Monday, October 8, 2012

I had a great time yesterday at the chili cook-off that Gina Hyams sponsored to celebrate her new "cookbook in a box" project.  Jeremy Stanton graciously offered to host it at The Meat Market.  For me the big draw of the cook-off was that the proceeds were donated to the Share the Bounty program of Berkshire Grown.  It's a wonderful project that makes contributions to CSAs whose shares are then donated to WIC participants or food kitchens. 

About 15 (?) of us who competed for "best chili," and I'm sorry to say I didn't make the cut.  But what fun it was to be up against such terrific competitors!  Most of the entries featured some sort of meat, but there were some meat-free chilis, too.

I dug out a Very Old recipe for Seafood Chili that we used to eat at Hosteria Fiorella on Third Avenue back in the day.  It was such a popular dish that eventually the recipe was published in New York magazine.  I clipped it out , filed it away, and probably didn't make it in the next 25 years.  But when I heard that Gina was doing a chili cook-off, it was the first idea that popped into my mind.

Since I hadn't made it in so long, I prepared a batch a few weeks ago for friends to taste.  They pronounced it "the best" and asssured me I'd win the contest.  Well, they were wrong.  At least about the winning part.  Because it is really delicious.

If you want to treat yourself, family and friends to a great dish, here's the recipe:

3 slices pancetta, roughly chopped
10 T evo
1 c finely diced yellow onion
10 cloves garlic, crushed
3 fresh chili peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
3/4 c white wine
Approximately 6 oz each fresh chicken and turkey link sausage, precooked for 7 minuutes, and then cut into 1/2" slices
3 c chopped tomatoes
2 c plus 6 T canned tomato sauce
2 1/2 c canned Great Northern white beans, drained
3/4 lb fish fillet (such as flounder), cut in small cubes
3/4 lb calamari, cut in rings
30 littleneck clams, minced
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 t cumin powder
salt to taste
2 T cracked black pepper
4 T each chopped parsley and basil
6 T chopped cilantro

In large pot, saute pancetta in olive oil until crisp.  Add onion, garlic, and chili peppers, and cook until tender.  Deglaze pan with wine, then add sausage, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans, and simmer over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes

Add fish, calamari, clams and shrimp.  Season with cumin, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes.  Stir in fresh herbs and cook for 1 minute longer.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's canning time again

Late August-early September is prime canning time.  I've already got two dozen jars of honeyed peaches just waiting for me to give them to a hostess or simply eat them myself.  But this year my attention is on trying to perfect my pickling prowess.  Last year at the Berkshire Grown Preserve Swap, I got the most sensationally delicious jar of pickled green tomatoes and gobbled them down in less than a week.  I don't know who made them, but if you're reading this and you brought them to the Swap, many thanks!

I was so done in by those pickled green tomatoes that I wanted to make my own.  So far I've made several batches.  The ones I didn't put through a water bath are marvelous--tart and very crispy.  The ones I did put through a water bath are extremely disappointing.  Much too mushy and no crunch.  I hadn't realized that a large part of enjoying pickled green tomatoes was the bite factor.  If they're mushy, forget about it! 

But I have this fantasy of enjoying crispy pickled green tomatoes all winter long but how to accomplish that?  So I did what we all do these days--went to Google.  Well, who knew that fresh grape leaves apparently keep enough of the crunch in the vegetable even after the water bath.  And lucky me--I just happen to have a beautiful grape arbor with hundreds (or is it thousands) of leaves (not to mention beautiful bunches of grapes that will be ready to eat soonest). 

I can't report on the experiment with the grape leaves yet, but I can share with you the recipes I used for dill pickles, rosemary and sage quick pickles, and pickled garlic (who knew that pickled garlic is as versatile as fresh garlic??).

There are probably thousands of recipes for dill pickles.  I suspect most of them are good.  This is the one I'm using now.

1 c distilled white vinegar
3 c water
1/2 c canning or pickling salt
8-10 medium-size Kirby cukes (ca. 1 lb) scrubbed and left whole (although I sliced them to fit them in the jar)
3 springs fresh dill or 1 1/2 t dill seed
1 red bell pepper, stems and seeds removed, cut into thick strips

In a nonreactive pot, mix together vinegar, water, and salt.  Bring to boil, stirring until salt dissolves.

In the meantime, sterilize jars and lids.  Pack quart-size jars with cucumbers, and add equal amounts of dill and red peppers to each jar.

Pour boiling brine over cukes leaving about 1" fee at top of jar.  Screw lids on and process in hot-water bath for 10-15 minutes to seal.

For flavors to fully develop, store jars in cupboard for about 3 weeks.  Once opened, they can be store in the refrigerator for 6 months.  Sealed they will keep for a year.

Pickled Garlic (from Food in Jars website)

1 lb fresh garlic, peeled
1 c red wine vinegar
1 c water
1 T pickling or canning salt

Prepare 3 half pint jars and lids in hot water bath. 

Combine vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Pack garlic cloves into prepared jars. Pour hot brine over garlic cloves.

Tap jars gently to remove any trapped air bubbles.  If necessary, add more brine to return the headspace to within 1/2".

Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (after water returns to boil). 

Make sure all lids are sealed.  Store jars in cool, dark place.  They're ready to eat within 48 hours, and can be kept for up to a year. 

Although this is the time of year when canning and pickling gets the most attention, I have a wonderful recipe for rosemary and sage quick pickles that can be made at any time of year since cucumbers are a year-round staple in grocery stores.  Susan Johnson, my wonderful gardener, gave me this recipe a few years ago.  I treasure it.

Rosemary and Sage Quick Pickles

1 small red or white onion, thinly sliced
2 c sliced cucumber
2-4 sprigs rosemary
4-8 sage leaves
1/3 c cider vinegar
1 T pickling or canning or kosher salt
1 c cold water

Slice cukes into 1/4" rounds.  Tightly pack sliced cucumbers and herbs in a 16-oz clean glass jar until about 3/4 full. 

Combine vinegar and salt in a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and gently stir until salt dissolves.  Remove from heat.

Add cold water to this mixture and let cool.  Pour cooled liquid in jar to cover cucumbrs and herbs.  Add more cold water if necessary.  Leave room at the top.  Refrigerate for about an hour until chilled.  Delish!

P.S.  I often slice up a red pepper and add to the mix.

I hope to be back at this blog soon with more reports on pickling. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

I'm one lucky lady.  Why?  Because my friends are excellent cooks.  In fact, I choose not to be friends with people who don't love to cook.  I mean, what's the point?  And when the friends who love to cook also grow a lot of their own ingredients, and it's summer, well, who knows what feast awaits us.

So I'll tell you about tonight's amazing dinner. Bobby and Eric, who live (at least sometimes) in Alford, served an 8-course meal, much of which came from right outside their kitchen window.  We always have a grand time at dinner, but tonight was super special because the food had just come into the house and couldn't be fresher or more delicious.

Imagine a menu that reads like this:  (*means from their garden)

Eric's July 9 Salad of avocado, grapefruit and cucumber* with pine nuts and EVOO (well, okay, avocado and grapefruit aren't local but the cucumbers are)

Bobby's mixed bag Caesar Salad with homegrown red* and romaine* lettuces

Grilled Swordfih with housemade pesto from home grown basil*

Grilled baby zucchini* with zucchini flowers*

Brown rice

Braised kale*

Housemade frozen goat yogurt with homegrown blueberries*

Nasty note--mushy watermelon from Taft Farms - nyet and yuck

As the summer months progress, more and more of our meals will come from the garden and they'll just get better and more copious and everyone will be happy.  Particularly me.  Just so you know.

I owe you another post about the pickling beets experience through which I just suffered.  And the chive infused vinegar I'm giving out as party favors at my next dinner party.  But it's late and I'm off to bed so that post will have to wait til morning.  G'night.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Perfect dishes for Memorial Day weekend pot luck celebrations

My son and his family usually visit on Memorial Day weekend but this year they went to Mexico, leaving me to my own devices.  Luckily various of my friends put together pot luck dinners on all three nights of the long weekend so I got to cook (but not too much) and enjoy convivial gatherings.

On Saturday I made what has quickly become a classic, "Momofuko Bo Ssam," from the cookbook by super chef David Chang.  It's a pork butt roasted all day until it falls off the bone, served with a variety of condiments redolent of Korean cooking.  It's not only simple beyond simple, but after the first bite, everyone in the room is demanding the recipe.  It's become my friend Eric's go-to dish for groups over 4 or 5, and now it's mine, too.  You gotta try it soonest.  Perhaps July 4 weekend will work for you.

Momofuko Bo Ssam

Pork Butt
1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8-10 lbs)
1 c white sugar
1 c plus 1 T kosher salt
7 T brown sugar

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 c thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
1/2 c peeled, minced fresh ginger
1/4 c neutral oil (like grapeseed)
1 1/2 t light soy sauce
1 scant t sherry vinegar
1/2 t kosher salt, or to taste

Ssam Sauce
2 T fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets and online) (I got something similar at Guido's)
1 T chili paste (kochujang, ditto above)
1/2 c sherry vinegar
1/2 neutral oil (like grapeseed)

2 c plain white rice, cooked
3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1 dozen or more fresh oysters (optional and I skipped them)
Kimchi (if you can't find kimchi, try sauerkraut)

Place pork in large, shallow bowl.  Mix white sugar and 1 c of salt together in another bowl, then rub mixture all over the meat.  Cover it with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

When you're ready to cook, heat oven to 300.  Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices.  Place pork in roasting pan and set in overn.  Cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork.  (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices).  At this point, you may reove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.  (mine rested a bit longer than that with no ill effects)

Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce.  In a large bowl, combine scallions with the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

Make the ssam sauce.  In a medium bowl, combine chili pastes with the vinegar nad oil, mix well.

Prepare rice, wash lettuce, and if using, shuck oysters.  Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500.  In a small bowl, stir together the remaining T of salt with the brown sugar.  Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork.  Place in oven for approximately 10-15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat.  Serve hot, with accompaniments.

NB:  You'll notice that the bottom of your pan is burnt.  A lot.  But have no fear.  Just soak it overnight, and scrub like hell the next day.

Okay, like I said, this dish evokes squeals of delight.  Not only is it a real crowd pleaser, but if you're lucky the crowd isn't too big so you get some serious leftovers to enjoy the next day.

So the Bo Ssam was Saturday night.  Sunday night a friend had a pot luck party where she grilled lamb and chicken.  She coated the lamb with a mixture of Dijon mustard, chopped anchovies, olive oil, chopped garlic, and rosemary (well, she was supposed to use rosemary but her brother hates it so she used something else but it was still delish). 

Years ago when I was taking cooking classes at was then the Peter Kump cooking school, a friend I'd met in class told me about a recipe she'd learned from the first woman to be appointed the chef to the French president.  Th chef coated the lamb with Dijon mustard, mixed with olive oil, chopped garlic, and rosemary.  Then she laid anchovies across the top on the lamb, so the anchovies melted, making the sauce a heavenly aromatic and taste sensation.  I tweaked the recipe a bit by chopping the anchovies and including them in the mixture I rubbed on the lamb. 

Okay.  So the hostess grilled the lamb and chicken, and made a delicious watermelon and feta salad (such a great combination!), along with a fresh green salad.  One of the guests brought phenomenally wonderful peach/strawberry pies.  And I made a potato salad I'd just read about on the long-running blog Smitten Kitchen.  OMG, it's divine! 

Tzaziki Potato Salad

4 lb potatoes (preferably Yukon golds)
1 3/4 c Greek yogurt
1/4 c sour cream
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 T white wine vinegar
1 T minced fresh dill
1 medium garlic clove, minced
2 t kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 hothouse or English cucumber (1 lb), unpeeled but quartered lengthwise, seeds removed

More ideas for additions:  crumbled feta (yes!), chopped green olives (yes!), chopped fresh mint leaves or a minced hot chile

In a medium pot, cover your potatoes with cold water and bring them to boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to med-high and let potatoes simmer until tender enough that they can be pierced easily with a skewer or thin knife.  That's roughly 30 minutes, but might be shorter, depending on the size of your potatoes.  Drain potatoes and let them cool completely. 

Once potatoes are cool, cut tiny ones into quarters or large ones into generous chunks.

In bottom of a large bowl, stir together yogurt, sour cream, lemon juie, vinegar, dill, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add potatoes.

Grate cucumber on a box grater, and try to remove some of the excess by putting it in a lint-free dish towel.  Add to yogurt mixture.

Add any additional ingredients.  Adjust seasonings (mine needed more salt).  Either eat immediately (yes!) or keep in fridge for up to 3 days.

For the party on the third night of the holiday weekend, I brought a large green salad picked entirely from my garden, and several pounds of the first bing cherries of the season.  Yes, folks, summer is here!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Welcome spring! Asparagus and soft shell crabs

Thursday I cut about a pound of beautiful asparagus growing in my garden.  I chopped tthem up coarsely and boiled them in salted water (to cover) until they were tender, about 5-7 minutes.  When tender, I removed them from the pot and placed them in a blender, along with some of the water to thin it out.  I like salt so I added some, and then about a tablespoon of good olive oil.  That's it.  Three ingredients, four if you count the water, about 12-13 minutes and voila--you have a bowl of the essence of spring.  Inhaling asparagus is invigorating.  And eating the soup is a leisurely delight.  I heartily recommend it.

By the way, the recipe, such as it is, comes from "The Art of Eating," a splendid newsletter that's been published for 25 years by Ed Behr.  It's featured in his new cookbook, "The Best of The Art of Eating." 

Then yesterday I picked up some soft shell crabs at Rubiner's and headed to friends' house where we sauteed them.  Luckily Matt's crew executes the crabs and cleans them, so fixing them couldn't be easier.  I checked out a few cookbooks to see what the pros do, and mostly it's just dipping them into a plate of milk, and then dipping them into some seasoned flour (salt and pepper), and then sauteeing them in a large cast-iron skillet with the right amount of butter and a bit of olive oil.  They need about 4-5 minutes per side.  And that's it.  I mean, what could be easier?  And more delicious! 

Neither the asparagus nor the soft shell crabs will be around after a few more weeks, so I intend to keep making these dishes frequently to get my fill before they disappear again until next year.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Chocolate Espresso Snowflakes

Now that I'm finally over my winter ailments, I'm back to cooking and entertaining.  The other night a few friends came to dinner, where I treated them to the delish Braised Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Green Olives (see Dec 4 2011 post for recipe).  This goes sensationally over Israeli couscous, and that pretty much covers the entree (well, except for some roasted asparagus).

Dessert featured some of my honeyed peaches I put up last summer.  But the star was Amy Rudnick's unbelievably delicious Chocolate Espresso cookies.  The espresso flavor is splendid.  I insisted on getting the recipe, and plan to make them for this week's festivities.  Thank you Amy!

Chocolate Espresso Cookies


½c flour
¼c unsweetened cocoa powder
4t instant espresso
1t baking powder
t salt
4T unsalted butter (softened)
c packed light brown sugar
4oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1T milk
confectioners sugar, about ½ cup
Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In electric mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Mix in chocolate.

With mixer on low, gradually add in flour mixture. Beat in milk.

Remove dough and flatter into a disk. Wrap in plastic and freeze about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pour confectioners sugar into a medium bowl. Shape dough into 1” balls and roll in confectioners sugar, making sure they are entirely coated

Place on baking sheet about 2” apart.

Bake 12 inutes. Cookies will have spread and sugar coating will appear cracked. Cookies will be soft to the touch.

Cool on wire rack.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Who knew how fast time flies??

This blog has been empty for far too long.  Chalk it up to a nasty flu, infection and extraordinarily long recuperation.  For weeks I couldn't eat, let alone cook.  But life is better, so it's time to share two recipes, one new to me, the other a longstanding favorite.

When I'm at a loss as to what to serve, I always find that Ina Garten always has delicious suggestions.  The other night I made her Cape Cod Chopped Salad, which was even better than I thought it would be.  See what you think.

Cape Cod Chopped Salad

8 oz thick-cut bacon, such as Niman Ranch
8 oz baby arugula
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 c toasted walnut halves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
6 oz bleu cheese, such as Roquefort, crumbled

3 T apple cider vinegar
1 t grated orange zest
2 T freshly squeezed orange juice
2 1/2 t Dijon mustard
2 T maple syrup
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
2/3 c good olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. 

Place baking rack on sheet pan and lay bacon slices on the rack.  Roast bacon for about 20 minutes, until nicely browned.  Allow to cool.

In large bowl, toss together arugula, apple, walnuts, cranberries, and bleu cheese.

For dressing, whisk together vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, mustard, maple syrup, 1 1/2 t salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Slowly whisk in olive oil.

Chop bacon in large pieces and add to salad.  Toss salad with just enough dressing to moisten.  Sprinkle with 1/2 t more salt and toss well. 

Serve immediately.

P.S.  This makes a lot more dressing than you're going to use on this salad.  My latest treat is chopped grape tomatoes with chopped Armenian cucumbers, so I'm now using the rest of this dressing on them.  Delicious!

At a recent dinner party, I had a craving to serve creamed mushrooms, a "recipe" I made up years ago.  I suspect it's a variation on some recipe I'd found somewhere, but now I consider it my own.  The trick is to get good soy sauce.

Creamed Mushrooms

1 lb shitake and cremini mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
2 T butter
1-2 T olive oil
1 T flour (give or take)
Milk as needed
Soy sauce
A bit of Worcestshire sauce

Saute mushrooms in butter and olive oil.  When mushrooms are tender, add flour and toss with mushrooms.  Then add milk, enough that it makes a good sauce but not so much that you drown the mushrooms.  As they're finishing, add soy sauce (start with 1 T and add more to taste), a bit of Worcestshire sauce (again to taste), polish off with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.  Marvelously delicious and can accompany almost any meal.