Got Peaches? Try this “Bellini” Sorbet Recipe from Zazu

Ripe peaches and Moscato sparkling wine make a deliciously fresh and light Bellini summer sorbet.

A couple summers ago dining with friends at Zazu in Santa Rosa, I spotted this recipe on the wall. I snapped a picture of it, so I could try it during peach season.

Duskie Estes and John Stewart, the chefs of Italian inspired Zazu, are known for their way with pork and Black pig bacon. But they also make crazy-good wood-fired pizzas, seasonal pastas and desserts.

Technically, a Bellini is made with white peaches and prosecco, the light and fresh tasting dry sparkling wine from the Veneto. (Click to read more about prosecco on The Bubbly Girl.com.) This recipe features Moscato d’Asti, another popular Italian sparkling wine that’s sweeter and less bubbly.

Since Moscato naturally and has flavors and aromas of peaches and apricots, I’m guessing that’s why the Duskie and John chose it for this sorbet. They suggest their favorite Bonny Doon Moscato del Solo, but it can be made with any good quality Moscato.

I spotted this Bellini Sorbet recipe on the wall at Zazu Restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Zazu Bellini Sorbet

1-1/4 pounds ripe white peaches
1/2 cup sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup Moscato d’Asti

Peel the peaches with a small knife. Combine the peaches, sugar and lemon juice in a food processor bowl. Process until you have a smooth purée. Stir in the Moscato. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions or freeze in a shallow pan and fluff up every hour or so using the granita method.

Recipe courtesy John Stewart and Duskie Estes of Zazu Restaurant.

 

 

The Five Best Things I Ate at Pebble Beach Food & Wine

My second visit to Pebble Beach Food & Wine last weekend was amazing; I think it’s now my favorite food and wine festival. I love the fact that it attracts great chefs from all over the country along with some of the best wines in the world. And since it’s in California, it feels a lot more relaxed than Aspen.

During the Grand Tasting, guests have three hours to eat and drink their way through two large tents. The trick is to figure out which chefs are doing the best morsels, and get there early, before the line gets too crazy. Here are the best things we ate:

Michael Cimarusti set striped bass cheeks aside and shared them with guests he liked.

1. Michael Cimarusti’s Striped Bass Cheeks

Cimarusti is a master at seafood of all sorts. A trip to his LA restaurant Providence is well worth it, both for the creative and technically perfect two-star Michelin food and the surprisingly stylish decor. I loved the ethereal ceramic circles that sprouted from the walls like sea anemones. His main dish was a perfectly tender – (perhaps sous vide) striped bass tenderlon paired with pickled enoki mushrooms, carrots and miso mayo. But the fun part was the “Cheek Bar” around the side, where Cimarusti handed out the succulent bass cheeks to guests he liked including Roy Yamaguchi and yours truly.

Douglas Rodriguez' Sweet Corn Arepa was topped with a runny egg and chicken hash.

 

2. Douglas Rodriguez’ Sweet Corn Arepa with Soft Egg and Chicken Hash

To me, Cuban-American Chef Douglas Rodriguez will always be the king of Nuevo Latino style food; that mix of Latin American flavors and tropical ingredients. I love, love, love everything in his book Nuevo Latino, it’s the Bible for cooking creative Latin food people will be craving years later. So we got sucked into standing in a long line for his dish, but fortunately it moved quickly. The arepa was sweetly corny and satisfying; the egg added richness while the chicken hash spiced things up. We chatted with the chef and I asked him if he ever took my advice and opened a restaurant on the West Coast. Dougie, I’m sorry but Scottsdale is NOT the West Coast.

f fried bread
Nancy & Matt of Mozza in LA served an out-of-this world burrata caprese with a side of fried bread.

3. Nancy Silverton’s Deconstructed Caprese

Team Mozza seemed to have had a rough night; the crew including Matt Molina wore baseball caps with the brims pulled down low; Silverton had on these massive round sunglasses à la Iris Apfel. Platters of lightly roasted cherry tomatoes and mounds of golden bread cubes filled the back work table. Matt scooped out the creamy burrata, another cook added bright pesto and a tomato to each plate. Then Nancy crowned it with the bread and a sprig of basil. Actually, I think the chef should have called this a deconstructed panzanella, since the piece of bread fried in olive oil was what made this dish. Whatevs, it was the most stunning bite of the day. I’ve since become obsessed with homemade pesto – I’ll post my version soon.

Richard Reddington's warm and fragrant arancini rested atop a lamb Bolognese sauce.

4. Richard Reddington’s Arancini with Lamb Sugo

Richard Reddington – the other amazing chef in putting Yountville on the culinary  map thanks to his consistently well-executed and striking seasonal cuisine at Redd.  That’s why it’s my favorite place to eat. He’s been been in an Italian state of mind ever since opening Redd-Wood which serves up handmade pastas, upscale wood-fired pizzas, and Italian-esque meaty dishes a couple months ago. If you haven’t been, the cocktails featuring Italian amari and spirits are first-rate and so is the service, led by Nick Dedier, formerly of Ad Hoc. This crunchy outside, creamy saffron rice inside arancini in a nuanced lamb sugo is one of the apps from the Redd-Wood menu. It’s also the kind of thing that makes you want a whole plate of Bolognese.

 

Imagine eating a hot, cinnamony buñuelo stuffed with rice pudding - that's what Dahlia Narvaez did.

5. Dahlia Narvaez’ Rice Pudding Turnovers with Banana Ice Cream

Not only did Team Mozza create the most delicious savory bite of the day, they also served up the most creative and memorable dessert. Mozza’s Executive Pastry Chef is Dahlia Narvaez, and when my friend Jen – the super-talented designer and artist of Gonzalez Grafica – spotted her name, she rushed over. I’m so glad she did, as I loved the way Narvaez did a mash-up of two favorite Latin desserts: rice pudding and buñuelos. The result was a warm crunchy turnover dusted in cinnamon and sugar with creamy rice pudding inside. A scoop of banana ice cream was added for good measure.

 

Savory Blackberry Cheese Tarts: Holiday Cooking with Driscoll’s Berries

I love blackberries, and I usually think about them as a summer flavor. But since they’re available year-round,  low-calorie, high nutrition snack I make an exception to the eating with the seasons rule. Earlier this week, Rick Rodgers, (with a D) – the entertaining guru, chef and author of a bazillion books – showed us how blackberries can sweeten up winter cooking in an event hosted by Driscoll’s Berries.

We visited the Hands On Gourmet kitchen, a unique space for parties and culinary corporate team-building in Dogpatch. (It’s around the corner from a cleverly named bar called Retox.) The kitchen had a large demo kitchen set up, beautiful displays of food and drinks and space for everyone to sit at belly tables with tall Chivari chairs. And the staff were very polished and friendly, especially my pal Fausto.

The guests included a bunch of heavyweights in the blogging world like Cooking With Amy, Eat the Love, Punk Domestics and a fun new pastry chef turned San Francisco baking examiner Angela Rosoff.

In between Rodgers, noted food photographer Caren Alpert talked about ways to take better food shots. I liked her tips about having different background to use in soft focus, using a white sheet or even paper to bounce more light onto the plate and styling your hero plate last.

Driscoll’s also used the event to announce their “Celebrate the Sweeter Moments Contest.” Tell them how berries made an occasion sweeter and you could win a Viking Cookware set valued at $1,350. The contest ends December 15; for more information or to enter, visit Driscoll’s.

Everything was delicious, from the Blackberry Cobbler cocktail with gin, lemon and a splash of bubbly to the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin in blackberry sauce with sweet potato purée.

But since I love party food and things that come in small packages, my favorite was Rick’s Savory Cheese Tartlets topped with blackberries and thyme. I adored the cream-cheese crust which was utterly rich but had an airy quality, too. And something about adding the dab of honey on top made it remind me of Greek pastries I enjoyed growing up in Chicago.

Savory Cheese Tartlets with Honey-Thyme Berries

Servings: Makes 24 tartlets, 8 to 12 servings

Number of Ingredients: 10

Cream Cheese Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature,
plus more for the pans, if needed

3 ounces cream cheese, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature

Filling

5 ounces rindless goat cheese, at room temperature

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. honey, preferably full-flavored, such as chestnut or thyme, warmed

About 1 cup mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries)

Fresh thyme leaves, removed from their stems, for garnish

1. To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse about 10 times, until the mixture begins to clump together. Gather up the dough and shape into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and easy to handle, about 2 hours.

2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Have ready two 12-cup miniature muffin pans (each cup measuring 1 7/8 inches across the top and 7/8 inches deep), preferably nonstick. If the pans are not nonstick, lightly butter them.

3. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. One at a time, place a piece of dough in a muffin cup, and use your fingers to press it firmly and evenly up the sides to make a pastry shell. (A wooden tart tamper can help the job go quickly.) Freeze for 5 minutes.

4. To make the filling, mash the goat cheese and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the egg, yolk, minced thyme, salt, and pepper and whisk until combined. Spoon equal amounts of the filling into the chilled pastry shells.

5. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove the tartlets from the pans and transfer to a wire cake rack to cool completely. (If you wish, warm the tartlets in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minutes before serving.)

6. Just before serving, lightly brush the tops of the tartlets with about half of the honey. Arrange the berries on top as desired. Drizzle with the remaining honey. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and serve.

Lemon Curd – Simple and Delicious

Homemade Meyer lemon curd makes a delicious topping for a toasted scone.

With Easter upon us, it’s natural to think about eggs. Some people may like their eggs scrambled, poached or fried, but I love my eggs whipped into a delicious lemon curd.

Lemon curd – in case you’ve never tried it – is like a light and gooey lemony jam or a simple homey custard that’s flavored with lemon. In England it’s traditionally eaten on scones, but I love it on strawberries and raspberries, on toast, folded into whipped cream to make a topping for shortcake or on a spoon.

Jarred lemon curd is pretty awful stuff; the light and sheer quality of a good lemon curd can’t be captured in a jar. Fortunately, it’s so easy to make lemon curd any time you have the taste for it.

A couple years ago when I had some extra time on my hands, I decided to compare the lemon curd recipes from a couple great pastry cooks: French chef Jacques Torres of Mr. Chocolate and British culinary bombshell Nigella Lawson.

I’ve met both, and it turned out their recipes matched their personalities.Torres, who earned fame for his complex creations at Le Cirque in New York, created a recipe that was careful and detailed in his book “Dessert Circus at Home”.

Nigella’s lime curd recipe in “How to Be A Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking” was breezy and quickly thrown together, the kind of citrus curd a busy mom and writer would whip up.

My ideal lemon curd recipe is a hybrid of the two: taking Nigella’s lime curd recipe and adding the step of passing the finished curd through a strainer, to make it a little more silky, like Jacques’.

Meyer Lemon Curd
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (of approximately 4 lemons)
zest of 1 lemon
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan, add all the other ingredients and whisk to a custard over a gentle heat. Let cool slightly before passing the curd through a wire-mesh strainer over a bowl. Spoon the curd into storage container and keep in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Adapted from “How to Be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson

The Sushification of America & The Best Sauce in the World, According to Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl - the former Gourmet editor - here with Masaharu Morimoto - spoke to the ways Japan has influenced American cuisine. Photo Courtesy NY Daily News

First thing Saturday morning, I drove up to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone to catch the last day of the Worlds of Flavor Japan Conference. Ruth Reichl was just one of the bold letter names in food in St. Helena Nov. 4 -6. The foodie glitterati also included Thomas Keller of The French Laundry, David Chang of Momofuku, Doug Keane of Cyrus, Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef and newish Morimoto Napa and three of the seven Michelin three-star chefs in Kyoto.

Saturday afternoon, Reichl took the stage to reflect on the ways Japanese flavors have influenced American cuisine. She says that for years, Americans pretty much had no concept of what real Japanese food was about – the devotion to seasonal ingredients and achieving an exquisite balance of flavors and textures.

A rare and accurate early account of a trip to a Japanese restaurant was written in 1914 by Clarence Edgar Edwords in his book called Bohemian San Francisco. He describes eating raw fish and enjoying it and even mastering the use of chopsticks.

Up until the 70s, much of the food writing about Japanese cuisine focused on sukiyaki, a winter dish of beef, vegetables and noodles. And Reichl herself caught hell in 1983 for doing her first New York Times food review on a soba noodle place – and giving it three stars. “Never mind that it was an excellent soba noodle parlor,” Reichl added sotto voce.

While other ethnic cuisines took hold because of immigration, that didn’t happen with Japanese foods. Part of the problem is that there wasn’t a good supply of fresh fish needed to make Japanese cuisine in the U.S. But Reichl says things started to change after the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 that made it profitable for fishermen to invest in boats that could freeze fish at sea and deliver sushi-grade seafood to market. (It also set up many fish populations for over-fishing.)

Sushi restaurants started to open on the West Coast and high-end restaurants of all types started serving raw fish carpaccio, crudo and tartare. Now sushi is found in any supermarket. Reichl thinks the generation who grew up on grab-and-go industrial sushi is now creating the nation’s street food culture. “The sushification of America is now complete,” Reichl said.

We’ve started to get our heads – and mouths – around concepts like umami. But the next frontier in food is texture – and the Japanese know there’s more to it than crunchy. Reichl mused that maybe one day Americans will develop an appreciation for slippery – the texture one finds in natto, okra and yamaimo – the misunderstood mountain potato.

This simple combination of soy butter and lime is a great sauce for seafood or poultry and can be dressed up by adding ginger, garlic or even chipotle chile.

During an interview Reichl did with some years ago with David Bouley, Eric Ripert and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, they all revealed that visiting Japan had the most profound influence on the way they cooked. They gained a greater appreciation for presenting seasonal fare from kaiseki ryori. But they all realized too how sublime simple combinations can be. J-G dubbed soy, butter and lime to be the best sauce in the world and the other chefs agreed.

Here’s how to make it at home: for every tablespoon of butter, mix in 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce over a low-medium flame. When the butter is melted, whisk in one teaspoon of fresh lime juice. The sauce will be a gorgeous caramel color and tastes delicious over seafood or poultry. Once you have the ratio down, it can easily be varied by adding small amounts of fresh ginger root, minced garlic or even chipotle chiles.

Harold McGee, Keys to Good Cooking and Kokumi

Hal McGee spoke on the taste map, kokumi and the futility of searing to seal in a steak's juices at Omnivore Books last night.

You may know Harold McGee as the father of modern food science, or maybe as the Curious Cook in New York Times columns on how to make better bread with less kneading or why some of us detest cilantro. As a food writer, I admire him for those things too.

But we share this weird Gilligan’s Island-like bond, since we were marooned along with a group of foodies at the American Chemical Society estate in Baltimore on Sept. 11, 2001.

So when I saw that McGee would be talking about his new book Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Food & Recipes at Omnivore Books in San Francisco’s Noe Valley, I decided to drop by.

He told a packed room he set out to be an astronomer and ended up as a gastronomer after getting to cherry- pick the science classes he wanted at Caltech. His first tome On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen is a fascinating exploration of the ways chemistry explains why foods rise and brown – or not – in the kitchen. The new book is organized to be a cooks companion in case you’re trying to figure out how to make a meringue behave.

McGee, who lives near the bookstore, shared that his favorite cookbooks include The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers and Chez Panisse Cooking by Paul Bertolli.

The best part of the night was the question and answer session. Now that you’ve gotten your head around the Japanese concept of savoriness called umami found in dashi broth, Parmigiano-Reggiano and tomatoes, get ready for its cousin kokumi. The latter is a sort of delicious sensation of mouth-fillingness. McGee says both seem to be related to the breakdown of proteins.

The Keys to Good Cooking is the ultimate, scientific how-to book for anyone who wants to make sure dishes come out right.

The tongue map you think you know is wrong. We can taste sweet, salty, sour and bitter any place we have taste buds, but there are certain tastes that are more intense on some parts of the tongue.

Think searing a steak or cooking meat in a wet preparation will keep it more moist? Sorry, those are kitchen myths not based in science. Want to know how to ensure a juicy steak, whip up fluffy eggs and moist muffins? For that you have to buy the book.