The Gleeful Gourmand: May 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Summer Berry Pudding

We have an addiction problem in our household right now, and the youngest members of our family seem to be particularly caught in its grasp. Thankfully it's a seasonal addiction, which means that come fall, this will all be a distant memory.

Strawberry Addiction. It is not to be trifled with. Well, actually you can trifle with it and that would be pretty darn tasty with maybe some whipped cream and perhaps some chocolate. But let me back up.

It all started with me wanting to make a Summer Berry Pudding, a recipe I've seen in different variations in a lot of places lately. The Pudding is not actually pudding (like Jell-O), of course, but is the term the British use when describing dessert. Layers of stewed berries and fluffy, sweet brioche bread that meld together in what can only be described as a holy matrimony of flavors for hours on end in the refrigerator. Sweet, bursting with berry goodness and colors that scream "Summertime!" and also "Patriotism!" After all, it's Memorial Day Weekend, and when served with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream, this dessert could practically sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" all by itself.

Except that it's British. But pretend you don't know that, and it's the perfect dessert for your cookout this weekend.

So there I was in the kitchen, the girls playing quietly on the sunporch as I washed, hulled, and sliced my way to berry dessert heaven (I hoped. I was actually kind of nervous because while this is a simple recipe, the construction of it is a little nerve-wracking). I'm getting ready to throw the strawberries into my pot with sugar and water to start the stewing when I hear the patter of tiny feet coming up behind me. There is a pause, and I tense, because I know exactly what's coming.

"Dobbies?" Oh crap, it's Savannah, and she has seen what I'm doing. She knows there are strawberries.

I turn around quickly and smile. "Hi honey!" I whip back around and hope that will throw her off. It does not.


"Not right now, sweetie."


A second pair of tiny feet pad into the kitchen behind me, and Delia catches on pretty quickly to the game.

"Dobbies? Dobbies? Dobbies? Dobbies!!!!!!!!!"

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, sugar, Chambord, and brioche in layered goodness.
I cave and give them both two slices of strawberries thinking this will pacify them. It does not. These girls are greedy with two things: Cheese, and fruit. They know I have more, and even though I've thrown them in the pot now, that doesn't matter. They will not be denied! I try to calmly and rationally explain that I need the dobb - er - strawberries, and say "All done!" as cheerfully as I can. They will not be consoled. What in the world was I thinking, trying to do this in the 45 minute-window right before lunch? Why couldn't I have waited until they were down for their nap? Savannah is on the floor now, wailing like I've beheaded her favorite stuffed toy.

I am seriously regretting my choices, because even though all the berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries) are bubbling gently on the stove, I'm now slicing the brioche and the girls go apoplectic. Breaking out in a cold sweat, I resort to throwing the crusts of the brioche at them, and this actually seems to work. They gobble it up in between indignant sniffles. Crusts of bread. Who knew?

The assembly of the pudding goes very well, and the smell is heavenly. I did have to try out a few different plates to find the one that will fit inside my soufflé dish (the pudding has to be weighted for 6 to 8 hours), though, with a big can of Progresso on top.

Finally, the girls have had their lunch and are down for their nap, the pudding is in the refrigerator and I'm left to stress out in blessed silence on whether or not this thing will actually turn out all right.
It was worth all the tears, I promise.

It does, and it was spectacular. You will not regret making this dessert, no matter how many tears are shed in the process. It is a show-stopper of a dessert. Just make sure you don't try to make it around those with strawberry addictions. You can find the recipe here: Summer Berry Pudding.

P.S. - A note about this dessert: Do not un-mold it until just before you serve. Seriously. Because of the compression, there is so much liquid that comes out of it as it settles on the plate. I ended up having to dribble the liquid off the plate 3 times, and still there was more. So, un-mold, let everyone say "Ahh!" and serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tasty New Documentary: SOMM

I love wine. I love drinking wine. I love wine tastings. I know what I like and can sometimes accurately pair the right wine with the right food. I even use an aerator whenever drinking red; but I'll be honest, food is my focus, while wine is the music in the background. My husband is actually the one who really knows about wines, regions, and all the intricacies of choosing wines to drink. I'm more the person who holds out their glass, sniffs and swirls because I think I'm supposed to and proclaims, "Hey, that's good!" When a waiter pours a little bit in my glass to let me try the first taste, I'm the person who looks anything but serious as I sniff and sip. I'm pretty sure I have a really goofy look on my face, and usually I joke, "Ugh! This is the worst thing I've ever tasted! Blech!" You know, just for kicks. I almost can't stop myself.

Despite the lack of serious knowledge, I really am in awe of Sommeliers and their craft, and I can't wait to see this new documentary, SOMM. It follows several people as they prepare for and take their Master Sommelier exams - one of the toughest tests you've never heard of. To give you an idea of how hard this test is, they say that in the last 40 years, only 170 people around the world have passed it to be proclaimed Master Sommeliers. The sheer amount of knowledge they have to possess, and the almost singular focus they have to have is incredible.

Pour yourself a glass and check out the trailer!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Anniversary Dinner

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary a couple of weeks ago, and instead of doing the usual route of getting a babysitter and going out to a nice dinner, we decided to do something we haven't done in a very long time: Feeding the kids first, putting them to bed, and then making a lavish meal for ourselves. This concept is not new to most parents. In fact, most parents do this sort of thing all the time. But we kind of dig our routines, and I tend to get really hungry - the kind of hungry a small snack can't help - around 6 p.m. Waiting to eat dinner around 8 p.m. is a big stretch.

But I wanted to make this dinner really special. Since it's springtime here in the south, I thought that we'd eat outside on our deck at our intimate two-seater table. I'd put candles and lanterns all around, and we'd listen to the tree frogs and check out the stars while eating our sumptuous meal.

Well...thanks to Mother Nature, and an unusually cold and wet spring we've been having here in Virginia, my grand plans for outdoor dining sort of fell apart. I had been watching the weather like a hawk all day, and the meteorologists swore that by the time we were going to eat, nary a trace of clouds would be present. They lied.
I never would have made it to 8 o'clock without this! 

I was on décor, appetizers, salad and dessert, while Buck was on main entrée and libations. He surprised me with a bottle of my favorite champagne, and our evening was under way. All of the components for dessert had been made well in advance, and for appetizers while the kids ate their dinner, I had put together a platter of herbed goat cheese, thinly sliced proscuitto, and figs with toasted crostini brushed with a little olive oil. I kept sticking my head outside trying to figure out if the rain was starting or stopping (it would drizzle, then mist, then the sun would come out, then repeat - for hours on end). Finally, I had to make a decision, and I moved our party 3 feet indoors to our big table on the sun porch. Good thing too, because it absolutely downpoured as we dug into our salads.

It ended up being a fantastic evening, and by the time we finished eating our dessert, it was 10 p.m. We felt decadent, and very European. It was just as intimate and romantic, and the only downside was that we had to do our own dishes.

We started with a Warm Mushroom Salad that I picked up from Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa). It couldn't have been easier to assemble, (base of arugula, mushrooms sautéed in a bit of butter and olive oil and topped off with a reduced sherry vinegar sauce), but I changed quite a few components. Instead of sun-dried tomatoes (which I can't stand) I substituted chopped roasted red peppers, and I omitted her use of prosciutto since several reviews said it made the salad too salty  when paired with the shaved parmesan cheese. We also added an over-easy egg on top which made the salad velvety rich and made all the flavors come alive.
Warm Mushroom salad, sans egg.

Next up was Buck's entrée, Venetian Shrimp and Scallops. We don't get to eat much seafood, or shellfish since our son is allergic, so we decided to treat ourselves. The dish was nice and light with wonderful flavors. The broth was lemony and boasted saffron and basil, and was so inviting we sopped it up with leftover baguette.

A seafood lover's delight.

Dessert was a little out of the box for me, because when I think of romance, I automatically think chocolate. But it's spring, and I really wanted something different. I went again with Ina Garten - her Lemon Yogurt Cake with fresh Blueberry Sauce. The cake was super-easy to make, but it took a lot of different steps (one glaze to soak into the warm cake straight out of the oven, another glaze to ice it!), but it was completely worth it. The cake is so moist, and the brightness of the blueberry sauce, which can be made the day before, just made it all the more complete. The marriage of lemon and blueberries is so classic, and it was really perfect here, worth all the extra effort. Plus, the sauce makes a ton, and it is absolutely delicious over vanilla frozen yogurt, which is what I served along side the cake (sorry for the lack of pics when it comes to the cake - it just didn't turn out right.)

We trundled off to bed, bellies full, thankful, and just about as happy as we could possibly be. Here are a couple of tips you might want to consider if you plan on doing something similar:

1. No matter what you plan on serving, don't throw it together haphazardly. Think about all the different flavors each course will bring the to table, and try to make all the flavors carry through to the end. Think about textures, saltiness, spices and heat, and how each course might taste on your tongue if you took a forkful from each and ate them all together. If it seems like one flavor profile might be off, it's probably because it is. Trust your instincts!

2. Have a weather backup plan. Because meteorologists are lying liars.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

And We're Back!

Some of you may have been wondering where I've been the past few weeks. Well, I've been busy getting a facelift. Okay, not so much a facelift as a full-body overhaul. I'm talking about my blog, of course. I personally look the same. But I feel fantastic. I've been so eager to makeover my blog for so long, and turn it into a place for readers that is inviting, warm, and comforting; kind of like coming into my own home. Finally, the time has come!

I am thrilled beyond belief to debut my new look, courtesy of the brilliant Arianne Smith of Smitten Blog Designs. Somehow, magically, she was able to bring into being everything I could barely articulate about what I wanted, and turn it into everything I ever wanted - and then some. Thank you, Arianne!

As always, I am so glad that you are here reading The Gleeful Gourmand. I hope you all like the new look as much as I do. Check back soon for new posts!