Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fiddlehead Sauté With Shallots and Bacon

This is usually the time of year when Kitchen Fiddler is woefully neglected because the rest of my life goes haywire.  April and May are notoriously busy months for freelance musicians in NYC, and this year is no exception for most of my waking hours are spent with a violin in hand.  (Forget blogging, I'm scrambling to eat proper meals and sleep six hours at night!)  However, today was blissfully free with no daytime commitments, and as I wandered around my neighborhood enjoying the sunshine this morning, I picked up these adorable fiddlehead ferns.  I couldn’t wait to make this easy Fiddlehead Sauté With Shallots and Bacon for lunch, and it was so delightful that I immediately hopped back on my blog to share it with all of you.

Fiddlehead ferns are aptly named since they clearly resemble the scroll of a violin.  My own fiddle is more than happy to provide a visual comparison!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Devil's Food Cake With Caramel, A La Tartine Bakery

Sometimes words fail to convey the enormity of a situation.  In the case of the alluring Devil’s Food Cake from Tartine Bakery, I’ll let this photo speak for itself.


This recipe knocks it out of the park each time. I made it twice within a week earlier this month, and it provoked similar reactions on both occasions.  Forks crashed onto plates.  Knees buckled. Gasps of surprise mingled with moans of delight. I had people already coming back for seconds as I was still slicing up the cake—a wild pleading look in their eyes as they extended their plates towards me—long before I’d had a chance to try a forkful myself, much less grab my camera.  Everyone gobbled up this chocolate madness so enthusiastically at both parties that only a modest wedge remained for its close-up.

I’d call that a home run.

I first experienced this cake several years ago at the justifiably famed Tartine Bakery during my annual San Francisco pilgrimage.  It was so compelling and crave-worthy, standing out even amidst all of the other confectionary beauties in the bakery's impressive display cases.  I was exceedingly grateful that Tartine had published the recipe in their cookbook, and I immediately baked a version of it myself upon my return home.

Devil's Food Cake in upper left corner, Tartine Bakery, SF on 8/27/10

Friday, March 21, 2014

Making A Cake Banner (When Your Decorating Skills Are Sorely Lacking!)

For someone who loves baking as much as I do, my cake decorating abilities leave a LOT to be desired, unfortunately.  I’m not utterly hopeless with an icing piping bag, but I’m certainly not great.  Thank goodness I always do a test-run before writing with icing on the actual cake, but these dismal practice attempts have caused my Not-So-Little Chef and me to dissolve in countless giggle fits, making it even harder to hold the icing tube steady.  It’s a quandary since I’m often commissioned to make special occasion cakes, and I do everything to encourage my customers to embrace an extremely simple design sans writing, lest my handiwork end up on the jaw-dropping and hilarious Cake Wrecks website!  But I have a brilliant new solution for my sub-par decorating skills: The Cake Banner.

I was commissioned to provide a cake for a friend’s baby shower last week, a devilishly dark chocolate-and-caramel cake covered with toasted cake crumbs that the mother-to-be had daydreamed about for years since the last time I’d made it. (That recipe will be on the next post, I promise!) One of the baby shower co-hosts asked me to get creative with the cake decoration, incorporating some pink into the design among other things.  Naturally, this request gave me pause.

However, I wanted to honor the festive decoration request for the occasion.  I recently saw this flag banner on Joy the Baker's blog, and I realized that this was the perfect solution to my decorating dilemma. The final result was darling and it put the biggest smile on everyone’s faces, including my own!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Desserts

I was hoping to have a new St. Patrick’s Day-themed recipe for you before the 17th.  However, with a quick-yet-outrageous trip to Los Angeles earlier this week in addition to furiously cranking out a round of CocoaRoar truffles for St. Paddy’s Day, I haven’t had time to explore anything new in the kitchen. My chocolate tempering machine is purring away in the background as I type, and as I wait for it to melt a pound of chocolate into a beautiful glossy pool so I can dip the last few hundred truffles, I thought I’d re-share a few St. Patrick’s Day ideas from previous entries.  Of course you may just want to spend tomorrow in your favorite Irish pub drinking Guinness or green beer.  But here are a few fun holiday-themed dessert ideas, should you need to balance out your beer and pub food intake.

This Black&White Guinness Float tastes like the most sophisticated milkshake you could ever hope to have. Despite its velvety dark appearance, Guinness stout is surprisingly light and frothy, making it a natural pairing with ice cream, and this beer float plays up both the deep chocolate notes and the creamy quality of the Guinness.  Sign me up, please.

The Guinness Gingerbread Cake is still one of the best cakes to ever come out of my kitchen, which I originally made for Sylvia’s birthday bash two years ago. (Happy birthday, Syl!) The cake is fragrant with spices (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and even a little dry mustard for heat!), deepened with Guinness for complexity, and the flavors all come together beautifully with a vanilla cream cheese frosting.  


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Roasted Cauliflower Soup With Smoked Paprika

Four years ago I posted a Roasted Cauliflower Soup recipe that my friend Roger makes, and I love it so much that I must revisit it again here on Kitchen Fiddler.  This soup has made frequent appearances on my table—and on my friends’ tables—more so than any other soup in my repertoire. I made a version with smoked paprika the other day, and it was as though culinary lightning had struck.

The remarkable thing about this soup is how luxurious it tastes while actually being quite guilt-free.  In fact, I often prepare it as a vegan dish by using vegetable stock, and yet it still tastes as luxurious as if I’d poured a quart of cream into it.  The richness comes from roasting the cauliflower with olive oil and salt, letting it caramelize to a deep nutty brown.

This recipe lends itself well to variation.  I’ve done different versions of this, adding other vegetables to the onion-garlic base and changing up the seasonings with the roasted cauliflower.  My original version is sweetened with lots of carrot and fragrant thyme, served with a drizzle of golden olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese on top.  I’ve had happy results cooking diced wild mushrooms along with the onions, finishing it with a few drops of truffle oil to echo the earthy mushroom quality.  But this smoked paprika version is my new favorite.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Warm French Green Lentils With Poached Eggs

Have you had enough of winter yet? I know I’m daydreaming about shedding my bulky coat. However, this weekend’s impending snowstorm is another opportunity to make a dish that has fortified me during this snowier-than-usual winter.  These delightful Warm French Green Lentils topped with a poached egg are an ideal snow-day meal. Given the weekend snowfall prediction, I’m sharing them with you just in time.

This recipe is by way of Megan from the lovely blog, A Sweet Spoonful.  She writes beautifully about how her boyfriend (now fiancée) made his "famous lentils" one of the first times he cooked for her, and how she joked that she'd marry him for his lentils alone. I first made the dish simply because I had everything on hand and it was snowing too hard to run outside to the store for other groceries.  However once I tasted these lentils for myself, I understood how they could be commitment-worthy!

I love little French green lentils, which are more flavorful than their often-mushy brown counterparts.  Also known as lentilles du Puy, these French green gems hold their shape well in salads and soups.  They are often an accompaniment to traditional French bistro dishes such as salmon or a farmhouse stew with garlic sausage.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ottolenghi's Clementine and Almond Syrup Cake With Chocolate Glaze

Today is my beloved grandmother’s 100th birthday!!!  Yes, you read that correctly, and while I’ve never had the opportunity to wish anyone a “happy 100th” before, I couldn’t be more delighted to say it to my extraordinary grandma today.  In honor of this major milestone, I’m sharing the Clementine Almond Cake with Chocolate Glaze I recently made for her.

On my family visit in California last month, we had an early celebration exactly one month before Grandma hit this remarkable triple-digit age.  I needed an easy but special cake recipe for her, for I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could on that last day of my trip.  I wanted to talk with her, looking at photos together and playing my violin for her rather than slaving away in the kitchen making some elaborate creation.  This Clementine Almond Cake from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook perfectly fit the bill.

As Grandma herself described it after the first bite, “It’s worth living to nearly one hundred to have a cake like this!” This cake may be only a single layer in form, but you definitely taste multiple layers of flavor with each bite.  Grated clementine zest infuses the almond-flour cake with fragrant citrus, while clementine syrup poured over the still-warm cake adds another level of edible sunshine.