Tag Archives: Dessert

i8tonite: My Favorite Recipe from 2015: French Apple Cake and Becoming Us

 

Photo: Michael Stern
Photo: Michael Stern

I8tonite is simply about food. On the surface, we hope — along with the contributors — to engage the reader in what chefs cook, what makes them human and why they love their profession. (Chefs love their work.) We want to share new recipes we’ve discovered and talk to food industry people. We want to learn. As we’ve said in several posts – without food, we can’t be artistic, physical, intellectual or emotional. Food, water, and shelter are fundamental human needs.

Underneath, we want food to be a main topic of discussion  – whether it’s becoming a vegan, how to butcher a pig, pick coffee beans or discuss biodynamic wineries – but try and leave the politics out of it.I8tonite is not meant to be solely a cooking blog. As the creator of this blog, I don’t have that warehouse of culinary knowledge. Although, I do have a vast amount of food experience including working as a waiter and bartender as well as in hospitality marketing. From these practices – which meant a lot of travel – I ate very well and learned cooking techniques from culinary teachers including Michelin-starred chefs, well-known cookbook authors, and international epicurean eateries.

Photo: Michael Stern
Photo: Michael Stern

Working in restaurants taught me another thing: chefs love other chefs. They admire the work of their peers. Therefore, I8tonite is meant to be a storehouse of what other chefs and people in the food industry are cooking – for the professional and the home cook. I8tonite will not only focus on chefs who have publicists, but the unheralded cooks are who are chopping onions somewhere in Peoria, Arizona or  Ubud, Bali.

In the five months, since I’ve devoted myself to i8tonite, the blog has amassed unique monthly views of over 12,000. How? Well, I’m a damned good marketer plus i8tonite was meant to be different. It’s supposed to showcase the cook as a creative individual and where they get their inspiration. It’s also meant to inspire by learning what and who inspires them. For me, there is no better indication of who you are than by what you eat.

Photo: Michael Stern
Photo: Michael Stern

The other key to the blog is that I cook religiously. Others go to church, I go to a stove. People can quote scripture from their chosen faith, I can recite a recipe. Same thing…but not. The commonality resides in a spiritual devotion.

As the readership develops, we grow and learn together. With i8tonite; I want people to become motivated by the chefs, food people and places we cover.  Editorially, we want the reader to get inspired by the individual behind the recipe’s development, and then possibly become creative themselves and write a cookbook, a cooking blog, become a chef, start a garden, or just become a more conscious eater.

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Photo: Nolan Williamson
Photo: Nolan Williamson

As my parting gift to 2015, I wanted to share my Favorite Recipe of the Year: Dorie Greenspan’s French Apple Cake from her cookbook Around My French Table. I’ve made it about a dozen times, and it’s now committed to memory. I also played around with the fruit and the required liquors which are not necessary but hey – everything is good with a glug or three.

It was a close contest between cake and poultry. I thought about Sascha Martin’s Hungarian Paprikash –I make it almost weekly — found in her memoir “Life from Scratch,” a book full of hope and lovely recipes. Ultimately, sweet won out over savory and adaptability over dependability.  Regardless, they are both delicious. I encourage you to read Martin’s book and her blog: Global Table Adventure. Both are memorable

Dorie Greenspan’s French Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Other adaptations and suggestions:

  • Chopped crystallized ginger and substituting Bloomery Sweetshine’s Ginger or Domaine de Canton for the bourbon.
  • Calvados, a brandy made from apples, is also an excellent choice instead of the dark rum.
  • Pineapple and peaches can be used in place of the apples. The cake will still be moist.

Let’s Make This Puppy: 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch Springform pan and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet parchment paper.
  • In small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt
  • Peel, core and cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and mix for a minute or so to blend. Add the liquor and vanilla.
  • Stir in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter
  • Fold gently after each addition so that you have a thick batter.
  • Add the apples fold in the apples, rotating the fruit so that it’s coated with batter.
  • Scrape the mix into the springform. Flatten the top so it becomes even in the pan and along the sides.
  • Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Run a butter knife around the edges of the cake before removing the pan.

The End. Go Eat.

 

No Cook Thanksgiving But If I Were…..

I stopped cooking Thanksgiving meals about 5 years ago. I know, I know. It’s one of the big days that all caliber of cooks want to shine showcasing their adeptness in the kitchen, commercial or home. If you know anything about me, cooking is one my favorite of the things. Therefore, you would think that I would be all over this but I’m not. Not anymore. I stopped cooking for the holiday when I was ending a decade plus relationship that entailed my work and my personal life. I also moved from San Francisco, where I lived for 3 years, back to Los Angeles at the same time. (Hey, no one ever said that I liked to do it easy). That first Thanksgiving, as a single man, turned out to be a horrible experience as I was invited to eat at one of my ex’s friend with their 30 plus dinner guests. My only excuse for going was I that I was still delirious from the break-up.

With each progressive year, I feel less and less like big festivities. This year, I think it’s just Nick, Holly, JJ and my mother. I don’t really think of the holiday as exceptional anymore but I celebrate it quietly with people who love me and I, them.

At the heart of it all, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday and New Year’s Eve clustered together in a 6 week period, is that I really just want to spend quality time with the people whom I cherish. I don’t want to wrapped up in a kitchen anymore for the entire day. Let someone else shine and enjoy learning about cooking. (To brine or not to brine? Fried or not to fry? Oysters in the stuffing or sausage?) I’ve made a lot of turkeys, roasts and hams in my life and I’m now willing to give up the “big star” turn to others. Cooking quietly, simple easy meals on a daily basis.

However, if I were to cook for a dinner of 8 to 10 (LOL), this is what I would make and why:

Butternut Squash Soup: Simplicity. Ease and elegance. Besides, Butternut Squash Soup screams fall!

Roasted Turkey Stuffed with Prunes: Mario Batali’s way of cooking a large bird is ingenious. Have your butcher remove the bones and use them for stock and gravy. Beautiful. Easy. Delicious and quick.

Homemade Bread: There is nothing in the world like homemade bread. Nothing. It can be made two or three days in advance and frozen. Just one of the most beautiful things ever. No Knead Bread is revelatory.

IMG_20140823_150336 (2)

Salad: If I were making the dinner, the recipe for this Kale, Fennel and Apple Salad would be it. And I would leave it at this. It feels very European this meal. A protein. Bread. Salad. Soup.

This would be the meal. You don’t have to do too many things. If you want to throw in a traditional dish of roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, go for it.

Oh, but don’t forget for dessert. HA! I don’t make a lot sweet things and there are reasons for it. I don’t want it around because I will eat it…ALL…but if I find something sweet and light.

Sparkling water and flat. Always.

White Wine: Duckhorn or Cade Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. Both are perfect wines for cocktails and for the first course. Lovely and herbaceous.

Red Wine: Oregon’s Sokol Blosser Pinot is lovely for this dinner. Light, bodied, earthy red with hints of cherry.

Beer: Brouwerij West “Saison”. Not to hoppy, excellent flavor, Belgian-style beer. Craft beer made in Los Angeles.

Happy Turkey Day. Enjoy your family, friends and food!

The Humble “Crumble” or Just a “Crisp”

ladies baking

I have written many times that my mother wasn’t really a cook. She was a working, single mother and it wasn’t really in her repertoire to cook. Occasionally, she would make a meatloaf or the requisite holiday dinner but normally it was a sandwich, doughnuts, Kraft Mac & Cheese, possibly a can of Campbell’s Pork and Beans (very Sandra Lee). 

It wasn’t until I moved to New York City that my taste buds began to experience real food and cooking. One of my teachers in my gastronomic learning was my roommate, Teresa. Born in Massachusetts, outside of Boston, from a family of 9, she quickly became someone I thought of as a family member; plus, she loved to cook. She made simple American dishes like “baking soda biscuits”, roasted chicken and made delicious “Apple Brown Betty” which is what she called it. Really it was just a “crumble” also known as a “crisp”. 

Brought over by English settlers, a crumble or crisp, is baked fruit topped with a crust of sugar, butter and flour. And one of the most amazing things in the American cooking world. It’s a simple concoction that conjures up Norman Rockwell scenes: kids frolicking in freshwater lakes, post an afternoon of strawberry picking or climbing apple trees, yanking down bushels of apples. (None of which I experienced growing up in Baltimore. Besides, I had never seen a berry plant much less an apple tree in the urban Seventies landscape.) 

Kids in a lake 1950

It was Teresa’s Irish family cooking which opened me to this bit of Americana. I can still smell the baking aromatics of cinnamon and nutmeg with the sweetness of the apples. She would pull it from the oven still bubbling hot and top it with some cheap ice cream bought at one of the local bodegas.  

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It sort of came back to me when I was moving. I was triggered to make a crisp for me and Nick. It’s funny how doing something can make you want to do something else. A move is stressful and I wanted to eat something nostalgic, when I thought life was simpler like living in New York City and being a club kid. (LOL) 

You will need: 

  • 2 pounds of hulled and sliced fresh strawberries
  • 2 or 3 cups of fresh blueberries
  • 3 tbs. of cornstarch
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • ¾ cups flour
  • ¾ cups quick-cooking oatmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)
  • ½ cups Butter

To Make: 

Preheat oven to 350 F. Put the berries into a large bowl. Toss berries with cornstarch. Butter a 10″ glass pie plate or loaf pan and place the berries inside. 

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the brown sugar, flour, rolled oats and cinnamon. Cut butter into the dry mix until resembling “crumbles”. Place over top of the berries.

Bake for 45-55 minutes with a rimmed baking sheet just in case it bubbles over.(Hate having to clean an oven!) 

Serve warm with your choice of ice cream…vanilla is probably my choice because it’s tasty and doesn’t conflict with the berries. You can top with some homemade whip cream. (Add a touch of bourbon to the cream….whoo- hoo!)