Saturday, April 4, 2015

Swapper Profile: Diana Dinh + Quince Tarte Tatin Recipe

Home (+ hometown swap): San Francisco, CA

Profession: Connecting people and processes within the tech start-up world.

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?
I can't even remember how I initially found out about the SF Food Swap, but seeing that I obsessively trawl the internet for food-related things, it was only a matter of time before I got reeled in. My first swap was in 2012. I made balsamic roasted strawberries and baked biscuits for samples. I remember being so awed by the thoughtful creations: vanilla kumquat compote, candy cap mushroom cookies, sugar-frosted flowers...

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?
I made two things: a savory eggplant spread and miso caramel. I've had a long-time love affair with eggplant and had recently made baba ghanoush without tahini simply because I hadn't any handy. To make up for it, I amped up the paprika. The result was so delicious that I wanted to make more of it and share. As for the miso caramel, I'm a baker at heart, so my mind tends to sway towards the sweet for food swaps. However, I wanted to make something slightly off the beaten trail, and miso pairs so well with the savory smokiness of a dark caramel. 

Savory eggplant at the March 2015 swap
What’s your favorite thing about swapping?
I really love the creative inspiration I get from going to a food swap. It's a great opportunity to use ingredients (cara cara orange mostarda, chocolate adobo...) that I wouldn't have made myself. 

Who or what most influences your cooking?
I read about food voraciously, devouring cookbooks, food history books, food politics books. But I think my cooking has been most strongly shaped by three people: my mother; my butchery/charcuterie guru, Kate; and my friend and food soul mate, Jon. Growing up, I was my mother's unknowing sous chef, washing and prepping all manner of Asian greens and cleaning cuts of meat as she turned out amazing Vietnamese dishes. I spent a month learning to butcher and make charcuterie with Kate in Gascony. In addition to getting me technically attuned to pig anatomy and my boning knife, she's taught me volumes about what it means to cook good food. Lastly, it was Jon who pulled me into the culinary milieux of San Francisco, convincing me at the tender age of twenty-one that I must invest in a KitchenAid stand mixer and food processor (of course, he was right). 

Balsamic Roasted Strawberries with Baked Biscuits
What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
My stand mixer should be a given, seeing that I bake as much as I do. I also love my chef's knife (a Global) and bench scraper (it makes even the untidiest surfaces tidy!).  

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?
After years of riding the Californian-Italian-New American high, I'm finding my passion newly renewed in South East Asian flavors. The brightness, the pungency one finds in food from that corner of the world is unlike any other flavor profile. 

Biggest food surprise?
Spanish tapas. Without a firm foothold in the US and with an unfortunate run of uninformed eating choices as a college student in Barcelona, tapas fell vertiginously low in my eyes. In my then-quite limited experience, tapas were overly heavy: a mess of potatoes, cheese, and grease. They remained decried for nearly a decade, until I returned to Barcelona with a tapas treasure map drawn out by Jon. The ah-ha moment was reached, and not long after cemented in the celebrated pintxos bars of San Sebastian. I was so incredibly wrong about tapas. 

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?
I would begin with a Lebanese mezze spread: hummus topped with lamb and pine nuts, roasted eggplants in warmed yogurt, muhammara, kibbeh, and pomegranate roasted starlings. I would want this with nargile. Then, I would move on to a main course of Vietnamese caramel-braised pork shoulder on the tenderest white rice, with a bowl of simple greens soup on the side. For dessert, I would have quince tarte tatin with a scoop of the velvetiest vanilla ice-cream. There would be a loaf of challah throughout the whole meal.  

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm _________.
Reading at Thoroughbread and Pastry or The Mill, hiking at Mt. Tam, or perhaps biking to Ocean Beach with my husband. 

Favorite local food experience:
Two things make me indescribably happy about living and eating in San Francisco: ice-cream from Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous and the Noe Street evening farmer's market. 

Recipe by Diana: 

Quince Tarte Tatin

For the crust:

·         236 grams flour
·         3/4 T. sugar
·         3/4 t. salt
·         168 grams butter (also, 3/4 c.)
·         Ice water

1.       In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, and salt and pulse to mix evenly
2.       Cut butter into 1/2 inch cubes and add to flour mixture. Pulse until coarse, pebbly texture is achieved (~5-7 times)
3.       Add 3 tablespoons ice water to flour butter mixture and pulse (~10 times). Add additional ice water tablespoon by tablespoon, pulsing a few times between each addition. The dough should just come together; be careful not to add too much water or else the texture of the crust will be gluey and sticky rather than flaky and delicious. 
4.       Dump dough out onto sheet of plastic wrap, molding into an inch thick disc. Try to handle the dough as little as possible; you want to keep it nice and cold for texture. 
5.       Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes

For the tart:

·         6 medium-sized apples (I like Granny Smiths or Pink Lady’s)
·         1 1/2 sticks butter
·         1 1/2 cups sugar

·         Preheat your oven to 375F
·         Peel, core, and quarter your apples and set aside
·         In a cast-iron or other heat-proof skillet (mine is 12 inches wide), melt butter over medium-low heat
·         Take off heat and add sugar, stirring (a wooden spoon is good here) to incorporate
·         Bring the skillet back over medium heat, letting the sugar and butter melt together into a light golden brown caramel. Timing is everything here; watch for the color to turn. Wait a minute too long and you will have burnt caramel. This should take about 7-10 minutes 
·         Add the apple quarters core side up, packing the skillet as densely as you can. I like to make two concentric circles
·         Let the apples and caramel meld together, about 5-7 minutes. You should notice a slight shrinking of the apples. Now would be a good time to add any extra slices if you find yourself with more room in the skillet
·         While the apples and caramel marry, take out your pie dough and roll it out to the size of your skillet. You want it to be somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick
·         Carefully drape the pie dough over the apples, using a fork to seal any gaps between the dough and the edge of the skillet
·         Place the skillet in the center rack of the oven and bake until the crust is a lovely golden color, about 25-30 minutes
·         Immediately flip the tart out onto a dish or another appropriate serving platter, taking extra care with the hot skillet and caramel