Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Beets Still Life and a Recipe for Chocolate Beet Cake-Black and White Wednesday

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Beets- gnarly, lumpy and earthy-either you love them or hate them. As a child, my mother canned jars and jars of pickled beets and I refused to eat them as I refused her pickled okra and pickled peaches.  It was only recently that I began cooking beets and have learned to love the taste, whether pickled, roasted or pureed as in the chocolate espresso beet cake that I baked today.  

Beets are delicious seasoned with dill, onion, sour cream, vinegar, especially balsamic; as well as cumin, apples, walnuts, and a hearty mustard.   Shredded raw beets are very tasty in a salad, and  are an integral part of very hearty soup called Borscht. In my kitchen, I bake the scrubbed beets in foil drizzled with a good olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Once baked, I strip them of their skins, slice them and roast them again in the oven with more olive oil, salt and pepper, then drizzle either balsamic vinegar or agro di mosto over them to finish.

The recipe for the beet-chocolate cake comes from Nigel Slater's book, Tender, an urban gardening book, fabulous in the fact Slater grows all his produce in a small back garden plot located in London. From this small plot, Slater harvests an amazing assortment of vegetables and herbs. In my travels to England, I have seen the fortitude and brilliance of the British gardener, growing not only some of the most beautiful produce, but flowers and trees as well, in very small spaces and with panache.

Chocolate Espresso Beet Cake

8 ounces  cooked beets
7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70%), broken into small pieces
4 tablespoons hot espresso
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
5 eggs, separated
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
Creme fraiche or ice cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 350° F.. Lightly butter an 8-inch springform pan  and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Peel the cooked beets and process in a food processor until a coarse puree. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over simmering water. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the melted chocolate, pushing down into the chocolate to soften 

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together. 

Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and quickly stir in the egg yolks. Blend well, then fold in the beets. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold in the sugar. Gently fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixtures. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.

Transfer quickly to the prepared pan an put into the oven, decreasing the heat to 325°F. Bake for forty minutes. The rim of the cake should feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble some when the pan is gently shaken.

Set the cake aside to cool, loosening it around the edges after a half an hour or so. Remove the cake after it has cooled completely. Serve in thick slices with ice cream or creme fraiche. Serves about 8.

This is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #38, this week hosted by Asha of My Spicy Kitchen. Black and White Wednesday was created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Black and White Wednesday-Forsyth Farmers' Market, Savannah, Georgia

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A wonderful find and how I missed it for the last four years that it has been in existence is beyond me! I guess I was either traveling or out in the boat on the Saturdays that the Forsyth Farmers' Market was being held at Forsyth Park, the park with the iconic fountain, a must see when visiting Savannah. Now that I am in Savannah permanently, I shall take advantage of all the exquisite produce along with freshly baked artisanal breads and organic meats, cheeses, eggs and lovely flowers.

This is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #37 hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Spicy Shrimp Bisque

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While the shrimp for this velvety smooth, slightly spicy bisque did not sleep in the ocean last night, they did recently sleep in the waters off South Carolina near Kiawah Island, so are bona fide wild shrimp. Although many pureed soups are called bisques, the classic bisque is made from seafood, typically shrimp, although lobster and crab can be used. Where the term "bisque" came from is up for debate, but the soup is definitely of French origin.  Traditionally, the unshelled seafood is sautéed in a heavy saucepan, an aromatic broth added and when cooked, the entire mixture is pureed, shells and all. The concoction is then popped back in the saucepan with the addition of heavy cream for a lovely smooth pureed soup. Modern versions only use the shells to flavor the broth with rice or bread crumbs along with the cream for thickening.

Pureed soups are delicious, but I like my soup to have some substance and added spice. After shelling and deveining the shrimp, reserving the shells as well as the shrimp, I sautéed the shells in a mirepoix of onions, carrots, and garlic, then added a fish broth along with tomatoes, tomatillos and my favorite smoky chili, minced chipotes en adobo. After straining the broth through a sieve and discarding the shells, I added half the reserved shrimp and when cooked, pureed the soup with an electric hand blender. The remaining shrimp was chopped and added to cook briefly before serving, thus making the finished product a combination of a bisque and a chowder. 

Spicy Shrimp Bisque
Adapted from Williams Sonoma Soup

Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
3 tomatillos, coarsely chopped
chipotle en adobo with added sauce, chopped
4 cups fish stock, prepared clam broth or chicken broth
1/2 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dry sherry, optional
Salt  to taste
Pinch cayenne or Old Bay

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and sauté, stirring until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add the shrimp shells and sauté until pink and vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the plum tomatoes, tomatillos and the minced chipotle en adobo along with the desired stock and cook until tomatoes and tomatillos have softened, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp shells and discard.

Process the mixture until finely chopped in batches either in a blender or food processor. Remove to a fine-mesh strainer set over a soup pot. Press down on the solids with the back of a spoon to completely extract the liquid. Discard the solids.

Reserve about 24 shrimp ( I reserved 12 as I used jumbo shrimp) or roughly half of the shrimp. Add the remaining shrimp and bread crumbs to the pot. Cook over medium heat until the shrimp turn pink and are opaque and the bread crumbs have softened, about 3 minutes. Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth. An electric hand blender makes this an easy task.

Still on medium heat, add the cream, optional sherry, salt and the cayenne or Old Bay seasoning. Cook for another 2 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Chop the reserved shrimp into 1/2-1-inch pieces. Just before serving, add the shrimp pieces to the soup and cook until pink and opaque, 1-2 minutes longer.

In warmed bowls, ladle the soup and add a sprinkling of Old Bay Seasoning, if desired.

This is my contribution to The Soup Kitchen-Theme for June-Potluck created and hosted by Deb of The Spanish Wok
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Cienfuegos, Cuba-Dinner with Jorge-Black and White Wednesday #36

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Cienfuegos, called the "La perla del Sur" (the pearl of the South) was the last town we spent the night in before the 160 mile trip to Havana where we would be for six nights. Cienfuegos is located on the southern coast of Cuba and is an important center of trade for sugar, tobacco and coffee. This lovely city was settled by French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana in 1819. Most of the day was spent walking the beautiful square of amazing Neo-classical buildings, but when the evening came, we dined at Casa Jorge y Alicia, a private home called a case particular. There we had a splendid meal of mojito's, a local soup and fire grilled lobster and shrimp.  Afterward, we danced to the music of a band 
playing traditional Cuban music. The morning came too soon and we were on our way to Havana!


This is my contribution to Black and White Wednesday #36, hosted by Cinzia of  CindyStarBlog. Black and White Wednesday was created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook.

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