Sunday, December 27, 2009

Deb, even grocery store workers deserve a day off on Christmas

I know we are all conditioned to twenty four hour a day access to grocery stores, but even they are closed on Christmas. My friend, Deb, discovered this to her dismay when she attempted to buy supplies for her Christmas dinner on Christmas morning. Quel Surprise! Well, I, the Mendon Foodie, bailed her out. In my well-stocked fridge I possessed the green beans and sweet potatoes she desperately needed. So she trekked down here to score some vittles to go along with her turkey (which she HAD remembered to get earlier in the week). And here, I will admit, she also bailed me out. Yes, I, the MENDON FOODIE, thought I had enough potatoes for fifteen people. I was sadly mistaken. Just as I was about to start calling all of neighbors, humbling myself and admitting to less than perfect menu planning, Deb bailed me out with five pounds of potatoes. The miserly amount of potatoes I possessed before that would have caused a lot of pushing and shoving amongst my guests to score an amount adequate enough to support the crispy shallot and Riesling gravy topping. But all was well, thanks to Deb. It was a mutually beneficial trade.

While she was here and we were chatting, I asked her if she needed anything else. She said she was fine, she was making a pie for dessert and she was even going to make the crust herself. Now, I have been hammering it into her head that it is not that hard to make a crust. I even showed her she could do it with very little trouble. All you need is a cuisinart and a rolling pin. And some pie flour. Yes, pie flour. If you think the only kind of flour you need in your kitchen is all-purpose, you are sadly mistaken and should beg me for the privilege of being my cooking apprentice. Really. Because you really need at least five kinds of flour.

Pie flour has low gluten and will yield flaky, tender pastry.
Bread, or high gluten, flour will give you high rising bread. The extra gluten allows more space to develop which traps the air and makes bread rise better.
All-purpose, unbleached flour. Make sure you buy unbleached.
Wondra or pan-searing flour. For dusting protein before browning and for lump free sauces. You can stir it in without mixing it with liquid and it will not clump. Awesome stuff if you have misjudged your sauce and it is too thin.
Cake flour, similar to, but not interchangeable with, pie flour. 

I will let you get away with just having those five. There is also corn flour, rye flour, whole wheat flour, and probably many more I can't even think of at the moment. But stock your kitchen with those five. Now.

So, I magnamimously bestowed two cups of pie flour on Deb and sent her home to make pie and turkey. I proceeded to make Porcini mushroom and chestnut soup with sauteed root vegetables. It was awesome. As was the rest of my Christmas dinner.

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Gift for Laura

I have been cooking my brains out now for two straight days. Tonight we have the Feast of the Seven fishes, with only five fishes this year. We'll have Shrimp Bisque, scallops wrapped in bacon with maple mustard cream sauce, spicy calamari with lemon aioli, salad with shrimp, avocado, and oranges, and linguine with clam sauce. No time to post the recipes now, comment if you want a specific recipe and I'll post it after Christmas.

So my gift to Laura, she whom I have tormented and abused in this space for so long?

I will write about my grassland birds.

I live on five acres in semi-rural Mendon, New York. We mow a couple of the acres, but the rest is wild. We call it our meadow, but Laura calls it grassland. It is so wet it could conceivably be called a wetlands. We have animals of every sort: deer, of course, skunks, raccoon, fox, chipmunks, moles, voles, rabbits, squirrels, you name it, if it is indigenous to our region, we have it. But the thing of which we do have the most variety is birds. I can't even begin to tell you or name all the kinds I have seen in my backyard. Two of my favorites though are the hawks and falcons which lazily float above the weeds and then dive suddenly for their kill. Once Laura pointed two of them out who were doing some sort of mating ritual in the sky. It was lovely. My other favorite bird activity on my land is when hundreds of smallish birds gather on my lawn en masse. They are quite small, and unremarkable looking, but I love to see when they gather and then just as much, when they suddenly depart, all together, as if some unheard signal went racing through the flock. I have seen beautiful, if ordinary, birds in my yard: bluejays, cardinals, robins, canadian geese on their way south or north, some bird which runs across my driveway when I approach, apparently to distract me from finding its nest.

My all time-favorite though? A recent sighting of a ring-necked pheasant just on the edge of the field. He was glorious. I though he was a wild turkey until Laura set me straight.

Now, Merry Christmas, Laura, shall we have some recipes on Birds, Words, and Websites? Oh, that's right, she's about a good a cook as I am a nature writer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheese Beroges

So, I am wracking my brain, trying to decide what to cook for Christmas Eve and Christmas. I don't usually do the same thing year after year, like a lot of people do. I find it boring and uninteresting. I don't cook the same things over and over for non-holiday dinners, either. Most people have about fifteen recipes they fall back on repeatedly. Think about it: that means you're eating the same meals about twice a month. I do admit, I have recipes that I go back to again and again, after all, they are good, really good, but I try to mix it up most of the time. Also, my cooking tends to be seasonal. I use what is fresh and cheap and local, when it is available.

Last year, my daughter, the Gates Foodette, relieved me of having to plan and cook two fabulous dinners and a brunch within two days. She had Christmas Eve at her house. It was really good, and fun, and my stress was much less. She is now doing the newly-married-how-to-please-both-families dance, so she will be spending Christmas eve with her husband's family and Christmas Day with us. That means I am back to making big meals two days in a row. Am I worried? Am I tired? I will be...

Here is one of my strategies for lessening stress: make as much ahead as possible. Appetizers and hors d'oevres are probably my favorite part of any meal and I like to take them over the top. A simple, yet fabulous recipe for a make and freeze ahead appetizer is Cheese Beroges. These cheese-filled phyllo triangles can be put together and frozen between layers of waxed paper and then baked frozen, straight from the freezer. If  working with phyllo makes you crazy, just keep this in mind: it doesn't have to look perfect. If the dough rips a little here and there, just keep going. The multiple layers will cover those imperfections.

Cheese Beroges

1 C shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
1 egg yolk
1 T minced parsley
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 pkg phyllo, thawed

Mix first three ingredients and set aside. Place one sheet of phyllo on work surface and brush with melted butter. Cut phyllo into 2 in long strips, starting from the short end, so that you have about four narrow, long strips. Place one tsp of cheese mixture at one end of phyllo and fold into triangles. Brush with more butter. Layer them into a container as you go, or cover with plastic wrap so they don't dry out. Bake at 450 degrees for about ten minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot.

I'll try to update this post with pictures when I  make them, but no promises. It's a busy time of year and I have to cook. Don't you?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Random Thoughts on Cooking

Usually, I try to keep a theme to my  posts. Today, I have just had random thoughts about cooking going through my head.

  1.  Green bean casserole with mushroom soup and canned onion rings is wrong.
  2. Baking bacon in the oven makes wonderful bacon and it is easy and less messy than frying. Trying coating it with maple syrup and black pepper, too. Yum.
  3. Making up ALL of your own recipes doesn't always result in fabulous food.
  4. Check your cookie making supplies before starting to bake cookies. It sucks to find out at the end that you don't have powdered sugar to make a glaze for your fabulous chocolate surprise cookies.
  5. Cooking dinner should always be done with a glass of wine at hand. 
  6. People who have long lists of foods they don't like annoy me.
  7. There is "white trash food" out there that is good. I just haven't found any of it yet. Except maybe jello.
  8. If your only problem with Tastefully Simple food is that it is too expensive you really need to read my blog more.
  9. Should I make turkey for Christmas? We just had it for Thanksgiving. But it was REALLY  good.
  10. I think I'm going to make the feast of the seven fishes again for Christmas eve dinner, but leave out Mario Batalli's disgusting salt cod balls. Okay, don't say it, don't even think it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Meatballs

Alright, I know I am your cooking guru, and you anxiously await my every dictum from on high, but really, all the shameless begging for recipes is too much. It is Christmas, you know, and I have much cooking to do, let alone churning out blogs twice or three times a week. But, actually, when you beg for specific recipes, it does make my life a little easier...I don't have to pull blog posts out of my rear.

So here are a couple of meatball recipes for Stephanie. The first one is Nonna's, my Italian mother-in-law. They are a family favorite, but a little bland for my taste. The second is my kicked up one. (Lord, I hate that phrase, kicked up, but I couldn't think of a more descriptive adjective. I must be losing my edge).

Nonna's meatball

Have the butcher grind you a pound of sirloin. (This part seems a bit ridiculous to me and I never actually do it, but Nonna does, so I include it here.)
To the ground meat add:
1/2 C parmesan cheese
1/2 breadcrumbs
2 T chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 c minced onion

 Add and lightly mix in 4 eggs. Yes, 4 eggs. It seems like a ridculous amount, but that is how much she uses.
Wet hands and form into 3" flat balls. Saute in olive oil and add to sauce to finish cooking.

Okay, that's it. I guess my second meatball recipe isn't actually that much different, I just made a few changes. To the meat add 2 T chopped parsley, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 cup ricotta cheese. Yes, ricotta. It makes for incredibly moist and tender meatballs.

So, give it a try. Remember, the two keys to good meatballs: don't overmix, they'll get tough, and don't overcook in the saute pan before you put them in the sauce, they'll get dried out. Buon Appetito!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Grandma Foodie's Hello Dolly recipe

Apparently, Grandma Foodie lost her copy of her own cookie recipe. A really good one. We call it "Hello Dollies", but I've seen it called "Magic cookie bars", "5 layer cookie bars". I like the Hello Dolly name, because I loved the movie when I was a kid and I think that name is more fun than the others. Here it is, Mom. Everyone else, make it cause it's really good.

Hello Dollies

Melt 1/2 cup butter and mix with 1 C graham cracker crumbs. Press into the bottom of an 8 x 8 square pan. Sprinkle with 1 C chocolate chips, 1 C coconut, 1 C butterscotch chips, and 1 C chopped walnuts. Spoon one can of sweentend condensed milk over it and bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Sool, cut into squares, and then hide them from your children and eat them all yourself.

Christmas Cookies

This year, I'll not only be baking Christmas cookies for my family and friends,  I'll be sending a big box to some COLD soldiers in Afghanistan. No, they are not Marines, but I love them anyway. As I have said, they are out in on the edge of the earth, and they don't have adequate cold gear. I already sent some caps and gloves and some inferior packaged cookies, but now I must get on to sending them some homemade love. Because, after all, when we cook for our family and friends, when we put our time and our best effort into it, isn't that what we are doing? If we didn't care we would serve Hamburger Helper and chips ahoy. Does it take all that much more effort to make a pasta in fifteen minutes than to make Hamburger Helper? (Well, really, I wouldnn't know, because I have never made it. the Littlefoodie, 15 year old daughter, had it served to her at a friend's house for dinner once. She said it was vile.) And although I do buy packaged cookies from time to time, chocolate chips can be whipped out in 45 minutes if you have a stand mixer and large cookie sheets. Which I do, don't you? Shouldn't everyone have these?

Last year, right before my son left for Iraq, a friend of mine and her daughters made him the most enormous pan of Crusciki (these are a Polish fried cookie drenched in powdered sugar. Their joke is "How long will a Crusciki keep? No one knows, they are always gone by the end of the day") Anyway, the point is, they wanted to show him their love and appreciation, even though they barely knew him, and they did it by investing their time and energy. Could they have gone out and purchased Crusciki or some other gift? Yes. But IT WOULDN'T HAVE MEANT AS MUCH. And believe me, he felt the love. And ate ALL the cookies. Himself. Now, I have asked her for the recipe before, and she did say she would let me publish it, but so far, no dice. You can find a recipe for it on Martha Stewart.com. If Deb coughs it up, I will edit this post and publish it.

So, I will start baking soon and will send some of my family's favorites over to the soldiers. Here is one which I will be sending.

Jam Thumbprints

2/3 C soft butter

1/2 C sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 3/4 c flour

Cream butter and sugar, add yolks and almond extract. Add flour. Shape into balls and press a thumbprint in each cookie. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool and fill with jam (homemade currant jelly is great, homemade raspberry will also do). Dust with confectioner's sugar.

Indeed my computer did  crash in March of this year. (But I probably have it backed up. While my mind is not inferior (see comments), I may be a little forgetful at times!

*Note, Gates Foodette caught a mistake, the above recipe has been edited since first published. Sheesh.

Chrusciki (Polish Bow Ties)

12 egg yolks
about 5 level tablespoons of sugar
teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
5 VERY heaping tablespoons of sour cream
5 cups of flour (more or less)
A whole can of vegetable shortening for deep frying
Powdered sugar -- a box (you'll need slightly less than a box)

Combine ingredients:

In a LARGE bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir until the mixture is a uniform shade of dark yellow. Add the sour cream, and again stir thoroughly until the lumps of sour cream are broken up and the mixture is a uniform light yellow. Then, gradually add the flour until you get a stiff dough.

Knead:

At this point, you have two options: Divide it into four balls and knead each one until your arms feel like they're going to fall off, or divide into two balls and put one into your KitchenAid mixer fitted with a dough hook. My grandmother of course had only Option 1, but I opt for my mixer. It really takes a quite a while to knead, a good 10 minutes in the mixer, which means each ball gets about 15-20 minutes by hand. (My grandmother would recruit the kids to help. I used to do it while watching TV) If you see the dough sticking to the bowl, add a little more flour, but don't add too much or the dough won't be elastic enough. What you want is a very smooth, soft, uniform medium yellow -- it gets a little darker as you go on. I have found that you can only do half the recipe at a time in the mixer.

Roll out the dough:

After it is well-kneaded, divide the dough into manageable pieces -- usually six or eight. Take one of the balls and turn onto a floured surface. Roll out with a rolling pin until very thin--my grandmother used to do roll until she could vaguely see the pattern of her vinyl tablecloth underneath.

Shape the dough:

With a butter knife, cut the dough into long strips about 1-1/2 to 2 inches wide. Cut each strip into lengths of about four inches so you have a lot of rectangles. In the middle of each rectangle cut a small (1 inch) slit going lengthwise.

Pick up one of the rectangles. Take one end of the rectangle and gently bend it toward the center, threading it through the slit in the center and pulling it out back into a rectangle. The rectangle will now have twisty sides and look kind of like a bow tie. Set the bow tie gently on a plate or platter and move on to the next one. It will take a little while to shape all of the rectangles, and you'll notice that the dough from the first ones dry out a little. This is fine. You should end up with well over a hundred chrusciki, I actually never counted. It depends on how big you make each rectangle.

Deep fry:

When you're about 2/3 way through shaping the chrusciki, you can put the vegetable shortening in a large pot with high sides and turn the heat on medium-high so that the shortening melts and heats up while you're finishing shaping the chrusciki.

When you're ready to start frying, take a platter and cover it with paper toweling or a paper bag (which will absorb the grease). It needs to be close, but not too close, to the pot on the stove...close enough so that you don't drip oil between the pot and the plate, but not so close that there is a danger of it catching on fire.

Test out the temperature of the shortening by carefully laying one chrusciki in the pot. It should sink to the bottom and immediately be covered with bubbles and come up to the surface. If it takes more than a few seconds, wait a little while until the shortening is hot enough. When it's right, you'll see that it gets golden really fast, so take care to flip it as soon as you see any browning, usually about 20 seconds or so. As soon as the other side is even a hint of golden brown, it's time to take out. Use a plastic slotted spoon--I use one of those spaghetti utensils and it works great. 

But you don't need to fry them one by one! No, you take a handful of raw chrusciki and gently lay it on the surface of the shortening. And then start stirring, flipping gently, until they all seem to be a uniform gold, then remove them from the oil and lay them on the paper-covered platter.

When they cool after a minute, you can transfer them to a large bowl and sprinkle powdered sugar through a sieve onto the chrusciki, turn over and sprinkle again. You'll see that the chrusciki are very delicate and flaky, so you need to be gentle when turning. It's best to work with a partner, here...one monitoring the stove and the other putting the cooked chrusciki in the bowl and adding powdered sugar.

There is an old family joke that goes like this: Question: "What is the shelf life of chrusciki?"  Answer: "No one knows, because it never lasts long enough to put back on the shelf."

And how do you pronounce chrusciki?  Kroose - cheeky. If you're adventurous, you can roll the R.

June's notes on the recipe (which I have never made, but I just wouldn't be me unless I had a cooking judgement to make: get one of those "spiders" from the asian market. They are about five bucks and they are the best thing ever for removing things from the hot oil. Don't tell Deb, I'm getting her one for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On to Christmas

Well, Thanksgiving is finally over and we had a great one. I made the entire menu out of Food and Wine magazine. Alsatian Brined turkey with Fig and Almond Stuffing. It was incredible.

My sister in law is a great cook, too and she and I enjoyed cooking a few other things together as well. One of which, bibimbap, I had never eaten. It was simple enough for a quick weeknight menu and really good and satisfying. You can find a video and recipe for it here, although I don't think I will ever make it with ground beef. I conveniently had two rib eye steaks in the freezer which were already marinated in Korean bbq sauce, so we pulled those out and used those instead. Now, after you look at the recipe, ask yourself, "Do I have to make it as elaborately as she did for a simple weeknight dinner?" And what do you think the answer is? Well, no, you can make just a few of the vegetables if you're tired, or lazy, or not as awesome as me and my sister in law. (And to my other sister in law, we love you for reasons other than your cooking. Mostly because we have rarely eaten your cooking and take your word for it that you aren't a cook. Although everything I have ever had that you made was good. Except that once. 'nuff said.) So, what are the key components of bibimbap for those of you who aren't as good as I am at getting to the heart of the recipe? Bean sprouts, lettuce (the recipe calls for spinach, but finely chopped raw lettuce is better), carrots,shitake mushrooms, korean chili paste, sesame oil, and egg. And the fun part is, you can chop everything, lay it out on a platter and let everyone top their own rice and mix, then give them an egg for the top. Everyone gets it just the way they like it, spicy, saucy, mild, lots of veggies, little veggies. Who knows, you might even get your kids to eat something other than a chicken nugget. (That is a completely different post).

So give it a try. I'll let you skip the fernbrake. Just find an asian grocery and get yourself some Korean chili paste and sesame oil and you're good to go.

But since we just had that, tonight I am making a stuffed chicken breasts with fennel and pomagranite sauce and roasted carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes. As a matter of fact, it is roasting now in the oven even as I write.

For the vegetables:
Peel and cut carrots, parnips, sweet potatoes, and the leftover fennel from the chicken stuffing, coat it all with olive oil and salt and pepper. Throw it in the oven along with the chicken. It might take a little longer than the chicken, but it should be close.

I posted the recipe for the chicken earlier in the year here, but tonight I used fennel instead of leeks, pomagranite seeds instead of any of the other mentioned fruits, and leftover baguette instead of either foccacia or challah. You need to be flexible, mix it up sometimes, as long as you have a good sense for what will work and what will not. I know several of both kinds of cooks.

Speaking of good cooks, I need to send a shout out to my oldest, (I mean the one I've known the longest, not oldest as in elderly) dearest, friend, Diane. Diane is a great cook. She and I have spent many happy times together cooking when I lived in California,a nd although I don't see her as much as I would like, she is always close to my heart.

My God, can you stand that much sincerity from me? I have to go have a drink before I start singing Kumbye-ya.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pumpkin Pie and some shameless begging (for a good cause)

 I think it must be Priscilla's sister leaving comments and begging me for pumpkin pie recipes. She must not realize that I am SO busy filling the larder that I barely have time to make a decent pre-Thanksgiving Tuesday night meal for my own family let alone post recipes for her! BUT, since she is the sister of my closest friend in the entire world, I'm going to do it. Besides, if I didn't Priscilla might hurt me. Or refuse to bring me and my husband gas when HE runs out because he can't manage to leave early enough to get me to my eye surgery appointment on time AND stop for gas. At 1:00 in the afternoon. But Prissie made it all better. There is nothing like having a friend that will do that for you, who you can insult in the same trip and she will just smile at you and give it back as good as she got. I love her. Truly.

But, if you want my pumpkin pie recipe, you'll have to read to the end and let me guilt you into doing something that will make you feel great in the end. You can make a difference. (Oh, geez, that sounds trite.) Ok, I'm ordering you to make a difference. Just do it. Like all things, because I said so. What do I want you to do, you ask? Go read this post, and give the woman some money. It doesn't have to be a lot. Anything will help. See, the thing is, there are some soldiers in Afghanistan who are cold. Yes, I said COLD. Do you like to be cold? I don't and as I always say, why should I should be cold when we have the technology to prevent it.  These soldiers are living out in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan, far from a FOB, (forward operating base). They don't have the right stuff. It is almost Christmas. You are here, in America, safe and warm. See where I am going with this? Go. Give ten bucks. Or more if you can. What's ten bucks? To the soldiers who are risking their lives in service to our country, it is the difference between being cold and warm. So do it. Please.

http://hoperadio.blogspot.com


So now that I have berated you, I will give you my pumpkin pie recipe. Happy Thanksgiving.

Pie Crust
Super Simple pie crust:

2 Cups cold flour (I use pastry flour when I can get it. I store the bag in the freezer so it is ready to go when I am)
1 stick cold butter cut into small pieces
1 tsp vinegar
2-3 T ice water

Pumpkin pie filling


Cook a small sugar or pie pumpkin in the oven until tender. Just put it in whole. It takes about an hour. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and then the pulp. You'll need about two cups.


Mix 2 Cups pumpkin with 
1 1/2 cups cream 
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 eggs


Pour into a pie shell. Bake 15 minutes at 450 and then lower the heat to 350 and bake about 45 mins more until a knife inserted into the pie comes out clean. Cool and serve with whipped cream,


Now, couple of notes: (after all, i wouldn't be me if I didn't tell you what to do, would I?) If you can't get a pie pumpkin you can use canned. Your pie just won't be as good as mine. You can use canned evaporated milk instead of cream, again,  your pie will suck. You can use pumpkin pie spice, if you're stupid and like to waste money. Pumpkin pie spice is the spices I listed in the recipe in those proportions, mixed together. You should have all of those spices in your pantry right now, so go ahead and buy pumpkin pie spice if you have money to burn. Or send Hope the money you have to burn and just get out your measuring spoon instead. Peace.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanksgiving Salad

Last night I attended an impromptu pizza and beer party. We had a long day at a Lego Robotics competition, and some of the parents invited everyone over to decompress and for the boys to celebrate their hard work.

I threw this salad together quickly. Everyone loved it. Of course. It is based on a recipe that I found about twenty years ago in some cookbook for kids. The book contained recipes for "authentic" Pilgrim dishes. I don't know if they actually were authentic, but this one at least was good. This "Sallet" does make a lovely first course for your Thanksgiving table. I don't remember the name of the book, or any of the actual proportions of the ingredients in the salad. But does it really matter? Salad is one of those great things that is pretty hard to ruin, unless you douse it in so much dressing that you have a plate of soup left after all the greens are eaten. And believe me, I have had plenty of salad with WAY too much dressing on it. The point is, you want to put just enough to coat the lettuce nicely, but not have it puddle in the bottom of the salad bowl.  Try adding dressing a bit at a time and tossing, then adding more if it seems too dry. You'll thank me. You always do.

Pilgrim Sallet
Fill your salad bowl with equal parts spinach or baby salad greens, some sturdy lettuce, like romaine, and cabbage. Yes, cabbage. Just do it. Did I mention that you should TEAR the lettuce first? Do I have to tell you people everything? The one I made last night had about twelve cups of greens, enough for probably eight to ten people, or six who really like salad.

Next, add a half of an English cucumber, sliced. (Don't buy those horrible spongy things that pass as cucumbers in most supermarkets, you know, they call then "cucumbers". No flavor whatsoever. Add some sliced red or green onion, half a red or about three green, and 1/4 cup or so of almonds, pecans, and walnuts. It is better if you toast them first, they have more flavor, but since I was too lazy to toast them yesterday, I will give you a pass, this time. Also add a couple tablespoons of each of chopped sage, parsley, and mint. You have a choice of adding fresh raspberries, pomegranate seeds, currants, or golden raisins. Pick two and add about 1/2 cup total.

For the dressing, I used 1/2 cup of sugar, dissolved in 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, then I added 1/4 cup of walnut oil and about 3/4 of a cup of olive oil. I seasoned the vinegrette with about a teaspoon of kosher salt and a teaspoon of fresh ground pepper. The original recipe calls for plain vinegar and vegetable oil, go ahead and use them if you want, but your salad won't be as good as mine. The cider vinegar is a nice match for the sweetness of the fruit, the walnut oil adds that nice nutty quality, obviously, and I just like olive oil. But hey, you do whatever you want. I'm feeling generous and uncharactistically unbossy. Must be because I love Thanksgiving so much. Or I'm just thankful I don't have to go to another Lego competition for at least a year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Troop Widget

I just placed a widget at the bottom of the page (cause that is the only place it would fit where you could still the whole thing.) It is link to Xerox's Let's Say thanks webpage. They will print and send a card that you personalize to troops stationed overseas. Cool. Hubby works for Xerox, so I might as well give them a plug, especially cause they are doing something this cool. Take a minute. Do it, before I hurt you. And while you're at it, you might consider sending a package to someone fighting for our country. You can find names at AnyMarine.com. Or you can go over to the Hope Radio blog that found from reading a different mil blog called Castra Praetoria. Both are great. Hope sends packages to deployed Marines all the time, I know she could hook you up to send a package to someone. Just don't send a package to Any Soldier. It won't get there.

Christmas is coming, and Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are seperated from their families. They willingly do this, to fight terrorism and defend our country. You can buy good stuff to send at the dollar store. Beef jerky, tuna and chicken packets, condiment packets from fast food places, and SOCKS. Lots of SOCKS. Have you ever thought about not taking a shower or washing your clothes for a month? Can you even imagine? Infantrymen do this all the time. The Marine foodie slept in a hole in the ground and only made it back occasionally to a FOB (forward operating base) to get a shower, hot meal that didn't come from a box, and to get his clothes cleaned. He and his company were out, interdicting suicide bomber vests and weapons caches to actually save people's lives. He is safely home now, happily eating my cooking (who wouldn't happily eat my cooking?) but, there are still plenty of people serving our country who deserve our support. Although my son was in Iraq, he requests that if I am going to send stuff, I send it to Afghanistan.

Look at this picture and see if you think you shouldn't send stuff:


That is  a picture of the 5th Marines in Helmand province last July. It is cold now and they are still doing this. Send something. You can get a free box at the post office and it will only cost $11 to mail it. You can find lists of what to send online. Just do it. Please. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Beef

I think I forgot to tell you that the beef is good. Really good. It is probably the best beef I have ever eaten.

It is a Beltie. Belted Galloway, that is. It comes from a local farm, about twenty miles away, called Green Arpent Farm. They don't have a website. I don't even have their email address. Actually, Deb is the only one who has their contact info. I better be really nice to her and not insult her cooking, even though she did recently use a pie crust from a box, because if I piss her off she might not give me th contact info!  Oh, Deb, it really is okay if you use pie crust from a box. Really. I don't think any less of you. I still respect you. (Is that believable enough?)

And clearly, next year, I am going to need more beltie beef. A lot more. Like I might possibly get the entire half a cow. OK, I know it is a steer, but I like saying cow. Sue me.

So far, I have barbequed some steaks, made beef stroganoff with some of the sirloin, sloppy joes for the kiddies (okay, that is pretty lame, but hey, they're kids, they like them.) and pan seared another steak, finishing it with a simple garlic butter. Yum um um Y.

This is grass-fed, no antibiotic, no hormone beef. I didn't think it could make that big of a difference, but wowwee, did it. And the price worked out to around $4.00 a pound, so it is very affordable. I only got an 1/8 of a share this time, but next time, like I said, the freezer is getting packed. If you can buy one, do, If not, beg me for an invitation. I like to watch people beg.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Turkey Leftovers

I thought I would get a jump on the after Thanksgiving what-to-do-with-all-those-damn-leftovers dilemma for all of you whiners who constantly harass me. "June, what do YOU do with turkey leftovers?"

As part of my pre-blogging research, I asked Priscilla what she thought was the best way to deal with the leftovers. Here are HER top answers
  • I hate turkey
  • Throw them out
  • Make sure you only make enough turkey for Thanksgiving dinner so you don't have leftovers.
  • Turkey soup is rude. Make it, and then throw it out before you have to eat it.
Now, you have to understand that Priscilla is a great cook, but a very picky eater. She pretty much hates everything that isn't chocolate or a vegetable. And a few things that are vegetables. I mean, this is a woman who was able to easily live in a communist country for five years with no access to butter. I mean really.

So, if you are like Priscilla and really don't like turkey, just make enough for your dinner. How much is that? 3/4 to 1 lb per person. That's for turkey with bones. If you buy a boneless turkey breast for Thanksgiving, or worse, a tofurkey, you are un-American and don't deserve to live in our country. Go move someplace else.

Last year, I wrote a post about how to cook a turkey. You can find it here.

So, after you have cooked the turkey and are facing a huge pile of leftovers, what to do? Well, here's what I do.

  • I don't make turkey soup. Grandma Foodie makes a really good one, but mine sucks. Well, it doesn't suck, but I can never get it as good as hers, so why bother?
  • Curried turkey salad. Here is the recipe, just substitute cooked turkey for chicken.
  • Turkey enchiladas.
    • Soften corn tortillas by quickly frying them on both sides in vegetable oil until soft. Fill the center with cooked turkey, chopped onions and about a tablespoon of cheddar cheese. Roll and place in a greased 13x 9 pan. Keep going until it is filled. Pour red chili sauce over all and top with more cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. 
      • Red Chili Sauce: Heat 1 T oil in medium saucepan. Add 1 chopped onion and 1 clove of chopped garlic. Saute until softened. Add 5 dried New Mexico chilies, which you have soaked in hot water until soft. (About 10 minutes) remove the stems and seeds. Saute briefly and then add 3 cups of hot water. Simmer 20 minutes. Puree in blender or food processor. Or buy some at the supermarket.
  • Turkey Mole
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter1 cup finely chopped white onion
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken broth
4 cups shredded turkey
Tapatio, Tabasco or other hot sauce


In large saucepan, melt butter over moderate heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste, almonds, chili powder, oregano, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cloves and cumin; stir well to combine. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in turkey and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes.
You can eat this as is, like a stew, served with flour tortillas and sour cream for garnish. Or make it into tacos or burritos.

And those are my ideas for leftover turkey. Maybe Priscilla would even eat one of them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Apple pie filling and the Great Beef Experiment

If you live in Western New York, like I do, each fall you go into an apple picking, apple eating, apple buying frenzy. It is a sickness, really. New York is the second largest apple producer in the country and damn proud of it. So in the fall, people tend to go a little crazy, apples are cheap, and beautiful, and delicious. We went out to a local apple farm last weekend to go on a  haunted hayride through the orchard. See? I can be a nice mommy every now and then. Unfortunately, when we got there the orchard was too muddy for the hayride. How to make it up to the kids? Easy, buy them fresh pressed cider, donuts, and apples. Of course, we got a little carried away with the apples. And then a friend told me she had gotten carried away with the apples and she was bringing some my way. Before I could protest, I had nearly half a peck of apples. (How much is a peck, anyway? It's a lot of apples.) So I am making lots of apple recipes, quite a few of which I have written about before. I decided today that I had so many apples I needed to preserve some of them. I had already made apple butter and home canned apple sauce tastes like baby food. So what to do? I remembered that the same friend who gave me the apples likes to cook her apple pie filling before she puts it in the pie. She says you get more appley goodness. I have been a little skeptical, but I thought, well, I've got all these apples and if I make it, then I can freeze it. So I looked up a recipe. It looked a little gruesome to me. Why the need for so much water and cornstarch? It seemed like a miserly amount of cinnamon to me. No nutmeg. So, I revised. First, instead of water, I used apple cider. I had a lot! But I only used about 4 cups of apple cider instead of the ten cups of water it called for. I also had only had the patience to peel and cut 16 cups of apples, so I went with that. I added only about 1/3 cup of cornstarch, tripled the cinnamon, added a half a tsp of nutmeg, and reduced the sugar to three cups. Here is a picture:




Now, don't get me wrong, it tastes good. Really good. But it does taste a little like canned apple pie filling. And that is where I think the online recipe person went wrong. She was trying to be thrifty and use fewer good ingredients and more filler. Hence, a cup of cornstarch and 10 cups of water. She was making thickened apple flavored water for her pie. Mine has to be thicker than hers or at least have more apples. Therefore, I win. As usual. Should you try it? Probably only if you have so many apples they're coming out your rear. Otherwise, stick to normal apple pie. I'm going to have to ask my friend to make me an apple pie so that I can judge her recipe. Shhh, don't tell her I have a blog.

On a completely different note, MY COW CAME TODAY! I split a 1/4 of a cow with a friend. Grass fed, no antibiotics, no hormones, local beef. Will it be any good? Don't know yet. I'll let you know. So far, my research tells me you need to be sure not to overcook it. Sear it, lower the heat, cook until barely warm in the middle. If you like your meat anywhere past medium rare, you're a heathen. you don't deserve my fabulous beltie beef. Tonight, I am going to pan-sear a t-bone. I don't usually buy t-bones, but several arrived and so I shall cook them. Why don't I cook t-bones, you ask? Because they are just like Porterhouse, ONLY WITHOUT THE FILET. Here are some pics of my booty. I'll let you know how it tastes.



 
 


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Demi-glace

So this morning someone was searching for recipes using demi-glace and landed on my blog. The post they landed on described how I made demi-glace and then gave a recipe for English Muffins. A little convoluted, but I never promised you a well-thought out blog. These are just my random musings on food and how I know almost everything there is to know about it. And you don't. So, I do feel a little guilty that I never published any more recipes using the holy grail of brown sauces. So here is one more.

Serve as a topping to any kind of beef or lamb or as a side dish to whatever you feel needs some mushroomy goodness.

Sauteed mushrooms with demi-glace a la June.

1 Lb mixed mushrooms, (crimini, shiitake, hen of the woods, porcini (you can even use dried porcinis. Just soak them first)

2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 T lemon juice
salt and pepper
3 T red wine
1 T demi-glace
Fresh chopped parsley

Heat olive oil and butter in saute pan. Add sliced mushroom and cook until mushrooms are soft and slightly brown and most of the liquid is absorbed. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Remove mushrooms from pan. Add wine to pan and reduce until about a tablespoon.  Add lemon juice, demi-glace, and parsley. Add mushrooms back to the pan.  Adjust seasoning.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pumpkin Stew

Are you ordering pizza tonight to scarf down while you pass out chocolate to the trick or treaters? Really? Lame. Really lame. There is still time to make something good. After all, it is Saturday, you have all afternoon to cook, because since you're a good parent like me, you have abdicated all responsibility for the young 'un's costumes to the young 'uns. It's good for them. Makes them use their little noggins to come up with something original using only duct tape and the leftover tulle from the wedding. Can you say "Mummy"?

So, while the little ones thrash about desperately trying to complete their costumes before sundown, pop this fun stew into the oven and you can pull it out just as the first little monsters show up at your door and demand protection money in the form of chocolate. And let's not even get into those of you who are too cheap to spring for anything better than a mini tootsie roll. Puhleeze. It's once a year. But then, who am I to judge? We live so far off the beaten path that I have never had a trick or treater darken my door. I have to go sit on a friend's porch, but not before we eat the traditional Halloween pumpkin stew. Grandma Foodie used to make it every year when I was a kid. But I'll bring a pumpkin roll and a bottle of wine with me to Priscilla's, so she'll be happy to see me. I might even bring her a bowl of pumpkin stew.

Pumpkin Stew

3 T vegetable oil
3 cloves minced garlic
2 chopped green peppers
2 chopped onions
2 lbs beef stew meat
2 chopped tomatoes
1 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 pkgs frozen corn
3 diced potatoes
3 smallish sweet potatoes, diced
2 C beef bouillon
8 peach halves
1 medium pumpkin (if you can find  a pretty large pie pumpkin, they are sweeter and not stringy)
3 T butter
11/2 tsp salt

In a large dutch oven, brown garlic, peppers, onions, and stew meat in oil. Add tomatoes and salt. Simmer 20 minutes. Add corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, bouillon, and peaches and simmer 40 minutes.

Brush inside of pumpkin with butter and sprinkle with salt. Add stew and put lid on and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until pumpkin is tender.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pork and Apples

So I probably haven't done enough rhapsodizing about pork, but I can't really think of anything too entertaining to say about it. I'll just give you another recipe instead.

Italian sausage with apples

Heat 1 T olive oil in a saute pan and add whatever amount of Italian sausage you want. Just make sure you don't crowd it too much. Brown. Reduce heat and add 1/2 an apple per serving. (For those of you who are math challenged: if you put in 1 sausage, add a half an apple, if you put in two sausages, add a whole apple. Now multiply). Cook until the apples are soft and the sausage is cooked through. Stir in 1 T cider vinegar. Eat. Preferably with soft polenta.

Soft Polenta
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 3/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
Bring the water to a boil in a heavy large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, milk, butter, and stir until the butter and cheese melt. Makes a lot. You can cut in half if you want. You can alsocut the leftovers into slices (it hardens as it cools, so serve it immediately) and  fry in oil and serve with fried eggs for breakfast.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pork

An old friend from high school recently posted a link on Facebook about how viruses incubate in pigs and then jump to humans. He suggested perhaps we have one last giant bbq and be done with them once and for all.

Wwwwhhhhaaaaattt? Be done forever with perhaps the world's tastiest meat? I shudder at the thought. (If not at the thought of influenza spreading hither and yon via the delectable porcine morsels.)

Pork has perhaps the most uses and versatility of any meat on the face of the earth. What would life be without bacon. Or prosciutto? Or the myriad number of sausages that can be made from pork? Just think about how integral small amounts of bacon can be to a simple dish like Brussels Sprouts pan seared with golden raisins and carmelized onions. The dish is simple to make, but without the salty smokiness of two strips of bacon it would be merely ordinary. Or the easy versatility of prosciutto. Wrap it around some melon or figs and pop open a bottle of Spanish Cava and you have a party. (You do have at least two bottles of some type of bubbly wine ready to go in your wine rack at all times, don't you? I do.)

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Golden Raisins


2 strips (or up to four if you really like bacon. But keep it to two and you won't feel as guilty)
1 Lb Brussels Sprouts, cleaned, trimmed, cut in quarters
kosher salt
pepper
1/2 C golden raisins
1 onion, sliced and carmelized in two T of olive oil
1 1/4 C chicken stock

Cut the bacon into lardons, (that is thin, matchstick sized pieces) and cook in a saute pan until crispy.  Remove bacon, but leave the drippings. Add the Brussels sprouts and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken broth and cook until reduced to a few tablespoons and the sprouts are tender,about fifteen minutes. Add the raisins and onions, cook a couple of minutes until heated through, season with salt and pepper.

And gee, we haven't even scratched the surface of the wonderful delights of pork. We still need to talk about all of the fabulous uncured cuts. And we haven't even mentioned ham. Here is another recipe, though to whet your appetite, for mustard glazed spareribs

Mustard Glazed Spareribs
1 rack pork spareribs
Rosemary
Garlic
salt
pepper
1/3 C brown sugar
1/4 C dijon mustard
3 T cider vinegar
1 T molasses
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard

Season both sides of ribs with minced rosemary, chopped garlic and salt and pepper. Wrap in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

Combine brown sugar, dijon, vinegar, molasses, and dry mustard in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for two or three minutes.

Remove ribs from oven and baste with sauce. Finish cooking on the grill until lightly charred. Fight with your family over who gets the last rib.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Party Time

Today I am having a welcome home party for the Marine Foodie. Yes, he's been home about three weeks now, but not everyone has had a chance to see him. And he needed some decompression time first. So I cook. And the Foodette daughter cooks. And we decorate together. (OK, she has the "vision" I just get to execute it.)

I love having parties. I just hate the cleaning. I like when people come and have a good time and are totally impressed with me. Although I don't like gushing. I know they're impressed, why wouldn't they be? They don 't have to actually say it. I can tell by the eyes gleaming with joy. And the coming back for seconds. And the swooning.

Here is a picture of the pre-party preparations:



 

And what are we serving? Well, since this is a party for the boy, I mean man, we are serving Man food. Southern Man food, if you want a theme.

Apps:
The boy's favorite, Buffalo wings
Lobster Cannolis (another one of the boy's favorites
Deviled Egg Spread with toast points
Black eyed pea dip (daughter is making, I don't know the recipe.)

Dinner:
Two bean chili
Cornbread
Sweet Pototo Casserole
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon Lardons, Carmelized Onion and Garlic, and Truffle Oil
Apricot and Pecan Salad

And for dessert
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Banana pudding

Don't you wish you were coming? Well, if you live in Rochester, NY and would like to tell a Marine that you're glad he's home, you are invited. Just don't bring any food from a box to share, I'm not good at smiling and pretending I'm not appalled. And believe me, it has happened. Once, I had a party and someone brought those frozen cream puffs from BJ's STILL IN THE FREAKING BOX! I couldn't believe it.I tried my best to be gracious, not sure if I succeeded. It's fine if you don't like to cook, just bring wine instead, at least you won't humiliate yourself.

So here is the chili recipe, which is really good, but I'll admit once again, that I got it from Grandma Foodie. Still, you have to have a certain amount of panache and two kinds of chili powder to pull it off, dontcha? And I do.


2 1/2 pounds chuck meat,small dice                             
    1/4 cup olive oil                                              
    1 1/2 large onions,finely diced                                
    1  1/2  tablespoons garlic, minced                             
    3/4  cup dark beer                                             
    1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes                                  
    1-2 chipotle chilies, in adobo sauce, pureed                   
    1 tablespoon ancho chili powder                                
    1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder                              
    1 tablespoon cumin                                             
    2 cups chicken broth                                           
    3 cups black beans                                             
    6 tablespoons line juice                                       
    Salt and pepper                                                

Heat oil in a large dutch oven.  When hot add meat and brown, add onions and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add beer and reduce by half, add tomatoes, chipotles, chili powders and cumin.  Stir well and cook for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add the stock, cook until meat is tender 1 to 2 hours.  Add the beans and simmer 15 minutes more.  Degrease if necessary.  Add the lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with avocado relish, cheese and cilantro on the side.  may be made 2 days ahead and reheated. 


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Julie and Julia

I just started reading Julie and Julia and so far it is rather entertaining, if not just a little pretentious. Was it really necessary for her to tell us that she scattered her Pottery Barn flatware all over the floor? The thing that is slightly annoying to me is this: I started learning to cook out of Mastering the Art of French cooking before that girl was even born! I could have done this project! Why didn't I think of it first? But, at least I made Pommes Anna for dinner last night, along with the last of the tamales I put together from the leftover ingredients. I know, weird combination, but sometimes you have to go with weird, just because you can put a meal together from the disjointed bits you have in the fridge that need to be used up. So, Pommes Anna is a marvelous dish, potatoes and butter, salt and pepper. Nothing else. I can't publish the recipe, copyright issues and all, but here is what she says about it in her book:

"It was created during the era of Napoleon III and named, as were many culinary triumphs in those days, after one of the grandes cocottes of the period. Whether it was an Anna Deslions, an Anna Judic, or simply Anna Untel, she has also immortalized the special double baking dish itself, la cocotte a pommes Anna, which is still made and which you can still buy at a fancy price".


So look up the recipe in your copy of Mastering the Art of French cooking" And if you don't have one, get one. If you want to be a great cook. Although you still probably won't make too many of the recipes. More apple recipes tomorrow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Summer's last Hurrah

You couldn't say that we are having Indian summer in any sense of the phrase. It is cold and windy. Did I mention cold?

I was starting dinner last night and was contemplating what kind of salad I should make. I thought back to the eldest daughter's wedding and the fabulous Green Goddess dressing we made for the dip for crudites. "Hurry!" I thought, "get the last herbs out of the garden before the damn frost gets them!" I grabbed my shears and headed for the bedraggled herb patch. I found just enough left of the herbs that I needed. I dropped them into the processor along with the other ingredients.



The brown squiggly stuff is anchovy paste. Yes, anchovy paste. Get over it. It is not gross, it adds a salty richness and subtle  depth to quite a few things, this recipe included.

I whirled the ingrdients around and in less than a minute had the lovely emerald green goodness that is Green Goddess.






Then I whipped up some homemade croutons, boiled an egg, chopped some scallions, and tore up some lettuce. (I keep lettuce cleaned and ready to go in a plastic bag in the fridge. Wash the lettuce, put in plastic bag and add a paper towel. It keeps for a week, but it doesn't usually last that long. If you buy salad in a bag, you're just stupid. Or lazy. Or lazy and stupid. Or lazy, stupid, and you have too much money.) Then I tossed it all together in a wooden salad bowl. You wouldn't use anything else, would you? It was marvelous and made me sad that summer has come to an end. Now run out to your herb garden (do I really have to say it? Just plant one) and gather up the last remnants. It'll  make you happy.
Green Goddess Dressing (Courtesy of Grandma Foodie)

1 C Mayo
1 C sour cream
1/2 chives
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T parsley
1 T Tarragon
3 T anchovy paste
1T chopped green onion

Mix. Serve on lettuce with hard boiled egg, homemade croutons, and scallions.

Croutons
My mother, otherwise known as Grandma Foodie, makes some of the best croutons I have ever eaten. She takes white bread (they can be made with just about any kind of bread, though) and cuts it into cubes, then puts them in a SINGLE LAYER (can you tell that is the really important part?) in a saute pan in which enough butter has been melted to cover the bottom with a little olive oil and garlic powder has been swirled into it as well. Brown on one side, flip them and brown on the other side,m adding more butter as needed. Put them in a bowl, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (although leave this off for Green Goddess) and DO NOT LET ANYONE TASTE EVEN ONE! Because if you do, they will eat them all and you will have to make more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Apples!

If you are lucky enough to live in upstate New York, like I do, then you know we are full-tilt into apple season. If you haven't had the presense of mind to go to your nearest orchard in the last couple of weeks, you'd better get off your duff and do it soon. I have my own apple tree, which this year yielded enough apples for me to make six pints of apple butter. Yup, lots of small, teeny tiny apples. Lots of work. But worth it! Next year, I am going to spray the tree so that I get bigger apples. So this year, I am heading to the orchard. With some beautiful panoramic views of the valley below and the crisp fall air and some great chilled cider and fresh fry cakes, what could be better? So get goin'.

Now what do you do with all of those bushels of beauties once you have them? Well, there are countless things, of course, like the apple butter I just mentioned. But if that is too much work for your lazy butt, here are a few simpler, quicker ideas.

Apple Sauce
Yes, I know you probably already know how to make applesauce. You peel and core a random amount of apples and put them in a pan with a little water. Then you cook until they are soft and mash them with a potato masher so that they retain some chunkiness. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla to taste and put on top of potato pancakes. REALLY good.

Apple crepes
I serve apple crepes a lot. I cut and core apples (no need to peel) and saute them with butter until soft. Then I add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and serve them inside freshly made crepes and top with whipped cream. Yummy.
Crepes
Sift:
3/4 C flour
Resift with:
1 tsp salt
3 T sugar
1 3/4 tsp baking powder

Combine:
2 eggs
3 T melted butter
1 to 1 1/4 C milk
Mix the wet ingredients quickly into the dry. Cook by swirling 2T batter into a hot, well- greased 7" skillet or crepe pan. Or adjust the amount to fit the size of your pan. You just want to swirl the batter around in order to get the thinnest possible crepe. Cook just until top is set, then flip and cook for about 5 seconds on the top side.

Apple cake
This is my mother's recipe and a family favorite. Pretty simple to prepare

2 C sugar
2/3 C oil
2 C flour
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt C chopped walnuts
5 green apples, thinly sliced

Beat eggs and oil until foamy, Add rest of ingredients. Bake in a greased 9 x12 pan 45 min. at 350 degrees.

Frosting

Beat 2 C powdered sugar. 3 Tsp melted buter, 2 tsp vanilla and 6 oz cream cheese. Frost cake. Eat. Enjoy, Then eat another piece.



And here is a fabulous recipe from the Original Pancake House. Make it. You will never regret it. Except that you waited this long in your life to eat this.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cheesy Grits

This northern girl, born and raised in California, emigrated to Upstate New York, has limited experience with grits. I know, you're shocked. "I thought June knew everything there is to know about food," you're thinking. Well, no, I don't. But here's the thing that I think makes me a good cook and a good foodie: I am not afraid to try anything. I think where everyone gets off track and in a slump and thinks they are a bad cook is because they are not willing to try new things. There is a woman I know, however, who should not try anything new unless I am there personally supervising her. She once tried to make the butternut squash soup recipe I posted some time ago. The problem was, she forgot to roast the garlic and thought she could speed it along by microwaving it a bit. Ah-hem. Do I really have to say it? NO!!! My eye started twitching uncontrollably when she told me what she had done. Not good. And then she couldn't understand why her family didn't like it. I think she should try again while I supervise her with a cosmpolitan in my hand. And after two cosmos, I'll just take over and make it myself. And she knows it, too. Anyway, trying new foods and new recipes is a great way to keep your perspective fresh, keep your mind interested, and enjoy your life. So, about a year ago I had grits for the first time. They were good. I had always thought of grits as a vile, slimy, not-as-good-as-oatmeal paste. Not true! Which demonstrates the need to keep an open mind. Grits are creamy and smooth, warm and delicious. I ran across a recipe for cheesy grits and I decided to try it. It was fabulous. I served it with some pan-seared shrimp, making that southern classic, shrimp and grits, although I could happily eat just the grits.

Cheesy Grits

3 C Water
2 C Milk
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 C Grits (not instant)
2/3 C sharp cheddar
Scallions (optional)

Bring the milk, water, onion, and garlic to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Add the grits and cook, stirring often, until the grits are thick and creamy. Add the cheese, salt and pepper, and scallions. Eat!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry Chapter Four

I still am working on the comprehensive list of pantry items. It may well take me into next year. But here is a dissertation on salt. Now, you thought all you needed in your kitchen was a carton of iodized Morton's, right? WRONG, you neanderthal!

There are no less than five ESSENTIAL kinds of salt that you must stock in your well-stocked pantry, along with some optional ones. If you stock the optional ones, you may even rate a pat on the back from me, instead of one of my over-the-top-of the-of-the glasses-how-can-you-be-so-stupid looks.

Here is a picture of all of the salt currently in my kitchen. I am out of two kinds: Fleur du sel, and canning salt.


 They are:

Quick cure: meat curing salt, for the Canadian Bacon I AM going to make. Soon. Optional.
Sel du gris, for sprinkling on foccacia before baking, or adding to soup. It dissolves quickly.
Regular iodized salt: I've had that carton for a very long time. Never use it. Regular salt has a metallic taste from the iodine. I use kosher salt instead. Must stock, mostly for emergencies, when you run out of other kinds of salt or need to put out a grease fire if you're an idiot.
Kosher Salt, I keep it in a little bowl (in the foreground) and use a little spoon to sprinkle it on everything. Generously. Must stock. Not optional. It is the work-horse of salt.
Sea salt. Great flavor, can pretty much be used interchangeable with kosher for everyday salting. Must stock!
Smoked Maldon Sea Salt. A red salt, the best salt ever for bringing out the flavor of tomatoes and other raw vegetables. Use in salads, crudities, sandwiches. It's not optional for me, but I'll let you slide. I just won't respect you as much.
Popcorn salt. I actually make my own by pulverizing kosher salt in the food processor. Not optional, if you  like popcorn. Which I do. A lot. But not that vile microwave stuff. I pop my own on the stove, in the wok, which is the perfect shape, and dress with unsalted butter, popcorn salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese. And then I eat it while sipping champagne.
Canning Salt. You read my post on making pickles, right? Right? Not optional.
Fleur de sel-  a fine grained finishing salt. Sprinkle it on pastas and grilled meats after they are cooked.Optional, but you're a heathen if you don't have it.
Hawaiian Red Sea Salt- another great finishing salt. Adds a touch of color and a unique flavor to cooked veggies and grilled foods. Optional.

Now, I am NOT going to debate whether or not you should use salt, or cut back on salt, or anything related to the amount of salt we should eat. Read this and decide for yourself if the science behind the anti-salt campaign is valid or not. I'm coming down on the side of not, but you decide for yourself. And don't bother trying to lure me into a debate about it. I'm right, you're wrong. End of story. Or my head might just explode and then where would you go for good food advice?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A bag full of produce

A friend of mine stopped by yesterday with a bag full of assorted veggies from her veggie co-op. "I can't use all of these," she said. "I thought maybe you could do something with them." I thanked her and she went on her merry way. I opened the booty to see what I had. The bags contain: an eggplant, some cilantro, some chilis, two heads of lettuce, a red cabbage, and a green cabbage.

So, what to do with all of this? Tonight, we are having a family dinner with my daughter and her husband and my son who is freshly back from Iraq. Will I be able to incorporate some of the odd assortment? You bet. Not to say that I will use it all tonight, but certainly the eggplant will become Napa Valley goat cheese and eggplant ravioli for a first course. The lettuce will become the base for the carmelized pear salad that I wrote about not long ago. We will also have cedar-planked salmon, sauteed leeks, and butternut squash risotto. For dessert we are having a pear and maple crumble. Don't you wish you were coming here for dinner?

The cabbage presents a little more of a dilemma. It's a lot of cabbage. People are not always fond of cabbage. What shall I do? Wait! I have it! Last year, my sister-in-law made a really simple, yet wonderful Russian Piroski. She made a basic rich yeast dough, and filled it with cabbage which she sauteed until nicely browned. I think she added onion and dill. It was really good and the kidlets liked it a lot. (Big surprise. Kids and cabbage? It was that good.) I think I'll call her.....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry, Chapter Three

I had been working on a comprehensive list of the entire Mendon Foodie's well-stocked pantry, as per Hope's request. But alas, it is taking a REALLY long time, and I am pretty sure I can only do it if I leave out half of the items I currently have. (Really, I have five different kinds of chili powder and three kinds of paprika.)

Also, we just picked up the Marine Foodie last night. This morning I made him homemade Eggs Benedict, (made everything myself except the Canadian Bacon.) You'll find the English Muffin recipe in an earlier post and the homemade Hollandaise is from the Joy of Cooking. It is hard to make good Hollandaise from scratch. You'll need to follow the directions very carefully and ruin several batches before you get it right, not that I did that, but you will. Here is a picture of the happy reunion:







Tonight I made him his favorite dinner: Roasted Garlic Fettuccine Alfredo with pan-seared scampi.

So, I thought since I don't have time to finish my pantry post, I would post a some pictures of my pantry so that you can see what I am up against: Keep in mind this is only the top half of one of my pantries. I also have a pantry the size of a hall closet, but it is slightly messy, so I'm not posting a picture of it.



I'll try to post some of these recipes and a list of pantry items by the weekend.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry, Chapter Two

So, we have already established that you can probably call me up to come over and borrow almost any arcane ingredient. Dried shitake mushroom? Yup, got 'em. Tapioca starch? You bet. But what about less arcane ingredients, what do I keep on hand in the way of, say, oil?

In my pantry right now I have: extra-virgin green olive oil, pure olive oil (I know, you're shocked. I'll get to that in a moment), canola oil, sesame oil, pumpkin seed oil, walnut oil, chili oil, and peanut oil.

Pumpkin seed oil is great swirled into a squash soup at the end. It is strong and bold. It is also great by itself as dressing on a salad of mache. Walnut oil is a must when making a salad with apples or pears, or apricots and pecans. Chili oil is great for adding heat to asian sauces, while sesame oil gives them depth and a nutty flavor you can't get with anything else.

The uses for extra-virgin olive oil are of course endless and you don't need me to point out to you the best uses for it. I have always used it for cooking. I recently, however, became a convert to using pure olive oil for pan-searing. I can hear you gasping, collectively. "But, June, how COULD you?" Some of you are probably swooning right at this very moment, your faith in me shattered. You are thinking that you may never be able to trust me again.

Well, get over it! I attended a class on pan-searing with my mom, just for fun. (Not that I had anything to learn, mind you, but I like being at the top of my class.) I nearly sneered at the chef in disgust when she used pure olive oil. She convinced me, however. When pan-searing, you want to get a nice crust on your food, searing it quickly to seal in the juices, keeping a nice even temperature. Pure olive oil has a higher smoke point than extra-virgin, and in a dish where you will be finishing with a sauce, pure olive oil will do just fine. You can also get the higher smoke point with grapeseed oil or canola oil, but the pure olive oil will give a deeper flavor to the dish. Just don't let me catch you using it in sauces, dressings, pastas, or sautes. I will berate you mercilessly. And you know it. Don't tempt me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Well-Stocked Pantry, Chapter One

You can read a lot about what you should keep on hand to have a well-stocked pantry. I won't bore you with telling you to keep canned mushroom soup and dry bouillon. If you like to cook you probably keep the things around with which you like to cook. In my case, that does not include canned mushroom soup. There are a few canned/processed convenience foods I keep around, but for the most part I stock my pantry with things you can use to make stuff. It's not exciting: flour, pasta, sugar, rice, etc. But what kinds of things might you find in my kitchen that are not in yours, you ask?

Well, how about ten different kinds of vinegar? Yes, I have at least ten different kinds. Maybe more. I stock the ordinary white, which mostly gets used for cleaning things rather than cooking with, but I also keep apple cider, red wine, white wine, champagne, two kinds of balsamic (one cheap, one expensive, sherry, cassis, rice, and Chinese black. Vinegar is of course a necessity in salad, but it also adds depth of flavor to soups, sauces, and fricasees. It is the base for beurre blanc, an enhancer in bordelaise, there are so many ways to use it I'm sure there must be a book about it. I just haven't read it.

Last night I added a tablespoon of cider vinegar to a saute of Italian sausage and apples. It just livened up the apples. Rice vinegar makes a nice dressing for sliced cucumbers when you add a sprinkling of sugar. Chinese black vinegar is fabulous as a dip for pan-fried dumplings and champagne vinegar is the base for the aforementioned beurre blanc. Add some sliced basil, diced tomato and cucumber and it is divine over baked or pan-seared salmon. I use a moderately expensive balsamic to dress the ubiquitous caprese salad, which no matter how ubiquitious is still one of my favorites. The cheap balsamic is reduced to make balsamic glaze, a trick I just learned from my mother. Why use pay $7.00 for a little bottle when you can make your own? I like the cassis vinegar on a salad with anything sweet in it: pears, blue cheese, walnuts. I usually use it very sparingly and in combination with red wine vinegar, just to add a hint of sweetness, in place of adding sugar to the dressing.

Which vinegar is my favorite? At the moment I would have to say that the 7-year old Spanish Sherry vinegar is tops. It makes a lovely, exceedingly smooth dressing with no harsh bite.

Sherry Vinaigrette
2 T minced shallot
2 T aged Sherry vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 C Extra virgin olive oil.

Soak the minced shallot in the vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the oil, slowly, until emulsified, season to taste. Toss field greens with just enough vinaigrette so that they glisten. Do not overdress your salad. Generally, people drown their salad in about twice as much dressing as needed. Let the sharpness of the dressing enhance the delicate nature of the lettuce, not completely mask it. Take my advice. I'm always right, aren't I?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall


Fall is here and no, I do not want to hear your complaining about how long it has been since I have posted. The Mendon Foodie was very busy this summer planning and executing the Gates Foodette's wedding. (That would be my daughter.) Here is a picture. We didn't cater the wedding, but we did do the cold hors d'oeuvres, with considerable helper from Grandma Foodie. We served: Carpaccio of Beef with fried capers and parsley oil, shrimp cocktail shooters, endive stuffed with salmon spread, crudites with homemade Green Goddess dressing, salumi with assorted olives, some damn fine but very expensive cheese, and a cascade of fruit. You'd have to see it to believe it. It was truly amazing. If you're nice to me I might invite you to wedding hors d' oeuvres reenactment day, which we are planning on having for the Marine foodie, who missed the wedding and is returning home this week from Iraq. Oooh Rah. Leave a comment and I'll consider inviting you. If you promise not to bring any food.

Now that I have made your mouth water with food that nearly impossible for mere mortals to prepare, I will deign to grant you a fabulous recipe that anyone (almost anyone, I have a friend or two who shall remain nameless, L, who would still probably find a way to mess it up.) It is pretty simple and straightforward, yet sophisticated enough to impress all of your guests. It uses the ingredient that I cannot get enough of this time of year: pears.

Caramelized Pear Salad

3 Bartlett pears
3 T sugar
1/4 c butter
4 oz prosciutto
olive oil
butter lettuce
Balsamic glaze (you can buy or make. To make, boil balsamic vinegar until it is thick and syrupy.)
crumbled blue cheese (if you use anything other than Maytag or Point Reyes blue or a similar quality you are a heathen and shouldn't be allowed to cook.)

Peel, core, and cut pears into medium thick slices. Toss them with the sugar. (If you want to slice them ahead of time, drop them into a bowl of water with some lemon juice in it.) Heat a saute pan and melt the butter. Add the pears and cook on one side until they have nicely caramelized. Turn them over and cook the other side, adding more butter if necessary to prevent the sugar from burning. Remove the pears to a plate and let cool slightly. Wrap each slice with prosciutto. Toss lettuce with olive oil to coat and arrange lettuce on individual serving plates. Arrange 4-5 pear slices on top of the lettuce and sprinkle with blue cheese. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and start drooling, cause it is REALLY good.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pickles!

What are you doing this summer? Are you relaxing by the pool? Going to the beach? No? It's too rainy? You don't have enough money for a vacation? Too bad. Me neither. What am I doing? I am basking in the bounty of the summer harvest. Summer in upstate New York is a marvelous time. The produce is so fresh, so yummy, and so overwhelming! My friend Priscilla recently decided to make jam with all the fruit she had around. Blackberries and strawberries, gooseberries, tood been haunting her in her freezer since last summer. I love her strategy: she grows berries, but as they ripen only about a cup at a time, she freezes them until she has enough to make a pie or jam. Well, she procrastinated enough that she had fruit enough to make forty-eight jars of jam! yes, that is forty-eight. It took her ten hours. I helped for two of those hours and she gave me twelve jars. What a great friend. I think I have enough jam to last three years. Too bad you're supposed to use it within a year. I guess we'll have to have lots of trifle, and those homemade english muffins I published the recipe for a while ago.

I can't wait for the fresh, local, vine-ripened tomatos. I love summer tomatos so much that I don't really eat them much the rest of the year. They just don't taste right. The ones in the grocery in January don't make me swoon. A nice, ripe, August tomato had the power to send me practically to the moon with enjoyment.

And corn. There really isn't anything more to say about corn. Don't EVER buy corn at the grocery store if you can help it. Here in God's country we have corn stands every couple of miles. Farmers sometimes set a cart of corn and a coffee can for money at the end of their driveways. If you are lucky enough to have such a place, buy the corn the day you need it. Try making corn chowder. It is fantastic.

There is so much wonderful stuff this time of year, I couldn't possibly talk about all of it. I'll leave you with this recipe, from my mother's best friend. It makes use of the small, gherkin cucumbers that you can grow so easily or buy in huge baskets at the farmer's markets right now. This recipe makes a gallon of pickles, but I have done half a recipe. You could probably also do a quarter recipe. They will keep for a year in the fridge. I don't like to can these, they lose their crunch.

48 hour pickles
3 C vinegar
3 C sugar
1/2 C uniodized (pickling) salt
1 large onion, sliced
1 T mustard seed
1 T celery
1 tsp tumeric
cukes

Layer onion and cukes in a gallon jar, mix rest of ingredients and pour over. See if you can make yourself wait the whole forty-eight hours before eating them. I can't.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How Time Flies

Has it been a month already since I last posted? I can't believe it. It is really hard to keep this up, the pressure from my loyal fans is almost too much. What if I have nothing to say? Okay, that's not really the problem. What if I have nothing I can say without deeply offending someone? Okay, that's not the problem, either. And it's not procrastination, either. I can't really figure it out. But enough of my introspection.

The party at Deb's was wonderful last month. It was very fun, and touching, and the food was really good. Even the food that I didn't make. Which was most of it.

Deb made a deceptively simple appetizer that is sure to please almost everyone: sausage stuffed mini-sweet peppers. You know, the ones that are about 2-3 inches in length and come in a variety of colors? She sut off the tops and stuffed them with spicy italian sausage and them grilled them. Fantastic and yummy. My other favorite thing was garlic scape pesto. She left out the parmesan because her hubby doesn't like it, but it was still really good. She even gave me a big container to bring home. I smeared it on some bruchetta toasts, topped with goat cheese and stuck them under the broiler. Really, really good. The garlic scape pesto has a tang that hits your palate right up front and almost knocks it out. But then it gets more complex as the intial jolt of flavor mellows into a multi-layered perfume. If you can still get garlic scapes this late in the season, make it.

The other thing she made that was really good was strawberry shortcake. No pre-made awful sponge cake for her. No, she took the Mendon Foodie's advice and baked a simple shortcake biscuit. My mom even makes the recipe from the side of the Bisquick box and even it is FAR better than the horrible little yellow disks they set out next to the strawberries at the grocery store. Just make a biscuit and add a little sugar. Pretty simple. Deb served the local fresh picked strawberries with some homemade almond ice cream. WOW! A truly great combination.

I pronounce Deb a soundly good cook. (But I'm sure I'll find SOMETHING about her cooking to make fun of. It is only a matter of time, you know.)