and an unforgettable pistachio cake frosting...
Like translucent bubbles from the earth in Bordeaux; Chasselas blanc grapes
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 area's markets, restaurants, wine, and culinary treat sources. He also arranged for 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.
She made a spectacular, fragrant pepper mix of Jamaican and Moroccan Pepper Berries ground with a touch of Cardamom, Juniper & Cloves. But my favorite takeaway was the glorious pistachio mascarpone cream shown in the photo below 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 a good quality bright green natural “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 (here's another very good one I make without the sauce & then pistachio cream instead, super good, not too sweet at all), or any chocolate cupcake or cake you choose will be Bordeaulicious with this on it.
Bordeaulicious Pistachio Cream
(photo below, WARNING: it's absolutely addictive)
¾ cup raw pistachios (roasted if you must)
¾ cup sugar
3 tbl. water
8 oz Mascarpone
4 tbl. powdered sugar (optional)
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 into 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 and refrigerate.
Lynette La Mere, Pure Joy Catering Executive Chef
Friends & fellow travelers, Leslie Lund and Anselma Juan setting the table with Chef Olivia
buckwheat crepes, a french classic, Chef Olivia's creative appetizer, cucumbers glistening with argon oil
Chef Olivia's appetizers went musically with a bottle of Sauternes
flash blanched curly kale was a vibrant, delicious component to the plate
Chef Olivias phemominal foie gras creme brulee, with a spiced tulle began the meal
Chef Olivia's pumpkin soup, smoked chantilly and her own fragrant pepper blend
Duck roulade with chasselas grape sauce - love that kale bed!
ripe brie & pears
Église Catholique Saint-Eloi in the heart of town & one of Chef Olivia's lucky students, moi
Chef Olivias flourless chocolate cake with Pistachio Mascarpone Cream