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Halloween2014

 

We all send wishes for a safe and happy Halloween with scary costumes, frightening masks, fanciful pumpkins, and goodies galore!

 

©StephenKolyer_Halloween

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Fresh Pea Soup_DSC_4303

 

You know I can’t really remember how I made this soup.  I believe that I had some well-flavored and leftover chunky potato soup in the fridge to start the recipe.  I had some fresh peas (in the pod) from which I removed the stem end and any strings that came along with the ends and a few pea shoots which I pureed together in the food processor fitted with the metal blade.  I added the pea puree to the potato soup (which already had onion, garlic, thyme and chicken stock and maybe something else) and just barely heated it up to keep the lovely soft green color.  I kept a few pea shoots for garnish along with some type of edible flower – again I don’t remember what it was.  I could have pressed the soup through a sieve or pureed in the blender, but I rather liked the gently lumpy look.  The soup had a lovely pea flavor and I stretched the original leftover potato soup into a very appealing first course for 6 people.  Waste not, want not I say.

pumpkin cheescake

 

Rather than pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving (which nobody in my family likes except me) I try to come up with a new pumpkin or squash dessert each year.  And, sometimes I just go back to an old favorite, pumpkin cheesecake, which I would make many years ago at MOM, our bakery, to offset the tedium of making the 100s of pies that were ordered.  Sometimes I make a graham cracker crust, sometimes a chocolate cookie crust, and sometimes and gingersnap crust.  Sometimes I marble it with chocolate and sometimes I just make it plain with no crust at all.  I hope this recipe will become a long-standing holiday favorite in your house, too.

Makes one cake
For the crust:
1½ cups gingersnap (or other cracker or cookie) crumbs
¼ cup melted unsalted butter
For the cake:
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup well-drained pumpkin puree
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Combine the crumbs with the butter and, using your fingertips, press the mixture together.  When well-blended, pour into the bottom of a lightly buttered 9-inch round springform pan and gently pat the crumbs into the pan to make an even layer.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until just set.  Remove from the oven and set aside.
Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle.  Beat on low to blend.  Add the pumpkin, vanilla, and ginger juice and continue to beat to blend completely.  Add the spices and beat until blended.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate completely.  Do not over-beat or you will incorporate too much air which allows bubbles to form in the batter.  The batter should be smooth and creamy so that you cake will be also.
Pour the batter into the springform pan and, using an offset spatula, smooth the top.
Transfer to the preheated oven, turn the oven to 300°F, and bake for about 1 hour or until set.  The center may be a little wobbly, but it will continue to cook as the cake cools.  Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to sit, undisturbed for another hour.
Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool for at least 2 hours before removing the rim of the pan.

Joe_UWS_IMG_1333

 

Every morning Steve and I head out at 7:00 a.m. for our morning coffee at JOE on Columbus Avenue.  The coffee is delicious enough to drink black and unadorned (although many morning drinkers seem to love their latte or cappuccino or, God forbid, a hazelnut mocha latte) and the baristas are the nicest, most thoughtful young people you could hope to have celebrate the start of a new day.  On this morning, the morning air was fresh and invigorating before the summer sun fired up the streets so the doors were open while the baristas got ready to open.  We moved the bench over to prevent eager customers from entering before the 7:00 a.m. bell and I sat guard.  A rather snooty looking guard I think, but I did keep all stragglers out.  When you are in NYC, find a JOE – there are now a goodly number of them – and tell the baristas I sent you.

cranberries

 

At the beginning of the month we were in Provincetown out at the end of Cape Cod.  The stay is our most favorite fall get-away which we have been doing annually for over 10 years.  Not only is the fish and shellfish extraordinary, but the Saturday farmers market gives us all of the earthly goodness to accent it.  The last Saturday we were there brought the first cranberry harvest of the season.  I bought a few pounds which I’ve turned into spiced cranberry relish for the upcoming holiday tables.  Here’s the recipe, but you can find other cranberry recipes in my book, The Best Little Book of Preserves & Pickles, should you want further inspiration.  This recipe should make about 1 quart of relish.

4 ½ cups fresh cranberries
¼ cup each freshly grated orange and lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced fresh hot chile, such as jalapeño or Serrano
1 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup light brown sugar
⅔ cup red wine vinegar

Combine the cranberries, citrus zest, chile, mustard seed, and pepper flakes in a large, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and stir in the sugar and vinegar.  Bring to a boil; then, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the berries have popped and the mixture has thickened slightly.
Remove from the heat and either spoon into clean containers and store, covered and refrigerated, for up to 2 weeks.  Or, pack the relish into clean, sterilized jars, cover tightly, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.  The latter method will allow you to store the relish at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Cranberry beans_DSC_4815

When I first started cooking, unless you had a garden it was rare to see any fresh beans other than green and wax beans in the market.  Nowadays, particularly if you shop the farmers market or at farm stands you will find all types of beans from fresh fava to lima to cannellini to soy to —well, you get the idea.  Among our favorite fresh (and dried) beans speckled cranberry beans stand out.  Zingone’s, my trusted neighborhood market (which I glory in my most recent book, An American Family Cooks), always has them beginning in the early fall so they are frequently on our menu.  Sometimes I just cook them in a little water or stock with some aromatics and herbs and use them to make salads.  Other times I mix them up into a great baked bean dish as in the following recipe (which should easily serve 6).  When the fresh ones are no longer on the market, I switch to dried beans from Rancho Gordo (www.ranchogordo.com) in Napa, California.

 

4 to 5 cups fresh cranberry beans

3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, and quartered

2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 tablespoons minced garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more to season after cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

 Preheat the oven to 375°F.

 Lightly coat the interior of a 2 quart casserole with olive oil.

Combine the beans, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and sage in a large mixing bowl.  Add the ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole and then add cold water to just barely cover the beans.

Cover the entire casserole with aluminum foil to tightly seal.  Poke a small hole in the center of the top to allow steam to escape.

Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the liquid has evaporated and the beans are very soft.

Remove from the oven, uncover, and serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.  The beans are also delicious served at room temperature with some balsamic vinegar added to the drizzle.

Sardines_DSC_4704

 

I had purchased some fresh sardines for a photo shoot and didn’t want to waste them so I made some chile-spiced sardines for a Latin brunch featuring huevos rancheros.  Guess what  – nobody at the table liked sardines , except for one poor guy who got stuck with all 6 of them set in front of him.  I thought I was being tricky in spicing the fish up to mask their oiliness, but I guess my ploy didn’t work.  But, in case you like sardines  this is what I did.
I placed them over a bed of parsley in an oval frying pan along with olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, sliced lemons and jalapeños and salt and pepper.  I covered the pan and cooked the fish over medium heat for about 7 minutes.  I removed the pan from the heat and set it aside for about 30 minutes leaving it covered so the fish would be fully-cooked and well-flavored.  I served the spiced fish with the cooked lemon slices, plus more fresh lemon, but still they languished at the table.  I – don’t much love sardines, but know they are so good for you – did eat some of the left-over on toast for lunch.  A nice glass of rosé made the medicine go down.

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