Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kebabs, bread pudding and corn chowder

Another too-long silence on the old blog here, and apologies to anyone who notices when I'm away. Shout out to Alison, who always sends kind inquiries when I neglect my posting duties. It's nice to be missed and it does encourage me to get busy. These past weeks, we've been attending a wedding a weekend, as well as entertaining houseguests and hosting a croquet party. I even managed to turn 35, which might account for why I'm slowing down. Just can't blog like I used to, kids.

In any case, my birthday was a lovely celebration at Sylvi and Matthias' place in Oakland. We spent the afternoon drinking beer and then made our way up to Lake Merritt where, believe it or not, we enjoyed a traditional Venetian gondola ride. It seems to be a well-kept secret but I'm blowing the lid off this thing just to make sure it doesn't go away. Our sweet gondolier, whose name escapes me, told us the history of the boat, which was indeed imported from Venice. He sang us traditional songs like "La Donna Nobile" and oddball choices like "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and while he was no Pavorotti or Croce in vocal abilities, he gave it all a good go and we fully enjoyed his renditions. We also brought plenty of wine and cheese and really, it was one of the nicest sunsets I'd experienced in some time. Maybe it was the symbolism of the sun setting on my young years, but we'll not linger on those associations.

On to dinner, Sylvi and Matthias whipped up a fantastic marinade for skewered lamb cubes and veggies. I believe it was a combination of red wine vinegar, molasses(!), olive oil, and fresh mint. At least, that's what I put in my version when I attempted to recreate it at home.

After we massacred the sweet, sticky kebabs, Sylvi presented me with a pie she'd made of peaches and pluots. That's right, pluots, the hybrid fruit of plums and apricots. Not only was the fruit fantastic, but she told me the secret ingredient was creme fraiche, baked in the pie as the first layer between the crust and the fruit filling. Absolutely recommended!

So besides relaying those nifty food ideas, I have two others to share. After the aforementioned croquet soirée we threw this weekend (and yes, a great success, thank you), I had a ridiculous amount of leftovers that I couldn't bare to waste. I've really become fanatical about finding creative solutions for abundant leftovers and this occasion was no exception.

With the reminaing jumbo pack of hot dog buns, I made a maple and walnut bread pudding and I've saved the leftover grilled corn, tomatoes and red onions for a corn chowder, to be attempted tomorrow night. I know the hot dog bun idea sounds a bit dodgy, but really, most baking recipes call for white flour so I figured those squidgy buns were essentially the same thing. The results were really quite nice, moist, maple-y and not too sweet.

Bread Pudding

8 hot dog buns
8 eggs
2 pints whipping cream
1 cup grade B maple syrup
1/2 c. orange juice
dash vanilla
dash nutmeg
dash cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, chopped, tossed in syrup and toasted on baking sheets

Beat eggs in large mixing bowl and add all other ingredients. Rip up buns or day old bread into 1-2" pieces and stir them gently into egg mixture. Let sit for 1 hour and preheat oven too 375. After bread has soaked up egg, spoon gooey mixture into two greased cake pans. Sprinkle walnuts on top and pop into oven. Cook for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and center of pudding is puffed up and nicely golden brown.

As for the corn chowder, I've not made it yet, but my plan is to shave the roasted kernels off the cob and then puree them with the grilled tomato and red onion pieces. I'll season with salt and pepper and add a few cups of chicken stock. Then I'll push the thick puree through my beloved chinois (strainer) using my wooden pestle. The resulting soup will be silky and thin and delicate. I know chowders are usually a bit thicker, but I've found this treatment really elevates the corn to an unexpected texture that refines the whole dish. Will let you know how it goes.


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