April 1, 2013

spring on the table

When the seasons transform themselves and play their next rendition, without fail, I find myself inspired to be in the kitchen. My kitchen is on a ground floor, in the rear of the house with a long, dark porch overhead outside shielding me in from both the weather and light. The window over the sink provides me with a sole, shining porthole in which to see my garden and trees, summer dining table and outdoor seating. When my hideaway is in order and the greenery is growing and the crystal beads are swinging gently and sparkling in the breeze, I only want to be there; cooking, entertaining, quietly sipping something refreshing in the cradle of my hammock.

So last week I cleaned up the crispiness of winter's garden and dug in new bulbs, sowed seeds, turned soil and trimmed trees. Naturally after that I found myself at the kitchen window daydreaming about warm patio soirees and... food. With it being the season of Easter eggs and asparagus, my mind became set on mayonnaise. Before I continue on, I have to confess, I have always been one to shun mayonnaise. Being raised in a house of Hellman's, I never took to the greasy, white whipped topping. I was always a mustard, mayo on the side, dry or oil & vinegar kind of gal. When I first came to know the loveliness that is aioli, things started to change for me. I then began to understand that mayonnaise can be flavorful, fresh and downright delicious. And this weekend, after procuring eggs, bacon and asparagus while at the market, I was inspired to make a fresh batch of this velvety golden dressing.
Tamar Adler, in her simply stated kitchen must-have, An Everlasting Meal, speaks passionately on the classic topping. "Mayonnaise is a food best made at home and almost never made at home. This has robbed us of something that is both healthy and an absolute joy to eat with gusto. Mayonnaise deserves to be the focus and main attraction of any meal that contains it. A good mayonnaise helps foods stay their course. [...] Mayonnaise and aioli are cousins, the second the first's bolder relation."

The first time I tried my hand at mayo it was for lobster rolls. It was delicious but a little thin. I have since learned how easy it is to correct that. This most recent batch I whipped up is surely more of an aioli but I think it is what I feel most happy eating. It originally was inspired to top this weekend's BLT sandwich topped with a fried egg. Here is my recipe which yields a bit more that a cup:

1 cup of good olive oil
1 whole egg
1 garlic clove
juice of 1/2 a lemon
coarse salt and cracked pepper
red wine vinegar

I start by beating the egg. The whole egg. Yes, it's true, mayo usually calls for only the yolk but since it is such a small batch I go with the waste-not, want-not theory. Beat in a pinch of salt, pepper to your liking, the garlic (crushed), and half of that lemon juice. Add a dash of the vinegar. When that is well combined, slowly pour the oil in and continue beating until it firms up to that wobbly, mayo-y consistency. If it's not coming together add a bit more oil. If it seems too firm add in some of that leftover lemon juice. Use on everything and anything. This will keep for about 3 days refrigerated in an air tight container.

Like I mentioned, I topped my sandwiches with it. It would also work divinely with lobster rolls. Or as a dip or topping for lightly grilled or steamed vegetables such as asparagus. But I saved my asparagus for flatbread.

Yesterday while dying a few Easter eggs for fun, I threw together a bread dough. This has become my go-to mix for both baguette making and pizza crusts. If you are feeling ambitious, here's my recipe. If not, get yourself something pre-made. This would even work wonderfully with frozen filo or pastry dough.

1 package of dry yeast
3 cups of flour
tablespoon of salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water

I mix the dry ingredients quickly in my food processor. Then add the water in a slow, steady stream until the dough forms and moves away from the bowl & blade. Let rest for a few minutes. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead gently and lovingly for a few more minutes. Place dough round into a large bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and sit it inside your oven(which is turned OFF). Let rise for about an hour, punch down and knead again. Cover in the bowl again, letting the dough rise for a second time. After the second rise, punch down and roll out into the desired shape for pie or work outthe shape by hand. Add toppings and bake in the bottom of a 450* oven for about 15 minutes. Timing will vary depending on your toppings.

For my toppings I used a cup of shredded Gruyere cheese and  about 2 dozen asparagus stalks tossed in olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. I seasoned the pie with cracked pepper, red pepper flakes and sea salt. I have another dough I saved  in the refrigerator that I plan on making a roasted garlic and cherry tomato pie with today. Bon Appetit my friends!!! And happy spring!

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