Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jane Kasten's Swedish Grandmother's Rhubarb Bread

Casaverde Epistini

After spending an enormous amount of money constructing a greenhouse and fenced-in vegetable garden, I decided it was finally time to learn how to garden properly.  Luckily my friend Jane Kasten, probably the Berkshires’ most gifted gardener and herbalist, wanted to teach a course called “A Year in the Garden,” so three lucky ladies and I embarked on that journey with her.  So we started a year-long adventure learning to love our gardens in such a way that they would love us back.
We began our weekly meetings enthusiastically , and finished them a year later with a wistful feeling of “where did the time go?”  In between we learned more than I could easily retain, but luckily I take excellent notes, so all is not lost.
Now I know the best places to order seeds, and what dried herbs to use as remedies for ailing vegetable plants.  I’ve taken to heart Jane’s dictum that one must fertilize the garden in autumn because the soil is the most active over winter.  I know to scatter spinach seeds in late October because they create fertile soil for next spring’s tomato planting. 
I haven’t committed to memory which herb goes with which ailment (although I do know that fennel is good for gas pains), but it’s easy enough to hit the search button to find what I need for which physical problem.  Jane’s most favorite remedy is cayenne.  Believe it or not, the four of us in that class now brush our teeth with cayenne (no, it doesn’t hurt) and have much healthier gums than prior to the class.  Cayenne worked so well on me that my dentist now uses it. 
In addition to learning about seed selection, natural treatments for vegetable plants, composting, and herbal remedies for the sorts of things that ail us, Jane shared many of her recipes.  She’s a remarkable cook, gaining much of her knowledge by hanging out in her Swedish grandmother’s kitchen. 
Alice Wislocki

My favorite class was when we learned to can peaches.  Since that hot August afternoon in Alice Wislocki’s kitchen 15 months ago when we mastered the fundamentals of canning, I’ve become obsessed with it.  This summer I canned almost two dozen quarts of peaches, along with a variety of salsas, and an amazing tomato chutney courtesy of Leslie Shatz. When I can find the time, I’m going to put up pears in honey syrup, which, along with ginger ice cream, make a delicious dessert. 
Here’s one of Jane’s Swedish grandmother’s recipes—a delicious tea bred that freezes well, so you’ve always got something to take to a friend or defrost should someone decide to drop in unexpectedly (although that’s not behavior to be encouraged).  This rhubarb bread  recipe is in the “must save” niche.  Not only is it delicious but it’s wildly flexible. Wait, you don’t freeze rhubarb?  Fine, use blueberries or diced peaches.  So your grandson is allergic to nuts, skip them and add more raisins.  You don’t like raisins—use currants.  Yada yada.  It makes two loaves, so eat one and freeze the other.  Or eat both but don’t tell anyone.
Jane’s Swedish Grandmother’s Rhubarb Bread
1 c brown sugar
½ c granulated sugar
2/3 c oil or butter or a combination
2 eggs
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
½ c nuts
½ c raisins
1 c yogurt or sour cream
1 t vanilla
1 ½ c flour
1 ½ c diced rhubarb
Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 2 8” bread pans or a large loaf pan.
Mix sugars and oil/butter.  Add eggs.  Add remaining ingredients.  Pour into pans.  If you like, you can drizzle 1 t melted butter over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar.  Bake for 1 hour.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Homage to Annette Grant's sesame noodles (and skordalia)

On Tuesday mornings I attend Michelle Gillett's writing workshop.  I've been "enrolled" off and on for a few years, and always enjoy the challenge and conviviality of our meetings.  When I got home this afternoon I had a message from Robin Ban (owner of Seeds on Railroad Street), asking for "that incredible sesame noodle recipe."  She needed it for a pot luck party tonight.  I emailed it to her right away, and feel confident that it was a hit with whatever group was having the party.

Several years ago my friend Rena had a pot luck picnic at the end of August.  I heaped my plate with a reasonable selection of the goodies on the table, and while everything was tasty, one dish distinguished itself with its bold flavor:  Sesame Noodles.  I found out that Annette Grant brought them.  I didn't know her but that didn't stop me from introducing myself and begging for the recipe.  The friends with whom I was sitting then demanded that I share it with them when I received it.  And thus was born the network of those who bring this dish to pot lucks, make it for company at home, and generally thank Annette for providing the recipe.  For these noodles are always a big hit.  Easy to make, full of flavor, and endlessly adaptable to added ingredients (chicken, shrimp, peas, etc).

Since that picnic, we've become good friends.  I've learned that she's not just a great cook but a very generous one.  In August, when I told her I was hosting a meet 'n greet for Dan Bosley, running for sheriff, she offered to help me prepare the food.  It was at the height of the summer produce season so I felt everything I served should be locally grown.  Annette prepared skordalia, a Greek appetizer of potatoes and garlic, using vegetables from her garden.  This skordalia packs a wallop.  It's perfect for people who savor BIG flavors.

So thank you Annette for two excellent recipes.

Annette Grant's Sesame Noodles

1 lb. vermicelli
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
at least half as much grated fresh ginger by volume as garlic
2 T sesame oil, golden roasted Chinese style
1/2 c light sesame oil or other neutral salad oil
1/4 c light and mild brewed rice vinegar
1/2 c soy sauce (not Tamari)
1 T Chinese hot oil or chile oil
1 T white sugar
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 handful cilantro, chopped

A day in advance (NB:  Annette calls for making this the day before.  I've found making it the day of works just fine, but don't tell her that.)
Combine the two sesame oils in a sauce pan. Saute the garlic and ginger in the two oils until soft. Do not allow to become crisp and brown.
Add the vinegar, soy sauce, hot oil and sugar and boil for a few seconds. Remove from heat.
Cook the vermicelli al dente and then rinse very thoroughly with cold water and drain.
Mix the noodles with sauce and toss.Toss the noodles occasionally so that they all get a chance to marinate in the sauce. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving
Bring noodles to room temperature.
Add chopped cilantro and sliced scallions and toss.

 P.S.  I usually use more ginger than she calls for.

Me, Annette, Maureen Howard

This is a great dish to bring if you're invited for Thanksgiving dinner and want to bring something tasty.

Annette Grant's Skordalia

SKORDALIA (Greek potato and garlic spread)
2 russet potatoes (about 1 lb), scrubbed
Kosher salt, as needed, plus 1 T and 1 t
8 medium cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c whole blanched almonds
2 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c water
5  T freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 T white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water by 2 inches and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool slightly.

Rub the skins off the potatoes and discard them. Coarsely chop the potatoes and puree them through a food mill or ricer into a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, on a cutting board, lightly sprinkle the garlic with a generous pinch of the salt and smash it into a fine paste with the side of a cook's knife.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, almonds, and oil and puree into a paste. Mix the oil mixture into the potatoes until incorporated; then mix in the 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon salt, water, lemon juice, and vinegar and season with pepper, to taste. Serve.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Meatloaf Donizetti

My beloved Havanese Hootie

I really don't think meatloaf and bel canto opera are a perfect match, but today they were.  My friends George and Alice and I had tickets to see Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" at the Beacon Theatre in Pittsfield, so I brought over slices of a fabu meatloaf for sandwiches.  I didn't have time to bake a loaf of the bread I'm making several times a week now, so I had to share my stash of Zingerman's Jewish rye bread with them for the sandwiches.  Luckily, they are very appreciative of good food so I got a full quota of compliments.

I don't remember what website listed this recipe, but whichever it is, thank you!  "It's a saucy meatloaf," said George, noting that good sauce is not what he typically thinks of when he thinks of meatloaf (which isn't often, I'd guess).  It was delicious as a sandwich, and just by itself.  The Zingerman's rye bread is a splendid match for it, but I'm guessing my delicious white bread would stand up to it, too.

I made the meatloaf last night, and found it kind of crumbly when I tasted it right out of the oven.  I refrigerated it overnight, which made it much easier to slice today.  I'm guessing it freezes beautifully. 

George started to put ketchup on his slice of meatloaf, but Alice stopped him, saying there was already a nice sauce glaze.  He listened to her, and after tasting, agreed.

The recipe calls for 1/2 cup roasted red peppers.  I used Ajvar roasted red pepper spread, which is otherwise very tasty with chevre.  The ingredients list on the label tells you that it includes not just roasted red peppers but roasted eggplant, salt, vinegar, safflower oil, and spices.  Try it.

So here's the recipe and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Delicious Meatloaf

3/4 c packed fresh, plain, torn bread pieces, crusts removed
1/3 c whole milk
4 t vegetable oil
2 medium celery ribs, finely chopped
2/3 c finely chopped yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste (3/4 c)
1/2 c finely chopped roasted red peppers
1/3 c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 large eggs, whisked until smooth
2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
1 T salt
2 t dry mustard
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
3 lbs meatloaf mix (typically equal parts ground beef, ground veal, ground pork)
1/4 c ketchup

Heat oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Combine torn bread and milk in a small bowl; set aside. Heat oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add celery, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook until no longer raw tasting, about 4 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Add soaked bread, half of the roasted red peppers, parsley, eggs, Worcestershire, salt, mustard, and pepper to the vegetables and stir together until evenly combined. Add pork and turkey and using clean hands mix until combined (don’t squeeze or overwork).

Form meat into a loose loaf and transfer into a 9-by-5 1/4-by-2 3/4-inch metal loaf pan (don’t press down).

Mix together the remaining roasted red pepper and ketchup and brush it over the top. Place meatloaf in oven and bake until internal temperature is 150°F, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let sit about 15 to 20 minutes, before slicing.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I love Molly O'Neill and chocolate

Pictorial proof of why I don't need any more cookbooks

I love Molly O'Neill.  I've loved her since I first started reading her  food columns in the Sunday New York Times years ago.  However much I loved her, though, I think my husband felt even more so.  He'd grab the Times Magazine before reading any other section so he could pronounce "Well, here's what Molly's got to say today," and then enlighten me about her topic of the week.  Her "New York Cookbook" is a treasure, and I think it set the tone for her new book "One Big Table," which also revels in the pleasures of the cooks and their recipes. 

I recall being Very Impressed that our downstairs neighbor's meatballs were highlighted in the "New York" book.  That book's introduction is what really seduced me into my Molly passion.  She tells about her first visit to a NYC deli, where she assertively ordered a "bailey."   The waiter forbore from typical NYC insolence at the hilarious misprouncing and when he delivered it he said "BI-A-LY...No butter, schmear--that would be the cream cheese--Miss, on the side."  That reminded me of when I took my childhood chum Martha Dowling to the Jewish club my parents belonged  to in Des Moines.  Laughter rippled across the dining room when the waiter announced that my friend had ordered "kerplash" soup.  

When The Mount announced that Molly would be speaking at its second "Food For Thought" program for October 23, I reserved my spot immediately.  She appeared along with Amanda Hesser from the NYT and food52.com, and the legendary editor Judith Jones.  Given the lineup, I was surprised that The Stables wasn't filled to overflowing but perhaps it was nothing more than announcing the program rather late.

Both Molly and Amanda have brand new cookbooks out.  Were I the type to want cookbooks as holiday gifts, I'd definitely put Molly O'Neills's "One Big Table" and Amanda Hesser's "Essential New York Times Cookbook" at the top of my list.  But I've already got them so I'll need to find others for my wish list.

Molly's book new is subtitled "A Portrait of American Cooking," and highlights local cooks all over the country.  She traveled extensively for almost a decade, visiting pot luck suppers, community dinners, local food festivals, family meals, and so on and so forth for almost a decade.  Read about a Maine fisherman and what he makes for dinner, then turn the page and there's another story, this one about a chef from Indoesia with her recipe, and so on and so forth. There's always at least one photo accompanying the engaging little tales told about the cook, so it's like meeting a whole bunch of new people who share your love of cooking and eating.  

I need to brag a bit.  "One Big Table" literally came off the printing press the night before The Mount's program, so the four copies of it on the check-in table were the very first four for sale.  I was the first one to buy it, and when Molly autographed it, she wrote "To Laury--who has just purchased this, the very first copy of this very large book.  Best, Molly O'Neill."  Oh, you can't imagine the joy!  Someone mentioned I could sell it on Ebay for a fortune, but I just wanted to go home and start reading.  Which I did.

I'm working my way through it slowly, trying to prolong the pleasure of her writing and point of view.  So this post won't feature any of those recipes because I simply haven't had the time to experiment yet.  Instead I'm offering my two favorite chocolate desserts.  Neither is complicated and both are as delicious as anything chocolate you can imagine.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

My daughter Debbie is a splendid baker.  Her most famous creation is chocolate mint cookies, but she steadfastly refuses to share the recipe, even with me, her beloved mother.  As a sop to those lusting for that chocolate mint cookie recipe, here’s one that she willing shares.  And I’m grateful because these are a real show-stopper...and easy, too. 

4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 T unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
2 c semisweet choc chips
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch –process)
1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 c sugar
3 large eggs
11/2 t vanilla

Melt unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup choc chips in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Cool.

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Beat together sugar, eggs and vanilla with electric mixer until pale and frothy, about 2 minutes.

Mix in melted chocolate mixture and then flour mixture at low speed.  Combine well.  Stir in remaining 1 cup choc chips.

Chill, covered, until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Roll (or scoop) dough and arrange 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake in center of oven until puffed in the center and set, about 10 minutes.  Cookies should still be soft in the center.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

Food52.com is my new favorite go-to site for recipes on the internet.  One day while browsing through the site, I spied a recipe with the hot-button the words“chocolate” and “bundt.” The next day, in anticipation of my New York family’s Labor Day visit, I made it.  Naomi, my daughter-in-law, and Tali, my granddaughter, both highly discriminating chocolate lovers, pronounced this “most delish.”  Which it is.  Really.

 2 c sugar

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 c sour milk
1 c freshly brewed strong black coffee
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a bundt pan and dust the inside with cocoa powder, set aside.
Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.
In a mixer on low add the milk, coffee, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla one at a time. mix until everything is incorporated.

Then, with the mixer still on low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Once all of the flour mixture is added, mix the batter for a full four minutes on medium speed.

Then, pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

The original recipe calls for dusting the cake with powdered sugar.  Instead, I used a simple buttermilk and powdered sugar icing.  That recipe is:
1 T plus 1 t well-shaken buttermilk
¾ c confectioners sugar
Whisk together and drizzle over cake.

Naomi, who knows an excellent chocolate cake when she eats it, decided she preferred a mocha drizzle.  Here's what she likes to put on top:

Mocha Drizzle

1/4 cup boiling-hot water
5 teaspoons instant-espresso powder or instant-coffee granules
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir together boiling-hot water and espresso powder in a medium bowl until powder is dissolved, then stir in confectioners sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

 Bon appetit!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Introduction to Cooking with the Widow in the Woods

I’d always wanted a surprise party, so when I turned 65, I threw one for myself.  A surprise party needs a dramatic party favor, so I wrote a cookbook (with the help of my friend Susan Minnich, a former editor).  I spent many months sorting through a lifetime of recipes, finding my favorites and soliciting friends for theirs.  It’s been four years since then so I thought it was time to think about writing an addendum for my 70th birthday.  But then my friend Rena Zurofsky said “But you should do this as a blog!”
And how right she is!  Flipping through recipes collected in the last few years will be the perfect antidote to the long, cold, and dark Berkshire winter.  So please put my blog address on your “favorites” list and check back often.  Comments and suggestions are welcome.
In my dotage I’ve made sure that any new friend I make must be a good cook.  Luckily that’s not a barrier because so many Berkshire folks are good cooks.  Just as an example, here are the ribs that Amy Rudnick, event planner extraordinaire, serves to friends lucky enough to secure a place at her table. 
Amy Rudnick’s most delicious Asian-style barbecue ribs

Adapted from the late, lamented Gourmet.  You’ll read this and wonder how anything this good could be so easy, but you’ll see. 
3 T chopped peeled ginger
2 T chopped garlic
1/3 c soy sauce
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 c hoisin sauce
2 T honey
2-4 racks of baby back ribs (4 lbs total)
Preheat oven to 275.
Puree ginger, garlic, soy sauce and oil in a blender, transfer to a bowl and whisk in hoisin and honey. Reserve some of the sauce and brush ribs with remainder. Place ribs on a rimmed sheet pan and put in oven. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours; turning over once and occasionally brushing with reserved sauce. Carve into individual ribs and serve.
I’ve made these ribs many times, and didn’t think it was possible to find a recipe that could compete with them.  And then I came across a rib recipe at food52.com, my favorite new go-to website for cooking.  It’s written by Amanda Hesser and her assistant Melissa Stubbs, who just published The Essential New York Times Cookbook, weighing in at 932 pages.  Amanda was one of the guest speakers at the recent “Food for Thought” forum at The Mount, and I made sure she autographed my copy.  What I particularly like about the cookbook is that each recipe ends with “Serving Suggestions,” which lists a half dozen or so recipes that work well with the recipe you just read.  Thus you flip back and forth in the enormous book, which makes it even more appealing.  But I digress.
A few weeks ago I read “Seriously Delicious Ribs,” a recipe posted at foo52.com by Jennifer Perillo(whoever you are, I wish you were my friend).  It got such rave reciews that I needed to try it.  And yes, they’re wonderful.  As astonishingly good as Amy’s ribs but with a very different flavor.  Very easy to make, too.
Seriously Delicious Ribs
For the Dry Rub:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon all spice
  • 1 teaspoon chiptole powder (optional)
  • 2 slabs pork baby back ribs (3 to 3 1/2 lbs total)
For the Braising Liquid/BBQ Glaze:
  • 1 cup sparkling white wine (like Prosecco)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Add all the dry rub ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are combined, about two or three 1-second pulses. Rub mixture evenly all over each rack of ribs, making sure to coat top and bottom. Place ribs, single layer, on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan and let sit, covered, in the refrigerator for one hour.
Meanwhile, place liquid ingredients in a small pot and cook over medium heat until just hot. Alternately, you can add them to a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 1 minute.
Remove ribs from the refrigerator. Pour braising liquid over ribs, wrap tightly with heavy-duty foil and place in oven, side by side if possible. Cook for 2 ½ half hours. Alternate pans halfway through if cooking on separate racks in oven.
Remove pans from oven, discard foil and pour or spoon the braising liquid into a medium saucepot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a vigorous simmer and let cook until liquid reduces by half and becomes a thick, syrupy consistency, 20 to 30 minutes.
Preheat broiler. Brush the glaze on top of each rack of ribs. Place ribs under the broiler until the glaze begins to caramelize, one to two minutes (watch carefully, or all your waiting will be spoiled by burned ribs!). Slice and serve with remaining glaze on the side.
Serves 4-6