March 3, 2009

Memoirs of a Valentine's Day dinner - Amintiri de la cina de Sf. Valentin

I have been slacking off again on my blog, but i certainly hope it will not become a once-a-month posting deal. It seems i cannot joggle very well my job, spending time together with my family and friends, the house chores and the blog. Still doesn’t mean that i am not cooking or not taking photos, but i am very slow when it comes to posting. On top of all this, i will be changing jobs. It will be same field, or at least i hope so, as i am still looking, haven’t got another one yet, but i'll have to find one in the next 4-6 weeks since my boss is retiring. And the stress from this is another reason why i haven’t got time for the blog. Basically, i spend my nights with Clara doing homework, while i am trying to put dinner together, then watching movies, reading or chatting about everything and nothing, bonding a lot. Gabriel has been rehearsing and is excited about working with some very talented people right now. On weekends, we have been either at home or out with friends, nothing special, but actually pretty good times enjoying everybody’s company.
While i still have so many photos of dishes made in the last 3 months and even from before, i thought today it’s time for the ones I made for Valentine’s day. We stayed home because Gabi had a terrible tooth infection with aches and pain for days, taking antibiotics and hopeful waiting for him to get the courage to have that root canal done (it’s now almost 3 weeks later, and he still didn’t go to the dentist). So, my planned meal almost didn't happen as my poor guy looked and felt awful, was half numb from all that Ibuprofen 800, but i cannot tell you how much more i love him now for staying at the table with me and Clara, eating everything, really everything, making both of them fun of me with foodie comments a la Iron Chef, Top Chef and Chopped judges :)) ("... was not overpowering", "the main ingredient was showcased perfectly", "the plating was beautiful", "the combination was .... and so on, and i don't know who was worse, the father or the daughter :D), and even asking for the dessert. THAT IS LOVE people, and I am lucky to have them.....

So, the menu was:

~ Shrimp on edamame puree with a ginger soy sauce dressing

~ White & Green asparagus, arugula and bell pepper wrapped in prosciutto

~ Seared scallop on cucumber and daikon, with some micro-greens on top and dried miso sprinkled over
(the dried miso idea is from Nobu West, which I drool over at least once a week and keep on my night stand)

~ Steak, mango, arugula and lemon basil salad with an Asian vinaigrette

~ Pears in a cage with vanilla ice cream and pear syrup

Nothing too difficult to make, but these are things we like, so we enjoyed them a lot. Still have to work on the lighting, our house doesn’t have too much natural light, the windows (not too large and not too many) face south and north, and the building is buried between two others with only maybe 5 feet between us and the neighbors. I plated one dessert as soon as it was done in the afternoon just to take a photo, so I had better lighting, but the rest of the food was ready too late, and i know 3 dim light bulbs with/without flash is not great photography, but please bear with me a bit more. Or consider the light part of a romantic setting :D.

The pear dessert i wanted to make for a while now, but never had time, so what better occasion than this. I made a pear custard tart the month before, which is still waiting on the back burner to come out, because everybody was blogging pear recipes, especially poached pears, so i had to try them too. But i didn’t want just poached pears, so first time i poached them for the custard tart, and now they were "caged" in puff pastry. The dessert looked beautiful (even though I don’t have a lattice cutter, so I cut the puff pastry with a sharp knife (who wouldn't like those leaves!), tasted amazing, and the syrup was absolutely delicious. The puff pastry was store bought, and so was the ice cream.
I combined the recipes from here and here, and made some adjustments, because .... I think i am a tweak-er, i cannot help myself not to....
And this is the final draft of my version

Pears in a Cage

(for 6 servings)
2 cups white wine
2 cups water
½ cup sugar
½ cinnamon stick
½ vanilla bean
3 pears, peeled, halved and cored (Bartlett or Bosc)
12 squares (about 4.5" x 4.5") puff pastry (or one package with two sheets of puff pastry), thawed, kept in the fridge until ready to use

Bring the wine, water, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saucepan. Boil for about 5 minutes, then add the pear halves, and poach the fruit over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tender, but not longer, as they will become too soft. Remove the pears and let them cool on a plate covered with a paper towel.
Continue cooking the poaching liquid until it is reduced to about 1 cup, and it looks like honey. Set aside.
Preheat oven at 375F ( or the temperature indicated on your puff pastry baking instructions).
Take 6 of the puff pastry squares out of the fridge and cut them out in the shape of a pear. Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and put them back in the fridge to keep them cold.
Take the other 6 puff pastry squares out of the fridge and cut them the same way in the shape of a pear. Using a paring knife cut slits on the pear shaped pastry, leaving about ½" around the edge. Slowly pull apart the dough to show the lattice. Don’t let the dough get too soft, and it cannot be too hard either, as it will break.
Working quickly so the dough doesn’t get too soft, take out of the fridge the baking sheet with the pear cut-outs and place one pear on each, cut side down. Lay the lattice cut pear shapes on top of each pear, press down the sides and trim the edges if necessary. Brush the top pastry with the syrup from the poached pears (or with egg wash, if you want, then sprinkle some sugar on top).
Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and definitely with more of the pear syrup. (The vanilla bean is from the syrup, I saved them for garnish).
Am neglijat iara blogul, desi sper din tot sufletul sa nu ajung sa postez numai o data pe luna cum s-a tot intamplat in ultimul timp. Se pare ca nu pot balansa foarte bine slujba, familia, prietenii, trebaluiala pe-acasa si blogul. Asta nu inseamna ca nu am gatit sau facut poze la mancare, dimpotriva, numai ca sunt foarte inceata cand trebuie sa postez. Pe deasupra, voi schimba serviciul. O sa fie acelasi domeniu, cel putin asa sper, pentru ca de-abia am inceput sa caut, dar va trebui sa gasesc ceva curand pentru ca mi se pensioneaza seful. Si stresul asta e alt motiv pentru care nu am avut timp de blog. In general imi petrec serile facand lectiile cu Clara, pregatind ceva mancare, apoi uitandu-ne impreuna la vreun film, citind sau stand la taclale despre totul si nimic. Nu contenesc sa ma minunez de cat de repede creste Clara si imi place cand stam la povesti ca fetele. Gabi a avut repetitii de cateva ori pe saptamana si e incantat sa lucreze cu niste oameni tare talentati. Weekendurile le-am petrecut fie pe-acasa fie cu prietenii, nimic special, dar de fiecare data simtindu-ne excelent si bucurandu-ne sa fim impreuna. Desi mai am multe poze de la diferite mancaruri facute in ultimele luni si chiar mai demult, m-am gandit ca azi le-a venit randul celor de la Sf. Valentin. Am stat acasa pentru ca Gabi a avut o infectie la masea cu dureri groaznice si nedormit vreo 3 zile la rand, luand antibiotice si eu sperand ca isi va gasi curajul sa mearga la dentist sa ii scoata nervul (au trecut acum aproape 3 saptamani si inca nu a fost). Uite asa planurile mele pentru Sf. Valentin aproape ca nu s-au intamplat pentru ca scumpul meu sot se simtea groaznic, era umflat toata partea dreapta si era cam drogat de la atatea calmante, dar nu va pot spune cat de mult il iubesc pentru ca a stat cu noi, mancand totul, chiar totul, facand glume pe seama mea impreuna cu Clara, cu tot felul de comentarii genul celor de la show-urile Iron Chef, Top Chef si Chopped :)), si sincer nu stiu cine era mai rau, tatal sau fiica-sa :D, ca in sfarsit sa ceara si desert. ASTA E IUBIRE CURATA, oameni buni, si eu sunt norocoasa sa o fi gasit ....
Astea fiind spuse, meniul a fost:
~ Creveti cu puree de boabe de soia (edamame) cu un sos de soia si ghimbir
~ Sparanghel verde si alb, rucola si ardei gras rosu invelit in prosciutto
~ Scoica prajita cu ridiche alba japoneza (daikon), castravete, salata de micro-verdeturi si miso (pasta de soia) uscat (idea cu miso uscat este din cartea Nobu West, pe care salivez macar o data pe saptamana si o tin pe noptiera intotdeuna)
~ Friptura cu mango, rucola si busuioc cu o vinegreta asiatica (sos de soia, otet de orez, ghimbir proaspat ras, ulei)
~ Pere in "colivie" cu inghetata de vanilie si cu sirop de pere
Nimic nu e prea greu de facut, dar sunt mancaruri care ne plac, asa ca le-am savurat pe toate. Inca trebuie sa mai lucrez la lumina din poze, nu poate editatul sa faca minuni cand lumina naturala e atat de proasta. Problema mea e ca in casa nu prea avem lumin naturala, geamurile (nici prea multe, nici prea mari) sunt toate spre sud sau nord, iar cladirea noastra e inghesuita intre alte doua blocuri, cu numai aproape 2 metri intre noi si vecini. Desertul l-am pus pe farfurie sa-l pozez imediat ce l-am terminat de pregatit, asa ca am avut lumina mai multa, dar restul le-am terminat cand era deja tarziu, si stiu ca 3 becuri chioare (chiar deasupra mancarii) cu sau fara blitz nu e arta fotografica, dar va rog sa fiti ingaduitori cu mine inca putin.
Desertul cu pere am tot vrut sa-l fac de ceva vreme, dar nu aveam timp, asa ca ce ocazie mai buna decat asta.
Am facut o tarta cu pere in urma cu o luna, care mai are de asteptat, pentru ca toata lumea scria pe bloguri retete cu pere, mai ales pere fierte, asa ca a trebuit sa le incerc si eu. Dar nu voiam numai pere fierte, asa ca prima data dupa ce le-am fiert le-am pus in tarta, iar acum in "colivie" ( suna mai bine decat cusca) de foetaj. Desertul a aratat ata de frumos (desi nu am avut rotita aia de taiat aluatul, asa ca l-am taiat cu un cutit ascutit), a fost tare gustos, iar siropul de la pere, delicios. Foetajul si inghetata le-am cumparat.
Am combinat retetele de aici si aici, si am facut mici modificari, pentru ca.... nu am nici un motiv mai bun decat ca nu ma pot abtine sa nu le schimb...Si asta e versiunea finala:

Pere in "colivie" de foetaj

(pentru 6 portii)
500 ml vin alb
500 ml apa
100 g zahar
½ bat scortisoara
½ teaca de vanilie
3 pere, decojite, taiate jumatati si fara cotor (Bartlett sau Bosc, sau orice pere destul de tari)
12 patrate (de cca 12x12 cm) foetaj dezghetate, tinute in frigider pana sunt gata de folosit
Se pun vinul, apa, zaharul, scortisoara si vanilia la fiert intr-o cratita larga. Se lasa sa fiarba in clocot mic vreo 5 minute, apoi se adauga jumatatile de pere si se fierb la foc potrivit cca 15 minute sau pana sunt patrunse, dar nu mai mult, pentru ca nu trebuie sa fie prea moi. Se scot perele pe un servet de hartie si se lasa sa se raceasca.
Se lasa lichidul sa fiarba in continuare pana se reduce la o cana si arata ca mierea. Se da la o parte.
Se incinge cuptorul la 375F/ 190 C (sau la temperatura de coacere recomandata pe pachetul de foi).
Se iau 6 din patratele de foetaj din frigider si se taie sub forma de para. Se pune cele 6 foi pe o tava tapetata cu hartie de copt si se tin la frigider pana se asambleaza desertul.
Se iau celelalte 6 patrate de foetaj si se taie si ele sub forma de para. Cu ajutorul unui cutit foarte ascutit se taie fiecare bucata de aluat in interior, pe lung, lasand o margine de 1.5 cm, ca sa arate ca o fereastra cu zabrele ( asta e traducerea pentru lattice). Se trage incet de aluat ca sa se deschida taieturile. Sa nu lasati foaia sa fie prea moale, si nici prea inghetata ca se poate rupe usor.
Lucrand repede sa nu se incalzeasca aluatul prea tare, se scoate tava cu primele sase forme din frigider si se aseaza o jumatate de para pe fiecare aluat, cu partea taiata in jos. Se aseaza "zabrelele" deasupra, intinzand aluatul si apasand marginile sa se lipeasca. Daca e nevoie, se taie excesul de aluat. Se unge aluatul pe deasupra cu siropul in care au fiert perele (sau cu un ou batut si se presara cu putin zahar).
Se coc 15-20 minute, pana sunt aurii.
Se servesc calde (nu fierbinti) sau reci, cu inghetata de vanilie sau frisca, si stropite cu restul de sirop. (Teaca de vanilie este cea din sirop, am pastrat-o pentru decorat.)


Lola said...

I think you are all lucky to have each other :)
Fabulous meal, amazing pictures.
I have the same problem with(out) natural light in my apartment, but your pictures come out so well. I even bought myself the famed lowell ego lights (they suck, way too strong --->strong shadows, even with only one bulb).

I truly hope you'll find more time to post, I'm really enjoying your posts.
Nobu West, huh? :D

roxana said...

Yes, we are lucky for having this family and all our wonderful friends. Thanks for the compliments, although i am still far from "amazing photos", you are toooooo kind... I'll try to find more time for posting, I promise.
I really am in love with Nobu West. I also got Asian Flavors of Jean Georges Vongerighten, maybe i'll find time to try something. I am saying the same about all of these books on my shelves, if could only clone myself to get to do everything i dream of.....

Medena (-Melitta-) said...

Always wanted to try those pears in the cage, I have the recipe in several of my cookbooks! Yours look so good!
As for posting, post when you can, you got your priorities set, and family comes first!!!
I don't work, so I get plenty of time---still when kids come home from school, laptop is closed :)
For vanilla slice, I sliced them so "perfect", as you say, because the top sheet is pre-cut, so you just follow between the lines, and the cream is quite stiff, like a jello, and creates for pretty good cuts.
I live in Michigan, and it's always so cold, and gray, even the natural lighting is not much good for photo taking, but Paint.Net (free software) can help by adjusting the curves, and levels.
When you get some free time, go to Palachinka blog, and look for the post "Photo Tutorial", she explained that really well :)
OK, time to end this book :)
Thanks for visiting my blog!

Irina said...

Roxana, totul arata excelent! Sper sa postezi din nou mai des!

vincent said...

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