 

. . . Give back your heart 
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored 

for another, who knows you by heart. 

Here is a great Valentine gift for yourself. Marci Shimoff's new book, Love For No Reason is an astonishing teaching of the experience of pure love for its own sake. What I call Divine Love. Truly, every page is filling my heart with joy!
And, what better time of year, when hearts as a symbol of love are everywhere, to use something we take very much for granted, fresh strawberries, as a sign of celebration? This is so easy. I hope you will love it!


Small log of goat cheese
Roasted sunflower seeds (can use honey-roasted)
Strawberry slices
Honey to drizzle over all
Serve at room temperature with thinly sliced bread or crisp crackers

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Elixir of Life

A true silver lining!
Don’t you love road trips? 

Getting away from home gives a bright new perspective on where our lives are headed.  And they open us to surprising new sensory adventures.

If you read my blogs regularly you know I’m a sucker for silver linings.  Luckily my camera was close by as we drove into Sedona, Arizona, only seven hours driving time from home, where I captured a silver lining for real. 

The cathedral-like buttes shimmer like fire in the setting sun.
The surrounding red rock country seems familiar to visitors because the scenery has starred in so many Westerns from the 40s and 50s, and in current SUV commercials.  The cathedral like formations truly seem to catch fire in the late afternoon sun.
Cactus near our room at Poco Diablo
Ted and I checked into a patio room on the golf course at Poco Diablo Resort, where we had some unusual visitors.  [See video]

Our reason for travel was to spend time with Rama Vernon (who I will write about in another blog).  Rama surprised us by suggesting we visit a great Sedona restaurant Cucina Rustica, where she might be able to arrange for us to meet the chef.   Little did we know we would be in for one of the great restaurant experiences of our lives. 

I had just finished reading about Lisa Dahl’s cookbook in a magazine in our room.  The title, The Elixir of Life, captured my imagination—it just sounded like a celebration.  I loved this woman’s passion and imagination!  I’d even tried to order the book online, her own website said it would be not be available until august. 

Lisa Dahl
That evening, every taste in our dinner was a grand surprise.  Some people just have more taste buds than others and when they cook their food is over the top delicious.  We began with a bowl of Korean peppers that are mild and tangy and unique.  I’d never heard of Shishito peppers before. She served them lightly blistered and salted.  Divine!

For our second first course we shared Radicchio rolled with Croatian fig marmalade and mozzarella cheese wrapped in proscuitto and "grilled to perfection" then drizzled with a balsamic glaze.  Out of this world!

The restaurant had copies of the cookbook and it has become one of my top five favorites, sparking a whole new passion for cooking at home.  I’ve made no less than 12 recipes and have learned a technique or a flavor tip in every one of them.  

Ribollita (vegetable soup)
The soups are spectacular and since each recipe makes about three quarts, my freezer is stocked for easy suppers.   I made the Spicy Guadalajara Soup with Avocado and the Cream of Celery and Leek, and almost all of her salad dressings.

Ted is quite addicted to the spicy pecans pictured here with a great Exotica Salad with Shallot-Dijon Elixir.


For 2 cups

Lisa says “Try making these with your favorite flavor combinations:  Bourbon and walnuts?  Kahlua and pecans? . . ."

2 cups pecans, or other nut halves
3 tablespoons Amaretto or Grand Marnier liqueur
½ teaspoon (I used ¼) cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup sugar
Bake the nuts at 350 degrees for 5 minutes for extra crunch.  Allow to cool and place them near the stove.

Combine the liqueur, cayenne and salt in a small bowl and stir to dissolve.  Place the bowl near the stove.

Melt the sugar in a large non-stick skillet, shaking it to distribute the sugar evenly.  Careful not to burn around the edges.  The sugar will liquefy quickly—be ready!  When the sugar has just liquefied, pour in the liqueur mixture and stir.  The liquid will cause the melted sugar to sizzle, foam, and seize up a bit.  

Let it calm down for a moment and become almost liquefied again, then toss in the nuts.

Quickly turn the turns to coat them all over, then slide them out of the skillet onto a piece of parchment paper [separating quickly with 2 forks].  When they are cool enough to handle, separate the clumps into individual nuts.

TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE:  Glazed nuts keep well for a few days in a sealed jar at room temperature, "unless you munch them all up while bustling around the kitchen."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thai Smile!

fMemories of a Thai smile last a long, long time. . .

Smiles, heads bowing, hands in prayer--staff members greeted us with the traditional Thai welcome Sawat-dii kha (for women), Sawat-dii khrap (for men).  We were entering the lobby of the hotel reputed to be the best in the world, the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok, for a four day stay.  
The grace and welcome of the Thai people have remained in our hearts.

Performance by Thai dancers at dinner time
Breakfast buffets so colorful and generous.

Food displays throughout the Peninsula Hotel

My romance with Thai cooking was born there.  In a hotel cooking class I learned the flavors in Thai cuisine are balanced to maintain harmony in a dish.  Thus the mildly hot sharpness of chiles and spices in a curry dish is toned down with the sweetness of coconut cream, which also enhances the tastes of other delicate ingredients and herbs such as lemon grass and fresh mint.  I was hooked!
One of the first things I did on our return was to head to the nursery to buy a kaffir lime tree for a pot on our patio, as the leaves add a delicious flavor to so many Thai dishes.  (Leaves can be purchased, of course, in Asian markets, and you may substitute the grated skin of one lime, or more to taste, in today's recipe.)

Some class ingredients found in Bangkok were not available here though, and I was truly delighted when my friend, author/speaker Peter McGugan introduced me to the Thai Smile Restaurant in Palm Springs, where my favorite soup was the best I ever tasted.  They were followed by Angel Wings, crispy stuffed turkey wings with a vinegar/chile/cucumber sauce.
Tom Kha Gai (chicken soup with coconut)
served in a firepot
"Angel wings" stuffed with cellophane noodles

A photo on the wall carries a message of praise from Martha Stewart--she orders the beef salad.
 Thai Smile restaurant was created in 1993 by Yim Priddy (yim means "smile" in Thai).  In 1996, Yim's son Mai and his wife Noi, who ran a Thai restaurant in Boston, moved to Palm Springs to help Yim run things.  They love to accommodate customers by preparing dishes to special tastes and diets.  Noi generously welcomed us and shared their family "secret" recipe, revealing even the brand names, so it is a cinch to make this recipe at home in only minutes.  

Is the Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok the best in the world?  It gets my vote.  And Thai Smile gets my vote for my favorite Thai food in California.  Join me in making their quick and easy soup a favorite in your home, or meet me in Palm Springs.  
Let's meet there one day soon!

Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut 

“Tom Gha Gai”

For 4 first course servings

16 ounces chicken broth, homemade or canned

4 to 5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (or zest of one fresh lime, grated)

4 to 5, 2-inch pieces fresh lemongrass, bruised to release flavor

1-inch cube (or a bit more) fresh galangal (from an Asian market), or 1 teaspoon dried galangal.  (See Note)

¼ cup fish sauce 

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

4 ounces raw chicken breast sliced into bite-size pieces, or shredded roast chicken

5 fluid ounces coconut milk

½ tablespoon prik pao (Thai chili paste in oil—the brand they use, and that I ordered on Amazon, is Pantainorasingh)

Coriander (cilantro) leaves to garnish

Sliced fresh mushrooms, optional

NoteI was able to find dried galangal at the Savory Spice Shop.  It may be easily ordered online. 

Heat the chicken stock in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the sliced kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce, lemongrass, galangal, Fish sauce and lime juice.  Stir thoroughly, bring to a simmer, then add the chicken, coconut milk and chile paste.  Return to a simmer.  Add some sliced mushrooms and simmer 2 minutes longer, just until chicken is cooked through.  Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Living requires such courage at times.

I am loving two very honest and courageous books right now, both dealing with today's financial challenges:

Sarah Ban Breathnach's new book Peace and Plenty: Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity focuses on her own personal path. She relates never-before revealed details about how she fell from the financial top to the bottom and proves she understands the plight of those trying to maintain a happy and comfortable home, while at the same time not even knowing if they will be able to make the mortgage to keep that home.

Roth's Lost and Found: Unexpected Revelations About Food and Money is an absolutely riveting tale of how she lost her life savings to Bernie Madoff and the deep transformation that brought to her life.

In my own life, I remember that it was the hard times that taught me the most, and that brought out the best in me. So, I find it comforting that these talented authors are willing to share their struggles and lessons.

And, let's face it, we are all experiencing the effects of today’s economy.

So, here is my favorite solution--making at least seven (yes 7!) gourmet meals out of a single Costco rotisserie chicken.

Do you know how delicious these are? Even Julia Child had high praise for them! They are "brined" (soaked in salt water for plumpness and juiciness) and then roasted to a goodness it is almost impossible to duplicate at home. AND, they are only $4.95. So, yes, that is 7 servings for less than $.75 apiece.

Be sure to slice the chicken as soon as you get home while it is still warm. Use a serrated knife and hold it steady with a fork while you slice 4 even slices from each breast, reserving skin and bones.

See how the slices look along with all the dark meat I have pulled off by hand, and then drizzled with the drippings in the pan. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Sometime in the next 5 days you can use these slices to make 4 delicious sandwiches. (I like using a honey raspberry mustard, mayo, sliced cheese, sliced fresh tomato and lettuce. (You can freeze these sandwiches without the lettuce and tomato if you substitute butter for mayo. They thaw very quickly and are handy for “What’s to eat around here?” moments.)

Place the skin in a soup pot along with all the bones when you are done. You will then add cold water to cover by an inch or two, an onion, a squashed clove of garlic if you like, some parsley stems and a little salt. Simmer for two hours, then let cool slightly and pour through a colander into a bowl to cool completely. Chill overnight. The fat will have congealed on the surface, so you can just spoon that off and throw it away (unless you have low cholesterol and like browning things like hash browns in chicken fat).

You will love how rich, flavorful and gelatinous this broth is from being simmered with bones.Freeze it, or use as a base for soup or sauces.

In this photo I mixed some of the thigh and leg meat pieces with a jar of Salsa Chile Verde from Trader Joe's that I stirred into a bit of butter, flour and chicken broth, seasoning to taste. This was inspired by Ted's favorite meal at the Pearl Restaurant in Napawhere we love to sit at the counter and watch the two chefs prepare all the orders. It is served with polenta. (The real one is pictured below.)

Or, sometimes I make a Chicken Salad by shredding the chicken and tossing it into a salad of torn lettuce, crumbled bleu cheese, dried cranberries and toasted almonds with a light dressing.


For 4 servings

This is so good, and ready to serve in minutes!

A drizzle of olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1-2 cups vegetables from the fridge like 2 stalks of chopped celery, sliced baby carrots, sliced sugar snap peas, frozen peas or corn.

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 cup white wine or dry vermouth

8 cups rich chicken broth (from method above, or use canned)

3/4 cup macaroni or other small pasta

shredded dark meat of 1 rotisserie chicken

Fresh minced herbs and salt to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Stir in onion and minced vegies. Cook covered for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir in garlic briefly, then add wine. Cook until almost evaporated then add broth. Bring to a boil and add pasta, cooking until just tender. Stir in shredded chicken and fresh herbs and salt to taste.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Light your own candle!

There is a secret to having the best birthday ever.

The secret? No one can create it but you!

So, invite fascinating people to join you in celebrating.

Why leave your birthday up to others? When we do so we create expectations in ourselves and sheer dread in those around us.

Really? Ask people to celebrate you?

Yes! Do you remember being an outsider in your youth? The times in the school yard when you felt excluded? Didn’t you wish to be included?

It has taken me all these years to learn a tough lesson—I now know that the path to feeling included is to simply INCLUDE! Invite people to join you. Not all will accept your invitation (their loss, NEXT!), but most people you most want to know will surprise you by saying yes. Most will feel honored you asked.

Last week, on my birthday, (March forth--the only command in the year!), I realized I wanted to do something truly memorable. Ted and I were planning to be in the Bay Area, and I began to think of who I knew there. The first who came to mind was one of my writer heroes Kim Rosen, author of Saved by a Poem.

Wouldn’t it be great if she would join us for lunch? I wondered. So, I sent her an email and she said “Yes, what fun!”

That success spurred me to remember what a great fan I am of Roger Housden, author of many of my favorite books (click on his name for a list) who lives in Sausalito. Kim had mentioned once that she knows him, so I asked for his email and invited him to join us as well. He said, (Guess what!) "YES!"

For the next week I had the best birthday lunch imaginable to look forward to!

Kim suggested a restaurant new to us, Piatti in Mill Valley, with a view of the bay.

Here are dishes from their lunch menu:

My main course was this Salmone: blackened Loch Duart Salmon with Yukon gold potatoes, roasted asparagus and Meyer lemon beurre fondue.

The company, conversation and cuisine were beyond my imaginings!

Now, what if I hadn’t had the courage to ask?

Can we afford any half-heartedness in the time remaining to us?

~Roger Housden

For 1 cup

This divine dipping sauce served as the beginning of our breaking crusty bread together. It remains my favorite taste of the meal!

6 ounces EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
1 ounce Balsamic vinegar (See note)
1 clove garlic, minced
a sprinkling of fresh minced parsley
Salt, freshly ground pepper, and red chile flakes, to taste

Note: Some of the best chefs I know swear by the Trader Joe brand.

Whisk together all ingredients and pour into dish for dipping. Serve with slices of crusty bread.