Araxi: Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant by James Walt (Douglas & McIntyre, 2009) is a 2010 James Beard book awards finalist in the Cooking from a Professional Point of View category. For a list of all the finalists check out the Project Foodie James Beard Finalists' Guide.
Araxi restaurant is nestled in between the Whistler and Blackcomb mountain peaks in British Columbia. The Whistler Village restaurant, headed by Chef James Walt since 1997, has won accolades and awards including multiple James Beard recognitions. The Araxi cookbook brings the local and seasonal cooking of Chef Walt, and the rest of the Araxi staff, to those that haven't yet traveled to the Whistler restaurant.
Araxi is known for its local and seasonal cooking so it's no surprise that a cookbook in their name is divided into Summer, Harvest, and Winter sections with each covering appetizers, entrées, and then dessearts. The attention to detail during the production of the cookbook is readily apparent and mimicks the attention to detail for everything about Araxi. The abundance of beautiful photography bring the recipes to life, the clearly written recipes are annotated in both imperial and metric units, and even little things like the labels in the footer noting the section and subsection all combine to make the cookbook something special.
Recipes in the Summer section are lighter fare using plenty of fresh summer vegetables, fish, and lighter meats. Desserts take on the full flavors of summer berries and fruits. The Harvest section is the transition to winter moving to some root vegetables and roasted meats getting ready for the full winter hearty menus. The Harvest section of the book is by far the smallest with only a handful of recipes. The final major section has some hearty dishes, but also being seasonal has plenty of recipes with fish and cellared root vegetables.
Choosing a single recipe to highlight was difficult. In thinking about all the recipes, one thing that I kept coming back to was a very small, but important, comment in the front introduction by Aaron Heath, Araxi's pastry chef. Chef Heath says that "Dessert is an extension of the overall meal, you can't be made to feel you've been suddenly transported to a different restaurant when it arrives." What a wonderful philosophy! Given that, see below for Nougat Glacé with Blueberries and Pistachio Praline.
Win a copy of Araxi! - details
Nougat Glacé with Blueberries and Pistachio Praline
From Araxi: Seasonal Recipes from the Celebrated Whistler Restaurant by James Walt (Douglas & McIntyre, 2009)
The creaminess of the frozen nougat pairs particularly well with the earthy sweetness of the blueberries in this late-summer dessert. It is further enhanced by the pistachio praline, which our pastry chef, Aaron Heath, adds for a nice textural contrast. You can also make this dessert with almonds instead of pistachios—both work well. For a more elegant presentation, garnish the nougat glacé with a crisp tuile or a pre-made cigar-shaped pastry.
- 1/8 cup shelled pistachios
- 1/8 cup granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 340°f/170°c. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the pistachios on the baking sheet and toast until very light brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the nuts to cool on the baking sheet.
In a small pot, combine the sugar with just enough water to moisten it evenly (about 1/4 cup/60 mL). Heat the sugar on medium heat, without stirring, until it is caramelized and a light amber in colour, about 10 minutes. Pour this syrup over the pistachios and stir gently until the nuts are evenly coated. Allow the praline to cool completely, then grind it in batches in a food processor until you have a fine powder.
- 2 1/2 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1 recipe pistachio praline
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1 Tbsp amaretto or other almond liqueur
- 1/4 cup slivered pistachios toasted, for garnish
- 8 sprigs fresh mint, for garnish
Lightly grease eight 1 1/2-inch/4-cm ring moulds and line them with parchment paper. Arrange the prepared ring moulds on a small baking sheet. Pour the egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. In a small pot, combine the sugar with just enough water to moisten it evenly (about 1/4 cup/60 mL). Bring the sugar to a gentle boil on medium heat, then continue cooking it, without stirring, for about 10 minutes, until the sugar mixture reaches 243°f/117°c (use a candy thermometer to check the temperature).
While the sugar is cooking, start beating the egg whites on medium speed. Beat them until they form soft peaks, about 5 minutes. With the electric mixer still set on medium speed, slowly pour the warm syrup down the inside edge of the mixer bowl. Increase the speed to high and whip the egg whites until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, about 5 minutes. Fold one-third of the whipped cream into the meringue mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whipped cream and the pistachio praline until well combined. Spoon this mixture into a piping bag fitted with a wide nozzle. Pipe one-eighth of the cream mixture into each ring mould, then freeze the moulds for 2 hours. Will keep tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 3 days.
- 1 1/8 lbs whole apricots, skin on
- 1/2 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean, pod split and seeds scraped
- Juice of 1 lemon
Halve the apricots and discard the pits. Do not peel. Place the apricots, sugar and vanilla bean in a small pot and cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the apricots are just soft, about 6 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Discard the vanilla pod.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor and purée until smooth, or blend with a hand-held blender. Pass the coulis through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and refridgerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Will keep refrigerated in an an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Place the blueberries in a small bowl, add the amaretto (or other liqueur) and toss gently until well combined. Dab a spoonful of the apricot coulis onto the center of each plate. Gently unmold the nougats and place one on each serving of coulis. Arrange the blueberries on top of and around each nougat. Drizzle the dishes with 2 more spoonfuls of the apricot coulis and garnish with slivered pistachios and a sprig of mint.
Win a copy of Araxi
The registered Project Foodie user that leaves the most memorable or creative comment below will win a copy of Araxi. Keep the comments clean and relevant - tell us what attracts you to Araxi and/or what you feel makes this book award-worthy and we'll select one to be the winner of Araxi.
Please note that you must be registered to enter this giveaway and upon winning provide a US postal address for us to ship Araxi to. We'll announce the winner on May 2nd.
If you have not yet registered with Project Foodie, please take a moment to do so right now--it's absolutely free; and we promise never to share your email address with spammers or other unsavory types.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.