Thursday, March 3, 2011

An Eclectic Dinner for 3

Oooh! Time to cook with Mai and Paul! Mai has this wonderful commercial style stove in her kitchen, not to mention vast counter space and room for all involved parties.  So it's no surprise I love having the opportunity to cook at Mai's! We opted for a more simple meal since we were meeting on a school-night, and we really wanted to catch up with each other.

Some new additions to Mai's apartment include a tripod and...a marvelous, class-room sized map of the world.  The map ALSO included dots as to where Mai has visited.  You have NO idea how much I squealed with excitement when I saw this.  Well, maybe you do.  I guess it made sense that our dinner featured an assortment of dishes: hummus and pita, salad and toppings, and lemon souffle pudding.  I'm not sure if it could get any more random than that mix! Though, now that I think about it, I think the theme of the night was, "Once Jyoti has tried it home made, she can never go back to store bought".

Case in point: hummus and vanilla extract.

Paul prepared hummus FROM SCRATCH.  Similar to other things (taking French classes, taking my second photograph class, making chickpea fries), I've often thought about doing this but never actually done something about it.

All you need is some tahini, olive oil, garlic, chickpeas, salt and a food processor (even the faux food processor I have would do the trick!)

The finished product below - completed in a matter of minutes!  And WAY better than any store bought hummus I have purchased.

{Look out Tribe Hummus!}

A few months ago, Mai decided to make some vanilla extract.  Yes.  From scratch.  Another thing I've thought of doing and just haven't gotten around to yet.

{Mai's Vanilla Extract}

So we decided to have a taste test - Chef McCormick versus Chef Mai.  While vanilla extract doesn't taste amazing by itself, I'm guessing you can figure out who won based on flavor.  Mai's vanilla extract tasted fresher and more authentic - probably because the bean was still infiltrating the extract inside the jar.  It was almost like the beans were jumping out of a field in Madagascar and into your mouth.  The McCormick's stuff tasted fine, if I didn't know any better (which until this I didn't).  But it left me with a dull flavor in the mouth - and sadly, with none of the excitement from Madagascar!

{Pitting vanilla versus vanilla}

I seemed to have gone off tangent.  Our main course was a healthy, colorful, and filling salad.  Mai used mixed greens and kale (I LOVE KALE) and tossed in all kinds of yummy treats: craisins, pine nuts, almonds, and freshly grated Parmesan to name a few.  And topped with a tangy dressing made with shallots, garlic, olive oil, mustard, and rice vinegar.  I was in heaven, namely because I had been thinking about kale all week and went to Whole Foods to purchase some earlier in the week, but oddly, the store ran out. 

{Grating some fresh cheese over our salad}

After a very filling appetizer and main course, I prepared the lemon souffle pudding.  In case you don't know, my runner up to chocolate dessert is citrus dessert.  Ohh Emmm Geee I was so excited! 

We had a few minor obstacles in preparing the lemon souffle pudding.  Well, actually, only one.  We didn't have ramekins.  Instead, we decided to use a cupcake tin.  In hindsight, not a bad substitute, though your dessert will likely come out a little better using ramekins. 

I'm lucky to have gotten this shot in - but it would have been better if I had been able to capture the pure carnage that occurred about 2 minutes after I took this.  I'm not ashamed to say that we took spoons and began to eat them right out of the baking dish.  At least we used spoons?  Eh, I'm a savage when it comes to dessert.  

{A slightly less savage version of the dessert}

Lemon Souffle Pudding, recipe borrowed from Joy The Baker (Her website makes me drool at work and fantasize about what I could bake at home at night. Do not read her website if you are on or thinking of starting a diet, FYI)

Serves 6 Serves 3

  • 1 cup granulated white sugar, divided
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. lemon zest* (this may seem like a lot but trust me it is worth every last knuckle shredding piece)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and place a rack in the center of the oven.  You are technically supposed to use ramekins - so if you do use them (6 of them) - be sure to butter them.  If you use a cupcake tin like we did, just use liners, it will be easier to eat.  

For the Pudding:

Set aside 2 tbsp. of the sugar, to be used when you are whipping the egg whites.  Place the rest of the sugar in a medium sized bowl.  Add the lemon zest to the sugar, and using the back of a spoon or spatula, grind the zest into the sugar.  This will create a very aromatic, yellow colored sugar.  According to Joy, this will also release the essential oils, making the batter uber-lemony. Add the butter and cream together with an electric mixer.  Add the three egg yolks, one at a time and beat until incorporated.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Add the flour and the salt and beat until combined.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually pour in the lemon juice and milk.  Set aside while you beat the egg whites. 

For the Souffle:

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they are frothy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the remaining 2 tbsp. of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form*.  Gently fold the egg whites into the pudding batter in three additions, mixing only until everything is incorporated.  

Boil some water.  Carefully pour the batter into your baking dish (whatever it may be).  Place your dish of choice into a larger baking pan.  Place the entire pan into the oven, and then pour the water into the baking pan. You want it to come up about half way up your dish.  Slide the entire dish back into the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes.  We might have baked it for about 50 minutes. The dish is done when it is golden brown and you insert a toothpick into the cake portion and it comes out clean (do not let it hit the bottom pudding part).  Try to let it cool slightly.  Try.  Try really hard.  

The souffle can be served warm or at room temperature (if it even makes it that long).  You can top it off with some confectioners sugar, whip cream, or fruit. 

And, no meal at Mai's is complete without of one Paul's lattes.  Seriously - Paul puts the baristas at Zibetto's to shame.  AND I get a cinnamon heart!  

*What is a stiff peak?  Well, I'm not 100% sure myself.  I think what it means is when you are using your electric mixer and you turn it off, lift it up out of the egg whites, and if the egg whites stand, then in fact they are "stiff".  Reader suggestions (and not related to the grammar of that last sentence)?  

1 comment :

Lavina said...

YUM everything sounds and looks delicious. I want to try that salad - never had kale that I know of and I know it is so good for you!!