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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Goat Cheese - Porcini Tamales

Goat cheese tamale with fig-lemon salsa

Here's one of the tamale recipes I made for Christmas: a moderately aged goat cheese wrapped in a porcini masa. The recipe is based on one from Tamales by Mark Miller, Stephen Pyles and John Sedlar. It's served with a tasty fig-lemon salsa. In the original recipe, the goat cheese is paired with a black olive masa (which sounds like another stellar combination) but I wanted to try the porcini one. It's not a powerful mushroom flavor, just an undercurrent of earthy nuttiness.

Wrapping tamales takes a bit of time and practice and it's nice to have extra hands to make the work go quickly. This recipe makes 8 tamales, so you won't be stuck wrapping forever even if you make them on your own. They are worth the effort.

This recipe calls for an aged goat cheese. I used a ripe Humboldt Fog® from Cypress Grove Chevre in Northern California. It's an earthy pungent cheese. You could use a milder goat cheese, one that isn't aged but it can be very sticky to work with. Also, the aged goat is the perfect counterpoint to the sweet fig salsa.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Beet and Carrot Salad with Coriander-Sesame Salt

I pulled this recipe off of It's fantastic. Really, really delicious. What a great way to get your vegetables. Because these are hardy vegetables, it keeps quite nicely for a few days in the fridge too. The beets turn the carrots red, but who really cares?

Beet and Carrot Salad with Coriander-Sesame Salt

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lamb and Walnut Stew

Lamb and Walnut stew over Israeli couscous

I love pomegranate molasses. It's highly reduced pomegranate juice and it is intense and syrupy. Like molasses, but it has a tart-sweet flavor that is totally unique. You can find it in ethnic grocery stores (ones with a good selection of Middle Eastern products are a good bet) or high-end supermarkets, like Whole Foods.

A little of this stuff goes a long way, given its intensity. Which means that a bottle of it lasts a long, long time. It does keep forever but I'm always on the look-out for recipes that use it effectively.

This is a richly flavored stew perfect for winter. Though the pomegranate molasses is sweet, it is not overly sweet. A perfect balance of sweet, tart, and spicy. Not hot spicy but exotic spicy.

This recipe is from Sephardic Cooking by Copeland Marks (Primus, 1994), an incredible collection of Sephardic recipes from Europe, Africa, and Asia. Sephardic Jewish cooking retains more of its Middle Eastern roots and is normally associated with the Mediterranean. But, Sephardic cooking comes from such unexpected places as India and Central Asia. This recipe is Persian, what is now known as Iran. I used lamb but you could make this with any meat: chicken parts, turkey thighs, beef, or veal.

Like most stews, this tastes even better after it's chilled overnight and reheated. It freezes great too.

Fesenjan: Meat Stew in Pomegranate and Walnut Sauce
(serves 6)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Masa Cornbread Stuffing

Another successful Thanksgiving dinner! This cornbread stuffing was a big hit. The cornbread has a twist: it's made with masa flour (corn tortilla mix) as well as cornmeal. Masa is also used for making tamales. It has a distinctive flavor that I just love. This recipe came from Epicurious and I've made some modifications. It makes a lot, which is fine for a big Thanksgiving dinner but not for a regular dinner or small party. I've cut the recipe in half for the stuffing but not for the cornbread. Use half the pan of cornbread and freeze the rest. Cornbread freezes really well; cut it into serving-size pieces and freeze them so you can pull out just what you need.

Masa Cornbread
(makes enough for stuffing + plenty for eating)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Brisket with Green Chiles

This recipe occurred to me when I had defrosted a brisket and found my crisper drawer filled with Hatch green chiles from my garden. Kind of a hybrid derived from my life: brisket for my Jewish New York upbringing, and green chiles for my adopted home in, nominally, the Southwest. Colorado isn't really what most people think of as the Southwest but parts of it were part of the original Spanish colony. Lots of old Hispanic influences. I'm a huge fan of Southwestern food. I worked at an incredible Southwestern restaurant, Zolo Grill, when I first made the switch from engineer to chef. Still love that food! If you ever find yourself in Boulder, check it out. It's still one of the best meals in town.

This is a slow cooker recipe because it's a great way to cook a brisket. Brisket is a tough cut. Lots and lots of fat and collagen. But, that's what makes it so very good. Though this is delicious the day it's made, it's even better if if you chill it overnight, and reheat it. Also gives you a chance to easily skim off the copious fat. Otherwise, it's kind of an oil slick!

Brisket with Green Chiles
(serves 6-8)

2 ¼ - 2 ½ pounds beef brisket, in one piece
1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 large onions, sliced
6 large New Mexican green chiles, such as Hatch, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¾ teaspoon ground ancho chile
1 teaspoon ground mild Chimayo red chile
3 cups beef stock
2 large cloves garlic, sliced

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season brisket with frac12; the salt and frac12; the pepper. Brown in hot skillet. Remove to a 3-5 quart slow cooker. Add onion and chiles to skillet and cook until limp and browned. Add cumin and chile powder. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup beef stock, and scrape up any browned bits in skillet. Pour the whole thing into the slow cooker, along with remaining salt, pepper, beef stock, and sliced garlic. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. To serve, slice or shred meat.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Salmon on a Plank

I decided to try something new with the salmon. Grill it on a plank. Grill isn't really correct because the planks aren't put directly over the heat. Cooking on a plank is a moist heat method. The planks are soaked in water first. When the planks are placed in a hot grill, the planks start to steam, cooking the salmon. Since the planks themselves have aromatic properties, the steam is imbued with this delicious, interesting scent of woodsy-ness. And, it's quite yummy and wonderfully moist.

As I said, this is an indirect grilling method. You need a grill with at least 2 heating elements, or a charcoal grill that is big enough to put the hot coals on one side and room for the planks on the unheated side.

I used cedar planks, but alder planks work well too. The planks are reusable. You don't put them over a direct flame so they don't get charred, particularly when cooking fast-cooking salmon. A single plank is big enough to hold 2 fillets of about 6 oz. each which is enough for 2 servings.

Cedar Planked Salmon
(serves 4)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

More Maida Heatter

Made a cake for a party this weekend. Got to go with Maida Heatter. This is a simple nearly flourless chocolate rum cake from her Book of Great Chocolate Desserts . The crumb is somewhere between a true flourless cake and a regular cake. It's not as dense because it uses beaten egg whites for lift. The chocolate is semisweet so its not as intensely chocolate-y but the rum adds a nice little somethin' somethin'. And, all chocolate benefits from a generous dollop of whipped cream and berries.

Quite delicious!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ginger Apple Sauce

We love apples and this year has been particularly good for the local apple crop. A number of our friends have gifted us with apples from their trees. They are usually pretty tart, but still quite edible. They are perfect for making applesauce.

We love ginger too so this applesauce is a nice change. No cinnamon here. Just apples, a little sugar, lemon juice, and grated ginger. My husband declared this the best applesauce ever.

I like to mix apple varieties when making applesauce. MacIntosh apples cook down quickly which makes them favored for applesauce. I like to mix in Jonathan's because of their great flavor but they take longer to cook. If you use different varieties than this mix, you'll have to adjust the cooking time depending on how well the apples are breaking down.

Gingered Applesauce
(makes 4 cups)

4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 pounds apples (I like to use ½ MacIntosh and ½ Jonathan)
⅓ cup sugar + a bit more, depending on the tartness of the apples
⅔ cup water
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Place the lemon juice into a medium saucepan. Peel, core, and cut the apples into eighths, tossing them in the lemon juice as you go to keep them from turning brown.

Add sugar, water, and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, until the apples are quite tender. Remove from heat and mash with a fork, living some chunks. Taste, and if the applesauce is too tart, add a bit more sugar.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pro's and Con's of the Pressure Cooker

This week I used my pressure cooker to make a fairly tasty stew, a chicken ratatouille.  A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for Korean Short Ribs in the pressure cooker. These two recipes offer some insight into limits and usefulness the pressure cooker. I offer these insights as a public service, should you find yourself staring at the pressure cookers in the appliance aisle. Should you buy one? Read on.

The short ribs were fantastic. They cook in ¼ the time it takes to cook them in a conventional braise. The ribs are tender and they only get better when reheated. Short ribs have so much connective tissue and fat that they just don't dry out. The same cannot be said of chicken. Now, don't get me wrong - the chicken was delicious fresh out of the pressure cooker. But, on reheating, it just gets stringy and dry. I would not hesitate to make chicken in the pressure cooker for guests, but I would try to eat it all in one go. The leftovers just don't hold up. Remember that the next time you cook chicken in your pressure cooker. Though I haven't tried it, I expect you would get the same behavior with leaner tough cuts of beef. Brisket would act like short ribs because it also has lots of fat and connective tissue. Lean roasts - not so good.

What else is successful in the pressure cooker? Brown rice. It's a bit faster. The texture is also excellent. It's foolproof (and apparently when it comes to cooking rice, I'm a fool). I wrote about cooking brown rice in the pressure cooker last year, and I still think it's a miracle.

If you eat a lot of beans, it's a great investment. Chickpeas, which take a good hour if cooked under normal pressure, are done in 25 minutes in the pressure cooker (and 15 minutes if you start with pre-soaked beans). Dried beans, cooked at home, are far superior in texture to canned beans. Yeah, I use canned beans in a pinch, but they are kind of mushy. Dried beans absorb a lot of great flavor in the initial cooking. Canned beans never are as flavorful. Dried beans are also an incredible value. So, if you like beans, you will get your money's worth out of a pressure cooker.

Long-cooking vegetables, like carrots or turnips or sweet potatoes, cook well in the pressure cooker. But, most green vegetables can't stand up to the intense steamy environment in a pressure cooker. However, artichokes are a notable exception. If you love artichokes like I do, it is the fastest way to get these prickly vegetables to tender deliciousness.

3-4 artichokes
1 lemon
lots of minced garlic
dried herbs
salt and pepper

Clean by pulling off the lower tough outer leaves. Cut the top off, so you don't have to deal with those nasty thorns. Use a scissor to snip off any thorns on the outer leaves. Cut off the stem. If you peel it, you can toss it in the pot too and there's a lot of good artichoke there.

Rub the exposed flesh with the cut side of a lemon. That keeps the flesh from darkening. Stuff as much minced garlic as you like between the leaves of the artichokes. Sprinkle with dried herbs (basil, oregano, Italian herbs, rosemary are all good), salt and pepper between the leaves.

Put 1 cup of water in the pressure cooker. Place the steamer rack in the pressure cooker. Put the artichokes and stems (if cooking) in the steamer rack. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over the artichokes. Toss the lemon halves in there too. Lock on the top, bring up to pressure, and cook at pressure for 15 - 20 minutes, depending on the size of your artichokes. Reduce the pressure and let sit for 5-10 minutes. They are so hot at this point that you can't really eat them anyway. Serve with more olive oil, mayonnaise, or butter sauce.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pecan Squares and Maida Heatter

When I was growing up, my mom fell in love with Maida Heatter. And, for good reason. This woman is one of the greatest pastry chefs anywhere, ever. Her recipes are infallible because they are incredibly detailed. Many of them are quite complicated (see my post on her Walnut Tart from Saint-Paul-de-Vence for a super-involved dessert!) but if you know what you are doing, you can pull them off and impress your friends, big time.

This cookie is the best - really the best! - pecan pie-like cookie there is.  My mom made them and people would swoon. They still swoon. I made them to send to my daughter in college. Won some points there with my daughter and her friends. My book club enjoyed some of them too. No one can resist them. It's not as gooey-sticky sweet as pecan pie. Loaded with pecans - over a pound! It has a lovely flavor of honey that makes them unique.
The whole sheet of pecans squares. Oh, doesn't that look delicious

Now, I would post the recipe here, but it's nearly 3 pages long. This is not a recipe for the casual baker. My advice, if you are a serious pastry baker, go get yourself Maida Heatter's New Book of Great Desserts (Knopf, 1982). You can find it used on-line. Get it. You won't be sorry.

Update: I found the recipe on line here. My only update to the original recipe would be to reduce the sugar in the cookie crust to ⅓ cup from ½ cup. The bars are plenty sweet so the crust doesn't have to be.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Finally, the end of Zucchini is in Sight!

Not exactly. I still have a bunch of it in the freezer. But, it does make a good tagline.

Because of that cache of zucchini in the freezer, I'm always looking for good zucchini recipes. Here's one I conjured up on my own. I had orange juice hanging around so I reduced that until it was a syrup. Since zucchini has so much moisture in it, I knew that the syrup would be diluted quite a bit after it was mixed with the shredded zucchini. The result was a little sweet, with a nice hint of orange.
The zucchini doesn't take a good picture, but it's still tasty.

Zucchini Kissed with Orange
(serves 4)

½ cup orange juice
4 small zucchini, shredded
1 ½ Tablespoons butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and black pepper

Bring orange juice to a boil in a small saucepan and reduce to a thick syrup. You should have about 2 Tablespoons of syrup. Place the zucchini in a colander and squeeze out some of the moisture.  Heat butter in a medium skillet until it starts to foam. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute. Add zucchini. Saute for a couple of minutes, stirring to cover the zucchini in the garlic butter. Add orange syrup and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Korean-style Short Ribs

Whoa! It's winter. OK, maybe not where you live, but definitely here in Boulder, Colorado. This morning, we woke up to our first snowfall of the season. And, temperatures heading for the mid-20's tonight. Even if it doesn't feel like winter in your neighborhood, it's time to break out the comfort food because the calendar definitely says it's Autumn.

This is a pressure cooker recipe because that is the fastest way to get short ribs on the dinner table. Short ribs have lots of connective tissue that takes quite a while to break down at braising temperature. The pressure cooker accelerates the cooking and you have tender, yummy short ribs in about an hour.

This recipe is adapted from one in Miss Vicki's Big Book of Pressure Cooker Recipes.

Korean-Style Short Ribs with Horseradish Butter
(serves 4)

For the Horseradish Butter:
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
a pinch of salt

For the Short Ribs:
4 beef short ribs, about 2 pounds of ribs
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, medium dice
½ cup soy sauce
2 carrots, coarsely grated
½ cup water
¼ cup dry sherry
3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons grated ginger
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted until golden brown
2 green onions, sliced

To prepare the horseradish butter, mix the butter, horseradish, and salt together in a small bowl. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow flavors to meld.

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Brown the ribs on all sides. Remove to a plate. Add the onions and saute until starting to brown. Deglaze the pressure cooker with the soy sauce, making sure to scrape up the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the carrots, water, sherry, sesame oil, brown sugar, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes. Mix to combine. Add back the short ribs and any juices. Turn the ribs in the sauce. Lock the lid in place, bring up to pressure, and cook for 40 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool until the cooker has depressurized. Remove the lid. The ribs should be very tender at this point. [If not, lock the lid, bring up to pressure and cook 5 more minutes. Again, allow the cooker to depressurize and remove the lid.]

Serve the ribs by placing a rib on a mound of rice. Spoon on some sauce and a ½ Tablespoon of horseradish butter. Garnish with ½ Tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds and the sliced green onions.

These are extremely rich. You can leave out the horseradish butter and they are still rich (and still very tasty). Because they only get better with cooling and reheating, you can make these ahead. Chill in the refrigerator. Before reheating, remove most of the fat that will solidify on top of the sauce. Don't worry; they will still be rich!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Zucchini Glut Continues...

These are zucchini, a French variety called Ronde de Nice. It's my absolute favorite.

Oh, the glut of zucchini continues! I have one zucchini plant. As you can see from the photo, I pick them when they are pretty small. And still...there are way too many of them!!! Talk about prolific.

Inspired by this video by Jamie Oliver (filmed in less-than-ideal grilling weather), I switched up my usual zucchini grilling method. And, I have to say Jamie is right. Grill them dry, no oil at all, and they seem to take on more smokey, grilled notes. You dress them with oil after they are grilled, which gives you better options for oil. You can choose any number of delicious but fragile oils, such as walnut, hazelnut, almond, or fine extra virgin olive. As Jamie would say, "Brilliant!"

Grilled zucchini
There isn't a recipe here. More a basic process:
  1. Slice the vegetables about ½" thick. Much thicker and they take too long to cook. Much thinner and they dry out.
  2. Grill over high heat with no oil until you get nice grill marks on both sides.
  3. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Dress with a tasty oil and season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Add other seasonings as desired. I tossed in some sliced grilled cherry peppers and some lemon thyme. Basil certainly is another great choice this time of year.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Attack of the Garden Produce

The east side of the garden
I don't have a big garden. I live on a fairly small lot in a small neighborhood full of trees. My garden occupies a good chunk of my front yard, where everyone else has a lawn. Who needs a lawn? I'm no sheep. I can't eat grass. But, I can grow lots of delicious produce. During the summer, I buy few vegetables. I get plenty of beets, carrots, beans (and more beans), eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, zucchini (and this goes without saying, more zucchini), winter squash, lettuce, chard, kale, and collards from the garden. It is kind of amazing how much delicious produce comes out of a garden as small as mine. I have bags of beans, eggplant, and zucchini in the freezer because, at times, there is just too much for my family of two to consume.

The west side. It's only about 14 ft long and 7 ft wide (minus 1 ft for the path)
The beans have been particularly fruitful this year. I have 3 varieties: a yellow bush bean, a green pole bean, and a purple bush bean (which I won't grow again because it cooks up to a particularly dull green and tends toward stringiness). Being creative is helpful when confronted with a fridge full of garden produce. I can't stand to throw good produce on the compost pile.

Here's one of those recipes that just happened because there was stuff in the garden and in the fridge. Succotash usually contains beans (lima beans are traditional but I don't grow them nor do I actually like them), corn (I don't grow that either, but I had some from a local farm), and squash (usually pumpkin). My recipe contains all these things, sort of. As I said, you use up what you got!
My chiles were ripe and red which explains the red bits

Sharon's Succotash
(serves 4)

3-4 Tablespoons bacon fat (or you can use butter but bacon tastes even better)
½ medium onion, chopped
2 mild to medium New Mexican green chiles, roasted, cleaned and chopped
3 cups cleaned string beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-2 ears of sweet corn, kernels cut off the cob
1 zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice
salt and pepper
1-3 dashes of hot pepper sauce (optional)
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)

Saute onion and chiles in bacon fat. Add the string beans, corn, and zucchini. Cook over medium-low heat until beans are tender. I used fairly mature beans so it took about 20 minutes, but if you use young beans, it should be done in under 10 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper, hot sauce, (if you want a little zip), and chopped parsley.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Nutrition and Cancer: A Guest Post

My mother is the inspiration for this blog. My mother was a brilliant cook and an amazing woman. She also battled breast cancer, which ultimately brought about her death at the all too young age of 55. Though my mother lost her battle with cancer after 9 years (yes, she was diagnosed in her mid 40's), she always believed that nutrition played a big role in her surviving that long. Her doctors were amazed that she tolerated her extensive chemo as well as she did, and she attributed this to her diet. My mom was an early adopter of eating well, both nutritionally and for enjoyment. (As an aside, my mom was an early adopter of many things: natural childbirth, the green movement, and the rejection of processed food.)

I recently got a request from Jillian McKee, Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, (you can read her bio here) to post an article on nutrition and cancer. In honor of my mother, here it is. Jillian discusses the importance of protein - you can visit my other blog, School of Eating Good, for a discussion of protein and how to get it in your diet.

Good Nutrition: Important Before, During, and After Cancer

If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, one of the last things you might be thinking about is nutrition. However, good nutrition can be essential in helping you before, during, and after cancer treatment.

According to the National Cancer Institute “Eating Hints,” it is important to be as healthy as possible before starting treatments. Whether you have to have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of these treatments, being healthy means that your body will be able to handle the stresses better and recover more quickly. Eating a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will help you build up vitamins, minerals, and cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Keeping protein sources to a modest amount will help you keep your protein stores full without overdoing calories.

During treatment of cancer, you might find it harder to eat like you used to. This may be particularly true if you have symptoms of mesothelioma, stomach, or colon cancers. The important thing is to keep up calories and protein intake. Since your body will be using a lot of energy during treatment, and your appetite might not be the same, you need to make sure to have enough calories coming in to balance the calories you’re spending. This will help you retain energy levels so you can fight your cancer better.

Good protein intake is also important. Your body uses protein to rebuild the muscles and tissues that you might be losing to the cancer and the treatments. Eating protein-rich foods like egg and soy-based items will give your body what it needs to rebuild tissues and muscle.

Continue to eat as nutritious a diet as you possibly can. You might have to talk to a dietician about special supplements to keep your nutrition at a high level. The stronger and healthier you are during treatment, the easier it will be to fight cancer successfully. Having lots of different nutrients helps your body build the immune cells to prevent infection and lets your body heal faster between treatments.

Eat what you can, when you can. Don’t be afraid if your tastes suddenly change during treatment. It might actually lead you to new healthy foods that you’ve never had an opportunity to try before. If you can’t eat anything at all, talk to your doctor right away. You don’t want to let your energy and protein reserves drop low.

After treatments, you’ll need to rebuild your strength and help your body recover. Eating foods that are rich in proteins and energy will help you recover your energy and strength more quickly. Add in as many colorful fruits and vegetables as possible to regain nutrients you might have lost.

Eating a nutritious diet before, during, and after cancer treatment can help you fight your disease better. It will help you keep your energy high and recover more quickly after treatment.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Broccoli with Tomatoes & Coconut

Here's a quick pseudo-Indian broccoli dish - a dish where I look around the kitchen and see what's there to throw together. I had broccoli and cherry tomatoes that need to get used up before I head to France for 3 weeks. I was inspired by similar dishes made with cauliflower and green beans, but it doesn't replicate either one exactly. That's how cooking is supposed to work - get comfortable with the flavors of a cuisine, have a quiver full of basic techniques, and you can create something really tasty without a recipe.

Broccoli with Tomatoes and Coconut
(serves 4)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut oil is delicious here)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 handful shredded unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets and stems peeled and chopped
3 Tablespoons water
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until the onions start to brown. Add the coconut and cumin seeds. Cook for another couple of minutes. Add cumin seeds and broccoli. Stir, and add water. Cover pan, reduce the heat, and cook for about 5 minutes. The broccoli will be just about done. Remove the cover, turn heat back up to medium-high, and add tomatoes and salt. Cook for 1 more minute. The broccoli should be tender with a slight crunch and the tomatoes should be heated through but not mushy.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Roast Pork with Onions

Roast pork with onions, with a side of chard and bacon
This is a pretty simple and quite old recipe. It came from a book of cookery published in the 18th century called The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy. The recipe is "By a Lady" but it's known that the book was written by Hannah Glasse, an Englishwoman. This cookbook was the most influential one in 1700's in the English speaking world, including the American Colonies. It was published in 1747 (and reprinted many times) but there are still interesting recipes to be found in there. Like this one! I've updated it a bit to make use of modern technology: a thermometer to know when your pork is done. Don't cook your pork roast too long; today's lean pork dries out too quickly if you cook it much above 140°F.

To Dress a Pork Loin with Onions
(serves 6-8)

4 pound pork loin roast
salt and pepper
about 2 pounds of onions, sliced thinly
½ cup water
1 Tablespoon flour
1 Tablespoon white wine  or champagne vinegar
1 Tablespoon grainy mustard, like Dijon or Dusseldorf

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Pork roast before heading into the oven. My oven has a built-in temperature probe which is really handy!

Season the roast generously with salt and black pepper. Place the meat in a roasting dish and surround with sliced onions. Add water. Place in oven and roast for about 1 ¼ hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 125°F. Remove all the onions and any juices you can spoon out to a medium saucepan. Return the roast to the oven to finish cooking (about another 15 minutes) while you complete the onions. The pork should reach an internal temperature of 135° F. At this point, remove the roast from the oven, cover tightly with foil and let rest. The final temperature will be around 140°F.

To complete the onions, heat over low heat for about 15 minutes. The onions will turn a lovely golden-brown. Add the flour and vinegar, and stir to combine. Finally, add the mustard and cook for another 5 minutes. Check for seasoning; add salt if necessary.

Slice the pork roast and serve with the onions.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Food Shopping & Dining in London: Part 3

Last in the series, this part is all restaurant reviews. We ate in a wide variety of restaurants and I have to say, overall, I was pretty darn impressed by the eating in London. As a huge multicultural city, you would expect that, but London's food reputation (mostly bad for a long time) is hard to shake. After spending a week eating there, I would be more than happy to eat there for another week. Or a month.

The day we arrived in London we wandered the neighborhood, just to get the lay of the land. Since streets rarely run together at right angles, you spend quite a bit of time going around in circles. But, it's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you are staying in South Kensington, a lovely neighborhood to wander in. I had looked on google maps before I arrived to see what was nearby and we ended up with some truly fine eating in a short walk of our hotel.

For lunch, we stopped in at Bumpkin (102 Old Brompton Rd), a very charming gastropub. They do the gastro part justice. I had a delicious chicken and leek pot pie. Pamela had a traditional English breakfast. Solid British comfort food is great when you are suffering from extreme jetlag. Everything was very fresh. The atmosphere is lovely farmhouse. Highly recommended.

Though London isn't crowded with gelato shops like every Italian city, you can get gelato if you look. I have just the place. Scoop Fine Italian Gelato (40 Shorts Gardens, near Covent Garden) has delicious gelato. I had a scoop of pistachio and one of gianduja (chocolate-hazelnut). It was intense and creamy. Just like in Italy. They also make crepes, hence the huge quantity of Nutella.

Around the corner is Rock & Sole Plaice (47 Endell St.), one of the oldest fish & chips spots in London. I have to say I am not a huge fan of the English chips. I'm more of a pommes frites gal. But, the fried cod was very good. Next time, I will take my search for fish & chips to a stand. Sit-down fish & chips is still pretty darn expensive. Two dinners and two beers ran us over $50 which is more than I want to spend on my fish & chips (but, cod isn't exactly cheap these days and the portions were quite large).

Our neighborhood definitely came through for fantastic Spanish food. We had dinner at Cambio De Tercio (163 Old Brompton Rd) and it was one of the top 3 meals in London. The menu is a combination of traditional Spanish and modern Spanish, utilizing that molecular gastronomy that put modern Spanish on the map. Pamela had suckling pig. The skin are cracklin' good and the meat was rich and tender. I had pork loin with figs.There were so many interesting things on the menu, it was exceedingly hard to choose! They also have Iberico ham as an appetizer but that was a bit rich for my blood. We saw others eating it and it looked amazing. Lots of Spanish spoken here - not just the staff but the guests. I think this is a place that Spanish ex-pats go to for "home-cooking." The service was professional and extremely warm. When I told them that Pamela was heading to Spain in June, they had a fine time talking to her in Spanish (kid, you need some practice!). Highest recommendation. They also do tapas in the bar next door and their sister restaurant Tendido Cero, across the street.

Also, in our neighborhood, Fait Maison (50 Gloucester Rd.) provided a couple of lovely breakfasts. They are open all day, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, it's a pleasant coffee shop with pastries, quiche and made-to-order Belgian waffles.  All the food was very good and the coffee is fantastic. Pamela liked it because they have free wi-fi. The servers are efficient and quite pleasant.

In the west end, convenient to many theaters, we had Italian food at Pollo (20 Old Compton St.). Not fancy Italian but as London dining goes, reasonably priced. They have mostly pizza and pasta. The portions are large, so order accordingly. It's very popular with a wide range customers from students to tourists to families.
The view of St. Paul's just outside Barbecoa. The view inside is just as good.
Since my School of Eating Good is part of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, I wanted to try one of his restaurants in London. He has quite a few: Fifteen, a chain of Italian restaurants, and Barbecoa. Fifteen is famous for not only fresh and local but for hiring troubled young adults to do the cooking. We did see it because when I visited Oliver's offices, we stopped in for coffee. Can't comment on the food, but the dining room is very organic, with a rather California feel to it. It's celebrating its 10th anniversary and continues to turn around the lives of kids who need direction and marketable skills in their lives. I chose Barbecoa (20 New Change Passage) since I'm a huge fan of BBQ and live-fire cooking. We were not disappointed as this was another of the top 3 meals we had in London. The dining room is huge, wrapped around the exhibition kitchen where you can see that live-fire cooking. Very cool! Every table has a view out of the floor to ceiling windows, many with a stunning view of St. Paul's Cathedral. That's what Pamela got to look at all through dinner, poor kid. She had an American-style BBQ pulled pork on a waffle. I had a rump steak. The cuts aren't the same in Europe but it's part of the top round. This is not a tender cut of beef (which is why it's the most reasonably priced steak on the menu) but I figured if they could make that cut good, they knew what they were doing. All the beef is dry-aged and the flavor was exceptional. Certainly more chewy than a rib or sirloin, but still an excellent steak. We also had some calamari as a starter which was crispy, light, and delicious. Very professional staff and a good wine list, including nice wines by the glass.

No foodie trip to London would be complete without some Indian food. I think there were at least 5 Indian restaurants within a short walk from our hotel. We chose Star of India (154 Old Brompton Rd), just because. And it was a great choice! The last of our top 3 restaurants, this was the best Indian food I've ever had. One of their signature dishes is a duck samosa but these are not like any samosa I've ever had. OK, usually they are not stuffed with duck which is delicious enough. But, the wrapper was more delicate, almost like a light buttery dumpling wrapper. They serve it with a light sweet-spicy-sour tamarind sauce. It's unusual and fantastic. The menu includes a broad range of regional and unusual Indian dishes (like the duck samosas). We enjoyed a lamb stew in a quite spicy red chile sauce, a spectacular saag paneer (even Pamela liked it), and green beans stirfied with coconut. The main dining room is elegant in soft peach and grays. The staff is helpful in explaining the dishes and ordering. More expensive than a curry house, it's totally worth the extra bucks.

Our last night we knew we had to get a pub meal. We weren't particularly hungry - we had a pretty good chicken tikka at the London Zoo for a late lunch - so we shared an excellent charcuterie plate at the Duke of Clarence (148 Old Brompton Rd). Duke of Clarence is a comfy, but more fancy pub. I saw as much wine drinking there as beer drinking. It's another gastropub, serving modern British cuisine. The daily special menu looked fabulous both times we were there. A nice place to have a beer or glass of wine and maybe a bit of a snack.

That's it for my London experience. I don't know how long it will be before I get back there, but I know when I do, I'll be eating well!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Food Shopping & Dining in London: Part 2

In this post, I'm going to share my experience with Asian food, including our visits to Chinatown. Like any Chinatown, there are ducks hanging in the window. Also chickens, pork belly, and large squid. I just love Chinatowns. London's isn't as large as Toronto's, or San Francisco's but it's a good one. From a restaurant point of view, it's overwhelmingly Chinese, but the markets run all over Asia. You have to look pretty hard to find non-Chinese produce in the San Francisco Chinatown. I know because we were on the hunt there for rambutans last August and we found them in one market. We looked in every single market on and just off Grant. But, in London, there was a large, multi-storied market right in the middle of Chinatown and they had everything. Here are the rambutans, my daughter's favorite fruit:

In the background, there is a  large chunk of jackfruit (the light green thing to the right) and finally, the unforgettable durian (those brownish-green spiny things in the upper right corner). I have seen frozen durian before but never fresh (no doubt because of its pungent nature). When we walked by, it kind of smelled of sewer but it wasn't totally off-putting. Of course, I didn't get really close and sniff. It didn't smell that good!

This market had every kind of condiment, sauce, and what-not. Much of it was unintelligible since the labels weren't particularly descriptive:

Not sure what one does with all-purpose sauce - anything, I guess. Then there were these jars of Burmese, well, I'm not sure what! If you needed something Asian in London, this is the place to come. Certainly, it was interesting wandering through this place.

We enjoyed some Chinese pastries. One of the odd things about Chinese pastry is it's not easy to tell what is sweet and what is savory. Even the sweet things aren't that sweet. I really enjoyed the coconut buns: soft white bread stuffed with slightly sweetened coconut.

We had dim sum, because that is one of Pamela's favorite things. It was OK, not as good as Toronto. I expect there is great dim sum in Chinatown somewhere but I can't help you with that one! It was far more expensive than the usual dim sum experience. But, so was nearly all the food in London.

We did find very good and reasonably priced Chinese food in Earl's Court at Dragon Palace. It was a tiny place, about 8 tables and a small bar. All the food was really delicious and lovely. They do dim sum there but we went for dinner. The dumplings we had as an appetizer were first-rate so I imagine the dim sum is excellent.

We also enjoyed Malaysian food in Chinatown at Rasa Sayang. It was cheap and fantastic - big flavors. I had Beef Rendang, which is full of complex spices with some heat. Wish I could have eaten there a few more times, especially for the Singapore Chili Crabs.  So much food, so little time. Sigh.

Next time I'll finish up with the rest of our dining which includes Indian (yes, I'm aware that is Asian as well), British, Spanish, and BBQ/Steakhouse.

The specifics:

New Loon Moon Supermarket, 9A Gerrard St in the heart of Chinatown

Chuen Cheng Ku, 17 Wardour St, Chinatown: OK but not exceptional dim sum

Dragon Palace, 201 Earl's Court Rd, Earl's Court: excellent Chinese food and reasonably priced

Rasa Sayang, 5 Macclesfield St, Chinatown: tasty, cheap Malaysian and Singaporean food

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Food Shopping & Dining in London: Part 1

Dining in London is not the disaster that many believe. I'm sure it once was a disaster, but nowadays, it's a multicultural paradise of food. It's not cheap food, mind you, but it is often absolutely fantastic.

I spent about 10 days in London at the beginning of April. I did my best to sample a broad range of food: Indian, traditional British, Spanish, Chinese, Malaysian, even street food inspired by the Seychelle Islands. Some of it was just OK while some of it was amazing.

In Part 1, we're going to the pinnacles of food markets: the Food Halls in Harrod's, and Borough Market, and we're going to have a little street food.

If you are a foodie, you have to go to Harrod's. Not just for the food, but for the over-the-top decor. Here's what I mean, a picture from the Seafood and Meat Hall:
Yeah, Whole Foods is nice, but this is crazy stuff! The sheer abundance is overwhelming. There's a room with just produce, another just of chocolate, tea, coffee, and candy. One with charcuterie, cheese, baked goods, and prepared foods (everything from British savory pies to Asian dumplings to sushi). All beautifully displayed, and, of course, priced to match.
If you know me, you know I need to take a picture of the mushrooms. Slim pickings in early April.
Since it was a few days before Easter, there had to be brightly colored eggs. Harrod's definitely goes for the brightly colored!
And lastly, there is chocolate. Oh my, there is chocolate. They were selling chocolate from over a dozen chocolatiers. But, these were the cutest!
OK, that's enough of me gushing over Harrod's. On to gushing over the Borough Market. We were there a bit early and it was a gray, cold day so we were not inclined to hang out. But, it was obvious that, along with Harrod's, this is the place to get top quality food. Here's a picture of some stunning fish, almost all of it from the waters around the UK.

See the sign for the Cafe in the background? Pamela and I had a honest British breakfast there. Eggs, bacon, ham, bubble & squeak (look it up). The woman who cooked our food had the best working-class British accent of the trip. I felt like I had stepped into a scene from Mary Poppins, listening to her talk.

I also loved the map for the Borough Market:

On to street food. One day, we had the paella for sale in the courtyard of Covent Garden Market. They make it in huge paella pans. We saw the same thing at the Portobello Market (more on the food there in a second).
Good cheap eats, one of the least expensive lunches we had in London. And Covent Garden Market is a cool place to stroll (though packed with tourists).

Next up, the Portobello Market. Huge market of food, antiques, fleas. You get the idea. It goes on for blocks and blocks. It takes place every Saturday on Portobello Rd, near Notting Hill Gate. Since it was the day before Easter, it was absolutely mobbed.
Not exactly conducive to strolling and shopping! But, we did manage to find some cool stuff, like this can of Spanish tuna. I think it was at least 1 kilo. Biggest can of tunafish I've ever seen!

All the obvious places to eat were at least 4 deep but we managed to find this stand of Seychelle Island inspired street food. Lovely people and the woman on the right makes a mean goat curry. It was fantastic, and I ate plenty of goat when I worked at a Caribbean restaurant.
If you ever find yourself at the Portobello Market (lucky you!), look them up. The stand is called Vinn Goute and the food is delicious and unusual.

Next time, we move on to Chinatown and Asian food.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pork Carnitas

Pork carnitas tacos are just one of my favorite things. The carnitas are very easy to make, though they do take a while to cook.

In theory, the pork shoulder should have enough fat to fry the pork shreds but in reality, American pork is still too lean to render enough fat (this is even true for the fatty pork shoulder). That's why I add some oil - or even better, some lard - to fry the carnitas.

Serve your carnitas with hot corn tortillas, some diced pineapple, sliced red onions, diced avocado, and a green salsa.

Pork Carnitas
(makes 3-4 cups, 6 servings)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What do you do with that leftover corned beef?

OK, I'm running a bit late on this one since St. Patrick's Day and that corned beef dinner was a week ago. But, you can make this with a hunk of cooked corned beef from the deli and it's just as good. This also gives me the chance to say what a great thing hash is - one of the best ways to clean out odds and ends in your fridge (soup is another great depository for them).

Traditionally, corned beef hash is made with white potatoes. Very fitting, seeing as the white potato nourished millions of Irish until the potato famine came along. We really love sweet potatoes in this house and I thought the sweeter flavor would be a nice counterpoint to the salty corned beef. And a recipe was born.

Hash is one of recipes that you can make up on the fly with whatever bits and pieces you have in your fridge. Leftover chicken, leftover potatoes, leftover veggies - together they make hash. I know my friend Deb is nodding her head while she reads this.

Sweet Potato Corned Beef Hash
(serves 4-6)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Asian Fish in Papillote

Shiitake mushrooms 1

Cooking fish in papillote - cooking in paper - is a classic French cooking technique. You don't need to use parchment paper. Aluminum foil works fine too. It's a self-contained steaming method, locking in flavors and making clean-up a breeze.

I used whole pompano but I wrote the recipe below to use any white fish fillet, such as sole, striped bass, or snapper. We stopped in a major-league Asian supermarket and they had beautiful pompano for cheap, cheap, cheap. It's a great fish, with white, slightly oily flesh. If you can find it, I recommend it but if you cook them whole, you are in for a little surgery. Their bones are big and there are no pin bones at all, which makes them easier to eat than trout. But, if you don't like dealing with bones, stick to fillets. That said, fillets are perfectly delicious prepared this way.

This recipe grew out of one in Mark Bittman's Fish. His recipe is pretty classic with pine nuts, shallots, and lemon juice. I had also bought some beautiful fresh shiitakes at the Asian mega-mart (again, cheap, cheap, cheap) and wanted to use them. Which led me to an Asian spin on the classic recipe.

My experiment can guide you on your own variations of the classic recipe. Use a different fat, preferably something tasty like butter, good olive oil, even bacon fat. Switch out the mushrooms for another quick cooking vegetable (or julienne it to speed up cooking - good for carrots). Instead of rice vinegar, use another acid such as lemon or lime juice, or another type of vinegar. You get the idea. It's a great way to throw together a tasty fish dish.

Asian Fish in Papillote
(serves 4)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cheesecake Cupcakes, the decorated version

One of my first posts was about cheesecake cupcakes, a recipe I inherited from my mom. It also happens to be my daughter's favorite recipe to bake. Her friends devour these things whenever she makes them. Traditionally, she makes them at least every February for her friend Celeste's birthday. I thought I would share her awesome decorating  from the latest batch. Can you guess the theme*? She uses a toothpick as the brush and supermarket food coloring. A couple of years ago, she painted on the NY Yankees logo and baseballs. I have to say the kid has talent with food coloring!

Check out the recipe. It's so delicious and simple. It's getting cheesecake without having to make a whole cheesecake. Nice little bite-sized cheesecakes. Highly recommended for Valentine's Day!

Link to PDF of cheesecake cupcakes

*They are flags from countries in South America. Celeste had visited them all during a gap year. Except the US flag, of course. But, as a proud American, my daughter had to throw that one in too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spicy Chickpeas

I know my friend Mary was on a chickpea kick a while back. I finally found the recipe I wanted to give her. When you have 900 cookbooks, sometimes it takes a while.

This recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking (which provided a recipe for creamed eggplant about a week ago). I toned down the spice a bit. The original recipe is called Very Spicy, Delicious Chickpeas. If I had used all the cayenne, it would have blown my husband's head off. As it was, it was still quite spicy but absolutely delicious.

There is one exotic ingredient here: ground amchoor. Amchoor is ground dried unripe mango and it adds a unique tart-sweet flavor. You can find it in Indian grocery stores.  I don't know a substitution. Hopefully, you'll be able to find some for this dish because it's a winner.

Spicy, Delicious Chickpeas
(serves 6-8)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Turkey Thighs in Herbed Tomato Sauce

In November I posted a recipe for polenta. Back then, I said that the polenta is only part of the recipe. The main recipe is turkey thighs cooked in a tomato sauce flavored with dried porcini mushrooms and dried herbs. The porcini is a key element so, though it's an expensive ingredient, don't leave it out. Turkey thighs have a rich, gamey flavor that I love and they go nicely with the woodsy porcini. This is a hearty dish, particularly when you serve it over some stick-to-your-ribs polenta.

Turkey Thighs in Herbed Tomato Sauce
from Rick Rodgers' The Turkey Cookbook
(serves 4)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fun with Eggplant

Eggplant was on sale this week. I wanted to make some baba ghanoush but I bought enough to make more than that. So, here are 2 recipes that use eggplant. In fact, they both start with eggplant broiled whole but after that, they go in totally different directions. There are no pictures of the dishes because neither of them looks all that interesting. But, they taste so good, each in their own way.

Baba ghanoush is a Middle Eastern eggplant dip enhanced with tahini and lemon juice. It retains the delicious smokiness that comes from getting the eggplant skin well-charred.

The other recipe is Indian, using a plethora of fragrant spices to transform the eggplant into something special. It's called Creamed Eggplant but the cream isn't that key to the dish. You could leave it out and it would still be awesome. The original recipe called for vegetable oil. I used butter instead and I do think it adds a depth of flavor. Use vegetable oil if you prefer. There is enough flavor here even if you use a neutral oil.

Both recipes came from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking. I have added additional instructions on broiling the eggplants. She says to rinse them after peeling but I feel that is not necessary. Just be careful about removing all the skin because it would add a lot of bitterness, seeing as it's burned totally by the time it's done. It does take a while to cook the eggplant but it's worth it. The long broiling develops the smoky flavor that enhances both recipes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Garlic Creamed Chard

There's a lot of swiss chard in my freezer. Swiss chard is one of those vegetables that I admire in my garden but don't eat very often. It is quite lovely, especially the Bright Lights variety that has red, pink, and yellow stems. But, come the first snows or that forecast of a stretch of temps in the teens, I decide it's time to pick it all. I separate the leaves and stems. I blanch them separately since the stems have to cook a little longer and I like to freeze them separately too. Drained well and into plastic bags for use through the winter. Which isn't such a bad thing, really. I like rich recipes for chard. Chard, like spinach and beet greens - in reality, chard is just a beet that lost its root - has a drying sensation on the tongue. It comes from the oxalates in the leaf. I don't really like that feeling much, but cooking greens with cream seems to mute this sensation. Sounds like a great reason to cook my swiss chard with cream!

This recipe is much simpler than your average creamed spinach recipe. No roux, no bechamel. It's still darn good. I'm sure it would work as well with spinach as chard.

Garlic Creamed Chard
(from Too Many Tomatoes, Squash, Beans, and Other Good Things)
4-6 servings