Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pink Grapefruit Jelly

I've been thinking about this one for a while now. I bought some pink grapefruits before Christmas and knew I wanted to do a jelly, but which one? I decided to adapt a recipe for lemon jelly in The Joy of Cooking that I'd been eyeballing for a while. It doesn't have very much sugar and is therefore quite tart and marmalade-y. Joy recommends this lemon jelly for savory applications and suggests the addition of herbs. I will definititely do this straight one day, but for now it's all about the pink grapefruit.

To get this deep color I added strawberry puree (purchased). I think I could have used much less for color, but the smell was gorgeous when cooking it. The strawberry actually held its own against the grapefruit. The jell set amazingly. It could have used a second strain as it was quite cloudy, but I was impatient. This recipe made a lot of juice, and the original says to cook it in two batches (I assume at the same time). That sounded complicated to me so I froze four cups of the juice for future projects. That left me with three cups of citrus juice, to which I added the strawberry puree, making four cups, which seems to be a standard number when making jelly.

(Side note: Interesting to note that Joy uses "jell point" whereas Ball uses "gel point." Who do you believe? Is it a matter of preference? I prefer jell to gel, because we're making jelly, no? Not gelatin. But that's me and my craziness.)

2 lbs. of pink grapefruit
8 oz. of oranges
1 cup of strawberry puree
7 1/2 cups of water
1/2 cup of sugar per cup of juice

Quarter the fruit and chop up fine in a food processor. Add fruit and water to heavy pan, bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Strain. Measure three cups of juice, add strawberry puree. I let this cool for several hours, only because I wasn't ready to make the jelly yet. You could move right along and add it back to the pot with 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of juice. Bring to a rolling boil, and cook until jelling point is reached. Ladle into hot jars and process for ten minutes.

This tastes like a rosy, very tart grapefruit sprinkled with a little sugar and maybe a small dollop of strawberry jam.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Vietnamese Pickled Carrot and Celery Root

It's not surprising that many people turn their palates to Asian flavors after the holidays. And pickles are always good for digestion and good health. I made these quick pickles based on a recipe from Linda Ziedrich's wonderful pickling book, The Joy of Pickling. They were totally easy and completely delicious. I loved using celery root in a new way. The original ingredient was daikon, and I thought celery root would make a fine, if slightly drier, substitute. We had it over brown rice, with edamame and diced avocado drizzled with dressing (ginger, garlic, oil, lemon-lime glaze, rice wine vinegar). So good!

Vietnamese Pickled Carrot and Celery Root
Recipe adapted from Linda Ziedrich's Joy of Pickling

1/2 pound combined carrot and celery root, grated (a small carrot and normal sized root)
1/2 tsp pickling salt
4 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar

Toss vegetables with salt and let sit for ten minutes. Drain any accumulated water. Dissolve sugar in the vinegar, pour over mixture. Let sit an hour. Store in fridge for a week. Drain off any liquid to serve.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ginger Pear Preserves

I've been so obsessed with making jelly that I've been ignoring preserves. These ginger pear preserves have made me realize what I had been missing. I can't wait to have them on yogurt, on toast, on ice cream or, yes, straight out of the jar. What inspired me was some local Flemish Beauty pears on sale by the half peck. I'm usually not interested in peeling and dealing with pears, instead just bypassing the work and eating them out of hand. But when you set out to do it, it's really not a bother at all. I love using a melon baller for scooping out the seeds of a pear. And the peels came off pretty easy. I get into the rhythm of the chore and soon enough it's over. I've done cases of fruit. A half peck ain't nothing. It's always the anticipation that gets me.

Ginger Pear Preserves, The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

5 1/2 cups diced, peeled, cored pears (I used a bit more)
Grated zest and juice of 3 limes (I used one lime and two tangerines; I really like the tangerine zest floating in the jam--pretty!)
2 1/3 cups sugar
1 tbsp grated ginger

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil in a big heavy pot, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once boiling, cook for fifteen minutes until mixture thickens. Check for gel stage. When it has been reached ladle hot preserves into prepared jars. Process in water bath for ten minutes.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Oven-Roasted Cod, Portobello Mushrooms and Buckwheat Noodles

This was Christmas in a nutshell: a wonderful holiday spent with family, visiting with people who sorely needed a visit, some driving in cold, nasty weather, and way too much random and purposeless eating. Which is the point, right? However, the excesses of the holidays are now behind us. I always sigh in relief after the holidays are over. I have usually had enough. And essentially, they are over, because New Year's isn't really the exciting night it once used to be. Steve and I simultaneously (and probably half the country) realized that the time was now upon us to return to healthful (ish) eating. Last night we had this really delicious meal which felt healthy and hearty; a great combination in my book.

Put fish on a large cookie sheet lined with foil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Olive oil, salt and pepper on the fish. I used northern atlantic cod, though I'm sure many filets would do. Check with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. (I really like their Super Green List.)

Top with a dressing of
3 or 4 cloves grated garlic,
1 large knob of ginger,
1/4 cup light olive oil,
splash of tamari or soy sauce, and
1 T lemon-lime glaze (or use some lime juice, lemon juice, a teaspoon of brown sugar--a mix of citrus and sweetner)

Mix this up and use most of it on the fish. Put the fish in the oven for about twenty minutes.
On the lower rack put a tray of sliced portobello mushrooms, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper. These two trays will take the same amount of time. Halfway through you could flip or toss the mushrooms around while checking on the fish.

Meanwhile, cook buckwheat noodles, reserving two cups of the cooking water after draining. Put the reserved liquid back on the heat to simmer, add two heaping tablespoons of mild miso and dissolve. Return the noodles to heat up.

To serve: ladle broth into bowl, add noodles, fish on top, portobellos on the side. The mushrooms get slightly crispy in the oven, seasoned perfectly, they are meaty and dense. The fish is light and the sauce is a perfect blend of garlic, ginger and sweet citrus. Add to that the hearty noodles and savory broth, you've got a perfect bowl of repentance.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays to All!

Christmas Cheer: Coffee Liqueur and Marzipan

This is a dangerous post for me. First, let's be honest, I didn't make marzipan. I made almond paste. But I just love the word marzipan, and it sounds so much better than almond paste. Paste is an unfortunate word forever colored by the image of children eating kindergarten glue. (Not that I didn't indulge myself, but, moving forward.) I love marzipan more than any other sweet, and find it odd that others don't have the same compulsion. I'm surprised to find that people even have an aversion to it. And doesn't it look dull? Like I photographed some pie dough. But to me it looks rich and heavenly.

When I was a girl my family went to Germany, and it was there in the small town of Aachen that my little mind exploded. There was a marzipan festival going on. Every where you looked there was marzipan in every form. Even in the shape and color of a large head of cabbage. Even in the form of Donald Duck, which was what I decided upon as my special treat to purchase. Torn between having it and eating it, I think his legs and arms began to go on the long plane ride home. Every Christmas was made brighter by a tube of Odense marzipan or almond paste stuffed in my stocking, and sure enough, it would be empty and squeezed clean by the end of the day. (These obsessions can border on disgusting, really.)

So, I'm a little silly for marzipan and it's sister, almond paste. The difference is that almond paste is not cooked, more almond to sugar ratio and usually used for cooking and baking, whereas marzipan is cooked (the sugar is cooked to firm ball stage and added to the ground nuts) and is usually a formed candy. When I started realizing that they were both relatively easy to make, wheels started turning in my head. Last week I finally picked up some blanched almonds (slivered, not whole--couldn't find them) and the dream turned reality. See why its so dangerous? Because now I can make it any. time. I. want. It took all of fifteen minutes to make, the baby completely involved--just a matter of measuring and using the food processor (which he loves to push on and off). When the "dough" comes together, it's just a matter of kneading it a bit and wrapping it in plastic and keeping it in the fridge. It will stay for a month. You can also freeze it. I have plans for it, but I know deep inside that I will probably slice off pieces and slowly finish it after pulling it from my stocking. Then I'll have to make more.

Almond Paste, from the Joy of Cooking

1 1/2 cups blanched almonds
3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup (I used half honey because I only had a bit of corn syrup left)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Grind almonds and sugar fine in the food processor. Add the mixed syrup and extract while the processor is on. It will come together like dough--if it doesn't add a small bit of water. Knead just a touch to bind together on a surface dusted with powdered sugar, wrap tightly and either use, or refrigerate for one month, or freeze for up to three months.

Paired with this treat is a coffee liqueur that I saw on Delicious Days. It, as the original post says, takes all of five minutes to whip up. You just have to be patient while it sits. I love making infused vodkas. So easy. So special to break out on a Sunday afternoon. Or on Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tangerine Marmalade

I couldn't resist making the microwaved tangerine marmalade recipe from Put Up or Shut Up. I have bowls of citrus everywhere in the house because I love how it looks this time of year. But also because I have plans for each and every one of them. The few tangerines I had around were destined for this small batch recipe. I can't believe that this took all of twenty minutes to make. I'm a believer.

Some of the things I chose to do with this recipe:

I didn't process them, deciding instead to keep them in the fridge.

I didn't peel the tangerines, just sliced off the ends, halved them to remove the pits, and quartered them to prep for the food processor.

I used vanilla instead of rum and nutmeg. But this recipe is so easy you could make it every week and continuously change the flavorings.

My yield was 1 1/2 pints.

After the second cooking with the saran wrap removed, I decided to put the mixture in for a few more minutes as suggested. However, I did it for five minutes, leaving me with a very thick jam. More candied fruit than jelly. Which is totally fine but next time I would probably do just a minute or two and not five. Just like she suggests. I just didn't listen.

I would bet this would work with any citrus. It was really such a treat to make this as the baby napped, while still leaving time for cleaning and writing, too. And it's really a ray of sunshine during these spectacularly cold and dismal days of winter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Key Lime Curd Cake

Holy shizz. This cake is outrageously good. The other day I made some lime curd which was delicious. But I wasn't very careful with it, and it came out with some stringy egg whites in it, which is less than appetizing when you are slathering it on bread or some such. I couldn't find a proper cake recipe for the remaining curd (I love saying it--cuuuurd) so I put this little number together based on my banana bread recipe, and I might just make more curd just to make this cake. It's that good. Very soft and moist, sweet but with such a tangy bite! It's got my kind of crumb. And, need I say it? It's so easy. Check it.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar, hence the little black specs in there. You can add some vanilla extract or a bit of scraped vanilla bean if there is no vanilla sugar to be had.)
1 egg
1 cup key lime curd (here or use Joy of Cooking recipe for lemon curd, subbing lime juice. Joy's is equally simple and a little more descriptive on execution.)

Beat up that oil and sugar. Add beaten egg and beat more. Gently fold in the curd. Add mixed dry ingredients into wet ones. Pour batter into greased pan. Bake for thirty minutes or so in a 375 degree oven. (I baked it for forty minutes and it gave resistance upon removal from pan. However, that might have been because I couldn't wait to eat it, and thus, rushed it...)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Braised Brisket and Roasted Pears

You know, I love my crock pot. And I call it a crock pot, not a slow cooker, for no reason other than crock pot is fun to say. I also like the word crockery. There's a whole slew of reasons to like the word crock, but I'm not going to elaborate. Cause, you know, I don't have much time. There's so much to do right now, and I'm actually ahead of the game this year, amazingly. But, one of the reasons I like my crock pot so much during the winter is why everybody who likes them likes their crock pot: it's so darn easy. Throw a bunch of stuff in it and just forget about it all day long. Dinner is made. As I have said, all I have is time, but what I mean is that I have time for something to take a long time to cook. What I have absolutely no time for is meals that require my attention, because a little fifteen month old guy requires it more. I've tried a few times to cook while he was pulling on my legs and whining to be picked up. He's very convincing. And you know what? I'd rather be reading Who Says Boo for the billionth time. (Well, for the most part...) What I mean is that I'd rather be snuggled on the floor reading another book than having him whine and cry, for what? Just to cook something more complicated? One day I'll get that luxury back again. In the meantime, I eat just fine with super easy stuff like this. There's also infinitely less clean up. One pot. Love it.

2 lb brisket
12 ounces red wine
Half 28 oz. can of plum tomatoes
1 large red onion
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 or 4 garlic cloves
thyme, salt and pepper
Slice the onion in thick rings and layer the bottom of the pot with them. Place the meat on the rings. Add everything else. Put it on for low, eight hours. Serve on egg noodles or polenta with fresh chopped parsley. We also had a nice cabbage slaw with it that I got from Everybody Likes Sandwiches. I dressed it in the morning and picked at it all day, that's how good this salad was.

The other day, I made an Asian inflected dish in the crockery pot with chicken thighs. It was tasty, sturdy fare for a cold day.

4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup tamari
2 small onions, diced
1 knob of ginger, grated
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp. lemon lime syrup (I had this on hand, I would sub the juice of a lime and a tbsp. brown sugar)
1 tsp. 5 spice blend
Chopped scallions and parsley to finish.
All in the pot, 4 hours high. When finished toss in diced scallion and parsley. Serve with rice.

While the brisket was doing its thing, I roasted a bunch of pears. I used a recipe for vanilla roasted pears from Smitten Kitchen. Roasted pears are lovely. I usually like doing them a bit plain, but this recipe was on the sweet side. But not too sweet at all. I liked it hot out of the oven with egg nog ice cream. And think about the pan you use because the pear caramel that is made, exquisite though it may be, can ruin a good pan. I made quite a few, good for snacking plain or stuffed with some nice soft and sharp cheese.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Buckwheat Pancakes, Key Lime Curd, and Sweet Potato Latkes

We started the morning right, with the wood stove cranking (five days straight now, it's been cold!) and Jonathan Richman's Corner Store playing on the phonograph. If that song can't get you moving, then go back to bed and call it a day. I had a hearty breakfast forming in my head in preparation for being snowed in, but the storm fizzled. No matter. It's not like we go anywhere anyway!

For the savory side of things, I baked these sweet potato latkes for last night's dinner, a light repast with just a dollop of yogurt. I've been eyeballing all the latke recipes (must try Sunchoke latkes when we harvest next) and also hearing about all the hot oil burns. I had this great recipe ripped from a Women's Health magazine (ripped it out at a dentist's office--that's okay, right?) tucked in a folder and pulled it out. These are baked so I guess that's better for you than all that oil...

2 large sweet potatoes (or 2 lbs.) peeled grated
1 medium onion, grated
2 beaten eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (it also called for cinnamon, but I'm getting cinnamon-ed out these days.)

Preheat oven to 400. Oil two cookie sheets. Mix all ingredients. Drop by quarter cupfuls onto sheet. Flatten with spatula. I got twelve out of this. Bake for 25 minutes; flip and bake for an additional ten minutes. Mine cooked quickly and hotly, but that's due to my crappy pans and uneven oven. You know. Eyeball it.

In the morning, I whipped up this batch of buckwheat pancakes from one of my favorite breakfast cookbooks, The Good Breakfast Book by Nikki and David Goldbeck (1975). I love buckwheat. I love pancakes. Need we elaborate?

1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat (I used all purpose; didn't feel like going to the larder and opening a new bag of whole wheat. Sooo lazy.)
3 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder (omitted this)
1 1/2 cups water (used 1 cup water, 1/2 cup milk; not sure why)
1 tbsp. oil
2 tsp. molasses (I used honey)

Combine dry ingredients. Add wet to dry. Do that pancake thing. It never fails that my first two pancakes are awful. But still tasty. I plug ahead and the last one is always stellar. Sigh.

Yesterday, I tackled the little bag of key limes that my mother sent me. She knows I'm partial to these kind of things. Z and I had fun squeezing all the little green marbles to gather the precious juice. (Not really; I did it while he sat on the counter next to me play mixing in an empty coffee mug. They are like squeezing hard little leathery nuts. I persevered because they needed to be consumed.) I was going to make cookies until I thought of curd, and found this super easy recipe from Coconut & Lime. It really only took ten minutes and it would have come out even better if Z didn't wake from his nap right in the middle of the cooking time, thus making me a tad distracted. My only sub was that I used vanilla sugar in this. It was delicious: not too sweet and super tart.

Lately, there have been a huge flock of turkeys hanging out. They are still lingering, and it's mid afternoon. It's not a great picture--so much grayness these days!--but this is out the dining room window. You can see the neighbor's cat under the tree being overwhelmed by all these large, fearless birds. He initially was creeping up on them, but there must have been twenty of them! Not that it matters. You've got to be a really tough house cat to take on a wild turkey. He soon realized this was not a conquest he could attempt and ran back to his house. Smart cat.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Orange Mango Pâté de Fruit

I guess I'm on a jelly candy kick again! I had some orange mango puree and decided this would be a bright and shiny thing to make in the midst of this dreary winter weather. They are tangy and tropical and the texture is meltingly smooth. My only question is this: is there any way to get jellies to not sweat? I keep them in the fridge separated with parchment paper and still you have to re-dip them in sugar when you want to offer them as a little gift. What I really want to learn how to do is to make a much harder jelly candy. These are gorgeous and I think the texture, for what they are, is perfect. Ah, well. Patience, Grasshopper.

I adapted my recipe from Georgia Pellegrini's recipe for quince pâté de fruits. Mine's sort of ghetto.

3 cups of puree
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 tablespoons of lemon juice
2/3 cup of sugar
1 packet of "no sugar needed" pectin

Put puree, syrup, juice and sugar in a pan and bring to simmer. Whisk in pectin. Bring to 227 degrees. Pour into a oiled pan lined with parchment paper. Let sit for a few hours. Dredge in super fine sugar.

FYI, I'm not sure if I brought the temperature up to 227. The mixture was boiling furiously and the temperature on the thermometer read 200 degrees. That's just not right. So that's why last week's caramels turned into a rock!! I sort of suspected. I ditched the thermometer and let the liquid boil for about ten minutes, until it was sheeting thickly. I'm sort of peeved at that freaking thermometer, a basic Taylor candy/oil dealie. I mean, you think you're all safe when you have a thermometer but nooooo! Just goes to show that you really can rely on your intuition and knowledge. I always forget that. Ah, yes, Grasshopper.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Membrillo and Quince Squares

I finally did it! The last five pounds of quince have been utilized, and I fulfilled my latest obsession of quince paste. I have made quince jelly already, but for some reason membrillo had me a little wary. Every recipe I read had warnings of long periods of time stirring bubbly goo. But I so desired it. How can you not get obsessed over quince fruit, when every time you read about it the author is prompted to go into detail of its illustrious history, its connection to Nostradamus, its heavenly perfume, its ancient mystery. Don't look at me for one of these of well-researched and beautifully written treatises, because you will certainly not find it. But I can direct you to Kevin West's Saving the Seasons (Parts I, II and III) because not only did I mostly follow his recipe for membrillo, but he really lays down the quince law. What I think is most beautiful about his recipe is that he bakes it in the oven at a low temperature, thus taking the fuss work out of it. I let it sit in the oven over the course of a day, forgetting about it, not caring for it, and it came out beautifully.

4 cups of quince puree (from five pounds of quince simmered for an hour, juice reserved for future jelly)
4 cups of sugar
2 tbsp of lemon juice

I chose not to use any aromatics or spices, because I wanted to taste it on its own, but I know next time I will use any of the great recipes I saw, like a plain vanilla bean, or cinnamon and nutmeg, or a more savory style with bay leaves and thyme. They all sound great.

After blending the ingredients in a pot on the stove top until all the sugar dissolved, I poured that mixture into a 13 x 9 pan that was oiled, covered in parchment paper, which was then oiled. (I wasn't taking any chances.) I realized a few hours in that moving to a larger, shallower pan would help, so I did just that. After about five hours (at 225 degrees) I turned off the oven and let it sit over night. The next day I flipped the whole thing (carefully!) and let it sit for another day. This morning I divvied the business up. My bars of membrillo aren't quite as brick-like as many I've seen, both in size and hue, but they are nice little candy bars, and that's just fine for me.

I'm also obsessed with jelly candies, and on reading a book review of a local history of the Dutch settlers gustatory habits, I was piqued by quince squares, a sweet treat back in the early 1700s. I got the book out, but no recipe there! So I just cut up half of the quince paste and dipped them in sugar. I'm sure it's the same exact thing. Aren't they pretty?
Later on we'll have some membrillo with cheese and bread. Isn't it a great little loaf? I love that Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It's really great to have on hand. Especially when you live in the land of not so good bread. I keep the larger portion in the fridge, which they say makes eight loaves, but no so for this bread eater. I'd say it's more like four loaves.

N.B. You might also want to check out Put Up or Shut Up's Quince Paste using the microwave. Joy of Cooking also has a version of that. Cuts the time up, if you don't have it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chestnut, Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel Mousse

I would have never made this in a million years unless all the stars aligned just so. I happened to have one cup of sweet chestnut puree left and was looking for something to make. I had found this great simple recipe and was going to make it, but I was so tired and didn't want to do much of anything. A day or two before, I had attempted to make Beth Kimmerle's Soft Salted Chocolate Caramels, which was a disaster that left me with a hard block of candy that was delicious but threatened to pull your fillings out. In an effort to salvage the cream, sugar and chocolate invested, I heated a chunk of it in the microwave with some water (a tip I scavenged online) and mixed it into a rather decadent chocolate sauce. And there was some cream in the fridge that needed whipping and someplace to sit on top of, and for an excuse for me to eat it all.

To recap: I had one cup of sweet chestnut puree, one cup of chocolate sauce, and about two cups of whipped cream, all told. I mixed the puree and sauce together and folded in a cup of the whipped cream. I chilled it for a few hours and then served it mit schlag.

Oh my god, it was so incredibly rich that I couldn't even finish it. I had to return it to the fridge and eat it later on when I was ready again. With more whipped cream. I will probably never make this ever again, but dang was it sooo good.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Winter Squash Redux: Bread, Soup and Savory Bread Pudding

Last week I bought a squash, and it's still giving. Soup with a dollop of yogurt and fresh baked bread makes for cozy days in the Hudson Valley winter. Then some savory bread pudding using my old recipe, but I used two cups of stock and one cup of yogurt and no leeks. The cheese sprinkled on top was from a cheese plate left over from Sunday's brunch. Scrumptious!

And then this quick bread which I made to cheer up both me and a friend, as we were both in need of some substantial and healthy, yet a little sweet, treat to pick us up on a gloomy day. This is ever so easy, not too sweet, and packed with good-for-you squash. The crystallized ginger on top was decorative and decadent for such a sturdy bread. I think I might do without it in the future, but it does look pretty!

Sweet Squash Quick Bread

Makes two large loaves. Preheat oven to 350. Have all ingredients at room temperature.

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
Have these mixed together and ready to go.

In a seperate bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil and 1 cup sugar
Add 3 beaten eggs. Whisk up fluffy-like.
Add 2 cups of pureed squash.

Add dry to wet in three parts. Beat until smooth. Pour in greased loaf pans. Adorn with crystallized ginger or what have you. Bake for about an hour. Cheer someone up by giving them one loaf and keep the other to yourself!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Egg Nog Iced Cream and Kitchen Gin

I am a gin person. I never really liked vodka, always found it sort of boring. It might be due to my upbringing, as my parents were gin people. There was always a bottle of Beefeater or Bols in the liquor cabinet. Or maybe it has to do with the strange buzz I seem to get from gin, one that amps me as opposed to rum, for example, which has a sedating effect. Nothing against sedation, but being a generally mellow person I don't think I need any help. So, when I saw this recipe (in Gourmet by Ian Knauer by way of Serious Eats) for making your own gin, my interest was piqued. When I saw it started with vodka my brow furrowed. It seemed a little suspect, but if all I had to lose was 400 ml of vodka and some spices, well then, why the hell not? Who doesn't want to make their own gin? Gin is, after all, a neutral spirit with infused botanicals; it can't be that preposterous. I filled up a pint jar with vodka and just halved his recipe for spices, used lemon and lime peel, and forewent the fresh herbs, which sounded great, but I just didn't have it on hand. I added one anise seed after reading a little more about gin and its components. Don't you love that Hogarth illustration, Gin Lane? Here's the accompanying poem:

Gin, cursed Fiend, with Fury fraught,
Makes human Race a Prey.
It enters by a deadly Draught
And steals our Life away.

Virtue and Truth, driv'n to Despair
Its Rage compells to fly,
But cherishes with hellish Care
Theft, Murder, Perjury.

Damned Cup! that on the Vitals preys
That liquid Fire contains,
Which Madness to the heart conveys,
And rolls it thro' the Veins.

Right now the gin tastes interesting, but I'm not ready for it now. The real test will be cocktail hour by the fire, which by then anything will do, so I'm sure as long as I don't go blind everything will be just fine. Afterwards, there's nothing exciting for dinner, but look out dessert! When a quart of egg nog is sitting in the fridge about to expire what do you do? Why, you pour it into your ice cream maker and make, wait for it: egg nog ice cream!! Seriously, how good and easy is this? Just pour the whole quart of egg nog in and turn the machine on. Twenty minutes later you have good stuff to transfer to a container bound for the freezer to firm up a bit. That is, if you can resist it right then and there.

P.S. The titles reference to iced cream with a "d" is a nod to a friend of mine who feels strongly that if we are going to call it iced tea we had better be calling it iced cream. Not my rant, his. But he has a point...

Banana Bread and Celery Root

It's been a cozy few days with the fire running constantly and the snow and ice all piled up outside. We've been eating roasts and root vegetables and and fresh bread, having fun along the way.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Clementine Marmalade

Yesterday was all about orange. It started when we took an early spin to the Apple Bin to pick up a squash. I chose this very heavy Marina di Chioggia. It asked me to make it into soup. I obliged. Once home I roasted it, and once it cooled down I began to harvest it's velvety orange flesh---making sure not to lose a bit of it. You have to be careful with bumpy-skinned squash, all the best flavor is in the greenish layer next to the skin. I kid you not. It's where all the nuttiness is. I was eating while working, and so was baby Z in his highchair, mushing that goodness on his tray. I have never loved squash like this. I mean, I was just eating it as I went. That's really nothing I've ever done before. I am a convert. I saved all the seeds with hopes for next year's garden. It yielded so much! I made a huge batch of squash soup with broth, onion, salt and pepper. Instead of using my regular stock, I finally made turkey pho, using this recipe which is ingenious and highly recommended, especially for squash soup. I must have at least four cups left to eat and perchance to freeze.

I wasn't even going to talk about the soup, but what a fine specimen of vegetable. I couldn't let it go unnoticed. However, the real excitement was Clementine Marmalade. It is so beautifully golden orange and deliciously bitter sweet, I will have to make scones very soon so I can eat it. And it is so incredibly festive for this time of year. Did I just say that? That sounded a little contrived, but I really mean it. Seeing boxes of clementines in the store is a marker of the season. Making clementine marmalade wasn't as hard as it seems, it just takes a long time. That's all I have these days, so a bowl of them fell in for the cause. I used a Christine Ferber recipe of the same name.

Basically, you finely slice up the fruit--which I could have done a better job at, to be honest, and better results might have been reached if I knew about chilling the clementines first, which helps firm them up (also works for other things like cookie dough and meats, as you well may know). Sometimes you know about a trick but forget to apply them to the job at hand. You add sugar and lemon juice to the fruit, bring to a boil then remove to a bowl in the fridge overnight. Do it again the next day. On the third day you add apple jelly stock you made (I used a mixture of half crabapple and half earl grey tea jelly), bring to the jelling point and then can. I processed for ten minutes. If anyone wants this recipe, leave me a comment or e-mail me and I will gladly type it up. As it stands, I am in the middle of granola baking and candy making and present wrapping and it's all starting to blur a little. I did follow the recipe for Clementine Marmalade from Christine Ferber's book Mes Confitures, so you can check that out. Anyone clamoring to make this just might have that book already!

Okay, I've got the time so here's the recipe:

1 3/4 pounds or 800 grams of clementines
3 1/4 cups or 700 grams of sugar
Juice of two small lemons (I used two tablespoons of juice)
1 3/4 cup Green Apple Jelly (This is your added pectin. I used a mix of Stayman Winesap Jelly and Earl Grey Tea Jelly, that I made, leftovers in the fridge. If you don't have some jelly lying around, which you just may not, then I'm sure you could buy some...)

Clean your thin-skinned clementines. Chill them for a bit so they get firm. Then cut them into very thin slices. Remove the seeds. Cut the rounds into quarters. Combine the clementines, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy pan. Bring to a simmer. Remove mixture from the pot into a bowl, cover with parchment paper and refrigerate overnight.

On the next day, bring it to a boil again and remove it again, to sit overnight in the fridge.

On the third day, pour mixture in your heavy pot, add the apple jelly and bring to a boil, stirring gently. Skim, continue to cook on high for about 5 or 10 minutes. Check that you have reached the jelling point (220 degrees). Ladle the hot marmalade into hot half-pint jars. Process for ten minutes. Yields four half-pints.

See the note below in the comments section that recommends only letting the mixture sit for one night. I trust this advice. Also, if you are looking for a super easy tangerine marmalade that could easily use clementines instead, see this microwaved tangerine marmalade I made.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Apple Cranberry Conserve

When I was a child my mother could keep me quiet for a few minutes while peeling an apple or an orange. The reason being she would do it so that the peel was removed in one piece, creating a long spiral. Oranges, mainly clementines I seem to recall, would be able to be reformed into their former shape. Apples were harder to execute and thus, cause for a more rapt audience. Every once in a while it didn't work, which made it all the more exciting. Could she do it? Would she? Isn't that a beautiful thing? That peeling an apple could be such a thing of talent, beauty, and suspense?

That's what I was thinking about when I was peeling all these Ida Red apples, my favorite these days. Yesterday was cold, and snow started falling in the afternoon, the first of the season and not just a dusting. I had bread rising and these apples to cook up; perfect cold weather activities in my book. I had just started some clementine marmalade in a pot, then removing it to a bowl to sit. I didn't clean the pot, just started adding apples to it, so that orange-y syrup could mingle in. This conserve was a total whim, and lucky for me it came out great. Which is not hard when you work with such great ingredients that naturally go well with each other. Note that there is no sugar--it's sweetened only with some juice and a little bit of jelly. We had it in our oatmeal this morning, and it was delicious. It's really gorgeous, rosy pink and studded with golden orbs. I love the fruits of winter.

8 cups of peeled, cored apples, chunky dice
1 cup of cranberries
1 cup of golden raisins
1/2 cup cranberry raspberry juice (any juice with no added sugar would be fine)
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
2 tbsp. of grape jelly (I used this niagara grape jelly I made, adding sweetness and gloss)
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

Simmer for an hour until apples are softened. When you pull a wooden spoon through the bottom of the pan and there is no water forming at the edges, and the sides don't close immediately, you can call it done. Ladle into mason jars and seal. Once cool, keep in the fridge. I am sure these could be processed but I didn't choose to. I know I'll eat it too quickly.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Apple Apricot Almond Jelly

This isn't a picture of the jelly, but rather a picture of it's by product, artfully named jelly bag butter. I think I prefer the title apple-apricot sauce, but that's just me. I got savvy to this when making my quince jelly. That the pulp left over from jelly making can be put through a food mill rather easily and ecco, you have another two jars of loveliness. I used my apple plum star anise recipe as a guideline, subbing apricots for plums.

The numbers looked like this:

2 1/4 pounds apples
2 1/4 pounds apricots
8 1/2 cups water

The apples were Ida Reds, and they were quartered. Apricots were halved and pitted. Simmered for thirty minutes. Juice strained from the fruit mush. I let the juice sit in the fridge overnight whilst it strained a second time.

Meanwhile, I put the fruit through a food mill. The puree measured about five cups; I added one cup of sugar and a few cloves, and let that all simmer a while. Tart and tangy. Mmm. I didn't process it, but instead put it in the fridge. Not only will it be good just spooned right out, but also in some recipes I've got swimming in my head.

The next day, I measured out 4 1/4 cups of the juice and still had 4 1/4 to freeze for future jelly. I love that. In a pot with 4 cups of sugar, and 2 tbsp of lemon juice, it simmered until almost jelling, when I added one tablespoon of apricot brandy and one teaspoon of almond extract. I was looking for that marzipan scent. Reached the jelling point and canned it. The end.

I didn't take a picture of the jelly because who needs another picture of gorgeous golden jelly all nice and pretty in a jar? Besides, it's rainy and I have several things on the stove to tend to, oh, and I hear someone waking up from their nap!

N.B.: All my jelly recipes are written pretty loosely, mostly for my own documenting purposes. If you have any questions, by all means leave a comment or e-mail me. Jelly is dangerous. Make your jelly responsibly.

Apricot Puree on Foodista

Friday, December 4, 2009

Braised Duck Legs

Oh, wow, this was so good, and totally up my alley, meaning it was so easy I wondered if I made it at all. The other day, I was shopping and couldn't resist some duck legs that were snuggled between some turkeys. I had no idea what I was going to do with them but duck confit had been wriggling around in my brain for a few weeks. Ever since I got back in touch with a friend of mine. We used to work together in a restaurant in the West Village that made a pretty mean duck confit that just begged you to try and pilfer some. That was a dangerous game for waiters among cooks. My friend threw caution to the wind and would manage to infiltrate the open kitchen. That's just crazy, like walking into a den of vipers. That's why I like that guy.

So, that stuck in my head but I just didn't want to buy all that fat that you need. Well, something was working for me in the ether because I found this recipe via The Amateur Gourmet which he got from Jean-George's "Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef" which was co-written by Mark Bittman. Blah, blah, blah. The good part is that it's basically braised in it's own fat, so isn't that a bit like confit? It's just that you eat it all right away and feel slightly ill from all the duck fat you consumed instead of slowly eating it in small doses like a rational person. But who's rational?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rivers, Train Tracks, Milkweed, and Cider Jelly Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Inspired by A Chicken In Every Granny Cart, who takes beautiful, contemplative walks, I decided to post a walk I took today. Today was unexpectedly gorgeous, at least the morning part, and we started it off right with a stroll down by the river. That would be the mighty Hudson.
The lighting was just perfect at eight a.m.

Later in the day, I had the luxury of taking a walk by myself. I decided to go down by the train tracks because I can't go there with the baby, and I love the train tracks. (P.S. It's also hunting season and you can't be too careful.)

Water was bubbling everywhere.

I am always drawn to train tracks. Good thing I live near by some.

I'm also endlessly fascinated by milkweed.

After two walks, stacking wood, and caring for the baby after a bad night of sleep, I settled on an easy dinner, so there's nothing special about the meal, no recipe needed. It just looked really good, and tasted better: sweet potatoes mashed with yogurt, plain old peas, and pork tenderloin that was lifted by an application of my apple cider cardamom jelly. I will admit that I ran my finger several times through the pan to get every last bit of that syrupy glaze.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Shrimp and Scrod Soup

Today started out sunny, but cold. Then it slowly turned cloudy, hazy--that hazy shade of winter, you know? It is December, last time I checked. By dinnertime it was slowly raining, cold and foggy. We were in by 4 o'clock, down in the basement where we have our wood stove. Sounds weird to have a stove in the basement, right? But it's cozy and a little like a den from the seventies, or a rec room, if you will. For numerous reasons, it was the right thing to put the stove in the basement, and now it's the equivalent to our porch in the summer. In the winter we spend all of our time downstairs, hunkered down in the bunker. It's a furnished basement; didn't everyone have them in the seventies? Well, maybe not my family, but all my friends did. Half skeleton and half plush, it was where you and all your friends would hang out with cookies and milk, and then, fast forward a few years, whatever you could find in the liquor cabinet. Maybe there was a dart board (we have one), and perhaps a record player (check), and probably also a oddly stocked bar, containing creme de menthe and some crappy gin (odd? yes, crappy? no).

I stepped out on the porch tonight, while a rich and tomato-y broth waited for me in the kitchen, simmering away, as I finished my last sip of wine. Waiting for what, you ask? To put the fish and shrimp in, so they could poach quickly and be finished off with parsley and Pernod. I took my time on the now defunct porch, taking in all the sounds: the howl of the fire alarm siren, the distant, slow choogle of the freight trains running, the sad, quiet patter of the rain. All the lights in the distance from neighbors' porches had a fuzzy glow about them, and I breathed in the air, wet and cold, and thought, here is December. It only gets colder from here on out.

And so, I turned in to the kitchen, warm and sputtering with the shimmery red broth waiting for me to slip in the shrimp and scrod, to finish it's duty to warm our souls on this gently wintry night.

Saute chopped garlic in olive oil. Add one large diced onion, and one peeled, diced carrot. Bay leaf, please! Slowly, one quart of shrimp stock (or some fish stock). One can of peeled tomatoes. Let that business simmer for a while if you can handle it, adding some oregano, fennel, salt, red pepper flakes and ground black pepper. When it's all looking and smelling right, and you are ready to eat, ease in a half pound of shrimp (I kept them in the shells; more work and yes, messy, but more flavor) and a half pound of homely, but proud, scrod. A handful of chopped fresh parsley, a tablespoon of Pernod, if you have it, and then sit down by the fire and sup.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Apple Cranberry Crisp

After the fat and sugar and alcohol laden weekend (no complaints here!) I decided I should watch the sugar intake. I always buy too many apples (how can you not when huge baskets of big, beautiful Ida Reds are only $2. 99!) so to finish up the cranberry sauce from T-day I made another apple cranberry crisp. Only this time I tried to make it less buttery and sugary. It came out great, so great that I could only take one picture before devouring it and that's why it's blurry! Always take more than one picture. I had it with cream on the top yogurt which satisfied my decadent streak (or swath, if you will). The apples turned a pretty pink and cranberries added both sweetness and tartness.

Put three apples, not peeled, but diced into a greased glass baking pan (13x9). Add a half pint of cranberry sauce (which did have sugar). Make a crumb mix with 1/2 cup whole oats, 1/4 cup wheat flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 cup oil. Sprinkle on top and bake for almost an hour at 375 degrees.

Baby Z helped me out. I gave him his set of play pans and sprinkled a little oat, flour, sugar, spice mix in one of the pans and gave him a wooden spoon. Instead of mixing it, he ate it all and chewed on the apple cores I gave him, and he made quite a mess. A lovely mess.