Monday, July 27, 2009

If You Don't Have An Ice Cream Maker

I am having serious ice cream cravings lately. It is summer after all, and while I can certainly appreciate what Haagen-Dazs or Ciao Bella have to offer, even the best store-bought ice cream pales in comparison to that which is freshly homemade. It is probably a very good thing that I don’t have an ice cream maker, for I would be tempted to make ice cream all the time, in which case I might as well just tape it straight to my hips.

I also don’t have room for such a contraption. My baking sheets live in the broiler when I’m not using them, while my stock pots and grill pan have taken up residence directly above in the oven. My cupboards are chock-a-block full, and I store many of my specialty baking items in the living room closet, a space which is surprisingly well organized, if not stuffed to within an inch of its life. I do make room in my kitchen for a chocolate tempering machine for CocoaRoar purposes, but I can't justify the real estate required for an ice cream maker, no matter how much I'd love to have one.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Olive Oil Granola

Did you read the recipe for Olive Oil Granola in the New York Times last week? It totally grabbed my attention, for I’d never thought of such a thing. I have grown much more accustomed to encountering olive oil in sweeter contexts lately, though, with Mario Batali’s outrageous olive oil gelato at Otto being a prime example. I use it liberally in my Tiger Cake, and I drizzle a judicious amount of my very best olive oil over my blush-worthy Chocolate Toasts for an additional luxurious note. But using olive oil to make granola? Well, why on earth not?

I realize that I’ve never actually made granola myself before. This is strange because I love eating it, and I’ve certainly bought countless containers of it over my lifetime, but it’s odd that it never really occurred to me to make it myself. Maybe this reluctance is partly because I always felt that granola was my grandmother’s domain.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rococo Variations

I have a few swoon-inducing bars of Rococo chocolate in my possession right now. I’m afraid this may make you horribly jealous of me, for if you’ve ever had the good fortune to experience this exquisite chocolate from London, you definitely would be green with envy and might actually come banging on my door, shamelessly begging me to share my chocolate with you. This is some of the finest chocolate I have ever known, and I give Rococo major credit for deepening my understanding of how magical chocolate can be.

I had my first personal encounter with Rococo Chocolate in the fall of 2006, although I had heard about these organic artisan chocolate bars long before that. Apparently Rococo used to sell their beautiful chocolate at Saks Fifth Avenue here in New York, which is how several of my friends had been able to meet their chocolate needs in the past. But for some inexplicable reason, Rococo terminated their account with Saks by the time I was lusting after their chocolates flavored with such exotic ingredients as sea salt, pink peppercorns and geranium. Nowadays it isn’t so unusual to encounter chocolate infused with herbs and spices or other floral flavors, but this was nearly ten years ago before the esoteric chocolate explosion had hit the States. The London shop wouldn’t export their wares, so short of flying across the pond and descending upon the shop myself, there were years when I had no way to get my hands on this legendary chocolate.

But it is a great thing to make friends with Londoners who frequently make the journey to and from New York, and when my friend Rob was visiting his parents in London three summers ago, I gave him a hundred bucks and asked him to buy as much Rococo chocolate as he could with it. He came through for me big-time, returning with a substantial supply of these elegantly packaged bars, each wrapped in what resembled a tobacco pouch. The first bar I opened was the Caramelized Almond, and what an experience it was!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sensational Smoky Guacamole

Everyone should have a few recipes in their repertoire that they can knock out quickly without much effort. It’s the culinary equivalent of the Little Black Dress that every woman should own: ready to go on a moment’s notice and effortlessly fabulous, no matter what the occasion. My Smoky Guacamole falls into that category. This is a staple in my repertoire of great summer party foods, and I have been making a lot of it recently.

I must be making up for hating avocados as a child. I could just kick myself now, for in growing up in sunny Southern California, our family had many friends with avocado trees in their yards. My parents often reaped the generosity of these friends when their trees were in full bloom, the branches heavily laden with the luxurious dark pear-shaped fruit. Alas, this avocado bounty was unfortunately wasted on me, for my 6-year-old palate was woefully unappreciative.

I was not an especially picky eater as a kid—my dislikes being primarily limited to fish, raw tomatoes, and peanut butter&jelly sandwiches—but I couldn’t negotiate the avocado’s slick buttery texture and its very particular taste. I’ll spare you the gory details of a particularly unfortunate avocado experience I had early on, but suffice it to say, my parents didn’t force the issue after that bad reaction. So I lived my California life completely avocado-free, a fact that now strikes me as criminal. I didn’t think I was missing a thing. But a bacon-and-avocado sandwich changed all of that when I was 18.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Wise Peach

Today is my brother’s birthday, and I would like to dedicate this post to him. It is only fitting that I share a recipe that is a riff on one of Peter’s most exquisite cocktails, a creation that I call The Wise Peach.

I was nearly four when Peter was born, and it was pretty much love at first sight from the moment I saw my baby brother in the hospital nursery. We were constant playmates, being the only two kids in the family, and I always marveled at my little brother’s visual talents, even from the earliest age. Peter’s daily ritual as a three-year-old was to cover the entire kitchen floor with jigsaw puzzles, fitting pieces together with lightning speed and leaving me behind in the dust whenever I joined him. At Christmas the next year, he was given a coloring book with tracing paper in it, a book so compelling that he completely ignored the rest of the gift opening as he worked his way through the book. Shortly after that, he began to tear through reams of tracing paper, copying everything he could get his little hands on. I always thought that must have provided excellent training, for when he finally began to draw free hand, we were all amazed at the prodigious skill he already possessed at such a young age.

Fast-forwarding a number of years, my sunny little brother has grown up into someone of great wisdom and depth, not to mention being a thought-provoking artist. It does my heart no end of good to see him happily creating and being recognized for his talent and his hard work. With several upcoming shows in the works, he is busy painting and drawing this summer, creating his multi-layered architectural landscapes that I love so much.