IMBB #24: Nigella's lemon linguine, apple tarts, and the happy food dance
I have a "thing" for Nigella Lawson. I know that sounds clichéd, and, for what it's worth, it is, but let me try to explain. It all boils down to this: there's something magnetic about a woman who takes profound delight in the act of eating. I don't mean this specifically about her, either. It applies equally to all women, really.
My wife Rachel delights in good food. Whenever she enjoys her first bite of something exceptional, she invariably does the "Happy Food Dance." I believe it's a relic of her genetic heritage, because I've seen her mother perform the same seated hip wiggle. If she especially loves what she's eating, Rachel has even been known to swing her shoulders a little, too. The Happy Food Dance is so reliable I now use it as a barometer to measure the quality of any dish I prepare.
The flip side to my attraction to women who are passionate about food and cooking is a mistrust for people who don't enjoy or don't care about what they eat. You know the type. They view food as "fuel," or they refuse to try anything outside their comfort zone. If a person can't open themselves up to the simple pleasures of a good meal, what else are they hiding?
The entrée and dessert we're presenting for the "Make it in 30 minutes" edition of Is My Blog Burning are not only quick and easy to prepare, they have both induced full body Happy Food Dances from Rachel. That means quality, people.
For our entrée, we prepared Nigella Lawson's lemon linguine, from her book How To Eat. Aside from cooking pasta, this recipe involves nothing more complicated than mixing together some cream, lemon juice and zest, and a couple of egg yolks with some parmesan and seasoning. It is astonishing how wonderful simple dishes can sometimes be, but the sharp brilliance of lemon gives this plate of pasta wonderful taste, while the cream and egg lend it body and mellowness.
Rachel's been looking for a better way to make tarte tatin since her apple sauce pie mishap, so she was excited to see the recipe for caramelized apple tarts by Lucy Waverman in the The Globe and Mail. Granted, tarte tatin this is not, but by caramelizing the apples in cider, then adding them to separately baked puff pastry shells, this dish is the time-pressured home cook's equivalent. Rabbani Orchards, in the North St. Lawrence Market, sells a wide variety of local apples as well as the best fresh-pressed apple cider you'll find in Toronto, including the Spies and cider we used in this dish. As a shortcut, we had to use the PC All-Butter Puff Pastry recommended by the wise people over at The Cookbook Store, without which it's simply not possible to prepare this meal in time.
These tarts are superb. Good cider makes all the difference, intensifying the apple flavour of the filling and imparting sweetness and body to the syrup. The recipe is available as a Word document on Waverman's website. We've also added some twists to this dish. The first is to add a generous dollop of Calvados crème fraîche, available at Alex Farms in the St. Lawrence Market. The second is to omit the puff pastry entirely, and top a bowlful of the caramelized apples with Cognac whipped cream (just follow the recipe on our lobster bisque post, but add a tablespoon of sugar with the salt). Using the warm apples as a topping for vanilla ice cream is also wonderful.
I have caught Rachel standing in the middle of the kitchen with a
bowl of the caramelized apples on their own, doing the Happy Food Dance
as she eats. I think she may have been humming, too. Damn that's sexy!