icewine gelée with yogurt mousse and pan-roasted plums

Today has a funny feeling to it. The feeling of askew and unsettled.

There was the storm that knocked out our power and heat for 20 hours, which was a nothing in comparison to what so many of you are still dealing with. And then there's that I'm here, talking about a story I started working on three months ago, one that published one month ago, with food for September. Yet here we are, almost at November.

Do you think that Halloween, a day of ghosts and goblins, of tricks and treats and dashes of magic, is a good day for time travel?

I’m hoping so, as that’s my plan. Fingers crossed you’re up for the ride.

Over the summer, Nikole asked if I'd like to collaborate again, this time for a piece for The Globe and Mail. Michael had already agreed; it hardly took me a second to jump up and join them.

The idea was that we'd make a meal together, one that felt right for the end of summer and fall's beginning, one that suited big platters passed around, with a menu inspired by ingredients we found at the farmstands and orchards and markets we like. Nikole and I would sort the food together; then on the day, I'd cook, she'd get everything set in that way she does so well, and Michael would be tasked with capturing it all. 

Here's how it went. 

the meal, all together

We filled the table. (And I may have filled the studio with smoke at one point.)

There was a salad of Santa Claus melon and spiky, sharp arugula, dressed with Champagne vinegar. We stripped the gold and cream kernels off the cobs of a pile of corn, and sautéed them with sweet onion, ground fennel and coriander. There was a plate of brined pork chops, edged with crunchy fat and succulent through and through, finished with a cider pan sauce and decorated with fried capers. Capers are so nice that way, they split and crisp, opening up like blossoms with the tiniest of petals, frilled and crunchy. We leafed the Brussels sprouts to keep their shape, the ideal vessel for toasted hazelnuts and a dressing of olive oil. 

The afternoon before, we'd filled cups with layers of icewine gelée and a honey-kissed yogurt mousse and then stashed them away in the fridge. To finish them on the day of, there wasn't much to do but for spooning over some pan-roasted plums. That was dessert.

When all was settled and dishes empty, and the room quiet, we stayed around the table. We sipped on drinks and talked past dark.  

:::::::

Thinking back to then from now, I think we achieved the meal we'd hoped for. It was a September dinner in Ontario's farmland, even though it was August in the middle of the city. I'm grateful for those who shared in the making of it all.

And I'm so very happy to now share a part of it with you.

******* 

If you'd like a way to help with relief efforts for those effected by Sandy, the Red Cross may be a place to start.

And, I've not forgotten — for the copies of UPPERCASE issue 15, Mike and Lauren have been selected. Guys, I'll be in touch! 

For this post, all photographs by Michael Graydon, styling by Nikole Herriott and food by me. xo, pals.

(Be sure to check out Nikole's site for the corn recipe, it was a favourite! For those who asked, the glass cups for the dessert are egg coddlers; they are available at her shop.)

ICEWINE GELÉE WITH YOGURT MOUSSE AND PLUMS

While the recipe reads long, it isn’t especially complicated; the steps are spread out over the chilling time, with only short periods of activity. 

The icewine gelée is intensely flavoured, balanced by the subtlety of the yogurt mousse. Sautéed plums are simple, yet luxuriously lush, gorgeous with their claret juice. The unexpected addition of fresh thyme, and grassy, extra-virgin olive oil, bring a fragrant richness, evocative of fall.

Grilled figs would be a lovely substitution for the plums. Or maybe fresh cranberries, cooked with sugar and orange zest, until they just burst and go juicy.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ready time: 3 1/2 hours (includes chilling time)

Serves: 6

For the icewine gelée

  • 1 sheet leaf gelatine, gold extra strength
  • 100 ml icewine

For the yogurt mousse

  • 2 sheets leaf gelatine, gold extra strength
  • 1 cup greek yogurt (2% butterfat)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup heavy (whipping, 35%) cream, divided

For the plums

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, not extra virgin
  • 8 small, firm plums, each cut into eight wedges
  • 2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar, or thereabouts, depending on sweetness of fruit
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 small sprig thyme, left whole, plus more for garnish

To serve

  • Extra-virgin olive oil and store bought amaretti or other crisp biscuits

For the gelée, soak the gelatine in a shallow dish of cold water for 5 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, gently warm the wine in a saucepan over medium-low heat until under a simmer; do not boil. Remove from the heat, squeeze the excess water out of the gelatin and whisk into the warm wine until dissolved. Divide the wine mixture between six 1-cup-capacity cups and refrigerate gelées for 1 hour.

To make the mousse, soak gelatine in a shallow dish of cold water for 5 minutes.

While gelatine is softening, stir yogurt, honey and vanilla seeds together in a small bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons heavy cream into a small saucepan and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whip remaining cream to firm peaks.

Squeeze the water out of the gelatine and melt in the small saucepan with the reserved cream over low heat, stirring to combine. Whisk this into the yogurt mixture and then fold in the whipped cream. Spoon yogurt mousse into the dessert cups, on top of the icewine layer, filling to a generous two-thirds full. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

To prepare the plums, warm olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add plums, sugar and salt. Cook, shaking the pan gently and turning the fruit with care, until plums begin to soften, around 3 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, add the thyme sprig and stir. Let cool for 5 minutes.

To serve, remove thyme from plums and spoon fruit on top of prepared mousses. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil, passing the amaretti cookies and any remaining fruit at the table.

Note: We used the Cabernet Franc icewine from Henry of Pelham in the gelée for its beautiful colour and acidity. Peller Estate’s Private Reserve Icewine Vidal makes for a rich, golden gelée, and affords a more modestly-priced option.

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in the spoon

What would you consider the value of a bowl of frozen yogurt?

To be clear, I don't mean its sentimental value, nothing as romantic as all of that, I'm talking about nitty-gritty, slap-a-pricetag-on-that-puppy value.

Hold on, let me give you the details before you all start yelling out answers all The Price is Right-style on me.

This is not just any frozen confection. It is removed from the insipidly-sweet ranks of those frozen yogurts parading as ice cream. It has the unmistakable twang of yogurt, softened only slightly by sweetness. This is one that puts Greek yogurt front and centre; yogurt so thick that when spooned it falls lazily back upon itself in luscious folds. This is one where the yogurt plays equal partner to handful upon handful of mixed berries that have been squished and squashed into a violet-hued pulp.

It's darn good stuff.

Still can't decide? I'll be more specific. Would you think that the aforementioned frozen yogurt was worth, hmm ... I don't know ... say, a bouquet of peonies?

I'm totally serious. You can keep your dollars and cents, thank you very much, I will happily hand over pints in exchange for armfuls of blooms.

Why, you ask? The peony is one of my two absolute favourite flowers. They are, without a doubt, the most feminine of beauties; debutante-dreamy with their frilled crinoline petals. And I am surrounded by them, everywhere but in our yard. While our neighborhood is filled plentiful bushes, heavy with showy blossoms, ours is a peony-free zone. Our yard is too shady for their liking.

In lieu of turning to a life of floral theft, I am seriously considering a trade with our neighbors. Or, better yet, a frozen yogurt stand at the end of our driveway. One bloom for one scoop of equally girly-girl pink yogurt sounds fair, doesn't it?

Epilogue:

My father has glorious peonies growing at home; if our neighborhood's contingent are debs, his are divas. His bushes boast bountiful blooms, bodacious in their size. He kindly gifted me with some recently, on Father's Day no less. (If you look carefully in the photograph above, you'll catch a glimpse of his flowers in the reflection on the spoons.)

The next day, I made Dad a batch of mango frozen yogurt.

So all's well that ends well, dear reader. The only thing wanting is that I do wish I offer you some frozen yogurt. We could sit around my kitchen table, leaning into our bowls, and have a good chat. I could excitedly share with you the news that I am a contributor to the summer issue of UPPERCASE magazine.

I came to know about UPPERCASE gallery through the art of Jennifer Judd-McGee. When she unveiled the piece she had completed for an upcoming show, I was curious to learn more about the (Canadian!) gallery hosting the exhibit. And when I did, I became an immediate fan of Janine Vangool and her many creative endeavours. The magazine is her latest, and I am happy to be included in its pages.

The issue will out on July 2nd. Here's a sneak preview of what I made, and a peek between the covers. In other news, I have also been working on a revised About section, with a little more about me and answers to often asked questions. See the link at the left.

Bumbleberry Frozen Yogurt
Greek yogurt is rich to say the least, and heavy on the tongue. It provides a rounded base to all the high-note acidity of the fruit juices.

Ingredients
2 cups fresh mixed berries, I used strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar, see note
1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 cups Greek yogurt, or well-drained whole milk yogurt

Take your lovely berries and, in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of the sugar, crush the life out of them with a potato masher or the back of a spoon. Add the lemon juice, stir briefly, and cover. Allow the berries to macerate at room temperature for about an hour.

Using a coarse sieve set over another large bowl, press the berries through the mesh with the back of a spoon. Underneath the juices should be thick and slightly pulpy, but all seeds and larger fibers should remain above. Once all the berries have been sieved, you should have a generous 1 cup of purée.

Stir in the yogurt. Sweeten, a little at a time, with the remaining sugar. As so much will depend on the sweetness of your berries, add the sugar judiciously, tasting often. You want to take the mixture to where it tastes balanced to your palate, then sweeten it a little bit further. Sweetness is dulled by freezing, so this extra oomph will compensate.

When satisfied with the level of sweetness and all the sugar has dissolved, cover and chill the mix for two hours. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's manufacturer's instructions.

Makes about 1 quart. Soften at room temperature for a few minutes before scooping.

Notes:

• I have used as little as a 1/2 cup of sugar, and as much as almost a full cup for this recipe.
• As Elise points out, frozen yogurt will turn icy once frozen for more than 6-8 hours. So really, the universe is telling you to eat this yogurt the day its made. If you really must store it for longer than that, follow her advice and "add a tablespoon of vodka or kirsch to the mixture right before churning."