Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Coffee, Regular

Just about a year ago I had a cup of coffee at the counter in a candy and newspaper store under the D-train tracks on New Utrecht Avenue. I just love that there are still some candy store lunch counters in Brooklyn, and I love yet more what happened, even if I did not especially like the coffee. Here’s how it went. I sat down and asked for coffee, and the fella there said “regular?” and I said yes, thinking regular meant not decaffeinated. So then he brings me a cup of coffee with milk and sugar in. I had forgotten that in Brooklyn, and as far as I know, nowhere else, “regular” means coffee with milk and sugar in. I was so delighted to be experiencing this miraculous bit of New York dialect in real life that I did not even really mind drinking coffee with sugar, something I normally cannot endure.

I remembered this occasion yesterday when my venerable father and I had coffee at Le Pain Quotidien (in some ways the opposite end of the coffee spectrum from a Boro Park candy store). The coffee was so delicious I thought I would take home a package of beans, and asked the waiter what they had. He explained they had espresso and the house blend.

Waiter: But the regular coffee is made with the espresso beans.

Chocolate Lady: How about the caffè latte?

Waiter: That’s also made with the espresso beans.

Chocolate Lady: What’s made with the house blend?

Waiter: Nothing.

Chocolate Lady: Nothing?

Waiter: Nothing.

Chocolate Lady: So the house blend . . .

Waiter: . . . is really not aptly named.

What is most interesting to me the flexibility in where markedness might lie with respect to coffee. Regular coffee can be coffee that is not decaffeinated, or coffee that is not espresso, or coffee that is not missing the milk and sugar. This is how you can know what kind of coffee a particular group finds normal. Recall that in Unmarked: the Politics of Performance (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), Peggy Phelan writes (but not about coffee) that while the norm is unremarkable, the other is marked (5).

So I guess if you sell coffee, you have to offer some non-espresso coffee, even if you don’t prepare it, and I guess you have to call it something. Lindy recalls a figure from American letters who calls this kind of coffee “regulare.” In the Chocolate family we call it caffè locale, you know, because it is not espresso.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

אפֿשר שאַדן טײ און תּהילים יאָ Maybe Tea and Sympathy CAN Hurt

אױ, ס'טוט מיר װײ. פֿון טאַנצן און גליטשן בין איך אַרױס אַ גאַנצע, אָבער נעכטן אין אָװנט בין איך געזעסן אױף אַ סאָפֿע, טרינקנדיק אַ גלאָז טײ און לײענענדיק חנהס שאָף און רינדער פֿון שירה גאָרשמאַנען, האָב איך זיך פֿאַלש געדרײט דעם פֿוס, און עס טוט נאָך װײ. דאָס הײסט, זיך אָפּצוהיטן פֿונעם שאָדן, טאַנצט'ץ און גליטשט'ץ אױף װיפֿל עץ װילט, אָבער מײַדט'ץ שטאַרק אױס סאָפֿעס, טײ, און ייִדישע ליטעראַטור.

To avoid injury, dance and skate as much as you want, just stay away from sofas, tea, and Yiddish literature.

Kaffir Limes and Limequats (Alternate Lime Meringue Pie)

That in not a lime that I left out in the rain overnight. It is a kaffir lime, a delicate and fragrant variety of citrus sometimes available at my neighborhood grocer. K-limes are prized mostly for their flavorful leaves, but the fruit is lovely. The zest is very strong, so use just a bit in combination with other citrus zests, and the juice is pleasantly tart and floral, but scant, so you may want to stretch it with some lemon juice as well.

These are limequats, a kumquat-lime hybrid. Are they not very cute? They are way too sour to eat out of hand (I can see Krakow and Lemberg) but the zest is really something special, and the tart juice combines beautifully with lemon for a lemon and alternate lime pie, a dressing, or to squeeze into tea.

I had no sooner finished the lemon pie I made yesterday (I had some help with this) than I just needed to have another, made even more wonderful by this delicate crisp pastry, and the addition of the juices and zests of these alternate limes to the mix.

Seen these before, Sweetnicks?

Lemon and Alternate Lime Meringue Pie

This will make about eighteen little tartlets or one 9-inch tart

Sour Cream Crust for Custard Pies

6 ounces (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour

pinch salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

4 ounces (1 stick, ½ cup) sweet butter

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 tablespoons water

combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir together the sour cream and water in a glass and pour into the dough. Mix with a fork so that everything holds together. Wrap the dough and chill for twenty minutes or so.

Roll the dough to 1/8 inch for a full-size pie, or somewhat thinner for smaller tarts, and line your pie and tart pans. Bake at 350 for ten to fifteen minutes, or until golden.

Lemon and Alternate Lime Filling

1 cup water

¼ cup cornstarch

½ cup sugar

3 yolks

2 tablespoons butter

3 ounces juice (Juice of 1 or 2 lemons, one kaffir lime, and 2 limequats, depending on your yield)

zest of 1 lemon, 1 kaffir lime and 2 limequats (1 generous tablespoon zest)

1 teaspoon vanilla or vanilla-scented bourbon

Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add some of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Then add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the citrus juice, zest and vanilla or bourbon. Allow the filling to cool somewhat before filling the tart shells.


3 egg whites

½ cup sugar

mix the sugar and eggwhites in the large bowl of your mixer. If you remember to do this when you start, leave them in a warm place to dissolve while you prepare the pastry crust and citrus curd. Otherwise, whisk the sugar and egg whites together over simmering water until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whip to soft peaks. Taking the step of melting the sugar will give you a more delicious and satiny meringue. It will also be prettier than a raw meringue.

Assemble the tarts

Raise the oven to 400. Spoon the citrus curd into the tart shells and pipe or spoon the meringue on top. Place the tarts on a sheet pan, and bake in the top part of the oven for ten minutes, or until browned on the tips and edges.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie for the Daring Bakers

We never made lemon meringue pie when I was in alimentary school. We made tarts with puckery sour lemon curd, and they were swell, but the whole Serious French Pastry Establishment really has very little kind to say about puddings and fillings made with cornstarch and water. How wrong they are. These sweet little pies are adorable, and great fun to make. I am so grateful to the Daring Bakers for challenging me once again to try something I have never done before. This week was also the first time I ever went ice skating or Norwegian folk dancing. All three of these new activities involve twirling exhilarating weightlessness—Just look at those swirly little peaks.

This is a recipe that benefits especially from being made in the smallest pans for which you have the patience. The filling is quite sweet, and still plenty puckery, so a high crust ratio is just the bee’s knees. I made two thirds of the recipe for the filling and still had lemon filling and meringue left over. I piped the leftover meringue into kisses and baked them in a very slow oven overnight to serve alongside glasses of lemon parfait. Here is the recipe. My comments are in square brackets.

Lemon Meringue Pie

[I made two 5-inch pies and seven tiny tartlettes]

Recipe from: Wanda’s Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver.

For the Crust:
3/4 cup (170 gram) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (50 gram) butter
3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
3/4 cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

To Make the Crust:
Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (0.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling [I just prebaked the crusts without any lining. The smaller your tarts, the more you can get away with].

To Make the Filling:
Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue:
Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) [a little higher I think—I baked these at 400]. Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes [in the top third of the oven], or until golden [ideally, you should have a contrast of dark tips and white valleys]. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust [you can even have them while they are still warm. Yummy!].


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Vanilla-Scented Bourbon בראָנפֿן מיט װאַניל

קאָן זײַן אַז איך בין אַ ביסל צו צאַרטפֿיליק, אָבער עס טוט מיר טאַקע װײ אַז מען זאָגט אַז װאַניל איז פּראָסט אָדער פּשוט. װאָס גײט זײ אָן?

אַז עץ האָט שײטלעך װאַניל פֿון מאַכן מאָראָזשנע, אָדער פֿערשקע־זופּ, אָדער עפּעס אַזױנס, קאָנט עץ אײַנװײקן אין קענטאָקעװער בראָנפֿן (װיסקי). עס לאָזט זיך אין מױל אַרײַן. עס איז גאָרנישט פּראָסט אָדער פּשוט אין דעם.

בראָנפֿן מיט װאַניל

1 פֿלאַש קענטאָקי אָדער טענעסי בראָנפֿן

3 שױן אױסגעקרײצטע שײטלעך װאַניל

װײקט'ץ אײַן די שײטלך אין בראָנפֿן אײן מעת־לעת (24 שעה)

מען קאָן נאָך נוצן די שײטלעך אין װאַניל־צוקער.

Perhaps I am a little too fragile, but I feel just terrible when folks refer to vanilla as “plain.” What could they be thinking?

When you have vanilla pods left from making ice cream or gaspeacho, you can use them to make some wonderful vanilla-infused bourbon. Use the bourbon in recipes, or enjoy as is. There is nothing plain about it.

Vanilla-Scented Bourbon

1 bottle bourbon or Tennessee whiskey

3 scraped vanilla pods, rinsed and dried

Infuse the pods in the whiskey 24 hours. Rinse and dry the pods and add them to your vanilla sugar.

Other perfumed creations are to be found at Weekend Herb Blogging, wafting towards us this week from Anna’s Cool Finds.


small pod, matrimonial wig

װאָס גײט זײ אָן?

What could they be thinking?


Friday, January 25, 2008

Chocolate Agave Glaze

I have only just started trying to make sweets with agave, a cactus-derived nectar which, according to folks who sell it at least, is a miraculous syrup safe for anyone on sugar-free diets in spite of its natural sugars. So far, this recipe is the first I’ve made that is actually better in the agave version than with any more familiar sweetener. It is by no means a low-glycemic recipe with all that chocolate, but well worth trying, and very good to have on hand. Unglazed chocolate cakes seem to be turning up around here all the time.

Chocolate Agave Glaze

½ pound chocolate

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

½ cup hot water

¼ cup agave nectar

1 teaspoon bourbon in which you have infused vanilla pods, or plain bourbon, or vanilla, or both, or neither

Melt the chocolate and butter together. Stir in the water, agave, and whiskey, if you are using it.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yellow Dragon Fruit

This might just be the most perfectly engineered fruit I have had the pleasure to meet. While it does not share the snazzy flashiness of the pink dragon fruit, the pulp is much sweeter and juicier, and those perfect little black seeds have exactly the most pleasing level of crunchiness. I have just the barest memory of tasting something like this in a candy bar once when I was very little. I do hope I will be able to find these again. A joyous khameshoser (or Tu b’Shvat) to all in mol araan.

The Yiddish word for yellow dragon fruit is געלער פּיפּערנאָטער־באַר (geler pipernoter bar).

Sweetnicks will round up other fruity discoveries for this festive and auspicious day.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

White pomegranate װײַסער מילגרױם

I was never all that amused by the milder, sweeter varieties of watermelon or cherries in their white or pale yellow finery. The redder the better, I usually say, but these Spanish white pomegranates were a revelation. They are almost as deep red inside as common pomegranates, and much more sweet and flowery. The real miracle is the juiciness of the seeds. They are about twice as large as common pomegranate seeds, but the inner fibrous kernel is much smaller, so they are almost all pulp. I found this one on my recent visit to Canada, or somewhere of that sort.

The Yiddish word for white pomegranate is װײַסער מילגרױם (vayser milgroym).

Ever seen one of these, Sweetnicks?


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Passover Query אַ שאלה אױף פּסח

מיט אַ פּאָר טעג צוריק, האָב איך אָנגעבלאָגעװעט דעם רעצעפּט פֿאַר געבאַקענע קאַבאַק װי אַ פּסחדיקן. דאָס האָב איך געטאָן צוליב דעם װאָס עס איז דאָ גאָרנישט אין דעם װאָס איז דװקא נישט פּסחדיק, און עס איז שױן פֿאַר אַלעמען אין די אױגען אַז דער ליבער יום־טובֿ פּסח קומט צו דונערן אונדז אַנטקעגן װי אַ ייִד צו כאַפּן אַ מינחה. צוריקגערעדט, אָבער, װאָלט איך דעם רעצעפּט מסתּמא קײן מאָל נישט אָפּגעקאָכט אױף פּסח. אַפֿילו װען עס איז נאָך גוט קאַלט אין פֿרילינג, כאַפּט עס זיך ניט אָן.

אָט רבותי, איז מײַן שאלה: אין דער קורץ־קירצלעך צײַט ביז פּסח, װעל איך אַדורכבלעטערן די אַלטע בלאָג־אײנסן און און שטעלן אױף די פּסחדיקע קװיטלעך עץ (און איך) זאָלט זײ קאָנען גרינג געפֿינען. צי זאָל איך שטעלן קװיטלעך אױף אַלע נישט־חמצדיקע, אָדער נאָר אױף די װאָס בעטן זיך מען זאָל זײ אָנגרײטן אום פּסח? און װאָס איז מכּוך זאַכן װאָס שטײען געשריבן אױף דער נאָז, אַזױ װי אוגערקע סאַלאַט? דאַרפֿן זײ אױך קװיטלעך? נו, לאָזט'ץ איבער ענקערע תּשובֿות, אַ שײנעם ש'כּוך!

The other day I marked this herbed squash recipe as “peysekhdik” or kosher for Passover. I did so because there is nothing in the recipe that is not peysekhdik, and it does not escape me that the beloved Passover holiday is thundering towards us like a herd of stampeding wildebeest. At the same time, I am unlikely ever to prepare this recipe for peysekh. Even when it is still really cold in the early spring, somehow this kind of dish is not quite the thing.

So here is my question: in the rapidly vanishing time between now and peysekh (I know you hear those hoofbeats), I am planning to go through my archive and label peysekhdik recipes to make them easier for you (and me) to find. Should I label everything that is not clearly contraindicated for Passover, or just things that really cry out to be made for the joyous holiday currently hurtling in our direction? And what about obvious things like cucumber salad? Should they get tagged too? I will be grateful for any and all comments.

װי אַ ייִד צו כאַפּן אַ מינחה
Like a herd of stampeding wildebeest (lit: Like a Jew on the way to afternoon prayers)

כאַפּט עס זיך ניט אָן
It is not quite the thing

זאַכן װאָס שטײען געשריבן אױף דער נאָז
Obvious things (lit: things that are written on one’s nose)

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Twice-Baked Squash with Sage

I was in at the Conuco farm stand in Union Square, about to purchase that handsome Musquee de Provence from Stephanie, and fancying myself unobserved when I was spotted by a keen-eyed neighbor. “Are you buying squash?!?” She cried, shocked and appalled in equal measure, “you want more squash? I’ll give you squash!”

My neighbor’s reaction is more reasoned than you might at first guess. We are both members of the CSA of Stoneledge Farm, and even for our always miraculous farm, this was mamesh an annus mirabilis for squash. I have lots of leftover cooked squash, the better to make this cozy little gratin, for instance.

See Kalyn’s Kitchen for this weekend’s roundup of herbal strategies.

Twice-Baked Squash with Sage

Cooked squash





Sage leaves

Additional butter

Butter a baking pan of the appropriate size. Fill it halfway with cooked squash, sliced, diced, or gently fork-mashed into shape. Dot with butter, grated parmesan, and salt and pepper liberally. Fill the dish with more squash, and top with additional butter, salt, pepper, and parmesan. In a small skillet, fry some sage leaves in butter (12 sage leaves will cover a 1 ½ quart dish nicely). Pour the sage leaves and their butter over the top of the squash and bake for about 30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.

farmers markets, Farms & Farmers , vegetables, Food and Drink, Recipes, Cooking, Food, Vegetarian, vegetables, Weekend Herb Blogging, whb,

antioxidant-rich foods,

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