Friday, October 12, 2007

Mini-Recipe: Cinnamon-Hazelnut Caffe con Panna

I'm loath to call this a recipe, since it's simple and not particularly unexpected, and the instructions are just "best practices", not required procedures. That said, it was so delicious and satisfying that I just had to post it.



Cinnamon-Hazlenut Caffe con Panna
Serves 1 as a beverage or a dessert

Ingredients:
1 rounded Tbsp hazelnut-flavored coffee beans, ground
8 fl. oz. boiling water
1 fl. oz. unsweetened heavy cream, whipped (appx 1/2 cup whipped if made with a nitrous oxide whipper*, or 1/4 cup if whipped manually)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
sugar, to taste


Instructions:

Prepare the coffee: Place the ground coffee beans and half the cinnamon (1/8 tsp) in a french press coffeemaker. Add boiling water, and put the lid on the coffeemaker. (Do not press the plunger yet.) Allow to steep 4 minutes, or until the coffee reaches the desired strength. Press the plunger to strain out the grounds.
(Alternatively, prepare the coffee using the method of your choice, adding 1/8 tsp cinnamon to the ground coffee beans.)

Assemble: pour the coffee into a coffee cup or mug. Sweeten to taste. (If your're drinking this as a beverage, use less for a slightly-to-moderately sweet result. If this is your dessert, use more to make it very sweet.) Top with whipped cream, and sprinkle with remaining 1/8 tsp cinnamon.


Variations:
This can be done with a variety of coffee flavors and spices. Vanilla coffee with pumpkin pie spice is particularly good. Also try unflavored coffee with a mix of cinnamon and cocoa. I've also done it with cinnamon and chocolate syrup.


Notes:
The quality of the ingredients really matters for this recipe. Choose a good-quality, flavorful coffee. I like the smoothness of Eight O'Clock (correction: Chock Full O' Nuts) coffee, but if you like a bolder, harsher coffee, honor your own preferences. This recipe would also be delicious with 2 fl. oz. espresso substituted for the prepared coffee. You could use sweetened whipped cream if you really want to, but I think that sweet coffee with unsweetened cream gives a more pleasing contrast. Try it both ways and see which you like best. I recommend using home-made whipped cream (made in a nitrous oxide whipped cream maker*, or by hand using a mixer or whisk), rather than commercial canned whipped cream. The commercial kinds contain stabilizers and sometimes preservatives, and I don't think they taste as good.

Do not, under any circumstances, substitute a "frozen whipped topping" like Cool-Whip. It will not be the same.



* Disclosure: the Amazon product links go through my affiliate account, meaning that if you click to those links and then buy them, I will receive a commission. (As of this writing, I haven't received any amazon commissions at all.) I only include links for products I have tried myself, but if you're uncomfortable accepting a recommendation when there is profit involved, then just go to amazon.com (or elsewhere) and search for the item, and I won't get the commission. That's okay. :)

Whip It Review

I'm not kitchen gadget fanatic. For one thing, I enjoy the process of cooking, and prefer to do most things by hand. Saving a few minutes is not worth sacrificing the kitchen's sensual experiences:
- slipping the skin off an onion
- the squeak of a knife sliding through mushrooms
- the swampy resistance of stirring bigos
- the aroma of toasting shrimp shells
- the fleshy "give" when poking a perfectly rare steak to gauge doneness

For another, our stuff-to-space ratio is high enough that anything we store in our kitchen needs to earn its keep.

The George Foreman Grill* is facing eviction. Don't get me wrong; it's a perfectly good appliance. It just doesn't produce the kinds of things I want to eat right now, and doesn't enhance the experience of cooking.

The Whip-It* whipped cream maker, on the other hand, has been granted an indefinite lease for prime real estate in the refrigerator door.


This product is fantastic. It uses charger cartridges* to inject nitrous oxide gas into heavy cream. The gas-injected cream is stored under pressure in the canister, and so it doesn't actually whip until you dispense it, when the gas bubbles distributed throughout the cream can expand. (Similar to the bubbles in carbonated beverages.)

Because the prepped cream doesn't actually "whip" until it's dispensed, it can be stored up to 14 days in the refrigerator, vs. the day or two fridge life of home-made whipped cream. The other benefit is serving size. Although the whip-it does inject a full pint of cream at once, you can dispense as little as you want at a time. It's difficult to manually whip less than 1/2 cup of cream at a time, and I haven't been able to get less than 1/4 cup to work at all.


Other benefits:

- the cream is perfectly whipped; you won't accidentally whip up a batch of butter

- cream made in the the whip-it has about twice as much volume as manual beating. The packaging says 1 pt. of cream makes 4-5pts of whipped cream (vs. the 2 pts you get from manually whipping 1 pt. of cream), but I also confirmed this with my kitchen scale this morning. 2 Tbsp (1 fl. oz.) of fluid heavy cream weighed 30g, and 30g of whipped cream was over half a cup (4 fl. oz.) This means that the same-sized puff of whipped cream is both fluffier and cheaper!

- you can use the sweetener of your choice, or make unsweetened whipped cream (my preference)

- you can add flavorings to your whipped cream to make mousse-like desserts (cocoa, amaretto, etc.) I haven't tried this yet.

- you don't need any preservatives or stabilizers



The only downsides are:

- it isn't dishwasher-safe. The canister needs to be washed after each batch, and the nozzle and tip should be washed after each dispensing (otherwise you get crusty bits of cream). However, it's not a hassle to wash.

- you need to keep buying nitrous oxide chargers. These run 60-70 cents each when you buy the 10- or 24-packs, but can also be purchased in larger quanitities for a larger discount. It's still much cheaper than commercial whipped cream (and better-tasting). And, by volume, it's even cheaper than making the cream yourself, since you double the volume of whipped cream you produce, and the charger is cheaper than the amount of cream you save.


Coming soon: a mini-recipe!

* Disclosure: the Amazon product links go through my affiliate account, meaning that if you click to those links and then buy them, I will receive a commission. (As of this writing, I haven't received any amazon comissions at all.) I only include links for products I have tried myself, but if you're uncomfortable accepting a recommendation when there is profit involved, then just go to amazon.com (or elsewhere) and search for the item, and I won't get the commission. That's okay. :)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Recipe Reference: Buttered Radishes

As you may have noticed by now, I really like food, and I really like to talk about food. Every so often, however, I run across my heart's words in someone else's voice. So without further ado, check out Orangette's post on Buttered Radishes.

Then (if you don't already have some left over from my roasted radishes recipe) run to the market and buy some fresh radishes (the kind with the tops on, not the bagged ones) and the best butter and salt you can get your hands on.

Trust me on this.

Looking for Savor Lightly? You've found it!

If you were looking for Savor Lightly, welcome to my new home, Omnivory!

I started this blog while on a diet, but I no longer espouse that lifestyle. So I've removed reference to fat/carbs/calories, etc., and am focusing more on good food. So whether you're on a weight loss program or not, happy eating!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Roasted Radishes

Most people never consider cooking radishes, but these are yummy! The roasted flavor and wrinkly red skins makes them the perfect accompaniment to roast beef or chicken (try mixing with other roasted root veggies). Even if you've never liked radishes, don't be afraid to try these. The roasting process mellows the radishes' bitter flavor.


Roasted Radishes:
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 lb radishes
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp butter, divided
salt and pepper, to taste


INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the radishes in half. If any of the radishes are significantly larger than the others, cut the larger ones into quarters. Place in a baking dish. Dot with 1 Tbsp butter.

Bake, turning occasionally, until the radishes are softened and their skins are wrinkly and browned to your liking (30-45 minutes). Toss with the remaining 1 tsp butter until melted and evenly distributed. Add salt and pepper to taste.



NOTES

The cooking temperature is flexible for this recipe, so feel free to vary the temperature if you're roasting these alongside another dish. It will work equally well from 350-450 degrees, and might work from 300-500, although I haven't tried it. If you do try it at a particularly low or high temperature, post a comment to let me know how it works out.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Complementary Creations: Selfish Shrimp and Tarragon Soup

If there's one quality that all great chefs share, it's respect for their ingredients. The chef is like the conductor of a choir, directing the blending of many singers, and choosing soloists and duets to shine through. But, regardless of its role, each ingredient contributes its own unique voice to the ensemble. This is one of the great beauties of food; the unity and contrast of the one and the whole.

Respect for the ingredient also takes another form: an aversion to waste. This is partially driven by the restaurant's bottom line, of course. But there is a deeper urge that was driven home to me this weekend when I took a knife skills class at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. While showing us how to remove the inner membrane of a bell pepper, the instructor kept suggesting ideas for the scraps, constantly pointing out "all that pepper flavor" we were tossing into the waste pile. That's when I came to understand that the primary concern is not wasting something you can sell; it's wasting something you can taste. Wasting flavor was a greater culinary sin than wasting money.

In that spirit, I've decided to create a new "column" on this blog: complementary creations. Whenever there is a significant scrap remaining after one of my Recipe Three-ways, I will attempt to create a recipe that uses it, or point you to an existing recipe that does.


Assuming you use frozen raw shrimp to make my Shrimp and Tomato Persillade, you will almost certainly come out of it with a pile of shrimp shells. Useless? Hardly.

Shrimp stock is a magical ingredient. Its own taste is not very distinct, but it can serve as a rich underlayer for brighter flavors, or add complexity to meatier flavors. Mark Bittman mixes it half-and-half with chicken stock for a rich and complex base for Garlic Soup with Shrimp in The Minimalist Cooks At Home. In this recipe, the shrimp stock highlights the crisp acidity of the vinegar, and the bright vegetal quality of the tarragon. If you are going to make this recipe ahead, add the vinegar right before serving; otherwise it may curdle.

Each 2-serving batch of Shrimp and Tomato Persillade will produce enough shrimp shells for one cup of stock, so I recommend keeping the shells in the freezer until you have enough for the desired amount of soup. Or, better yet, be selfish and only make enough soup for yourself! You have my permission.


Selfish Shrimp and Tarragon Soup
Serves 1

Ingredients:
Shrimp shells (including tail and legs) left over from 8 oz. of frozen shrimp
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 shallot, coarsely chopped or sliced (you may substitute appx. 1 Tbsp of onion)
appx 3 cups water
1/2 to 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, or any fruit-flavored vinegar
1/2 tsp butter
Salt to taste, preferably sea or kosher
Pepper to taste, preferably fresh-ground
1 tsp chopped fresh tarragon, or 1/4 tsp dried (or try it with sage!)
cooked shrimp, whole or chopped (optional)


In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium or medium-high heat and add the shallots. Sautee until just softened. Add the shrimp shells, and saute until they release a nutty aroma. (I prefer to continue to cook until they are lightly browned. Either way, don't skip this step.) Add the water, and reduce heat to medium. (If using dried tarragon, add it at this time.) Simmer until the stock is reduced to approximately 1 cup. It should have a rich, milky look to it. Pour through a sieve, and press the shrimp and shallots into the sieve with the back of a spoon to extract as much of the juices as possible. Stir in the vinegar, salt, and butter or butter spray. Adjust seasonings to taste. Pour over cooked shrimp if desired, and sprinkle with tarragon and pepper.




(Update 12/08)
Seafood Watch:
(Note: the rating only applies to seafood purchased in the US. Readers from other countries may want to try the Seafood Choices Alliance)

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Score: Avoid

Shrimp is listed as a "good alternative" if it's produced in the US or Canada (farmed or wild), but the vast majority of shrimp you'll find is produced in supermarkets is imported, which is on the "avoid" list. Your fishmonger may be able to get you domestic shrimp, as well as lots of other tasty seafood.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Recipe Three-Ways: Shrimp and Cherry Tomato Persillade

This dish is one of my stand-bys. It's based on the Shrimp Persillade recipe from James Peterson's "Fish & Shellfish" (highly recommended), but underwent a metamorphosis the summer that I made my first stab at container gardening.

Let's just say that my efforts weren't very successful - a cat dug up my pot of turnips and radishes, my snow peas wilted, and the lemon cucumbers were so evil (spiney, snaking vines that tried to strangle the other plants) that I uprooted them myself. But the cherry tomatoes thrived. I had planted two pots: one of fairly ordinary red grape tomatoes, and one of sweet, flavorful, golden-orange sungold cherry tomatoes. After about two weeks of tomato and mozzarella salad, I was ready for a change, and inspiration struck. Where inspiration took the form of a bag of frozen shrimp that fell out of the freezer and landed on my foot.

This dish is fast, easy, elegant, and can be made at any time of year, but it really shines when cherry tomatoes are in season. It makes a delicious topping for pasta, but can stand on its own as an appetizer or main dish alongside a green vegetable like spinach, asparagus, or brocolli raab. Its appeal is all about balance: the rich olive oil, light and mineralic shrimp, bright parsley, bold garlic, sweet tomatoes, spicy pepper, toasty caramelization, and topped with a nutty cheese. There's also a wonderful balance of textures: silky persillade, firm shrimp, and slightly soft tomatoes that explode into a shower of juice as you bite in.


Shrimp and Cherry Tomato Persillade
Makes 2 hearty appetizer-sized portions, or 1 generous main dish portion

Ingredients:
8 oz. Shrimp, preferably not pre-cooked
12 Cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
1/2 cup Fresh Flat-leaf Parsley
1 clove fresh Garlic (jarred is fine)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Pepper, preferably fresh-ground
Salt, preferably kosher or sea salt
2 Tbsp Shredded or shaved parmesan cheese


1- Thaw the Shrimp
If your shrimp is frozen, start it thawing. I'm told that the correct ways to do this are to leave it overnight in the fridge, or run it under cold water in a collander. I usually soak them in cold water, changing it once or twice when ice forms around the shrimp, but try it at your own risk. In the meantime, make the persillade.

2- Make the Persillade
Mince the parsley and garlic together as finely as you can. It should almost resemble a pesto.

3- Prep the Shrimp
Once the shrimp are fully thawed, remove the shells (you can leave the tails on, if desired) and dry them very well with paper towels.

4- Cook the Shrimp
Heat a large frying pan over very high heat. The pan should be large enough to hold all the shrimp without crowding. When the pan is very hot, add the olive oil, and then the shrimp. Stir-fry until the shrimp turn pink and are no longer transparent, about 2 minutes.

5- Add the Persillade
Add the persillade to the shrimp mixture, and continue to stir, being sure to scrape the pan as you go. The persillade should cling to the shrimp and begin to caramelize after about two minutes. (Some may not cling - that's okay. Just make sure that it's being scraped off the bottom and turned along with the shrimp.) I like mine very dark and a little crispy. You may prefer yours only slightly browned.

6- Add the Tomatoes
Add the cherry tomatoes, and continue to stir-fry until the tomatoes are warmed through, and begin to change color slightly and swell, about 1-2 minutes. (The goal is to stop just before they burst, but it's okay if they do.)

7- Serve
Place on top of linguine, or on individual plates. Sprinkle with salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cheese (optional). Serve with crusty bread. (Optional)


Seafood Watch:
(Note: the rating only applies to seafood purchased in the US. Readers from other countries may want to try the Seafood Choices Alliance)

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Score: Avoid

Shrimp is listed as a "good alternative" if it's produced in the US or Canada (farmed or wild), but the vast majority of shrimp you'll find is produced in supermarkets is imported, which is on the "avoid" list. Your fishmonger may be able to get you domestic shrimp, as well as lots of other tasty seafood.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Welcome to Savor Lightly

Hi everyone, and welcome! I'm a food and wine geek, but I also have some dietary restrictions, both long-term (to control reactive hypoglycemia) and short-term (currently on a diet). As a result, I spend a lot of time thinking about food. Furthermore, I'm a shameless know-it-all, and love to talk about food.

I'm not quite sure yet what kind of shape this blog is going to take. Some ideas I have include:
- restaurant reviews in the Boston area (or wherever I happen to go)
- recipes
- rhapsodies about particular foods (don't get me started on how much I love radishes or sardines...)
- reminiscences about meals I've eaten
- cooking tips
Early on, I'll probably include a mix of these, although I may narrow my focus as the blog takes shape.


Until next time, eat well!