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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Beans and Pork

Not too much pork though. Just enough to lend delicious piggy flavor to the beans. Italians love beans and I am particularly enamored with many wonderful Italian bean recipes, such as this one from Fagioli, The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett. I've made a few minor modifications.

Beans and Pork
(serves 8)

2 cups dried navy beans or cannellini beans
6 oz. salt pork or pancetta, cut into 1" dice
4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped or 2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
10 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only, chopped
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
black pepper

Soak beans (see Note). Drain and rinse under cold water. Combine beans, salt pork, and 12 cups of cold water in a soup pot. Heat over medium-high until it reaches a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for about 1 hour until beans are tender. Reserve 6 cups of the cooking liquid and drain the beans. If using dried onion, add it to the reserved water.

In the same pot, heat olive oil. Sauté garlic, red onion (if using), and parsley for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, a generous sprinkle of salt, black pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Add beans and reserved water. Once beans come to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Check seasoning; add more salt and pepper if needed. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. This next part-mashing the beans-is optional, but it will result in creamier beans. Take 1 cup of beans and mash with a potato masher. Add back the rest of the beans and as much cooking liquid as you like. If you add just a little, the beans will have very little sauce. If you add more, the mashed beans will thicken it and make a lovely sauce. If you add a lot, you'll have soup! All are good choices.

Note: You have 2 ways to soak beans. You can soak the beans at least 4 hours or overnight - cover them with a few inches of cool water. Or if you want them in ¼ the time, use the fast soak method. Put the beans in a pot and cover them with a few inches of cool water. Bring to a boil, and boil rapidly for 3 minutes (2 minutes at sea level). Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 1-2 hours.

Adapted from Fagioli, The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett, Rodale, Inc., 2004.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Super Slow Mo Better Pork

My friend John (you can see news of his vineyard at Kiger Family Vineyard) is a very good cook (and baker and winemaker). He has introduced me to many great cooking techniques. He is definitely a technique person. The process is what it's about. He made a pork shoulder for us on our last ski trip together. Heaven! I had to replicate it at home while my pork-loving daughter was back from college.

This process is long but requires very little work on your part. It results in delicious unctuous pork. The flavorings here are mine. Herbes de Provence has nothing to do with this kind of slow cooked pork, as far as I know. Pork takes to many flavors and these are some of the many that makes a pork shoulder even better. Herbes de Provence is one of those blends that you buy, usually in those too-large crockery jars for one particular recipe and then wonder what you are going to do with all of it. Well, this is a worthy place to use it, trust me.

You can read more about why this technique works on this tough cut of pork at Serious Eats. I'm going to give you the condensed version.

Super Slow Mo Better Pork
(serves an army)

8 lbs bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), preferably with skin on

1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, crushed in your fingers
½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons herbes de Provence, crushed in your fingers
1 teaspoon kosher salt

The night before you will cook your pork shoulder, apply the rub. Combine the salt, herbes de Provence, and black pepper in a small bowl. Place the pork shoulder in a roasting pan. Sprinkle all sides with rub and rub it into the pork. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and park in the fridge until the next morning.

About 10 hours before you plan to eat the pork, heat your oven to 250 °F. Remove the plastic wrap, return pork to the pan, skin side up, and stick in the oven. Cook until internal temperature reaches 200 °F (this is where a probe thermometer comes in handy) and the meat falls apart easily when prodded with a fork.

Remove the skin from the top, remove any meat, scrape off the fat. You can add it back to the pan to mix with the pork but there's probably enough fat in the meat. There is no denying it tastes delicious! Set aside the skin. Using a couple of forks, rip apart the meat, which should fall to pieces easily and remove the bone.  Sprinkle the shredded meat with the seasonings.

Place the skin in a 500 °F oven for a couple of minutes to crisp it up. Chop and add back to the meat (or if you are evil, eat it all yourself).

Serve with most anything - rolls, potatoes, noodles. Cardboard. No, just kidding!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Persimmon Bread

I don't eat a lot of persimmons. But, sometimes it's fun to step away from the parade of wintertime citrus, too-long-in-storage apples, and grapes from warmer climes. For the persimmon novice, you need to know there are two varieties and they are very different. One, the Fuyu, can be eaten  while still slightly crunchy. They taste a bit like apples to me. You can also eat them when they are fully ripe. They will be sweeter and the texture will be slightly squishy.

Fuyu Persimmon, small and squat and can be eaten while still crunchy. Illustration from USDA
The other type of persimmon, the Hachiya, can only be eaten when fully ripe and very, very soft. Before this stage, the tannins in the fruit are overwhelming and you will get a serious pucker-face from trying to eat it. You must be quite patient to eat this; I found it took weeks for my persimmons to soften up. Persimmon season runs from October until mid-winter in the US, so we're right in the thick of it now. As a specialty fruit, they are expensive, but you can find them on sale throughout the winter.
Hachiya Persimmon, taller and can only be eaten when very soft. Illustration from USDA

Rather then eat them out of hand, I used them to make persimmon bread, like banana bread. They add a nice flavor and plenty of sweetness. They are very sweet when ripe so there isn't a lot of sugar in this quick bread. This is a great snack or tea bread.

Persimmon Bread
(serves 12)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder (1 teaspoon at sea level)
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda (same at sea level)
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2-3 Hachiya persimmons or 4-5 Fuyu, very ripe
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted (see Note)

Adjust a rack to the middle of the oven . Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 8"x4"x2½" loaf pan. Set aside.

Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a medium bowl.

Cut each persimmon across the equator and gently scoop out the flesh: run the spoon under the skin to loosen the flesh, then spoon out the flesh away from the center part that is fibrous and contains the seeds. Place in a small bowl and mash the pulp with a fork. Measure out 1 cup of persimmon pulp. Any leftovers can be eaten with a spoon, frozen for another bread, or added to a smoothie.

Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat to combine well. Add the persimmon pulp, sour cream, and almond extract. Beat to combine. With the mixer on slow speed, slowly add the dry mixture, scrapping down the sides so everything is combined. Add in the dried apricots and toasted almonds and mix to distribute evenly. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan, set on a rimmed cookie sheet (in case it overflows; it shouldn't), and bake for 1 hour - 1 hour 10 minutes. The bread is done when a skewer comes out without any wet batter.

Let cool on a rack for 20 minutes. Remove from loaf pan and cool to room temperature. The bread is hard to slice when warm so be patient!

Note: to toast almonds, place nuts on a sheet pan in a 300°F oven for 8 minutes. Set a timer - it's easy to burn nuts. I speak from experience.

Adapted from Nicole Routheir's Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier, Workman Publishing, 1996.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving is Coming!

My most beautiful turkey ever. OK, it looks like this every year. Tastes even better than it looks.
Yep, right around the corner now. Starting to think about that big holiday menu? Not me! I'm going to visit family so I'm not responsible for the bird, etc. this year. That's not to say I don't have recipes for you. Here are links to Thanksgiving posts from years past to give you some ideas:

Thanksgiving 2010: a mix of recipes pulled from various places.
Turkey Brining: how I've done it though I don't always bring mine because the drippings become too salty for gravy.
Turkey Cooking: how to roast that bird.
Icebox Cake: a rather non-tradtional Thanksgiving dessert originally from Fine Cooking.
Masa Cornbread Stuffing: Delicious Southwest-inspired stuffing. Really dressing since you don't stuff the bird with it.
Buttermilk Rolls: impress your guests with homemade rolls.
Apple Sausage Stuffing: two Thanksgiving classics, apples and turkey.

The Turkey Carcass:  Stop! Do not throw out that carcass. Make stock.
Turkey and Corn Chowder: place to use both stock and turkey meat
Turkey and Wild Rice Soup: turkey and wild rice, two American natives.
Turkey Curry: from my other blog, School of Eating Good.

Hope your Thanksgiving meal is filled with many delicious dishes and good company!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Trader Joe's Nut Oil Sale

Nut oils are one of the secret weapons of the great cook. Like high quality extra virgin olive oil, they pack a big punch of flavor in a little package. They make sensational vinaigrettes. They are delicious drizzled on cooked vegetables, grains, or fish. They are delicate so you don't cook with them. You use them to impart a rich nutty flavor. Unfortunately, they are usually quite expensive.

This month, Trader Joe's has a trio of nut oils - hazelnut, walnut, pistachio - on sale for $14.99. I know that sounds expensive but that's a huge bargain. Three 8.45 oz. cans for $15! Jump at this sale. Get to Trader Joe's and snap it up.

Here's the Trader Joe's page on the oils:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Elderflower Cocktail

It's about 0 degrees here and I'm posting summer cocktails. What can I say? We're not intimidated by some cold here in Colorado.  I had tried this cocktail at a party over the summer, and I wanted to give it a try, weather be damned. Traditionally, it's made with St-Germain liqueur. That's some expensive hooch. It's a French liqueur infused with elderflowers, giving it a delicate floral bouquet. I wasn't up to forking over $35 for a bottle, so I settled for the elderflower syrup from IKEA. Significantly cheaper. The Swedes love this stuff. They use it to make an elderflower lemonade (so my Swedish friend Anette tells me). It's much sweeter than the liqueur and it contains no alcohol. Still made for a delicious cocktail, one quite light on alcohol. I've dubbed it the Hummingbird Moth Cocktail. The hummingbird moth, a large moth common in Boulder gardens, is often mistaken for a hummingbird.

The Hummingbird Moth Cocktail
(makes 1)

a few pieces of ice
1 oz. elderflower syrup  (available at IKEA)
2 oz. prosecco or sparkling white wine
2 oz. club soda

Combine everything in a wine glass. Sip and dream of summer breezes. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mussels in Mustard Dill Sauce

At this point, I realized I hadn't taken a picture but I had already eaten a bunch of them.  Let me tell you, it took some restraint to stop and take a picture!

Mussels are my favorite "cheap" seafood. I love all seafood: raw oysters on the half shell, lobster, shrimp, all manner of crab. What do all these delicious things have in common? All pricey! Mussels are not cheap like pinto beans, but compared to the rest, they are an outright bargain. They are so adaptable too. So many sauces work on the flavorful but not fishy tasting mussel. I went to a Belgian restaurant in Montreal a couple of summers ago and they had pages of variations.

If you have a Costco near you, you can get a great price on mussels during their Seafood sales. They have lots of other great things, like giant scallops, crabs, shrimp, and clams at a good price, but they are still hardly cheap. The mussels are the cheapest of them all.

Mussels in Mustard Dill Sauce
(serves 2)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Lamb Shanks Vindaloo

I mentioned this dish to two friends and they both went "Oooohh!" It was certainly delicious. The secret is using a pressure cooker. Lamb shanks take a very long time to cook. They are filled with connective tissue, which is what makes them so rich and delicious. Alas, connective tissue takes quite some time to break down. The pressure cooker to the rescue! Something that would take hours in the oven is done in about an hour. Score one for technology.

Vindaloo is supposed to be hot. Really hot. At ½ teaspoon cayenne, it's mildly spicy. Feel free to increase the cayenne up to 1 ½ teaspoons, if you can handle it.

Lamb Shanks Vindaloo
(serves 4-6)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Applesauce Time!

This box of apples showed up at my house a few days ago, thanks to some generous friends. That's about 20 pounds of apples. When you have a windfall like that, you need to do something on a large scale so I made a lot of applesauce. Homemade "canned" applesauce is easy and delicious. You can make it as sweet as you like - I don't like it very sweet. Canning requires some equipment and some labor but it isn't hard. If you have a decent sized garden, canning skills are almost part of being a gardener. That's why you plant a garden - so you can sock away all that bounty for those dreary days in winter. I'm sure this applesauce will be a ray of sunshine in my winter.

Twelve pints is a lot of apple sauce. My canner will only hold 7 pint jars. You may have to can this in two batches like I did.

Sharon's Applesauce
(makes 12 pints)

12 pounds apples, cored and cut into chunks*
citric acid to prevent browning (also called Fruit Fresh)
4 cups apple juice or apple cider
1 vanilla bean
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger
1 4" stick of cinnamon
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

As you cut up the apples, place them in a large bowl with water and citric acid (check the Fruit Fresh label instructions on mixing this). Drain well and put the apples, apple juice, vanilla bean, ginger, and cinnamon in a large stockpot. Cook over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil. Stir, and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the apples are falling apart tender, stirring occasionally. How long that is depends on the type of apples you are using. My apples took about 30 minutes to fall apart. Remove from the heat. Remove the lump of ginger and cinnamon; discard. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Using an immersion (or wand) blender to break up the apples. I like my applesauce chunky. If you want a smoother applesauce, puree in a blender in batches - this will take a while!

Wash 12 wide-mouth pint jars. Fill your canner pot about half full with water. Place the jars in the canner on a rack; it's easier if you fill the jars partially with water before putting them in the canner, because they try to float. Add enough water to cover the jars by 1" of water and bring it to a boil. Wash 12 jar lids and 12 rings, and set aside while you get the water boiling.

While you are waiting for the water to boil, return the applesauce to the stockpot, add the lemon juice, and stir. Reheat over medium-low and maintain it at a simmer until the canner is ready.

Remove the jars and drain. Fill each jar within ½" of the rim. Remove any air bubbles. Put on a lid, screw on the ring, and place in the canner. As soon as the water in the canner returns to a boil, start your timer. At my elevation (nearly 5400 ft.), can for 30 minutes. At sea level, you only need 20 minutes.

Remove the jars to a rack covered with a towel and let cool. After 24 hours, check seals: the jars are sealed correctly if the lids don't flex up and down when pressed.

*You can peel the apples if you like but I don't. The skins on my apples are tender and I hardly notice that the apples weren't peeled, but your apples may have tougher skins.

Adapted from the Ball website, which is a great collection of preserving and canning know-how.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Zucchini and Apple Soup

I used light green zucchini from my garden. If you use standard zucchini, the soup will be a deeper green

Really? Sounds sort of odd together, doesn't it? But, it tastes delicious. Zucchini is not all that exciting on its own. The apple adds just the right amount of sweetness and acidity. It's apple season, why not?

Zucchini and Apple Soup
(serves 4)

1 large apple, peeled, cored & diced
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large onion, sliced
½ cup cider or apple juice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 cups chicken stock
½ cup light cream
4 Tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the butter and oil in a soup pot. Add the apples, zucchini, and onion. Cook over medium heat until the onions have softened but do not brown.

Add the cider, nutmeg, and black pepper. You can add a bit of salt here if you are using unsalted stock. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes. Add the stock, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes.

Puree everything in a blender or with an immersion blender. Add the cream and heat until hot. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve hot.

Adapted from Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier, Storey Publishing, 2001.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Jamie Oliver's Blushing Spaghetti Vongole

Jamie Oliver has a fun new cookbook: Comfort Food. It features comforting recipes from around the world. Recipes include a rich Curried Fish Pie, Chicken Kiev, and a Chocolate Celebration Cake. These are not simple recipes (though the one below is). They are made for a day when you have time to cook, or you want to pull out the stops with something wow! Or, in this recipe, something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. I love spaghetti in clam sauce. It's always been one of my favorite comfort foods. Most are based on white wine and don't have tomatoes. This one cooks the clams in dry rosé wine and has a bit of tomatoes for more pink color and added flavor. Very comforting!

This is a recipe that depends on mise en place: having everything ready once you start cooking. It takes about 10 minutes and you do not have time to do any prep once you get going. Look over each raw clam. If it's open and won't shut when you tap it, toss it. It's dead. Any clams that don't open after steaming are dead and should be pitched. Clams open very wide when they are cooked so it's obvious which ones are duds.

Blushing Spaghetti Vongole
(serves 2 generously)

10 oz. dry linguine pasta
salt for pasta cooking water
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 small red ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters
6 large sprigs of fresh parsley
1 large pinch of crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (sold in a tube)
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds small clams in the shell, scrubbed clean
¾ cup dry rosé wine

Combine the garlic, tomatoes, crushed red pepper, and tomato paste in a bowl. Set aside. Chop the parsley leaves and set aside. Thinly slice the smaller stems and add to the bowl with the other ingredients.

Get a large pot of water boiling and add a tablespoon of salt. Add the linguine and set the timer for 3 minutes. When it goes off, set a large covered skillet over high heat and reset the timer for 4 more minutes. When the pan is hot, 30 seconds, add 1 Tablespoon of oil, swirl it around, and add the ingredients in the bowl. Stir around for 30 seconds, then add the clams. Toss around, add the wine, and cover. After 2 minutes, remove the lid. The clams will be starting to pop open. Check the pasta. If done, drain. If not, cook for another minute. Once all the clams have opened, toss in the drained pasta and the chopped parsley leaves. To serve, mound into bowls with all the juices for bread dipping, and garnish with some more olive oil. Serve with a glass of dry rosé wine, of course!

Adapted for altitude from Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver

Friday, October 3, 2014

Friday Night Dinner: Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Grapes

I picked a lot of grapes this year (OK, my husband picked them because I was out of town). We finally beat the raccoons with an electric fence and all the grapes hanging were quite a bit - 18 pounds! They are small pink seedless grapes, a variety called Canadice from central New York. They are spicy, tart-sweet, and very tasty. But, you can only eat so many grapes. The expiration date was coming up on them. I had already turned them into raisins and a wine jelly. Found this recipe to use up the rest. This is easy, really easy!

One inch thick pork chops are just big though I know plenty of people who will happily eat a whole one. I try not to, but that's a pretty typical serving. If you can resist devouring the whole thing, you can stretch this to serve more than 4; there is plenty of sauce. Of course, if you are part of my family, there will be war if you don't get a bone with your chop. :-)

Pork Chops with Sweet and Sour Grapes
(serves 4-8)

4 bone-in 1" thick pork chops, about 2 pounds total
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon oil
2 pounds green or red seedless grapes
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 - 3 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into a few pieces

Preheat the oven to 500°F.

Dry the chops and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold all the chops. Brown the chops on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the chops to a plate and pour off the fat in the pan. Add the vinegar, and using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits in the skillet. Let the vinegar reduce slightly. Add the grapes and stir. Put the chops and any juices back in the skillet. Mound some of the grapes on top of each chop so they are basted by the grape juice. Place in the hot oven and roast for 10 minutes. Check the temperature. If they get to 130°F, they are done and you don't want to overcook them. If they aren't cooked enough, return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the oven and remove the chops to a heated dish. Using a slotted spoon, remove all the grapes and mound on top of the chops. Cover the chops with foil to keep warm. Return the skillet to the stove and cook over medium heat. Stir in the butter chunks and reduce the sauce until thick and glossy. Check the seasoning; add more salt if needed. Pour the sauce over the chops. Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.

Adapted from Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook by Nicole Routhier, Workman Publishing Company, 1996.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Shrimp a la Greque

A simple yet delicious recipe for shrimp. I've adapted this from Mark Bittman's Fish, a comprehensive book on all manner of finny or shelled critters. It's one of my go-to fish cookbooks because it covers the fast and simple right through to the fancy and complicated. Everything I've tried in here has been excellent. I have made the recipe for Crispy Skin Salmon with Gingery Greens and it's become a house favorite. Fish is still available and a good buy in paperback.

Shrimp a la Greque
(serves 4-5)

4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup dry white wine
4 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
½ teaspoon crushed dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into ½" cubes

Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, wine, 2 Tablespoons parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Smush the tomatoes with a spoon. Turn the heat up to medium-high and cook until the sauce thickens to the consistency of thick tomato sauce.

Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink all over, about 5 minutes. Add the feta cheese and stir gently to keep the feta cubes intact. Serve over pasta or rice. Garnish with the remaining parsley. Serve with bread to get every drop of the delicious sauce.

Adapted from Fish by Mark Bittman, Macmillan Publishing Company, 1994.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Preserved Lemons

They don't look like much but they pack a lot of amazing lemon flavor!
I think preserved lemons are wonderful: lemony, salty, just a little tart. I have a recipe that makes 8 of them, which is a lot because you don't need much in any recipe and they take up a bit of room in the fridge for months and months.

I recently found a recipe for just 2 of them. I started them yesterday and they should be ready to use in a week (though not at their best - that takes a month). It's really simple and you can keep them in a pint jar. This is just what I need to make this recipe - Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives - more often. Try it. You will love its fresh Mediterranean flavors. You don't need to make your own preserved lemons. They are now available at many good markets. But, it's so easy to do it, why not!

Preserved Lemons
(makes 2)

2 whole lemons, washed and dried
coarse salt, like kosher salt
about ½ cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)

Cut the lemons into eighths. Pour a layer of salt into a shallow dish. Roll each lemon piece in the salt to cover. Drop in a pint canning jar with a tight-fighting lid. When all the lemons are in the jar, pour in enough lemon juice to cover. Squish the pieces down to remove any air bubbles. Cover tightly and leave on the counter at room temperature for 1 week. Each day invert. After 1 week, they are ready to use but they will be at their best after 1 month. Store in the fridge after 1 week. Will keep for at least 6 months.

From Cooking with Fruit by Rolce Redard Payne and Dorrit Speyer Senior, Random House, 1992.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Spicy Lamb Burgers

Paul Gauguin - La bergère bretonne.jpg
"Paul Gauguin - La bergère bretonne" by Paul Gauguin - Sotheby's (not for sale, only as a reference). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Lamb is one of my favorite meats, which is pretty obvious  if you look at recipes posted on this blog (like lamb espresso, Scotch broth, or a lamb-lentil stew). Most Americans do not share my love of lamb; yearly consumption is so small it barely shows up next to other meats. Hey, that doesn't deter me! I'll keep posting my favorite lamb recipes for you few "dyed in the wool" lamb lovers (yes, pun intended).

Ground lamb is often fairly fatty. If you grind it yourself, you can get a leaner mix. The added fat does add to the unctousness of the burgers, however.

Spicy Lamb Burgers
(serves 4)

1 pound ground lamb
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tablespoons dried minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano or other hot green chile, minced
¼ cup minced parsley or cilantro
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Combine everything in a bowl and mix thoroughly with your hands. Form into 4 burgers. Let rest for 10 minutes - use this time to get your grill smokin' hot. Grill or sear in a very hot cast-iron pan until done to your liking. I wouldn't go past medium and medium-rare is even better. For medium-rare, 4 minutes per side will be enough if you use a very hot grill or pan.

Though very much mixing up ethnic origins, this burger(Pakistani) is delicious with Romesco Sauce (Spanish).

Adapted from The Barbecue Bible by Steve Raichlen, Workman Publishing Company, Inc, 1998.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Asparagus Ham Soup

Asparagus makes a lovely soup. This recipe is adapted from a microwave recipe in Barbara Kafka's The Microwave Gourmet, the original gourmet cookbook for the microwave. I didn't use my microwave, however. What can I say? I'm kind of old school when it comes to cooking.

You could use the whole spear but that seems like a bit of a waste here. Save up your trimmings and peelings in the freezer, then make this soup when you have collected enough.

Asparagus and Ham Soup
(serves 6)

1 pound asparagus trimmings
4 ½ cups ham stock
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup heavy cream
kosher salt to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper

Chop the asparagus trimmings into 1" pieces. Place the asparagus, ham stock, and chopped onion in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until asparagus is tender, about 30 minutes. Run the soup through the fine disk of a food mill - asparagus has a lot of long indestructible fibers, so this takes a bit of work. Return the soup to the saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice, cream, maybe a little bit of salt (ham stock is plenty salty), and black pepper. Heat on low until just hot, not boiling. Can also be served cold.

"Légumes du marché 2" by Vassil - Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Friday, June 27, 2014

Indian Lamb and Lentil Stew

This recipe is based on this one at They look similar but are really quite different. Garam masala is sort of curry powder, but it lacks turmeric (the spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow color). Many of the spices are the same (cumin, cardamom, black pepper, coriander) but without turmeric, garam masala is sweeter. Sounds good to me! Nowadays, a well-stocked supermarket carries both so you don't have to make your own or find a specialty shop. I do make my own (because I'm crazy like that) and have included the recipe at the end.

I also added the lime juice. This is a very earthy dish. Though the tomatoes add some acid, they really aren't very bright after cooking with the lamb and spices for an hour. The lime juice brings back some of the high notes. I happen to believe that acid is a very under-rated ingredient. Salt is important but you can only go so far before the dish gets too salty. Acid enhances many flavors in another way, making it complementary to salt

Indian Lamb and Lentil Stew
(serves 4-6)

1 pound lamb, cut into ½" pieces (from the leg or sirloin is best)
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon garam masala 
1 ½ cups tomatoes (diced, pureed or crushed will all work)
2 cups water
1 cup brown lentils
3 carrots, cut into 1" chunks
1 cup frozen green peas
juice of 1 lime or lemon

Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat until very hot. Add oil, then the lamb. Cook until the lamb is browned. Add onions, ginger, and garlic. Lower heat to medium. Cook until onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garam masala and mix in to onions and lamb. It will become fragrant within 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, water, brown lentils, carrots, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and carrots. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover, and simmer for at least an hour, but longer won't hurt. Five minutes before serving, mix in peas. Cover and cook about 5 minutes to warm up peas. Mix in lime or lemon juice. If served as is, this will serve about 4 people. If you serve it over rice, it will serve 6.

Garam Masala
(makes ¾ cup)

the seeds from 1 Tablespoon green cardamom pods
1 4" cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
½ Tablespoon whole cloves
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns
¼ cup cumin seeds
¼ cup coriander seeds

Grind the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cumin, and coriander until the mix is an even texture. Store in a tightly sealed jar. Will lose its pungency over time but keeps surprisingly well.

Recipe from Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni, William Morrow and Company, Inc.,1980.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Romesco Sauce

Romesco sauce, a pungent combination of roasted red pepper, garlic, nuts, and chile flakes, is a delicious accompaniment to grilled meats or poultry, fish, or even as a dip for veggies or crackers. I love most anything with roasted red peppers and this sauce is no exception. It's an addictive combination.

The bread, which is acts as a thickener, is usually fried in olive oil. This recipe, from Martha Rose Shulman, skips the frying and uses toasted bread. It makes the recipe quicker. I wouldn't say it makes the sauce light- this is a rich sauce even with toasted bread!

I like Aleppo chiles in this recipe. They are sweet-hot and a little fruity. In Boulder, you can find Aleppo chile flakes at the Savory Spice Shop, my favorite herb and spice purveyors in town. And if you don't have a Savory Spice Shop in your town, they take on-line orders

Romesco Sauce
(makes about 2 cups)

1 large roasted red pepper, cored and skin removed, roughly chopped
¾ pound ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 whole tomatoes)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup whole almonds, toasted
2 oz. crusty white bread, lightly toasted
1-2 teaspoons medium-hot chile flakes, such as Aleppo chiles
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Place the whole tomatoes on a metal pan and place under the broiler. Broil until it develops some char. Turn over and repeat on the other side. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Remove the the skin, and set aside the tomatoes.

With the food processor running, throw in the garlic to mince. Stop the processor and scrape garlic off the sides. Add in the almonds, bread, and chile flakes, and process to a paste. Scrape down the sides again, and add the red pepper, tomatoes, parsley, paprika, salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth. Scrape down sides. With processor running, add the vinegar and then the olive oil in a slow stream. Process until smooth and well-combined. Scrape the sides and taste. Add more salt if needed.

Best if served at room temperature. The garlic flavor builds if it is kept in the refrigerator. Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Great as a spread on bread or crackers or as a sauce on fish, chicken, lamb, or vegetables.

From Mediterranean Harvest by Martha Rose Shulman, Rodale, Inc., 2007.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weirdness in the Name of Health

I collect recipes - no surprise there. I have nearly 1000 cookbooks and I am constantly on the look-out for interesting recipes from various blogs and such. I have to say that I am perplexed by the mainstreaming of recipes that claim health benefits. OK, I get it if you have celiac disease and you need to avoid anything with gluten. But, most people have no problem digesting gluten, so baking up some gluten-free "bread" or "cookie" achieves what? I've seen claims that gluten causes obesity. Some of the recipes will hardly help your waistline, gluten or no gluten. They are calorie bombs. I recently saw a gluten-free bread that works out to 250 calories a portion. Seeing as a slice of bread has between 100 and 140 calories, this doesn't sound like an improvement unless you absolutely can't tolerate gluten. Just because something is gluten-free doesn't make it healthy. And, I know that there are gluten-free breads out there contain calories comparable to regular bread, making them a far better everyday choice than a slice of pseudo bread that clocks in at 250 calories.

And, while I'm griping about nonsensical food, how about the love affair with "natural" sugar, like honey or maple syrup or agave nectar? I would probably put maple syrup on the list of foods I would want on a desert island. I spent childhood vacations in Vermont and once you taste the real stuff, you can't go back. But, maple syrup is sugar just like white sugar, brown sugar, honey, agave nectar, corn syrup (high fructose or otherwise). They are all made from plants that are manipulated to increase the concentration of the natural plant sugar. Except honey. The bees do the manipulating of the plant product (nectar) for us, but the end result is still something really, really sweet. The process used by bees is very similar to the manufacture of maple syrup - it's called evaporation. Corn syrup is the exception in that the sugars are tied up in long chains and without the help of some useful enzymes, we humans can't get at the sugars until the starch molecules are well past our taste buds (though if you chew starchy foods long enough, the amylase in saliva will liberate the sugar). Fact is, we humans shouldn't get a lot of highly concentrated sugars. It's lots of calories with no nutrition. Calories are not something most of us have trouble getting enough of these days. That said, I think sweet dessert is a wonderful thing and I refuse to live without it. :-) I just don't eat it everyday.

Enough of my griping. How about a recipe? How about some sweetened gluten? It's blueberry season, so here's a simple blueberry cake. This is a straightforward cake - if you can measure, mix, and follow instructions, you can make this cake.

Warm Cinnamon-Spiced Blueberry Cake
(makes one 9" cake, 8-10 servings)

The Cake:
6 oz. all-purpose flour (1 ⅓ cups)
½ teaspoon baking powder (¾ teaspoon at sea level)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 oz. unsalted butter, at room temperature (6 Tablespoons)
8 oz. sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
⅔ cup sour cream

The Topping:
1 cup blueberries, rinsed and well dried (about 5 oz.)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Position the rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9"x2" round cake pan. Tap out the excess flour and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until well-mixed and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined after each egg. Add the vanilla and beat in. Fold in dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream (so, ⅓ flour- ½ sour cream- ⅓ flour- rest of sour cream-rest of flour). Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 10 minutes.

While cake is baking, make the topping. In a small bowl, combine all the topping ingredients. Use a fork to lightly crush the blueberries.

After the cake has baked for 10 minutes, distribute the topping evenly over the top of the cake. Continue baking until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30-40 minutes longer. This is a fairly wet dense cake so it can take a while to bake.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge to loosen the cake. Place a rack on top of the cake pan and flip the pan to remove the cake. Place a serving plate on top of the cake and flip again to get it top-side up. Serve warm or at room temperature. Warm is best. If you have leftovers, wrap it in plastic wrap. It will keep for 2 days at room temperature or 5 days in the fridge. Definitely heat it up if you store it in the fridge.

Excellent with a cup of coffee or tea. Even better with a dollop of whipped cream or a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Adapted from The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge, W.W. Norton & Company, 2005.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Peter Reinhart's Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

The classic Margherita Pizza: sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil. Sometimes simple is best.
I have tried many, many whole wheat pizza crust recipes. I have always been disappointed. Like this recipe, they were 50-50 white/whole wheat. Even at that ratio, they didn't have the right texture for a pizza crust. Though this one isn't as chewy as a 100% white flour crust, it is a very good crust. It stretches out well because of good gluten development. The flavor is first rate. This recipe is from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, which you must obtain if you are serious about baking exceptional whole grain breads. Peter Reinhart has done an enormous amount of research and testing to develop his whole grain bread recipes and techniques. Really, this is ground-breaking stuff.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Roasted Seaweed Snacks

Boulder got its own Trader Joe's back in February. The place was a madhouse most of the spring. It's finally calmed down to just busy and I ventured in there with my daughter this week. She turned me on to these addictive seaweed snacks. They are very, very thin pieces of nori roasted with a little oil and wasabi. They pack a good punch of sinus-clearning wasabi and the texture is interesting, in a good way. They start off leathery and as you chew them, they soften in your mouth to chewy. I really like them! Because they have such intense flavor, I can only eat a few at a time. The package says it contains 2 servings but I couldn't eat that many at once. For me, a package would be at least 8 servings. At 99¢ a package, it's a cheap and tasty snack.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Leek Cobbler

Most folks associate cobblers with fruit and dessert. Here, a cobbler is something baked with a biscuit topping, in this case leeks. I love leeks. I grow them in my garden because they are expensive in the market, so more worthy of space in my little garden than plain yellow onions. You do have to wait a while. It takes nearly until fall for the leeks to get up to picking size, but I think it's worth the wait. They have a mild sweet onion flavor and when cooked a long time, they become meltingly tender. If you don't have a garden, leeks are available year-round in your local supermarket, though they will be two to three times more expensive than yellow onions.

Leek Cobbler
(serves 6)

butter or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the baking dish
3 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 Tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
1 ½ Tablespoons fresh dill
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder (1 teaspoon at Boulder elevation, 5400 ft.)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
large pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons butter, cold and cut into chunks
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup buttermilk

Grease a 8"x11"x2" baking dish (a 9"x9" square pan will work as well) and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the root end off the leeks and cut in half lengthwise. Rinse really well, making sure you get all the grit out from between the layers. Leeks are notorious for holding dirt. Drain well then slice into 1" pieces. Put the leeks in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, butter or oil, fresh dill, and minced garlic. Mix to combine and spread evenly into prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the egg and buttermilk. Mix until the dough just comes together. If it seems dry, add just a little bit more buttermilk and mix again. Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the leeks. It's OK if there are gaps in the blobs; the batter will spread.

Bake for 50 minutes until the biscuit is nicely browned. Let stand for 5 minutes as it is ferociously hot straight out of the oven.

Adapted from a recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Double B Publishing, Inc., 2007.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tamarind Sauce

Tamarind pods. The sticky flesh inside is removed and usually sold in a block.

We ate this sauce on lamb chops but I think it would be wonderful on just about anything grilled: chicken, duck, beef, or shrimp (which is what the original recipe from used it on). It is very intense with the tamarind and the fish sauce. It's not so different from many steak sauces or Worcestershire sauce which are flavored with tamarind and anchovies.

I used tamarind sauce from my local Savory Spice Shop but that's not necessary. If you have tamarind pulp - usually sold in a block  - you can make your own sauce. Look for it in Asian markets, especially Indian ones.

Tamarind Sauce
(makes about ½ cup)

1 Tablespoon tamarind pulp
⅓ cup warm water
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon finely minced cilantro
1 Tablespoon minced garlic (3-4 cloves)
1 Tablespoon Siracha sauce
1 ½ Tablespoon turbinado or dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce

Combine tamarind pulp and water in a small bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes to soften pulp, Using your fingers, rub the pulp in the water to dissolve. Tamarind can have lots of fiber and big seeds so don't be surprised if it doesn't all dissolve. Push through a strainer into another bowl to remove the solids. You should have about 3 Tablespoons tamarind sauce.

Heat oil in a small saucepan until hot but not smoking. Add cilantro and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve with grilled meat, chicken, or shrimp. It's intense; one recipe is enough for 4 people.

Photo: pictures of the tamarind-fruit {{cc-by}} Clemens PFEIFFER, 1190 Wien, licensed under Creative Commons from WikiCommons

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pickled Salmon

This is a tried and true Passover recipe in my house but its popularity goes way beyond the Seder. This delicious salmon is so much better than the traditional gefilte fish. I know there are people who adore the yearly gefilte fish but I am not one of them.

The recipe makes quite a bit of pickled salmon so I suggest you make it for a dinner party or even a brunch. It will keep in the brine for about 4 days past when it is pickled (takes 3 days for the initial pickling) but I wouldn't push it much further than that.

I pulled this recipe out of the New York Times years ago. It's by Joyce Goldstein, one of the finest chefs out there. I wholeheartedly recommend her book Kitchen Conversations.

Joyce Goldstein's Pickled Salmon
(serves 12 as an appetizer)

2 cups white vinegar
1 ½ cups water
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 pounds salmon fillets, skin removed
2 Tablespoons pickling spices
6 bay leaves
2 white or yellow onions, sliced ¼" thick

Bring vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Cut salmon into 1" x 2" chunks. In a non-metallic bowl or crock, make a layer of  ⅓ of the salmon. Sprinkle on some of the pickling spice, a couple of bay leaves, and ⅓ of the onions. Build 2 more layers. Pour on the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 3 days. Serve cold with matzoh, crackers or a hearty dark or rye bread.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lamb Breast Stew with Olives

Lamb breast is not a common cut. It's also sometimes labeled lamb ribs. I got mine because I bought a whole lamb a while back. There's a fair bit of fat and a lot of connective tissue. It benefits from long slow braising. You can roast them too, like pork ribs, but all that cartilage makes for a particularly rich stew. If you can find some lamb ribs, you really should try this. It is marvelous.

Lamb Stew with Olives
(serves 6)

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 to 2 ½ pounds lamb breast, cut into ribs
salt and pepper
2 oz. pancetta, diced
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered (about 1 pound)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (about 1 pound)
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Season lamb with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a dutch oven. Brown lamb on all sides. Push to the side and add pancetta. When it starts to render its fat and sizzle, add the onions. Saute onions for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and a generous sprinkling of black pepper. Add water to almost cover the lamb. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes (or longer). About 45 minutes before you will serve the stew, add the potatoes and olives. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender. Season generously with pepper. You probably won't need additional salt because the olives and pancetta are salty.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chocolate Cream Cheese Pie

Almost the about a yummy, rich & creamy chocolate pie? Not sure where this recipe came from. I got it from my mom back in the early 80's. But, it's a keeper. Note that this pie contains raw eggs, though many supermarkets now carry pasteurized in-the-shell eggs. They can be used if you are concerned about eating/serving raw eggs.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Pie
(8 - 10 servings)

1 ½ cup graham cracker crumbs
¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅓ cup melted butter
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted

6 oz. semisweet chips
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs, separated
¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Prepare the crust: combine graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Add butter and chocolate. Mix thoroughly. Press mixture into a 9" pie plate. Chill until firm.

Melt chocolate over hot but not boiling water. Cool about 5 minutes. Blend cream cheese, ½ brown sugar, salt, and vanilla until smooth. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Beat in cooled chocolate and blend well. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually beat in ¼ cup brown sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy. Fold into chocolate mixture. Fold in whipped cream. Scoop into prepared crust, reserving ¼ of the mixture for decorating. Chill until filling sets slightly. Drop reserved mixture in mounds over top of pie. Chill overnight.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Eating Your Way Through Chile: Part 3

Mote con huesillo, a local Kunstmann beer and pastel de jaiba at a big fair of local food in Niebla, near Valdivia
Last part of my series on my dining adventures in Chile. See Part 1 on seasonal produce, eating in Santiago, and oddities. Part 2 covers seafood (more oddities!). This installment will cover some of the traditional food/drink, family specialties, dessert, and the most exciting food in Chile. Hint: it's not Chilean.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Eating Your Way Through Chile: Part 2

Living picorocos. They move in a rather sinister way.
You may be asking yourself: What is that? Is that actually something related to eating? Indeed, it is. Chile has quite a few "interesting" seafood options, this being the most exotic one we tried. That's a photo of picorocos, also known as the giant barnacle. It's native to the coast of Peru and Chile. It appears to be a rock with an alien living inside. It tastes a bit like crab, but more savory than sweet. It is a pain in the arse to get out of the shell (the rock is not a natural rock, but a shell made by the barancle). As far as wild seafood go, this is as odd as I've ever eaten! Here's a photo of the whole thing out of its shell.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Eating Your Way Thru Chile: Part 1

Scenes from a market in Santiago: clockwise from top left, my daughter enjoying some delicious watermelon, tomatoes and strawberries, shell beans and mature corn, massive heads of broccoli
I spent 3 weeks in Chile around Christmas time. We went to visit family; my husband was born there. From a food standpoint, that was a huge advantage. The relatives know my love of food and they pulled out all the stops, as you will see throughout this series on eating in Chile.