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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Photo by Flickr user midiman

Ah yes, the traditional Thanksgiving menu; let’s assemble the parade of protein and starch shall we? Turkey (of course!) with some kind of stuffing usually involving bread; mashed potatoes, or a creamy, cheesy, potato gratin; sweet potatoes, (no, they are not yams!) with or without marshmallows, as you like; maybe some preparation of turnips or squash; cranberry sauce, wobbly or not; and some luscious pumpkin pie. See what I mean? Not too much in the way of green vegetables.

To prevent holiday scurvy in our house we try to provide at least one green vegetable every year. One big hit from the past, which I may make again this year, is a Warm Salad of Autumn Greens with Plum Vinaigrette from Fine Cooking Issue Number 29, November 1998 (yes, I am a long time subscriber). It combines slightly wilted spinach, swiss chard (or kale) and frisée (or escarole) with toasted hazelnuts and a dressing made from plum preserves and Champagne vinegar. Besides being good for you (your digestion will thank you in the morning), the greens and the fruity, sharp vinaigrette make a nice palate cleanser between helpings of those heavier dishes. Hey look, here’s the recipe on the Fine Cooking website.

Another wonderful green option is brussels sprouts. I know some people claim not to like them, but try out the recipe below and see if they still protest. I was recently shopping at my local farmers’ market with a friend and saw sprouts still on the stalk, looking like some kind of weird modern art. In the finest market tradition, my friend rattled off this ridiculously simple recipe which I tried that very night. My husband, who is agnostic, but wary, when it comes to brussels sprouts, loved them; I swear we ate a pound between us.

Their little tiny leaves get a bit charred and crunchy, giving them some sweetness which balances perfectly with the balsamic vinegar. Trust me, those sprout haters will be asking for this recipe as you send them out into the night full of protein, starch, and a few green veggies.

Brussels Sprouts for People Who Think They Don’t Like Them

If you can’t find brussels sprouts still on the stalk, look for firm, dark green ones with no yellow leaves.

Serves 4

1 pound brussels sprouts
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven 350 F.

Pour a liberal amount of olive oil into a large sheet pan or baking dish. Slice your sprouts in half and put them cut face down in one layer in the pan. Moisten the tops of the sprouts with a little more oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes or until they’re starting to turn a little black (really!). Put them in a serving dish and toss with some good balsamic vinegar.

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friday

I was going to title this article “Friday Night Cleaning Out the Fridge Dinner.” But somehow the image of cleaning out the fridge leads to unfortunate thoughts of fruits and vegetables past their time and even mold. Not very appetizing really. So I started thinking like a restaurateur or a marketer. Friday Night Pre-Market Dinner sounds a lot more appealing; almost like a special prix fixe dinner menu.

We’re lucky to live near a very robust, weekly farmers’ market that includes milk, meat, eggs, vegetables, fish, and even mushrooms. We try very hard to buy most of our food there every week, only supplementing with staples like flour, olive oil, and chocolate from the supermarket. In winter of course this becomes more difficult, but you’d be surprised the things you can do with turnips and rutabagas (that’s swedes to those reading from across the pond).

Since the market is on Saturday, in our house it makes sense to use things up by Friday, making room for all the new things we are invariably tempted by at the market. This week, I had the following ingredients to work with on Friday evening: some slightly sad sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and a lovely bunch of rainbow chard that looked as crisp and fresh as the day we bought it. I feel this is one of the advantages of buying local food. It’s a lot fresher when you buy it and it lasts a lot longer.

I tossed the potatoes (both kinds) in olive oil and some herbs de provence and put them in the oven to roast. These are my go to herbs when I’m in a hurry, or not sure what to use. They go with everything!

Somehow, in my mind, chard is associated with raisins, so I put some in a small dish and poured sherry over them, leaving them to soak. I had some lovely farro in the pantry from Cayuga Pure Organics, so I put that on to simmer in a pot with some homemade chicken stock I grabbed out of the freezer. Speaking of the freezer, did you know that it is the best place to store your pine nuts? They keep for a long time and don’t go rancid. I pulled them out as well and toasted a nice big handful in a dry skillet.

While the farro bubbled away, I cut the big stems and veins out of the chard and tore the leaves into bite sized pieces. Once the veggies were basically roasted and the farro was almost cooked (about 30 to 40 minutes) I threw the chard in with the farro which still had a tiny bit of liquid left and stirred it about until the greens were nicely wilted. Along the way I also drained and tossed in the sherry soaked raisins. Overall, I think it was quite successful, the chewy farro made a nice hearty base for the dish and each bite was full of little surprises, especially those sherry-soaked raisins.

What are your favorite “pre-market” recipes?

Roasted Autumn Vegetables with Farro and Rainbow Chard

Serves 2

1½ tablespoon of golden raisins
dry sherry
2 potatoes
2 sweet potatoes
olive oil
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1 cup farro
1½ cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium canned stock
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons pine nuts

Put the golden raisins in a small dish and cover with sherry.

Peel and cube both kinds of potatoes. Put them in a baking dish and toss with olive oil and the herbs de provence, then sprinkle liberally with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast the vegetables in a 350F oven for 30-40 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan and add the farro. Simmer partially covered until almost done (about 30 minutes).

While the farro is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet until fragrant and slightly brown. Pay careful attention as they can burn very easily.

If necessary, cut the big stems and veins out of your chard and tear it into bite sized pieces. Once the farro is done, drain the golden raisins and add them to the pot. Next, add the chard and stir until wilted (about 5-7 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, make a bed of the farro, chard and raisins on the plate, put the roasted veggies on top and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts. A drizzle of olive oil completes the look.

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egg

Soft boiled eggs are oddly comforting and yet luxurious at the same time. Maybe it’s because I’ve most often encountered them while staying in a cozy bed and breakfast somewhere in Europe, run by a kind grandmotherly type. Who can resist the lady in the frilly apron asking, “would you like more toast dear?”

Recently I ran across this wonderful collection of genuine traditional Irish recipes (no green food coloring here!) which of course included soft boiled eggs. It got me thinking that I should try making this time honored breakfast at home.

How could I have waited so long? This is one of the easiest breakfasts I’ve ever made. No messy pans to clean up, and it takes a total of about 5 minutes! Better yet, the fact that the egg is still in it’s shell when served forces you to eat slowly, giving your stomach a chance to tell your brain that it is full. Surprisingly, one egg and one slice of buttered toast is very satisfying and sticks with me right through to lunch at the cost of only about 198 calories.

I know many people worry about the risk on contracting Salmonella from raw or undercooked (i.e. soft boiled) eggs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in every 10,000 eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella and that 1 in every 50 “average consumers” could be exposed to a contaminated egg each year.

I think the best way to combat this is by not being an “average consumer.” Before factory farming, Salmonella was not a wide spread problem in this country. If you buy your eggs from farmers who raise their chickens the way your great-grandmother did, you will significantly lower your risk of being exposed to Salmonella.

I buy eggs from Tello’s Green Farm stand at at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket in Brooklyn. Not only are these chickens organic, they have no cages whatsoever, roaming around the Tello’s 5 acres in Red Hook, NY scratching for grubs and taking baths in the dust, just as my great-grandmother’s chickens did (yes, my great-grandmother, really did raise chickens). Not only do I feel more comfortable soft boiling these eggs, they also taste fantastic, with bright orange yolks indicating their freshness.

There is one other danger associated with soft boiled eggs. If you’re not careful you might become an inveterate egg cup collector. For more information see the Ultimate Egg Cup Resources Guide

A Soft Boiled Egg with Toast “Soldiers”

1 large egg at room temperature
water
salt
1 slice of bread
soft butter

Fill a small sauce pan half full of water and bring it to a gentle boil. Use a spoon to lower your egg carefully into the water so it doesn’t hit the bottom and crack. Boil your egg for 4 to 6 minutes depending on your taste. At 4 minutes the whites are opaque but still soft and the yolk is very runny whereas at 6 minutes the whites are all solid and the yolk is a bit runny.

Put your bread on to toast now so it will be done at about the same time as your egg. When your bread is toasted slather it nicely with butter and cut it into long narrow strips that you can dunk into the top of your soft boiled egg. These are your “soldiers.”

When the egg is finished use a spoon to remove it from the pot and gently dunk it in some cold water (or run it under the tap) to stop the cooking. Transfer it to an egg cup and serve with salt. If you don’t have an egg cup, espresso cups do quite nicely (see photo above).

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loafbread

For almost a hundred years admen (and yes, they have mostly been men) have been telling us, “cooking is hard; let’s go shopping.” In particular, they want us to shop for processed foods like cake mix and canned chicken stock. But is it really that hard to make these, and other things at home, the way our great-grandmothers did? I intend to find out.

Today begins a new occasional series here on Comestibles called, “Is Slow Food Really Slow?” in which I examine the hypothesis that some of the processes many modern home cooks have declared too time consuming, like baking a cake from scratch or making chicken stock at home, are a lot easier than the admen would have us believe. We’ll begin with the staff of life: bread.

If you can answer your email, write the latest report required by your boss, and talk on the phone with a client, all while tweeting with your best friend about where to meet after work, then you can bake bread at home. Your great-grandmother knew that it was all about multi-tasking and she didn’t even have the Internet.

The amount of active time in the kitchen needed to bake bread, without using any fancy equipment, is about thirty minutes. Yes, you read that right, thirty minutes. I timed it myself, just the other day. It’s all the waiting time in between that scares everyone (the total time is about four hours), but this is where you pull out your mad multi-tasking skills.

The process of baking bread can be divided into seven distinct segments, but you only have to be in the kitchen for three of them. This leaves you with several periods during which you can do other things. You can even leave the house if you’re careful about it. Here is how the time breaks out (I have colored the active parts green, for the rest, you can be out of the kitchen):

Measure and mix the ingredients: 10 minutes
Short rest: 10 minutes
Knead: 10 minutes
First Rise: 90 minutes
Punch down and shape: 10 minutes
Second Rise: 45 minutes
Bake: 45-50 minutes

There is really only one danger faced by the multi-taking baker: over-proofing your dough. If you choose to leave the house during that 90 minute first rise, be sure to return on time. If you allow your dough to rise too long, the yeast can become exhausted and the strands of gluten can break. This will result in door stops instead of loaves.

Also, if an unforeseen disaster strikes, forcing you to abandon your bread making, you can shove the dough in the fridge to slow it down and pick up later where you left off. Once you’ve baked bread at home a few times, the fear will leave you and you’ll realize that it is not nearly as persnickety as we have been led to believe.

Home Baked Bread

Adapted from Marion Cunningham

Makes two 8½ x 4½ x 2½-inch loaves

If you haven’t done this before, here’s a nice video demonstration of how to knead bread.

1 package active dry yeast (or 2¼ teaspoons)
2½ cups warm water
2½ teaspoons salt
5½ to 6 cups all-purpose flour

Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl and let stand for a minute. Add the salt and 4½ cups of the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add a little more flour if needed for the dough to come together into a mass that can be kneaded. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface, knead it for 1 minute and then let it rest for 10 minutes.

After resting, knead the dough for about 10 minutes sprinkling flour on it, and the work surface to prevent it from being too sticky. Stop kneading when the consistency of the dough changes and and it becomes smooth and elastic. Grease a large bowl with butter, put the dough in it, turning it to coat it slightly with the butter, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until double in size (about 90 minutes).

You’ll know the dough has finished rising when you poke it with your finger and it holds the depression and doesn’t bounce back. At this point, punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape the pieces into loaves by stretching gently down and around the sides and forming a seam at the bottom. Place each loaf, seam side down, in a greased loaf pan. Cover the pans with a dishtowel and put them in a warm place to rise again, until the dough is double in bulk (about 45 minutes). Bake the loaves in a 350F oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is well browned. Remove from the loaf pans and turn out on racks to cool.

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cookedhead

Remember that game your mother or grandmother used to play with you? This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home. Or maybe you’ve played it with your lover, grabbing their toes and making them squirm with laughter. Well, Fergus Henderson, Britain’s Minister of Offal, thinks about romance in a slightly different way.

In his most recent book, Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook, he describes a certain recipe as “a perfect romantic supper for two. Imagine gazing into the eyes of your loved one over a golden pig’s cheek, ear and snout.” The recipe in question is Pot-Roast Half Pig’s Head.

As you may know, I recently came into possession of half a pig’s head. So, gentle reader, you know what I had to do.

It’s a really easy recipe that basically involves braising half a pig’s head for about 3 hours, in chicken broth, brandy, and white wine with some garlic and shallots; and then wilting some greens in the remaining cooking liquid. The only fussy bit is shaving the pig. Yes, they are quite hairy, so give yourself a good 15 minutes for that part.

I’m not going to reproduce the recipe here because Mr. Ferguson’s whimsical and slightly archaic style is what makes it. Go buy the book or get it from the library and take it to bed with a glass of wine. I promise, you’ll have a good time.

If your beloved is an appreciator of food and an adventurous eater, Fergus Henderson just might be right to invoke Tin Pan Alley love songs at the end of his recipe, when he writes, “There you have it, dinner for two; open something red and delicious: Moon, June Spoon.”

It was the crispiest pig skin I’d ever had, crunchy and rich like the perfect piece of buttered toast. After a few moments, I realized I was drunk, but not on the wine, which if I remember correctly was a serviceable Côtes du Rhone. No, I was drunk on fat. It goes right to your head, just like Champagne. You feel a bit dizzy, and very satisfied; sort of like after sex.

Thanks Fergus.

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pate3

In pre-World War II Brittany, Autumn was the traditional time to slaughter the pig. The celebration was often called a boudinnerie after the blood pudding that might be made or perhaps a gratonnerie if pork cracklings were on the menu. All the parts of the pig were used to make a large variety of dishes which were then washed down with lakes of cider and eau de vie.

When I first found out I would have the opportunity to cook with some very fresh, local pig’s offal, one of the first cookbooks I opened for inspiration was When French Women Cook by Madeleine Kamman. It is a memoir with recipes that really captures the France of the 1930s-1950s. In the introduction Kamman writes, “most of the recipes in this book have never been written down before,” and then she goes on to describe her relationships with the eight women (conveniently from eight different regions of France) who taught her about cooking at various points in her life.

In her description of Breton pig slaughtering traditions Ms. Kamman mentions dishes called cochonnailles or pork delicacies served cold. In honor of the season I decided to use my pork livers and hearts to make Ms. Kamman’s recipe for Grosse Cochonnaille which she translates as Coarse Country Pâté.

Special thanks to Kenny Dahill of MarWin Farm for the very fresh livers and hearts which he provided gratis.

grinding

I had never made pâté before and found it relatively easy. The only special equipment you need is a meat grinder. I used the grinder attachment for my KitchenAid mixer and it worked quite well. One technique of pâté making that Kamman does not address in the book is the importance of keeping your equipment and ingredients very very cold. This prevents the fat from separating out of the mixture. Luckily, Ms. Kamman’s book occupies the same shelf in my home as Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, which has lots of detail on this subject.

It’s obvious that Ms. Kamman means this dish to be for a celebration as it serves 12! I wound up with a large 9×13 inch baking pan full of porky, fatty goodness. Even though the pâté is made with liver, it’s mild and rich, not too offally at all. I particularly like the spicing which is the traditional quatre épices or four spice mixture that is often used in baked goods like pain d’épices. Here, the hints of cinnamon and clove lend a certain sweetness to the pâté.

This dish is best served with a bottle of Muscadet, crusty French bread, grainy mustard, and lots of pickles.

Grosse Cochonnaille
(Coarse Country Pork Pâté)

Adapted from Madeleine Kamman with technical help from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

Serves 12

1 pound pork liver (or a mixture of liver and hearts)
2 pounds Boston butt of pork
1 pound unsalted fatback
4 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 onions, peeled and chopped in a 1 inch dice
4 shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ cup coarsely chopped parsley
4 slices of white bread, crusts removed
½ cup milk
6 eggs
4-½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon quatre épices (see below for recipe)
Freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper

Before beginning, put your meat grinder in the freezer to chill for at least an hour.

Remove the membranes from the liver and cut away the flaps, lobes, gristle and membranes from the hearts (if using), then chop both meats into a 1 inch dice. Cut the Boston butt and the fatback into 1 inch cubes. Toss the chopped meats and fat thoroughly with the garlic, onions, shallots and parsley. Cover this mixture and put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold. You can also use the freezer for this, but if so, don’t allow it to freeze solid.

Tear the bread into 1 inch pieces and soak it in the milk for about 5 minutes. Then break the eggs into the bowl with the bread and milk and add the salt, quatre épices, 6 grinds of pepper from the mill, and a large pinch of cayenne pepper. Use a whisk to beat this mixture together well. Cover the egg and spice mixture and place it in the refrigerator to chill.

Now to grind the meat. It is best to catch the ground meat in a metal bowl as it will retain the cold better. Place the metal bowl inside another bowl filled with ice to prevent the fat from getting too warm during the grinding process.

Remove your grinder from the freezer and set it up. At the last moment bring the meat mixture out of the refrigerator or freezer and grind it as quickly as possible. When finished grinding stir in the cold egg and spice mixture from the refrigerator. Be sure to combine it well so the spices are distributed evenly.

Take a spoonful of the pâté out of the bowl and cover the rest, putting it in the refrigerator so it stays cold. Make a small patty of your spoonful of pâté and cook it in a frying pan. Cool it quickly by putting it in the freezer and taste it cold to check the seasoning of the pâté. Remember that foods served cold need more seasoning than those served hot. Adjust the seasonings and make another test patty if needed. When you are satisfied with the flavors, pour all of the pâté into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes or until it is nice and brown and the internal temperature reaches 150 F on a thermometer. Remove the pâté from the oven and allow it to cool to room temperature. Then cover and chill for at least 3 hours before serving.

Quatre Épices

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons grated nutmeg
4 teaspoons ground coriander

Ironically, Madeleine Kamman’s recipe for quatre épices contains five spices. Use the freshest spices possible, grinding them yourself if you can. Mix them together and store in an airtight jar in a cool, dark place.

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fictionwritersreview

Just a quick note to let you know about some other food-related writing I’m doing. The editor of the online literary magazine Fiction Writers Review has asked me to do an occasional series about food and fiction called “Novel Dishes.”

For each series we’ll choose a novel where food is an important theme, supporting the plot and driving it forward. Each piece will include at least one recipe based on food described in the story. The first book I’m cooking from is Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. We begin with a cocktail, so come on over and join us for a drink.

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