Foodie Tuesday: Artful Eating

Another pleasure of travel—of getting out of my familiar paths and habits—is discovering not only new things to eat but new ways of preparing and presenting foods I might have known all along. Whether there’s some entirely unforeseen ingredient or the known ones are combined in a completely unfamiliar way or plated more exotically or beautifully than I’ve seen before, it’s all, well, food for thought. And a danged fine way to assuage the hunger pangs brought on by wandering and exploring in new territory.

The time we spent in Europe in July was yet another happy example of this truism. So much so that I’ll just give you a few tantalizing shots for your contemplation and not go further. You’ll be wanting to dash off for lunch before I have any time to go on further anyhow, don’t you know.Photos: Artful Eating (Series) 2014-08-05.2.artful-eating 2014-08-05.3.artful-eating 2014-08-05.4.artful-eating 2014-08-05.5.artful-eating 2014-08-05.6.artful-eating 2014-08-05.7.artful-eating 2014-08-05.8.artful-eating

Foodie Tuesday: The Fruits of My Labors

photoWhile my labors will always be limited by my well-known lack of desire to actually work, there are certain things I am very willing to get up off of my well padded posterior and Do, not least of all those food-related efforts which will undoubtedly further contribute to my padding. That’s a fancy way of saying that if there’s food involved and I get to eat some of it, I’m more likely to get up and work.

One of the things I’ve found more inspirational in that sense as I get older is my taste for and appreciation of fruits has both deepened and broadened (hence, in part, my own broadening, if that wasn’t obvious enough already). I like a whole lot of them, in fact, and in a wide number of ways. Probably no coincidence that I keep making accidental puns about size, for if I could really get my hands on all of the fruit I craved, every time I craved it, I would probably be as big as houses even though many fruits are dangerous to weight less by virtue of high calories than by the sugary kind of them. All of this being said, however, I am in no way planning to cut down drastically on my consumption of tasty fruit and fruit-filled foods voluntarily. When they’re ripe and juicy, they’re just so irresistible. To wit, one could make, with little effort, a:

Fruity MoussephotoIngredients (this time): pureed fresh strawberries, ripe banana, and pears (peeled ripe or canned in fruit juice); a pinch of salt, a splash each of rosewater, lemon juice, and vanilla, and whipped heavy cream, all to taste. Combine and blend them thoroughly. Thicken a bit more if/as needed by adding a little bloomed unflavored gelatin or agar agar, or a spoonful of minute tapioca, and chill thoroughly until the mousse sets up. I garnished mine with a pinch of pink peppercorns and a few slices of fresh pear.

This sprightly mash-up makes a decent dessert, to be sure, but if like me you’re not about to limit your fruit intake to avoid the high carb and sugar-calorie quantities therein, it also makes a dandy breakfast. Very refreshing, my dears! Well worth putting a lazybones to the tiny bit of necessary effort indeed.photo

Foodie Tuesday: Creamy & Dreamy

Given my love for dairy, eggs, sauces and the like, it can come as no surprise to anyone that I’m an incorrigible fanatic about puddings, custards, soufflés and their numerous smooth, fluffy, and plush cousins. They are not by any means created equal, of course, and my desired version changes with the weather, the occasion and a whole lot of other variables, so I’m very happy to sample the dish-of-the-day any time I can. Still, I’m very glad to have the best of the best, whatever the treat: great ice cream beats good ice cream, don’t you know. I was reminded of how much impact the slightest differences can have, even when I’m enjoying something I like very well, when I had a cone of soft-serve ice cream the other day and it turned out to be surprisingly thin and lacking the usual dense and creamy mouth-feel of the best stuff. Didn’t stop me from eating an ice cream cone, mind you, only it wasn’t close to the best I’ve slurped.

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Ice milk isn’t my idea of true soft serve, but it can at least cool me and fill me up with a bit of good vanilla flavor . . .

Certain of those creamy, dreamy treats that tickle my fancy are pretty reliable even in the strictly mass-produced and store-bought kinds, once I find the brand or sort I fall most in love with eating. A nice, thick and lightly tart Greek style whole milk yogurt is hard to beat, particularly when I blend in some good cinnamon and strong local honey or perhaps a tot of dark maple syrup and a sprinkle of cardamom. Pure, smooth happiness. It’s a good facsimile, when sweetened a bit, for another grand favorite, pudding or custard that’s softer, not set up quite like the also-lovable flans and baked custards and burnt-creams.

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If yogurt’s made into a low-fat version by adding thickeners, it has neither the same texture *nor* the same lusciousness. Go fat or go home, that’s my motto!

Frankly, that’s where a good mousse, fool, whipped cream or smoothie might wiggle its way into my heart as well. I’ve heard for some time that coconut milk makes a reasonable facsimile for whipped cream when chilled and whipped, so I decided to give it a go today, though I didn’t exactly follow the protocols I’ve seen online either–another unsurprising bit of my kitchen personality if you’ve read any of my other Tuesday posts! To make my own version of Coconut Cardamom Pudding, I mixed about 1 cup of chilled coconut milk, a half cup or so of cream, a tablespoon of plain gelatin (could easily use agar for setting the custard, if you’re vegetarian) that I bloomed on top of the liquids, plus a teaspoon of vanilla, a pinch of salt, a couple of tablespoons of honey and a teaspoon of ground cardamom, and beat them all until creamy, poured the custard into little ramekins, and popped them into the fridge for testing tomorrow after supper. I can’t speak for the texture until then, but as for the taste, it’s quite mild and subtle but a friendly grouping of flavors that I think will be just as tasty even if it doesn’t quite set up to flan texture by dinnertime. Never know until I try, anyway! Which, as you well know, is a pretty fair summary of my attitude toward most things edible.

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Tomorrow will tell whether the coconut pudding experiment ‘stands firm’ custard style or gets altered one way or another next time, but it’s a spoon-able dainty today . . .

Drizzling just a bit more honey on top is rarely the wrong thing to do with a cloud-like dessert (here, garnished with a pinch of pink peppercorns to bump up the floral spice of the cardamom in the pudding). But I think I’d better stop talking about it now or I might not wait until tomorrow to see if the texture changes. The thought of any kind of yummy, airy, smooth and creamy dessert tends to have that sort of effect on me.

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Update: after refrigeration, the coconut concoction set up as a very light, very fluffy mousse. Just enough heft to sit on the spoon for as long as it took to take a quick photo! The texture remains faintly grainy with the coconut base, but overall mouth-feel is smooth, feather-light and slightly buttery [grins shamelessly], and the flavor is very delicate. So I ate two servings. [Grinning again.]