Voracious Readers Blog

 

February 18, 2012

Two weeks ago we tried David Chang’s Bo Ssam from Momofuku. Actually, we had noticed the recipe ages ago and had not gotten around to actually doing it. Then Sam Sifton wrote about it (“The Bo Ssam Miracle” in the January 12 issue of the New York Times magazine and we said “Now!”. Everything he said is true. It is fabulous and all of our guests were rapturous. Bo Sasm is a slow roasted pork flavored only with sugar and salt, first a rub, then a final glaze. You get this moist, tender, sweet, salty meat that you wrap in lettuce leaves with rice and an array of condiments. The combination of flavors is complex and amazing. The condiments are  napa cabbage kimchee, some pureed kimchee, an intense scallion ginger mix, and a sauce called ssan sauce. David Chang serves it with oysters, which frankly, I can’t imagine. Maybe you can and will try it that way. Let me know if you do.

I have below Sam Sifton’s adaptation of David Chang’s recipe. The only difference I could see between the two is the Scallion Ginger Sauce which is a brilliant addition. You will have to go to a Korean or Oriental shop for the two sauces listed below

Pork Butt

1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt

7 tablespoons brown sugar

Ginger-Scallion Sauce

2½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts

½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger

¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

1½ teaspoons light soy sauce

1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Ssam Sauce

2 tablespoons fermented bean-and- chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)

1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)

½ cup sherry vinegar

½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

Accompaniments

2 cups plain white rice, cooked

3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried

1 dozen or more fresh oysters (optional)

Kimchi (available in many Asian markets, and online).

1. Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.

3. Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

4. Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.

5. Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

6. When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.

Serves 6 to 10. Adapted from “Momofuku,” by David Chang and Peter Meehan.

© 2009 David Chang, Momofuku, 2009  

 

July 21, 2011

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (Artisan, 2011)

This is a wonderful cookbook. All the recipes that I have tried have been absolutely delicious! Jeni Britton Bauer is the owner of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, a small artisanal shop in Columbus, Ohio. Her unique flavors, prepared from top-quality ingredients combined with minimally processed milk from grass-fed cows, have transformed her shop into a nationally acclaimed (and beloved) brand. Her mission in this book is to help foodies create perfect ice creams, yogurts, and sorbets—ones that are every bit as perfect as hers—in their own kitchens. She has devised a formula to make creamy, sturdy, lickable ice cream at home. Her recipe for a milk-based American-style ice cream contains no eggs, which allows her amazing flavor combinations to shine. I have made both the Lemon Cream Ice Cream and the Lemon Frozen Yogurt as well as the Beet Ice Cream with Mascarpone, Orange Zest, and Poppy Seeds and the Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream. They are really scrumptious and the consistency is fabulous. Her instructions and explanations are clear and the results terrific. The only one I fiddled with slightly was the Beet Ice Cream recipe. I was afraid that the orange zest was not going to provide enough zing so I added some sherry vinegar and pomegranate syrup. The flavor was great. I can’t wait to try these other flavors: Bangkok Peanut, Salty Caramel, Bourbon with Toasted Buttered Pecans, Sweet Basil and Honeyed Pine Nut, Coriander with Raspberry  Sauce, all the chocolate variations. I could go on and on.

She also suggests variations and encourages experimenting. Now is the time to try some of these recipes, while the weather is hot. However, I can tell that I will be cooking from this book all year round.

Sour Beer Sorbets: Cherry Lambic, Peach Lambic, Black Plum & Black Currant

Makes a generous 1 quart

1 pound fresh stone fruit (cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, etc.)
¾ cups sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
¾ cup lambic beer, chilled

Prep: Peel peaches or apricots, if using. Remove the stones from the fruit and puree in a food processor until smooth.

Cook: Combine the pureed fruit, sugar, and corn syrup in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat immediately and put in the refrigerator to chill for at least 2 hours.

Chill: Strain through a sieve into a bowl, if desired. Add the beer and chill thoroughly.

Freeze: Pour the sorbet base into the frozen canister and spin just until it is the consistency of a very softly whipped cream. Pack the sorbet into a storage container, press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface, and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Jeni's tasting note

  • Cherry Lambic Sorbet: Tart real cherry flavor to start, sweet limbic on the midpalate and an almost bubbly texture. The finish is clean and exhilarating.
  • Peach Lambic Sorbet: Juicy and sweet, with ripe peaches and a punch of refreshing peach lambic.
  • Black Plum & Black Currant Lambic Sorbet: Sparkling. Tastes like plum skins and bursting black currants.

© Jeni Britton Bauer, 2011

Sweet Basil and Honeyed Pine Nut Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
11/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
11/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
A large handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly torn into small pieces
1/3 cup Honey Pine Nut Pralines (recipe follows)

Prep: Mix about two tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry. Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Cook: Combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Chill: Gradually whisk the hot milk into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the basil. Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon Ziplok freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Freeze: Strain out the basil. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, folding in the honey pine-nut pralines as you go. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

© Jeni Britton Bauer, 2011 

Honey Nut Pralines
Makes about 1 cup

1 cup pine nuts, walnuts, black walnuts, or pecans, halved if you prefer smaller bits
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Combine the nuts with the remaining ingredients in a bowl, tossing to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Stir and bake for another 5 to 6 minutes, stirring twice; the nuts should look bubbly and somewhat dry. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, stirring the nuts every couple of minutes to break them up.

© Jeni Britton Bauer, 2011

Eat Greens: Splendid Recipes to Enjoy in Abundance by Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato (Running Press, 2011)

Eat Greens includes more than 120 delicious recipes for a wide variety of dishes that use green vegetables from artichokes to zucchini to prepare healthy appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, and side dishes. Recipes include Ricotta with Broccoli Rabe, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon & Walnuts, Baby Leeks Braised in Red Wine, Snow Pea Salad with Walnut vinaigrette, Sauteed Peas, Kale, and Chorizo, and Zucchini Caponata.

Stir-Fried Coleslaw
Warm stir-fried coleslaw is a terrific cabbage dish that pairs well with barbecued chicken or ribs.
Makes 6-8 servings

6 cups shredded green cabbage
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Stir-fry sauce

2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons corn oil
2 tablespoons minced frech ginger
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and thinly sliced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and thinly sliced
21/2 cups shredded carrots (about 4 carrots)
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons minced scallions, for garnish

Put the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the stir-fry sauce. Whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Set aside.

Drain the cabbage and pat dry.

Heat the oil over high heat in a large skillet. Add the ginger and stir-fry for about 10 seconds. Add the bell peppers and toss for about 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and carrots and toss for another 2 minutes. Add the sake, cover, reduce and heat to medium, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 2 minutes. Add the stir-fry sauce and stir-fry for 1 minute.

Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, garnish with scallions, and serve.

© Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato, 2011

Sauteed Peas, Kale, and Chorizo
Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
3 scallions, minced
2 cups shelled fresh peas, or 1 10-ounce package frozen baby peas, thawed
¼ cup white wine
3 cups chopped fresh kale
¼ cup finely chopped chorizo
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and the scallions and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the peas and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and simmer for 1 minute. Add the kale and cook, stirring and shaking the pan, until wilted. Add the chorizo and salt and pepper to taste and cook 1 minute longer. Serve at once.

© Barbara Scott-Goodman and Liz Trovato, 2011

The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2011)

In The Food of Spain, Claudia Roden, one of our foremost authorities on Mediterranean, North African, and Italian cooking, brings her incomparable authenticity, vision, and immense knowledge to bear in this cookbook on the cuisines of Spain. (My mother had one of her books on Middle Eastern cooking which I still have and love. She was ahead of her time with her focus on that region.

Roden believes that through food a cook can reconstruct an entire world. Now, in The Food of Spain, Claudia Roden applies that same remarkable insight, scope, and authority to a cuisine marked by its regionalism and suffused with an unusually particular culinary history. In hundreds of exquisite recipes, Roden explores both the little known and the classic dishes of Spain–from Andalusia to Asturias, from Catalonia to Galicia. And whether she's writing about smoky, nutty Catalan Romesco sauce, Cordero a la Miel–sweet and hot tender lamb stew with honey–or the iconic, emblematic national dish of Spain, saffron-perfumed Paella Valenciana, her clear, elegant, humorous, and passionate voice is a reader's delight, a guide not only to delicious food but to the peoples and cultures that produced it.

Where to start with the variety of tantalizing recipes in this book. Perfect for summer are Cold Almond Soup with Garlic and Grapes, Catalan Tomato Bread, the various paellas and the recipes below.

Cream of Tomato with Tuna and Hard-Boiled Eggs (Sopeao--Andalusia)
One-dish summer meal. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the creamed tomatoes.
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds large, ripe tomatoes
¼ pound (5 slices) crustless, firm white bread
1 green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and quartered
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
4-6 hardboiled eggs, quartered or sliced
2 5-ounce cans tuna in olive oil drained

There is no need to peel the tomatoes. Cut them into quarters and remove the hard little bits at the stem ends.

Dry the bread under the broiler without browning it, turning the slices once. Grind to coarse crumbs in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Add the bell peppers to the processor and blend to a paste, then add the tomatoes and garlic and blend to a cream. Add the sugar, salt, and pepper to taste, the vinegar, and the olive oil and blend again. Return the bread crumbs to the processor and blend briefly just to fold them in. Taste and adjust the seasoning. 

Pour into a wide platter, and arrange the egg quarters or slices and the tuna, broken into pieces, on top.

© Claudia Roden, 2011

Pan-grilled Fish with Garlic and Chili Dressing
(Pescado a la bilbaina--Basque country)
Serves 2

2 thick monkfish, hake, bream, or other firm-fleshed white fish fillets (6 to 7 ounces each), skin left on
Salt
4-5 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
5 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ to 1 small dried or fresh chili pepper, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Season the fish with salt. Grease a large heavy skillet or plancha (a flat griddle) with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the oil and heat to just below the smoking point. Place the fillets skin side down in the skillet or on the griddle and cook over medium heat. The fillets will gradually cook through to the top and do not need turning over. They are done when the flesh is opaque throughout and flakes when you cut into it. If the fillets are very thick, this can take up to 15 minutes. (Alternately, turn the fillets over and cook for 2 to 5 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the fillets.)

Meanwhile, for the dressing, very gently heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil with the garlic and chili pepper in a small pan until the garlic and chili pepper in a small pan until the garlic is just lightly golden and crunchy (do not let it turn brown.) Take off the heat and add the vinegar and parsley. Serve the fish hot from the pan, with the dressing poured over. Serve with boiled potatoes.

© Claudia Roden, 2011 

 

May 4, 2011 

   

Spring

It has been awhile since I wrote last. This is such a busy time of year. When it stops raining, we want to be outside and should be outside. There are so many branches down from the late winter storms, plus garden clean-up, and bed preparation. I have had a large vegetable garden for years but have still not mastered the "thinking ahead to spring" planning. As a result, I am often late in getting the early things in because I have put cover crops on the beds and it is too wet to dig them up. So the peas, fava beans, and potatoes will be late as well as some of the cooler weather vegetables. I love to cook and I love to grow many my own vegetables. I have always loved ingredients, their beauty and their ability to transform themselves into so many dishes.

. . .which brings me to Nigel Slater's latest book Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch (Ten Speed Press). Slater is a wonderful cook and a wonderful writer. He has been a food columnist for The Observer Magazine for many years and has written a number of books including seven cook books. His latest here is, I believe, the first volume of a pair. Volume 2 will be Tender: A Cook's Guide to the Fruit Garden. A Cook and His Vegetable Patch is both a book on growing vegetables but also how to cook them. He writes about these vegetables as though they are beloved friends, friends he has known, observed, and shared experiences with for a long time. He tells us how he grows these vegetables, his preferred varieties, their different edible stages, suggested seasonings and foods with which to partner them, and delicious recipes. His recipes are simple, the kind you can easily do when you are wondering what to do with something you have just brought in from the garden or has caught your eye at the farmer's market.

His writing is a delight. Some examples are 

On a Jerusalem artichoke dish

"A main course of artichokes [Jerusalem] is probably more than most gentle people could take, so I use this as something to cuddle up to a main course."

"A well-made celery soup is the voice of calm."

"The eggplant seduces. No other vegetable can offer flesh so soft, silken, and tender. You don't so much chew an eggplant as let it dissolve on your tongue."

On boiled young beets

"Their skins should come off with a brush of the thumb--a soothing job if you don't mind carmine fingers."

On a potato goat cheese cake

" The fun is coming across a lump of melting, edgy cheese in among the quietness of the potato."

How can you resist this? Here are a couple of recipes.

A risotto of young beans and blue cheese

Enough for 4

2 cups shelled fava beans
4 tablespoons gutter
a small onion
1 2/3 cups Arborio rice
a glass of white wine
6 1/2 cups hot stock
7 ounces soft blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola or Cashel Blue

Cook the fava beans in deep, lightly salted boiling water for four or five minutes, then drain and set aside. Unless the beans are very small, you may want to pop them from their skins. The choice is yours. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Peel and finely chop the onion, then leave ti to cook in the butter until is is soft but shows no sign of browning. Add the rice, stir briefly to coat in the butter, then pour in the wine.

Little by little add the hot stock, stirring pretty much continuously, adding more only when each ladleful of stock has been absorbed by the rice. Check the rice for tenderness as you go; it should be ready about twenty minutes after adding it to the onion, and should still have a bit of bite. Stir in the cooked beans and the cheese in pieces, check the seasoning, and serve.

(c) Nigel Slater, Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch, Ten Speed Press, 2011.

 

A crunchy celery root and blood orange salad for a frosty day

Enough for 4

2 small kohlrabi
1 blood orange
juice of half a lemon
12 capers
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small raw beets
7 ounce wedge of celery root
3 green onions
a handful of flat-leaf parsley

For the dressing

1/4 cup thick yogurt, preferably sheep's milk
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
small clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper 

Slice the kohlrabi thinly and divide the slices among four flat plates. I don't think that you have to peel them, but you can if you wish. The slices should be very thin, otherwise the whole thing looses its delicate quality.

Peel and thinly slice the blood orange and place on top of the kohlrabi. Add a pinch of sea salt to the lemon juice, stir in the capers and olive oil, then spoon it over the sliced kohlrabi. Set aside for a good half hour.

Peel and coarsely shred the beets and celery root. Finely shred the green onions and toss all together with the parsley leaves. Mix the yogurt and olive oil, stir in the crushed garlic clove, and add a pinch of salt and black pepper.

Pile the grated vegetables on the kohlrabi and add the dressing. Mix together as you eat, to retain the fresh crunch of the raw vegetables.

(c) Nigel Slater, Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch, Ten Speed Press, 2011.

 

If you read the recent New York Times Magazine article on the dangers of refined sugar, then you are perhaps, like me, wonder how we can still bake but use natural sweeteners instead. Laura C. Martin has come to the rescue with her recent book Green Market Baking Book: 100 Delicious Recipes for Naturally Sweet & Savory Treats (Sterling). It is a collection of recipes from notable contributors such as Dan Barber and Alice Waters. Martin emphasizes seasonal, local, and organic. She introduces the different fruits and vegetables, flours and sweeteners, and substitutions to make the recipes gluten and dairy free as well as vegan. The book as beautiful illustrations done by the author.

Another new cookbook that came in recently is Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen by Heidi Swanson (Ten Speed Press). Swanson is the creator of the blog 101 Cookbooks and is a writer, photographer, and designer. In addition to this book, she is also the author of Cooking 1.0 and James Beard Award nominated Super Natural Cooking.

In Super Natural Every Day, she shares almost one-hundred of her healthy go-to recipes. Her cookbooks have focused on getting us to eat more healthily by expanding our pantries to include nutrient rich foods. This does not have to be complicated or boring. Her recipes are bright, fresh, and still comforting. She uses an international range of influences and tastes. She has organized it by kinds of meals--breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner, drinks, and treats.  

Broccoli Gribiche (roasted Potatoes, red wine vinegar, capers, mustard)

Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds fingerling potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed and dried
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt
12 ounces broccoli florets
4 large eggs, hard cooked and peeled

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil or chives

Preheat the oven to 400 F with two rackes in the top and middle of the oven.

If the potatoes aren't tiny, slice them into pieces no larger than your thumb. Use your hands to toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sprinkle with a big pinch of salt, and turn out onto a baking sheet. Roast until they are cooked through and starting to brown, about 30 minutes. About 15 minutes before you think the potatoes are done, toss the broccoli with 1tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the oven as well. You are aiming to have the potatoes and broccoli finish cooking at (roughly) the same time. I like the broccoli a touch charred.

To make the dressing, mash just the yolk of one of the hard-cooked eggs in a medium bowl. Very, very slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil, beating constantly; the dressing should look smooth and glossy. Whisk in the vinegar, then the mustard. Stir in the capers, shallots, herbs, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Coarsely chop the remaining eggs and egg white, and fold them into the dressing. Put the warm potatoes and broccoli in a large bowl and gently toss with three-quarters of the dressing. Taste, adjust the flavors, and add more dressing, if needed. Serve turned out onto a platter or in a bowl.

(c) Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen, Ten Speed Press, 2011.

 

 

 

March 27, 2011

 

I am so excited to tell you about Yotam Ottolenghi in case you have not already heard of him. He is a sensational chef in London who has two restaurants (one brand new--NOPI) and several take-away shops. I was unaware of him until fairly recently when I found that he had a column in The Guardian called “The New Vegetarian.” The recipes were wonderful and I was eager for more. I bought his first book OTTOLENGHI: THE COOKBOOK and now just out in the U.S. is PLENTY. They emphasize the freshest ingredients and the tastes of the Mediterranean and Middle East, bold, pleasing, flavors; sensuous and satisfying, just the kinds of dishes to share with others. And the dishes look like something I would serve at my house. The recipes in the first book are not all vegetarian as are those in the second. But these are hearty, soul satisfying vegetarian dishes that would entice a meatlover. Two weeks ago, while visiting my father, I made a delicious lentil, sweet potato curry and a fabulous quinoa, red rice salad with arugula. Other great dishes I a made a few weeks ago is stuffed endive with prosciutto and the saffron tagliatelle with spiced butter (an inordinate amount, but, hey, you only live once, and talk about amazing flavor). 

Here are a few recipes for you to try yourselves.

Caramelized Endive with Serrano Ham (or Prosciutto)

6 Belgian endives, cut in half lengthwise
1/3 stick (40g) unsalted butter
4 teaspoons sugar
50g breadcrumbs, from good country bread or sourdough bread
70g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, or 2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream) (120ml)
12 thin slices of Prosciutto or Serrano ham
Olive oil for drizzling
2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional for garnish)
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C). Line a baking tray large enough to hold all of the endive halves in one layer with parchment paper.

Begin by carmelizing the endive. Depending on the size of your pan, you'll probably need to do this in two batches. In which case, simply use half the butter and half the sugar per batch. You do not want the endive to overlap. Heat the butter and sugar in a pan over high heat until the butter starts to bubble. Immediately place half of the endive halves cut side down in the pan. Cook them for 2-3 minutes until they're golden and well caramelized. You may need to press down on them slightly with a spatula. Remove the halves to your parchment-lined baking tray and place them carmelized-side up. Repeat with remaining endive halves.

Sprinkle the caramelized endives with a little salt and pepper.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, thyme, cream, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a good grind of black pepper. Spoon the mixture over the endives, and when I say spoon. Pat filling into a mound. Top with one slice each of Serrano ham or Prosciutto. The dish can be prepared to this point in advance, which makes it a great choice for a dinner party.

Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the endives are soft when poked with a knife. Serve hot or warm, drizzled with some olive oil and a sprinkle of chopped parsley, if using.

© Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, Ebury Press, 2010.

Kisir

2 large onions, finely chopped
6 tbsp olive oil, plus more to finish
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup water
1 cup medium bulgur wheat
1½ tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp chopped parsley
3 green onions, finely shredded, plus extra one to finish
2 fresh green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 handful mint leaves, some whole, some roughly shredded

Place the onions and olive oil in a large pan and In a large sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the tomato paste and stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat for a further 4 minutes. Now add the water and bring to a boil.  Remove immediately from the heat and stir in the bulgur.

Next, add the molasses, lemon juice, parsley, chopped spring onion, chilli, garlic and cumin. Stir well, then leave aside until the dish has reached room temperature or is just lukewarm.Taste it and adjust the seasoning; it will probably need plenty of salt. 

Spoon the kisir onto a serving dish and flatten it out roughly  with a spoon, creating a wave-like pattern on the surface. Scatter pomegranate seeds all over, drizzle with olive oil and finish with mint and green onion.

©Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty, Chronicle Books, 2011

Two Potato Vindaloo

The longer you let this curry sit, the deeper the flavours will become, so it's well worth making it in a larger quantity and refrigerating any excess for a later date. As always, thick, cool yogurt makes an excellent condiment. Serves four.

8 cardamom pods
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp vegetable oil
12 large shallots (10 oz in total), chopped
½ tsp brown mustard seeds
½ tsp fenugreek
25 curry leaves
2 tbsp chopped ginger
1 fresh red chili, finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 ¾ cups water
1 tbsp sugar
Salt
2 ½ cups peeled waxy potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
2 small red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch dice
2 ½ cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
Mint or cilantro leaves to serve

Dry-roast the cardamom pods and cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan over medium heat until they begin to pop. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, and add the cloves. Work to a fine powder, discarding the cardamom pods once the seeds are released. Add the turmeric, paprika and cinnamon, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based pot. Add the shallots with the mustard and fenugreek seeds, and sauté on medium-low heat for 8 minutes, or until the shallots brown. Stir in the spice mix, curry leaves, ginger, and chili and cook for a further 3 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes, vinegar, water, sugar and some salt. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. 

Add the potatoes and bell peppers, and simmer for another 20 minutes. For the last stage,  add the sweet potatoes. Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce (add more water if needed) and continue cooking, covered, for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Remove the lid and leave to bubble for about 10 minutes, to reduce and thicken the sauce.

Serve hot with plain rice and garnished with the herbs.

 ©Yotam Ottolenghi, Plenty, Chronicle Books, 2011

 

March 2, 2011

 

GREAT FOOD WRITERS

Awhile ago, I mentioned that a compilation of Elizabeth David's recipes and writing would be coming out. AT ELIZABETH DAVID'S TABLE is here! I am so excited. I hope some of you will come in and peruse it.. I just read an excerpt on Cavaillon from an article that appeared in Vogue on the markets of France. Her writing is sublime. I frequented that market when Ilived in Provence and it was as wonderful as she describes the air redolent with those divine little Cavaillon melons and sweet basil. She effortlessly includes history and culture and the pace of life. I so hope you will appreciate her as much as I do. Ruth Reichl has written the preface and Jill Norman, who compiled the collection, the introduction. Both convey the passionate appreciation that many feel for her.

You probably have already heard of Gabrielle Hamilton's BLOOD, BONES, AND BUTTER, just out from Random House. Hamilton is the chef/owner of Prune in New York's East Village. She also has an MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Michigan. And, can she write! This is a great memoir from her colorful early childhood, through her delinquent years, to her great mentor Misty, all threaded with her love and delight in fabulous food! Ihave not yet finished reading it but I think it is a winner.

I also have in my pile to read a new book LIFE, ON THELINE: A CHEF'S STORY OF CHASING GREATNESS, FACING DEATH, AND REDEFINING THE WAY WE EAT by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas, founders of the restaurant Alinea in Chicago. I have not eaten at Prune or Alinea so I can notwrite from the experience of having tasted Hamilton's or Achatz's food. The title works in too ways. As a chef, Achatz works on the line in the kitchen.But this is also not just the story of his pursuit of his passion, his culinary education, and the opening of his restaurant. In 2007, two years after he opened Alinea, Achatz was diagnosed with stage IV cancer of the tongue. He underwent excruciating chemotherapy and in the process lost his sense of taste. He trained his chefs to mimic his palate and learned how to cook with his other senses. A few months after being declared cancer-free, the restaurant received the James Beard Outstanding Chef of the Year Award. It has been included in the top 50 restaurants in the world. This is a fascinating book about an exceptionally creative and talented chef and his striving for perfection, not astatic perfection but a pulsing, evolving, dancing perfection. 

I would also like to mention DAY OF HONEY: A MEMOIR OF FOOD, LOVE, AND WAR by Annia Ciezadlo. Ciezadlo was a special correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor in Iraq and for The New Republic in Beirut. In her book she explores Middle Eastern culinary traditions and "the millions of small ways people cope" during wartime. As Dwight Garner wrote in the New York Times, "Her book is among the least political, and the most intimate and valuable, to have come out of the Iraq war."  She is a wonderful writer and includes some great recipes at the end of the book, a number from her Lebanese in-laws. They are generally not quick recipes but ones that bring us gently back to the healing process of cooking and sharing great food.

Purée Léontine

2 lb leeks
1 cup spinach
1 cup green peas
1 cup shredded lettuce
1 T each chopped parsley, mint, and celery
1/2 tumbler olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Clean and cut the leeks into chunks. Into a thick marmite put the olive oil and when it is warm put in the leeks, seasoned with salt, pepper, and the lemon juice. Simmer slowly for about 20 minutes. Now add the spinach, the peas, and the lettuce, stir a minute or two, and add a quart ofwater. Cook until all the vegetables are soft-about 10 minutes-then press the whole mixture through a sieve. If the pure is too thick add a little milk, and before serving stir in the chopped parsley, mint, and celery. This soup turnsout an appetizing pale green. Enough for six people.

(c) Elizabeth David Mediterranean Cooking, 1958


The following has the more typical appearance of one of herrecipes.

Chocolate Chinchilla

A good recipe for using whites of eggs.

Mix together 2 oz of unsweetened cocoa powder and 3 oz ofcaster sugar. Add 1 heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon, or 3 of powderedcoffee, or very finely ground almonds.

Whip the whites of 6 or 7 eggs to a stiff snow. Tip the cocoa and sugar mixture  on to the egg whites. Fold the two together, gently but thoroughly. Turn into a buttered mould or soufflé dish of 1 1/2 to 2 pints capacity. The dish should be full almost to the brim. Stand it in a baking tin with water to come half-way up the dish.

Cook the Chinchilla-which is really a kind of soufflé without egg yolks-in the centre of a moderate oven, gas N° 3, 330º, for about 45 minutes. It will rise in a spectacular manner. Serve it quickly with fresh, cold, pouring cream to which has been added a little sherry, rum, or brandy.

Chocolate Chinchilla can also be eaten cold. If this is to be its fate, then cook it 5 to 10 minutes longer and be sure that once, cooked, it is left to cool in a warm place and not subjected to draughts or a violent change of temperature.

When cold, it will have shrunk and become compact enough to be turned out easily. It will have a good texture and a very rich dark colour.

(c) Elizabeth David Summer Cooking, 1955

 

Chickpea Salad with Four-Minute Eggs
Recipe by Gabrielle Hamilcon

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
One 19-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup small green olives, pitted
10 small red radishes, quartered
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar

In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In another medium bowl, lightly crush half of the chickpeas; mix in the whole chickpeas. Add half of the vinaigrette to the chickpeas and toss. Add the olives, radishes, parsley and scallions to the rest of the vinaigrette and toss. Spoon the chickpea salad onto 4 plates and top with the parsley salad.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the eggs and boil over moderately high heat for 4 minutes. Drain, then rinse the eggs under cool water for 1 minute. Using the back of a spoon, gently crack the eggs all over and peel the shell off. Alternatively, fill a large skillet with enough water to reach two-thirds of the way up the side. Add the vinegar and bring to a simmer. One at a time, crack the eggs into the simmering water and poach until the whites are set but the yolks are still soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

Set an egg on each salad and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the salads with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

(c) Food & Wine

 

Soft Zucchini with Harissa, Olives and Feta
Another recipe from Gabrielle Hamilton
Serves 4 as a side dish or 2 as a light dinner with bread

Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons harissa paste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or more to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled
4 zucchini, sliced into thick rounds
Handful Kalamata olives, pitted
1/4 to 1/2 cup coarsely crumbled feta
Small handful parsley leaves, chopped

1. Put the lemon juice, harissa and olive oil in a serving bowl. Crush the garlic clove through a garlic press and add tothe bowl. Whisk to combine.

2. Fit a vegetable steamer in a pot with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Steam the zucchini until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. They should not be falling apart. Add the zucchini to the serving bowl and gently toss with the harissa vinaigrette while still warm.

3. Dress the zucchini with the olives, feta, and parsley.Serve immediately.

(c) The Wednesday Chef blog(http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/) taken in turn from Canal House Cooking(Volume N° 1)

 

 

February 2011

Soup, Glorious Soup! 

 

Winter is soup weather though I could eat it anytime. Here are some great recipes. I tasted the Mesopotamian Barley, Lentil, Chard and Tahini Soup when visiting a family in Chicago. I loved the heartiness of the barley and beans and the bright lemon taste. It had been made by a neighbor so I had to do some sleuthing to find itand was thrilled when I made it and realized that it was the same. There are many variations on this soup from the Middle East. Some have meat, some rice, some just lentils, most have lots of greens and a rich, satisfying flavor.

The Creamy Cauliflower Soup sans Cream is easy and lovely and can be dressed up with different garnishes. I love the smoky Spanish pimentón which you can but hot or sweet. Both had a warmth and depth that regular paprika does not. The pimentón adds a lovely touch to the Mushroom-Potato Soup.  Zuppa alla Valpelleunenze is very similar to Soupe Paysanne Val d’Aosta from Carol Field’s The Italian Baker except the latter has no cabbage. Both are barely soups since they are so thick that they can be rather soufflé like. They are perfect for after a day skiing or shoveling the snow out of the driveway. Whatever you do, get the Fontina Vald’Aosta not the gummy Danish Fontina. Diana Henry is a food columnist for the SundayTelegraph and her cookbooks are wonderful. Recipes are simple, cozy, and delicious. Besides Roast Figs, Sugar Snow, she has written Pure Simple Cooking, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, and the Gastropub Cookbook. 

For more great soups, take a look at Sunday Soup: A Year’s Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to-Make Recipes by Betty Rosbottom; Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen; The Best Soups in the World by Clifford A. Wright; Splendid Soups by James Peterson; and our former colleague Joe's favorite New England Soup Factory Cookbook: More than 100 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Purveyor of Fine Soup by Marjorie Druker and Clara Silverstein. And, don’t forget Julia Child’s recipe for Soupe a l’Oignon. This is the perfect time of year for that scrumptious and hearty soup.

 

Mesopotamian Barley, Lentil, Chard and Tahini Soup
Serves 6-8

2 T vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced

2 large leeks, green and white parts, quartered and thinly sliced

1 bird chili, finely chopped, or ¼ tsp cayenne

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ cup dried garbanzo beans

12 cups water or vegetable stock

1 cup barley

½ cup green lentils

3 tsp salt, less or none if stock is salted

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped

½ tsp turmeric (optional)

2 cups or 1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped

½ cup fresh dill, chopped or 2 ample teaspoons dried dill

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

½ cup tahini

2 T or more to taste lime juice or mix of lime and lemonjuice

1.    Heat oil in soup pan and sauté onion, leeks, chili and garlic covered for 10 minutes/

2.    Add chickpeas and stock or water. Bring to boil, reduce heat to medium low, partially cover and cook for 40 minutes

3.    Add the barley, lentils, salt (if using) and pepper. Bring back to boil, reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until tender.

4.    Add the tomatoes, turmeric, chard, and herbs. Cook for 40 minutes longer.

5.    Add tahini and lime juice.

6.    Puree partially with an immersion blender.

7.    Adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with parsley.

© Najmieh Batmanglii, Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, 2009. Also, on www.food.com

 

Creamy Cauliflower Soup sans Cream
Serves 8

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 large onions, coarsely chopped, Vidalia, Spanish, oryellow ( about 3/4 pound)

2 garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and thinly sliced

3 celery, stalks trimmed and thinly sliced

2 thyme, sprigs leaves only

salt and fresh ground white pepper

1 head cauliflower, leaves removed, broken into florets (discard the tough core)

6 cups vegetable broth or 6 cups chicken broth

Optional Toppings

Extra-virgin olive oil or walnut oil
Grated cheese, Parmesan or Comté
Crushed toasted walnuts
Crème fraiche or sour cream
Caviar
Shaved truffles

1.    Put the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or soup potand warm over low heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions, garlic, celery, thyme, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of white pepper. Stir until allthe ingredients glisten with oil and butter, then cover the pot and cook slowly, stirring often, for 20 minutes.

2.    Toss the cauliflower into the pot and pour in the broth. Bringto a boil, reduce the heat so that the broth simmers gently, and cook, uncovered,for another 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very soft.

3.    Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor; or use an immersion blender. This soup is best when it is very smooth, so if you think it needs it, push it through a strainer. (If you’ve used a standard blender, this shouldn’t be necessary.) Taste for salt and pepper. Serve plain or garnished with the topping of your choice.

© Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table, 2010           

 

Mushroom-Potato Soup with Smoked Paprika
Serves 6 to 8 

2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms

1 1/2 pounds fresh button or cremini mushrooms, or a mix including some Shiitake or oyster

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 ounces pancetta, chopped

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimentón)

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups chicken broth

3 russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (1 1/2 lbs.), peeled and chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 to 8 tbsp. crème fraîche or sour cream

1. In a small bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over dried porcini.Set aside.

2. Cut off stems of mushrooms. Finely chop stems; set aside. Halve caps, slice, and add to stems. With a slotted spoon, lift out porcini, pressing excess liquid into bowl, and transfer to a cutting board. Finely chop porcini and add to stems and caps. Reserve soaking liquid.

3. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and add onion and salt. Cook, stirring, until onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add pancetta and cook until onions look a bit creamy, about 2 minutes. Add paprika and cook until very fragrant, 2 minutes. Turn heat to high and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring constantly, until mushrooms start giving off their liquid, 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add wine and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add reserved porcini soaking liquid (pouring carefully to leave behind the sandy dregs), chicken broth, 2 cups water, and potatoes. Bring to aboil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, with a dollop of crème fraîche. 

© The Sunset Cookbook,2010

 

Zuppa alla Valpelleunenze
Serves 6

3 T butter

4 garlic cloves, finely sliced

12 oz (350 g) rye or coarse country bread, or a mixture of the two, torn into chunks about 2 ½ inches square

10 ½ oz (300 g) Fontina Val d’Aosta, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper

6 cups chicken stock

1 lb, 5 oz (600 g) Savoy cabbage, shredded

2 T grated Parmesan 

1.    Preheat the oven to 310° F (160° C). Melt 1 oz of the butter and gently sauté the garlic, without coloring. Layer the bread and fontina in a casserole dish, adding the garlic, garlicky butter, and seasoning with salt andnpepper as you go. Heat the chicken stock and pour it over the layers. Put the casserole into the preheated oven for 45 minutes.

2.    Melt the rest of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan and add the cabbage with a couple of tablespoons of water, and some salt and pepper.Turn the heat down low, cover the pan, and cook the cabbage for about 4 minutes, shaking it vigorously every so often.

3.    Take the casserole out of the oven and turn the heat up to350° F (180° C). Stir the cabbage with its buttery juices into the baked soup. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and put back into the oven of a further 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

© Diana Henry, Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Winter Food toWarm the Soul, 2009

 

 

January 2011

  
QUICHES, KUGELS, AND COUSCOUS: MY SEARCH FOR JEWISH COOKING IN FRANCE by Joan Nathan
(Knopf, 9780307267597, $39.95)

As I mentioned in the recent newsletter, I have been reading cookbooks. What is it about cold weather that makes me want to cook and EAT! When I was a teenager, I began reading Elizabeth David, who brought French and Italian cooking to the British in the fifties, enticing them with the new and intense colors and flavors. Olive oil was used mainly medicinally prior to her writings. Her books were part portraits of place, part opinion pieces, and part collections of wonderful, simple recipes. Her books include Mediterranean Food, French County Cooking, Summer Cooking, French Provincial Cooking, and An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. I have just found out that a compendium of her best recipes will come out in March under the title At Elizabeth David's Table: Classic Recipes and Timeless Kitchen Wisdom. She made it seem so easy—a wineglass of this, a pinch of that, and perfect ingredients. Her books made me dream of France, Italy, and the Mediterranean and long to shop in their local markets. When I finally got to Europe and was living in the South of France, I couldn’t wait to try my first Cavaillon melon. Do seek her out. She has been a profound influence on many great chefs and food writers including Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver, Ruth Reichl, Rick Rodgers, Rose Gray, Simon Hopkinson, and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Reading cookbooks can be a great introduction to a culture besides a sensual delight. Each winter, when there are not all the pressures of spring, summer, and fall outside garden duties. I look forward to this indulgence.

One lovely cookbook that came out this fall that I have been enjoying is Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan. The main part of the title made me think this was a more limited cookbook--quiches, kugels, and couscous?  It is the secondary title that reveals the richness found in the great variety of recipes. And, like Molly O’Neill’s One Big Table, this book is full of stories of families, of recipes passed down through the generations, brought to France with immigrants from Morocco, Tunisia, Poland, Spain, Portugal, and Eastern Europe. Nathan gives us a culinary history of the Jews in France as well as the dietary laws. Each recipe has a lovely introduction whether some personal, some full of fascinating information. There are also sketches of some of the cooks that Nathan visited, from Marthe Layrle, who had hid Resistance fighters on her farm in Southwest France, to a Kosher cheese maker who produces his versions of French classics like Reblochon and Tomme de Savoie. This book is not only a wonderful cookbook full of homey dishes to share and celebrate with family, but also a beautiful cultural history, perfect for curling up with at this time of year. Below are two quick recipes.Many of the main dishes are perfect for weekend dishes when you have more time to prepare and eat them with family and friends.

Fennel Salad with Celery, Cucumber, Lemon, and Pomegranate
6 servings

I large fennel bulb, fronds intact
2 stalks celery, cut into ½ inch pieces
1 cucumber, sliced into rounds
¼ cup diced red onion
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Cut the fennel bulb in quarters, then lengthwise into ½ inch-thick slices. Snip 2 tablespoons of the fronds, and set aside. Toss the fennel, 1 tablespoon of the fronds, the celery, the cucumber, and the onion together in a medium-sized bowl.

Squeeze the lemon over the vegetables, and drizzle on the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to coat. Serve, sprinkled with the remaining tablespoon of fennel fronds, and the pomegranate seeds. 

Copyright © 2010 by Joan Nathan 

Quick Goat Cheese Bread with Mint and Apricots
6-8 servings

1/3 cup olive oil, plus some for greasing 
3 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 ounces grated Gruyère, aged Cheddar, or Comté cheese
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup chopped dried apricots
2 tablespoons roughly minced mint leaves or 2 teaspoons dried mint

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with some of the oil, and lining bottom with parchment paper. 

Crack the eggs into a large bowl, and beat well. Add the milk and oil, whisking until smooth.Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper in another bowl, and add to the wet mixture, stirring until everything is incorporated and the dough is smooth.

Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan, sprinkle on the grated Gruyère, aged Cheddar, or 

Comté cheese, crumble the goat cheese on the top, then scatter on the apricots and mint. Pull a knife gently through the batter to blend the ingredients slightly. Bake for 40 minutes. Cool briefly, remove from the pan, peeling off the parchment paper. Slice and serve warm. 

Copyright © 2010 by Joan Nathan 

 

 

 

December 2010 

BIG COOKBOOKS

Why is it that Christmas brings out the biggest cookbooks—book big enough to use as doorstops or to build walls (or to weigh down a paté)? This year is no exception with the heaviest ones weighing in at around 5 pounds. Three of them are The Sunset Cookbook, Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, and Molly O’Neill’s One Big Table: 600 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-Masters, and Chefs. Certainly, Hesser’s and O’Neill’s books have been major undertakings.

Hesser began hers in 2004. The last New York Times cookbook (The New York Times Cookbook) was written by Craig Claiborne and published in 1961.  For this book, Hesser and her assistant Merrill Stubbs culled thousands of Times recipe suggestions from New York Times readers (and cooks) and  from the Times huge 19th century recipe archive and several nights a week cooked several of them with Hesser’s husband Tad, as she says, “playing the Simon Cowell role.” The result has something for everyone from the simplest baked mushrooms (from 1877) to Craig Claiborne’s recipe for paella. Having been reading the Times for more years than I care to admit, it is wonderful to rediscover recipes that I loved or that I wanted to cook and never got around to. This is a splendid book with informative and enticing introductions to most recipes, helpful tips, and serving suggestions. I can't wait to try Steamed Fennel with Red Pepper OilSalmon with Sauternes and Olive OilMalaysian Inspired Pork Stew with Traditional Garnishes (basil, mint, cilantro, peanuts, lime, Tabasco, and brown sugar); Green Tomato and Lemon Marmalade, Puree of Peas and WatercressBlood Orange, Date, and Parmesan Salad with Almond Oil; and Watermelon Gazpacho.

To investigate reports of the demise of American cuisine, Molly O’Neill traveled some 300,000 miles over almost ten years throughout the United States. She met and ate with amateur and professional chefs, farmers and fishermen collecting recipes that reflect the rich and diverse traditions that make up our country’s culinary identity. And what a wondrous array of recipes and stories that she brings together in this collection. There is a beautiful Guatemalan Tapado, a fish stew with coconut milk; Portuguese Kale Soup; Chipotle Caesar Salad with Tequila-cured Salmon; a splendid tea-infused fried chicken recipe from a former chef at Blackberry Farm, George Chew’s fabulous ribs, Haitian crème chaud, and Barcelona Lemon Cookies--enough to keep you cooking and wondering at the amazing variety that makes up our One Big Table. The book is beautifully illustrated with both historic and contemporary photos.

The Sunset Cookbook compiles over 1,000 recipes that have been selected, retested, and updated from the magazine. I had not thought about Sunset magazine as a great source of recipes though the first time I found a recipe for homemade mozzarella, I think it was when I lived in San Francisco and was in Sunset. I am very impressed with the recipes in this book, which cover the spectrum from hors d’oeuvres to desserts including drinks, vegetarian dishes, and preserves and pickles. There are cooking tips, nutritional counts for each recipes, some history, and a section on wine. The recipes reflect both California and new Southwestern cuisine and were chosen from recipes reflecting how we eat today as well as reader favorites. I found that they had a little extra spark like Date Flan with Almond Brittle, Guajillo-Tamarind Turkey with Roasted Poblano Gravy, Vietnamese Herb Noodle Salad with three toppings, Fennel and Comice Pear Soup. There are certainly some all too familiar recipes such as Baked Goat Cheese and Spring Lettuce Salad but I think that even these are well thought out. The book also shopping and cooking tips, ideas for variations, some culinary history, and descriptions of unusual ingredients.


July 2010

Sweet

 

 

 SEASONAL FRUIT DESSERTS: FROM ORCHARD, FARM,
AND 
MARKET
 Deborah Madison (Broadway Books, 9780767916295, $32.50)


This is a gorgeously photographed book, a celebration of exceptional fruit and recipes that coax the best from them. Madison has long written about farmer’s markets and local produce and wants the cook to use the best and freshest ingredients available. But, she is not a fussy cook and produces simple, beautiful, soul-satisfying dishes. This book is no exception. As she says in her 'Ten Hints,' "Have fun and don’t worry." She encourages us to stray from the recipes and make them our own and to "enjoy this sweet adventure."

Like Regan Daley, Madison begins her book with a good introduction to ingredients and basic techniques. She continues with a section showing us how to take the fruits at their peak of ripeness and offering simple ideas of how to let their flavor shine. This is followed by a chapter on fruit in syrup like Pineapple and Kiwi in Basil Syrup and White Peaches in Lemon Verbena and Lavender Syrup. The succeeding chapters are on roasted and sautéed fruit; pies and tarts; dried fruits, nuts and preserves; puddings and gelées; and sauces. She even has a chapter of 'Five Cakes to Go with Fruit.' These recipes are sensational. I have made four of the five—Olive Oil Cake, Orange Chiffon Cake, Almond Corn Flour Cake, and the Brown Sugar, Ginger Cream Cake—and they have all been delicious. A standard summer dessert in my house is a simple cake with fruit and whipped cream so I am very excited about adding these to my repertoire.

And there are some wonderful winter recipes for citrus and dried fruits including a beautiful white chocolate and coconut bark with pistachios, lavender and rose petals, and tangerine zest. What a great gift that will be!

Besides the usual pastry doughs, Madison has a recipe for something called a Silky Tart Dough—somewhat between a cake dough and a clafouti batter. It is so simple and quick that there is no excuse for not whipping it up and making a tart with summer berries or stone fruits like peaches or apricots. I made it with blueberries and apricots and it was lovely. Though she says to serve it slightly warm, I found the flavors more intense when it was room temperature and allowed to sit a bit. Try it both ways and decide for yourself.

Huckleberry or Blueberry Cream Tart (makes one 9-inch tart, serving 8)

This tart is especially handsome baked in a square or rectangular tart pan.

Silky tart dough (see below)
2 cups fresh huckleberries or blueberries
1 tablespoon arrowroot or 1 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons maple sugar, demerara sugar, or other unrefined sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated lemon or lime zest
¾ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 small egg or 1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pinches freshly grated nutmeg
Confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly butter a 9-inch round, square, or similar-size rectangular tart pan. Make the dough (see recipe below), line the tart pan with it, and set it on a sheet pan.

2. Pick any stems off the berries, then toss them with the arrowroot or flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest.

3. Beat the crème fraîche or sour cream with the egg, vanilla, and nutmeg. Scatter the fruit over the batter, then pour the custart mixture over the fruit. Bake until the custard has set, about 30 minutes. Remove and let cool briefly so that you can serve it slightly warm, the edges dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Silky Tart Dough (makes one 9-10-inch round or square tart)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar (organic preferred)
¼ teaspoon salt
3 eggs at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange or tangerine
1 cup all purpose flour

1. Butter a 9-inch round or square tart pan. Beat the butter with the sugar and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again until smooth. Add the flavorings, then the flour, mixing just to combine. Using a wide rubber spatula, scrape up the batter from the bottom, incorporating any stray bits of flour.

2. Scrape the batter into the tart pan. Using an offset spatula, spread it out pushing the edges up the sides to make a rough rim. It needn’t be very high—just enough to hold the custard. If the batter is extremely soft, refrigerate for 10 minutes, then finish shaping the sides.

Copyright © 2010 by Deborah Madison

 

June 15, 2010

 

 

 
 IN THE SWEET KITCHEN: THE DEFINITIVE BAKER'S
COMPANION
 Regan Daley (Artisan, 9781579654276, $24.95)


Regan Daley wants you to bake but she wants you to be an informed baker as well as a successful baker. Her book, a recipient of the IACP Book of the Year Cookbook Award, is full of recipes for cakes, tarts, quick and sweet yeast breads, cookies, custards, mousses and even ice cream. She has a detailed guide to 700 ingredients including clear descriptions of the differences such as the confusing coconut cream, cream of coconut, and creamed coconut. (There is even powdered coconut cream---also called coconut cream powder). Who knew?! She also has a good section on substitutions so that you are not stymied when you get that midnight inspiration to whip up a dessert and don’t want to venture out. Daley is here to guide you through all this in clear, enthusiastic prose and great recipes.

Cindy and I have tried a number of the recipes and find her descriptions very enticing and the instructions clear and thorough. The Honey-Poached Apricot Cornmeal Crunch Cake, is a blissful marriage of the warm and nutty taste of corn with cinnamon-tinged, honey-bathed apricots. Her Honey and Spice Madeleines are divine, especially warm. They would be delightful with tea or a bowl of seasonal fruit. I have also tried her brownies, though I sneaked in some chocolate mint from the garden. Moist and concentrated in flavor. Cindy did the Black Chocolate Espresso Cake with Bittersweet Glaze and garnished it with fresh raspberries. It too is intense and moist, rich with chocolate and coffee flavor. Don’t eat this before going to bed unless you use decaffeinated espresso. This recipe makes a big cake so it is perfect for a dinner party.

Most recently, I tried the Pecan Toffee Coffee Cake, which is fabulous. (The recipe follows.) It uses English toffee bits like Heath Bar bits or Skor Bar bits. The only meddling that I did was replace one-half cup of the flour with King Arthur’s white wheat flour (this is a white whole wheat) and use finely ground espresso instead of espresso powder, which I did not have. It does not seem to have affected the rise or crumb in the least. This really is a splendid recipe and we ate the yummy leftovers for several days.

Pecan Toffee Coffee Cake
Serves 12-15

Filling:
½ cup tightly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup chopped toasted pecans
¾ c (half of a 225-gram package) English toffee pieces for baking

Cake Batter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups tightly packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups full-fat sour cream
¾ cup (or the other half of the package) English toffee pieces for baking

3 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted, for decoration

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10-inch fluted tube or Kugelhopf Bundt pan and tap out excess flour. Prepare the filling: in a bowl of a food processor or clean coffee or spice mill, combine the brown and granulated sugars with the espresso powder. Pulse several times to grind the mixture quite finely and transfer to a small bowl. Add the sifted cocoa and spices and mix with a fork until well blended. Add the nuts and toffee pieces and stir to combine. Set aside.

2. Prepare cake batter: sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a medium-sized bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or a large bowl if mixing by hand, combine the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Cream on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or about 5 minutes by hand, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, beating in vanilla with the last egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure the mixture gets evenly blended.

3. Add the flour mixture to the batter in three additions, alternating with the sour cream in two additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix just to blend after each addition and be careful not to overbeat at this point, or the crumb of the cake will be tough, not delicate and fine. When the last of the flour has been incorporated, fold in the toffee bits.

4. Spoon about 1/3 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a teaspoon, spread the batter evenly over the bottom and make a little moat all the way around in the center to cradle the filling. Spoon ½ the filling into the groove, taking care not to have any of the filling touch the center tube or the sides of the pan or it could scorch making a graceful unmoulding very difficult! Smooth the filling down a bit, then add another 1/3 of the batter. Again, spread the batter over the filling and up the sides of the pan, creating another moat. Fill this groove with the last of the filling and cover it with the remaining batter. Using the spoon or rubber spatula, spread the batter smoothly and evenly, making sure it goes right to the edges of the pan, blanketing any exposed filling. The two layers of filling must be well-separated by batter or the resulting cake will have an unpleasantly sugary and crunchy center. Rap the pan on the counter once or twice to remove any trapped air bubbles.

5. Place pan on the center rack of the preheated oven and bake for 50-65 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and the center springs back when lightly touched. A wooden skewer inserted about 2 inches into the center of the ring should come out clean, except for any stray toffee that it may have speared. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 to 7 minutes, then invert cake onto another rack and leave to cool completely. This cake must be absolutely cool before you attempt to slice it or you’ll end up with one pile of cake and another of nutty toffee! The cake keeps very well for 2 or 3 days, well wrapped at room temperature. To serve, sift the icing sugar over the top.

Copyright © 2001, 2010 by Regan Daley

 

 November 2009

 

 

 

 AD HOC AT HOME
 Thomas Keller (Artisan, 9781579653774, $50.00) 

 
November 2, 2009


Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller is a beautiful and accessible cookbook, full of both expert and practical advice. Beautifully designed, the book is filled with gorgeous photographs and very inviting recipes. It is for the cook who is comfortable in the kitchen and has a certain confidence in his or her approach to cooking. I will be cooking a dinner for a group of friends on Saturday, November 21 using a selection of Keller’s recipe from this book.

I am having a very difficult time deciding what to cook, as there are so many great sounding recipes (many more than I can cook for one evening). For example, I can’t wait to try the Curried Cauliflower-Chickpea and the Farro-Black Rice Salads, the Potato Pavé, the Scallion Potato Cakes, and many of the “staples” in the Lifesavers chapter. To help narrow my choices for this dinner, I have set up some parameters: use local ingredients as much as possible and, since we will be a party of eleven, choose more seasonal and economical ingredients (even though duck is a favorite). Although we have a source for local beef, I would have to order a whole quarter of a cow to get short ribs so that is out. I can get chickens from my neighbor so have decided to do the Pan-roasted Chicken with Sweet Sausage and Peppers. I can get locally made sausage and can probably use my own roasted peppers from this summer’s garden though I think it would be better to start fresh and use Keller’s roasting technique. I have to try the scrumptious sounding Leek Bread Pudding and fortunately have lots of leeks in the garden. From the farmer’s market I should be able to get radishes, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, chard, lettuce, and pears.

The menu:

Candied Pecans and Spiced Mixed Nuts
Sweet Onion Tapenade (using my own purple onions)
Breadsticks
Pan-roasted Chicken with Sweet Sausage and Peppers
Leek Bread Pudding
Butter-braised Radishes, Kohlrabi, and Brussels Sprouts
Rainbow Chard with Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Serrano Ham (I may have to use prosciutto)
Salad of Mixed Greens
Cheese
Pear Upside-Down Cake with Whipped Cream

November 17, 2009 (four days before)

I have been checking out sources for the ingredients I will need. The only vegetable that I may not be able to get locally is the kohlrabi. It was available a few weeks ago at the West Chester Farmer’s Market but there was none this past Saturday. I picked up pears today from a local farm so that they would be ripe for the weekend. I also found some pequillo peppers from Argentina but I think I will ask my sister to bring the Spanish ones down from NYC when she comes on Friday.

Today, I made the brioche dough, which is chilling in the refrigerator overnight. I also made the soffrito, multiplying the recipe by three so that I will have some on hand for other uses. In fact, I am using some tonight to make a rice, farro cake with eggs, goat cheese, locatelli romano, and smoky pimenton.

November18, 2009 (three days before)

This morning before going to work, I baked the two loaves of brioche and put them in the freezer until Friday.

November 19, 2009 (two days before)

I picked up the Brussels sprouts, sweet sausage and prosciutto (instead of Serrano ham which I have not readily been able to find). I could have asked my sister Katherine to bring some but decided against it.

When I got home from work at 9:30 PM, I made the sweet onion tapenade. How scrumptious! This is a great recipe, a perfect blend of onion sweetness with the edge of tangy, salty olives and anchovy.

November 20, 2009 (the day before)

My sister Kitty has arrived from NYC laden with goodies. Besides the piquillo peppers and piment d’Espelette, she brought bags of beautiful bread from Grand Daisy on Sullivan Street including the wonderful oversized filone, perfect for my crowd. Tonight, we cubed the brioche to dry overnight, made the two nut recipes, the pepperonata rustica, the wine-steeped golden raisins and the brine for the chicken. I also made a stock from the chicken trimmings.

November 21, 2009 (the big day)

I was up at 6 to put the chicken in the brine.

Kitty and I then went to the Farmer’s Market to pick up 60 pounds of Gold Rush apples that I had ordered and the remaining ingredients for the dinner—Rainbow Chard, Brussels sprouts, and radishes. The Farmer’s Market in West Chester is a lovely one with devoted and enthusiastic vendors and customers alike. This Saturday was particularly busy as it was the Saturday before Thanksgiving so there was a huge line for turkeys and other holiday meats. I bought regular red radishes but then discovered watermelon radishes at the Chinese vegetable stand. They are very large, like a big turnip with a pale green skin. When you cut them open, the flesh is a rich, deep pink just like a watermelon. The flavor is sweet and mild. I bought one to mix with the others. The colors will be sensational.

After the market, we took a walk in Longwood Gardens before diving into the day’s preparations.

I started with the breadsticks—very easy and quick. We then moved on to preparing the radishes, kohlrabi, and Brussels sprouts. I forgot how delicious kohlrabi is. All you have to do is blanch it. It has a naturally nutty, buttery taste that is irresistible. We then prepared the chard, cooking the stems and leaves separately. I know that I should not have cooked them ahead but there was no way I would be able to do everything at the last minute and at least make an appearance as a hostess. We toasted the pine nuts and the brioche cubes and cooked the leeks. (Confession: I used four cups instead of two since I did not want to put half a leek in the frig. Since the leeks cook down so much, I think that it will be fine.)

I felt I should make the cake to free up the oven though I suppose I could have cooked it during dinner but this seemed too much to worry about at the last minute. I multiplied the recipe by half again and added a bit of lemon zest to the batter. I used a heavy 10-inch Williams-Sonoma cake pan with a nonstick finish since I did not have a silicone pan. It worked fine and came out of the pan beautifully though it was a bit paler than I might have wished. I could have used the Microtorch to brown it slightly but was too rushed.

I made the salad dressing, got the table linens and candles for Katharine so that she could set the table.

Late in the afternoon, I sautéed the chicken and sausages. I started to feel a bit frantic. Since I approximately doubled the recipe, everything didn’t fit in my sauté pan so I used a heavy duty cast aluminum roasting pan to assemble everything, heating it on top of the stove on two burners once I had added the peppers, and then putting it in the oven with a loose foil tent. My pepperonata was a bit too soupy and I think that I was at fault in adding the juices from the roasting pan. My plan was to free up the oven by 6:30 or 6:45 for the bread pudding so that it would be done by 8:00 PM or a bit after.

I assembled the leek bread pudding waiting to pour the cream/egg mixture over it until fifteen minutes before baking. I then finished up the chard, holding the sautéed prosciutto until the last minute. Contrary to the recipe, I mixed the room temperature Brussels sprouts, radishes, and kohlrabi together in a big bowl to hold until finishing.

We washed glasses, set up the hors d’oeuvres in the living room and ran to get dressed. By 7:15, all guests had arrived with only one minor accident. Our very tall friend Andrew decided to surprise us by plunging into the window well. All we could see was his very surprised face and raised arm carrying a potted orchid. No injuries to either, thank God.

Finally. . .the Dinner

Everyone loves the hors d’oeuvres. About 7:50, I go into the kitchen to finish up the various dishes, cut the bread and set up the kitchen for serving. I heat the stock and butter for the sprouts et al and reheat the chard quickly. We begin serving at 8:10-8:15. Many “oohs and ahs” as people serve themselves. The colors of the braised vegetables are spectacular, pinks and a gorgeous array of greens. The chard too is beautiful.

Everyone sits down, wine is poured and we toast Thomas Keller for the opportunity. Concentrated tasting commences followed by lively conversation. Everything is delicious but the favorites are the bread pudding and the two vegetable dishes. These last two demonstrate how a simple but inspired treatment can enhance the best on ingredients. The wine infused raisins add a touch of acid and mysterious spice to the chard and the champagne vinegar gives a subtle but sprightly edge to the sprouts. The leek bread pudding is the most luxurious of comfort foods and would make a great vegetarian main course. However, we can’t imagine it with fewer leeks.

A contented pause, then salad, followed by the cheeses, which were

• Kunik (a white, mold-ripened cheese produced by Nettle Meadow in Warrensburg, New York from a mix of goat’s milk and Jersey cream)
• Morbier (semisoft cow’s milk cheese from the Franche-Comte regions of France made of two layers of creamy paste separated by a thin layer of ash)
• Robiola Bosina (soft mild, creamy cheese from the Langhe region of northern Italy made from a blend of sheep and cow milk)

Another contented pause. . .and then dessert! Pear Upside Down Cake with very slightly sweetened whipped cream. Lovely!

Thank you, Thomas Keller. Another toast. It has been an evening of taste thrills and joyful conviviality. I look forward to many more tastes and cooking experiences from this cookbook. Hmmm. Maybe tomorrow.

November 22, 2009

Well, I had to make the brownies since I had both good quality cocoa powder and some great cooking chocolate that I had bought again via my sister at chocolate convention. They were sublime. . .SUBLIME!!!!

November 23, 2009

I took most of the remainder of the brownies to work today. Everyone who tasted then swooned in ecstasy. Revelatory!