Perfect Summertime Condiment

When temperatures reach north of 90 degrees, I find it's time to chill down supper food selections and prepare cold plates, just like as I ate as a child. My Mom, a delicious cook and a consummate organizer and doer, would cook first thing in the morning, before temperatures became too hot in the kitchen. It makes such sense and is still the way food is prepared in many European cultures today. Besides, having to cool things off in the kitchen, it was also the custom at home with non-meat Fridays, enjoying cold fish suppers. On those Fridays, dishes my mom would cook-up included grilled or poached fish such as tuna or cod; along with boiled potatoes, garden green beans, vine ripe tomatoes, boiled eggs, and sliced onion. The highlight for me on chilled supper night was the cold sauce made with garlic and mayonnaise. Later I learned, in my early culinary days that sauce was called an aïoli; a simple yet traditional emulsified sauce with garlic, olive oil and egg yolk. 

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It is a perfect summertime condiment and also goes well with roasted chicken, if fish is not on the menu.

With so many ways to prepare aïoli, the consistent ingredient that holds true across all ethnic regions is the garlic. The Occitan valleys of Italy serves aioli with boiled potatoes. In Cataluña and most of the Spanish mediterranean coast, allioli is purely a garlic mayonnaise. France's Le Grand Aïoli, dedicates a complete dish consisting of various boiled vegetables such as carrots, beets, cauliflower, green beans, yellow flesh potatoes, and boiled fish, such as salted cod with boiled eggs and the aioli sauce. The version from Provence adds Dijon mustard to the sauce, like I prefer; which in addition to flavor also helps in the emulsification of the oil to be suspended by the liquid of the sauce.  

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Aïoli is ideal to serve as a sauce for foods like above, but it's also wonderful as a spread on toasted French bread or pommes frites. Some may find that the raw garlic can leave too strong a taste. That is true, especially with summer garlic which has more of a bitter bite and has just recently been harvested. No need to avoid this tasty sauce or feel you'll need a shot of mouthwash, there is a tastier solution. I use my long time recipe for caramelized garlic to soften and sweeten the punch on my aïoli in place of raw garlic. 

To Yolk or Not to Yolk?

There is of course the food safety issue to point out regarding making aïoli from scratch, because of using uncooked raw egg yolks. Always make sure the eggs are very fresh, and best obtained from someone you know! One of my recipes is for using prepared mayonnaise and covers any concerns of food safety. Today, there is even mayonnaise made with olive oil, that I prefer. The choice is yours, go traditional with making a classic Provence style aïoli or make it semi-authentic with a prepared mayo; the choice is yours. Either way you'll be shouting bring on the Le Grand Aïoli!

The technique of making an aïoli is to create an emulsion with the egg yolks, supporting the liquid from the olive oil. Do not over pulse or mix the yolks and oil. Do not add the oil too slow or too fast. This technique may require some trial and error. If done correctly you will have a thick mayonnaise-like sauce; or if the sauce is broken, the oil will have separated from the yolks and will look more like a vinaigrette.

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Classic Aïoli

 Makes 1 1/2 cups

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle

*8 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped

Coarse sea salt

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

3 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon

A couple drops of water

Fresh ground black pepper

Always use caution with raw eggs. And this sauce must be kept chilled after it is prepared. 

In a food processor or preferably a mortar pound the garlic cloves with pinch of sea salt and Dijon mustard until a thick paste forms. Add in the egg yolks and begin adding in the olive oil a few drops at a time with a fork or whisk. Continue to add the olive oil in a steady stream as the aïoli begins to thicken. Stop and add a few drops of lemon juice, gradually add remaining olive oil and a few drops of water if the sauce becomes too thick. When all of the oil has been incorporated, season the aïoli with additional lemon juice, sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serve chilled. The aïolii can be tightly covered and refrigerated overnight. 

* A classic aïoli is made with raw garlic but again I prefer using caramelized garlic in place of raw garlic which offers a much sweeter and nuttier taste.

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Garlic Aïoli with Crostini

Makes about 1 1/2 cups 

chefgeorgehirsch | George Hirsch Lifestyle 

A strong flavored garlic mayonnaise from the Provence region of southern France. Traditionally the mayonnaise is made from scratch with egg yolks. I prefer this version, as it is safer and faster to make. 

Crostini, meaning “little toasts” in Italian, crostini are small, thin slices of toasted bread, which are usually brushed with olive oil-excellent spread with Aioli. 

3/4 cup mayonnaise 

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard 

1 head caramelized garlic

1/4 cup olive oil 

Juice of 1/2 lemon 

1/4 cup basil 

To Make Crostini:

1 loaf Italian bread 

Olive oil for brushing toasts. 

Puree the garlic in the bottom of a small bowl. Add mustard, mayonnaise and stir in olive oil. Add lemon juice and basil. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. 

Slice Italian bread into small pieces, toast and brush toast with olive oil. Spread a generous amount of aïoli on toasts. 

Serve aïoli and crostini with your favorite vegetables and seafood. 

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Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake

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If you are planning to entertain this week or happen to be traveling to visit friends - I have the perfect host/hostess bring-along, or an outstanding dessert with wide appeal to finish a dinner. I created this recipe knowing it would be one of those cakes that gets better with age; meaning, it tastes even better the day after it is baked.

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Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake

Makes one large loaf, or three demi-loaves

chefgeorgehirsch.com | George Hirsch Lifestyle

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup sweet butter, softened

1 1/2 cups (15 oz container) fresh whole-milk ricotta, drained

1 1/2 cups Turbino or granulated sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F degrees. Grease and flour 9-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream butter, and sugar until smooth and light. Fold in ricotta in three parts. Scrape bowl well with a spatula. Mix dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to butter and sugar and mix just until flour is absorbed with eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Add lemon juice and vanilla. 

Scrape down sides of the bowl, mix on low speed, 30 seconds just until batter is completely mixed. Do not over mix. Over mixing will toughen cake and produce air pockets. Pour the batter into greased pan and smooth on top. Once pan is filled with batter, tap pan against table or counter to remove air pockets.

Bake for 45-55 minutes. After 40 minutes, lower to 325 degrees until done. Allow cake to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove from pan; finish cooling on wire rack. Top with confectioner’s sugar before serving.

Holiday Breakfast: Popovers & Scrambled Eggs

Wishing you all a very happy + safe holiday! 

It is said the American style popover originated in Portland Oregon derived from the Yorkshire Pudding origins of Yorkshire county in Northern England. Whether true or not the principle of a good Yorkshire Pudding or Popover derives from using a crepe-like batter dough. To make a popover, change the beef fat drippings (from the roast) to butter- for a more updated flavorful batter. Whatever style you prefer to make, just remember don’t open the oven door and peek in the oven- if you want a tall pop-over from this crepe-like muffin. 

Yorkshire Pudding or Popovers are usually served with roasted meats. A dear friend recently shared with me that he serves popovers with scrambled eggs for breakfast or brunch. Great idea!

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Popovers & Yorkshire Pudding  

Makes 12 popovers

Adapted From Adventures in Grilling Cookbook

by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco

5 Tablespoons butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten 

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of fresh grated nutmeg and black pepper

Optional: 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme, rosemary or chives

Grease and flour a 12 cup muffin or popover pan. Add a teaspoon of melted butter to each cup of a 12-cup muffin pan.

Mix flour, eggs, milk, 1 Tablespoon melted butter, sugar and salt. Beat in the flour a little bit at a time and add herbs if using; mixture should be smooth. Do not over mix the batter or the gluten will overdevelop and the popovers will be tough. Let batter rest for fifteen minutes. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place empty/ unfilled muffin pan in hot oven to preheat pan for two minutes or until smoking hot. 

Carefully remove hot muffin pan from oven and fill each cup halfway. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and continue baking for 15-20 minutes more, or until popovers are puffed and browned.  

Remove Popovers from pan immediately and serve hot.

Tips:

If serving scrambled eggs with popovers, begin to cook eggs 5 minutes before removing popovers from oven.

Do not open oven to check popovers until they have baked for at least 30 minutes. 

To test for doneness, tap the outside of Popover; it should sound hollow. 

Popovers

 

 

Cranberry Hootycreeks

I always look forward to this time of year sharing a post from my dearest friend and co-author of four of my cookbooks. I've enjoyed many days with laughter with Marie and her husband Frank's great espresso. A tradition in my book for the Christmas season, I hope you make Marie's Hootycreeks a holiday traditions too. 

Guest holiday post + recipe today by Marie Bianco, my dear friend, food writer and author. 

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Edible holiday gifts always make a hit and this one is about as easy as it can get. Even school age children can get into the act. 

The cookie ingredients are layered in a wide-mouth canning jar which you can buy for about a buck each. Make sure you get the wide-mouth ones because it’s easier to get the ingredients into those jars rather than the narrow neck ones. If you’re planning on making a large quantity of mix for all those people on your list who you want to give “a little something” invest in a wide mouth funnel.

Tap each layer down in the order given. Once the lid is in place, cut a circle of gingham or holiday fabric and fasten it with a rubber band. Then tie a ribbon around the jar and include the recipe directions printed out on the computer or written in your best hand.

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Cranberry Hootycreeks

1 jar Cranberry Hootycreek Mix

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter, egg and vanilla. Add the Cranberry Hootycreek Mix by hand until the mixture is well blended. Drop by tablespoons onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until edges just begin to brown. Transfer to wire rack and cook. Makes 18 to 24 cookies.

Cranberry Hootycreeks Mix

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup old-fashioned oats

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

½ cup dried cranberries

½  cup white chocolate chips

½ cup chopped pecans

Layer the ingredients in the order given into a 1-quart, wide mouth, canning jar. Pack each layer into place before adding the next ingredient.

Attach a gift tag with the mixing and baking directions.

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