What to Do with a Boatload of Bananas? Banana Ice Cream-Banana Date Bread Sandwiches!

July 25th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

What can I share about bananas that hasn’t been said a zillion times already? They’re curved, yellow-skinned and white-fleshed with microscopic, black seeds running through their centers. They’re high in potassium and Vitamin B6 and more or less fat-free. They’re also soft, tasty and perishable. But I bet you already knew that.

If you’ve ever eaten one in the tropics, you realize how spectacularly sweet and rich locally grown bananas taste. You likewise understand that this tropical fruit doesn’t come in one color and size only. Red, orange, golden yellow or green-striped, they vary in size from around 2 1/2 to 12 inches.

Bananas originated in Southeast Asia. Perhaps this is why the best bananas I’ve eaten have been along the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The length of a pen, their diminutiveness belies their powerful, candy-like flavor. As much as I love dessert, I’d happily skip ice cream, cake or pie and cap off my evening meal with one of these little gems.

Why all this talk of bananas? Thanks to over a dozen ripe bananas and only one banana fanatic in my household, I’ve been baking and cooking with this fruit all week. As a result, I’m passing along not one but two banana-rich recipes, Banana Date Bread and Banana Ice Cream with Honey Sauce. You can eat each independent of the other or put them together and enjoy a glorious year-round treat, Banana Ice Cream-Banana Date Bread Sandwiches with Honey Sauce.

BANANA DATE BREAD
Makes 1 9″x5″ loaf

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chopped dried dates

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy in texture, another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat until blended and crumbly in texture. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until combined.

With a spatula or spoon fold in the mashed bananas and dates and gently stir until just combined. Evenly spread the batter in the greased loaf pan.

Bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing the bread from the pan and placing it back on the rack. Allow the bread to cool completely before serving.

BANANA ICE CREAM WITH HONEY SAUCE
Makes 3 cups

5 ripe bananas
1 cup skim milk
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, for the sauce
1/4 cup honey, for the sauce

Place the bananas, milk, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If you have an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for making ice cream. If not, pour the mixture into a freezer-proof bowl and place it in the freezer, removing periodically to stir the mixture until it resembles the texture of ice cream.

To make the honey sauce for topping the ice cream/ice cream sandwich, melt two tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the honey. Pour over the ice cream.

To assemble the ice cream sandwiches, take one slice of banana bread and cut it in half. Place one scoop of ice cream between the two halves. Repeat for the desired number of ice cream sandwiches. At this point you can either cover and place the sandwiches in the freezer until you’re ready to eat or gobble them right away with a spoonful of honey sauce over top.

What to Do with Wineberries? Wineberry-Orange Gelée!

July 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

This seems to be my summer for foraged foods found on my friends Frank and Jane’s farm. First it was elderflowers. Now it’s wineberries. Never heard of wineberries? Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t either. What I had done, though, was nibble on the small, scarlet, raspberry-like fruit on countless walks through the woods.

Introduced to American soil in the 1890s, the prickly wineberry shrub flourishes along roadsides, in forests and fields and any other place with moist soil and moderate sunlight. Hence why I’ve encountered them on hikes and in thickets around Frank and Jane’s farm. The shrub’s firm, juicy berries resemble raspberries in flavor and appearance. They are, in fact, a type of raspberry. Their scientific name, Rubus phoenicolasius, means ‘raspberry with purple hairs,’ undoubtedly a reference to the hairy stems to which the berries cling.

Bestowed with a bowl of these little berries, I wanted to use them in a dish that would show off their beautiful color and compact size. Putting them in a cake, pie, crumble or ice cream would just turn them to mush. A gelée, however, wouldn’t interfere with their pert shape and ruby redness.

A French, gelatin-based specialty, gelée often features champagne or fortified wine as an ingredient. The following recipe for Wineberry-Orange Gelée does not. This makes it more family-friendly but also more of a gelatin than a true gelée. When craving authenticity, I’d replace the water with champagne.

WINEBERRY-ORANGE GELÉE
If you don’t have access to wineberries, you can substitute raspberries or blackberries in this recipe.

Serves 6

1 1/4 cup fresh wineberries, rinsed
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 (.25 ounce) envelopes of gelatin
1 cup water, divided
Juice of 6 oranges (about 2 cups)
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Whipped cream, optional, for serving

Place the washed berries in a bowl with the sugar and lemon juice and toss to combine. Allow the wineberries to macerate for 30 minutes.

Pour half of the water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over top. Let the two steep for 5 minutes.

Place the orange juice, sugar, juice of 1 lemon and remaining water in a large saucepan. Bring the ingredients to a boil over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and add the gelatin mixture. Stir again until the gelatin has dissolved.

Strain the liquid from the berries and add this to the pan. Stir to combine.

Pour equal amounts of gelatin into six decorative glasses or bowls. Spoon an equal number of wineberries into each glass. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours or maximum of 2 days. Before serving, decorate each with the optional whipped cream and orange zest.

Oh-So-Elegant Elderflower Granita

July 10th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

At one time, when I heard “elderflower cordial,” I imagined garden parties in the English countryside where formally attired guests sipped pale yellow drinks from elegant crystal goblets. In reality not once in my half dozen trips to England has anyone ever invited me to or mentioned attending such a soiree. Been offered a glass of chilled elderflower cordial? Nope. That hasn’t happened either.

Until a few weeks ago I hadn’t thought much about consuming or even picking elderflowers. Then two old friends mentioned that they were making elderflower cordial from their farm’s elderberry trees. With that my visions of genteel garden parties and fancy drinks returned and I became intrigued by the flower’s culinary possibilities.

Found throughout Europe, North America and Western Asia, elderberry trees bear clusters of tiny, edible, white flowers and small, blackish-purple berries. The latter get made into chutneys, jams, jellies, sauces, soups and wine while the former show up in cordials, teas, jellies, baked goods and, oddly enough, fritters. As you might expect, elderflowers impart a pleasant floral flavor to these foods.

When mixed with boiling water and sugar and allowed to steep for at least 24 hours, elderflowers transform into elderflower syrup. Add citrus juice and zest and seltzer or water to the syrup and you have the sweetly tart and flowery drink known as elderflower cordial. That is all it takes to create my romanticized drink.

Yearning to try this idealized beverage, I made a weekend trip to my friends’ farm and collected enough flowers for a batch of cordial. On the way home I started thinking about what else I could do with these little gems. Why stop at a cordial when I could stir up an exquisite elderflower granita?

ELDERFLOWER GRANITA
Makes 4 cups

If you cannot find fresh elderflowers, you can use commercially produced elderflower cordial. IKEA, among others, carries this. If you do use fresh flowers, be sure to rinse them thoroughly and remove any bugs or debris from them.

For a refreshing summertime drink, add the leftover cordial to water, plain seltzer, white wine or vodka.

for the cordial:
2 cups water
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 cups fresh elderflowers, well-rinsed and drained
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 orange, sliced

for the granita:
2 cups elderflower cordial
2 cups water
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh mint, optional, for garnish
Fresh blueberries or black raspberries, optional, for garnish

To make the cordial, place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and, over medium heat, bring the ingredients to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the elderflowers, stir to combine and remove the pan from the heat. Pour the liquid into a large glass bowl and cool slightly.

Add lemon juice and zest and orange slices and stir the ingredients together. Loosely cover the bowl and place it in a cool spot. Periodically stirring the mixture, allow it to steep for 24 to 36 hours.

When the cordial has reached its desired strength, strain it through a fine mesh or cheesecloth-lined colander and into a pitcher. Discard the flowers, orange slices and lemon zest. Using a funnel, pour the cordial into lidded jars or bottles. Refrigerate until you’re ready to make the granita.

To make the elderflower granita, pour 2 cups cordial, 2 cups cold water and the lime juice into a shallow pan or bowl and stir to combine. Place the pan in the freezer for a minimum of 8 hours. For the first 2 hours, remove the pan every 20 to 40 minutes and stir the contents, making sure to scrape down the sides of the dish and incorporate both the iced and still-liquid granita.

Once the granita is completely frozen, use a large spoon to scrape the top to form a single serving. Place the granita in a cocktail glass or bowl and enjoy.

Cool and Simple Coconut Syllabub

July 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Syllabub. For me, the name conjures up visions of windswept sand dunes, black-robed Bedouins, dust-covered camels, whirling dervishes and Tales from 1,001 Nights. As exotic as it sounds, syllabub has a much more sedate background. Instead of hailing from that imagined sun-drenched desert land, this sweet comes from Great Britain.

Although the origins of its unusual name are uncertain, historians do know that the confection is product of 16th century England. Back then it was a frothy drink comprised of milk and sweet wine or cider. Because people liked the drink’s foamy head more than the liquid, syllabub eventually discarded its drink status and became a creamy, whipped dessert. This is the easy sweet that I love.

Featuring scant few ingredients, syllabub is the model of simplicity. You can whip it up in a few minutes with either a whisk or an electric mixer. To vary its taste, you can replace the coconut rum with liqueurs such as Grand Marnier or Kirsch. To decorate its gentle peaks, you can top your syllabub with grated chocolate, chopped nuts, citrus zest, edible flowers, toasted coconut or the like.

In keeping with its romantic desert image I serve syllabub in colorful Moroccan tea glasses, yet another awkward souvenir that I just had to buy and then lug around on vacation. Unlike my ill-advised couscousiere, I regularly use these little guys.

COCONUT SYLLABUB
Serves 4

1 cup whipping cream, chilled
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 ounces coconut rum
1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
1 to 2 tablespoons grated bittersweet chocolate, for dusting

In a medium bowl beat the cream until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar, rum and coconut extract and beat for another 1 to 2 minutes or until the syllabub holds soft peaks. Spoon into four small glasses and sprinkle grated chocolate over the top of each. Serve chilled.

Sweet & Nutty Couscous

June 18th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Summertime on the East Coast, when every muggy day feels like a day spent in the tropics. Whenever sultry weather strikes, I dig out my growing stack of limited-cooking-required recipes. Most of these dishes have their roots in warmer climates where, like me, cooks try to keep the amount of heat in the kitchen to a minimum.

On the top of that stack is a beloved Moroccan specialty, sweet couscous. Dotted with iron-rich dates, dried cranberries, dried apricots and toasted almonds, this grain-based favorite offers an assortment of sensory thrills. The sharp snap of the almonds provides a pleasant, and audible, change from the velvety softness of the steamed fruits and couscous. It also gives me a chance to toss all the ingredients into one pot and steep them for five minutes before serving. Tasty and requiring limited cooking, it’s a treat that can’t be beat!

Traditionally, making couscous involves intermittently steaming the grains in a two-tiered pot known as a couscousiere, wetting down, and then separating the grains with your fingers. It’s a process that takes close to an hour. On balmy, time-pressed evenings, a saucepan and a cup of instant couscous serve as fine substitutes.

As cringeworthy as my videography may be, I’ve included a brief clip on how to use a couscousiere. I also explain why this tool falls into the category of regrettable souvenirs. Bear with me on this one. As time goes by, the videos will improve.


SWEET & NUTTY COUSCOUS
Along with serving Sweet & Nutty Couscous for dessert, I like to cover and refrigerate this dish overnight and then eat it chilled for breakfast. It’s delicious on its own but also tastes wonderful when spooned over Greek yogurt.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cup dried couscous
1/3 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
3 tablespoons dried dates, chopped
1-inch vanilla bean
1/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup honey
Greek yogurt, optional, for serving

In a medium saucepan, boil the water. Add the couscous, cherries, apricots and figs. Using a knife, split open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the saucepan. Stir the ingredients together, cover the saucepan and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooked couscous and butter. Rake your fingers through the couscous, loosening the grains and incorporating the butter with the fruit.

Pour in the honey and gently stir. Add the toasted almonds and blend again. Serve the couscous on its own or over plain or vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt.

Victoria Sponge Cake

June 5th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Right now I seem to be on a quest to convince everyone that British food is not only edible but also quite delicious. Last week I raved about sweet, fruity scones. Next week I’ll have an article on English trifle at Zester Daily. This week, though, at Kitchen Kat I want to talk about Victoria sponge cake.At first glance Victoria sponge cake may look like a white cake with jam and icing squished in between the layers. Okay. It is that. Take a bite, though, and you’ll find that it’s much lighter, honeyed and complex than your usual white layer cake.

This cake is named for England’s Queen Victoria, who apparently loved a slice of this sweet with her afternoon tea. Shortly after her reign it became a staple at early 20th century parties and teas. Unsurprisingly, I first tried Victoria sponge cake at a teashop in England’s Lake District. Sweet, airy and so heavenly, it surpassed anything that I could have expected from a dessert also known as Victoria sandwich and Victoria sponge.

To make the best Victoria sponge cake possible, you should have all your ingredients at room temperature; you don’t want cold eggs or milk to cause your creamy butter to harden. First beat the sugar and butter together until white and fluffy. At this point add the beaten eggs and sifted flour to the butter. If you mix everything together in one go, you won’t get the ethereal texture for which this delicate cake is known.

Traditionally, Victoria sponge is topped by whipped cream. Because I like to make the cake the night before serving it, I use a buttercream icing instead. It holds better and adds a bit more flavor to the dessert.

VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE
If you’re not the most adept at horizontally slicing a cake in half, you can divide the batter between two greased, 7-inch springform pans. The cakes will bake for 12 to 15 minutes; this is slightly less than what’s required for the 8-inch pan. The jam and icing will then be spread between the two cooled cakes.

for the sponge:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup good quality strawberry jam

for the icing:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 pound confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease one 8-inch springform pan and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the sugar until creamy, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides, add the sugar and beat again until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl again, add the eggs, vanilla and milk and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and gently fold it in the liquids.

Place the batter in the greased pan. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, until the cake has risen and is golden in color. Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before removing the cake from the pan and cooling completely on a wire rack.

To make the icing, in a large mixing bowl beat the butter, vanilla and milk together until well combined. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, beating until smooth.

Using a long, sharp, serrated knife, cut the cake, widthwise, into two equal-sized halves. Place on half, cut side up, on a platter. Spread a thin layer, about half, of icing, followed by all of the jam, on the cut side. Lay the other half, cut side down, on top of this layer and spread the remaining icing over top of it. Serve with a cup of hot, black tea.

Scrumptious Fruit Scones

May 28th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I love my morning ritual of coffee and whole grain toast with peanut butter and preserves. Yet, as soon as I step onto British soil, I ditch this duo for a pot of hot, black tea and a rich, slightly sweet fruit scone. Loosely defined as a small, soft, plain cake, the scone is a staple of afternoon tea. If you can track down one that’s warm and fresh from the oven, it’s also a heavenly, albeit filling, breakfast treat.

Although I think of scones as quintessentially English, they’re actually a Scottish specialty. Depending on whom you talk to, their name comes from the ceremonial Stone of Destiny at Scone Abbey in Scotland or from the Scots term “sconbrot,” meaning fine white bread. Originally made from oats and triangular in shape, they were fried on a griddle. Today flour-based scones come in a variety of shapes and are baked. While I prefer plump, dark raisins in mine, scones can be either sweet or savory.

Among the lovely things about scones is how fast and easy they are to make. Give me ten minutes and I can mix and bake a batch for you. They are a quick bread.

If your first attempts at homemade scones resemble hockey pucks, you’ve probably baked them for too long. After five minutes peek inside the oven to ensure that they aren’t becoming overly brown or are cooking unevenly. Rotate the baking sheet and allow the scones to bake for another two to four minutes before removing and serving them.

When stored in an airtight container, homemade scones last three days. In truth, they’re at their best when eaten hot from the oven with a smear of butter or clotted cream.

SCRUMPTIOUS FRUIT SCONES
Consider this your template for making an assortment of dried fruit scones. Currants, dried cranberries, dried cherries, diced dried apricots or diced fresh pears would be good replacements for raisins in the following recipe.

Makes 6 scones

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold, unsalted butter, diced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon raisins
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten, for brushing over the tops

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk together. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the raisins and sugar and stir to combine.

Make a well in the center of the mixture. Whisk together the vanilla and buttermilk. Pour in the buttermilk into the well and stir the ingredients together until a soft dough forms.

Lightly flour a clean work surface. Place the dough here and gently knead it for 10 to 20 seconds. Over-kneading will make the scones more like bread, less like scones. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1-inch thick. Cut the dough into rounds using a flour-dusted, 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter.

Place the scones on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the tops with the beaten egg and then bake for 7 to 10 minutes, checking after 5 or 6 minutes to ensure that they’re baking evenly. When finished, they will be plump and golden on top. Remove and serve warm.

Flourless & Fabulous White Chocolate Almond Torte

May 5th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

When baking, I often think of my late mother from whom I inherited a raging sweet tooth. I suspect that she received hers from her own mother with whom she spent countless Friday nights making candy, cakes and other confections. They had baked for fun from recipes passed down through my French grandmother’s family and plied all whom they knew with these goodies. Yeah, I inherited that latter trait, too.

Among the wonderful treats that they made were tortes. Although it may sound quite sophisticated, a torte is simply a single layer cake made with flour and/or ground nuts. German in origin, it’s occasionally filled jam or buttercream. In my kitchen it’s adorned with fresh, seasonal fruit and confectioner’s sugar.

I have made the following flourless White Chocolate Almond Torte so many times that I could do it blindfolded or in my sleep. Take your pick. As time passes, I’ve learned that, if you bake the cake a day in advance, sprinkle the sugar over top and then cover the cake for 24 hours, it becomes even moister, more honeyed and more delicious.

To bake this cake, you’ll need a 9-inch springform pan and round parchment paper. I know, it’s a pain to buy and house more kitchen equipment. However, an inexpensive springform pan ensures that you’ll keep this dense, damp cake in one piece. Trust me. It’s worth nine to twelve dollars not to have your freshly baked torte split in half as you remove it from the pan.

WHITE CHOCOLATE ALMOND TORTE

When I bake this cake in the winter, I top it with pomegranate seeds.  In spring, summer and fall I dress it with a mix of seasonal berries.

Serves 8

1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 1/2 cup blanched almonds

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar, divided

6 large eggs, separated

8 ounces white chocolate morsels, melted

2 teaspoons almond extract

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

4 cups mixed seasonal berries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.

Place the half teaspoon of granulated sugar and blanched almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until ground. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and light in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half of the 1/3 cup sugar. Continue beating until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.

Spoon in the melted chocolate and beat until well combined. At this point add the ground almonds and almond extract and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl and using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the nutty batter. Don’t over-mix; you want the batter to be airy yet chunky. Evenly spread the mixture in the springform pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake starts to separate from the sides of the pan. Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove it from the pan and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.

Before serving dust the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar. Sprinkle the fruit over the sugar and then dust again.

 

 

A Few Thoughts on Caviar

April 29th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Caviar is one of those foods that we’re supposed to love. Costly and rare, it’s considered the height of luxury and sophisticated dining. Receive a complimentary blini topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and sprinkling of tiny, flame-colored, salty orbs and you might think, “Wow! Caviar! This restaurant knows how to make its diners feel special!” Then again, you might also think, “Gross. Fish eggs.”

For years I’ve felt neutral about caviar. More often than not, I’ve consumed tough, gritty, low quality roe, the stuff that makes people say, “Eew. Fish eggs.” On very rare occasions I’ve sampled the luxurious, melt-in-your-mouth delicacy that makes people drool. Two weeks ago I had the latter experience when sent on a mission to obtain caviar for a friend’s Scandinavian-themed party.

Dressed in my workday uniform of jeans, black sweater, faded black t-shirt and running shoes, I schlepped over to Caviar Russe in Midtown. Up the marble staircase I climbed, with each step wondering if I shouldn’t have worn something slightly nicer or cleaner. Seriously, what had I stepped in on my way over here? Greeted by staff wearing suits and ties, I realized that I might be the grubbiest person ever served there.

Fashion faux pas aside, tasting roe at Caviar Russe proved fairly enlightening. I learned that with caviar, you do get what you pay for. The moderately priced caviars were pleasant but no match for the pricey ossetra, which was smooth, nutty and otherworldly. Similar to the prized beluga, ossetra comes from sturgeon.

I also discovered that these petite eggs glide off a mother of pearl spoon but stubbornly cling to wood and stainless steel. In the past I’d been told that you serve caviar on mother of pearl so that no other flavors taint the eggs. So much for that theory. I likewise confirmed what I’d long suspected—caviar is a precious treat, one that, due to cost and issues of sustainability, should be consumed sparingly.

SAUTEED SHAD ROE
From Fish Market (Running Press, 2013)
Serves 4

Sautéed roe is one of those delicacies of the past rarely encountered in the present. Note that you’ll need a roe mass/roe still covered in membrane. Can’t find this essential ingredient? You can always buy a tin of salmon or trout roe and sprinkle the caviar over hors d’oeuvres, salads or pasta.

12 ounces shad roe
1/2 stick butter
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

You’ll begin by melting the butter in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Swirl it around the pan and then add the roe.

Cook the roe on one side until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn over and allow the other side to brown, about 3 minutes. When finished, the centers should look pink.
Remove the roe from the pan. Add the lemon juice to the remaining butter in the pan and whisk together over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour the liquid over the roe and season with salt and white pepper. When finished, you’ll have enough to serve 4.

Apple Pie Aquavit

April 15th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

The word aquavit means “water of life” and for Scandinavians that definition holds pretty true. In Denmark no traditional lunch or smørrebrød (open-face sandwich) would be complete without a shot of chilled ‘akvavit’ followed by a cold beer. A common accompaniment to the country’s beloved pickled herring, this potent liquor reputedly aids in digestion. In Sweden it’s known as “snaps” and downed in one gulp with beer and drinking songs to follow. In Norway it’s sipped alongside the evening meal.

What is aquavit? It’s a potato- or grain-based vodka infused with caraway seeds. Caraway not your thing? Take heart — depending upon the region and distiller, dill, fennel, coriander seeds or star anise may stand in for the customary spice.

Warned by Swedish friends of the high cost of alcohol in their homeland, my first taste of aquavit came courtesy of a hastily purchased sampler pack at Arlanda Airport. Pulling out one of the tiny bottles and twisting off its cap, I took a swig of the clear liquid and shuddered. It was horrendous. In fact, it was so pungent and overpowering that I couldn’t help but wonder if someone had tricked me into trying rubbing alcohol. After this inauspicious introduction I consumed all future shots in polite sips and with that ever popular beer chaser.

This weekend I’m heading to a party where guests bring and sample homemade aquavit. In the past people have experimented with such unorthodox infusions as blueberry and bubblegum. Although purists may scoff at untraditional flavorings, to me, they are worlds better than the spice-laced original.

Keeping palatability in mind, I’ve made Apple Pie Aquavit. Using two apples, a cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, whole nutmeg and, of course, vodka, this creation smells like a boozy apple pie. Sweetened with a few tablespoons of simple syrup, it tastes a bit like that, too. An authentic Scandinavian aquavit? Nope. A delicious drink? You bet!

APPLE PIE AQUAVIT/AKVAVIT
Makes 32 ounces
Note: Takes 7 to 10 days to infuse

1 inch cinnamon stick
1 inch piece of vanilla bean, split
3 3/4 cups potato-based vodka
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 whole nutmeg
1 to 3 tablespoons simple syrup

for the simple syrup:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water

Place the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean in a piece of cheesecloth, tie them into a small bundle and put that in large, tight sealing, glass canister or mason jar. Add the vodka and diced apples, seal and shake the ingredients together.

Store the steeping vodka in a cool, dark spot for 5 days, shaking the ingredients together 2 or 3 times per day. On the fifth day add 1 whole nutmeg to the jar and shake again.

Depending on how flavorful you’d like your aquavit to be, you can continue steeping the mixture for another 2 to 5 days. Once you’ve achieved the desired taste, you will need to make the simple syrup to sweeten the aquavit. Simmer 1/4 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved completely and the liquid has thickened slightly but is still clear in color. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Strain the aquavit through a fine mesh strainer or chinois and into a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup and whisk to combine. Taste and add more simple syrup if desired.

Using a funnel, pour the aquavit into a bottle, cover and refrigerate until ready to consume.