Friday, December 25, 2009

Winter White Crunchy Salad

I made this for a Christmas eve dinner. It's a nice refreshing salad that is sure to be unlike anything anyone else brings to the table. I didn't snap a photo, so I'll have to make it again.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Pears
  • 1 4-inch spherical jicama
  • 8 large sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • ginger
  • walnut oil
  • lemon juice
  • St. Germain liqueur

Preparation:

Peel the pears and jicama. Jicama skin comes off with a tug. Cube them  into medium size dice. Best to make the pears a bit larger and the jicama a bit smaller.

Shave the fennel into 4mm slices. Too thin and it won't have enough crunch.

Peel the sunchokes. Cube into small dice. Toss everything in a large bowl with a liberal dousing of lemon juice. Add a few sprinkles of St. Germain and enough walnut oil to coat all the ingredients. Grate fresh ginger, mixing it in and tasting until you hit the right amount. Correct the lemon juice and St. Germain as needed. Serve cold.

Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Secret Lives of Rutabagas

I wanted to post a more lengthy dissertation on root vegetables but, as I have limited time I felt that it would be a great idea to share this video tip.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Best Salad Ever- In under 2 minutes

snapshot-1257004579.948987The delightful late-season bok choi we've been fortunate to receive has become my go-to salad green. As the cool weather has come upon us, the flavor has reached a level of perfection that calls for a radical simplification of its presentation. So here is something you should try, because the results are profound.

snapshot-1257008063.186273

spearfishingSplurge on some of these anchovies. They are worth the price, if only from time-to-time. Maybe they aren't your everyday anchovy, but they come with this cool mini-fork that allows you to spear-fish right from the jar.

After you coarsely chop the the bok choi, mince the anchovies and toss them in. Add a splash of the olive oil from the jar. Squeeze on the juice from half a lemon and- presto! It's magic.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ah, the Lowly Potato

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA           First, in the interest of hybridization, I am cross-pollinating my blogs by introducing a post that I put up quite awhile ago on my amalgamatedclyde blog. I've since migrated most of that blog to syntheticblog. Don't fret, I only like synthetic food that has been made by hand with natural ingredients.

Second, it has come to my attention that, in this year of potato abundance, as a rather odd inverse of the Irish Famine that began in 1845, our CSA members are having a bit of a struggle to figure out what to do with all of their crop. Furthering the 'oddness' of this situation, the 'Late Blight' struck the tomato crop this year without mercy, as we all know by now.

So, placing second first, I should like to put you on to a recipe that is mostly one of simple technique, to which I gave little increments of thought, and in the end, though I knew it had taken years of experimentation to perfect the outcome, I had only a dim awareness that this small series of juxtapositions of experimental outcomes would matter to someone else, until I fed the roasted potatoes to my neighbor and she asked how I did it. Humbly flattered- she herself is an accomplished cook, I shared my recipe in detail and would like to do so now with all of you.

When people mock the exactitude with which I chop like-vegetables into the same size, they tend mistakenly to attribute this to obsessive-compulsive disorder, when, in fact the physics of heat flow, based on similar surface areas and vegetable volume are the real reason. That's just how you control how much it cooks. Keeping this as rule number one (cut every piece the same: bite-size) we may begin.

Ingredients:

  • Potatoes to feed the lot of you.
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic. 5 if you prefer.
  • enough olive oil to coat your skillet and a bit more
  • a secret pat of butter
  • minced rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • parsley? You decide.

Preparation:

With any of the varieties we have received, a thorough washing is the best place to begin, but skip any peeling.

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Plan your dicing in a 3-dimensional coordinate space and you will get lots of cubes. Do I have to draw this?

Heat your skillet. It had better be big enough to hold all the potatoes. When it's getting too hot to touch with your hand, stop touching it and add the olive oil. Whirl it until it visibly thins in viscosity. Add the secret pat of butter while no one is looking and let it melt into the oil.

Crush the garlic with the flat part of a knife, or use a hammer if you prefer. You want to expose the inner flesh but keep the cloves intact so you can remove them later. Who wants to eat burned garlic?

Saute the garlic for a few minutes, extracting as much garlic juice as is practical. When it starts to brown, remove it to the the waste bin or composter.

Add the potatoes and jack-up the heat. Turn constantly with a spatula. As they begin to brown, add salt and pepper. Stir more.

Now, add the minced rosemary. Remove from the stove and pop into the oven. You can cook it covered or uncovered. Both ways seem ok to me.

After 15-20 minutes, stick a fork in 'em and see if they are done.

Choose now to toss in minced parsley, or forever hold your peace.

Consume.

---------Ok onto issue number one:

Several years ago, when Daniel Boulud opened another of his grand palaces of degustation, I noted that the menu included, nay, featured, certain items that should only be characterized as offal, and also, though perhaps not fitting precisely within this characterization, pieds de cochons, which I am pretty sure is French for 'proceed with caution.' I took it all as the antics of another bored chef-genius, who, tiring of short ribs and steak-frites, felt the need to delve deeper within his animal. A press release quoted him saying he had been 'transported back to the food of his childhood.'  A recent glance at the Bar Boulud menu turned up this telltale positioning of charcuterie as merely 'cute':

FROMAGE DE TÊTE GILLES VEROT 
HEAD CHEESE TERRINE
GILLES VEROT'S AWARD WINNING SPECIALTY

tete

My main purpose here, though, is not to dwell on innards and the pursuit of grossification, but to point out that in cooking, the dream of the Alchemist sees its true realization. From baser ingredients come precious masterpieces. There is a certain process whereby the humble onion, the potato, a pasta, bean, a simple thing, achieves a unity with its fellow pot-sharing comestibles that is not fully explicable in terms of the backward-engineered recipe, as achievable as this may be.  E pluribus unum, as the dollar bill would have it: out of many, one. Call it a gestalt of cooking. The 'season, taste, repeat' cycle of fine-tuning flavors is aimed at hitting a bulls-eye that is a unitary experience, not a mere mixture of ingredients.  I submit for your approval: the mac 'n cheese, the chili, the pasta e fagioli. A catalog of comfort foods, perhaps, but ones built upon a few simple ingredients that magically harmonize in one another's presence like the understudy cast of a Broadway play who, together, trump a playbill of stars.

And so I turn to another such recipe, one that I've only recently encountered, but which perfectly fits into this category: Bacalhau à Brás.  This is a Portuguese recipe which I can describe, without oversimplifying, as a salt-cod hash. I first sampled it in Maplewood NJ at Churrasco BBQ & Steakhouse. The video clip shown above is a bit more high-brow in execution, with its fancy prawns and cucumber,  but is still in the same vein.

churrasco

 cod  how to talk

Let me rewind a bit to touch on my fascination with salt-cod.  It's a big topic and an entire foodie book has been written about it.  I really haven't read that book,  so I'll just summarize according to another book I haven't read. If you remember anything about 'Mutiny on the Bounty,' you'll recall Captain Bligh, whose name sometimes connotes cruelty, but should instead summon the qualities of intellect, loyalty and steadfast courage. He was a brilliant sailor, managing to navigate 3000 miles of the Pacific, in a dingy,  to save the lives of the fraction of the crew who fulfilled their sworn allegiance to the captain of their vessel. Well, it turns out that Bligh's mission, foiled in the famous case, but later revisited, was to transplant breadfruit trees from the Pacific Islands to the Islands of the Caribbean in order to feed a growing population of slaves, cut-off by the Revolutionary war from their life-sustaining supply of salt-cod. As it so happened, the enslaved workers balked at the breadfruit, in all of its various preparations: steamed, as a pudding, tofurkey style- none of it was for them. Even today, throughout the Caribbean, you will find the lingering evidence in a continued reverence for salt-cod dishes. And let's not forget who was doing all that fishing. It was the Portuguese emigrant, who had settled in Newfoundland or Fall River, or New Bedford. They sailed out on large creaky vessels and then were dropped over the side in tippy little dories with nothing more than oars, hooks, bait, and a few hundred feet of fishing line. But they caught lots of fish! Of course, in the absence of refrigeration, the proven method of preserving their catch was desiccation through salting.  In a culinary sense, this is where  my interest was piqued.

One revives the salted fish through immersion in a fresh-water bath, changing the water over the course of a couple of days, by which time most of the salt will have been removed. Today this happens in the fridge of course, but I suppose it would have been done at room temperature in bygone days. Bye, gone days! Now the fish is ready for cooking. Whichever recipe you choose, one fact that becomes apparent immediately is that you have not, through the water bath process, returned the filets to their pristine state, for the salt exerts a curing action on the flesh which causes a subtle, curious and, in my opinion, delectable adulteration in its flavor. Its the difference between picnic shoulder and ham.

1080 At the outset of this peripatetic discourse I promised a recipe, so let me hop to it, lest this post languish interminably in 'draft' mode.  If you happen to own this cool Euro cookbook, 1080 Recipes, you need only turn to recipe 551, where the dish is named in the descriptive fashion 'Bacalao con Patatas Paja y Huevos Revueltos'. So now you know the secret: it's basically shredded bacalao with fried matchstick potatoes, onions, and scrambled eggs. It couldn't be simpler, ingredient-wise.  Keeping a blind eye to the cardiovascular and caloric demands of the dish, let me elaborate a little bit on the magic  that happens when you follow the recipe. First, you crisp the thinly-julienned potatoes in sunflower oil and set them aside. Then, reserving a small amount of the oil of the sunflower, you add the onions, which have been sliced, and pulled into rings, and then, ever so slowly, you coax them into a sweet, light-brown, gloriously softened manifestation of their original harsh selves. Following, you add the desalted cod, which I meticulously shredded into threads of exactly the same size, but which you may pull apart in a less obsessive-compulsive fashion. Did I mention that cooking can be therapeutic?

After a little browning, the last step is to crack the eggs directly into the hot skillet, scramble them with a fork and, as they begin to solidify, add the crunchy potatoes. After the whole thing firms up, it's ready for plating. I added some Chohula Hot Sauce, but Crystal, Frank's, or Goya would all be appropriate, or skip the hot sauce altogether if you can't handle it. Don't be ashamed, just enjoy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Green Tomatoes: Not Fried

As green tomato season encroaches upon us (and yes, I know what you're thinking about red tomato season), it seemed wise to exhume this page from my newspaper clippings drawer. Since the half-life of marmalade in our refrigerator is measured in milliseconds, I determined there was sufficient justification for the small effort required by this unassuming recipe.

Occasional readers of this blog may have noticed that I tend only to publish recipes concocted by myself or my trusted band of culinary cohorts. So this is the first incident of outright theft. It is my fondest wish that the New York Times will view it as a nod of respect rather than a provocation to file a suit in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, of which I remain completely ignorant.

Since I had only 3 green tomatoes in my fridge, I reduced the overall quantity to about 3/5ths, though my downward adjustment of the sugar to a mere 2 cups could have been downwardly adjusted even more without deleterious effects. I upped the quantity of lemon juice by an unknown amount, measured only by intermittent tasting, until the acidity seemed in balance.

In the end, the result was about a pint of syrupy marmalade, which I jarred into 2 separate 8-ounce containers, keeping one and gifting the other.

If I were to make it again, I might decide to tilt it toward the chutney end of the preserve-confiture spectrum, with the addition of pistachio halves and perhaps even some hot chilies. The present result proved to be quite delicious on peanut butter and toast, and the reader who comes to the table with an open mind is certain to discover other delectable combinations for this humble receipt.

clipped from www.nytimes.com
Recipe: Green Tomato and Lemon Marmalade
Published: August 22, 2007

1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded

2 1/4 pounds green tomatoes (about 5 large tomatoes), cored and thinly sliced

3 1/4cups sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt.

1. Bring lemon slices to a boil in a pot of water. Drain.

2. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan along with 1/4 cup water, and bring to a simmer, stirring, to dissolve sugar. Cook at a bare simmer until tomatoes and lemon slices are translucent and syrup thickens, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely; store in refrigerator.

Yield: 1 3/4 cups.

  blog it

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Solution to the Salsa Verde Equation

salsa verde equation copy

OK- better late than never. Probably you've used your tomatillos. I think I have a jalapeño or two left, but should you ever come to possess these in concert again, whether willingly or not, here is what I chose to do with mine. I am giving this recipe a name that befits a highly focus-grouped jarred salsa that you might find at grocery stores, but in this example, you make it yourself.

Fire-roasted Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

  • cup your hands together and fill them with tomatillos
  • repeat above with jalapeños
  • 1-2 large cloves of garlic, well-smooshed (press or mortar and pestle)
  • extra-virgin olive oil. extra extra is fine as well.
  • salt

Preparation:

The 'fire-roasted' part alludes to the barbecue, which should be readied before you proceed to the vegetable prep.

  • Remove paper from tomatillos, place on skewers
  • Place jalapeños on skewers

You will probably want to use separate skewers for the tomatillos and jalapeños, since they could, conceivably, be finished cooking at different times.

Place skewers over a medium hot flame and roast until the veggies blister and char slightly. Remove before they turn to cinders and allow to cool.

Toss the tomatillos into a food processor or blender. Slice the jalapeños in half and remove the pith and seeds. These can be used to modulate the heat of the salsa, so get a feel for how much zing there is and factor-in your target level of mouth-burn. Adjust accordingly and add to food processor. Add garlic and about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Whir until well-whirred. Season with salt, to taste. Apply liberally to meat, fish, chicken, or vegetables.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

'Scarole

11_202857 I must admit that I didn't know much about escarole before I married into an Italian-American family. I probably would have regarded it as 'tough lettuce- lettuce from the wrong side of the tracks,' had I noticed it at all. It was a vegetable that slipped under the radar. But then I learned to cook it and now it is part of my ordinary repertoire of greens. 'Scarole is the Italian-American pronunciation I learned, but you should feel free to call it escarole when the grocery clerk has to price-check it because he doesn't recognize it. Get comfortable with escarole- it's worth it!

This week I received a couple of recipes from our regular contributors and I include them below, followed by my own interpretation.

 

-Clyde Tressler

 

Escarole and Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads of escarole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cans cannelini beans- not drained
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Cut off stem ends of escarole. Wash escarole in many changes of water until water is clear.

Steam escarole until wilted or cook in pressure cooker for 3 minutes.

Saute 2 garlic in olive oil until softened but not browned. Add escarole and liquid and cover for about 5 minutes.  Add cannelini beans  to escarole and garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook all for about 15 minutes on low simmer.

 

We prefer to make this a day in advance of serving and heat up at dinner time and serve over pasta, sprinkled with grated Romano or parmesan cheese.  Elbows are the pasta of choice. 

My husband's family served the escarole and beans as a meal without pasta- accompanying the dish with crusty Italian bread.

-Barbara Savino

Escarole with Chickpeas

Ingredients:

  • 2 scallions, chopped white and green parts
  • 2 cloves of garlic pressed
  • 1/2 can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 heads escarole, chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil to saute

Preparation:

Heat oil on medium high heat in a saute pan, add scallions and garlic and cook until garlic is slightly golden. Add the chickpeas and stir. Add escarole and cook until wilted and tender. Season with salt, pepper and a bit of additional really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil if desired.

I hope you enjoy it.

Randy

www.RandyRabney.com

Escarole and Lentils

This is the easiest recipe on the planet.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup large lentils (green or borwn)
  • 2 heads escarole, washed and chopped once (or not)
  • 1 quart water or chicken stock
  • salt and pepper

Preparation:

Wash lentils. Forget about looking for stones. You won't find any. Dump, cautiously, into large pot. Add stock and cook over medium heat until lentils are al dente. Add escarole, cover and simmer over low heat until escarole is softened. Adjust liquid to taste. Some like it soupy- some not. Salt and pepper likewise to taste.

By the way, you'll notice that these recipes all pair escarole with legumes or pulses. In passing, I would add that escarole is delicious on its own, sauteed with a little garlic and olive oil. Enjoy!

-Clyde Tressler