Saturday, June 14, 2014

Uncommon Flavors

When I was asked to bring dessert for a Memorial Day cookout at a friend's house, I took the task seriously.  I also used the opportunity to dig into a few of my cookbooks that tend to just sit on shelves once I've given them a cursory glance when first added to the collection.  I wanted something a little different, a little offbeat...but not so offbeat that people would look at it and go running to the s'mores that the kids would be making.

I pulled from the shelves a handful of new and relatively new cookbooks.  'My Paris Kitchen' by David Lebovitz, 'Supernatural Everyday' by Heidi Swanson,  'The New Persian Kitchen' by Louisa Shafia, 'The Sugar Cube' by Kir Jensen, and even Martha Stewart's 'Cookies.'  No dearth of choices in any of those books.  I had to make something that would travel well; nothing that could melt;  nothing that would shift on the drive over and look a mess when unveiled.  No...the choice had to be relatively simple, but still outstanding.  Or as Don Draper said, "Make it simple, but significant."

I went through those cookbooks numerous times.  I eliminated a couple of books right off the bat and flagged  possibilities in the books that made the cut.  I considered making the cake I had for my birthday, but without the buttercream, made into a single layer and dusted with confectioners sugar.  I toyed with a macaroon tart from Heidi Swanson, a Pavlova overflowing with berries, the list went on.  Then while flipping through Kir Jensen's 'The Sugar Cube,' I found a recipe I couldn't resist.  Black and White Sesame Brittle.   I'm a total sucker for sesame.  A sesame seed bagel, toasted and slathered with cream cheese, is nothing short of heaven; a drizzle of sesame oil takes any stir fry right over the edge; and the sesame and malt candy/chewy treat I sometimes find at Jon's market is totally worth the risk of losing a filling.  Even more importantly...I had everything on hand! down, one to go.  Ever since I was the lucky recipient of 'The New Persian Kitchen' thanks to a giveaway on Zester Daily, I have wanted to dig into this book.  When I came upon the recipe for Chickpea and Almond Flour Cookies, I knew they would be the really quirky choice.  Not the usual tastes to most people's palates...chickpea flour, cardamon, and rosewater.  Who has chickpea flour in their pantry?  (Mmm hmm...yours truly.)  While I knew they would be different, I hoped they wouldn't be so different that they'd be shunned.

Both desserts were a hit, especially the brittle.  Just uncommon enough to pique curiosity, stepping out of the ordinary paid off.  The recipes are available online.  I'll post links below.  I strongly recommend reading the article Louisa Shafia wrote, accompanying her recipe.  It's just sweet and beautiful.

A couple of notes.  The brittle recipe states to bring the temperature of the candy to 350 degrees before taking it off the heat.  I had a hell of a time getting it that hot.  In fact, when it reached 310 degrees, I was afraid that I was close to burning the whole thing.  The color seemed right so I took it off the heat.  I don't know if I need a new candy thermometer, but go with your gut.  As for the chickpea flour, if you have a grocer that carries a good selection of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean foods, you should be able to find it.  If not, there is always online.  The brand I've always been able to find is Sadaf.

Black and White Sesame Brittle
From 'The Sugar Cube' by Kir Jensen

From 'The New Persian Kitchen' by Louisa Shafia