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Showing posts with label custard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label custard. Show all posts

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Passion Fruit Custard - Easy to Make, Delicious to Eat

Passion fruit are in season.  The small fruit packs a big flavor when added to cocktails, sauces and custards.

When our son lived in Rio, we visited Brazil for ten days. In the time he had spent there going to college, he had become fluent in Portuguese. With him as our guide, we experienced the city the way locals do. We had several meals at his apartment. One of his signature cocktails was a caipirinha made with cachaça, lime, sugar and lots of ice. To a regular caipirinha, Franklin added fresh passion fruit. The cocktail was delicious.
When he came back to Los Angeles, he continued to serve caipirinhas. To make the drink, he would strain out the seeds and add only the juice from the fruit. He would toss the seeds and husks into our compost bin. We used the compost in the vegetable garden and after a few months we had dozens of passion fruit plants growing along the fence. Ever since, we have had passion fruit vines trellised on the fence.
Some years we had a bumper crop of several dozen passion fruit. Other years, like this past summer, the plants produced only a handful. In any case, flavoring the custard takes only two, so we had enough from the garden to make passion fruit custard for dinner last night. And it was delicious.

Passion Fruit Custard
An easy to make custard requiring a minimum of effort. Use quality fresh ingredients, farmers market eggs and good heavy cream. To my knowledge only Trader Joe's sells a heavy cream without additives or preservatives.

The custard tastes the best when it is only 1" deep. Creating a taller custard means the top and bottom will cook but not the middle.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Passion Fruit seeds and pulp soak overnight in custard

Baking time: 45-120 minutes depending on the size of the baking dish
Ingredients

2 extra large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white sugar
2 fresh passion fruit, washed

Method

Cut open the passion fruit. Use a small spoon to remove the seeds and any pulp. Set aside. Discard the husk.

Beat together the eggs and white sugar. Add the cream and passion fruit to the sugar-egg mix. Stir well. Cover in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator over night.

In the morning, pour the custard through a strainer and into a bowl. Remove the passion fruit seeds. Use a rubber spatula to scrape off the custard on the bottom of the strainer and add to the bowl.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Pour the custard into a large 9" round oven-proof baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Prepare a water bath by pouring 1" of water into a baking pan larger than the baking dish by several inches.

Bake for 45 minutes (the ramekins) or 90 minutes (the baking dish). Every 15 minutes rotate the baking dish and ramekins so they cook evenly. If the custard is browning too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top.

The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when moved. Depending on your oven, the baking time could be as much as 2 hours or even longer.

Serve at room temperature.

Friday, March 29, 2013

What to Do With All Those Easter Eggs? Make Egg Salad and Custard


With Easter only a few days away, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.


In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

So the raw eggs wouldn't go to waste, my mom made omelets or used them for baking. Ultimately I stopped making the feather-weight eggs.  They were just too much trouble. When I reverted to using hard boiled eggs, she'd turn those into egg salad.

Egg Salad with Crispy Bacon

The egg salad will taste better if you use the freshest eggs available. We're lucky to live near the Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets where Lily's Eggs sells their eggs. The yolks are bright orange, the whites clear and silky, the flavor naturally sweet.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients

4 eggs, farmers' market fresh
1 tablespoon Italian parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, crisp, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method

In a saucepan cover the eggs with water and gently boil for 30 minutes. That may be longer than you're used to but cooking the eggs at a lower temperature makes the yolks moist and flaky.

Let the eggs cool, then peel and chop them by hand with a chef's knife. Mix together the eggs, parsley, capers, shallot, bacon, and mayonnaise. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with bread, crackers, or hearts of romaine.

The Easiest Custard You'll Ever Make

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 90 minutes


Ingredients

2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Beat together the eggs and 1/2 cup white sugar. Add the cream and (optional) vanilla and stir well.

Pour the custard into a large 8" round oven-proof baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Prepare a water bath by pouring 1" of water into a baking pan larger than the baking dish by several inches.

Bake for 45 minutes (the ramekins) or 90 minutes (the baking dish). Every 15 minutes rotate the baking dish and ramekins so they cook evenly. If the custard is browning too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top.

The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when moved. Depending on your oven, the baking time could be as much as 2 hours or even longer.

Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream, or fresh berries.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup high quality chocolate, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup espresso, reduced to 1 tablespoon

Add both the nuts and chocolate

Add the nuts, chocolate, and reduced espresso


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rise and Shine - Cooking as the Sun Comes Up

There are great pleasures in getting up early and cooking for friends coming for lunch or dinner.
In the summer, getting up as the sun is rising avoids the day's heat. In the winter, I love early morning cooking because the kitchen heats the house with fragrance as baked good come out of the oven and bacon sizzles in the sauté pan.

Before everyone else is awake, the house is quiet. A freshly brewed cup of coffee and NPR's Morning Edition gets me going as I organize my ingredients and pull out the few pots and pans I'll need to make a fun meal.

For a summer brunch, with the weather forecast saying temperatures will top 90 degrees, rising early means the chance to do some light cooking and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the cool of a shaded deck.

Easy-to-make dishes give a big return.
Grilled vegetables, eaten as an appetizer or turned into a simple salad, are light, refreshing and take only a few minutes to prepare.

Or the simplest meal starts with hardboiled eggs cooked in the morning and chilled, then served with remoulade or 1000 island dressing and good cold cuts and cheese.
An omelet takes minutes to make.  Prepared ahead, the fillings can be any combination of sautéed vegetables, meat, fish or poultry with whatever cheese you enjoy.
Gnocchi prepared in the morning, come together with farmers market fresh vegetables or thin slices of prosciutto, dusted with parsley.
A simple baked custard flavored with fresh or cooked fruit, topped with caramelized nuts, served with fresh fruit from the farmers market is the perfect dessert.
Biscuits for strawberry shortcake, baked as the sun is coming up, appear in the afternoon, cut in half and topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
In fall and winter, bacon sautéed chicken with vegetables is perfect to drive away the cold or pork belly roasted with Vietnamese style vegetables and cooked overnight in a 225 F degree oven. The tender, ginger flavored meat adds spice to a simple tossed pasta.
Cooking early in the morning frees the rest of the day to relax, go for a walk and read the Sunday newspaper. Then when it's time to eat, the food is ready and you are a guest at your own table.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer's Perfect Dessert: Vanilla Rice Custard with Raisins

Because our house and backyard are shaded by three large trees, we make it through summer's hottest days without air conditioning. It helps that a cooling ocean breeze comes our way in the afternoon.

Eating outside on the deck is a great way to beat the heat. Easy-to-make dishes, relying heavily on salads and grilled vegetables, fish and meat are the way to go. No need to suffer inside in front of the stove when there's a barbecue outside.

Shopping at our local farmers markets--Pacific Palisades on Sundays and Santa Monica on Wednesdays--keeps us happy, with freshly picked fruits and vegetables.
Carrots full of sweetness and crunch, cherry tomatoes that dive bomb your mouth with sweet-acidic juice, flat and spicy leaves of arugula tossed in salads dressed simply with a reduced balsamic vinaigrette dressing, split lobsters on the grill topped with caramelized onions, bread crumbs and butter, Italian sausages poked with a fork to release the steaming juices as they grill on the barbecue....
Sooner or later, the meal comes to an end but before that happens, a closer needs to make an appearance.

Dessert.

The simpler the better, in my mind. Summer is no time for heavy confections. Perfectly ripe grapes or peaches and nectarines bursting with flavor. Figs so sweet you imagine wasps can sense their sweetness from miles around. Grilled fruit. Ice cold melons. Simple sorbets.

For a dinner last week, I prepared an easy-to-make vanilla custard with raisins. For variety I used both regular and golden raisins with a few dried cranberries thrown in.
Serve the custard at room temperature or slightly warmed (250 degrees for 10 minutes).

For a festive addition, try serving the custard with a variety of toppings: bowls of heavy cream, ice cream, whipped cream (there's a theme here) and fresh berries--whichever ones are ripe and sweet--blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.

Vanilla Rice Custard with Raisins

Yield: 6

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes

Ingredients

2 eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons raisins
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons raw whole almonds

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the almonds on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove, let cool and roughly chop. Set aside.

Beat together the eggs and sugar until well-blended. Add the raisins, cream and vanilla. Let the raisins soak in the custard for an hour or overnight.

Use any kind of rice you like. Add the rice and chopped almonds to the custard-raisin mixture. Pour into an oven proof bowl.

I like to use a shallow baking dish so there is more of the delicious crust that forms around the edge of the dish.  The shallower baking dish, the shorter the cooking time. And, conversely, the deeper the baking dish, the longer the cooking time.

Create a water bath by putting 1" of water into a baking dish 4" larger than the baking dish you are using the for the custard. Put the baking dish into the water bath and into the oven.

Cook until the custard sets or doesn't jiggle if the baking dish is shaken.

Rotate every 30 minutes for even cooking. If the top of the custard is getting too brown before setting, gently lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top.

Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or fresh fruit.

Variations

Instead of one kind of raisin, use golden as well as dark raisins.

Instead of all raisins, use dried cranberries or any other dried fruit, roughly chopped.

Instead of almonds, use whatever roasted nuts you prefer.

Add a touch of cayenne powder for a hint of heat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Easy-to-Make Custards, Perfect for the Holidays

When the weather turns cold and my family needs a good dose of comfort food, I turn to a reliable, easy-to-make desserts, a custard with sautéed apples and golden raisins and one with crystalized ginger.

I posted the recipes on Zesterdaily.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day

Since my wife has sworn off sugar, my Valentine's day options are limited. I used to bake her one of her favorite desserts--a chocolate banana walnut cake, bread pudding with chocolate and almonds, apple pie with crystallized ginger crust, or a raspberry custard--but not now.

Last year, the first year of Michelle's new regimen, I didn't know what to do so I ironed all her blouses. She liked that.

This year we decided our Valentine's Day treat would be a meal at our favorite restaurant. Last week we went to a tasting at the Il Fornaio (1551 Ocean Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401; 310/451-7800) opposite the Santa Monica pier. This month's Regionale features the exceptional cuisine of Lazio, which includes Rome.

We enjoyed the meal so much, we're going back for Valentine's Day, the last day of the Regionale.

Romans must love pork, because cured pork was a featured ingredient in a soup, two pastas, and an entree. Guanciale (pork cheek) enhanced the flavors of the Cannellini Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagiolicon le Cotiche) and gave depth to the Spaghetti in SpicyTomato Sauce (Bucatini all'Amatriciana).

Pancetta in the Spinach Cannelloni (Cannelloni alla Crema) contributed a salty heartiness to the chicken and veal stuffing. In the Sauteed Veal (Saltimbocca alla Romana), prosciutto combined perfectly with the sage and wine reduction to compliment the thin slices of veal.

But Romans apparently do not live by meat alone. The vegetarian and seafood dishes were particularly satisfying, especially one dish, the Grilled Hearts of Romaine(Lattuga Romana alla Griglia). Once in a while we encounter a dish that surprises, even though the ingredients are totally familiar. That was definitely the case with the grilled romaine. Served warm and topped with Il Fornaio's creamy house dressing and a thin slice of softened pecorino pepato (whole peppercorns are imbeded in the cheese), the lightly caramelized romaine had more similarities to fennel than it did to the overly familiar lettuce we have in salads.

The Whole Wheat Ravioli (Mezzelune Integrali) was also unexpectedly good. Too many times we've tried to eat healthily and ordered a whole wheat pasta only to be disappointed with textures and flavors that resembled cardboard. Not so the ravioli filled with greens (Swiss chard and Spinach) and cheeses (ricotta and pecorino) and topped with mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.

Even though Michelle wouldn't have dessert, she indulged me and watched as I ate the Kahlua and Coffee Mouse (Crema al Caffe' e Sambuca). The dessert was presented with extra long spoons which struck me as an affectation, at least until I started eating and discovered that buried in the delicious mouse were precious treats. Cubes of sambuca-soaked sponge cake and coffee beans coated in dark chocolate were lying in wait to be discovered by the deep-diving, adventurous spoon-wielding-diner.

With so many wonderful dishes and several we wanted to try like the Roasted Salmon with Asparagus, Artichokes, and Capers (Salmone Ostia Antica) and the Risotto with Prawns and Monkfish (Risotto Antico Impero), we decided the best way to celebrate our love for each other was to come back to Il Fornaio and do it all again.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bread Custard with Raisins and Dried Cranberries

Don't waste food. That's what my grandmother always told me. I took that simple idea to heart.

When we go out to eat, I bring home what we don't eat. Especially the bread. Why let good bread get thrown away? And if you're in the grocery store, and you see a loaf of marked-down white bread, buy it and you'll be able to make a dessert that's as easy-to-make as it is elegant looking and delicious.

Bread Custard with Raisins and Dried Cranberries

Unlike traditional bread puddings, this dessert is designed to come out of the pan.

Yield 4-6 servings

Time 30 minutes preparation, 60 minutes baking

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup + 1 teaspoon sugar
6 slices white bread
1 tablespoon dark raisins
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon whole raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon sweet butter, melted

Method

Soak the raisins and cranberries in the cream for an hour or overnight.

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Toast the bread in the oven for 4-5 minutes on each side until lightly toasted. Set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon of sugar in a nonstick skillet over a low flame. Add the chopped almonds. Stir frequently until sugar begins to melt. After the almonds have been coated with the melted sugar, remove from the pan and chop on a cutting board.

Make the custard-base by using a fork to beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the cream with the raisins and dried cranberries. Stir well.

Put water into a small bowl. Taking 2-3 slices of toasted bread at a time, dip the bread in the water for a few seconds. Carefully squeeze out the water and tear the bread into pieces and drop into the custard. Mix well.

Instead of using a standard baking pan, use a 9" round take-out container. Why? Because the thin, aluminum-sided take-out container is flexible and that makes removing the bread custard easy.

Paint the inside of the take-out container with melted butter. Pour in the custard-bread mixture. Put into a water bath (1" of water in a pan larger than the take-out container).

Bake for 30 minutes, remove from the oven. Sprinkle the caramelized chopped almonds on top of the custard. Loosely lay a piece of aluminum foil over the custard to prevent the top from burning before the custard is set

Return to the oven for another 15 - 30 minutes. The custard is done when you touch the top and it only slightly jiggles (shouldn't be "wet"). Then remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

When cooled, the custard will shrink slightly allowing for easy removal from the pan. Place one hand on top, flip it over, and carefully remove the cake from the pan. Place a plate on the bottom and flip it over.

Serve warm dusted with powdered sugar or topped with whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Light and Cool Summer Dessert: Raspberry Custard

My favorite cold weather desserts need to be sweet and full of flavor. When it's cold and rainy outside, nothing is better than a slice of flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a bowl of hot apple cobbler and a spoonful of heavy cream. Rich and sweet or hot and sweet, yumm.

In summer, heaviness is out of place. My preferred dessert is beautifully ripe fruit from our local farmers' market: a bowl of ripe berries, a slice of ice cold watermelon or cantaloupe, a ripe pluot, peach, or nectarine.

When I want a more elaborate dessert, I supplement fresh fruit with custard.

Custard is easy to make, requiring only grade-school math: 2 (eggs) + 1 (cup cream) + 1/2 (cup sugar). Poured in a buttered pan, baked in a water bath. In and out of a 350 degree oven in an hour. Simple, easy, and delicious.

Then I had a thought.

Why not separate the eggs and get a souffle-effect by beating the whites? With a bit of experimentation, I discovered the souffle needed more support, so I adjusted the proportions by adding a third egg. To lighten the flavor and lower the calories, instead of using all cream, I split the difference with a 50-50 mixture of cream and plain yogurt. If you can find Greek yogurt, all the better, for its sour-edge.

Just for the record, I tried using all yogurt and it wasn't creamy enough for my taste.

Cream and Yogurt Custard with Fresh Raspberries

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 15 minutes to prepare, 75 minutes to bake

Ingredients

3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel, finely chopped
1 basket raspberries, washed, dried
1 teaspoon sweet butter, melted

Method

With the melted butter, paint an 8" or 9" ovenproof bowl to prevent sticking. Put the whites into a mixer with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Beat until the whites peak, 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

Beat together the yolks and the remaining sugar until well-blended. Add the vanilla, yogurt, cream, and lemon peel. Mix well. Carefully fold in the whites, then the fresh raspberries.

Pour into the ovenproof bowl, place into a water bath with 2" of water, put in a preheated 350 degree oven.

After 30 minutes, rotate the bowl for even cooking and place an aluminum foil tent over the top to prevent burning. Be sure that the "tent" peaks above the surface of the bowl, otherwise as the souffle top rises, it will stick to the foil.

You'll know the custard is set when rotating the bowl, the custard moves only a little bit. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For lunch, serve cold from the refrigerator. For dinner, it is better at room temperature. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

Variations

Instead of raspberries, use any berry.

Top with whipped cream instead of powdered sugar.

Top with a caramelized nut: chopped walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rosemary Fried Chicken

What a beautiful day! Perfect for taking a walk at the beach, shopping at our local farmers' market, cooking, and eating outside.

We've cleaned off the deck. Arranged tables outside for lunch. Prepared a carrot salad and a couscous with grilled vegetables, made kosher pickles and a pasta with braised beef and watercress, soaked chicken and onion rings in buttermilk for fried chicken, and baked a custard with chocolate.

Today will be a good day.

For me the fried chicken with onion rings is the centerpiece of the meal. I have strong childhood memories of my mom making fried chicken when we went to Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica. Nothing Colonel Sanders ever made came close.

Rosemary Fried Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes to prepare, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, washed, cut apart, wing tips and bones reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil

Method

When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.

In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop it into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't don't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What to Do With All Those Easter Eggs? Make Egg Salad and Custard

With Easter only a few days away, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.

In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

So the raw eggs wouldn't go to waste, my mom made omelets or used them for baking. Ultimately I stopped making the feather-weight eggs. They were just too much trouble. When I reverted to using hard boiled eggs, she'd turn those into egg salad.

Egg Salad with Crispy Bacon

The egg salad will taste better if you use the freshest eggs available. We're lucky to live near the Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets where Lily's Eggs sells their eggs. The yolks are bright orange, the whites clear and silky, the flavor naturally sweet.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes.

Ingredients

4 eggs, farmers' market fresh
1 tablespoon Italian parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, crisp, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil

Method

In a saucepan cover the eggs with water and gently boil for 30 minutes. That may be longer than you're used to but cooking the eggs at a lower temperature makes the yolks moist and flaky.

Let the eggs cool, then peel and chop them by hand with a chef's knife. Mix together the eggs, parsley, capers, shallot, bacon, and mayonnaise. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with bread, crackers, or hearts of romaine.

The Easiest Custard You'll Ever Make

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 teaspoon sweet butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the eggs and 1/2 cup white sugar. Add the cream and (optional) vanilla and stir well.

Butter a large 8" round oven-proof baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Pour in the custard. Prepare a water bath by pouring 1" of water to a large roasting pan.

Put the custard into the water bath and bake for 45 minutes (the ramekins) or 75 minutes (the baking dish). Every 15 minutes rotate the baking dish and ramekins so they cook evenly. If the custard is browning too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top.

The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when moved.

Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream, or fresh berries.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup high quality chocolate, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup espresso, reduced to 1 tablespoon

Add both the nuts and chocolate

Add the nuts, chocolate, and reduced espresso

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Custard Easier to Make Than Creme Brulee

One of the delights of living in the Pacific Palisades is being able to take daily walks along the beach. The walks are great for exercise but also to enjoy the way the beach, ocean, and sky look in the early morning. I have to admit that I would never have discovered the pleasures of walking on the beach had it not been for my wife. For Michelle taking a walk is as necessary as breathing. I think she learned the benefits of walking from her mom, Helen. Whenever we visit her parents in New Jersey, she and her mom head to the boardwalk to take a long walk. This is their way of catching up and clearing their minds before the day begins.

This morning we walked with our friends Janet, Kelly, and Annette. We hadn't seen Kelly for a month because she and her family had been in Europe. She told us that one of the high points of the trip was a crème brûlée she'd eaten in Paris. That dessert was so delicious she couldn't stop thinking about its perfect crust and flavorful custard.

The walk was a short one because we had early meetings but there was enough time to catch up about kids going off to college in the fall (UC Davis and Cooper's Union) and trips everyone had taken (Japan, Europe, and Sundance). Before we left the beach to head back to our cars, Kelly wanted me to tell her how to make crème brûlée.

I told her that, personally I thought that a traditional crème brûlée takes too much work and uses too many egg yolks. If she wanted a good recipe she could find one by googling it. I offered her my custard recipe that is easier to make and less artery-clogging.

Custard with Baked Plums

Any stone fruit--peaches, nectarines, cherries, apricots--will work as well as plums. Cherries would be pitted and halved. Peaches and nectarines cut into eighths.

Yield 4-6 servings
Time 90 minutes

Ingredients

2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
4 ripe plums (washed, pitted, quartered)
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon sweet butter

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the plum quarters on a Silpat sheet or piece of tin foil on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar, then bake 30 minutes. Remove and let cool. Spatula up any liquid that accumulated on the Silpat and reserve to drizzle over the finished custard.

Beat together the eggs and 1/2 cup white sugar. Add the cream and (optional) vanilla and stir well. Butter a large 8" round oven-proof baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Pour in the custard and put in the baked plum quarters. Add 1" of water to a large roasting pan. Put the custard into the water bath and bake for 30-60 minutes. Every 15 minutes rotate the baking dish and ramekins so they cook evenly. If the custard is browning too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when lightly shaken.

Remove to cool on a wire rack. Drizzle with plum liquid. Refrigerate until just before serving. To make the sugar crust, dust with the tablespoon of white sugar, then heat with a kitchen torch until lightly browned. Serve immediately.