December 2010 Archives
I like to feast on domestic white truffles a couple of times during the holiday season. These gems may come in small nuggets, but are compellingly aromatic and are easy to find at several Los Angeles county farmers’ markets. For breakfast or brunch, I slice them over farmers’ market eggs softly scrambled with Parmesan cheese, shallots, and chives. For lunch or dinner, they top a simple risotto. The heat of the warm creamy scramble or rice releases the truffles’ mysteriously earthy aroma, transforming the simple dishes into luxurious holiday meals.
The truffles are sold at the Clearwater Farms’ table at three LA county farmers’ markets: Santa Monica
at Arizona and 3rd
Street on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Hollywood
on Sundays. (Please note, the Santa Monica market will be closed on New Year’s Day.) At $15 an ounce, they are much more reasonable than Italian white truffles. I find ½ ounce per serving makes a good once-a-year treat. When I get my treasures home, I seal them in a glass jar atop arborio
rice for the risotto, and with farmers’ market eggs for our breakfast. Both the eggs and the rice absorb the truffles' fragrance, adding depth of flavor to the final dish.
I ordered fresh Italian Marroni chestnuts from a family orchard in the Sacramento valley for our Thanksgiving feast. The chestnuts arrived only a few days after I requested them from the website. I am happy to report that the chestnuts are sweet, tender, and moist. Roasted, they make an excellent winter treat for before dinner or while sitting around a cozy fire.
Correia Chestnut Farm
still has some chestnuts available. Unfortunately, the next shipping date isn’t until January 3. However, I am about to order more of these delicacies, to have on hand for cheering up bitter, rainy, January nights.
To avoid the crowds of holiday shoppers and to give personal gifts, I have started preparing goodies in my kitchen. Today I boiled up a batch of Maple-Nut Pralines. It took me only half an hour to turn out a large batch of confections, and my house smells like maple sugaring time in Vermont.
Pralines are a New Orleans-style candy fashioned from sugar, cream, and pecans. I put my own flavor stamp on these sweets by replacing the standard white sugar with pure maple syrup, stirring in walnuts in addition to pecans, and adding a pinch of nutmeg for a festive touch.
I plan to concoct more candies and bake cookies all during December, and will post some of the recipes on this blog. They will be treats I have thought up over the years and enjoy making again and again. These recipes, and many more, can also be found in Cooking at Home
. I am going to thumb through the book again, to select a cookie to make for the friends I will be visiting this weekend.
The cold, windy weekend weather drove me into the kitchen to bake something comforting. In less than 15 minutes I had mixed together a cornbread batter, and in 10 more minutes enticing aromas accompanied the welcome heat radiating from the oven. It was only minutes longer and a golden, crusty loaf was ready to serve with the maple-molasses butter I had whipped together.
The bread is sweetened with maple syrup and flavored with sage leaves. Whole grain cornmeal offers crunch, and buttermilk imparts tenderness. This recipe makes a reliable starting point, but I have fun changing it around. For a healthier version, I replace the butter with light olive oil or vegetable oil, and use whole wheat flour rather than all purpose. Sometimes I season it with rosemary instead of sage, or use honey as an alternative to maple syrup. I have added generous quantities of freshly ground black pepper, and folded in corn kernels.