Cookbook Review: Plated

Saturday, July 30, 2016

When I received Plated in the mail, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Plated is a cookbook from the online food delivery company Plated, similar to Blue Apron or Sun Basket.  One of my favorite sections is the flavoring chapter which teaches you how to make your own spices, marinades, dressings, sauces, condiments, and infusions.  This section is perfect for the home cook who loves those dyi projects instead of buying prepackaged spices and marinades.  

With regard to recipes, I’m not sure if the ones in the book are similar to the ones posted online but they seem very straightforward and versatile ranging from classic American dishes to Italian, Asian, Greek, and Middle Eastern.  Some of my favorite recipes are seared duck breast, beer braised pulled chicken, and steak gyros with yogurt sauce.  Since cherries are in season I tried the cherry clafoutis and everyone in my family loved it.  I’m already bookmarking many more recipes that I want to try.  With no expectation whatsoever, I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious the recipes from this book are.  I highly recommend Plated to anyone new to cooking but want to try a variety of recipes.          

*I received this book to review complementary of the publisher

Earl Grey Pavlova with Figs

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My obsession with Earl Grey started a few years ago when I first discovered the London Fog at Le Marche St Georges. Coming back from Vancouver, I started making the London Fog at home and eventually moved onto experimenting with Earl Grey tea in desserts. Incorporating Earl Grey in ice cream was easy since all I had to do was steep the tea in the milk. However, the baked goods were a bit more challenging especially cookies, meringues, and pavlovas. I can’t say that I’ve mastered meringue or pavlova yet but I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that hopefully will help you with your meringue journey.

Like macarons, meringue and pavlova are quite fickle. With very few ingredients, egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, cornstarch, and a tiny amount of vinegar, they’re supposedly simple to make but even the most experienced home bakers find them intimidating. Over the years, this Earl Grey pavlova has grown to be one of my favorite summer desserts when figs are in season. I hope you like this pavlova as much as we do!

Earl Grey Pavlova with Figs
4 egg whites, at room temperature
½ cup of sugar
1 tbsp loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp of cornstarch
1 tsp distilled white vinegar
Powdered sugar for dusting

Earl Grey syrup
2 tbsps of Earl Grey sugar from above
¼ cup of water

1 cup of heavy whipping cream
½ cup of mascarpone
2 tbsps of powdered sugar
8-10 figs, torn in half
2 tbsps of roasted, unsalted pistachios, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 8 by 10 inch rectangle on the parchment paper and dust with powdered sugar to prevent the pavlova from sticking.
3. Add the sugar and Earl Grey tea leaves to a spice grinder and grind until the sugar and tea leaves become powdery. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the Earl Grey sugar for the syrup.
4. Whisk the cornstarch into the Earl Grey sugar mixture until well combined. Adding cornstarch helps prevent the pavlova from shrinking during baking and creates a crispy outer layer.
5. Before placing the egg whites into a mixing bowl of an electric mixer, wipe the bowl clean and make sure that there’s no residual moisture. Any moisture will make it impossible to achieve thick, stiff peaks.
6. Beat the egg whites and whisk on medium speed until it becomes foamy, about 3 minutes.
7. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form. Add the Earl Grey sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar has been added. Continue to whip until the the egg whites are stiff and glossy and firm peaks form, about 12-15 minutes.
8. Add the vinegar and cream of tartar and fold in gently with a metal spoon to combine. The vinegar creates a chewy pavlova and the cream of tartar helps stabilize the egg whites.
9. Spread the egg white mixture inside the drawn rectangle, making a slight indent in the center. Alternatively you can make 6-8 individual mini pavlova.
10. Reduce the oven to 275 degrees F and bake for 50-60 minutes or until firm to touch.
11. Leave the pavlova in the switched off oven to cool for an hour with the door slightly ajar.
12. To make the Earl Grey syrup, combine 2 tablespoons of Earl Grey sugar with water in a small sauce pan over low heat until the volume is reduced in half.
13. Whip the mascarpone, heavy cream, and powdered sugar together until thick and smooth and soft peaks form.
14. When ready to serve, remove the pavlova from the oven and place on a serving platter.

15. Spread the mascarpone over the center of the pavlova, top with figs and pistachios, and drizzle with syrup.

Tomato fig peach prosciutto and burrata salad

Saturday, July 9, 2016

People always ask what my favorite season is and I find it quite hard to pick one. Each season brings its beautiful fruits and vegetables but summer would be my favorite. Summer arrives with its glorious stone fruits, cherries, berries, melons, figs, tomatoes, avocado, zucchini, squash, and their beautiful blossoms. I find myself eating even more salads, churning a lot of ice cream, and turning on my oven as often as winter to turn those beautiful fruits and vegetables into delicious tarts, pies, and cakes. Summer is also the perfect time for indulging in lazy afternoons and gathering with friends over delicious meals that go into the wee hours of the morning. Speaking of gatherings, today we’re sharing our favorite summer salad that is often served at dinner parties. The heroes behind this salad are sweet summer fruits--heirloom tomatoes, figs, and peaches--which provide a nice contrast to the creaminess of burrata and saltiness of prosciutto. 

It’s an effortless salad that can be thrown together in a few minutes but requires hunting for the best ingredients at your local farmers markets the day before. Your guests will love this salad and don’t be surprised if it becomes your favorite summer salad.

Tomato, fig, peach, prosciutto, and burrata salad
8 ripe figs (Black Mission figs, Brown Turkey figs, or your favorite), torn in half
2 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved if big
2 peaches, ripe but firm, thinly sliced
1-2 whole burrata
8 slices of prosciutto
¼ cup of basil leaves

For the salad dressing

1 tbsp of raw honey
2 tbsps of good quality olive oil
1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. In a small sauce bowl, whisk the ingredients for the salad dressing together and set aside. Keep in mind that the cheese and prosciutto are slightly salty.

2. Arrange the salad ingredients on a serving platter. Garnish with basil leaves.

3. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve immediately.