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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Lemon Posset

A recent issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine published a recipe for "Lemon Posset", a British dessert I had never heard of nor tasted. Apparently possets were originally comforting hot drinks but as time passed the word posset came to refer to a creamy dessert. I'm a sucker for anything that features cream so I had to try this. The dessert fulfilled all my expectations and is silky, creamy, and bright. And best of all, it is quick and easy.


Lemon Posset with Berries 

Adapted from 
Serves 4-6, depending on your preference

2 c heavy cream
2/3 c sugar
1 T grated lemon zest
6 T lemon juice
1 c blueberries or 1 c raspberries or a combination
1/2 c raspberry sauce or coulis, optional

You'll be reducing the cream and sugar mixture to a specific amount which might require you to pour it into a measuring cup (possibly more than once), a messy, time consuming proposition. Instead, measure 2 c water and pour into the saucepan you will be using. Stand a clean ruler or a chopstick in the water and mark the water level. Remove the water and begin the recipe.  After reducing the cream mixture for the recommended time, place the marked implement right in the mixture to test whether you've reduced it sufficiently.

Place the cream, sugar, and lemon zest into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently so sugar dissolves. Continue boiling with frequent stirring until the mixture reduces to 2 cups. Do not leave the cream unattended or it may boil over. (If it does get close, remove the saucepan from the heat source.) It should take 8-12 minutes to reduce to 2 cups.

Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Allow to sit until the mixture has cooled slightly and a skin has begun to form on the top, about 20 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl or a large measuring cup. Discard the zest. Divide the mixture evenly among 4, 5, or 6 individual ramekins or dessert bowls. (I found dividing into 6 seemed somewhat skimpy but dividing into 4 seemed too large--but other diners liked added amount.)

Place the ramekins into the refrigerator and let sit for at least 3 hours.  Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until 10 minutes before serving. Use within 2 days. Before serving top with berries and a tablespoon or two of sauce, if using.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

French Silk Chocolate Pie

A belated Happy Pi Day. I've been wanting to try this recipe for a couple of years and yesterday was a good excuse. This is a very rich dessert; even a sliver of a slice is substantial.


French Silk Chocolate Pie

Serves 8-10

1 pie shell, baked and cooled

1 c heavy cream, chilled
3 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
2 T water
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 T vanilla extract
8 T (one stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and softened

Melt the chocolate using your preferred method. I like using a microwave: I chopped the chocolate finely and heated the chocolate at 50% power for 3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Set aside to cool.

Whip the cream using an electric mixer on medium-high speed until you have stiff peaks. Refrigerate until needed.

Bring a half inch of water to a simmer in a saucepan. In a large heat-proof bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, and water. Set the bowl over the water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat while heating until the mixture has thickened and it has reached 160F. This may take 10 minutes or so.

Once the mixture has reached the target temperature, remove from heat and continue to beat with the electric mixer while the mixture cools to room temperature and becomes smooth but fluffy.

Add the chocolate and vanilla to the egg mixture and continue beating until the chocolate is incorporated. The fluffy texture of the egg mixture may collapse somewhat. Beat in the butter, a few pieces at a time, until well combined. With a spatula, fold in the whipped cream until you see no streaks of white, being careful to mix close to the bottom for bits that hide out. The mixture will be quite thick. Scrape the mixture into the pie shell and smooth the top. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours and as many as 24. Serve topped with some lightly sweetened whipped cream or with shaved chocolate, or both.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Broiled Grapefruit

In my mind, grapefruit has been associated with the now vilified low fat diets of the 1990s. I never liked it much as a young person, but the tart-sweet flavors in this recipe led me to purchase about 10 grapefruits from a warehouse store. My local grocery store recently sold pummelos, which are bigger in size and sweeter in flavor than grapefruits, and this topping is lovely on them, too.

This guy loved the pummelos!


Broiled Grapefruit

Source: How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman
Serves 2

2 grapefruits
1/4 c almonds
1 T packed light brown sugar
1 T cold unsalted butter

Turn broiler on high and position the rack 4 inches from the heat. Slice the grapefruits in half and place on a baking sheet. Chop the almonds.

In a small bowl mix the chopped almonds with the sugar and butter. Mash everything together with your fingers (or a fork) until it's crumbly.

Spread the almond, sugar, and butter mixture over the grapefruit. Broil for 3-4 minutes until the nuts and sugar are toasted and caramelized. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Icelandic Fish Soup

Last August our family went to Iceland for Tom's marriage to Solbjorg Bjornsdottir. In addition to a great wedding celebration we enjoyed the gorgeous and green countryside (perfect for a desert dweller like me) and welcoming and kind Icelanders. We were introduced to some remarkable foods including fish soup, a treat since a number of us live in land-locked regions. One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to a small fishing town, Dalvik, which hosts a yearly fish festival. Townspeople opened their homes and yards to visitors and served fish soup to all. Late into the long summer evening, we carried our own bowls from house to house and ate until we could hold no more. After our return, I searched online and found this recipe so I can revisit and remember.


Icelandic Fish Soup

Adapted from:
Serves: at least 8

You should seek the fish of the highest quality. Of course, while in Iceland the fish we ate were Atlantic but I have found sources for Pacific cod and a mildly flavored salmon. A thick trout might work, too. The biggest problem for me is shrimp. In Iceland tiny shrimp were added to the soup, but I had a hard time finding that size last time I cooked the soup so I ended up cutting larger shrimp into pieces. The soup tasted great but tiny shrimp are more visually appealing.

This soup has some wine and sherry in it. If you avoid alcohol when you cook use more chicken stock as a substitute and increase the vinegar by double, but do it tablespoon by tablespoon, tasting with each addition. Lemon juice or zest might increase flavor as well. Don't use cooking wine which is mainly salt and additives (it is better to skip alcohol all together than use this stuff)

3-4 T butter
2 small onions, finely sliced
1 thin leek or half a large, finely sliced
2 ribs celery, finely sliced
1/2 c dry sherry
3/4 c dry white wine
6 c chicken or vegetable stock
3 T tomato paste
3 tomatoes, chopped very finely, or a 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes, drained and blended
a generous pinch of saffron (optional, but very tasty)
3-4 T wine vinegar (either white or red)
4 c small shrimp (without shells), more or less
5 c mixed fish--salmon, Arctic char, halibut, cod, haddock, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 c either half and half or whole, or a mixture--you can add more or less
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot or dutch-oven. Add the onion, leeks, and celery and cook over medium low heat until tender. It is better to allow these to sweat rather than cook at a high heat and risk scorching. Add the sherry and wine and bring to a boil and allow to cook for several minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes (see note below), saffron and vinegar. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the fish, shrimp, and (if using) fresh tomatoes and return to a low boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in cream and allow to heat but don't return to boiling since the cream may curdle. Serve immediately.

Note on tomatoes:  If you use canned, add them with the stock. If you use fresh, add with the fish.

Note on shrimp: In Iceland, sometimes the shrimp were cooked separately and spooned on top of the soup in a diner's bowl. You may prefer doing it this way, as it would keep the shrimp from accidentally overcooking.

Sol and soup