Monday, November 30, 2009

I Got the Quincey Jones: Quince Jelly

I've been obsessing about quince fruit these days. Here are some posts I've been checking out that fascinate me on the mighty quince.

I want to make so many things, but I was having trouble finding the fruit. For the past few weeks I have been leaving desperate comments on blogs about quince, which were met with kindly compassion. On Friday, a bleak and blustery day, I hit pay dirt with a local fruit and vegetable wholesaler. They had a half case left. I said I'd be there in an hour. On the drive home, the car amazingly filled with the honeyed scent. They were precious cargo indeed. I would have liked them to be a local fruit, but alas, they were from California. I have dreams of getting a tree next year, but it will still be years before we probably get fruit. I know someone has a quince tree somewhere nearby. I intend to find it.

The fruit sat on the dining room table for a few days, making the room smell like honeysuckles. Yesterday I prepped the juice, and tonight I made the jelly. During the day I put the pulp through a food mill, sweetened it and added some clementine zest, cardamom, ginger root, and cinnamon and cooked it down for a bit. We had it with yogurt and it was just the most delicious thing ever. The scent of quince lingers, honeyed, like ice wine, but has a slight acidity that makes it stand up. I also get this really weird back note of metallic onion. It's really weird, and it very well might just be me.
I made the jelly with 4 cups of quince juice, and 4 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Boiled it until it jelled, and did everything as I usually do. The recipe is not very different from apple jelly. Actually, not different at all. So, why, WHY, did my quince jelly stay this golden color? Generally there are raves about the rose color of this jelly. What happened? Fruit not ripe enough? Anybody?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Casserole and Cake

I'm not sure if it's necessary to mention what kind of casserole this is. And honestly, it's more shepard's pie than casserole, but I just like to call it that. Chopped up aromatic veggies, turkey, the rest of the gravy, some bread crumbs, an egg, and herbs comprise the bottom layer. The top is mashed potatoes with paprika and turmeric. Baked for thirty minutes at 375.

Today is what we refer to as "Clean Out the Fridge" day. We have these every so often to make sure we're not being lazy and using up some perfectly good food. The cake falls under this rubric because it's that awesome yogurt cake but made with sour cream that I wanted to finish up. I also used apricot brandy for the rum, and almond extract for the vanilla. We polished off the apricot brandy last night but not the boozy soaked fruit, so I used them to make a thick sauce for the cake. They weren't very pretty, so I pureed them and added powdered sugar. They had some kick! I made sure to leave the cake plain so the baby could indulge. Cleaning out the fridge (and liquor cabinet) never tasted so good!

P.S. On the cleaning out the fridge line, I also made a Potato, Sauerkraut and Turkey soup. I wasn't looking forward to it, but it ended up being really good. I just sauteed onions and garlic, then added my fresh sauerkraut, a few large potatoes cubed and added water to cover. A bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, three juniper berries, salt and five peppercorns. Fresh parsley at the end. Not a bad left over soup!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pasta with Chard, Peas and Mushrooms in Cream Sauce

I know it doesn't look like much, but I don't intend it to. After the debauched past few days, tonight's meal seemed rather uninspired. What I love about this, is this: that with a few things pulled from the fridge (chard, peas, mushrooms, cream, cheese) there can be such a quick, healthy (mmm, maybe not the cream and cheese part) satisfying meal. Do you ever wonder how specials come to be? Um, we have a lot of chard left over, what should I do with it? So, I give you the next day's meal with not a lick of turkey in sight. What's great about this meal is that I will probably never cook this again. Not exactly. Or, until I have all these ingredients in the fridge again in the same way. The probability is close to nil.

In olive oil, I sauteed garlic, then onion, then mushrooms, then chard. When I added the chard I also added two or three ladlefuls of the water that the pasta was cooking in. Let it all simmer. Added the peas. Then lowered the flame and added some cream. Drained the pasta and put it in a bowl. Added the creamy veggies. Lots of grated cheese and fresh parsley. Tossed it all. And you know, then it was time to eat. I like that.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Game - Bring It!

This photo will have to suffice for now, as soon I'll be too busy eating and drinking and drinking and eating. Right now, the turkey is in the oven stuffed with a lemon, a clementine and an onion, slathered in olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. The apple sausage stuffing is done, as is the apple cranberry crisp. The cauliflower and celeriac are on deck to be steamed and pureed. The turkey stock is waiting in the wings, so to speak, for its role in the gravy. And the cabbage is waiting patiently to be quickly sauteed in a vinegary brine, like a quick sauerkraut.

The fire is roasting away, while outside the fog and drear are shrouding the trees, making us that much more cozy inside. Contented sigh.

Post Script:

Fresh sauerkraut! I loved it. Steve was on the fence. Some people can't fathom sauerkraut for Thanksgiving. My dad begs to differ. He has a thing for turkey and sauerkraut.

Half of a large head of cabbage, sliced fine
Put in a glass bowl, add a tbsp. of sugar and a teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup of cider vinegar and 1/2 cup of water. Toss well and let sit for about an hour or so. The cabbage should wilt and release water. Then put the whole bowl, water and all, in a heavy pan and simmer until the liquid boils down a bit. While it simmers add a 1/2 tsp of celery seed.

Best turkey I've ever made I think!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pre-Game: Birthday Dinner

Tonight's meal is all about not working too hard. Time is of the essence. Time spent by the fire eating and drinking is of the essence. Time standing by the stove is not of the essence. Thankfully, a favorite of both of ours is easy and luxurious. Buckwheat blinis, smoked trout, salmon roe, with capers, red onions and sour cream (I was going to get creme fraiche but this local sour cream looked really good). Deep fried oysters with a traditional remoulade. And your very basic shrimp cocktail, which I never tire of. Cocktail sauce? But of course. Champagne? Chilling. Apricot vodka (which I haven't tried yet)? On deck. Some good beers? On the porch, perfectly cold. Dessert? You know, I just bought something small to stick a candle in. After all that, dessert isn't really necessary, right? Maybe just a nice, thick and honeyed ice wine that's been gathering lots of good old dust.

Post Script: The meal was fabulous and if you haven't made buckwheat blinis, well, plan on doing it very soon. I will now make them regularly. I love buckwheat. To be very honest, there was one hitch to the night and that was a teething toddler who woke up just as we were going to tuck into some fresh out of the Fry Baby oysters. Steve sadly had to eat them alone (not so sad, I'm sure) while I went to try and put Z back to sleep. But all in all, as you can see by the dark and fuzzy pictures below, the evening fulfilled its destiny.

Buckwheat Blinis, Joy of Cooking:
Heat 3/4 cup of milk and 3 tbsp. of butter, so that butter melts. Let the mixture cool down to about 11o degrees and add 1 1/2 tsp. of yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes, then stir up and add to flour mixture, which is: 1/2 cup white flour, 1/2 cup buckwheat flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar. Whisk well, cover in plastic wrap and let sit somewhere warm for an hour. You can cook them immediately, or beat them down and cover up, then refrigerate for up to 8 hours. (It's better to let it sit for a little while.) Remove from fridge for twenty minutes, stir down. Add two large eggs. Let sit another 5 minutes. Use a heaping teaspoon for each blini.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Plum Star Anise Jelly

I think I'm running out of things to wax poetic about regarding jelly without sounding like a crazy person. I was thinking about this jelly all day. I couldn't wait to make it. I have no idea what my obsession is about. I have more jelly in the fridge than I know what to do with. Even I know that there is only so much jelly one can eat. Friends are starting to get worried. I complained about Steve's collection of horseradish (three jars!) and he merely pointed to the collection of strange jellies taking over the top shelf. Sigh. There are worse things to obsess over, but that's all in the past now. Moving forward.

This recipe is loosely adapted from Christine Ferber's Green Apple and Wild Prune Jelly. Considering there are no green apples or wild prunes in it at all, and her recipe didn't have star anise, I think it's safe to say it's my recipe. I think she'd agree. However, I used hers as a guideline for measurements, which I messed with anyway.

2 1/4 pounds apples, Ida Red preferably
2 1/4 pounds plums, Santa Rosa are so nice
8 1/2 cups of water
2 tbsp. of lemon juice
4 cups of sugar
4 whole star anise

Chop apples into quarters, peel and all, and place in a good heavy pot. Add halved, de-stoned plums and cover with the water. Once this reaches a boil, lower the flame and let simmer for about thirty minutes or so. Fruit will be good and soft. Filter the juice through a sieve. Then filter a second time using a cheesecloth; it's best to do this overnight in the fridge.

Bonus! I ended up with 8 1/2 cups of juice. I froze 4 1/4 for future jelly; and used the other 4 1/4 for this recipe. Take the 4 1/4 cups of juice, add the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add star anise. It's a good idea to use a candy thermometer. Bring the temperature up to 220 degrees.

Put the hot liquid into your (already hot) jars and process for ten minutes. This made five half pints.

Asiago Polenta with Swiss Chard

Yesterday was the first day of hunting season. We could tell by the gunshots reverberating off the ridge. It's surprising to hear the first booming sounds. It's much louder than you would think and vaguely unsettling. I'm a gatherer, not a hunter. I remember first being aware of hunting driving home from college and seeing all the deer carcasses strapped to car fenders, slack jawed and bloody. Or even closer to the bone, coming home to my apartment in High Falls to see a split open deer hanging from the tree in the parking lot, while a fire burned in an oil drum to warm the neighbors huddled from the cold. That lurid spectacle didn't stop me from asking for some meat, but I don't remember if it was ever given. A few years ago a friend gave me an tenderloin and it was so incredibly good. Even still, that and the game cooking book I've had hanging around my bedside table, I'm not going hunting anytime soon.

Fittingly, we had a vegetarian meal last night that took all of ten minutes to make. The chard, purchased at the market from a witty young man, was just sauteed in olive oil with garlic and finished with a generous squirt of lemon juice. The polenta was instant organic and I now know what I'll be eating all winter. It really took just a minute to make, and I added some cream and two handfuls of some nice asiago chunked in cubes and let it sit for a few so the cheese got soft. There was tang and bite from the cheese and the chard, that little bit of oxalic acid drying your tongue, while the pillowy polenta softened it all a bit.

You have respite for now, my deer.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Round Up of Round Ups: Giving Thanks

Today is a quiet contemplative day so there's just me and some pictures and thinking about this week's cooking that I am excited for. It's Steve's birthday on Wednesday, and I have lots of goodies planned, among them deep fried oysters and champagne. And then there's the all day eating and drinking that is planned for Thursday. Don't forget the firewood! The wood stove will be cranking and some sparkly lights will certainly be involved. We will be listening to records, sipping brandy, and playing games. Delight!

Yesterday was the last day of the Kingston farmer's market, and I got there mainly to say good bye until next year. I didn't leave empty handed, though. How could you? I am particularly happy with my celery root and green cauliflower, which will combine forces for a puree on Thursday.

Food writers seem to go a little bananas on Thanksgiving, which is fine, but it makes my head spin a little. I wanted to hold onto a few links that had tons of recipes or links for the winter, so here they are:

Kingston, city of churches. Or something like that.

Christmas is coming and I'm not that worried about it, which is amazing for me. I might even be a wee bit excited for it. Excited is a strong word, however.

Good stuff lined up at Maynard farms. They are from my neighborhood! That's were I got my celeriac.
Until next year, my friend.

This pear was so incredible. I didn't have to do a thing except eat it.

This pumpkin comes every year and I have never planted it. It's a tough sucker that starts white and turns yellow as it ages.

Lime in the Coconut Bars

Awhile back, I made some Lime Marmalade (even though I called it jelly, it really wasn't), and at the time I wasn't completely fond of it. It was a bit bitter, which is not surprising. Upon opening it the other day, in hopes of being inspired and getting it out of the fridge, I took a deep whiff and was transported to Mexico, because every time I smell a great lime scent I am there. It made me think of Old Mazatlan and Bebidas de Julietta (rum and fresh squeezed tangerine juice), Oaxaca's cozy zocalo, Puerto Escondido's tanned surfers, Merida's pumpkin seed sauce, Vallodolid's chopped bbq'd pork with red onion relish, Tulum's endless beers and haunting cenotes...And now I'm getting completely off track daydreaming about Mexico. So. Ahem. Back to the bars.

My pal Dane suggested something with coconut, and so here I oblige. I am thrilled with the outcome and now I'm glad I have another jar of this marmalade. I was going to give it away! Perish the thought. It's mine, mine, all mine!

This recipe is sort of a riff on a streusel bar and a lemon curd bar recipe. I'm sure you could use any jam or marmalade. I know I will. Instead of streusel (which called for another (!) stick and a half of butter) I put some coconut cashew granola (which I made recently, and had a little bit left of) on for the topping, after chopping it up a little in the processor. The buttery bar offsets the bitter lime, and the citrus notes marry well with the coconut. I'll have to give these away because I could eat them all.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks of butter
Whiz up the butter in the dry stuff (or if you are cool, do it by hand, I applaud you!) until small pea sized crumbs form. Pat mixture into 13x9 inch pan. Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Slather lime marmalade all over the hot bar. Sprinkle with chopped up granola. Bake another twenty minutes. Let cool completely! Then you can remove it from the pan and chop into little squares with a big knife.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Apricot Brandy

Thank god for Apricot Brandy! Because of my low spirits I needed some high spirits, so I entered the basement larder and decided it was time to see how the apricot brandy came out. I was scared; it had been a gamble back in the summer when we bought a bunch of beautiful apricots from our local orchard market. They were so perfect with their peachy blush and smooth skin. And there were so many! I decided to make brandied apricots using the easiest recipe in the Joy of Cooking. It's basically jamming as many apricots (or your selection of stone fruit) as you can into your jar, adding a copious amount of sugar and then topping with brandy. I used an inexpensive (read: cheap) brand; I think it was E&J. The fruit to sugar ratio is one pound of fruit to 1/2 cup of sugar. Then I wrapped them up in brown paper bags (fitting) and put them in the basement, every few weeks turning them a bit to let them mix up.

I really did this for the fruit but it ends up the alcohol is what I'm in love with. The apricots when ripe were just gorgeous, packed into the jar. I've been seeing some images around (Quince Brandy from Not Without Salt and the Times did a bit on brandied fruit recently, too, I'm sure there's many more), and they always look so lovely. Well, not surprisingly, when they are done the fruit are small and shriveled, and sometimes brown. Some of the apricots are still somewhat orange-y. They don't look like gift-giving material to the uninitiated, but let me tell you, there are worth their weight in gold. I might not give them away.

When poured into a snifter the scent of tangy apricot is mingled with sweet almond and it almost makes you swoon. I think I might have swooned. And then the syrupy liquid is on your tongue and it's got this fantastic complexity and depth, the high notes of citrus and fresh almond mingling with light floral and the heat of the brandy. It was really hard not to drink too much. And I think I may have done just that. But it's so heavenly. I just tasted it to remind me of the flavor (it's 9:20 a.m.) and it feels so good, warm in my heart.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Got Nothing

The past few days have been craptastic cooking days. Everything stinks. It all started with that Niagara grape "jelly," which wasn't so bad because I didn't expect much. But then I scored a trifecta, or hat trick, if you prefer, with dinner and dessert all within a few hours. It's so depressing. I made enchiladas again but they were DULL. I mean, it was only enchiladas, but still, how wrong could you go? At least they were edible. The cake I made which I was totally excited by, I mean, it sounded good [pumpkin bundt cake with chestnut cream filling], was ruined when I removed it from the pan. I mean entirely. It's a big mess. It tastes okay, but honestly, it wouldn't have been very good even it stayed in perfect condition.

I think I'm going to just have some broth today. Or stay out of the kitchen entirely. The good thing about cooking is that I can't quit. I have to eat. And truly, I couldn't stop cooking if I tried. But a couple of stumbles is so humbling. There's so much to learn. Sigh. I'm trying.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Parsnip and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie

What to do with some extra poached chicken? How about using it in a riff on sheperd's pie? This was great for the whole family: big, hungry dad, ravenous mom, and hungry little baby alike. Need I mention it was terribly easy? There are a few things that take up time, but there's not too much work involved.

For example, roast a sweet potato at 375 for an hour so it's all nice and oozing with its own caramelized sugar. While you are at it, roast off a sugar pumpkin for tomorrow's dessert, and a finger of ginger. It makes the whole house smell great when you walk in from the brisk and frost bitten outdoors. In a pot on the stovetop, you can simmer steam a nice big parsnip that you peeled and sliced. You can puree both of these together (peel the hot skin off the potato first!) with a little butter and milk, salt an pepper and the peeled roasted ginger.

While that sits and waits for you, get a peeled carrot, rib of celery, some parsley and scallions and whiz them up in the processor. Sautee them in olive oil and a leetle bit of butter for a few. Then take that diced poached chicken breast (one whole, or if you like, two sides) and let that cook a bit--five minutes? Sprinkle in a tablespoon of flour and toss to coat. Add 3/4 cup of chicken broth, some rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper. Let it all simmer until thickened. Pour this into a greased baking dish (glass 13x9 sounds right) and top with the puree, smoothing it out all nice. You might, if you are so inclined, dot the top with butter, but I left it naked. Bake for about a half hour at 400 degrees.

I love the mix of sweet potato and parsnip. The celery/parsley flavor that the parsnip has cut the sweetness of the roasted sweet potato. The color was lovely, and who doesn't love chicken in gravy? And, all told it was quite a light meal. Not too heavy but satisfying. I made sure to leave a small bit for lunch today. But I tell you, I had to hide it in the fridge.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Niagara Grape Jelly

The other day I was at the orchard around the block and couldn't resist this little quart of Niagara grapes. Niagara grapes are a sweet native grape, of the species Vitus labrusca and you can read more about them here. They always remind me of those Japanese Muscat Kasugai gummies. My dream is to one day recreate them so I can eat them all the time. This morning I got that much closer.

The grapes smelled heavenly but the diesel-y note in them was sort of strong. They were also small and the pits in them large and many, so I decided I'd do a quick jelly. I cooked them for ten minutes and mashed them gently so the seeds would release from the flesh. Then I put them in a sieve to drain over night. The juice was a weird cloudy green. Didn't look promising. I had about a cup. I added a cup of sugar and put it on to boil, in a small pot with no thermometer. I was experimenting. It seemed the jelling point was reached very quickly because it foamed up right away. I'm known to be impatient and jump the gun on the jelling point. But by about fifteen minutes, I knew I had to pull it off the heat. I poured the thick syrup into a jar. By the time I got it onto my greek yogurt and topped it with crystallized ginger, it was the consistency of thick honey. Now that it's in the fridge it's pretty much the consistency of taffy. Not that I won't eat it! The diesel-y note is gone entirely and what's distilled in the sugar is that sweet, perfumed scent of fresh native grapes off the vine.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Late Night Chestnut Cake

I know that almost nine p.m. is not really late for many folks, but for me it is just a half hour shy of falling fast asleep. I wake up at about four a.m. due to a certain toddler in the house, so I have an excuse. No more late night partying in this house. So, we do what we can to keep ourselves amused. Like making this cake last night with the sweet chestnut puree I made on Friday married to the yogurt cake I made last weekend. It is very dense and chewy, so I think I need to tinker with it a bit, but it didn't stop me from having two pieces before bed. Quel scandale! It wasn't very sweet, which I like, and the chestnuts impart a slight nuttiness.

2 eggs
1 cup of whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt
1/2 cup sweet chestnut puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350° F, grease a round ten-inch cake pan. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, and puree. In another bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together -- don't overwork the dough. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, sprinkle with nice shiny organic cane sugar, and bake for 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, run a knife around to loosen, and turn out on a rack to cool.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cider Cardamom Jelly

It's always nice to make jelly on a horrible, rainy day. It was miserable yesterday, but I left the house nonetheless because there are only so many times you can read Who Says Boo? and there are an infinite number of times a toddler can read it. Or, have you read it for them. So, for a distraction, we went into town to walk around the Water Street market because they have eaves to walk under and a fountain that makes Baby's head spin. We ran into a friend, saw some dogs which is always a thrill, and lingered until the rain really became a nuisance. All the while, I knew that at home some Granny Smith apples were slowly reducing themselves into juice at gravity's pace.

Once home and cozily in for the night, we went through the paces of the evening's comforting routines and soon enough Baby was fast asleep and I was in the kitchen making another variation of a Ferber jelly recipe. The recipe was for Apple Cider and Vanilla, but being as I had no vanilla, I used cardamom. Now, vanilla is super expensive and I am super broke, but I would have splurged for it. I shopped a few stores and do you know only one store had it in? At 3.99 for two in a test tube? I stuck with my cardamom. It was in stock, in my cupboard. I loved the soft spicy note that cardamom gave the jelly. This would do well on a hot scone, but equally well on a pork roast. Wintry days, we are prepared!

1 3/4 pounds of Granny Smith apples
3 cups 2 ounces water
3 cups 2 ounces cider
5 cups of sugar
2 Tbsp. of lemon juice
13 cardamom seed pods, whole

Chop apples into quarters and place in a good, heavy pot with the water. Once it boils, let it simmer on low for a half hour until the apples are quite soft. Then filter the juice through a sieve with a fine mesh, a chinois if you will, pressing lightly on the fruit. I like to leave this for a few hours to take its time. Then filter a second time through cheesecloth; it's best to do this overnight in the fridge. I used coffee filters in a mesh colander and it worked fine.

Measure 2 cups 1 ounce of the juice leaving sediment at the bottom. (Note: I only had a little over a cup, so I added water to make the asked for amount.) Add this to the sugar, cider and lemon juice in to your good pot and bring to a boil, then add the seed pods.

Now, about jelly, you know, it's not just jam. It's a little fussier, so keep an eye on it. I highly recommend a candy thermometer because testing for the jelling point is difficult. You want to bring the heat up to 220 degrees. Skim it good; it's not like jam where the foam sometimes disappears. It's persistent foam!

Pour the hot liquid into your hot jars, that just happened to be in the boiling water that you had waiting for processing. Seal them and process for ten minutes. (By process, I mean let them sit in boiling water for ten minutes.) Let them cool, listen for the pinging of the lids sucking themselves in, making a good seal. The jelly might take a day or a week to set. Mine had fuzziness in the jelly from the cider breaking down in the jelly. I don't mind this at all, but some might, so just skim as much as you can. I don't think it's possible to avoid and something inherent in cider, but who knows? I'm not really a stickler, so I might not ever find out.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sweet Chestnut Puree

Lucky me, I have a friend with a gorgeous chestnut tree in her backyard, and every fall it becomes a fertile disaster area, filled with huge mace-like bombs waiting to fall on your head and maim you. Seriously, these things hurt! They were all over the backyard, and you are so tempted to just grab them, but hold on and get some sturdy gloves first! Once they are out of their protective pods, they are so aesthetically pure, beautifully smooth and a rich chestnut brown. I wanted to make a sweet chestnut puree and that's just what I did, mashing some different Mont Blanc recipes for inspiration. Now I've got to figure out what to do with this beautiful, sweet and nutty spread. I was thinking a cake rolled with the chestnut puree and some mascarpone. Oh, my god, doesn't that sound divine?

Cut an x in the flat side of the chestnuts and roast them for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees so the skin peels back. Once you've done that, measure out about two cups of them and put them in a heavy pot with 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of water. Bring this to a boil and let simmer until the syrup reduces, about 30 minutes. Take it off the heat, and add 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Put the chestnuts in a processor with some of the syrup. Puree to your desired consistency. Let cool.

I found that I used all of the reserved syrup and had to add more water because I wanted a smoother creamier paste. Initially, the texture was like marzipan, but I didn't want to mold it, I wanted to spread it. Now I just need to find something to spread it on...

Friday, November 13, 2009

About Me

Sometimes I do jazz hands when something comes out good.

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

I saw this recipe the other day on The Amateur Gourmet and I knew I had to make it. There was precious real estate in the freezer being taken up by some grated zucchini and summer squash and I thought aha! that's what we're doing! So, I did a little tweaking, like omitting the walnuts (as in the original post), using wheat flour, brown sugar (and I scaled it back to 1 1/2 cups--1 cup of oil and 1 3/4 cups sugar?? Of course it's going to be good!! Not that omitting a 1/4 cup is going to save much, but...) and I added some lemon zest. I only used two cups of squash, half grated and the other half pureed, with maybe a quarter of it being summer squash.

So, I am pleased to say that this cake came out spectacularly. Spicy and soft. The original has a lemon glaze that looks so perfect, but I think I'll just keep this plain. That way I won't feel so bad when baby and I have big, fat pieces for afternoon snack.

This was done early in the morning while baby napped, so now we are free to head into New Paltz to eat at the Bistro, then hit an estate sale. Pretty much a great start, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Turkey and Kale Enchiladas

I had a turkey breast, half of a head of kale, lots of cheese...hmm. What the hell was dinner going to be? Could it be Turkey Enchiladas? I was really out there on a wing and a prayer, as they say, but ended up landing safely in cheesy goodness. For truly, how wrong can you go if you just smother something in cheese? Not so wrong, as evidenced by an empty baking dish shortly afterwards. Now, you ask, is this really an enchilada? I'm not sure. But what I do know is that aside from being easy, as per how I roll, it's so good for you, what with the kale and avocado. You know, really, everything else is good for you, too. So, what did I do?

First, I poach the turkey breast in chicken stock. Chop some kale and surrounded the meat with it so it wilts while the meat poaches. Once the turkey is done, about twelve minutes depending on its weight, remove it to a plate to cool and rest. Keep the kale in the pan cooking with the stock, add a bunch of chopped scallions and maybe a tablespoon of diced red onion, and a handful of parsley. After about ten minutes pour it all in the processor and whiz it up good with some salt and pepper. It was a little on the bland side, so I added two tablespoonfuls of sun-dried tomato bruschetta from Trader Joe's. It's little things like that that help out recipes sometimes. You can improvise, adding something tart and tangy, like capers or a dash of vinegar.

Shred the turkey and mix it with 1/2 cup of yogurt, 1 tsp. of cumin, and 1/2 tsp. of tumeric. Divvy it all up between six ten-inch flour tortillas, add a little shredded empire jack and roll them up and place, seam side down, in a glass baking dish. I put a spoonful of sauce down first, so it wasn't a dry dish. Then, top with shredded sharp cheddar and the rest of the sauce and bake at 400 for about 15-20 minutes, or until bubbling. Top with slices of avocado.

Whew. The dinner that almost wasn't.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cranberry Spice Yogurt Cake

As I went for this morning's walk, which was truncated due to the nip in the air, I could smell winter lurking. The leaves are all down, smoke is churning out of a few chimneys on this quiet Wednesday morning, and the wind is blowing the water on the pond making it choppy and gray. The smell is welcome, really, because it's new and it made me excited about the holidays coming up, mostly for the food. Gravies and creamy potatoes, and all sorts of heavy things. I'm never able to fit too much dessert in because the main course always ruins it, doesn't it? So, I'm making some holiday cake a little early so I can enjoy it while it steams away in my hands, not ruined by a crispy pile of turkey skin (yes, I can't resist it) or a gratin of some sort. I'll still make it for the holidays though because it was one of the easiest recipes around, somewhat good for me (yogurt and whole wheat flour! Come on, give a girl a break!) and looks just so homey and pretty with it's sparkling cranberries and crisp layer of brown sugar crust. Visions of sugar plums, indeed!

This is based on the yogurt cake I wrote about here. I tweaked it to make my own slightly tart, not too sweet, holiday version. I also made some cranberry sauce with cranberries, sugar, orange juice and zest to plate the slices with, but I'm not sure I'll get that far today!

2 cups of whole wheat white flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 cup brown sugar, and a handful extra for topping
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup of whole milk plain yogurt
1 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves--yeah, I'm lazy, so sue me! I got this at the health food store in the bulk section to save me some time this season. Also, it's fresher!)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. spiced rum

Preheat the oven to 350° F, and grease a ten-inch springform pan. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yogurt, eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil and rum. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and spices. Add the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture, and blend together. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and top with cranberries--as many or as little as you like. I didn't pack them in so they could have space to mix with the handful of brown sugar that you need to scatter over them. Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is crispy brown, the cranberries are popping and oozing their tart goodness, and a knife comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, run a knife around to loosen, and turn out on a rack to cool.

P.S. I entered my Cranberry Spice Yogurt Cake in the Bon Appetit Holiday Bake-Off contest. You can vote here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beet and Blue Cheese Pizza

When I am feeling bummy, like this morning, I know that there are a few things that will pick me up at least a little, if not turn my mood totally around. One of those things is to go out into the garden and put myself to work. I get totally distracted when I'm working in the garden, or out for a walk for that matter, and that is always a good thing. So, I went out and looked at my incredible kale. It's totally healthy but sadly over run by cabbage moth worms, but even though I can't eat the leaves, gosh, aren't they beautiful? And then I sowed some buckwheat seed for a green cover crop. Did I do it too late? I don't care; at least I did it, finally, after talking about doing winter cover crops for so long. It was nice to water the dirt and lay crisp leaves over it all, wondering what would come of it all. I began to feel a little more human.

Then I did another thing that helps on these kind of days. I went out and bought some dark chocolate and marzipan. Just one of those little square Ritter chocolate bars. I ate half of one in the car and I started to revive a little more.

Then I had some white wine outside while the sun went down. Or faded away into the gray, as it was that kind of day. Gray notwithstanding, I was still feeling better. The bumpy day was fizzing into a smooth finish.

Then, to really end the sadness, I made pizzas with a whole wheat crust. One with beets, red onions, parsley and blue cheese. The other with a sun-dried tomato bruschetta (jarred) and cheese. Now that's pretty much the way to coax out a contented sigh, yes? In the meantime, let's hope for tomorrow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Earl Grey Tea Jelly

I had been thinking of the book, Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber, for a while now, and the other day I checked to see if our library system had it, and they did! It came pretty quickly, and it's now temporarily mine for the next three weeks. And who knows, I may renew it!! (Those exclamation points are tongue in cheek, and self-chiding, because I really am that excited.) That said, I found her book to be fascinating, and so very Alsatian. The French passion and the exacting German are both there. I love how it leaves so much for you to figure out. So subtle, it might be construed as maddening. Like, when it calls for green apples, does it mean unripe apples? And I assume she never processes them, because she doesn't say she does. But is that okay? No matter, I love a mystery. It only makes the journey more exciting and more your own.

A recipe for Apple Jelly with Ceylon Strong Breakfast Tea caught my eye right away. It was inspiring and thrilling to think I could make jelly with tea. It opened up a whole world of new flavors to experiment with. I used Earl Grey because I think bergamot is heavenly. Stayman Winesap and MacIntosh were my apples. My patience payed off, as the jelly came out perfect and crystal clear. It still needs time to set, so I haven't had it yet, but when it was hot and I licked a few spoons clean (part of the job, ma'am) it was delicate, subtle--the tea leaves and bergamot coming out ever so gently.

Earl Grey Tea Jelly

3 1/4 pounds of apples, the tarter and fresher the better, Granny Smiths are good if you are not living in the land and season of great apples.
6 cups of water plus 7 ounces
4 cups of sugar
2 Tbsp. of lemon juice
4 bags of Earl Grey tea

Chop apples into quarters and place in a good, heavy pot with the 6 cups of water. Once it boils, let it simmer on low for a half hour until the apples are quite soft. Then filter the juice through a sieve with a fine mesh, a chinois if you will, pressing lightly on the fruit. I like to leave this for a few hours to take its time. Then filter a second time through cheesecloth; it's best to do this overnight in the fridge. I used coffee filters in a mesh colander and it worked fine.

Measure 4 1/4 cups of the juice leaving sediment at the bottom. Add this and the sugar and lemon juice in to your good pot and bring to a boil. Now, about jelly, you know, it's not just jam. It's a little fussier, so keep an eye on it. I highly recommend a candy thermometer because testing for the jelling point is difficult. You want to bring the heat up to 220 degrees. Skim it good; it's not like jam where the foam sometimes disappears. It's persistent foam! While you are fretting over the jelling point, make the tea infusion with 7 ounces of boiling water and let steep for three minutes. Don't over steep because it will be bitter. I waited until the temperature was 219, added the tea, and then returned it to 220, which took more time than I thought--the seven ounces really does change the temperature--and then it's jellytime!

Pour the hot liquid into your hot jars, that just happened to be in the boiling water that you had waiting for processing. Seal them and process for ten minutes. (By process, I mean let them sit in boiling water for ten minutes.)

P.S. A word about canning safety: Ferber didn't process her jars. I did. That doesn't mean I'm necessarily safe from bacterial bugaboos. Technically, you should check all of your recipes with some tester, but I'm somewhere between French laissez-faire and American Puritanism, and generally I just feel my way around. Just so you know.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Baby Bread

This is my favorite quick bread to make for baby. And for me, too! This time we baked it together--thirteen months and he's already baking. I'm so proud. What's great about this bread, aside from being quick, easy and delicious, is that you can play around with the ingredients ad infinitum. I've used all kinds of flours, all kinds of grated fruits and veggies, all kinds of sweeteners. What doesn't change is that I always use yogurt. The recipe is from Bittman's Bitten column, Quick Whole Wheat and Molasses Bread. He goes into the other things you can use besides yogurt. Funny that the first comment is from someone who likes to make this for her toddler. Below is yesterday's take. I added milk because the batter/dough was a tad too dry.

2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 2/3 cup whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup milk

I added wet to dry, put in a greased pan, and baked for almost an hour at 350.

We had it with butter and this year's currant jelly, hot out of the oven. Do you have an easy go to bread?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Potatoes, Iberian Style

I don't know what real Iberian potatoes taste like, but this is my version of an incredible treat from my childhood. There was a restaurant that my family would go to every once in a great while. It was called The Iberian and the family who ran it were from Spain. One of the highlights of the menu were these lovely slices of potato, maybe a 1/4 inch thick, cooked to golden perfection, with a bit of fluffy potato inside to remind you that this wasn't any ordinary chip. I would order the mussels in a green garlicky sauce that came out in a cast iron pot and these dear potatoes. I don't think they roasted them; were they deep fried? No matter, these come close enough for me, and to boot they are an easy and quick dinner. It feels like something really bad for you, too, but how could potatoes roasted in olive oil be all that bad?

Oven at 400 degrees. Slice your washed, un-peeled potatoes, about four large ones depending on your pan. I use an old cookie sheet that I no longer use for cookies, and drizzle it generously with oil. Place the slices of potato in a single layer, drizzle for olive oil, generous salt and pepper. Let them cook about 4o or so minutes. Flip them over half-way through.

I served these with a dip that had yogurt, mayo, and horseradish. They were gone in minutes!