Saturday, August 31, 2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Monday, August 26, 2013
I suppose I might get an A for effort or a special mention for trying my best, but I have to admit -- though tasty -- this roast was no prize winner. A little too tough, the meat really suffered from not enough fat . . . and maybe cooking a tad too quickly. Hard to fault those crispy potatoes though.
Sunday, August 25, 2013
I mixed 1 cup of flour, a tsp of sugar, a pinch of salt, 5 TB of butter, and 1 TB of lard (I happen to have a jar in the fridge and I can't deny it makes for a flaky, easy to roll crust) in the food processor until the butter was still about the size of peas (I added and pulsed the butter in two batches so some were as big as lima beans). I poured in 1/4 cold water and gave a quick pulse then kneaded the dough together 2 or 3 times on the counter. The wrapped dough cooled in the fridge overnight (an hour would have been enough).
When it came time to assemble my tart I rolled the dough (on a floured surface) to about a 14" circle. Leaving a 2" border I sprinkled the crust with slivered almonds and then layered on thin slices of plums and peeled apples. I brushed the fruit with 3 TB of melted butter and about 2 TB of sugar then folded the crust around the fruit, crimping as I went. I brushed some butter on the folded crust and gave it a sprinkle of sugar as well and scattered some more almonds over the fruit.
After 50 minutes at 400º we had a flaky crisp tart ready for lunch. After cooling a bit on a wire rack I brushed 1TB of warmed honey over fruit and crust for a little sweetness and shine.
Perfect for lunch -- even better for breakfast.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
I started with the turkey carcass, two roughly chopped onions, bay leaves and two stalks of celery in a pot of water along with my soup secret -- about 1/2 cup of left over gravy -- to make a tasty stock. I left that pot simmer for about an hour and then strained the stock reserving the meat from the turkey bones.
In a clean stock pot I sautéed diced carrots, onions, bell peppers (I don't usually use bell peppers in my soup but I had a drawer full), chopped garlic, a couple chili peppers, and chopped celery in olive oil. After a couple minutes when the vegetables were starting to soften I poured in the reserved stock and let the soup simmer for 30 minutes. Then I piled in a good quantity of chopped kale, fresh from our garden. I gave the kale 20 minutes or so to get tender and then made use of quite a few leftovers -- cooked potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, cooked rice, and the turkey meat I pulled off the bones from the stock.
James had no idea he had seen any of the ingredients earlier in the week. He just knew he was so happy with his savory soup supper he went back for seconds.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Thursday, August 22, 2013
To make this pie a little easier on little fingers I decided on a graham cracker crust. Isabel crushed 2 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs and mixed in 1/4 cup mashed banana, 4 TB melted butter and 1/4 cup sugar. She formed the mixture into a deep dish pie plate and we baked the crust for 15 minutes at 350º.
Our custard was a simple mixture of sugar (1/2 cup), cornstarch (1/3 cup), milk 1 1/2 cup), cream (1 1/2 cup) and a pinch of salt brought just to a boil, with Isabel whisking all the way. I tempered 3 egg yolks and added them back into the custard mixture which we cooked over very low heat until thickened. Off heat we added in 2 TB of butter and a splash of vanilla extract and let the custard cool.
Isabel and I like surprises. As a special treat we painted a little melted chocolate onto the inside of our cooled graham cracker crust and then layered on sliced bananas and half of the custard mixture. We followed with more sliced bananas and the rest of the custard. We topped our pie with fluffy whipped cream (stablized with just a touch of dissolved gelatin) and waited for dinner time to come.
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Saturday, August 17, 2013
I try not to let James see leftovers that he can recognize from the first time he ate them. Okay, there's leftover pizza and the occasional spaghetti but those are snacks and lunches. I like dinner to feel new. The other day we had boiled potatoes and kale with fried garlic. Today after heating slowly with a splash of milk those lonely vegetables became creamy mashed potatoes with greens. Kind of a kitchen fridge colcannon, an Irish specialty of mashed potatoes and cabbage crisped in a skillet. The fried garlic joined thin slices of leftover steak quickly seared with olive oil and chili flakes.
Easy on me and brand new to James.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Kale two ways I declared. Braised and fresh. For fresh I decided on a piquant kale caesar salad -- a recipe I borrowed from San Francisco's temple of baked goods, Tartine. I used some hearty day old bread for homemade croutons and whipped up a creamy lemony anchovy dressing (6 anchovy filets, 3 garlic cloves, 1 TB lemon zest, -- mix these to a paste --1 egg yolk, 2 TB lemon juice -- blend again, 1 1/2 cups olive oil, drizzled in while the blender keeps running until the dressing emulsifies). A perfect make ahead but still impressive dish. For my second kale side I stuck to tried and true, slow braised kale with plenty of chile peppers and onion. Two dishes with hearty flavors joined by two more -- stovetop pan roasted chicken with a rich lemony sauce and crunchy new potatoes tossed with crisp chorizo, cilantro and basil. Easy on the cook, mostly make ahead dinner for our favorite guest.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
But James couldn't stay away from the kale. Flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks for new kale ideas I hit upon a recipe -- well more a method than a recipe, called Pavich's vegetables. This simple dish, detailed in Susan Loomis' Farmhouse Cookbook, briefly boils wedges of potatoes until almost cooked through and adds in a mountain of chopped kale (okay I added in the mountain, they opt for a bunch or two) until everything is tender. Meanwhile in a small saucepan I heated olive oil with several cloves of sliced garlic (until the garlic was golden brown and a little crispy) and tossed in a pinch of chili flakes. The warm oil (and the crispy garlic) are a flavorful dressing for the plain cooked vegetables, and a pretty good diet dinner. I gave James a good coating of the tasty oil and only took a small drizzle on my plate. One dish working two ways. I love it.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Sunday, August 11, 2013
From our beds and orchard I pulled elephant heart plums, lemon, white wonder and Persian cucumbers, green beans, crookneck squash, and a healthy harvest os sometimes spicy always flavorful padrón
peppers. We like them quick fried (until just beginning to blister) in a little olive oil and dusted with coarse salt.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
Friday, August 9, 2013
Thursday, August 8, 2013
I settled on a simple braise from the scion of simplicity Alice Waters. Nothing but potato rounds, butter and salt cooked gently in a small bit of simmering water. I sliced 2 pounds of small potatoes in 1/8" rounds and layered them in a 12 inch skillet. I topped the potatoes with 1 tsp salt and 6 TB of butter cut into small pieces. I poured in 2 cups of water and covered the vegetables with a buttered round of parchment paper (butter side down) and allowed the pan to simmer for about 35 minutes until the liquid was nearly evaporated and the tender potatoes glistened with rich, melted butter.
So far I had a side dish. No matter how special the potatoes, even the best side dish needs a main. Nothing flashy, nothing to overshadow. A partner not a solo act.
Rummaging through the freezer I found a chuck steak. One of those cuts tucked away in our CSA box that fall into the pot roast rut. When your box has cuts labeled chuck steak, pot roast, and beef stew it's hard to keep coming up with new ideas. Tonight I figured the label said steak and I was going to try turning that lonely piece of chuck into a real steak. I chopped up a good quantity of rosemary, thyme, and garlic with salt and chili flakes. And after a quick coating with olive oil I patted my spice rub on the waiting steak and let the flavors soak in for 10 minutes. While the oven pre-heated to 375º I seared the flavored chuck steak on all sides and then popped it -- cast iron pan and all -- into the waiting oven for about 50 minutes to cook through.
James is usually a filet man but I didn't get any complaints about this slightly toothsome but super flavorful (not to mention super economical) steak. Along with an arugula salad picked just minutes before dinner, we had a classic American meal with a garden fresh twist starring the humble, homegrown potato.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Romano beans from the garden overgrown to welcome me home. I looked at those gangly 10 inch pods and thought -- braise. Braising will tenderize the pods and intensify the already hearty flavor.
One of my favorite cooks and restaurants is Judy Rodgers and her legendary Zuni Cafe, a San Francisco culinary landmark. Like another well-known bay area cook Alice Waters, Rodgers long ago championed (though not as loudly as Waters) the virtues of exceptional and mostly local ingredients prepared simply for extraordinary fare. In her cookbook, The Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Rodgers brings new life -- despite the drab color -- to flavorful Romano beans by long cooking in just a bit of olive oil.
Maybe technically this isn't a braise as the only liquid (other than the oil) comes from the beans themselves, but in any case if you have a couple hours to spare the flavor is well worth the effort.
I tossed two pounds of beans with 1.4 cup of olive oil, salt and chili flakes. With the beans in a 6 quart pot I dropped 5 peeled garlic cloves on top then set the pot, covered, over the lowest possible heat. In the first 30 minutes I stirred the pot twice, and once again after the beans started to soften at around 45 minutes of cooking time. But then, as Rodgers advises, I left the beans to slowly cook checking every half an hour or so to make sure the pot wasn't scorching.
After about 2 1/2 hours even my gigantic Romanos were tender and limp. A shocking dish for anyone raised to accept modern cusine's tyranny of al dente vegetables but homey and delightful served over warm stone ground grits (I did just get back from North carolina after all) on a crisp summer night.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
For James on a somewhat chilly August evening I started on a thick kale filled stew. First I sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil. Then I added in a container of flavorful white beans I'd pulled from our freezer. Next I poured in rounds of chicken Italian sausage (browned in a skillet), mountains of chopped kale from our garden, bay leaves, chopped rosemary, chili flakes, S&P, peeled chopped carrots and about 1 quart of water. Everything simmered together for around 30 minutes until the fresh kale was sweet and tender.
To make our evening stew extra hearty, and to use up the odds and ends of pasta in our pantry I added in some cooked noodles and topped our stew with a dollop of pesto (a lettuce and basil combo made from out garden and stored in the freezer) and shredded cheese.
Garden fresh Italian style.
Monday, August 5, 2013
I've been away for a couple weeks and the garden, well watered and tended by James, offered up a huge crop of Romano beans. Huge crop and huge beans. I scurried out to gather up our bounty with dreams of Zuni cafe style long braised beans in my head.
Inside the offerings were -- let's kindly say -- less bountiful. A thorough search rounded up a handful of lonely Gravenstein apples, a couple plums, butter from the freezer and milk just about to turn. I don't know about anyone else but to me that collection says "cake!"
I started by mixing up 2 sticks of melted butter and 4 eggs with 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar and a splash of my favorite flavoring -- bourbon. James loves the hearty flavor of brown sugar and a whisper of Kentucky whiskey seems to bring out the rich caramel notes.
To the liquid ingredients I added in 2 1/2 cups AP flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp nutmeg all mixed together.
When the batter was just mixed (too much mixing makes for a tough cake) I added in chopped apples and plums along with a couple handfuls of the chopped pecans stored in our freezer. After 55 minutes in a 350 degree oven I had a beautiful golden brown bundt that made clever use of our leftover, seemingly unloved fruit. I let the cake cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then cool completely on a rack. Thanks to the new coconut oil spray I found at Trader Joe's this bundt cake practically slipped out of the pan -- removing the only anxiety ever associated with a bundt cake.
When my beautiful cake cooled I poured on a thin glaze of powdered sugar thinned with bourbon and milk.
A easy seasonal welcome home cake.