Grapefruit

Grapefruit Negroni

 

As you know I'm not much of a drinker. A genetic mutation causes my body to process alcohol as if it were poison. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't stop me when I'm out at an event, a dinner, or when friends are in town, there are times when cocktails are needed or in this case, wanted.

 

Citrus season is in full bloom here in Texas. Grapefruits, clementines, oranges, lemons and limes are flowing in by the truckloads and naturally the aromas are a playful awakening to the palate. I thought this cocktail would be the perfect celebration for Chinese New Year -- the deep red from the sensuously bitter Campari, a sweet bite from the Hendrick's, finished by the intoxicating aromas of grapefruit --  it's meant to be sipped opposed to gulped.

This year we celebrate The Year of the Dragon -- the only mythical creature out of the 12 signs. It is believed that the dragon possess great power and may even have magical control over the weather and water. We'll be celebrating with Nian-Gao (Rice Cakes) and Hot Pot tonight as my brother in law was born in this year -- Go Carter! I managed to give the house a good scrub to make sure we start off the year free of spirits.

I called my mom today and could barely hear her over the fireworks that were exploding outside her window in Shanghai. Hopefully one year I'll be able to experience the excitement but for now, I'm more than complacent with my Grapefruit Negroni.  Thank you Esquire for the recipe.

 

 

Ginger Basil Grapefruit Spritzer

  It’s been a blistering hot Summer here.  At times I have trouble focusing, my head feels a daze as I watch the heat shrivel out the remaining life of our cucumber plants.  Day after day the temperatures soared past 100 even 105! How is that even legal?  It’s even unbearable to walk around barefoot anymore; the once soft plushy grass is now replaced with a crunchy yellow patch.  My feet strive for relief.

 

I can hardly wait for Fall to arrive and I often pray hard for rain.  It seems that God is listening -- for the past two mornings have been graced by the soft pitter patter of rain drops beating against my window.  What relief for this scorching hot Summer.  What joy life must feel after such an absence.  If only it rained harder so I could sing and dance and twirl like a child again.

 

Basil has been growing like mad; the fragrance can be intoxicatingly sweet.  It has a sharpness to it that lingers within you, an awakening of the senses.  I decided to pair fresh basil with ginger soda and added a citrus kick with some fresh grapefruit juice.  Since alcohol makes me blush, I tend to find refreshing mixes that can be just as satisfying as your next mimosa. 

 

Speaking of which – feel free to mix with a bottle of champagne or maybe even a bottle of white wine for a tasty sangria!  Enjoy the last bits of Summer while it lasts.  So let’s raise our glasses: Here’s to you Summer, thanks for the hot beating, it’s time for you to leave, and please don’t come back as angry as you did this year.  Cheers!   

 

Mixed Fruit Tart

"Nom nom nommy nom nom" -- are probably the only words that will escape your lips upon tasting this tart.  Recently at work I've been working on fruit tarts since Valentine's day is only right around the corner and I've forgotten as to how delectably delightful a well made fruit tart can be.  A rich vanilla pastry cream topped with juicy and succulent seasonal fruit and a nice flaky buttery crust to bring it all together, *exhales* is this heaven?

Since I am watching my caloric intake, I decided to use fat free milk as the base for the pastry cream -- I also replaced some of the sugar with honey.  (You can also use agave syrup if you'd like)  Also it is important to seal your fruit tart with Apricot jam.  Yes, apricot and only apricot.  The glaze helps seal in the moisture of the fruit and gives the tart a nice shiny beautiful appearance.  The reason apricot jam is chosen as the glaze for all tarts is because other preserves like orange or peach contain enzymes that will break down the fruit.

I had a little bit of pastry dough left from the quiche so I figured it'd be a great way to use it for this recipe.  I added some freshly grated orange zest to it to give it a nice citrus flavor throughout the crust.  You can also use lemon zest if you do not have oranges readily available.  You can find the pastry dough recipe and detailed instructions here.  I made an 8" tart since I didn't have much pastry dough left but you can easily make a 10" tart with this recipe.

At my first job as a line chef at a French restaurant, the chef use to make a fresh batch of vanilla pastry cream every week.  I would always sneak a spoonful here and there when no one was looking because it was so DARN good.  They used lots of heavy cream along with fresh vanilla bean which probably attributed to me growing a second butt cheek in a matter of weeks.  Therefore, I made a lighter version and I think it tasted just as good.   I will list the original pastry cream recipe and then put the changes that I made beside it.

Ingredients for Vanilla Pastry Cream: (From Le Cordon Bleu)

(yield: about 1 qt.)

  • 4 cups mik (I used fat free)
  • 4 oz sugar (I used honey)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 oz cornstarch
  • 4 oz sugar
  • 2 oz butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

1.  In a heavy saucepan or kettle, dissolve the sugar (honey) in the milk and bring just to a boil.

2.  With a whip, beat the egg yolks and whole eggs in a stainless-steel (glass) bowl.

3.  Sift the cornstarch and sugar into the eggs.  beat with the whip until perfectly smooth.

4. Temper the egg mixture by slowly beating in the hot milk in a thin stream.

5.  Return the mixture to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

6.  When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat.

7.  Stir in the butter and vanilla.  Mix until the butter is melted and completely blended in.

8.  Pour out into a clean container and dust lightly with sugar and cover with waxed paper to prevent a crust from forming.  Cool and chill as quickly as possible.

Important steps to watch out for -- it is crucial to sift the cornstarch as you are mixing it into the eggs, or else your pastry cream will come out lumpy and the corn starch will not be incorporated correctly.  Also, be sure to stir constantly once you return the mixture back to the heat -- it literally is a 20-30 second time window when the mixture goes from liquid to suddenly a thick paste consistency.  This step is the easiest to mess up, because you can either end up burning the cream or making it too dry and thick.

For fruit selection, I would go with seasonal fruits -- that ensures quality and flavor.  Be sure to choose a wide range of colors -- greens, reds, orange, yellows, this will make your fruit tart visually appealing!  For my fruits I chose Mango, Grapefruit, Orange, Kiwi and Blueberries.

Ingredients for Mixed Fruit Topping:

  • 1 mango, peeled and thiny sliced
  • 2 oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries

Ingredients for Apricot Glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons Apricot preserve
  • 2 teaspoons water

Place in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until the mixture becomes a syrupy consistency.

Assembling the Fruit Tart:

This is the fun part -- assembling your fruit tart!  Take you pastry shell that's been baked and cool and leave it in the tart pan -- this will ensure that your tart does not crumble as you are assembling.  (This happened to me, I made two big holes on the sides of my tart :(!! )  Using a spatula, spread your cooled vanilla pastry cream inside the tart.  Fill it up all the way and make sure all sides are leveled.

Next take your sliced fruit and begin planning out how you'd like to lay out your tart.  I would start the outside border with which ever fruit you have the most of, in my case it'd be the mangoes. Place the mango slices where they are slightly overlapping, allow the tips to hang beyond the edge of the tart.  Next take the citrus fruit and assemble the same way as the mango.  Be sure to place the citrus slices so you are still able to see the tops of the mango slices.

Next take your kiwi slices and lay them on top of the citrus, being sure to leave a hole to place your blueberries.  Put as many blueberries that will fit in the center of the tart -- I chose to use some blueberries to decorate the sides as well, you can do whatever you like.  Be creative!!  Lastly, carefully glaze your tart using a pastry brush.  If you brush too hard all the fruit will slide off and blueberries will fly everywhere, just use a gentle dabbing motion and evenly coat the entire tart with the apricot glaze.  Place it in the fridge for 1 hour before serving.

The reason I love fruit tarts is because they are so versatile!  You can make them for a friend's birthday, a get together, any type of party -- you can also have it for breakfast with a nice cup of coffee or for dessert after dinner.  Honestly, what's not to like?  Citrus scented crust?  Good.  Vanilla pastry cream?  Reaaallly good.  Delicious array of fruit?  It just can't get any better!!!! You can also change the flavor of your pastry cream to whatever you -- chocolate, praline, even coffee.  If you are interested in making any of those flavors just leave me a note and I will send over the recipe.