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Cooking with my Father

16 Aug

Before having my daughter I worked as a professional pastry chef. I served hundreds of customers desserts each night. Desserts that I developed, tested and executed. I was a bundle of nerves on nights that a food critic was dining with us, or during the first few days serving a new menu. However none of that nervous energy can compare to the first few times I made dinner and dessert for my father.

My father is an incredible cook. He is an instinctive cook. I can explain the scientific basis of most cooking and baking techniques. How to manipulate the molecular components of ingredients to produce the desired result. My father can tell you what that feels like, what it smells like, what it sounds like. This used to be intimidating. As the years have gone on, I have become more sure and cooking with my father is something that I treasure. We work well together, I learn something new every single time and once in a while I am able to pass on a tip or trick to him.

When we were in Crescent we cooked lots of meals together, but our biggest collaboration was a meal to welcome my aunt to the beach. Dad broke down the fish, halibut and salmon. He pan seared the halibut after coating it in panko and he cooked the salmon under the broiler until it was medium rare. I made a tomato-caper jam to top the fish, a panzanella salad loaded with beautiful vegetables, some roasted, some raw. And sautéed carrots and green beans. My grandmother made a blueberry pie. A pie that she has been making for as long I can remember. A pie that deserves it’s own post. Every bite of the meal was a love song to the pacific northwest, to summer and to family.

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Almond meringues with chocolate, and raspberries, and cream. Oh, my!

14 Aug

When I was 15 my aunt had the pastry chef at her restaurant make me a cake for my birthday.  When it was unveiled at our family celebration that evening it was unlike anything I had seen before.  Layers of cream and berries, meringue and chocolate,  a riot of white chocolate shavings on top.   Every bite, a carnival of textures, the airy crunch of meringue, toasted nuts, soft berries, whipped cream.   It was a Dacquoise.  It kind of blew my mind.

For some reason, I have been thinking about that cake a lot lately.  When I decided to make something special for my family, a dessert to round out one of our porch parties, I decided to pay homage to the dacquoise.  Little towers of meringue, chocolate, raspberries and cream.  A wonderful summer dessert.

Almond Meringues

3 large egg whites at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup of blanched almonds, toasted, cooled and finely chopped

Pre-heat oven to 225°

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form.  Gradually add the sugar and beat until glossy, stiff peaks form.  You know it is done when you can hold the bowl upside down, over your head, and the meringue does not end up in your hair.  Gently fold in toasted almonds, reserving some to sprinkle on top of the finished dessert.

On a piece of parchment paper trace circles the size of the desired meringues.  I used a tea cup to outline meringues for individual sized meringues.  Flip the parchment so that the ink/pencil face down. (You don’t need lead or ink in your finished meringue).  Using the circles as a guide, pipe meringue onto the parchment. If you don’t have a pastry bag you can  fill a zip-lock bag and cut off one of the corners.

Bake for about an hour.  Turn the pans 1/2 way through.  Let cool completely.

Chocolate-Raspberry Ganache

6 oz dark chocolate, I prefer 68% cocoa or above

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons raspberry jam (more or less to taste)

In a heat proof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water combine the chocolate and cream.  Gently melt chocolate, stirring frequently, until thick and shiny.  Stir in jam.  Remove from heat and let come to room temperature.  (This can be made ahead, refrigerated, and brought to room temperature when you are ready to assemble.

1 cup of heavy cream + 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, whipped to soft peaks.

Put it all together

Smear a layer of ganache on top of the meringue.  Top with whipped cream, left over toasted almonds and fresh berries. Enjoy!

Raspberry Jam

8 Aug

I made jam!  It was the first time and I think I am hooked.  I came back and told my husband that I am going to jar and preserve every fruit and vegetable that August offers up.  We have no storage in our apartment, so I don’t really know where these jars are going to end up, but that is just a silly detail.

My grandmother had been dutifully picking raspberries on the bushes between and behind our houses in Crescent Beach, every other day, for a few weeks..  She managed to pick and freeze 14 cups of berries at the peak of their flavor.  During one of Bella’s naps, I headed next door to work on the jam.  We followed the instructions in the package of liquid pectin my grandmother had on hand. It took no more than 30 minutes and finished product tasted of raspberries eaten outside on a summer day.  There is a brightness to this jam that reflects the just-picked freshness of the berries.  I used the jam in a beautiful dessert the next evening – details to come!  We eat it on toast most mornings and I am looking forward to spooning it over vanilla ice cream very soon.

Raspberry Jam

3 3/4 cups of raspberries, crushed.  If desired, strain to remove the seeds.

1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice

6 1/2 cups of sugar

1 pouch of liquid fruit pectin (we used Certo brand)

Prepare your jars.  We ran ours through the high temperature sanitation rinse in the dishwasher.  Place jar lids in a large pot and cover with boiling water, let sit until ready to use. Dry jars and lids thoroughly when ready to use.

Meanwhile pour crushed berries, lemon juice and sugar into a large pot.  Bring to a boil and stir for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add pectin, stir for 5 more minutes. Skim any foam or floating berries from the surface.  Pour into prepared jars and screw lid on tightly. Let come to room temperature.  Refrigerate after opening.

Bells picked and ate dozens of raspberries every day.  I love having a little taste of Crescent Beach here in our refrigerator in Philadelphia.  We have shared a piece of toast with jam, every morning since our return.

Beautiful British Columbia

2 Aug

Bells and I have spent the last week visiting my parents and grandmother in Crescent Beach.  I spent my summers up here as a kid and it is great to be here with my own little one.  Between trips to the beach to look for crabs and blowing bubbles we have been cooking.  My father and grandmother are world-class cooks.  The more I cook, the more I learn, the more I call on their knowledge.  It is rare that we are all in the same place, so to be able to cook and eat with them every night has been a real treat.  It doesn’t hurt that British Columbia has some of the finest produce and seafood in the world.  I am too pre-occupied thinking about the big meal we are cooking tonight to welcome my aunt – halibut with tomato & caper jam, panzanella salad, blueberry pie with ice cream – to write out the techniques and recipes but they will follow over the next few weeks.  Happy summer!

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