Sunday, November 21, 2010

A delicious week

It was a real food lover's week...

Last Sunday, there was a panel discussion at the Durham County Library's Southwest branch with local chefs.  Alice Sharpe made the introductions for "Durham:  Culinary Hot Spot."  It was part of the Humanities Programs at the library.  Ann Prospero, author of Chefs of the Triangle, moderated.  On hand were Amy Tournquist of Watts Grocery, Marco Shaw of Piedmont, Seth Gross, formerly of Wine Authorities and soon opening Bull City Burger and Brewery, Jim Anile of Revolution, Chris Stinnett of Rue Cler and Pop's, and Andy Magowan, former owner of Piedmont and soon opening a new restaurant-beer garden in downtown Durham.  We are very lucky eaters here in Durham.  I was struck by the sense of camaraderie among these chefs.  They were all very funny, too.  Someone in the audience commented that there is "so much personality behind such good food."  Very true.  Parking in downtown Durham was a hot topic of discussion.  Revolution offers valet parking.  Someone asked how the residents of Durham could support the chefs and their restaurants.  The responses -- "Keep eating."  "Eat early and often."  "Stop going on vacation all summer."  One woman commented that she frequents their restaurants too often, to which they responded that that isn't possible!
Then, on Monday, it was crêpe-making day with my 6th graders.
I can still do it, Chef Érick!
A very happy jeune homme.  I hope they will make crêpes at home for their families.  This is the same group of kids who ate escargots first thing in the morning a couple of months ago.  Great eaters!  On their way to becoming gourmands et gourmets. One of the girls came in with a menu from Vin Rouge, one of my favorites.  She and her mom went there for dinner. 
The preferred fillings for the crêpes--
And, of course--
Some of my advisees had never tasted Maple View Farm chocolate milk.  I had to remedy that tout de suite!  This is absolutely the best chocolate milk ever.  Even better than a chocolate milk shake.  When my children were in pre-school, one of their field trips was to Maple View to feed the calves and taste milk and ice cream.  Yes, I chaperoned that trip- twice!
We also had gingerbread with whipped cream.  What a wonderful treat.
Anna T. celebrated her birthday this week and no birthday is complete without a cake and candles.  The cake was gone by the end of the day!
The third Thursday of November is the release date for Beaujolais Nouveau, so I dashed out to Wine Authorities for a bottle.  Homemade chili was on our evening's menu.  I've had some Beaujolais that wasn't much to write about, but I can always trust WA to come through with a good one. 
In Avignon, France, they celebrated the new Côtes du Rhône wines, as well as the Beaujolais.  Ahhh.  The Frenchies do love a reason for a celebration.  I am sure there were some wonderful wines and nibbles.

Friday, I decided to have a few girlfriends over for un apéro after school.  I am thankful for my friends and wanted to show them.  My guys were busy with basketball and I do not have after school study hall duty on Fridays.  Arles Lucy and the BFF stayed for a while and we shared stories and laughed a lot.  We ate lovely little snacks--
--bread from  Guglhupf (interesting shape, n'est-ce pas?)
--Giacomo Reserve Toscana Salami (Wine Authorities)

-- cheese spread from Hillsborough Cheese Company (Wine Authorities)
--olives (yep, Wine Authorities)
-- tapenade

-- and chocolate (none left to photograph...).
And my final project of the weekend was to make Dorie Greenspan's French apple cake from her new cookbook, Around My French Table.  I found it on David Lebovitz' blog (and then bought the book for myself!).  It is truly delicious.   (Both the book and the cake.)
I made it first thing Sunday morning.  That is my favorite time to bake-- the house is quiet, boys and cats are still asleep.  I love to fill up the air with great smells.  I chose four different kinds of apples, just as Dorie suggests,  Granny Smith, Braeburn, Jonagold and Mountaineer.
Butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, rum, flour and voilà!
An hour later, cake for breakfast.

Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake
(from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan)
Makes 8 servings

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. dark rum
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and put the springform pan on it.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
Peel the apples, cut them in half, and remove the cores.  Cut the apples into 1- to 2- inch chunks.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they're foamy.  Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend.  Whisk in the rum and vanilla.  Whisk in half the flour and, when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter.  Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter.  Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it's evenish.
Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan.
Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it's fully opened, make sure there aren't any apples stuck to it.)  Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature.  If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack.  Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream.  Marie-Hélène served her cake with cinnamon ice cream, and it was a terrific combination.
The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature and, according to my husband, gets more comforting with each passing day.  However long you keep the cake, it's best not to cover it-- it's too moist.  Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

P.S.  I just noticed that today's French word of the day (on the side of the blog) is régime-- diet.  Ha!  And the sentence--  Après les excès des fêtes, il veut se mettre au régime. After the holiday excess, he wants to go on a diet.

Bon appétit, to Dorie and all my eaters!

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