As I have experimented with different dishes, I seem to keep returning to a couple. One is pretty simple but has a tinfoilduck twist on it. Another one is a little more complicated but well worth the preparation time.
First, I take a basic Insalata Caprese but I twist it a bit. In this case, I’ve added a slice of roasted beet and grilled apricot. The key to a great Caprese is using reduced balsamic vinegar. Actually, the real key is using heirloom tomatoes. I have a plant out in my back yard that has the most amazing tasting tomatoes. They are better than any tomato I’ve had before. They are so sweet with very little acid. The combination of the sweet tomato, the creamy mozzarella and the tart vinegar is so complex yet simple. The fresh basil flavor cuts through and adds another layer of flavor that in unexplainable. The roasted beet adds an interesting texture and another sweet flavor a little different than the tomato. The apricot is quite interesting because it is more tart than it is sweet the the grilling mellows it out.
What I consider my signature dish is my Seafood Lasagne with Mushroom Cream Sauce. If you recall from my Culinary School Here I Come blogs, I’m a big fan of the Seafood Pate en Croute. Well, I’ve taken the idea of a seafood mousseline (scallops, shrimp & white fish) and layer it between fresh pasta sheets with bits of fresh crab. Instead of baking it, I steam it. The steaming process keeps the mousseline light and fluffy. While that is steaming, I saute shallots & garlic in olive oil, add some sliced shiitake and crimini mushrooms. I use either white wine if I have an open bottle or vermouth to deglaze, then add some cream, fresh thyme, s/p and simmer down till thickened. Lately, I’ve been using coconut milk and lemongrass to give it a slightly Pacific Rim influence.
You may not know what a mousseline is. It sounds kinda odd but it’s quite good. You take all the seafood, egg white, seasoning and cream then puree in a food processor so it’s kinda like a seafood paste. It then gets piped between the layers, steamed, then finished with crab meat and sauce. Simply amazing and a hit whenever I serve it.
Now on to the Cherry Cake. I’m a big fan of joyofbaking.com. It’s a great site for recipes and videos. I was inspired by her latest video of Cherry Cake. If you don’t know, I live in Hawaii and cherries are not grown here. It just so happens to be cherry season so we get them flown in. As a result, they are pretty expensive and the quality can be spotty. That was one issue. Another was that the recipe called for almond meal, which I didn’t have. I did have almonds but no almond meal. I googled how to blanch almonds and seemed like I could do it myself and it wasn’t that difficult to do….wrong.
Before you can make almond meal, you have to blanch almonds. I checked out some youtube videos and one said that you could squeeze the nut out of the skin. Wrong! Each friggen nut had to be peeled. I say let the prisoners do this. I’m certain they wouldn’t be repeat offenders.
From these pristine almonds, come almond meal. You just throw it in a food processor and grind it down. Next comes the cherries. Some are halved and pitted and some are quartered and pitted.
350 grams of cherries
Halved and pitted cherries
To absorb some of the moisture, set the cherry army on paper towels
Mise en place
Beat eggs, sugar, vanilla and almond extract on medium speed. In a separate bowl, combine flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to egg & sugar mixture. Fold in the quartered cherries. I dusted the cherries first with flour so they don’t sink to the bottom.
Pour into a prepared 9″ springform pan and before you know it, you have a Cherry Cake!
I must say that the cake was very good but it actually tasted better a day after it sat in the fridge and all the flavors had a chance to mature. I’ll try it with apricots next and if I ever see another fresh fig again, I’ll try that too. I’ve planted 2 fig trees in my back yard but they don’t seem to be doing good. Not worth it though if I have to blanch, peel and grind my own almonds. That’s a deal breaker!