Pavlova Wreath with Berries

Like clouds in edible form, pavlovas are delicate and ethereal, and can really rain on your parade if the circumstances allow. It’s a meringue allowed to form the backbone of a dessert, so you’ll want to treat it with care because it’ll respond in kind. Warm the eggs before beginning your recipe. Make sure the whites, mixing bowl and beaters are completely free of any oil/yolk. Start whipping the egg whites slowly, then gradually faster until stiff peaks form. And follow the directions for baking in the recipe. It can be a delicate balance, making sure it’s cooked through and dried without browning, but you’ll be rewarded with a scrumptious and impressive-looking dessert, which you then pile high with whipped cream, berries and jam. It’s beyond delicious, and my favorite of our Sweets Week desserts by far. Please visit Darcie’s blog for more about this dessert.

So this is it for the Advent Calendar — I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts Darcie and I have shared this month! We’ll be taking off for the holidays now, but plan to be back in the new year with more posts, probably of the healthy/nourishing variety. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Season’s Greetings, and Happy New Year! Catch you in 2017.

Pavlova Wreath Close-Up | Amy Roth Photo

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Pavlova Wreath with Berries

Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Dessert
This Pavlova Wreath with Berries is gorgeous and wintery with fresh flavors you can't get enough of.

Ingredients

  • 1 pint whipping cream (chilled)
  • powdered sugar (for dusting)

Pavlova

  • 4 extra-large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (white wine or distilled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Berries

  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/4 cup Bonne Maman Four Fruits Preserves

Note

Pavlova base adapted from Ina Garten's recipe.

Directions

Pavlova
Preheat oven to 180°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, gradually add the sugar and beat until shiny, stiff peaks form. Sift the cornstarch over the egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla and gently fold together with a spatula.
Spoon large dollops of the meringue in a circle on the parchment paper. Using a spoon, spread slightly, forming a wreath shape with a shallow trough. Bake for approximately 1 hour. The merengue should remain very light in color. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven. The end result should be crisp and dry on the outside.
Berries
In a microwave safe bowl, heat the fruit preserves for about 30 seconds, until slightly thinned. Add half of the blackberries, crush with a fork and stir until combined.
When the base has cooled and you are ready to serve the dessert, whip the chilled cream.
To assemble the pavlova, place the base on a serving platter. Spread the whipped cream over the base. Top with the remaining berries, then drizzle with the fruit preserve sauce. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

A New Look + The Winter Market

It’s done! Nearly eight years after starting this blog, I gave it a major design overhaul last week! And thank goodness; I just couldn’t look at that raggedy old thing any longer. My lack of anything resembling technical knowledge kept me from tackling it for all those years, but I figured I’d give it a stab, because how hard could it be with one of WordPress‘s highly-praised themes? But still, I couldn’t do it alone, so here’s a big thank you to Gil for setting up a test site and to our friend Jason, who helped me get this behemoth up and running yesterday.

There are a few new features here that I’d like to tell you about. First of all, there’s a top nav to help you get around and a proper home page with some fun features! I’ll likely add some functionality to it in the future, but for now, you can find recent blog posts as well as projects there. Think of the Projects page as a portfolio-lite; it has a few selected images from projects I’ve worked on (mostly cookbooks) along with descriptions and external links to each. To see more of my photography, just click on the Portfolio link in the top nav.

You can sign up to receive an email when new posts are published by using the subscribe box in the blog side navigation or in the footer. Connect with me on social media via the links above the main logo or write to me (I’d love to hear from you!) from the Contact page. There’s also an honest-to-goodness About page now; I figure it’s about time you know a little more about me, and maybe see a picture, even.

Anyway, take a look around — I hope you like what you see! (And if something isn’t working, please let me know.)

Now for some food!

I’m not sure why I gave up the Farmers’ Market Feast series when our weekly market moved to a monthly one over the winter because I never miss one, even though I don’t get to load up on local vegetables at it. So this is my inaugural Winter Market post, and also the last until November because I’ll be back to a weekly schedule in May! Hooray!

Aged Goat's Milk Cheese @ Minimally Invasive

This lovely specimen of aged goat cheese comes from our friends at Edgwick Farm. There was a bit of give around the edges which promised a creamy interior; it was all I could do to hold off from cutting into it before taking this shot.

Aged Goat Cheese @ Minimally Invasive

Just look at that gooey loveliness! The slight goatiness was offset by a drizzle of local honey from Nina’s Red Barn Farm. I’ve consumed a little over half of the cheese in the past two days, which is why I don’t buy it too often; I simply can’t resist the temptation it throws my way.

Roasted Mushrooms & Egg @ Minimally Invasive

Now this little slice of heaven was my Sunday morning breakfast. In my 20s I really loved brunch or brunching; it seemed like such a civilized way to start the day and served as a good excuse to have a bloody mary at an outrageously early hour. (So naughty!) But after years of consuming lord knows how many mediocre egg dishes and entire fields of lukewarm fried potato chunks, I realized I really was in love with the idea of brunch. Now that I’m older, I find I can make a better meal than most brunchy restaurants offer, so it’s a good excuse to indulge.

Roasted Mushrooms & Egg @ Minimally Invasive

Wiltbank Farm is new to our market, selling flavorful oyster and shiitake mushrooms. I wanted to feature the oysters without much interference, so I tossed the mushrooms with some olive oil, a hefty amount of thyme and red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and threw in a few whole garlic cloves for good measure. After 15 minutes on a roasting pan in a 425 degree oven, they were deliciously schlumped and caramelized, so I smashed the garlic cloves into a paste, tossed the paste with the mushrooms and the angels sang.

This was an ideal nest for a perfectly fried duck egg from Edgwick Farm. After trying them for the first time this weekend, I feel sure they’ll be on the menu for as long as I can find them. The flavor isn’t so different from a chicken egg, but they’re much more substantial, and if you’re a yolk lover like I am, you’ll love the ridiculous size of these. I felt I ate like a queen.

And here’s a little yolk porn, just cuz. Have a great week!

Yolk Porn @ Minimally Invasive

Day 9, Scrambled Eggs

“Do you like eggs?”
She laughed. She looked at me, so I laughed too.
Wolfe scowled. “Confound it, are eggs comical? Do you know how to scramble eggs, Mrs. Valdon?”
“Yes, of course.”
“To use Mr. Goodwin’s favorite locution, one will get you ten that you don’t. I’ll scramble eggs for your breakfast and we’ll see. Tell me forty minutes before you’re ready.”
Her eyes widened. “Forty minutes?”
“Yes. I knew you didn’t know.”

—Nero Wolfe in The Mother Hunt

Forty minutes seems like a long time for eggs, doesn’t it? All my life, I’d heat butter or olive oil in a skillet and whip up a couple of eggs in a minute flat —two, if I was dawdling. Boom! Breakfast is served! And I’d consume them just as quickly as they’d cooked. But somewhere along the way I stumbled upon Julia Child’s recipe for scrambled eggs (or ouefs brouillés) in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1 and my life has never been the same. These are eggs to savor with a great cup of coffee.

Custardy, rich and impossibly, well, eggy, this is the recipe to show you just how multidimensional the egg can be. I usually pare down the recipe even further, skipping the enrichment butter or cream at the end because it would almost be gilding the lily to add anything to such perfection.

Now I know you’re skeptical. I know you’re wondering just how any scrambled egg could be worth more than five minutes of your time, but you’ll have to trust me. (This is assuming a custard-like texture is what you’re looking for, of course. Gil prefers eggs fluffy enough to float off his fork, which is 180 degrees from these. But try it out —at the very least, it’ll be like nothing you’ve had before.)

And once you’ve mastered this recipe, let me know; maybe we can tackle Nero Wolfe’s 40-minute double boiler scrambled eggs together.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Day 9, Scrambled Eggs”

Pucker Up

I’ve been behind the curve on many things in my life: growing hips, getting married, watching The Wire…just to name a few. Knowing this, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise (at least to me) that I’m only now discovering Meyer lemons, but it sort of is. Oh, it’s not that I haven’t tried to use them for the past couple of years; it’s that they were awfully elusive/sold out whenever I thought to look. But our local Whole Foods has had a good supply these past few weeks, so I’ve more than made up for lost time.

(For anyone else who suffers from the same predicament as me, you can find a good Meyer lemon disquisition here.)

It’s pretty easy to plan an entire meal around the Meyer lemon if you try just a little, so I dug around and found a simple, elegant pasta recipe at The Amateur Gourmet and put my own spin on it with smoked fish straight from my brand new Camerons Stovetop Smoker. (Thanks again for the birthday present, Naomi!) In that heady state of new toy-infatuation, I did two versions of the pasta — one with smoked salmon and one with smoked trout. I thought the salmon was delicious on its own, but too assertive for the rest of the flavors in the pasta. The trout, though, was perfection. It mingled nicely with the zest, crème fraîche and greens without overshadowing any of them.

Hard as it was to do, I saved a little room for dessert. Earlier in the day I found a recipe at Thursday Night Smackdown for a Meyer lemon curd so delicious it almost didn’t make it to the refrigerator. I put the leftover egg whites to good use and made pavlovas from Simply Recipes. So we ate, essentially, an upside-down lemon meringue pie, only I didn’t have to deal with the annoying crust.

Sweet lemon clouds. Heavenly.

Sinful. Just… full of sin

I just looked over my last few posts and realized they’re all about capital-C Comfort foods. Thick, rich chocolate pudding, mascarpone cream, spicy soup… while I’m on a roll, let’s add one more to the list, shall we?

Bacon Jam — a wonderful motivator, I’ve found.

As a reason for getting out of bed: Spread it on toast, top it with a perfectly (or not) poached egg for a sunny, sweet and savory start to the day.

with bacon jam and avocado

It’ll get you into the kitchen instead of grabbing a quick bite. Fast food pales in comparison to this grilled cheese sandwich: Bacon jam blanketed in cheddar cheese and studded with avocado between two slices of buttered (and I mean buttered) bread, then grilled till the bread crunches at the first bite while the filling simply yields itself.

bacon jam

It’s also a reason to, I dunno, clean the fridge maybe? If you already happened to be in there, and the jar was staring you in the face and no one’s watching you could take a spoonful straight from the jar. (Not that I’d ever dream of doing such a thing.)

I’m certain there are other, more diabolical motivational uses for this, but I’ll have to work on them. As it is, I’m mostly motivated to make another batch since I gave away over half. But four out of four carnivores agree; this stuff is perfection.

Thanks to Stephanie, for posting about this at Fresh Tart.

grilled cheese with bacon jam & avocado

grilled cheese with bacon jam & avocado

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Sinful. Just… full of sin”

Your Thanksgiving leftovers

This year’s Thanksgiving feast could only have been more low key if we’d gone the TV dinner route. My mother-in-law wasn’t able to visit, so I planned to simply roast a chicken and serve a few veggies for the two of us, but ended up doing even less than that when our neighbors invited us to share dinner with them. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve lived here for four years as of this weekend (which reminds me, this blog just turned three!) and haven’t managed to get to know them yet. I blame Gil for not introducing me around when I moved.

Not wanting to go empty-handed, I pulled out the bag of almost-overripe persimmons I’d been storing for a couple of weeks and got to work on an upside-down cake that sounded like a perfect ending to a Thanksgiving meal — with two sticks of butter, it was possibly the most indulgent cake I’ve ever made.

091129_cake_lg

I did a quick google search when the idea for the cake hit me (my standard approach, since very few ideas are truly new), and found only a couple of recipes. Joanne Weir‘s parmesan flan has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past two years, so I opted for her version of the cake and came away very, very happy indeed.

091126_eggs_lg

Her secret for keeping things light and airy in such a rich cake? Whipping the egg whites, then folding them into the rest of the batter. Even so, the cake was much more soufflé-like in the pan than I expected:

091129_souffle_lg

Anyway, we had a wonderful time with the Edwards family and I feel like I finally have friends in the neighborhood, which is no small thing. They’re a creative family, into drawing, painting, photography, music, fashion…so you can imagine how much I enjoyed myself. Oh, AND I finally got a house tour with details of the major renovation they did last year! So we have lots of inspiration for our own house project, whenever we start.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next day, I roasted the Zuni chicken (with bittersweet pimenton added to the salt & pepper rub) originally intended for Thanksgiving and made a bread-based dressing with roasted acorn squash on the side. Nothing terribly exciting, but repurposed as breakfast this morning, I fell in love:

091129_dressing_egg_lg

I pan-fried some of the leftover dressing, served it atop a thin drizzle of gravy and topped it with a fried egg. “X + egg = heaven” is undefined for Gil, so I waited till he was running an errand to work it up. (How anyone can snub a runny egg yolk over just about anything is beyond me, but hey, in sickness & in [mental] health, etc…)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For Saturday’s dinner, there wasn’t a hint of Thanksgiving left over in the leftovers, though I forced myself to use the contents of my fridge and pantry in a stab at eating down the house. We ended up with a North African-inspired couscous dish that took maybe 30 minutes to make, but had a great depth of flavor mainly because it relied so heavily on leftovers.

To start, I made a quick harissa paste and set it aside for the flavors to develop while I worked on the rest of the meal. I hit the freezer for a package of caramelized onions, which I browned in some olive oil, then added two thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and reinforced the warm spices from the harissa — ground cumin, caraway seeds and ground coriander — in the sizzling oil. When the spices were fragrant, I added a package of Israeli couscous, bite-sized pieces of dark chicken, chopped roasted acorn squash, leftover chicken stock and two tablespoons of harissa paste. Only 15 minutes later, we were sitting down to a meal I wouldn’t even mind making from scratch someday.

091129_couscous

I hope you add had a filling and fun-filled Thanksgiving. Now I need to figure out a way to work from home, because the last four days spent with all of my boys has been too good to miss again for 13 hours a day or more.

recipes and sweet doggy pictures after the jump

Continue reading “Your Thanksgiving leftovers”

new post

Hey, all. I owe you a big wrap-up of our last week or so, but my mind is elsewhere today. Ru was attacked by a neighbor’s dog yesterday on his afternoon stroll with the dog walker and is at the animal hospital awaiting surgery this morning. Gil’s out of town until tomorrow, so I’m just waiting by the phone and cleaning the house from top to bottom to keep busy.

The situation is especially infuriating because this same dog (a husky) broke through his electric fence and attacked another dog just two weeks ago and it seems the owners didn’t do enough to make sure it couldn’t happen again. So our boy has a big chunk of his haunch missing and needs one surgery today to install a rubber drain and another in a month or so to remove the drain and close the wound. (Ru’s vet took plenty of pictures of the wounds and his office notified the police department, so thank goodness that was taken care of before I even got there.)

So I rushed home from work and got to the animal hospital in time to see him before they closed for the evening.

ru1
He was even more pitiful than this when I first saw him, but at least his bed made him comfortable.

ru2
There was some panting, but he was loopy from the pain meds, so he wasn’t in a bad mood at all. I think he enjoyed the dirty t-shirt I brought for him, too.

ru3
But even getting his favorite new toy (John Calamari or Squid Vicious, depending on which one of us you ask) didn’t stop him from accusing me with his eyes when I was ready to go.

a week’s wrap-up after the jump

Continue reading “new post”

Breakfast of champions

090315_mushrooms

Because I’m such a good girl during the week, eating heart-healthy cereal and fruit for breakfast, I like to change it up on weekends. But the last thing I want to do is start off the day with a sugar bomb — that just leaves me cranky and sleepy — so I’ve been gravitating toward more savory fare in the last year or so. Often it’s just a matter of treating oatmeal as a grain and topping it with butter/olive oil/poached egg, but I wanted something a little more involved last Saturday and turned out this meal.

It started with a base of polenta cooked over a low flame for 30 minutes, then flavored with a bit of butter, a bit more parmesan, and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. For a topping, I grabbed a bag of oyster mushrooms that had been languishing in the fridge for a full week and sautéed them in butter and olive oil with thinly sliced shallots until they’d caramelized. Adding a poached egg and a drizzle of truffle oil just brought the whole thing over the top and, I think, made Gil just a tiny bit envious (but he’d already had his bowl of cereal).

Odds & ends

As you can see, I’ve been cooking. Oh, how I’ve been cooking. But there hasn’t been a lot to say about the food. I mean, we can all get behind a great roast chicken, but really, what more could I possibly tell you about it? Well, OK, just a word about this one, then we’ll move on…

I was craving another Zuni roast chicken for dinner during the week, but my way-back machine was in the shop and I couldn’t have one seasoned in time for that evening’s meal. So I did the next best thing; I used Thomas Keller’s method of seasoning and dry roasting a chicken in a 450-degree oven for an hour. (Thanks for the heads-up, Dietsch.) It’s very similar to the Zuni method, only it requires no advance planning. It’s also very similar to my grandma’s roast chicken: 500-degree oven for an hour, but she bastes it in butter whereas this one stayed completely dry, the better to crisp the skin, my darlings. It was a delicious bird, only not seasoned through the way it would have been if I’d started the project three days earlier. Live and learn.

One thing among many I’m grateful for is that my husband remains unmoved by chicken butt. Rufus and I go crazy for it, so there must be some primal instinct that Gil’s missing. Whatever — more for me. (What? You don’t really think I’d actually share this little morsel with a dog, do you? He got a few bites of chicken skin after we’d finished eating, which was all the reward he was getting. Did he help me lift the heavy cast iron pan into the oven? No. Did he help me make gravy from the salty pan drippings? No. He just napped cutely while I did all the hard work.)

Continue reading “Odds & ends”

A short tale of two breakfasts

Breakfast is a subject I take seriously. Most mornings I start the day with some sort of heart-healthy cereal because let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger. But on weekends, that sensible thing flies right out the window, especially when I’m waking up to a frosty morning.

And nothing says weekend breakfast like eggs — they’re so delicious and versatile. Saturday morning, the last of our farmers’ market eggs provided the base for a refrigerator frittata — we had leeks, potatoes and a big bag of spinach hanging around, so into the pan they went along with some pecorino romano and good, fruity olive oil. Just the thing to get us going.

Our Sunday ritual continued with taking Rufus to the 9am (!) greyhound hike at Wawayanda State Park, so I decided to make another big breakfast to keep the chill out of my bones on the long trek. One of my favorite things about eggs is that you can poach one and add it to just about any leftover, and presto –  instant brunch! So that’s how I polished off the last of my leftover aloo gobi experiment from a few nights earlier. So good, and it really kept me going on the long hike. I’m not saying this breakfast was the reason I felt energetic all day, but it certainly didn’t hurt.