young coconut cooler (and list of favorites)

It’s hard to explain what’s been happening here lately. There’s actually been quite a bit of baking and cooking going on, but I feel as though I don’t have much to share with y’all at the moment.

I think what this is really about is summertime fever. I’ve got it bad. All I want to do these days is go outside and lounge around and read and have cocktails and make ice cream. So, if I may indulge for a moment, here’s a list of what I’m loving and what I’m excited about this summer.

Bulleit Bourbon – Yes. I’ve been hitting the bottle, but who could blame me when the bottle is Bulleit? One of the bartenders at Flora recently turned me on to Bulleit Bourbon. I’m really enjoying it in the form of a Boulevardier, which is a negroni with bourbon in place of gin. It’s divine. A little bit of Bulleit on the rocks is a nice treat, too.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef – When I saw Gabrielle Hamilton on Charlie Rose, I knew I needed to read her memoir. What I didn’t know was that I would fall in love with her restaurant when I visited New York last month and that the leeks vinaigrette and the fried sweetbreads that they serve at Prune would be on my mind for weeks to follow. So it really is no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story behind their maker. If you love food, if you value food, you will definitely appreciate this book. You might even be inspired.

Olympus XA2 – I totally scored. I’ve been keeping my eye out for one of these classic 35mm rangefinders for years, so you can imagine how excited I was to find this little beauty at a rummage sale for $1 this past weekend. I can’t wait to play with it this summer. More importantly, I can’t wait to shoot and develop some film. It has been way too long.

Fleetwood Mac Greatest Hits – This has been playing on a loop for days now. Seriously. It’s magical. I love Stevie.

Baby Lettuce Box – This is the best $4 investment I’ve made so far this year. There is nothing like a salad made of hand picked baby lettuces. So fresh, so perfect. A touch of vinaigrette is all you need, but some fresh fruit and a bit of cheese are also very nice accompaniments.

Dogwood – Cocktails. Cured meats. And a fantastic grilled cheese sandwich with whiskey bacon chutney. This is where I’m drinking this summer. Dogwood is one of the new bars in Oakland’s Uptown and it is impressive. It’s cool without being pretentious, offers an incredible selection of spirits, and houses a small charcuterie counter that made my heart skip a beat.

Young Coconut Cooler – Young coconut is a longtime favorite of mine. It may be psychosomatic, but I feel instantly calm(er) after drinking coconut water. I swear there are soothing properties in coconut, which is why I like to keep it on hand for when I’m feeling stressed. I’ve been drinking a whole lot of it lately.

I used to drink coconut water straight from the coconut with a straw, then scoop out the pulp for a snack afterward. It wasn’t until last year that I learned a better way of doing things.

Last Halloween, I woke up on my best friend’s couch with a hair piece still attached to my head and a serious hangover. It was a rough scene. Luckily, Sara’s sensible better half knew exactly what to give to this hot mess: young coconut. And because Mr. Redbeard is clever in the kitchen, he blended the coconut water with the pulp and some ice cubes and handed me the best young coconut smoothie ever.

Maybe blending the coconut water and pulp together is the obvious thing to do, but for one reason or another, I had never thought of it. And now it’s the only way to do things around here. I like to call this a cooler rather than a smoothie because it’s a bit lighter and more refreshing than your typical creamy, fruit filled smoothie. I’m sure it would be great blended with a handful of blueberries or a few hunks of fresh pineapple or maybe even a splash of rum, but I like my coconut cooler pure and simple. It’s great for breakfast or for an afternoon snack. And since coconut water is full of electrolytes, it’s the perfect remedy for hot summer days (and mean hangovers).

young coconut cooler

serves 1

1 young Thai coconut

ice cubes

*If you’ve never opened a young coconut, check out this video before getting started.

Remove the top from the coconut, being careful not to spill too much of the water. Pour the water from the coconut into a jar or a blender. Scoop the pulp from the inside of the coconut and add to the water. Add a few ice cubes. Using an immersion blender or a stand blender, blend until the mixture is white and frothy. Enjoy.

clafoutis

Cherry season is in full effect! Quick! Get ‘em while you still can. The cherries at the farmers’ market have been quite impressive this season, especially considering that some crops were ruined due to the late rain we’ve had this year. A few weeks ago I picked up the most incredible Rainiers. They were plump, slightly blushed golden globes, perfectly crunchy and sweet. I destroyed a pound of them all by myself.

Luckily, there were still a ton of cherries at the market last weekend. So I carefully handpicked two pounds. And went home armed and ready to make a clafoutis.

Within my personal collection of cookbooks, I found five different clafoutis recipes. In Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child describes clafoutis as fruit flan. That pretty much sums it up. After much debate, I decided to go with the recipe from the Tartine cookbook, which was a hit. Because I’m obsessive, I couldn’t stop thinking about one of the other recipes that I had passed on, so I gave it a go the next day.

Sadly, the second clafoutis didn’t quite set right, but it had a really nice flavor and was very different from the first. I was determined to make it work so I picked up more cherries and went for round three. After revisiting the recipe, it turns out that I misread the number of eggs, which explains why things weren’t right the first time around. While the redo was much better, I still had stronger feelings for the very first clafoutis.

Tartine’s version is exactly as Julia describes clafoutis – fruit-filled, sweet and eggy. The vanilla infused custard smells heavenly as it bakes. And the cherries are practically ready to burst when the clafoutis comes out of the oven. It’s surprisingly light for a custard. You might actually be shocked by how much of it you accidentally eat in one sitting. Clafoutis is the perfect summer dessert because you can pretty much use any stone fruit or berry that’s available. And it’s the easiest thing to throw together, which means less time in the kitchen and more time to enjoy these long sunny days.

clafoutis

adapted from Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson

makes 1 10-inch custard

2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

pinch of salt

3 large eggs

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

2 cups sweet cherries, pitted 

1/4 cup sugar (for topping)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Butter a 10-inch ceramic quiche plate or pie dish.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt. Place over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, until just under a boil. While the milk mixture is heating, break 1 egg into a heatproof mixing bowl, add the flour, and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk until smooth.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Slowly ladle the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add the almond extract and whisk until incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared mold and add the fruit, making sure that the fruit is evenly distributed.

Bake until just set in the center and slightly puffed and browned around the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and raise the oven temperature to 500°F. Evenly sprinkle the sugar over the top of the clafoutis. Return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes to caramelize the sugar. Watch carefully as it will darken quickly.

Let the custard cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

split pea soup with fresh peas and mint

So, I know that June isn’t typically soup season. But here in the Bay Area, the rain is lingering. It ain’t right. But it is a good excuse for soup making.


Let’s talk split pea soup. Split pea is one of my favorites, but I rarely order it in restaurants because it tends to be on the salty side. So I really only eat it if it’s homemade. I’ve always loved my mom’s split pea soup. It is among the dishes that Jansy makes best. For as long as I can remember, she would make white bean or split pea soup whenever there was a ham bone in the house. And I’ve followed suit.

Every now and then I get my hands on a ham bone. And when I do I like to make a pot of split pea soup. It’s usually a pretty low key affair. I throw the split peas in a pot with the ham bone, sauteed onion and carrot, a few sprigs of thyme, and water. Then I leave it alone for an hour or so and it turns into a super flavorful, hearty soup.

This time around, I wanted to try something new. A few months back, I had bookmarked a recipe in Ad Hoc at Home and have been waiting patiently for springtime English peas and a ham bone to come my way. Finally, the time had come.

This is split pea soup, Thomas Keller style. In other words, it’s fancy split pea soup. I love how this man can transform even the most humble of dishes into elegant fare. This soup is pureed until silky smooth and finished off with a little creme fraiche, fresh peas, and mint, which take it to a whole new level. It’s a bowl of soup that is all at once comforting and totally refreshing. I think it’s kind of perfect.

split pea soup with fresh peas and mint

adapted from Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller

serves 6

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 cups thinly sliced carrots

2 cups coarsely chopped leeks

2 cups coarsely chopped onions

kosher salt

1 smoked ham hock ( I used a ham bone)

3 quarts chicken stock

1 pound (about 2 cups) split peas, small stones removed, rinsed

1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

freshly round black pepper

2 cups fresh English peas, blanched (frozen peas will work fine)

1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

mint leaves

Heat the canola oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks, onions, and generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid (a round of parchment paper cut to fit your pot), and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain the stock into a bowl, discard the vegetables, and reserve the ham hock. Place the bowl of stock over an ice bath and stir to cool.

Return the cooled stock and ham hock to the pot, add the split peas, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are completely soft.

Remove from the heat, and remove and reserve the ham hock. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon vinegar and salt to taste. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (if using a regular stand blender, puree the soup in batches). Taste for seasoning, adding vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Remove and discard the skin and fat from the ham hock. Trim the meat and dice into 1/2-inch pieces.

To serve, reheat the fresh peas in a little water. Drain and stir half the peas into the soup. Garnish the soup with the remaining peas, creme fraiche, ham, and mint leaves. The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Add a bit of water or stock when reheating if the soup becomes too thick.

key lime tart

Last week was not my week. I wont get into the nitty gritty of it, but I will say that I had planned on sharing a tres leches cake with you. And I did bake the cake. And soaked the layers in a heavenly concoction of goat milk, heavy cream, and condensed milk. I even started to cover the entire cake with lightly sweetened whipped cream. And then in the blink of an eye, the cake was airborne. And then it was on the floor. Actually, it was everywhere. On the floor, allover a cookbook, on the legs of a chair. Normally, I would have had an episode after such a travesty. But I remained strangely calm, grabbed an empty paper bag, and started filling it with hunks of leche soaked cake. Did I mention that it was filled with fresh raspberries? Yeah, there were raspberries.

When things like this happen, I feel that the universe is trying to tell me something. Like maybe I shouldn’t try to do so many things at the same time. Or maybe I need a more organized workspace.

Or maybe, just maybe, the universe didn’t care for that tres leches cake. Maybe what the universe really wanted was a key lime tart. I had extra condensed milk and heavy cream left over from the tres leches. And I happened to have a sack of key limes. So, it seemed that maybe a key lime tart was meant to be.

For anyone who isn’t a fan of your typical graham cracker crusts, I’ve got the answer for you. This homemade graham cracker crust is perfect. It reminds me of a cross between a graham cracker and a shortbread cookie. It’s buttery and crunchy and sweetened with brown sugar and honey. It’s an excellent platform for a tart, silky key lime filling. And a healthy dollop of whipped cream. You know what they say, when life gives you limes…

key lime tart

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart

makes one 9-inch tart (and a few tartlets)

for the graham cracker crust:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1-1/2 cups graham flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, brown sugar and honey on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Fit the dough into a 9-inch tart ring set on a parchment lined baking sheet or a tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing into the sides. Using a sharp pairing knife, trim the excess dough. Prick the bottom of the dough allover with a fork. Chill the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line tart shell with parchment paper and  fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until crust is just beginning to turn golden. Remove parchment and weights. Return to oven and continue to bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

for the key lime filling:

4 egg yolks

1 can sweetened condensed milk, 14-ounces

2 teaspoons grated Key lime zest

1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (about 12 limes)

pinch of salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat yolks on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add condensed milk, lime zest, lime juice, and salt and beat until combined, about 1 minute, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Transfer tart (still on parchment if using a tart ring) to a wire rack to cool completely. When completely cool, cover lightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

When ready to serve, combine heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until soft peaks form. Serve tart with whipped cream on the side and a bit of freshly grated lime zest (optional).