This week I am enthusiastically preparing to feed the masses of Caravan 2014, once again. After spending the last year traveling across the States cooking, it’s surreal to finally be placing my food order, after fantasying about this menu since I left. As long as I have been cooking at Caravan, I have taken my responsibility to feed the hungry campers three nutritious meals for three days very seriously. So, in my fourth year I am pleased to be working nearly exclusively with Maine Farmers with the help of Crown O' Maine Organic Co-Op, as well as my infamous Pig Man, Davis Archer. This year Eclectik Domestic is offering a premium food ticket for an additional $20 which will feature a spit roasted local beer fed pig, raised just 40 miles from Belgrade. I will also be featuring a American Inspired Breakfast series, secret treats from my girl Ellie the Baker and much much more. Caravan has taught me so much about cooking and its people will always hold a very special place in my heart. I hope this year will be the most delicious and efficient year yet.
I live for good bread. For as long as I can remember I have had an affinity for gluten, my body accepts it as fuel, an in-between meals sort of pick me up. My first affair with bread probably started when I used to work at the chic faux-French cafe Parc on the even chicer Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. The enormous sprawling restaurant could seat up to 400 people at once, and would do 1000 for brunch on Sunday without batting an eye. It was, to say the least, intense. My first day, I waltzed in through the staff entrance which led through the expansive bakery that baked bread for a majority of the restaurant group. The bakers were just finishing unloading the gorgeous baguettes and boules onto the cooling racks, the smell permeating through the kitchen. They all smiled as I walked through aimlessly trying to figure out where I belonged, whistling and chatting but I was too mesmerized by their bread to converse. Parc was a hard machine to work in but any place that has a whole drawer full of room temperature whipped salted butter and unlimited bread whenever I want, will forever hold a special place in my heart. Tea sandwiches or crostini or whatever you want to call them are simple and perfect for snacking on at picnics or when hosting unexpected company. Its a surefire way of impressing with no effort but as always, good ingredients are the key to this treat so be sure to find a quality baker or if you're desperate enough, make it yourself. Anything tastes decent onto of some baguette or a nice loaf of sour dough and works toasted, grilled, or plain. A nice cheese is a great idea, snacking veggies like cucumber work wonderfully as well as canned sardines, pickled peppers or pesto.
Cucumber Tea Sandwich
1 piece good bread, sliced how you please
1 heaping spoon full chèvre
slices of cucumber
salt & pepper + olive oil, to taste
Assemble all ingredients atop toasted bread. Enjoy!
When I miss people, I bake. Its an odd habit I picked up when I was younger. When friends or family would go on trips or as of lately when I've felt homesick, I'm attached to the oven, baking my feelings. Theres something about opening the oven to a tasty dessert thats like seeing an old friend again. I also love simple one pan meals.
Lately we've had a lot of gorgeous Santa Rosa plums bursting from our fruit trees in Boulder Creek. One day at lunch I was staring at a gorgeous bowl of plums sitting on the table when I realized how badly I wanted chocolate, which is pretty much always. Suddenly this recipe occurred to me! I find that the chocolate cuts through the sharp sweetness of the plums. This cake is inspired by a few different recipes. The caramelizing of the plums and the use of the skillet stemmed from the idea of a tarte tatin mixed with the gluten free buckwheat chocolate almond cake I made last month. Most stone fruits would work well and the addition of jam or a chocolate drizzle takes the cake to the next level.
Chocolate Plum Skillet Cake
4-5 ripe plums
2 tablespoons butter
6 oz (170g) chocolate*
1/2 cup (115g) butter
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup almonds, roasted
1/4 cup buckwheat flour (35g)
powdered sugar & cocoa powder, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350. Half plums and remove pits. In a 8-10 inch cast iron skillet heat 1 tbsp butter and when hot lay plums down face down and allow to caramelize for about 5 minutes. Flip to skin side and cook for an additional 5. Add another tablespoon of butter and swirl in the skillet. Set aside. In a double boiler, melt down remaining butter and add chocolate. Once melted remove and allow to cool. In a bowl, separate eggs into whites and yolks. Whisk the egg yolks, half of the sugar, yogurt, vanilla, and salt, stir in melted chocolate. In a food processor pulse almonds until fine and add in the buckwheat flour. Stir into chocolate mixture. In a mixture (or by hand if you want a work out!) whisk egg whites until soft peaks form, add the remaining sugar and beat until firm peaks form. Slowly fold into chocolate mixture. Scrap bowl into skillet with plums and bake for 25-30 minutes or until slightly firm in the center. Cool and remove from pan and dust with powdered sugar & cocoa powder, or jam & chocolate and enjoy with a scoop of ice cream for added decadence!
* I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, but dark chocolate would be amazing as well.