Sunday, January 31, 2010

Good Feeling, Won't You Stay With Me Just a Little Longer?

No recipe or nothin', just wanted to hold onto a good feeling. One that included potatoes roasted in duck fat.

And a pork loin glazed with citrus marmalade.

I sat at the kitchen table finishing all the potatoes that I had to eat, because they just wouldn't be good the next day. (Or so was my excuse.) Redolent of the meal I had cooked the duck in, smelling of carrots and ginger, I mopped up the oil and salt with each bit—the outside crunching while the insides burst forth in well-cooked potato-y softness. I put on a good album that always loosens my shoulders. I was drinking some nice red wine that warmed my innards. I started reading a short story by Don Delillo that I had been holding onto for a while and the beginning made me smile--two college pals walking the train tracks pondering what they thought to be philosophical quandaries. Earlier, I had stepped out onto the porch, cold and wickedly windy, to see the moon stark and white in the deep blue winter sky. It was strikingly and fiercely beautiful.

All of this was humming inside me so I had to stop and write it down. I love moments--how numerous subtle influences crescendo into a palpable feeling that washes over you, all senses reeling. Or maybe not reeling--maybe soaking, or sensing, or quietly formulating, to create a code, a scent, a thread, a little story that feels like a great, old coat. So right that you almost regret taking it off. But a meal has to end, for the next one to come, now, doesn't it?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Turkey in Mole Sauce

We had a nice lunch yesterday that did not involve jelly. I couldn't resist this Dona Maria Mole at the supermarket the other day. I love this kind of stuff. I get lost in the international aisle all the time. The ingredients weren't awful; there were only six of them and they were all real foods that I could pronounce, as per Michael Pollan's new book, Food Rules. (I like that he's stopped preaching to the choir and is trying to influence everybody. Good luck! Sincerely!) So I felt it was okay. I've been craving mole and am too lazy to make it myself. One day. But for now, I elect to be lazy. I don't think I could ever come up with what I'm craving--my mole experiences are from Oaxaca, and well, once you have that good stuff, you will never be able to accept anything else. One can pretend, though, can't one?

You basically slide this paste out of the glass jar (which I'll keep, thank you, very cute!) with four cups of stock, alongside your already seared turkey breast. Cover and put in the oven at 325 for about an hour. Then serve with piping hot tortillas, farmer's cheese, and a red cabbage salad tossed with parsley and a vinaigrette.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Plum Ginger Cake with Lemon Vanilla Jelly Glaze

Reading the posts from the last few days paints a picture that somehow I subsist on a diet of jelly. Which is probably not so far from the truth in relation to other folks, but I do eat healthy meals consisting on brown rice and legumes and meat and vegetables. Really! But winter beckons with its snowy claw and so I'm forced (forced!) to stay inside and create sweet concoctions. That's the view from the kitchen. Just yesterday it was all green and muddy. Sigh. I know, it's still January!! Leave winter be!

A much needed ray of sunshine: Lemon Vanilla Jelly. I did a small batch with some leftover apple extraction from the Tangelo Lemongrass Jelly I made for month one of the Tigress' Can Jam (follow link on sidebar for more on that). I didn't have any half-pint jars left, so I used a pint jar. My yield was a pint jar, sealed, and a half-pint in the fridge. A pint jar of jelly is an absurd thing. That's a lot of jelly, people.

1 cup of apple pectin extraction (see linked recipe above for directions)
1 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of sugar
1/3 of a vanilla bean pod, scraped

Combine all in a pan and bring to boil. Boil until jell point is reached, 220 degrees, about ten to fifteen minutes. This one jelled up quick! Can and seal, process for fifteen minutes. (I would do ten minutes for half-pints.)

It tastes tart and lemony, not too sweet, a delicate but firm set, and a hint of vanilla wafting through. Great tart glaze, I'll bet. And so...

So, what? So: I made this little cake based on my quick Lime Curd Cake recipe, but subbed plum ginger preserves in for the curd. The preserves were from this summer, rosy pink, tart and spicy, made from local Santa Rosa plums and Stayman Winesap apples. I glazed the cake with a spoonful of jelly heated and turned to syrup.

I was going to dust it with confectioner's sugar, but it was too pretty to cover with snow. There's enough of it outside!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fig Lemon and Fennel Jam

I've had some dried organic mission figs I bought on sale from the health food store that have been patiently waiting while I got swept away with all this citrus. I didn't forget about them, I just knew how patient they could be, sitting there, all wrinkly in a jar, quiet, thoughtful. I saw a great recipe for dried figs from Consider the Pantry that I will make one day, probably with Calmyrna figs. In describing the jam she mentions the taste of Fig Newtons. That sounds just blessed to me. I was also completely smitten with The Laundry's Can Jam entry, Lemon, Fig and Lavander Marmalade. It had me swooning. I was there.

But then I was twiddling through the Joy of Cooking and in the fruit section there was a little gem called Fig Compote with Lemon and Ginger. I had everything on hand. All the right amounts. Of course, I had to change a few things. And it came out heavenly. It perfumed the house. Not too sweet due to the lemon which candies, ever so slightly vanillin, and the fennel just takes it back from being completely dessert-y. It is close to a compote because I left half of the figs whole and the rest are split so those nice little seeds squoosh out. The syrup they float in is thick. I am planning on getting some incredible vanilla ice cream today so I can put a dollop on top. But it's definitely an eat-from-the-jar kind of thing.

Fig Lemon Fennel Jam

1 pound of dried figs, stems removed
3 cups of water
1 lemon, zest only, in strips
1 tablespoon of fennel seeds
1/3 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped

Simmer until figs are plumped. About thirty minutes.

1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Simmer for another thirty minutes or so until the syrup reaches your desired consistency. If you want, split half the figs with a flat edged utensil. Process for ten minutes.

NOTE: The original recipe does not water bath it. It is meant for immediate consumption, and will sit in the fridge for a month. However, I am a wild kind of soul and decided it was okay to can. (I felt it was similar enough to a few recipes that the acid was okay. I also raised the sugar.) However, I only made enough for me and will be the only one consuming it. There was no testing involved. So can this at your own risk.

It was miserable outside when I made this and the power went out just as I was finishing up. So I canned by candlelight. Very romantic.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mixed Citrus Marmalade

Please make the spring come early this year. Please? It's been so cold, and we had a crummy summer, so I really think we deserve it. Why is it still only January, for crying out loud??

Okay, sorry about that. I should shut up because today it was almost sixty degrees out. But you couldn't really tell with the torrential rain and gale force winds out there. But, I will say this: all the snow is gone! Now it's some dull green and loads of mud, which I am happy to see. I'll get sick of it in a bit and wish for some snow to cover it all up, but for now, I'm nearly (dis)content.

This is what forced me to be a crazy lady and make some marmalade. I saw a bag of mixed citrus on sale for 99 cents (isn't it funny how keyboards don't have the cents sign anymore? Is it now some ancient heiroglyph that only oldsters like me can understand it?). So I turned it into this very delicious marmalade using a recipe for tangerine marmalade from one of my favorite blogs, Doris and Jilly Cook. Simple, to the point, great technique and the yield was huge. Love that.

My added tip in the hat? Or tip of the hat? Whatever. Anyways, you know how you can use the food processor for chopping up your citrus saving you loads of time? I love that. But, and this might be obvious for some, but for me it was a revelation: you can use your slicer attachment to thinly slice the fruit up. Instead of the pebbly rind you get with the chopper blades, you get nice thin perfect shreds. Just remember to refrigerate your fruit over night before hand, so they slice up nice.

Here's a crappy picture to illustrate my revelation:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Catch Up: Keema Alu, Pork Chops, Cookies

We don't eat a lot of ground beef and to be honest, unless it's a fabulous burger, to me ground beef is a little dull on it's own. But it was all I had, and Shepherd's Pie wasn't doing it for me, so I dug into always trusty Joy of Cooking and found this recipe. It worked, but I really expected it to sing out a little more. I mean the recipe has loads of garlic, cumin, ginger, coriander. But when I tasted it, yeah, it was good, but it needed something. What it needed, folks, was some pickles. Dill lemon cucumbers from last summer, and the turnip-radish pickles I made last week. The pickles elevated a simple meal into a special one wherein there were precious few leftovers. The high notes were reached. It reminded me of Uzbekistan food; not that I've been there. We used to go to this place in Brighton Beach called Chio Pio. It was incredibly good--bottles of vodka on tables, and hearty food piled high, rich meat filled pies and plates of salty pickles. I loved that place.

Saute two diced onions in oil til golden. Add spices:
2t minced garlic
2t grated ginger
2t cumin
2t coriander, ground (I used whole)
1t turmeric
red pepper flakes to taste

Then add a pound or so of ground beef, 1/2 cup of drained chopped tomatoes, some salt. Cook and reduce liquid, about ten minutes. Add three or four potatoes, peeled and cut in small chunks and a cup of water. Cover and simmer on low for twenty minutes or until potatoes are tender. Uncover and cook on high to reduce liquid. Adjust seasoning. Top with chopped parsley or cilantro, or both, and scarf down with pickles.

Then tonight we had some pork chops, nothing special, just sauteed with apples and onions, all local. But the side dish was special. Sweet and sour red cabbage. I love that stuff. Reminds me of the special New Year's Day meal my mother used to make, which was German, roast pork with kartoffelklosse (potato dumplings) and red cabbage. For this I sauteed shallots in bacon fat (yes, that bacon fat) and then added the sliced cabbage with some brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and you know what? I didn't have stock, but I did have some orange herbal tea sitting on the back burner, so I used that instead. It was just fine. I love it when that kind of thing happens.

And then I made my desperation cookies. I made this recipe sans the chips to leave in the fridge for when the sugar itch scratches. Which it does often. They were in the fridge and I just baked some off. Studded with marzipan and almonds, they hit the spot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tangelo Lemongrass Jelly

I sit down to write this first entry in the Tigress' Can Jam with an appropriate drink in hand to cheer all my fellow canners. A friend gave me a sweet little pint jar filled with a gin, clementine, kumquat, cardamom and peppercorn cordial. Perfect on ice with a splash of seltzer, I thought it would be a great souse for tonight's post. The amount of response to this endeavor is astounding, and I'm so glad to be a part of it! So cheers!

On to the meat of the matter. My subject: tangelos, which are a cross between a tangerine and either a pomelo or grapefruit. They yield a great deal of juice. I'm a little marmaladed out, so I thought jelly was my ticket. When I saw some huge, local granny smith apples, I knew I was in business. The lemongrass I spotted just sweetened the deal.

4 lbs. granny smith apples (the tarter the better)

Quarter these and put them in a large heavy pan. Cover with 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about thirty minutes. Apples should be very soft. Strain the juice once in a large mesh. Then do a finer strain. I like to line some cheesecloth over my strainer. Let this drain slowly overnight in the fridge.

Tip: Pass your cooked apples through a food mill. Makes excellent applesauce! Sweeten and spice if you want, or leave it au naturale.

2 1/2 pounds of tangelos

Juice these, reserving the seeds, to measure 2 cups of juice.

Tip: Save the rinds for candied citrus peels. Put them in the freezer in a ziploc until you get a pound of them. I also scraped the flesh from the rind and the pile I had was so juicy that I put it all in a pot and simmered it with 1/2 cup of juice, 1/2 cup of water, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/2 vanilla bean, and made a great syrup.

Put 2 cups of your apple extraction and 2 cups of the tangelo juice into your preserving pan along with 3 cups of sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Bring to a boil. While this is reaching a boil, bruise one stalk of lemongrass with a rolling pin and chop it coarsely. Add it to the mixture, along with the reserved citrus seeds. (You could put these in a cheesecloth pouch--I chose to let it loose. See note below.) Bring this to the jelling point, can and process for ten minutes.

Notes: This is probably one of my favorite jellies to date, and I've been on a little bit of a jelly tear. It's perfectly jelled for my tastes, and has a consistency like a good marmalade without the rinds (or bitterness). The lemongrass is not overpowering at all, but does give the citrusy goodness a goose. Be careful with chopping the lemongrass--I did it too fine and had to strain the jelly before canning it and besides being a pain, it slowed what should be a quick transition. And I should note that lemongrass is hard and not what you want on your toast, so don't leave it in. However, this jelly was so tasty that I saved all the foam I pulled off the mixture, along with all the strained lemongrass and seeds because I couldn't bear to throw it out. I thought it would make a nice glaze on some duck breast.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Home-Cured Bacon

This will be a short and emphatic post. Do yourself a favor. Make your own bacon! It's easy, inexpensive and very rewarding. There are a few days involved, but just for sitting in brine and cooking off. You don't have to do much else.

On an impulse the other day, I picked up some skin-on pork belly from the store. I've been thinking about making bacon for a while now, and sometimes you just have to jump in and do it. My initial internet search for a recipe yielded many calling for pink salt, which I soon learned is sodium nitrate. I wanted to avoid using nitrates, having heard this is possible. What happened was, not finding any recipes without pink salt I called up those local meat rock stars, Fleisher's to see if they carried pink salt. I believe it was one of the owners that got on the phone to school me about the pink salt, and how I didn't need it. He went on to give me the full recipe, quickly and brusquely, just how a butcher should. I am indebted and next time will certainly purchase the pork belly from them. Embarrassingly, I admitted it wasn't their meat I was using, and he still helped me. Those people are awesome. You should be a fan on Facebook because they are very funny, to boot.

Anyway, after all that, I dug a little deeper and found this recipe from Saveur. It's great and simple. I messed with the spices a little, and next time I will definitely use brown sugar. You can use sea salt, but I think a coarse grind is what you want. I baked the bacon for four hours, as opposed to the recommended two. I would stick with that, but it's up to you. I will use the smoker one day, too. The bacon came out sublime, a wee bit salty, and with the herbs I used, very much like breakfast sausage. My slab was almost a pound and a half. We ate half for breakfast this morning. I am looking forward to using the rest as lardons with some greens. Heaven!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce, Roasted Roots

I've always been a fan of local foods. I was raised that way. We ate fresh eggs from Fanello's and would often pick up some other goods, a fresh killed chicken, perhaps. There was Albert's, by the train station, where we would get delicious bottles of milk with cream on the top that us kids would fight over. There were farm stands during the summer to supplement Mom's great garden on our little 1/8th of an acre plot. We had a strawberry patch and blueberry bushes, a mulberry tree that I would climb and hide in to snack for hours in the summer, a Queen Anne cherry tree, and raspberries down the road behind the post office. We also picked mussels and dug for clams at the beach. We bought grass-fed hormone-free meat. We bought freshly caught fish from the harbor (although a dubious practice in hindsight). This was the seventies and eighties in (or on, as the locals might say) Long Island. Amazing, right? I was raised with really good food.

As I got older I stayed close to local food. I worked in the early 90's at a restaurant called Home which was all about locally sourced or foraged foods and wines. I also worked at a wine store that sold only New York wines, Vintage New York. So, I've always been involved in local, as many people have. It's not a really new concept. But it's a concept that has been getting a lot of interest lately, and I think that's amazing. In the past few months of immersing myself in the food blog world, which is dizzying to say the least, one of the things I've most been interested in is the diligence of some locavores. It's been invigorating for me, because it's pushed me to get more involved and be more diligent myself. I work a bit harder to check labels and make sure where my food is coming from. I'm less complacent. One of the things that's hard to swallow for me about sourcing more food locally is the cost. But there are ways. And then there are concessions to be made. They are usually worthwhile. And that feels good.

After I cooked this meal last night, I realized it was mostly local. I didn't even plan on it. But the lamb is from Pine Plains, as are the Pine Island onions and the Veritas Farms celery root and the Four Winds Farm parsnips. The yogurt wasn't, but it very easily could have been (I have a weakness for greek yogurt on sale!). I realized that with just a little more thought and attention to detail, maybe a little more legwork, you can eat a little more local. Which is better than not eating local at all.


In the name of local foods, would you like to take this short survey that my friend is working on? Here's some information about it:

A small team of people dedicated to the promotion and expansion of local sustainable agriculture and food are looking to better understand food purchasing habits and desires. The team has been assigned a year-long business development project as part of their studies at Antioch New England’s “Green MBA” program. The information you provide will help the team develop their business idea which seeks to connect local sustainable and organic farmers to consumers. At this point the effort is a school project only, but the team believes that it may develop into an actual local/regional business that could be replicated across the country. A summary of their final business plan will be made available later in 2010.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Cabbage and Radish Kimchi

Last week I started some kimchi, which I had been craving. I found a nice head of Chinese (napa) cabbage and a large daikon radish. Both of them were two pounds, so I had to double the recipe I used, which was from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich. I love kimchi, but I am embarrassed to admit I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to tolerating heat in foods. I used half cayenne and half paprika for this (suggested in the book), and it's still a tad hot. But boy is it good! Maybe that's the lure for people who love spicy stuff---the sado-masochistic side of it. Not being able to stop even when it hurts. I stop. I'm such a baby!

This will last in the fridge for a super long time. I'll probably try to foist some on a friend, because I did make 2 1/2 quarts of it. Last night we had potatoes, apples and kielbasa (all local!) and we didn't have sauerkraut, so I served it with the kimchi and the rest of the pickled onions at the bottom of the jar of bread and butter lemon cucumber pickles. What a great wintry meal!

I doubled this recipe, and used paprika and cayenne instead of Korean dried hot pepper.

3 tablespoons pickling salt
5 cups water
1 pound Chinese cabbage, cut into 2 inch squares
1 pound daikon, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
5 scallions, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons of Korean ground dried hot pepper
1 teaspoon sugar

Dissolve 2 T plus 2 t of salt in the water. Reserve 1 teaspoon for later! Combine vegetables in large crock and cover with the brine. Weight the veggies down, and let stand for 12 hours. I used the lining of my crock pot. Works great for pickles.

Drain and reserve brine. Combine vegetables and the rest of the ingredients with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Pack mixture into a 2 quart jar. (I used three quart jars.) Cover with reserved brine, then put a freezer bag in and fill it with more brine to weight down the vegetables. Seal the bag. Let it ferment for 3 to 6 days, at a temperature no higher than 68 degrees (my basement does the trick). When it's done, remove the bag, seal the jar and keep in the fridge. It will keep for months.

N.B. This is brilliant. A recipe for Kimchi pancake:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Granola Bars

I've been wanting granola bars for a long time. Every time I make granola bars the traditional way they turn into granola bark, then granola crumble. What I wanted was something that kept its shape even when I bit into it. Something to take in the car that wouldn't explode into sticky crumbs all over me when I took a bite. I realized I had to make a cookie-style bar. I was inspired by some leftover granola from the holidays. I had made a batch that was a little too done, and less than happy with, and therefore never gave it out. With an excess of granola, which almost never happens, I ventured forth and discovered The Granola Bar. (Where's my little "TM" symbol?)

These were, as per my style, easy to make and intensely satisfying. Not too sweet, not crumbly at all, good crunch level, and filled with nuts (because that was the kind of granola it was). With a cold glass of whole milk, local and from grass fed cows, it made a perfect snack. On the road or not.

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch o' salt
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 egg

Whisk sugar and oil together, and then add beaten egg. Add mixed dry ingredients to beaten wet ingredients. Add 1 1/2 cups of granola. Bake in a greased pan (mine was 10.5 x 7 inch) at 350 for 30 minutes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pickled Turnips and Radishes

This morning I opened a jar of pickles I made this summer from my bountiful lemon cucumber crop. They are outrageously good bread and butters with extra coriander and turmeric. So good in fact, that my fifteen-month old kept jamming them in his mouth. I had to hide the jar or else he might have eaten them all. Which, yeah, I don't think so! I think that was his first pickle experience. It was really quite beautiful to watch. We have a believer. He then helped me make this pickle recipe. He's really good at pushing the food processor on and off.

I was so excited to write about these pickles because they look incredible. But, it will be a few days until I can back that up empirically. I based it on a couple of recipes, mostly Linda Ziedrich's Pink Pickled Turnips for the measurements. There are a bunch of recipes for this Middle Eastern pickle, and they all have beets in them. Seeing as how I drank my last beet yesterday (with some carrots and ginger), I decided to use these watermelon radishes instead. Both the red turnips and watermelon radishes are local, purchased at the winter market the other day. The radishes are from but a few miles from my home, as the crow flies. I wondered if the reds and pinks would do what the beets do, and that is color the pickle. And yes, they did. A beautiful pink blush showed as soon as the brine hit the vegetables. I will post back to record their success (or failure).

2 1/2 pounds of turnips and radishes, cleaned, trimmed and sliced in fine rounds
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
3 tablespoons of pickling salt
teaspoon of celery seed
1/2 teaspoon of peppercorns
a few sprigs of fresh dill

Sterilize three pint jars, or a 2 quart jar, if you have it. Put the vegetables into a large glass bowl. Dissolve salt in water and vinegar. Pour over vegetables. Add spices. Pack vegetables into hot jars. Add brine to cover. Remove bubbles and add dill. Seal tightly and let them stand at room temperature for about 10 days. Then refrigerate. Will keep for about a month.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Markets

Yesterday was a scintillatingly bright day, and we decided to take an excursion into New Paltz for a little fun. I was intending to go to the thrift shop and then the toy store, but we stepped into one of the winter farmer's markets going on in the area these days. Lucky me! I had forgotten it was going on. There are various ones open once a month, so there are a few scattered happenings to tide us through the long, dark months. I'd gone to the Rosendale market a few times, which are on the first Sunday of the month. The one we visited yesterday was a Winter Sun Farms venture and it was very high spirited, to say the least. Folks were streaming in to pick up their CSA shares. Vendors lined a front room selling goat cheese, meats, vegetables, canned items, grains, baked goods, maple syrup and skeins of gorgeous local yarns. What a delight for sleepy eyes! Most exciting was greens--delicate, lovely greens. I bought some pea shoots and ate them for dinner. Just tossed in olive oil and seasoned rice vinegar.

I also got celery root, red turnips, and watermelon radishes.

Most exciting was the frozen local tomatoes. I thought that was brilliant. A nice square of diced Roma and Juliette from Hepworth and Veritas Farms. Over the summer they (amazingly) had an abundance and froze them. It was a sight for sore eyes. They also had frozen peppers for sale.

The attitude was so lively and people just seemed jubilant. Yay!

Chicken and Dumpling Soup

A while back, before it got arctic out there, my son and I would go for a walk every morning before his nap. We would walk down to the pond to see what the resident muskrats were up to. Maybe we would be lucky and see the albino red tailed hawk sitting in the big oak, waiting for some unlucky rodent to be his breakfast. Or the great blue herons we see from time to time visiting from the marsh down the road who fly away with prehistoric flaps of their huge wings as soon as we get near. We would play by the barn a little, now empty of animals and a bit forlorn, hay still cemented to the stall doors and the faint smell of manure lingering in the cold air, not unpleasantly. But now it is truly winter, and the idea of bundling up before nine and traipsing around the icy grounds with a 23 pound toddler in tow is not a reality. The snow is too awkward for a new walker to navigate, and although it's good exercise, I'm just not up for the walk. We go outside in the afternoons now, and there's still a lot to see, but I miss my morning walks.

Usually I don't get wistful for nicer weather until February, but this year it's struck me sooner. We've really been cooped up quite a bit, and yesterday I had a strong pining for a cold beer on the porch while green fluttered all around the trees. We were reading a book in which a dragonfly zips across the water, and a luna moth sails through the night, and it squeezed me right in the heart, all that warm, simple green. It's at that moment I realize that I have to get real and focus on the very beautiful moments of winter: sitting in front of the fire, baking a tray of cookies, the sparkly glint of huge flakes of snow coming down in the sun, the patterns of ice on the pond, the waves of frost on the windows, and a big pot of stock cooking on the stove. Lucky for me, Steve decided to make his amazing stock yesterday. He's much better than me, impatient fool that I am. He takes his time and really cares for the stock. He does it right. And for that I'm thankful, because then I could make this chicken and dumpling soup which hit the spot yesterday for dinner and today for lunch. Thank you, winter!

2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or you can use an egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk
seasonings: I used dried thyme and celery seed

Add wet ingredients to dry. It will be a wet, sticky batter.

While you are doing this, bring two quarts of stock to a simmer. Add one cup of shredded chicken. Once at a simmer again, drop in spoonfuls of dumpling batter. They will puff and float like little clouds. Throw in a lot of spinach in to wilt. Add lots of fresh chopped parsley and dill. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix gently before doling out into bowls. The broth will thicken a little from the flour in the dumplings. Stare out the window at the strange blue winter sky and think about how nice it is to be right there, right then.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lamburgers with Green Tomato Chutney and Steamed Mussels and Leeks

There's nothing like a local lamb burger, unless it's a lamburger with New York feta and some green tomato chutney from your own unfortunate blight ridden garden. When life gives you green tomatoes, make green tomato chutney!

How good are mussels? When you get 2 lbs. of sustainably farmed mussels from RI for $3 you really cannot go wrong. Steamed in a bath of white wine and shrimp stock, butter, olive oil, leeks, red onion, a little hot red pepper and parsley, served with local bread slathered with VT butter. (Gives you a good excuse to eat practically a stick of butter.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Vanilla Extract and Super Quick Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vanilla is incredible. Isn't it just totally amazing that we use this pod from an orchid, what once was the equivalent to the vanilla flower's ovary, to flavor and scent so much? It's just such an incredible super star. When I have vanilla bean pods in my hands I feel so rich (for good reason--they are expensive!) that I don't even want to use them sometimes. That's why when I saw Felicia from Muffins are Ugly Cupcakes write about making vanilla extract I knew what I had to do. Make it! I knew it was simple, having read about it before. Why hadn't I done this earlier?? Especially since getting a tip from Marisa of Food in Jars on where to find less expensive vanilla bean pods, plus a great vanilla syrup recipe. Now I can drink vanilla extract for breakfast if I want! One cup of vodka plus three vanilla beans sitting around for two months--that's all it takes.

While I was mixing this concoction I was struck by a need for chocolate chip cookies. But it's the new year, I whined, we said we'd stop so much sugar! I have been reading so many wonderful, heartfelt resolutions on various blogs and all I have to say is I want chocolate chip cookies? And easy ones? That you can mix in a processor? It's really very disgusting and I apologize for this. Everyone is sick of cookies, I know. But, I've been sick this whole year (it's true!) and all sorts of unfortunate things have been happening that I felt I deserved some coddling.

My addicted self triumphed over it's very weak conscientious self, and thus cookies were born. I made these in a food processor (I do not own a stand mixer, yet another reason for self pity) while holding a teething and irritable toddler. When the desire is there you can do just about anything. I thought these were great, but it might be the cold talking. These are desperation cookies, not perfection cookies. You know the saying: starve a fever, feed a cold cookies! This makes a little batch so you can make six now and stash the rest in the fridge for the next jones you get.

Add 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of butter (one stick) in your food processor. Cream them. Add 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (one day it will be your own brew) and one egg. Pulse. Add 1 1/4 cups of flour and 1/4 tsp. baking powder, and 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. Mix until gathered into ball. Roll it and wrap in saran wrap to chill for a few hours. Slice some cookies and bake at 375 for about ten minutes. Eat them all while your toddler isn't looking.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Simple Broth

Yesterday I made a quick batch of turkey and collard green enchiladas for dinner. There wasn't much in the fridge, and I was sick with a bad cold, so it had to be quick and easy. But this isn't about the enchiladas. I poached the turkey in about six cups of water, adding the chopped up collards to cook alongside. A little bit of salt. This is about the water that turned into the most delicious broth. Reminded me of an excellent wonton soup I used to get at this Chinese restaurant in the West Village. Such good broth! Full of hearty green-ness! Today I threw some stale bread in it, with some cheese and olive oil and there was lunch. So simple. So good.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Brandied Apricot and Almond Cake

It is bitter cold outside--blustery, snowy and f-f-freeezing. I am not going outside at all today, especially since I am nursing a cold. I have the help of a big pot of mushroom barley soup that has leeks and leftover chunks of that awesome lamb roast in it. And a big bowl of greek yogurt with walnuts and honey on top, as per my mother. We are going to make it through all right. Sometimes you have to do battle with a cold, and I am breaking out all the artillery. Citrus, lemons in particular, ginger and all sorts of tea are working their jujitsu on this congestion. It's a very restful war, but a war nonetheless. I hate colds.

Moving on. I want to quickly post this cake, because I love it. In thinking about it, I realized it's not quite a cake, although it could be with more refinement. Like with separated eggs and beaten egg whites, for example. It's more of a sweet bread or a tea cake. Or perhaps I can call it a rustic cake. It's the kind of cake that you can leave out on the kitchen table so when passing people can cut a hunk off and eat it right then and there. It's available. Not too precious. I like a cake like that.

I used my lemon curd cake recipe and just subbed in pureed brandied apricots for the curd. Then I made little balls of almond paste and studded the batter with them so each piece gets a bite of almond goodness. Blast, it's good!

So, with hunk of cake in hand, off I go to wrap myself in a snuggie knock-off and read the new re-vamped issue of Organic Gardening. They've done such a good job with it--you should check it out. Time to start dreaming about next year's garden!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Greek Roasted Lamb and Potatoes

A couple of years ago (okay, more than a couple, but hey, who's counting?) I had the extreme good luck to get a New Year's visit from my friends Eve and Adam. Eve is an incredibly talented and intuitive cook who I've learned tons from. I often wish she'd start a blog cataloguing what she eats, because it's always the best stuff. She has turned me on to so many great things, from Hog Island oysters to Seattle's finest Dan Dan Noodles. When I lived with her in Oakland, Ca., she would take me everywhere. This was her home turf. I was a New Yorker, new to the Bay Area. Her curiosity and unrelenting spirit for all things good is unparalleled. Wine and cheese, falafels stuffed with french fries, Walnut Grove's best burger joint, the Cheese Board, Berkeley Bowl and Berkeley farmer's markets are just some things that come to mind from the distant past. A few years after the Greek New Year's we had, they visited again. This time Eve packed her suitcase to fly across the country with the most incredible oysters I've ever had, Totten Virginicas. I mean, need I say more?

Back then on that New Year's Day, Eve showed me how to make a Greek New Year's Day meal. I wish I had documentation from that day so long ago, but all I have are some scattered doodles on notecards. I'm sure I've lost some nuances but I'm never disappointed, so I'm doing something right. Right now I'm nursing the first of the year's colds, so I won't go into detail, but we had a lovely local lamb roast, with lemon potatoes, creamy tzatziki, and feta. This is somewhat truncated (what? no olives??) but we relished it nonetheless.

Thanks, Eve! And, Chronia Polla!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Smoked Trout and Collard Greens

Happy New Year! Our night was spent very quietly with some bubbles, and a light snack: cheese, figs, nuts and bread to start, followed by fried oysters with a hot chili mayonnaise, and french fries. Slightly decadent, but hey, we went to bed at 9:30. We celebrated with the mid-Atlantic ocean! (Having a toddler who gets out of bed at 5 a.m. is the reason.) I meant to smoke two trout as well, but didn't get to it for various reasons. The french fries were out of desperation--I had potatoes cooked off for home fries. Ends up they made fabulous fries. I love it when things go wrong! They sometimes turn out right!

So, this morning I busted out the Camerons stovetop smoker we received from out friends Ken and Molly so many years ago. This thing is awesome. I think I'm in love again. I'm thinking bacon and cheese and chicken thighs and all sorts of smoky goodness. I'm a total smoking amateur, and this is perfect for me. It works great on your stove and makes your house smell nice, too, without any smoke at all. Very easy to clean and stores nicely.

For the two trout I had, I used pepper and lemon juice. They fit snugly in the silver box and cooked for thirty minutes. I used cherry wood because the only other wood I have is hickory. I think alder would have been better...

See that nice local lamb in the background? Mmm. Dinner.

We had this for an early lunch with horseradish cream, capers, and collard greens sauteed in garlic, lemon and olive oil.