Madame Clovery

Over the past 25 years, I’ve learned lots of things from my mother – probably because she’s told them to me again and again (and again and again). The current proverb is to always pay off my credit card in full. When I was 16 it was that not getting the lead in the boys’ school musical wasn’t the end of the world. And when I was a child, it was to at least try what was on my plate at the dinner table; I might be surprised by something delicious.

I’ve always had an aversion to vegetables, particularly the ones that sound particularly heinous, like parsnip and turnip. But – as every mother loves to hear – my mom was RIGHT! Parsnips, when cooked and seasoned properly, are sweet, warm, and autumnally satisfying. Perhaps Gustave Flaubert’s title character in Madame Bovary, who found herself hopeless and in debt, also should’ve listened to my mother. Maybe if she had paid off her credit card in full, the book would’ve had a happier ending…

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Mulled Parsnip Crisps:

8 parsnips

1 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 star anise piece

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup olive oil

Instruction:

1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel thin strips of parsnip “ribbon.”

2. Combine all spices in vegetable and olive oils. Heat mixture for about a minute, then turn off heat to let flavors infuse.

3. Strain oil and toss parsnips in the mixture.

4. Spread chips evenly on baking sheet and bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes – until edges are golden brown. Remove and allow to cool and crisp up for several minutes.

Enjoy mulled parsnip crisps with Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

Of Mousse and Men

I’ve recently started teaching part-time at my old high school to supplement the ever unpredictable life of a freelance writer. It’s very surreal walking the same hallways without my beloved green plaid kilt and trusty backpack, calling former teachers by their first names, and giving the same speeches to my own students that I used to hear seven years ago.

There were definitely high school classes that were not my strongpoint. Math was a disaster, and science was a constant struggle. While my freakishly smart classmates excelled, I had no clue what was going on 95% of the time. But like John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, often “quality over quantity” rings true. Steinbeck’s perhaps most well-known work was a novella, rather than a full-length book. Its brevity didn’t matter, because the content was what made an impression on people. As with any novel, there are many parts that fall away in one’s memory, and only the truly fascinating parts that make a lasting impact.

When I used to look back on my two years of high school chemistry, I was convinced that the beautiful science was lost on me because as a whole, the courses were overwhelming,  the concepts were huge, and the AP exams were ultimately a disaster for me. But when I think to the individual things that peaked my interest, I realize that chemistry was probably one of the more significant classes in my high school career. Perhaps it was learning how heat reacts with different fats in a cut of beef. Or maybe it’s learning that gelatin can make flavorful beads of any liquid. But I owe my chemistry teachers a big thank you, for the bits of information that have lasted the test of time, and even shaped who I am as a chef.

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Chocolate Mousse:

8 oz. dark chocolate

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

3 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

Instruction:

1. Over double boiler, melt chocolate, cinnamon, and salt.

2. Whip whipped cream in Kitchen Aid until soft peaks begin to form. Fold into melted chocolate mixture.

3. Begin whisking egg whites in Kitchen Aid. Meanwhile, heat sugar to 120 degrees (use instant thermometer). When sugar reaches temperature, begin pouring into egg whites as they are being whisked. Increase speed to medium and whip until stiff, glossy peaks form.

4. Lightly fold whipped chocolate cream mixture into egg whites. Transfer to piping bag and pipe into ramekins. Chill in refrigerator for at least three hours.

Limoncello caviar:

1 cup limoncello

1/2 oz. gelatin powder

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Instruction:

1. Put vegetable oil in freezer for about twenty minutes. Remove right before you are ready to make the beads.

2. Bring limoncello and gelatin powder just to a boil (allow powder to dissolve) and turn off heat. Using an eye dropper, squeeze drops of the liquid onto the frozen oil. Beads will form and begin to sink to the bottom.

3. Allow beads to sit for several minutes as they continue to sink. GENTLY use a strainer to discard the oil, and place strainer on top of a paper towel to soak up the rest of the oil surrounding the beads.

Whipped Cream:

1/2 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp sugar

Instruction:

1. Begin whipping cream on low speed. Increase to medium speed and gradually begin to add sugar. When stiff peaks form, transfer to piping bag to garnish mousse.

Enjoy chocolate mousse and limoncello caviar with John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and check in at http://warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!

All’s Well That Blends Well

In keeping with the Shakespeare theme on the blog this week, I turn to another tale of deception, confusion, and general mayhem. In All’s Well That Ends Well, hidden elements surprise and delight the audience at every turn.

The plot is reminiscent of the old TLC show “Trading Spaces,” in which two couples traded homes and work with a designer to makeover one room. Each episode could produce feuds and deceit, clashes between designer and couple, attempts to pump the carpenter for classified information. Ultimately, though, as in Shakespeare’s beloved play, everyone reconciled at the end of the drama.

Though I primarily watched “Trading Spaces” for Genevieve’s hippy coolness or Frank’s quirky baldness, I did pick up on several real points. For example, color can set the mood of a room, and perhaps even evoke a feeling. The same can be true of color in cuisine. I associate warm orange with Bryn Mawr in November, leaves crunching, a cinnamon scented candle lit, an extra warm blanket shared between snugglers (usually my dog and me). This autumnal puree’s hue makes it a bit easier for me to be abroad this autumn, because I can think about all of the things I love about home.

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Puree:

3 parsnips

5 carrots

1 onion

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup apple cider

Salt to taste (up to 1 teaspoon)

 Instruction:

1. Peel parsnips and carrots; chop them (and onion) roughly. Over medium-low heat, sauté with lid on until all vegetables are tender.

2. Pulse vegetables with cinnamon in blender, gradually adding in cider. Season with salt, if necessary. For a completely smooth texture, pass through a strainer, pushing the lumps through with the back of a ladle.

Enjoy this autumnal puree with William Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, and check in at warandpeach.com for future recipes and book reviews!