After touring the dynamic San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I headed for lunch at what I thought was a casual café on the ground floor. Boy, was I wrong. It was In Situ, a Michelin one-star restaurant hailed by The New York Times as “America’s most original dining experience.”
Chef Corey Lee (of the Michelin three-star Benu) has replicated a signature dish from each of 100 of the world’s top chefs. He worked closely with them on selection and execution.
“Reaching people through social media isn’t what food is about,” says Lee. “Something like this restaurant will help chefs reach a much larger audience.”
I started with a velvety, caramelized carrot soup with coconut foam and chaat masala ($7) by Seattle’s Nathan Myhrvold (of Modernist Cuisine fame). It is pressure cooked to perfection and accompanied by a hearty country bread with brown butter ($2, with profits donated to charity) that’s better than any sourdough loaf in the city.
That extraordinary soup got me to thinking what a shame it is that carrots are so often relegated to crudité trays. I’m sharing my adaptation of Myhrvold’s recipe along with a vintage 1970s carrot cake glazed with buttermilk and topped with an orange-flavoured cream cheese frosting.
Nathan Myhrvold’s Caramelized Carrot Soup
Use the best-quality carrots you can find. Their cores can add a bitter taste and unpleasant texture to this delicate soup, so they’re removed here. It’s an optional step, however; you can try the soup both ways and compare.
1 lb (454 g) carrots, peeled
½ cup (250 mL) unsalted butter
1/8 cup (30 mL) water
1¼ tsp (6 mL) salt, plus more to taste
3/8 tsp (1.5 mL) baking soda
2½ cups (375 ml) fresh carrot juice (available at Whole Foods)
3½ tbsp (37.5 mL) butter, chilled and cubed
Optional Garnish: A swirl of coconut cream and a few sprigs of tarragon
Core the carrots by quartering them lengthwise and slicing away any tough or fibrous cores. Cut the cored carrots into 2-inch pieces.
Melt the ½ cup butter in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Stir together the water, salt and baking soda, and add it to the pressure cooker along with the carrots.
Pressure-cook at a gauge pressure of 1 bar/15 psi for 20 minutes. Start timing when full pressure is reached. Depressurize the cooker quickly by running tepid water over the rim.
Use an immersion blender (or transfer to a countertop blender) to process the carrot mixture to a puree. Pass the puree through a fine sieve and return it to the pressure cooker.
In another pot, bring the carrot juice to a boil. Strain it through a fine sieve into the carrot puree. Stir to combine. If necessary, thin the soup with hot water to desired consistency.
Use an immersion blender or whisk to blend the remaining butter into the soup until the butter is just melted. Season with additional salt, if necessary, and serve warm, garnished, if desired, with coconut cream and tarragon.
Makes 6 servings
Marlene Sorosky’s Carrot Cake with Buttermilk Glaze
You can freeze now and frost later or frost and refrigerate for up to three days.
¾ cup (180 mL) vegetable oil
¾ cup (180 mL) buttermilk
2 cups (500 mL) sugar
2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla extract
2 cups (500 mL) self-rising flour (I use Brodie)
2 tsp (10 mL) cinnamon
1 14 oz (398 mL) can crushed pineapple, well drained
3 cups (750 mL) grated carrots
1 cup (250 mL) shredded coconut
1 cup (250 mL) toasted pecans
1 cup (500 mL) sugar
½ tsp (2.5 mL) baking soda
½ cup (250 mL) buttermilk
¼ cup (60 mL) butter
1 tbsp (15 mL) corn syrup
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup butter (250 mL), room temperature
2 — 9oz (250 gr) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp (30 mL) orange juice
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease one 9-by-13-inch or two 9-inch-round cake pans
In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar, and vanilla until blended. Add flour and cinnamon and mix until incorporated. Stir in pineapple, carrots, coconut and pecans. Pour batter into prepared pan/s and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake is springy and golden.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, baking soda, buttermilk, butter and corn syrup to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Remove cake from oven and slowly pour glaze over hot cake. Cool in pan until glaze is absorbed, about 15 minutes. If desired, remove from pan.
Make frosting: In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter and cream cheese until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then icing sugar and beat at low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
When cake is completely cool, frost it and refrigerate at lease one hour, until frosting is set.
Makes 20 to 24 servings
Kitchen Hack: Easier Cake Removal
If you don’t manage to get your cake out of its greased pan before it cools, it can be hard to coax it out. If that happens, carefully run the cake pan over a stove burner set on low heat, which will melt the grease that was spread on the pan bottom. The cake will pop out easily when the pan is flipped over. This works well for muffins, too.
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