Saturday, September 3, 2011

Filo Pastry with Raspberries and Whipped Cream

My mother called me the other night, all excited. She had been watching PBS and Julia Child was on with a guest chef, Gale Gand.  I have DirecTV so I don’t get her same PBS and I had to find the episode online. I don’t know if folks outside the US can watch this, but I am still in Houston, so I could.  This show first aired 15 years ago on 11 September 1996 and young pastry chef Gand made a filo pastry ice cream sandwich.  I love filo for several desserts so I was instantly intrigued. I pretty much followed her instructions for the raspberries but decided to add whipped cream to the top instead of ice cream. Also, each person would get one filo pastry “crust” instead of two, as in an ice cream sandwich.  I also didn’t bother with the berry anchor sticks since I didn’t need to hold another filo pastry circle on top.  If you can’t see the video, don’t worry. I’ll tell you what I did do!

In retrospect, this looks very much like my Meringues with Berries and Whipped Cream but is way less time consuming than making meringues so it was perfect for an impromptu visit to my sister’s.  (I had just been to the imaging center for my mammogram or “the annual mashing,” as I like to call it, so I needed cheering up and nothing cheers me up like a visit to Whole Foods and cooking something for family. Next month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you haven’t been for a mammogram yet this year, consider this is your reminder to make an appointment now!)  

3 -6 oz packages of raspberries
1/4 cup of melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar plus a little extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
Half package of filo pastry

I preheated my oven (actually sent youngest daughter a text from Whole Foods asking her to preheat the oven so it would be ready when I got home and finished the prep) to 400 °F or 200 °C.

I did follow Gand’s example and cut the filo into fettuccine-width strips.  As she did, I left the plastic on and pulled it all out at the same time as I fluffed up the pastry.

Then I made mounds of the pastry on a parchment covered baking sheet and drizzled them with melted butter and then sprinkled them very lightly with sugar.  I popped them into the oven and baked until golden, about 12 minutes.

While my pastry was in the oven, I prepared the berries. I had three 6 oz packages. I pureed the first one with two tablespoons of raw sugar (but white caster or fine sugar will work) and then folded in the other two packets, to coat the raspberries with the pureed mixture.

Next I whipped 1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream until soft peaks formed and stored it, covered, in the fridge.

When you are ready to serve, each person gets one filo pastry round, a heap of berries and a goodly scoop of whipped cream. (I ended up serving this at my sister’s house so please excuse the paper plate.) Delicious!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Omelets with Super Powers*

Traditional omelets are made with eggs - of course! - but often include cheese, meat and vegetables in various proportions. Make your omelet suit your tastebuds and use whatever you have leftover in your refrigerator. 

When time is short and the fridge is full of leftovers no one really wants to see again, an omelet (perhaps with a green salad on the side?) is just the perfect meal. Anything and everything is fair game for an omelet. I have been known to add leftover chicken, pork, beef, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, rice and every kind of cooked vegetable known to man. Add a little cheese and you have a meal worth eating.

First, check out the potential additions. What’s in your fridge? A chicken leg, fajita meat, one last pork chop? Any fresh herbs in the garden? Bits and ends from the cheese drawer? If you only have cheese, don’t despair. Cheese omelet is a classic.

Approximate ingredients to feed two - mix and match as your taste and leftovers dictate
Olive oil or butter for greasing the pan
1 cooked potato or other starch - My grandmother loved to use leftover rice!
Healthy handful cooked vegetables (about 1/2 cup or 75g)
Healthy handful cooked chicken, beef, pork roast, etc. (about 1/2 cup or 75g)
2-3 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk
Small handful fresh herbs of your choice
Fine sea salt
Black pepper
1 3/4 oz or 50g cheese or more! (about 1/3 cup, grated)

For instance, yesterday, I had a small baked potato that needed eating, one breast leftover from a roasted chicken and some Brussels sprouts from an entirely different meal.

I chopped the potato, chicken and sprouts up and warmed them in my non-stick skillet with a little butter. You can also substitute olive oil.

Meanwhile, I whisked the eggs with the milk in a small bowl and grated some cheddar cheese.

For an omelet like this, any cheese you have will do. I have used feta and chèvre and various blues and Brie and Camembert and Tomme and many others. If your cheese won’t grate, just slice it up or crumble it instead.

I also headed out to my little backyard herb garden and harvested a bunch of green onion tops. I chopped the onion tops and added them to the eggs.

Once your vegetables or meat or whatever are warmed through, add the eggs, sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Turn the fire down to its lowest setting and cover the pan.

With the heat on low it may take a few minutes for the omelet to cook through. If you are feeling brave, you can try to flip it halfway through but, with the lid on and a low enough heat, this won’t be necessary.

Once the eggs are just about cooked, top with the grated or sliced cheese, turn the stove off, and put the lid back on till it melts. This happens pretty quickly.

Serve with a lightly dressed green salad. And, a glass of wine if it's dinnertime.


* They clean your fridge.

Breakfast Plátano

Pan-fried in butter and sprinkled lightly with sugar, breakfast platano or plantain is a delicious meal in the morning or snack any time of day.

Plátano, or plantain as is called in the US, comes from the banana family but it is much more starchy than our every day eating bananas and can be cooked either sweet or savory.  In South America and Southeast Asia, I find it frequently sliced very thinly and fried up like a potato chip. Sometimes the cook (or manufacturer in the case of bagged chips) has chosen to sprinkle the chips with sugar, sometimes with salt, so if you have a preference (mine is always salt) read your ingredient list carefully.

Plantains are ripe when their skins are very dark, sometimes even black.  The riper they are, the sweeter they become.  Green plantains are hard and inedible unless they are cooked thoroughly. Imagine eating a cloying, very dry, raw potato.  We prefer the ripe ones.

Breakfast Plátano

This is how we cook ripe plátano or plantains for breakfast. It’s simple, nutritious (if you don't heap the sugar on) and delicious.

1 large, ripe plantain - the darker, the sweeter
1-2 tablespoons butter
2-3 teaspoon sugar

Using a sharp knife, cut a slit down one side of the plantain and then the other, so you can peel the skin off the top half of the fruit. 

Cut the plantain into diagonal slices, making sure not to cut all the way through the bottom skin.

Place the slices in a non-stick skillet with a couple of pats of butter and a drizzle of oil to raise the burning temperature of the butter. Plain butter alone scorches easily which will give you an undesirable burnt flavor.  (I always add a tiny bit of oil whenever I sauté in butter.)

Turn the heat down to low and let the plantains cook, covered, for several minutes.  As they start to brown, turn them over.

Continue to cook them with the lid on until both sides are browned and the plantains are fork-tender, meaning you can poke a fork in them with no resistance at all. 

Turn them over once more so that the original side is up again. Sprinkle lightly with sugar, or to taste.  Let the sugar melt and then turn them over and sprinkle more sugar on the other side. You can put the lid on again at this point to make sure the sugar melts. When it is all melted, serve.  Who says a hot breakfast has to be oatmeal or eggs?