Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thomas Keller's Sweet Creamed Corn

So I had a totally different recipe to share with you for my regular Monday post. But then, it just so happens that I was sitting at home on Saturday night (Boo. Life is not always exciting.) with a splitting migrane (Double Boo. Pain is never fun.) and flipping through the copy of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home that I had just picked up from the library (Yay! Cookbooks are exciting and always fun!).  This cookbook is just filled to the brim with amazing recipes, but when I happened upon this creamed corn I knew with utter certainty that I needed to temporarily abandon those earlier plans and share this recipe with you instead.  I hadn't even made it yet, but I just knew that it would be a winner and that I would be typing this post today to tell you about it.   

I think I felt so certain for three main reasons.  First, I have been feeling a little low on inspiration lately, and for whatever reason (probably because Thomas Keller is amazing?), reading through Ad Hoc at Home chased away all of those lackluster feelings.  Second, the growing season for sweet corn has literally hit its own "sweet spot" which makes the taste simple and sublime.  Plus, corn seems to be the quintessential late-summer vegetable that we all eat in order to take a bite of those last rays of summer sunshine.  And don't let me forget, thirdly, I was so certain that I would share this recipe with you because it is from Thomas Keller.  And can anyone argue that is food is wonderful?        

Monday, August 23, 2010

White Chocolate Layer Cake with Apricot Filling and White Chocolate Buttercream

I know.  You can't believe it.  You think you might be dreaming, or maybe having some sort of weird deja vu experience because I am posting yet another recipe with apricots and peaches.  Can you stand it?  I hope so, because this cake is actually pretty dreamy, and is an awesome Celebration Cake.  Just scroll down a little bit and you can check out all the goodies that are packed into this dessert.  That doozy of a title pretty much tells it all, but aren't we all visual creatures?  (Men, I am not just talking about you.)

Oh yes, there is that silky, sweet White Chocolate Buttercream.

One delicious layer of White Chocolate Cake on top of another. Plus, apricot filling and more buttercream. *sigh*   

Friday, August 20, 2010

Quick Peach Chipotle Salsa

Hi there!  Guess what? (this is a tricky one...) Its the weekend!!!  And even better, it is the weekend and it is still summer!  Yippee!  Does it get any better than this?  So, before you head out to your beach barbecues, backyard parties, or picnics in the park to enjoy these last beautiful days of summer, I wanted to give you a super quick recipe that you can take along with you.  

And guess what else?  Oh yes, it has peaches.  I warned you that I am obsessed. 

Since you can make this recipe in only a few short minutes, I am going to take only a minute to tell you about it.  Here is how it goes: Chop, chop, chop.  Mix, mix, mix.  Smoky, sweet, spicy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Making (Organic!) Stone Fruit Preserves for Pennies

Alright friends, I have to admit it.  I have been obsessed with stone fruits lately.  And I mean OBSESSED.  I go the farmers market with the intent of picking up some healthy vegetables, maybe some locally baked bread, or even possibly shelling out the money for local, pasture-raised chicken.  And what actually happens?  Oh right, I come home with pounds and pounds of peaches, bags of apricots, and jewel-toned plums.  Not a huge problem I guess, because who says a girl can't live on fruit?

I think this whole obsession got a slow start around the end of July and is snowballing into August. You saw my lacquered peach, right?  I thought that was the pinnacle of my stone fruit season, but it just keeps going.  Next there were some apricots that were intended for a lovely cobbler, but somehow ended up in my stomach uncooked... I even put plums in my curry, and later this week I have an awesome peach salsa to share with you.  I hope you are willing to come along with me on this fruity ride, because there seems to be no end in sight as long as stone fruits are in season.  Apricots, peaches, plums, pluots, nectarines... I. Just. Can't. Stop!  And who says I have to?

A great way to keep enjoying fruits (and even vegetables) long after they are out of season is to make jam.  If you have never made jam before you might think it is difficult, and maybe not worth your effort.  You might tell yourself, "I can just scoot my little butt up to the grocery store and buy some apricot jam for $4 if the mood strikes me."  And this might be true.  But that mass-produced, preservative-laden, artificially-colored stuff in those jars will never, ever, ever compare to the real stuff made with your own two hands and fresh, in-season fruit.  Maybe you are worried about the cost of buying the fruit to make the jam?  Well, that is where I can share a little secret I learned with you.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Easy Weeknight Plum Pork Curry

Although this dish is not really gourmet or fancy, I thought I would share it with you since you can whip it up in under an hour, it will easily feed a family of four, and it can be adapted to an infinite number of flavor combinations to suit your taste.  Why is this such a quick and easy meal?  Well because it uses Golden Curry of course! 

You say you have never heard of Golden Curry?  Well, I was also ignorant to the wonders of this Japanese product until about a year ago.  I was having dinner at my good friend Ana's place, and while she was cooking, these fragrant aromas were wafting through the apartment.  "Wow!" I said, "That smells amazing!"  Since Ana is a pretty great home cook, I assumed she had concocted a mixture of spices to use for her curry and that those were the smells that were delighting my senses.  I asked her what she had used, and she just laughed and said, "Golden Curry, it is awesome!"

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lacquered Peach with Honey Sage Ice Cream

I am not even going to try being humble here.  Not today.  

Because this dessert is the kind of thing where you want to shout from the rooftops that you have stumbled upon something of greatness.  It has a sort of ethereal beauty that seems to radiate from within.  And the taste... Oh lord, imagine a luscious, ripe summer peach, but softer... and sweeter... and warm.  Ladies and gentlemen, this dessert was phenomenal.   

Unfortunately, I can't take credit for the inception of this dessert; that belongs exclusively to Jean-Georges or Mark Bittman, whichever one of their masterminds dreamt up this simple stunner of a dessert.  Personally, I have been daydreaming about this dessert ever since earlier this year when I checked out Jean-Geoges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef from my local library.  You see, this book doesn't have photos for every recipe listed, but it does have insets with large glossy images of a few select dishes that occupy the upper echelons of Jean-Georges repertoire.  And this dessert was one of them.  Immediately when I saw that bright, shiny peach posting like a magazine model, I knew that I had to make this.       

Since then, I kid you not, I have been counting down the months until peaches were in season so I could make this.  I know, I know... I could have made it anytime, and just gone to the grocery store and picked up everything I needed.  But since this seemed like the type of recipe where having in-season, high quality ingredients (like perfectly sun-ripened peaches and apricots) would make a big difference, I waited patiently.  Or maybe not so patiently, but I still waited.  

Honey Sage Ice Cream

Ahhh, ice cream.  On a hot summer day, there truly is nothing like it.  The feel of cool ice cream, sweet on your tongue, is incomparable.  Ice cream is enjoyed by children and adults of all ages, and can be made with a multitude of flavor combinations that is only limited by the imagination of the creator.  We have seen ample evidence of that in recent years, with the advent of exciting new flavors like Candied Bacon Ice Cream, Foie Gras Ice Cream, and even Fish and Octopus Ice Cream from the Japanese.  Yum.  

Not to fear, I won't be sharing any ice cream recipes anytime soon that have seafood or animal parts in the ingredient list.  No, the imagination of The Cilantropist came up with the lovely, light combination of honey-flavored ice cream perfumed with delicate sage.

I originally got the courage to dream up ice cream recipes at all when I stumbled across methods for making ice cream without an ice cream maker.  Because it is sad but true, The Cilantropist does not own an ice cream maker.  I know, they are not that expensive; truth be told, it scares me a little bit to think about owning a machine whose sole purpose is to churn up sugar and cream into something that is fattening yet delicious and irresistible.  Plus I don't think I have room in my kitchen.  

But who needs an ice cream maker anyway, when all I need to make ice cream is my freezer and my own two hands!  Because really folks, this is all it takes to whip up your own creamy ice cream at home.  There are no special tricks, no fancy gadgets, and no guarantee that you will maintain your current weight.  Because once you get started making ice cream, you might not be able to stop.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Cilantropist GROWS: A Tomato Update...HELP!

Hello there again, I am quickly checking in on this lovely Friday to bring you a quick update on my tomatoes, to ask for some much needed help or advice! 

So let me explain.  I didn't really mention it too much here, but at the beginning of July I went home to Ohio for a wedding and little NY trip with my boyfriend.  I was gone for a total of 10 days, and during that time I left my precious tomato plants in the hands of He Who Shall Remain Unnamed.  (Not to be confused with He Who Shall Not Be Named.  This is not Hogwarts people.  If it was, maybe someone could cast a magical spell and resurrect my tomatoes.  But I digress...)  

I am not choosing not to name names because I may have some less than kind words to say about the way this particular individual took care of, or rather, did not take care of my plants.  When I left for vacation, my plants were thriving against all odds. (Check them out here, they were lovely.)  They had beautiful green, bushy leaves, and green tomatoes, both small and large, were growing profusely.  The plants still had plenty of shriveled flowers which would soon sprout new fruits, and I was sure that by the time I returned from Ohio I would be in good shape for a big harvest.  At this point the only threat to my plants were a few renegade caterpillars that were determined to make a meal out of all the leaves. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bacon and Blue Cheese Cake

So after talking about cooking for family in my last post, I thought I would share a recipe that I made for a recent early morning birthday party where there were lots of young families.  My good friend Ana's daughter Karolina just turned two years old (yesterday actually!) and we celebrated her birthday at the park this past Sunday.  The skies were a beautiful blue, and the weather was perfect for all the little ones to run around and play while the adults sampled a fantastic spread of brunch-type foods, including chocolate filled crescent rolls, ham and spinach quiche, blueberry scones, and this bacon and blue cheese cake.  

If you were worried, this "cake" was not the one meant for the birthday girl.  I hope it is clear that this cake is squarely planted in the realm of adult-food, and not exactly the type of fare that a two-year old wants to dig her cute, chubby little fingers into.  (And for those curious minds out there, I'll tell you that the actual birthday cake was really awesome; it was rich chocolate cake with blue frosting and a Nemo-esque underwater scene made with gummy fish, sharks, and octopus.  Little Karolina was fearless as she reached right in and grabbed the octopus by the tentacles and devoured it.  I'd like to think that if someone made me a cake like that, I would do the same.)        

This cake is definitely adult-food because it has all these ingredients here: 

Oh no, your eyes are not deceiving you.  This cake has eggs, flour, blue cheese, parmesan cheese, green onions, and bacon.  BACON.  I know that as you read through this little list you got pretty excited, but I probably could have just told you that it had bacon and you would have been sold.  I can say that I definitely was, because ever since reading The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz, I have been looking for an excuse to make this cake.  Lucky for me Karolina's early morning birthday party provided me with the perfect opportunity. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Classic Stuffed Peppers

So I already admitted to you that I am not a big meat eater, which means that I don't make and post many "main dishes" here on The Cilantropist.  And while I know that main dishes can certainly be meatless, they still seem to be lacking.  Is this just because I love soups and salads so much?  Or is it something else?      

Because I don't really think this idea is as simple as "I don't eat much meat."  I think it means something different: I think it means that I don't yet have a family to feed, and that there are no little hungry mouths that are depending on me to provide them with a well-balanced meal.  And sure, I have a boyfriend (with a big hungry mouth to feed), but even he is not depending on me since he is currently more than 6,000 miles away.  When it comes down to it, I can really eat whatever tickles my fancy, because at this exact point in my life, the only person that I am responsible for is me.       

Is this is a luxury?  Many would say yes, and both my brain and my tastebuds would probably agree (who doesn't want cookies for dinner?).  I am sure more than a few of my readers would tell me to enjoy these carefree days while they last.  But I am just as sure that other readers would say that they throughly enjoy feeding their families and spouses, and although it is a responsibility, it is one they would never trade for anything.  And so while I do appreciate the luxury of languishing over a batch of ladyfingers or spending hours with my friend The Kitchen, I don't know that I actually want that luxury anymore; feeding people is really what I love the most about cooking, and my heart tells me that I want something more.