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.

 

 

Pretty Green Brussels Sprout Slaw for #LetsLunch

Brussels sprouts are delicious raw, when thinly shaved and mixed with lemon, toasted walnuts and pecorino romano in this wintry slaw.

Summer won’t be here for months according to the calendar, but that doesn’t mean we have to wait until July to break out our cole slaw recipes. Cabbage is the perfect vegetable to bridge the winter-to-spring divide with its crisp texture and earthy, slightly sweet flavor.

Since heavy, creamy cole slaw doesn’t appeal to me most of the time, I was thrilled to discover some healthier and tangier slaws that hold the mayo. I developed a slew of healthy ethnic slaws for Relish Magazine, but one of my favorites is this one made with pale green baby Brussels sprouts.

Cabbage and the other cruciferous vegetables all share a subtle sweetness and can star in a range of creative salads and slaws. Cabbage is delicious raw and adds a crunchy component to any meal. Treat it like you would any lettuce: chop up the cabbage of your choice, drizzle it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, cilantro and minced garlic if you dare to make a fresh and light slaw.

This slaw makes a great side dish or even a main meal with the addition of some grilled chicken, fish or shrimp.

Look for: With red or green cabbage, choose one that feels solid with smooth, well-formed leaves. Napa cabbage should look fresh and green. Brussels sprouts should be small with tight heads that are free of yellow leaves.

The facts: Just one cup of cabbage has just 17 calories and is loaded with good stuff including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

Bonus Points: The entire cabbage family is powerful cancer fighters; it contains 11 of the 15 plant chemicals know to fight cancer, according to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Who knew these beautiful, pale green and gold rosettes were hiding inside Brussels sprouts?

Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino and Walnuts
This simple Brussels sprout salad is based on a recipe created by Jonathan Waxman; a similar dish is a popular item on the menu at Gottino in New York City. Leaving the Brussels sprouts raw allows their natural sweetness to emerge.

1-1/2 lbs small Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and crushed
3 Tbs. large grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste

Using a mandoline or adjustable blade slicer, slice the Brussels sprouts into thin disks. Toss lightly to separate the layers. Add the walnuts and Pecorino Romano cheese.

Whisk olive oil and lemon juice together and drizzle over the Brussels sprout mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 cups

Adapted from Jonathan Waxman, author of A Great American Cook, Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

Happiness is…Breakfast Udon Noodles

It's easy to turn leftover udon or ramen into Breakfast Noodles.

I tend to eat things in phases. One week, I’m totally into salty foods like potato chips or popcorn. The next week it might be dark and sweet French hot chocolate or salted caramel ice cream.

This week, probably because I’ve been super busy, I’ve gotten into building meals around poached eggs. Eggs are such a lovely and complete food, a quick way to get protein and get on with the day.

And I think eggs are just beautiful, especially if you can get ones from a farmer’s market or a friend who has chickens. The yolks on those are such a fantastic shade of marigold orange, like the label on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. But even grocery store eggs are pretty, with their cheerful yellow yolks surrounded by soft, chalk-colored whites.

To make my Breakfast Udon NoodlesI started with a reheated bowl of leftover plain udon and broth from Geta, my super-cute neighborhood Japanese restaurant. I ate half of them last night and of course when all the toppings were gone, I sort of lost interest.

My favorite Japanese noodles are topped with pork belly a la Momofuku or Daikokuya Ramen in LA. Since I didn’t have a slab of that lying around, I cut up a piece of thick-cut bacon and tried to cook it slowly, so it stayed tender.

Poach an egg by adding 1 inch of water to a shallow pot or frying pan with a light bottom. Turn it on high, and once it starts to simmer, but not quite boil, add a splash of vinegar. This keeps the egg yolk from spreading all over. Now carefully drop in the egg. It will start turning white as it cooks from the edges to the middle. Spoon a little water over the top of the egg, and use the spoon to move the egg around a bit, so it releases from the pan. When most of the white is set, it’s done.

I topped my noodles with the bacon and poached egg, along with some chopped green onions and a few shakes of shichimi togarashi, a Japanese seven-spice powder.

It’s brothy, spicy, bacon & eggy and easy: I’m happy.

Smoked Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée for #LetsLunch


Food is tied up in so many metaphors, but probably the most evocative of all are about sugar. The taste of sweetness is something all babies crave. And no matter how old we get, we never lose our fondness for sugar. Our sweet tooth just starts to crave different forms of satisfaction.

The first song about sweetness and love I remember was “Sugar, Sugar” (1969) by the Archies. It has a delightful bubblegum pop quality; what’s not to like about lines like “You are my candy girl and you got me wanting you.”

I was just 5 when the Rolling Stones first asked “Brown sugar, how come you taste so good?” in their classic song from the Sticky Fingers album. As soon as I was old enough to tune my boom box to rock music on WLS, I knew Brown Sugar was naughty, what with the slave owner taking advantage of the women he owned and the double entendre equating brown sugar with Black women and taste with, uh, tasty things. This was the kind of song my parents would not want me listening to, which of course made it more appealing.

The 1987 rock anthem “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard left me indifferent. The lead singer sounds like he wants to make noise more than love. Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Lips Like Sugar” from the same year is reserved and sad, a song more about longing and a passing encounter with a woman who floats like a swan across the water. If you caught her, she’d have “lips like sugar… sugar kisses.”

R & B artist D’Angelo tells the story of a girl from Philly named Brown Sugar in his 1995 song of the same name. The sexy hook is the best part: “I want some of your Brown Sugar, oh oh oh, oooh.” And there’s something appealing about the way Baby Bash & Frankie J brags about his girl, asking “Suga, suga how’d you get so fly?”

But my favorite of all these is Flo Rida’s song “Sugar” (2009) which mixes an infectious, candy-coated beat with funny lyrics and an even more humorous video of his Novocaine-induced daydream.

For my sugar-inspired dessert, I started with Alton Brown’s flawless crème brûlée recipe from the Food Network Site. My ramekins got left behind when I moved to Oakland, so I baked them in heavy-duty ceramic coffee cups I snagged at the thrift store down the street. And instead of topping the finished custards with vanilla sugar, I used a 50-50 mixture of vanilla bean infused sugar and Smoked Brown Sugar from The Smoked Olive.

Smoked Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée
1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water
1/2 cup Smoked Brown Sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins (or cups). Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the crème brûlée is set, but still trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Remove the crème brûlée from the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar on top. Divide the smoked brown sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the crème brûlée to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Alton Brown of The Food Network.

Grandma Dorothy’s Deviled Eggs for #LetsLunch

Grandma Dorothy's deviled eggs were one of my favorite family dinner dishes.

It sound like a Black family movie cliche, but growing up near Chicago, my family got together for big family dinners a la Soul Food. Nearly every weekend, my parents, siblings and I would pile in the car and make the hour drive from the Northwest suburbs to Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.  We couldn’t wait to visit the gorgeous three story brownstone that my Grandma Dorothy shared with her sister Aunt Fannie and Uncle Willy.

Aunt Fannie always had an amazing dessert ready: a caramel cake, chocolate meringue pie, strawberry cheesecake or maybe a three-layer coconut cake with caramelized pineapple in between. I loved sweets like the fat kid in 21 Questions loves cake (still do) so I was always more partial to Aunt Fannie’s cooking.

To be fair, my Grandma made a stellar banana cake with a baked-on crust and did some pretty good punches too; I loved stealing tastes of the sherbet punch with sweet sparkling wine or the orangy Southern Comfort punch. But Grandma Dorothy was more serious and practical, so she specialized in the savory dishes: pepper steak, pots of collard greens, cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and deviled eggs.

It’s been years since I sat down to one of those dinners, and I miss them.

When I heard the theme for #LetsLunch was side dishes, I panicked for a minute. Though I can cook up a pot of mustard greens, melt marshmallows on top of sweet potatoes and mix up some stuffing, I don’t actually have a family recipe for any of these. And this week, I sure haven’t had time to cook anything elaborate.

But a quick call to my mom and Grandma Dorothy – who turned 96 this year – yielded her recipe for Deviled Eggs.

Grandma Dorothy’s Deviled Eggs
eight hard-boiled eggs, thoroughly cooled
1 heaping tablespoon finely chopped pickle relish (without the liquid)
1 or 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Dash salt   (optional)
Dash white pepper
Dash sweet paprika
Carefully slice the cooled eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash them, mixing in the relish, mayonnaise, mustard salt (if using) and white pepper.
The ideal stuffing  consistency is about that of mashed potatoes. Add more pickle relish or  mayonnaise as desired or needed.
Carefully spoon the seasoned egg yolk into the openings of the egg whites. Sprinkle with sweet paprika. If you like, Garnish with lettuce and parsley sprigs or chives.
Note: If I wanted to do a twist on these, I’d mix in a tablespoon of: bacon bits, crumbled blue cheese, caviar, cheddar cheese and sprinkle of cayenne.

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

Salted Butter Caramel…Mmmm!

A tiny pool of Gale Gand's Salted Butter Caramel graced this chocolate pot de cremé.

Is there anything better than salted butter caramel?

I think not. I mean who doesn’t like the taste of sugar? But it’s even better with a bit of saltiness to make you want – no need – to take another bite. That’s why it’s so hard to put down that bag of kettle corn from the farmer’s market. Or why the addictive caramel and cheese corn mix first served at Garrett’s Popcorn in Chicago is widely imitated.

Salted caramel is usually associated with Brittany in France, where it’s called caramel au beurre salé. The style is said to have been created in the 1970s by a chocolatier and caramélier named Henri Le Roux. He added some of the region’s famous grey sea salt – aka fleur de sel de Guerande – to his pot of caramel. I have tasted Le Roux’s salted caramels – which come in an assorted box with flavors like caramelized apple tatin, bitter chocolate and orange ginger – and they were worth every penny.

For some reason, I was slightly intimidated by the thought of making salted caramel at home. But Gale Gand, the Chicago pastry chef, made it look so easy when she was the special guest at the Sweet Sundays breakfast earlier this week at Epcot Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World.

I picked up a good tip: Gale dropped little spots of caramel on a white plate to judge whether it was dark enough. In just a few minutes it went from pale gold to deep maple, so it doesn’t take long.

She served it atop a Chocolate Pot de Cremé with a Black Pepper Whipped Cream, but I can imagine lots of other ways to enjoy it.

Her recipe is so simple it’s Tweetable.

Gale Gand’s Salted Butter Caramel
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream
1/4 tsp. fleur de sel

Boil the sugar and water until it gets to the desired shade of golden brown. When it’s there, let it cool a bit. Whisk in the cream until it’s fully incorporated and then add the salt. Voila!