Showing posts with label pumpkin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pumpkin. Show all posts

Friday, October 26, 2012

Buvare: Dark and Stormy Night

Halloween! Not only my favorite holiday, but increasingly my favorite time of year to concoct potent potables, with a decidedly sinister edge. Last year's Witching Hour cocktail was brainy and elegant, but this year for our annual Table Set Halloween podcast I decided to brew something more approachable and thirst-quenching.

The Dark and Stormy is one of the simplest and most delightful cocktails, period. For my adaptation I introduced The Kraken, a black spiced rum of epic proportions, a spicy Jamaican ginger brew and several additional autumnal highlights. Leaving out the eye of newt, this time...

Listen to The Table Set: Dark and Stormy Night

Last year with the glut of pumpkin bourbon I infused for the Witching Hour, I made this impromptu punch for my friends. It was consumed within minutes. Highly recommended for your own gathering of ghouls, named for the Halloween party held in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow before Ichabod Crane's infamous ride home. Beware!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Croquer: Salt's Cure

I'm still pretty iffy when it comes to Twitter.
I mean, I tweet... it's just not my forté as far as communication goes. I guess I'm getting the hang of it. "Meeting" some folks and networking a bit. I've definitely never been asked out on Twitter - or have I?
Following Foodbuzz Fest the little bird did deliver one proposition... a tweet from the baking blog goddess Joy the Baker herself:
@windattack @chocomeat i think the three of us should get dinner. there... i said it.
Naturally the Wind Attack and I were down for food fun. But where would our trifecta of particular tastefulness agree on meeting?
Salt's Cure, of course.
It was a happenin' night at the restaurant, a spare, open-kitchen West Hollywood storefront seemingly operating on word of mouth (no signage then). The bar around the exhibition kitchen was lined with pickle jars and twenty-somethings, the high ceiling collecting the room's jabber and sending it back down in garbled echoes. Joy the Baker was fashionably late and looked smashing. Met by candlelight, the three of us smiled cordially (not unlike a good first date), reviewed the bottle list and got acquainted.
Our server helped us select the 2005 Benjamin Silver Syrah. Round, sexy, bold fruit makes this a lovely food wine, but also just a great WINE wine.
Salt's Cure is a glorified butcher shop, so of course charcuterie is the way to go. We started with the pickle plate and built up a board from there. The house-pickled selection included cabbage, cucumber, watermelon, tomato, and jalapeño.
The three cheeses braced by almonds, dates, and honey were the always winning Red Hawk (cow), Camellia (goat), and Stout Cow (raw cow).
We couldn't resist the sultry duck ham. Who knew prosciutto could get more luxe?!
An order of cured lamb shoulder followed the cheeseboard, resting on thinly sliced apples. Delicious.
We split two entrees, snagging the last Lemon Snapper per our server's strong suggestion. What a sublime dish! The fish was juicy and tender, bites melting like creamy lemon-zested butter pats. Atop a mound of wilted kale, fried lemon peel and crisp potato sheers, the dish was a triumph of simplicity. It was unaminous - we were in love.
How long could we ignore the other, more fragrant plate on the table? One taste of the Chili Braised Pork-N-Grits and I was smiling. Akin to a REALLY GOOD tamale, the marriage of steamy corn meal product and luscious fork-hugging pork was -as always- simply trouble. We tried to be polite, but crossed utensils more than once over this dish.
Dessert. First out was a Dulce de Leche Semifreddo, or, an experiment in monochromy. Maybe it was the wine, or the lingering pleasure of the entrees, but I don't recall this one blowing me away (yet I do remember the fresh boiled peanuts on top, which were salty good times).
The other dessert, a Sticky Walnut Heirloom Pumpkin Cake was more favorable, if not suffering from an identity crisis. Pumpkin pie? Sticky toffee woohoo? Cake?? Whatever the genetic makeup, it was a toothsome end to an impressive display from Salt's Cure - A very welcome LA addition, especially in a neighborhood known for... Well, I think there's an Astro Burger close-by?
7494 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90046; 323.850.SALT
Salt's Cure in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Salt's Cure on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Pumpkin Hummus

This is probably one of the easiest party foods I've ever made. A simple seasonal twist on traditional hummus, this pumpkin version is lighter and surprisingly subtle. I brought this to a pumpkin-themed party recently (actually two!) and got a favorable response. I added some Za'atar to mine for extra depth. You can find pepitas (pumpkinseed kernels) in the Mexican spice section of your supermarket. Can prepare up to a day ahead, and refrigerate.

Yield 10 servings

4 (6-inch) pitas, each cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame-seed paste)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon pepitas, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.
Place pita wedges on baking sheets; brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Bake for 4-6 minutes until browned and crisp at the edges.
Place tahini and remaining ingredients (except pepitas) in a food processor, and process until smooth. Add parsley; pulse until blended. Spoon hummus into a serving bowl; sprinkle with pepitas, if desired. Serve with pita wedges.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Voyager Bien: Supping in St. P

"I THINK it's around here..." Ksenya turned down an alley filled with parked cars, past a block-long window photo mural of a model reclining on a beach and down into the wide street, filled with rocks where pavement once sat. When I made it to the street and saw the expanse of stones, silent tractors like sleeping dinosaurs, pedestrians hopping pavement river stones to a Russian McDonalds on the other side, for an instant I felt like I was in post-war Berlin, and expected the buzz of air fleets overhead. But no, this was just part of the rampant revitalization of St. Petersburg's Historic Heart, where I had just arrived from the airport, jetlagged as all hell (I couldn't sleep on the plane - they were showing Sex & the City when I was supposed to be napping!). Ksenya was trying to remember where this Georgian restaurant was, a feat already impressive to me as the Cyrillic street names posted on the corners of buildings and minimal signage left me helpless. "Here it is!" Ksenya stepped down and through an unmarked brown door into Kavkaz (18 Karavannaya ul. Tel: 312-1665 M: Nevsky Prospekt)an empty sub-level tavern with tiled floors and bare wooden tables. I self-conciously murmured my first memorized Russian word "spasiba" (thank you) to the young waitress who motioned for us to seat ourselves. I was fading fast and hoped we would get to our host's home before too long, but was happy to accept the tall pilsner beer set in front of me. "What's good here?" I asked Ksenya, who spent her childhood only blocks from the Hermitage Museum, in this same neighborhood. "I don't know.. I can't really read most of this menu," my fluent Russian friend responded. I realized though I was very lucky exploring Russia with a native (Ksenya and her mother fled St. P for Rome by-way-of Vienna when she was 8 years old), no plan is fool-proof - interpreting every flowery word in a menus' description can be a struggle even for someone who knows the written language fairly well. "OH okay," her finger stopped on a page. "These are soup dumplings of some meaty kind." I gulped my beer. "Sold!"
Dining out in St. Petersburg is without a doubt an adventure. A question of "Do we go to the hunting place for bear steaks or the Dagestani place for.. Dagestani food?" Even fast food (despite the prevalence of some mass burger chains) provided a curious change, the blini being the most ubiquitous and inexpensive. Teremok easily dominates the city, kiosks outposted on every other corner in the city center (interestingly born from the 1998 financial crisis). Prices for most of the blinis range from 30 to 80 rubles ($2-4), depending on the filling. Ksenya and I shared one filled with a warm and gooey walnut/brown sugar concoction. A perfect afternoon blood sugar pick-me-up turned supper spoiler. Another afternoon for an early lunch we hit Bliny Domik (8 Kolokolnaya ul. Tel: 812-327-8979 M: Vladimirskaya), a homey, pocket-sized cafe serving up blinis, soups and Russian salads (generally consisting of creamy julienned veggies and proteins, similar to American slaws or potato salads). Despite a favorable recommendation, we found the blinis (slightly more expensive than the kiosks) underwhelming at best. For such simple fare, stick to the streets.

One chain that really won me over from day one was Stolle (a 'stolle' is a traditional Saxon Christmas cake), a family of "pie cafés" (boy do I love this concept). Popping up in the heart of every prominent neighborhood in the city, including down the block from Katya's apartment, Ksenya and I found ourselves sipping espresso and sampling pie more than a couple of times... Baked in gorgeously ornate large sheet loafs and served warm from the oven, the pirogis (pies) run in several varieties, both sweet and savory, and available by the slice for dine-in, or whole for take-out. On our way to Katya's the first evening, we picked up a large cheese-filled pie (a ricotta-like cheesecake-dense semi-sweet filling) as an offering, which ended up working its way into our breakfast for most of the week. On other occasions we sampled the red whortleberry and apple of the sweet, and a cabbage and rabbit with mushroom from the savory. I can't tell you enough how delightful the rabbit pie was.. Tender and flavorful white meat with plump mushrooms, fresh herbs and a flakey buttery crust. Incredible!
Coffee shops (yes, even sans pie) are very popular in the city, the largest chain Кофе Хауз (literally "Coffee House", translated phonetically) is treading near Starbucks ubiquity.. Yet the espresso wasn't half bad! The most delicious café drinks we had were at an odd little spot called Café Chocolat in the medieval village of Novgorod that we daytripped to. This place was decorated like an ode to silver screen romantic cinema, with sappy framed b/w posters the likes of Audrey Hepburn and the Eiffel Tower over red walls. They actually had an English version of the menu, which was curiously extensive, especially in the realm of specialty coffee drinks and cocktails. I had a rum-spiked twist on a Spanish coffee that was tasty, but it was Ksenya's tar-thick spicy molten chili hot chocolate that blew me away. About half way through she picked up her spoon to finish it. To accompany our "drinks" we ordered the cottage cheese cakes to split (Ksenya's own have always been a favorite of mine). The small cakes were drizzled with evaporated milk, dusted with cinnamon and served with carmelized bananas. Tasty, but Ksenya's still win in my book.

After a full afternoon spent exploring the gorgeous and surreal Kremlin fortress, multiplex of churches, foot bridge and man-made "beach" along the Volga river.. we were famished. We decided to take a chance on the most talked-about restaurant in the area (that we feared would be a tourist trap), actually built INSIDE Pokrovskaya tower (above) of the Kremlin walls and sharing the name Detinets with the fortress (Kremlin, Pokrovskaya Tower, Novgorod Tel: 816-227-4624). To our delight, the interior was incredible on its own (as we were not allowed inside any other part of the Kremlin interior). Worried about making to our bus in time to make it back to St. P, we opted for the downstairs casual café instead of the formal dining room up a massive wood spiral staircase (never did get to peek up there, darn it). We were led down through a brick tunnel which opened up into a dark domed cavern lit by hanging lanterns. There were a couple of alcoves halfway up the wall with single tables nestled into them and small wooden steps leading up. Naturally we asked to sit in one of the cubbies and clambered up excitedly. The menu was traditional Russian and extremely inexpensive. I ordered a large bowl of borscht and a mug of house-made Kvass (fermented mildly alcoholic beverage made from rye bread), Ksenya opted for a pelmeni dumpling soup. The food arrived in clay pots with cumbersome (though adorable) painted wooden spoons and a mountain of sliced rye bread. I have had borscht in the past, but this was the real deal, and an incredibly rich and fresh treat. The beets were earthy(duh), tender yet crisp and complimented the salty pork bits and other vegetables nicely in the yummy broth. Such a simple thing, done right can be remarkably impressive. Ksenya's dumpling soup was equally winning. We were sponging the bowls with the rye bread before I even took a photo for the blog. "Here.. we'll fake it" Ksenya said, arranging the napkins, bowls and spoons to look sumptously consumed. I laughed and snapped a shot, filling our little cave with light for the first time. We hated to leave, but shimmied down and out and across the Kremlin court in the direction of the bus station.

It was a chilly night returning to Petrogradsky disctrict - the neighborhood where we stayed, over the Neva River from the Historic Heart of St. Petersburg. Ksenya was taking me to a Parisian style café she had found with coworkers the week before I arrived. As we walked down the high-end shop lined street, I got a striking sense of familiarity - the comparative tendency that I think allows us all to feel more comfortable in foreign surroundings. "This must be like, the SoHo of St. P..." I said as more designer storefronts appeared on the horizon. Expensively dressed women in tailored jackets and skintight heeled boots stalked up and down the sidewalks. "Or maybe Upper East Side?..." We turned onto a dark side street and approached the red awnings of the French wine bistro, Les Amis De Jean-Jacques (Bolshoy pr 54/2 Tel: 812-232-9981 M: Petrogradskaya). It was cozy and very Parisian inside.. a banquette lined the red walls and small marble tables filled the candle-lit room, all reflected in the chic mirror-tiled ceiling. When I held the menu, I remember feeling a sense of relief when I saw the menu was in French as well as Russian. Imagine the absurdity! (As I don't speak French either.. but am MUCH better at figuring out a menu in it than Cyrillic). The wine list was extensive, and the first I'd seen. I ordered a glass of Bordeaux and French onion soup, followed by a Croque Madame. Everything was delicious and surprisingly authentic.. The soup was chockful with soggy baquette and covered in massive amounts of melted swiss. The croque wore a perfect poached egg and a sprinkling of chopped dill. I could have sat here all night, fighting my cold with wine and inhaling second-hand smoke while doodling with crayons on the butcherwrap covering the tables. But alas our jetlag begged for bed, and so we walked back along the dark store windows, half expecting to see a yellow cab cruise past.

After Georgian, the Caucasian cuisine that seemed the most available (and recommended) in St. Petersburg was Dagestani... A cuisine I admit had never even crossed my mind. Therefore, having no idea what to expect, one evening Ksenya and I searched out Sumeta (ul Yefimova 5, Sennaya; Tel:812-310-2411 M: Sadovaya). A neon gateway greeted us as we stepped down a stone brick stairway into a dim, loud dining room with a roaring fireplace and a giant lit-up fountain covering one wall. Every table appeared full, and the host let us know it would be a wait.. Unless, of course, we wouldn't mind the non-smoking room in the back... Laughing, we accepted - to the host's utter surprise. She led us through a rocky crag in the wall and we were sat in a cozy cave alongside a large loud group drunkenly celebrating. Ksenya and I smiled, feeling like THIS was how our Dagestani dining experience should probably play out. Everything on the menu sounded delicious and we were famished, so decided to make this our "big" night to course, and really do it right. We ordered a bottle of Putinka vodka and соления дагестанские (Dagestan pickles) to start, properly. After some toasts alonside our rowdy neighbors and savoring the perfectly pickled cucumbers, spicy peppers and shoots of some kind (reminded me of carnation stems - but delicious!), we ordered чудустыквой (Chudu with pumpkin). Chudu is like a large crispy "pancake" (somewhere between a pastry quesadilla and cheese naan). It is greasy and rich, filled with a savory spiced pumpkin puree and served warm, cut into pieces. Sounds simple, but Ksenya and I were both impressed with how tasty and complex the flavors actually were (and is one of the main dishes now that I can't stop thinking about and craving!) After more vodka we ordered some курзе (Kurze- Dagestan pelmenis), which were delicious pierogi-like meat dumplings in a light garlic sauce. Then we were ready for the люля (Lulya Kebab), which is basically my new favorite thing ever. Imagine coarsely ground beef and lamb spiced and mixed with fresh herbs, formed around a kebab and grilled over flame to perfection, served with crispy fried potatoes and fresh vegetables, all covered with chopped herbs and onions, with a spicy ketchup-like tomato sauce on the side. In summary: A super moist perfect burger on a stick with crispy fries! After stuffing ourselves and finishing the last of the vodka, Ksenya and I ordered espresso and the traditional dessert, which was sadly just a few scoops of ice cream with chopped candied fruit bits and a cherry. In all honesty, I didn't need it though. Our neighbors were up and dancing at this point, and we were pleasantly pickled ourselves. The meal had already lasted almost two hours and we were not feeling rushed in the least. We wondered if the more popular smoking room up front was having as much fun, but certain they weren't.

Next: We take to the streets and get our drink on, the Russian way!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Buvare?: Chewable Cocktails

Could it be true? A revival of solid booze?
Bless Tasting Table New York and NY Times for tipping me off on this trendy new movement. But we're not talking your average dimestore jell-o shot.. From absinthe-flavored gummi bears and Ramos gin fizz mashmallows (Eben Freeman of Tailor's "Solids") to strawberry-flavored vodka and Chambord jam on warm baguette ("French Toast" by Thierry Hernandez of Benoit) I would say the emerging examples raise the bar a notch. Or three.

The best part? Here's a recipe for you to attempt the much-lauded Pumpkin Pie Shot concocted by Eric Hara of davidburke & donatella - just in time for Thanksgiving! I'm definitely trying it.. Let's swap notes after the holiday on whose grandma got more wasted!

Pumpkin Pie Jell-O Shots
Makes 8 pies

8 Keebler mini graham-cracker piecrusts
1 envelope Knox gelatin
1/3 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 tablespoon cold heavy cream
Fresh whipped cream, for serving

1. Arrange the piecrusts on a baking sheet. Place 1 cup cold water in the top of a double boiler and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Let stand for three minutes.
2. Heat the gelatin mixture over a gentle simmer until the granules have dissolved. Add the pumpkin, sugar and spices and heat, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin and sugar are completely melted. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the vodka with 1/4 cup cold water and the heavy cream. Whisk in the pumpkin mixture and immediately divide it among the piecrusts. Chill until firm, at least 4 hours. Slice the pies into wedges, if desired, top with whipped cream and serve.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Pumpkin Choco-chunk Bread

2 c. flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 c. mashed cooked fresh pumpkin
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
6 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices until well blended; set aside. Beat eggs, pumpkin, sugars, milk and oil in large bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Add dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Stir in chopped chocolate.
Pour into greased 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Cut into 18 (1/2-inch thick) slices to serve.

For easier slicing, wrap bread in plastic wrap and store overnight before cutting into slices.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Recettes Secrètes: Vintage Halloween Treats

These festive Americana party treats always reminds me of a more innocent time when caramel apples and unwrapped candy could safely be accepted by trick-or-treaters. And since I tend to prefer my Halloween in vintage style, try these recipes to add some old school charm to your masked soiree.

Goblin Gorp
My favorite! And more than just a kiddy mix to eat out of dixie cups. Last year for a Halloween-themed dinner party that I co-organized, cellophane-bagged Goblin Gorp sat on each plate as a festive place holder and take-away.
I've updated the classic recipe with a few twists of my own.
Makes about 4 qts. of mixture.

2 1/2 qts. popcorn or kettlecorn
2 c. mini pretzels
1 c. salted peanuts
1 c. plain M&M's or Reese's Pieces
1 c. candy corn
1 c. Good & Plenty candy
1/2 c. sunflower meats (not seeds)

In a large bowl, mix and toss all ingredients together. Serve in dixie cups or wrapped in clear cellophane party bags.

Online I also found a zesty taco-flavored version with pumpkin seeds that intrigues the midwesterner in me..

Pumpkin Punch
My version of this simple (adult) witches brew, served in a real pumpkin shell.

1 large pumpkin
1 part real apple cider
2 parts ginger ale
1 part dark rum
vanilla bean ice cream

Cut a large opening in the top of the pumpkin using a knife and scrape the inside until it is clean and smooth (don't throw away the seeds! See recipe below). Wash inside if desired (though I prefer to let the pumpkin essence meld with the punch). Fill with rum, cider and ginger ale. Add enough ice to keep it cold and top with scoops of vanilla ice cream. Once the froth forms on the surface grind fresh nutmeg on top and serve.
And if you wanna get REAL crazy add some dry ice for effect (always use heavy gloves to handle the dry ice and place on a plate in the bottom of your pumpkin).

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 300°F. Remove seeds from pumpkin using large spoon. To separate seeds from pumpkin fiber, place mixture in large bowl and fill with cold water. Stir mixture, and seeds will float to surface. Remove seeds with slotted spoon and pat dry on paper towels. Place seeds in bowl and coat with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Spread on foil-lined baking sheet, coated with non-stick spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I sometimes make several batches with different flavors: chili powder for a kick or curry powder for an exotic twist. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Goblin Cupcakes
My mother used to make these for Halloween carnivals and bake sales when I was a kid. I loved the texture, and the ridiculously brilliant marriage of cream cheese and chocolate.

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated orange peel
2 drops red food coloring
2 drops yellow food coloring
1 c. chocolate chips
Combine cream cheese, sugar, egg, salt, orange peel and food coloring in a small bowl. Beat until smooth. Add chocolate chips. Set aside.

1 1/2 c. unsifted all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. vinegar
Combine ingredients in order listed. Blend well on low speed. Fill 24 paper muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Spoon about 1 tablespoon cheese filling onto each cupcake. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Happy Gobblin'!