Pomegranate Cosmopolitans

In honor of my making it through to the next round of Project Food Blog (thanks to all of your fabulous support!),the fact that it is Friday, and almost happy hour I thought I would share with you my new favorite cocktail recipe.

The generous people at POM Wonderful sent me a free case of pure pomegranate juice, and the moment it arrived in the mail I knew that I wanted to make Ina Garten’s pomegranate cosmopolitans.  I have always been a fan of martinis and other fruity, trendy drinks, and I love her update of this old classic.

To make a pitcher, I doubled her recipe mixing together four cups of vodka, two cups of Cointreau (or other orange flavored liqueur), two cups of cranberry juice cocktail, one cup of POM wonderful 100% pure pomegranate juice, and one cup of freshly squeezed lime juice.   Shake it up with ice, and serve with a garnish of sliced lime, a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, or even a sugar rimmed glass. The tart pucker of the pomagranate, lime, and cranberry juices add a refreshing quality to this cocktail, which balances out the orange and vodka beautifully. Perfect for a party, these drinks can be mixed a day in advance, refrigerated, and shaken just before serving.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to cast their vote for me in challenge two! I am very touched by the outpouring of support that I have received in going forward with this competition. I really appreciate it. Here is to you., my friends. Cheers!

If you haven;t already done so, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a $45 CSN gift card from Jacob’s Kitchen!!!

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Filed under Beverages

Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter

Since I happened to have this bounty of homemade ricotta cheese (pats self on back), I was anxious to put it to work in a fabulous recipe. And what better way to showcase it than in these delicious, fall inspired ravioli. For me, making ravioli is like making lasagna. When I make them, I spend an afternoon assembling as many as I possibly can (within my budget and time constraints) and freeze them to be used as a quick, delicious, homemade meal later on down the road. It takes a little bit more time now, but I save myself a great deal of time and energy in the future, which I am always extremely grateful for, when life becomes a little too hectic to spend much time in the kitchen.

If you are the kind of person who enjoys making your own homemade pasta, well, God bless you. I, myself, am not that person. I certainly have made my own pasta in the past, and likely will again in the future, but for the most part, for me, I find the process to be tedious. Luckily, I needn’t sacrifice flavor, as the grocery store can do all of the work for me, in the form of fresh won ton wrappers. (You can also often find sheets of pasta in the frozen section of your grocery store, which also work equally well.)

I begin by making the filling by combing one cup of homemade ricotta cheese, one cup of canned pureed pumpkin, a half a cup of grated Parmesan cheese, one large garlic clove (grated on my microplane zester), a third of a cup of toasted pine nuts, one egg yolk, a small dash of salt, a pinch of cayenne pepper, some freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. I then taste the filling and make any necessary adjustments.

Next, I make an assembly line on my cutting board. I line square won ton wrappers up six at a time, brush the entire surface with water, place a a small dollop of the pumpkin filling (about a rounded teaspoon’s worth) in the center of each, then place another won ton wrapper over the tops. I gently work out any air bubbles, and press around the filling, to ensure a good seal. I then cut each ravioli out using a medium, fluted biscuit cutter, and crimp each  along its outside edge with tines of a fork. I repeat this process until I run out of filling.Once you get into the rhythm of it, it really doesn’t take that long to assemble all of them.

To freeze the ravioli, I place them in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet  and freeze, uncovered, until they are frozen solid, and then transfer them to a zip lock freezer bag. For those that I wish to serve right away, I gently place them in a pot of boiling, salted water, and boil for about two minutes or until they float (you will want to add a minute or two to your cooking time when you are preparing them from frozen).

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan I melt one stick of butter over medium low heat, and allow the butter to brown. When it is fragrant and nicely golden brown I toss in a small handful of fresh sage leaves (either whole or coarsely chopped depending on your presentation preference), and allow the sage to sizzle away in the butter for a minute or so before adding the cooked ravioli.

Serve them up on their own (with an extra sprinkling of Parmesan cheese) or with a simple green vegetable. Here I decided to serve them with sauteed spinach. (To make the spinach, in a large skillet placed over medium heat, I heat several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, and a large pinch of red pepper flakes. Once the garlic has browned, I remove the cloves from the pan and discard them. I add two thinly sliced shallots and cook until they are soft. I then add a big bag of pre-washed baby spinach, and toss to coat it in the oil. Once it is wilted, I season it with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.)

The ravioli are rich and unbelievably creamy with the homemade ricotta cheese. The toasted pine nuts, and salty Parmesan really round out the subtle pumpkin flavor, and it all beautifully harmonizes with the nutty brown butter and sage. All of the fabulous flavors of fall on a plate. This is elegant comfort food at its best. Simple to prepare in advance, and extremely quick to bring together before serving it is also perfect for entertaining. Enjoy!

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Filed under Pasta, Side Dishes, Vegetables

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I have fantasized about cheese making for many years now. Yet, I have never actually ventured to give it a try. It must be messy and complicated, I thought. And it will probably require strange ingredients like rennet (Ew!). So I carefully placed it on the list of things to try one day in the distant future. I was finally inspired recently to actually give it a try after reading Brian’s post about homemade ricotta cheese at A Thought For Food. He made it seem so easy, and sound so incredibly delicious. This was something that I could certainly do.

Always one to long for additional flavor and richness, I searched around through numerous ricotta cheese recipes, and finally decided to try David Lebovitz’ version on Simply Recipes. Which, in addition to whole milk and vinegar, also included plain yogurt, and heavy cream. I doubled the recipe, and followed the instructions diligently. As it turns out the process was not only incredibly easy (literally all you do is combine the ingredients, bring it to a boil, and then strain it through cheese cloth), but also relatively fast. After pouring all of the ingredients into my pan, I had my very own homemade cheese within about a half an hour (straining time included!). It’s genius. While the finished product does not have a great deal of flavor (in as much as ricotta cheese itself  isn’t packed with a punch of flavor), what it does have is a rich, creamy texture, resembling nothing of the gritty, store bought, processed ricotta that I have relied on my whole life. What a difference. How will I ever be able to go back to store bought ricotta again? It will be impossible. I am ruined.

If you love good ricotta cheese, have ever fantasized about making your own, or are just looking for a fun experiment in the kitchen, I encourage you to give this a try. It’s like magic. You won’t be disappointed.  I feel so accomplished, and far too proud of myself for doing practically no work. I am Jacob: Cheese Maker!

I can only imagine what this homemade ricotta would do for my lasagna, gnocchi, ravioli, cannoli, and cheesecakes. I can’t wait to give them all a try. But for now, a small bowl of warm ricotta with a few fresh berries and a drizzle of blackberry honey will do just fine. Heaven! Enjoy!

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Jacob’s Signature Salad (and $45 CSN Giveaway)

The generous people at the CSN stores have given me a great opportunity to give back to all of you, by offering a $45 gift card giveaway!!! Yay!!! If you are not familiar with the CSN online stores they have everything you could ever possibly need and more, like these beautiful dutch ovens. I have purchased many a kitchen gadget from them, and have lots of other wish list items to go. They are fabulous! You can peruse their entire selection from all of their stores here, and I encourage you to do so.

To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite fall inspired recipe (a brief description will suffice).

For additional entries you can:

1. Follow Jacob’s Kitchen on facebook and/or twitter.

2. Subscribe to Jacob’s Kitchen via email/rss (you will find a link on the upper right hand side bar)

3.Retweet: “Check it out: $45 CSN gift card giveaway from @Jacobs_Kitchen http://tiny.cc/aycd9

4. And, last but not least (in a transparent and shameless act of bribery) you can vote for Jacob’s Kitchen in Project Food Blog challenge 2 by clicking here.

Please leave one additional comment for each additional entry, telling me which you have done. Unfortunately, only US and Canadian readers are eligible to win. (For the rest of you, check back soon for more giveaways!) Comments can be received up until 11:59pm on Tuesday, October 5, 2010. One winner will be randomly selected and announced on Wednesday, October 6, 2010.

In the meantime, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you one of my most requested recipes, which I call Jacob’s Signature Salad.

In order to give credit where credit is due, this salad was actually first invented by the culinary genius Kristi Chauvin Baker, a deeply fabulous friend from college. I have, of course, put my own little spin on it over the years, replacing the toasted walnuts in her recipe with glazed walnuts, and by re-imagining the dressing.

The salad itself is very simple, but packed with the great flavor. Baby greens are topped with sliced fuji apples, dried cranberries, glazed walnuts, and crumbled blue cheese, and then drizzled with a tangy balsamic blue cheese dressing. People really go crazy for this salad, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The combination of flavors and textures make it feel really special.

To make the dressing… in a blender I combine one cup of crumbled blue cheese, three tablespoons balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon mustard (preferably Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Honey Spice, though dijon works equally well), one tablespoon of granulated sugar, one third of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, one third of a cup of apple cider, and some freshly ground black pepper. I then blend until smooth. (Be casual about making the dressing. If it is too thick, add a little more cider; if it is too thin, add a little more cheese. Taste it, and adjust to your own palate. In your kitchen you get to make the rules.)

As a first course, side dish or light lunch this salad is always a big hit. It is elegant in its simplicity, and since everything can be prepared in advance  and dressed right before serving, it is perfect for entertaining. (Simply toss the sliced apples in freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.) Enjoy!

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Filed under Other, Salads, Side Dishes

Vote for Me!!! (Voting for PFB challenge 2 now open)

Voting has officially opened for Project Food Blog challenge two! I am competing to be the next food blog star and I need your votes to advance to the next round! If you enjoy what you read here at Jacob’s Kitchen, or love looking at my delicious food photos, please take a moment to cast your vote. You can do so by clicking here.

For those of you not registered on foodbuzz, you will be prompted to create an account. You don’t have to have a food blog to love foodbuzz. It is a great way to gather lots of kitchen inspiration, commune with other foodies, and collect fabulous recipes. The registration process will only take thirty seconds (it simply asks you to enter your email address and create a user name and password).

I’m in it to win it, and I appreciate all of your continued support!!

Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!

Go team Jacob!!!!!

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Jamun in Jacob’s Kitchen (Project Food Blog – Challenge 2)

This post is my second entry for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. Click here to see my contestant profile. Voting begins Monday, September 27, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me in the first round, I appreciate all of your support!

Growing up, our family’s diet was very all American: meat and potatoes. Our meals offered very little in the way of exotic flavors beyond that of our favorite Chinese restaurant. And while as a child I certainly had no complaints, it wasn’t until college, when I was first out on my own, that my palate really began to expand. Living so close to San Francisco, I was able to discover food from all over the world: Thailand, India, Japan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Peru, and many other places. These were new flavors. Exciting flavors. Flavors that, even to this day, remain some of my very favorite. It was as though up until then, I had been eating my way through a black and white world and suddenly stumbled upon a Technicolor buffet.

Since I genuinely enjoy cooking and baking so much, I find that I very rarely eat at restaurants these days. When I do, I am attracted to those dishes that I don’t venture to create with much frequency in my own kitchen: most often, Sushi, Thai curry, and Indian food. And while I have certainly tried my hand at some delicious homemade curries, rolled my own sushi, and explored North African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisine at home, I have rarely experimented with international desserts. It’s ironic, because as you can no doubt tell by my posts here on Jacob’s Kitchen, desserts are typically what most inspire me. Ina Garten always says that people will often not remember what you served for dinner, but they will always remember what you served for dessert. I agree. And so, challenged to create a dish from another culture, I figured the time had finally come to venture out into the exciting new world of international sweets.

After much deliberation, I decided upon my very favorite Indian dessert, gulab jamun. Which are, if you have never had them, much like Indian doughnut holes, soaked in a rose water and cardamom flavored sugar syrup. The dough is rich, moist and spongy, and it has a deep milky flavor and aroma. The syrup is sweet and fragrant, and together they make for the perfect end to any Indian meal.

I scoured my cook books and the internet and came up with five or six different gulab jamun recipes that were, essentially, all the same. The only difference seemed to be that some called for a pinch of saffron, and some did not. While the saffron does add a beautiful color, since I found myself almost out of it, I decided to exclude it from my recipe. The rose water is a key ingredient, however, that really cannot be omitted. (“Gulab,” after all, being the Hindi word for rose.) Luckily, having made baklava only last month, I had a nice big bottle of it in my pantry.

I began by mixing together the dry ingredients: two cups of non-fat dried milk powder (which you can typically find in the cereal or baking section of your grocery store), one half cup of all purpose flour, one fourth teaspoon baking soda, a half a teaspoon of ground cardamom, and a large pinch of salt.  To that, I added six tablespoons of room temperature butter, and, using my fingers, gently blended the butter into the dry mixture. When it was thoroughly combined, I added half a cup of warm, full fat milk, mixing the dough together with a fork. Once the dough came together and everything was fully moistened, I covered it and set it aside, allowing the dough to rest for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, I combined two cups of granulated sugar, four cups of water, one half teaspoon ground cardamom, and a splash of rose water. The rose water I purchased isn’t as concentrated as others that I have used in the past. Here I used roughly a fourth of a cup, which is a shocking amount, but you will want to add a few drops incrementally, and decide after sampling if you would like more. In the end, you want the syrup to be fragrant without tasting like perfume. Once the syrup reached a boil, I reduced the heat to low, and allowed the mixture to gently simmer while I tended to the making of the balls.

In a non stick skillet, I added enough canola oil to reach approximately one inch up the side of the pan, and set it over a medium low flame to slowly heat. I removed the rested dough from the bowl and kneaded it by hand for four or five minutes until it was very smooth (the dough should still be very soft and relatively sticky at this point). The dried milk powder absorbs a lot of liquid, so if you find that your dough has become too stiff, that it is cracking, or no longer holding together, don’t be afraid to add an additional splash or two of milk until you reach the desired consistency. Once the dough is very smooth, pinch off portions of dough about the size of a ping pong ball, and roll them in your hands until smooth. All of the recipes I referenced stressed the importance of the balls being very smooth before frying, and I found this step to be particularly troublesome. And while, in the end, I didn’t arrive at perfectly smooth balls, I discovered that dipping each ball halfway into milk, shaking off the excess, and then rolling them more easily facilitated the formation of blemish free balls.

To test the oil, carefully place a small scrap of dough into the pan. If the oil is hot enough, the dough should sink to the bottom, slowly bubble, and rise to the surface in approximately twenty seconds. If it rises much faster than that your oil is too hot; if it takes much longer your oil is too cold. Gently place the formed balls into the heated oil, and fry for six to eight minutes, periodically turning them to ensure evening browning. Don’t rush this step, as you want the balls to be deeply golden brown and fully cooked through. Remove the finished balls from the pan, place them on a paper towel lined baking sheet to absorb any excess oil, and allow the balls to cool to room temperature. Place the cooled balls into the warm syrup (now taken off of the stove) and soak for at least fifteen minutes but for up to four days. Serve the galub jamun warm with a little bit of extra syrup. Optionally, you may also choose to garnish with a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachios, almonds, cashews, or even some toasted coconut.

One of the greatest things about food, which never ceases to amaze me, is its ability to transport you all the way to the other side of the world. All you need is a fork and a healthy sense of adventure. With a few simple new techniques and exotic ingredients, you might find yourself whisked away to Morocco, Paris, or Dubai, exploring the flavors and traditions of Bangkok, Brussels, or Bangladesh, without ever having to leave your kitchen. Little mini meal vacations, with no passport required. I hope the ease of making these simple, but delicious Indian treats has inspired you to pick up a new ingredient or experiment with some new flavors in the kitchen. You don’t have to be intimidated by the idea of having to recreate numerous courses of international cuisine. Start small, test the waters, and soon enough you’ll be cooking your favorite foreign classics like a pro. The most important attribute to have in the kitchen is fearlessness. After all, it’s just food, what’s the very worst that can happen?

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Filed under Desserts, Project Food Blog

Melon and Prosciutto

Before dinner begins, it’s always nice to have something to offer guests with cocktails. And while I am perfectly happy to make all kinds of hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail party, when I am preparing a full meal, it’s best to relegate myself to those appetizers that only require assembling.  Luckily, in the kitchen, sometimes it is the simplest things that wind up being the most delicious. Perfectly ripe pears, aged Stilton, and Port wine, for example, is an amazing flavor combination, that requires no cooking whatsoever. Here, too, in a classic combination, wedges of farm fresh CSA cantaloupe are wrapped in slices of prosciutto di Parma. The sweet melon and salty ham are made for one another.It is perfectly delicious, and elegant in its simplicity.

I begin by slicing both ends off of the melon (I used a cantaloupe, but honeydew, casaba, or galia would work equally well). I then stand it up on the cutting board, and, with a sharp knife, follow the contours of the melon down and around, removing the rind completely. I then cut the melon in half, and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. I chose to slice the melon into wedges, but you could also easily ball it, cube it, or do half slices depending on which presentation you find most appealing. I then take paper thin slices of prosciutto, and wrap them around the center of each of the wedges. A sprinkling of sea salt (fleur de sel, if you have it) and freshly ground black pepper, is all that you need to finish it all off. Simple, fast, and satisfying.

Whether as an appetizer, first course, or light lunch, melon and prosciutto is a  delicious combination that you will come back to time and time again. Enjoy!

This post made the Foodbuzz.com Top 9!!!

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Filed under Foodbuzz Top 9, Meat, Snacks

Oil Packed Oven Dried Tomatoes

Overwhelmed by the big bags of farm fresh tomatoes on my counter top, I tried to think of great ways to preserve them for future use. One can only make so much fresh salsa and tomato sauce, so I thought that these oven dried tomatoes would make a fabulous treat over the next several weeks.

I start by lining several baking sheets with silpats (though parchment paper would work equally well if you don’t have a silpat laying around). I then sliced my tomatoes as thinly as I possibly could with a sharp serrated knife, and lined them up tightly on the baking sheets. I then popped them into my oven, set to its lowest setting (mine goes down to 170º though yours may go down even further). I bake them for approximately five to six hours at this low temperature, or until they are completely dry, and practically paper thin.

Meanwhile, in a skillet I combine two cups of extra virgin olive oil, five or six stems of fresh thyme, two large stems of fresh rosemary, about twenty garlic cloves, and a pinch of dried red pepper flakes. I turn the flame onto its lowest setting, and allow the flavors to infuse the oil, and the garlic to caramelize (which takes approximately 45 minutes).

Once the tomatoes are thoroughly dried, I remove them from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheet pans. I then carefully peel each of them off of the silpat (or parchment) and stack them up in glass jars, layering them with the roasted garlic cloves, and a few fresh stems of thyme and rosemary, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a healthy amount of freshly ground black pepper. Once the jars are filled, I cover the tomatoes with the cooled, herb infused olive oil. The filled jars can be stored in your refrigerator for up to a month.

The tomatoes are candy sweet and plump up a little in the oil. They make a great addition to pasta sauces or pesto, or on their own make a great topping for toasted bread, spread with fresh goat cheese. The oil is perfect spooned over grilled fish, and is delicious made into salad dressings. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be thrilled to receive a gift of one of these beautifully layered jars of ruby red tomatoes.  Though with the time and effort it takes,  letting go of the jars is a difficult task. I have to like someone A LOT to give these away. But realistically, while it is a time consuming process, each of the steps is easy, and once they are in the oven they essentially take care of themselves. It’s just one more great way to preserve the last of those fresh summer flavors. Enjoy!

Don’t forget to cast your vote for me for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. You can cast your vote by clicking here. I appreciate all of your support!

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Filed under Snacks, Vegetables

Vote for me!!!

Voting has officially opened for Project Food Blog challenge one! I am competing to be the next food blog star and I need your votes to advance to the next round! If you enjoy what you read here at Jacob’s Kitchen, or love looking at my delicious food photos, please take a moment to cast your vote. You can do so by clicking here.

For those of you not registered on foodbuzz, you will be prompted to create an account. You don’t have a to have a food blog to love foodbuzz. It is a great way to gather lots of kitchen inspiration, commune with other foodies, and collect fabulous recipes. The registration process will only take thirty seconds (it simply asks you to enter your email address and create a user name and password).

I’m in it to win it, and I appreciate all of your support!!

Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!

Go team Jacob!!!!!

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The Crème of the Crop (Project Food Blog – Challenge 1)

This post is my first entry for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. Click here to see my contestant profile. Voting begins Monday, September 20, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. I appreciate your support!

My name is Jacob, and this is my kitchen. In my kitchen there’s only one rule: make it beautiful, or don’t make it at all.

Join me as I share my passion for food, photography, and entertaining. I will simplify your cooking, inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, and show you step by step how to recreate beautiful, delicious, homemade meals that anyone would be proud to serve. This is real food, my way.

Here in my kitchen, I focus on traditional heirloom recipes, flavors that we all already know and love, with the volume turned up: stylish comfort food at its best. Cooking should be easy and enjoyable. Simple, fresh ingredients prepared thoughtfully, elevated to something extraordinary. At the end of the day, I want to make food that is uncomplicated, unpretentious, and undeniably good, served in a way that shows my friends and family exactly how much I care about them.

Growing up, my parents never entertained. We very rarely had friends over, and certainly never hosted what might be described as a dinner party. Because of this, I always romanticized the idea of throwing parties and entertaining guests. I watched countless hours of cooking shows, and fantasized about a life like those television chefs had. I dreamed of silver trays, cocktail parties, and unattainably beautiful food. This left me with a deep sense of longing to invite people into my home, starting at a very early age. I remember even as a six and seven year old, waking up early on special occasions to prepare breakfast. Before serving it, I would sneak into the back yard, gather a few fresh flowers, maybe pick a few berries, and then I would come back inside and make sure that the table was arranged perfectly. While my skill set has certainly grown since then, that same desire to express my care and affection for people through food still remains. From the chargers to the flatware, from the table cloth to the effortless fold in your perfectly pressed napkin, what that beautifully set table is actually saying is, I care about you.

My photography has now become an extension of that beauty: a way of taking food, such a temporal medium, and transforming it into something lasting. People often jokingly refer to my blog as being like “food porn.” But I think that’s exactly what it really is. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I believe that the food images are meant to be erotic. Certainly not. But they are designed to be tantalizing. It is always my goal to capture each dish in such a way as to evoke the desire to both eat the food, and even more importantly, to make it. While I am very new to food photography, photographing the food that I make is slowly becoming an obsession of mine. Luckily, this blog has provided me with the perfect platform to share it all with you.

My favorite recipes in the kitchen are those that seem extremely complicated, but that are, in reality, extremely simple. I like to call these my “fabulous fake outs,” and I can’t think of a better example than crème brûlée: an inexpensive, but perfectly elegant dessert that ranks among the world’s most decadent treats. It feels so luxurious, and seems so complex, but, truth be told, it is almost embarrassingly simple to make. Best of all, it can be prepared days in advance and assembled right before serving, making it perfect for entertaining. You can flavor it in any way that you want: with chocolate, Grand Marnier, lemon, espresso, amaretto, green tea, Irish cream, etc.  The possibilities are really endless. Here the addition of honey, lavender, and vanilla makes this custard extra special. The lavender adds a subtle but distinctly floral flavor, much in the same way that bergamot perfumes Earl Grey tea.  The sweet honey is a perfect backdrop, echoing the flavors of the lavender, and it is all rounded out beautifully by the soft, sweet, creamy vanilla. Add to that the crunchy, caramelized sugar crust, and this dessert just feels like a vacation. Everyone loves it, and no one has to know how incredibly simple it was to make.

I start by lining up eight individual ramekins in a roasting pan filled with about an inch of very hot tap water. In the bottom of a saucepan set over medium heat, I combine  four cups of heavy cream with one vanilla bean (sliced down the middle and scraped of its seeds), one heaping tablespoon of dried culinary lavender, a third of a cup of honey (or to taste), and a large pinch of salt. Once the mixture reaches a boil, I take it off of the heat and allow the flavors to steep for five minutes. I then return the pan to medium heat, and bring it back to just below boiling.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, I whisk together one whole egg, eight egg yolks, and a splash of pure vanilla extract. I strain the hot cream mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the lavender buds and vanilla bean, and, while vigorously whisking, slowly pour the cream into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. I divide the custard between the eight ramekins and bake at 300º for one hour, or until they are just set, but still ever so slightly jiggly in the center. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and allow them to come to room temperature. Cover and chill for at least two hours but for up to five days.

When you are ready to serve, sprinkle a small spoon full of granulated sugar onto the top of each, making sure it is evenly distributed, and then slowly pass the flame of a kitchen torch over the surface to caramelize the sugar. (Don’t have a kitchen torch? Never fear. Heat your broiler to its highest setting, place the rack approximately six inches from the element/flame, and broil your sugar covered custards for anywhere between thirty seconds and two minutes, watching carefully as not to let them burn.) Let the caramelized custards sit for a minute or so, allowing the sugar crust to harden. Serve it up on its own or garnished with a few fresh berries, then sit back and enjoy the applause.

My posts here on Jacob’s Kitchen are my daily meditation, and I hope daily inspiration to you to invite a little more beauty into your lives, to take more chances in the kitchen, and to give the food that you prepare and the thought that you invest into presenting it the respect that it really deserves. Cooking for our families is a sacred undertaking. What could be more important than doing it well? It’s easy. Follow me, and I’ll show you how.

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Filed under Desserts, Project Food Blog