In search of lost lime.

Today is Bon Appegeek’s second anniversary. I’m marking the day with a long post that has taken more than two years to write. There’s a recipe at the end. I promise.

In search of lost seedsAfter several years of on-again off-again reading, I finally started volume 4 of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (À la recherche du temps perdu), entitled Sodom and Gomorrah. After you spend your life reading mostly English and American literature, French literature is a shock to the system. I should have suspected something back in junior high when every single one of Guy de Maupassant’s characters engaged in rampant adultery or random copulation, in light of which I wonder why I didn’t read more French literature. Have I mentioned the whores? It should not surprise me that Proust covers these scandalous topics and augments them with the gomorrahesque twist, a popular American dance in the fifties (I might be wrong about that).

My complaint about Proust, wonderful writer though he is, is that he often writes about fine dining but rarely describes the food. He doesn’t even include photos. Recipes? Forget it. Oh sure, he can write ten pages about his love of hawthorn flowers and twenty pages about the beauty of a church facade, but an author who has nothing to write about, say, the delectable sauce atop a succulent pheasant, won’t get read as quickly as he might. Yet many readers, botanists and architects probably, claim he was brilliant.

In search of lost leavesProust’s greatest contribution to food writing was to glorify the madeline. I read the famous passage with all due attention and was riveted by it—not because of the madeline, which I’d already baked and read about a great deal by then (food bloggers adore madelines)—but because of the unusual tea he drank with it. Nobody discusses this magical elixir. True, the tea alone didn’t trigger Proust’s epiphany, but it did dissolve the madeline and release the flavor that would catapult the shell-shaped cake into food blog stardom and forever alter literary history. You’d think the tea would get at least as much attention as Robin gets in the shadow of Batman. (Nothing about Sodom or Gomorrah implied by that Batman and Robin reference. Until this parenthetical.)

Continue reading

Grand Gianduja Stracciatella Gelato.

I’ve met people who eat chocolate every day, survive on chocolate when depressed, and smoke chocolate after sex. You know those people. Perhaps you are one. Well, not me, I’m stronger than that. Chocolate can’t take me on its own—it takes two to take me down. Caramel plus chocolate works. Almonds can help out. Recently I tried a matcha dark milk chocolate bar that made my knees wobble.

Gianduja Stracciatella GelatoAnd God help me when chocolate teams up with hazelnut. If chocolate and hazelnut ran a cult together, I’d shave my head, buy a robe, and get a tattoo. Chocolate and hazelnut make me run in circles and howl at the moon. Tease me with gianduja or Nutella and I’ll transform into a raving chocelnut girl, a hazelolate slut, a nutty drooling wench powerless in the face of my desire. You know you can dip strawberries in Nutella? You can dip anything in Nutella. Believe me, I know. My cats are still pissed.¹

It never occurred to me to combine chocolate and hazelnuts myself until my cookbook ban lifted and a sexy copy of David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop finally arrived. I happened to have a bulk quantity of shelled whole hazelnuts and a supply of Green & Blacks milk chocolate and Michel Cluizel milk chocolate in my pantry. Since the word “fate” gets thrown around too casually, I won’t claim that I made the gelato due to fate. I made the gelato because I love chocolate with hazelnuts and had the stuff around to make it. It’s not a romantic story, but when your most enduring love affair so far has been with a sweet creamy chocolate nut spread, you work with what you have.

By the way, if you live near an Aldi, they sell an excellent trans fat-free chocolate hazelnut spread for a third of the cost of Nutella. I mention this because if I’m going down, damn it, I’m taking everybody with me.

Gianduja Stracciatella Gelato in ice cream makerI’d post a recipe, but others have already done so with yummy pictures of their own, so by all means, give them a visit. It’s not a simple recipe. The hazelnuts must be toasted and skinned, then ground and soaked in milk. Then you strain the nuts out and throw the nuts away. I can’t tell you how traumatizing this is. You spent all this time with them and then…toss them? Well it turns out that their flowery fragrant spirit is still there, steeped into the hot milk mixture, so just do what I did—wipe away the tears and steel yourself with the knowledge that it will all work out for the best.

David recommends 5 ounces of melted chocolate for the straccciatella, the melted chocolate that is poured into the churning ice cream where it hardens and breaks into delicious little bits. I found that much dark chocolate a little too overpowering. Next time I make this—and there will definitely be a next time—I plan to drop amount that down to 3 ounces. Then I’ll dip everything, including myself, into a vat of Nutella.

· David Lebovitz on gianduja from the source
· David’s gianduja gelato at butter sugar flour with rippled chocolate sauce
· …at Cookie Baker Lynn in its simplest form, sans straccciatella
· …and at Cafe Fernando between crisp wafers

¹ Kidding.

Hats off: Tuna and Goat Cheese Tartare.

Let’s say you’re a woman who never wears hats. One day you spot an outrageously stylish hat, the kind of hat Hollywood startlets from the forties wore when they put their handprints in that sidewalk wherever it is where they do the handprint thing while flashbulbs popped and adoring fans cried at how fabulous they looked in the hat. You buy the hat forgetting that your normal daily wear is ripped jeans and a faded t-shirt you bought from The Onion ten years ago. As soon as you see yourself in the mirror in this hat it hits you: You have no business wearing this hat, anything like this hat, or anything in the remote family of this hat. You dweeb.

Tuna and Goat Cheese TartareFood styling is my fancy hat. My pictures usually end up worse when I mess with the dish too much than when I leave it alone. So I do a minimum of arranging, focus on the natural state of the food, and hope one of the shots comes out okay. Besides, I’m hungry, and I don’t feel like eating cold, congealed food (unless it’s pudding).

Then I saw this intriguing recipe for Tuna and Goat Cheese Tartare in Anne Willan’s Good Food No Fuss and tried the damned hat on again. Willan describes this dish, a creation of Australian Chef Tetsuya Wakuda, as a combination of Asian and Western flavors “to brilliant effect.” I had a vision—food styling! presentation!—of the tartar molded with a criss-cross of chives on top.

Tuna tartare up closeIn my head, the smooth disk of tartare had distinct red tuna and alabaster squares of goat cheese. On the plate, the disk ended up ragged, the tuna paled to pink, and the goat cheese dissolved into white smears. If my family had been around, they would have started making fun of me around the third time I picked up the chives, wiped them off, then repositioned them. Then they would have called me a dweeb or its Korean equivalent. Babo (바보), maybe.

But never mind my herb-arrangement skills. The tartare is rich from the tuna and cheese, almost too rich. It would be great served alongside warm grilled fruit like pineapple or melon to counter the richness and provide a temperature contrast. A squeeze of orange juice in the dressing might be a good touch too. I spooned it on romaine leaves with a side of crusty bread. Endives or sesame crackers would go just as well.

TUNA AND GOAT CHEESE TARTARE

Adapted from Good Food No Fuss, by Anne Willan
Serves 2-3 as an appetizer

Continue reading