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Cooking With Myra: A parade of happiness in your mouth

Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.

Lavendar Chocolate Pots de Crème with Fleur de Sel

Lavendar Chocolate Pots de Creme with Fleur de Sel6 oz. of high-quality, bittersweet chocolate chips or bar such as Guittard

6 egg yolks

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 cups heavy whipping cream, plus 2 cups reserved

4-5 small buds of lavender, chopped

1 pinch of fleur de sel

Blender

In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of the whipping cream to a gentle rolling boil. Meanwhile in a blender, combine egg yolks, sugar and chocolate. Once cream has begun to lightly boil, remove from heat and pour mixture into blender over other ingredients, cover quickly and puree for 1 minute. This is very hot to make sure the lid fits tightly.

Pour chocolate mixture into small serving ramekins or glasses and sprinkle with 2-3 specks of salt. Garnish with a sprinkling of lavender. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours. Enjoy.

Source: Danika Boyle

Danika Boyle also leads culinary tours to France and teaches private cooking classes. For more information visit her website: petitepecheandco.com.

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series on my recent trip to Austin as part of a "food and fun trip" hosted by the Cooking Depot in Cuero.

By Myra Starkey

I admit that I am what some folks would call a "foodie."

The current definition tends to be someone who is keenly interested in eating and cooking, in that order. I jump at almost any opportunity to eat something different or learn something new about cooking.

I dream of going to cooking school at the Culinary Institute of America in New York or the Sorbonne in France, but alas, at this point in my life, I seem to be up to my ears in raising kids, being an office manager and wife, with the occasional food adventure.

Last week, I traveled to Austin on a chartered bus "food and fun" trip with the Cooking Depot ladies from Cuero.

My cookbook group decided it was time for a road trip (bus trip), so we all signed up.

Our first stop was to be the farmers market. Torrential rainfall quelled our plans to visit this outdoor venue in the morning, so we settled on the Whole Foods flagship store in downtown Austin.

I love shopping in this beautifully-appointed store, where even the toothpaste is organic and would probably make you live two or three years longer if you just swallowed it after brushing.

Everything in the store is certified healthy, organic and sworn to have never been tested on any unwilling animal subjects.

I felt a new sense of vitality just walking through the front doors. I peered into the prepared food cases, which boast salads made from almost every healthy grain available.

I seized the chance to pick up some Israeli cous cous, pepitas with tamarind and a bottle of olive oil, all organic.

I was on the hunt for honey crisp apples, but these apparently have not yet ripened in their organic orchard or perhaps some politically-incorrect worms ate them.

I pushed my cart up and down the aisles dreamily gazing at all the edible possibilities for my palate. For some reason, all the food looks delicious even though it is supposedly good for you.Most of the employees appear to be thin, which is a conundrum since they are around this glorious food every day. It is always a good sign when the employees of an establishment are eating in the café during their lunch time recess.

I sashayed past them eyeballing their selections and noticed they were either drinking green spirulina smoothies or eating grains. Maybe that is what is keeping them thin.

I was summoned too early by my friends to join them at the check-out registers so we could move to the next stop on our culinary adventure.

Walton's Fancy and Staple Bakery on Sixth Street is perhaps best known for its movie star owner, Sandra Bullock.

It wasn't that we had any hopes of seeing her there, although it would have been fun. "Hey Sandra, loved you in The Blind Side. We just stopped in for some cookies!"

The bakery, located in the rear of the restored 1893 building, was a typical kitchen with bakers scurrying about in white coats and black clogs.

Annette from Cuero, our fearless leader, informed us that Sandi would be giving us a tour and we collectively gasped thinking Sandra just might have shown up as we arrived.

However, Sandi is the pastry chef, and we were not disappointed in the tour or the fare.

I sampled a sweet potato whoopie pie with cream cheese filling and perhaps the most delicious "egg" muffin known to mankind. With the first bite, I assumed it was fried, but the crumb was too soft on the exterior and had a buttery taste mixed with cinnamon.

I queried Sandi and she was happy to share the recipe or at least a verbal one.

The cake is baked in an egg pan and is a butter cake batter with nutmeg added. It is removed after baking and rolled in melted butter and coated in cinnamon sugar. This is a thousand times better than a snickerdoodle and I love snickerdoodles.

Next, we traveled to the home of Danika Boyle where we were treated to a cooking lesson. The kitchen is quite large, and Boyle was darling.

She is small in stature with a big personality. She was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, but credits her culinary training to the markets and restaurants in that region. We cooked our way through sauteed mushrooms with brie, chocolate pots de creme with lavender, honeyed carrots, ribeyes and potatoes gratin.

She demonstrated techniques as her kitchen filled with laughter and the warm and pungent smells of garlic and chocolate and mushrooms and cheese.

As the rain fell on the roof we dined in the large den, sitting on whatever surface was available.

As we licked our spoons savoring the salty finish on the chocolate dessert, the rain stopped and we headed for the Triangle Farmers Market.

Next week: The farmer's market and Mandola's Italian Market. Recipe: Arugula, Summer Corn and Tomato Salad with Basil.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or e-mail myra@vicad.com.

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