Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Apricot Sorbet For Kids Of All Ages

I think of apricots as the blushing baby sisters to peaches and nectarines, all of them stone fruits that reach their peak at various points throughout the summer. Peaches become more glorious as summer progresses, growing impossibly succulent by the time August rolls around, and nectarines follow a similar curve. But in the same way that little ones have an earlier bedtime while their older siblings are still out on the town, rosy apricots bow out by late June or early July. Since apricot season is rapidly coming to an end, I am especially happy that I had a chance to make Apricot Sorbet with my Little Chef this week.

I had a movie date to see “Toy Story 3” with my nephew Mac (aka The Little Chef), an event we both had been looking forward to with great anticipation, and we hit Whole Foods together to get snacks before the movie. En route to the chips aisle, I was stopped in my tracks by a lavish display of golden apricots. When I casually mentioned that we could buy some apricots to make sorbet, my suggestion was greeted with a very enthusiastic “YES!!!” from the Little Chef.

So that is why we took two pounds of dewy apricots—as well as two pints of fresh raspberries and a large bag of Pirate’s Booty—to the Ziegfeld Theater in midtown Manhattan on Friday afternoon. In this day and age of cookie cutter multiplexes, it is always a thrill to see a film at the historic Ziegfeld, New York City’s last single-screen movie house with a monster sound system. Mac actually gasped with delight when we walked into this majestic theater with its plush black-and-red velvet décor, out of his mind with excitement that we were seeing this eagerly awaited movie on such a mammoth screen.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Avocado Grapefruit Salad To Win Your Heart

It has been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If there is any truth to that claim, then credit must be given to an Avocado Grapefruit Salad for bringing my parents together once upon a time. Since today is their wedding anniversary, I’m compelled to share this particular recipe with you this afternoon.

My dad was in college when he met my mom. His father was the chairman of the music department at Mankato State University in Minnesota, and it was he who hired my mom to be the new piano teacher on their faculty. Dad, a double major studying music and pre-med at that same university, was away at a summer music festival when Mom came for her interviews, but he remembers a letter from his mother shortly afterward saying, “We hired a new piano teacher. I think you’ll really like her.”

Mom was fresh out of grad school when she landed that job, and I like to imagine the impression she must have made when she first arrived at the university. Incredibly lovely and kind-hearted with an Audrey Hepburn-type grace, she was also a beautiful pianist, and my dad was completely smitten with her right away. Though they didn’t date until later, they did have a lot of built-in time together those first two years of knowing each other. Dad asked her to be the pianist for his cello recitals, just as an excuse to spend more time with her, and his parents often invited her to join them for social gatherings and faculty events. My mom loved their whole family, especially my witty dad who made her laugh a lot.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chocolate-Raspberry Bars To Blow Your Mind

Today is your lucky day for I am about to share one of my all-time favorite recipes with you. These Chocolate-Raspberry Bars are nothing short of divine, and you’ll be grateful to have a trick like this up your culinary sleeve. To give you an idea of the powerful effect this dessert can have, a magician friend of mine was once so blown away by this that he actually divulged the secret to one of his card tricks in exchange for this recipe. Since magicians never reveal their secrets, you have to appreciate the enormity of this.

They are ridiculously easy to make but the pay-off is huge. Chocolate and butter are melted together and blended with raspberry jam. Eggs and sugar are whipped into a billowy cloud, and the tiniest bit of sifted flour and baking powder give more structure to the batter. The chocolate-raspberry goodness is gently folded into the egg mixture before being baked in a square pan for 45 minutes. The final texture is somewhere in between that of a dense flourless chocolate cake and a fudgy brownie, and you could certainly enjoy it straight from the pan without any embellishment. But when the finished cake is covered with a raspberry-laced chocolate glaze and topped with fresh berries, you may be tempted to reveal your deepest secrets to the person who serves this to you.



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Orzo Salad To Make Repeatedly

I have a big honking crush on an Orzo Salad right now. Yes, that’s right, I’ve become smitten with a salad and I can’t get enough of it. It’s a little like falling in love with someone new without enough hours in the day, for you want to spend as much time as possible together while discovering what makes this new person in your life so compelling. At least that’s always been my own experience, but I must confess that I also do this with food to a similar degree.

When I first encounter a new magical combination of ingredients, I often wind up making the same dish repeatedly for days or even weeks on end. For example, I have no shame in admitting that I made Chocolate Toasts every day for MONTHS after my initial encounter with them once upon a time. (If you’ve ever tried this divine combination of toasted baguette slices topped with melted bittersweet chocolate and drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of flaky sea salt, you’d probably have a similar daily compulsion yourself.) Those who know me well might expect me to be particularly obsessive that way when it comes to desserts. But oddly enough, I actually get into more of a tape loop with savory recipes, especially when a great salad is involved.