"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Roasted Beet Salad and Candied Grapefruit Peel

One of the things about working as a private chef is that you create what's known as "palate-specific" meals. This means that you fine-tune everything to appeal to your employers, working with their likes and dislikes. Dr. S., for example, hates beets.

So when I got to work on Sunday and saw a fresh bunch of beets in the bottom produce drawer, purchased by the new cook, I had to do some planning. When would Dr. S. be out of the house for a meal? Mrs. S. LOVES beets, so serving them wouldn't be a problem, just the timing. My answer came yesterday when Dr. S. went out for a Bridge Night, and their daughter, M., came for tea and dinner. M. loves vegetables of all kinds, and in fact is a vegetarian. Et voila, I had a plan. Roasted Beet Salad.

It was hard for me to NOT make the roasted beet salad I knew from Yanks, which consists of roasted beets tossed with balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, and roasted walnuts. I could eat that every day of my life. But this recipe looked like a winner, and it involved a technique that was new to me--you saute the almonds in olive oil, and then use THAT oil in the vinaigrette. Very clever. I also substituted a Gala apple for the Asian pear--not exactly the same flavor but the texture is close enough.

A huge success--I think Mrs. S. was grateful to eat such a relatively light dinner (and she even tried some of the fried tofu I made for M. as a side dish.)

I'm no stranger to Candied Grapefruit Peel, although this is the first time I've used this particular recipe. A lot of my Christmas baking involves candied and dried fruit (pfeffernusse, fruitcake) and because I can't stand store-bought candied peel I make my own, using a Joy of Cooking recipe and utilizing oranges and lemons as well.

This recipe is kind of odd. The way it directs you to cut the fruit away from the peel means that the peel retains some of the grapefruit...in the past I have scraped the pith away from the rind after it has gone through its many blanchings. Although not instructed to do so, I did it anyway, thinking that the finished product would just be too "wet" if I didn't. It also has you roll the peel in superfine sugar after cooking it down in syrup and letting it dry...after tasting, I didn't think that it was sweet enough and ended up using granulated sugar--I think the crunch is especially nice and you get more sugar to balance out the natural bitterness of the peel.

But what a people attractor this recipe was. Keep in mind that I was processing a case of grapefruit, so I quadrupled this recipe and had two trays of peel on the kitchen counters. Mrs. S., who is not usually a grazer, couldn't keep her hands off it, and I sent M. home with a baggy full.

And this peel has a date with some melted bittersweet chocolate--that's going to be the final product, chocolate-dipped candied grapefruit peel. Time consuming (a three-day project total) but oh, so worth it!

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