not too sweet or naughty, this is just right
I miss traveling so much and this was a fun memory to share - and an amazing recipe - while we all wait for the world to recover & get our strength back to carry on and over this COVID nightmare.
I begin consistently successful culinary quests by finding an exceptional home to rent in the area. I look for something interesting, unique to that area, and steeped in history. For Bordeaux I got very lucky; “Very central, the quarter of the basilic Saint Michel is very close by the fantastic ‘Marché des Capucins’ of Bordeaux. Here you will be directly a part of the ambiance of Bordeaux life”. A thousand years ago it was a church, I jumped on it. What a treat! And we were not disappointed - on the contrary, it was amazing.
Henry greeted us with exuberance, Bordeaux canelé pastries & a bottle of Red Côtes de Bordeaux followed by a short, fascinating history of his exceptional place and spot-on tips for the areas markets, restaurants, wine, and culinary treat sources. He also arranged a charming & very talented chef to give us private cooking lessons on local fare there in our kitchen - cooking in a place monks lived a thousand years ago. We did not see him again, but his large, warm home with its domed ceilings, massive fireplace, and giant bathtub will never leave my memories.
Chef Olivia Aknin taught us some interesting things. I loved how she preserved her lemons, “citrons”, whole and with a bit of sugar, I’ve always quartered mine to preserve them, but hers were beautiful and delicious. She cures her gravlax in just 24 hours, it was fantastic. She makes her own aromatic pepper blend grinding cardamom, Jamaican and Moroccan peppercorns with a small amount of juniper and clove. She used an eatable argon oil, something I’ve never seen. She dunked cherry tomatoes in honey & toasted sesame seeds for a simple, delightful bite. She flash blanched curly kale in an inch of boiling water, covered, for a striking, perfect bed for the entree.
For a light and very interesting sauce, she sauteed the grapes in butter and olive oil slowly so they don’t pop, used tapioca flour to thicken, reduced down some balsamic, then finished it with a bit of cream. To contact Chef Olivia Aknin for lessons or catering, I couldn’t recommend her more.
But my favorite take away was the glorious pistachio mascarpone cream made with french prepared pistachio paste on the flourless chocolate cake. The next morning I ran five miles just so I could have another guilt-free slice of it. After a fruitless search for “pistachio paste” back in California, I decided to make it myself and it's pretty magnificent. I love Santa Barbara Organic Pistachios from the farmers market. I think Olivia would be proud of my version of her pistachio cream, in honor of her endless skill as a fine chef & teacher I offer this humble rendition using Santa Barbara’s pistachios to make your own pistachio paste from scratch, it’s a cinch & you’ll be super pleased with it. I can’t share Olivia’s cake recipe but Julia Child’s famous flourless chocolate cake is a good substitute.
Bordeaulicious Pistachio Cream
(WARNING: it's absolutely addictive)
¾ cup raw pistachios
¾ cup sugar
3 tbl. water
8 oz Mascarpone
4 tbl. powdered sugar
you’ll need a candy thermometer & food processor
To make the pistachio paste: Lightly toast the pistachio at 350 for 6 min to keep them green, then pour them in the food processor to wait. Boil the sugar & water until 250 degrees. Remove from the heat and add a dash of almond extract. Process the pistachios fine, while it's going stream in the hot syrup (don't wait)
Whip in the Mascarpone and powder sugar with your pistachio mixture. Transfer to a piping bag if you want and refrigerate.
Julia Child's Flourless Chocolate Cake
I have tried at least half a dozen recipes for this and hers is superior with the coffee & rum ummm..
10 cup cake pan (not fluted or springform, Butter it, line the bottom with a circle of parchment, butter that & then flour it.
Preheat oven 350 with bain-marie pan & put a tea kettle on to heat the water bath.
In a double boiler, watch & stir.
.25 cup rum
.25 cup coffee or espresso
1 lb. bittersweet chocolate
When nearly all melted remove from the water pan. Set aside to cool slightly & beat the eggs & sugar to ribbon stage;
.50 cup sugar
1 cup cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Now fold that all together gently & put it into the prepared pan, place the cake into the bain-marie then pour water in halfway up the pan & close the oven. Bake 1 hour, or just when a knife comes out clean. Turn off the oven and prop open the door & leave the cake in there for half an hour more. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edge to cool on a rack & not crack. Remove to a serving plate while still a bit warm. Cool completely then frost. I like to sprinkle the top with additional chopped pistachios.
Lynette La Mere, Pure Joy Catering Executive Chef
photo credit Lucas Oliver Oswald