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Archive for March 24, 2017

TIP OF THE DAY: Fried Oysters On Greens, A First Course

Fried Oysters

Fried Oysters

Shucked Oysters Quart

[1] We enjoyed these at a rooftop restaurant in Manhattan (photo courtesy McKittrick Hotel | NYC). [2] Just a taste, from Tsunami Sushi in Lafayette, Louisiana. [3] A quart of oysters from our favorite oyster grower, Willapa Oysters. They’re grown in the cleanest waters in the USA (photo courtesy Willapa Oysters).

 

Every so often we pass a quart of shucked oysters in our fish store, and think: Do we have time to fry oysters tonight?

We like to serve fried oysters as a first course, on a bed of greens with remoulade sauce, which also dresses the salad.

There are different approaches to fried oysters. Some people dredge them in flour, then an egg wash, then bread crumbs.

If the oysters are good, they should release their flavor as close to your palate as possible. No extra layer of breading is required…or desired.

That’s also why we won’t turn the oysters into a po’ boy: The bread gets in the way of tasting the gems of the sea.

The remoulade recipe is a spicier variation of the French classic: a version you’d find served with fried oysters in New Orleans.

RECIPE: FRIED OYSTERS

Ingredients Per Quart Of Oysters (32 Meats*)

For The Oysters

  • 1 quart shucked medium-large oysters
  • 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Dash hot sauce
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal (or use 2 cups all purpose flour)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Canola oil for frying
  • Fresh parsley
  • Lemon wedges
  •  
    For The Louisiana Remoulade Sauce

    You can make the remoulade 1 to 2 days in advance to let the flavors meld.

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 tablespoons Dijon or Creole mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning†
  • 1 teaspoon pickle juice or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • Salt to taste
  •  
    For Serving

  • Mesclun or other salad mix
  •  
    Preparation

    You can use a pot or a deep skillet to fry.

    1. MAKE the remoulade sauce: Combine the ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.

    2. DRAIN the shucked oysters. Season the milk with garlic powder, paprika and hot sauce, and soak the oysters for 30 minutes before frying.

    3. PREHEAT the canola oil to 350°F. While the oil is heating…

    4. WHISK together the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together in a separate casserole dish. When ready to fry, drain the oysters and dredge through the flour mixture, coating completely. Tap off the excess flour.

    5. FRY in batches of 4 or 5 (the oysters need space between them), using tongs to place the oysters in the hot oil. Cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes (“rare” is better for juicy, succulent oysters).

    6. DRAIN for a minute on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve hot atop the greens with a lemon wedge and ramekin of remoulade sauce.
    ________________

    *There are approximately 32 medium-large shucked oysters per quart (4″ across in the shell before shucking).

    †Creole seasoning is a mix of paprika, cayenne pepper, oregano, dried sweet basil and other spices, depending on the producer. Cajun seasoning is a mix of garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes. If you don’t want a spicy remoulade you can leave it out; or mix some of the ingredients you have to get the 1-2 teaspoons for the recipe.
     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Easter Naked Cake With Chocolate Nest

    In our first apartment, we began to bake Easter cakes. For years, we had a Nordicware lamb-shape cake mold. We baked a chocolate cake (a black sheep, as it were), frosted it in vanilla and covered it with white flaked coconut.

    One year, we out grew the lamb, gave the mold away and moved on to a layer cake. The sides were covered in white coconut and the top was green-tinted coconut, the “grass” upon which we placed our favorite malted-milk speckled candy Easter eggs.

    After years of dying coconut, and with complaints from those who didn’t like coconut cake (you know who you are!), last year we made this Speckled Easter Malted Milk Cake.

    Alas, lacking a good hand for smooth icing, ours didn’t look quite this pretty. We haven’t met anyone who can show us the trick.

    So this year, we’re minimizing the need for icing by going with a naked cake (see photos).

    A naked cake can have can have a light, uneven swath of frosting on the outside with naked cake showing through (see the nakedness here).

    Or, it can have no side frosting at all. That solves my particular challenge!

    NAKED CAKE VS. STACK CAKE: THE DIFFERENCE

    Is a naked cake the same as a stack cake? No.

    Both of these layer cakes are so newly trendy that the terms are often used interchangeably. But they are different:

  • A stack cake has zero frosting on the sides, just between the layers—and often just powdered sugar on top.
  • A naked cake has an iced top, and can have a light swath of frosting on the sides (a semi-naked cake), as described above.
  • Stack cake is an older concept from Appalachia; it was a typical wedding cake in that economically-challenged region. Each neighbor brought one unfrosted cake layer to the party (it could be any flavor), to be stacked with layers of frosting provided by the bride’s family.
  •  
    EASTER CAKE IDEAS

    We like the concept of stack cake as a modern party idea—a pot-luck cake, as it were. Here’s how to throw a stack cake party.

    This Easter, we’re not going to ask everyone to bring a layer (maybe next year, guys). So we’re making a naked cake.

    We’re currently thinking orange pound cake layers topped with a great ganache. (It’s great when you make it from the best chocolate, like Callebaut or Valrhona). Make any cake and frosting recipes you like, 2 or 3 layers. You can add fruit to the frosting layers (raspberries, sliced strawberries).

    Thanks to the video below, we’re topping our cake a chocolate nest, filled with our [still favorite after all these years] speckled malted milk eggs. It is a really easy technique.

    You can find other nest recipes made with everything from shredded wheat and pretzel sticks to Chinese fried noodles and uncooked rice vermicelli. Trust us: The chocolate nests are easier—and taste better.

    You have plenty of time to practice: All you need is sugar water, melted chocolate, two pans, a bowl and a squeeze bag.
     
     
    VIDEO: HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE NESTS

     

    Naked Easter Cake

    Easter Naked Cake

    Naked Chocolate Cake

    [1] Here’s the recipe for this Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake from Chewtown. We used the chocolate basket recipe in the video below. [2] This naked cake from Black Jet Baking Co. is decorated with jelly beans and sprinkles (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] We prefer this type of side icing on our naked cakes (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     

    Here’s the recipe with measurements.

    Note that this recipe makes individual nests. For a cake of 8-9 inches diameter, use a bowl as your mold instead of the foil.

    We did not make the leaves or feathers shown in the recipe, but instead filled our basket with malted milk eggs.

      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Seed & Mill Halva Is Halva Heaven

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Seed + Mill Halva

    Halva With Ground Coffee Beans

    Halva With Pop Rocks

    Halva Dessert Plate

    Halva Dessert Plate

    Halva Cake

    [1] Clockwise from top: rose, cinnamon, pistachio and coffee. [2] Chocolate chile halva. [3] Lavender halva. [4] From the front: chocolate orange, date, lemongrass and marble. [5] Caffeinated, with ground coffee beans. [6] Vanilla topped with Pop Rocks. [7] A halva dessert plate: mixed flavors and fruits. [8] Dessert plate of halva with dried fruit. [9] For a special occasion cake, just add a candle. All photos courtesy Seed + Mill.

     

    Halva versus halvah? Who cares how to spell it*, when it tastes this good.

    The sweet confection’s name derives from the Arabic word halwa, which means…sweet confection.

    The best halva we can imagine comes from a relatively new company, Seed + Mill, founded by three friends in New York City, one of whom grew up in Israel.

    The company was born when the latter friend couldn’t find quality tahini in the U.S., and decided to grind her own. Fresh tahini is ground on-site at their store in Chelsea Market, New York City, and sold along with other sesame-based products.

    The company says that theirs is the only store in the U.S. that solely purveys sesame seed products (although we noted a frozen yogurt machine with goat’s milk yogurt).

    While all products are excellent, our food-life-changing experience was engendered by the sesame-based confection, halva(h). Seed + Mill makes the most ethereal, exquisite halva we can imagine—and we have been halva-deprived, for reasons we’ll explain in a bit.
     
    ARTISAN HALVA

    Seed + Mill distinguishes its products using white sesame seeds from Ethiopia, considered the world’s best. Known for their richness of flavor, they are grown in the area of Humera, a city in the northwest corner of Ethiopia, at the borders of Sudan and Eritrea.

    Most of the sesame used for halva and tahini sold in the U.S. is made from seeds from India and Mexico, and are not as flavorful. Hence, our disappointment with the halva available to us.

    Seed + Mill’s sesame seeds are shipped from Humera to Israel, where they are roasted. Some stay in for a bit in Israel, to be ground in small batches and turned into halva. Whole roasted seeds are shipped to New York, to be ground into tahini.

    The halva is made by small Israeli producers to the company’s specifications. The producers use ancient artisan technique—no machines, but caldrons, paddles and troughs. The sugar is boiled and whipped into a foam that produces the melting lightness of the confection. Vigorous hand-kneading produces the finest, fluffiest halvah.

    Although halva is approximately half sesame paste and half sugar, you can assuage some of the guilt with sesame’s enviable nutrition† and heart healthy fats.

    The confection is only mildly sweet, the opposite of fudge and American candy bars.

    And let us add: Seed + Mill has as much in common with halva brands like Joyva as McDonald’s has with Per Se.

    Even the large halva cakes sold at Zabar’s and shops on the Lower East Side have become so mediocre through the use of cheaper ingredients, that we gave up eating halvah several years ago.
     
    THE HISTORY OF HALVA

  • Some scholars suggest that an early form of halva originated before the 12th century in Byzantium, the ancient Greek colony that later became Constantinople, and now Istanbul.
  • Evidence exists that the original was a somewhat gelatinous, grain-based dessert made with oil, flour and sugar.
  • The first written halvah recipe appeared in the early 13th century, and included seven variations.
  • In the same period, a cookbook from Moorish Spain describes rolling out a sheet of candy made of boiled sugar, honey, sesame oil and flour; sprinkling it with rose water, sugar and ground pistachios; and covering it with a second layer of candy before cutting it into triangles.
  • Halva spread across the Middle East to the Mediterranean, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. In each locale, its name and ingredients changed slightly to include regional products.
  • Depending on local preferences, different recipes ground different seeds or nuts to make the halva. For example, Egyptians added pistachios, almonds or pine nuts. Indians flavored their halva with ghee, coconuts and dates.
  • Flour and oil disappeared from the recipe.
  • One recipe, made with sesame tahini, was favored by the Ottoman-ruled Romanians. Their Jewish population passed it on to Ashkenazi Jews throughout Europe. It was this sesame halva recipe that was brought to the U.S. in the early 20th century by Jewish immigrants.
  •  
    Here’s more halvah history.
     
     
    SEED & MILL’S MOST HEAVENLY HALVA

    Halva is made when tahini (ground sesame paste) is blended with sugar at a high temperature, and then hand-stirred.

    The company boasts 27 flavors, including two sugar-free varieties. They’re all available online, and the retail shop in Chelsea carries about ten them at a time. Some are seasonal; for example, expect cranberry in the fall and lavender in the summer.

    Wile many Seed + Mill flavors are vegan, about half of the flavors do include a bit of butter, which makes the halvah even lighter and melt-in-your-mouth. These are noted on the website.

    The non-butter flavors meet dietary preferences including dairy-free, gluten-free, paleo and vegan.

    If this seems like a lot of flavors, note that Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), the Ottoman Empire’s longest-reigning sultan, had a special kitchen built next to his palace that was dubbed the helvahane, house of halva. It produced some 30 varieties of the confection.

    At Seed + Mill, you’ll find traditional and modern flavors:

  • Cardamom Halva
  • Chia Halva
  • Chili Chocolate Halva
  • Chocolate & Orange Halva
  • Chocolate Pistachio Halva
  • Cinnamon Halva
  • Coconut Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Crunchy Peanut Butter Halva
  • Dates Halva
  • Dulce de Leche Halva
  • Ginger Halva
  • Goji Berry Halva
  • Lemongrass Halva
  • Marble Halva
  • Mixed Chocolate Halva (dark, milk and white chocolate)
  • Nutella & Hazelnuts Halva
  • Pistachio Halva
  • Rose Oil Halva
  • Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Halva
  • Sweet Pecans Halva
  • Vanilla Halva
  • Whiskey Halva
  • White Chocolate & Lemon Halva
  • White Chocolate Raspberry Halva
  • Yummy Flaky Halva (for garnish)
  •  
    Sugar-Free Flavors

  • Sugar Free Coffee Halva
  • Sugar Free Pistachio Halva
  •  
    Seed + Mill is certified by United Kosher Supervision. You can purchase a piece as small as a quarter-pound, or order an entire halva cake.

    While you’re at it, treat yourself to a jar of the company’s rich, silky tahini in herb, organic and organic whole seed; and two sesame spices, mixes of sesame with salt or za’atar.

     

    RECIPE: HALVA ICED COFFEE

    Seed + Mill adapted this recipe from Ben of Havoc In The Kitchen. He found it in a Russian food magazine, where it was originally made with peanut halva.

    The shake-like drink does nicely as a snack, a dessert or, with the whiskey, an after-dinner drink.

    Ingredients For 2-3 Servings

  • 2 cups strong brewed coffee, chilled
  • 1/3 cup peanut or sesame halva
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • Optional: 2-3 tablespoons whiskey (or to taste)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the coffee, halva, ice cubes and ice cream in a blender. Process for 5 minutes or until smooth and foamy.

    2. STRAIN and discard the tiny pieces of halva and the coffee will be silky and smooth.

     

    Halva Iced Coffee

    [105] Serve halva iced coffee with alone or with halva dessert plate.

     
    3. RINSE the bowl of the blender, return the strained coffee and blend for another 2 minutes and to foam.
     
    ________________

    *The word is transliterated from Arabic, so either halva or halvah is correct.

    †Sesame seeds are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Here’s a nutrition profile.

      

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