Last Christmas I received a copy of Thomas Keller’s “ad hoc at home.” Then for the next 8 months, I thoroughly enjoyed staring at it. How are the recipes, you ask? I have no idea. I have never tried any of them, despite the fact that it has a permanent seat on the cookbook holder on my kitchen counter. The truth of the matter is that it’s a very intimidating book. It has recipes for things like, “mushroom conserva.” What the heck, is a conserva? I don’t know. And to make it even better, the ingredient list calls for 1 teaspoon of piment d’Espelette. Oh..well.. let me just grab that at Publix?! However, I decided this week, that I would not let this book intimidate me any longer. So, I made not one, but TWO ad hoc at home recipes. First, I made a delicious tomato-basil marmalade. And then, I didn’t have anything to put it on. So I made biscuits! And although originally an afterthought, the biscuits were every bit as tasty as the tomato marmalade. In fact, they were awesome. I started by chopping up some fennel, onions and garlic and caramelized them in a pot in the oven. Then, I added vinegar and brown sugar and let that cook down. Then, feeling very Julia Child-like, I took it out of the oven and stuck my face in the pot to take a big whiff. Although this seemed like an awesome idea at the time, it was not. The hot vinegar fumes caused me to cough and sputter in a most unattractive and unJulia-like manner. After the sniffing incident, I pureed the mixture in the blender and poured in back in the pot and added the tomatoes. Then, I roasted it again for another hour. Finally, I put it in a jar with lots of basil and let it sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, I made the biscuits, following Keller’s recipe, but modifying, since I do not own a food processor. I sifted my dry ingredients. Then, I chopped up the butter and cut it into the flour using a pastry cutter. When, the butter chunks were pea-sized, I added the buttermilk. Then, I patted the dough out and cut out the biscuits. And baked them. Tomato Marmalade Adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home 1/2 cup fennel, roughly chopped 1/2 cup onion, roughly chopped 1 clove of garlic, sliced 1 Tbs. vegetable oil 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 4-5 tomatoes, seeded and chopped, but not peeled 6-8 fresh basil leaves Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the fennel, onion, garlic, vegetable oil and salt in an oven-safe sauce pan. Roast, stirring every 15 minutes, in the oven for 45-60 minutes or until vegetables soften and turn brown around the edges. Stir in the vinegar and sugar and roast for another 20 minutes or until half of the liquid is absorbed. Pour the contents of the pot into a blender and blend until smooth. (This step is unnecessary if you prefer a chunkier marmalade.) Pour back in the pot and add the tomatoes. Roast for another 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Taste the marmalade. If it is still too vinegary, continue cooking until marmalade has a rich, sweet, tomato-ey flavor. Spoon into a jar, placing basil leaves throughout. Cover and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Remove the basil before serving. The marmalade will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Buttermilk Biscuits Adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc at home 2 cups cake flour 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 Tbs., plus 1 tsp. kosher salt 1 Tbs. baking powder 1 tsp. baking soda 2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. cubes 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plus extra for brushing 2 to 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted for brushing Sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl. Sprinkle the butter cubes on top. Use a pastry cutter or fork to work the butter into the flour until the butter pieces are about the size of small peas. Then, make a well in the middle of the flour/butter mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, fold the buttermilk into the flour/butter mixture, just until the flour is all incorporated and the mixture forms a ball. Dump the dough out onto a floured counter top and knead for about 1 minute. Pat into a rectangle about 3/4 in thick. Cut biscuits with a cutter or knife and place on a baking sheet. (You can keep pushing the remaining dough together and cutting out more until you have used all of the dough.) Brush the tops of the biscuits with buttermilk and bake for 8 minutes on 475. Then, rotate the pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Take the biscuits out of the oven, brush with remaining butter and serve warm.
I LOVE the farmers’ market. I get a real kick out of buying produce that was grown just down the road. I should probably go into a long-winded rant here about carbon footprints and the cost of shipping produce around the world and use words like “locavore” and “farm-to-table” (which I guess is three words). But, I will spare you. I will say however, that eating local produce and meeting the farmers that grow it is fun. And you would probably like it too, if you haven’t already tried it. So anyway, I went to the Morningside Farmers’ Market yesterday and bought tomatoes. DELICIOUS HEIRLOOM TOMATOES. And I made them into a dish that I am calling Scalloped Potatoes and Tomatoes, mostly because that is what it is and also because it rhymes. So, I started by slicing and seeding the tomatoes. Then, I salted them and laid them out on a paper towel to sit and release some of their liquid. While I was waiting on them, I made a cheese sauce with onions, garlic and oregano. Then, I layered it like a lasagna. First tomatoes, then sauce, then potatoes. And finally, sprinkled cheese on top and baked it. Before: And After: The final product was pretty delicious. And since I substituted half of the potatoes for tomatoes and used 2% milk instead of heavy cream, this recipe is relatively light compared to other scalloped potato recipes. So, you can enjoy it and still be able to button your pants! Scalloped Potatoes and Tomatoes 4-5 tomatoes (I used a variety of heirlooms, but you can use any tomatoes you like. I also used a handful of cherry tomatoes in place of a fifth tomato.) 3-4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 slices 1 small onion, chopped 2 cloves minced garlic 2 Tbs. unsalted butter 1 Tb. All-purpose flour 1 cup 2% milk 1 1/2 cup cheese (I used a fancy kind that I got at Whole Foods called, Piave Nord Straveccio, but this recipe could be made with almost any kind of cheese as long as it has a good flavor.) 1 Tb. fresh oregano, chopped salt and pepper Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and seed the tomatoes by cutting them in half at the equator and scooping out the seeds and the goop around them. Then, slice them into thin slices and lay them out on a paper towel. Salt the tomatoes and allow to sit for 20-30 minutes and release some of their liquid. In the meantime, make the sauce. Sautee the onion in 1 Tb. of the butter on medium high until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Push the onions and garlic to the side and melt the other Tb. butter. Add the flour to the butter and mix to form a paste (or roux). Cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes or until paste starts to slightly turn color. Mix with onions and garlic and add milk. Cook until sauce starts to thicken, then remove from heat and add 1 cup cheese and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the tomatoes with another paper towel and push down to squeeze the excess liquid out of the them. Spray the dish with cooking spray and begin layering. Start with a layer of tomatoes. Cover that with a third of the cheese sauce and then a layer of potatoes. Season potatoes with salt and pepper and then repeat layers twice more. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top and cover. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 30 minutes or until the middle is soft when poked with a knife and the top is brown and crispy. Let cool 10-15 minutes before serving.
I made a raspberry puree to flavor the whipped cream. To do this, I strained the seeds from my puree by pushing it through a tiny hand strainer. This is not the technique I would use if I were Martha Stewart. However, I have a limited supply of gadgets in my kitchen and I use what I have. You could just as easily strain it through cheese cloth or with a china cap, but you would be missing out on so much fun…
After I added the puree to my whipping cream,
I stacked my cake layer by layer. However, you could also just sandwich the whipped cream and wafers into a roll and cover the whole thing with whipped cream at the end.
Raspberry Icebox Cake Adapted from recipe of Famous Chocolate Wafers box 12 ounce bag frozen raspberries 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup light brown sugar 1/4 cup orange liqueur (such as Grand Marnier) 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream 1 1/2 cup regular whipping cream (You could use all heavy whipping cream, but it makes me feel slightly better about the calorie count of this cake to use half regular. I mean it is practically health food this way.) 2 T powdered sugar 2 boxes Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers fresh raspberries for decorating
Put frozen raspberries, sugar, brown sugar and liqueur in pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 10 minutes or until slightly reduced. Pour goop into blender and blend on high until goop has formed a smooth puree (will still have lots of seeds.) Strain puree using either tiny strainer method or some other smarter method that you have thought of all on your own.
In a large mixing bowl, whip heavy cream and regular whipping cream on medium speed until slightly thick. If you try it on high speed you will end up with cream all over your kitchen…don’t ask me how I know this. Once it has thickened, add puree and mix. Then taste to determine if extra sugar is needed. If so, add powdered sugar to taste. I used 2 Tablespoons. Continue whipping on high until whipped cream holds its shape, about 1-2 minutes.
Smear a little whipped cream on your plate in a round shape. Place wafers on top of whipped cream in a circular pattern. Add another layer of whipped cream and spread to cover wafers. Repeat until you run out of whipped cream or wafers. Decorate the top with crushed cookies, raspberries, chocolate chips, chocolate shavings or whatever you like. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until cookies have softened.