Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Food Fabulousness—and Tips on Making Granita

A few months ago, my sister bought Chef Reiton and I a subscription to Bon Appétit magazine.  I started getting it near the end of the school year, and I have to admit that the first few issues lay rather neglected on the bedside table (albeit with covers longingly looked at briefly every night as I fell into bed).  I was just too busy and too tired to find the time to read them.  (You all knew that already, though--hence my long periods of silence in which you all wait with baited breath for the next post...ha ha ha.)

Gratefully, the school year ended.

The day before I left to go on yet another trip this summer, the July issue, the Grilling Issue, arrived in my mailbox.  One of my musts when I fly anywhere is to buy myself a magazine to read on the flight.  Normally I do this in the airport.  It's a fun little ritual of mine to search among the wall of magazines and find one that I have wanted to subscribe to but am too cheap to spend the $25 a year to do so.  

But as I pulled BA-July out of the mailbox, I immediately knew that my ritual was going to hell.  The magazine I wanted to read was right here in my hands.  The glossy paper of the cover added a juicy effect to the extreme close-up shot of red hot chicken skewers laid across the page, delicately sprinkled with lacy cilantro leaves and torn bits of basil.  My mouth watered.  I didn't even have to open the magazine to know that that delightful little entree was going to be mine as soon as I could possibly make it.

I continued flipping.  And drooling.  An article on frozen desserts flashed past my eyes: sherbert, popsicles, semifreddo.  And there were those chicken kebabs again, surrounded by other grilled chicken recipes: beer canned.  Smoked.  Spatchcocked?  Dear God... Is this what this magazine would do to me? Why had I waited so long???

So.  Upon return from my travels, I immediately made the Sambal Chicken Skewers for Michael and I (minus the fish sauce--I didn't have any, and have never cooked well with it when I have had it, so I just substituted soy sauce, much to the chagrin of many out there, I am sure.  Sorry.  Still want to make it? Click on the recipe name to link to BA's online recipe.)

Shortly thereafter we had Chef Reiton's family over for dinner, and so we made them some smoked spatchcocked chicken,

baby potato salad (using tarragon as our herb of choice, instead of chives),

avocado and tangerine salad with jalapeno vinaigrette (thank you, Jack Johnson. Can I come out to visit and cook with you?), 

The process for making a granita is amazingly simple.  So simple that I'm embarrassed it took me so many years to actually make one, despite the fact that I had wanted to for so long.  There are only two steps, really.

Step 1) Puree your fruit of choice, sugar, liqueur, lemon juice, and salt in a blender, then pour the puree into a mesh strainer held over a 9x13" pan.  Smash and stir the puree through the strainer with a big rubber spatula and into the pan; soon all you will have left in the strainer are seeds and/or fiber.  

(BA used 4 cups of fruit, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 Tblsp. of liqueur, and 1 Tblsp. of lemon juice.  I'm not sure if those rations are going to work equally with all fruits, but that's what I'm going to try the next time. Keep in mind, as well, that the liqueur used here was creme de cassis (about 40 proof).  My guess is that you wouldn't want to go with anything much higher in alcohol content or you might mess with the freezing temperature too much.  No vodka, okay (which usually starts at about 80 proof)?

To help, below is a shot of the actual blackberries getting sieved, but the picture below that shows what it looks like after (I had done the same process with some raspberries).  And for a vocab lesson: this is the technique discussed when you read that you are to be "pressing on the solids."  (I always wondered what the hell that meant until I poured the puree into the strainer and it just sat there, dripping drop by drop into the pan, and I thought, "This is going to take all night!")

Step 2) Smooth the top of the fruit mixture in the pan so that it is evenly distributed (you want the mixture to freeze evenly), then put the pan in the freezer at a level position for 30 minutes.  After half an hour, take it out, scrape all the frozen parts with a fork to break up the ice, then put it back in the freezer for another 30 minutes.  Do this about 4 times (depending on the temperature of your freezer).

 Just so you can have an idea of what to expect things to look like, here's what the granita looked like after scraping #1:

scraping #2:

scraping #3:

and scraping #4, the final one with the granita being all flaky and frosty, ready to be covered and put back in the freezer until it was ready to serve.  YUM.

With that rash of cooking done, all from the BA-July edition, and with all of it being simple and delicious, we decided to make a few more items from it for our month-belated anniversary party (can you believe it? Time flies when you are having fun!)

 First was the snap pea and cabbage slaw, which multiple people asked for the recipe for:

and next was the plum semifreddo, which I did not get pictures of because it was served in the middle of the party, but here is a picture of the gorgeous plums, simmering away before being pureed, pressed through the seive, then folded into a heavenly blend of glossy meringue and whipped cream before being frozen: 

 Oh, divinely, heavenly food.  Ben Franklin was wrong: it is beer AND food that lets us know God loves us.  And God bless Bon Appetit for tempting us to make it!
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