I was cleaning out the freezer the other day and a good thing it was, too. Boy, did we have stores!!!!! Among the many items were 2 very large containers of sliced peaches. One was converted into a huge peach cobbler and the other, along with about ¼ of the first, went into a pot with a little bit of sugar (whatever I had in the sugar bin and it wasn’t too much, maybe a cup and a half), some almond extract, and lemon juice. I boiled it up for an hour or so – just until it was jammy and then packed it into some Weck food storage jars that Lynn and I had purchased at the Heath Ceramics (www.heathceramics.com) booth at the San Francisco Ferry Market last fall. I had been itching to use them; they are so eye-pleasing. The jars are not great for long term canning, but work fine for the fridge. I quickly handed out the filled jars with strict instructions to keep the jam in the fridge and to return my jars asap if they want to ever get another gift from my kitchen. You’ll hear more about other things I unearthed in the freezer, for sure.
Archive for April, 2011
There is no place that says Easter and it’s accompanying bunny more than Jacques Torres Chocolate (www.jacquestorreschocolate.com or http://www.mrchocolate.com). Jacques, full of mischief and loving the joy on children’s faces as they are surrounded by all sorts of chocolate bunnies, is the epitome of the Easter Bunny. He joins me in sending you greetings of the season. Once Easter has passed, his stores remain stocked with the deliciousness we’ve come to associate with him. And, once summer comes, Jacques will entice us with his extraordinary ice cream sandwiches. Do visit! And, if you can’t come in person, visit the stores via the website.
When I was a caterer we would always put deviled eggs on a cocktail party menu. When I would suggest them, the hostess/host invariably would wrinkle up their nose – “Why would I do something so pedestrian?” and my answer would always be “Because they will be the first thing gone – with your guests asking for more.” And, I was speaking the truth. Almost everybody will say they don’t eat them, but it is amazing how quickly they disappear. In later catering years, it was very chic to offer deviled quail eggs but I never veered from my trusty traditionals. You can fancy up the mashed yolk filling with minced ham, shrimp, chicken, crab, or lobster (about ¼ cup) or about the same amount of minced cooked mushrooms, or 2 tablespoons of anchovy paste, minced scallion, or red onion or 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato paste or minced fresh herbs – dill, chives, and tarragon work particularly well.
Michael, my buddy who maintains this blog at Loupe Digital, loves them so the other day I took some farm-fresh guys and deviled them up just for him. He said it took about 30 seconds to finish the tray! See, I told you that they will always disappear as quickly as you can make them.
One dozen hard boiled eggs, peeled
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or more to taste
1 teaspoon sweet pickle juice
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Paprika for garnish, optional
Tiny pickle chip for garnish, optional
Cut the eggs in half, lengthwise, carefully keeping each white half in one piece. Carefully remove the yolks and place them in a small mixing bowl. Set the whites aside.
Combine the egg yolks with the mayonnaise, mustard, pickle juice, and cayenne pepper. Using a kitchen fork, mash the mixture together. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more mayo, mustard, or pickle juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you want to be fancy, scrape the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with the small star tip. Neatly pipe an equal portion of the mashed yolk mixture into each white half, mounding slightly. If not feeling like a fancy-nancy, just carefully portion the yolk mixture into the white using a teaspoon.
Either place a little pickle chip in the center of each one and lightly dust with paprika or forego the chip and dust.
Cover lightly with plastic film and refrigerate until ready to use or for no longer than 8 hours. And, no snacking ‘til your guests arrive!
Avocados are right high on my list of favorite foods. The story goes that when I was a wee one, my mom would mash an avocado and put some on a saltine cracker for me. I would quickly lick off the avocado and hand back the saltine for a refill. I would keep this up until the saltine sogged apart. She didn’t make the now ubiquitous guacamole, just plain old avocado with a little salt was fine for us.
I still will often eat an avocado for lunch with just a touch of salt and a squeeze of lime juice, but every now and then I mix up a bowl of guacamole to serve with drinks or to finish off our favorite burrito dinner. Since I don’t want to get caught double-dipping, I now eat my chip along with the dip!
Here is a lovely, inviting photo of a big bowl of quacamole that sat in the center of the table last night to garnish our turkey and/or fish tacos. It makes about 3 cups which is just about enough for me, alone.
4 large ripe avocados
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced or to taste
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup cored, peeled, seeded, and diced ripe tomatoes (this time of year I use
Romas or cherry tomatoes)
½ cup finely diced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or to taste
Salt to taste
Peel the avocados. Place in a large shallow bowl and, using 2 kitchen knives, chop into small pieces.
Stir in the chile, garlic, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro. Season with the lime juice and salt.
If you’ve been reading my ramblings for awhile, you might remember our Christmas ham (Newsom’s Country Ham, posted January 14, 2011) from Col. Bill Newsom’s Country Hams in Princeton, Kentucky (firstname.lastname@example.org). I had quite a lot of it remaining after the holidays so I sliced it and packed it up in small amounts and froze it for the future.
Last week, the future was now. I had some beautiful radicchio – which I always buy just because it is so beautiful – and didn’t want to use it in a salad. I decided to mix it up with some of the leftover ham for a quick braise as a side for grilled pork chops. It was so delicious and, now that I think of it, the mix would have also made a great toss with some pasta and evo.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup country ham slivers (you could also use any nicely smoked ham or
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 heads radicchio, well-washed and cut into thick ribbons
¼ cup nonfat, low sodium chicken broth
½ teaspoon frozen orange juice concentrate
½ teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (preferably white balsamic)
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the ham and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 4 or so minutes or just until starting to color. Add the radicchio and toss to combine. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until the radicchio begins to color. Add the broth, orange juice concentrate, and orange zest, stirring to blend well. Season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes or until the radicchio is very soft and the mixture is well-flavored.
Remove from the heat and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar.
This past week the New York Times Dining Section awarded M. Wells Diner their coveted 2 star rating. Well, I’m here to tell you that we had already given the diner our coveted 4 star rating! Our last visit there was for lunch/brunch/breakfast with a crew of eaters. Steve and I were joyfully accompanied by Doug from San Francisco, Ellen and Greg from Minneapolis, and Anna from our favorite coffee bar JOE on Columbus Avenue. We went to eat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We began with donuts and ployes – donuts you know, ployes you may not. They are very thin buckwheat pancakes, a beloved Canadian dish. Sometimes they are served with cretons which are sorta like rillettes, but most often with maple syrup. At M. Wells they were swimming in the most delicious maple syrup I have ever tasted. Looking back, I’m not sure it was the best idea to begin with sweets, but I just couldn’t contain my greed and wanted something quick to start. We ended up with a bit of everything on the menu – Steve had the breakfast sandwich, Greg had the Cubano (they both shared), Ellen had the pan con tomate (and she didn’t share a bite and we won’t let her forget it) while Doug, Anna, and I ordered the rest of the menu. Among the delicousness we found gravlax pie, escargot and bone marrow (my favorite), picked lamb tongue, a venison dish, a lush soup – a couple of bottles of wine and a couple of bottles of beer rounded out the meal – and, we all shared the tarte tatin – just a bite each to fill the tiny space left in our tummys!
The great folks at M. Wells are now serving dinner Tuesday to Thursday but you really do need a crowd to join you as everything on the dinner menu seems to be served up for a table of at least 4. I can’t wait to try the Bibi M Wells and the Aged Meat Loaf. However with the praise given by the Times, there is probably going to be long lines for a long time. Wanna go? We’re looking for a crowd.
My dear friend, Lynn, and I spent the weekend making goodies for our friend Victor who is bravely fighting a miserable illness. We thought that a little homemade treat might be just what the doctor ordered to add a bit of celebration to his birthday. Victor is one of the world’s great cooks so it is with trepidation that we sent off our tiny birthday cakes but we hope that they ease the pain – both that of not feeling well and of the passing of time! Victor, we celebrate with you!
The other day one of our favorite baristas at our neighborhood JOE generously gave me a half dozen eggs from a local Long Island farm. They were so beautiful that I ran home and quickly made Steve a farm breakfast of Sunny-Side Ups, a rasher of bacon from Oscar’s Smokehouse in upstate New York, and a couple of slices of homemade bread nicely toasted with the beginnings of the end of last summers jams – peach and Joey’s RazzleDazzle. The yellow yolks were just so sunny, I had to share them with you.
Here it is the end of March and in the east we’re still cooking winter. It just keeps on snowing and sleeting and, on a good day, just rains. I am more than tired of it – after all of these years in New York, I’m still a California girl at heart. I love the summer!
Well, so much for complaining, as long as a chill is still in the air, we have to have substantial meals and stuffed cabbage is surely one of those. I think that the grocery store had ordered too much cabbage for St. Pat’s so there were still mounds of it piled in the produce section at a very good price. So, I bit. We had eaten our share of sautéed cabbage throughout the winter so I decided to make it the main course with a big pot of stuffed cabbage on the evening’s menu.
I can’t remember the last time I had made stuffed cabbage – a perennial favorite throughout Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, and the Middle East. Each country has its own version. The filling can be meat- or vegetable and starch-based while the sauce ranges from tomato to sour cream. I have always made a tomato sauce. I use either regular cabbage or Savoy – not red but only because it looks yucky in the tomato base. You can truly make the recipe your own by incorporating favorite herbs – dill is good -and differing mixtures of ground meats and grains. For this recipe I stuck to my original using ground sirloin and long grain rice. I added some mushrooms to the sauce only because I had them on hand and thought they would make a nice addition. And, by the by, the filling and sauce are perfectly companionable to stuffed bell peppers, eggplant, or squash.
12 large green cabbage leaves
1 pound ground sirloin
1 cup cooked long grain rice
3 cups canned diced tomatoes in puree
1 cup beef stock or low-sodium, nonfat beef broth
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or more to taste
1½ cups minced onion
1 large egg
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Make a large bowl of ice water. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Working with one at a time, place the cabbage leaves in the boiling water for about 1 minute or until just barely softened. Immediately, dip the softened leaf into the ice water to stop the cooking.
Drain well and pat dry.
When all of the leaves have been blanched and dried, set them aside. (If the main vein at the core end of the leaf is very thick, you can pare it down slightly with a paring knife. Don’t get over-zealous as the leaf has to be sturdy enough to hold the filling).
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Combine the tomatoes, beef stock, light brown sugar, and vinegar in a large Dutch oven. Stir in 1 cup of the onions and place over medium heat and bring to a low simmer. (Here you can add sliced fresh mushrooms or rehydrated dried).
While the sauce is coming to a simmer, combine the meat and rice with ½ cup of the onions in a mixing bowl. Add the egg, parsley, garlic, tomato paste, and salt and pepper. Using your hands, gently squish the mixture together until well-combined without mushing the rice.
When blended, working with one leaf at a time, place a portion near the core end of each cabbage leaf. Fold in each side of the leaf to almost cover the filling. Fold the stem end over and continue to roll to completely enclose the filling. Using a toothpick, close the roll together at the end by weaving the toothpick in and out to hold the leaf tightly around the filling.
Carefully place the cabbage rolls into the simmering sauce. When all of the rolls have been added, cover and transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the filling is done and the leaves are very tender.
Serve hot with extra rice, if desired