Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eating Good Food, Indeed.

granita dessert night V

There is a man in my life these days who expresses the most enthusiastic murmurs and sighs while eating the food I make for him.

On a recent Friday night I found myself trying to contain a smile while spooning the most beautiful ruby red colored granita into my mouth, as he sat next to me and did the same. I love his audible sounds of pleasure and appreciation (and they're hardly overkill if you're picturing the scene from What About Bob? with Bill Murray and his cob of corn). In fact, if I was the noise-making type while eating, I would have been doing the exact same thing with this dessert. Rather, I sunk myself a little deeper into the couch, tucked my knees up, sighed in pleasure, and slowly spooned another bite of sweet yet tangy granita and vanilla bean gelato into my mouth, letting the flavors linger and slowly melt on my tongue.

granita dessert night II

granita dessert night III

About midway through the summer I finally claimed ownership of a copy of Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food. I've admired and appreciated Bi-Rite ever since I interned in San Francisco four summers ago. I still remember my first Sam's Sundae eating experience. The sun had set, and we were fully satisfied from sublime Delfina pizzas but still couldn't resist queuing up in the creamery's customary fashion for a final bite of something sweet and rich. The thought of bergamot olive oil and sea salt topping a scoop of ice cream was too intriguing to pass up, especially with my friend nudging me in the side that I should go for it, and it would rock my world. I ordered the sundae, and as dark chocolate ice cream with airy barely-sweet whipped cream and those two savory elements slid down my throat, my eyes were more widely opened to the possibilities within dessert creations.

I have made Eat Good Food my daily reading material during my dinner break at work. I have enjoyed being in no rush to get from page one to the end and the opportunity to cover each page of detailed education on produce, the butcher counter, dairy, and more and recipes to tuck away for as-soon-as-possible usage. It's an effortless choice to recommend and pass around to foodie friends or those desiring to broaden their education but needing an approachable while thorough place to start. I have already made my own adaptations of the almond cake, buttermilk cake, and turnover dough and been inspired by the lentil salad, gazpacho, and Sicilian meatballs.

granita dessert night VII

Honestly, I picked the Blood Orange Granita recipe because the author, and Bi-Rite's owner, Sam Mogannam described it as "the sexiest slushy on earth", and it's just too tempting to return to those childhood loves - like artificially colored and flavored slushies in giant styrofoam cups - and redo them for an adult palate. And then, he also mentioned something reminiscent of a creamsicle when pairing the granita with vanilla ice cream and had me further hooked.

Unable to leave our dessert alone at that, I was scheming up possibilities for an additional element and decided this was the prime opportunity to try David Lebovitz's Italian Almond Cookies. So, the morning's project grew as I settled on this pairing of something sweet and almond-y to hold in one hand, let soften with vanilla-scented cream, and alternate with cold spoonfuls of citrus flavor. It was still a quick and simple endeavor and one that I was completely satisfied with aesthetically and in flavors.

granita dessert night IV

Italian Almond Cookie Dough

Granita requires mild babysitting for a few hours, but otherwise it's an unbeatably easy desserts with a fanciful flair. Just make a simple syrup, combine it with your flavor elements (here, a whole lot of blood orange juice -- wear an apron for splatters, unless you have a better juicer than I or are more skilled at containing a mess). Ashley at Not Without Salt has a cream-based granita I'd love to try sometime. (And knowing how my boyfriend's eyes grow wide at any mention of coffee -- even if he's already had a few cups or it is getting late into the night -- I should probably get on this one.)

As for the cookies, they were an unsurprising winner. Conveniently gluten-free for those who need or prefer this, their soft gently almond-scented middles contrast perfectly with the crunchy exterior and would be just as lovely on their own or paired with a strong cup of espresso. I debated long over whether to use almonds or pine nuts, but for economic reasons, selected almonds this time.

granita dessert night VI

Blood Orange Granita
Adapted from Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food

Makes 1/2 Quart
(enough for 5-6 servings)

You really can take this recipe many directions within the citrus realm, adjusting your sugar amount accordingly. I used mostly blood oranges with a few Cara Cara oranges to bring up my total juice volume. Also, one tablespoon of Cointreau went into the mix -- because who can resist?

3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
pinch kosher salt
1-1/8 cups freshly squeezed juice of blood oranges, tangerines, and/or other citrus varieties
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Cointreau, or other complimentary liqueur (optional)

In a small saucepan, add the sugar and salt to the water and gently stir to blend. Cook over medium-high heat just until the crystals are dissolved.

Let cool slightly, then pour into a medium bowl with all citrus juices and Cointreau. Whisk ingredients together and pour into a glass storage container wide enough to spread the liquid to approximately an inch high.

Freeze uncovered until ice crystals start to form, about 1 hour. Stir the mixture with a fork to break up the crystals. Return to the freezer and stir every 30 minutes until the mixture is icy throughout (2-3 hours total, depending how diligent you are in keeping the crystals small).

Once the granita is thoroughly composed of small ice crystals, serve immediately or seal the container and store in the freezer for up to two weeks. Break up the mixture with a fork just before serving.

granita dessert night I
{When the sun goes down, the Instagram filters must go on.}

Italian Almond Cookies

I added a few drops of almond extract (a scant 1/4 teaspoon) for a more pronounced almond flavor. As for my apricot jam, I was too lazy to whiz it into perfect smoothness, so I whisked it up a good bit and then embraced the orange bits of apricot still peaking about the exterior of the dough; they melded into the whole by the end of baking.

Additionally, I made a half-recipe and got nine cookies out of it. (Egg whites weigh approximately 30 grams, so I used 45g.) Clearly my size was bigger than David's, still fitting easily within my palm but not classifiable as dainty. They barely spread, so I would recommend not shaping them so tall that their interiors aren't baked through before the edges have significantly browned; there should be a bit of moisture left in these cookies.

Find the cookie recipe in full over HERE at David Lebovitz's blog.

1 comment:

Rachael said...

You have acquired quite a wealth of foodie knowledge, pleasurable experience from ingredients to finished presentation, and then a talent with words to make me feel like I'm in the kitchen, or at the table, with you.
You go, gourmet girl!