Friday, August 14, 2009

I am such a lucky person….here I am at 67, almost 68, years old and I have a wonderful life going on with an amazing family, a grand combination of both old and new friends, and 3 wonderful interests, painting, cooking, and the vineyard, that keep me active and happy. I never have a day when I wonder “what should I do with myself today?” I have the opposite, “Just how many of these things on my ‘to-do-list’ can I accomplish today?”!
I’m not saying that I don’t have days when I want to stay in my pjs and read a book, because I do… it is because I love a day like that and I figure I deserve one every now and then!
I’m pretty sure all of you have figured out that I love to write my blog. I hope I don’t bore people, but I like to write about the things I know. And to have such a full exciting life at this stage and age is amazing! I must admit, it is also tiring at times, but I seem to pop out of bed the next morning, ready to start another new day and tackle another to-do-list!

The other day I tried to figure out how many hours it would take for me to do all the things I would like to do in one day. Between painting for 4 or 5 hours; cooking for 4 or 5 hours; spending 4 or 5 hours with family, eating, drinking, talking and laughing; Blogging for 2 to 3 hours; spending 4 or 5 hours with friends painting, eating, drinking, laughing, learning, maybe seeing a movie…I figured out there just isn’t enough time for me to have a “perfect day”. Maybe I need to arrange for a perfect weekend!

I am thinking French Food today, I suppose the Julie&Julia movie is still having an affect on me. I want my house to be filled with the aroma of French Braised Pork Shanks with Rosemary infused White Beans. I want to inhale the aroma of Normandy Apples with Cinnamon and Honey. I want a warm crusty Baguette with real French Butter. I think a simple green salad would be perfect to serve with this menu. My choice of wine would, naturally, be a dry red from Somerset Ridge Vineyard, if only I had saved a bottle of the Cabernet Reserve! I suppose I should whip up a dessert. I am remembering the first time I made Julia’s Whipped Cream Torte, must have been in 1970….OMG! Was it good! But then, I’ve never tried anything from Julia that wasn’t!
This recipe is for her Apricot Gateau, the cake that she chose for her own birthday celebration. She called it her "Los Gatos Gateau Cake”. She described it as a Dacquoise type of apricot-filled torte. She prepared this on one of her television shows and said she loved the rectangular shape because she could prepare the recipe, cut off the end piece, eat it and then frost the cut end again and no one was the wiser! Here is the PARAPHRASED recipe. (paraphrased by Pat Goldberg in 2003) The photograph is of an Apricot Orchard in Provence, France

Meringue-nut layers

3/4 c each toasted and skinned hazelnuts and blanched toasted almonds

1 c sugar

3/4 c (5 to 6) egg whites

pinch salt

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

3 Tb additional sugar

1 Tb vanilla

1/4 tsp almond extract

Pulverize the nuts with the sugar in a blender or food processor. better done in two batches. preheat oven to 250. Butter and flour two pastry sheets and, using a spatula mark out a total of 4 12x4 inch rectangles on them.Beat the egg whites until stiff and shining, adding in the salt and cream of tartar when they have foamed. Add the 3 Tb sugar at the end while you are still beating, and then the extracts. Fold in the pulverized nuts and sugar, put the resulting meringue in a pastry bag, and fill in the four squares, from the outside to the inside. Bake about an hour on two oven racks, exchanging the two pans about every 20 minutes. They are done when you can push them loose from the pan - but don't force them. Put on a rack to cool.

The Apricot Filling

1 lb dried apricots

1 c dry white French vermouth

2 c water

1 stick cinnamon

zest of one orange

2/3 c sugar

2 Tb orange or apricot liqueur

1 Tb cognac or rum

Soak the apricots in the vermouth and water for several hours. Add the cinnamon and zest and simmer at least 10 minutes until the apricots are very tender. Drain the fruit, reserving the cooking liquid.Puree the fruit in a food processor or with a food mill (she doesn't say what to do with the cinnamon stick). Boil the cooking liquid until it is a thick syrup, stir in the puree and the liquid and the liqueurs. Cool, cover, and refrigerate.

Confectioners Butter Cream (make just before using)

8 oz unsalted butter

10 oz confectioners sugar (2 cups sifted directly into cup)

2 egg yolks

1 Tb vanilla

3 to 4 Tb orange or apricot liqueur, cognac, or rum

Beat the butter over hot water until it has just softened, then add sugar. Beat another minute or two until it is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat another minute, then add the vanilla and liqueur. Beat over cold water if it is too runny.

Putting the damn thing together

1 c confectioner's sugar in a sieve or shaker

2 c shaved almonds, lightly toasted

lightly whipped and sweetened cream to pass with the cake {optional}

Be careful with the cake layers, they are easy to break (but can be disguised as you put the cake together. Save the best one for the top. You will use only two more, the last one is "just in case." Put the ugliest meringue layer on the serving plate or board, and slip a couple of layers of wax paper under it in a way that allows you to pull them out later. Put aside almost 2/3 of the butter cream. Of the remaining butter cream, spread half of it on the meringue, then spread that with half the apricot stuff. Put on another meringue layer and repeat. Top with the most beautiful meringue. If it looks good, dust it with powdered sugar. If it is cracked in a way that the sugar can't cover up, ice it with a bit of the butter cream. In any case, spread the butter cream on all the sides of the cake. Then pat on the almonds. You can put some on top to cover imperfections too. Chill the cake. It can be refrigerated for up to two days or it can be frozen. In that case thaw in the refrigerator for several hours.

Our Julia sure knew how to eat well!

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

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Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
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Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
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