Just a little sampling of a dessert I've never had before, normally called a Baba au Rum Cake. This version was with whiskey and served at a wonderful little restaurant called the Rieger Hotel and Grill and Exchange. This was after scarfing down one of the best Reubens' I've had in a very long time. It may have been the corned beef tongue or it just may have been that they understand what makes a great Reuben, careful grilling and the right proportion of meat to bread and other ingredients. As for this adult dessert? While it was wonderful, it wasn't exactly my thing. That's not to say it wasn't done well, it was. Just didn't connect with my inner dessert freak. However if you enjoy whiskey soaked cake with whipped cream and creme anglaise, come on down. The Rieger would love to satisfy your culinary needs. And the bonus? The cookbook library in the back. It's a good thing.
I have been to the library. This is a good thing. Well, not good for the Barnes and Nobles or the late Borders Books of the world because if there's one thing I know, I have absolutely no self control when it comes to an armful of pretty new books. My personal economy suffers much less from multiple trips to the library. Which is where I found this excellent cookbook.
I have to say that I've noticed lately that a lot of cookbooks currently coming out are hitting the "localvore movement" theme fairly hard. This book is no different. I don't really mind but coming from a background where one grandmother lived on a farm her whole life, where my parents have always had a big backyard garden, where I was taught early that young children make great pickers at the Pick Your Own farm stands (strawberries, yah, green beans, boo) all this talk is old hat. I do have to admit that I don't think my mother wants to go back to raising, killing, plucking and cleaning her own chickens. Fresh eggs are great but chickens are a lot of work.
Having said that, this is a wonderful cookbook with lots of seasonal recipes that appear to be loaded with flavor. If you like a fresh fruit and vegetable heavy diet, you will find a lot to like. Since we're still too early for spring produce, I thought I try the Roasted Two Beet Salad first.
This recipe uses two colors of beets, red and golden, two of each. You're going to roast your beets, unpeeled, rubbed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper in a 375 degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes. To test for tenderness piece with a knife, if there is resistance, continue roasting until the knife slides in smoothly. Let the beet cool enough to handle and then peel off the skin. If you don't want bloody red hands, try some food safe rubber gloves. (Personally I think it's more fun to chase neighborhood children with beet red hands but that's just me.)
So while your beets were roasting, you can whip up the dressing by mixing 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey), 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme. Now the recipe calls for lemon thyme but I have not seen too much of that in the grocery stores or my garden which is why we're going with the regular thyme. You can whisk that all together or you can do like me and put it in a mason jar, screw on the lid and shake it up.
Once your beets are cooled, cut them into a julienne. Again a bit of a deviation from the recipe which calls for mixing the beets with 1/2 cup sliced red onion and the dressing. Keep the two colors of beets separate. If you mix everything together, the golden beets end up red anyway so add half the onions and dressing to each color beet, refrigerate for an hour and serve the beets together on the plate.
If you're already a beet fan, you will love this recipe. Most beet salads go down the cheese/nut route so it's refreshing to have a salad that concentrates on the flavors of the beets paired with the acidic flavor of the dressing and the flavor of the thyme. If you're not a beet fan (tasted like dirt! And really why don't more vegetables taste like dirt? Carrots I'm looking at you.) more than likely you won't enjoy this. You might taste it off of someone else's plate but I doubt you'd make it for yourself.
Some of the other recipes I'm looking forward to making from this cookbook are Hearty Root Vegetable Chowder, Quebec Tortiere, and Fresh Peaches with Mascarpone and Blackberry Coulis. Oh yeah. You can also check out their website, Cooking Close to Home for seasonal recipes or to buy the cookbook for yourself. I highly suggest this for the added bonus of it being a Maple heavy cookbook. Now if someone can help me find Maple Sugar I would appreciate it.
I had to throw that last one in there because the Kansas Jayhawks pulled off the upset last night and it's pretty much been insanity here in the prairie hood. But back to Mapril. As you recall, the inspiration for Mapril is to celebrate all things Maple in the dreary time that is the end of March and hopefully the end of winter and the beginning of April and spring. My good Canadian friend to the north, Susan of 29 Black Street, still has bits of ice and snow and gray in her world. She needs some hot pink flowers and lovely maple dishes to blow those winter blahs away. For some of us, spring apparently is done and we're heading into summer. Our predicted high today is 88 degrees so hot pink sunburn may be in my future.
I had three maple dishes lined up for Mapril Dim Sum Sunday. Sadly it was not to be and I have no one to blame except myself and not trusting my own damn common sense. You see when searching the internets for inspiration and ideas, I generally use Google image to find potential recipes. Generally my theory is if a photo makes me salivate then it must be, at the very least, a decent recipe. This has worked out fairly well in the past. Bit me in ass this weekend. You see I saw a photo and ended up at this recipe. They used a quick soak method of cooking beans but only had 30 minutes of post soak cooking time. This is where I learn culinary life lessons so you don't have to. Dried beans don't cook in 30 minutes. I don't think dried beans soaked over night cook to tender in 30 minutes. I don't know how long these freaking beans took because I spent all evening with them, gently tending to their needs. I finally decided that I actually wanted to get some sleep so I dumped them into the crock pot and went to bed. This morning found them tender but all the other ingredients cooked to mush. They are ok taste-wise. I'm sad for the cup of beautiful maple syrup that boiled away in the process. I am glad to know that I should stick with the chefs, authors, and websites that I trust. People who actually know how to cook, test and write recipes for the general public. My only guess is that someone was writing a recipe for a pressure cooker version of baked beans but forgot to cook in a pressure cooker because that's the only way this recipe is so not wrong.
Still, they do make for some pretty on this hot Sunday. Guess I'm the April Fool for making this recipe. Keep visiting the comments during the day to see who else decided to get all maplely (yes I know it's not a word...).